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Weekend’s Best Bet Continued…

In running through TCM’s lineup for this weekend, I came across far too many good flicks to list in my regular viewing recommendations in the left column. Not only are there a number of gems showing this weekend, but I have already written about them. So click on the links below to learn more about the movies and consider checking them out yourself this weekend. P.S. All times are Eastern Standard Time and on the U.S. programming schedule.

Beware, My Lovely
6:30 pm Friday on TCM
Ida Lupino, Robert Ryan

The Lost Weekend
10 pm Friday on TCM
Ray Milland, Jane Wyman

Sunrise
8 pm Saturday on TCM
Janet Gaynor, George O’Brien

The Great Race
1 pm Sunday on TCM
Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon

Butterfield 8
10 pm Sunday on TCM
Elizabeth Taylor, Laurence Harvey

 

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Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

Ring a Ding Ding

Sunrise (1927)

     After much procrastination, I finally decided this weekend that I had the necessary energy and focus to sit down with a silent film. I was drawn to Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans because it was directed by F.W. Murnau, who is famous for The Last Laugh  (a silent starring Emil Jannings that features only one intertitle near the film’s close) and Nosferatu among others made in his homeland of Germany.

     I was pleasantly surprised to find Sunrise a rather riveting silent film. The story is of “the man” (George O’Brien) and “the wife” (Janet Gaynor) and the meddling of “the woman from the city” (Margaret Livingston). The man, a farmer, has been drawn away from his wife by the exotic city woman who has made an extended stay of her visit in the country. Desiring to be together, the urban lady convinces the man to do away with his wife so they can live in the metropolis . “Couldn’t she get … drowned?” the vixen asks, initially prompting an violent outburst from the man.

     The man lures his wife onto a boat trip where he plans to topple the vessel. In a highly dramatic and frightening moment, the man stands in the boat, hands in a pre-strangle stance, as his wife leans backwards in utter horror, able to read all too well the intention on his face. The man, however, does not go through with the plot and instead rows them to land on the opposite side of the lake. The wife flees onto a trolley, but the man follows her as she exits into the city and wanders about totally distraught. The man is trying to win her over, now finding he loves his wife, but the woman is dismayed at discovering the man she thought loved her, and again insists as much, intended to murder her. Eventually, after sitting in on a wedding, the two rekindle their feelings and head out for a glorious day on the town.

     Rowing back across the lake by moonlight –a second honeymoon– all seems perfect for the couple until a dreadful storm picks up. The winds and rain obstruct the vessel from reaching home and it appears as though the man’s original plot to stage an accidental drowning might bring itself to fruition. He had stashed two bundles of bulrushes in the boat to buoy himself to safety under the original plan, but instead ties them to his wife. SPOILER ALERT After the storm we find the man clinging to a rock on the shore, and he immediately sends for a rescue party. The woman from the city is woken by the commotion and watches the search from a tree, thinking her lover has done just as he was assigned. After finding loose, floating bulrushes, the man assumes the worst and makes his way to the city lady, whom he begins to strangle. In time to stop him is the news that the wife has been found and is alive.

     Sunrise is a rather surprising story about the ups and downs –the sunrises and sunsets– all humans endure. I was certainly duped at the start into thinking this would be a movie about a murder and whatever consequences or regrets would follow it. Instead, the man transforms himself from the monster towering menacingly over his intended victim, to the supremely doting husband. The acting is fantastic as one both trembles at the terror the wife exudes and the evil the man does during that moment when he considers offing her. The two actors do an equally outstanding job of conveying the extreme affection they feel towards one another later on, illustrating polar extremes of emotion.

     The movie features a unique “soundtrack.” There is no spoken dialogue, but sound effects mimicking train whistles, pig oinks and even legitimate crowd commotion at a carnival give the impression one is watching a talkie. Murnau never made a talking picture, and Sunrise would be the first Fox picture with a recorded soundtrack.

     Murnau came to America specifically to film Sunrise, but at the time it was not a box office success, so the director was given less freedom on future works and would not climb to the same acclaim in the U.S. that he had earned in Germany. Still, the film won the first and only Oscar for “Unique and Artistic Film,” which was handed out during the first Academy Awards ceremony in 1929. Murnau would make a total of only 21 films before dying in a car accident at age 42.

