Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Queen Bee

Could Joan Crawford avoid overacting? Tonight's selection, Queen Bee, which is airing overnight at 2:00 AM ET on TCM, does nothing to answer that question. But it's a darn enjoyable movie nonetheless.

Joan Crawford stars as Eva Phillips, a character who might be somewhat reminiscent of Bette Davis in In This Our Life: self-centered and manipulative, and perfectly willing to destory the lives of everybody around her. We first see Eva tormenting Southern belle Sue (Fay Wray), who lost her sanity after losing her boyfriend, "Beauty" (Barry Sullivan) to Eva. As a sign of how nasty Eva is, she gave "Beauty" that nickname because of a scar on his face.

And that's by far not the only evil thing Eva is doing. She's going after another man, Judson Prentiss (John Ireland). He just happens to be Beauty's friend and business associate. But even more than that, he's also engaged to Beauty's sister (Betsy Palmer)! To top off all the nice soap opera-type plot, the assorted characters are living in grand style in one of those old Southern mansions in Atlanta.

Into all this walks Eva's cousin Jennifer (Lucy Marlow), who's come visiting from the north. She's warned that Eva is a nasty you-know-what, but being young, innocent, and not familiar with the situation, finds it hard to believe, especially because at first Eva isn't that way with Jennifer. Just give it time, girl.

Is Queen Bee a great movie? God no! It's one of those, however, like Violent Saturday, that's a hell of a lot of fun. Joan Crawford engages in her usual later career take-no-prisoners style, and goes so far over the top that she's probably gone all the way 'round three or four times. The rest of the cast takes its cue from her, making Queen Bee deliciously overripe, and making In This Our Life look tame by comparison. It's not just the cast and plot. I mentioned the luxurious mansion setting; in addition, Crawford also gets to wear a series of lavish gowns that are as over the top as the acting. (Disclaimer: the picture above is not one of those gowns; I lazily borrowed a photo from Strait-Jacket because I couldn't be bothered to look for one from Queen Bee.) The only thing missing is garish color.

Queen Bee is a riot, even if it's not nearly as good as Joan Crawford's more serious work. Just don't tell Joan that.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Red Hot and Blue

TCM is marking the 100th birth anniversary of songwriter Frank Loesser tonight by showinb several of the movies for which he wrote songs, as well as a documentary at 10:15 PM. Among the movies is Red, Hot, and Blue at 1:45 AM Wednesday.

Betty Hutton stars, as Eleanor Collier an aspiring actress who starts the movie being kidnapped and interrogated by gangsters who want information on the murder of one of their own. Flashback to Hutton's apartment, which she's sharing with the recently deceased June Havoc and one other woman (anybody remember Jane Nigh? She apparently retired from movies in the early 1950s, did episodic TV work, and then retired from that in the early 1960s.) while she tries to break into showbusiness. Currently she's with the stock production company run by Danny James (Victore Mature), but her agent, Charlie Baxter (William Demarest), tries to get her in the news, and eventually gets her involved with producer Bunny Harris (William Talman) who is, in fact, the gangster who gets murdered. It's up to Mature to find where the gangsters have taken her, and rescue her

Red Hot and Blue is Hutton at her usual wacky self (watch her do a swing version of Hamlet), playing a character who makes Lucille Ball look like she's on valium; if you're not a fan of Hutton you might not like it. Also, Victore Mature wasn't well suited for this sort of comedy, and looks about as stiff as John Lund. It was right up Demarest's alley, of course. As for Loesser, in addition to writing songs, he shows up as "Hair Do", one of the gangsters.

Red Hot and Blue isn't for everybody, but isn't a terrible movie. If you want to watch it, however, you'll have to watch one of the TCM showings, as it's not available on DVD.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Once again, location makes the movie

I discussed last week how London makes Night and the City such a good movie. A similar situation, albeit a movie set in a much different location, is Swamp Water, which airs tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM ET on the Fox Movie Channel.

Here, the location is the Okefenokee Swamp of southern Georgia. At the beginning of the movie, young hunter Ben Ragan (Dana Andrews) goes off into the swamp to do some hunting, against the orders of his father (Walter Huston), who points out that it's terribly easy for a man to get lost in the swamp, and dangerous to boot. And indeed, Ben comes across a man who might be lost in the swamp: Tom Keefer (Walter Brennan). Keefer isn't lost though; he's just hiding from the authorities, as he's been scheduled to be executed for a murder he swears he didn't commit. Eventually, Ben is able to convince Keefer that he's not going to turn Keefer in, but instead find out who really committed the murder. It's just as dangerous investigating a murder as it is trying to live in the swamp, however....

Back in town, Ben finds himself beginning to fall in love with Julie, a young woman who everybody knows is the daughter of Tom Keefer, except for seemingly Julie herself. It's another problem, since the townsfolk treat her rather poorly for her kinship, even though she's utterly innocent. The rest of town just wants to move on, especially people like the Dorsons (Ward Bond and Guinn "Big Boy" Williams) who probably know more about the case then they're letting on. Ben is eventually able to get a key piece of information from Jesse Wick (John Carradine), but when Ben goes back into the swamp to tell Tom he can clear his name, Ben finds that there's somebody following him to keep the two from getting back out of the swamp....

As with Night and the City, the story itself isn't anything particularly groundbreaking. It's the location that makes Swamp Water as good as it is. Frankly, the Okefenokee swamp looks almost frightening and forbidding; it's quite easy to understand why Ben's father wouldn't want him going into the swamp, and easy enough to understand why the town thinks Keefer is probably long dead. The only other movie I can think of offhand which uses a swamp to such good effect is Sparrows, but Swamp Water has an advantage in that it's got much better lighting to show the swamp in all its ugly glory.

Swamp Water doesn't seem to be available on DVD, which is a shame; you'll have to catch it when it shows up on the Fox Movie Channel.

Post edited to add the time the movie is airing

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dr. T, without the women

The last time I mentioned the movie The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, it was airing in the middle of the night. It's showing up again, this time at 8:00 PM ET tonight, as part of TCM's Essentials Jr.. (Even though I recycled the photo from the previous post, at the relatively low rate I've been using photos in my posts recently, I figure it's worth putting a photo on this one.)

A Walter Matthau anthology

I've commented on several anthology movies, most of them made by Fox in the early 1950s. A slightly different idea -- having the same actor play in a series of one-act plays -- can be seen in Plaza Suite, which is airing this afternoon at 4:00 PM ET on TCM.

