Thursday, December 2, 2010

Mickey Rooney in prime time

As I posted yesterday evening, TCM is running the movies of Mickey Rooney 24 hours a day every Thursday in December as part of his turn as the Star of the Month. Prime time tonight begins at 8:00 PM ET with a movie I recommended quite some time ago, A Midsummer Night's Dream. That's followed at 10:30 PM by Ah, Wilderness!.

Eric Linden is the main character, Richard Miller. He's a young man about to turn 18 and graduate from high school in a small town in Anywhere, USA at the turn of the last century. While dealing with this, he's also got his odd family at home: father Lionel Barrymore and mom Spring Byington, as well as kid sister Bonita Granville and kid brother Mickey Rooney. Dad has a brother (Wallace Beery) who's a ne'er-do-well, constantly drinking and not able to hold down a steady job; this causes consternation to the grownups, especially when he comes for a visit, but the kids love him. Mom has a sister (Aline MacMahon) who has been living with the family, who gets the eye of her brother-in-law. Along the way, Richard learns a bit about growing up, especially when he goes for his first night out on the town and meets a woman of ill repute who can show him something about real life.

Ah, Wilderness! doesn't really have much of a story; it's more of a slice-of-life film. That's not to take anything away from the movie, which really has a fine ensemble cast. Barrymore is particularly good, for example, when it comes to stopping his son from giving a revolutionary speech at the high school graduation. Spring Byington is understated, while Wallace Beery is as good as ever when it comes to playing the loveable loser type.

Ah, Wilderness! has gotten a DVD release, but only as part of the Warner Archive collection.

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