Wednesday, September 30, 2015

TCM Guest Programmer September 2015: Diahann Carroll

Once again, it's time tonight for this month's TCM Guest Programmer. (Obviously, there are no further nights on which they could have schduled the September Guest Programmer.) This month, actress Diahann Carroll has selected four of her favorite films and will be presenting them with TCM host Robert Osborne.

Every now and then, a Guest Programmer will select one of his or her own films; I seem to recall Shirley Jones doing that with Elmer Gantry. (Thelma Schoonmaker selected three films directed by her husband, Michael Powell.) Carroll is another one who is starting off with a movie in which she stars. That movie is Claudine at 8:00, in which she plays a single mother in mid-1970s New York who tries to raise her six children while dealing with the pitfalls of welfare and while falling in love with garbage collector James Earl Jones.

That will be followed at 10:00 PM by Now, Voyager, which I suppose shares something in common with Claudine in that both films involve women trying to navigate uncertain love lives. But I don't know if Diahann Carroll could have a fun breakdown the way Davis does in Now, Voyager.

At 12:15 AM you can catch Gilda, in which Glenn Ford is a gmabler in Buenos Aires who gets hired by casino owner George Macready and finds out his new boss is in love with his old girlfriend (Rita Hayworth). Oh, and the boss has some shady business dealings going on as well.

Finally at 2:15 AM is Glory, about an all-Black unit of soldiers in the US Civil War.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A heads-up on Something Always Happens

Tommorow, September 30, is the birth anniversary of British-born director Michael Powell, who was born on that day in 1905. TCM is running a morning and afternoon of his movies, and one of the highlights for me would be another airing of Something Always Happens, which is on at 7:00 AM.

The reason I consider it a highlight is that it was never intended to be seen in America. As I mentioned in the post linked above, the movie was made at the Teddington Studio, which was Warner Bros.' British arm. Back then, the UK had a protectionist system wherein a certain percentage of movies shown in British cinemas had to be British films. The Hollywood studios dealt with this by setting up shops in the UK to make cheap B movies which they could pair with the prestige movies from Hollywood. TCM got the rights to half a dozen of them several years ago, and the quality ranges about as much as wth Hollywood's B movies. Some of it wasn't all that good; some of it was highly entertaining even if not on a par with the prestige movies. For me Something Always Happens is in that latter category. If you haven't seen Something Always Happens before, I can definitely recommend it. There's a synopsis somewhere in between the length of a brief post like this and a full-length post at the link above.

George Stevens' World War II footage

Tonight is the final night of the Five Came Back spotlight on TCM, looking at five directors who served in World War II. This last installment looks at George Stevens, who after the war would make such classics as A Place in the Sun and Shane.

During World War II, Stevens had access to a home movie camera and a bunch of color film stock, which he used to good effect to film documentary footage of the war in color, with a lot of it being mostly candid. The footage went unknown for decades until after the director's death. When his son George Jr. cleaned out the attic, he found all that footage and made a documentary about his father. (Actually, there are two documentaries: a relatively standard one which does include some of the war footage, and one looking specifically at the war footage.)

TCM is, as far as I know, not showing any of the color footage, since it was more or less Stevens' "personal" films and not the stuff he was doing as part of the war effort. (They have shown George Jr.'s "standard" documentary in the past.) So here is some of that footage:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Consolation Marriage

An interesting and little-known pre-Code is coming up on TCM tomorrow morning at 6:15 AM: Consolation Marriage. It deserves a viewing and a blog post.

Irene Dunne plays Mary, a working girl trying to make her way through the late 1920s with her boyfriend Aubrey (Lester Vail). Unfortunately, he decides that he would be happier marrying into wealth. So he runs off with a rich girl and leaves poor Mary alone. While Mary is licking her wounds, she runs into Steve (Pat O'Brien). He's a newspaperman who has just suffered the same fate as his girl Elaine (a young Myrna Loy) has left him for a better-off partner. There's an obvious solution for these two jilted lovers that you should be able to figure out.

Ah, but there's a twist. Mary and Steve do decide to get married, but they have an agreement that it's going to be a more or less "open" marriage. Not so much in the sense that they're going to be sleeping around, but more that if either of them decides they don't want to be in the marriage any longer, they can just up and end the marriage. Seems like a pretty daring idea for the early 1930s, even taking into account that Hollywood movies probably had more divorces in them than America as a whole. That having been said, the marriage seems to be a reasonably happy one, and one that obviously includes sex, since Mary ultimately has a baby. (I suppose that in true Hollywood tradition, they could have had sex exactly once and that's what produced the baby.)

For a movie like this to be interesting, however, there's going to have to be some dramatic conflict. In Penny Serenade, that conflict involved killing off the poor little child. Consolation Marriage isn't going to be so mean here. And, in fact, it comes up with a more interesting dilemma. Aubrey and Elaine both return to announce that they're not happy with their marriages, and both of them would be happy running off with their old lovers. A fun solution would be for Aubrey and Elaine to marry each other and then live together with Mary and Steve, but the cinema of the early 1930s couldn't be that daring. Instead, what we get is a dramatic conflict over whether Mary, Steve, or both of them will go back to their old lovers. And who's going to take custody of the baby?

Consolation Marriage is an interesting idea, even if the execution isn't always perfect. But it's that idea that makes it so well worth watching, at least once. Most of us who are into old movies know well about Joe Breen's enforcement of the Production Code in 1934 and how, before then, movies could do things that were more daring. But even then, a lot of what was done is pretty tame compared to what you can show on screen today. The sort of marriage practiced by Mary and Steve, however, is different, and that's one of the things that makes the movie worth a watch.

I don't think Consolation Marriage has been released to DVD here in North America, so you'll have to catch the rare TCM showing.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Ooh, I've joined a blogathon!

Today was another day where I couldn't really think of what to blog about. I looked at the upcoming TCM schedule, and saw that Dial M For Murder is on it, tomorrow at noon. It's a movie that certainly deserves a full-length blog post, and, as it turns out, I already did that four and a half years ago.

So, when I was looking down the blogroll, I noticed that one of the blogs has an announcement for a blogathon: the What a Character! blogathon for 2015. Ooh, I enjoy character actors, I thought, so this looks interesting.

The blogathon will be coming up in November, so I'm going to have to remember to actually do a post on the character actor of my choice, although I'll probably just do one well ahead of time and schedule it to show up on the day in question.