In this case, the actor in question is Walter Matthau, who appears in three different stories all set in the same suite at New York City's fabulous (at least by 1971 standards) Plaza Hotel. The first story involves Matthau as a man celebrating his 24th wedding anniversary with his wife (Maureen Stapleton) the same way they've celebrated it every year: by spending the night at the same suite in the Plaza Hotel. The only problem is, the two find out that their marriage is beginning to hit a rough patch.

Second is Matthau as a movie producer who is a notorious womanizer and who, back in New York, remembers an old flame (Barbara Harris) whom he'd like to get close with again. The problem this time is that she's married with children and living in New Jersey -- and she definitely doesn't want anything more than just a conversation and maybe a drink with him.

Finally, we have Matthau as a father who's about to give away his bride at her wedding. Unfortunately for him, though, is that thd beautiful bride has gotten cold feet and locked herself in the bathroom. The wedding is supposed to be in the ballroom downstairs NOW! and don't you know that renting the ballroom is costing daddy serious money? Poor Matthau isn't helped by the fact that his wife (Lee Grant) almost seems to be taking the daughter's side.

Plaza Suite uses very little in the way of sets besides the one suite, so in many ways it looks like a filmed stage play, which is of course what it is, having been based on a Broadway play by Neil Simon from a few years earlier. That fact, however, doesn't take away from the movie, as all three roles fit Matthau quite well. That, and the material is going to be funny regardless of whether it's on a stage or on screen. The movie has also made its way to DVD.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Crazy repeats

TCM's Essential picture for this week is The Snake Pit, which airs tonight at 8:00 PM ET. I recommended it back in February, but it's always worth watching. It kicks off a night of movies set in mental institutions, which includes The Caretakers at midnight. And, since I haven't posted too many photos recently, I've included on from The Caretakers with, from left to right, Robert Stack, Herbert Marshall, and Joan Crawford. No close up of Joan, because she looks frightening enough in the wide shot.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Musca domestica

The Fox Movie Channel is showing one of the more entertaining and well-made movies of the 1950s horror picture cycle tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 PM ET: the 1958 version of The Fly.

Patricia Owens is Hélène Delambre, the widow of a scientist in Montreal who stands accused of murdering her husband, but who has gone insane, obsessing over the houseflies in her house, or at least one fly in particuler that she can't find. The police, in the form of Inspector Charas (Herbert Marshall), are ready to have her arrested and either tried or committed depending upon her sanity. However, she tells her brother-in-law François (Vincent Price) what happened, if only he can find the fly she's looking for. Desperate for the truth, François lies about catching the fly, and brings the Inspector along to hear the story.

The only thing about a movie like The Fly is that it's become iconic to the point where you probably already know the rest of the story. Hélène's husband André (David Hedison) was a scientist who, in his home laboratory, was working on a transporter-like device that moves matter from one place to another. Thinking he's finally perfected it, he decides to experiment -- upon himself, after all the experiments with inanimate objects seem to have shown that the kinks were worked out. (Brilliant idea.) Unfortunately for him, a fly gets in the transporter chamber with him, and the two organisms' DNA are commingled on the other end. The result is that we've got one human-sized man with a fly's head, and presumably a fly with a human head flying around out in the great wide open.

André enlists Hélène to find the special fly with the human head, on the theory that sending both of the hybrids through the transporter will separate out the DNA back into the correct organisms. (Frankly, if you accept the idea that the DNA can become commingled, the logical assumption would be that if you run the two organisms through the machine again, the result would be that the DNA would become more commingled. But this is a horror movie, so we have to suspend logic from time to time.) But time is of the essence: apparently, the fly's brain is beginning to take over and overpower any human instincts the man's body might still have. If she can't find the fly, she'll have to help him kill himself. Obviously, she doesn't capture the fly, since he ends up dead.

François and Charas obviously aren't sure they belive this story, because Charas is still ready to have Hélène committed. Still, if they can find that fly, they might be able to prove the story. After all, the couple's son has claimed to have seen a "fly with a white head". The two adults do find the fly, and you've probably seen the parody of the fly's condition. But, I won't give that away if you haven't seen the movie.

As I mentioned, The Fly is one of the better movies from the genre of 1950s horror. It's not perfect, of course, in that the story has a lot of logical holes. That, and the laboratory could have used the color movie treatment. Still, the effects are reasonably well done, and the acting is competent if not to the level you might get from Marshall in Foreign Correspondent or Price in Leave Her to Heaven. That having been said, the movie is more than entertaining and worth watching. And, like most iconic movies, it's also been released to DVD, so that you don't have to wait for the Fox Movie Channel showings. The only thing is, The Fly was remade in the 1980s, so you have to make certain you get the original version.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hollywood and God

Hollywood, I think, has always had an odd relationship with organized religion. On the one hand, you had some fairly religious people working: Cecil B. DeMille comes to mind, as do devout Catholics like Loretta Young. By the same token, they knew there was a big audience for movies that told uplifting religious messages, which is one of the reasons for making religious epics like the silent Ben-Hur, or even a non-epic movie with a clear religious message such as The Jazz Singer. Still, Hollywood has always been a den of iniquity, with a lot of boozing and sexing going on -- even virtuous Loretta Young got knocked up out of wedlock, of course. And a lot of what got into the pre-Code movies seems quite deliberately inserted to appeal to people's more prurient natures. I think, though, that we all have some of this double standard, as I both enjoy a good, "shocking" pre-code, be it the shocking subject material of Night Nurse or the fleshfest of Gold Diggers of 1933, yet can enjoy clearly religious movies that aren't too preachy, such as The Bishop's Wife. Thanks to the restrictions of the Production Code, however, the studios couldn't be too openly critical of organized Christianity. Perhaps a movie like Elmer Gantry could have been made before the Code, but even then I don't think it would have had the power the 1960 version did. Still, there's an interesting movie poking fun at religion coming up this afternoon on TCM: Susan and God, at 2:15 PM ET.

