Sunday, June 30, 2013

Das Weib des Pharao

Tonight's Silent Sunday Night selection on TCM is an interesting one, as it's one of Ernst Lubitsch's German silents: The Loves of Pharaoh (the German title, Das Weib des Pharao, literally translates to The Pharaoh's Wife), tonight at midnight.

The story is a fairly standard story of forbidden love being tragic, this time set against the backdrop of ancient Egypt. Emil Jannings plays Egyptian Pharaoh Amenes. One day he's approached by a delegation led by Samlak (Paul Wegener), the king of Ethiopia. King Samlak has a proposal for the Pharaoh: the hand of Samlak's daughter Makeda (Lyda Salmonova) in marriage. It should be a win-win proposition for both sides, as the Ethiopian King can marry off his daughter; the Pharaoh can get a wife; and both sides should be at peace what with their royal houses now being brought closer by marriage. Who needs love in an era of arranged marriages, anyway? Well, this is a 20th century movie and not the era of arranged marriages, so our Pharaoh would like love. And he has his eye on Theonis (Dagny Servaes), who is Makeda's slave-girl. So Amenes takes Theonis for a wife.

This certainly complicates things, in a whole bunch of ways. Unsurprisingly, King Samlak is none too happy about having his daughter rejected for -- a slave girl! How could the Pharaoh disrespect him like this? Well, there's only one thing that will make the Pharaoh respect the king, and that's a nice little conquering. So Samlak prepares his troops to fight a war against Egypt. Oh, but that's not the only complication. While Amenes is in love with Theonis, she's not really in love with him. She's fallen in love with Ramphis (Harry Liedtke), the son of Sothis, one of the king's advisors (Albert Bassermann). Ramphis, unsurprisingly, has fallen in love with Theonis, and those two decide to start carrying on an illicit relationship. The Pharaoh finds out, and sentences Ramphis to hard labor, while locking Theonis away in one of his palaces.

The war comes, and Samlak's men kill Amenes. Technically, this makes Theonis the leader, since the Pharaoh doesn't have any heirs. She selects Ramphis, and presumably everybody who's alive gets to live happily ever after. Oh, no, that's not the way the movie ends. Amenes was only presumed dead; actually, he didn't die of his injuries. And he shows up again. That really complicates matters....

As I said at the beginning, the love triangle story certainly isn't anything new, at least not looking back 90 years. What really makes the movie worth watching is the visuals. Those visuals are, in fact, spectacular, and on a par with any of the grandiose spectacles Hollywood was putting on in the silent era. The Loves of Pharaoh was restored a few years back from what surviving elements could be found, with some production stills filling in for the few lost scenes. The result is a movie that's gorgeous and impressive to look at, regardless of whether the story is trite.

As part of the restoration, The Loves of Pharaoh has been made available on both DVD and Blu-ray, but apparently you have to buy it directly from the people who did the restoration.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Bugsy Malone

A very curious movie, Bugsy Malone, will be airing tomorrow (June 30) at 2:00 PM on Cinémoi, for those of you who get that channel. (It will be on again at 11:00 AM Friday.) It's curious because it fits several genres: it's a children's gangster musical.

The movie starts off with Fat Sam (John Cassini) doing a voiceover narration about Roxy Robinson, an adolescent dressed up like a 1920s gangster. In fact, the voiceover implies that Roxy has wound up on the wrong side of a gang war, because he winds up in a blind alley where several juvenile gangsters pull out their gats and shoot him! But, the only thing is, the guns shoot cream puffs. Still, the cream puff shots seem to be fatal, and that's something that obviously seems to trouble Fat Sam, who is a juvenile himself. He's the leader of the gang that's on the wrong side of this 1920s gangland violence.

In fact, as you've probably figured out by now, all of the characters in this movie are played by juvenile actors. And, in fact, the movie is set in the 1920s, as Fat Sam is the owner of a speakeasy where the entertainment is provided by Tallulah (Jodie Foster) and her backup dancers. Although Tallulah shows up throughout the movie, she's not really the main plot. That main plot involves those creampuff-shooting guns, or "splurge guns", as they're called in the movie. Apparently, splurge guns are a new weapon, enabling the gang that possesses them to shoot other gangsters more efficiently. Up until now, Fat Sam and his gang have had to resort to literally throwing pies in their enemies' faces. So you can see why a splurge gun would be an effective weapon to have. And Dandy Dan (Martin Lev) and his gang have them!

As Fat Sam continues to lose members of his gang, he brings in Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio). Bugsy is a former boxer who, not being known as a member of Fat Sam's gang, ought to have more success at finding some of those splurge guns for what's left of Fat Sam's gang so that he can turn the tables on Dandy Dan. Meanwhile, Bugsy has a girlfriend, Blousy (Florrie Dugger), whom Bugsy has been stringing along by promising her he'd get her a tryout in Hollywood since she wants to be an actress. With Blousy wanting to be an actress and Tallulah the nightclub attraction, you know there are also going to be some musical numbers. At any rate, Bugsy is able to procure some of the splurge guns for Fat Sam, leading up to the climactic battle at his speakeasy....

Bugsy Malone is actually a charming little film. The juvenile actors are, for the most part, fairly good when they're acting. It helps that they have some humorous lines to deliver as well. The plot isn't anything special, but to be fair, the movie seems more conceived as an homage to the gangster genre, only with accommodations made for the fact that these are junior gangsters, molls, and hangers-on. In this respect it really succeeds. In fact, the only place where the movie really falls flat is in the musical numbers. The characters who get to do singing sound inconsistent; sometimes it sounds obviously juvenile in a bad way; other times it sounds too much as if the children are being dubbed. All in all, though, Bugsy Malone is a charming movie that, in spite of its seemingly adult subject material, should really hold up well for children, although they may need a bit of a history lesson.

Amazon lists a couple of different releases for Bugsy Malone, but it looks as though all of them are out of print.

Czech film restoration

Apparently the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic began last night, with John Travolta in attendence to introduce Grease, since that's 35 years old (yikes, it really is 35 years since the movie was released!) and he was one of the stars. One of the highlights of the festival is supposed to be the showing of the digital restoration print of the 1969 Czechoslovak movie All My Good Countrymen, which will be getting its first showing as I'm writing this post. So, it's too late to see that, although if you're wealthy and can afford plane tickets to the Czech Republic and then festival tickets, it's supposed to be getting another showing on Wednesday at 7:30 PM Czech time.

For those of us who can't make it to Karlovy Vary, we'll have to make do with this interview with one of hte people who helped restore the movie. That's a text transcript; if you'd rather listen to the interview, there's also a MP3 file which is about 2MB and should run five or six minutes. I listened to Radio Prague's half-hour program in which this interview was aired in full from a different source, so I don't remember exactly how long the interview runs.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Deadline at Dawn

Tonight is the last night of Eddie Muller's look at noir writers. Tonight starts off with two from Cornell Woolrich, including Deadline at Dawn at 9:30 PM.

Bill Williams plays Alex, a sailor on leave in New York who has gotten himself good and drunk, enough so that he's having problems remembering exactly what he did. This is a problem when he finally sobers up at a newsstand with about $1400 in his pocket, which is a pretty substantial sum even today, but would have been huge back in 1946. Alex knows the money isn't his, and we know it isn't his either because we've already seen an expository scene in which some guy is in a woman's apartment trying to get "his" money, which of course he doesn't have because it's in the soldier's pocket. Alex heads to a dance hall, which is where he meets June, a taxi dancer played by Susan Hayward at the beginning of her career. Alex bares his soul, or at least his worries about the $1400, to June, and bizarrely enough, she has enough sympathy for him that she decides to help take him back to the apartment where he got the money. However, when they do so, they find.... The woman in the apartment has been murdered!

Alex is unsurprisingly getting panicky. Since he doesn't have much memory of what he did when he was drunk, he fears that he must have killed the woman, and that the police are going to find him and convict him. And he's got to catch the bus to Norfolk and his ship tomorror morning. June still has sympathy for him, because she "knows" that he's innocent, something which would never happen in real life but which is a staple of the movies. (Consider the Mary Astor character in Act of Violence.) To be fair, though, Alex seems too stupid to lie about his role in any murder if he had one. So June decides to spend the rest of the night helping Alex navigate the streets of a strange city, trying to find a killer within the span of a few hours.

Our young lovers -- you know they're going to begin falling in love as the movie progresses -- are helped out by Gus Hoffman (Paul Lukas), a refugee cab driver who seems to have quite a bit of book learning, as well as seeming strangely out of place. (That is, Lukas seems a bit out of place, but Gus really seems out of place.) Along the way, Alex and June come up against a lot of red herrings, and a bunch of well-known character actors from the 1940s. Roman Bohnen is one of the red herrings; Lola Lane plays the murder victim; Joseph Calleia is her ex-husband; there are a couple of other names you might recognize.

Deadline at Dawn is a movie that's more entertaining than it has a right to be. The thing is, the plot doesn't just strain credulity; it should have smashed credulity into a million little pieces and dumped them off of a bridge. June helping Alex? Being able to solve a murder in one night? Never mind being able to solve a murder like this much faster than the cops could (the murder in Naked City takes over 24 hours to solve); there's the physical problem of being able to get back and forth in all these places in the taxis. There's no realistic way of getting everything done in one night. The ending seems forced by the Production Code, too. And yet, despite all of this, it's still an entertaining movie.

