Sunday, November 30, 2014

Music on FXM Retro

Tomorrow is the first day of a new month, which in theory means that we should be getting some movies on FXM Retro that haven't been around for a while. I haven't been following the FXM schedule quite so closely as to recognize which movies haven't been on the channel in ages, but I notice that the December 1 schedule contains a bunch of music-themed movies that I haven't said very much about.

First, at 6:00 AM, Glenn Miller shows up in Orchestra Wives, which as you can probably guess is about the women who marry the members of the band.
Then, at 7:40 AM< we get Benny Goodman in Sweet and Low-Down, about a trombonist who joins his band and rises to stardom, facing obstacles along the way.
Fox liked to make musicals in the 1940s into the early 1950s, and we get a a Betty Grable musical. At 9:00 AM, you can watch Sweet Rosie O'Grady. This one is more or less a remake of Love Is News. (Fox would remake it again as That Wonderful Urge at the end of the 1940s. Some stories have staying power.)
Finally, at 11:50 AM, I'll mention The I Don't Care Girl at 11:50 AM. This one tells the fictionalized life story of vaudeville star Eva Tanguay, staring Mitzi Gaynor as Tanguay. The title comes from the name of a song Tanguay made popular.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tomorrow's animal movies

I probably should have done a full-length post on Sounder, which is airing tomorrow (November 30) at noon. Cicely Tyson stars as the mother in a 1930s Louisiana family struggling to make ends meet when her husband (Paul Winfield) gets railroaded into prison, thsi being the Deep South of the 1930s. Against the backdrop of this is a coming of age story about their son (Kevin Hooks) and his beloved dog Sounder. It's a well-made movie, although I have to admit I find it a bit mawkish at times.

Perhaps more interesting is the pairing, or non-pairing, of National Velvet and International Velvet. Elizabeth Taylor, who would have been about 13 at the time, plays Velvet Brown in National Velvet, which tells the story of a young girl who, with the help of trainer Mickey Rooney, enters her horse in the Grand National steeplechase, and even rides the horse thanks to some terrible rear projection photography -- I can't imagine MGM having their new property do horse-jumping even if she were capable of doing it. That's airing at 10:15 PM tomorrow, not next to International Velvet. The latter movie is not a remake of the former, but telling a different story several decades on. Velvet, now played by Nanette Newman (wife of the director Bryan Forbes) takes in a young American (Tatum O'Neal) and teaches her to be a show jumper. International Velvet comes on at 8:00 AM.

One that sounds as though it could be interesting although is more likely to be a damp squib (I haven't seen it before) is Zebra in the Kitchen at 2:00 PM. Child star Jay North plays a kid who, in a fit of pique, decides he's going to try to free the animals from his local zoo.

Rupert Pupkin speaks

Yesterday, I noticed that Colin's blog Riding the High Country had a new post titled Underrated Thrillers. It turned out that Colin was doing a guest post over at a blog that I hadn't seen before, Rupert Pupkin Speaks.

Rupert has an interesting blog, and it's updated regularly, so onto the blogroll it goes. The blogroll lists the 10 most recently updated blogs, although I've actually got 16 blogs now on the blogroll, I think. So if you want your blog to show up there, post more often!

Friday, November 28, 2014

A few thoughts about film preservation

The print of Tree in a Test Tube that TCM ran yesterday was terrible, although I'd presume there's no better print available, what with the short having been made by the US Forest Service and the federal government having less reason to look after any movie they might make than the Hollywood studios.

It got me to thinking about the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, which will be turning 25 this year. Sometime in December, they'll be announce the latest set of films to be added to the Registry. As the NFR mentions at its site, "To be eligible for the Registry, a film must be at least 10 years old and be 'culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.'" This means that in addition to Hollywood movies, there are a bunch of traditional documentaries (Harlan County, USA, about a coal miners' strike in Kentucky, was the first documentary added to the NFR in 1990), as well as home moives. George Stevens' films that he took in World War II are there, as is the Zapruder film.

Anybody can nominate films to be added to the Registry, although I've never actually gotten around to doing so myself. There are several that I'd think of nominating:

The Cat Concerto. As best I can tell, there are no Tom and Jerry shorts on the Registry, and this one, which has Tom trying to play Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody on a grand piano that Jerry has turned into his nest, is one of the best, having won an Oscar for the best animated short.

Night Descends on Treasure Island. I don't think any of the Traveltalks shorts are in the Registry either, and some of them -- especially the ones that James A. Fitzpatrick did in the US during the World War II years -- would fit the cultural and historic signifcance part of the Registry's criteria. Fitzpatrick made two shorts about the international exposition that was held on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay in 1939. The two together would probably be a good choice, but the second one with its light show is even more in need of a pristine print.

The Case Against the 20% Federal Admissions Tax on Motion Picture Theaters. This is another one that has clear historical significance, showing what the small movie theaters, and I think smaller towns in general, thought of themselves at the time when TV was really starting to take off.

The complete list of titles in the Regsitry is avaiable here.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

TCM and Disney

So news came over the wire yesterday that TCM will be partnering with Disney. TCM will apparently be providing mateiral for the "Great Movie Ride" at Disney's Hollywood Studios attraction in Orlando, while Disney will be letting TCM show some material from the archives in prime time blocks on TCM. The first o those blocks is scheduled for December 21.

I have a feeling that anybody looking for Disney's animated features to show up on TCM will likely be disappointed. Disney have always seemed to me to be exceedingly controlling of their material, especially the classic animation that shows up o nthe latest home video format for a brief time, only to go back into the vaults before the next advance in home video comes along. I find it difficult to believe that Disney are just going to let TCM run something like Snow What and the Seven Dwarfs or Cinderella uncut and commercial free.

Still, some of the animated shorts are going to be showing up; the article mentions a 1932 short called Santa's Workshop that's on the December 21 schedule. For the most part, though, it looks like lesser-known stuff that, like MGM's Traveltalks shorts that I love to talk about, is of historical interest even if it isn't the greatest material the studio produced. I just wonder how long it will be until people start complaining about the lack of the truly classic stuff in these blocks.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving shorts update

Let's Talk Turkey does not seem to be on the TCM schedule any time soon. It's a bit of a shame, since it's actually a short that would be appropriate for the Thanksgiving holiday, what with the theme of triyng to carve a turkey. Instead, we get a mix of the old, and the new-to-me.