Joan Crawford plays Susan, a self-centered socialite who seems to do nothing but annoy everybody around her. That is, until one day she discovers God, in the form of some weird do-gooder branch of mainline Protestantism (at least, that's what I think the religion is supposed to be; the actual theology is never really explained). Susan's response to finding God is to become even more obnoxious, pushing God into every single one of her relationships and alienating all of her old friends even more, trying to break up marriages and engagements because Susan doesn't deem then right for each other in her new-found thinking. Also put upon by all this are Susan's husband Barrie (Fredric March), and their teenage daughter Blossom (Rita Quigley), who just wants to be a normal teenager. Barrie, unsurprisingly, turns to drink as he finds that Susan's Jesus kick is taking preference over the marriage. (Can you blame him? Who would want to be married to this creep?) Fortunately, though, the Jesus kick might just be like the sort of shiny toy a cat plays with: if you can find a new shiny toy to distract the cat with, you might get its mind off the original one.

Susan and God is interesting, although ultimately, I think it's not a success. It doesn't really have much to say about religion; in fact, any fad could have been used as the "shiny toy" to bedazzle Susan. Susan's character is unlikable, but in a bad way. There are unlikeable characters who fascinate us; Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole comes immediately to mind, as do the John Dall and Farley Granger characters in Alfred Hitchcock's Rope. Crawford's susan, on the other hand, is just one you want to smack across the face every time she shows up on screen. This overpowers a cast that had all the firepower MGM could bring to a movie: in addition to March, there's Ruth Hussey as a friend who's attracted to Barrie; Rita Hayworth and Nigel Bruce as a married couple; Marjorie Main as Susan's maid; and a young Gloria DeHaven as one of the teenagers Blossom wants at her big party. This being MGM, the sets and the costumes are great too, but it all seems done in service of Crawford -- or, perhaps more honestly, the script. Still, Susan and God is worth giving a look.

You'll have to do that looking on TCM, though, as the movie hasn't even been released to DVD on the Warner Archive.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Night and the City

Yet another movie I'm somewhat surprised to see I haven't recommended before is the 1950 original version of Night and the City. Truth be told, that's because it's a Fox movie, and when I started blogging, it was out of the Fox Movie Channel's rotation. It recently got put back into the FMC rotation, and is airing again tomorrow at noon ET, so now is as good a time as any to recommend it.

Richard Widmark stars as small time hustler Harry Fabian, who starts off the movie touting nightclubs to rich tourists in London. Widmark is hard up for money, wanting to use his girlfriend Mary's (Gene Tierney) stash to start up one of his many ideas for a business scheme, but she's saving for the proverbial rainy day.

Things change when he meets Kristo (Herbert Lom), who is trying to promote his father as a wrestler. The modern day wrestling promoters don't want the old style, and besides, much of the wrestling world is run by the underwold, but Fabian disagrees and sees a huge potential to turn the tables on the underworld. The only thing is, he needs that money. If he can't get Mary's money, then perhaps at least he can get it from his boss, nightclub owner Nosseross (Francis L. Sullivan).

At this point, things start to get really complicated. Mrs. Nosseross (Googie Withers) can't stand her husband, and wants to get away, and thinks that the money her husband is lending Fabian can help her get away. Fabian takes the bait, but doesn't realize that Mr. Nosseross gets wise to the game, learns that Fabian is going to double-cross him, and decides to turn the tables on Fabian.

To be honest, the plot of Night and the City is nothing special, in that it's not particularly superior to other great noirs like Gilda or Road House. What makes Night and the City special is director Jules Dassin's use of London as the location. The movie was filmed on location. It gives the movie a much different atmosphere than any of the American noirs that were shot on Hollywood soundstages, or even other movies of the late 1940s that were shot on location. The atmosphere feels even more gritty, realistic, and inglamorous than what Hollywood put out.

Fox have released a lot of their noirs to DVD, and Night and the City is no exception. The one thing you have to be careful about is that the movie was unfortunately remade in the early 1990s. Find the original version, and watch a great one.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lazy link post

TCM is honoring Billy Wilder today on the anniversary of his birth. I mentioned his birthday last year, and I think I've recommended almost all of the movies that TCM is showing in his honor. As for the Fox Movie Channel, I think I've recommended most of today's lineup there as well, and the one movie I hadn't recommended before, The Only Game in Town, is one I made a point to blog about yesterday.

The next step is to go to the IMDb site and check out who's got a birthday today, even though I just did a lazy birthday post two days ago. Looking through the names, I see that of Mike Todd, the one of Liz Taylor's husbands who died in a plane crash. Apparently, his life, and what happened after his death, was much more interesting than I realized.

Kris Kristofferson is turning 74 today. His relationship to the movies is the dreadful 1970s version of A Star is Born, as well as a whole bunch of later credits. I, though, being a fan of classic movie buffs, am more interested in that remake, as Hollywood is constantly remaking movies.

In that remake post from January 2009, I mentioned the two versions of Ben-Hur. However, as I mentioned last December, there's actually an earlier silent version, from 1907. Amazingly, I failed to include the YouTube link to the 1907 version.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Everybody has at least one clunker

No matter how good an actor is, there's at least one of his or her movies that's an utter mess. One good example of this is Elizabeth Taylor, who made the lousy movie The Only Game in Town. That movie is airing tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 PM ET on the Fox Movie Channel.

Taylor plays Fran, a chorus girl in Las Vegas. One day, at a lounge, she meets pianist Joe (Warren Beatty), who has a compulsive gambling problem. He's only in Vegas trying to get the $5,000 that he needs to be able to live in New York for six months, where he figures he's sure to get his big break. The two fall in love, and Joe loses all his money one night gambling, so he decides to move in with her while she takes control of his money, until he can earn that $5,000.

There are a few problems, though. Fran had been mistress to a wealthy man who couldn't get a divorce, so she hasn't seen him for several months. And she's not quite sure if she wants to give him up for Joe. Joe, of course, has that gambling problem, which if anything leads him to have a relationship with Fran that, in a later decade, would be described with buzzwords like "dysfunctional". Things go from bad to worse when Fran's man shows up, telling Fran that she should drop everything and leave with him for London. It's almost enough to make Joe find where Fran's hidden his money and go on another gambling binge....

I don't know what I can say about this movie to make it sound like a particularly good movie. Interesting, yes. Good, not so much. Fran and Joe are two characters in whom it's tough to develop any interest. Taylor, frankly, was very wrongly cast in this. She's supposed to be a chorus girl, although Taylor was pushing 40 at the time she made the movie. Unlike, say, the Susan Sarandon character in Atlantic City, we never really see the casino resort where she works. And do she and Joe have to be so shouty all the time. What's interesting about the movie is seeing these actors fail -- or, more charitably, be failed by the material. Perhaps the worst you can blame Taylor for is selecting this stuff to perform. Train wrecks are, after all, always interesting to watch, in a morbid way. Also, there's the wonderful 1970-era style. The establishing shots of Las Vegas show a Vegas which is much less sanitized than we would see even one year later in Diamonds are Forever, and certainly not the image that Vegas wants to put out for itself nowadays. Also, the interiors are fascinating, if only in a "was style really like that in 1970" way. Perhaps the interesting thing about the interiors is that most of them were done in Paris: Taylor was there with then-husband Richard Burton, who was working on a movie of his own.

