Tuesday, May 01, 2012

TCM Star of the Month: Joel McCrea

This is a particularly wonderful month on Turner Classic Movies, as Joel McCrea is being celebrated as the Star of the Month.

TCM will be showing 42 McCrea films spread over five Wednesdays in May.

Joel McCrea was a very special man on and off the screen. On screen, he could do it all: Hitchcock suspense, Sturges and Stevens comedy, Wyler drama, and of course Westerns.

Off the screen, McCrea was proud to be known as a rancher. He was married to the beautiful actress Frances Dee; Joel died on their 57th wedding anniversary.

TCM's tribute leads off on May 2nd with some of McCrea's finest comedies, followed by several films from the pre-Code era. First up are two Preston Sturges comedies, SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (1941) and THE PALM BEACH STORY (1942); the latter is one of my favorite comedies. It's followed by what might be my favorite comedy of all time, THE MORE THE MERRIER (1944), costarring Jean Arthur and Charles Coburn.

The schedule on the 3rd also includes THE RICHEST GIRL IN THE WORLD (1934) and WOMAN CHASES MAN (1937), both with Joel's frequent costar Miriam Hopkins. I especially recommend THE RICHEST GIRL IN THE WORLD, which is quite funny and has delightful supporting performances by Fay Wray and Reginald Denny. For more on this film, check out Cliff's post at Immortal Ephemera.

May 9th starts off with the suspenseful and creepy pre-Code classic THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME (1932), also starring Fay Wray; THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME inspired later films but the 1932 version packs the biggest punch of all. I remember watching it in the middle of the night as a teenager; it scared me quite a bit, even though years later I realized that certain "pre-Code" bits must have been edited out.

Next up that night is FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT (1940), my favorite Hitchcock film. Laraine Day and George Sanders costar in a film that's an endless series of brilliant Hitchcockian set pieces. A real must-see.

I'm quite curious about SHOOT FIRST (1953), filmed in England with Evelyn Keyes, and ESPIONAGE AGENT (1939) with Brenda Marshall. The evening of the 9th also includes more pre-Codes and the light adventures WOMAN WANTED (1935) with Maureen O'Sullivan and ADVENTURE IN MANHATTAN (1936) with Jean Arthur.

One of Joel McCrea's most beloved films is STARS IN MY CROWN (1950), costarring Ellen Drew and Dean Stockwell. Joel pays a smalltown pastor in this slice of MGM Americana directed by Jacques Tourneur. It airs May 16th.

Also on the 16th there are two William Wyler classics, DEAD END (1937) and THESE THREE (1936), and two films directed by Howard Hawks, COME AND GET IT (1936) and BARBARY COAST (1935). THEY SHALL HAVE MUSIC (1939) is a film I've not yet seen which is particularly recommended by my father.

On May 23rd there are Westerns including THE VIRGINIAN (1946), DeMille's UNION PACIFIC (1939), and the classic little Universal film CATTLE DRIVE (1951), reteaming Joel with Dean Stockwell from STARS IN MY CROWN. That's one of the first films which introduced me to Joel McCrea.

THE SILVER HORDE (1930), his earliest teaming with Jean Arthur, is also on the 23rd. It's quite creaky but McCrea and Arthur fans will want to see this very early glimpse in the two stars' careers.

The final night in the series, May 30th, leads off with the classic RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY (1962) costarring Randolph Scott.

Also on the schedule that night is one of the films he made with wife Frances Dee, WELLS FARGO (1937). Alas, the TCM guide indicates it's the edited 97-minute version; the original online schedule had given me hope it would be the elusive full-length 115-minute version.

There are a few special McCrea films not being shown in May; I particularly urge viewers to seek out FOUR FACES WEST (1948), made with wife Frances Dee, and SADDLE TRAMP (1950), a favorite Western first discovered in childhood. FOUR FACES WEST is available on DVD, and SADDLE TRAMP occasionally turns up on Encore Westerns Channel.

For more information on TCM in May, please visit my post TCM in May: Highlights or review the complete online schedule.

Related posts: A Birthday Tribute to Joel McCrea; Joel McCrea Ranch: The Grand Opening.


Blogger monty said...

Awesome post Laura! Love me some Joel McCrea!

2:59 AM  
Blogger Miss McCrocodile said...

As someone without a PVR, I'm finding Star of the Month exhausting and disappointing. All my Joel McCrea DVDs are being aired in the evenings and the ones I haven't seen yet are in the wee hours! I know, just get a PVR!

10:55 AM  
Blogger Jeff Flugel said...

Great round-up for a somewhat underrated star, Laura! I've liked McCrea in pretty much every movie I've seen him in, and from what I've read of the real man, he seems like an all-around stand-up sort of guy.

My particular favorite McCrea role is in Ride the High Country.

I'm very jealous of those of you happy TCM receivers. There's nothing like it here in Japan (although we get the occasional classic in hi-def on NHK TV). Thanks for letting me enjoy the McCrea-athon vicariously, anyway.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all very much for the feedback and your notes!

Miss McCrocodile and Jeff, I really wish you had the ability to see more of the McCrea movies being shown this month! He's the best. :)

Best wishes,

2:17 PM  
Blogger SimpleGifts said...

Hi, Laura - How wonderful that Joel McCrea is receiving the recognition he deserves. I so enjoyed Robert Osborne's enthusiastic commentary last night with remarks such as, "Joel McCrea never gave anything but a superb performance." Thanks for the great recommendations. My DVR is going to be busy this month! Jane

10:47 PM  

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