Tuesday, August 6, 2013

TCM TiVo Alert for August 8-14

August 8–August 14


(August 10, 8:00 pm): This is about as great as it gets when it comes to films. The acting is superb from Lana Turner and Kirk Douglas as the leads to the supporting cast of Walter Pidgeon, Barry Sullivan, Dick Powell and Gloria Grahame. The writing is sharp, the directing by Vincente Minnelli is outstanding and the movie is incredibly entertaining. The movie is a flashback showing interactions film producer Jonathan Shields (Douglas) had with a screenwriter (Powell), a movie star (Turner) and a director (Sullivan). None of them ended good because Shields betrays all of them. He wants to work with all of them to make a big comeback. It's a great movie showing the backstabbing that is done in the motion-picture industry, expertly drawing parallels to the betrayals we've all experienced in our own lives.

(August 11, 5:15 pm): This 1962 film about the confirmation process of a secretary of state nominee (Henry Fonda) was ahead of its time. Having the president (Franchot Tone) dying while the proceedings are occurring is overdramatic, but the storyline rings true with politics of later years that saw and still see numerous presidential nominees have their entire lives scrutinized just for the sake of partisanship and not for the betterment of the country. It's dialogue heavy, but the dialogue is so good that it elevates the quality of the film. Add the excellent cast - Fonda, Lew Ayres, Charles Laughton, Walter Pidgeon (I'm recommending two films with him in it this week), and Burgess Meredith (in a small but memorable role) - and great directing by Otto Preminger and you get a film that's interesting, intelligent and compelling. Look for Betty White as a senator from Kansas in her film debut. 


THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (August 10, 1:00 pm): This is the original – and the best – version of James M. Cain’s classic novel (which also inspired Albert Camus, by the way). When it comes to noir, one would think that the MGM gloss was off-putting, but I think it actually helps the film. Garfield has never been better and Turner has never been more gorgeous. Not only can we see that they’re going to hook up, we can understand why they must hook up. The performances from the supporting cast are superb, the photography by Sidney Wagner is sharp and inviting, and Tay Garnett’s direction workmanlike, as he keeps the characters and the story in constant play. Despite the complaints of the changes in Cain’s original story (for censorship purposes), the film still outdoes the 1981 Nicholson-Lange remake in terms of the heat between the stars, not to mention the fact that Turner, while hardly a serious actress, ran rings around Lange’s performance.

BELLE DE JOUR (August 12, 2: 15 am): Catherine Deneuve is outstanding as a self-loathing housewife who turns tricks to fill the emptiness in her life and live out her sexual fantasies. As for the film itself, it’s yet another exercise by Bunuel in surrealism and it hasn’t aged well over the years. It can best be seen as a historic exercise, much like Birth of a Nation, rather than as a groundbreaking film. Watch it for Deneuve and how she projects sexiness on screen in a manner much beyond what most other screen beauties can reach. Also watch it for Bunuel’s use of color – for his first color film, he uses the shades like a master.


ED: B-. The Man Who Came to Dinner is a good film; of that there is no doubt. However, it’s not worthy of an “A” rating. Warner Brothers was never noted for their comedies back then, and this film is a perfect example. For one thing, like most George Kaufman/Moss Hart plays, it has not aged well and much of its madcap antics look stagy and forced. Like her studio, Bette Davis was never noted for comedy, and she adds little, if anything, to the film in her role as Monty Woolley’s secretary. Woolley, a very under-appreciated actor, is wonderful as the acerbic critic, Sheridan Whiteside, based on critic and friend of the authors, Alexander Woollcott. Back when the film was released, Woollcott was a familiar face – and voice, based on his long running radio appearances. (Clifton Webb’s Waldo Lydecker, in Laura, is also based on Woollcott. Today, unfortunately, he’s largely forgotten.) And how many viewers know that Jimmy Durante’s “Banjo” character was supposed to be Harpo Marx? If we know that, his antics have resonance, but without that knowledge, the character merely comes across as annoying. Yes, by all means, watch this movie if you haven’t seen it before. Watch it for the wonderful performances by Woolley, Billie Burke, Mary Wickes (like Woolley, she reprised her role from the Broadway original), and especially for a wonderful performance by Ann Sheridan, who, unlike Davis, was at home doing comedy, even Warner Brothers comedy. As Lorraine Sheldon, she delivers a wonderful performance as the beautifully selfish and self-absorbed man-eating theater star, based, I believe, on Tallulah Bankhead. Watch it for the cast. 

DAVID: A. Ed is correct that Warner Brothers wasn't known for making excellent comedies in the 1930s and 40s, and Bette Davis didn't become famous for her comedic skills. However, this 1942 screwball comedy is the exception to the rule. Davis is delightful and funny as Maggie Cutler, secretary to Monty Woolley's character. Woolley's Sheridan Whiteside is an arrogant, acerbic lecturer and critic who slips on the front steps of the house of an Ohio family, injuring himself in the process. Since he's going to be laid up for a while, Whiteside thinks nothing of completely takes over the house, leading to some funny and madcap moments. Woolley, who reprises the role he first made famous on Broadway, is outstanding. Among my favorite one-liners from his character are: "Will you all now leave quietly or must I ask Miss Cutler to pass among you with a baseball bat?" and "I simply will not sit down to dinner with Midwestern barbarians. I think too highly of my digestive system." Woolley is the best part of the movie being charming and obnoxious at the same time. It is his film and because of the character and the great lines, it would be easy for Woolley to smother the others. Instead, he expertly plays off the other actors. Among those giving excellent performances are Jimmy Durante as Banjo (even though he isn't in much of the film) and Ann Sheridan as actress Lorraine Sheldon, who will do anything for a lead role and ends up in a coffin-like box heading for Nova Scotia as the movie ends. And while Davis didn't become famous for being a comedian, she is great here and showed legitimate promise as a comedic actress.  

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

No comments:

Post a Comment