It also gave me an idea for a blogathon I might like to start, although my blog tends to be low enough traffic that I'd have to really go out and almost spam other blogs' comment threads to publicize it. :-(

Saturday, September 26, 2015

A good place for screencaps

George Raft (the man in the gray hat) in a scene from Some Like It Hot (1959)

Today marks the birth anniversary of actor George Raft. I was going to do a birthday post on him, except it already turns out that I did one four years ago. In looking for a good picture of Raft to use on what was going to be today's post, I decided I was going to look for something with Raft from Some Like It Hot, which is how I came across the above picture. It's from a blog called Pyxurz, which basically has a whole bunch of screencaps on various movies, mentioning who is in each screencap, but other than that mostly uncommented upon.

I don't feel bad about hotlinking, since it's Google that's hosting the images, and since the person who put them up doesn't have the copyright on them, anyway.

Friday, September 25, 2015

James Dean, TV Star

TCM is devoting an entire night tonight to actor James Dean. Now, you'd think that's a bit hard considering that he died young and only made three motion pictures. In fact, TCM will only be showing two of them, East of Eden at 2:30 AM and Rebel Without a Cause at 4:30 AM.

So how are they filling out the rest of the evening? With old TV shows. Back in the day, of course, there were a lot of theater anthologies which would show teleplays that sometimes were not much different from stage plays that you'd go to an actual theater to watch, the likeness coming from the fact that some of the series were broadcast live, at least for the people on the east coast. (I'd presume the folks on the west coast got kinescopes.) Dean did several of these before becoming a movie star, and it's these that are taking up the first half of the evening.

Note an anomlay in the schedule, however. TCM's schedule lists the first program, the Campbell Summer Soundstage, as a 30-minute program starting at 8:00 PM and going to 9:00 PM, which I'd think is wrong. Indeed, the second program, a Studio One show, is 60 minutes but theoretically given a 30 minute slot. Most likely is that Studio One comes on at 8:30 PM and will run 60 minutes, after which point the schedule seems to come together properly.

But of course, this brings up the question: should TCM be running TV series? There are things that I think are clearly appropriate for TCM. Those episodes of the Dick Cavett Show that TCM has shown are all interviews of people involved in classic cinema and as such not all that different from something original to TCM like Private Screenings. Documentaries about movie stars that were originally made for TV are something else that makes sense to show. And then there are some movies which started off as TV movies but were re-edited fot the big screen. Steven Spielberg's Duel is one prominent example, but there were also some episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that were stitched together with some extra material and released as movies.

The old TV drama anthologies, however? I'm not so certain. I'd also question the appropriateness of the Disneyland episodes that TCM have run in the Treasures from the Disney Vault installments, but that's clearly different. Dollars to doughnuts Disney has a big say in what TCM gets to show in those, and they're responsible for those old TV episodes showing up. Does anybody really expect the more prominent animated features to show up?

But if Robert Montgomery Presents can show up tonight, why, logically, shouldn't Alfred Hitchcock Presents show up next? And those are, I think, even more clearly not within TCM's purview.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

You learn something new every day

Today is the last night of Susan Hayward's turn as TCM's Star of the Month, and they'll be showing several of her 1960s movies. Among the movies is Stolen Hours at 2:00 AM, which has the following blurb on the TCM schedule:

An American heiress with an incurable disease falls in love with her surgeon.

I thought to myself that the plot sounded familiar but surprisingly, it took a bit before it hit me: that sounds like a remake of Dark Victory! Sure enough it is a remake of the old Bette Davis chestnut, which is considered a classic but which isn't exactly my cup of tea. That's probably because to me it's one of those films which screams "chick flick", but not in a good way. I'd probably put it in the same category as To Each His Own. (Conversely, I've never had much of that problem with, say, Joan Crawford's Warner Bros. stuff.)

Supposedly Bette Davis didn't like the idea of a remake of Dark Victory, which is really quite silly on her part considering that the material is based on a stage play, so it's not as if her movie was particularly original. Davis and Hayward would go on to work together a year later in Where Love Has Gone, which you can catch tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM. From what I've read, the sparks flew between Davis and Hayward on the set of that one, albeit not to the level of Davis and Crawford making What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.

As for taking a while to spot that Stolen Hours was a remake of Dark Victory, I think that's in part because I was thinking of another pair of movies with a similar theme. Sentimental Journey, released in 1946, stars Maureen O'Hara as a woman who gets married and then, finding out she's dying, adopts a child to keep her husband company after she dies. This one was remade in 1958 as The Gift of Love starring Lauren Bacall and Robert Stack, and it was this remake I was thinking of when I saw Stolen Hours on the schedule.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

TCM's Dickie Moore programming salute

Dickie Moore and Barbara Stanwyck in So Big (airing at 8:45 AM)

Actor Dickie Moore died two weeks ago, just shy of his 90th birthday. In order to honor Moore, TCM has changed its programming for the morning and afternoon tomorrow (September) 24, when they will be showing nine of Moore's movies:

6:15 AM Three Who Loved
7:30 AM The Star Witness
8:45 AM So Big
10:15 AM Gabriel Over the White House
11:45 AM The Story of Louis Pasteur
1:15 PM My Bill
2:30 PM Sergeant York
4:45 PM Out of the Past
6:30 PM Bad Boy

Dickie Moore in Out of the Past (airing at 4:45 PM)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Scandal at Scourie

Tomorrow is the birth anniversary of actor Walter Pidgeon. So it's unsurprising that TCM should be sending the morning and afternoon looking at his films. Except that they're looking at his movies from the 1950s which I find somewhat less interesting. Well, I shouldn't say they're uninteresting; it's just that they're 1950s MGM movies which to me has a certain meaning. A good example of this is Scandal at Scourie, airing at 12:45 PM.

Donna Corcoran plays Patsy, a young girl living at a Catholic orphanage in the Anglophone part of Quebec, back at the turn of the century when the province still had a reasonable Anglophone minority. Unfortunately, there's an accident at the orphanage, which results in it being burned to the ground. Thankfully for the nuns, there are other Catholic religious institutions all over the place, so they're able to go west to Manitoba, but with the lack of space at the new place they'd really be grateful if they could adopt off some of the kids they've been caring for.

The train that's taking the nuns and children to Manitoba stops in the town of Scourie, Ontario, and little Patsy gets off to walk around, just like everybody else. However, she meets Mrs. Victoria McChesney (Greer Garson). McChesney and her husband Patrick (Walter Pidgeon) are childless, and she is captivated by poor little Patsy. It doesn't hurt that Patsy is of Irish descent, so she immediately thinks Mrs. McChesney, who is also from the island, is one of her kind. Ah, but she isn't. Mrs. McChesney is from Ulster, and a Protestant. Still, she wants to adopt this charming little girl. The nuns agree, but only on condition that Patsy be raised Catholic, since she was already baptized and everything.

