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Your guide to William Powell 'SUTS' day

Posted by vp19 on 2014.08.09 at 01:53
Current mood: excitedexcited
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Today opens a special weekend for many Turner Classic Movies fans, as Carole Lombard and her first husband, William Powell, each are honored on TCM's beloved August extravaganza, "Summer Under The Stars." We're going to list the films scheduled on both days, with information and comments.

Powell, whom Roger Ebert so wonderfully described as "the man who is to diction what Fred Astaire is to dance," is today's subject (for the first time on SUTS!), so let's examine what we'll see (and hear) of him (all times Eastern). We'll rate the films from one to five stars:

* 6 a.m. -- "The Road To Singapore" (1931). Have never seen this one (and it's obviously not in the Hope-Crosby canon), but TCM describes it this way: "A woman's life falls to pieces when she's caught cheating on her husband"...and one presumes Powell is the guy she's cheating with. I believe this was Bill's first film for Warners. With Doris Kenyon and Louis Calhern. For lack of more information, I'll rate this in the midpoint. * * *

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* 7:30 a.m. -- "Jewel Robbery" (1932). This one I have seen -- and love it. Powell plays a debonair, non-violent jewel thief who disarms his foes by handing them cigarettes laced with marijuana (this would have been a big hit on college campuses in the late 1960s); Kay Francis (his best non-Myrna Loy leading lady) is a countess who falls for his derring-do. Pre-Code fun, and you even see Kay's bare back being massaged! Would have loved to have seen the Powell-Francis pairing "One Way Passage," too, but you can't have everything. * * * * 1/2

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* 8:45 a.m. -- "Lawyer Man" (1932). This would be Powell's only film with Joan Blondell (yes, he ogles her lovely legs like any red-blooded American male would), and they have fine chemistry as he plays a New York City attorney who falls prey to corruption when success lifts him from the Lower East Side to swanky Midtown. * * * 1/2

* 10 a.m. -- "Double Harness" (1933). Powell made this San Francisco-set drama on loan to RKO, with the always-capable Ann Harding playing his love interest. John Cromwell, who later would direct Lombard's "Made For Each Other" and "In Name Only," was behind the lens for this. * * * 1/2

* 11:15 a.m. -- "Manhattan Melodrama" (1934). OK, gang, here begins the Bill and Myrna marathon -- seven straight Powell-Loy teamings, and this is the first. It's also the only film Powell, by now at MGM, made with Carole's other husband, Clark Gable, as they play old chums who wind up on opposite sides of the law (Bill good, Clark bad); Loy's the love of both. Even if John Dillinger hadn't seen this film before being gunned down, it would be part of cinematic lore. Watch it. * * * * 1/2

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* 1 p.m. -- "Libeled Lady" (1936). Another must-see -- in fact, it's a literal four-star comedy (Powell, Loy, Jean Harlow and Spencer Tracy). In recent years, it's come to be recognized as one of the best comedies of the 1930s (the interaction between the characters is something to behold), and Powell's frenetic fishing scene proves he could do physical comedy as well as Cary Grant or other contemporaries. This is one I never tire of seeing...and I know I'm not the only one who feels that way. * * * * *

* 2:45 p.m. -- "Double Wedding" (1937). Some really love this film, but to me it's the least of the Powell-Loy collaborations (non-Nick and Nora division). It has its moments, but Powell doesn't seem quite up to it (likely because Jean Harlow died during production, which sent him into depression and eventually ill health). Good for Bill and Myrna completists, not so good for everyone else. * * *



* 4:30 p.m. -- "I Love You Again" (1940). A great plot: Powell plays a small-town Chamber of Commerce type who falls overboard on a ship, develops amnesia (for the second time, it turns out) and regains his former identity...as a sharpie con man. He returns to wife Loy in a small Pennsylvania town, planning to pull a heist while maintaining the upright citizen image the town is familiar with. He even plays a youth troop master! With Frank McHugh as his old gang cohort and Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer as one of the troop members. * * * * 1/2

* 6:15 p.m. -- "Love Crazy" (1941). Bill is fearful wife Myrna will divorce him, so he feigns insanity to prevent her from being able to do just that. This film has grown on me in recent years, perhaps because Gail Patrick, queen of the "other women," portrays Powell's old flame. Watch for the elevator scene, and Bill's battles with Gail's small dog, not to mention seeing him in drag near the end (sans mustache, of course!) * * * *

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* 8 p.m. -- "The Thin Man" (1934). Who could make marriage, martinis and murder so much fun? Nick and Nora Charles, of course (with terrier Asta by their side). Powell, heretofore known for playing sleuth Philo Vance in a number of films, would make this Dashiell Hammett character his definitive role, both in this movie and in five sequels. If you're one of the few who's never seen this, what are you waiting for? It's an "Essential" (tonight, literally so). * * * * *

* 9:45 p.m. -- "After The Thin Man" (1936). Powell's 1936 is arguably the greatest calendar year any actor has ever had ("My Man Godfrey," "Libeled Lady," "The Great Ziegfeld," "The Ex-Mrs. Bradford"), and this closed out the year, as the Charleses travel to San Francisco for relaxation...but a murder occurs and they're called to action. A young James Stewart has a supporting role here. * * * *

* 11:45 p.m. -- "Crossroads" (1942). This tale of European intrigue was the first of Powell's two pairings with lovely Hedy Lamarr. Not the most exciting of Bill's films, but he's always worth watching. * * * 1/2



* 1:15 a.m. -- "Mister Roberts" (1955). This would turn out to be Powell's final film, and what a way to go out. His Doc is a supporting role to Henry Fonda, James Cagney and Jack Lemmon, but Bill's in good form in this cinematic adaptation of the Broadway service comedy. Oh, and Betsy Palmer's one of the few females in the cast, years before countless game show appearances and her role in the original "Friday The 13th." * * * * 1/2

* 3:30 a.m. -- "The Girl Who Had Everything" (1953). Powell made two movies with Elizabeth Taylor, first "Life With Father" in 1947 and then this comedy with a grown-up Liz. Fernando Lamas is also in the cast, but since I've never seen this one, I have no idea whether it's "marvelous." * * *

* 4:45 a.m. -- "High Pressure" (1932). Bill leads in to Lombard's day with this early Warners comedy, where he plays a promoter trying to sell artificial rubber. Sounds a bit like Cagney's "Hard To Handle" the following year, although Powell is nowhere as energetic as James. (Then again, who is?) Guy Kibbee, part of the great Warners stable of character actors, has a supporting role. * * * 1/2

For more on Powell's day -- including social media -- visit http://summer.tcm.com/day-9/.

william powell 2014 SUTS

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