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Gregory LaCava birthday Thursday Mar 10---The best day of the TCM year


30srbest
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Thursday, TCM will be showing 9 features directed by the underappreciated Gregory LaCava. Even though they have not included his masterpiece "Primrose Path" or popular favorites "My Man Godfrey" or "Stage Door", this is still an excellent group of pictures which deserve attention.

Frank Capra devoted two highly complimentary paragraphs of his autobiography "The Name Above the Title" to LaCava, describing him as a "meteor...an extreme proponent of inventing scenes on the set...with a brilliant, fertile mind...a precursor of the 'new wave' directors of Europe", lamenting the fact that LaCava's nonconformity to standard business practices resulted in his assignments being reduced from few to none.

Like Griffith before him and Welles after him, LaCava found the price for not playing by the rules and raising the bar of filmmaking possibilities beyond the reach of the average director was the lowering of the boom of industry disapproval.

Must see on the Thursday schedule---"The Half-Naked Truth", the most screamingly funny comedy of the entire decade of the 1930's, Lee Tracy as the fastest-talking, least scrupulous publicist ever, promoting the career of hooch dancer Lupe Velez (sporting the slightest of ladies' uppergarments) in a performance Roger McNiven termed "among the lewdest on film". Frank Morgan is a delight as the Broadway producer whose delicate world of created moods is barged into by these denizens of burlesque.

"Bed of Roses", Constance Bennett and Pert Kelton get out jail and wreak havoc on the free world. The second they are outside the prison gate, the lower half of hooker Kelton's body starts advertising and she barely travels twenty yards before she has negotiated a ride to the docks for them and collects two bucks to boot for her brief inconvenience. Joel McCrea is one of the victims of grifter Bennett, but his kind manner causes her to question her love of larceny.

"The Age of Consent", a delicate weepie about college sweethearts Dorothy Wilson and Richard Cromwell, whose conformity to the concept of premarital purity leads to a lot of suffering for everybody. Arline Judge is absolutely heartbreaking as a lower-class waitress who has eyes for Cromwell, the blue blood with the blue "discomfort".

Also delightful are "What Every Woman Knows" with Helen Hayes as a woman of limited marriage prospects whose brothers arrange to finance the education of Brian Aherne in exchange for his agreement to make an honest woman of their sister if nobody else will, "Laugh and Get Rich" with Edna May Oliver as a hard-headed lady struggling to make ends meet in spite of her unindustrious, weak-minded husband Hugh Herbert, and "Smart Woman" with Mary Astor as a wife whose homecoming from an overseas cruise is spoiled when she discovers her husband is planning to say "bon voyage" to their marriage.

Every LaCava movie is layered with ambivalence, as he subtly changes the way the audience feels about each character, demonstrating the good and bad qualities of all of them. His improvisational style yields wonderfully complex performances and stories unlike those of any other director.

I hope someday TCM will show a few of the other LaCava pictures I have not seen, like "Lady in a Jam", "Private Worlds", "The Affairs of Cellini", "Unfinished Business", or "Gallant Lady".

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> {quote:title=30srbest wrote:}{quote}

> Thursday, TCM will be showing 9 features directed by the underappreciated Gregory LaCava. Even though they have not included his masterpiece "Primrose Path" or popular favorites "My Man Godfrey" or "Stage Door", this is still an excellent group of pictures which deserve attention.

> Frank Capra devoted two highly complimentary paragraphs of his autobiography "The Name Above the Title" to LaCava, describing him as a "meteor...an extreme proponent of inventing scenes on the set...with a brilliant, fertile mind...a precursor of the 'new wave' directors of Europe", lamenting the fact that LaCava's nonconformity to standard business practices resulted in his assignments being reduced from few to none.

> Like Griffith before him and Welles after him, LaCava found the price for not playing by the rules and raising the bar of filmmaking possibilities beyond the reach of the average director was the lowering of the boom of industry disapproval.

> Must see on the Thursday schedule---"The Half-Naked Truth", the most screamingly funny comedy of the entire decade of the 1930's, Lee Tracy as the fastest-talking, least scrupulous publicist ever, promoting the career of hooch dancer Lupe Velez (sporting the slightest of ladies' uppergarments) in a performance Roger McNiven termed "among the lewdest on film". Frank Morgan is a delight as the Broadway producer whose delicate world of created moods is barged into by these denizens of burlesque.

> "Bed of Roses", Constance Bennett and Pert Kelton get out jail and wreak havoc on the free world. The second they are outside the prison gate, the lower half of hooker Kelton's body starts advertising and she barely travels twenty yards before she has negotiated a ride to the docks for them and collects two bucks to boot for her brief inconvenience. Joel McCrea is one of the victims of grifter Bennett, but his kind manner causes her to question her love of larceny.

> "The Age of Consent", a delicate weepie about college sweethearts Dorothy Wilson and Richard Cromwell, whose conformity to the concept of premarital purity leads to a lot of suffering for everybody. Arline Judge is absolutely heartbreaking as a lower-class waitress who has eyes for Cromwell, the blue blood with the blue "discomfort".

> Also delightful are "What Every Woman Knows" with Helen Hayes as a woman of limited marriage prospects whose brothers arrange to finance the education of Brian Aherne in exchange for his agreement to make an honest woman of their sister if nobody else will, "Laugh and Get Rich" with Edna May Oliver as a hard-headed lady struggling to make ends meet in spite of her unindustrious, weak-minded husband Hugh Herbert, and "Smart Woman" with Mary Astor as a wife whose homecoming from an overseas cruise is spoiled when she discovers her husband is planning to say "bon voyage" to their marriage.