First up is another airing of Mighty Manhattan, New York's Wonder City at around 6:09 PM, or following The Secret Garden (4:30 PM, 92 min). It's mentioned this not-quite-a-Traveltalks short before, a two reeler that looks at Manhattan at about the time On the Town would have been in production: the short was released five months before On the Town and one has to wonder whether the suits at MGM saw an opportunity to get a short out of the location shooting they were doing.

An official Traveltalks that I have not seen, and one of the last, is Copenhagen, City of Towers, at about 12:50 AM, following The Fake (11:30 PM, 71 min). The Fake is one of those British movies that had an Ameircan star to try to make it easier to distribute in the States. TCM's schedule page lists it as a musical, although it's apparently a straight-up crime drama.

Laurel and Hardy teach us how to use wood in the World War II propaganda short The Tree in a Test Tube, at 7:54 AM tomorrow, or after Flipper (6:15 AM, 90 min). This is another one I haven't seen, but because it was produced by the government, it's in the public domain and so shows up on Youtube having been uploaded by several people:

Finally, I haven't seen Little Pioneer, tomorrow morning at 11:05 AM, following The Little Princess (9:30 AM, 93 min). This one is a late-1930s Technicolor short from Vitaphone starring Sybil Jason as a young girl in a South African settler family, who battle family strife and native Africans amidst musical numbers.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

One more night at the movies

TCM has for a couple of years now been running an infrequent series called A Night at the Movies, which looks at a certain genre of movies, generally giving a fairly cursory overview. Not the worst thing ever done, but there's not a whole lot groundbreaking for those who watch a lot of TCM.

Still, we note that TCM has a new installment in that series tonight: A Night at the Movies: George Lucas and the World of Fantasy Cinema. I don't know exactly how this installment is structured, since TCM's front page is pretentiously referring to tnoight's showings as a world premiere, but they do have a slightly more detalied page on the topic, and the other fantasy movies that will be airing as part of the salute.

As usually happens with documentary premieres on TCM, this one will be airing at 8:00 PM, followed by one movie, in thic case the Danny Kaye version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty at 9:15 PM. Then, for the venefit of the folks on the west coast, the documentary will be repeated, at 11:15 PM.

Jeffrey Hunter, 1926-1969

Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus in King of Kings (1961)

Today marks the birth anniversary of actor Jeffrey Hunter, who is probably best known for playing Jesus Christ in the epick 1961 version of the film King of Kings about the life of Jesus Christ. Hunter started his career at Fox, with smaller roles in movies like Fourteen Hours, before getting a big break playing opposite John Wayne in The Searchers in the mid-1950s. Unfortunately, Hunter's career didn't go all that well after King of Kings. Hunter played the captain of the Enterprise in the pilot for the TV show Star Trek, but with the long delay between filming the pilot and going into production Hunter decided not to do the role, so we wound up with William Shatner as Captain Kirk. Hunter's pilot was edited into the two part Star Trek episode "The Menagerie".

Hunter died tragically young. After giving up on Star Trek, Hunter wound up in Europe making crappy westerns. On a flight back to America to try to revive his career, he suffered a stroke and then, several weeks later, suffered another one that caused him to fall and hit his head which, like William Holden, is eventually what killed him (although it Holden's case it was all alcohol-induced).

The Jeffrey Hunter movie I'd recommend would be Sergeant Rutledge.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A bunch of films about films

This final night of silent stars at the TCM Star of the Month looks at the silent comediansL Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd, followed by a bunch who aren't quite as well remembered by the general public today. One of the interesting things is that each of the three big stars gets a documentary in addition to one feature film. I wonder if it's a sign of the times that getting the rights to a documentary is cheaper than getting a second feature film in these belt-tightening days for everybody in the corporate conglomerate that owns TCM. Or maybe not. At any rate, the three documentaries are:

Birth of the Tramp, about Charlie Chaplin, at 8:45 PM;
Buster Keaton: So Funny It Hurt! at 11:00 PM; and
Harold Lloyd's World of Comedy at 1:15 AM

Tomorrow at 1:00 PM, TCM is running That's Entertainment! again. I was going to post the trailer, since that's on Youtube, and wanted to make a comment about how the trailer says "This will never happen again", only for a sequel to come out two years later. And, of course, there was a third That's Entertainment as well as That's Dancing in between. In fact, all four of them will be on TCM tomorrow starting with That's Dancing and followed by the three That's Entertainment movies. But I'm not posting the trailer because I already did that at the end of last year. (That also wasn't the first time TCM ran all the That's Entertainment movies back to back, and I'm sure tomorrow won't be the last by a long shot.)

Sunday, November 23, 2014


I briefly mentioned the movie Broadminded a few months back, although it was in error, as I mixed up Boris Karloff with Bela Lugosi. At any rate, TCM is showing it again tomorrow morning at 8:30 AM as part of a salute to actor Joe E. Brown. The movie is well worth watching, if only for how bizarre it is in spots.

Brown plays Ossie, who is the cousin of playboy Jack (William Collier, Jr.). Jack is in love with wealthy Mabel (Margaret Livingston), but Jack's father (Holmes Herbert) doesn't particularly care for Mabel, who seems to have more of a knack for getting in the newspaper than anything else. The current scandal involves a "baby party" that Mabel throws. And when I say "baby party", I don't mean a baby shower, but a party that has all of the adult guests dressing up like infants and acting like babies! When a story like this hits the papers, you can understand why Dad would be displeased. So Dad suggests to cousin Ossie that perhaps Ossie should take Jack on a trip someplace warm and far away, like California. Perhaps at one of the posher resorts out there, Jack will meet a young lady who is more suitable for him and who won't cause scandal for the family.

So Ossie and Jack set off for a cross-country road trip, and this is where Bela Lugosi and not Boris Karloff shows up. The two young men stop at one of those roadside service station/diner places, and the wealthy Latin Pancho (yes, Bela Lugosi is playing a South American) happens to be there too. Due to an accident, Ossie gets pen ink all over Pancho's dessert, which understandably ticks Pancho off, although to be fair this was the days before ball-point pens; Laszlo Biro wouldn't put those on the market for another decade. Now, this should have been no big deal; just apologize and go on your way. Except that Pancho and his traveling companion wind up going to the same resort as Ossie and Jack!

Ossie and Jack get to that resort. You just know that they're going to find women, although the question of whether they'll be able to keep those women is something that will occupy us for the rest of the movie. Especially when you consider that Pancho shows up and threatens to spoil the whole thing. Ona Munson plays Jack's girl, while Ossie is paired with Marjorie White. Antics ensue and eventually the good people live more or less happily ever after.

