Sunday, July 31, 2016

Summer Under the Stars starts tomorrow!

This year's Summer Under the Stars on TCM starts tomorrow, what with that being August 1. As always, each day has 24 hours of movies in which one actor appears in all of them. Well, more or less 24 hours; obviously there are shorts and sometimes a documentary.

Tomorrow, August 1, brings a full day of Edward G. Robinson. Among the movies is Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, coming up tomorrow at midnight (ie. the midnight between Monday and Tuesday; that will be late Monday evening in the more westerly time zones). TCM has been running the MGM trailer for the movie, which you can see below:

Of course, I'd like to think that the real reason Spencer Tracy didn't want to make a movie with Margaret O'Brien is that he probably didn't want to work with such obnoxious child characters. After all, Tracy had made Boys Town, and O'Brien can be sickeningly sweet in so many of her roles, to the point that, goodness you want her to shut up and get off the screen.

Dirty Gertie from Harlem, USA

The second half of TCM's salute to Pioneers of Black Cinema is on tonight, including a movie I've referenced briefly before, Dirty Gertie from Harlem, USA, at 9:15 PM.

In the 1920s, Somerset Maugham wrote a story titled "Miss Thompson", which he later retitled "Rain". Under the title Rain, the story was turned into a movie in the early 1930s with Joan Crawford playing the Sadie Thompson role; it would be done again by Hollywood in the 1950s under the title Miss Sadie Thompson. Dirty Gertie from Harlem, USA is an all-black race movie version of the story.

If anybody doesn't know the story, it involves a woman of ill-repute who is escaping the US authorities and is now in the tropical islands. (Rain is set in the South Pacific; I think Dirty Gertie is set in the Caribbean.) A man of the cloth comes to the island, meets our woman, and tries to reform her.

Now, the story diverges between Rain and Dirty Gertie. In the original story and the Hollywood movie, the clergyman falls for Sadie, which of course has negative consequences. Apparently, black audiences of the time had even more reverence for their clergymen than white audiences did, because Dirty Gertie can't allow it's male lead to do this. This results in the ending being changed.

The "Dirty" Gertie character isn't even that dirty. She basically does a cabaret act, which has her doing a little shimmying, singing a song, and not much else. She could fit in well with Gilda; a temptress but certainly not obscene at least as presented on the screen.

That having been said, Dirty Gertie from Harlem, USA is worth watching, and not just because it's a race movie. Sure, it's not great, but the ideas are interesting.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Musicals in TCM Underground

Tonight's TCM Underground block starts off at 2:45 AM with Thank God It's Friday. I can't believe Donna Summer has been dead for four years; I blogged about the movie when she died back in 2012. It's an enjoyable movie, although also of its time. If you don't care for disco music, you may have some problems with the movie just because the music is so prominent.

Thank God It's Friday will be followed at 4:15 AM by ABBA: The Movie, which I blogged about quite some time ago, but mentioned again recently since it was on TCM a few months back. One thing I didn't mention back in 2008 or three months ago was the dream sequence, which if memory serves is set to the song "The Name of the Game". It's another hoot.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Ace Drummond reminder, and some more

Back in June, TCM was running the Ace Drummond serial, two chapters a Saturday just before the Bowery Boys movies. Tomorrow after the end of the Star of the Month salute to Olivia De Havilland, or at 9:30 AM, they'll be running the five remaining chapters back to back, no Bowery Boys movie. The Bowery Boys movies will also be missing in August, of course, due to Summer Under the Stars.

A different heads-up comes for today's lineup of Nancy Davis movies. I think I've seen Donovan's Brain (3:30 PM) before, as it's one where the idea seems so worth a watch for being out there, at least as far as the studio era goes. Nancy's husband (Lew Ayres) is working on keeping brains functioning, has the opportunity to save the brain of a prominent businessman, and then finds that the brain wants to control everything (specifically, Lew Ayres) around it.

Shadow in the Sky at 2:00 PM is another one that looks awfully familiar.

Thursday, July 28, 2016


So one of the movies I watched last weekend off of my DVR was Abar, listed on the TCM schedule as Abar, the First Black Superman. It's worth a watch for so many reasons.

We don't meet Abar for a while; the movie starts off with the Kincade family. Dr. Kincade is a black physician/research scientist who is moving with his wife and two children into an upscale suburb. Except that it's an all-white suburb. The neighbors are preternaturally bigoted, since they see a bunch of black people get out of the car and assume that these must be the servants! And when they find out that these are actually the Kincades, boy do they get angry and nasty, picketing the place and doing any number of terrible things, making the Kincades feel generally intimidated. Well, Mrs. Kincade is the one who feels that way; Dr. Kincade wants to stay here because he has his important research.

Eventually, a black-power group called the Black Front for Unity finds out about the Kincades, and this is where Abar comes in. Abar is the head of the group, and more strident than Kincade about the plight of the black man. Where Kincade tends to think Blacks can improve themselves and achieve equality that way, along the lines of Booker T. Washington, Abar is somewhat more activist, although preferring nonviolence. Abar believes in part that those blacks who do become successful and make it to the suburbs are basically forgetting about the ones left behind. (This is reminiscent of some of the issues raised in the Sidney Poitier No Way Out.)

Anyhow, Kincade eventually determines, after a series of tribulations, that Abar would be the perfect human guinea pig for his research, as he's perfected an invincibility potion that the right black person could use to the eternal betterment of the race! And Abar is just the right person to try it on, since the subject has to be much fitter physically than middle-aged Dr. Kincade. Except that Kincade finds out that Abar does have some anger, and worries that he's let loose a monster. He needn't have worried.

The synopsis in the above three paragraphs makes Abar sound like it has the potential to be a thought-provoking movie. Unfortunately, the director had more or less no budget, with the result that he was basically unable to develop a coherent script or get good performances out of his actors. It would probably be more accurate to say that he was unable to get actors at all. The acting ranges from way, way over the top (poor Mrs. Kincade when she has to deal with some of the indignities from her racist neighbors) to wooden (where Mrs. Kincade goes over the top hysterical, Dr. Kincade on facing the same indignities is overly emotionless). All this puts the movie into the "so bad it's good" category.

