Here are 10 things you should know about the great screenwriter and director Preston Sturges, born 121 years ago today. From where we sit, he is one of the true giants of cinematic comedy.
If you think you’ve seen every classic Christmas picture (and most of them one too many times, at that), you’ll be pleasantly surprised, we hope, to learn of one that’s flown under the radar of many a classic movie buff.
Remember the Night (1940) was the last movie Preston Sturges wrote before moving into the director’s chair with The Great McGinty (1940). Mitchell Leisen directs here, and though Sturges was said to have been disappointed with Leisen’s efforts, it’s hard to imagine why. It’s a terrific picture, one that should be every bit the holiday favorite that pictures such as It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, The Shop Around the Corner, and others have become.
Remember the Night features Fred MacMurray as an ambitious assistant D.A. in NYC who finds himself with shoplifter Barbara Stanwyck on his hands because he has asked for a delay in her trial, so as to avoid the jury feeling any holiday-inspired sympathy for her.
It soon comes out that both the D.A. and the dame are Hoosiers, so she accompanies him on a road trip to visit their respective families. Stanwyck’s brief visit with her mother doesn’t go so well, though, so she sticks with MacMurray, whereupon romance and laughs ensue.
Remember the Night is plenty sentimental enough to qualify as a holiday classic, but like It’s a Wonderful Life, it’s got a dark side, too, delivered with gimlet-eyed bite.
It’s a favorite of ours, a picture that deserves much greater fame and acclaim that it has been afforded. Turner Classic Movies has teamed with Universal to offer it on DVD, but if you’d like to try before you buy, it’s airing on TCM tomorrow night (Dec. 22, 2015) at 8:00 p.m. ET. Set your DVR now and give it a look; you won’t regret it.
P.S. TCM follows Remember the Night at 10 p.m. with Christmas in Connecticut (1945), a delightful holiday comedy that also stars Barbara Stanwyck. Together, these two pictures make for an unbeatable holiday double-feature and you should definitely watch them both.
This post was first published in slightly different form on December 6, 2013.
Here are 10 things you should know about Veronica Lake, born 96 years ago today. Troubled and at times difficult, Lake had no shortage of both supporters and detractors during her time in the spotlight, and the debate over her career continues among old-movie buffs to this day.
Here are 10 things you should know about the lovely Claudette Colbert, born 115 years ago today.
We saw her perform on Broadway 33 years ago opposite Rex Harrison in a drawing room comedy called Aren’t We All? and it remains among our greatest regrets that we didn’t play Stage-Door Johnny after the show to tell her how we admired her. In fact, we try very hard not to think about it, so much does it torment us.
There are precious few stars of the 1930s who are still with us today, and it is with sadness that we share the news that Mary Carlisle, born Gwendolyn Witter in Boston, Massachusetts, has passed at the age of 104.
The last of the WAMPAS Baby Stars, an annual promotional campaign sponsored from 1922-1934 by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers that honored 13 young actresses (the number was 15 in 1932, the year Carlisle was honored) whose careers showed great promise, Carlisle was discovered in 1928 by studio executive Carl Laemmle, Jr. while dining at the Universal Studios commissary. She was just 14.
In 1930, Carlisle signed a one-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, appearing mostly as a dancer in musical shorts, but it was with Paramount Pictures that she would achieve her greatest success. She appeared opposite Bing Crosby in three films—College Humor (1933), Double or Nothing (1937) and Doctor Rhythm (1938)—and would go on to appear in more than sixty pictures in the course of her 14-year career, most of them “B” pictures with titles reminiscent of the early scene in Preston Sturges‘ Sullivan’s Travels, in which successful but artistically frustrated director John L. Sullivan (Joel McCrea) is reminded of some of his greatest successes: Ants in Your Plants of 1939, Hey Hey in the Hayloft, and So Long, Sarong.
Some of Carlisle’s pictures could’ve been plugged right into John L. Sullivan’s filmography, titles like Hotel Haywire (1937), Ship A Hooey! (1932), and Handy Andy (1934), and we’d pay good money and line up early to see that triple feature tonight, if only some bijou were screening it.
Carlisle was wed to actor James Edward Blakeley (he would go on to become an executive producer at 20th Century-Fox) in 1942 and retired from motion pictures soon thereafter. But more than five dozen pictures is nothing to sneeze at, nor is living (and staying vital) to 104 years of age. What a rich, full life Ms. Carlisle enjoyed.
Rest in peace, Ms. Carlisle, and thank you.
This story originally appeared in a slightly different form on February 3, 2016.