The Only Game in Town doesn't seem to have been released to DVD, so you're going to have to catch one of the Fox Movie Channel showings. Catch just one; you probably won't want to see it a second time.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Gail Patrick, 1911-1980

Actress Gail Patrick was born on this day in 1911. You might recognize the name; that's because she played the second woman in quite a few great movies in the 1930s and early 1940s. Among the ones that I've recommended before are My Man Godfrey, where she plays Carole Lombard's sister; and Love Crazy, in which she plays the woman who gets stuck in an elevator who causes William Powell so many problems. (Note Patrick's name down the credits, in much smaller letters than William Powell or Myrna Loy gets.) There are quite a few nice photos of Patrick over at the Hollywood Dreamland blog which were posted in a series of posts about a year ago, and which you might like to visit.

Patrick retired from acting fairly young, after getting married for the third time, but under her married name became a producer, getting into TV and producing Perry Mason, which became wildly popular.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A post of thousands!

I notice that this marks my 1000th blog posting here. Happily, I have a nice tie-in with one of tonight's TCM movies, It's a Great Feeling, which shows up at 11:15 PM tonight. I mentioned it briefly back in January of 2009 as a movie that has a whole lot of cameos: according to the credits, actors Gary Cooper, Sydney Greenstreet, Patricia Neal, Danny Kaye, Jane Wyman, Eleanor Parker, and more, show up. (Note that I mentioned others back in the 2009 post, which I deliberately didn't repeat here. That's how many cameos there are.) Also, as I mentioned back in 2009, there are a few directors who get cameos, which is a nice thing, because they don't normally get on screen. Lesser-known David Butler directed the actual movie and does get a cameo, but a couple of more well-known directors also get cameos, such as King Vidor and Michael Curtiz. That having been said, I'll stand by my original assertion that the movie itself isn't that great.

It's also part of a night of Jack Carson movies, the man who just happened to be the subject of my first blog post back in January of 2008. I mentioned then that he was the perfect unctuous schmoozer, and that is pretty much the character he plays here, a director who tries to get anyone and everyone to star in his movie that will make Doris Day a star.

Ronald Neame, 1911-2010

Ronald Neame receiving an award late in life

The death of director Ronald Neame has been announced. He was 99. He directed quite a few movies, and perhaps his best-known movie, at least by people who aren't movie buffs, might be The Poseidon Adventure

Neame was a director, but he was much more talented than that. He started his career in movies all the way back at the dawn of sound, having been an assistant cameraman on the first British talking picture, Alfred Hitchcock's Blackmail. This eventually grew into cinematography, working with Noël Coward on movies such as In Which We Serve, working alongside fellow future director David Lean.

Neame of course later became a director, first in the UK and then in Hollywood. In addition to The Poseidon Adventure, he directed Maggie Smith to a Best Actress Oscar in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, as well as Judy Garland's final film, I Could Go On Singing, which I recommended just last week. And as a measure of how varied Neame's output was, he also directed the neo-Nazi thriller The Odessa File.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Ol' Blue Eyes talks dirty!

One of the consequences of the death of the Production Code in the 1960s is that movies could look at subjects that had previously been taboo, as well as using words that never would have made it into the movies a decade earlier. One example of this is the Frank Sinatra movie The Detective, which is airing at 4:00 PM ET this afternoon on the Fox Movie Channel.

Sinatra plays New York police detective Joe Leland, and is called in at the very beginning of the movie to investigate a murder. Right away we get something shocking (at least, it must have been shocking for at least part of the audience back in 1968): Det. Leland declares that the victim was found "naked, penis cut off". Apparently, back then, finding a naked man dead meant that the victim was gay and that his homosexuality had something to do with the murder, so for the first half of the movie, we get Leland visiting all of the stereotypically seedy gay hideouts in New York looking for the murderer. Along the way, Leland has to deal with estranged wife Karen (Lee Remick), who wants more sex than Joe can give her; at work Leland is up against a corrupt and uncaring bureaucracy, with only fellow detective Dave Schoenstein (Jack Klugman, a decade before he was investigating deaths in a different manner as Queasy, ME) being sympathetic. Eventually, Leland finds mentally challenged (and possibly unstable) Felix Tesla (played by Tony Musante whose performance is almost as memorable as in The Incident, who had a connection to the deceased, and forces a confession out of Felix. For this Felix is sent to the electric chair.

At this point, the movie doesn't end, but takes a strange twist. Some time after Tesla's death, a man jumps (or perhaps is pushed) off the roof of one of the race tracks. The suicide is hushed up, but the dead man's widow (Jacqueline Bisset) thinks there was more going on, and would like somebody to investigate -- and Leland is the only person whom she can trust. Leland does investigate, and finds that there might be some high-up people on the take. Worse, he learns that this man might have had something to do with the death for which Felix Tesla went to the chair....

The Detective is never less than interesting, even if it does present some pretty horrible stereotypes about the gay community. Then again, those who know more about the history of the gay community would point out that The Detective was released before the Stonewall riots, at a time when the idea of gay rights got little if any respect in the mainstream community. Most of the people making this movie, even if they knew gays in Hollywood who were in the closet, probably didn't know what life was really like for gay people, and had to resort to guessing or whatever news stories about gays there were. After all, "sodomy" between consenting adults was still illegal in many jurisdictions in the US, and had only been decriminalized a few years earlier in Britain thanks to the movie Victim. Sinatra is good if not great, a description that could be used for most of the cast aside from Musante, who frankly doesn't get enough screen time. The biggest problem the movie has is that the two halves of it -- that is, the cases of the two dead people -- really seem like two completely different and unrelated story lines until the very end, which makes you wonder why the writers ended the more interesting half so early.

