Monday-Wednesday, Aug. 4–6, highlights on Turner Classic Movies: Monday is Marie Dressler Day. What could be there not to recommend?
Well, Emma, for one, is an appallingly sudsy melodrama, and Dressler herself is quite weak as the nanny who gives it all – and still must pay for her (sort of) good deeds. Even so, Emma is one of those bad movies that should be watched at least once, if only for historical reasons.
Emma was one of MGM’s biggest hits of 1932, Dressler received a Best Actress nod for the period 1931–1932 (she lost to Helen Hayes in the equally cataclysmic The Sin of Madelon Claudet), while the cast includes Jean Hersholt (after whom the Academy’s humanitarian award was named) and a pre-stardom Myrna Loy.
Not to be missed is Let Us Be Gay – nope, it’s not a coming-out drama. In fact, the film is a hilarious romp (despite a godawful moralistic ending), with Norma Shearer at her worldly best and Dressler stealing every one of her scenes. The Girl Said No was the most successful William Haines talkie, less because of Haines’ grating performance than because of Dressler’s delightful drunken bit. Artistically speaking, the Dressler-Polly Moran comedies are minor fare, but they were huge box office earners in their day.
And finally, The Divine Lady, which TCM shows only sporadically, is a must – though not because of Dressler, who has only a minor role in it. This (fictionalized) historical romantic melodrama earned Frank Lloyd a best director Oscar for the period 1928-29, while star Corinne Griffith (right) was “considered” for the best actress award. (There were no official nominations that year.) Griffith should have won, for she – as a lovestruck Lady Hamilton – was by far the best among the six actresses in the running. (For the record, the others were Bessie Love for The Broadway Melody, Jeanne Eagels for The Letter, Betty Compson for The Barker, Ruth Chatterton for Madame X, and the winner Mary Pickford for Coquette.) Once you’ve seen The Divine Lady, I dare you not to think of Corinne Griffith next time you hear Norma Desmond exclaim, “We had faces then!”
As for Marie Dressler (Best Actress Academy Award winner for Min and Bill, 1930–1931) becoming a film superstar in her 60s, that’s the Hollywood career exception to end all exceptions.
Note: Like Marie Dressler, Lionel Barrymore was an Academy Award winner for the period 1930–1931, for his performance as Norma Shearer’s dipsomaniac lawyer father in A Free Soul.
Tuesday is Claude Rains Day.
In my invariably humble opinion, Claude Rains was one of the greatest four or five screen actors ever. Three of his best performances can be seen on Tuesday. They are: The crooked senator in Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; frivolous Bette Davis’ caring husband in the classy melodrama Mr. Skeffington (that’s Rains); and Julius Caesar in Gabriel Pascal’s filmization of George Bernard Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra (Shaw also wrote the film adaptation). Vivien Leigh, more than a tad theatrical but effective nevertheless, plays the Egyptian queen.
Wednesday is Anne Bancroft Day.
Three of the Bancroft films are TCM premieres: Anthony Mann’s Western The Last Frontier, the curious 84 Charing Cross Road, about a long-distance letter-writing “affair” between two book lovers (Anthony Hopkins is the other one); and Agnes of God, an effective – if much too antiseptic – adaptation of the stage hit about a nun (Meg Tilly) who believes that the Holy Spirit is her (by now dead) baby’s dad. Bancroft is outstanding as the Mother Superior with little tolerance for miracles of that sort.
Bancroft is equally outstanding in Mike Nichols’ classic The Graduate (in a role initially intended for Patricia Neal and Doris Day), and she’s quite good as Peter Finch’s dejected housewife in Jack Clayton’s kitchen-sink drama The Pumpkin Eater, adapted by Harold Pinter from a novel by Penelope Mortimer.
Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website.
Marie Dressler movies
3:00 AM The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)
Sketches and songs give MGM’s silent stars a chance to show their stuff in talking pictures. Cast: Jack Benny, Buster Keaton, Joan Crawford. Director: Charles Riesner. Color. 118 min.
5:00 AM Tillie’s Punctured Romance (1914)
In this silent film, a con man dupes a wealthy country girl into marriage. Cast: Marie Dressler, Charles Chaplin, Mabel Normand. Director: Mack Sennett. Black and white. 72 min.
6:20 AM Short Film: The Divine Woman (Lost Greta Garbo Footage) (1928)
6:30 AM The Divine Lady (1929)
Lady Hamilton’s love affair with Admiral Nelson rocks the British Empire. Cast: Corinne Griffith, Victor Varconi, Marie Dressler. Director: Frank Lloyd. Black and white. 99 min.
