One thing I have been doing lately is watching old movies on TCM. Part of the reason is because I've found myself waking up very early lately and unable to go back to sleep, and given a choice between infomercials or some old obscure 40s flick, I'll take the movie every time. I don't know what it is I'm finding so fascinating about these old movies; I suppose a psychiatrist could make some sense out of it...but no thanks.
Early yesterday morning I caught the 1937 film Back in Circulation, a vehicle for Joan Blondell, a lovely 30s and 40s actress who I knew only from her later-in-life TV and low-budget films appearances, such as the matronly madam in Here Come The Brides. I was very surprised, to say the least! The film was pretty good-Joan was a fast-talking, brash newspaper writer who pursues a murder case to the point where she gets an innocent woman framed for the death, realizes her mistake, and sets out to make things right. That's Joan above in a still from this film.
I also spent a great deal of last night watching a block of WW 2 all-star variety films which TCM was showcasing. The first, Stage Door Canteen, featured a mix of big band music (Count Basie! Benny Goodman! Kay Kyser!), lots of un-PC wartime humor, a little romance, and a host of cameos by the studio's stars circa 1943– some of which were legends (Katherine Hepburn, Harpo Marx, Ray Bolger) and some who are mostly forgotten today (George Jessel, Jean Hersholt). Had a little revelation– one of the musical guests was then-young master violinist Yehudi Menuin, who prefaced his first piece by saying, in a mousy voice, "I would like to play for you now..." and it hit me: that's where Andy Kaufman got his "I would like to play for you...the Elvis Presley" bit he did in his stand-up days. Wow. Another amusing bit was a scene in which a lady addressed the women in the audience and asked them "If you could be any woman that you wanted to be, who would you be?". One diminutive dolly piped up with "Hitler's Widow!". Oh those crazy kids.
Next up was Thousands Cheer, which featured more of the same but was in Technicolor and had the appealing Gene Kelly as its lead. Again, lotsa big band music, by many of the same bands featured in Stage Door Canteen like Benny Goodman and the hyper Kay Kyser. Also featured were skits featuring a number of stars like Mickey Rooney, Lucille Ball, Ralph Morgan (you remember, the Wizard of Oz) and of course Judy Garland. Appearing in one of those skits was the radiant Ann Sothern, who you may remember me writing about a while back.
I wanted to watch the third, Thank Your Lucky Stars, but I fell asleep in my chair before it was 15 minutes old. Oh well...I wanted to see Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and Errol Flynn sing and dance but life goes on, I suppose.
Well, that's all for now...I see where Brother Rat and a Baby, featuring my 40s inamorata Priscilla Lane, is coming on tomorrow morning at 9:15. God help me.