TCM TiVo ALERT
February 23–February 28
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
PYGMALION (February 23, 12:15 am): It's hard to believe this splendid 1938 comedy starring Leslie Howard (who co-directed it) and Wendy Hiller is the same story (from George Bernard Shaw's play) as My Fair Lady, a 1964 musical and the most overrated film of all time. The latter is boring, ridiculously long, and filled with poor songs that were outdated when the movie was released. The former is witty, charming, entertaining and funny. Howard is often overlooked in comparison to other actors of his era, but he proved time after time that he was among the elite in his day and this film is an excellent example of his talent.
IN COLD BLOOD (February 25, 10:15 am): Largely based on Truman Capote's book of the same name, which is largely based on the true story of two hoods who kill a family of four in Kansas for money, that isn't there. Told in flashbacks and filmed in black and white, this 1967 movie, done in documentary style, is gripping and fascinating, even though we know the outcome almost immediately. It conveys the coldness that some people have toward others in society. It's also proof that Robert Blake, who plays one of the killers, could act when given an interesting role.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (February 23, 8:00 pm): When one looks up the term “action picture,” a still from this film should be under the definition. Quite simply, this is the role Errol Flynn was born to play, and he’s quite good in it. Give him such villains to play against as Claude Rains and Basil Rathbone, and this film just can’t be beaten. Olivia de Havilland shines as Maid Marian, with Una O’Connor and Herbert Mundin in fine form as the comic relief. The best thing about the film is its refusal to take itself seriously, which amps up our enjoyment even more. Michael Curtiz directed with a nearly flawless style. It’s simply one of those rare films I can watch over and over without growing bored.
THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD (February 24, 1:15 am): In the 1960s, espionage movies came in three categories: spy spoofs, spy films that didn’t take themselves all the seriously, as witness the Bond franchise, and spy films of a serious nature. This is in the last category and is one of the best not only of the ‘60s, but also in the history of film. It is faithfully adapted (as best as possible) from John LeCarre’s excellent spy thriller and concerns a burnt-out officer in British Intelligence (wonderfully portrayed by Richard Burton) whose last assignment is to ferret out a mole in the organization operating out of a Communist cell in East Berlin. Intelligently directed by Martin Ritt with solid supporting performances from Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner, and Peter Van Eyck. It’s simply a “can’t miss” movie.
WE DISAGREE ON ... THE LAST PICTURE SHOW (February 25, 2:45 am)
ED: B. On only his second attempt, director Peter Bogdanovich hit the Academy lotto, and I have to agree with those who say he never managed to top this masterpiece. A wonderful coming-of-age film set in the desolate town of Anarene, Texas, it’s based on a novel of the same title by Larry McMurtry. McMurtry’s earlier novel, Horsemen, Pass By, was adapted by director Martin Ritt into the award-winning Hud in 1963, and there are many similarities of mood between the two films. But there are two reasons why I’m not giving this film an “A.” One is that this film is not as good as the earlier Hud, and two, Cybill Shepherd’s performance pulls the film down a notch. Ben Johnson, Timothy Bottoms, Ellyn Burstyn, and Cloris Leachman are all fine, but I got the distinct feeling that the director was using his camera to act for Ms. Shepherd. Too bad, for overall, this is a fine film.
DAVID: A+. I agree with Ed that director Peter Bogdanovich never made a better film than this 1971 classic, but when you make one of the finest movies of all-time it's pretty difficult to top yourself. It's a perfect examination of life in a small, dying West Texas town in the early 1950s largely centered around two high school seniors, played by Timothy Bottoms and Jeff Bridges. The two young stars are excellent and are helped by the older supporting cast – particularly Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman (who both won Best Supporting Oscars), and Ellen Burstyn. Filming it in black and white (just like In Cold Blood) was an excellent decision that enhances the bleakness of not only the dying town, but its residents who are also dying along with it. The characters, many who are lonely even if they are married, engage in sexual relationships for companionship, to try to recapture an excitement for life, to dull the pain of their existence or to get what they want. As for Cybill Shepherd – who plays Jacy Farrow, a popular girl desperate to find a rich boyfriend to marry – she is ideal for the role. A stunningly beautiful woman in her first film, Shepherd does a great job of conveying the character's vulnerability while still being manipulative, sometimes doing so without saying more than a few words. The acting is superb and Bogdanovich's ability to juggle several different storylines without confusing the audience make this a very special and memorable film.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.