November 28th, 2011

carole lombard 01
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Bob is back, and brought Bill with him

It should be a December to remember at Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. For one thing, William Powell (shown above with Carole Lombard in "My Man Godfrey") will be the star of the month, with his movies shown every Thursday throughout the month...and this year, there are five Thursdays in December. For another, Powell's prime-time films will be introduced by none other than...

...the beloved Robert Osborne. The former actor, film historian and longtime TCM host has been off for a few months for both health reasons and the opportunity to take some well-deserved time off. But now he's back, adding his noted insight and charm into his film wraparounds. And the first film to receive such treatment on his return, at 8 p.m. (Eastern) Thursday, will be a perfect illustration of Powell's debonair manner:

It's "Jewel Robbery" (1932), the sixth film of his co-starring Kay Francis. It's sort of a fast-paced Warners take on the Ernst Lubitsch style (it's set in Vienna), where Powell plays a high-class jewel thief who outwits his enemies in all sorts of ways, including offering them cigarettes laced with marijuana that causes them to become, well, a bit goofy. There's romance with Francis, a socialite who falls for him even though he's robbed her.

"Jewel Robbery" kicks off 39 -- that's right, 39 -- Powell films over the course of the month. Alas, the only film among them featuring one-time wife Lombard is the brilliant "Godfrey," on at 11:30 p.m. Dec. 8. (Powell's Paramount talkies aren't part of this package, which is unfortunate; not only are "Man Of The World" and "Ladies' Man," his two movies with Lombard in 1931, omitted, so is 1929's "Interference," his initial talkie -- also Paramount's first sound feature -- and the first time film audiences heard Powell's mellifluous voice.) But there is plenty of Powell from his time at Warners, MGM and RKO.

Each day focuses on a specific area of Powell's work. On Thursday, it's assorted mystery and crime films (with one major exception -- more on that later), including his first appearance on screen, in 1922's "Sherlock Holmes," at 10 a.m. Friday, with John Barrymore as Holmes and Roland Young (in his screen debut) as Watson; on Dec. 8, comedies and musicals (including "Fashions Of 1934," above, with Bette Davis); and Dec. 15, his later films (including his final appearance on the big screen in 1955's "Mister Roberts"), plus a few dramas, notably the wonderful "One Way Passage" with Francis.

The final two weeks are devoted to Powell's work with his most frequent co-star, Myrna Loy. The six "Thin Man" films air Dec. 22 (in chronological order), while seven other Powell-Loy teamings will be shown Dec. 29.

To learn more about Powell and the films being shown, go to|453740/William-Powell-Profile.html. (Note that due to an error, the 1929 version of "The Last Of Mrs. Cheyney," starring Norma Shearer and Basil Rathbone, is listed instead of the 1937 version with Powell, Joan Crawford, Robert Montgomery and Frank Morgan, which will air at 8 p.m. Dec. 8; the good news is that the '29 "Cheyney" will be shown in February as part of TCM's "31 Days Of Oscar" event.)

Powell is my all-time favorite actor -- I love his urbane touch, that erudite voice (one critic has said Powell is to diction what Fred Astaire is to dance) and his ability to excel at either drama or comedy. Watch plenty of Powell during December, and by the time 2011 ends, there's a good chance he'll rate high on your list, too (if he isn't already). He deserves to be showered with affection, though sometimes he turns the tables...

(The above sequence is from

This week's header shows Lombard with Sidney Blackmer in the 1933 Paramount "From Hell To Heaven," a lower-tier take-off on "Grand Hotel"; here all the characters congregate at a resort for a major horse race.
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