December is always a rather treacly time for movies. Anything remotely Xmas or holiday or family oriented comes out, over and over. There’s dozens of showing of MIRACLE ON 34th ST., HOLIDAY INN, you know the score, and like me you may be getting douche chills all the while. But TCM is focusing in on William Powell this month, so keep wading in and around the Thursday-Friday time slot, Tivo at the ready, and you’re bound to hit some nuggets. As always there’s late night/early morning super rare specimens to be caught by ye patient fisher of pre-codes. And if they’re too tepid, small-town hokey, or antiquated and tame, just throw them back! Hit Delete! This conversation never happened.
ONE WAY PASSAGE (1932)
If you missed it last month when I mentioned it, here’s a second chance. Word’s got out how great this film is–it’s a tearjerker comedy with so much class, chemistry, wit, charm, poetry, and heart that it’s okay to weep just thinking about it even if you’re muy macho. It’s on TCM a lot now but that doesn’t mean you should just wait around before making it a permanent fixture on your DVR saved list.
6 AM -TCM – THE ROAD TO SINGAPORE (1931)
This one’s so rare it’s not even in Leonard Maltin’s Classic Film Guide! William Powell stars and from the sound of it, this Road leads to pre-code tropical heat ala the post-Rain rash of tales involving fallen women navigating the treacherous eddies and currents of exotic locales and tangling with louche gentlemen of leisure and maybe one good, true sailor who never doubts her, even unto the gallows for a murder she only committed to either save her honor or the life of her D.A. son. Whew! This film may not be quite like that, though. We’ll see. It also stars Marian Marsh, who stole my heart as the goofball Trilby against Barrymore’s 1933 Svengali. I’m sure a more accurate synopsis can be found somewhere on the web, but that feels like cheating! If it’s not in Lenny, then it’s Sir Stamford Raffles time for me.
8:30 AM – TCM – YOU CAN’T BUY EVERYTHING (1934)
TCM can only tell us: “A scorned woman dreams of revenge on the man who betrayed her.” It’s a loose depiction of a notoriously evil miser-type female robber baron (May Robson, having a ball) dubbed ‘the Witch of Wall Street’ who terrorized the economy. Another one not in Leonard! Also starring he who is peerless in fusing drunkenness and dry patriarchal poise, Lewis Stone. It’s perfectly in line with the holidays to see a female Scrooge get the whats-what, so I’m hoping this obliges.
A rare pro-prohibition tract on booze? And Myrna Loy’s in it?! Sounds either unintentionally hilarious or tediously archaic, and probably a bit of both. Jimmy Durante is a revenue agent, supposedly with a beard! Ink a drink? Ah do! Ah-chachachacha. If I wasn’t a recovering alcoholic I’d surely see this soused at six AM! (or is it six PM? Is it dawn or is it dusk? You can never tell, that’s, that’s the devil of it, Nat!)
Speaking of Myrna Loy, set your Tivo ahead to next week to Tuesday, December 20th at 9 AM so you don’t miss the amazing…
Imagine of Myrna Loy’s Fah Lo Suee character in MASK OF FU MANCHU went off to an ivy league American University, tried to join a sorority and was snubbed for being non-white. Not a good idea, ladies! Joan Crawford in THE WOMAN has nothing on Fah Lo Suee!
That’s kind of the backstory to the film you need to know, because knowing in advance a dish best served cold is on the way helps you endure sleep-inducing early stretches of the decent (white) ladies now ‘grown’ and led by Irene Dunne, meeting on sunny stage-bound verandas for tea and gossip. In darker shadowy lairs, Loy meets with her devoted astrologer, Swami Yogadaci (the ever villainous C. Henry Gordon) to figure out how and when the stars want her to assassinate her former snubbers. Loy’s the villain, ostensibly, but you’ll be rooting for her all the way (unless you’ve never felt the sting of a snubbing yourself). The big train chase finale is superb! It’s a film you’ll want to see again and again, especially since parts of it are better than Nyqil, which then makes the weird Loy sequences all the more dreamlike as you gaze on them with one eye open.