And that's where the problems begin. I mentioned that the McChesneys are Protestant, but more than that, Patrick is involved in local politics. And, wouldn't you believe it, there are people who think that the McChesney's adopting a little Papist girl is a bad thing. They'll have no qualms in using that against him if he decides to stand as a candidate for the legislative assembly. But that's not the only problem. There's another kid from the orphanage who was adopted in Scourie, and that kid is a jerk who has no qualms in saying that it was Patsy who was responsible for the orphanage in Quebec being burned down if doing so will help his new family.

So Patrick gets the idea that perhaps he shouldn't adopt Patsy since he's thinking about himself first. And that causes Patsy to run away, just as the big dangerous storm is about to hit Scourie. This is also where I really start to have problems with the movie. I mentioned at the beginning that this is one of those 1950s MGM films, which implies a lot of things. MGM always seemed glossier than a studio like Warner Bros., and certainly compared to a studio like RKO. That glossiness made movies that ought otherwise have a hard edge, such as Johnny Eager, sometimes unrealistic. But more importantly, by the early 1950s, Dory Schary was in charge at MGM, and wanted to make socially relevant films. In the case of something like Scandal at Scourie, you know this is going to mean we'll get a nice tidy social lesson at the end of the movie and that everything is going to wind up happily for Patsy and the McChesneys. Also, being MGM, it's handled in an oh-so-wholesome way.

Not that the movie is particularly bad. It's well made, and everybody gives a professional performance. It's just that those MGM B movies from the era are of a type, and a type that can sometimes be irritating.

I'm not certain if Scandal at Scourie is available on DVD.

Memphis Belle

Today is the fourth of five Tuesdays in this month's TCM Spotlight, Five Came Back, looking at five movie directors who served in World War II. This week looks at William Wyler, who brought us what I think is one of the great movies about the World War II experience, The Best Years of Our Lives. That movie is coming up overnight at 12:30 AM (or late tonight if you're in a more westerly time zone), but the one I'd like to point out today is The Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress, which you can catch at 10:30 PM.

Perhaps you've seen the 1990 movie Memphis Belle. It tells the story of the people who flew the Memphis Belle, a B-17 bomber that flew 25 missions over Nazi Germany and survived. Making it through 25 missions was apparently a big achievement, which is one of the reasons the plane and its crew became famous and worthy of a Hollywood dramatization of their story. The other reason, I think, is this documentary.

William Wyler filmed the air corps as they went about their business, giving this much more realism than anything Hollywood could ever have done back on the sound stages. Better yet, Wyler was able to film this in color. (George Stevens, the subject of the spotlight next week, brought a lot of color film with him from the US, and his color movies of the war are part of the Library of Congress' National Film Registry. It doesn't look like those are being shown at all.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

TCM's Omar Sharif programming tribute

Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia (not airing tonight)

Omar Sharif died back in July. Thanks to the schedule that month and then with August being Summer Under the Stars, TCM didn't have the chance to do a proper tribute for some time. So that programming tribute is coming up tonight in prime time. Due to the length of the movies being shown, TCM only has three movies.

First up at 8:00 PM is Doctor Zhivago, one that I've commented on several times in the past. Sure, I don't like it, but it's one that certainly needs to be shown in an Omar Sharif salute, since he was the star and it is one of the movies he's most generally associated with.

That will be followed at 11:30 PM by Funny Girl. Obviously Sharif isn't playing the title role here, although it might have made for an interesting movie if he were in the title role. No; the "funny girl" here is Barbra Streisand, playing early 20th century stage entertainer Fanny Brice. Sharif plays Nicky Arnstein, a gangster who was also the boyfriend of Brice for a while.

Sharif and Streisand return at 2:30 PM to reprise their roles in Funny Lady. This one looks at Brice's relationship with impresario Billy Rose (James Caan). You might remember that name from the early 1960s musical Billy Rose's Jumbo, although Rose isn't a character there. Rose also does not appear as a character in 11:30 PM's Funny Girl.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Briefs for Spetember 20-21, 2015

I noticed that IMDb was having some problems this morning. Searching for movies by title was working fine, but when I actually tried to click on any of the titles, I was being delivered a blank page. It didn't matter what browser I was using, either, so I finally went and downloaded the latest version of Firefox, which is a story in and of itself. This time, I was given an error message about IMDb doing some maintenance. Why the searches would yield results but you can't actually go to the pages given in results is beyond me. Is anybody else still having difficulties with IMDb?

Jackie Collins has died two weeks before what would have been her 78th birthday. She did some acting in the early 1960s and if it only came to acting she'd be best remembered as the sister of Joan Collins. But she turned from acting to writing and became an incredibly successful authoress. Two of her novels were turned into movies starring Joan: The Stud and The Bitch. I've never seen either, but the brief synopses make them sound like they'd be fun on TCM Underground. Except that TCM would probably have content issues with them. TCM may not cut the movies they show, but they certainly won't show certain movies for reasons of content. (I seem to recall Fritz the Cat and Zabriskie Point both being pulled from the TCM schedule.)

Hollywood Without Make-Up is airing on TCM early tomorrow morning at 5:00 AM. I'm pretty certain I've never seen this one in its entirety, although I think I might have clicked past it the last time it was on TCM. Home movies of the stars 50 yhears after the fact sounds more interesting than home movies of today's stars. Of course, today's stars would just be posting everything on Twitter or Instagram. Maybe today's stars and what they were doing in private will be more interesting a half century from now.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Anton Walbrook night

One of the nice things about TCM is that they often shine a light on people who wouldn't otherwise be highlighted, something that is especially true for the people who work behind the camera. That having been said, tonight's lineup is dedicated to one of the people in front of the camera: Anton Walbrook.

You've probably seen some of the movies he was in, since I've recommended several of them. Probably my favorite among them would be 49th Parallel, which is not on tonight's TCM schedule. Of course, Walbrook has a smaller part in that, like most of the people playing Canadians. Walbrook was the star of the original 1940 version of Gaslight, but that one isn't airing either.

Instead, the night kicks off at 8:00 PM with The Red Shoes, a movie that's beautiful to look at albeit one with a story that I find difficult to get into. Coincidentally, I used the same turn of phrase when I last mentioned The Red Shoes last October. That, and I made roughly the same comments but using different expressions back in 2012. I'm sorry I have different tastes and find this movie a slog. But then I often like to say that you should watch a movie and judge for yourself, and The Red Shoes is an excellent movie in that regard.

The Red Shoes will be followed at 10:30 by a movie that, I have to admit, is new to me: The Soldier and the Lady. Reading a bit about it on IMDb, it sounds as though it has a very strange provenance. Just seeing it on the schedule, I would have guessed it was a UK film made by the Kordas or something, but that doesn't seem to be the case at all; instead, the movie is a reworking of a German production.