8:15 AM The Vagabond Lover (1929)
A small-town boy finds fame and romance when he joins a dance band. Cast: Rudy Vallee, Marie Dressler, Sally Blane. Director: Marshall Neilan. Black and white. 65 min.
9:30 AM The Girl Said No (1930)
A college sports star surprises everyone with his money-making schemes. Cast: William Haines, Leila Hyams, Marie Dressler. Director: Sam Wood. Black and white. 92 min.
11:15 AM Let Us Be Gay (1930)
A visit to Paris brings divorced spouses back together. Cast: Norma Shearer, Rod La Rocque, Marie Dressler. Director: Robert Z. Leonard. Black and white. 79 min.
12:45 PM Reducing (1931)
A beauty-parlor manager brings in an old friend to help her with disastrous results. Cast: Marie Dressler, Polly Moran, Anita Page. Director: Charles F. Reisner. Black and white. 77 min.
2:15 PM Politics (1931)
Two women take on small-town racketeers. Cast: Marie Dressler, Polly Moran, Roscoe Ates. Director: Charles F. Reisner. Black and white. 73 min.
3:30 PM Prosperity (1932)
Feuding mothers almost wreck their children’s marriage. Cast: Marie Dressler, Polly Moran, Anita Page. Director: Sam Wood. Black and white. 87 min.
5:00 PM Dinner at Eight (1933). Director: George Cukor. Cast: Marie Dressler. John Barrymore. Wallace Beery. Jean Harlow. Lionel Barrymore. Edmund Lowe. Billie Burke. Madge Evans. Lee Tracy. Phillips Holmes. May Robson. Karen Morley. Louise Closser Hale. Elizabeth Patterson. Grant Mitchell. Edward Woods. B&W-111m.
7:00 PM Min and Bill (1930)
Two crusty waterfront characters try to protect their daughter from a terrible secret. Cast: Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery, Dorothy Jordan. Director: George Hill. Black and white. 66 min.
8:15 PM Emma (1932)
A housekeeper faces unexpected snobbery when she marries her boss. Cast: Marie Dressler, Jean Hersholt, Myrna Loy. Director: Clarence Brown. Black and white. 72 min.
9:30 PM Anna Christie (1930)
Eugene O’Neill’s classic about a romantic prostitute trying to run away from her past. Cast: Greta Garbo, Charles Bickford, Marie Dressler. Director: Clarence Brown. Black and white. 90 min.
11:15 PM Tugboat Annie (1933)
A lady tugboat captain tries to help two young lovers come together. Cast: Marie Dressler, Wallace Beery, Robert Young. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Black and white. 86 min.
12:45 AM That’s Entertainment! III (1994)
Classic musical numbers and rare behind-the-scenes footage show how MGM created the screen’s greatest musicals. Featuring clips with Gene Kelly, Lena Horne and Debbie Reynolds. Cast: June Allyson, Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Howard Keel. Director: Burt Friedgen, Michael J. Sheridan. Color. 120 mins. Letterbox Format
Claude Rains movies
3:00 AM They Won’t Forget (1937)
Bigotry flares when a Jewish businessman is accused of killing a small-town girl in the South. Cast: Claude Rains, Gloria Dickson, Allyn Joslyn. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Black and white. 95 min.
5:00 AM Gold Is Where You Find It (1938)
A gold strike in California triggers a bitter feud between farmers and prospectors. Cast: George Brent, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains. Director: Michael Curtiz. Color. 94 min.
6:45 AM Four Daughters (1938)
A small-town family’s peaceful life is shattered when one daughter falls for a rebellious musician. Cast: Claude Rains, John Garfield, Priscilla Lane. Director: Michael Curtiz. Black and white. 90 min.
8:30 AM Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
An idealistic Senate replacement takes on political corruption. Cast: James Stewart, Jean Arthur, Claude Rains. Director: Frank Capra. Black and white. 130 min.
10:45 AM The Sea Hawk(1940)
A British buccaneer holds the Spanish fleet at bay with the covert approval of Elizabeth I. Cast: Errol Flynn, Claude Rains, Flora Robson. Director: Michael Curtiz. Black and white. 128 min.
3:15 PM The Unsuspected(1947)
The producer of a radio crime series commits the perfect crime, then has to put the case on the air. Cast: Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, Constance Bennett. Director: Michael Curtiz. Black and white. 103 min.
