Tuesday, June 17, 2014

TCM Guest Programmer June 2014: Gene Wilder

Tonight sees this month's Guest Programmer on TCM: comic actor Gene Wilder. He's selected four of his favorite movies and sat down with Robert Osborne to discuss those movies, which are airing starting at 8:00 PM. Somewhat surprisingly, there's not much in the way of comedy in Wilder's selections:

Wilder's first pick is Random Harvest, at 8:00 PM. I've never done a full-length post about this movie mostly because it's one for which I have an intense dislike, with material almost as retch-inducing as Magnificent Obsession. Ronald Colman plays a World War I veteran with shell shock and amnesia who meets Greer Garson; the two fall in love. However, Colman has an accident that suddenly causes him to remember his old life and forget that he ever knew Garson. So she goes and works her way into that life, in the hopes that he'll remember her. I suppose it could be an interesting story, but the way the story is told in Random Harvest is incredibly sappy.

Second up is The Merry Widow at 10:15 PM. This is Ernst Lubitsch's version of the Franz Lehár operetta, starring Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier. Neither of the stars is a favorite of mine, especially not when they're singing. So this one starts off with a bunch of strikes against it for me, although that's more a case of personal preferences than anything about the actual quality of the movie.

Witness For the Prosecution comes on at 12:15 AM. This is a good one, with Billy Wilder directing Charles Laughton as the sick barrister who takes on "one more case", that of Tyrone Power who's been accused of murdering an old lady for her money. Marlene Dietrich plays the other woman in Power's life.

The last of Gene Wilder's selections is Dark Victory, at 2:30 AM. Bette Davis plays a selfish socialite who has her life turned upside down when she's diagnosed with a brain tumor. Doctor George Brent operates on her and she thinks she's cured, but in reality she only has a year or so to live, although the doctor isn't going to spoil her life by telling her that. Still, she falls in love with the doctor. Davis gets to have one of her great scenery-chewing eruptions when she discovers what "prognosis negative" means. Humphrey Bogart is terribly miscast as Davis' stableman, and Ronald Reagan plays one of her socialite friends.

Following those movies, you'll have a chance to see an interview Wilder did with Alec Baldwin that TCM premiered a few years back.


Tom said...

I'll never understand how Alec Baldwin got to be on TCM.

Ted S. (Just a Cineast) said...

I'm not the biggest fan of Alec Baldwin, but I have to admit that I don't get the white-hot anitpathy that a lot of people seem to have toward his presence on TCM, either.

Other than for his liking the Marlon Brando version of Mutiny on the Bounty, of course.