Deadline at Dawn is available on one of those moderately-priced noir box sets, which you might already have if you purchased it when I blogged about The Phenix City Story or Dial 1119.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Revolt of Mamie Stover

Jane Russell is generally remembered for her physical appearance just as much as her acting, if not more so. It's not as if she was a terrible actress, thouhg; in fact, she was more than capable. It's not the strongest movie, but Russell is most definitely not the problem wiht The Revolt of Mamie Stover, which the Fox Movie Channel is airing tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM.

Jane Russell doesn't look that trashy in the movieThe brief synopsis makes it sound as though it might be a romantic comedy with musical numbers: Russell plays Mamie Stover, a woman who goes from San Francisco to Hawaii and becomes queen of the "gentlemen's" club. In fact, the movie is pretty much a straight drama. We first see Mamie Stover in San Francisco sometime in early 1941, where some higher-up in the police department is putting her on a tramp steamer, telling her that they don't want to see her in San Francisco again. Presumably, like Joan Crawford's Sadie Hawkins in Rain, Mamie is a woman of some unspecified ill repute. The steamer is headed for Hawaii, because Mamie has a friend there who works at one of the clubs, and the friend has suggested Mamie can get a job there. With a body like that, what club owner wouldn't want Mamie working for them?

Anyhow, on board the ship, Mamie meets the only other passenger: Jim Blair (Richard Egan), a writer who lives on Oahu, and who apparently has become successful enough from his writing to have a nice big house and all the finer things in life that Mamie wishes she could have; indeed, everything Mamie has been doing has been with the aim of getting those things and going home as a success. Mamie is apparently falling in love with Jim, although Jim already has a girlfriend in the form of Annalee (Joan Leslie). Still, by the time the boat gets to Honolulu, you get the decided feeling that Mamie and Jim are going to wind up together. (Of course, being the first two names in the cast makes it kind of obvious that Jim isn't going away for good when the boat reaches Hawaii.)

Jim goes off to Annalee, who suspects something is up, while Mamie goes off to the club, which is run by Bertha Parchman (Agnes Moorehead, hair dyed blonde). Bertha takes on Mamie as one of the girls, but also lays down the tough ground rules for working at the club: no traveling to certain of the nicer parts of town; no bank accounts that would attract the attention of the taxman; no boyfriends out of work. If those conditions aren't tough enough, well there's always the "muscle", Harry Adkins (played by Michael Pate) to put the ladies back in line. Despite Harry's not looking like an enforcer, he's surprisingly slimy. Mamie promptly proceeds to break all the rules, largely so she can keep seeing Jim. She's clearly using him, but he's willing to put up with it, since he's falling in love with her. At least, there's no other logical explanation for it.

I said near the beginning that the beginning of the movie is sometime around early 1941. If you've seen enough movies, you know this means that December 7 is coming up, with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor sending the US headlong into World War II. Jim goes off to enlist, while Mamie sees her opportunity. She's been much more successful than the other girls at the club; successful enough that Berth is willing to bend the club's rules for Mamie's benefit. Mamie, having earned a substantial amount of money at the club, has a great idea to earn more money: buy up properties that people wanting to leave Hawaii now that the war is on have to sell quickly, and then turning around and selling the properties to the government at a handsome profit. The folks enforcing the Production Code must have had a fit with this, yet we're still supposed to have sympathy for Mamie....

Jane Russell is more than adequate as Mamie, the woman who feels she has to be tough as nails to get what she wants out of life. She's not as good as Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce, but she still does a good job. She's let down somewhat by the script. The movie never really tells us what Mamie is revolting against, unless it's just life in general. In fact, the movie is based on a book, and in the book it's made clear that Mamie had tried to become an actress but was used by the suits in Hollywood. There's something to revolt against, but something a major studio picture of the day couldn't really discuss. And then there's the ending, which makes no sense, unless you think about how the writers had to comply with the Production Code. Finally, Russell isn't really helped by Egan, who is fairly bland here. Moorehead and Pate, however, are both quite good in their supporting roles.

As far as I am aware, The Revolt of Mamie Stover is not available on DVD.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

TCM Guest Programmer June 2013: Joseph Abboud

TCM waited until the end of the month to have this month's Guest Programmer come on to present four of his favorite movies. That guest programmer is Joseph Abboud, a men's fashion designer. I suppose it would be nice if we could get a discussion of men's fashion in the movies, but I don't think that's really on the cards for tonight; instead, it's a selection of reasonably well-known classic films:

They Died With Their Boots On, a highly fictionalized telling of the life of George Armstrong Custer, starring Errol Flynn as the doomed general, kicks off the evening at 8:00 PM.
That's followed at 10:30 PM by Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca, in which Joan Fontaine comes to suspect something happened involving the death of her husband's (Laurence Olivier) first wife;
Alfred Hitchcock returns for Notorious at 1:00 AM; and
Humphrey Bogart hides letters of transit from Conrad Veidt in Casablanca at 3:00 AM.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Richard Matheson, 1926-2013

I saw a blurb yesterday on one or another of the sites that I visit on a daily basis that Richard Matheson had died at the age of 87. I didn't think much of it at the time, until I looked a bit more closely and saw just how much work he had done in Hollywood.

Matheson wrote the short story "I Am Legend", which was turned into a movie under that name a few years back, as well as two other major Hollywood releases, starting with 1964's The Last Man on Earth. He also wrote the novel "The Shrinking Man", which was turned into the 1957 movie The Incredile Shrinking Man.

One that I think was written directly for the screen is Die! Die! My Darling!. Matheson also wrote the screenplay for Jaws 3-D, but we'll overlook that one. There's also a lot of work for television, including several Twilight Zone episodes. One of those, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", was one of the four that wound up in the Twilight Zone movie in the early 80s.

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Grapes of Winter vs. The Spanish Armada

One last Eleanor Parker movie for this month shows up tomorrow morning at 9:45 AM on TCM: The Oscar. Parker isn't the star; she's only one of many big names in smaller parts of this all-star disaster.

The real star is Stephen Boyd, playing Frank Fane. We see him at the beginning of the movie sitting in the audience at the Academy Awards, where MC Bob Hope is presenting and about to give out the award for Best Actor. Fane is up for that award. And so, the movie flashes back to how Fane made it to this point.... It's a sordid story. Fane started off somewhere in middle America with Hymie Kelly (Tony Bennett) and their gal pal Laurel (Jill St. John), who is a stripper. Eventually, circumstances force Fane to move to New York, and he proceeds to start walking over everybody there before he goes to Hollywood and works his way to the top and that Oscar nomination.

And when I say "everybody", I mean almost everybody in Hollywood. The movie is filled with a lot of stars in the smaller parts, as I mentioned in the introduction, as well as some famous names playing themselves. Normally off-camera types showing up here as themselves include Hedda Hopper (although she was also in Sunset Blvd. playing her gossip-columnist self) and costumer Edith Head, who gets to put clothes on Fane's Hollywood girlfriend, Kay Bergdahl (played by Elke Sommer, who at least gets to look good here). As for the multitude of actors playing characters, Star of the Month Parker plays a New York talent scout who discovers Fane in New York; Milton Berle plays his agent; Broderick Crawford plays a sheriff who arrests them at the beginning of the movie; Ernest Borgnine plays a detective married to Edie Adams; Joseph Cotten plays a movie producer; and on and on.

The only thing is; all of them are let down by a terrible script. The movie is one of those that's firmly in the "so bad it's good" category. Tony Bennett couldn't act, and never took a role other than cameos as himself after this. Everybody else goes way, way over the top. And yet, it's so much fun to watch.

The Oscar has, as far as I know, never received a DVD release, so you'll have to catch the rare TCM showings. I believe the last time it ran on TCM, they were only able to get a pan-and-scan print, which is a shame.

Detective Story

Tonight being the final Monday in June, we have one more night of TCM's Star of the Month Eleanor Parker. The night kicks off at 8:00 PM with Detective Story.

The star of the movie is Kirk Douglas, playing Det. James MacLeod, a police detective at New York's 21st precinct, in one of the less glamorous parts of town. Parker plays his wife Mary, and she'll have a bigger part to play later in the movie. But for now, Detective story looks on its surface to be one of those "slice-of-life" movies about a day in the life of a police precinct, with all the nutty people who come in and out of the precinct station. Indeed, the movie starts off with a small-time crook who embezzled some money from his business. But things pick up fairly quickly when the lawyer for Karl Schneider (George Macready is Schneider) shows up. Schneider is a shady "baby doctor" who Jim knows has to be a criminal in some way. And Jim hates the guy, in part because he and Mary have been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby of their own. Schneider's lawyer knows about Jim's hatreds, which are apparently well-known in general, because he's been the subject of quite a few complaints of police brutality, enough that his superior, Lt. Monaghan, has to warn him not to do anything violent. Which, of course, means that we'll be waiting all movie for Jim to blow his stack.

It almost comes when Jim thinks he's about to get Schneider because he's got a witness who will pick him out ot a lineup. That is, until Schneider bribes her not to pick him out. And then there's a victim of one of Schneider's botched "procedures" who could also identify Schneider. Except that she dies in hospital before she's able to finger Schneider. It's enough to make Jim want to smack Schneider, and that leads to Mary getting called in by Monaghan. There's a good reason Mary hasn't been able to get pregnant, and part of the reason why -- although Jim doesn't know it -- involves Schneider. The Production Code limits what the script is able to talk about, and I'm even more trying not to give too much away, but even with this limited description you should be able to put two and two together.

