TCM TiVo ALERT
August 23–August 31
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY (August 25, 3:30 pm): This is, by far, the best version of this classic tale to hit the big screen. With outstanding performances from Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh and Clark Gable as Lieutenant Fletcher Christian, it tells a story, though not a historically accurate one, of, well, uh, a mutiny on the HMS Bounty caused by the sadistic actions of Bligh toward the crew. This 1935 film is well-acted (incredibly, the normally overconfident Laughton felt self-conscious about his looks in comparison to Gable) with wonderful scenery and cinematography, and an excellent storyline.
SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (August 27, 6:00 pm): In a three-year span, director John Frankenheimer was on an incredible role: The Birdman of Alcatraz, The Manchurian Candidate both in 1962, Seven Days in May in 1964, and The Train in 1965. Burt Lancaster stars in all except The Manchurian Candidate, and is great in the three films. In Seven Days in May, he teams up with Kirk Douglas (the two co-starred in seven movies during their cinematic careers) to make a memorable and outstanding film. Lancaster is the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is leading several of its members in a conspiracy to remove the president (played by Fredric March) from office because he signed a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. Douglas is a Marine Corps colonel and military adviser who finds out about the proposed military coup and tells the president. It's among the best political thrillers ever made. An interesting end note: the shots taken outside the White House were done with the permission of President John F. Kennedy (those scenes were done in 1963 before the president's assassination on Nov. 22 of that year), but Pentagon officials weren't cooperative, refusing to permit Douglas to be filmed walking into that building. The movie was first aired in Washington, D.C., on February 12, 1964, less than three months after JFK's murder.
ED’S BEST BETS:
TOO HOT TO HANDLE (August 25, 10:00 pm): An overlooked and hilarious comedy with Clark Gable and Walter Pidgeon as competing newsreel photographers and Myrna Loy as an aviatrix looking for her lost brother in the Amazon jungle. Of course, soon Gable and Pidgeon are also competing for Loy’s charms, but who can blame them? The scene near the beginning with Gable staging a war scene in China is one of the funniest ever on film.
MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (August 29, 9:15 pm): A great vintage horror film from Warner Brothers in two-strip Technicolor with Glenda Farrell as a reporter investigating the sudden disappearance of young women. Could it have something to do with wax sculptor Lionel Atwill? Tune in and find out. This film was later remade in 3-D as House of Wax, starring Vincent Price, but I much prefer the original.
WE DISAGREE ON ... MY FAIR LADY (August 31, 5:00 pm)
ED: A+. Before I go on, let me acknowledge certain weakness with this film. Yes, it is basically third-rate Victor Herbert combined with a warmed-over George Bernard Shaw. And with any long movie, the squirm factor is always lurking nearby. However, the thing to keep in mind with any film is whether or not one finds it entertaining, for it is by the entertainment factor that a film is judged. If it’s not entertaining, why bother to see it, unless you’re some sort of pretentious-to-the-max arty-farty. And My Fair Lady is certainly entertaining, for it boasts the one thing a film needs: a good cast at their best. This movie certainly has that in spades, with Audrey Hepburn – at the height of her star power – in the lead role and ably assisted by Rex Harrison (who actually was more of a rapper than a singer), Wilfrid Hyde-White, Stanley Holloway, Gladys Cooper, Mona Washbourne, and even Theodore Bikel, who can be quite the load at tines, but in this film is consistently excellent. Due to its origins on the stage, a little of that staginess carriers over, but the set design helps alleviate some of that with a realistic setting. The book and music by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe are incomparable, proving that if one is to take a classic play and build on it, it’s best to take the best Shaw had to offer, and the best that would translate into a musical. As musicals go, it doesn’t get any better than this.
DAVID: D+. As a rule of thumb, I don't like musicals though I love music in films. People suddenly breaking out in song seems ridiculous to me. (I'm not counting films about bands or singers performing in movies like A Hard Day's Night, This is Spinal Tap or Pitch Perfect.) There are some excellent musicals: Top Hat, Singin' in the Rain, and The Muppet Movie (in the latter film, it's a fake frog, bear, pig, dog and other animals that suddenly break out in song). But not only is My Fair Lady bad, it's painfully bad and it goes on and on for nearly three hours. I love the storyline, and Pygmalion, the George Bernard Shaw play on which it is based, was expertly adapted to the big screen in the 1938 version starring Leslie Howard (who also co-directed it) and Wendy Hiller. Even with an entertaining story, there is nothing to like about the 1964 movie musical My Fair Lady (it too was a play first). The acting is awful, particularly Rex Harrison, who made a career out of starring in dreadful movies including Doctor Doolittle, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir and Cleopatra. At least My Fair Lady is only 170 minutes of awful cinema compared to the 248-minute nightmare of Cleopatra. Why they let Harrison sing – or rapping as Ed accurately describes it – is beyond logic. At least they dubbed Audrey Hepburn's singing voice. Apparently those making this film heard Hepburn sing (rather poorly) in 1957's Funny Face and realized her voice hadn't improve enough seven years later. No matter as the songs are mostly mediocre to awful. Yes, My Fair Lady won eight Oscars, including Best Picture and Harrison for Best Actor. But consider for a moment how out of touch the Academy and this film are. In 1964, there was My Fair Lady as well as the British Invasion. The pop charts were filled with all those great Beatles songs (and the band's excellent A Hard Day's Night movie was released that year) as well as harder-edged singles as the Animals' "The House of the Rising Sun," the Kinks' "You Really Got Me," the Zombies' "She's Not There," Them's "Gloria." Also, American music was changing, including Bob Dylan ("The Times They Are A-Changin'" album), the evolving Beach Boys with "Don't Worry Baby" and "When I Grow Up to Be a Man," the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," and rich soulful songs from Sam Cooke, Solomon Burke, and numerous Motown bands. Now compare them to "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face."
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.