The movie also takes way too long in getting to the point, especially if you come into the movie thinking of the title that TCM had on its schedule. And once Abar does become a superman, what he does with the powers also makes the movie interesting, if a mess. Stereotypical blacks drinking malt liquor on the sidewalks find that their malt liquor has been turned into bottles of milk! Idle black youth are turned into college graduates! Most interestingly, a black preacher gets into his Cadillac, only for it to be turned into a horse and buggy! (I suppose, however, these scenes have at least some political commentary.) Some superpowers.

One other thing that makes the movie an interesting watch is the way in which it's stuck in the time it was made (1977). The music is so 70s, for example. There was probably no budget for a wardrobe, save for a halfway decent suit for Dr. Kincade and the BFU jackets for those guys. So it looks as though everybody just brought their own clothes, resulting in a wonderful display of circa-1977 black fashion. The trips through the Los Angeles ghetto are also an eye-opener. And then there's the nice house the Kincades move into. Avocado green shag carpeting, an

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Coming up soon on the blog

I'm happy to see that two of the movies I watched over the weekend off of my DVR are available on DVD at the TCM Shop, which clearly implies that they're in print, so I'll be able to get to a full-length post on each of them sometime in the next few days.

Today's plan was to do a full-length post on one of the Joe E. Brown movies showing up on tomorrow's schedule. But it turns out that Eleven Men and a Girl, which kicks off the morning at 6:30 AM, was the subject of a post six years ago when TCM ran another Joe E. Brown birthday salute.

And then there's Broadminded (10:45 AM tomorrow), which was also a part of a salute that I didn't get to write about, the next year I think, since I had a problem with my modem at the time. However, I got to write about it in November 2014 as part of a different salute to Brown. TCM probably likes him in part because he was working at Warner Bros. back in the day so they have relatively easy access to a lot of his movies.

I'm kind of looking forward to Sally at 7:45 AM, which apparently has a two-strip Technicolor musical number and Joe E. Brown dancing to "Look for the Silver Lining" (and according to IMDb, singing it as well).

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The latest back on FXM movie

I can't believe it's been almost two and a half years since I blogged about The Adventures of Hajji Baba. It was on FXM Retro this afternoon, and is going to be on again tomorrow morning at 10:10 AM.

I didn't record today's showing, but when they ran it back in 2014, it was one of those prints where the opening credits are in Cinemascope, nicely letterboxed, and then the main action is panned and scanned. I'd guess they're just running the same print, since FXM Retro really doesn't seem to care about formatting its movies properly.

Marni Nixon, 1930-2016

Marni Nixon, who provided the voice for several actresses not known for being singers, died over the weekend at the age of 86. Among others, Nixon did Deborah Kerr's singing in The King and I, and Natalie Wood's singing in West Side Story.

Nixon was also married for nearly 20 years to film composer Ernest Gold.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Robert Francis night

Near the beginning of the time I started blogging, I mentioned that Robert Francis was an actor who died young, in 1955, just like James Dean. And yet for some reason, Dean is lionized while Francis is more or less ignored.

Francis made four movies in his brief career, and TCM is showing all four of them tonight. The most famous would be The Caine Mutiny, which will be on at midnight. The rest of the lineup is:

The Long Gray Line at 8:00 PM, with Tyrone Power as a long-serving West Point instructor;
The Bamboo Prison at 10:30 PM, with Francis and others playing POWs during the Korean War;
the aforementioned The Caine Mutiny at midnight; and
They Rode West at 2:15 AM, with Francis as a cavalry doctor who treats wounded Indians against his commanding officer's desires.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Fun with vintage TV

My dad and I eat dinner relatively early, in part because he's a senior citizen and it's what seniors do, and in part because I get up at 4:30 every morning. Anyhow, on the weekends we eat at a time when digital subchannel MeTV is running The Rifleman on Saturdays and The Love Boat Sundays. The Rifleman only has the cast members (other than Chuck Connors) in the closing credits, so I have fun trying to figure out whether anybody among the guest stars was either famous before, or would go on to become famous. Last night, I was watching, and one of the ranchhands looked surprisingly like a young James Coburn, only without the graying hair. He sounded even more like Coburn, and sure enough, it was, only in the closing credits he was listed as Jim Coburn. IMDb says he actually appeared a second time. That particular episode also has Ted de Corsia among the guests, but I didn't recognize him.

The Love Boat has the guest stars right at the top, usually (I think the first season is an exception) shown with a bit of video the way a lot of mid-30s Warner Bros. movies showed the cast. That having been said, we eat just late enough that I don't turn the TV on in time for the opening credits. The Love Boat had a much higher number of famous people show up; presumably they liked the idea of getting to do some acting again and get a free cruise to boot. Some people are unmistakeable, such as the time Ernest Borgning and Shelley Winters played a bickering couple. But then there are times where I have trouble recognizing people. There was an episode in which Carol Channing was unmistakeable, since she sounded and looked like she was 70 regardless of what her real age was. Van Johnson was easy to spot, too. But then an actress did an entrance dancing and while I felt I should recognize this actress, I couldn't. It turned out to be Ann Miller:

Amazingly, I also failed to recognize Ethel Merman, in what turned out to be her final performance.

Pioneers of Black Cinema

I should have posted this morning, but tonight and next Sunday night, TCM is running a two-part series on some of the pioneers of race movies. Oscar Micheaux gets much of the time tonight, since he's generally thought of as one of the key figures of the movement. I've seen a couple of his movies, but of the ones airing tonight the only one I've seen is Within Our Gates, airing overnight at 12:30 AM as this week's Silent Sunday Nights feature.

