Note: This is a regular monthly feature, highlighting, well, the highlights on Turner Classics' schedule. Why? Simple. Because Turner Classics remains a veritible college education in film.
Dec. 1: “From the Earth to the Moon,” Byron Haskin’s nifty SciFi with an unlikely cast – George Sanders, Joseph Cotton and Henry Daniell. Also Woody Allen’s nostalgic, companiable “Radio Days,” and “Guys and Dolls,” an entertaining yet disappointing version of the Frank Loesser musical marred by the characters’ refusal to use contractions when they talk. The dialogue between all the great songs is arch to say the least.
Dec. 2: Gene Kelly directs Streisand and Matthau (his “Guide for the Married Man” star) in an elephantine version of Jerry Herman’s enormously popular stage musical “Hello, Dolly.”
Dec. 3: Depardieu shines in Alain Corneau’s “Tous Les Matins du Monde”; a great black cast highlights Allen Resiner’s otherwise tepid “St. Louis Blues” and two musical versions of past popular films - June Allyson’s “The Opposite Sex” (based on “The Women”) and Jane Powell’s “The Girl Most Likely” (derived from “Tom, Dick and Harry”).
Dec. 6: “So Big,” William A. Wellman’s affecting film with a great Barbara Stanwyck performance and Bette Davis in a fine supporting performance. Also “Jeanne Eagles,” in which Kim Novak plays the ill-fated actress for her “Pal Joey"/”The Eddie Duchin Story” director, George Sidney; the mystery/thriller “The Bat,” which pairs Vincent Price with Agnes Moorehead; “Jessica,” featuring Angie Dickinson in a sexy update of the “Lysistrata” fable about women who refuse to have sex until their men stop fighting in a war, and “Footstep in the Fog,” Arthur Lubin’s atmospheric mystery with Jean Simmons and Stewart Granger.
Dec. 7: Frank Tashlin directs Doris Day and Rod Taylor in the antic “The Glass-Bottom Boat.” Also: “Where the Boys Are,” a curious (and curiously popular) teen romp with a gang rape smack-dab in the middle of it.
Dec. 8: An eclectic line-up – the gleefully cheesy “The Green Slime,” John Ford’s “Two Rode Together,” with Richard Widmark, Jimmy Stewart and Shirley Jones, and John Sturges’ tight, taut “Bad Day at Black Rock,” with Spencer Tracy.
Dec. 9: Two with Sinatra – MGM’s truncated version of Leonard Bernstein’s “On the Town” and “High Society,” Cole Porter’s musicalization of “The Philadelphia Story.” Also, George Roy Hill’s first film – “Period of Adjustment,” based on Tennessee Williams’ only comedy (about male chauvinism) and starring Jane Fonda.
Dec. 10: “Broadway to Hollywood,” a vaudeville-era saga with Frank Morgan.
Dec. 11: A good day to stay in and indulge in Robert Aldrich’s “Autumn Leaves,” Richard Brooks’ “Sweet Bird of Youth” and John Huston’s “The Misfits,” with three memorable performances by Joan Crawford, Geraldine Page and Marilyn Monroe, respectively
Dec. 12: “Night Nurse.” Vintage Stanwyck. Say no more.
Dec. 13: “You Can’t Run Away from It.” the long-lost 1956 Dick Powell-June Allyson pseudo-musical remake of Frank Capra's 1934 classic, "It Happened One Night." (This was the second remake, but more about that later.) By all accounts, this curiosity started out as a major production for Columbia Pictures, but something went wrong, with Columbia losing faith in the film. Somewhere along the way, a musical turned into a quasi-musical, with haasty, last-minute editing evident in the release version. The songs, written by Johnny Mercer and Gene DePaul – at least, what’s left of them – are literate and witty. The clever wordplay, for example, between June Allyson and Jack Lemmon during the Walls of Jericho number, titled “Temporarily,” has the kind of articulate sophistication that anticipated what Meredith Willson would accomplish, with much more acclaim, in “The Music Man,” a few years later. The “Thumbing a Ride” duet, which is complete on the Decca soundtrack album, is truncated on film, with just about all of Lemmon’s savvy lyrics deleted for some bizarre reason. Given that the film’s principals – Allyson, Lemmon and Powell – are all deceased now, one can only speculate what happened. And it’s unlikely that any of the missing musical footage is sitting on some shelf at Columbia. (Alas, the widescreen film is not being presented letterboxed on Turner, a true rarity, which leads me to believe that "You Can't Run Away from It" has yet to be restored by the people at Sony.)