The second half of the movie, once the characters get to California, is a bit frantic and drags the movie down a bit, as it plays out like the plots of so many other off-kilter playboy meets girl movies that made it to the screen in the early 1930s. But the movie is still worth watching for several reasons. Joe E. Brown's facial expressions and mugging for the camera make all of his films worth one viewing, even if you ultimately realize he's not your thing. And Lugosi looks like he's having the time of his life doing comedy. Once Dracula became a hit, Lugosi didn't get to do too much straight-up comedy without any horror elements. And then there's that baby party at the beginning of the movie. Joe E. Brown in a baby carriage with a bonnet around his head and bottle (presumably liquor-filled) in hand is a truly disturbing image.

I don't think Broadminded has received a DVD release, not even from the Warner Archive.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I'm sure there's a Fox film I haven't blogged about somewhere

Having done this blog for close to seven years now, it should be unsurprising that I've mentioned a whole lot of movies from 20th Century-Fox over the years. And with FXM's policy of having a fairly limited number of movies on the channel at any one time and showing them a lot, it shouldn't be too much of a surprise either that I've blogged about a lot of them at some point in the past. Indeed, much of tomorrow morning's lineup looks like a rehash of years-old posts from here:

Hangover Square at 7:15 AM, with Laird Cregar as a mentally unstable composer;
The House on Telegraph Hill at 8:35 AM; starring Valentina Cortese as a war refugee;
Richard Widmark dealing with deeply troubled Marilyn Monroe in Don't Bother to Knock at 10:10 AM;
Glynis Johns entering Dan O'Herlihy's office in The Cabinet of Caligari at 11:30 AM and
Stuart Whitman going undercover in a mental institution to discover what Lauren Bacall is doing to Roddy McDowall in Shock Treatment at 1:20 PM.

Shorts report for November 22, 2014

A couple of shorts coming up on TCM in the next day or soe look like they're worth seeing. This time, I have to admit to not having seen either of the shorts I'm going to be mentioning, so I can't honestly say how good they really are or aren't.

First, at about 7:50 PM tonight, or following Five Million Years to Earth (6:00 PM, 98 min), is Tennis Technique. I've mentioned once or twice before that Bobby Jones did a series of golf shorts in the early 1930s called How to Break 90. This time, of course, the subject is tennis, and the instructor is Bill Tilden, who was one of the big names in tennis back in the early 1930s.

Overnight at 1:30 AM, after The Prizefighter and the Lady (11:45 PM, 102 min), is the Vitaphone two reeler Seasoned Greetings. The plot has to do with a greeting card store owner who decides to try to stay in business by creating a line of talking greeting cards. Cue the various Vitaphone musical acts. What makes this one look like it's worth a watch is who's listed in the cast at IMDb. The greeting card store owner is played by Charlie Chaplin's second wife Lita; her hasband is played by Robert Cummings in one of his first roles; and that blck boy as a customer -- IMDB says it's a 7-year-old Sammy Davis Jr!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Yet another film festival

There are so many film festivals around that I've never even heard of, such as the Camerimage festival of cinematography, currently being held in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Actor Alan Rickman, who has apparently directed a film, is being honored with a special award, and apparently 92-year-old Haskell Wexler is on the guest list. I didn't realize he was still alive.

Polish Radio's external service in English had an audio interview with the festival director available for download, but that link is currently redirecting to the main page, so if you want to listen to their report, you'll hvae to go here and click the little microphone icon to listen via streaming audio. It's only a couple of minutes long.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mike Nichols, 1931-2014

Dustin Hoffman looking at Anne Bancroft's leg in The Graduate (1967)

The death has been announced of director Mike Nichols, who is probably best known for directing the 1967 comedy The Graduate. He was 83.

Nichols had a long career, starting in comedy with professional partner Elaine May, and on Broadway, where he directed frequently with movies coming in between. Among the movies in addition to The Graduate are Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and 1983's Silkwood, with Meryl Streep playing the woman at a nuclear facility who decides to blow the whistle on corrupt practices. Silkwood was the movie that also showed Cher could really act.

I don't think TCM would have announced any programming tribute for Nichols since the news only broke a few hours ago.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Where Do We Go From Here?

A few weeks ago, FXM Retro showed a movie that was completely new to me, to the point that I had never even heard of it: Where Do We Go From Here? It's on FXM Retro again tomorrow morning at 7:40 AM, and is certainly worth at least one viewing.

Fred MacMurray plays Bill, a man who wants to fight for his country in World War II, but can't because the government has declared him 4F. It's an unhappy situation for him, especially considering that the woman he's got his eye on, Sally (Joan Leslie) sings fot the troops at the local USO place and really prefers a man in uniform. Meanwhile, Lucilla (June Haver) has her eye on Bill. Not being able to fight, Bill does his service in the best way he can, which is dealing in scrap metal that will be recycled to go to military uses. After spending a fruitless night with Sally, Bill goes back to the scrap yard, which is where his life is about to change.

A woman comes and gives him a bunch of stuff that's been sitting in her attic, including an item that looks a lot like an Aladdin's lamp prop. Not only does it look like an Aladdin's lamp, it sounds like there's something inside, just begging to be let out! So Bill rubs the lamp, and sure enough, there's a genie inside (Gene Sheldon). As genies are wont to do, this one offers Bill a wish. Bill, as you can probably guess, wants to serve, so he wishes he can be in the army. The genie grants that wish, but....

Unfortunately for Bill, the genie is a bit out of practice. Like that Geico commercial where the guy wishes for a thousand bucks and gets a thousand male deer in his yard, Bill's wish to be in the army does get fulfilled, but not in the way he had hoped. Instead, the genie has put Bill in George Washington's army at Valley Forge, with the Hessians about to cross the Delaware River at Trenton. Bill knows his American history, so he knows that he can be of service to General Washington as a spy. This gets Bill sent to Trenton, where sadly he gets caught and put before a firing squad. Ah, but there's that genie! Bill wishes he could be in the navy, and once again, the genie grants that wish....

This time, it's by puting Bill in the service of Christopher Columbus (Fortunio Bonanova). It once again goes without saying that this is not what Bill had in mind, and certainly, it's not going to work out either. Bill winds up adrift on the ocean, going to Manhattan Island and the early 1600s, where he gets involved in a fraudulent land scheme with Indian chief Anthony Quinn to buy the island amd then has to prove that he really does own the island in order to get the girl.

