George Stevens’ monthlong homage ends this evening on Turner Classic Movies. The screening films are the Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers musical Swing Time (1936); three early 1940s comedies, Woman of the Year (1942), The Talk of the Town (1942), and The More the Merrier (1943); and the George Stevens Jr documentary George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey (1984).
The More the Merrier is one of those movies I need check out again. Stevens was nominated for a Best Director Oscar, and so was the film, and leading lady Jean Arthur. Charles Coburn, actually one of the film’s three leads, won for Best Supporting Actor. Joel McCrea didn’t win anything, but he should at least have been nominated.
The Talk of the Town is probably my favorite Jean Arthur film. Arthur, Cary Grant, and especially Ronald Colman are in top form in this comedy with a social conscience. I find The Talk of the Town one of the most unjustly neglected Hollywood movies of the ’40s.
Woman of the Year was the first pairing of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. It’s all about a working woman who must find a balance between her job and her husband. Some see it as dated and borderline reactionary; I don’t quite agree. After all, the woman is allowed to have both a career and a husband at the end.
Swing Time is considered by many to be the best of the Astaire-Rogers musicals. Personally, I prefer The Gay Divorcee and Follow the Fleet, but do check it out if you haven’t already.
In an audio interview featured in George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey, the director recalled a particularly disturbing experience during the liberation of Dachau:
“When a poor man, hungry and unseeing because his eyesight is failing, grabs me and starts begging, I feel the Nazi, because I abhor him, I want him to keep his hands off me. And the reason I want him to keep his hands off me is because I see myself capable of arrogance and brutality to keep him off me. That’s a fierce thing, to discover within yourself that which you despise the most in others.”
- “Director George Stevens DVDs: Pro-Colonialism Classic & Immigrant Nostalgia + Rare WWII Color Footage.”
- “George Stevens Films: ‘Giant’ & ‘Shane’ + ‘Annie Oakley’.”
- “‘Swing Time’ Movie: Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers Musical Classic Revisited.”
- “‘The More the Merrier’ Movie: Jean Arthur & Joel McCrea in George Stevens’ Romantic Comedy Classic.”
- “George Stevens: Women-Focused Collaborations with Katharine Hepburn & Irene Dunne.”
- “‘Shane’: Alan Ladd ‘Subversive’ Western Gets Special Academy Screening.”
Schedule and synopses from the TCM website:
5:00pm The More the Merrier (1943)
The World War II housing shortage brings three people together for an unlikely romance.
Cast: Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, Charles Coburn, Richard Gaines Dir: George Stevens BW-104 mins
7:00pm The Talk of the Town (1942)
An escaped political prisoner and a stuffy law professor vie for the hand of a spirited schoolteacher.
Cast: Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Colman, Glenda Farrell. Edgar Buchanan Dir: George Stevens BW-117 mins
9:15pm Woman of the Year (1942)
Opposites distract when a sophisticated political columnist falls for a sportswriter.
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Fay Bainter, Reginald Owen Dir: George Stevens BW-114 mins
11:15pm Swing Time (1936)
To prove himself worthy of his fiancee, a dancer tries to make it big, only to fall for his dancing partner.
Cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Victor Moore, Helen Broderick Dir: George Stevens BW-104 mins
1:00am George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey (1984)
Biography of the Academy Award-winning director including dramatic color footage of WWII.
Cast: Fred Astaire. Ginger Rogers. Katharine Hepburn. Warren Beatty. Millie Perkins. Hermes Pan. Pandro S. Berman. Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Rouben Mamoulian. Frank Capra. Ivan Moffat. Irwin Shaw. Voice: Cary Grant. Dir: George Stevens Jr. Black and white. 112 mins
Jean Arthur and Cary Grant The Talk of the Town image: Columbia Pictures.
Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn Woman of the Year image: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.