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Home Classic Movies Who Is Greta Garbo? Find Out on TCM + James Garner & Fred MacMurray

Who Is Greta Garbo? Find Out on TCM + James Garner & Fred MacMurray

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Greta GarboWho is Greta Garbo?

Find out on Turner Classic Movies.

Thursday–Saturday, Aug. 7–9, highlights on Turner Classic Movies:

Thursday is Greta Garbo Day:

Sometimes splendid, sometimes godawful, Garbo was invariably great to look at. TCM will be showing some of the reclusive star’s best films and performances, among them Camille, Ninotchka, and Queen Christina, but nothing one might call unique. (Say, The Atonement of Gosta Berling, or Peter the Tramp, or the restored Street of Sorrows.)

For those who haven’t seen the much-maligned Two-Faced Woman, Garbo’s swan song, it’s actually an amusing comedy, with Garbo delivering a humorous performance as a woman pretending to be her worldly sister so as to keep husband Melvyn Douglas. As The Other Woman, Constance Bennett nearly steals both the husband and the show.

The original (silent) version of the story, Her Sister from Paris, starring Constance Talmadge at her best (a pre-superstardom Ronald Colman plays the husband), is even better than Two-Faced Woman – though it’s hardly ever screened anywhere.

In the early 1930s, Louis B. Mayer’s Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer boasted more bona fide stars than any other studio. “More stars than there are in heaven” was MGM’s presumptuous but, in all fairness, only slightly exaggerated motto. So it should have come as no surprise that the Culver City studio would be the one pioneering the all-star “genre.”

Justifying both the big names and the big budget ($700,000), MGM’s second-in-command Irving G. Thalberg selected a weighty project: An adaptation of William A. Drake’s play Grand Hotel, itself based on Vicki Baum’s 1929 Berlin-set novel Menschen im Hotel (“People in the Hotel”) and which ran for 459 performances at Broadway’s National Theatre.

Strangely, Grand Hotel doesn’t have a screenplay credit. Among the names mentioned in connection with the adaptation are Drake himself, frequent Ernst Lubitsch collaborator Hanns Kräly, and, erroneously, Hungarian film critic Béla Balázs.

An uncredited Paul Bern, Jean Harlow’s husband at the time, supervised the production. A few years later, his position would have earned him a producer credit, but Bern didn’t live long enough for that. Living Harlow a widow, he committed suicide at age 42 in September 1932.

An aside: The Broadway production of Grand Hotel, one of Garbo’s biggest hits, starred Eugenie Leontovich, Albert Dekker, Hortense Alden, Sig Ruman (apparently before he became Hollywood’s favorite Central European caricature), and Sam Jaffe in the roles played by Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, and Lionel Barrymore on screen.

Wednesday is James Garner Day:

I haven’t seen most of the scheduled Garner vehicles, but I strongly recommend George Seaton’s 36 Hours, a taut (if a little outlandish) suspense thriller in which Garner plays a World War II combatant who wakes up one day only to discover that the war has ended and the Allies have won. Or have they? Rod Taylor and the always excellent Eva Marie Saint co-star.

But why, oh, why are they showing the Bob Hope vehicle Alias Jesse James on James Garner Day? Well, that’s because Garner has a cameo in the film as Bret Maverick.

Thursday is Fred MacMurray Day:

MacMurray is hardly one of my favorite actors – he’s the opposite of the handsome, intelligent leading man personified by Gregory Peck – but he could be an effective crook as seen in Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity and, especially, The Apartment. The latter (Academy Award-winning) film will be shown on Thursday evening. It’s one of Wilder’s best, a mordant comedy about your usual sleazy office politics, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine.

Since MacMurray was a Paramount star in the ’30s and early ’40s, most of his films don’t belong to the TCM library, and most of those – currently Universal-owned – oldies haven’t been leased (as of yet) by Turner. In other words, next Thursday you won’t find any of MacMurray’s pairings with Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, or Madeleine Carroll.