5:00 PM Now Voyager (1942)
A repressed spinster is transformed by psychiatry and her love for a married man. Cast: Bette Davis, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains. Director: Irving Rapper. Black and white. 118 min.
7:00 PM Mr. Skeffington (1944)
A flighty beauty marries a stockbroker for convenience and almost ruins both their lives. Cast: Bette Davis, Claude Rains, Walter Abel. Director: Vincent Sherman. Black and white. 146 min.
9:30 PM Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)
Julius Caesar gives the famed Egyptian queen lessons in government. Cast: Claude Rains, Vivien Leigh, Stewart Granger. Director: Gabriel Pascal. Color. 128 min.
11:45 PM The Adventures of Robin Hood(1938)
The bandit king of Sherwood Forest leads his Merry Men in a battle against the corrupt Prince John. Cast: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone. Director: William Keighley, Michael Curtiz. Color. 102 min.
1:30 AM Lady with Red Hair (1940)
An actress hopes to regain her lost son by making it to the top. Cast: Miriam Hopkins, Claude Rains, Richard Ainley. Director: Curtis Bernhardt. Black and white. 78 min.
Anne Bancroft movies
3:00 AM The Last Frontier(1956)
A backwoodsman signs on as scout for a remote Army fort. Cast: Victor Mature, Guy Madison, Robert Preston. Director: Anthony Mann. Color. 98 mins. Letterbox Format
5:00 AM The Naked Street(1955)
A racketeer saves his daughter’s no-good husband from the chair but lives to regret it. Cast: Anthony Quinn, Anne Bancroft, Farley Granger. Director: Maxwell Shane. Black and white. 85 min.
6:30 AM Nightfall (1956)
A man on a hunting trip gets mixed up with murderous bank robbers. Cast: Aldo Ray, Brian Keith, Anne Bancroft. Director: Jacques Tourneur. Black and white. 79 min.
8:00 AM The Girl In Black Stockings(1957)
A young girl’s murder leaves a hotel full of suspects. Cast: Anne Bancroft, Lex Barker, Mamie Van Doren. Director: Howard W. Koch. Black and white. 75 min.
9:30 AM Seven Women (1966)
The women staffing an isolated Chinese mission fight to survive a bandit attack. Cast: Anne Bancroft, Flora Robson, Margaret Leighton. Director: John Ford. Color. 87 mins. Letterbox Format
11:00 AM Young Winston (1972)
The young Winston Churchill overcomes a bad family life and early military mistakes to launch his political career. Cast: Robert Shaw, Anne Bancroft, Simon Ward. Director: Richard Attenborough. Color. 124 mins. Letterbox Format
1:15 PM The Slender Thread(1965)
A crisis line volunteer tries to save a woman from suicide. Cast: Sidney Poitier, Anne Bancroft, Telly Savalas. Director: Sydney Pollack. Black and white. 98 mins. Letterbox Format
3:00 PM The Pumpkin Eater(1964)
A woman drifts through multiple marriages in search of stability. Cast: Anne Bancroft, Peter Finch, James Mason. Director: Jack Clayton. Black and white. 110 min.
5:00 PM The Miracle Worker(1962)
True story of the determined teacher who helped Helen Keller overcome deafness and blindness to learn to communicate. Cast: Anne Bancroft, Patty Duke, Inga Swenson. Director: Arthur Penn. Black and white. 107 mins. Letterbox Format
7:00 PM The Graduate(1967)
A recent college graduate has an affair with his neighbor’s wife, then falls for their daughter. Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross. Director: Mike Nichols. Color. 106 mins. Letterbox Format
9:00 PM The Prisoner of Second Avenue(1975)
A suddenly unemployed executive and his understanding wife must adapt to their new life. Cast: Jack Lemmon, Elizabeth Wilson, Anne Bancroft. Director: Melvin Frank. Black and white. 98 mins. Letterbox Format
11:00 PM Agnes of God (1985)
A psychiatrist tries to unravel the case of a young nun discovered with a dead baby. Cast: Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft, Meg Tilly. Director: Norman Jewison. Color. 99 mins. Letterbox Format
1:00 AM 84 Charing Cross Road (1986)
A shut-in’s correspondence with a London book dealer leads to a close friendship. Cast: Anne Bancroft, Anthony Hopkins, Judi Dench. Director: David Hugh Jones. Color. 99 mins. Letterbox Format