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TopBilled’s Essentials


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#361 LawrenceA

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 03:46 PM

This is an alert concerning Amazon Prime members. I checked my watchlist which consists of classic films and I just found out that almost all of the classic films (mostly from the MGM, Paramount, and Republic libraries) are leaving Prime at the end of this month. I'm not sure if they'll ever return. Does anyone have any idea what's going to happen to them or where they will go to? Please let me know.

 

I'm not surprised. More and more films seem to be getting dropped, with less added, each month. It's because they are trying this new subscription model, where Prime members pay additional fees to subscribe to channels or packages of film and TV content. You know, like a cable bill.   :(



#362 TopBilled

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 03:44 PM

This is an alert concerning Amazon Prime members. I checked my watchlist which consists of classic films and I just found out that almost all of the classic films (mostly from the MGM, Paramount, and Republic libraries) are leaving Prime at the end of this month. I'm not sure if they'll ever return. Does anyone have any idea what's going to happen to them or where they will go to? Please let me know.

 

This is the first I've heard of it, Emertiff. The Paramount/Republic titles were previously on Netlfix. 


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#363 Emertiff

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 03:42 PM

This is an alert concerning Amazon Prime members. I checked my watchlist which consists of classic films and I just found out that almost all of the classic films (mostly from the MGM, Paramount, and Republic libraries) are leaving Prime at the end of this month. I'm not sure if they'll ever return. Does anyone have any idea what's going to happen to them or where they will go to? Please let me know.



#364 TopBilled

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Posted 20 August 2016 - 12:12 PM

Essential: THE HOUSE ACROSS THE BAY (1940)

 

When Joan Bennett was still a blonde, she costarred with George Raft in a 1935 picture for Columbia called SHE COULDN’T TAKE IT. It was a modest hit, and they enjoyed working together. Five years later, they jumped at the chance to do another film, this time for Bennett’s husband, producer Walter Wanger.

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When they teamed up again for Wanger’s THE HOUSE ACROSS THE BAY, they picked up right where they had left off. The opening scenes show Raft in control as the owner of a casino. But his cool is quickly shattered by a sassy dame, who’s making trouble in his joint. It’s the kind of trouble that only Bennett can play in the greatest Jean Harlow style. Soon she makes a play for him, and he makes a play for her. The dialogue crackles, and in no time at all, it turns into “I do.”

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Of course, there are complications galore. He’s muscling out competitors, but his racket is under scrutiny by the feds. It all escalates, and in a dramatic turn of events, he’s arrested, found guilty of tax evasion and given ten years in the slammer. Keep in mind this is just the end of the first act, and we haven’t gotten to the house in the title yet, or the bay.

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The bay is in San Francisco, and Bennett goes there to live while Raft serves out his sentence at Alcatraz. It’s not made clear if the house is hers on one side of the troubled waters that separate them, or the big house on the rock where he’s incarcerated. While they’re apart, she makes two friends– one is a tough cookie played by Gladys George, and the other a well-meaning man (Walter Pidgeon) who is the antithesis of Raft’s hoodlum character.

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At this point, Raft recedes slightly into the background. A relationship, at first platonic, grows between Bennett and Pidgeon. The middle stretch of the film still retains the charm established in the first part. But we’re doing time like Raft waiting for the explosive finale. And what a finale it is. Obviously Raft has to feel betrayed by his wife (when in reality the traitor is a lawyer played by Lloyd Nolan). He busts out to try and reclaim everything he had before. Wanger and the director stage a dramatic sequence where Raft dodges bullets, swimming across the bay. He makes it to the shore and goes to a club where his wife is working. This is the first time the three main characters come together.

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It’s clear that Raft is a doomed man, and he will not ever be able to have the kind of marriage he should have had all along. The cops are closing in; he flees and is shot and killed. The film’s dual structure (the two romances Bennett experiences) leave us with a woman broken in half. One half is a woman who lived, and the other half is a woman who still has yet to live.

