Gene Kelly

The Road to TCMFF 2017: Early Announced Films, How Classic Are They?

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When the TCM Classic Film Festival announced a smidgen of its schedule, fans poured over the listings to see what movies were included and did they fit their definition of classic. TCM fans are vocal on social media praising the network when pleased and passionately-yet-constructively criticizing it whenever they think their definition of classic has been strayed from. From what’s been released, I see a good mix sure to make a lot of fans happy. When I was considering whether to attend this year, I definitely felt the pull of the schedule. Let’s review what’s being offered together!

Since so many TCM film fans want to see classic era (i.e. studio era) movies, here’s how the offerings break down by time period. Of the thirty-two films or programs announced so far, twenty-four of them were made before 1970. Seven are from the 1970s or later.

The silent era (1910s-1920s) has two offerings:

The 1930s has eight offerings, half of which are pre-codes:

The 1940s have five offerings:

The 1950s have six offerings:

The 1960s have four offerings:

 

The 1970s have six offerings:

The 1980s have no offerings.

The 1990s have one offering:

While the bulk of the schedule fulfills the most traditional and constrictive definition classic film, the 1970s, the post-studio era, is very strongly represented. Only the 1930s has more selections; the 1950s ties with the 1970s. Obviously later made films are more likely to have guests that can attend the festival, but I don’t see that as the single motivation for programmers to include such movies. If we go by a broader definition of classic, something that is of its time yet timeless in its ability to be enjoyed repeatedly now and for years to come, then almost all the 1970s programming can be defined as classic. THE LANDLORD sticks out as rediscovery championing.

The post featuring my TCMFF picks will go live soon! In the meantime, feel free to comment on the 2017 schedule’s classic credentials.

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For the Love of Film (Noir): Christmas Holiday (1944)


Any holiday can bring out the worst in people, but Christmas Holiday really isn’t about the supposedly joyous season. It’s a noir, so how can it be? A soldier’s Christmas leave provides the frame for the story. He”s just been jilted by his sweetheart, and he’s angry, so angry that he has to call upon her and her new husband across the country despite his friend’s warnings to stay away and cool down. Winter weather isn’t very kind to this hothead or his plans and strands him in New Orleans. He’s an easy target for a newspaper reporter who makes extra money leading men astray to the local brothel. There he meets a dark lady. First she fascinates him, and then she serves as his warning sign. She shows him what happens to those who cling to failed love affairs when they should have let go long ago.

Christmas Holiday (1944): Dean Harens, Richard Whorf, & Gladys George

Deanna Durbin can’t escape her singing career in this film. She plays Jackie Lamont the mysterious chanteuse-and-maybe-more of the brothel. In a gown slit to there, she looks grown-up, moody, and hard, yet our hero Lieutenant Charlie Mason (Dean Harens) is still drawn to her. Other men want to meet her, but they’re handed over to other girls working the club. Maybe she’s part of a bait-and-switch ploy, or maybe only the big spenders get her, or maybe what turns out to be another kindly screen madame (Gladys George as Valerie de Merode) protects Jackie. Mason must impress her as being different because she introduces him to Jackie, who’s none too thrilled.

After some dancing and barely chatting, Jackie must decide that Charlie is okay, too. He doesn’t know who she is. He’s some troubled guy on leave. That may make her trust him. She makes him attend midnight mass with her. During the service in the cathedral, she makes the second worst move of any pseudo-date. She breaks down bawling. Charlie does not flee like most strangers would from such a hot mess. He stays and makes sure that she’s alright as someone like her can be.  Since he’s gained her trust, she tells him her real name, Abigail Martin. He has no idea who she is, so she tells him her story.

Her husband Robert Manette (Gene Kelly) is infamous, but she takes Mason and us back to when she first met him. They chance to meet at a musical performance. Nick Hornby was right when he wrote of how anyone who’s passionate about music has known what it is to be lonely. They needed that time alone to develop their bond with and their taste for music. Abigail is a single girl attending a concert by herself. Robert seems to be there half for the music and half for the macking. He’s got a city guy feel that contrasts with her more suburban one. He wears down her defenses with his manic charm, and they become a couple. She has no idea how troubled he is.

Abigail Martin (Deanna Durbin) & Her Mother-in-Law (Gale Sondergaard)

His mother Mrs. Manette (Gale Sondergaard) does, but she never directly tells Martin. She’s so naïve that she misses all the hints, like being told she’ll be good for him, that they will take care of him together. She never onces wonders why these members of a once illustrious family live isolated in their grand old house. Manette is a little man, a momma’s boy who makes messes that his mother cleans up, and Abigail becomes the third wheel to that couple. Robert murders a bookie and finally gets himself into trouble that his mother can’t cover up, and she blames herself and Abigail for failing him.

Deanna Durbin & Gene Kelly Noir Lighting

Formerly lonely Abigail becomes lonely again. With too much time on her hands, she obsesses over her romance and pines for her husband. She becomes a celebrity by her association with him, yet she’s an outcast because she cannot stop loving him. His mother’s words haunt her, and she believes them. She thinks she failed her husband, and she punishes herself by falling lower in society and taking her singing job. It’s as if the contagion of his mother’s pathology has been passed on to her. As the new Mrs. Manette she’s taken over the old sick role.

Deanna Durbin Singing in Christmas Holiday

Charlie has met someone worse off than himself, and his thoughts of Abigail that prevent him from leaving. Momentarily it seems that a romance might brew between the two–if she can get over her husband, but he can’t stay in jail. He’ll never get out for good behavior, so he breaks out, and he’s very mad that his wife has been spending time with another, and he’s not believing they’re platonic friends.

I’ve shared a lot of the plot, so I don’t want to spoil the film’s conclusion, but I do not get the people who think it has a hopeful ending. Look at Dean Harens’s expression at the end. He shows that Charlie is horrified. Sometimes people cannot overcome their obsessions. Sometimes their obsessions do break them. Love transforms, but not everyone is made better by that transformation, especially in the noir world, and I fear Abigail is too far gone.

Deanna Durbin Crying in Christmas Holiday

This post was written as part of the For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon hosted by The Self-Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films. If you’ve enjoyed reading it, please consider giving to a great cause, the Film Noir Foundation. Your contribution will help restore another great film noir. Please click on the Maltese Falcon below to make a donation.


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