There's also a block of short movies tonight, as well as a Senegalese movie in the TCM Imports block. But since I haven't seen any of them, I can't really can't comment on them.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


Last weekend, I had the opportunity to watch Deathtrap off of my DVR. It turns out that you can get it on Blu-Ray from the TCM Shop, so I'm not opposed to doing a fuller-length post on it. Doing an actual full-length post, however, may be a bit of a problem, as you shall soon see.

Michael Caine plays Sidney Bruhl, a playwright living out on Long Island with his wife Myra (Dyan Cannon), who has a heart condition. As the film opens, Sidney is on Brodaway at the premiere of his new play, while Myra is at home taking her pills waiting for the reviews. Those reviews are unfortunately negative. Where Sidney used to be the big hit of Broadway writers, he's become a dud with his past several plays, this one apparently being the worst of them all.

Having a string of failures is obviously a problem, but there's another indignity coming. At the premiere of his play, he was sent by courier a copy of a play-in-progress called Deathtrap, by Clifford Anderson (Christopher Reeve), who had been a student of Sidney's at a seminar Sidney did the previous year. Clifford would like an honest review of it, if that wouldn't be too much trouble. Sidney brings Deathtrap home with him, reads it, and discovers... this is the perfect two-act play. It'll be a surefire hit on Broadway and make big money for its playwright.

So at this point Sidney has an outlandish idea. Nobody else but him, Clifford, and Myra know that Clifford is writing this play; Clifford doesn't have any family and not much in the way of friends around since he's cloistered himself away writing Deathtrap, and so on. So it would be just too perfect if Sidney invited Clifford over for the review, then killed Clifford and took credit for the play himself. Since this is a movie and the plan is such utter nonsense, you know that Sidney is going to put it into action.

Now, all of this happenns in the first few reels, and by the time Sidney reveals the truth of what he's going to do to Clifford, the movie is maybe a half-hour into its two-hour running time. And that's why it's tough to do a real full-length post on the movie. You know that there's a lot more that's going to happen, but for a reviewer to suggest what any of that something is would be to give away a lot of the plot. And Deathtrap the movie is not one of those where you want to know too much about what happens going into it.

That having been said, the movie is pretty good. Michael Caine goes a bit over the top, I think, but then this is based on a stage play and you get the impression that Caine is almost playing to the back rows here. It's material that probably works better on a stage than on the screen. Christopher Reeve is excellent; he's not just Superman when it comes to being an actor. Dyan Cannon isn't bad, although she here is the latest in a long line of Hollywood actresses who look a bit miscast as seriously ill women. The one cast member I found irritating is Irene Worth, who plays a psychic, who shows up in a couple of scenes to be just too convenient. I also had a problem with the ultimate ending wrapping up all the loose ends, which seemed even less plausible than the rest of the movie.

Any quibbles aside, Deathtrap is well worth watching.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Robert Morley, for no particular reason

I had reason to be looking up Robert Morley yesterday evening. Apparently in How to Marry a Millionaire Lauren Bacall has a line about older men marrying younger women, and mentions "what's-his-name from The African Queen". Obviously it's a joke about her real-life husband Humphrey Bogart, who was two dozen years her senior. My first thought, however, was to turn the joke on its head and ask about a different actor from the movie.

Anyhow, a quick search of Morley brought up the fact that the trailer for The African Queen is on Youtube. Stay away from the comments, however.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Happy 90th birthday, Norman Jewison!

Today marks the 90th birthday of director/producer Norman Jewison, who directed about two dozen movies from the 1960s through the 1990s. His career actually started in television, but he was fortunate enough to get to do a couple of Doris Day comedies early in his film career: The Thrill of It All with James Garner (pretty good; surprisingly I've never done a full-length post on this one) and the recently-blogged about Send Me No Flowers with Rock Hudson, which as I said I didn't particularly care for.

Jewsion had a pretty broad career, doing those comedies (as well as Moonstruck in the 1980s); musicals like Fiddler on the Roofand serious dramas like In the Heat of the Night. These three movies all earned Jewison Oscar nominations for Best Director, although he didn't wan any of them. He was also nominated four times as a producer in the Best Picture category, since it's the producers who get the Oscar nowadays for the Best Picture.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Garry Marshall, 1934-2016

Producer/director Garry Marshall had died at the age of 81.

I have to admit, my first thought of Marshall when I see his name is of the TV show Happy Days, since I always saw his name in the credits as the show's producer. (He also created it, and the spinoffs from the show.) It turns out, though, that he directed several movies worth mention.

Some women may like Beaches; most normal people would probably retch at the mere mention of the movie. But Garry Marshall directed it. There's also Pretty Woman, which might be an even more remembered movie. There's also the Kurt Russell/Goldie Hawn film Overboard.

Garry is the brother of actress-turned-director Penny Marshall, who was one of the stars of his show Laverne and Shirley, and who directed such movies as Jumpin' Jack Flash and Awakenings among others.

Soviet Policeman Caught in Icelandic Net

So, the headline above showed up in one of the feeds in my RSS reader. Why am I posting about it here? Never mind that the headline itself seems interesting, the one-paragraph teaser that accompanies the RSS article continues as follows"

The mystery reels fished up by lobster fishermen in Faxaflói bay earlier this month are from a Soviet film from 1968.

OK, now it makes more sense. There was apparently an article a week ago that somehow I missed in the RSS reader titled Fishermen Find Mystery Movie. To the Icelanders, of course, it would be a pretty big movie, since it's a couple of reels of an obviously foreign-language movie. Even if 10 minutes of some random 30s B movie showed up, it would throw most Americans for a loop, and I think even a lot of us who are faithful TCM viewers would have to stop and think for a bit. This is even more so for production stills. Even when it's easy to identify the actors, knowing which movie it's from is a more difficult proposition.