Where Do We Go From Here? is a musical fantasy with a large dollop of comic elements. At times, it doesn't quite mesh together, which I think has mostly to do with the fact that Fred MacMurray was not an actor suited for musicals. The story itself isn't bad, although how much you'll like it will probably depend upon your views of the type of humor used in the historical vignettes, which is reminiscent of the parodies that Mel Brooks or the Zucker brothers would do decades later. At times it comes across as dumb; but then there are scenes which are surprisingly funny. It's all done with good intentions, so even when the humor doesn't hit it's still inoffensive.

I don't believe Where Do We Go From Here? is available on DVD, so you'll have to catch the rare FXM showing.

Allison Hayes day

TCM is spending this afternoon with the films of Allison Hayes. I've mentioned one of those movies before, The Hypnotic Eye at 5:15 PM. For some reason, I thought I had never done a full-length post on Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, at 6:45 PM, but it turns out there is one from September 2011.

I also have to admit that I don't believe I've seen any other of today's Hayes movies. Not that I was going to be blogging about them though, because there's something else coming up that I want to do a full-length post on. Suffice it to say that films like The Hypnotic Eye and Attack of the 50 Foot Womna are wonderful schlock, and it's great that we have a TCM around to show this stuff in addition to all the prestige movies. It's part of our movie heritage, and sometimes the schlock is the stuff that brings us better memories than the quality stuff.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Hollywood exercise

I've mentioned several times that I listen to international broadcasters that used to be on short-wave radio. One of them is China Radio International, and last week there was an interesting report on the program "Postcards", which is a show of human-interest stories from all over the world, usually about five mintues each but with enough put together to fill out a roughly 25-minute time slot.

Hollywood's latest fitness trend is harkening back to glitzy days of films gone by. Synchronized swimming is making a splash on the west coast - old Hollywood style. Before we come to the end of today's show, I would like to share with you an extra postcard from the United States.

The report itself is reasonably interesting, talking about how the exercise program harkens back to all those Esther Williams films, in which the swimming routines certainly would have been very strenuous, just as much as the dancing Gene Kelly would have had people doing, although probably without the stories of bleeding feet. There's a transcript of the whole program here; you'll have to scroll to the bottom since the synchronized swimming story is the last one. There's also an audio file here (~8.3 MB, 24 min), with the link also being at the top of the first page.

The story got me to thinking about all those old Hollywood movies and the vintage gym and exercise equpiment that shows up in them. One thing that comes to mind is that bizarre conveyor belt-like contraption that you were supposed to put around the waist and then run, presumably in the hope that it would jiggle your torso fat enough to burn it off. I'm pretty certain one of those shows up in Reducing, a Marie Dressler comedy in which she goes to the big city and gets a job with her cousin at a day spa for the rich people.

One of the transatlantic cruise movies -- I forget whether it's Gentlemen Prefer Blonds or The French Line, has a musical number with a bunch of members of the US men's Olympic team doing their thing with exercise equipment and a swimming pool. And then there's the exercise equipment in Here Comes Mr. Jordan, especially the servants' perplexity at having to procure such stuff.

A lot of the characters in the old movies also seem to think that doing a bit of aerobics when you get up or just before going to bed was enough for fitness. I have this terrible image of Myrna Loy, William Powell, and whoever played their daughter doing their leg lifts as the road to fitness.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Captain January

Tonight is TCM's third night of silent movies for the "Star of the Month" theme which this month salutes a whole bunch of silent stars and not just one person. This week is a mishmash of themes, with a couple of Oscar-winners, the Talmadge sisters Norma and Constance, and a couple of child stars. One of those child stars is Baby Peggy, who can be seen in the film Captain January, at 1:00 AM.

Baby Peggy actually plays the title character. She's a little girl who, as an infant, was on a cruise with her wealthy family when disaster befell the ship and she was washed overboard. She was fortuitously rescued by lighthouse keeper Jeremiah Judkins (Hobart Bosworth) who, living along at that lighthouse, decided to take care of the little girl as best he could, which he did for several years, christening her "Captain January" presumably for when he found her. She, for her part, grows up to like Jeremiah, because he's the only family she's ever known. At some point she's going to have to go off to school and get a formal education, but at the time of the movie she's still only about five, so they don't have to worry about that quite yet.

Of course, you know things are going to change. That happens when some wealthy people in the form of Isabella (Irene Rich) and her crowd visit the lighthouse. She sees Captain January, puts two and two together, and realizes that she's the little girl who went overboard from that yacht some years back, which would make January... her niece. So now we actually have biological family, although it's somebody who doesn't know January as well as Jeremiah. She could raise the little girl better, though, because she's got more money and more youthful energy. But January doesn't want to leave the only home she's ever known and besides, if she did, it would probably be the death of poor old Jeremiah. So there's a real dilemma here, although one that you know is going to be resolved happily.

A movie like Captain January rises or falls based on how well its child star does, and Bebby Peggy is endlessly charming. It's easy to see why she was such a huge hit in the early 1920s. You can understand her side of the story, how she's learned some independence from being at the lighthouse all those years, and why she loves Jeremiah; her distress at the idea of having to leave him is palpable and sensible. Baby Peggy's monkeyshines are also entertaining. The movie is short and with a formulaic ending, but it's still a winner.

If you like Captain Jnauary, stay tuned for the documentary Baby Peggy: The ELephant in the Room which follows at 2:15 AM. It's a fascinating look into the rise and fall of a six-year-old star who pretty much had no control over what was going on.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

I missed Norman Lloyd's 100th birthday

I knew that actor Norman Lloyd turned 100 this month, but for some reason, I thought the big day was coming up toward the end of the month, or more specifically this coming week. It was only with the birthday post for Nova Pilbeam yesterday that I finally got around to checking which day would be the exact anniversary for Lloyd. Imagine my surprise and a bit of disappointment when I realized I had missed Lloyd's centenary by a full week. On the bright side, at least Lloyd didn't die in the meantime.

