Today (Wednesday) is Joel McCrea day. He doesn't seem seem to be one of the immortals among male stars from his period, as Gable, Fonda, Tracy, Grant, Cooper, etc., are, but he deserves to be: he always acted well and in a style that hasn't become dated, had good chemistry with his costars, got his laughs (when appropriate), and in short is always worth watching. Of today's varied roster, I'll pick out my top three favorites:
The Palm Beach Story (6:30 pm ET): The best side of Preston Sturges (Sullivan's Travels also turns up today, and some love it, but to me it's pretentious and obvious): fast, funny, surrealistic (be sure to catch it from the very beginning!), lightly satirical, and full of wacky side trips like The Weenie King!
The More the Merrier (9:45 pm): Housing overcrowding in WWII DC! He's subletting from Charles Coburn who's subletting from Jean Arthur, all together in one apartment, and the atmosphere is full of both mischief and (unspoken) sexual tension. All brought off with a light touch.
Ride the High Country (2:15 am): I'm not a fan of Westerns as a genre, but there are 4 or 5 really outstanding examples, and this one is top of my list. Still-unknown Sam Peckinpah directed McCrea and Randolph Scott (both at or near the end of their careers) as two old-timers hired to transport gold. Along the way they're joined by luminous Mariette Hartley (here "introduced" at age 21) and events develop in unexpected directions. The very last shot moves me eery time and is a fitting way to remember Joel McCrea.