Sunday, September 30, 2012

In Nacht und Eis

This week's TCM Import, overnight tonight at 2:15 AM is Titanic, the 1943 Nazi German telling of the maritime disaster which I first bloged about back in March of 2008. That's followed at 3:45 AM by A Night to Remember, the British telling of the story which tries to be more factually correct.

TCM's Silent Sunday Nights isn't airing a story of the Titanic sinking. In fact, there is a silent version of the story. That movie, called In Nacht und Eis (which translates as In Night and Ice, although you probably could have figured that out) was made only a few months after the actual disaster in Germany, and was considered lost for decades, until in the mania over James Cameron's 1997 version, a collector found a copy of this one. So TCM could in theory run In Nacht und Eis. They wouldn't have any rights problems, because anything from 1912 ought to be in the public domain, although they'd have to get a copy in a format that they can air. So that and any score might be an issue. The other problem is that Silent Sunday Nights would have to run this one in conjunction with something else, since it only runs 35 minutes.

Still, it's interesting to be able to watch a movie made very shortly after the disaster.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Four Feathers

I believe that I have never mentioned the movie The Four Feathers before. It's airing tonight at midnight on TCM as part of a night of movies with Ralph Richardson in the cast.

The star and main character is John Clements, playing Harry Faversham. Harry's father, like all the male members of the Faversham family, served in the military, and now that Dad is retired, it seems as though hsi tim is spent reminiscing about his past, specifically in the form of General Burroughs (C. Aubrey Smith, looking like his usual distinguished self). Burroughs fought in the Crimean War and loves telling anybody who will listen the same tired old story about the batle he fought in Crimea. All the men in the Faversham family have gone into military service, and it's assumed that Harry is going to do the same, although he really doesn't like the idea.

Because it's the expected thing, however, Harry does go to the military academy, where he also falls in love with Burroughs' granddaghter Ethne (Jane Duprez). Harry would rather write poetry than do the military thing, though, and when General Gordon is defeated in Sudan, Britian sends an expeditionary force to Africa to quell the native uprising. This means that Harry and his friends (one of them played by the aforementioned Ralph Richardson) will be sent to Africa. Harry decides that the most honorable thing to do is to resign his commission. Unfortunately, nobody else sees it the same way, and his three buddies in the army as well as Ethne each give him a white feather, this being the symbol of cowardice.

Harry decides there's only one thing to do, which is to become a hero so that he can redeem himself. To do so, he sails for Egypt and has his skin darkened so that he can pass himself of as a member of an Egyptian sect, as opposed to one of the Europeans who would certainly be killed by the Sudanese. Harry saves Richardson, who by this time has been blinded by sunstroke, and then winds up at the Battle of Omdurman.

The Four Feathers is the sort of Victorian adventure story which, I have to admit, is not my favorite genre of movie. That having been said, if you do enjoy adventure movies, you're going to love this one. Not only is it adventurous, but it's got goregous Technicolor photography as well as location shooting (at least for the establishing shots). Military life is thankfully not like this any more, but The Four Feathers is still a story well worth seeing.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Let the wailing and gnashing of teeth begin!

Last night I sat down to watch the first of the night's Mack Sennett comedies, Saturday Afternoon. (It wasn't quite as enjoyable as I had hoped it would be, but that's not the point here.) Instead of the regular 8:00 PM intro with everybody approaching the theater, TCM ran the weekend introduction that they use when Ben Mankiewicz is introducing the films. Now, Mankiewicz has been handling hosting duties this month, but TCM has been running the regular prime time intro. This time, however, after the intro, they went straight into the film. Well, they had the screen for the TV-G rating, but no introduction from Ben Mankiewicz.

Oh my goodness are the conspiracy theories active on the TCM message boards. One thing I don't like about TCM's boards is that there are some people who go on and on and on about whatever their particular pet peeve is. For some, it's movies made after a particular year (usually around 1970); for others it's the presence of Drew Barrymore co-hosting The Essentials; and then there's also certain classic films being shown too often. So you don't like some 1972 film. We get the point.

But the absence of Robert Osborne in general, and the way last night was handled, seems to have driven some posters nuts. The implication is that it's awful how TCM is trying to push out Robert Osborne, and how they're supposedly not being honest with us about it. Some people seem to have it in for Ben, and there are posters who seem to have the obnoxious nostalgia that everything was better in the past: they want to bring back AMC's old hosts, who are probably just about the same age as Robert Osborne. (Nick Clooney at 78 is about two years younger; I don't know Bob Dorian's age.) It's actually fun watching these posters have a meltdown, almost like Howard Beale.

Robert Osborne is human, so at some point he's going to have to die. I know it's terrible to put it so bluntly, but it's going to happen. I suppose TCM could digitize every word Osborne said, and stitch words together for intros, with a CGI Osborne hosting, using scripts cobbled together from old intros. No, I'm not really being serious here. It's going to be amazing to see what happens -- not on TCM itself, but with some of the fans -- when Osborne finally does hang it up and call it a career.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A sincere apology

So I turned TCM on at lunchtime, expecting to be about 20 minutes in to The Secret Fury. Imagine my surprise when I saw a scene with an actress who didn't appear to be Claudette Colbert or anybody in The Secret Fury, and an actor who didn't look like Robert Ryan. In fact, TCM was showing Postmark for Danger.

I have no idea when the schedule got changed. I wrote the post on The Secret Fury on Tuesday afternoon, because for some reason I had thought it was airing Wednesday morning instead of Thursday. It was only when I looked through the online schedule that I noticed I had the days wrong. So I had definitely seen The Secret Fury set to air as of Tuesday afternoon. I looked at the IMDb pages for the two movies, which are a bit slow in removing the airtime data after a movie appears on TCM, and found that the page for The Secret Fury still listed an airing this morning, while the page for Postmark for Danger didn't have an airing listed.

If you were looking to watch The Secret Fury, I'm sorry. If you tried to record it, why not watch Postmark for Danger anyway? It's not the greatest movie by a longshot, but it's entertaining enough. Sadly, neither movie is on DVD.

Herbert Lom, 1917-2012

The death has been announced of actor Herbert Lom, who is probably best known for playing Lt. Dreyfus, the superior to Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau in several of the Pink Panther movies. Lom, who was born in Czechoslovakia, was 95. You might have seen Lom on TCM just yesterday, as he was in The Dark Tower, one of the six Teddington movies that Warner Bros. made in the UK and which only showed up in the US back in 2007. Lom's other famous movies include The Ladykillers, as well as Night and the City.

The obituary in the New York Times has a quote from Lom that I particularly like. "One thing I hate is when directors come to me before shooting a take and say, 'Herbert, give me your best!' And I think: 'But it's my job to give my best. I can't give anything else.'"