Anyhow, the folk's at Iceland's film archive mentioned this find on their social media, and sure enough, somebody was able to figure out what it was. Specifically, it's a 1968 Soviet movie about a village police officer. If you read the article, you'll find out a bit more about the story, as well as a wonderful photo of the film laid out to dry. How it survived decades in the ocean is beyond me.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A few briefs for July 19-20, 2016

So it was Ben Mankiewicz sitting down with Lou Gossett Jr. last night to handle the Guest Programmer duties. Can't say I'm surprised.

I think I missed the Traveltalks short on Oregon that was airing this week; I saw it on the TCM weekly schedule but I think it was on yesterday. I notice, however, that Season in Tyrol is airing again, at 1:40 PM today, or following The Silent Stranger (12:00 PM, 90 min).

Among TCM's salute to westerns is The First Traveling Saleslady at 5:00 AM tomorrow. It's one I've mentioned briefly, and haven't seen since I mentioned it three years ago. Has it really been that long.

Following that, tomorrow morning and afternoon sees a whole bunch of Glenn Ford westerns.

Monday, July 18, 2016

TCM Guest Programmer July 2016: Lou Gossett, Jr.

Tonight sees another Guest Programmer on TCM. This month it's Lou Gossett, Jr, who won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in An Officer and a Gentleman. Presumably, this means he's sitting down with Robert Osborne, or sat down with him months ago, to discuss the four movies he selected. (Posters to the TCM boards claim this was postponed from May, implying the wraparounds were not taped before Robert Osborne's absence from presenting duties.)

Anyhow, Gossett has selected four movies, and those are:

The Blackboard Jungle at 8:00 PM, in which teacher Glenn Ford has to deal with 50s-era punks;
Touch of Evil at 9:45 PM, with Charlton Heston playing a Mexican cop involved in a cross-border murder investigation;
Lifeboat at 11:45 PM, Alfred Hitchcock's look at people shipwrecked by a Nazi U-boat who wind up in a lifeboat with the U-boat commander; and
Night of the Hunter at 1:30 AM, in which Robert Mitchum goes after two stepkids who know the location of $20,000 their biological father hid.

I'll be interested to see the first wrapround at least.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Send Me No Flowers

I recently had the chance to watch Send Me No Flowers off of my DVR. It's available on a pretty low-cost DVD if you want to watch it yourself, so I have no qualms about doing a full-length post even though I don't think it's coming up on TV any time soon.

Rock Hudson plays George Kimball, happily married to Judy (Doris Day), and living the upper-middle-class suburban life of the early 1960s: they live in a big house; he commutes to work; she's a housewife and plays at the bridge club and country club, all the while gossiping with the other women about what's going on in their neighborhood. George, for his part, is a hypochondriac, as we see at the beginning since he takes a whole bunch of pills and worries about his health.

This idyllic life is about to come to a screeching halt. George, once again fearing that he's sick, decides to go see his doctor, Dr. Morrissey (Edward Andrews). Morrissey examines George and tells George that he's just fine. George, while he's putting his clothes back on after the examination, overhears Morrissey talking with his secretary. George hears Morrissey saying that a patient has a bad ticker and is therefore terminally ill, only having months to live. This still being the 1960s, however, it's best not to tell the patient. (See The Firemen's Ball.) George, unsurprisingly, assumes that what he's overheard is about him.

The first thing he does it tell his best friend and next-door neighbor Arnold (Tony Randall) that he's going to die. And then he has to come up with a plan for putting his affairs in order. Most importantly, this means making sure that Judy is going to be OK after he dies. There's not just the matter of finances -- after all, how is a housewife going to keep up the payments on that big house -- but the idea that she's going to need a new husband. But must importantly, George doesn't want Judy to know that he is, in fact, dying.

Arnold reacts to all of this by turning to the bottle; Judy doesn't get why her husband is acting like even more of a headcase than before. When Judy's old college flame Bert (Clint Walker) shows up at the country club and George seems more than happy for her to spend time with him, she doesn't get it. Until she sees George talking with another woman from the neighborhood who's getting a divorce. Obviously, George has been cheating on her! So now George has to tell her the truth about the fact that he's dying, only of course Judy finds out that it's not the truth.

All of this is supposed to be a comedy, mind you. But to be honest, I found all of it much too wacky. Rock Hudson is just too irritating as the hypochondriac; I wanted Judy or Arnold to smack the crap out of him. Doris Day is too perky; also, the script calls her to stop on a dime and do a 180 in her feelings toward her husband on multiple occasions. Those sudden changes of emotion are implausible and make Judy come across as almost mentally unstable. Tony Randall overplays the drunk and makes his character unappealing.

The one thing I did enjoy about Send Me No Flowers was the cinematography; I've always been a sucker for the set design that's actually of that time period (as opposed to latter-day stuff trying to be retro, which always looks phony). One thing I particularly liked were the brick-red appliances in Arnold's kitchen, the refrigerator and the oven built into the wall. But that's pretty thin gruel for actually watching a whole movie like this.

Still, there are a lot of people who really seem to like Send Me No Flowers. So I think this is definitely one where you'll want to watch and judge for yourself.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Keep off the Grass, and the rest of the overnight lineup

TCM's Underground lineup for this overnight/early tomorrow morning is a bunch of drug movies. The night starts off at 2:00 AM with Reefer Madness, which for some reason is in a one-hour slot even though it's a 65-minute movie. That's followed by Marihuana, which is a 57-minute movie, also in a one-hour slot (from 3:00 AM to 4:00 AM). So even if Marihuana started immediately after Reefer Madness, they'd still be two minutes or so off schedule. I'll admit I don't know the running times down to the second; I presume that TCM will at least add the screen for the three following movies, which will add to those run times. And then there's the animated open as well as the TV-PG (or whatever rating TCM gives these movies) screens. At any rate they'll be running behind.

Allegely starting at 4:00 AM would be Cocaine Fiends, which is apparently a 68-minute movie. Thankfully, this gets us back on schedule, as the following movie is scheduled at 5:15 AM. That's the short Keep off the Grass, about the dangers of marijuana.

