TCM TiVo ALERT
April 1–April 7
DAVID'S BEST BETS:
BORN TO KILL (April 2, 2:30 pm): A gritty, dark, violent film noir that smacks you in the face a few times. Lawrence Tierney, a legit tough guy who excelled in playing those characters, is in top form as Sam Wilde, a psychopath who comes across as charming one minute and an out-of-control killer at even a perceived slight in this 1947 film from RKO. Claire Trevor is great as a heartless, conniving gold-digger, who gives Tierney a run for his money. Veteran character actress Esther Howard is a scene-stealer as the owner of the boarding house in which Trevor's character lives while getting a quickie divorce in Reno.
MILDRED PIERCE (April 5, 8:00 pm): Joan Crawford is at her finest in this 1945 noir-soaper. She plays the title character whose goal in life is to spoil her oldest daughter (Ann Blyth, who is magnificent in this role) no matter the sacrifice. And what does Mildred get in return? A self-absorbed, selfish snob of a daughter who looks down at her mother and what she had to do in order to give her everything she desires. The film is told in flashbacks and the ending is fantastic.
ED'S BEST BETS:
STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (April 2, 8:00 pm): Alfred Hitchcock’s classic about an unwilling partnership between tennis pro Farley Granger and psychopath Robert Walker who meet accidentally on a train. Granger learns to his dismay that psychopaths do not joke, as his joking remark in not only taken seriously by Walker, but is used to seal a murder pact. If you haven’t seen this before, it’s a great thriller. If you have seen it, you’ll probably want to see it again.
RICHARD III (April 3, 1:15 am): This is probably the best of Olivier’s Shakespeare adaptations, though it’s not shown as often as Henry V and Hamlet. Olivier is in perfect form as the hunchbacked Richard, who murders his way to the throne, only to be defeated by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth Field. He receives sterling support from Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, and Claire Bloom, among others. As with all of Olivier’s Shakespeare adaptations, it’s a must see.
It rarely happens, but here's a week in which we are on the same page about nearly every movie. Of the films below, we've disagreed in the past on King Kong and Cool Hand Luke. So rather than a We Disagree, this week we give you...
WE STRONGLY AGREE ON ... ON THE WATERFRONT (April 3, 3:30 pm)
ED: If Elia Kazan did not make A Face in the Crowd, I would point to this film as his masterpiece. It is certainly his most personal film, aside from America, America, in that he is Terry Malloy and this is a thinly veiled defense of his naming names at the HUAC hearings. It's actually an answer to Kazan's former friend Arthur Miller, who split with Kazan over the testimony and based part of his play about those times, The Crucible, on Kazan. Miller was also supposed to write the screenplay. Everyone in the film is wonderful; even those in small supporting roles give the film a most realistic feel. To me the film has the feeling of a docudrama, it's so realistic. Screenwriter Budd Schulberg based his script on a series of articles written by Malcolm Johnson in 1948 for the New York Sun detailing the crime and corruption on the New York docks. This film is so good I actually liked Marlon Brando as Terry Malloy. (I'm not a Brando fan.) This film is a must for anyone that calls him or herself a film fanatic. In fact one can't use the term if he or she never viewed this film.
DAVID: There is so much to enjoy and admire about this 1954 film. The story is complex yet simple - the struggle facing Terry Malloy as to whether he should do the right thing or the smart thing, and the repercussions that decision has on him, his brother, other longshoremen and those living near the dock. The acting is brilliant with Marlon Brando at his best and incredible performances by the supporting cast, in particular, Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger. A Face in the Crowd is a groundbreaking film, but On the Waterfront is my favorite movie directed by Elia Kazan. The movie features two of cinema's greatest scenes; both toward the end. The first has a desperate Charley (Steiger) begging his brother Terry (Brando) to not testify against union boss Johnny Friendly (Cobb). Terry, a promising boxer years ago who threw a fight at the request of Charley because Friendly bet against him, is confused and disillusioned by always listening to his brother. This gives us the iconic quote, "I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am." The other is Terry, beaten and bloodied by Friendly's goons for testifying against the union boss, still standing with the other longshoreman, who finally side with Terry thus breaking the stranglehold Friendly has over them. The film takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions - anger, joy, hostility, frustration, sympathy, sadness and happiness. It's rare for a movie to not only do that, but do it exceptionally well.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.