The Detective may not be Sinatra's best work, but is certainly a worthy effort, and worth watching simply for the historical value. It's also been released to DVD, so you don't have to wait for the Fox Movie Channel showings.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The most boring man I've met since Ralph Bellamy

TCM is showing a night of pictures featuring one of Hollywood's more frequent second bananas, Ralph Bellamy. Quite often, he played the "other man", who loses the girl to somebody like Cary Grant, in movies such as The Awful Truth, which kicks off the evening at 8:00 PM ET. In The Awful Truth, Bellamy loses Irene Dunne to Cary Grant. Bellamy would go on to lose to Cary Grant again a few years later in His Girl Friday; this time, however, it was Roaslind Russell he lost. His Girl Friday is not airing tonight, though.

As for the Bellamy movies that are airing tonight, you can see one of his earlier movies in Picture Snatcher, at 11:30 PM, in which Bellamy plays James Cagney's boss.

Bellamy got to star later in his career, in one of the roles that defined the second half of his career: Sunrise at Campobello, airing at 1:00 AM. This 1960 movie tells the story of Franklin Roosevelt's contracting polio, and how his wife Eleanor got him to get back into politics. It's the movie version of a Broadway play, in which Bellamy had played the Franklin Roosevelt part, a role with which Bellamy would become identified later in life.

In fact, Bellamy had a long and active career. Sunrise at Campobello came out 27 years after Picture Snatcher, and in between those two, Bellamy made some 65 movie appearances, most of them in substantial, if not leading roles. In fact, he'd make a pretty good Star of the Month for TCM.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's always the cover-up

This afternoon's TCM movie is Keeper of the Flame, airing at 6:00 PM ET.

Spencer Tracy stars as Steven O'Malley, a journalist who is given the job of writing an obituary for a prominent American hero who just died in a car accident. In true Citizen Kane fashion, O'Malley wants to find out more about this great hero and what made him tick, so he goes to meet the man's widow, Christine Forrest (Katharine Hepburn). What O'Malley finds surprises him. Christine seems to be mourning much less than most women whose husbands just dies would be, and the people around her, notably Mr. Forrest's personal secretary Clive (Richard Whorf), seem rather irritated by O'Malley's snooping.

Clive is right to be worried. What he knows is that Forrest, despite having done some heroic deeds earlier in his life, also had a dark side in that he had some secrets that would best not be revealed, lest they tarnish the reputation and memory of Forrest. Christine apparently knew of these secrets, too, and that might just be why she's not that emotional over her husband's death. Still, O'Malley's presence is a threat to her as well as Clive....

Keeper of the Flame is interesting in that it's much darker than anythine else Tracy and Hepburn made together. Sure, they did drama, such as Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, but even that ends up a hopeful note. As for the performances, Tracy is as good as ever as the man who believed in Forrest's ideals, only to find out the real truth about the man. Hepburn frankly doesn't do much here, but then, I've never been that big a fan of her work. The supporting cast is its usual competent self, but that's to be expected by anything MGM was putting out in the 1940s.

Ultimately, if I wanted to recommend the Tracy/Hepburn films to people new to them, I'd pick something else first, such as Adam's Rib or Desk Set: the two actors worked better off of each other when they were doing comedy. But that's not to say Keeper of the Flame isn't worth watching. You don't just have to be a fan of Tracy and/or Hepburn to enjoy this one. Surprisingly, it doesn't seem to have been released to DVD yet.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ride the High Country

Tonight's TCM lineup contains a lot of westerns about the changing of the Old West, and how older cowboys try to adjust to the change. One of these movies is the excellent Ride the High Country, at midnight ET tonight.

Joel McCrea stars as one of the aging men, a lawman around 1900 who has taken on the job of guarding a shipment of gold from a mining town because, frankly, he needs the work. When he's signing up to take on the job, he meets his old pal Randolph Scott, now working with the carnival. Scott has a young friend, Ron Starr, and since there's safety in numbers, McCrea decides to let Scott and Starr come along with him. What he doesn't realize is that Scott has other ideas for the gold.

On the way to the town, they stop at the farm of an extremely old-fashiond farmer, whose daughter (Mariette Hartley) has fallen in love with a man in the mining town, but who can't see him because her father would never permit it. The presence of these three security guards, however, gives her an opportunity to run away, which she takes, joining them on the trip to the mining town. Of course, it's fairly obvious that along the way, Starr is going to fall in love with Hartley, and that this is going to cause problems when they get to the mining town.

Those problems quickly manifest themselves when the four reach the mining town, and Hartley discovers that it's a den of iniquity -- and that her beau has several brothers, all of whom would like to partake in some of that iniquity, with her being taken along for a ride. She doesn't like that, and so decides to run off with the three men who took her to the mining town in the first place. That's a big problem, because the brothers are going to come chasing after all of them, and they won't just want her; they'll want the gold too. Never mind that Scott still has his own plans for the gold....

Joel McCrea is one of those terribly underrated actors, probably because he spent the second half of his career making westerns. However, he's as good here as he ever was. The plot of the movie could just as well be an allegory for the changing of Hollywood: with the advent of TV, and the breaking down of the old Code prohibitions in the movies, Hollywood was becoming less and less of a place for people like McCrea and Scott. Still, oftentimes the movies of such "old-fashioned" people are just as good, if not better, than the more transgressive movies, as looking back to the older values can be more timeless. (Indeed, I've the similar argument regarding the movie Yours, Mine, and Ours.)

Ride the High Country has been released to DVD, so you don't have to watch tonight's TCM airing.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Back in the news

I'm sick of the media feeding frenzy surrounding Joran van der Sloot. (Of course, I very quickly tired of the endless stories about him the first time around, too.) This morning, I turned on the TV to watch the latest World Cup match, and found that he was the story one or another of the morning news shows was discussing.

My first thought was of the movie I Want to Live!. I said when I recommended it two years ago that I hated it for a whole bunch of reasons. Ironically, though, I think it got a lot of the media frenzy stuff right. We've had a lot of stories since then -- think husbands accused of killing their wives, or parents accused of murdering their children -- where the accused are made almost unable to get a fair trial because the media declared them guilty beforehand. Granted, the accused might in fact be guilty. But that still doesn't make the media frenzies any less ugly.

Then again, although I Want to Live! got the media frenzy right, that's probably in no small part because the concept had been already going on for decades. The movie Compulsion, made around the same time as I Want to Live!, and deals with how public exposure might make it almost impossible to get a fair jury trial. Say what you will about the movie The Fountainhead, but Ayn Rand wasn't that far off in her portrayal of a populist media driving the events of the day. And, the populist media goes back even further in the movies. Humphrey Bogart's One Fatal Hour was made in the mid-1930s and was a remake; likewise, His Girl Friday covers a good deal of the same ground, and was also a remake of an early 1930s movie.

