Analysis of the TCM Festival schedule continues here at Backlots. Friday morning starts off as well as any Friday morning could start, but it is also a perfect example of the joyous difficulty TCM’s schedule poses for the attendee.
As happy as many of us are that Shanghai Express, The More the Merrier, and Love Me or Leave Me are all playing at the festival this year–we are faced with the dilemma that they are all playing at the same time, and we can’t be in three places at once.
Shanghai Express, the 1932 pre-Code starring Marlene Dietrich, Clive Brook, and Anna May Wong, is exactly the kind of film that attracts a significant part of TCM’s demographic. TCM viewers and festival attendees seem to have a real fondness for pre-Codes–two years ago, Bruce Goldstein’s presentation on pre-Code Hollywood was packed to the gills with enthusiastic fans of the steamy, sensuous world of Hollywood between 1929 and 1934. Shanghai Express is a textbook pre-Code. Telling the story of Shanghai Lily, a sexually liberated woman (“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily”) who meets a former lover on a train during the Chinese civil war, it is sure to draw a large crowd at the festival.
Love Me or Leave Me, the classic Doris Day musical, is another delightful choice for this time slot. An increasing number of people seem to be drawn to Doris Day in recent years, and the love is much-deserved. There is more to Doris Day movies than may meet the eye at first glance–this movie, for example, was nominated for 8 Academy Awards and won for Best Writing.
But both of these are playing opposite The More the Merrier, a movie that many of us have been trying to get to the festival for many years. Starring Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea, and Charles Coburn, The More the Merrier is a farce about the housing crisis during World War II, disguised as a hysterically funny screwball comedy. Coburn’s character finagles his way into sharing a room with Jean Arthur and then rents half of his room to Joel McCrea, creating a situation in which Coburn begins to act as a matchmaker for the two younger characters.
Additionally, The More the Merrier will be introduced by Cari Beauchamp, a major draw for festivalgoers herself. In addition to her regular presentations at prior TCM Festivals, she won over viewers of the channel this past year with her appearances on TCM’s “Trailblazing Women” series.
The fact that we have been trying to get The More the Merrier for several years, along with the delightfulness of the movie and Beauchamp’s introduction, makes this a must-see.
MY CHOICE: The More the Merrier
MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: Nothing, although if it were in any other time slot, I would see Shanghai Express.
The next time slot at 11:30 is quite a lot easier on the decision-making front. I love The Way We Were, and once again, Cari Beauchamp is introducing. With her long history in politics and in the feminist movements of the 1970s, there is no one better to introduce this movie.
Nothing else in this time slot particularly grabs me. Lassie Come Home is sweet, but I don’t feel the need to see it on the big screen. The Way We Were it is.
MY CHOICE: The Way We Were
MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: Nothing.
The Friday afternoon and evening slots provide a buffet of great choices once again. At 3:00 at Chinese Multiplex 1, Serge Bromberg will present a look at some of the newest discoveries and restorations in silent film, including new footage from Buster Keaton’s The Blacksmith and a previously lost Laurel and Hardy film, The Battle of the Century. Meanwhile, down the hall at the Multiplex 4, there will be a screening of the Deborah Kerr classic Tea and Sympathy, and for Coppola fans, a screening of The Conversation with Coppola present. For me, I’m torn between Tea and Sympathy and Serge Bromberg’s presentation. I’m not sure which will win out this time–my never-ending love for silent film, or my love for Deborah Kerr. Darryl Hickman, who plays Al in the film, will be a special guest, which is a plus. This one is a toss-up, but silent film may easily win out despite the pros to Tea and Sympathy.
MY CHOICE: Amazing Film Discoveries
MY MIND MAY BE CHANGED BY: Tea and Sympathy.
The evening hours commence with a choice between another pre-Code, an oft-screened uber-classic, a modern movie, a silent, and a Club TCM presentation about vaudeville. The pre-Code is Pleasure Cruise, a not terribly well-known movie and one that would be my first new-to-me pick of the festival. It’s difficult to go wrong with a pre-Code, and the new-to-me factor is a bonus.
MY CHOICE: Pleasure Cruise
MY MIND MAY BE CHANGED BY: Vaudeville 101
The late evening is no contest. Despite the stellar lineup of movies in this time slot, including Pride of the Yankees and My Sister Eileen, Angela Lansbury is going to be at The Manchurian Candidate. That sells it for me.
MY CHOICE: The Manchurian Candidate
MY MIND MIGHT BE CHANGED BY: Nothing, unless Angela Lansbury can’t be there for some reason.
I’ll be back tomorrow with Saturday’s picks!