Saturday, April 12, 2008

Movies: Show Biz Sundays

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Sunday evenings stink. That double whammy of disappointment, feeling you didn’t drain the weekend cup dry while dreading Monday’s return to the grindstone. I’ve always held that if aliens were going to invade, they should do so on a Sunday. Humanity would welcome the distraction.

The Chez K prescription for the Sunday blahs: show business melodramas. Plenty of color and movement to distract the eye – and no messy plots! Herewith, a rundown of an almost-month of Sundays.

Torch Song (1953). In the days before Mommie Dearest, when people made fun of Joan Crawford this is the movie they had in mind. Joan plays the Broadway legend who can’t stop giving her all no matter how much we beg her to hold back. In Joan’s first Technicolor feature, she dyes her hair crimson and lemons around in outfits so garish they permanently damaged my TV screen. With Michael Wilding as the world’s most insufferable blind man.

Enjoy the trailer, featuring some choice dialogue and a snippet of Joan’s big number in blackface (and blacklegs).

Alas, the trailer does not include the moment when Joan, still in blackface, yanks off her wig in a titian tizzy. Scarier than Pinhead, Jigsaw and Donald Trump rolled into one.

My Wild Irish Rose (1947). A St. Patrick’s Day perennial on TCM. Dennis Morgan stars as Chauncey Olcott, the tenor who invented stage Irishness. This movie is what is known in the old country as malarkey.

It’s A Great Feeling (1949). Morgan and Jack Carson came to my attention in The Hard Way, a backstage meller with a heart so black that it screened at this year’s Noir City. But to the extent that they’re remembered at all, it’s as Warner Brothers’ answer to Hope and Crosby. Here, Dennis and Jack try to get unknown Doris Day cast in their next project. It’s not a movie so much as a collection of skits with Warners stars like Gary Cooper and Edward G. Robinson. The best of the bunch is Joan Crawford’s scene. She erupts in fury, slapping both Morgan and Carson. When Carson asks why, she says, “I do that in all my pictures” and strides off.

When I say these movies have no plots, I’m not kidding. Absolutely nothing happens in them. Every problem is readily surmountable, with solutions coming in about the time it takes to warble a few bars. Which makes them the perfect way to ease into the long week ahead.