Born on August 21: Burr McIntosh in 1862; Harry T. Morey in 1873; Bert Roach in 1891; Herbert Mundin in 1898; Roland Culver in 1900; Eileen Percy in 1900; Harvey Stephens in 1901; Albert S. Rogell in 1901; Tom Tully in 1908; and Diana Churchill in 1913.
All links lead to each actor's IMDb page, set to open in a new tab.
In addition to the "birthday" images found at the bottom of this post, Classic Movie Daily subscribers will find larger images of Burr McIntosh and Herbert Mundin inside today's mailing. Also a handful of photo posts featuring TCM's featured star for Saturday, Marlene Dietrich.
TCM TV Alerts through Monday, August 21 at 7 am:
These titles play on TCM's US schedule and all quoted times are for my own local Eastern time zone.
—TCM Friday, Alan Arkin Summer Under the Stars (TCM's page) - Not my domain.
—TCM Saturday, Marlene Dietrich Summer Under the Stars (TCM's page) - I love both of the von Sternberg movies playing Saturday, The Blue Angel (1930 - 9:15 am) and especially Shanghai Express (1932 - 10:15pm), and only wish that his other five with Dietrich were also going to be on. Of the movies that do play, I like Witness for the Prosecution (1958 - 8:00 pm) best, especially for Laughton, but Power and Dietrich are great also. Manpower (1941 - 2:00 am) is interesting, mostly for Edward G. Robinson, George Raft, and their work on the power lines.
—TCM Sunday, Debbie Reynolds Summer Under the Stars (TCM.com link) - See comment above for Arkin, Alan, as '50s musicals are not a place I usually go. Still, you probably do want to know that Singin' in the Rain (1952) plays at 8:00 pm.
—TCM Monday is Warren Oates day (TCM.com link), which peaks during the Prime Time hours. Don't worry, TCM finally goes a bit further back in time over the following few days (Virginia Bruce, Greta Garbo, Monty Woolley, etc.).
—I'll usually take a little nap sometime after dinner to re-energize myself for work on the Daily overnight. Tonight I dozed off a little earlier and a bit harder than I had planned, missed most of the ballgame, waking up just in time to watch a ninth inning rally fall short for the Yanks.
Still a little groggy and not yet ready to get to work, I flipped over to TCM for the last fifteen minutes of Frankenstein (1931). I began stretched out across the couch, my phone in my hand with its alarm set to buzz me at 2:30 am, but finished those few minutes sitting up straight as though I'd never seen the movie before. I bet I've seen it fifty times. As I tuned in the villagers with torches were on the rampage. Amazing how well that still works here, when it's been done to death and beyond ever since.
I never really watch TCM "live" anymore, but I was surprised when the familiar-sounding Fast Workers (1933) came on, and none of it was familiar at all. Having figured on "nap time" after the ballgame, I figured, why not, and stuck with the movie till the end.
I thought I'd seen all of the John Gilbert talkies. Being a big fan of Gentleman's Fate (1931), Downstairs (1932), and The Captain Hates the Sea (1934), I've always been a defender of Gilbert's voice. And his voice is fine here. But the material didn't fit it. Too slangy. I felt like Ronald Colman was trying to adapt to the Bowery. Even when Gilbert is a cad in other movies, he's a refined cad. Fast Workers just didn't seem like his world.
Robert Armstrong fit better, but he always seems to take the dopey comedy act too far. It gets painful here, like it does in The Tip-Off (1931) and, most unfortunately, in my second-favorite Robert Armstrong movie (we probably have the same favorite), Billion Dollar Scandal (1933). His buddy, and Billion Dollar Scandal co-star, James Gleason, was often guilty of the same thing in the early '30s. Maybe the result then was gales of laughter, but this type of comedy plays weak today. The effort is too visible.
Thursday's featured TCM star, Mae Clarke, stood up best in Fast Workers as the streetwise young hustler, who takes Armstrong to the cleaners, but winds up falling for Gilbert. Her character was the most believable of the trio, an interesting portrait of Depression-era survival, and, surprisingly, only truly likable during those brief moments she let her conscience get the best of her. Luckily, those little flashes at least made her character human and whole, even when she was up to no good.
There was probably a better movie in Clarke's adventures with Muriel Kirkland, but Fast Workers was adapted from a play titled "Rivets." Anyway, the working conditions up on those steel girders with Gilbert, Armstrong, and company (company including Sterling Holloway and Vince Barnett) always makes for a good draw by me. Some of the better scenes in the film were the realistic camaraderie between all of the fellow steel workers.
During Gilbert and Armstrong's final scene up in the sky, it was impossible for me not to think of Edward G. Robinson's treatment of pal Preston Foster in Two Seconds (1932), after the latter badmouthed another "bad girl," Vivienne Osborne. I liked that one better, though not for its construction scenes.
The IMDb score on Fast Workers seemed a bit high as of tonight (8.2/10), but then, Gilbert is one of those rabidly-backed classic stars whose movies always seem to have more (and higher) votes than other deserving titles of the period. At least when it comes to his talkies. I gravitated between a 6 and 7 myself, eventually giving it the benefit of the doubt and entering the higher number.
I'd better stop now, before I tear this out of the Daily and give it its own page as a Lightning Review.
—If I owe you an email reply, my apologies, but I hope to get caught up over the weekend.
—eBay ran another listing promotion, so I've listed and relisted all of my previously prepared listings, bolstering my item count back up to 2,700+. Since I don't always have this much listed, I decided to immediately implement one last Summer blowout - Just about everything is on sale with discounts ranging from 10-50% regular marked prices. You can shop my eBay Store HERE.
Have a great weekend—