However, there's a second short running to fill out the night, at least according to TCM's weekly schedule: The Terrible Truth, a 10-minute short. This won't cause problems with the Sunday schedule beginning at 6:00 AM, but TCM is continuing its practice of having multiple films in a block of shorts be listed as starting at the same time. Perhaps more interestingly, my set-top box guide and IMDB both list only Keep off the Grass, and not The Terrible Truth.

Anyhow, if you want to see Keep off the Grass, it's on Youtube:

Héctor Babenco, 1946-2016

I probably should have mentioned earlier the death of Argentine-born director Héctor Babenco, who died on Wednesday in Brazil at the age of 70.

Babenco apparently didn't direct too many movies, which is part of the reason I missed notice of his death at first. But he was Oscar-nominated for directing Kiss of the Spider Woman, and then would also direct Ironweed, a movie that for me probably seems bigger than it is because the author of the book, William Kennedy, was from Albany, NY, so the local media went nuts with the "local boy makes good" stories when the book and then movie came out. (Kennedy wrote the screenplay to that, and also did the screenplay for The Cotton Club. Apparently he's still alive at 88.)

Babenco also appeared in the movie Before Night Falls, about the gay dissident Cuban poet Reinaldo Arenas.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Olivia de Havilland out of print

In looking through tonight's schedule on the TCM site, I'm somewhat surprised by what seems to have fallen out of print, based on what doesn't seem to be available from the Shop TCM site.

Tonight starts off with an Oscar-nominated performance from Olivia in The Snake Pit; at 8:00 PM. (I can't believe it's been six years since I blogged about it.) That one got a DVD release back in 2004 from Fox Studio Classics, so it's unsurprising that it's fallen out of print. I don't know if De Havilland did enough at Fox for them to put out a box set.

Coming up at 12:15 AM is de Havilland's first Oscar-winning performance, in To Each His Own. The DVDs on offer at Amazon seem not to be North American DVDs.

Perhaps most surprisingly is that A Midsummer Night's Dream, airing tomorrow morning at 9:30 AM, doesn't seem to be available from the TCM Shop. Amazon do have a 2007 DVD on offer; I'm not certain if it's in print, but it didn't seem to bring up the warning I saw for The Snake Pit that there is only a limited number of copies available. Considering that this one was put out by Warner Bros., I'm surprised they never made it part of one of those four-movie TCM-branded box sets of Olivia de Havilland movies.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

FXM Retro may actually be doing some themed programming

I mentioned last week when I blogged about A Flea in Her Ear that it would be coming up again on the schedule today. It didn't occur to me to think that today happens to be Bastille Day -- and FXM Retro actually has an entire block of movies set in France.

Starting at 6:00 AM with Seven Thieves, there are five movies, set in various time periods.
A Walk With Love and Death, at 7:45, is set during the Hundred Years War;
Secret World at 9:30 AM is a present-day (well, 1969) movie;
that repeat of A Flea in Her Ear comes up at 11:10 AM; and
Can-Can, also set in the Belle Époque, concludes the FXM Retro day at 12:45 PM.

The last three movies (in the same order) will also start off FXM Retro's programming block tomorrow at 4:00 AM, which does make me wonder just how much thought FXM Retro put into this.

I can't recall whether there are any good Fox movies set during the French Revolution, but I think they did do a version of Les Misérables (not the musical), which starts off not too long after the end of the revolution. Or, at least, Jean Valjean's stint in jail does. It's been 25 years since I read the book, but I think it goes up to the revolutions of 1830. Do the math.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Escape from Fort Bravo

A search of the blog claims that I haven't done a full-length post on Escape from Fort Bravo before. It's airing overnight at 3:15 AM as part of TCM's look at the western genre, and is worth a look.

William Holden plays Capt. Roper, an Army captain at Fort Bravo, somewhere in the Arizona Territory. It's the Civil War era, and Fort Bravo is being used as a POW camp for Confederates. Naturally, the Confederates want to escape, and it's Roper's job to make certain they don't. It's a job he can be fairly brutal in, as we see early on when he brings a would-be escapee back all lassoed up.

Part of the reason for having a POW camp out in the Arizona Territory is because it's far away from the front. The other part of it is that it serves the plot device of being in Indian territory, and having various native tribes who just hate the encroaching white man and want to go to war with the white man, which as you can imagine would be a reasonable plot point. Heaven knows enough movies have used it before. And so this one does too, as Roper and his men have to go out and find some stagecoaches that haven't made it to their appointed destination. It's in this search that he finds Carla (Eleanor Parker). She's come to the fort to be at the wedding of her friend Alice (Polly Bergen; Alice is also the daughter of the camp commander who is Roper's commanding officer), and she's survived an Indian attack. Roper takes her back to the fort, and the two immediately begin to fall in love.

Of course, it's all just a set-up. Not just so the plot will have romantic tension; but also because Carla isn't really in love with Roper. In fact, she's in love with Capt. Marsh (John Forsythe), a Confederate officer and POW at Fort Bravo who is technically in command of the Confederate prisoners. Carla is a spy and it's her job to help Marsh and some of his men escape!

This happens, and you can probably guess what happens for most of the rest of the movie. Roper goes after them and eventually catches up. Sparks fly between him and Carla, as she begins to realize she might really be in love with him and not Marsh. And those Indians decide now would be a good time to attack.

Escape from Fort Bravo is a competently-made western that I found had a lot familiar with it. There's nothing particularly bad about it, but I didn't feel it had anything particularly special. The fight with the Indians, which winds up in a siege, is reasonably well handled, however.

People who like westerns will find a lot to love here. People who are relatively new to westerns would probably find some new stuff here, although I'd start off recommending some other westerns first.