I've mentinoed Saboteur several times, and unsurprisingly decided to use a picture of that for this post. (Actually, it's a picture that I recycled from the post for Lloyd's 98th birthday back in 2012.) So instead I'll re-link to my post on He Ran All the Way. Lloyd only has a small part in the movie, as one of John Garfield's partners in crime at the beginning of the movie, but the rest of the movie is well worth watching for the performances of Garfield and Shelley Winters. Lloyd also has a smallish part in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound as one of the patients.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Nova Pilbeam turns 95

Nova Pilbeam and Derrick De Marney in Young and Innoent (1937)

Today marks the 95th birthday of British actress Nova Pilbeam, who as far as I know is still alive; at least, none of the usual sources list her as having died. Pilbeam didn't exactly have a long career, but she did wind up in a pair of Alfred Hitchcock movies that he made in the UK before coming over to the US. The first of these was the original version of The Man Who Knew Too Much from 1934, in which Pilbeam plays the child who gets kidnapped.

The other, from which the picture above is taken, is Young and Innocent, which has Pilbeam playing the daughter of a police constable who winds up helping an escaping accused criminal (Derrick De Marney, pictured above), who is wrongly accused of having murdered an actress and dumping her body on the beach. It's a structure that of course would be used in several of Hitchcock's movies, notably The 39 Steps and Saboteur, but is very well done here. (I thought I had done a full-length post on this one before, but apparently not.)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Several movies I should have blogged about in full

I've been mildly under the weather the past few days, and haven't felt quite as much like doing full-length blog posts on movies. That's a bit of a shame, since there are several interesting movies coming up in the next 24 hours that I probably should have said something about.

TCM is honoring birthday boy Dick Powell today with a bunch of his movies, mostly the older musicals. Among these is Hearts Divided at 2:15 PM. It's a fictionalization of the story of Napoleon Bonaparte's brother Jerome (Powell), who met a charming young American woman when he was visiting the country around the time Napoleon was selling the Louisiana territory to Thomas Jefferson. The problem is, Napoleon wants his brother to marry into royalty back in Europe. Marion Davies plays the American, and Claude Rains plays Napoleon.

The first two movies in tonight's Friday Night Spotlight marathon of road movies are definitely worth a mention. At 8:00 PM, you can watch Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries. Victor Sjöström, whose career dated back to the silent days and who even directed silents in Hollywood under an anglicization of his surname, Seastrom (see The Wind), stars as an elderly professor from Stockholm who has been invited by a university in the southern part of the country to receive a prestigious award. That requires a road trip, and it's on that road trip that our professor examines his childhood and how he wound up with the life he did.

That's followed at 10:00 PM by Five Easy Pieces, which reminds me in some ways of another of Bergman's movies, Autumn Sonata. Jack Nicholson plays the son in a family of classical musicians who turned his back on that life, going from job to job as he ekes out a decidedly lower-class existence. And then he hears that his father, living up on an island in Puget Sound, is dying, so it's off to Washington to visit Dad one last time and pay his respects. It's here that we learn why father and son have such a lousy relationship.

We move from talking about Swedes to talking about Norwegians for our final film, Edge of Darkness, tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM. Errol Flynn and Ann Sheridan star as townsfolk in a Norwegina town that finds itself occupied by the Nazis when they take over the country. Needless to say, the Norwegians don't like this state of affairs, and some of them decide to resist. The movie was made in 1943 during the height of the war, and it is of course Hollywood's portrayal of a country that would by idyllic if it weren't for those damned Nazis, so the movie can be a bit heavy-handed at times. It's still entertaining enough, however.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


For those of you who have all the high-definition channels, TCM's HD channel is now apparently broadcasting in true HD. I wouldn't know since I don't have the HD packages, but some of the commenters at the TCM board claim to have noticed a change, which supposedly took place several days ago.

That having been said, I did notice a small change on the low-definition feed. For a few days now, the ends of Robert's and Ben's intros have had a half-second or so of what looks like a change in aspect ratio. It's much the same as what I described when I blogged about the old FMC's faulty broadcast of A High Wind in Jamaica, or the sort of jump you sometimes see when a movie is in wide screen for the opening credits and then jumps to pan-and-scan for the rest of the movie.

Yesterday evening, however, after Our Mother's House, I noticed something different: the screen for the upcoming movies bit was in 16:9 instead of the usual 4:3, with the titles being much smaller, and still centered as if it were for the benefit of people still getting a 4:3 broadcast. The trailer for Show Boat that ran just before 8:00 PM was also now letterboxed, in that there were black bars on top and bottom of the screen, with the pastel-colored bar listing the name of the movie extending down to the bottom of the bar, not to the bottom of the screen, as was the case with the old trailers. The scenes from Show Boat themselves were pillarboxed as well into a fairly tiny 4:3 rectangle.

The intro for "TCM Extras", however, remained in 4:3, which is slightly surprising, as I would have figured all of the intros were changed in part because of the need to have material in 16:9. The short itself, a featurette on Sean Connery's The Hill, was also 4:3, and both of these took up the full screen.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

It's a very very very fine house

Many years ago, probably August of 2009 since that seems to be the last time it was on TCM, I saw the movie Our Mother's House on TCM. It's one that I'd always wanted to see because when we were kids there was a paperback copy up on the bookshelf, and I always remembered the auther for his impsoing-sounding surname, Julian Gloag. The movie itself turned out to be wonderfully creepy, and I've been waiting for it to show up on TCM again so that I could do a blog post about it. It's finally back on the TCM schedule for this evening at 6:00 PM. You'll definitely want to catch it since it's been five years since the last showing and it doesn't seem to be on DVD.

The setting is one of those big old London houses which look more appealing than they really are, as this one houses a single mother and her seven children. The mother is sickly and eventually dies, which poses a serious problem. The older kids realize that when the authorities learn of Mom's death, they're going to split up the siblings and send them to various homes, which none of them really want at all. So the oldest kids learn how to forge Mom's signature so they can continue to cash the benefit checks, and bury Mom out in the back garden and turn the place into a bit of a shrine.

I told you it was creepy. Ah, but it's going to get more creepy. They have to keep up the fiction of Mom being alice, which is tough because you do have people who are going to be coming to the house and because the younger siblings have understandable difficulty with things like reality versus fantasy and because young kids are notoriously bad at keeping secrets. You can only imagine the mental pressure that the older siblings put on the younger ones to keep their existence going. And when another kid shows up to the house having run away, that threatens to blow the whole thing up too.

But that's eventually not the biggest of their problems. Just as the social workers are about to figure out what's going on, who shows up but Dad (Dirk Bogarde), who's been out of the picture for years. Or, at least, he claims to be Dad, and that's the problem. In theory, he might be able to help support them, but on the other hand, he might give away their secret since he's an adult and much better equipped at dealing with the outside world than the kids are. Worse than that, he knows some secrets about their mother, which causes the older siblings to become increasingly paranoid of him.

