TCM TiVo ALERT
February 1–February 7
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
WUTHERING HEIGHTS (February 1, 12:00 pm): TCM is showing some of the finest films on February 1 from one of cinema's greatest years, 1939. You can't go wrong with any of the films airing that day. One of my favorites from not only that year, but of all-time, Wuthering Heights, is on at noon. Based on the classic Emily Bronte book, the movie version uses less than half of the 34 chapters and doesn't include the second generation. Despite that, it's a brilliant film with Laurence Olivier delivering one of his greatest performances (which says a lot) as Heathcliff. The rest of the cast is outstanding, particularly Merle Oberon, David Niven and Geraldine Fitzgerald.
BABETTE'S FEAST (February 4, 6:00 pm): This 1987 Danish movie (and the Oscar winner for Best Foreign Film) is one you shouldn't miss. It's a special film about loyalty, passion, faith, sacrifice and love. The title character moves to a small village and lives there for 14 years as the cook of two elderly sisters who had found true love decades earlier, but didn't marry because their father, the leader of a religious sect, didn't approve. The sisters and the rest of the village become very fond of Babette, and she feels the same. She wins 10,000 francs in a French lottery. Rather than take the money and return home, she spends it on an extravagant feast for the sisters, their lost loves and others in the village. The story is beautiful, the acting is exceptionally strong, and the message is powerful.
ED’S BEST BETS:
GEORGY GIRL (February 6, 10:30 pm): It’s the picture that made Lynn Redgrave into a star, and few others than Redgrave would even attempt this sort of role – playing a homely young lady from whom millionaire James Mason has a strange attraction. Redgrave is wonderful in the role, and it’s one of the last of the “Swinging London” genre of the mid-60s. Charlotte Rampling and Alan Bates also shine as Redgrave’s icy, self-absorbed roommate and her boyfriend. In fact, Rampling almost steals the movie right out from under Redgrave, and their scenes together have good chemistry. Those that have seen it will probably want to see it again, while those that have never seen this wonderfully quirky film are strongly advised to do so.
THE LAVENDER HILL MOB (February 7, 4:15 pm): Granted, there’s no such thing as the perfect film, but this one comes darned close. Alec Guinness is near perfect in his role as the fussbudget bank clerk who, along with newly acquired friend Stanley Holloway, robs a bank of a million pounds in gold bullion. And almost gets away with it, to boot. How they slip up is a thing of beauty to watch, as is the chase near the end. This is a keeper for the ages and even those who are “hard” on comedy will smile at this one.
WE DISAGREE ON ... A STAR IS BORN (February 3, 8:00 pm)
ED: A+. Most of the time, remakes of good movies are not so hot. They rarely achieve anything near the life and pulse of the original. But Judy Garland’s third husband, Sid Luft, was convinced that the story would play just as well as a musical and would make an excellent comeback project for Judy. On both counts he was right. Luft also guaranteed the success of the film by handing the directorial reins over to George Cukor, who had directed the original story in 1932 as What Price, Hollywood? Also on hand was Moss Hart to fashion the screenplay, which he did magnificently by drawing on his knowledge of Garland and her career. With the able support of James Mason as the doomed Norman Maine, Garland shines as Esther Blodgett, transformed by Hollywood into the glamorous Vicki Lester. Add a few well-staged songs and the sharp cinematography of Sam Leavitt, and A Star is Born is a remake that equals the original.
DAVID: C+. There's nothing horribly wrong with this 1954 movie, much like What Price Hollywood?, a 1932 film that is quite similar to it, or the first A Star is Born from 1937 with Janet Gaynor and Frederic March. (Don't get me started on the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.) But there's really nothing special about this film. I've never been a fan of Judy Garland and she does nothing to change my assessment of her with this movie. Garland was 32 years old at the time of the film's release. That's a little old for this particular role, and you add her addiction problems and other medical issues, and Garland looks considerably older. I also don't care much for musicals. While this is not a pure musical, there's plenty of songs in it, and does nothing to change my assessment of the genre. James Mason as Norman Maine, a former matinee idol who's drunken outbursts are no longer tolerated by his studio and the public with his career in full nosedive, is solid. But it's not enough to make this movie anything more than a couple of steps above mediocre. Also, the film is way too long at three hours with plenty of scenes, including the insufferable and overdramatic "Born in a Trunk" sequence, that should have been on the cutting-room floor.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.