Finally, at midnight tonight, is I Accuse!, which tells the story of Alfred Dreyfus (Jose Ferrer). Walbrook plays Major Esterhazy.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Point for discussion: September 18, 2015

I note that TCM is running a night of Abbott and Costello movies tonight. Which makes me wonder, which is your favorite comedy duo?

Abbott and Costello
Laurel and Hardy
Wheeler and Woolsey
Martin and Lewis

Or perhaps somebody else?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The apparently out-of-print update and more

Susan Hayward returns to TCM for the third night of her Star of the Month salute, kicking off at 8:00 PM with Demetrius and the Gladiators, a film that I have to admit I haven't seen before, so I can't comment on it. That's followed at 10:00 by The Gladiator, a movie which is interesting for its casting of John Wayne as Genghis Khan as well as the fact they filmed it in a fallout zone and a lot of the cast and crew wound up getting cancer. (Dick Powell probably didn't get the cancer from the fallout since I'd think it would take longer for the radioactivity to have its effect, but people like Hayward may have.)

At any rate, TCM is finally getting around to showing Hayward's Oscar-winning role in I Want to Live! overnight at 2:15 AM. I think my views of that movie have been made clear in previous posts. But what I noticed in looking at the TCM schedule is that TCM claims it's not available from the TCM Shop. And sure enough, looking at the results on Amazon, it seems to be only old DVD releases and streaming video that are available.

Tomorrow morning and afternoon sees several heist movies on TCM, including a few that I hadn't heard of before seeing them on the TCM schedule. The day includes The Asphalt Jungle, which is another one that the TCM schedule claims is not available at the TCM Shop and which Amazon lists on old releases and streaming video. This one is a much bigger surprise for me. After all, The Asphalt Jungle was made at MGM, which means it should be part of the old "Turner library" that Warner Bros. has the rights to. I would have thought that this one would have made it to the Warner Archive quite some time ago. Apparently not.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


If you think that December 7 is a tough movie to do a review on and do justice to it, consider that tonight on TCM you'll have a chance to catch Alphaville, which will be on overnight at 2:15 AM as part of an evening of the films of French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard.

The putative plot involves American detective/secret agent Lemmy Caution (played by Eddie Constantine). His job is to go to the distant city of Alphaville, where the agent Henri Dickson (Akim Tamiroff) has gone missing. There, Lemmy is supposed to find and rescue Dickson, while also hopefully freeing the people of Alphaville from the tyranny of their ruler. Of course, that's going to be a bit difficult because the city is more or less ruled by a supercomputer, the Alpha 60. The computer was invented by Professor Von Braun who wants to eliminate positive emotions like love. Along the way, Lemmy falls in love with Von Braun's daughter Natacha (Anna Karina).

So far, it all sounds like reasonably standard fare that could have been in any of the 1960s spy movies, although more likely in something of the James Bond ilk instead of the movies that ostensibly aimed for more realism. When I say realism, that's where Alphaville starts to cause difficulties for me in trying to come up with a reasonable review. Alphaville the city is supposed to be a futuristic city, but is represented by... the concrete banlieues that ring Paris. It's also amazing how they can get to Alphaville just as easy as driving from central Paris to those banlieues would have been, as opposed to anything like the difficulties in getting between East and West Berlin.

Not that all of this makes Alphaville a bad movie. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, it's a very strange movie. I don't think you can say the movie is meant to be taken seriously, at least, not in the sense of being taken seriously as a spy movie. But if it's supposed to be a spoof of spy movies, then it's an extremely deadpan spoof. So I think we have to look for clues in the fact that this is part of the French New Wave and directed by Jean-Luc Godard. Clearly Godard has always had some sort of message he wants to say with his movies, something we learned when he had his falling out with François Truffaut over Truffaut's conventional Day For Night. (I thought I blogged about the dispute when I blogged on Day For Night, but the gist of it was that Godard was ticked his formerly good friend was making a film that didn't challenge the bourgeoisie but instead something "conventional".)

Godard, we can guess, is trying to use the banlieues as a symbol for something about the society as it was in the mid-1960s. I tend to side with Truffaut regarding the Day For Night dispute, but I do have to say that Godard did a very good job at making the banlieues look oppressive in Alphaville, which is probably part of the point he was trying to make. It's just that the story in support of the images is odd.

Watch for yourself, though. You may be able to make more sense out of whatever meaning Godard intended than I do. And whatever conclusion you come to, you'll probably enjoy it just for being so weird.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Pvt. Snafu

One of the fun things about the Five Came Back spotlight for this month is the Private Snafu shorts that have aired. I don't know exactly how good they were at their presumptive job of teaching new recruits not to screw things up, but they're entertaining enough.

I think that, because they were commissioned by the government, they're in the public domain, which is why so many of them can be found on Youtube.

Here, for example, is Snafuperman:

If you click the first link above, you'll see that several other Pvt. Snafu shorts are available in the sidebar.

December 7

On tonight's third installment of the TCM Spotlight, Five Came Back, Ben Mankiewicz and Mark Harris will be discussing director John Ford. Among the movies airing is the interesting docudrama December 7, at 11:45 PM.

Assuming you all know your history, you should know that December 7 refers to the date in 1941 when Japan attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, an attack which caused the US to enter World War II. But it takes a while before this movie gets to the actual attack. Instead, it starts off with a sequence involving Uncle Sam (Walter Huston), and a "Mr C." (Harry Davenport), who is apparently supposed to be the conscience of Uncle Sam or something. Uncle Sam is enjoying himself on what is for him a Hawaiian vacation, since this sequence is set before December 7, 1941. Mr C., however, gets into a debate with Uncle Sam as to what the "true" nature of the Japanese-Americans in Hawaii is. After all, many of them have apparently reatken Japanese citizenship thanks to a law that allowed them dual citizenship, and they may be spying for Japan against America. As we already learned from Resisting Enemy Interrogation, it's amazing what information the enemy can get just by being patient and listening to people inadvertently drop secrets.

All that out of the way, we then get into the meat of the film, which is a look at how the US could have dropped the ball so badly in allowing Japan to attack Pearl Harbor and inflict so much damage. One of the things mentioned in looking at the attack is that the Americans had radar, but didn't use it (to be fair, it was a relatively new technology at the time). This and other mentions of American incompetence caused problems at the Department of the Navy, which commissioned the film. There were things that they probably wanted to be kept secret, even though this was ostensibly more for the Navy than for the general public. That, and I don't think they liked having their incompetence laid bare in front of the general public. So the Navy Department had what was originally an 80-minute movie, and had it edited down ultimately to a two-reeler. Amazingly, that two-reel version won an Oscar for Best Documentary Short.