Meanwhile, there are all the other subplots going on in the station. Cathy O'Donnell plays the sister-in-law of the embezzler we saw at the beginning of the movie, and she's trying to help repay some of the embezzled funds, because the guy only did it for her sister. Joseph Wiseman, who would later play Dr. No, is a small-time burglar. William Bendix plays Douglas' detective partner. And Lee Grant shows up as a shoplifter. Even though the main forus of the movie is the conflict between MacLeod and Schneider, all of these supporting characters are quite good at bringing color to the proceedings.

Kirk Douglas is intense, as always. Some people may find his acting style too intense, but in Detective Story, I think any problems aren't with Douglas' acting, but with the script, which makes Douglas be this violent. I don't know if the motivations given for why Jim is such a firm believer in the law, and why he's so quick to get violent about it. Sure, there's a lot of police brutality in real life, which is in contrast to the normal portrayal of police during the Production Code era. But Jim MacLeod is the sort of person who in real life would probably be a criminal himself, with only the uniform giving him free rein to commit his violence under color of law The fact that we give government so much power naturally draws in people who have a predisposition to want to use such powers. A fundamentally good guy whose simply overzealous? I don't think so.

But, whatever flaws Detective Story has, they're relatively minor. On the whole it's an excellent movie and one that's well worth seeing. It's also received a DVD release if you should miss tonight's showing.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fred MacMurray brought it on himself

In 1960, Fred MacMurray was excellent as Jack Lemmon's boss in the The Apartment. But, 1960 was also the same year MacMurray started playing the father on the long-running TV sitcom My Three Sons. The success of the sitcom and the new image it gave MacMurray is, I think, partly responsible for MacMurray's deciding to do light family-friendly movies when My Three Sons was on break after having finished a season's worth of episodes. It's probably what led MacMurray to take on the terrible script that is Kisses For My President, which is airing at 6:00 PM this evening.

Fred MacMurray plays Thad McCloud, whom we see at the beginning of the movie on the podium at the presidential inauguration. The only thing is, he's not the onbeing inaugurated. It's his wife Leslie (Polly Bergen) who's been elected at the USA's first female President; Thad is the First Gentlemen. After the inauguaration and the ball, the couple and their children retire to the presidential living quarters in the White House, and there the "fun" begins.

In theory, there are some interesting issues surrounding the spouse of a president, especially in these modern days when both halves of a married couple are generally working. Thad had to give up his business for political reasons, and that's something I can imagine would be difficult for anybody. A half century ago, women would have generally been housewives, so such a dilemma probably wouldn't have faced a housewife. Trying to find one's way around the White House would give rise to a few comic situations at first, and is shown here; dealing with an entrenched domestic staff would be more interesting, although not in the way the movie presents. Unsurprisingly, Kisses For My President decides to tread over the grounds of stereotypes. Even though there's a good 10 weeks between the election and the inauguration, Thad is still greeted by the "First Lady's" staff, who act as though he should be treated like any other First Lady, even though he's not a lady. And he's expected to live in quarters that have been appointed for a stereotypical lady. Heck, he doesn't even get to sleep with the president because apparently the Production Code still thought having the president and spouse sleep together would be scandalous.

So what's an emasculated First Gentleman to do? President McCloud has to deal with one of those tinpot Latin American dictators, Rafael Valdez (Eli Wallach), who is in Washington trying to negotiate an arms deal with the US. President McCloud still has some negotiating to do with the Senate regarding the deal, so she gets the bright idea to have Thad entertain Valdez. It's the sort of idea that makes sense on paper, but in a comedy is bound to go wrong. However, thanks to the weak script of Kisses For My President, it goes wrong in a fairly boring way. And if you think that's bad, wait until the ending....

Kisses For My President is the sort of film that sounds like it should be interesting, but ultimately falls flat. It has, however, received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive, while many better movies still languish in the limbo of not having a DVD release.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

More versions of Les Misérables than there are Frenchmen

TCM is running a night of movies about people with obsessions, or at least half a night since the programming has to end before TCM Underground begins. Anyhow, the final movie is the 1935 version of Les Misérables, overnight at 12:15 AM.

You know the story. Jean Valjean (played here by Fredric March) gets sentenced to four years for stealing a loaf of bread during the French Revolution, and another 15 years for escape attempts. Eventually he does escape and tries to make a life for himself, but he's constantly pursued by the relentless Inspector Javert (Charles Laughton), because, well, the law is the law. In one of Valjean's attempts at living a quite life, he meets Fantine and becomes foster father to her daughter Cosette (Rochelle Hudson). There's a lot more, since the original novel goes on for a thousand pages or so depending on the size of the type the publisher is using. There's no way any movie can get everything in the book in. One thing that's not in this version is the songs, since this was made well before the musical.

It probably shouldn't be a surprise just how many versions of Les Misérables there are. Fox made tonight's version back in 1935, and then remade it in the early 1950s with Michael Rennie as Valjean, Robert Newton as Javert, and Debra Paget as Cosette. The story has famously been turned into the musical, which itself was made as a movie last year. And then there are the French-language versions; after all, the original novel was written in French.

TCM says you can buy Les Misérables from the TCM shop, or at least has the "purchase" icon next to the title in today's schedule. Indeed, the 1935 version has received a DVD release as part of a set with the 1952 version. However, what the TCM shop is offering instead of the 1935 version is a box set of the films of French director Raymond Bernard, which includes his 1934 version of Les Misérables. And I've only scratched the surface of movie versions of this story: anybody up for a 1943 Mexican version?

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Winston Affair

Robert Mitchum is known for playing tough guys on screen. Lawyers? Well, not so much. But he did play a military defense attorney in the movie Man in the Middle, which is coming up at 1:25 PM tomorrow on the Fox Movie Channel.

The movie starts off in late 1944 at a British military base someplace in India, which was as far east as the Empire went before you reached areas occupied by the Japanese, making it a somewhat important theater in the war. Keenan Wynn plays US Lieutenant Winston, enters one of the barracks on the base, and... shoots one of the British solders dead! In cold blood, no less! The British are obviously irritated by this to no end. In the name of British-American relations, it would be a good thing from the British point of view if the Americans just found Winston guilty and hanged him. Indeed, it's no secret that Winston did it, but there's a problem. Winston has a brother-in-law who is a US Representative, and that brother-in-law is raising a stink over all the proposed defense attorneys the military has nominated for the case (remember, military justice works differently from civilian justice). Also, Winston himself seems to be curiously detached from all the proceedings going on around him, as if he doesn't really care what happens to him.

Enter Robert Mitchum. He plays Lt. Col. Barney Adams, who had been an attorney in civilian life but is now a career soldier. However, he was injured over in the European theater and has been recuperating for months, so he's not really any good to the military as a soldier. However, he would be good as Winston's defense counsel. So, he's been flown out to India to take on the case, even though he's not particularly thrilled with the idea. But, orders are orders. So Adams stars investigating to try to build a defense.

As Adams investigates, something seems not quite right. Winston's indifference over what happens to him is one thing. Perhaps more importantly, it seems to Adams as if everything is wrapped up in a little too neat a bow. It's almost as if there's some sort of conspiracy between the American commanding officer (Barry Sullivan) and the British to keep information from Adams to get the case over with a conviction. Adams comes to believe that perhaps Winston is insane, considering Winston's views on other races and international cooperation. Adams' belief is buttressed by his experience with Kaufman (Sam Wanamaker), a psychologist at the hospital where Winston was first examined. Kaufman believes Winston is insane, but his medical report is shelved, and he's sent off to a remote base, presumably to keep him from testifying.

Man in the Middle is serviceable, if not great. Robert Mitchum does a very good job, as does Keenan Wynn. But the trial itself seems a bit contrived, and the other cast members aren't given enough to do. I thin this is particularly displayed by the fact that I haven't had any reason until now to mention the two biggest names behind Mitchum. Trevor Howard plays the commander of the base where the murder happened, who has psychological experience but has been shunted off to the backwater base because of his incompetence, while France Nuyen plays Wanamaker's nurse, a character you wonder if she's supposed to be trying to have a romantic involvement with Mitchum. What in her character didn't get translanted from the original story to the screen?

Man in the Middle has received a DVD release, although I'm not certain whether it's still in print.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Mamie Van Doren night

Sadly not on the schedule

Sure, Mamie Van Doren wasn't the world's greatest actress. One would guess that a lot of yound men wanted to see her on the big screen simply for her ample assets. Several of her movies, though, are worth watching, simply because they're so awful they are (or should be!) camp classics. A good example of this is High School Confidential!, which is unfortunately not on tonight's schedule. I've included a photo from the movie to give you some idea of Mamie Van Doren, however.

You might be able to guess just from the titles that some of the movies are hilariously bad. I mean, what are you expecting if you tune in to watch a movie called Sex Kittens Go to College (airing overnight at 3:15 AM)? The plot is almost as ludicrous as the title: Mamie Van Doren plays a stripper who gets hired as a professor at the local college because of all her Ph.Ds, and then proceeds to drive all the men wild simply by being so buxom and comely. There's another plotline involving a supercomputer that picks horses, and mobsters who want that computer, but is anybody paying attention to the plot here?