Escape from Fort Bravo does seem to be available on DVD if you miss tonight's airing on TCM.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Among TCM's 100 westerns

I think two movies coming up tomorrow in TCM's look at the western genre deserve mention. The first is The Bronze Buckaroo, at 10:00 AM. This is a race movie, starring black singing cowboy Herb Jeffries in a story about trying to keep fraudsters from taking over a friend's ranch. Along the way, Herb gets to sing a couple of songs with the Four Tones. Interesting, of course, since it's a race movie, and those don't show up very often.

Tomorrow at 12:15 PM, there's a TCM showing of Go West, Young Lady, which I blogged about back in December of last year. It's a fun little comic western with Glenn Ford and Penny Singleton. Allen Jenkins gets a chance to do a singing number, which fits in well since it's a song about how he wouldn't make a good singing cowboy.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Another night of Bob's Picks, presumably presented by Ben Mankiewicz

During Robert Osborne's extended absence from presenting movies on TCM, the channel has continued with his monthly "Bob's Picks", in which he more or less acts like a Guest Programmer, except of course that he's not actually a guest. Ben Mankiewicz and the other people doing the presenting duties in Robert's stead have been presenting the movies instead.

And so it should be tonight. (I mean, if Osborne were back, it would have been all over the TCM boards.) Tonight's lineup is listed on the TCM site as "Bob's Picks", consisting of four (I think; I'm not certain about the last movie on the overnight schedule) movies:

About Mrs. Leslie at 8:00 PM, starring Shirley Booth and Robert Ryan as a pair of lovers who only get to meet for six weeks each year;
Brief Encounter at 10:00 PM, in which Celia Johnson meets a doctor in a British railway station and has a relationship with him, despite her being married to another man;
Victor Victoria at 11:45 PM, in which Julie Andrews plays a Weimar-era woman who has to impersonate a man so that she can be a female impersonator in the cabarets; and
S.O.B. at 2:15 AM, in which Andrews is asked to go to great lengths to save a failing film.

Battle at Bloody Beach

A movie I watched off of my DVR not too long ago is coming up again on FXM Retro: Battle at Bloody Beach, at 3:00 AM and 12:30 PM tomorrow (July 12).

Audie Murphy stars as Craig Benson, an American who is helping the US military during World War II by running arms to the rebel groups in the Japanese-occupied Philippines; after all, the islands had been an American territory before Japan moved in at the end of 1941. The first person he meets is his American radio contact, Marty (Gary Crosby). Marty knows the lay of the land, so to say.

Although Benson is ostensibly there to deliver arms, he has another purpose: he's looking for his wife Ruth, from whom he was separated when the Japanese invaded. He never heard anything about her death, so he's certain she must still be alive, and he wants to find out her fate. The first person Marty leads him to is McKeever (Warren Mims), who doesn't know about Ruth's location but desperately wants those arms. However, Craig decides it would be too risky and continues on to the next rebels, led by one Julio Fontana (Alejandro Rey). Benson decides that these are a good group of rebels, but there's more to it than that. Craig finds that his wife Ruth (Dolores Michaels) is there, along with several other westerners looking for a way off the island, which Craig is certainly willing to give them.

Unfortunately, there's a problem. Ruth was under the impression that Craig had died during the Japanese invasion, so she's quite shocked to see him show up! Further complicating matters is the fact that, figuring she was a widow, she didn't really have a problem falling in love with Fontana and his noble purpose. Now that she discovers she's still married, there's an obvious problem. There's even more to it than that. Craig doesn't particularly care about the part of the war effort he's involved in; he's only running arms as a pretext to looking for his wife. Now that he's found her, he wants to take her, go home, and sit out the war to the greatest possible extent. Ruth, on the other hand, has come not only to have romantic feelings for Fontana; she's come to believe he's got a just cause, and may well be willing to stay behind for that cause.

Amidst all that tension, the Japanese attack. After all, they're the ones occupying the islands, you had to expect it for that reason, never mind the fact that you also need it for the movie plot. So now Craig has to get himself, his wife, and a bunch of even less fit westenerers down to the shore without getting them all killed by the Japanese. Good luck with that.

Battle at Bloody Beach is one of those movies that was made at Fox during the time period that the studio was having enormous problems getting the Taylor/Burton Cleopatra made. I've seen quite a few movies from Fox that time period that have an extremely low-budget look about them, and Battle at Bloody Beach is one of them. (Enjoy Catalina Island subbing in for the Philippines.) It's unfair to say, but that's a strike against it. It also doesn't help that the movie is fairly predictable and has a cop-out ending that's probably there to satisfy the Production Code. The performances are OK, but nothing trule memorable. Overall, it's not a failure, but it's not great, either.

Battle at Bloody Beach is, as far as I know, not available on DVD. Worse, the last time FXM showed it, they ran a panned-and-scanned print.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Oh crap, I've blogged about all these movies before!

So when I looked at today and tonight's TCM schedule, there were some things that looked like they'd be good movies to blog about. The first obvious choise was The Vanishing, coming on overnight at 4:00 AM, since TCM Imports don't show up quite as often. But it turns out that I had already blogged about the movie back in March 2010.

So I went to the TCM online schedule to see what was on tonight. Before Silent Sunday Nights, there's an evening of movies dedicated to British actress Googie Withers. Among the movies is On Approval at 11:45 PM. But again, this is a movie that I blogged about, back in January 2015.

Finally, I was pretty certain that I had blogged about the Silent Sunday Nights movie, Orphans of the Storm at 1:15 AM, before. Sure enough, that was a November 2008 selection.

I'll have to see if any of the movies I've watched off the DVR are in print on DVD.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Missing in July and August

I was going to post last night, but unfortunately my internet was out thanks to a heavy thunderstorm. Not like I'd want to run my computer during such a thunderstorm, anyway. At least I got a chance to watch Under the Volcano off the DVR that I recorded all the way back during 31 Days of Oscar in February. Gotta check to see whether it's on DVD to do a full-length post on.