Finally, ending the movie is a look at the people who lost their lives in the Pearl Harbor attack, with a very young Dana Andrews at the beginning of his career playing the ghost of one of those dead soldiers.

December 7 is a difficult movie to give a rating to, largely because it doesn't really fit into any genre very well. I called it a docudrama at the beginning, and that's partly right. But it's almost propaganda as much as it is documentary. And the debate between Uncle Sam and Mr. C. is strange, to say the least. All in all, however, the result winds up being something that's quite interesting. The full 80-minute version is now available again, and it is that version which TCM showed last December the last time I saw it on the schedule. It is presumably also that version which will be airing tonight, since the schedule lists it as being about 80 minutes.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Robert Osborne, this is your life

Tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM, TCM is rerunning Robert Osborne's 20th Anniversary Tribute. This was recorded at the 2014 TCM Film Festival, and is host Alex Trebek surprising Robert. What was supposed to be -- so Robert thought -- a simple sit down interview with Alex turned into a surprise with a bunch of people from Robert's life and career showing up to congratulate him on 20 years at TCM.

It's moderately interesting, but to be honest, it could be better. I don't think there's a whole lot new here. At least, there's not much you wouldn't already know if you've seen the Private Screenings interview where Alec Baldwin interviewed Robert Osborne, an interview that had a lot more meat to it than this fluff piece. Not that there's anything wrong with fluff pieces.

And it's also nice to see who is still alive, or at least who was still alive at the time this was made. (I don't think anybody in this has died since it was recorded, but I can't recall off the top of my head everybody who was in it.) It's nice to see, for example, Robert Wagner and his wife Jill St. John come out to congratulate Osborne. Nothing against Osborne's nieces, but they're just of less interest to us since we've never met them before and it's not as if they were a big influence on him in the way that, say, somebody's first agent might have been in an old episode of This Is Your Life.

So enjoy this one, but don't expect much particularly edifying.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Kid Brother

This week's Silent Sunday Nights feature comes up on TCM at 12:30 AM tonight, not midnight as is generally the case: The Kid Brother.

Harold Lloyd plays Harold Hickory, the youngest son of the local sheriff Jim; Harold has two older brothers Leo and Olin. Dad seems to be of the Theodore Roosevelt school of what makes a man a man, that being the physicality and the overt masculinity. Leo and Olin have those qualities; Harold decidedly doesnt, not that he's feminine. He's just small compared to his brothers and relatively shy. It means that Dad doesn't care as much for his youngest son, and any time he needs a job done, he'll call on the two older brothers.

Into this situation comes the traveling medicine show. Heading the show is Mary (Jobyna Ralston, who played The Girl in several Harold Lloyd movies). Dad doesn't really want the show in town since he knows they're not very honest, but Harold screws up and the medicine show sets up shop, much to Dad's consternation. That's not going to be the only problem for Dad, and also not the only thing between the show and the Hickory family. Leo and Olin wouldn't mind having Mary either, but they're about to get more pressing concerns.

As the local sheriff, Dad has been put in charge of safekeeping for the money that the town is raising to build a new dam. Why they couldn't put the money in a bank, I don't know. (It might be explained in the movie, but it's been quite a few years since I've seen this one.) The money for the dam goes missing, and everybody understandably accuses Jim of having taken it. This is why they should have put the money in the bank. Jim sets up a search party to try to find the money, but Harold doesn't get to take part.

Which is all for the best, anyhow, because it leaves Harold alone to do some inadvertent snooping of his own. Harold runs into one of Dad's enemies and somebody from the medicine show splitting up the money, so he knows not only that Dad is innocent, but who the guilty people are. However, everybody else is out looking for whoever might have done it, so it's up to tiny Harold to outwit these big guys, recover the money, and earn his father's trust. Oh, and perhaps if he can do all those things he might win the girl, too.

The Kid Brother is a Harold Lloyd movie, which means you can be sure you're going to get some inventive sight gags and some physical comedy. It's not as zany as, say, Safety Last, but that doesn't mean I'm trying to denigrate the movie. In fact, it's well photographed with good sight gags, and a good story. If you already like Harold Lloyd, you've probably seen this movie. If you're not too familiar with Lloyd's work, this wouldn't be a bad place to start.

The Kid Brother has been released to DVD, but I think it may have fallen out of print since it's not available from the TCM shop and Amazon only lists one box set that looks like it contains a bunch of public domain product.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Briefs for September 12-13, 2015

I apologize for missing another chance to mention the airing of A Day on Treasure Island, which is airing this morning at 9:44 AM. So, most of you will probably be reading this post after it's aired. Granted, it's not as good as Night Descends on Treasure Island, but it's still an interesting look at something that just isn't there any longer.

TCM has already scheduled the Dickie Moore programming tribute for the morning and afternoon of September 24, running nine movies. More on that on September 23 since if I were to do a full post on it now most of us would forget about it by the time the tribute rolls around.

Meanwhile, Wikipedia reported the death of Alan Purwin. It's a name I'd never heard of and I'm sure most people haven't either. His relation to the movies was that, as a helicopter pilot, he did helicopter stunt work and provided other aviation footage for a whole bunch of movies. Some of that is probably going to go by the wayside in the future if the FAA doesn't go nuts over the use of aerial drones to get the sort of establishing footage that in the past would have required a manned helicopter or airplane pilot. And watch that the shadows of the aircraft don't show up on screen!

It's available from the TCM Shop, but A Midsummer Night's Dream will be on TCM tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM. It's one of the best Shakespearean adaptations I've seen, and if you haven't seen it before, it's one you probably should watch at least once.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Dickie Moore, 1925-2015

Dickie Moore with Barbara Stanwyck in So Big

The death has been announced of child star Dickie Moore. Moore would have turned 90 tomorrow and died at the beginning of the week, although his death wasn't announced until last night.

Moore started his career in silents as an infant and worked until the early 1950s, with his final film being Member of the Wedding as the young man Julie Harris playing 12 meets when she tries to run away. After that he apparently had a successful career in publicity, until writing about being a child star in the book Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in the late 1980s. This brought him in contact with fellow thespian Jane Powell, and the two of them married in 1988; Powell survives him.

I'm not certain what my favorite Moore film would be, but one that comes to mind is The Star Witness, in part because it doesn't have Moore as the child version of a character who grows up; that is, not a movie where the character is presented over a large portion of life and Moore's character would be written out after the first act. In The Star Witness, Moore actually has a relatively substantial role and is critical to the plot.

