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Barbara Stanwyck's BABY FACE, Ermanno Olmi's IL POSTO, Renée Adorée on TCM

Sandro Panseri, Il Posto, Ermanno Olmi
Barbara Stanwyck, John Wayne in Alfred E. Green's Baby Face (top); Sandro Panseri in Ermanno Olmi's Il Posto (bottom)

Renee Adoree

In the next few hours, Turner Classic Movies will present one of MGM's last silent films (with synchronized score), one of the best movies of the 1960s, one of the most outrageous pre-Code releases of the early 1930s, and a documentary about the portrayal of women in pre-Code movies. All that in addition to a Wildfire vehicle and a production that sounds a lot like a (however unofficial) remake of Fred Zinnemann's The Search. Either get your various recording devices ready, or start drinking lots and lots of coffee.

Starring Renée Adorée (above right), a sensational actress whose style was more naturalistic than that of most performers out there today, Tide of Empire (1929) was one of MGM's last silent film releases. Allan Dwan, by then already a veteran, directed. Make sure to check this one out, as TCM rarely shows it. (For the record: the 1929 Greta Garbo vehicle The Kiss was MGM's last silent film.)

Ermanno Olmi isn't nearly as well-known as, say, fellow Italian filmmakers Federico Fellini or Vittorio De Sica – but he should be. Olmi was a master at telling “ordinary” stories about “ordinary” people – while making the ordinary feel extraordinary. Il Posto (1961) may well be the best among such Olmi efforts. As the working-class youth who gets a job at a big corporation, non-professional Sandro Panseri delivers the sort of honest, naturalistic performance that would be the envy of nearly every Oscar winner – if they ever bothered to watch Il Posto instead of stuff like The Kids Are All Right or Inception.

In Alfred E. Green's Baby Face, Barbara Stanwyck proves that this may be a “man's world,” but women with looks and brains to match can go very far, thank you. Condemned by the anti-sex crowd as offensive, debased, debauched, nasty, immoral, vile, evil, and probably of satanic origin, Baby Face is one of the most pointed amoral parables ever made. Stanwyck, after all, fucks her way up the corporate ladder and comes out on top.

Baby Face should not be missed. Unless, that is, you're one of those people who think women who use sex to get ahead should be punished in movies (and in life). If that's the case, go watch some politically correct slasher flick. Women who enjoy sex – especially those who do sex for a living in some manner – are always getting brutally punished in those.

Inspired by Mick LaSalles' book, Complicated Women feature interviews with historians and some of the women who made movies way back in the early '30s, among them Kitty Carlisle and Frances Dee (delightful as a masochistic, sex-starved, and oh-so sweet-looking young thing in Blood Money).

Wildfire, the wild horse wonder (or at least one of them), co-stars with Steve Cochran in The Lion and the Horse (1952), while producer-director Albert Zugsmith made Dondi (1961), in which World War II GIs adopt an Italian orphan. Dondi sounds quite a bit like Fred Zinnemann's The Search, in which private Montgomery Clift “adopts” a Czech boy looking for his long-lost mother. David Janssen, Patti Page, and Walter Winchell (!) are featured in Dondi.

Zugsmith, by the way, is the guy responsible for Sex Kittens Go to College, College Confidential, The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, Confessions of an Opium Eater, and Fanny Hill: Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure. So, Dondi is an oddity in Zugsmith's career.

Schedule and synopses from the TCM website:

9:30pm Tide of Empire (1929)
A cowboys love life turns topsy turvy when he wins his girlfriend's family ranch.
Cast: Renée Adorée, George Duryea, George Fawcett, William Collier Jr. Dir.: Allan Dwan BW-72 mins

11:00pm Il Posto (1961)
A young man fights to become a cog in the big business machine.
Cast: Sandro Panseri, Loredana Detto, Tullio Kezich, Mara Revel Dir: Ermanno Olmi BW-93 mins

12:45am Baby Face (1933)
A beautiful schemer sleeps her way to the top of a banking empire.
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, George Brent, Donald Cook, Alphonse Ethier Dir: Alfred E. Green BW-76 mins

2:15am [Documentary] Complicated Women (2003)
Documentary that looks at the phenomenon of “pre-code women” during the years 1929-1934.
Cast: Frances Dee, Kitty Carlisle, Molly Haskell, Mick LaSalle Dir: Hugh Munro Neely BW-55 mins

3:15am [Western] Lion and the Horse, The (1952)
A cowboy fights to save a wild horse from its exploitative owner.
Cast: Steve Cochran, Wildfire, Ray Teal, Bob Steele Dir: Louis King C-83 mins

4:45am Dondi (1961)
World War II GIs adopt an Italian war orphan.
Cast: David Janssen, Patti Page, David Kory, Walter Winchell Dir: Albert Zugsmith BW-99 mins


         
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2 Comments to Barbara Stanwyck's BABY FACE, Ermanno Olmi's IL POSTO, Renée Adorée on TCM

  1. Andre

    Aargh…
    Patti Page. Typo. Thanks!

  2. Bill

    Patty Duke is not featured in DONDI