Of the movies that TCM is showing tonight, I think the closest to serious would be The Girl in Black Stockings, at 5:00 AM.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

No More Ladies

What if MGM took another look at The Divorcée five years later, and saw that, with the imposition of the Production Code, there's no way they could make such a movie in the same way? And what if, having seen that, they tried to make an urbane comedy instead? The result might be something like No More Ladies, which is airing at midnight tonight on TCM.

Joan Crawford stars as Marcia, a socialite-type living with Grandma Fanny (Edna May Oliver). She's in love with Sherry (Robert Montgomery), even though he's a notorious playboy. Grandma warns Marcia about Sherry, as does marcia's cousin Edgar (Charlie Ruggles). But to no avail. Even though Sherry continues to stand up Marcia, she still keeps going back to him. After a while, Sherry proposes marriage to Marcia, and she accepts, even though they both admit that the chances of their having a successful marriage are rather low!

Sure enough, Sherry continues to be a playboy, on their honeymoon no less. And it's not as if he's a very convincing liar. On one of his trysts, he's seeing Edgar's date Theresa (Gail Patrick). Sherry lies to Marcia about it, claiming he's looking after Edgar, who's fallen ill. Marcia, and we, know that this is an utter lie, for an obvious reason: she's talking to Edgar in her room!

So, what's a woman who's being treated like this to do? Why not try getting revenge by treating her husband the same way he's been treating her? It's no more unreasonable than any other idea. And so Marcia finds Jim (Franchot Tone), whose wife Sherry romanced in the days before Sherry married Marcia. Suddenly, though, when the wife does it, it's not as acceptable when the husband does it.

No More Ladies is, to be honest, not much more than a little piffle. It's the kind of movie that I saw several years ago, but didn't register much more than all of the other mid-30s stuff I've seen. That's both bad, and good. Bad, of course, because it means the movie didn't do all that much special to be worth remembering. But good as well because it didn't do anything to make me remember it as a movie I wouldn't want to watch. In fact, one thing that makes the movie worth noting is the presence of the character Caroline. She's played by an 18-year-old actress credited as Joan Burfield. Burfield would soon take her stepfather's surname: Fontaine. Joan, despite having a surname of her own, wanted to distinguish herself from sister Olivia de Havilland. The rest, as they say, is history.

No More Ladies has received a Warner Archives release.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sammy Cahn centenary

When I can't think of any particularly good movies to blog about, I'll look for somebody famous who's got a bithday today to blog about. The two ideas come together somewhat today, as TCM is doing a 100th birthday salute to lyricist Sammy Cahn, who wrote the words to (some) songs in all of tonight's movies. I'm not a huge fan of Anchors Aweigh, but it's airing tonight at 11:45 PM for those who like such films.

Gene Kelly stars as Joseph Brady, a sailor in the US Navy in World War II who has a best friend Clarence (Frank Sinatra), who has the nickname "Brooklyn" because movie audiences across the country would recognize right away where Brooklyn is, as opposed to Hoboken, and not notice whether there was any difference in accents. Together, the two get four days' shore leave! Wait a second. Haven't we seen all this before? Well, Kelly and Sinatra would return four years later with Jules Munshin in On the Town, but there are some key differences. In On the Town, each of the three sailors gets his own girl to sing and dance with, which doesn't happen in Anchors Aweigh. Also, in On the Town, the sailors only have a day to spend in New York, so all they can do is see the sights; there's not much time for a real plot.

The plot in Anchors Aweigh involves one of the oldest Hollywood themes: two guys and a girl. This time the girl is Susan (Kathryn Grayson), a young lady who wants to make it big in Hollywood. Joe and Brooklyn meet her when her nephew Donald (Dean Stockwell) runs into them while trying to run away to join the navy; they take him home and meet Susan. Brooklyn falls in love with her; Joe promises to help her get a meeting with a music producer. That latter bit is all a lie; after all, the two sailors are only going to be in town for four days and will probably never see Susan again. But Joe finds himself beginning to fall in love with Susan....

Along the way, they sing, and dance... a lot: the movie runs about 40 minutes longer than On the Town. Sammy Cahn only wrote some of the songs here, as there are a lot of songs taken from classical music as well as some other traditional songs. Frank Sinatra wasn't quite a dancer before he started making this movie, which must have been tough when working with a perfectionist like Gene Kelly. He's really around more for the singing, since he was a hugely popular singer at the time. Still, he acquits himself well enough if you like Sinatra's singing: I prefer him in non-singing roles. As for the dances, the movie is best known for the scene in which Kelly dances with Jerry the mouse from the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons.

Anchors Aweigh is not a favorite of mine. But it is the sort of movie I can understand why a lot of people would love.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Above and Beyond

TCM is showing something like 30 movies as part of Eleanor Parker's time as Star of the Month. Since they only have four weeknights to do it, that means that the movies, starting at 8:00 PM Monday, tend to continue well into Tuesday morning. Such is the case with Above and Beyond, which is airing tomorrow morning at 11:15 AM.

Robert Taylor gets top billing as Lt. Colonel Paul Tibbets. If that name sounds familiar, perhaps it should: Tibbets' claim to fame is as the pilot of the Enola Gay, the US B-29 bomber which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945. Above and Beyond is the story of Tibbets and of the program to train bombers for the mission to drop that bomb on Hiroshima. But before they can drop the bomb, we have to go back a few years. Tibbets is serving as a pilot in the North African theater, running bombing raids over Tunisia that he considers pointless. So he tells his superiors this in no uncertain words. It costs him a promotion, but brings him to the attention of Major General Brent (Larry Keating). Brent is in charge of part of the atomic bomb mission, although at first Tibbets has no idea that there's any sort of atomic bomb being developed. For now, Tibbets' mission is to pilot test flights of the B-29. Part of the proposed atomic bomb mission involves a very long flight to the target, and then back from the target, which means that a new bomber capable of handling such long range flight, as well as the aftershock, is neccessary. And Tibbets is the right man to test whether the B-29 will be that suitable bomber.

So Tibbets heads out west, much to the dismay of his wife Lucey (Eleanor Parker), who is left behind in Washington with their son. The testing goes well enough that the generals decide the B-29 will be OK for the atomic bomb mission, and it's at this point that they finally let Tibbets in on the real purpose of his mission, which will ultimately be to drop a bomb of such hitherto unimaginable destructive force that the Japanese will have no choice but to beg for surrender. It's Tibbets' job to find the suitable crew to fly the plane that will drop the bomb, and to train them. There's one catch: he's not allowed to let any of them in on what's really going on, as security is understandably exceedingly tight. Tibbets and the rest head out to Wendover Air Base, on the Utah-Nevada border, to train for the mission. Eventually, to try to make Wendover appear more like a regular air base, the men's wives are allowed to join them, although the women are obvoiusly not allowed in on the real point of what's going on at Wendover. As you can imagine, this would be pretty big strain on a marriage, as Tibbets has to look like the bad guy a lot of the time in order to keep things secret.

It's no surprise that the question of whether dropping the atomic bomb was the right thing to do became a point for debate among historians decades after the war. (Charlton Heston, in his Private Screenings interview with Robert Osborne, argued that it saved his life: he was stationed in Alaska at the time, but was certain to be part of the force that would presumably have had to invade Japan's Home Islands had the bomb not been dropped on Hirsohima.) However, Above and Beyond was only made a half dozen years after the bombing, so it's understandable that there's no question that dropping the atomic bomb could be anything less than completely morally just. To be honest, I think skipping that question makes for a better movie. Considering all that had previously gone on in the war, it's not as if the people fighting at the time, not having any clue about the long-term radiation consequences of dropping the bomb, would have had any moral compunction about using it.

So, Above and Beyond gives us a more straightforward look at the people involved. I wouldn't be surprised if all of the main people in the film are portrayed even more positively than they were in real life, but that's Hollywood for you. Still, Taylor is quite good as the man who has to keep a really difficult secret, with Parker does well as the woman who must, unless she's a complete idiot, realize there's something big going on, but also knows she can't ask about it. As much as it must have been tough for the military wives to deal with their husbands being abroad fighting the war, I can't imagine it would have been much easier to follow their husbands to some God-forsaken place like Wendover, only to discover that they're being kept out of the loop as to what's going on. James Whitmore, who plays the security officer who informs Tibbets of the real nature of the mission in the first place, while also ensuring everything remains a secret.

I don't know quite how accurate Above and Beyond is, but even if it does get any of the personal history wrong, it's still a very well-made film. It's received a release to DVD from the Warner Archive.

Java's Journey

I've been a bit remiss in pointing out that I've added another blog to the blogroll over on the right-had side of the screen: Java's Journey. I came across it the other day when I was looking for some Esther Williams photos to add something new for the TCM Esther Wiliams tribute, and a Google Image search led to Java's post on, I believe, Neptune's Daughter. I eventually found a nicer color photo of Esther, but the blog is interesting enough to put in my blogroll.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Fathers' Day 2013

Today is Fathers' Day, so I'll only be putting up a brief post. TCM's prime-time lineup is dedicated to the holiday, but more on that in a bit. Three are a few movies during the daytime schedule that are good choices for the holiday, as well. By the time you read this post, you'll proabaly have missed most of The Courtship of Eddie's Father, which starts (or started) at 8:00 AM. That's followed at 10:00 AM by Father of the Bride, which you might not want to watch if you've got a female relative in your live who is getting married soon. It's much like saying that as enjoyable as Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House is, I'm not certain if it's a good idea to show it to people about to build or renovate their dream house.

