TCM TiVo ALERT
December 23–December 31
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
12 ANGRY MEN (December 30, 10:15 am): Take a great story, have Sidney Lumet as the director, and add a brilliant cast including Henry Fonda, Lee J. Cobb, E.G. Marshall, Martin Balsam, Jack Warden and Jack Klugman, and you end up with an outstanding film. Even for those of us familiar with the plot, this is an engrossing movie. And except for a few moments, the entire movie takes place inside a jury room with the 12, none identified by name, deliberating a case. Lumet's direction makes the viewer feel as if they're sitting with the 12 of them. While it can be a little overdramatic at times - probably because it's based on a Studio One teleplay - it is an excellent film.
THE APARTMENT (December 31, 10:00 pm): Director Billy Wilder's follow-up to the incredibly overrated Some Like It Hot, this wonderful comedy-drama stars Jack Lemmon as an opportunistic office worker who sort of sleeps his way to the top. Well, he lets four of his office managers use his apartment as a place to have sex with their various mistresses. Because of that, he gets promoted to the personnel department, where his supervisor, Fred MacMurray, always excellent at playing sleazy characters, convinces his new assistant to let him have the apartment on an exclusive basis. MacMurray's latest mistress is the company's elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine), who Lemmon's got the hots for. A fabulous cast with one of Hollywood's best directors and an intelligent, funny script, and you have 1960's Oscar winner for Best Picture. It was nominated for nine others, winning an additional four. Of course, the Academy often makes mistakes. In this case, MacMurray wasn't even nominated for Best Supporting Actor.
ED’S BEST BETS:
GRAND ILLUSION (December 23, 2:00 am): This is a “Must See” in every sense of the word. Jean Renoir directed this classic about three French prisoners in a German POW camp and their relationship with the Commandant. Jean Gabin, Pierre Fresnay, and Marcel Dalio (Remember him as the croupier in Casablanca?) are the prisoners and Erich Von Stroheim is the Commandant. It was the first foreign film to be nominated for an Oscar, but more importantly, Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels banned any showings during World War II. That alone should ensure it immortal status.
NIGHT NURSE (December 26, 5:45 am): What is it about Barbara Stanwyck Pre-Codies that so intrigues me? She’s great as a nurse who discovers that an alcoholic mother and her chauffeur lover are starving her two children to death by for the inheritance. This is a sordid, well-paced story directed by studio regular William Wellman full of double entendre remarks and plenty of shots of Stanwyck and co-star Joan Blondell running around in their underwear. Clark Gable makes an impression as the evil chauffeur and his scenes with Stanwyck retain their ability to shock even today.
WE DISAGREE ON ... LITTLE WOMEN (December 23, 8:00 am)
ED: B+. Let me begin by saying that I’m no fan of the early Katharine Hepburn. As one of the leading stars of RKO, her lackluster performances in many questionable films fully set the stage for her being named “Box Office Poison” in a poll of theater exhibitors. And it was a judgment she truly earned. She took dull subject matter like A Woman Rebels and Quality Street and made it not only duller, but also painful to watch. However, put in an ensemble as in Stage Door and this film, she not only did better, she actually added to the film itself. And with Little Women she had an excellent supporting cast as well as a friendly director in George Cukor, who always seemed to get the best out of her. This was a major production by RKO, which couldn’t afford to make many mistakes, and the care they took with the casting and production values is impressive. This was the third filming of Louisa May Alcott’s novel and the first sound version. There were two later sound remakes, and though I feel the 1994 version was the best, many film fans will vouch for this one. And they might well be right, for one of my major reason for preferring the ’94 version is that Hepburn’s not in that one. My point is this: that even if you don’t like Katharine Hepburn – and I know there are a lot of them who haven’t seen this movie because of that – there is much in this film to overcome her deficits. So sit back, relax, and be entertained by a film that has much to recommend in it.
DAVID: C-. Since starting this website, Ed selects all of the films for the week, gives a synopsis and letter grade for each. I don't know how he does it. What I do know is I and our readers are incredibly lucky to have such a brilliant and articulate film lover do this week after week. Because he gives the letter grades, I read the reviews and pick out one or two that I recommend for the We Disagree feature. Ed's knows me well. When I suggested Little Women this week, he knew exactly why. Then he tries to take the wind out of my sails by correctly anticipating what I hate about the 1933 film and uses it to sell readers on the movie. I dislike nearly every film Katharine Hepburn ever made so I couldn't resist selecting this movie. As usual, Hep overacts as Jo, the tomboy among the four March sisters in the first talkie version of the Louisa May Alcott book. Hepburn isn't the only problem with this film. Don't get me wrong, she drags this movie down as only Hepburn can. The storyline of the Civil War family is a bit too basic, dull and old-fashioned for my tastes. It's essentially a "chick flick" with a lot of courting, the melodramatic and drawn-out death of one of the sisters, and the cliche happy ending. It's hokey, too sentimental and simple. The movie came out one year before the Motion Picture Association of America began enforcing the Hays Code. But there's nothing in this film that would draw any attention from Hollywood censors, assuming they were able to pay attention to this snoozer.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.