For me, Dirk Bogarde was the only recognizable name in the cast. But this isn't a movie about the actors so much as it is about the story, and it's a story that works well, being as disturbing as it is. From an outsider's point of view, the kids have serious problems, and yet we can't help rooting for them to get away with their ruse, as far-fetched as it is, because that's all they know. (The question of what happens when they grow up is left unanswered.) There are movies out there that are objectively better made, but in terms of entertainment value you could do far worse than watching Our Mother's House.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Torch Song

Sometimes, you just want to sit down with a movie that's a hoot, even if it's not very good. I think that's especially when it's one of those movies that's hilarious despite most assuredly not having any intentions of being a comedy. An excellent example of a movie that fits this genre is Torch Song, which is running on TCM tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 PM.

Joan Crawford plays Jenny Stewart, a Broadway star currently in rehearsals for her new show. THe thing is, she's not just a star, she's a STAR, and dammit, she's going to make certain everybody around her knows this. The haranguing of the various cast and crew members results in the pianist leaving; he just can't take it any more. Who could blame him. Ah, but Jenny's in luck, as there's another pianist around who knows her well. That man is Tye Graham, and he knows all the arrangements that Jenny likes. More than that, however, he knows what would work best for her. Except that what would work best for Jenny isn't what Jenny thinks would work best for her, and nobody is going to tell Jenny what to do. Oh, and there's one other small issue: Tye is blind, having lost his sight in the war.

So these two are going at each other, and you just know that Jenny is eventually going to find herself somewhat romantically attracted to Tye. Tye, however, has problems of his own, and both of the main characters are going to have to sort out their problems before they can wind up together in the final reel. Along the way, successful Jenny is helping take care of her mother (Marjorie Rambeau) and sister (Nancy Gates).

I haven't gone into as much detail about the plot as with some other films because the basic plot is fairly pedestrian; you can probably think of a dozen "two unlikely people thrown together hate each other at first but fall in love" movies. That, and I wanted to save space to discuss the presentation of this movie, which is what makes things so fabulous. When TCM showed the movie early this year, I found a lot to be shocked about, in a "what the hell were they thinking" sort of way, and posted about it on TCM's boards, so I'll copy and revise and extend some of those comments:

Joan Crawford starts off with a dance number that shows off her legs. This is silly, but at least naturally shows her legs as the dress moves around them. It's not as "WTF" inducing as the oversized poster ten or fifteen minutes later that shows off one leg in the same dress from that number, and has the other wrapped in the 1950s substitute for spandex.

The plot hinges on one of the hoariest of tropes, that of the blind guy who can see what everybody else can't. Still, Joan Crawford gets to zing him with such memorable lines as suggesting he get a seeing-eye girl. Of course, he's already got one of those. (And there are a lot of hilarious lines in this film.) And how could Tye afford that apartment?

Joan Crawford's bedroom, in all its sea green push-button glory. But for some reason, the layers and layers of drapes aren't operated by push button. The color scheme as a whole has been described by various IMDb reviews with highly descriptive adjectives from "garish" to "putrescent".

Harry Morgan with a moustache. Or at least, it sure looked like a moustache.

Joan Crawford in blackface. Yowza. The musical numbers are generally poor here, but the "Two-Faced Woman" number that has her in blackface is particularly jaw-dropping in it's OMG value. Especially when she pulls off the wig in anger at the end of the scene. Double yowza.

So there's a lot in Torch Song to love, for how amazingly off it all is. I believe the movie is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Two from Stockholm

So the Stockholm Film Festival has been on for the past several days, and will be running through November 12. Radio Sweden covered it last week, and there's an audio report (I think streaming only, sorry) at the link above, just before the text. To be honest, the impression I got from the piece is that the reporter especially was more interested in the people making the movies at the festival than the movies themselves.

More interesting was an interview with Bruno Tillander, who recently wrote a book in Swedish that is going to be released in English at the end of the month, on Elvis Presley. Tillander apparently interviewed several people, such as Presley's hairdresser, who aren't so well known, for this portrait of the singer/actor. The interview itself, at the first link in this paragraph and also with streaming audio, is actually a joint interview with Tillander and a man who was deputy sheriff in Memphis in the 1970s and has some very interesting stories to tell about Elvis, and having to provide security at Graceland once Elvis died. It's also fun to hear his extreme southern hospitality oozing throughout the interview.

The last time I checked, the full-length programs at the Radio Sweden website remain up for a month after broadcast, so the streaming audio of these segments might only be up for another three and a half weeks or so.

Another chance to see MGM's Studio Tour

It's been well over two years since I last mentioned the 1925 MGM Studio Tour, but it's coming up again tomorrow morning at 6:43 AM, or just after He Who Gets Slapped (5:30 AM, 72 min). It's part of the second night of silent stars as the TCM "Star of the Month", this time looking at the male stars.

The nihgt kicks off at 8:00 PM with The Sheik, which might be the role with which Rudolph Valentino is most associated, even if it's probably not his best. (I haven't seen enough of his surviving work to judge.) Valentino obviously plays the title role, the Arab sheik who falls in love with a refined English lady (Agnes Ayres) when he sees her, and so kidnaps her to his place in the desert. And the two ultimately fall in love despite the fact that she was kidnapped! Yeah, it's a nutty story, but an enduring one. A similar talkie would be The Barbarian, which stars Ramon Novarro as the Arab and Myrna Loy as the lady. But, that movie is actually a remake of a 1915 movie called The Arab. Both of the stars can also be seen tonight in Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. Novarro is of course the star of that one; Loy shows up briefly as a slave girl.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

New York as it was

FXM Retro is running John and Mary early this afternoon and again early tomorrow morning at 4:00 AM. It's a story about two people in late 1960s New York City who wake up together in bed one morning obviously having had sex, and then goes back and forth in time detailing how they met and wound up in bed, and where they're going to go from here. The idea is interesting, but some of the execution turned me off to the movie.

One of the things that makes the movie worth a watch, however, is the presentation of New York City at that time. This was just after the end of the Production Code, and in addition to opening up on subject matter, studios were really starting to go on location as it was becoming too expensive to keep all those back lots. The Naked City two decades earlier is often considered one of the earliest movies to do almost all of its shooting on location and in the streets of New York, but it's a trend that I think really picked up in the late 1960s. As good as Judy Holliday is in The Marrying Kind and It Should Happen To You, those movies don't feel as New Yorkish as A Hatful of Rain a few years later.

