Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Leslie Howard, night 3

Tonight's look at TCM Star of the Month Leslie Howard includes all three of the movies he made with Norma Shearer, starting with the 1936 version of Romeo and Juliet at 8:00 PM. I'm not a huge fan of this, largely because I don't think Howard and Shearer are particularly believable as the two leads. There's also the fact that MGM seemingly had to use everybody on the lot to fill the large cast, much like Warner Bros. a year earlier with A Midsummer Night's Dream. This naturally means that you've got some people who aren't exactly adept at delivering Shakespearean lines. It works at Warner Bros. because they gave many of the non-Shakespearean types roles in Nick Bottom's acting troupe. But there are no such roles I can think of in Romeo and Juliet. The result is that you get an opening sequence involving Edna May Oliver and Andy Devine! Poor Andy. TCM's schedule page suggests that this movie is not available on DVD either, so you're going to have to catch it on TCM, which for a prestige movie from MGM is surprisingly infrequent.

Second is A Free Soul at 10:15 PM. This one is on DVD and is worth the watch, especially for Clark Gable as a gangster with whom Shearer falls in love even though she's engaged to Leslie Howard. Lionel Barrymore rounds out the cast as Shearer's alcoholic father and lawyer to Gable.

Then, at midnight, is Smilin' Through, which I don't think I've seen before. Howard plays the uncle of Shearer and raises her, only to see her fall in love with the son of man who killed his fiancée (Fredric March). At least, I think I've read the synopsis correctly.

Two more Howard movies round out the evening. At 1:45 AM is Outward Bound, which I've recommended before for its use of sound. Last is Captured!, at 3:15 AM; this is a World War I POW drama about two POWs who were in love with the same woman (although only one of them was actually married to her).

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