Monday, September 05, 2005

I Heart Comcast

And their digital cable with DVR. Now I can easily pluck movies from Turner Classic Movies with the onscreen guide and record them with a click of a button! No more painstaking calculations of how long the movie's really going to run, with introductions by Robert Osborne and whatnot. (My last attempt to tape several movies in one week was a miserable failure, as I missed the last 5-10 minutes of each movie.) I was on my own for the holiday weekend, so I settled down to watch a bunch I had taped (and one from Netflix today).

First up was Suzy, with Jean Harlow, Franchot Tone (and can he rock an Irish brogue), and Cary Grant. Rounding out the cast was character actress Inez Courtney as Maisie (who looked familiar to me because she played another Mazie in one of my favorite Jean movies, Hold Your Man), Una O'Connor, and Lewis Stone. I don't think this was oneof Harlow's more popular movies, and I suppose I can see one reason why...her devotion to Cary Grant is incomprehensible to me, after all the dirty tricks he plays on her. Plus he was just all-around not a nice guy. I mean, who doesn't write to his ailing father when he goes off to war? I thought Suzy's devotion to the Baron was very touching, however. I was hoping for a nice romantic reunion with Terry at the end of the film, not Suzy and Terry dragging Andre's body out to the plane so France will think he died a hero. I say, let him die as what he was -- a philandering playboy pilot who was duped and shot by a spy. Oh, well. I guess Suzy is a bigger person than I.

Next was The Unknown, with Lon Chaney and a very young and almost unrecognizable Joan Crawford. Silent films are a taste recently acquired, and I liked this one. The soundtrack was gorgeous. Lon Chaney was delightfully creepy as "Alonzo the Armless." Joan was very pretty, but didn't have the usual "face" that I think most fans associate with her. If I hadn't know ahead of time it was her, I'm not sure I would have known her. Her famous beautiful eyes are rather unremarkable here. And here's an interesting bit of trivia from IMDB: For many years, this film only existed in murky 9.5mm dupes on the black market. In March 1973, at a screening of this film at George Eastman House, archivist James Card said that Henri Langlois and his staff at the Cinematheque Francais discovered The Unknown in 1968 among other miscellaneous cans of film marked "l'inconnu" (films "unknown" due to missing titles, etc.). I could tell that the titles were of a modern era, but I'm not sure about the music. I guess, looking back on it, that it did have an electronic quality to it that would indicate it's not original to the film.

I made it a Joan Crawford double feature with the next movie, The Story of Esther Costello. It was heavy-handed in parts, and of course Joan chews her share of the scenery in places. Overall, though, I enjoyed her performance, and the movie as a whole, very much. Heather Sears was excellent as Esther, and Rossano Brazzi appropriately slimy as Joan's estranged husband. The ending is a little abrupt, with the eventual fate of Joan and her dastardly husband relayed in one sentence, and the last shot of Esther walking away to, I assumed, speak to a crowd gathered for an Esther Costello Fund benefit. (There's a blink-and-you'll-miss-her appearance by Bessie Love, she of Broadway Melody fame, as "Matron in Art Gallery.")

Last on the bill was Beau Geste, which I had a hankering to see after watching Lawrence of Arabia last weekend (which I know is this great epic, but to me it was just...okay). Gary Cooper and Ray Milland together was quite a lot of eye candy to handle at once. I thought Robert Preston was an odd choice as the third brother; he'll always be Professor Harold Hill to me, and the pencil mustache didn't suit him at all. It made him look rather sleazy, I thought. I'll admit that I didn't see the ending coming at all, specifically the last scene at the house with Aunt Pat reads the letter. Look closely and you'll see a very young Donald O'Connor playing Beau Geste as a young boy. This was the first Gary Cooper movie I'd ever seen, and I liked him enough that I think I'll be adding some of his movies to my Netflix queue, along with some more Ray Milland. I could listen to Ray just read the phone book -- a lovely, cultured voice.

Coming attractions include a double feature of Airport '77 and The Concorde: Airport '79, two of those movies in a category I like to call "disaster movies featuring aging Hollywood legends." Hey, I rented Airport 1975 for the sole purpose of seeing Myrna Loy, who did not disappoint as a sensible, calm but cute little old lady. Let's see how Olivia de Havilland handles being trapped in a plane at *snicker* the bottom of the ocean, in the Bermuda triangle! *cue dramatic music*

Also, arriving in the mail this week is The Bela Lugosi Collection on DVD. Yay!