Wednesday, January 06, 2016

TCM Star of the Month: Fred MacMurray

I'm especially delighted that the January Star of the Month on Turner Classic Movies is Fred MacMurray.

Before going any further, I highly recommended this new TCM tribute to Fred by his daughter, Kate MacMurray. I think it's one of the best tributes TCM has produced, and it captures both his acting versatility and who he was as a human being.

Over 30 Fred MacMurray films are scheduled on TCM every Wednesday night in January, beginning this evening January 6th. While I admit I wish TCM had been able to license more of his earlier Paramount films, it's a wonderful lineup. Click any hyperlinked title for my past review.

The series kicks off tonight with TRUE CONFESSION (1937), costarring Carole Lombard. In the TCM tribute, his daughter says that Lombard was one of her father's two favorite leading ladies. The other was Claudette Colbert, although unfortunately none of the films he made with her will be shown this month.

Next up tonight is the wacky MURDER, HE SAYS (1945). I remember seeing that one as a kid at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and honestly being a bit befuddled by its craziness! I need to take another look at it. Helen Walker and Marjorie Main costar.

I'm especially excited about SUDDENLY, IT'S SPRING (1947), directed by Mitchell Leisen, costarring Paulette Goddard and Macdonald Carey. It received very positive notices when it was screened at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival and 2013 Cinecon.

Also screening tonight: ALICE ADAMS (1935) with Katharine Hepburn, TOO MANY HUSBANDS (1940) with Jean Arthur and Melvyn Douglas, SWING HIGH, SWING LOW (1937) with Carole Lombard, DIVE BOMBER (1941) with Errol Flynn and Alexis Smith, and very early MacMurray, GRAND OLD GIRL (1935) with May Robson and Alan Hale (Sr.).

The January 13th lineup kicks off with the crime classic DOUBLE INDEMNITY (1944), where MacMurray uncharacteristically played a sleazy insurance salesman tempted into murder by Barbara Stanwyck.

Next up are three more films he made with Stanwyck: THERE'S ALWAYS TOMORROW (1956), directed by Douglas Sirk; the wonderful Christmastime romance REMEMBER THE NIGHT (1940) (more on it here); and the Western THE MOONLIGHTER (1953).

More on the 13th: ABOVE SUSPICION (1943), a WWII suspense film with Joan Crawford; THE LADY IS WILLING (1942) with Marlene Dietrich; PARDON MY PAST (1945) with Marguerite Chapman; DON'T TRUST YOUR HUSBAND (1948) aka AN INNOCENT AFFAIR with Madeleine Carroll, and ON OUR MERRY WAY (1948) aka A MIRACLE CAN HAPPEN with James Stewart and Paulette Goddard.

On January 20th the focus shifts to MacMurray's work in the '50s and '60s, beginning with THE CAINE MUTINY (1954), costarring Humphrey Bogart, Jose Ferrer, and Van Johnson.

Next up, another of his sleazy roles, reuniting with DOUBLE INDEMNITY director Billy Wilder for THE APARTMENT (1960). Kate MacMurray tells a great story about a woman coming up to MacMurray at Disneyland and criticizing him for playing the role, after which he decided to stick to nice guys.

Other films on the 20th are WOMAN'S WORLD (1954) with Lauren Bacall, KISSES FOR MY PRESIDENT (1964) with Polly Bergen, A MILLIONAIRE FOR CHRISTY (1951) with Eleanor Parker, NEVER A DULL MOMENT (1050) with Irene Dunne (a second review is here), and another good bad guy role in PUSHOVER (1954) with Kim Novak. Also showing is a 1956 episode of Screen Directors Playhouse, "It's a Most Unusual Day."

BORDERLINE (1950) with Claire Trevor rounds out the night.

A pair of Disney movies, THE ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR (1961) and THE SHAGGY DOG (1959), starts off the final MacMurray evening on January 27th.

They're followed by a couple of Westerns, GOOD DAY FOR A HANGING (1958) and FACE OF A FUGITIVE (1959). The comedy CALLAWAY WENT THATAWAY (1951), costarring Dorothy McGuire and Howard Keel, and the horror flick THE SWARM (1978) complete the series.