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE BAY was directed by Archie Mayo. It can be streamed on Amazon Prime.


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#365 TopBilled

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Posted 19 August 2016 - 02:51 PM

I will be posting my sixth essential tomorrow. 

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-08-19%2Bat%2B12.43.

It's such a good film. Hope everyone takes a look at it.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#366 TopBilled

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Posted 13 August 2016 - 01:57 PM

Essential: VOGUES OF 1938 (1938)

 

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Walter Wanger’s VOGUES OF 1938 was made before TRADE WINDS, so the leading lady of this picture, Joan Bennett, still has blonde hair. And unlike most of the other films these two made together, this production is in Technicolor. So Joan is quite a sight here, and so are the other lovely ladies who model the many gowns and outfits that are on display.

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Joan plays a different type of character– she’s a debutante who is being married to a snob (Alan Mowbray) to ensure her family stays financially well-off. But of course, she doesn’t like the man they’ve chosen to be her husband, and when she goes to Warner Baxter’s design house to try on her wedding gown, she gets an idea. If Baxter agrees not to send her dress to the house, then the nuptials will have to be postponed. Of course, he doesn’t go along with her idea, and when the dress arrives on time, she lets out a scream. In the next scene, we learn she called off the wedding. She returns to his place of business, followed by reporters, to toss the gown in his face. He realizes there is great publicity value in maintaining an association with her, so he offers her a job modeling clothes for him. She says yes, because without a wedding to prepare for, what else is a fashionista to do?

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The story is off and running, and other characters are quickly added. There is Sophie, one of the lead designers who functions as a den mother to Joan and the other girls. And we also have Baxter’s shrewish wife (Helen Vinson) who leaves him in a huff and then comes back. Rounding out the supporting cast are Jerome Cowan as the wife’s confidante and Mischa Auer who plays a rival designer. In fact, Auer has some very good comedy scenes with Mowbray; and they provide a lot of fun during breaks from the action involving the leads.

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In addition to the clothes and the comic relief, some spectacular musical numbers are included. It’s obvious Wanger is pulling out all the stops to make a very lavish piece of entertainment. On that level, it certainly succeeds. Everyone who appears in the story is fabulously in style from head to toe. Indeed, the opening credits acknowledge several real-life designers who have provided the fashions (vogues) that are seen on screen.

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But the thing that really helps make this production fun and slightly kitschy is the early Technicolor photography Wanger and United Artists opt to use. (The art design was Oscar-nominated and deservedly so.) Also, the picture has the distinction of having been filmed entirely in New York City. So there’s a real sense of urban east coast ambience here– in the fashion house scenes, the club scenes and especially in the outdoor scenes filmed on location.

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Walter Wanger’s VOGUES OF 1938 was directed by Irving Cummings. It can be streamed on Amazon Prime.


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#367 TopBilled

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Posted 12 August 2016 - 04:44 PM

I will be posting my fifth essential tomorrow. 

82864-screen2bshot2b2016-08-102bat2b4-47It's such a good film. Hope everyone takes a look at it.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#368 TopBilled

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Posted 06 August 2016 - 11:18 AM

Essential: TRADE WINDS (1938)

 

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This month I will be reviewing four films starring Joan Bennett that were produced by her husband Walter Wanger. Wanger joined United Artists in 1936. He had previously worked as a producer at Paramount, where he met his future wife. By the late 1930s, they had left Paramount and were making a series of independent features together Wanger was able to distribute through UA. The films were tailor-made to showcase the actress’s talents across a variety of genres.

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The first one I will discuss is TRADE WINDS, a breezy romantic escapade that casts the actress as a wanted woman. This is the film where Joan Bennett last appears as a blonde. Her character dyes her hair brown when a disguise is needed; and Bennett decided to stay a brunette for the rest of her life.