More fun with game show movie questions

So I was watching Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? again yesterday, and the contestant gets this reasonably fun question:

Used as a shooting locale for many westerns, the Tabernas Desert is located in which country?

a) Greece b) Spain c) Romania d) Italy

The contestant thought about it for a bit, and intelligently concluded, "I know they're called spaghetti westerns, and since spaghetti is Italian, I'll say Italy; final answer." Poor guy. It has more to do with Italian-born director Sergio Leone revolutionizing the genre that gave these European-made movies the name "spaghetti westerns", and not where they were filmed, which is in fact Spain.

For a bit I found myself wondering if this was an unfair question, but I don't think so at all. I don't know that the contestant would necessarily be expected to know that the genre was known as the spaghetti western, and one could reasonably figure out which European country has deserts, or at least something reasonably approximating a desert. I can't think of any such area in Italy, and the word Tabernas doesn't sound particularly Italian to me.

That having been said, I decided to do a bit of reading on the genre of Europe's look at the American West, and I was surprised -- although I probably shouldn't have been -- to discover the genre has a long history dating back before Sergio Leone was even born. Wikipedia mentions German author Karl May, who wrote a series of books that were wildly popular in Germany in the late 19th century, even though May himself had never been to the US when he wrote the stories and when he did get to the US, didn't get any further west than about Buffalo NY. It's only natural that these stories, however accurate they are (I haven't read any of them, and don't know how much worse in terms of accuracy they are than Hollywood westerns) would be turned into movies at some point. It's not only Hollywood that's derivative! Some of May's works were filmed in the silent era, and there were also silent westerns made in Italy and France.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's not just fury

I blogged about Fury back in August 2008, and about The Fury back in May 2011. Now it's time to blog about The Secret Fury, which is airing tomorrow morning at 11:30 AM on TCM.

Robert Ryan stars as David McLean, who at the start of the movie is crashing a wedding. At least, he shows up at the wedding, and nobody seems to recognize him. That's kind of odd, since he's actually the groom. The bride is the fairly well-off Ellen Ewing, played by Claudette Colbert. Eventually everything gets straightened out and the bride and groom are about to take their vows. But when the minister gives the spiel about anybody knowing any reason why the two shouldn't be married should speak now or forever hold their piece, somebody actually gets up! He says that Ellen had in fact been married some months earlier in Riverview, a town a couple hours' drive away. As such, there's no way she can get married. And before anybody can question the guy, he gets up and leaves!

What's a putatively married woman to do? Well, she claims that she has no knowledge of this supposed wedding, and she should know, since she would have been there if she had gotten married. So it's off to Riverview. Certainly, this whole thing will prove to be nonsense, as there was obviously no wedding. The only problem is, they get to Riverview, and it turns out there is in fact a marriage license there and evidence that Ellen did in fact get married on the day in question. And when they go to the honeymoon hotel, there's somebody there who claims to have seen the bride and groom. Why is somebody trying to drive Ellen mad, like Ingrid Bergman's character in Gaslight? Eventually, Ellen finds the putative groom (Dave Barbour). This doesn't solve the problem, however; it only makes things worse. He winds up dead from Ellen's gun, which winds up at Ellen's feet!

The first half of the movie sets up a very interesting premise, but it also backs itself into a corner: how are they going to get out of this corner with an ending that is both a) plausible, and b) satisfying to the viewer? In that regard, the movie gets a bit maddening as it goes on. Robert Ryan, from the moment he shows up at the wedding, you expect him to be darker than he's shown himself to be. And seriously, how could the people around her not know about him? It's not as if she's getting eloped; this looks like a pretty elaborate wedding. That much planning, and you'd think they would have met the groom sometime. The whole scene at the first husband's place also comes across as quite odd. That all having been said, there's a lot in this film to recommend. Robert Ryan and Claudette Colbert are both playing against type, which makes their performances fascinating to watch. There's also Vivian Vance (Ethel Mertz) as a maid in the honeymoon hotel. Most of her work was either on TV or Broadway, so it's fun to watch her get to play a movie character, especially in a mystery/suspense film. So although The Secret Fury doesn't quite live up to the bar it sets for itself in the first half, it's an interesting movie that's well worth watching.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Back in 2007, TCM got the rights to six movies made at Teddington Studios, which was the British arm of Warner Bros. Those six movies are airing tomorrow morning on TCM. Before I go into any detail about the pictures, these are what were known as "quota quickies". Around 1927, the UK, dealing with an influx of product from Hollywood, decided that the best way to help the British film industry was to engage in a bit of protectionism. They set up a quota system whereby, for every foreign film shown, theaters would have to show a British movie as well. The Hollywood studios got around it, more or less, by setting up production arms in Britain, and then churning out films even more quickly than the assembly-line style of B movies got produced in Hollywood in the 1930s. The studios made the movies on the cheap, and not overly long either. The films were never intended to be shown outside of the UK, but some of them were found in an archive, including these six from Warner Bros.' British operation; it's these that TCM is showing tomorrow.

The morning kicks off at 6:00 AM with Something Always Happens. Ian Hunter, who would later go on to play in Warner Bros.' Hollywood production of A Midsummer Night's Dream a year after this and then play King Richard in The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938, plays a down-on-his-luck salesman who, along with a kid he's gotten custody of, comes up with an idea to turn a chain of petrol stations into full-service rest areas of the sort you'd see on American Interstate highways. He meets a woman (Nancy O'Neil), not knowing she's actually rich, and pitches the idea to her father, not knowing that he is her father. Dad refuses, so Hunter goes to a competitor, who likes the idea. To complicate matters, Hunter hires O'Neil, who is kind of working for the competition and kind of being a double agent. The movie starts off slowly, but once Hunter starts pitching the idea for the rest areas, the movie really picks up, and zips along for the remainder of its 70 minutes. More interesting, the movie was directed by Michael Powell, a few years before he woulc go on to critical acclaim for The Edge of the World. (Powell apparently hated having to do these "quota quickies".)

Powell also directed Crown vs. Stevens, which will be airing at 10:00 AM. Patric Knowles (later Will Scarlett in The Adventures of Robin Hood) plays a man who gets involved with a loan shark to pay for a ring he bought for his would-be fiancée. This leads him to find his miserly boss' wife is also in hock to the loan shark, and is willing to kill not only him, but other men as well! Another one with a short running time, but a lot of fun twists and turns.

In between the two is the well-made police procedrual Crime Unlimited at 7:15 AM, follwed at 8:30 AM by Man of the Moment, with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. having to choose between his society girlfriend and a young woman he saves from drowning.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Robert Osborne's return

The New York Post reported the other day that Robert Osborne's time off from hosting is coming to an end. He'll be returning on October 1, although he won't be hosting quite as much as he used to: Ben Mankiewicz is going to be taking over on Fridays, as well as doing some of the prime time hosting on weekends as well.