Moore also plays the deaf mute who works for Robert Mitchum's character in Out of the Past, although that one is a smaller role for Moore.

I haven't seen yet whether or when TCM will be doing a programming tribute to Moore.

Gotta love movie advertising

Even when I was a kid, I would notice that there was a class of movie advertisements that breathlessly plugged the positive reviews the movie received from various critics, usually quoting about one phrase from the review. I always got the impression that the people making the ads would be dishonest enough to put up a review saying "This film is ... good", when the actual review said "This film is no good" with the ellipsis completely changing the meaning of the critic's review. Or, at least, changing the viewer's perception of what the critic wrote.

Fast forward a couple of decades. There's a British film called Legend coming to US theaters in October but which has already been released in the UK. So the various UK media outlets have been able to review it. According to the always interesting blogger David Thompson, the Guardian movie critic didn't care much for the movie, giving it only two stars as opposed to other reviewers who gave it more stars.

The people who make the movie advertising, however, figured out a way to use that to their advantage. Wow. The Guardian at least had some admiration for this, writing, "I might still dislike Legend but I like its marketing team. If only they could have written the script."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Robert Wise, 1914-2005

I didn't notice it yesterday when I posted about the airing of Somebody Up There Likes Me, but TCM is running it as part of a birthday salute to director Robert Wise, who was born on this day in 1914.

Wise started out in Hollywood as an editor, much the way that David Lean did over in the UK, working on such prestigious movies as Bachelor Mother and Citizen Kane. But it was with Mademoiselle Fifi of all things that Wise got his directorial career off to a start.

Wise's career really took off at least in terms of success in the mid 1950s after he did Executive Suite, and had a string of successes, directing Susan Hayward to an Oscar in I Want to Live! (on next week as part of TCM's Star of the Month Salute to Hayward), and winning directing Oscars for both West Side Story (co-directed with Jerome Robbins, who I presume directed all the dance sequences) and later The Sound of Music.

With Star! in 1968, an overlong biopic about actress Gertrude Lawrence, Wise's career went into decline, directing a smaller number of movies in the 1970s concluding with the first of the Star Trek movies.

I'd probably pick The Day the Earth Stood Still as my favorite Wise movie, although The Haunting and Odds Against Tomorrow are also quite good.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Briefs for September 9-10, 2015

Tonight on TCM sees a lineup of westerns from the 1950s. Apparently, The Naked Spur, which I blogged about back in July 2008 and which is coming up overnight at 3:00 AM, is out of print on DVD. You can't get it at the TCM Shop and the Amazon DVD options are all old releases. You can, however, get it via instant video on Amazon if you do that thing.

When Dean Jones died last week, I don't think I mentioned that his first role was a small part in Somebody Up There Likes Me, a biopic about boxer Rocky Graziano (Paul Newman). Somebody Up There Likes Me happens to be on the TCM schedule for tomorrow at 1:00 PM.

Over on FXM Retro, they're running Tales of Manhattan tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM. However, they've got it in a two-hour time slot, which implies it would be the version with the WC Fields sketch excised.

Finally, Satan Never Sleeps is being taken back out of the FXM vault after only two years. It'll be on tomorrow at 12:45 PM.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Gang War (1958)

I briefly mentioned the film Gang War back in December 2011. It's finally showing up again on FXM Retro, tomorrow morning at 10:35 AM.

Charles Bronson stars as Alan Avery, a high school teacher living the middle-class life in Los Angeles together with his pregnant wife Edie (Gloria Henry). One night, he has to go out to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for her. Unfortunately, while he's in the parking lot after picking up the prescription, he sees two guy knifing a third to death. Who wants to see that? Well, Alan is a good citizen, so he goes to the nearest pay phone and calls up the police anonymously, to report that he saw a murder. He may be a good enough citizen to tell them he saw the murder, but he's not good enough to identify himself. And who can blame him? Nobody really wants to get involved as an eyewitness to murder.

However, Alan left the prescription behind in the phone booth, and since the police were able to figure out where the call came from, they were able to find the prescription and ultimately find the man who called in the news of this murder. The police ask him to come down to the station to file a report, and that's where the trouble really begins for poor Alan. It turns out that the murder was committed by a couple of henchmen of the gangster Maxie Meadows (John Doucette). Apparently, some bigger gangs from the national syndicate are trying to horn in on Meadows' territory, which is what led to the murder. But Meadows is still powerful enough to have sources in the police department who are beholden to him, not to the public. So Meadows finds out who's been ratting on his henchmen.

Meadows response to this is take another of his henchmen, boxer Chester, and have him go to the Avery place to smack Edie a bit -- just enough to give Alan second thoughts about testifying against Maxie's henchmen. Unfortunately, Chester has taken a few too many punches in the ring, to the point that he's not quite so good at following instructions any longer, or even recognizing his own strength. He hits Edie hard enough that he kills her. Oops.

Of course, Alan finds out about this, and it's enough to send him over the edge. He's now hell-bent for leather, and willing to get Maxie, consequences be damned....

Gang War is one of those B movies that Fox was making a lot of in the late 1950s and early 1960s, running under 75 minutes in length and using a lot of people who weren't established stars at the time. Gang War is one of the better ones. The story is interesting, it's got Bronson, and it's got a lot of location shooting in Los Angeles. Notably, the old Capitol Records building in Los Angeles, the one that was designed to be round and look like a stack of records, can be seen in the early sequences when Alan first witnesses the fatal knifing.

I don't think Gang War is available on DVD at all, so you're going to have to catch the FXM showing.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Martin Milner, 1931-2015

Martin Milner, who i sprobably best known for his roles on TV's Route 66 and Adam-12, but who also had a substantial career in the movies, has died at the age of 83.

Milner started his film career at the age of 15 in 1947's Life With Father, in which he played one of the younger brothers in the Day household. I've recommended him several times in movies that aren't so well known, such as:

Our Very Own, which has him in a small role as one of Ann Blyth's classmates;

My Wife's Best Friend is another smaller role for Milner, playing the son of the minister portrayed by Cecil Kellaway; MacDonald Carey and Anne Baxter are the stars here;

Destination Gobi, which sees poor Milner trapped in the Gobi Desert with a bunch of his fellow Navy officers; or

Pete Kelly's Blues, with Milner as the drummer in Jack Webb's band. Milner's character is a bit hot-headed here, and that leads to his getting bumped off.

It's probably the last movie that brought Milner to Jack Webb's attention. A decade later, used Milner as a guest star in one of the episodes of the 1960s reboot of Dragnet, a series that's hilariously bad. Milner's character was turned into the lead of the aforementioned show Adam-12, which ran for seven years.

