TCM TiVo ALERT
December 8–December 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (December 8, 8:00 am): 1939 was among cinema's greatest years with the releases of Gone With the Wind, Ninotchka, Of Mice and Men, Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, and Dark Victory to name a few. But among all of them, Goodbye, Mr. Chips is my favorite. It's a sweet, sentimental, touching story about a stern school master, Charles Chipping – Mr. Chips for short – and how he wins the affection of his students after falling in love and marrying Kathy Ellis (Greer Garson). The cast is wonderful, but Robert Donat in the lead, a role that won him an Academy Award, is outstanding.
SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS (December 12, 10:15 pm): Ed has recommended this film in the past and rightfully so. This comedy was made in 1941. Many things that were funny 62 years ago aren't funny anymore. But you can't say that about this film written and directed by Preston Sturges, an incredibly talented man who made some of the funniest movies you'll ever see. This one is his best. Joel McCrea is outstanding as John L. Sullivan, a famous comedic director of films such as Ants in Your Pants of 1939. He wants to make a serious film, O Brother, Where Are Thou? (the title was later lifted by the Coen brothers in their great film from 2000), but the studio wants another comedy. He is insistent and takes on the life of a hobo. No matter what he does, he always ends up back in Hollywood. Sullivan meets "The Girl" (the absolutely lovely Veronica Lake), who is strongly considering abandoning her acting dream, and the two succeed in living the homeless life. Sullivan is ready to return to Hollywood to make his serious film. That is until he takes a blow to the head and loses his memory. The ending is wonderful with a great lesson learned. The pacing is as good as it gets and the movie works on every level.
ED’S BEST BETS:
KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (December 10, 8:00 pm): This classic from Ealing Studios is mostly known for the fact Alec Guinness plays eight different roles – all members of the D’Ascoyne family – in this hilarious tale of revenge. Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) is an Englishman born into poverty, but who has a distant connection to royalty on his mother’s side. The problem is that eight members of the D’Ascoyne family stand between him and what he feels is his rightful inheritance. Louis solves this problem by systematically bumping off each member. Joan Greenwood adds to the fun as the greedy Sibella, and Valerie Hobson is wonderful as Edith D’Ascoyne. It’s one of the most intelligent black comedies ever made and if you haven’t yet seen it . . . well, let’s just say that if there ever such a thing as a real “Must See,” this is it.
THE PRODUCERS (December 14, 1:00 pm): Mel Brooks began his directorial career with a film reviled at the time by many critics, but now justly seen as one of the classics of cinema. Two Broadway producers (Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) discover that they can make more money putting on a flop than financing a hit. All they have to do is raise more cash than they need for the play. They find a sure-fire flop, for they have pre-sold somewhere around 10,000% of the play, and if it’s a hit, they can’t pay off the backers. Their vehicle is a musical titled “Springtime for Hitler,” the love story of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun in song. They chose the worst director, the worst actor, and have signed the play’s author, a nutty Nazi living in Greenwich Village. I won’t say any more in case you’re one of the few that hasn’t yet seen this classic.
WE DISAGREE ON ... FUNNY GIRL (December 13, 8:00 pm)
ED: A. This is an amazing tour-de-force for the young Barbra Streisand, long before the days in which she reincarnated herself as a Deep Thinker and began to spout on every subject under the sun. No, in those days she was simply Streisand, a wonderful singer and song-stylist. Since she starred in the Broadway musical of the same name, it was a simple task to move her over to the film adaptation. Sure, the sets look particularly phony and to say that the script is contrived is to put it lightly, but who goes to see a musical for the sets and script? We go to see a musical for the performances, and most of all, for the music. And the film doesn’t let us down. A strong supporting cast backs Streisand, with Kay Medford, Lee Allen, Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, and Frank Faylen giving solid turns (I would have included Omar Sharif, but the longer the move goes on the more annoying he gets to me), and the great William Wyler as her director. A great score by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill gave us songs (“People,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “I’m the Greatest Star”) that are standards today. Now, if you’re looking for a real biography of Fanny Brice, I suggest you buy a bio of her life. But if you’re looking for an enjoyable two and a half hours, this is the perfect ticket and a great example of the ‘60s musical.
DAVID: D+. In my never-ending quest to see all the films in The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made book (I've seen about 650 of them) I have to endure some real stinkers such as Paint Your Wagon, My Fair Lady, Our Town and Funny Girl. There's very little that's funny about this film. The plot is dull and lifeless – and this is after they fictionalized the life of Fanny Brice to make this more interesting. They failed. The movie is too much of a bad thing. To quote Roger Ebert's original review, the 1968 film "is perhaps the ultimate example of the roadshow musical gone overboard. It is over-produced, over-photographed and over-long." It clocks in at two-and-a-half hours, and is a chore to watch. The movie is slow paced and only gets worse as it goes on. I generally dislike musicals and this one did nothing to change my mind. While "People" is a good tune, the rest of the songbook are forgettable. William Wyler was a wonderful director, but he did an awful job with this film. Most critics have kind words for Barbra Streisand's performance in this movie, but she's just too much and Wyler fails to reign her in, and the rest of the actors are simply awful. It's far from being the worst movie or musical ever made, but it's a bad film that fails to entertain.
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