It's worth noting that there is much more Fred MacMurray to explore than what we're fortunate to see on TCM this month. For instance, MacMurray made several Paramount films with Madeleine Carroll, of which I've reviewed HONEYMOON IN BALI (1939), but the public domain film DON'T TRUST YOUR HUSBAND is the only one of their collaborations shown this month.

The absence of most of his films with Carroll, along with some of his Lombard pictures (THE PRINCESS COMES ACROSS and HANDS ACROSS THE TABLE), some with Paulette Goddard, and all of his many films with Claudette Colbert, illustrates that a MacMurray month could easily run twice as long!

For those wanting to explore more via DVD, three of the Colbert films were released in a set by TCM, but it's now out of print; three more are still available in the Claudette Colbert Legacy Collection. A seventh film with the long-running team has never been released.

The "missing" Lombard films may be found in the DVD set Carole Lombard: The Glamour Collection.

Alas, MacMurray's other films with both Paulette Goddard and Madeleine Carroll are not easily available; they include the very funny STANDING ROOM ONLY (1944) with Goddard. There are other Paramount films with Joan Bennett, Patricia Morison, Frances Farmer, and Irene Dunne I'd love to see on TCM or DVD, if only there were a way for it to happen. The relative difficulty in seeing many Paramount films of the '30s and '40s is an ongoing disappointment for classic film fans.

Putting that issue aside, the MacMurray series is part of a great month on TCM! For more on TCM this month, please visit my post TCM in January: Highlights or consult the complete schedule.


Blogger Jerry E said...

I so envy you being able to catch this TCM tribute to one of my favourite actors. I fear he is not as well-remembered today as he deserves. Great to see that his daughter Kate is involved.
So many terrific films in the list and I am glad to see two of his best westerns from the late 1950s are included. Hope you get to enjoy much of the fare on offer, Laura!

3:12 PM  
Blogger John G. said...

"Murder, He Says" is a gem! I love Helen Walker. She and MacMurray make a great team in this one.

It's been a while since I've watched "Don't Trust Your Husband." Need to rectify that soon. I'm also a big fan of Madeleine Carroll. I have a pretty good print of this movie on an actual silver DVD (not the purple-backed DVD-Rs that make up a sizable chunk of my collection) from some company called Geneon.

3:55 PM  
Blogger Maricatrin said...

A look at your review of THE APARTMENT (1960) finds me in the minority with you on that one. I was also thinking: is it over yet? Besides the lack of compelling characters, it just couldn't seem to make up it's mind what it wanted to be... a drama? a comedy? a romance? It was too cynical for a romantic-comedy, but too sentimental for a satire. Of course, some films can blend disparate elements together very well... I just don't think this one did.

Thoughts on a few of the unreviewed titles:

GOOD DAY FOR A HANGING (1958) and FACE OF A FUGITIVE (1959) are both very good westerns, GOOD DAY FOR A HANGING in particular being a breath of fresh air concerning it's treatment of the death penalty.

BORDERLINE (1950) is detested in some quarters, but I actually found it quite enjoyable, sort of a 'screwball comedy meets film noir' film. Nice to see Clare Trevor get a break from playing a floozie at this point in her career (though her character has to pretend to be one for a bit!)

4:02 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thank you all for your feedback on a wonderful actor!

Jerry, I know I was sure wowed when I started digging into MacMurray's early career. Knowing him from MY THREE SONS and Disney films growing up, it was such a pleasant surprise to discover his versatility, as well as his ability to be quite a marvelous romantic lead. I hope this month on TCM will lead more people to enjoy his work.

Jerry and Maricatrin, the two Westerns you mention are a pair I've not yet seen. I hope to rectify that soon!

I need to take another look at MURDER, HE SAYS, John! I enjoy Helen Walker as well. Like you, I have a copy of DON'T TRUST YOUR HUSBAND -- I think it's from the same company. Haven't played that one yet.

Maricatrin, how nice to know I'm not the only person who just didn't "get" THE APARTMENT. As time has passed, the more I'm of the opinion it's tremendously overrated, but obviously not many people agree with us LOL.

I appreciate your thoughts on BORDERLINE as that's another one I haven't seen. Claire Trevor is always worth watching!

Thanks to you all!

Best wishes,

8:03 PM  

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