Breakfast with Audrey Hepburn

Courtesy of Radio New Zealand, the following appeared in my RSS reader this morning:

Audrey Hepburn's son Luca Dotti on his book Audrey at Home: Memories of My Mother's Kitchen, from which he'll share Audrey's recipe for Penne alla Vodka. Apparently Audrey Hepburn cooked the same as she dressed: with style and finesse.

I haven't read the book, so I can't comment on that, and as of this writing I haven't listened to the interview either. Radio New Zealand's site doesn't do transcripts, only summaries of the various stories, so you're going to have to download the interview from this link or listen to streaming audio at the RNZ site. The interview is 22 minutes and about 8MB.

The book was released in June 2015 and can be purchased at Amazon or many other major booksellers; use your favorite search engine to find a copy.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Tomorrow is Labor Day, which means TCM's annual salute to the Telluride Film Festival, with movies of some of the people who have been honored by the festival in the past. Among the movies airing tomorrow is Yoyo at 9:15, for previous honoree Pierre Étaix.

Étaix was a clown for his normal profession, but made several movies in the 1960s including Yoyo. Here, he plays two characters. The adult Yoyo in the final thirds of the movie, and Yoyo's father in the first two segments. That first segment takes place in the 1920s. Dad is a wealthy industrialist whose money has bought him a mansion just outside of Paris full of servants and almost everything that he could want... except for the love of his life. But our millionaire is in luck. A travelling circus is coming to town, and this circus includes the lovely Isolina (Claudine Auger). Isolina is the woman who just happens to be the love of the millionaire's wife. They met several years earlier, and obviously had a torrid affair, since the affair produced Yoyo, who was born after the last time the circus left town and about whom our millionaire knew nothing. The millionaire meets Isolina and for the first time his son, but it's a meeting that's going to amount to nothing as the circus goes off again and the millionaire has to go back to his industry.

A few years later means 1929, the stock market crash, and the global depression. Our millionaire loses all of his wealth, which normally would be considered a bad thing, but here has the silver lining of allowing him to run off with the circus and join his child Yoyo and the child's mother for an itinerant life as circus performers. It's not exactly much of a life, but it's one that's satisfying enough for the family. That is, at least until World War II and the Nazi invasion come. Mom and Dad are written out of the movie and Yoyo fights for France.

Fast forward several more years. Yoyo has become a clown and with the advent of television has become able to show off his talents to much larger audiences and has become quite financially successful as a result. Pretty much, he's almost as successfull as his dad was before Dad met Mom and she had Yoyo. So Yoyo decides he's going to find the mansion that Dad had, and when he does find it, he's going to restore it to its former glory. It's a noble goal, but the bad news is that when he does restore it, he finds that he's missing the same things that his father was missing when he was living in the house 40 years earlier.

There's a lot about Yoyo that's interesting, especially visually, since Étaix was a clown and dealt more in visual than audible humor. Although, having said, that, probably my favorite scene in the movie involves Dad giving his son a little help with the history lesson that Mom is teaching Yoyo, a scene which combines the two senes. The reliance on visual humor also means that there are some uneven parts. This is especially true at the beginning. Étaix made the decision to do the entire first sequence at the 1920s vintage mansion in the style of a silent movie. I don't think Étaix quite succeeds in recreating that style, with the result being something that grates and feels almost interminable, as though you're waiting for something else to happen. Fortunately, once the action gets to 1929, the movie starts talking fully, and it really takes off.

I don't know that Yoyo is available on DVD at all.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Prisoner of Shark Island

Another movie that's returning to FXM after a long absence is The Prisoner of Shark Island, tomorrow morning at 8:40 AM.

The movie begins in April 1865, which should bring some obvious things to mind if you know your American history. First, it's the end of the Civil War, something we've seen in a number of Westerns. More importantly, however, a few days after the armistice was signed at Appomattox Court House, President Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater. Booth, played here by Francis McDonald, jumps down from the President's Box to the stage, where he informed the audience, "Sic semper tyrannis!", or "Thus ever to tyrants!", which was also the state motto of Virginia. After that, Booth ran off the stage to make his escape.

Or, more likely, he limped off the stage, trying to run as best he could. He had broken one of his legs in the fall, and he and his co-conspirator go off on horseback, eventually looking for a doctor to treat that leg. They wind up at the home of one Samuel Mudd (Warner Baxter), who obviously doesn't know what has happened because news didn't travel nearly as fast back in 1865. Not knowing Lincoln was shot, he also doesn't know that this man he's treating is the man who shot Lincoln. Besides, there's the Hippocratic Oath; duty would force him to treat the man.

Not that the authorities care about this. They're looking for Booth, and the trail eventually takes them to Dr. Mudd's residence. They discover that Booth was there, and since this is such a notorious crime, they arbitarily declare despite all of Mudd's protestations, that Mudd must have been part of the conspiracy to assassinate Lincoln. There's a trial -- not much of one -- for all of the alleged conspirators. Many of them are sentenced to execution, which is carried out summarily without much chance of appeal. Mudd is a bit luckier, if you can call it lucky, in that he's only sentenced to life in prison doing hard labor at a prison camp on "Shark" Island, in the Dry Tortugas.

The prison on such an isolated island is unsurprisingly awful and life there is especially brutal for Mudd because one of the guards (John Carradine) finds out about Mudd and treats Mudd even worse than the rest of the prisoners. Still, Mudd is luckier than the other conspirators in that, not having been executed, there's a chance that his supporters back in the mainland US, led by his wife Peggy (Gloria Stuart; in real life Mudd's wife was named Sarah), could successfully appeal for clemency. The fact that Mudd was able to take over the position of prison physician and deal with a yellow fever epidemic certainly helped in that regard.

It's been quite a few years since I've seen The Prisoner of Shark Island, since it's a Fox film and FXM or the predecessor Fox Movie Channel haven't aired it since I don't know when. It got an airing on TCM quite a few years back when TCM was promoting the "Ford at Fox" box set (the movie was directed by John Ford) and several relatively rare movies were run on TCM when they'd be run nowhere else. It's an interesting movie, and I'm glad to see it showing up on TV again.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Bank Dick

TCM isn't running a Friday Night Spotlight this month, since the Five Came Back spotlight is substituting for it on Tuesday nights. So on this first Friday in September, TCM is looking at the 100th anniversary of the film career of William Claude Dukenfield, better known to moviegoers as W.C. Fields. The 100 year anniversary is for the release of Pool Sharks, which hit US screens in September 1915. I was going to embed that today, but I see I already did that four months ago. So instead I'll mention the first of tonight's W.C. Fields features, The Bank Dick, coming on at 8:00 PM.