Surprisingly, I've never done a full-length post on His Girl Friday, an oversight I'll have to correct at some time after the World Cup.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The latest in box guide fun

Tonight at 9:30 PM ET, TCM is showing the movie that won Broderick Crawford a Best Actor Oscar, All the King's Men. It's a movie I can highly recommend, but you might miss it if you have the wrong cable or satellite box. I was quite surprised to see my box guide listing in that time slot the 2006 remake. To be honest, I didn't even remember this remake.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lazy posting

By now, you probably know that the soccer World Cup is going on down in South Africa, with today's big game matching England against the United States. I think I mentioned during the European Championships two years ago that I'm a soccer fan; as a result I've been watching somewhat more of the World Cup than I have been paying attention to the movies on TCM.

To be fair, it's not as if TCM has had the most exciting programming lineup. Yesterday saw all those Jacques Cousteau programs, which are a bit of a controversial choice for TCM since they were originally produced for TV and not the big screen. Tonight brings a set of movies set in San Francisco, some of which I've already recommended. The night kicks off with this week's TCM Essential, the classic disaster movie San Francisco, at 8:00 PM ET. I don't particularly care for musicals, so I'm not very excited about The Flower Drum Song, which follows at 10:00 PM. Bullitt has the famous, but in my opinion overrated, car chase; that airs at 12:30 AM.

Getting back to the soccer, one thing that I found interesting about this morning's Argentina vs. Nigeria match was that the Nigerians made a substitution, putting in a player with the non-African sounding surname of Martins. Being a movie geek, my immediate thought was of course of Holly Martins.

But, I think the ultimate point of this posting is to say that if my blog posts over the next few weeks seem uninspired, it'll be because I've been much more involved in the drama of the World Cup.

Friday, June 11, 2010

At least it's not Madame X

If you've seen enough of those Madame X style movies, you might enjoy a similarly-titled movie from a completely different genre: The Mystery of Mr. X, tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM ET on TCM.

Robert Montgomery doesn't play Mr. X, but a gentlemanly jewel thief in London. He's got a problem though, in that while he's involved in his latest jewel heist, stealing jewels from a mansion safe, a serial killer of London bobbies commits his latest murder just outside the mansion. Montgomery is no fool, and realizes that the police are going to suspect there's only one criminal, and that if they find the jewel thief, they'll have the cop killer as well.

What's a burglar to do? In Montgomery's case, the answer is meet the police commissioner's daughter (Elizabeth Allan), charm her, and use that relationship to get information from the commissioner himself. After all, the commisioner (Henry Stephenson) and his underling Lewis Stone suspect Montgomery might be a thief. Montgomery knows the only way anybody is going to find the real murderer is if he goes out and does it himself. After a bit of thinking, Montgomery believes he's figured out the killer's modus operandi, and where the next killing is going to take place....

It's a movie with a fairly simple plot, and it's somewhat interesting that Montgomery was still making B movies by this time. Still, he pulls off the movie effortlessly, helping to make it a fast-paced little mystery that, while having absolutely nothing groundbreaking about it, is never less than eminently entertaining. It's the sort of movie I could watch every time it shows up on TCM, just because it's that much fun.

Unfortunately, you have to watch it when it shows up TCM, because you can't watch it on DVD -- it hasn't been released yet, not even by the Warner Archive.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Judy Garland's birthday

Judy Garland isn't my favorite actress, but she's a very famous one, so TCM is marking her birthday today with a morning and afternoon of her movies. I've commented before that she does a good job as an actress, and not just a singer, in movies such as The Clock (airing at 12:45 PM ET). It's her singing I don't care so much for, evidenced by a movie like I Could Go On Singing, which conclude the day of Garland movies at 6:15 PM.

Garland plays a popular singer who had performed in London many years ago, and is back for another singing engagement. However, that's not the only reason she's back. When she was in London all those years ago, she got knocked up by a doctor (Dirk Bogarde). Having to take care of a kid would be death to her career, so Garland decided to give custody of the kid to Bogarde, who is quite successful by now. Garland would like to be a part of her son's life now that she's older and apparently wiser. She's still selfish, though; this is all about her. She smothers the kid much beyond the point that's good for him, and to the point where Bogarde rightly realizes that what she's doing isn't good for the boy, who is after all his son too. And, of course, he's spent more time actually being a parent to the kid.

It's Judy Garland at her most stereotypically over the top and self-absorbedness. (To be honest, I don't know if she was like this in real life; it's just the way she comes across on the screen to me.) The story shouldn't be that bad; it's more that there's something about Garland in the lead role that I find so irritating. Bogarde does OK, but is an afterthough; the juvenile actor playing the now teenaged son, Gregory Phillips, does a fine job, although he apparently retired from acting in the 1970s. Also in the cast are Jack Klugman, who does a good job as Garland's agent, playing much the same way he had done a year earlier in The Days of Wine and Roses. 1930s actress Aline MacMahon, now much older, plays Garland's wardrobe woman, and is quite good too.

But, this is Garland's movie all the way. If you like Garland's singing, you'll probably love this movie; if not, you'll probably be more lukewarm about it. It's been released to DVD, although I have a feeling that if you're a Garland fan, you probably have the DVD already.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

No Way Out again

I can't believe that it's been a year and a half since I recommended No Way Out, Sidney Poitier's debut movie. It's airing again overnight tonight at 2:00 AM ET on TCM, as one of "Bob's Picks", and is just as much worth watching as it was back in December 2008.

The other three movies are:

The Hasty Heart, a Ronald Reagan movie I haven't seen before, at 8:00 PM;
Gilda at 10:00 PM; and
The Damned Don't Cry at midnight, a Joan Crawford movie I haven't seen before.

Another "I thought I recognized that name" birthday

Mona Freeman is still alive, and is turning 84 today. I thought the name looked familiar, and sure enough, I was right: she played Robert Mitchum's girlfriend in Angel Face, which I just mentioned about three weeks ago.

I didn't realize, though, that Freeman pretty much retired from movies in the mid-1950s, although she appeared quite a bit on television for about a decade after that. IMDb says that she's been married to her second husband for 49 years.

