TCM TiVO ALERT
August 1 – August 7
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
CLASH BY NIGHT (August 4, 8:00 am): Well-acted and well-directed (Fritz Lang) with Barbara Stanwyck as a woman returning home to Monterey, California, to start a new life after an affair with a married politician. She dates a humdrum fisherman (played by Paul Douglas), but has the hots for Douglas's bitter and hostile best friend (played by Robert Ryan). Babs marries Douglas for stability but can't get Ryan off her mind, even after having a baby (a bit of a stretch as the characters aren't spring chickens; Stanwyck was 45 years old when the film was made). The two have an affair, but all's well that ends well. Though the plot has been played out many times, there's a certain freshness to this story - and a wonderful job capturing the loneliness of people and what they'll do to avoid it. It's the first movie with Marilyn Monroe's name above the title, but she's not much more than a bit-player in this film.
EDGE OF THE CITY (August 7, 12:15 am): John Cassavetes was taking acting roles at the time in order to afford his budding (though inconsistent) career as a director. (His directing debut would come two years later with Shadows, a critically-acclaimed though incredibly overrated improvisation film.) This is one of his finest acting performances. He plays a drifter who finds work as a longshoreman. Sidney Poitier is great as a longshoreman supervisor and the two interact wonderfully in roles that are somewhat groundbreaking with a white man and a black man becoming close friends. The two are excellent, but the film's most compelling character is Jack Warden's bigoted longshoreman supervisor who provokes both Cassavetes's and Poitier's characters. Great tension throughout the movie that comes to an incredible conclusion.
ED’S BEST BETS:
GENTLEMEN PREFER BLONDES (August 4, 4:15 pm); A wonderful adaptation by screenwriter Charles Lederer and director Howard Hawks of the 1925 Anita Loos novel of the same name. Two gold diggers, played by Jane Russell and Marilyn Monroe, travel to Paris, get involved with a range of men from rich to poor, straighten out the tangles they created along the way, and live happily ever after. It contains some great songs and dance numbers, and a wonderful performance by Russell, who steals the movie. Monroe, however, manages to shine as Lorelei Lee and is fantastic in the number, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.” The chemistry between the leads couldn’t be any better, which adds to the fun. Look for the mishap in the Russell number with the bodybuilders where she accidentally gets knocked into the pool. Trouper that she was, Russell finished the number, saw the rushes and convinced Hawks to keep it in the film. If you love musicals – and even if you don’t – you can’t go wrong with this movie.
THE PRIZEFIGHTER AND THE LADY (August 2, 11:45 am): This was originally a story in the mold of The Champ written by Frances Marion under orders (she thought it warmed over soup) from L.B. Mayer as a vehicle for Clark Gable. But when she finished the article, Gable was on another assignment and, instead, Max Baer was signed for the film. The story, about a boxing champion falling for a society girl, was kept, but Marion reworked her script to accommodate Baer. W.S. Van Dyke, known for his speed in getting a film done, replaced the original director, Howard Hawks (who begged off) and Van Dyke brought in Myrna Loy to play Baer’s love interest. Loy, who the studio was brining around slowly, was happy not to have to play an Oriental villain for once and she turned in a stellar performance that boosted he stock in the studio and led to The Thin Man. It’s said that Baer walks away with the film, but watch for Loy’s beautifully-timed acting style, for, without it, Baer would have hit the canvas for the 10-count. The film also features Jack Dempsey, Primo Carnera, Jess Willard, and Strangler Lewis. Fans of B-movies of the 40s should recognize Frank Moran, an ex-boxer who plays a boxer in the film, and who became a supporting staple in several Monogram horror features of the ‘40s.
WE AGREE ON ... 3:10 TO YUMA (August 6, 8:00 pm)
When one of the best Westerns ever made comes on the screen, attention must be paid. And this is one of the very best, from a story by Elmore Leonard, with Van Heflin as down-on-his-luck farmer Dan Evans. Needing money desperately to dig a well he accepts an assignment to secretly transport notorious gang leader Ben Wade (Glenn Ford, who was made for Westerns), to a nearby town where Wade will placed aboard a train that will take him to Yuma. This is a tense, psychological drama directed by Delmar Daves that concentrates on the relationship between captor and prisoner. The story departs from most other Westerns of the time in that much of it takes place not in the great, open, expanses of the West, but in a single room where the characters battle it out as Wade stalls for time so the rest of his gang can come to his rescue. The film was needlessly remade in 2007 with Russell Crowe in the Ford role and Christian Bale as the farmer. Stick with this one – it’s heads and tails better.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert for the week of August 1-7, click here.