Thursday, September 25, 2014

DVR Alerts for Friday 9/25 -- TCM Pre-Code Festival

Sorry to be so late with this -- end of fiscal year at the day job! Don't forget, if you have Turner Classic Movies on your cable system, you should be able to see these after the fact using WatchTCM to stream them to your computer.

Also, remember that these are NOT organized by A List or B List. It's organized based on what I've seen and can recommend, and things I haven't seen but want to.

Definite YESes (seen and recommended)
A Free Soul (3:00 a.m. ET)
The Public Enemy (3:30 p.m. ET)
Scarface (5:00 p.m. ET)
Little Caesar (6:45 p.m. ET)
Three on a Match (10:00 p.m. ET)

Good Bets (that I haven't seen, but plan to)
Ladies They Talk About (6:30 a.m. ET)
Heroes For Sale (10:15 a.m. ET)
Employees' Entrance (11:30 a.m. ET)
Midnight Mary (1:00 p.m. ET)
Penthouse (8:15 p.m. ET)
State's Attorney (2:00 a.m. ET)

I can't quite decide how I feel about recommending The Hatchet Man (12:45 a.m. ET), so I'm listing it separately. On the one hand, it has Edward G. Robinson, one of my all-time favorite actors, and is directed by William Wellman. On the other, it has an all-white cast playing in yellowface, with Asian-American actors relegated to bit parts. Pre-Code films reflect their times, which means that they can sometimes be startlingly racist to our eyes, so viewer beware.

If you haven't seen Little Caesar in a while, I'm going to let you in on a secret: Rico is gay. According to Mick LaSalle, the writer of the novel it was based on even complained about it at the time because it was so clear to contemporary audiences. The indicators they used for that were different in the 1930s than they are today so it's not quite as obvious on first viewing, but once you know, it's hard not to see it.

I also highly recommend Three on a Match, which has a bravura performance by Pre-Code star Ann Dvorak (who co-stars in Scarface with Paul Muni) as a nice, middle-class married woman with a baby who descends into drug addiction for no particular reason while her friends and family stand by helplessly. When Dvorak reduces Bette Davis to standing by as a supporting player, you know Dvorak is commanding the screen.

Unrelated trivia time: child actress Virginia Davis from Three on a Match is the same Virginia Davis who appeared in Walt Disney's very first short films, collectively called the Alice Comedies. The first Alice film bankrupted Walt (a not uncommon occurrence for him) but he was able to use it as his calling card to get a contract to make more of them once he moved to Hollywood from Kansas City, Missouri.

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