Anyhow, the TCM Star of the Month salute to Olivia de Havilland is running well into Saturday mornings. This means that the Bowery Boys movies are taking a break for the month, and there's also no Ace Drummond serial. As far as I'm aware, they didn't get through the whole thing. I haven't been watching, but the printable June schedule only lists them going through Chapter 8, and there are 13 chapters in the serial.

Everything will, of course, be taking August off for Summer Under the Stars. Looking at the schedule for September 3, the Bowery Boys are back on at 10:45 AM, but before that is Code of the Secret Service, one of the Brass Bancroft movies.... Looking through the July schedule, it looks as though TCM is running the last five chapters of Ace Drummond back-to-back on July 30.

Friday, July 8, 2016

In This Our Life

I mentioned last week that I apparently haven't done a full-length post on In This Our Life before. It's coming on tonight at 8:00 PM as part of the salute to Star of the Month Olivia de Haviland, and it's worth a watch.

Bette Davis stars as Stanley Timblerlake, sister of Roy (that's de Havilland); both are nieces of Uncle William (Charles Coburn). Stanley is engaged to Craig (George Brent), while Roy is already married to Peter (Dennis Morgan). But Stanley decides she'd rather have Peter, so she schemes to get him, and then runs off to the big city with him! Once Peter's divorce from Roy is finalized, he and Stanley get married, but Stanley continues to be a controlling blankety-blank. In fact, she's so controlling that poor Peter decides the only way out of this marriage is to kil himself! Meow.

So Stanley comes back to her old home town. By now, Roy is doing well for herself by having fallen in love with Craig; after all they were both screwed over by Stanley. Craig is a prosperous lawyer, helping out young black clerk Parry (Ernest Anderson), who has dreams of going on to law school to become an attorney. (Pretty daring stuff for a 1940s film, to be honest.) Not that Stanley is any more racist than the rest of American society; she's just a selfish controlling you-know-what. So one night Stanley has a little too much to drink, and gets into an accident. What's the easiest thing to do? Why, blame it on the young black kid!

All along the way Stanley has been enabled by her uncle William, as the family was wealthy and Stanley was more like her mother (William's sister). But this time when she tries to get help from William, there's a plot twist, that allows Bette Davis to have one of her better screen rants.

Supposedly Bette Davis didn't think much of In This Our Life, but I think that's quite unfair. Sure, it's a melodrama, but it's a really fun melodrama, and one that gives Davis a chance to strut her stuff in spades. It's only natural that she takes the chance and runs with it. Everybody else does well, although George Brent and especially Dennis Morgan don't have much to do. This one is Davis' picture all the way.

In This Our Life doesn't seem to be in print on DVD.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

What if they shone a spotlight and nobody came

Now that we're in the first full week of a new month, we've got a new Spotlight on TCM, looking at America in the 1970s. TCM has grouped the films thematically, looking at various aspects of the 1970s.

Tonight, for example, sees a couple of movies on the media: All the President's Men, The Candidate, and Network; followed by a couple of movies on surveillance: The Conversation and Klute. No Parallax View, for better or worse. And apparently, conspiracy theories were a thing back then.

But what's interesting is the lack of mentioning who's presenting the spotlight. Perhaps it's just Ben Mankiewicz, since they've already got a guest host for two weeknights in the form of Keith Carradine presenting all those westerns on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. But normally when there's a Spotlight, TCM's page on the subject mentions the guest who's presenting the movies

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Briefs for July 6, 2016

I probably should have done a full-length post on Canadian Pacific, which is airing today at 12:15 PM as part of the salute to westerns. Randolph Scott plays a man trying to find a way through the mountains as Canada builds its own transcontinental railroad; meanwhile, the settlers already there don't want it since they fear it will bring more settlers. That having been said, it's a bit hazy in my memory, and I only watched it within the past year since it was on my DVR, so it's a fairly pedestrian western.

I think I also should have mentioned the death of Noel Neill, who died over the weekend aged 95. Neill played Lois Lane in the 1948 and 1950 Superman serials, and then reprised that role in the 1950s TV series The Adventures of Superman opposite George Reeves. The TV series can be seen on MeTV at 6:00 PM ET Saturdays; I'm not certain of the time in other time zones.

Somebody on the TCM boards posted that the Backlot, for which you have to pay a ridiculous sum to become a "superfan", is running a promotion to allow its members to vote for the December Star of the Month. I'm not a member, but I'd assume there's a choice between a limited number of people. (It really should be Kirk Douglas, since December is when he turns 100.) A brief web search yielded this page, from a site that apparently aggregates promotional e-mails. What will they think of next?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Abbas Kiarostami, 1940-2016

The death has been announced of Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who died in Paris yesterday at the age of 76.

Kiarostami made quite a few films, but in the west he'd probably be best known for one, A Taste of Cherry, which deals with a man who is looking for somebody to bury his body beneath a cherry tree after he commits suicide. It won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1997 and has already shown up several times in TCM's Imports in the overnight slot between Sunday and Monday.

Kiarostami's films are influenced by the fact that, unlike many of his colleagues, he remained in Iran after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, therefore having to deal with the censorship from the new regime. Kiarostami, for his part, said that he believed his movies would never have been quite as good had he left Iran.

I knew I should have DVRed A Taste of Cherry the last time it was on a few months back.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Squaw Man (1914)

It looks as though TCM is doing a retrospective on the western in July, looking right from the beginning of the genre with 1903's The Great Train Robbery tomorrow and 6:15 AM, and then 48 hours of westerns through to Thursday morning. It'll be this way every Tuesday and Wednesday in July, hosted by Keith Carradine. (Unfortunately, the sub-site they created for it doesn't work well in my browser, because TCM loves to push Flash and other such garbage on us.) Following The Great Train Robbery will be the 1914 version of The Squaw Man.

