my latest KD Classic is up, this week with 5 fistfuls of new old stuff, including warner archive clark gable dvds, your first week of TCM summer under the stars, essential western blurays, Bogarde’s Doctor movie & sequels and an alternate body switch classic.
TCM has a wonderful feature all August—Summer Under the Stars–where they spotlight a different actor every day. The nice thing is that they choose a lot of actors lesser known to the casual fan or newbie but who all richly deserve their time in the sun and have more than enough good titles to justify a fest in their name. This week’s mini marathons are as follows: Monday, Marlon Brando; Tuesday, Paulette Goddard; Wednesday, Bette Davis; Thursday, Ronald Colman; Friday, John Garfield; Saturday, Lucille Ball; Sunday, Charles Laughton.
The Change-up, in theaters Friday August 5, about two buddies who switch bodies reworks a concept that goes way back in film. One of the best classic executions of said plot is Here Comes Mr. Jordan, about a saxophone-playing boxer, played by Robert Montgomery, getting a new body after being killed in a plane crash and taken to heaven prematurely and mistakenly by a bumbling angel. Claude Rains, head executive responsible for ushering in the new heaven-bound souls, arranges for Montgomery to go back to earth and live a little longer in the body of a rich man about to be murdered by his wife and her boyfriend. Montgomery’s reappearance, not to mention his sudden interest in boxing, baffles his “new” friends and family, who still conspire to do away with him, but not before he tries to set right some crooked investments and win a boxing championship. This fantastic film was nominated for 7 Oscars, including nods for Montgomery and for the actor who plays his boxing coach, the lovably gruff and crusty character actor James Gleason. As with most concepts that are box office successes, Mr. Jordankicked off a string of similar fantasies about reincarnated souls or ghosts of the dearly departed back to comfort the bereaved or avenge their own deaths; such plots were undoubtedly more popular for the comforting and optimistic message they provided about those lost in World War 2. Here Comes Mr. Jordan was also remade into Warren Beatty’s Heaven Can Wait and Chris Rock’s Down To Earth. Here Comes Mr. Jordan is available on Amazon instant video and on DVD.
Three essential westerns out on Blu-ray: The Magnificent Seven, which many before me have properly described as a thing of beauty with one of the largest and most perfect all-star cast of men, is the cowboy version of the Japanese Seven Samurai. Then there’s Sergio Leone’s remake of the Japanese Yojimbo, Fistful of Dollars and sequel For A Few Dollars More. Now, I could go on about Fistful being the first spaghetti western, and write reams about both movies’ sprawling dusty scenery, laconic characters and amazing score by Ennio Morricone. I could point out that these two films lead in to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, or I could wax poetic about Clint Eastwood being such a cool gunslinger in both films and how in Few, Lee Van Cleef is the perfect flinty foil. I could do all that, but I’d rather you just go pick up these films and believe your own eyes.
Warner Archive has 6 Clark Gable DVDs available individually or as a set. InSporting Blood, one of his earliest starring roles, he wins an overworked race horse in a gambling payoff and figures prominently in helping out both the horse and a woman. Skip more than a decade ahead for the rest of the titles, starting with Gable’s first post-war film Adventure, where he’s a rough sailor who takes his slightly mismatched marriage to a librarian lightly until he almost loses it. The Hucksters is a star studded and well-acted look at the superficial goings-on, backstabbings and resulting soul searching at a Mad Men-like ad agency (as Warner Archive synopsis aptly points out). In Any Number Can Play, he owns a casino but wins no respect from his family until he gambles for the good of others. In Across the Wide Missourihe’s a fur trapper who marries a native simply to ensure safe passage but falls in love with her and becomes one of the tribe. The Lone Star plunks him into a deciding moment of Texas independence involving Andrew Jackson, a Mexican peace treaty and a romance with Ava Gardner.
Dirk Bogarde’s 1954 movie Doctor In The House, a funny look at medical students who have gone to school mainly for the girls, partying and potential doctor’s income and prestige, was a massive hit and made heartthrob Bogarde a major star. Luckily for the studio, there was enough source material, in the form of Richard Gordon stories, to spin that first hit into a successful franchise with 6 sequels and a TV series that ran from 1969-77. If you like the first Doctor and want to see the rest, you’re in luck because all the other movies in the series also released August 2 are, in order: Doctor At Sea, Doctor At Large, Doctor In Love, Doctor In Distress, Doctor In Clover, and Doctor In Trouble.
this article originally appeared as KD’s Classic 5 at the Landmark Report