Tuesday, March 15, 2005

TCM and Netflix are eating my life

Last night on TCM I saw Midnight starring Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche--I laughed heartily two dozen times; this is significant as I rarely laugh out loud at films. It's a crime this is only available on VHS--Criterion needs to get their asses in gear!

Colbert sneaks into high society posing as a Hungarian Baroness--her charade nearly falls apart within minutes of its execution, but some other old lady is thought to be the imposter and thrown out of a rich soiree as Colbert is adopted by a smitten Frenchy and taken into his high-stakes Bridge game; from there she somehow ends up involved in a multi-faceted marriage plot/conspiracy. When the "Baroness Czerni" hears the hostess boast of chucking out the old imposter, her forced laugh had me actually falling off the couch. The film has an odd flair: one scene features a series of double-takes by uppercrust stereotypes, including a perfectly timed and surreal comic gesture by a poodle, seated, for some reason, at breakfast--this was so unexpected I spit out a mouthfull of $30 shiraz. The dialogue is great (John Barrymore: "We've certainly landed in something, my dear, but it's not butter!" or my favorite Colbert lines: "Yeah, well every Cinderella has her slipper!" and "I know quite well the dangers that lurk in hotel lobbies.") Mary Astor, Barrymore, Ameche--all excellent! Don't miss this if you get the chance (and a big thanks to The Dazzling Urbanite for turning me on to another truly excellent film).

I also watched brief bits of It's a Wonderful World (Colbert and Jimmy Stewart) and Boom Town (Colbert, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, and Heddy Lamarr).


Dazzling Urbanite said...

I don't know why MIDNIGHT isn't better known. When everyone was having their love affair with 1939 movies back in '89, nary a soul mentioned this film. Universal has the rights, and they have released a box set of goddamn "Francis, The Talking Mule" movies on DVD, but not this film. Sad.

I think Criterion now has access to only one major studio vault: Twentieth Century Fox. They'll release the movies that Fox has no interest in, like Dassin's "Night and The City." That still leaves a lot of great stuff.

Criterion has announced a new "Cult Films" line, so the rumours of Fox movies like "Beyond The Valley of The Dolls" (Ebert commentary?)and "The Gang's All Here" may indeed be true. Please God!

Have you seen "To Be or Not To Be"? It just came out. I'm springing it on the Husband this weekend. It's brilliant.

geoff said...

I just added "To Be or Not to Be" to my Netflix queue, now more than 300 titles.

Nick said...

Mr. Urbanite, you would love the reserves librarian here. Just yesterday she inquired whether or not I had seen a film called Laura. She had seen it when it was in theaters.

Has anyone seen a film with John Barrymore with a pointed beard and black hat sitting in a coach staring at a slumbering young blonde???? I've been trying to find out where this scene comes from. I like John Barrymore.

Geoff, I laughed out loud today while reading a Lil' Abner strip. Smack dab in the middle of the plot--out of nowhere--a bum in a soup line was asking himself: "How will I take my soup and bread with both hands?" as he stood there holding his beltless/buttonless trousers up. ???

Dazzling Urbanite said...


I believe the movie you are looking for is called "Svengali".

It's on DVD. Prints are probably awful, as it is a public domain title.

I like John B. as well--especially in "Twentieth Century", where he is at his hammiest.