TCM TiVo ALERT
July 1–July 7
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
ACE IN THE HOLE (July 5, 8:00 pm): As a journalist for the past 24 years, I usually love how reporters are portrayed in films, particularly those in the 1930s and 40s. Reporters were superheroes. Not only were they able to always be where the story was, but miraculously, they also able to write really long stories so fast that it was in the next edition - even if that next edition was on the street in 20 minutes. Ace in the Hole is unlike those movies, and is my favorite newspaper film. Kirk Douglas plays Chuck Tatum, a cynical reporter (aren't we all?) who once was a big-city journalist, but was fired from several newspapers for a variety of reasons. He's in a small town in New Mexico when he stumbles across a huge story: a guy is trapped inside a cave when it collapses. The poor guy can be saved, but Tatum and a sheriff, also without scruples, decide to delay the rescue and milk the story into a national media event with Tatum as the lead reporter. A great film on what could happen when people get caught up in celebrity.
THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (July 6, 3:45 pm): What a fantastic film! I can't stand Angela Lansbury as an actress, but she is incredible in this 1962 Cold War/Communist conspiracy/spy thriller movie with Laurence Harvey (an under-appreciated actor) as Lansbury's son, who is brainwashed to be an assassin. While Lansbury steals the movie, Frank Sinatra is also excellent. A great plot, outstanding pacing and tense-filled. An absolute must-see.
ED’S BEST BETS:
UMBERTO D (July 1, 2:00 am): Director Vittorio DeSica was known for his realistic portrayals of life in Postwar Italy. Next to The Bicycle Thieves, this is his most important - and best - film from that time. It takes a long, hard look at the problems of the unwanted elderly, the protagonist being a retired professor of linguistics at Bologna who can no longer survive on his meager pension. Thrown out of his apartment for back rent, he wanders the streets with his faithful terrier, Flike. Be warned, this is the saddest owner and pet drama since Old Yeller, and I'm not kidding when I day that this is a five-hankie picture. The film was instrumental in helping to reform the Italian pension system into something more humane. Critically lauded in the '50s, it's almost forgotten today, much like its protagonist.
1776 (July 4, 5:00 pm): A musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence? You’re kidding, right? No, we’re not kidding, and furthermore, it’s quite good. Based on the play, it retains many of those originally performed it. William Daniels is splendid as John Adams, Ken Howard makes for a most effective Thomas Jefferson, and Howard DaSilva is the spitting image of Ben Franklin. Throw in Virginia Vestoff as Abigail Adams and Blythe Danner as Martha Jefferson, and the film really rocks. Watch out, however, for John Cullum as Edward Rutledge of South Carolina. He brings down the house with “Molasses to Rum to Slaves.” Other numbers to watch for include “But Mr. Adams,” “Cool Cool, Considerate Men” (my favorite), and the heart tugging “Mama Look Sharp.” American history was never this much fun.
WE DISAGREE ON ... 42nd STREET (July 1, 6:00 am)
DAVID: C-. When I saw the play on Broadway in 1982 (two years after it opened), I thought it was fun, primarily because of the great choreography. The plot is simplistic and there's a handful of good songs. When I saw the 1933 movie, of which the play is based, a few years ago, I wondered why anyone would take a mediocre at best film and make it a play. (Of course, the play was an unbelievable success and the film was well-received.) The movie is filled with cliche lines about putting on a Broadway musical including the unknown chorus girl becoming the star. The only missing piece is Mickey Rooney. Like its play adaption, the movie's plot is virtually nonexistent. The movie is a shade under 90 minutes and about 20 minutes of it is three song-and-dance numbers from the fictitious play being put on in the film. The Busby Berkeley dance numbers have entertaining moments and the cinematography of them is good, but not nearly enough to keep my interest. If, like me, you're not a musical fan, there's no reason to watch this movie.
ED: A++. This is the mother of all Pre-Code musicals, and the prototype for all future musicals. The story is simple – Sugar Daddy Abner Dillon (Guy Kibbee) is backing a new Broadway show titled “Pretty Lady,” which will star his squeeze Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels). The trouble is that while Brock is Dillon’s Main Squeeze, she doesn’t want to be squoze by him. She’d rather be in the arms of old boyfriend George Brent, with whom she’s still in love. Things come to a boil, with the result that Bebe breaks her ankle and can’t go on. Just as it looks like there’s going to be a dark theater, young Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler) is plucked from the chorus line by director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) and given the chance to be the star. You know the rest. Once Busby Berkeley takes over staging the dance numbers, it’ll never be quite the same again, both for the musicals and for Berkeley. Not only does the film contain unforgettable numbers such as “Young and Healthy,” Shuffling Off to Buffalo,” and the title song, but listen in and catch some of the most risque lines and scenarios ever to populate a musical. Ginger Rogers, in an early role, plays a character named Anytime Annie. “She only said ‘No’ once, and that was when she didn’t hear the question,” says backstage manager Andy Lee (George E. Stone). Also watch for the homosexual innuendo between Julian Marsh and Andy Lee. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this film over the years, but each time I sit down to watch, it comes across still as fresh as the first time I saw it.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.