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The action gets underway almost immediately, when she is informed her sister is dead, and then goes to confront the man she feels is responsible for it. She shoots at him, and goes on the lam, ditching her car and anything else that can be linked to her. When a police detective (Ralph Bellamy) thinks she committed suicide, she is able to assume a different identity with her new hair color and a new name. In the next part, Bellamy and his boss (Thomas Mitchell) learn she’s still alive and in Hawaii. So they decide to bring in a bounty hunter (Fredric March). Bellamy will tag along, and so will March’s wacky girl Friday– superbly played by scene-stealing Ann Sothern.

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The film quickly hops from one international setting to the next. It starts in San Francisco, and goes to Hawaii, then to Japan followed by Singapore and Bombay. There are many rear projection shots, with the actors working on a studio sound stage. But Wanger did send a crew on location to photograph exteriors for the various overseas locales we see in the background. I’m sure this must have been a pleasurable travelogue of sorts for audiences of the time, and in that regard, it still holds up quite nicely. Wanger reused these filmed backgrounds for a Loretta Young picture he made a year later called ETERNALLY YOURS.

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The plot is all over the map, literally– but TRADE WINDS has considerable charm and abounds in energy. Misunderstandings occur March and Bennett meet and get tangled up situations that involve Sothern and Bellamy. But we know that while both couples are on the run, they are also headed for romance and marriage. Eventually, they all forget where they’ve been and where they thought they were headed.

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TRADE WINDS was directed by Tay Garnett and can be streamed on Amazon Prime.

 
 

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#369 TopBilled

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 11:40 AM

I think TRADE WINDS is a terrific film. It marked significant turning points for two of my favourite movie actresses -- Joan Bennett and Ann Sothern. And Fredric March and Ralph Bellamy are always worth watching. Nice choice, TopBilled!

Thanks Barton. I knew I wanted to do a month on Joan Bennett (produced by Walter Wanger). It had been a few years since I'd seen TRADE WINDS. When I sat down to watch it yesterday and started writing my review, I was so glad I picked this one to lead off with. It's better than I remembered. Sometimes TCM shows a raggedy looking print, but the picture quality on Amazon Prime is very good. 

 

And you're right about the four main performers. They play off each other effortlessly. 


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#370 Barton_Keyes

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 11:23 AM

 

I will be posting my fourth essential tomorrow. 

7bf3e-screen2bshot2b2016-08-042bat2b3-45It's such a good film. Hope everyone takes a look at it.

 

 

I think TRADE WINDS is a terrific film. It marked significant turning points for two of my favourite movie actresses -- Joan Bennett and Ann Sothern. And Fredric March and Ralph Bellamy are always worth watching. Nice choice, TopBilled!


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#371 TopBilled

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Posted 05 August 2016 - 10:52 AM

I will be posting my fourth essential tomorrow. 

7bf3e-screen2bshot2b2016-08-042bat2b3-45It's such a good film. Hope everyone takes a look at it.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#372 TopBilled

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 06:51 PM

Regretfully only the last one I've seen. Nice Technicolor in that one. Ralph Richardson appeared in a couple color films, but you probably keep better track of his films than I do. I know FOUR FEATHERS had him.

I'm glad you brought up Richardson since I didn't directly mention him in my review. He plays Olivier's client. He's in the photo with Barnes. 


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#373 Jlewis

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 02:33 PM

Regretfully only the last one I've seen. Nice Technicolor in that one. Ralph Richardson appeared in a couple color films, but you probably keep better track of his films than I do. I know FOUR FEATHERS had him.


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#374 TopBilled

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Posted 30 July 2016 - 02:11 PM

Essential: THE DIVORCE OF LADY X (1938)

 

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THE DIVORCE OF LADY X was released in North America by United Artists and was made by Alexander Korda’s London Films company. It boasts impressive Technicolor as well as elegant costuming and sets. It’s safe to say many films in 1938 were not this technically advanced. It had an American director, so its humor seems to translate well. Plus the cast was already becoming known in Hollywood productions– a group which includes Laurence Olivier, Merle Oberon and Binnie Barnes.