Over on the TCM boards, there are some who seem to be taking an almost conspiratorial view of this. But really: Osborne is 80 years old, and has to commute from New York to Atlanta one week a month to fulfill his hosting duties. I don't know the exact details of how TCM does it, but it would make sense on each taping day to do three nights' worth of intros, followed by a break, and then three more night's worth of intros, which over five days would get the 30 nights needed for a month (the 31st night is the Guest Programmer, recorded separately). As a fan of game shows, I know that for decades, when there were still games shows on in network daytime, the shows would tape an entire week's worth of episodes on one day, with the break in the middle in order to keep the union crews from working too long in one session and getting overtime. A lof of that has changed since the debut of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, with a lot of the primetime gameshows having interminably long taping sessions as they tried ot get everything just right. (I'm going on an off-topic rant, although it's slightly relevant to Osborne in that he'd be more likely than the old-time game show hosts to have to do multiple takes if he's having difficulties with his lines. If you watch the 1980s-era Pyramid episodes on GSN, you'll see a lot of mistakes from Dick Clark that got left in because it was cheaper to do that than correct everything either with a second take or in post-production.) So if Osborne takes one week off, he won't be seen on TV for an entire month. Have him on air the equivalent of five nights a week, and you can either make each taping day shorter, or have him taping for only four days.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Label updates

I noticed that today is Walter Pidgeon's birthday. In fact, I did a post on Walter Pidgeon's birthday back in 2008. However, I also noticed that there were a couple of his movies that, while I had blogged about them, I hadn't included his name in the labels that appear at the bottom of the posts.

So, I've spent a little time this morning doing some administrative work, adding labels to posts. Not too many; to get every label that is really appropriate would take too much time so this is going to have to be an ongoing process. That, and the new Blogger interface can be problematic.

One label I notice that I hadn't had before is Dick Powell, so I've added that one.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Another mystery solved, and a short

It turns out that Easy to Love, which I mentioned today, is not a film that I had seen before. At least, I'm pretty certain I've never seen it. That having been said, I'm still not certain which other movie with a similar plot I was thinking about in that post. I'm sure it will show up on TCM eventually, whatever it is. I know it's on TVM that I saw it the first time.

TCM is showing Andy Hardy's Dilemma tomorrow morning at about 7:40 AM, just after Andy Hardy's Double Life. Andy Hardy (Mickey Rooney, of course) got more than enough life lessons from his judge father (still played by Lewis Stone), so why MGM felt they needed to give us another Andy Hardy lesson in two-reel form is beyond me. Andy wants to borrow some money from Dad to buy a new (to him) used car, but Dad decides to show Andy that there are people out there much needier than he is. The tone, however, is much less light-hearted than in the feature films, which makes this film come across as a bit off. However, it's also an intereting vintage look at charity as it was back in 1940 or so.

Friday, September 21, 2012

A couple of mysteries

The mystery of the TCM scheduling of last night's Mack Sennett movies was obviously solved last night. It turned out that wile TCM and IMDb both claimed Mickey runs just over 90 minutes, the print TCM aired was only about 76 minutes. That's one mystery solved, although I suppose there's another mystery over what happened to the other 15 minutes (or whether the movie ever did run to 90 minutes). I watched the first few minutes of Hearts and Flowers, and was very favorably impressed by the print. I didn't stay to see if the MGM short that I mentioned yestarday also aired, although TCM would have had just enough time for that to run and finish up just before 10:00 PM.

TCM is putting the spotlight on Adolphe Menjou tonight. The first movie, at 8:00 PM, is Easy to Love. The plot sounds rather familiar, but I'm not certain whether I've actually seen it before. Menjou plays a wealthy man married to Genevieve Tobin. She begins to suspect that he's having an affair with her best friend (Mary Astor), so she decides to get back at him by pretending to have an affair with his best friend (Edward Everett Horton). Complicating matters is the fact that while Aster doesn't really love Horton, he's in love with her. That, and the adults aren't role modelling good behavior for their 20-something children. There were a lot of movies in the pre-Cdoe era with simliarly convoluted plots, and I have a feeling I'm mixing this one up with another one. I distinctly seem to recall one with domestic violence treated almost humorously -- the opening scene is of a bridge game or something where the main couple nearly comes to blows -- but for the life of me I can't remember which movie that was.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

More schedule madness

TCM is showing two more Mack Sennett films tonight between 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM: Mickey, and Hearts and Flowers. When is each of these movies airing? Well, that's a bit of a mystery.

TCM's database as well as the IMDb seem to be in agreement that Mickey runs a little more than 90 minutes, while Hearts and Flowers runs a little more than 20 minutes. That's about all the agreement there is, however. TCM's printed monthly schedule, which I downloaded at the beginning of the month, has Hearts and Flowers first, followed by Mickey. (Interestingly, the printable schedule doesn't list a running time for Hearts and Flowers; it's only online where you can find that it's 21 minutes.) The two films together should come to about 113-115 minutes, which when you add Ben Mankiewicz's intro and outro should just fit into that two hour slot. However, TCM's online schedule claims that there's going to be a 16-minute short at 9:42 PM, called Gems of MGM! I don't think there's any way all three can fit into that two hour slot.

IMDb, my satellite box guide, and the online listings site I checked give a different story. I've pointed out before that there is a limited number of providers giving this information to the various listing service, and I believe all three of the sites I listed above are getting their listings from the same ultimate source. They've got Mickey first. But they've only got it running from 8:00 to 9:00. That's followed by Hearts and Flowers from 9:00 to 10:00 PM. It's possible they've got the running order correct -- I think that they had the correct running order in previous weeks. However, it seems fairly certain that they've got the wrong running times.

The upshot is that if you want to catch these movies, you're going to have to watch as they air, or else DVR the entire two-hour block. Although I haven't checked the rest of the schedule for tonight, I would guess that the same holds true there.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

La ciociara

You probably wouldn't recognize the title La ciociara, unless you happen to speak Italian. The movie was relased in the United States with the title Two Women. It's airing tomorrow morning at 7:15 AM on TCM.

Sophia Loren stars as Cesira, a widow with a teenaged daughter who is scraping out a living in Rome during World War II. The Allies are advancing, and Cesira, having no idea that the Allies were more or less going to bypass Rome on their way through Italy, decided that the best thing for her daughter would be to flee back to her home town in the countryside. Life may not be much more prosperous there, but at least it's likely to be safer. And it is safer, at least for a while. Cesira meets Michele (Jean-Paul Belmondo), an intellectual who is doing everything he can to sit out the war. Cesira takes a shining to him, but unfortunately so does her daughter Rosetta, although it seems fairly clear that Michele would never end up with Rosetta.