TCM is also showing a couple of movies that aren't quite Fathers' Day films. Orson Welles' character was taken from his parents in Citizen Kane at 11:45, while the afternoon concludes with some of the great representations of screen fatherhood in... Somkey and the Bandit at 6:15 PM. Hmmm.

The nighttime lineup starts off with this week's Essentials Jr. selection, To Kill a Mockingbird at 8:00 PM. This is certainly a suitable movie for older children, despite the fact that it deals with a capital rape case and some pretty ingrained racism. I was assigned to read the book back in my eighth grade English class, and I'm sure a lot of other children around that age would also have read the book for school.

To Kill a Mockingbird will be followed at 10:15 PM by Life With Father, a late 1940s film which is set about 60 years earlier and deals with several boys in an upper-middle class New York household who deal with their stern but loving father (William Powell). It's one of those films that's told in a nostalgic style, and one which would also be a good selection for Essentials Jr.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

At least there's a Traveltalks short I haven't mentioned before

Tonight's TCM Essential is The Palm Beach Story at 8:00 PM. I have of course blogged about thie movie before, and if you haven't seen it yet, don't miss the opportunity to watch it tonight. But of course there's no reason to do a full-length post on it since I've already done so. A good programming companion to The Palm Beach Story would be the 1941 Traveltalks short Glimpses of Florida, but that's not on the schedule, and doesn't seem to be on Youtube.

The Palm Beach Story is the opening for TCM ot run a night of Rudy Vallee movies. Or half a night, since the second half of Saturday nights is now TCM Underground. The second movie up, at 9:45 PM, is Gold Diggers in Paris, which has Vallee as a nightclub singer who gets mistaken for the head of a ballet company, bringing his dancers to Paris for a dance competition at the 1938 World's Fair in Paris. There's a Traveltalks short on the Paris Exposition called Paris on Parade, and I think there would be enough time following The Palm Beach Story to show it. However, it doesn't show up in the schedule, and it too isn't on Youtube. TCM will be showing the 1937 MGM two-reeler Carnival in Paris tomorrow, which apparently has a young Ann Rutherford being protected from the police by a janitor who puts her in a bunch of museum costumes.

So for those of you who like your Traveltalks shorts, you'll have to settle for the 1952 short Jasper National Park, showing the park in the Canadian Rockies as it was back in the early 1950s. I just wish the color on the Traveltalks prints were better, as the scenery of Jasper probably looked spectacular back then. It's showing up at 5:43 PM, just after Written on the Wind.

Friday, June 14, 2013

David Goodis

Eddie Muller, who is presenting this month's TCM Friday Night Spotlight, on noir writers, has selected writer David Goodis for tonight's line-up. I have to admit that Goodis is a writer I hadn't heard of, although unsurprisingly I've seen some of his movies.

The night kicks off at 8:00 PM with Dark Passage, which I've mentioned multiple times for its gimmick of having everything in the first 45 minutes or so be from Humphrey Bogart's point of view. This is so they don't have to show his face, because his character is an escaped convict (wrongly, convicted, of course, and he's out trying to find his late wife's actual killer), and to conceal his identity, he gets plastic surgery. Not showing his face before the surgery allows the filmmakers to use Bogart's face in its natural state for the post-surgery visage that nobody is supposed to be able to recognize. Dark Passage is a good movie, although Bogart has certainly done better. Lauren Bacall plays the woman who helps Bogart evade the police, and with whom he falls in love.

That's followed at 10:00 PM by Nightfall, which I am happy to point out is now available on DVD courtesy of one of the Columbia Noir classics sets.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the new-to-me movies are on late at night. Dan Duryea plays the leader of a gang o robbers whose heist goes wrong in The Burglar, airing at 11:30 PM. The last of Muller's suggestions is François Truffaut's take on American pulp fiction, Shoot the Piano Player, overnight at 1:15 AM. This one isn't even on DVD, although it will be coming up again in July whne the Friday Night Spotlight is the films of Truffaut. Unfortunately, the July showing will be at 4:00 AM.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

TCM's Esther Williams tribute

TCM is putting aside its previously scheduled programming for a 24-hour salute to Esther Williams starting this evening at 8:00 PM. They're showing 13 of her movies:

Bathing Beauty at 8:00 PM;
Neptune's Daughter, which introduced the song "Baby, It's Cold Outside", at 10:00 PM;
Million Dollar Mermaid at 11:45 PM;
Dangerous When Wet, which has the scene with Williams swimming with Tom and Jerry, at 1:45 AM;
Andy Hardy's Double Life, Williams' first film, at 3:30 AM;
Thrill of a Romance at 5:15 AM;
Easy to Wed, the remake of Libeled Lady, at 7:15 AM tomorrow;
The Hoodlum Saint at 9:15 AM;
Fiesta at 11:00 AM;
This Time For Keeps at 1:00 PM;
On an Island With You at 3:00 PM;
Pagan Love Song at 5:00 PM; and
Texas Carnival at 6:30 PM

The only two that aren't available for purchase from the TCM shop are Andy Hardy's Double Life and The Hoodlum Saint.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Sea Chase

Tonight's lineup on TCM is a night of movies made by Lana Turner in the 1950s. The night kicks off at 8:00 PM with the 1958 version of Imitation of Life, which of course I've blogged about before. I don't think I've ever even seen the second movie, The Rains of Ranchipur (at 10:15 PM), in its entirety. But it's a Cinemascope and Technicolor remake of The Rains Came, which was just on TCM last week. At any rate, the movie I'd like to mention today is up third tonight: The Sea Chase, at 12:15 AM.

Lana Turner is the female lead, but the star is John Wayne. He plays Karl Ehrlich, the captain of the Ergenstrasse, a German tramp steamer docked in Syndey in late August, 1939. That date is important: Nazi Germany attacked Poland on September 1, which lead the UK to declare war against Germany, with other Commonwealth countries, including Australia, not far behind. So, at the beginning of the movie we have a war which everybody knows is coming, but hasn't quite come yet. And Ehrlich knows that if the war does come, the Australians, including his friend Commander Napier (David Farrar), are going to take Ehrlich and his crew prisoner. So when word comes that Germany has attacked Poland and the declaration of war is imminent, Ehrlich has the Ergenstrasse leave Sydney under cover of darkness.

However, there are a whole bunch of complications. First of these is that the Ergenstrasse, having been forced into a hasty escape, doesn't have all that much fuel on board. Their itinerary called for them to go to Yokohoma, but the Allies know this, and there's no way the ship, lacking fuel and being slower than Allied war ships, could ever make Yokohoma. So they're going to have to change course. Second, Ehrlich isn't a Nazi. Indeed, the reason he's captaining a broken-down cargo ship like the Ergenstrasse is because of his less than absolute loyalty toards the Nazis. Still, like every ship, there's a Nazi intelligence officer aboard, Kirchner (played by Lyle Bettger). He's certain to cause problems for Captain Ehrlich.

The third problem is Lana Turner. Well, her character, Elsa Keller. At the beginning of the movie we see Napier coming on board the Ergenstrasse with Keller, who just happens to be Napier's fiancée as well. But she's more than just a bride-to-be. Ehrlich knows she's got a past that involves a bunch of men, and when Ehrlich is making those hasty plans for the Ergenstrasse to leave Sydney at night, the German Consul in Sydney brings Elsa to the ship, with plans for her to stay on board. Elsa, in fact, is a spy, who uses her good looks to get close to men and then get military secrets from them. She's a problem for Ehrlich partly because of her past, and partly because she's good-looking enough that she's going to arouse all of the men in the crew.

So there are a lot of problems for Captain Ehrlich. And he's trying to take the Ergenstrasse all the way across the Pacific to Valparaiso in neutral Chile, where the British won't be able to molest him or his crew. But of course, getting to Valparaiso isn't going to be very easy as there's a decided lack of supplies. Ehrlich knows of an island where ships are scuttled, which should in theory enable the Ergenstrasse to get some supplies of some sort. The problem is, there are a couple of British fishermen on the island, and Kirchner murders them. Napier and the Allies are never going to believe Ehrlich's claim that Kirchner did this of his own accord in violation of Ehrlich's orders, so Ehrlich knows the crew is now a bunch of outlaws who wouldn't be prisoners of war, but murderers. Still, the Ergenstrasse tries to make it to Valparaiso....

John Wayne is decidedly un-German. Lana Turner isn't much more believably German either. In fact, the only member of the Ergenstrasse crew who could passably pull off a German accent is John Qualen playing the ship's engineer. Still, this really isn't that much more egregious than many of the movies Hollywood was making 20 years earlier -- think Spencer Tracy playing a fisherman of Portuguese descent in Captains Courageous. The plot is fairly good, if a bit formulaic. Many of the difficulties you can imagine for an underdog ship like the Ergenstrasse and its crew do indeed take place in The Sea Chase, from crew members wondering whether they should trust their captain any longer to shark attacks. Unfortunately, the ending, which I won't give away, is something I found to be even more ludicrous than all these actors playing Germans. For the most part, though, The Sea Chase is solid entertainment that would have paid the bills for the actors making it, but probably nothing any of them would have looked back on as the high point of their careers.

The Sea Chase has received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Front Page Woman

TCM's programming theme for tonight is working women who decide at the end of the movie that perhaps settling down and getting married isn't such a bad thing after all. One of the movies airing is Front Page Woman at 4:00 AM. I mentioned quite a few of the plot points back in March, and the movie deserves another mention since it's not available on DVD.