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Olivier and Oberon would soon pair up again for a completely different type of film– Samuel Goldwyn’s adaptation of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. But in this picture, they are playing characters and a scenario that is about as far from Bronte as you can possibly imagine.

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It’s a shame Oberon wasn’t photographed more often in color during the 1930s and 1940s, when she was at her peak. Her complexion is absolutely flawless. And despite excessive dialogue, the scenes do move quick enough, thanks to the actress’s spirited line deliveries and her obvious chemistry with Olivier.

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Originally, third-billed Binnie Barnes played Oberon’s role in the first screen version of this story. It was called COUNSEL’S OPINION and hit screens five years earlier. Barnes proves how versatile a performer she is, relinquishing the lead and taking a supporting character part in this remake. In addition to Barnes’ presence in the two films, Korda makes sure both versions were given big budgets.

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As for Olivier, he’s quite charming in THE DIVORCE OF LADY X. He plays a divorce attorney who meets a lovely costume ball attendee (Oberon). They innocently share a room for one evening; but the next morning, things do not seem so innocent when he is led to believe she's married to his client. The client has a supposedly unfaithful wife (in reality, the woman played by Barnes). So what develops is a romantic intrigue taken to farcical extremes. It's all played to a tee by the film’s delightful stars.

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THE DIVORCE OF LADY X was directed by Tim Whelan. It can be streamed on Amazon Prime.


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#375 TopBilled

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 08:32 AM

I will be posting my third essential tomorrow. 

6441d-screen2bshot2b2016-07-272bat2b9-12It's such a good film. Hope everyone takes a look at it.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


#376 TopBilled

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Posted 23 July 2016 - 11:25 AM

Essential: MY LOVE FOR YOURS (1939)

 

MY LOVE FOR YOURS is another charming romantic comedy from the late 1930s that people don’t know much about. It was originally released by Paramount under the title HONEYMOON IN BALI. It was one of five films that paired the studio’s leading man Fred MacMurray with British actress Madeleine Carroll.

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The theme of the film is one which might have resonated with a growing number of women at the time it was made. Carroll plays a single female executive at a big city department store. She begins to ask herself if a husband and a child are necessary for her to be happy. She turns to a window washer, a gal pal and a psychic for the answers. Helen Broderick is the wisecracking best friend; she has the best and funniest lines.

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The dialogue exposes sexist attitudes, but it seems to reinforce them, too. Allan Jones plays a rival suitor, someone who supports wives that work. But of course, we know she won’t pick him. She will pick macho MacMurray who expects his wife to be the stay-at-home type. As a direct contrast to this, there’s Osa Massen as a shallow debutante MacMurray knew back in Bali. She’s followed him to New York City. But is she serious competition for working woman Carroll?

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Carroll does an excellent job playing an icy businesswoman. She begins to thaw when she meets an orphaned girl named Rosie. There are pleasant diversions along the way– such as a musical scene performed by MacMurray; and an operatic selection by Jones. But the main focus is on the romance developing between the main characters, and how the little girl brings them closer together.

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The film’s story is bookended by two sequences involving the window washer (fourth-billed Akim Tamiroff), who serves as a Greek chorus of sorts. Near the end, Carroll has a heart-to-heart talk with him, and it causes her to make a life-altering decision. She does an honest-to-goodness reappraisal of her situation and realizes she has to go to Bali. For a honeymoon that will never end.

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MY LOVE FOR YOURS was directed by Edward H. Griffith. It can be streamed on Amazon Prime.


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#377 TopBilled

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Posted 22 July 2016 - 02:23 PM

I will be posting my second essential tomorrow. 

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-07-22%2Bat%2B12.25.

It's such a good film. Hope everyone takes a look at it.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


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Posted 16 July 2016 - 09:48 AM

Essential: THE RAGE OF PARIS (1938)

 

I want to start with THE RAGE OF PARIS, because I feel it’s one people don’t know much know about. The picture’s stars make it must-see.

