TCM TiVo ALERT
February 15–February 22
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
BLOW-UP (February 17,1:30 am): A sexy, sophisticated film about a "Swinging London" photographer (David Hemmings), who believes he took pictures of a murder. But did he? Michelangelo Antonioni does a magnificent job directing his first English-language film, filled with great suspense and a fascinating plot. The 1966 film is a visual delight, perfectly capturing the time and location while not compromising the quality of the story. On top of that, we get a memorable cameo by the Yardbirds (the Jeff Beck/Jimmy Page version) at a club with Beck doing his best Pete Townshend impersonation smashing a guitar on stage.
STAGECOACH (February 21, 1:45 pm): I'm not a fan of John Wayne, but he made some great films. Except for The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Stagecoach is Wayne's finest movie. This 1939 Western, directed by the legendary John Ford, is about a group of people - including a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor, a pregnant woman, a gambler, and a bank embezzler - traveling by stagecoach in 1880 through the southwest through hostile Apache territory. Along the way, they pick up the notorious Ringo Kid (Wayne), who helps fend off the Indians. The ensemble cast that also features Claire Trevor, John Carradine and legendary character actor Donald Meek is the strong-point of this film with each actor getting enough screen time so viewers can understand and appreciate them. Wayne is perfectly cast as the young gun who's wrongfully accused, but fast with a gun and charming despite being rough around the edges. This was Ford's first talkie Western and one of his best. As with nearly all of Ford's films, the scenery in Stagecoach is breathtaking at times. It's one of the best Westerns ever made.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (February 17, 12:15 pm): A wonderful look at the life of an unscrupulous producer, played by Kirk Douglas, and the people he’s taken advantage of over the years as he’s built his empire. He’s now at a crisis and needs the very people he has used and abused in the past. A great cast provides sterling support to Douglas, including Gloria Grahame, Dick Powell, Walter Pidgeon, and Barry Sullivan. But it’s Lana Turner as an actress Douglas uses and discards, and Gilbert Roland as a washed up actor/Romeo who truly stand out among the rest. It’s entertaining and compelling.
THE GREAT MCGINTY (February 20, 4:15 am): As I’ve said before, TCM’s time slots for great movies such as this are why TiVos are so popular. Talented writer Preston Sturges made his directorial debut with this hilarious satire on the political system, following the fortunes of Brian Donlevy as he rises from Skid Row bum to being elected governor of the state. Aiding him in his quest is Akim Tamiroff as the political boss and Sturges regular William Demarest. It’s one of the funniest films about our political system and way around honesty ever made.
WE DISAGREE ON ... FATHER OF THE BRIDE (February 17, 2:15 pm)
Ed: A. Father of the Bride is a lovely, heart-warming comedy directed by Vincente Minnelli, who excelled at this type of warm family comedy. Give him a good cast and he'll take it from there. It tells the story of how the serene Banks household, led by patriarch Stanley (Spencer Tracy at his most genial is perfect) and matriarch Ellie (Joan Bennett also in a perfect performance), is turned upside down when daughter Kay (Elizabeth Taylor) announces at the dinner table that she's getting married to her suitor, Buckley Dunstan (Don Taylor). The movie now centers on Tracy and the trials and tribulations he must go through in order to pull this off. He's hoping for a small, intimate wedding, but is floored that Ellie, Kay, Bradley, and his parents have decided on a lavish - and expensive - bash. At first he's inclined to veto the decision, but then Ellie tells him that, as they never has a church wedding, she wants this very thing for Kay. Stanley relents and soon is overwhelmed by the planning and expense. Tracy is perfect as the confused, flummoxed father who receives a new surprise that adds to his gray hair at every turn. Tracy's acting genius is, that instead of dominating the film, he allows all the actions to swirl around him while he tries to figure everything out. He makes us believe both in him and that he will eventually figure everything out and the wedding will go off without a hitch. Without this, the film fails. Of course, a hitch occurs (it has to in a comedy such as this), but Tracy rallies everyone together to give his daughter the best day of her life. Two scenes to watch for: Tracy's meeting with his daughter's fiancée, when he realizes that Kay will be provided for in the marriage; and the chaos in the Banks household as final preparations are made. Get the popcorn, sit down, and watch one of the funniest and most heartwarming films of any age.
DAVID: B-. As you can tell by my grade, I don't dislike this film. But there's nothing special about it. It's a lighthearted comedy - and a bit too sentimental - filled with clichés about daddy's little girl growing up and getting ready for marriage. While he was an extraordinary dramatic actor, Spencer Tracy rarely impressed me in comedies. At least Katharine Hepburn doesn't play his wife in this film. The storyline is predictable and unimaginative. The movie is horribly dated. Tracy spends most of the movie flummoxed and impatient as the father who has to foot the bill for the expensive wedding of his daughter. Tracy wants his daughter to be a tomboy and not grow up. The daughter is Elizabeth Taylor in 1950. The 18-year-old Liz is about as far removed from being a tomboy as possible. It's a cute movie, perhaps too cute as it often comes across as sentimental. But you could certainly spend 92 minutes of your time watching something a lot less entertaining than this movie.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.