TCM TiVO ALERT
March 1–March 7
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
RED RIVER (March 1, 10:15 pm): As I previously mentioned, I'm not a John Wayne fan, but this film - with Montgomery Clift in a brilliant turn as his adopted son - is outstanding. Wayne is great as a "bad guy" whose tyrannical ways cause a mutiny among those working for him on the first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. Director Howard Hawks brings out the best in Wayne, who should get credit for not only agreeing to take on the role of the "heavy," but for doing it so well. Clift was one of Hollywood's brightest stars and was already an elite actor in this film, only his second movie.
LIMELIGHT (March 5, 12:00 am): One of Charlie Chaplin's last and greatest films, Limelight is tragic, touching, beautiful, captivating and funny. While Chaplin was the king of silent films, his "talkies" are my favorites. This 1952 film, Chaplin's final one made in the United States, has him playing Calvero, a washed-up clown looking to make a comeback. He meets Terry (Claire Bloom), a suicidal younger ballet dancer, and takes care of her while helping to revitalize her career. The two are wonderful together. The final scene is one for the ages with Calvero reuniting with his old partner (played by Buster Keaton) on stage making a comeback that runs the gambit of emotions. It's the only film to include Chaplin and Keaton, and one to not miss.
ED’S BEST BETS:
MONSIEUR VERDOUX (March 1, 8:00 pm): Charlie Chaplin undergoes a brilliant change of pace in this black comedy about a Parisian Bluebeard who marries and murders his wives for their money to support his family. When he’s caught and tried, he denounces a hypocritical society that see mass killing in a world war as acceptable, but punishes him for only killing a few people. The film is years ahead of its time and filled with wry humor. Watch for the scene between Chaplin and Martha Raye.
THE TRAIN (March 2, 2:00 am): Burt Lancaster and Paul Schofield are at their very best in this John Frankenheimer film about a Nazi colonel trying to ship the paintings of France to Germany and the Resistance leader determined to stop him at all costs. Also staring Michael Simon, Albert Remy, Wolfgang Preiss, Charles Millot, Jacques Marin, and Jeanne Moreau in a small but pivotal role. There is never a dull moment to catch your breath in this action classic.
WE DISAGREE ON ... THE STORY OF G.I. JOE (March 1, 6:00 pm)
Ed: A. For those who have not yet seen this film, it is one the best war movies ever made. The Story of G.I. Joe follows the exploits of Pulitzer Prize winning correspondent Ernie Pyle (Burgess Meredith) as he writes of the fortunes of Company C of the 18th Infantry during their campaign in North Africa and Italy. He observes the stress combat takes on their minds – particularly during the battle of Cassino. He also befriends a few of the company, including Lieutenant Walker (Robert Mitchum), who rises to Captain; Sergeant Warnicki (Freddie Steele) who wants nothing more than to find a phonograph on which to play a record of his son’s voice sent from back home; and Private Dondaro (Wally Cassell), who fantasized constantly about women to the point of even carrying around a bottle of perfume that he can sniff occasionally. One thing Pyle notes and the film makes clear is that the men live continually with the knowledge that they might not make it home. Ironically, Pyle never made it home, cut down by a Japanese machine gun on the island of Ie Shima in 1945. William Wellman directs the film both as a tribute to Pyle, who he met during the war, and to the men Pyle writes about for the audience back home. It’s the grittiness of this story about the lives and deaths of ordinary infantrymen that sets this movie apart from others. The strongpoint is its subtlety: character we get to know suddenly disappear from the screen without so much as a whimper. Such is war. Critic James Agee noted that: "With a slight shift of time and scene, men whose faces have become familiar simply aren't around any more. The fact is not commented on or in any way pointed; their absence merely creates its gradual vacuum and realization in the pit of the stomach. Things which seem at first tiresome, then to have become too much of a running gag, like the lascivious tongue-clacking of the professional stallion among the soldiers (Cassell) or the Sergeant's continual effort to play the record of his son's voice, are allowed to run their risks without tip-off or apology. In the course of many repetitions they take on full obsessional power and do as much as anything could do to communicate the terrific weight of time, fatigue, and half-craziness which the picture is trying so successfully to make you live through." It was Dwight Eisenhower’s favorite war film, a recommendation that should go a long way.
DAVID: C+. In theory, I should love this movie. It's a based-on-a-true-story film of Ernie Pyle, a journalist covering World War II. I've been a newspaper reporter for nearly 25 years and love films about journalists. One of my favorite actors, Robert Mitchum, has a prominent role in the movie, playing Lieutenant/Captain Walker. And it's a war film about the humanity and insecurities of soldiers, among my favorite film subjects. That's nice in theory. While this film is considered by many critics to be among the best movies made about war, I don't share their opinion. There are some good moments in the movie, most involving Mitchum, but I found it plodding and somewhat cliché. An example of being cliché is the overuse of a puppy, the company’s “mascot,” who cries and whimpers during sad scenes to let the audience know this is a sad part of the film. For the most part, the casting is fine (with several legitimate soldiers playing soldiers), but the selection of Burgess Meredith as Pyle was a poor decision. He brings nothing to the film though that could be something that was done purposely as Pyle made the soldiers the center of his articles, and was a modest person. Whether that's the reason or not, it takes away from the overall film as Meredith makes Pyle seem like a boring cheerleader. Also, the editing toward the end of the film is choppy, a surprise to me as William A. Wellman, who directed the film, was one of the best and typically wouldn't let something like that get into the finished product. The movie isn't awful, but it failed to keep my attention, which is difficult because when I'm watching a film by myself I am completely focused on it. I found my eyes wandering away from this film a number of times.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.