Monday, October 01, 2012

TCM Star of the Month: Spencer Tracy

The October Star of the Month on Turner Classic Movies is Spencer Tracy.

TCM will show over 50 Tracy movies on Monday evenings this month, beginning tonight, October 1st. The titles shown will span three and a half decades, from 1932 to Tracy's final film in 1967.

Tonight kicks off with a dozen films from the early years of Tracy's career. The two films which particularly interest me are ME AND MY GAL (1932), a TCM premiere costarring Joan Bennett, and MAN'S CASTLE (1933), costarring Loretta Young, with whom he had a brief offscreen romance.

October 8th continues with 9 more films, all released between 1936 and 1942. LIBELED LADY (1936), shown that evening, is one of my favorite screwball comedies, which I was fortunate to see as part of UCLA's Spencer Tracy Festival earlier this year. It costars William Powell, Myrna Loy, and Jean Harlow.

TEST PILOT (1938) and BOOM TOWN (1940), two films he made with Clark Gable, are also enjoyable. Other titles that evening range from the biopic EDISON THE MAN (1940) to DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (1941) to an interesting version of Steinbeck's TORTILLA FLAT (1942), costarring John Garfield and Hedy Lamarr.

October 15th leads off with a half-dozen films for which Tracy was nominated for the Academy Award, including SAN FRANCISCO (1936) and BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955).

SAN FRANCISCO was another film I saw at UCLA this year, and I thought Tracy was wonderful as the priest who serves as friend and counsel to Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald. It's one of my favorite Tracy performances.

Vincente Minnelli's FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950), showing that evening, is another movie I like. The film reunited Tracy with Joan Bennett 18 years after they starred in ME AND MY GAL. Elizabeth Taylor plays their daughter, the bride.

The second half of the schedule on the 15th is devoted to adventure films, including NORTHWEST PASSAGE (1940), PLYMOUTH ADVENTURE (1952), and HOW THE WEST WAS WON (1962), which Tracy narrated. (Some lucky folks will be seeing the latter film in Cinerama in Hollywood later this week!)

Six of the films Tracy made with Katharine Hepburn will be shown on October 22nd. My favorites are WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942) and ADAM'S RIB (1949), though I've also got a soft spot for PAT AND MIKE (1952) which was on TV a lot when I was growing up. WOMAN OF THE YEAR does have its annoying moments, but I have fond memories of a screening I attended as a teen at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where I laughed along with the audience till I cried while watching Tracy's increasingly hysterical reactions to Hepburn's attempts to cook breakfast.

The evening continues with three war films, including the classics A GUY NAMED JOE (1943) and THIRTY SECONDS OVER TOKYO (1944), both costarring Van Johnson, and then a pair of comedies, FATHER'S LITTLE DIVIDEND (1951) and THE ACTRESS (1953).

The final evening, on October 29th, presents four films Tracy made with Stanley Kramer, including another Hepburn film, GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (1967), which was also his last film. The only Tracy-Hepburn films not being shown this month are Capra's STATE OF THE UNION (1948) and the Fox film DESK SET (1957).

The Kramer lineup also includes INHERIT THE WIND (1960), which I saw at UCLA in January and which has the distinction of being one of a fairly small number of films I flat-out disliked. Among other things, I found the movie smug, lacking in depth or nuance, and at times downright childish. The film certainly has its admirers, so it may well be worth watching and forming one's own conclusions.

The 29th concludes with a random assortment of dramas from the late '40s and '50s, including CASS TIMBERLANE (1947) and John Ford's THE LAST HURRAH (1958).

For more information on TCM's October schedule, please visit my post TCM in October: Highlights or consult the complete online schedule.


Blogger Blake Lucas said...

The best for last--, appropriately John Ford's moving political drama THE LAST HURRAH with as great a performance as Spencer Tracy ever gave.

11:49 PM  
Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Years ago my young daughter wandered through the living room while I was watching "Adam's Rib" (my favourite talkie!), paused and said "Who's that? Oh, yeah. That's that greatest actor guy." Good parenting or brainwashing? You be the judge.

9:36 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Blake, that's a Ford film I need to see! Thanks for the recommendations.

Caftan Woman, I love that. The bit with Tracy and the gun in ADAM'S RIB is another favorite childhood movie memory. :)

Best wishes,

11:34 AM  

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