George StevensAlice Adams, however, is always worth a look, in spite – not because – of MacMurray, who’s quite ineffectual as the object of Katharine Hepburn’s affection. Indeed, Alice Adams is Hepburn’s film all the way, even though Hattie McDaniel is superb as a no-nonsense maid.

Jean Arthur is the chief reason to watch Too Many Husbands (which came out the same year as the similarly themed My Favorite Wife), while Marlene Dietrich has the title role in the moderately amusing The Lady Is Willing.

I should add that three MacMurray films are TCM premieres: Good Day for a Hanging, Face of a Fugitive, and the aforementioned The Lady Is Willing.

In addition to directing and producing the classic comedy-drama starring Jack Lemmon (ambitious office worker and resident of the titular dwelling), Shirley MacLaine (elevator operator and the lover of an older, married man), and Fred MacMurray (the older married man in question and the office worker’s boss who makes sporadic use of the titular dwelling), Wilder also co-wrote the screenplay with frequent (post-1957) partner I.A.L. Diamond.

Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website:

Greta Garbo movies

7 Thursday

3:00 AM The Temptress (1926)
In this silent film, a woman forsakes husband and lover to pursue a young engineer. Cast: Greta Garbo, Antonio Moreno, Lionel Barrymore. Director: Fred Niblo. Black and white. 106 min.

5:00 AM Flesh and the Devil (1926)
In this silent film, a femme fatale comes between childhood friends. Cast: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Lars Hanson. Director: Clarence Brown. Black and white. 113 min.

7:00 AM The Mysterious Lady (1928)
In this silent film, an Austrian officer unwittingly falls in love with a Russian spy. Cast: Greta Garbo, Conrad Nagel, Gustav von Seyffertitz. Director: Fred Niblo. Black and white. 90 min.

8:31 AM Short Film: The Divine Woman (Lost Greta Garbo Footage) (1928)
BW-9 min.

8:45 AM A Woman of Affairs (1928)
Prejudice keeps a free spirit from the man she loves, triggering a series of tragedies. Cast: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. Johnny Mack Brown. Director: Clarence Brown. Black and white. 91 min.

10:25 AM Short Film: Garbo Festival (2000)
BW-3 min.

10:30 AM Mata Hari (1931)
Romantic biography of World War I’s notorious lady spy. Cast: Greta Garbo, Ramon Novarro, Lionel Barrymore, Karen Morley. Director: George Fitzmaurice. Black and white. 89 min.

12:00 PM Queen Christina (1933)
Romantic tale of the 17th-century Swedish queen and her romance with a Spanish diplomat. Cast: Greta Garbo, John Gilbert, Lewis Stone. Director: Rouben Mamoulian. Black and white. 99 min.

1:45 PM Anna Karenina (1935)
Adaptation of Tolstoy’s classic tale of a woman who deserts her family for an illicit love. Cast: Greta Garbo, Fredric March, Basil Rathbone, Freddie Bartholomew. Director: Clarence Brown. Black and white. 93 min.

3:30 PM Garbo (2005)
Documentary that explores the life and career of screen legend Greta Garbo. Black and white. 86 min.

5:00 PM Camille (1936)
In this classic 19th-century romance, a kept woman runs off with a young admirer in search of love and happiness. Cast: Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor, Lionel Barrymore, Jessie Ralph. Director: George Cukor. Black and white. 109 min.

7:00 PM Ninotchka (1939)
A coldhearted Soviet agent is warmed up by a trip to Paris and a night of love. Cast: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire, Bela Lugosi. Director: Ernst Lubitsch. Black and white. 111 min.

9:00 PM Grand Hotel (1932)
Guests at a posh Berlin hotel struggle through scandal and heartache. Greta Garbo, John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Lionel Barrymore, Jean Hersholt. Director: Edmund Goulding. Black and white. 113 min.