I know I saw this one sometime on TCM, but I'm not certain exactly when or what spotlight TCM was running. The plot involves a Brit who goes to America to be the fall guy for his cousin's embezzlement, winds up out west, marrying a Ute chieftain's daughter, and foiling the bad guys. Its historical importance is that it was directed by Cecil B. DeMille; I think it's his very first film. It's also considered one of the first Hollywood features.

Since it's from 1914, it's in the public domain, and has therefore shown up on Youtube in several places. Here's one:

Sunday, July 3, 2016

A couple of directors have died

Michael Cimino, who died yesterday aged 77, probably deserves his own thread. He came to prominence in the early 1970s when he went out to Hollywood and started working as a screenwriter. Clint Eastwood liked his screenplay to Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, bought the rights, and gave Cimino a chance to direct. That success led to Cimino's doing The Deer Hunter, which would win him a Best Director Oscar.

Unfortunately, that success led to Heaven's Gate. The production turned out to be bloated, and a box-office disaster, and that really put the brakes on Cimino's career. He continued to work, but never had the success of The Deer Hunter again.

The other death is of Robin Hardy, who died on Friday at the age of 86. Hardy is known for one film, and one film only, that being the 1973 version of The Wicker Man.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

A Flea in Her Ear

A movie returning to FXM Retro after a long absence is A Flea in Her Ear, which you can catch tomorrow ag 9:40 AM. (It'll be on again on Monday and then on July 14.)

The plot is one that sounds like a lot of fun. In Belle Époque-era France, upper-class housewife Gabrielle Chandebisse (Rosemary Harris) answers a knock on the door to find that a hotel has discreetly sent her husband, lawyer Victor (Rex Harrison), a package. The only thing is, that package obviously implies that Victor has been spending time at the hotel. So when Gabrielle goes to the hotel to find out what's up, she learns that it's the sort of hotel people go to to have romantic liaisons. Gabrielle unsurprisingly concludes that her husband may be having an affair.

But how to figure out what's really going on? Gabrielle meets her lady friend, Suzanne de Castilian (Rachel Roberts), and together the two come up with a brilliant plot. Suzanne will write a letter to Victor, getting him to meet her at the hotel, at which point Gabrielle will show up and confront Victor. That sounds like a reasonable plan, but of course it has a catch. Suzanne's husband Henri (Louis Jourdan) just happens to be a friend of Victor's. And when Victor gets the letter, he has no idea what's been going on, since it turns out he hasn't been going to the hotel (more on that in a bit). Victor shows the letter to Henri to ask for advice, and Henri gets the idea that his wife is cheating on him!

Back to the hotel and the package that was sent to to Victor. Victor had lent something to his nephew Pierre (Edward Hardwicke), who is the one who was going to the hotel; Victor was in fact perfectly faithful. Pierre, on the other hand, has issues. He's sex-obsessed, and and also has a cleft palate, which necessitates wearing a prosthetic palate or else he's unable to speak. Eventually, everybody winds up at the hotel, and complications ensue.

The idea behind the movie is a good one, but for me it ultimately fell down thanks to the characterization of Pierre. He's incredibly annoying, and the scenes with him are interminable. The ending is also a bit too zany and manic for my tastes. Still, there are some good points here, making A Flea in Her Ear something that could stand to be remade with a better script.

I don't think A Flea in Her Ear has been released to DVD, which means you're going to have to catch the FXM Retro showings. That's a bit of a problem too, since the last time they showed this one, it was in a panned-and-scanned print.

The Karlovy Vary Film Festival is back

Radio Prague's English Service reported yesterday about the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, which began its 51st edition on Friday evening in the western Czech spa town.

For those who want to listen to the report, you can download it here; it's four and a half minutes and a couple of MB. The report mentions that Willem Dafoe is getting a lifetime achievement award; it's hard to believe he's been around long enough to be getting lifetime achievement awards, but apparently he has.

What the report doesn't mention is that KVIFF is doing a retrospective on Otto Preminger, with seven of his films and a documentary. Also, in the sidebar on the right of the page, you can see other recent reports on KVIFF, including one (transcript here and couple minute long MP3 that's about the same size and length as the one above) with the festival director Karel Och.

If you're in the Czech Republic, the festival is on through July 9.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Olivia De Havilland turns 100

Olivia De Havilland not long after winning her second Oscar

Today is the 100th birthday of one of Hollywood's legends, two-time Oscar winning actress Olivia De Havilland, whose career goes all the way back to 1935 when she appeared opposite Joe E. Brown in Alibi Ike (airing tomorrow morning at 11:30 AM). Well, that was the first movie released; she actually made A Midsummer Night's Dream (9:30 AM July 16) before that but it wasn't released until later. Unsurprisingly, TCM has decided to make De Havilland its Star of the Month for July, running her movies every Friday (going well into Saturday) in prime time with the large number of movies they have.

De Havilland's first Oscar was for To Each His Own (12:15 AM July 16; or late July 15 in more westerly time zones) in 1946; it's a movie that I think is overrated because, as I stated when I blogged about it back in 2010, I don't think it's very original.

That second Oscar came three years later for The Heiress (July 15 at 10:00 PM). This is one of those movies that would, I think have fit right into last month's "Stage to Screen" spotlight, since it came from a 1947 stage play. (That play, to be honest, was taken from Henry James' 1880 novel Washington Square.) De Havilland and Montgomery Clift are both quite good in this one.

I noticed when I was preparing to do today's post that I only seem to have one photo of De Havilland accompanying all the previous posts I've done on her films, so I had to go and quickly look for some others. Here, for example, is Olivia De Havilland working with Bette Davis in 1942's In This Our Life (8:00 PM July 8); I don't think Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte is on the month's schedule. Apparently, I haven't done a full-length post on In This Our Life before. (They also appeared before this in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex, which is on overnight at 3:15 AM.)

The only image I already had was of De Havilland with one of her most frequent male co-stars, Errol Flynn, in Captain Blood (tomorrow morning at 5:15 AM); a bunch of their movies together are airing this month.