‘Gregory’s Girl’ and ‘Murder in the Private Car’ on TCM

Bill Forsyth’s 1981 sophomore feature Gregory’s Girl, the low-key Scottish comedy that became a big hit in Britain and an import success in the U.S., and helped launch the indigenous Scottish film industry, is featured in the April “Cult Movies” line-up on Turner Classic Movies in April. I wrote about the film for the gregorysgirl1.jpgTCM website:

“I don’t have a style,” Forsyth told Gerald Peary in 1985. “I suppose the only style I’ve got is to be as unobtrusive as possible.” That’s exactly what he does here, sitting back with his camera to catch the ephemeral qualities of youth in all its joy passing in front of his lens (there are no bad guys or bullies in this harmless town). His affinity with his cast is apparent from the affection with which he shapes their characters and observes their lives. He has fun with them all without ever making fun of them. Gregory’s best friend Steve (William Greenlees) is a budding pastry chef who has turned his passion into a black market business, selling goodies out of the boy’s restroom (what would the Department of Health have to say about the donuts and marzipan stacked up in the back of a toilet?) and taking orders from the headmasters.

gregorys_girl.jpgThe obliviously naïve boys are fascinated and utterly mystified by girls. The knowing and sophisticated girls are equally amused by the boys and their fumbling awkwardness, but never arrogant about it. When Gregory’s little sister discovers her older brother is in love (the grapevine gossip gets to her school before he even gets home), she sits him down and, quite intently, offers him much needed advice. And when Gregory leaves to meet his date, a benign cabal of high school girls goes into action to play matchmaker with the hapless boy, passing him from hand to hand with practiced ease until he ends up with the one destined to be Gregory’s girl.

Read the entire piece here.

Also featured this month is the 1934 B-movie comedy Murder in the Private Car with Charlie Ruggles and Una Merkel.

MGM’s comic murder mystery Murder in the Private Car (1934), which runs a scant but brisk 65 minutes, is a lightweight programmer with a capricious attitude toward plotting and a script unencumbered by logic. That gives it a kind of camp entertainment value today, and director Harry Beaumont, once a marquee director for MGM, moves it all along with brisk snap. But what lifts Murder in the Private Car from the obscurity to which most B-movies are resigned is the disarmingly unpredictable comic turn from Charlie Ruggles, the venerable character actor who steals the film from the generic romantic leads.

As a mystery, Murder in the Private Car is pure hokum, a slapdash collection of old dark tropes (transplanted to the private car of the title), comic thriller clichés and absurd complications. For no apparent reason, the girls are menaced by one of the least convincing gorillas in the movies, which is not at all helped by the uninspired stunt man whose idea of menace is waddling around like a clown in a fat suit. And the comic African American porter played by Fred Toones (under his screen name “Snowflake”) is an unfortunate racial stereotype that marks this early period in American sound films.

Read the entire piece here.

Author: seanax

I write the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website (www.streamondemandathome.com). I'm a contributing writer for Turner Classic Movies Online, Keyframe, Independent Lens, and Cinephiled, and the editor of Parallax View (www.parallax-view.org).. I've written for The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, GreenCine.com, Senses of Cinema, Asian Cult Cinema, and Psychotronic Video, among other publications, and I am a contributing editor to Parallax View. I currently live and work in Seattle, Washington, with my two cats, Hammet and Chandler.

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