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carole lombard 04

It's La Cava's birthday, with the gifts from TCM

Posted by vp19 on 2011.03.10 at 01:40
Current mood: accomplishedaccomplished

Gregory La Cava (shown with Carole Lombard, Alice Brady, Mischa Auer and William Powell) is understandably best remembered today for "My Man Godfrey," as well as the fine ensemble drama "Stage Door" and the Depression-era political fantasy "Gabriel Over The White House." But La Cava directed more than 20 sound films and about a dozen silent features. (His film career dated back to the teens, when he directed animated versions of Hearst comic strips.)

Today marks the 119th anniversary of his birth, and to celebrate, Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. is airing nine lesser-known La Cava films during the day. Six of them are comedies, where his semi-improvisational style was put to best use. (La Cava reportedly once said that a script exists only to be ignored.) He worked with a wide range of actors, invariably eliciting good performances -- eight received Academy Award nominations, including all four above for "Godfrey."

Here's the schedule (all times Eastern):

* 6:45 a.m. -- "Laugh And Get Rich" (1931) Hugh Herbert and Edna May Oliver, two solid characters, play husband and wife; he perpetually comes up with get-rich-quick schemes that never work. Dorothy Lee, best known for her work in Wheeler & Woolsey films, plays the couple's daughter.

* 8 a.m. -- "Smart Woman" (1931) Mary Astor stars in this adaptation of the Broadway play "Nancy's Private Affair," as a woman who discovers her husband (Robert Ames) is two-timing her...so she gives him a dose of his own medicine. John Halliday and Edward Everett Horton co-star.

* 9:15 a.m. -- "The Age Of Consent" (1932) This campus romance, with an air of frank sexuality, stars Dorothy Wilson in her film debut; a Hollywood secretary, she was taking dictation from La Cava when he decided to give her a screen test and gave her this role. Richard Cromwell, whom more than one reviewer at the Internet Movie Database called a dead ringer for Leonardo DiCaprio, is the boyfriend.

* 10:30 a.m. -- "Symphony Of Six Million" (1932) Ricardo Cortez, so often cast as an oily pre-Code heel (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/162206.html), gets a good-guy role in this drama as an earnest Jewish doctor who strives for Park Avenue riches but can't escape his Lower East Side past. Irene Dunne, of all people, plays his Jewish love interest.

* 12:15 p.m. -- "Bed Of Roses" (1933) Constance Bennett and wisecracking Pert Kelton play former Mississippi River prostitutes faced with starting a new life after being released from prison, and Connie falls for riverboat skipper Joel McCrea. A smart blend of pre-Code comedy and drama.

* 1:30 p.m. -- "The Half Naked Truth" (1933) La Cava co-wrote the screenplay of this lively romp, starring Lee Tracy as a carnival pitchman, Lupe Velez as the sexy dancer whom he turns into a star and Frank Morgan as an ersatz Florenz Ziegfeld. (TCM will again air this film on June 1, the anniversary of Morgan's birth.) Eugene Pallette, who would work with La Cava in "Godfrey," has an intriguing supporting turn.

* 3 p.m. -- "What Every Woman Knows" (1934) -- Helen Hayes stars in this adaptation of James M. Barrie's comedy about romance and intrigue in Scotland; the cast also includes Brian Aherne, Madge Evans and Lucile Watson.

* 4:30 p.m. -- "She Married Her Boss" (1935) That more or less explains the story, "she" being Claudette Colbert, "her boss" being Melvyn Douglas. Colbert, who La Cava had directed earlier that year in the drama "Private Worlds," is capable as always, but the script has dated badly. Edith Fellows, a talented child star, plays the boss' spoiled daughter, and Jean Dixon plays Colbert's older sister(!). An adequate comedy, but little more.

* 6 p.m. -- "Living In A Big Way" (1947) Gene Kelly stars as a postwar GI who finally gets to know his war bride (Marie "The Body" McDonald). Kelly is engaging as always, but this shouldn't be rated among his triumphs. This was La Cava's last directorial credit, although he did some uncredited work on the 1948 Ava Gardner film "One Touch Of Venus"; he died in 1952, nine days short of his 60th birthday.

A nice batch of films, but there's one more I wish TCM would air someday -- the movie La Cava made with Lombard seven years before "Godfrey," the rarely seen Pathe newspaper saga "Big News." with Robert Armstrong:

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