TCM TiVO ALERT
January 1 –January 7
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
HERE COMES MR. JORDAN (January 2, 5:30 pm): A very funny film about a boxer/amateur pilot Joe Pendleton (played by the charming Robert Montgomery) who crashes his plane and is mistakenly taken to heaven by angel. He survives, but the angel doesn't want him to suffer. A check by the angel's boss, Mr. Jordan (played by the charming Claude Rains) show Pendleton is correct. But by the time they go to put him back in his body, it's too late. The body has been cremated. The angels have to find Pendleton another body - one that can be a champion boxer. They find a rich guy who is killed by his wife and his personal assistant who are lovers. This 1941 movie is a joy to watch. Warren Beatty uses the exact same story (except he's a quarterback for the then-Los Angeles Rams) with many of the same character names in the excellent Heaven Can Wait in 1978. I haven't seen the 2001 remake, Down to Earth, with Chris Rock. But based on the reviews of that film, I'm probably lucky.
GASLIGHT (January 7, 9:30 am): Those who pay attention know I'm a huge fan of Joseph Cotten. The same can be said for Ingrid Bergman. So when you get the two of them together - both in their acting primes - in this 1944 thriller with an outstanding plot, the end result is a classic. I'm not much of a Charles Boyer fan, but he is deliciously evil and conniving in his role as Bergman's husband who is slowly and successfully driving her crazy. Cotten is a Scotland Yard inspector who gets third billing, but steals many scenes. This is also Angela Lansbury's film debut. She was 18 years old at the time and plays a maid who's looking for the opportunity to get with Boyer and shows no sympathy toward Bergman. To me, it's her best film role, and a rare one in that she actually looks young. Seventeen years later, at the age of 35, she'd play Elvis Presley's mother in Blue Hawaii. Elvis was 26 at the time.
ED’S BEST BETS:
RIFIFI (January 1, 8:00 pm): It’s the greatest caper movie ever made: So good, in fact, that its director, Jules Dassin, managed to remake it into a smart, sophisticated comedy named Topkapi in 1964. However, Rififi is not a comedy. Besides being the best caper movie it’s also the best French noir. The plot in a nutshell is that four men plan the perfect crime, but being human, that which can go wrong will go wrong, which happens in the aftermath of the crime, when the gang should be happily splitting the loot. Look for director Dassin in the role of the womanizing Cesar (under the name “Perlo Vita”). It’s a Must See and is definitely a film to be viewed multiple times.
JACK ARNOLD NIGHT (January 4, 8:00 pm): Universal made some of the best B-budget sci-fi in the 50s and Jack Arnold was the man responsible for these wonderful films. The night begins with the classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Then comes the underrated Tarantula, followed by The Incredible Shrinking Man, boasting a script by Richard Matheson based on his novel. And last comes the piece de resistance: It Came From Outer Space, one of the most intelligent sci-fi films ever made. A feast for the sci-fi fan, these films are good enough to entertain even the non sci-fi fans among us.
WE DISAGREE ON ... SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON (January 6, 6:00 pm)
ED: A. John Ford directed so many great Westerns that one is at a loss to pick just one as his or her favorite. And I’m not about to break stride, but this is one hell of a Western – one helluva film. John Wayne is in fine form as a Calvary officer facing an Indian uprising on the eve of his retirement. In a stretch for him, he plays a man much older than his charges with a softer side to his character. (Watch for the scene where he fumbles for his bifocals to read the inscription after accepting a watch as his retirement gift.) And he’s actually good - well, as good as he’s ever going to get, at any rate. And as long as John Agar is in the cast, Wayne cannot be the worst actor. Look for familiar faces Victor McLaglen and Harry Carey Jr. (who just passed away) providing support, as well as the great Western star, George O’Brien, as Wayne’s commander. And if you look hard, that’s Fred Graham as Sergeant Hench. Graham is well known to psychotronic movie fans for his role as the sheriff in The Giant Gila Monster. At any rate this is a great Western and it’s interesting to see Wayne try to break type.
DAVID: B-. This movie, a Western directed by the legendary John Ford, is beautifully filmed in Technicolor with spectacular scenery. But the plot is flimsy at best and the acting at times borders on the ridiculous. Regular readers know I consider Katharine Hepburn to be the most overrated actress in the history of film. My feelings about John Wayne as cinema's most overrated actor are about the same. It's interesting that this is the first Wayne film to receive our "We Disagree" treatment. While Ed enjoys a lot more Wayne films than I, he recognizes his limitations. Ed's not going to give Wayne's True Grit an A++. When Wayne is bad, he's awful. Wayne has moments - Stagecoach, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Red River, come to mind - as a solid actor in great movies. I digress to give you some context for She Wore a Yellow Ribbon. As I previously wrote, the scenery is incredible, which counts for a lot because as far as Westerns go, this one is nearly devoid of action. Ford could be a stickler for historic accuracy, but what is shown in this film is largely a work of fiction. That's fine, but Wayne unconvincingly playing a man much older than he, and the silly love story falls miserably short in a movie with some of the most incredible cinematography you'll see. It's pretty to see, but ugly to hear.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.