> Every LaCava movie is layered with ambivalence, as he subtly changes the way the audience feels about each character, demonstrating the good and bad qualities of all of them. His improvisational style yields wonderfully complex performances and stories unlike those of any other director.

> I hope someday TCM will show a few of the other LaCava pictures I have not seen, like "Lady in a Jam", "Private Worlds", "The Affairs of Cellini", "Unfinished Business", or "Gallant Lady".

 

"Bed Of Roses" is a good pre-Code film, one of Connie's better ones, with some fine wisecracks from Pert Kelton. And if you miss "The Half-Naked Truth," it will air again June 1 as part of a tribute to Frank Morgan on the anniversary of his birth.

 

La Cava also directed the fascinating political polemic "Gabriel Over The White House," made at the nadir of the Depression. Its calling for a strongman may seem a bit fascistic to our eyes, but I think it more reflected a fantasy from a frustrated public rather than an actual call to totalitarianism.

 

One of the unseen La Cava films I wish TCM would air is the other film he made with Carole Lombard -- "Big News," from Pathe in mid-1929. Lombard teams with Robert Armstrong (both play newspaper reporters), and it's supposedly the best (and by far the least seen) of the three talking features she made for Pathe. (To be fair, the bar isn't set very high, as "High Voltage" and "The Racketeer," both directed by the pedestrian Howard Higgin, are mediocre at best.) Years later, while making "Godfrey," Lombard spoke approvingly of "Big News" and working with La Cava; one wishes TCM could show us just what she meant.

 

Incidentally, La Cava was an animator during the 1910s, working with several of the pioneers of that genre.

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I thought I was familiar with this fine comedic filmmaker. Until now. These informative posts tell me I have a lot to learn. I've only seen the famous ones. Who doesn't love "Godfrey"? But I'm a great fan of STAGE DOOR as well. It's more like a play than a movie (I also like the Kaufman/Ferber play), but I don't mind. It's one of the best examples of rapid fire, overlapping dialogue in 1930's comedy. One of Hepburn's better roles, and damned if Ginger Rogers doesn't outplay her at every step! A terrific comedy by a most creative director. At least, as far as I know!

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Yes, I really enjoyed yesterday's lineup. I think all of them were new to me. I particularly enjoyed "Smart Woman" with Mary Astor - doesn't she have a great voice? It's always nice to see her in a leading role.

 

Hope to see these again in the next few months.

 

Julie

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I particularly enjoyed "Smart Woman" with Mary Astor -

 

Did you? I had to turn it off. Did she kick him to the curb? Or did she forgive him his dalliances because she just could NOT live without him? I looked up a review and it appeared she played the guy on the ship to make her philandering husband jealous? Why? Did she take him back after he cheated on her?

 

Despite the wonderful casting of Horton and Astor, it appeared that it was going to go down the woman can't live without a man no matter what a bum he is route, so I had to demur.

 

I understand that it was made when women had no rights, but it was just making me gag.

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You make a good point, however, to me, she was trying to take control of the situation. She started off on the ship saying that she loved her husband, and pretty much everything she did was to give him the chance to show he was making a huge mistake. I think she would have stepped away if the other woman had not been a gold-digger. And Horton and the sister (can't remember her name) and the guy on the boat, all helped show that she was.

 

I think if the other woman had had any kind of substance she would have stepped aside.

 

But it was a romantic comedy. There usually some sort of Happy Ever After in those --the heroine usually ends up with the person the scriptwriter thinks is right :)

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Well I thought LIVING IN A BIG WAY (47) was awful. The performances were uninspired and the story muddled along seemingly without direction. A poor example.

 

Right before it SHE MARRIED HER BOSS (35) was great-it captured my attention and kept it right up until the ending. Colbert was fantastic and Melvin Douglas did a good job playing against type. The story was fun (although far fetched) and well told. Much better pace, a screwball comedy.

 

I had a definite problem with the ending, though. It depicted both Douglas and his valet inebriated, with scenes of the valet dangerously driving through town.

My entire mood changed to "drunk driving isn't *ever* funny." I suppose back in '35 there may have been a different view, but I was horrified.

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Yes, I agree with you about "Living In A Big Way" -- I thought it was a waste of Gene Kelly, and the rest of the cast seemed to act into the air -not really acting with anyone else. Except Phyllis Thaxter, who I think is generally quite wonderful and understated.

 

There were several that were new to me in this lineup, so I'm glad I had a chance to watch them.

 

I keep on hoping that Melvyn Douglas will be SOTM, but I'm glad that more of his early pictures are showing up in the schedule.

 

Julie

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> {quote:title=JulieAH wrote:}{quote}

> the rest of the cast seemed to act into the air -not really acting with anyone else.

 

laugh.gif

 

> I keep on hoping that Melvyn Douglas will be SOTM, but I'm glad that more of his early pictures are showing up in the schedule.

 

Another Melvyn fan? I think he's sexay. Imagine...a sexy Melvyn!

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Yes, definately a Melvyn fan -- I love his range, all the way up to, and past, the grandfather in HUD. He's one I try to catch any time I see one of his movies on the schedule. And that catch/hitch/whatever(?) he has in his voice? Definately sexay :)

 

Julie

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