As I said, village life was safer for a while -- but only a while. There's still a war on, and the Allies have taken Rome and are advancing on places like Cesria's home village. The Nazis are retreating, and on their retreat wind up in Cesira's town, expecting the villagers to help them because the Nazis have guns and can do terrible things to the villagers if they don't help. Specifically, they want Michele to show them the way to get back to the rest of the Nazi lines and bypass the Allies. Cesira decides once again that becoming a refugee is the least bad option, and heads with her daughter back to Rome. What happens next is, well... something I don't think I should mention.

Sophia Loren gives an outstanding performance in Two Women, and well deserved the Academy Award she won for it. If anything, she completely takes over the movie to the point that we don't particularly care about the plot, which is really rather threadbare. Cesira lives one place for a while, then lives another place, then heads back to the first place, and it's only toward the end that something happens that makes us take notice. The whole Nazis being in the area thing seems almost like a Macguffin serving as a backdroup for a slice-of-life story into the life of a widow with an adolescent daughter. It's not a perfect movie, but Loren is so good that she spectacularly covers up all the imperfections.

Two Women has made it to a bunch of low-budget DVD releases; I don't know about the print quality of any of those DVDs, however.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

They Made Me a Criminal

I've mentioned the film They Made Me a Criminal, on several occasions, but I don't think I've ever done a full-length post on the film. It's airing tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM as part of a day of films starring John Garfield, so now is finally a good time for that full-length post.

Garfield plays Johnny, a boxer living in New York City who is fairly successful, but also living a bit of a lie. He talks about his devotion to his mother, but he doesn't really have a mother and likes to party with the ladies, especially girlfriend Ann Sheridan. A reporter discovers this and when he threatens to write a scathing exposé on Johnny, Johnny's manager hits the reporter over the head with a liquor bottle: Johnny by this time is too drunk to know what's going on. Johnny's manager isn't such a good guy; not only having committed murder, he robs Johnny by taking Johnny's watch. But since this movie was made under the Production Code, we know he's going to get it, which he and Sheridan do when the car the manager is driving crashes, burning both of them to a crisp. Because the manager has Johnny's watch, the police naturally assume Johnny's dead.

All of this is obviously a problem for Johnny. Even worse for him is that, when he goes to his lawyer for some legal advice, the lawyer swindles Johnny out of his life savings. Johnny is reduced to becoming a hobo, trying to make his way across the country doing menial labor. Eventually he winds up on a fruit farm run by tough Granny (May Robson), working it with the young lady Peggy (Gloria Dickson) and several ragamuffins, one of whom is Peggy's kid brother (these young men are played by the Dead End Kids). Granny and Peggy are kind of suspicious of Johnny, but the relationship between all of them seems to work reasonably well. There are things Johnny can do that the women can't, and he needs a place to stay. Besudes, he's kind of falling for Peggy.

Ah, but you know this can't last. New York Police Detective Phelan (Claude Rains) is on the case, certain that it wasn't Johnny who died in the car crash. And he is determined to get to the bottom of what really happened. Eventually, their paths are going to cross: one of the Dead End Kids gets the bright idea that the farm could bring in more money if they had a working service station, but they need the captial for it. Johnny could get the capital by taking part in a boxing promotion, but that would bring him publicity which he doesn't want. You know too that Det. Phelan is going to find out about any such boxing match....

They Made Me a Criminal is one of John Garfield's earliest movies, and you can see already how good he is at playing men who have had tough lives, or who are generally tough, without getting to the level of nastiness that Lee Marvin would portray in the 1950s. This role fits him like a hand in a glove, as clichéd as that may sound. Claude Rains, on the other hand, has a role that in theory doesn't fit him: there's no way somebody so elegantly British should be a New York police detective. Yet Rains takes what he's given and gives a very entertaining performance. (Then again, he'd already had experience with being a thoroughly-miscast American in They Won't Forget.) May Robson is as tough-as-nails but endearing as she wan all her old lady roles. The Dead End Kids also add value, as they're not overused. It was still some time before they'd be given a movie series of their own, where their low-brow humor and dumb scripts could doom a B movie. They get one particularly good scene when they and Johnny decide to go for an illicit swim in a water tank, only for the farmer who owns the tank to turn on the tap, causing the water slowly to drain from the tank and threatening to strand them.

They Made Me a Criminal has gotten a DVD release, and not an expensive release from the Warner Archive collection.

The farmer's daughter

Of the movies airing for Greta Garbo's birthday, the one that I'd really recommend is Susan Lenox: Her Fall and Rise, airing at 1:15 PM.

Garbo, unsurprisingly, plays Lenox, although at the start of the movie she's playing a young woman named Ohlin. She's the illegitimate daughter of farmer Jean Hersholt, who has decided to marry her off to another Swedish immigrant farmer, played by Alan Hale (Sr.; the Skipper from Gilligan's Island would have been much too young to play this role). So she runs off, winding up in a cabin being rented by Rodney (Clark Gable, in the only movie he made with Garbo). The two fall in love, but she can't stay there forever. So she runs off with the circus, more or less with an agreement that she's got her job because she's sleeping with the circus manager (John Miljan). With her named now changed to the Susan Lenox of the title, she meets Rodney again, only for him to be disgusted by the way she's making her way through life. What's a girl to do? Keep sleeping her way to the top, only to have the one man she truly loves keep being repulsed by it. Eventually, she gets some sense in her head, and decides she's going to run off to Latin America to be wirh Rodney!

Susan Lenox is pure melodrama, of the sort that was popular in pre-Code movies. In fact, it was based on a book written about a quarter-century earlier. Why is Garbo's character being so dumb? I mean, in the opening you can understand why she's running away, and why she has to run away from Gable's character even though she doesn't want to, but once she starts meeting him again you'd think she'd tell him the full truth of her life and that he'd respect her. And isn't it just amazing that these characters just magically seem to run into each other over and over? I suppose the idea of pairing Gable with Garbo is interesting, but Garbo's not one of my favorites and neither actor was helped by a not very good script.

TCM's schedule page claims that Susan Lenox is not available on DVD, but Amazon says that they're selling a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive. This is one you might want to record and watch before deciding whether to spend the money on the DVD.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Before Greta Garbo

TCM is marking Greta Garbo's birthday tomorrow with several of her movies, as well as a pair of documentaries. The first of the documentaries, The Divine Greta Garbo, kicks off the day at 6:30 PM, while the second, Garbo, wraps things up at 6:15 PM. I don't think I've seen either documentary, so I have no idea how much of the material in the first one will be covered again in the latter documentary.

TCM is also showing a number of shorts to fill out the time, including the 1925 Studio Tour, which I see I've already mentioned twice before. That alone is worth the price of having to put up with a day of Garbo's movies (she not being my favorite by a long shot); it shows up just after 12:30 PM. Note, however, that you will not see Garbo here. In fact, Garbo had not yet made it to MGM in 1925; her first American film wouldn't be released until the beginning of the next year. (I suppose at the time MGM was filming the studio tour, Garbo could already have arrived in America; I couldn't find precise information on when the studio tour was recorded. At any rate, Garbo isn't listed in the IMDb credits.)