11:00 PM Two Faced Woman (1941)
A woman pretends to be her own twin sister to win back her straying husband. Cast: Greta Garbo, Melvyn Douglas, Constance Bennett. Director: George Cukor. Black and white. 90 min.

12:45 AM The Kiss (1929)
A woman’s generosity to an amorous youth leads to tragedy. Cast: Greta Garbo, Lew Ayres, Conrad Nagel. Director: Jacques Feyder. Black and white. 62 min.

2:00 AM The Divine Greta Garbo (1990)
Glenn Close hosts this documentary featuring film clips and rare behind-the-scenes footage that reveal how Greta Garbo’s film career reflected her life. Black and white. 46 min.

James Garner The Americanization of Emily Julie Andrews
James Garner in The Americanization of Emily with Julie Andrews.

James Garner movies

8 Friday

3:00 AM Alias Jesse James (1959)
An insurance agent lands in hot water when people mistake him for the infamous western outlaw. Cast: Bob Hope, Rhonda Fleming, Wendell Corey, James Garner. Director: Norman Z. McLeod. Color. 92 mins. Letterbox Format

4:45 AM Mister Buddwing (1966)
A man suffering from amnesia confronts a series of women in his search for his memory. Cast: James Garner, Jean Simmons, Suzanne Pleshette, Angela Lansbury, Katharine Ross. Director: Delbert Mann. Black and white. 99 min.

6:30 AM Private Screenings: James Garner (2001)
James Garner appears with Robert Osborne to discuss his extensive film career. Cast: James Garner, Robert Osborne. Black and white. 54 mins. Letterbox Format

7:30 AM Boys’ Night Out (1962)
A psychology student researches infidelity by becoming a platonic kept woman for four buddies. Cast: James Garner, Kim Novak, Tony Randall. Director: Michael Gordon. Color. 113 mins. Letterbox Format

9:30 AM The Wheeler Dealers (1963)
Texas tycoons try to mix love with finance on a trip to New York. Cast: James Garner, Lee Remick, Jim Backus. Director: Arthur Hiller. Color. 106 mins. Letterbox Format

11:30 AM Cash McCall (1960)
A corporate spoiler makes a play for a failing company and the owner’s daughter. Cast: James Garner, Natalie Wood, Nina Foch. Director: Joseph Pevney. Color. 102 min.

1:15 PM 36 Hours (1965)
Nazis kidnap a key American intelligence officer and try to convince him that World War II is over. Cast: James Garner, Rod Taylor, Eva Marie Saint. Director: George Seaton. Black and white. 115 mins. Letterbox Format

3:15 PM Hour of the Gun (1967)
Wyatt Earp tracks down the survivors of the Clanton Gang after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Cast: James Garner, Jason Robards. Robert Ryan. Director: John Sturges. Color. 101 mins. Letterbox Format

5:00 PM Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)
A cowboy drifts into a lawless town and brings things back together. Cast: James Garner, Joan Hackett, Walter Brennan. Director: Burt Kennedy. Color. 93 mins. Letterbox Format

6:45 PM Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971)
A con artist poses as a notorious hired gun. Cast: James Garner, Suzanne Pleshette, Jack Elam. Director: Burt Kennedy. Color. 92 mins. Letterbox Format

8:30 PM They Only Kill Their Masters (1972)
A small-town sheriff attempts to clear a Doberman of murder charges. Cast: James Garner, Katharine Ross, June Allyson. Director: James Goldstone. Color. 98 mins. Letterbox Format

10:15 PM Marlowe (1969)
Detective Philip Marlowe probes the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles in search of a woman’s missing sister. Cast: James Garner, Carroll O’Connor, Rita Moreno. Director: Paul Bogart. Color. 97 mins. Letterbox Format

12:00 AM The Americanization of Emily (1964)
A British war widow falls for an opportunistic American sailor during World War II. Cast: James Garner, Julie Andrews, Melvyn Douglas. Director: Arthur Hiller. Black and white. 115 mins. Letterbox Format

2:00 AM Private Screenings: James Garner (2001)
James Garner appears with Robert Osborne to discuss his extensive film career. Cast: James Garner, Robert Osborne. Black and white. 54 mins. Letterbox Format

Fred MacMurray Dive Bomber Errol Flynn Ralph Bellamy
Fred MacMurray in Dive Bomber with Errol Flynn and Ralph Bellamy.