Fields plays Egbert Sousé. Notice the accent on Sousé; it's the subject of the very first movie when somebody passing his house refers to him as "Egbert Souse", rhyming with "mouse". It would be an appropriate name for a Fields character, so obviously he's riffing on that. Sousé is a husband in a family that's giving him no peace. Wife Agatha (Cora Witherspoon) and her mother Hermisilio (Jessie Ralph) nag him, and his young daughter Elise (Evelyn Del Rio) is your typical kid. As for the other daughter, Myrtle (Una Merkel), she's in love with bank teller Og Oggilby (Grady Sutton). It's all enough to drive a man to drink, which Egbert likes to do at the local bar.

One day, however, bank robbers come to the bank where Og is a teller, go up to his window, and rob the place! One of the robbers is able to get away, but Egbert "captures" the other through what is really just a comedy of errors and dumb luck. But because of that, he becomes a local celebrity, to the point that the bank president is willing to give him a job at the bank. Of course, having Egbert at the bank is going to turn the bank upside down, which quickly happens when Egbert gets Og to embezzle some of the money on an investment so that Og can raise enough money to marry Myrtle. Egbert has to prevent the bank examiner (Franklin Pangborn) from examining the books.

Eventually, robbers come and rob the bank again. This time, Egbert takes off after them in what is a well-remembered car chase, one that's rather more light-hearted than the chase in Bullitt In between all this, there's also a sequence in which Egbert winds up directing a scene from a movie.

All in all, The Bank Dick serves as another vehicle for the comic talents of W.C. Fields. If you like his comedy, you'll love the movie, and you'll probably already have seen it. If you don't care too much for it or if you've never seen any of his movies, you may find that it's a bit disjointed, like a bunch of sequences that don't fit together as well as in other comedies. Fields isn't as egregious as the Marx Brothers in that regard, but the movie is clearly all about him. Then again, he wrote the film under a ridiculous alias, Mahatma Kane Jeeves.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

TCM Star of the Month September 2015: Susan Hayward

Now that Summer Under the Stars is over for another year, we get back to the traditional Star of the Month treatment on TCM of having one star be honored one night a week every week for a month. This time, it's somebody who I think has never been so honored before: Susan Hayward.

Hayward did a fair amount of her work at Fox, so I believe there are going to be a couple of premieres as part of the salute. However, none of the premieres are going to be showing up tonight into tomorrow morning. Indeed, I've blogged about most of the movie showing up in the overnight and morning hours before.

The night kicks off at 8:00 PM with the adventure movie Beau Geste, starring Gary Cooper, Ray Milland, and Robert Preston as brothers who go off to fight in the French Foreign Legion to escape dishonor.

That's followed at 10:00 PM by Adam Had Four Sons, a movie that I have to admit I haven't seen before.

At 11:30 PM you can catch the interesting Reap the Wild Wind, with Hayward in a small role playing the cousin of Paulette Goddard who gets to be John Wayne's love interest.

Canyon Passage, at 1:45 AM, is a western I haven't seen before. That's followed at 3:30 AM by Tulsa, which has Hayward in the Oklahoma oil boom of the 1920s.

Can Hayward get Robert Young out of trouble in They Won't Believe Me? Watch at 5:00 AM to find out.

Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman, at 6:30 AM, is an interesting story with Hayward declining as her husband (Lee Bowman) rises.

Hayward helps a sailor in Deadline at Dawn, at 8:15 AM.

The last of the Hayward movies they're showing in this first go-round is actually Hayward's first film: Girls on Probation, at 9:45 AM.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Dean Jones, 1931-2015

Dean Jones (r.) in a scene from That Darn Cat! (1965)

Dean Jones, who is probably best remembered for his appearances in a whole bunch of Disney live-action movies in the 1960s and 1970s, has died at the age of 84. The first of those Disney movies was That Darn Cat! in 1965, but perhaps the most famous were The Love Bug and its sequel, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.

Jones' career started out before working at Disney, however. Jones had first come to Hollywood about ten years earlier and made his film debut in an uncredited role in Somebody Up There Likes Me. More film work, along with some TV and some stage work followed. I think the only one of Jones' movies I've recommended -- at least, the only one I've mentioned him in -- would be Handle With Care, with Jones as a college student trying to dig up the dirt on the college town's past.

Jones is survived by his wife of 42 years.

FXM Retro trundles on

I probably should have mentioned it, but I forgot about it until I woke up at 4:30 AM this morning, that FXM Retro was running The Purple Heart this morning at 6:00 AM. It's an interesting docudrama about the Doolittle raid on Tokyo and a bomber crew that winds up being tried for war crimes starring a young Dana Andrews among others.

The more noteworthy thing, however, is that it showed up on the FXM Retro schedule for the first time since I don't know when. I don't think I even saw it in any of the Memorial Day tributes that the channel ran back when it was still the Fox Movie Channel. The fact that FXM is still bringing stuff out of the vault for the Retro block implies that it's still going to continue until... well, who knows when?

The Purple Heart isn't the only thing they're pulling out of the vaults; there's another one coming up over the weekend that I'll be blogging about.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Five Came Back

I'm not certain if it's taking the place of the normal Friday Night Spotlight for September, but this month there's going to be a special spotlight on Tuesday nights on TCM. It's called "Five Came Back", taking its name from the title of a book released last year by Mark Harris. In the book (disclaimer: I haven't read the book), Harris discusses five directors who served in World War II and how the war affected them and their filmmaking. Every Tuesday night in September, Harris will be sitting down with Ben Mankiewicz to discuss a different one of the directors and show one of their films. Obviously, since there are five directors and only four Fridays this month, they couldn't do it justice on Fridays.

This first Tuesday in September brings Frank Capra, with Meet John Doe on at 8:00 PM. The other four directors spotlighted will be, in order, John Huston (Sept. 8); John Ford (Sept. 15); William Wyler (Sept 22.); and George Stevens (Sept. 29).

What might be just as interesting will be the movies showing up after the feature films. TCM will be running at least part of an evening of films made at the behest of the government, sometimes as propaganda for the home front, and sometimes for the men in uniform. Coming on immediately after Meet John Doe will be Coming!! Snafu at 10:10 PM. You may know that the word "snafu" comes from the acronym "Situation Normal All F***ed Up", and the Snafu movies (disclaimer: I haven't seen any of these either) show Private Snafu, the most incompetent soldier in the entire US military. There are several of these shorts sprinkled throughout the Tuesdays this month.

Unfortunately, it looks as though Resisting Enemy Interrogation is not on the September schedule.