Jimmy Stewart, or a child?

TCM is running "Bob's Picks" tonight, even though as far as I know Ben Mankiewicz is going to be presenting them. One that's quite good despite being a "little" picture is The Window, which comes on overnight at 1:45 AM.

The scene is the tenements of New York City during one incredibly hot summer. Young Bobby Driscoll stars as Tommy, a kid who has a penchant for lying, so much so that it's caused problems for people around him, especially his parents (Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy). In fact, Dad is so sick of Tommy's lying that he'd be willing to keep the kid in his room without his supper until Tommy starts telling the truth.

This being a hot summer, and being the era before air conditioning became commonplace, the tenements heat up like an oven, so Tommy asks his parents if he can take his mattress out to the fire escape and sleep on the fire escape. The parents relent, and Tommy goes out on the fire escape, where he also decides to play peeping Tom, heading up one flight of stairs and looking through the window into the apartment above. What he sees shocks him: the couple in the apartment (Ruth Roman and Paul Kelly) have taken advantage of a drunken serviceman, and in trying to get his money off of him they strangle the poor guy!

You can figure out the next part of the plot. Tommy, having seen the murder and being horrified by it (and having to beat a hasty retreat when the murderers try to take the body down the fire escape -- at least he's not trapped in a wheelchair with a broken leg and his camera), decides to tell his parents that he saw a murder. But because he's been a constant liar, there's no way his parents are going to believe him; not only that, but his telling them about the murder is going to make them even angrier: after all, haven't they told him a million times to stop lying? Once again, it's off to the bedroom for poor Tommy

Tommy tries to make things better in what is really a reasonable way: he runs off via the fire escape to go to the police station and tell them that he's seen a murder, which we viewers know is the truth since we've seen it too. The police have to investigate, but the evidence is gone, and with Tommy's reputation preceding him, it's easy to presume that Tommy is just crying "Wolf!" one more time. This one is particularly embarrassing for Tommy's parents, as the police have brought Tommy and his mother upstairs to have Tommy apologize to the couple.

As you can imagine, this also causes another problem. Our not-so-nice couple upstairs, whom we know to be cold-blooded murderers, are now aware that they've got a witness to the murder they committed, even if nobody actually believes the witness! What are murderers to do? They have to come up with something plausible, and are helped by the fact Tommy's parents have both had to go away for the night, leaving Tommy all alone for a night (something that wasn't terribly rare in the late 1940s, even though today's helicopter parents would be shocked by it). Roman and Stewart decide to force Tommy to fake a note saying he's run away, which would give them the pretense needed to kidnap him and presumably kill poor Tommy. Tommy's going to have to be resourceful if he wants to save his life....

The Window is quite the little movie. In fact, about the only problem it has is down to the Production Code: you know that murderers can't get away with it in a movie from that era; this makes the movie in part an exercise in seeing just how the murderers get what's coming to them. Still, Driscoll does an excellent job as the kid nobody will believe (and deservedly so), and Stewart is quite good as the murderer who needs to be cold-blooded.

The Window has received a DVD release through the Warner Archive, which is as usual a double-edged sword: it's good that it's finally available on DVD, but a shame that it's so pricey.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Woman's World redux

I blogged about Woman's World back in May 2010, and mentioned then that it's not available on DVD. I'd think it's a good candidate to get included in Fox's MOD program. But as far as I can tell, it doesn't seem to have gotten one yet. (For that matter, does anybody know a good source to find which Fox films have made it to their MOD program?)

It's getting another airing on what's left of the Fox Movie Channel, however; tomorrow at 6:00 AM. (There will be another airing late in October.) So, if you want to see it, and have FMC, you will at least have a chance to catch it.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Two more shorts

Coming up tonight at about 9:40 PM, or just after Sunrise, is Between the Acts at the Opera This is a 1926 short from Vitaphone, which of course means that despite the early date, it's not a silent movie. 1926 is the year that Don Juan was released, generally considered the first feature film with a synchronized score and sound effects, although it has no spoken dialogue. Along with the release of Don Juan, Warner Bros. released a number of Vitaphone one-reelers. There's one of Will Hays speaking about sound film, one of classical violinist Efrem Zimbalist Sr., and one of some then-famous opera singer doing a number from I Pagliacci. When I saw the title of tonight's short I figured it might be the Pagliacci short, but that's not the case. Instead, it's a recording of a vaudeville number starring the Howard Brothers (who, as far as I know are no relation to the Three Stooges' Howard). The Howards were apparently famous back in the day, but one of the many many entertainers who have since become forgotten thanks to the advent of sound film. The IMDb reviews claim this isn't any great shakes, but it's still an interesting historical document.

Tomorrow morning around 7:40 AM, after The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, TCM is showing Lest We Forget. This one is a one-reel salute to actor/wit Will Rogers, who had died about a year earlier in a plane crash in Alaska. Several actors who knew Rogers, notably Gary Cooper, speak about him, and there are a couple of clips from Rogers' movies. The short ends with Robert Taylor asking moviegoers to donate to the Will Rogers Memorial Fund, which is still a going concern.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Wasp Woman

I've suggested before that there are a lot of science fiction/horror movies from the 1950s and 1960s that really aren't particularly good, but oh boy are they a lot of fun. The latest example of this to show up on TCM is The Wasp Woman, which is airing overnight tonight (or very early tomorrow morning, depending on our point of view) at 3:30 AM.

Susan Cabot stars as Janice Starlin, the head of a cosmetics concern. Unfortunately, business is beginning to take a turn for the worse. That's because the Starlin company has been built upon Janice using herself to advertise their cosmeitcs, and time marches on. Janice isn't getting any younger, and sooner or later, no cosmetics are going to make a 40-year-old look 20.

Or maybe there is. Dr. Zinthrop (Michael Mark) has been working on a rejuvenating substance based on royal jelly, a substance normally used to feed queen bees. Apparently, the good doctor has gotten some favorable results with his animal experiments, and Starlin is unsurprisingly interested in the experiments. In fact, she's more than willing to experiment upon herself!

So, Janice injects herself with the royal jelly, and it seems to make her look younger too. The doctor is continuing his animal experiments, though, and discovers that there are unfortunate side effects with his injections. Before he can warn Janice, however, he gets run over by a car....

Strange things start happening at the company headquarters, and people start mysteriously disappearing. You can probably guess what those things are, but if not, don't worry; the movie will get to it quickly -- it doesn't run much more than an hour.

As I said at the beginning, The Wasp Woman is the sort of movie that will probably have you howling in laughter because parts of it are so screwed up they're funny. Don't worry about the acting; don't worry about the plot which has no basis in reality; and don't worry about the special effects. Just sit back and enjoy.

