It's Hedy Lamarr evening on Turner Classic Movies tonight, beginning at 5 p.m. PT.
TCM will be showing five Lamarr vehicles, including the scandalous Ecstasy – nudity, sex, orgasm! – made by Gustav Machatý in Czechoslovakia in 1933, five years before Lamarr's Hollywood debut in Algiers.
There's no nudity, sex, or orgasms in Algiers, but there's lots of cigarette smoking – much more damaging to one's health than orgasms – and Charles Boyer not saying “Com wheez me to ze Casbah!”
Jean Gabin and Mireille Balin starred in the original French version, Pépé le Moko, released the year before – which shows that Hollywood's penchant for remaking French movies is nothing new.
In Victor Fleming's Tortilla Flat, Lamarr looks great and sounds all wrong as Monterey's Dolores Ramirez – but her performance is a masterpiece of acting compared to those of fellow Hispano-Americans Spencer Tracy and John Garfield.
The one actor who delivers the goods in this misguided adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel – and this is truly jaw-dropping – is Frank Morgan, one of the most unbearably over-the-top performers of the studio era. As a social outcast attuned to animals and nature, Morgan deservedly received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination.
In King Vidor's humdrum H. M. Pulham, Esq., Robert Young's up-and-coming businessman [not attorney, as I had earlier] is torn between sultry Lamarr and housewife Ruth Hussey. I was rooting for Hussey in this one, though Lamarr looks stunning.
Schedule (PT) and synopses from the TCM website:
5:00pm Algiers (1938)
A thief on the run from the law risks his life for love.
Cast: Sigrid Gurie, Charles Boyer, Hedy Lamarr, Joseph Calleia Dir: John Cromwell BW-98 min.
6:42pm [Short Film] Short Film: One Reel Wonders: Glimpses Of Morocco And Algiers (1951)
7:00pm Tortilla Flat (1942)
Inhabitants of a Southern California fishing village strive for the simple pleasures of life.
Cast: Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr, John Garfield, Frank Morgan Dir: Victor Fleming BW-99 min.
8:43pm [Short Film] Short Film: One Reel Wonders: Miracle Of Sound, The (1940)
A behind the scenes look at how sound is produced for films.
Cast: Jeanette MacDonald, Greer Garson, Nelson Eddy, Douglas Shearer Dir: Douglas Shearer BW-11 min.
9:00pm White Cargo (1942)
A sultry native woman ignites the passions of workers on an African plantation.
Cast: Hedy Lamarr, Walter Pidgeon, Frank Morgan, Richard Carlson Dir: Richard Thorpe BW-89 min.
10:45pm H. M. Pulham Esq. (1941)
A stuffy businessman livens things up by having a fling.
Cast: Hedy Lamarr, Robert Young, Ruth Hussey, Charles Coburn Dir: King Vidor BW-120 min.
1:00am Ecstasy (1933)
A frustrated young wife escapes her passionless marriage through an affair with a young engineer.
Cast: Hedy Lamarr Dir: Gustav Machatý BW-87 min.