Bette Davis plays lady journalist Ellen Garfield, who\s in a rivalry with Curt Devlin (George Brent), each of them trying to scoop the other. Curt loves Ellen, but doesn't think that women make as good of reporters as men -- passing out at an execution might have something to do with that. But Ellen is insistent that women can do the job just as well as men, and wouldn't even think about marrying Curt if he's not going to admit that. Oh, but Ellen is going to get more chances to prove herself, and one of htose chances is about to come if you wait a minute or two -- these mid-1930s Warner Bros. movies don't skimp on the action! An apartment building catches on fire, and Ellen and Curt both race to the scene to get the story, which it turns out is not really about the fire. Ostensibly it is, but Ellen overhears the police refer to one of the escapees by the name of a prominent gangster, while Devlin learns that there was a mystery woman in the gangster's apartment. The gangster dies in hospital, but it was because of a stab wound. Apparently, the fire was just a cover-up.

Nice. So now we've got a murder, which provides ample opportunities for reporters to scoop each other, or to feed each other bogus information so that they'll publish utterly erroneous scoops. And heaven knows that Ellen and Curt take these chances, engaging in all sorts of activites that are probably illegal, which is part of what I wrote about when I mentioned the movie back in March. There's evidence tampering, jury tampering, and all sorts of fraud. And somehow, the cops are so stupid that they have no idea that any of this is going on! It's ludicrous, but a lot of what goes on in these 1930s Warner Bros. movies makes little sense if you think seriously about it.

Front Page Woman is fun in spite of all those plot holes. Bette Davis is energetic, even though this probably wasn't the sort of role she wanted. George Brent isn't as wooden as normal. And Roscoe Karns provides a reasonable amount of comic relief as Brent's photographer. There's nothing groundbreaking or worthy of being called an all-time great here; it's just a nice, entertaining 80-minute ride. In fact, I'd say it's an above average example of the sort of 80-minute movies the studios were putting out during this period: movies that were more than a B-picture, but didn't have any pretentions of being the studios' big prestige movies. And you can do far worse than excelling in such a field.

Monday, June 10, 2013

It's a Great Feeling

I've mentioned the movie It's a Great Feeling briefly on a couple of occasions in the past. It's getting an airing tomorrow morning at 11:30 AM on TCM as part of Eleanor Parker's turn as Star of the Momth.

There's not much of a plot here. Well, actually there is, but it's a plot we've seen a dozen times before. Jack Carson plays the same personality type he's played many times before. This time, the character is named... Jack Carson! Carson is an actor/director at a studio that looks suspiciously like Warner Bros, wanting to make anothe rmovie wiht his singing star Dennis Morgan, who, surprise of surprises, is played by Dennis Morgan. (They should have blown the viewers' minds by hainv Carson's character named Dennis Morgan and Morgan's character named Jack Carson.) The problem is, if you've seen enough Jack Carson characters, he plays smarmy, manipulative users. His character here has done enough of that manipulation that nobody at the studio wants to work with him. So he's got a brilliant idea: find a new star!

They're about to find that star in the place you'd look in any Hollywood movie: the studio commissary. There, they meet the young Judy Adams, working in the commissary, having come fresh from Wisconsin. Adams is played not by any actress named Judy Adams, but by Doris Day. (They should have named her character "Kappelhoff".) It takes a bit of convincing, but eventually Carson and Morgan decide to try to win the producers over. Complications ensue. One is that every scheme Carson uses to try to get his producer (played by Bill Goodwin but named Arthur Trent) to notice Judy goes badly wrong. The other is that Judy has a boyfriend back in Wisconsin, and is perfectly willing to marry him if Hollywood doesn't work out.

So why is TCM showing this to honor Star of the Month Eleanor Parker? That's the good part of the movie. The makers of It's a Great Feeling (not the makers of the movie-within-the-movie) decided to make the movie as a partial in-joke, using many of the people on the Warner Bros. lot for cameo perforamces, often parodying themselves along the way. Parker is just one of them; you'll find Warner stars like Joan Crawford, Ronald Reagan, Sydney Greenstreet and Edward G. Robinson; and, a few actors like Gary Cooper and Danny Kaye who may have made some films at WB but aren't necessarily connected to any one studio at the time. Just as nice are the cameos from the directors: Michael Curtiz, Raoul Walsh, and King Vidor are listed on IMDb as uncredited cameos, as is the film's actual director, David Butler. Also listed is composer Ray Heindorf, a man whose name I've seen in credits but whose work I frankly wouldn't remember. The plot of It's a Great Feeling may not be great, but the cameos are more than worth seeing.

Surprisingly, TCM claims It's a Great Feeling isn't available for purchase from the TCM Shop. I say that's surprising because it was released as part of a TCM Spotlight box set. Apparently, that must have been a limited release, and now that all the copies have been sold, it's out of print.

Sunday, June 9, 2013


Tonight's TCM Import is Kapò, airing overnight at 2:00 AM. It's disturbing, but well worth a watch.

Susan Strasberg stars as Édith, a young Jewish girl in Paris circa 1940. This, of course, is a problem. The Nazis defeated France in June of 1940 and occupied the country. The Nazis have that policy of rounding up all the Jews and sending them to concentration camps for their eventual annihilation, so being a Jew is not safe at all. Eventually, Édith and her parents are rounded up with a whole bunch of other Jews and sent east to a concentration camp. But this is only the beginning of Édith's problems. She sees her parents sent off to the gas chamber, but amazingly, she's spared: one of the camp's doctors decides to give her the clothes and identity papers of "Nicole", who was a prisoner at the camp and died in the hosptial. So, the Nazis will just figure that Édith died in hospital. It's a dead Jew; what difference does it make how she died? Yes, that sounds tasteless, but I don't think the Nazis cared unless the Jews got sick with something contagious that could have spread to the Nazi guards.

I also assume that seeing your parents exterminated and you saved through sheer dumb luck must be a nightmare, one far worse than Gary Merrill had facing the question of why he survived and his new friends didn't in Phone Call From a Stranger. And Édith, now Nicole, still has a lot of problems: after all, she's still a prisoner. But as a non-Jewish prisoner, the Nazis figure she might be useful doing forced labor for the Nazis. So she gets shipped off to one of the many labor camps set up for that purpose. She's still alive, but it's not as if the conditions are much better. She meets Thérèse (Emmanuelle Riva; yes, the same one who was nominated for an Oscar last year) and becomes friends, but finds she still can't deal with the harsh conditions. So she makes a difficult choice: she becomes a "kapò", a prisoner who helps keep the other prisoners in line, in exchange for better treatment from the camp guards. She even becomes a bit friendly with one of the German guards, who's only there because he was injured in the war and still has to do service. The other prisoners, unsurprisingly, don't like Nicole.

Things get even more complicated: the Nazis capture a bunch of Soviets, and build a POW camp next to the labor camp. Fraternization between the two groups is frowned upon, but Édith meets Sascha (Laurent Terzieff) and strikes up a friendship with him. The Soviet soldiers, for their part, are more likely to try to make an escape than the women. This is going to become an issue as the Germans start losing the war, and advancing Soviet soldiers begin to get closer to the two camps, making liberation a distinct possibility. Unless, that is, the Nazis annihilate everybody in both camps first.

I don't think I can imagine any movie capturing the full horrors of being in a concentration camp; the closest would be documentary interviews with people who survived the camps. (I've only seen bits and pieces of Shoah, so I can't comment fully on it.) Still, Kapò is quite thought-provoking, asking the decidedly uncomfortable question: what would you do to survive? Fred Zinnemann hinted at this question in Act of Violence, but the issue is much more front and center here. Strasberg does an excellent job as the young woman forced to make uncomfortable choices, while the rest of the cast is adequate, even if only in service of Strasberg. The black-and-white cinematography is also suitably bleak.

Kapò is also available on DVD.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1983-1979

Today is the birth anniversary of Ernest B. Schoedsack, a name that most people wouldn't know unless they're movie buffs. Schoedsack was a collaborator with Merian C. Cooper in the 1920s and 1930s, starting with the Persian-set documentary Grass, about the migration of a traditional tribal people in what is now southwestern Iran. After making Grass, Cooper and Schoedsack went off to Siam (now Thailand, of course), where they made Chang: A Drama of the Wilderness, about the people who lived in interior rural villages. When Cooper became head of production at RKO, Schoedsack followed; unsurprisingly, their most famous collaboration is the 1933 version of King Kong.

But, Schoedsack actually directed some other well-known movies at RKO in the early 1930s. I've blogged about The Most Dangerous Game before, but don't think I've done a full-length post on The Last Days of Pompeii. (Either that, or Blogger's search function is acting up again, which wouldn't surprise me.) I believe that all of the movies I've mentioned have been released to DVD, but I'm not certain how many of them are still in print.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Night Spotlight June 2013; Noir Writers

This being the first Friday in June, we're getting a new Friday Night Spotlight on TCM. Eddie Muller from the Noir Foundation will be on each Friday night this month to present various writers and how their work influenced what would eventually become noir films. This first Friday in June sees the works of Dashiell Hammett.

The interesting thing is that maybe only one of tonight's movies would commonly be considered a noir. The night is starting with The Maltese Falcon at 8:00 PM. Humphrey Bogart's portrayal of Sam Spade, and the whole atmosphere of that film, certainly approaches noir. But Muller didn't select the Humphrey Bogart version. In fact, we get the 1931 version starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade, which I'm looking forward to since I didn't actually re-watch it when I blogged briefly about it back in November of last year.