The screening of "You Can't Run Away from It" will be preceded by Capra's "It Happened One Night" and the first remake of the material, "Eve Knew Her Apples," directed by Will Jason in 1945 and starring a very charming (and young) Ann Miller.
Dec. 14: A Riviera-based twosome – Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” and Preminger’s “Bonjour Tristesse.”
Dec. 15: Penelope Spheeris’ alt-classic “Suburbia” gets an early-morning showing.
Dec. 16: Hitch rings in again with “Suspicion,” and there are two by Minnelli - “An American in Paris” and “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Plus Frank Tashlin’s “Susan Slept Here,” with Dick Powell and Debbie Reynolds.
Dec. 17: Some esoteric stuff - “The Plow That Broke the Plains,” Pare Lorentz’s Depression documentary, and G.W. Pabst’s “Kameradschaft.” Also, a fun Cary Grant trilogy - “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer” and“Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” (both with Myrna Loy), plus “Every Girl Should Be Married” (with the sublime Betsy Drake).
Dec. 18: Poitier in the film of his stage success, “A Raisin in the Sun” and Sinatra as Joe E. Lewis in “The Joker is Wild.”
Dec. 19 : David Swift’s “Under the Yum Yum Tree,” with Jack Lemmon as a lech and “One, Two, Three,” arguably Billy Wilder’s best comedy with James Cagney as a motormouthed executive overseeing Coca-Cola’s German branch. With Arlene Francis, Pamela Tiffin and Horst Buchholz.
Dec. 20: “The Next Voice You Hear,” which stars God (well, sort of). Also Gable stars with Norma Shearer in “Idiot’s Delight,” Clarence Brown’s silky version of the Robert E. Sherwood play, and Irene Dunne soars in the neglected “Theodora Goes Wild.”
Dec. 21: Big day full of varied titles - “My Favorite Wife,” “Boys’ Night Out,” “The Pumpkin Eater,” “The Knack … and How to Get It,” “Night Must Fall,” three British Kitchen-sink flicks, “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning” “Look Back in Anger” and “This Sporting Life,” and “Love Story,” with Ryan and Ali.
Dec. 22: “Five Little Peppers and How They Grew” paired with “Five Little Peppers at Home,” and Sturges’ minor Western gem, “The Law and Jake Wade,” with Widmark.
Dec. 23: “Where It’s At,” groovy ‘70s Garson Kanin film with then-upcomers, Robert Drivas and Rosemary Forsythe; the watchable “Lovers and Other Strangers” (based on the Taylor-Bologna stage comedy) with a solid ensemble, and Lucy in “Yours, Mine and Ours” and “The Facts of Life.”
Dec. 24: Victor Erice’s playful “The Spirit of the Beehive,” with young Ana Torrent (star of Carlos Saura’s“Cria Cuervos”).
Dec. 25: Encores of “Meet Me In St. Louis” and “Susan Slept Here.” Plus “Ben-Hur” and two Jesus titles, George Stevens’ “The Greatest Story Ever Told” and Nicholas Ray’s “King of Kings”
Dec. 26: Donen’s “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Terrific.
Dec. 29: OK, take a deep breath - “The Woman in White,” with Eleanor Parker; Ron Howard’s “Grand Theft Auto,” with Ron Howard; Ida Lupino’s “The Hitch-Hiker” with the wonderful Edmund O’Brien; the Duke’s “McClintock!”; Robert Rosen’s adult Western, “They Came to Cordura,” with Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth and Van Heflin, and two more "Peppers," this time “Out West with the Peppers” and “Five Little Peppers in Trouble.”
Dec. 30: “Champion,” Mark Robson’s triumph with Kirk Douglas.
Dec. 31: Truffaut’s artful “The Wild Child”; Penny Marshall’s “Awakenings” and – what better way to spend New Year’s Eve? - an Astaire-Rogers marathon.
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(Artwork: Poster for George Sidney's "Jeanne Eagles"; Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munchin in "On the Town"; posters for Powell's "You Can't Run Away from It," Preminger's "Bonjour Tristess" and Wilder's "One, Two, Three" and Arlene Francis and James Cagney, and Pamela Tiffin and Horst Buchholz in "One, Two, Three")
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