TCM TiVo ALERT
August 15–August 22
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
GRAND HOTEL (August 17, 8:00 pm): This 1932 film, with one of cinema's greatest casts, seamlessly weaves multiple stories about those staying at the Grand Hotel in Berlin. Not only are the actors outstanding, but the casting is brilliant with each playing a role that seems written specifically for him/her. The leads are Greta Garbo as an aging Russian ballerina - this is the film in which she famously says, "I want to be alone" - and John Barrymore as a charming yet poor baron who lives off his name, playing cards and as a jewel thief. How strong is this cast? Lionel Barrymore gets only fifth billing in a fantastic role as a dying man living out his final days in luxury at the magnificent hotel. Also of note are Wallace Beery as a successful industrialist with a mean streak and Joan Crawford as his secretary.
EXECUTIVE SUITE (August 21, 11:15 am): A fascinating look inside the cutthroat world of the business boardroom as allegiances are formed through a variety of ways, including blackmail and seduction, as top executives at a major furniture company fight it out to see who will run the company after the president drops dead on the sidewalk. The dialogue is riveting and the storyline is compelling. A large part of the film takes place inside an office, particularly a boardroom, which normally detract from a film. But it's quite the engaging movie. Like Grand Hotel, this film's strength is its cast - William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Frederic March and Walter Pidgeon are at the top of the bill.
ED’S BEST BETS:
RIDE LONESOME (August 19, 5:00 pm): This was director Budd Boetticher’s sixth film with star Randolph Scott, and it was probably the finest in the history of their collaboration. Scott is a bounty hunter training two nefarious villains (James Best and Lee Van Cleef). The latter killed Scott’s wife a while ago, so his mission is also fueled by revenge. In his quest he runs across baddies Pernell Roberts and James Coburn (in his film debut), and must deal with them also. What begins as another Western soon becomes a wonderful character study as all five interact in an attempt to outwit, connive, and bargain with the others. Well written, well directed and well acted, this is the sort of Western that will appeal even to non-fans of the genre.
THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE (August 22, 9:45 pm): This is the film that – quite justly – propelled Maggie Smith from fine supporting actress to Stardom as she portrays a headstrong and charismatic teacher at an Edinburgh, Scotland girls’ school during the ‘30s. Both the material and Miss Smith’s characterization were very much unlike the portrayals and the material in previous “school” pictures. A great supporting cast backs Smith, and her scenes with Celia Johnson and Pamela Franklin are astounding. (Why Franklin did not receive a Supporting Actress nomination is beyond me.) This isn’t your usual school/teacher film and Miss Jean Brodie is unlike any teacher you’ve seen before on the screen.
WE DISAGREE ON ... BRUTE FORCE (August 16, 3:00 pm)
ED: B. Brute Force is one of my favorite movies, directed by one of my favorite directors, Jules Dassin. It is a great study of prison life centering on a sadistic captain of the guards (Hume Cronyn in a performance for the ages) versus the inmate who can’t be broken (Burt Lancaster). Add to this the grimness of life on the inside, where death and disfigurement lurk around every corner, and the yearning of each inmate to be free once more, and we have one hell of a film. One thing about Brute Force that many overlook or take for granted is the brilliant black and white cinematography by William Daniels, which intensifies our viewing experience. Added to this is the extraordinary score by Miklos Rozsa – a score that hammers home the despair and hopelessness felt by each inmate. So why did I grade it as a “B”? Two reasons: One, the moral we get at the end from Dr. Walters (Art Smith) about how nobody can escape from a penitentiary. It is not only totally unnecessary, given all we’ve seen, but drags on too long for my taste and drags down what should be a great ending. The other misgiving is the needlessly lengthy flashbacks depicting the women in the life of the inmates. It comes across to me as obvious padding and could use a good trimming. Otherwise, this is an “A” movie.
DAVID: A. To start, it's hard to argue with the first two-thirds of Ed's review. After all, he calls it "one of my favorite movies, directed by one of my favorite directors," and "it is a great study of prison life." Ed's also eloquently writes about the central focus between Hume Cronyn, the prison's chief of security in his greatest cinematic performance, and Burt Lancaster as Joe Collins, the tough inmate who cannot be broken. Lancaster, as usual, is brilliant, compelling and authentic in Brute Force, only his second film. The ending is filled with action and great dialogue. There's little to add to Ed's excellent review except to correct his "reasons" for giving the film a B. First, the moral from Dr. Walters (Art Smith) about nobody being able to escape from prison is important to the film. Prisoners who eventually get released still carry the scars of their time being incarcerated. Even Walters, the alcoholic doctor, can't escape because of what working there has done to him and his emotional instability. As for the flashbacks of the women in the lives of four of the inmates, I'm perplexed by Ed writing they are "lengthy" because they are only about three or four minutes each. They are very important to the movie, giving viewers great insight into how the inmates ended up in prison. Finally, the movie is only 98 minutes long yet Ed writes there's "obvious padding and could use a good trimming." Would he prefer a film that's 80 minutes in length? I can assure him and our readers that cutting this film would hurt its overall powerful impact.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.