Just like many other of these not-very-good scifi movies, The Wasp Woman has made its way onto several cheapo DVDs and boxsets.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another night of Mack Sennett

As I mentioned last week, the exact time that verious Mack Sennett shorts will be airing on Thursday nights is a bit of a problem. TCM's online schedule is listing every one of tonight's shorts as having a 10-minute run time, which IMDb disagrees with. That, and it would cause severe scheduling problems. TCM lists four shorts as airing between 8:00 PM and 9:30 PM, which would mean there's a good 45 minutes for which TCM isn't accounting. IMDb doesn't list a run time for the first three, but the last, Court House Crooks is listed as 22 minutes.

The one I'd really like to see is Teddy at the Throttle, which comes sometime after 2:00 AM. It stars an 18-year-old Gloria Swanson, with support from Wallace Beery.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bad Boy

I should have blogged about Bad Boy last night. It's airing at 1:45 PM today on TCM, and it's not available on DVD. It's also well worth a viewing.

Bad Boy is the first starring role for Audie Murphy. Here, he plays the young Danny, who at the beginning of the film is working as a bellboy in a Texas hotel, trying to evade the authorities because he's got a long string of petty crimes he's committed. Indeed, he's still involved in a life of crime, as he and some friends try to rob a craps game going on at the hotel. This time, Danny is arrested, and sent before that old Hollywood trope, a sympathetic judge (Selena Royle). She gives Danny a second chance: go to the Variety Club Boys ranch or go to jail. Obviously, Danny picks the ranch, figuring he can be a smooth operator and break out of the ranch.

To that end, Danny begins working on the ranch owner, Marshall Brown (played by Lloyd Nolan) and his wife Maud (Jane Wyatt) almost as soon as he gets there, with the intent that it all be a ruse. Danny doesn't even want to get close to the other boys. The other boys, for their part, seem mostly willing to make fun of Danny if he's not going to get with the program. Marshall, of course, has other ideas. He believes all these boys can be reformed, by having them work the ranch and give them whatever education they missed as well as the chance to learn a trade. Danny's a tougher nut, but Marshall is convinced that there has to be something that caused Danny to run away from home and take up a life of crime.

Of course, there's something, and it's fairly traumatic. Danny's father died when he was very young, and Mom remarried a man (Rhys Williams) who had an older daughter (Martha Vickes). Needless to say, neither of them is too sympathetic toward Danny. Stepdad is, I suppose you could say, the 1940s version of Dr. Phil: a pop psychologist who's taken his show out of the doctor's office (he does radio and the carnival circuit; TV of course not being much around at the time) to become the sort of man you can't help but wonder whether he's on the level or whether he's more in it for the money. Stepdad thinks Danny is kind of weak (reminiscent of the Bobby Darin character in Pressure Point), and also might have been responsible for his mother's death. (In the stepfamily's defense, Mom died after Danny helpfully tried to give her some medicine that he probably shouldn't have.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Danny is still intent on breaking out, and his activities have gotten to the point that the police are really taking notice, which could be curtains for Danny, as he'd be forced to go to prison, which would obviously be much worse than the ranch. Will the police catch Danny? Or will Marshall finally be able to get to the bottom of Danny's psychological trauma and intercede on Danny's behalf before the court?

Audie Murphy is pretty good in an early role. He's no Jack Carson in the unctuous user department, but he's also a better straight-up crook than Carson could be, and I don't think Carson would have done well in any sort of horse opera. Lloyd Nolan seems to have played quite a lot of sympathetic types, and he does that very well here. Also of note is James Gleason as the ranch foreman. Bad Boy isn't a prestige movie, having been made by low-budget Allied Artists, but for what it is, it's very well made. It's too bad that, having been made at Allied Artists, it's probably less likely to receive a DVD release.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Maid's Night Out

Who ever knew Joan Fontaine sould do screwball comedy? Well, some would probably say that Fontaine couldn't do it very well. You get a chance to judge for yourself when TCM shows Maid's Night Out at 2:00 PM today.

Fontaine plays Sheila, the daughter of a family who, thanks to the ongoing Depression, are less well-off financially than they used to be. Her family is hoping that she can marry a nice, wealthy (with a decided preference for wealthy) young man like Wally. But, into her life walks Bill (Allan Lane). Bill is the milkman, but he's not really a milkman. He's the son of the dairy company's owner, who thinks that Bill is irresponsible, largely because Bill wants to study tropical fish in their native environment. But Dad makes an agreement with Bill, that if Bill can show responsibility by working at the bottom rung of the ladder in Dad's company, then Dad will let him use the family yacht to go to the tropics. So that's how our wealthy young man comes into Sheila's life as a milkman. The thing is, however, because of the hard times Sheila's family is facing, Bill thinks she's the maid. It would be a huge problem for Bill if he tried to romance a maid -- there's that responsibility thing that Dad keeps talking about. And Sheila's parents certainly don't want her to go out with the milkman. So, the usual predictable complications ensue.

Maid's Night Out was made at a time relatively early in Fontaine's career when she hadn't yet become a star: Rebecca was still two years in the future. So, Fontaine was doing B movies at RKO, and Maid's Night Out is decidedly a B movie. The situations are predictable, and you know there's going to be a happy ending. So, it's a bit difficult to determine how much of any criticism this movie might receive is down to a plot we've seen twenty times or more already, and how much of it is due to a cast of people who, other than Fontaine, were all supporting players. (Watch for the part of Bill's cousin. That's played by an actress with the stage name of Vicki Lester. Yes, that's actually the name she took.) This is the sort of film that didn't get the high-class treatment. That having been said, though, while Maid's Night Out is piffle, it's decidedly entertaining piffle. Fontaine makes the best of a subpar plot and gives us a movie which is zany even though it really strains credulity. Then again, it is a screwball comedy. And it's only about 70 minutes, so if you don't particularly like it, you haven't wasted too much time.

Maid's Night Out has yet to receive a DVD release from the Warner Archive, so you're going to have to watch the rare TCM showing.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Jack Cole

TCM's programming theme for tonight is "Choreography by Jack Cole". Now, as you can guess from having a choreographer, tonight's lineup is a bunch of movies with musical numbers. I've stated before that musicals aren't my favorite genre; in fact, I just mentioned that within the past week. And yet, it doesn't bother me that TCM is putting the spotlight on Cole tonight.