Many happy birthday wishes to Mona Freeman!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

TCM's Dennis Hopper tribute

As is often the case when a famous star of older movies dies, TCM sets aside some time in the schedule, preempting their originally scheduled movies to show several starring the recently deceased star. Tonight, that tribute goes to the late Dennis Hopper. TCM is showing five of his movies:

The Sons of Katie Elder at 8:00 PM,
True Grit at 10:15 PM,
Rebel Without a Cause at 12:30 AM Wednesday,
Easy Rider at 2:30 AM, and
Night Tide at 4:15 AM.

This preempts a night of Saint movies, several starring George Sanders as Simon Templar, long before Roger Moore played the role. To be honest, I'm a bit disappointed, but then, TCM plays the Saint movies quite a bit.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tomorrow is Forever

Tonight kicks off the first night for TCM's June Star of the Month, Natalie Wood. Wood is one of the rare child stars who also had quite a bit of success as an adult actress. This first Monday in June sees several of her younger roles, kicking off with Tomorrow is Forever at 8:00 PM ET.

Wood is by no means the star; that honor goes to Claudette Colbert. She plays a woman in World War I whose husband (Orson Welles) goes off to fight. Unfortunately, Welles doesn't return, and Colbert gets word that he's been killed in the war. End of story.

Er, maybe not. Welles knocked up Colbert before going off to fight, leaving Colbert either to raise the son alone, or else get married to a nice man like George Brent who will help raise a stepson. And that's not all. Fast forward to 1939. Coming over from Nazi Germany to escape is the mysterious Mr. Kessler with adopted daughter Margaret (Natalie Wood); a man who looks somewhat like Colbert's first husband. But he's dead of course. Or is he?

To be honest, I find this sort of movie to be the typical horribly melodramatic stuff that constituted a lot of the "women's pictures" of the day. There are good love stories out there from that time period, even good stories that have Natalie Wood playing the precocious kid. (See The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.) Tomorrow is Forever, hoewver, isn't to my taste.

That isn't to say that it won't be to anybody's taste. There are a lot of people out there who like those "women's pictures". And, there are also a lot of people out there who enjoy Orson Welles more than I do. There might even be some people who like George Brent. There's nothing in Tomorrow is Forever to say that the acting is bad, so if you like those actors, there might well be no reason why you wouldn't like the movie.

Tomorrow is Forever doesn't seem to have been released to DVD, though, so if you want to watch it, you'll have to catch the rare TCM showing.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Essentials Jr. returns

This being the first Sunday of the summer holiday season, TCM brings back its series Essentials Jr. for a fourth season. John Lithgow returns for a second stint as host, presenting famous classic movies which are suitable for the entire family. The proceedings kick off tonight at 8:00 PM ET with the Disney classic Old Yeller, about a young boy and his dog. Of course, if you're not one of the kids that this series is designed for, you probably already know the story. But then, that's the point of Essentials Jr.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Fr. Gregory Peck

TCM is showing one of Gregory Peck's earliest movies tomorrow at noon ET: The Keys of the Kingdom.

This is one of those movies told in the flashback style: at the beginning of the movie, Peck's Catholic Fr. Chisholm is an old man with unorthodox views in a backwater parish in Scotland. Somebody further up the Church hierarchy wants to pension him off, and sent to investigate is Msgr. Cedric Hardwicke. It turns out that Fr. Chisholm had spent a good 50 years working as a missionary in China, and kept a journal all those years. Hardwicke's monsignor finds the journal and reads it, and we flash back to Chisholm's youth....

Chisholm didn't exactly have an easy time of it, having been orphaned as a boy (the young Chisholm is played by Roddy McDowall) and grown up with relatives. Not having any real family, he decides to take Holy Orders when he grows up, to the dismay of the daughter in the family he grew up with, as well as doctor-in-training Thomas Mitchell, who is a devout atheist, cynic, and drinker. (Apparently, he's reprising his role from Stagecoach or something.) Already as a young priest Chisholm had unorthodox views, so his superior, Fr. Mealey (Vincent Price) decides the best thing to do would be to shunt his career by making him a missionary in China.

Chisholm takes up the role and tries his hardest to be a good priest, although he quickly finds that honestly converting souls isn't very easy, especially when the other denominations are using rice to more or less buy souls. But it's also in China that the movie really picks up. Chisholm's mission is set against the backdrop of China's turbulent history of the early 20th century, with almost every disaster known to man, as rebellions come, the mission burns to the ground, and then some. (The movie was made before the Communist takeover, so at least Chisholm didn't have to put up with that.) Along the way, Mitchell comes to work at the mission, as do a group of German nuns who have different ideas than Chisholm but gain mutual respect, and Price's Fr. Mealey becomes a surprisingly unchristian bishop.

The Keys of the Kingdom is an excellent movie that, despite being about an obviously religious subject, comes across as much less preachy than other Catholic movies such as Going My Way, which was released the same year. Instead, it's more of an ecumenical picture in that the message is that this is what Christianity is supposed to be about regardless of denomination. Peck, despite appearing in only his second starring role, does a superb job here, and earned an Oscar nomination for it. Price is good too; by this time he was more or less constantly getting cast as Fox's smarmy equivalent of Jack Carson over at Warner's. Mitchell and Hardwicke make the movie better for their appearances; and watch out for James Gleason as a Protestant missionary whom Peck befriends. The Gleason character is married to one played by Anne Revere.

The Keys of the Kingdom has been released to DVD and is well worth watching, regardless of your religion or lack of it.

Judge for yourself

I've said several times before that I'm not much of a fan of Marlon Brando. That having been said, I know there are a lot of people out there who do love his work, so they might enjoy watching the 1962 remake of Mutiny on the Bounty tonight, in which Brando plays the Fletcher Christian role that had been so memorably portrayed a quarter century earlier by Clark Gable. It's this week's TCM Essential, at 8:00 PM ET.

It should go without saying that I prefer the 1935 version, but to be fair, the later version has some advantages, namely in the technical areas. By 1962 color photography and, more importantly, the wide-screen cinema processes, were much easier to execute than anything that could have been done in the 1930s. On a movie like Mutiny on the Bounty that goes around that South Pacific, that's quite a plus. Unfortunately, it still has Brando....