Fred MacMurray movies

9 Saturday

3:00 AM Grand Old Girl (1935)
Gamblers engineer a veteran schoolteacher’s firing. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Alan Hale, May Robson. Director: John S. Robertson. Black and white. 71 min.

4:15 AM The Shaggy Dog (1959)
An ancient spell turns a teenager into a large sheep dog. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Jean Hagen, Tommy Kirk. Director: Charles Barton. Black and white. 102 min.

6:00 AM The Absent Minded Professor (1961)
A college professor fights off corrupt businessmen to market his new anti-gravity invention. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Nancy Olson, Keenan Wynn. Director: Robert Stevenson. Black and white. 96 mins. Letterbox Format

7:45 AM Son of Flubber (1963)
An absent-minded professor gets into legal trouble because of his experiments with a gravity defying substance. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Nancy Olson, Keenan Wynn. Director: Robert Stevenson. Black and white. 103 min.

9:30 AM Too Many Husbands (1940)
When her long lost husband returns after her re-marriage, a woman decides to try life with two mates. Cast: Jean Arthur, Fred MacMurray, Melvyn Douglas. Director: Wesley Ruggles. Black and white. 81 min.

11:00 AM Pardon My Past (1945)
A penniless veteran is mistaken for a millionaire playboy. Cast: Fred MacMurray, William Demarest, Akim Tamiroff. Director: Leslie Fenton. Black and white. 88 min.

12:30 PM Callaway Went Thataway (1951)
A real cowboy signs on to impersonate a faded western star for public appearances. Cast: Dorothy McGuire, Fred MacMurray, Howard Keel. Cameos: Esther Williams. Clark Gable. Elizabeth Taylor. Director: Melvin Frank, Norman Panama. Black and white. 82 min.

2:00 PM Good Day for a Hanging (1958)
A reformed bank robber has to choose between his former gang and doing the right thing. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Margaret Hayes, Robert Vaughn. Director: Nathan Juran. Black and white. 86 mins. Letterbox Format

3:30 PM Face of a Fugitive (1959)
A man framed for murder tries to build a new life after escaping the law. Cast: Fred MacMurray, Alan Baxter, James Coburn. Director: Paul Wendkos. Color. 81 mins. Letterbox Format

5:00 PM The Apartment (1960)
An aspiring executive lets his bosses use his apartment for assignations, only to fall for the big chief’s mistress. Cast: Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray Jack Krugen. Director: Billy Wilder. Black and white. 125 mins. Letterbox Format

7:15 PM The Lady Is Willing (1942)
A Broadway star has to find a husband so she can adopt an abandoned child. Cast: Marlene Dietrich, Fred MacMurray, Aline MacMahon. Director: Mitchell Leisen. Black and white. 91 min.

9:00 PM Alice Adams (1935)
A small-town girl with social ambitions falls in love with a local playboy. Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Fred MacMurray, Evelyn Venable, Hattie McDaniel. Director: George Stevens. Black and white. 100 min.

10:45 PM Dive Bomber (1941)
A crusading scientist fights to prevent bomber pilots from blacking out. Cast: Errol Flynn, Fred MacMurray, Alexis Smith, Ralph Bellamy. Director: Michael Curtiz. Color. 132 min.

1:00 AM Never a Dull Moment (1950)
A female music critic marries a rancher and has to adjust to life out West. Cast: Irene Dunne, Fred MacMurray, William Demarest. Director: George Marshall. Black and white. 89 min.

Turner Classic Movies website.

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