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Thu May 16, 2019, 12:21 AM

TCM Schedule for Thursday, May 16, 2019 -- What's On Tonight: TCM Spotlight: WWII Homefront

In the morning hours, TCM is telling stories about little people, like Tom Thumb little people. In the afternoon, it's wild drivers of buses, cars and trucks. Then in primetime, TCM continues their salute to the Homefront during World War II. Take it away, Roger!


This year, TCM honors the 75th anniversary of D-Day with Never Surrender: WWII in the Movies, a two-month salute featuring films from and about the era. This month, to kick off programming and in remembrance of Memorial Day, TCM offers a look at films from various decades that are set during that global conflict and observed from the viewpoint of the American home front. Joining TCM host Ben Mankiewicz to introduce and discuss the movies are five cohosts associated with the National World War II Museum, a military history showcase located in New Orleans, LA.


The War Effort was aided by the all-star Hollywood Canteen (1944), a movie modeled around the real-life free entertainment center for soldiers in Los Angeles during the war. The cast includes Bette Davis and John Garfield, who helped create the club, as well as Barbara Stanwyck, Roy Rogers, Joan Crawford, Eleanor Parker and many others. Tender Comrade (1943) stars Ginger Rogers as a woman who tries communal living while her husband (Robert Ryan) is away at war. This is one of the films that got screenwriter Dalton Trumbo into trouble with the House Un-American Activities Committee.


by Roger Fristoe


6:00 AM -- THE DEVIL-DOLL (1936)
A Devil's Island escapee shrinks murderous slaves and sells them to his victims as dolls.
Dir: Tod Browning
Cast: Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O'Sullivan, Frank Lawton
BW-78 mins, CC,

Madame Mandilip's special dolls are costumed as members of vicious street gangs known as the Apache (pronounced ah-PAHSH), who were involved in theft, prostitution, and the occasional murder in pre-World War I Paris. The dolls even perform the Apache dance popularized by the gangs, in which extremely close steps alternate with seemingly brutal punches, kicks, hair-pulling, spins, and throws; it was usually danced to the Valse des rayons (aka Valse chaloupée) composed by Jacques Offenbach. In the 1930s and 1940s, this dance was still performed by professional dancers and can be seen in several films and even cartoons of the period.

A scientist shrinks humans so they can be his puppet friends.
Dir: Bert I. Gordon
Cast: John Agar, John Hoyt, June Kenny
BW-79 mins, CC,

On the evening of June 16, 1972, if Alfred C. Baldwin III (in a nearby hotel as a lookout for the Watergate burglars) had not been so engrossed in a broadcast of this film, he might have sooner warned his colleagues of the two plainclothes detectives who made the historic arrests.

9:00 AM -- THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD (1958)
Sinbad hunts for a roc's egg to save his love from an evil sorcerer.
Dir: Nathan Juran
Cast: Kerwin Mathews, Kathryn Grant, Richard Eyer
C-88 mins, CC,

In an early 1980s interview, star Kerwin Mathews, the actor playing Sinbad, recalled that, to go and do the film, he went on a plane, landed in Paris on Easter Sunday, then got on another plane, which landed in Granada, Spain, in the middle of the night; once he got off the plane, he was driven in a horse & carriage to a palace in Granada, where the palace scenes were filmed. Once there, he was introduced to the film's special effects creator, Ray Harryhausen, and was put into his costume (with jewels and a turban on his head). Once ready, in the middle of the night, he was taken to a beautifully decorated bedroom in the palace. Kerwin then asked Ray, "Well, what are we gonna shoot?" Ray said, "Well, down here on the pillow is this little girl." The scene where Sinbad was shocked to find that Princess Parisa (Kathryn Grant) was shrunken to tiny size by the evil wizard Sokurah (Torin Thatcher) in her palace bed was the first scene in which Kerwin worked on.

10:30 AM -- TOM THUMB (1958)
A six-inch-tall boy takes on a pair of comical crooks.
Dir: George Pal
Cast: Russ Tamblyn, Alan Young, June Thorburn
C-92 mins, CC,

Winner of an Oscar for Best Effects, Special Effects -- Tom Howard

The head of MGM's British operations was so impressed that George Pal brought this film in under budget that he suggested that Pal submit a script for his favorite unproduced project. Pal chose The Time Machine (1960).

12:15 PM -- ABSOLUTE QUIET (1936)
Murder follows when a plane filled with shady characters is forced to land on a tycoon's ranch.
Dir: George B. Seitz
Cast: Lionel Atwill, Irene Hervey, Raymond Walburn
BW-70 mins,

The radio at Axton's ranch is an extremely rare 1935 Zenith model 1000Z. Only 350 were made and it was priced at $750 ($13,900 in 2018). In 2018 these radios, completely restored, can fetch over $50,000. It is the "holy grail" for radio collectors and museums.

1:30 PM -- WILDCAT BUS (1940)
A broke playboy signs on to help a young beauty save her ailing bus line.
Dir: Frank Woodruff
Cast: Fay Wray, Charles Lang, Paul Guilfoyle
BW-64 mins,

The beautiful Art Deco building seen at the beginning of the film is the Sunset Tower Hotel - formerly an apartment building that housed the likes of John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, Errol Flynn, Elizabeth Taylor, Paulette Goddard, Frank Sinatra and Bugsy Siegel. Built from 1929-31 and 15 stories tall, at a cost of $750,000 ($11.9M in 2016 dollars), it was renovated into a hotel in the 1980s.