The thing is, if TCM didn't do this, who would? Sure, there are film societies around the country, but those have a limited reach. And as I think I've stated before, no programmer can be all things to all people at all times. They're going to come up with some programming themes that I really like, and some that aren't particularly up my alley. And so it is with tonight's lineup. TCM is showing five films in their Cole tribute:

Tonight and Every Night at 8:00 PM, with Rita Hayworth in Technicolor as the headliner at a London theater determined to keep running during the World War II Nazi air raids;
On the Riviera at 10:00 PM, starring Gene Tierney who kept possession of the portrait from Laura, which we see in Technicolor here;
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes at 11:45 PM, with delightful performances from Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell;
Les Girls at 1:30 AM; and
River of No Return at 3:30 AM, which isn't quite a musical, although Marilyn Monroe does do a number or two.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Jane Greer, 1924-2001

Kirk Douglas and Jane Greer in Out of the Past (1947)

Today marks the birth anniversary of actress Jane Greer. Greer played The Girl opposite Robert Mitchum in a couple of RKO noirs, such as Out of the Past, from which the above photo is taken. In that movie, Greer is actually Kirk Douglas' girl (which is why it's Douglas with Greer in the photo), who runs out on him at which point Douglas calls in Mitchum to find her. Greer eventually convinces Mitchum to try to double-cross Douglas, which you know isn't going to work out for anybody. I'm a bit surprised to see I haven't done a full-length post on Out of the Past before; the Greer/Mitchum movie I have blogged about is The Big Steal.

Other of Greer's movies I've blogged about are the service comedy You're in the Navy Now, in which Greer plays the wife of Gary Cooper, who has the unenviable task of trying to captain a steam-powered vessel in World War II. There's also They Won't Believe Me, in which Greer has an illicit romance with Robert Young.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Song of a Nation again

Back in August 2011, I mentioned a short called The Song of a Nation, about the events that led Francis Scott Key to write the poem "The Star-Spangled Banner". (The music is from an old English drinking song.) It looks to be on the schedule again tonight, overnight at about 3:25 AM.

I say "looks like" because TCM's schedule lists The Song of a Nation as being made in 1947. In fact, the Technicolor short under discussion was released in 1936, and IMDb doesn't come up with any other matches for The Song of a Nation. The reason for the discrepancy is most likely due to the fact that, according to IMDb, The Song of a Nation got a re-release in 1947.

I said last year that The Song of a Nation wasn't available on DVD and doesn't even show up in a Youtube search. One year on, and that still holds. A search in the TCM Media Room doesn't yield any hits either, so you're going to have to catch this on TCM.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Steve McQueen does comedy!

You probably wouldn't think of Steve McQueen when you think of comedy. Yet McQueen did make one comedy during his film career. That movie, The Honeymoon Machine, shows up tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM on TCM.

McQueen stars as Lt. Fergie Howard, who serves on board a US Navy ship which is currently docked in Venice, Italy. The ship is carrying a computer (one of those massive early 1960s-style computers) which is part of a top secret project, the computer being run by tech whiz Jason Eldridge (Jim Hutton). Together, the two of them get a brilliant idea. There's a grand casino in Venice, and they could use the computer to analyze the spins of the computer's roulette wheel, figuring out the pattern and then predicting the outcome of future spins, which would allow them to break the bank!

It's a ludicrous plan that would have no chance of succeeding in real life, but this is a Hollywood movie, so you'll have to put up with a little unreality. Fergie sets himself up in a hotel room from which he has a view of the ship, which is important because this way he can send back the data without anybody suspecting where that data is going. Except, of course, that somebody spots there are communications going from the hotel to the ship, and brings this to the attention of Admiral Fitch (Dean Jagger), who just happens to be billeted in the hotel room above Fergie's. The admiral, unsurpisingly, thinks his top secret program is being compromised, and wants to get to the bottom of this. Complicating matters is that Fergie has met the admiral's daughter (Brigid Bazlen), and the two have begun to fall in love with each other.

And if that's not complicated enough, it's about to get worse for our plotters. Jason comes ashore where he meets the ambassador's fiancée. She's played by Paula Prentiss, and you know that in a movie with Jim Hutton and Paula Prentiss, those two are going to have a thing for each other. Never mind the possibility that it could cause a serious incident. Meanwhile, are Fergie and Jason going to be found out? Are they going to be able to carry out their plan to try to break the bank?

Hutton and Prentiss do a fine job as they always did when they were paired. Steve McQueen, on the other hand, is a surprise doing comedy. The Honeymoon Machine is the sort of comedy of lies I've suggested in the past that I'm generally not a fan of: the comedy starts off with a little lie, and then the characters have to pile bigger lie on top of bigger lie to keep the original lie from coming to light. But there's really room for all sorts of comedy here: the sort of mild sex comedy that was seen in a lot of early 1960s movies, as well as some physical comedy when a character gets stuck on a hotel ledge.

The Honeymoon Machine is nothing groundbreaking, but it's pleasant enough stuff. It's also fun to watch Steve McQueen doing comedy, which alone makes it worth the watch.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Mack Sennett schedule heads-up

TCM is running a salute to producer Mack Sennett every Thursday in prime time in September. The promo that TCM has been running says TCM is showing something like 87 films, many of them premieres. The reason TCM is able to run so many films is because most of them are shorts. Sennett did, after all, start his career in the days before people even made feature films in the modern sense of the term feature film.

This does present some problems with TCM's scheduling. Traditionally, the features all begin on an exact quarter-hour; that is, at either :00, :15, :30, or :45 minutes after the hour. When they're showing a bunch of shorts, that's a bit difficult to do. Instead, TCM is running something like five shorts in the first hour, all of which are listed on the schedule as "8:00 PM". That's followed by a lot more shorts with a 9:00 PM list time, and several more at 11:00 PM. The one film with a clear start time should be Tillie's Punctured Romance, overnight at 12:45 AM. I think this was the first feature-length comedy ever made, with a listed running time of 72 minutes, before the next set of shorts begins at 2:00 AM.

In theory, it ought to be possible to look at the running length of each of the shorts and figure out when they're airing. However, TCM's schedule page and IMDb list a different running order for the shorts! (I'd guess we should trust TCM here.) I think some of the shorts are even listed with different running times. Go figure. I'm interested in seeing some of the Keystone Kops shorts, since I don't think I've actually seen any of them before. There's one, Bangville Police, listed in the 9:00 PM block, but I don't know precisely what time it will be beginning.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Star of the Month: Lauren Bacall

Today is the first of four Wednesday nights in September featuring Lauren Bacall as TCM's Star of the Month. To be hnoest, though, she's not really the star of tonight's lineup. That would be her husband, Humphrey Bogart. Now, I've already discussed how I don't get the legendary status of their relationship, so I just note that tonight's lineup consists of the four movies Bogart and Bacall made together, in the order in which they were made:

To Have and Have Not kicks the night off at 8:00 PM;
The Big Sleep, an overrated convoluted mystery, follows at 10:00 PM;
Dark Passage, in which Bogart gets plastic surgery that turns his face into -- Humphrey Bogart's! -- comes on at midnight; and
Key Largo concludes Bacall's night at 2:00 PM.

