Pre-Code and Film Noir Gems at the TCM Special Home Edition Film Festival

In my last post, you may recall, I wrote about the virtual roundtable interview held with TCM host Ben Mankiewicz, General Manager Pola Changnon, and Senior VP of Programming Charlie Tabesh to kick off the network’s first-ever Special Home Edition of the TCM Film Festival (now that’s a mouthful!).

The festival’s line-up is superb, with round-the-clock goodies from interviews with classic film stars to award-winning features. And nestled among these gems are seven pre-Code and film noir features that you won’t want to miss – taken together, they’re an absolutely outstanding collection of some of the finest examples that these two eras of cinema had to offer.

Friday, April 16th

Night Flight (1933)

Before airing at the 2011 TCM Film Festival, this feature had been out of circulation for more than 50 years. This aviation drama was produced by David O. Selznick, directed by Clarence Brown, and boasted an all-star cast that included John and Lionel Barrymore, Helen Hayes, Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery, and Myrna Loy. It was introduced at the 2011 fest by Drew Barrymore, John’s granddaughter.

Saturday, April 18th

Ann Harding and William Powell bring Double Harness to life.

Double Harness (1933)

This was one of the most popular films offered at the 2016 TCM festivaI – it was shown at two separate screenings and had to turn away festgoers at each one. (I was lucky enough to catch the second showing.) Double Harness stars the wonderful Ann Harding and the always fabulous William Powell. At the 2016 fest, the film was introduced at both screenings by James Cromwell, son of the film’s director John Cromwell. (James Cromwell’s mother, incidentally, was actress Kay Johnson.)

They Live By Night (1949)

This feature tells the tale of two noir-crossed lovers, played by Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell. The film also includes superb support from Jay C. Flippen and an oh-so-scary Howard DaSilva. It was helmed by Nicholas Ray in his directorial debut, and introduced at the 2013 TCM film festival by Ray’s widow, Susan.

Richard Widmark is outstanding in Night and the City.

Night and the City (1950)

This riveting film stars Richard Widmark in what I consider to be one of his best performances, as Harry Fabian, an inveterate hustler who’s always chasing the next get-rich-quick scheme. Widmark is ably backed by Gene Tierney as Harry’s long-suffering girlfriend, Herbert Lom, Googie Withers, and Mike Marzurki. Night and the City was directed by Jules Dassin, who was accused of Communism and blacklisted after refusing forced to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee. He left the United States for France and Night and the City was the last film he directed for five years.

Sunday, April 19th

The bulk of the action in The Set-Up centers on the Dreamland arcade.

The Set-Up (1949)

Filmed in real-time, The Set-Up is a showcase for the considerable talents of Robert Ryan, who plays a boxer who’s not exactly in the prime of his career, if you know what I mean. Others in the film’s superb cast include Audrey Totter, Percy Helton, and George Tobias (who you might remember best as Abner Kravitz in TV’s Bewitched). The screening of the film at the 2018 TCM film festival featured actor/filmmaker Malcom Mays, who performed a live reading of the Joseph Moncure March poem on which the film is based.

Red-Headed Woman (1932)

Jean Harlow stars as Lil Andrews, the social-climbing man-stealer of the film’s title. There’s never a dull moment in this one, which features some of my favorite pre-Code performers: Una Merkel, Chester Morris, and Leila Hyams. It was introduced at the 2017 TCM film festival by film historian Cari Beauchamp, author of Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood (whose presentations are always a treat).

Baby Face (1933)

She ain’t no baby.

One of pre-Code’s best-known and most popular offerings, Baby Face stars Barbara Stanwyck as a woman from the other side of the track who quite literally sleeps her way to the finer things in life. She’s supported by George Brent, Theresa Harris, Donald Cook, and a young John Wayne. This is one of the film’s that was slated to be screened at this year’s festival in Hollywood – it was to be introduced by the witty and knowledgeable Bruce Goldstein, founder and co-president of Rialto Pictures and Director of Repertory Programming at New York’s Film Forum cinema.

If you have TCM, do yourself a favor and take part in the Special Home Edition of the TCM Film Festival. It’s serving up a wide variety of excellent films and unique features, as well as some surprises – and you can’t go wrong with the film noir and pre-Code offerings!

You only owe it to yourself.

~ by shadowsandsatin on April 16, 2020.

2 Responses to “Pre-Code and Film Noir Gems at the TCM Special Home Edition Film Festival”

  1. What a great post—and list of pre-code and film noirs that were on during TCM’s Stay at Home Festival. I only managed to catch one—“Red Headed Woman” which I can’t resist if it’s on tv!
    I caught “Night Flight” back in 2010 when classicflix.com used to have a classic movie only DVD rental in the mail system (remember when Netflix did that?). While William Powell is one of my favorites, I manage to keep missing “Double Harness”. I have that on my must-watch list! I feel like I watched “They Live by Night” recently. What a bleak story–but very gripping and great Noir! I’ve managed to see “Night and the City” and “The Set-up” in theaters. As part of its Hollywood Exiles in Europe series in 2014, UCLA Film and Archives had a double feature of “Night and the City” with “Rififi”. In 2018 for its Film Noir series, The Heights Theater in Columbia Heights, MN, showed “The Set-up” which was especially gripping.
    And “Baby Face” is another one I watch every time it’s on.
    Thanks again for your fun post!

    • Thank you, Amy — I tried to watch Night Flight, but it just didn’t do it for me. What did you think of it?

      You’re going to love Double Harness — I hope you get to see it soon. How cool that you saw Night and the City, Rififi, and The Set-Up on the big screen!

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