THE TCM TiVO ALERT
July 23 – July 31
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
D.O.A (July 24, 4:30 pm): This 1950 film noir has one of the best openings in movie history. Frank Bigelow (played by Edmond O'Brien) goes to a police station to report he's been murdered. Told in flashbacks, we learn someone slipped Bigelow a slow-acting poison, with no antidote. He then tells the story of how he's attempting to figure out who killed him and why. Excellent tension throughout the film even though you know Bigelow is doomed. Made by Cardinal Pictures (did the studio make any other films?) and released through United Artists, the copyright wasn't renewed in 1977. Lucky for us because you can watch it by clicking here. It's been remade a couple of times, but nothing touches the original.
THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (July 28, 5:00 pm): An authentic film that pulls no punches about three soldiers returning home from World War II attempting to adjust to life. The film features incredible performances by the legendary and lovely Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Fredric March and Harold Russell (an actual WWII vet who lost both his hands in the war). The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Unlike some multi-Oscar films, this one is truly a classic that remains as real and as powerful as it must have been to movie-goers when it was released in 1946. It's very touching and beautiful. It’s nearly impossible to not be emotionally moved while watching this film. One quick note: when Andrews is telling the two others that he can't wait to get back to his beautiful wife, I thought he was talking about Loy. Imagine my surprise when it's March who is married to Loy (they play the older couple), and Andrews' wife is played by Virginia Mayo.
ED’S BEST BETS:
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (July 24, 10:15 am): Hitchcock is at his noir best in this gripping tale of a tennis pro (Farley Granger) that inadvertently becomes embroiled in a murder plot with a psychotic socialite (Robert Walker). The premise for the plot is simple: they agree to kill someone the other wants disposed. Although Granger rightly balks at this notion, Walker blackmails him by threatening to pin the murder on him. How Granger deals with all this is what keeps us riveted to our seats and is why Hitchcock was the unparalleled master of this sort of film.
THE BAND WAGON (July 29, 8:00 pm): In my estimation, this is the greatest musical ever to come out of Hollywood. Fred Astaire has never been better than he is here playing a faded Hollywood musical star lured out of retirement to star in a stage musical based on Faust, of all things. He has tremendous support from the lovely Cyd Charisse, Nanette Fabray, English song-and-dance man Jack Buchanan, and Oscar Levant, who, although playing Oscar Levant as in every other film, has never done it better than this. There are lots of great numbers topped off by Astaire and Charisse in “Girl Hunt,” a mystery set in swingtime. Fabulous. It really doesn’t get any better than this.
WE DISAGREE ON ... WEST SIDE STORY (July 29, 5:15 pm)
David: C-. Remember my comment in The Best Years of Our Lives recommendation about not all multi-Oscar-winning films being classics? Here's a perfect example. This mess of a film won 10 Oscars, including Best Picture, in 1961. The dialogue is outdated, Daddy-o, and the plot is a ridiculous attempt at doing a then-modern-day Romeo and Juliet set in New York City with rival gangs of whites and Puerto Ricans - and as a musical. The Sharks and the Jets look like they would get beat up by the "gangs" who danced in Michael Jackson's "Beat It" music video. There are some catchy songs, particularly "America," but there's only a few entertaining minutes in this 152-minute movie. The attempt at a heavy-handed ending is laughably bad. The only reason to see this - if you haven't already subjected yourself to watching it already - is if you're trying to complete a list, such as seeing all the Oscar-winning Best Picture films. "Womb to tomb!" "Birth to Earth!"
Ed: A+. This is easily the best musical adaptation of Romeo and Juliet and one of the best takes on Shakespeare’s tragic romance. This time the setting is New York City’s West Side and it’s the Caucasian Jets (Montagues) versus the Puerto Rican Sharks (Capulets). But don’t watch it for the story – watch it for the wonderful music by Leonard Bernstein and Steven Sonderheim and the awe-inspiring choreography by Jerome Robbins, who also co-directed with Robert Wise. Viewers will be able to see Robbins’s influence in the many music videos of the 1980s. As for the tunes, well, you’ll be humming them long after the movie s over. Forget the 50s anachronisms like “daddy-o,” and the fact that it should have been Rita Moreno instead of Natalie Wood in the role of Maria. (Wood was big box office at the time, but an actress of limited range and not made for musicals. Besides, she looks as Hispanic as Winston Churchill.) Sit back and enjoy.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert for the week of July 23-31, click here.