Wednesday, October 21, 2009

TCM's October 2009 Guest Programmer

If you've been watching TCM, you've probably seen the promos for the monthly Guest Programmer, who for October is Dennis Miller. His selections are airing tonight, and start off at 8:00 PM ET with Dodsworth. This one isn't seen quite so often, probably because it was originally produced by Samuel Goldwyn's production company and distributed by United Artists, which wouldn't have been as prestigious as, say, MGM or Paramount in the 1930s.

Walter Huston stars as Dodsworth, a car company executive who's decided he wants to retire to a quiet life, and sells his company as a result. Unfortunately, his wife (Ruth Chatterton) is one of those social climber types who doesn't like her husband's "provincial" Midwestern values, and dragoons him into taking a European trip with her. The result is that they both find themselves drifting apart, with Mrs. Dodsworth taking up with a series of more "sophisticated" Continental types. Mr. Dodsworth, however, also ends up finding somebody understanding, in the form of American divorcée Mary Astor. Still, this being the 1930s, the chances of them all finding true happiness aren't that great....

Dodsworth is one of those peculiarly 1930s movies, in that its values are rooted in the time. People don't go on that sort of overlong European trip any more, and marriages like the Dodsworths' would have ended in divorce long before getting to this point -- it wouldn't carry the same social stigma today that it might have back then. It's also very much a movie that doesn't have a whole lot of action, with the dialogue and character development being much more important, something which is seen a lot less these days.

I've always liked the idea of the TCM Guest Programmer, as I think it's a good way to try to introduce new people to classic cinema. Dennis Miller's selection of Dodsworth is one that has me curious as to why he'd select it. The other three movies are:
The Third Man at 10:00 PM;
Suspicion at midnight; and
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House at 2:00 AM.

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