August 17th, 2014

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Bonjour, Claudette!

carole lombard clark gable claudette colbert frank capra 00

After last weekend's one-two punch of William Powell and Carole Lombard, some of us took a break from TCM's Summer Under The Stars, occasionally spending some time with other notables shown such as Cary Grant and Charlie Chaplin. Tomorrow (the 18th), get back on board the SUTS train with one of Carole's Paramount cohorts and good friends, Claudette Colbert.

I'm guessing the photo above was taken at the Columbia lot in early 1934, about the time Lombard was making "Twentieth Century" and Colbert, Clark Gable and director Frank Capra were at work on "It Happened One Night" (a property which Carole may have turned down in its earlier incarnation as a programmer called "Night Bus"). None of them knew that their sojourn at Gower Gulch would prove pivotal to their careers; Gable, Colbert and Capra captured Academy Awards, while Lombard showed the industry she could be a comedic dynamo.

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Blessed with a stylish figure and a sophisticated sensibility, Colbert became a Broadway stage notable in the 1920s, and decided to give movies a try. She made a silent, "For The Love Of Mike," in 1927 and hated the experience. (The director was, of all people, Capra, which initially made her reluctant to re-team with him some years later.) Sound led Claudette to give films a second chance, especially since she could work at Paramount's Astoria lot in Queens. She made a number of movies in New York, but when the Depression hit full force and East Coast production proved unprofitable, it was goodbye NYC (where she'd spent much of her youth), hello Hollywood.

Here's TCM's schedule (all times Eastern):

* 6 a.m. -- "Parrish" (1961). Colbert's final theatrical film, it also stars Troy Donahue and Diane McBain (

* 8:30 a.m. -- "Outpost In Malaya" (1952). She plays a plantation owner's wife whose site is attacked by bandits. With Jack Hawkins and Anthony Steel.

* 10 a.m. -- "Tomorrow Is Forever" (1946). Claudette opposite Orson Welles? Yes, and George Brent too, in a story about a veteran presumed dead who returns to find his wife has remarried.

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* noon -- "Without Reservations" (1946). Colbert's a writer, John Wayne's a war hero. Mervyn LeRoy directs this romantic comedy which lacks the pizzazz of its pre-war counterparts.

* 2 p.m. -- "Boom Town" (1940). The other Claudette and Clark pairing, this tale of oil and its effects on friends also stars Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr.

* 4:15 p.m. -- "It's A Wonderful World" (1939). The only teaming of Colbert and James Stewart is a charming little comedy; she's a poetess, he's a fugitive trying to clear himself of murder. Guy Kibbee has a supporting role.

* 6 p.m. -- "It Happened One Night" (1934). The "walls of Jericho." The hitchhiking scene. Bus passengers singing "The Man On The Flying Trapeze." Anyone who claims to be a classic movie fan must see this film at least once

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* 8 p.m. -- "The Smiling Lieutenant" (1931). Claudette's a musician who loves officer Maurice Chevalier...but a misunderstanding forces him to marry dowdy princess Miriam Hopkins. What to do? Director Ernst Lubitsch has the answer, and it has something to do with jazz and lingerie. A pre-Code classic too few people have seen.

* 10 p.m. -- "Skylark" (1941). In this romance, housewife Colbert is torn between husband Ray Milland and attorney Brian Aherne.

* midnight -- "Three Came Home" (1950). Claudette plays an American woman held captive by the Japanese for much of World War II. Directed by Jean Negulesco.

* 2 a.m. -- "Remember The Day" (1941). Most of this film is in flashback mode, as Colbert plays an elderly schoolteacher scheduled to meet a former student now running for president. With John Payne.

* 4 a.m. -- "The Secret Heart" (1946). Claudette plays a recent widow trying to aid her emotionally disturbed stepdaughter (June Allyson). Walter Pidgeon also stars.

claudette colbert SUTS 2014

Interesting mix, though I wish at least one of Colbert's outings with Cecil B. De Mille had made the cut (I particularly would like to see the oft-overlooked "Four Frightened People"). Her sparking romantic comedy "Midnight," directed by Mitchell Leisen, also would have been welcome. But Claudette is always enjoyable, so take some time out to watch one of the classic era's most delightful actresses at work. More on her and the SUTS schedule at
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