However, the color movies showing New York City as it looked back then deserve a viewing. The two that are probably the best for this, or at least the best that I can think of, are The French Connection and Panic in Needle Park. There's a lot of an ugly side to the city in these two, which shouldn't be surprising since this is the era just before the city nearly went bankrupt and President Ford supposedly told the city to "drop dead" as the headline paraphrased him. The Landlord deals with a part of the city (Park Slope, Brooklyn) that was just on the cusp of gentrification much in the same way the city as a whole would: compare Times Square of the 1970s to Times Square today. Another good movie showing the decaying side of the city might be George C. Scott's The Hospital; there's something ghastly and dated about the early-1970s hospital in that movie

What other good movies are there that accurately portray New York as it was back in the day?

Saturday, November 8, 2014

So that's where the song came from

TCM is running Shall We Dance tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM. I have to admit that I haven't seen the movie before, not being the biggest fan of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers formula. It's nothing against Astaire, and certainly not Rogers, who went on to some darn good things when she worked without Astaire. It's more that the scripts for the movies I've seen aren't really my thing, never mind the musical dance numbers. I think I commented before when I blogged about The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle that one of the things that makes this different -- and for me preferable to something like Top Hat -- is the plot that's more realistic, and not only because it was based on a true story.

Anyhow, Shall We Dance is famous for one of the songs in the movie, "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off". That's the one with the lines,

You say "To-MAY-to", I say "To-MAH-to"
Let's call the whole thing off

It goes on like that for several minutes, as somebody posted to Youtube:

(Actually, several somebodies have posted this number to Youtube, unsurprisingly.)

Friday, November 7, 2014


We've in the first Friday of a new month, so it means we're getting a new Friday Night Spotlight on TCM. This month, Essentials Jr. host Bill Hader is presenting road movies. One of the movies running this week that I haven't blogged about before is Badlands, coming up at 12:30 AM.

Martin Sheen plays Kit, a 20-something garbage man living in a small town somewhere on the Great Plains. One day while doing his route, he runs across Holly (Sissy Spacek), a good-looking enough and engaging enough young lady. The key word is "young": she's only 15. She being a young woman going through puberty understandably feels some sort of attraction for a good-looking enough older guy who also passes himself off as knowing more about the world which, considering this is a small town in the middle of nowhere, is another reason why it's reasonably for Holly ot feel something for Kit. It's excitement in an otherwise dull town.

Now, obviously, there's a problem with a guy in his mid-20s having a relationship with a girl of 15. And Holly's widowed father (Warren Oates) sees the problems inherent in such a relationship and thinks, quite reasonably, that Holly shouldn't have that sort of relationship with a much older man. Dad is trying to provide for Holly the best he can, which isn't all that badly of considering they live in one of those nice-looking big old houses and Holly getting piano lessons. And Kit is in a dead-end job as a garbage man. So Dad puts his foot down. Oh no, Kit, you definitely can't see my daughter.

So Kit gets an idea. He kills Holly's dad, burns down their house, and takes Holly on the run with him! Not that she quite disapproves. Presumably the ultimate goal is to get to either Canada or Mexico to evade extradition, but they have to evade everybody looking for them along the way, so at first there's an extended scene of Kit building a tresshouse in the woods for him and Holly, complete with booby traps in case anybody discovers their hideout, which of course happens when a sheriff's deputy comes too close. Death for him.

With this, Kit and Holly abandon the woods, getting in their car and driving off until they can find another car to steal, committing murder along the way. You know that eventually they're going to get caught, but how they meet their ultimate fate is what makes the movie worth watching, especially once you realize you're watching with some sympathy as a serial killer is trying to escape. Kit really is that bad, despite what Holly's voiceovers claim.

Badlands was based loosely on the Starkweather homicide cases, although any number of key details were changed, stretching the action out and making the age difference between the two protagonists greater. The acting of the two leads is excellent, with Sheen playing a man somewhat detached from reality in that he identifies with James Dean and seems to believe that his cockamamie schemes are going to wlrk. Sissy Spacek plays naïve well here, mixed with the infatuation that is easy to understand a teen girl having. The locations are lovely to look at, with the film having been shot mostly around southern Colorado.

Badlands is a movie that's extremely well worth a viewing if you haven't seen it before.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

TCM Guest Programmer November 2014: Jeff Garlin

We get another in the monthly Guest Programmer series tonight: comic actor and writer Jeff Garlin, who I think would be best known from Curb Your Enthusiasm, although I don't watch much episodic TV these days. Garlin has selected four movies, and sat down with Robert Osborne to discuss them:

First, at 8:00 PM, is Meet John Dow, in which journalist Barbara Stanwyck takes hobo Gary Cooper and turns him into a media sensation.
Then, at 10:15 PM, is Bullitt, with Steve McQueen going on a car chase to find the people who killed the mob witness he was protecting.
Third, at 12:15 AM, is The Third Man, starring Joseph Cotten as a man who goes to Vienna to meet his old friend, only to discover the disturbing truth about that friend.
Finally it's Dodsworth 2:15 AM, featuring Walter Huston as a retired automaker who meets divorcée Mary Astor on a trip to Europe, much to the chagrin of his wife, Ruth Chatterton.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Will Hays, 1879-1954

Today marks the birth anniversary of Will Hays, the former Postmaster General of the US who was picked to head the Motion Picture Producers and Distribuotrs of America (later the MPAA) that would bring more morality to the movies. Of course, during his tenure the attempts to have completely clean movies failed, at least in the eyes of the people who wanted their stricter definition of clean. The Production Code itself actually only came about in 1930, and it wouldn't be unfair to say that some of Hays' duties as MPPDA and code enforcer conflicted with one another. So in 1934 we got Joe Breen as head of a separate Production Code enforcement office, and the Hays era is known as the pre-Code era even though there was a Production Code.

I've mentioned one or two times that as head of the office enforcing the Production Code, Hays had the opportunity to speak on one of Hollywood's earliest talking movies, giving a short speech to movie goers in one of the shorts that accompanied the 1926 version of Don Juan. That short has made it to Youtube:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Another chance at heaven

Back in May 2012, when Joel McCrea was TCM Star of the Month, I made a brief mention of the movie Chance at Heaven. It's airing again tomorrow afternoon at 12:45 PM on TCM as part of a birthday salute to McCrea. I still stand by what I wrote in that one paragraph, except for the bit about it not being on DVD: TCM's schedule now lists it as being available from the TCM Shop as part of the Warner Archive collection, and currently on sale. Still, I'd recommend watching the movie on TCM before buying the DVD.