Rival bus companies find an unusual go-between in a former auto racer.
Dir: B. Reeves Eason
Cast: Beverly Roberts, Dick Purcell, Gloria Blondell
BW-60 mins,

The working title was "Highway Pirates".

4:00 PM -- TRUCK BUSTERS (1943)
An independent driver organizes other truckers to fight a corrupt executive.
Dir: B. Reeves Eason
Cast: Richard Travis, Virginia Christine, Charles Lang
BW-58 mins, CC,

The musical theme by Adolph Deutsch is identical to that of another Warner Bros. picture, They Drive by Night (1940).

5:03 PM -- AUTO ANTICS (1939)
In this short film, a gang of kids join a soap box race hoping to win so that they can take the prize money and get their dog back from the dog-catcher.
Dir: Edward L. Cahn
Cast: Baldwin Cooke, Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, Robert Blake
BW-10 mins,

Final Our Gang appearance by Eugene 'Porky' Lee, whose role as the "tag-along kid" was taken over by Mickey Guibitosi (aka Robert Blake), who had just taken over for Gary Jasgur as the "toddler" of the group.

5:15 PM -- RED HOT TIRES (1935)
A race-car driver wrongly convicted of murder escapes prison to prove his innocence.
Dir: D. Ross Lederman
Cast: Lyle Talbot, Mary Astor, Roscoe Karns
BW-60 mins, CC,

In the final race, the pit stall for the Sanford Special #7 driven by "Bulldog" Banks is to the right of the stall for the Mardo Eight #35 driven by "Stubby" Stubblefield. This production was released in early 1935 and Stubby would be killed later in the year attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 where the racing footage was shot. Second year driver Rex Mays won the pole qualifying #35 at the 1934 Indianapolis 500 and would be killed 15 years later in a race at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

6:19 PM -- WILD AT THE WHEEL (1970)
This short film looks at the importance of traffic rules to avoid serious automobile accidents.
Dir: Bob Ellis
C-10 mins,

6:30 PM -- VIOLENT ROAD (1958)
Truck drivers take cargo of explosives over bumpy mountain road.
Dir: Howard W. Koch
Cast: Brian Keith, Dick Foran, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.
BW-86 mins, CC,

A version of the French film The Wages of Fear (1953), starring Yves Montand and Charles Vanel.


A serviceman and a starlet find love at the star-staffed serviceman's center.
Dir: Delmer Daves
Cast: Andrews Sisters, Jack Benny, Joe E. Brown
BW-124 mins, CC,

Nominee for Oscars for Best Sound, Recording -- Nathan Levinson (Warner Bros. SSD), Best Music, Original Song -- M.K. Jerome (music) and Ted Koehler (lyrics) for the song "Sweet Dreams Sweetheart", and Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture -- Ray Heindorf

Bette Davis and John Garfield are credited with being among of the "founders" of the actual Hollywood Canteen, organizing the entire concept into one of the highlights of many an enlisted man's memory of serving in World War Il. They also played a major role in recruiting movie stars, musical artists and celebrities of every kind to entertain the troops, dance with them, and even staff the Canteen, serving as waitresses, bus boys and dishwashers.

10:30 PM -- TENDER COMRADE (1943)
Lady welders pool their resources to share a house during World War II.
Dir: Edward Dmytryk
Cast: Ginger Rogers, Robert Ryan, Ruth Hussey
BW-102 mins, CC,

This film was introduced as evidence when director Edward Dmytryk and writer Dalton Trumbo were hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating them on suspicion of being Communists. Despite the film's many flag-waving speeches, the communal living arrangements of the ladies in the film was cited as evidence of how Dmytryk and Trumbo attempted to brainwash unsuspecting American moviegoers with Communist "propaganda". As even more damning "evidence", there was the use of the word "Comrade" in the title.

12:30 AM -- MILLIONS LIKE US (1943)
A spoiled girl gets a new outlook on life as a factory worker during World War II.
Dir: Frank Launder
Cast: Patricia Roc, Gordon Jackson, Anne Crawford
BW-103 mins,

Grandpa Jim comments that his daughter Phyllis has progressed from dating "local lads" to "the United Nations". Interestingly, although the international organization with that name did not exist until two years after the film's release, the term "United Nations' was used to describe the allied forces arrayed against the Axis Powers. FDR used the term frequently.

2:30 AM -- AIR RAID WARDENS (1943)
A pair of bumblers stumble upon Nazi spies on the home front.
Dir: Edward Sedgwick
Cast: Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, Edgar Kennedy
BW-67 mins, CC,

Supposedly, Civil Defense representatives were present as "advisors" during the filming to ensure none of the gags in the movie would cast a negative light on the efficiency of their organization.

A Washington matron tries to ignore the effects of World War II.
Dir: Harold S. Bucquet
Cast: Edward Arnold, Fay Bainter, Richard Ney
BW-86 mins, CC,

Nominee for an Oscar for Best Writing, Original Screenplay -- George Oppenheimer

In the film, Mrs. Hadley's birthday is December 7th and she is dismayed that the events at Pearl Harbor ruin her party. Ironically Fay Bainter, who played the title character, was born on December 7th.

5:15 AM -- THE GENTLE SEX (1943)
The stories of seven 'gentle' British girls who decide to help out during World War II.
Dir: Leslie Howard
Cast: Joan Greenwood,
BW-92 mins,

Leslie Howard's last role.

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