Friday, November 09, 2007

Guest programmer

This month, Turner Classics' evening schedule is being determined by a daily celebrity guest programmer. Some of the guests -- such as Alton Brown, Thelma Schoonmaker, and James Ellroy -- are particularly interesting choices; only one, Kermit the Frog, seems gimmicky. (Though in all honesty, Kermit has selected a fine night of movies, including the wonderful Singin' in the Rain.) Over on She-Blogger, Lucy decided to play guest programmer herself and came up with three nights of intriguing prgramming -- intriguing because all of her choices are either movies I already love or ones I know nothing about and now must check out for myself. She tagged me to give it a try, and I'm delighted to oblige. I, however, cannot limit myself to one or even three evenings of suggested viewing; since my entire raison d'etre revolves around telling people which books, movies and music will make their lives better, I've come up with a whole five nights' worth of must-see TV. Ladies and gentlemen, start your microwave popcorn poppers.

MONDAY: Musicals
  • Meet Me in St. Louis - Even as a bewigged blonde, Judy Garland has never been more beautiful or in better singing form.
  • My Fair Lady - What can you say about a musical whose big show-stopping number consists of three people (two of them old men) cavorting around a library? Only that it's just about perfect.
  • Fiddler on the Roof - When I was a little kid, "Topol" was an anti-stain toothpaste aimed at smokers. After I saw this movie, Topol was Tevye the Dairyman. A great performance at the center of a wonderfully melancholy musical.

TUESDAY: Melodrama
I only picked two, since a) they're both so long, and b) you'll want to off yourself if you have to watch another movie in the same vein. Coincidentally, they both star the lovely Lana Turner.

  • Peyton Place - Secrets and lies in a small New England town. Illegitimate children, affairs, rape, murder, and -- horrors! -- a sissy boy, this movie is to drool over.
  • Imitation of Life (1959) - You are made of stone if you fail to shed a tear or two at the end of this soaper.


  • His Girl Friday - This movie is all about snappy dialogue, and I'm here to tell you, the movies never got it snappier.
  • Unfaithfully Yours (1948) - Rex Harrison is perfectly cast as the supercilious, jealous conductor who comes to suspect that his wife is having an affair. The occasional weird sound effects add to the hilarity.
  • What's Up, Doc? - Perhaps the last real screwball comedy. I fell in love with Austin Pendleton when I first saw this as a little kid.


  • The Maltese Falcon (1941) - What many consider the first true noir. Humphrey Bogart is pitch-perfect as PI Sam Spade, and Peter Lorre is twitchy fun as Sam Cairo.
  • Gun Crazy (1950) - Delirious, on-the-cheap noir with gun- and sex-obsessed leads Peggy Cummins and John Dall on a crime spree. A.K.A. Deadly Is the Female.
  • Mildred Pierce - Joan Crawford won her only Oscar for her turn as the martyr title character who will do anything for her ungrateful daughter. She and Ann Blyth are great as Mildred and the conniving Veda, but supporting actors Eve Arden and Jack Carson almost steal the show.
  • The Night of the Hunter (1955) - Eerie, haunting, as much a fairy tale as a noir.
  • Touch of Evil - We'll wind up this long evening with what many consider the last true noir. The whole production is fantastic, but special props must go to the casting director -- it's an amazing group of talent in this movie.

FRIDAY: Love Stories

  • The African Queen (1951) - Middle-aged romance has rarely been so exciting and unexpected.
  • The Apartment (1960) - It's the perfect blend of sweet and tart, funny and tragic. And Shirley MacLaine is just so cute!
  • Moonstruck (1987) - You think your life is headed in a particular direction, and then it veers off in another... Funny, romantic, a little sad, and above all, a big valentine to familial love.

I'll try tagging Norman; this sort of exercise seems right up his alley.


Trooperdog said...

Great list. I'm going to have to add some of these movies to my "must see" list!

Will said...

I was very happy to see Jerry Stiller select "A Night at the Opera"