As proof that this is really Bogart's night and not Bacall's, what follows Key Largo is two documentaries on Bogart. The first, Bacall on Bogart, can be seen at 4:00 AM, followed by their son Stephen narrating Bogart: The Untold Story at 5:30 AM.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Pressure Point

Back on Saturday, I mentioned the movie The Cobweb would be airing tomorrow morning. In fact, it's part of a day of movies set in mental institutions. The first of the day's movies is the interesting, if disturbing Pressure Point, at 6:00 AM.

The movie starts in the office of Sidney Poitier, who is the (unnamed; none of the characters seems to have a name) chief psychologist at a mental institution. Into his office walks Peter Falk, who is early in his career as a psychologist, working under Poitier's direction. Poitier has given him a particularly difficult case, and Falk is none too happy about it. It's emotionally taxing, and frankly, Falk doesn't know if he can help the patient. So Poitier decides to tell Falk about a case he had that he thought, just like Falk, he wouldn't be able to help the patient.

Flash back 15 or 20 years. Poitier is a young psychologist working in a prison, and he's been given the case of prisoner Bobby Darin, who can't sleep well and seems to be having nightmares that make him paranoid. The case itself will prove itself to be disturbing, but there's a bigger problem. Darin is a Nazi sympathizer, and fancies himself as a member of the master race, with a black guy like Poitier being clearly inferior and not worth working with. But there's no way Darin is going to win parole if he doesn't work with the psychologist, so the two form an uneasy relationship.

Darin's problems, as I mentioned are kind of disturbing. He was a sensitive child, in part because of the way his mother treated him. Dad, meanwhile, was a butcher, and the boy couldn't stand the sight of blood. Mom, meanwhile, was physically week, but psychologically controlling, and made the son take care of her to the point that he really resented it. So when the time came to become more adult (which in the movie is during the Depression), he ran away from home. Not having any way good way to make his way in the world, he resorted to the only thing that seemed to work: fall in with the physcially powerful, and use the threat of force to intimidate people. The Nazis were good at that sort of thing.

But there are those dreams reminding Darin of his past. Those are the most disturbing part, reminiscent of Gregory Peck's dream sequence in Spellbound gone horribly wrong. The acting is also quite good. You'd expect it from Poitier, but Darin was originally a singer, and it's a revelation to see that he could actually act.

Pressure Point is a movie that's uncomfortable at times, but one that's well worth watching.

TCM Guest Programmer: Regis Philbin

Is that your final movie?Maybe I haven't been watching enough TCM lately, but I haven't seen any promos for this month's TCM Guest Programmer yet. That Guest Programmer is Regis Philbin, who was the long-time host of Live With Regis and [Cohost] (there were different cohosts at different times), and the not-so-long-time host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?; it's already been a decade since Meredith Vieira took over. Philbin shows up with TCM host Robert Osborne tonight to present four of his favorite movies. Those four are:

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House at 8:00 PM;
High Society, a remake of The Philadelphia Story, at 10:00 PM;
Somebody Up There Likes Me, the story of boxer Rocky Graziano, at midnight; and
Gunga Din at 2:00 AM.

Just after Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, at about 9:40 PM, TCM will be showing the Joe McDoakes short So You Want to Build a House, which is good for a few laughs.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Computer scheduling

I'm on three days from now!So I was looking at TCM's online schedule today to see if there would be any interesting shorts. What do I see on the TCM page? A Summer Under the Stars ad for James Caan's day in Summer Under the Stars! Now, I already wrote about these ads at the beginning of last month, but the bigger point is that Summer Under the Stars is very much over at this point.

I don't know if the ad placement on TCM's website is handled in house or whether all of the ad placement on the sites in the Time/Warner conglomerate that owns TCM are handled in one central location. (The ad in question links to "" followed by a long string that doesn't yield much obviously pertinent information.) But you'd think that somebody would have figured out that these ads were going to be out of date after August 31.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Telluride Tribute

Tomorrow being Labor Day, it's TCM's annual salute to the Telluride Film Festival. (For some reason, I keep thinking they're honoring the Sundance Film Festival. They've got their own channel, though.)

One interesting bit of programming is the short documentary Chuck Jones: Memories of Childhood, which is airing at 10:15 AM. This originally premiered on TCM back in 2009, and consists largely of material from interviews with the famous animator recorded near the end of his life (Jones died in 2002). TCM is presumably showing this to honor Jones because they can't get the rest of his animationjust now -- sister channel Boomerang and the Cartoon Network have the rights to the animated stuff from Warner Bros., which is where Jones spent a major portion of his career; and MGM, where Jones directed the Tom and Jerry shorts in the 1960s. If you catch any of the 1960s Tom and Jerry shorts on Boomerang you'll see that they have an obviously very different look from the 1940s stuff.

The only Jones animation that TCM seems to have been able to get the rights to is The Dot and the Line, which is airing at 10:45 AM.

Hal David, 1921-2012

Lyricist Hal David, who wrote a whole lot of famous songs together with composer Burt Bacharach, died yesterday at the age of 91. Why am I writing about David? Obviously, it's because he did work for movies as well. In fact, Bacharach and David won an Oscar for Best Original Song (remember, that award is for the composer and lyricist, not for the singer) for "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head", which features in the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Bacharach and David received three other Oscar nominations in the Original Song category: for "What's New Pussycat?" from the film of the same name; the title song to Alfie; and "The Look of Love" from the James Bond spoof Casino Royale. Movies also caused the breakup of the partnership, when the two worked on the 1973 musical version of Lost Horizon.

It wouldn't be fair to David, however, to say that he was just the lyricist for Burt Bacharach. He wrote a whole lot of popular songs with other composers, and also wrote songs for movies, collaborating with people such as John Barry:

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Oscar Levant tonight

TCM is putting the spotlight on Oscar Levant tonight. I think his best-remembered role might be as Gene Kelly's friend in An American in Paris, which is airing overnight at 2:15 AM. It's a movie that's worthy of being a TCM Essential, but this week's Essential is a different MGM musical: The Band Wagon, at 8:00 PM. It's not my favorite, but I've commented before on how I don't care for a lot of musicals, so take my lack of fandom for what it's worth.

Levant was not only an actor but a composer as well; apparently he wrote the music for Nothing Sacred. However, TCM is only spotlighting Levant's career as an actor. In addition to the two movies I've mentioned above, there's the last of the 10 movies Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made together, The Barkleys of Broadway, at 10:00 PM; Levant with Joan Crawford in Humoresque at midnight; and Doris Day's first movie, Romance on the High Seas, at 4:15 AM.

TCM isn't running my favorite movie with Levant in it tonight. That's probably because the movie in question -- The Cobweb -- is on the schedule for this coming Wednesday at 7:45 AM.