That's followed at 9:30 PM by City Streets, which is a good movie, although it's squarely in the crime and gangster genre, and not noir.

At 11:00 PM, you can watch After the Thin Man, which is the second of the Thin Man movies. It's worth watching for a young James Stewart, and because William Powell and Myrna Loy together are always worth watching, but it's a mystery with comic elements, and not a noir.

Closest to noir would probably be The Glass Key at 1:00 AM, in which Alan Ladd plays a hired gun for Brian Donlevy, getting involved in a murder he didn't commit as well as getting mixed up with his boss's (Brian Donlevy) girlfriend (Veronica Lake). The screenplay is by Jonathan Latimer, a name I only mention because Eddie Muller is going to be putting the spotlight on him in two weeks' time.

I mentioned that Eddie Muller didn't select the Humphrey Bogart version of The Maltese Falcon, but it is airing. After Muller's selections, TCM has decided to conclude the night with 1941's The Maltese Falcon at 2:30 AM, followed at 4:30 AM by the other version of the movie, a semicomic film called Satan Met a Lady from 1936, and starring Bette Davis in the role Mary Astor would take opposite Bogart. The Bogart role is played by Warren William.

The 1931 version of The Maltese Falcon doesn't seem to be in print on DVD; nor does City Streets. The other four selections are available for purchase from the TCM shop.

A Tolonc (1914)

I was looking for some English-langauge information from Central Europe yesterday, what with the flooding going on not only in Germany, but in the Czech Republic and downstream along the Danube. That of course has little to do with classic cinema, until I came across this article from the Budapest Times:

Hungary to remaster early film by Casablanca director

A century-old silent film by the legendary Casablanca director Michael Curtiz is to be digitally remastered in Hungary, the National Digital Archive and Film Institute (MaNDA) announced on Tuesday after securing a state grant.

I have to admit that I'd never heard of the movie in question, called A Tolonc in the original Hungarian, and translated into English as either The Undesirable or The Exile. Of course, I knew that Michael Curtiz, before coming to the US and Anglicizing his name, had made films in his native Hungary under his original Hungarian name Mihály Kertész. Then again, the movie was presumed lost for decades, so it shouldn't be a surprise that almost nobody would know much about it.

There's not much to the rest of the relatively brief article, but it's still worth a read.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Esther Williams, 1921-2013

The death has been announced of actress Esther Williams at the age of 91. Williams was a championship swimmer who went into acting when World War II canceled the 1940 Olympics. Williams eventually got a contract at MGM, who played to her talents by putting her in a whole bunch of escapist musicals with aquatic numbers. For a good example of the escapism, you could do much worse than Princess Mermaid, which has Williams swimming with two of MGM's bigger stars: Tom the cat and Jerry the mouse:

Then again, if Gene Kelly could dance with Jerry in Anchors Aweigh, why not have Esther Williams swimm wiht him? As for Williams, I have to admit to not having recommended too many of her movies, mostly because those swimming musicals aren't quite my thing. Or, as I called them when I mentioned On An Island With You in Ricardo Montalbán's obituary "frothy romps". The one movie of hers I did blog about at length is The Hoodlum Saint, where she stars opposite William Powell and Angela Lansbury. Well, I've also briefly mentioned Easy to Wed a couple of times, since it's a remake of Libeled Lady.

I'd presume TCM is going to preempt some of their programming to honor Williams, but I haven't heard of any programming changes yet since her death was only very recently announced.

Resisting Enemy Interrogation

A few months ago, I briefly made mention of the training film Resisting Enemy Interrogation. Today being June 6, the anniversary of the Allied D-Day invasion of Normandy, TCM is running a bunch of movies that more or less deal with D-Day, with Resisting Enemy Interrogation showing up at 3:30 PM.

This, as I said, was a training film, made during World War II by the First Motion Picture Unit of the US Army Air Corps. (The US Air Force wasn't a separate branch of the military until about 1947.) Lloyd Nolan (uncredited, as is everybody here) narrates, playing a commanding officer briefing and debriefing the flyboys on the importance of not giving any information to the Nazis. The thing is, those Nazis are, despite any propaganda from regular Hollywood movies, really quite clever, and you'd be surprised how much information they can get without having to resort to torture.

Cut to a POW camp somewhere in the Axis countries. The US has been running bombing raids, and the Germans are quite anxious to figure out where the bombers are going to attack, and in what strength. They've shot down one of the US bombers, taken the crew prisoner, and set out to get the information they need. Resisting Enemy Interrogation shows how the Nazis use all sorts of obvious and subtle means, from simply splitting up the various crewmen to having American turncoats play American soldiers. Even in simple small talk, the Americans unwittingly give away tiny little bits of information, enabling the Nazis to gain an astonishing amount of knowledge about the Americans' plans.

This was all done with a vital purpose in mind: impressing upon raw American recruits that the Nazis meant serious business. All of the sides in the war would have had sophisticated intelligence gathering operations run be people who were experts in psychology, going up against what were effectively amateurs. I don't think anybody would have much of a chance against such techniques, even having seen a training film like this. But several things make Resisting Enemy Interrogation interesting for a civilian audience 70 years on. One that I've already mentioned is that there's a decided difference between the way Nazis are treated here, and the way they're portrayed in Hollywood movies. But also interesting is how the First Motion Picture Unit used a narrative structure to get their points across.

The IMDb lists everybody in the movie as uncredited; I honestly don't remember whether there were any credits at all. (This being purely a training film, there was no need for any credits.) But there are a number of moderately famous Hollywood names in addition to Lloyd Nolan who show up here. George O'Hanlon, the voice of George Jetson, plays a pilot at the American headquarters. Kent Smith is the American-born Nazi agent. Arthur Kennedy plays one of the POWs. All in all, Resisting Enemy Interrogation is quite the interesting experience.

I don't think it's available on DVD, but it's in the public domain, and has made it to Youtube.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Stupid Human

I don't know how many cable or satellite providers other than DirecTV ofer Cinémoi as one of the channels in their lineup. But for those who do have it, there are two chances coming up to see Fritz Lang's Human Desire: today at 5:30 PM and tomorrow at 2:30 PM. For those who don't have the channel, it has received a DVD release, as part of a Columbia box set of noirs.

Human Desire strts off with some interesting shots of a train going along the tracks, taken from the perspective of the front of the train moving forward. That train is taking Jeff Warren (Glenn Ford) home. Jeff is an engineer on the line, who stepped away from his job to serve in the Korean War, and is coming home from the war, not just from a run driving one of the trains. When Jeff gets back to his home base, he goes "home" to Alec Simmons (Edgar Buchanan), who is both Jeff's co-engineer on the run they make together, as well as the man whose family has been renting out one of the rooms in their house to Jeff. Alec's daughter Ellen (Kathleen Case) has grown up in the years since Jef left for Korea, and boy does she have the hots for him.

But Jeff isn't really in love with Ellen, and besides, it probably wouldn't be right considering the age differnece. In fact, Jeff doesn't seem to be in love with anybody, although that's about to change. Cut to assistant station master Carl Buckley (Broderick Crawford). Due to some accidents at the station, he's called in by the station master and summarily fired. Losing your job is a problem for anybody; it's particularly a problem when you've got a young high-maintenance trophy life like Carl does in Vicki (Gloria Grahame). But at least Carl has a backup plan. Vicki used to work for Mr. Owens (Grandon Rhodes), who's a big investor with the rail line living in the big city. Carl thinks Vicki might have some influence with Owens to be able to get Carl his job back, so it's off to the city for them.

Vicki is able to get Carl his job back, but there's a problem: Vicki's meeting with Owens goes on, and on, the whole day long, and Carl is a very jealous man. When he finds out that Vicki wasn't honest with him about her and Owens going out for drinks, he gets really angry, and plans to confront Owens. That eventually happens on one of the rail line's overnight trains, climaxing with Carl pulling out a knife and killing Owens! Of course killings don't go off without a hitch, and this one involves Carl, with Vicki in tow, trying to get back from Owens' compartment to theirs: Jeff has bummed a ride on the train and is standing in between two of the cars having a smoke. Carl sends Vicki to seduce the man (not realizing his identity) so that Carl can get back to his compartment. Vicki does so, without Jeff knowing that she's actually Mrs. Buckley.

Oh, but he learns it quickly enough at the murder inquest. When called to testify about what he saw, he claims he doesn't know the person who crossed paths with him coming back from Owens' compartment. Why he does this makes no sense, and frankly I'd think that it would have implicated him, but without such a lie we wouldn't have the rest of the movie. And come to think of it, it does make sense why Jeff would do such a thing: he's thinking with his libido and not his brain. He's fallen in love with Vicki, especially when she starts telling him about how mean Carl is to her, and how Carl has an important piece of evidence that would incriminate her when of course it's Carl who killed Owens. (There's no mystery about Carl's having killed Owens; we're shown that he did it.) Jeff doesn't realize that Vicki is a femme fatale, as he tries to help her deal with her beast of a husband. She was able to lie to him on the train the night Owens was killed, and she's still more than able to lie to him. In fact, by the end of the movie one wonders whether she's telling the truth to anybody....