But even when there's a movie I don't care for, I only think it's fair to tell people to judge for themselves. After all, there are some movies out there which are pretty bad, but which are actually fun precisely because they're so bad. Also, as I said earlier, I'm sure this version of Mutiny on the Bounty will appeal to a lot of the Brando fans out there.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Silly Hollywood photo of the day

This month, TCM is showing a bunch of underwater-themed movies on Fridays in prime time. One of tonight's movies is the Disney version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, airing at 10:00 PM ET. I'm sure you know the story, with it having been based upon the popular novel by Jules Verne. James Mason plays Captain Nemo; Paul Lukas the professor who leads the search for the elusive Nautilus; Peter Lorre plays Lukas' assistant; and Kirk Douglas gets the role of Ned Land, one of the sailors on the ship commissioned by Lukas, and the only one of those sailors to survive its collision with the Nautilus.

One of the seeming tropes from the Disney movies is the popular animal characters, especially the anthropomorphic animals of later animated movies. Here, the animal with get is Esmeralda, Nemo's seal who takes a liking to Ned Land, including (if memory serves) a singing scene with him. Not having seen the movie in a while, my memory is that Douglas definitely sings; I think Esmeralda barks along with him. In any case, it's one of the more interesting Hollywood screen pairings.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What women want

Last night saw a number of John Huston movies on TCM; tonight sees two movies starring his father, Walter. The first of these is the interesting pre-Code Ann Vickers at 9:30 PM ET.

Irene Dunne gets top billing in the title role. At the beginning of the movie, she's a social worker dealing with veterans returning from World War I. One of these veterans, Bruce Cabot, tries to woo her, but at first she refuses, wanting to maintain her career. He's a cad, though, and eventually convinces her to have sex with him, since she winds up pregnant and he runs off leaving her more or less alone to raise the coming baby.

Unfortunately, the baby is still-born, although that allows Miss Vickers the opportunity to keep working, going inside a women's prison to observe conditions and write an award-winning book describing the scandalous way the women prisoners are treated. This gains her influence and eventually she gets put in charge of a women's prison of her own, where presumably more progressive conditions will be afforded the prisoners.

This rise in status also brings her to the attention of Judge Barney Dolphin (Walter Huston). He falls in love with her, but also knows he can never really have her. The problem is, he's trapped in a loveless marriage with a woman who won't grant him a divorce, instead traveling around Europe. At least the wife's being away gives the good judge the chance to have his dalliances on the side.

Then again, the good judge isn't a good judge, but a corrupt bastard. Eventually he gets arrested for the corruption, but not before having knocked up Ann Vickers. He goes off to prison, and she works lesser jobs waiting for him to get out of jail....

It's fascinating stuff, based on a novel by Sinclair Lewis. Ann Vickers is supposed to be a strong powerful woman -- after all, she's able to write a scathing book about women's prisons. But every time she meets a bad boy she gets weak in the knees. (On the other hand, the one good man in the movie, lawyer Conrad Nagel, leaves her completely cold.) That having been said, what Vickers does isn't portrayed as particularly immoral, at least, nowhere near the way it would be portrayed in movies released once the enforcement of the Production Code became strict. Further, there's some relatively lurid (at least for 1933 standards) stuff here, in the form of the treatment Vickers witnesses in the women's prison, and how her face is superimposed over those images with a hardened expression. Also in the cast is Edna May Oliver as Vickers' mentor, a role that becomes distinctly too small after Vickers' first baby is stillborn.

Ann Vickers veers from one part of the plot to the next so quickly that it sometimes feels disjointed, which is certainly a drawback. All the same, it's still quite an interesting movie. Sadly, it's never been released to DVD.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

One man's terrorist....

TCM is showing a night of movies directed by John Huston tonight. I've mentioned Bette Davis' wonderful rant in In This Our Life before; that movie airs in the wee hours of the morning at 3:15 AM ET. The movie airing before that, at 1:15 AM, is one I haven't recommended before: We Were Strangers.

Set in Cuba during a dictatorship of the early 1930s, We Were Strangers stars Jennifer Jones as China Valdés, an employee at a local export bank. She's not very politically active until one day when her innocent brother is gunned down at the university by the forces of the evil dictator. At the same time, American Tony Fenner (John Garfield) enters Cuba. He's actually there on a missoin to help out the revolutionaries who are plotting to overthrow the dictator. Needless to say, their lives are about to cross in a bunch of ways. Fenner and his gang of Cuban exiles have been using the bank where she works to funnel money between the US and Cuba. But, more imporantly, China has a nice house that Tony thinks the revolutionaries can use in one of their plots. The house is right next to a cemetery where families of some of the prominent members of the government are buried. Tony figures that if the revolutionaries can assassinate one of the members of the government, the rest will show up at the funeral, and the revolutionaries can bomb the government from below. That, of course, involves tunneling, with the beginning of the tunnel being in the Valdés house.

China agrees and sends the rest of her family to the countryside, while she stays and continues working at the bank. The tunneling commences, and as it goes on, she and Tony fall in love. And, in true Hollywood fashion, there's also a love triangle. The third member of that triangle is Pedro Armendáriz playing Armando Ariete. Ariete is the head of the secret police and as such, has a lot of reason to be inspecting the bank where China works. What he doesn't know is that her brother is the man that was killed by him at the university all those months ago. He also doesn't know that she's become the hostess for those revolutionaries, including Fenner. Still, he falls in love with her.

In some ways, it's fairly formulaic stuff, but We Were Strangers isn't that bad a movie. Jennifer Jones isn't my favorite, and certainly isn't a convincing Cuban, but since this could be a dictatorship anywhere, the miscasting isn't such a big deal. John Garfield is fine as always, the handsome man with a dark and troubled past. And Armendáriz is superbly sinister as the head of the secret police. The supporting cast includes Gilbert Roland and Ramon Novarro as two of Garfield's fellow revolutionaries, and both add quite a bit to the proceedings. The movie has also been released to DVD, so you can watch it any time you like, not just 1:15 in the morning.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

TCM Guest Programmer: Rich Eisen

NFL Network host Rich Eisen joins Robert Osborne tonight as TCM's Guest Programmer for June. I mentioned in the Dennis Hopper obituary that TCM is showing Hoosiers tonight at 8:00 PM ET as the first of Eisen's picks. Eisen, being a sports broadcaster, has selected three more sports movies:

Rocky at 10:00 PM, in which Sylvester Stallone likes Talia Shire without a hat;
The Natural at 12:15 AM, in which Robert Redford breaks light bulbs by hitting them with baseballs; and
Caddyshack at 2:30 AM, the quintessential low-rent golf comedy.

Interestingly, Eisen didn't select a movie about the NFL, of which the best would probably be the Billy Wilder comedy The Fortune Cookie.