Source: Robert Osborne, TCM.com

Feature: Halloween Flicks to Watch

We are fewer than two weeks out from my favorite holiday, so I think it is about time I bring up some upcoming, halloween-appropriate showings on Turner Classic Movies. Essentially what I have done below is gone through the TCM lineup and noted the one’s I’ve seen, which has caused me to realize I am not as well versed in classic horror as I thought. Ryan would be the authority on horror films past and present. In fact, we recently enjoyed Die! Die! My Darling from an old TCM recording, so look for a review of that next.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)

Up first is Arsenic and Old Lace. I know what you’re thinking: That’s a comedy, you fool. You would be correct, but it is a comedy full of poison, insanity, and best of all murder! Ryan would certainly name Arsenic and Old Lace as his favorite Cary Grant movie, and oddly, in the numerous times we have watched this one, I have only maybe once made it through without falling to sleep. That is not, of course, to say this flick is dull. Far from it! I use it as my benchmark for Grant’s screwball comedy phase. To sum it up, Grant’s two old aunts like to invite lonely men to their table for tea and arsenic before burying them in the basement. Add in another relative who thinks he is Teddy Roosevelt and uses the stairs to reenact the charge on San Juan Hill, and you’ve got a rip-roaring good time as Grant tries to save his family from prison.
The feature is set for 11:45 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 20.

Nosferatu (1922)

TCM has Nosferatu planned for this weekend. I will admit this one also found me falling to sleep, but Ryan owns it, so it must be good, right? It is a 1922 silent picture is from one of Germany’s most well-known directors, F. W. Murnau, and follows a woman who tries to end a vampires plague of death. I like to think of this as the original Dracula movie, and is in fact an adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel. What I have witnessed of this film are some fantastically creepy and visually impressive moments. The monster himself is the stuff nightmares are made of and the style of filming — German Expressionism — I always find appealing in its uniqueness.
Look for it at noon Sunday, Oct. 24.

Rebecca (1940)

I am always delighted to talk about Alfred Hitchcock, and 1940’s Best Picture winner receives nothing but my praise. Rebecca was Hitchcock’s first film produced in the U.S. and the director managed to find considerable freedom on this one because producer David O. Selznick was too distracted with Gone with the Wind to crack down on Hitch’s creative vision as he would on later works. Rebecca takes black and white cinema to new heights. It is a visually very impressive piece with great undertones that managed — in Hitchcock’s special way — to slip past the censors. In this rather creepy tale we have a young woman who marries a wealthy man whose first wife’s death remains a mystery to the “new Mrs. DeWinter” (the character doesn’t have a first name). I even considered naming this blog after the DeWinter mansion: Manderley.
Expect it at 10 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 28.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

I never considered Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?  a horror film until Columbus’ summer movie series featured it as a late night thriller. I suppose a rat for dinner is rather disturbing. Being the only picture Hollywood rivals Bette Davis and Joan Crawford actually did together, it illustrates severely the two most differing characteristics between the duo: Bette Davis is talented and Joan Crawford aged well. Davis was frightening looking enough in her old age but as a former child star who never coped with her loss of fame, she really puts Crawford through the psycho wringer. Crawford certainly comes off as a sympathetic character despite what I would say is a reversal of the roles in real life.
Check it out at 10:15 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.

Cat People (1942)

This next one is pretty much a joke. Cat People was the film for Simone Simon, who would go on to make a sequel to the mediocre flick. As I recall it, a beautiful young woman comes into a man’s life but she has a strange affinity for cats. I believe she might later turn into a panther, but the most important thing to remember about this flick is that it is good for a laugh.
Laugh along at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30.

Freaks (1932)

On the last day of the month and the official Halloween holiday, TCM brings us a movie that has typically been considered a horror film, but that really evokes only sympathy from my perspective. Freaks came out in 1932 and features a cast full of “circus freaks” including conjoined twins, a “human torso”, and dwarfs (including one of the lollipop gang in The Wizard of Oz). The film takes place in a circus setting where the strong man and what I’m remembering as a trapeze woman are the only “normal” of the crew. Those normal folk eventually incur the wrath of the freaks. Perhaps what people find frightening about this one is the potential to be attacked by deformed individuals.
Get Freaked at 6:15 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 31.

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