Human Desire is a remake of Le bête humaine, originally a story by Émile Zola and made into a 1939 film by Jean Renoir. I haven't seen the French version, so I can't judge how the two compare. The title translates to "The Human Beast"; in French most adjectives go after the noun they modify. I kind of like using the other meanings of the French words, though, which would give us "The Stupid Human". Glenn Ford's Jeff is pretty stupid for lying at the inquest; surely he would have realized this would get him in some serious legal hot water, and possibly cost him his job. But love makes people do stupid things. As for Human Desire, it's a good movie, but everybody in the cast has done better. Ford, Grahame, and director Lang were all together a year earlier on The Big Heat, a movie that's outstanding where The Human Desire is merely good. Broderick Crawford is more than good enough here, although he was even better in Born Yesterday and All the King's Men. As for the story, reviewers who have also seen La bête humaine suggest that the ending had to be changed somewhat for Human Desire due to the Production Code. I do have to say that only having seen the latter, the ending did seem a bit abrupt and forced. I'm also not quite certain how I feel about Vicki's never being honest about her relationships with Carl and Owens. Or maybe one of those stories was the actual truth. To be fair, this is probably deliberate; it's supposed to be jarring and unsettling, as with any well-portrayed bad woman in a noir film.

I don't know if Human Desire is available individually on DVD, but as I said at the beginning, it's part of a box set along with Pushover, Nightfall (which I wouldn't quite call a noir, but more of a post noir), and City of Fear, a really underrated post-noir that I still haven't blogged about.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When Ladies Meet (1941)

Back in February, I recommended the 1933 movie When Ladies Meet. I made a point of including hte year in the title of the blog post for a very good reason: that's not the only version of the film. In fact, the movie was remade in 1941, again with the title When Ladies Meet, and that version is airing at 2:00 PM tomorrow (June 5) as part of a salute to Robert Taylor, who doesn't get a regular birthday salute of his own since he was born in August.

Now, I have to admit that I don't think I've ever seen the 1941 version, so I can't compare the two versions of the movie much further than giving you all a heads-up. All I can do is give you the link to the post I did on the 1933 version if you want a plot synopsis, and mention who played the various roles in the two versions:

Mary, the author, was played by Myrna Loy in the original; her part is taken over by Joan Crawford.
Mary's friend Jimmie was played by Robert Montgomery in the 1933 version; it's Robert Taylor who takes on this role in tomorrow's showing.
Rogers Woodruff, the Mary's publisher and lover, was played first by Frank Morgan and then by Herbert Marshall.
Claire Woodruff was portrayed by Ann Harding in the original; that role is given to Greer Garson in the remake.
Finally, Bridget, the friend with the house in the country, was played by Alice Brady in 1933 and Spring Byington in 1941.

According to TCM's website, the 1941 version of When Ladies Meet has received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive collection.

Apologies for any odd posting; for some reason Blogger has been showing most of my post on Young Jesse James and a bit of this post under the When Ladies Meet title. I had to delete the post and repost it before I noticed that Blogger has stopped notifying me of any HTML errors.

Young Jesse James

It's actually been quite some time since I've done a full-length blog post on any movie, mostly because there's a lot of stuff that I've already blogged about, or stuff I haven't seen, or stuff I don't particularly like. Getting back to something resembling normal service, I see that the Fox Movie Channel is running Young Jesse James again, tomorrow morning at 11:45 AM.

Now, any American will know who Jesse James is: the outlaw famous for his bank robberies until being shot by Robert Ford. But this movie doesn't really deal with that portion of his life, except at the very end setting up that he's going to go into something that's not quite what he does in the movie. The movie, instead, starts off in Jesse James' (Ray Stricklyn) home state of Missouri during the Civil War, when Union soldiers hang Jesse's father. This understandably radicalizes Jesse, so he goes off looking for his elder brother Frank (Robert Dix, son of Richard Dix). Frank has joined Captain Quantrill (played by Emile Meyer), who leads a band of guerrillas harassing Union troops in southwesther Missouri and further west into Kansas. Jesse really only wants to get back at the Union officer who hanged his father, before he can get back to the farm where his mother and girlfriend live.

It's with Quantrill's Raiders that Frank and Jesse James meet the Younger brothers (portrayed here as cousins to the Jameses, although that wasn't the case in real life), and learned the raiding tactics that they would use during their career as outlaw bank robbers. At first, Frank doesn't want Jesse around because war isn't for kids (Jesse would have been 15 or 16 at the time), and everybody else isn't sure whether this kid can really do a man's work. Quantrill uses Jesse first as a decoy -- dresses as a woman! -- to get information from a COnfederate sympathizer, and then later in other raids, until Jesse gets the revenge he was looking for on that Union soldier. Jesse returns to the farm, but unfortunately he can't get the war out of his head. So eventually, it's back to Quantrill....

The Union wins the war, of course, which is trouble for the Raiders. What drove the Jameses and Youngers to continue raids is, I think, not quite clear. The movie presents two possibile scenarios, an amnesty for Confederates gone wrong when one of the Union soldiers tries to shoot Jesse; and Jesse's monetary difficulties in running a farm. Whatever happened, Jesse and Frank would join up with the Youngers, which is about where the movie ends.

Young Jesse James is not a major motion picture, using lesser-known actors and running a scant 73 minutes, as well as looking like it's done entirely on the back lots. But those 73 minutes are interesting and worth a look, even if nothing particularly great. This is a part of Jesse James' life that probably deserves a better, more fully-fleshed movie version. Young Jesse James hasn't received a DVD release, and has also been subjected to a pan-and-scan print from the folks at the Fox Movie Channel, which is a shame.

Monday, June 3, 2013

TCM Star of the Month June 2013: Eleanor Parker

Now that we're into the first full week of a new month, we get a new Star of the Month on TCM, and this time it's a real star as opposed to the "tough guys" we had back in May. The movies of Eleanor Parker will be gracing TV screens tuned to TCM every Monday night in June. On this first Monday in June, we get several of Parker's early films starting with her very first movie, Busses Roar, at 8:00 PM. This short (about an hour) B movie is part Grand Hotel, and part Speed, at least the Sandra Bullock movie with that title. The denizens of a bus station at the start of America's involvement in World War II have to deal with a plot by the Nazis to time-bomb a bus so that it will blow up near an oil refinery that a Japanese sub off the coast can then bomb. An interesting idea that I'm really looking forward to; unsurprisingly, a little B movie like this hasn't even gotten a DVD release via the Warner Archive.

Two of the movies later in the night might be more well-known. First, at 11:00 PM, is Between Two Worlds. This 1944 film was a remake of the 1930 movie Outward Bound, so if you want to know the plot, click on the link. Interestingly enough, Outward Bound is on this week's schedule, at 6:45 AM Friday, so you can watch both versions this week.

And then there's Mission to Moscow, overnight at 1:00 AM. This is the story of US Ambassador to the Soviet Union Joseph E. Davies (played by Walter Huston), as told by Davies himself in memoirs he wrote. I don't know whether Davies was a stooge, incredibly naïve, or both. But Davies was ambassador from 1936 to 1938, before being reassigned to Belgium. This was the period of Stalin's notorious show trials, which led to a purge and millions of people winding up in the Gulag. And yet the film, released in 1943, is a puff piece, because after all both the US and Soviets were fighting the Nazis, and we had to keep from pissing them off. And Franklin Roosevelt apparently really wanted this film made. I always find it interesting how, when it comes to a movie like this, there are attempts made to hand-wave away the propaganda with, "Well, you have to look at it as a product of its time," but when it comes to the anti-Communist movies that came out after the war, there are never any excuses like that made.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Essentials Jr. returns

Bill Hader returns for another season of Essentials Jr., TCM's annual summer series of movies that the whole family should be able to enjoy. I can't remember whether it's his second or third season; I don't watch it that much. This season kicks off tonight at 8:00 PM with Danny Kaye as The Court Jester. The plot involves Kaye being installed as court jester in the court of a corrupt usurper king, so that the good guys can get the propre heir put back on the throne. Romantic complications of course ensue.

I have to admit that Danny Kaye isn't one of my particular favorites, for reasons I can't quite articulate. I think it's partly down to not being a fan of musicals, and with Kaye coming across as a bit manic. So I'm not really the right person to judge whether or not The Court Jester is a good choice for the kids of today. To be fair, though, it's got swashbuckling and adventure, so for those kids that liked The Adventures of Robin Hood, they might like this one too. I personally would just show kids The Adventures of Robin Hood, but it's not as though Essentials Jr. can run the same movies year after year.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

New month, new repeats

I've been commenting the past few months about movies that have been off the Fox Movie Channel lineup for a long time, and then show up at the beginning of a month. That's the case again now that we've started June. The first of the returns to the Fox Movie Channel is Swamp Water, which I blogged about back in June 2010. It shows up tomorrow at 7:45 AM, with two more airings in June (and probably some in July, although I haven't checked). Ten North Frederick, subject of an April 2010 blog post, is also a returnee, getting one airing on June 10. There are probably one or two other movies back on FMC that I haven't actually seen before, as well.

As for TCM, once in a while they have a scheduling quirk. The TCM programmer does a month at a time, more or less. After all, you have to figure our your Stars of the Month, as well as the Friday Night Spotlight as a full month-long theme. But one of the consequences of doing a full month at a time is that sometimes you end up with a movie that airs near the end of one month, and then gets another airing at the beginning of the following month. Such is the case with Libeled Lady, which I just mentioned a few days ago as part of a day of films paired with their remakes. Libeled Lady is this week's TCM Essential, at 8:00 PM. It's the start of a night of movies about libel suits.