Joel McCrea plays Blackie, who runs one of those old-style service stations that didn't just sell you gasoline, but could also fix your car back in the days when eveything wasn't computerized and you had to take your car to the dealer to get it looked at. Blackie is engaged to the girl next door, Marje (Ginger Rogers), and the two of them are sure to get married and live happily after. Well, of course you know that's not going to be true, because if it were, we wouldn't have a movie.

The service station is in the vicinity of Silver Beach, one of those little seaside towns where the rich people decamp to for the summer. This summer, that means Glory (Marian Nixon) and her family. Glory takes the car out and has problems with it, resulting in her winding up at Blackie's service station. She's immediately smitten with Blackie, becuase he's Joel McCrea. What woman wouldn't be smitten with young, handsome McCrea? The bigger problem is that Blackie feels the same way toward Glory. Although, again, to be fair, young Marian Nixon isn't bad looking, and with her big-city ways you can see why somebody like Blackie would be thrown for a loop before coming to his senses. The ohly thing is, he doesn't come to his senses. Even though Glory's parents don't like the idea of her having a relationship with a guy like Blackie, the two are in love. Marje knows she's licked, so she gives up Blackie and gives him her blessing to get married to Marje.

This is where the story gets weird. Glory doesn't know how to be a good housewife to Blackie, which shouldn't be surprising since she would have had a bunch of servants catering to her every need. What is bizarre is that Marje stays in the picture, helping teach Glory how to take care of Blackie. And she doesn't seem to be doing it with any intention of trying to take Blackie back! Eventually, Glory gets pregnant, because that's what married couples do. This life-changing event makes her decide that perhaps being married to a guy like Blackie isn't how she really wants to spend the rest of her life. So Glory up and goes home to mother!

The material in Chance at Heaven is really screwed up, especially towards the end. Everybody tries hard, but can't really save the movie. That having been said, the extent to which I found myself thinking what the hell these characters were doing makes Chance at Heaven worth a viewing. That, and the presence of Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea.

Monday, November 3, 2014

"Star" of the Month November 2014: Silent Stars

This month, instead of a traditional Star of the Month, TCM is giving us a festivel of silent movies. The movies are mostly grouped thematically, although one night has several short themes; more on that in a bit. Tonight kicks off with the great actresses of the silent era:

Mary Pickford in Poor Little Rich Girl at 8:00 PM;
Clara Bow in It at 9:30 PM;
Gloria Swanson as Sadie Thompson at 11:00 PM;
Pola Negri in The Wildcat at 12:45 AM;
Louise Brooks in Pandora's Box at 2:15 AM;
Lillian Gish in Way Down East at 4:45 AM;
Marion Davies in Show People at 7:15 AM;
Greta Garbo in Torrent at 8:45 AM; and
Alla Nazimova in Camille at 10:15 AM.

A couple of these movies were remade in the 1930s: Shirley Temple would be the Poor Little Rich Girl in the 1930s;,Joan Crawford would play Sadie Thompson in Rain, and Garbo would go on to play Camille. Way Down East was also remade. That remake is probably less well-known, but it just happens to be listed on the FXM Retro schedule this coming Wednesday (November 5) at 6:00 AM.

Next Monday night will be the great actors of the silent era. November 17 will be a mish-mash: a couple of Oscar-winning movies, a couple of child stars, and the Talmadge sisters. Finally, on November 24, we have the most famous of the comic stars of the silent era.

I have to admit that I don't know silents as well as some people, so I'm certainly going to be watching some of the films I haven't seen before, and very much looking forward to it. For more information, you can read TCM's article on the programming.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

And so we've reached the end

Well, not the end of this blog, and not really the end of anything in particular. It's just that TCM is showing The Fall Guy, the last of the Pete Smith shorts, this evening at about 11:40 PM, or just following Pete Kelly's Blues. This short looks at the work of Dave O'Brien, who plays the main character in a lot of the later Pete Smith shorts. He had a lot of stunts to do, considering that a goodly portion of the Pete Smith shorts dealt with things going wrong for ordinary people, or at least this one ordinary guy. So this short celebrates that.

Although it's the last of the Pete Smith shorts to be produced, what with a lot of the stuff that previously would have been done in shorts by this time now being done on television, it's not going to be the last Pete Smith short to show up on TCM, which for those of you who like his style should be welcome news. I've always admitted to not being that big a fan of the Pete Smith style of snarky comments. It doesn't help that the humor doesn't come across as very funny, either.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Daylight Savings time ends; TV schedules hardest hit

And so we reach that twice a year bane to people trying to figure out what time something is coming on TV: the one-hour change for the beginning or end of Daylight Savings time. Overnight tonight at 3:00 AM, the time goes back to 2:00 AM, although for the vast majority of people they'll just put their clocks back an hour before going to bed. Still, it requires paying closer attention to the night's TV schedules.

In the case of TCM, it's not too difficult this time. They've got a night of movies based on lines from Shakespeare's Hamlet in the normal Saturday night primetime slot leading up to TCM Underground. The last of those, North By Northwest, starts at 11:45 PM, leading into the TCM Underground lineup starting at the first 2:15 AM with Bone. Bone runs 95 minutes, which would take it past the first 2:59 AM, back to the second 2:00 AM, and then ending at the second 2:50 AM. The TCM daily schedule gets this a bit wrong, having a short -- 1950's The MGM Story -- starting at 3:58 AM when it really should be the second 2:58 AM. The error should be obvious, though, since the following feature, Wait Until Dark, begins at 4:00 AM. As The MGM Story runs 57 minutes, it's easy to deduce that The MGM Story will pretty much be taking up the entire 3:00 AM-4:00 AM hour

FXM's schedule is a bit more challenging, since the schedule on their website sucks so badly. I use other listings sources for them, which have the 2004 White Chicks beginning at 1:00 AM, on the FXM part of the schedule that still has commercials. That movie is 109 minutes, but I have no idea how many commercials get added. There's an "FXM Presents" beginning at 2:15 AM, which would logically be the second 2:15 AM, putting a 109-minute film into a 135-minute time slot. Following FXM Presents, at the second 2:30, is The Sheriff of Fractured Jaw.