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Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is an expert when it comes to light-hearted material. A greater appraisal of his work in romantic comedies should be undertaken by someone. In 1938, he had a multi-picture deal at Universal. The studio assigned him roles in more than one genre, but his style works best in action yarns and love stories.

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The actress who plays opposite him in THE RAGE OF PARIS is French starlet Danielle Darrieux. As I write this, she is 99 and still living in France. Darrieux enjoyed a long and varied screen career. In 1938, she had already scored hits in her native country and was eager to try her luck in Hollywood. This was her first American production.

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What’s great about THE RAGE OF PARIS is how effortlessly Fairbanks and Darrieux play off each other. In their first scene together, she takes off her blouse (yes, it’s that kind of classic film)– she’s a model and thinks he might be interested in using her for a photo shoot. He has no intention of hiring her, but since she’s begun to expose herself to him, he allows her to continue. And he lets a few other men in the office look on. It’s not as sexist as it may seem. It’s all done very tastefully, and the point is that she’s charming and naive in a world of wolves, I mean men.

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Of course, we know these two characters are fated to fall in love with each other. But there are complications that get in the way of their blossoming relationship. Since she does not get hired to model, she must try to find another way to pay her rent and survive. Two older friends, played by Helen Broderick and Mischa Auer, help her snare a rich husband in the form of Louis Hayward. And the scheme seems to be succeeding, until Fairbanks re-enters her life and decides to sabotage her gold digging. Is it because he wants to help Hayward, or is it because he wants the girl for himself?

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Hollywood doesn’t make these kinds of movies anymore. Absent from screens are stories that present the lighter side of romance and uplift us as we watch them. It occurs to me how much skill goes into crafting a motion picture that is so airy and delectable. Other films are like heavy entrees. But this is a low-calorie confection, and sometimes we need these cinematic snacks to get us through the day.

 

THE RAGE OF PARIS was directed by Henry Koster. It can be streamed on Amazon Prime.


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#379 TopBilled

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Posted 15 July 2016 - 01:53 PM

I will be posting my first essential tomorrow. 

Screen%2Bshot%2B2016-07-15%2Bat%2B11.35.

It's such a good film. Hope everyone takes a look at it.


"The truth? What good is the truth if it destroys us all..?" -- Mady Christians in ALL MY SONS (1948).


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Posted 10 July 2016 - 01:31 PM

Starting next weekend, I am going to be reviewing at least one classic film per week in this thread. I invite others to join in and share their thoughts about the titles I will be discussing. My essentials will be slightly different than what you see on TCM. These will primarily be titles outside the Turner library though every now and then I may overlap with what TCM broadcasts. In 2017, I plan to explore themes that include serials, animation, non-English language films and low-budget classics. Here is my tentative schedule:

 

Theme for July 2016: 30s romantic comedies

 

Saturday July 16, 2016

THE RAGE OF PARIS (1938), starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. & Danielle Darrieux. Studio/production company: Universal. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday July 23, 2016

MY LOVE FOR YOURS a.k.a. HONEYMOON IN BALI (1939), starring Fred MacMurray & Madeleine Carroll. Studio/production company: Paramount. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday July 30, 2016

THE DIVORCE OF LADY X (1938), starring Merle Oberon & Laurence Olivier. Studio/production company: London Films. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Theme for August 2016: Joan Bennett produced by Walter Wanger

 

Saturday August 6, 2016

TRADE WINDS (1938), starring Fredric March & Joan Bennett. Studio/production company: United Artists/Walter Wanger Productions. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday August 13, 2016

VOGUES OF 1938 (1938), starring Warner Baxter & Joan Bennett. Studio/production company: United Artists/Walter Wanger Productions. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday August 20, 2016

THE HOUSE ACROSS THE BAY (1940), starring George Raft & Joan Bennett. Studio/production company: United Artists/Walter Wanger Productions. Source: Amazon Prime.

 

Saturday August 27, 2016

SCARLET STREET (1945), starring Edward G. Robinson & Joan Bennett. Studio/production company: Universal/Walter Wanger Productions. Source: Amazon Prime.


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