TCM TiVo ALERT
November 8–November 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE (November 8, 6:00 pm): An excellent JD movie with Glenn Ford as a teacher trying to put high school kids on the right track. Sidney Poitier and Ford work exceptionally well with Poitier as a defiant and intelligent student who Ford sees promise in and tries to help. Vic Morrow plays the worst of the worst kids to near perfection. The scene in which Morrow’s character cruelly destroys a teacher's most-beloved items, his record collection, in class as the teacher tries to reach the kids, is an incredibly haunting piece of cinema. And the soundtrack is great, particularly the opening credits with “Rock Around the Clock.” While many think of the film as the first with a rock-and-roll song in it, it is so much more than that.
LIMELIGHT (November 9, 10:30 pm): One of Charlie Chaplin's last and greatest films, Limelight is tragic, touching, beautiful, captivating and funny. This movie never fails to make me tear up with laughter or sadness. For someone who mastered silent films, and went into sound practically kicking and screaming, Chaplin's "talkies" are among his finest movies. This 1952 film, Chaplin's final one made in the United States, has him playing Calvero, a washed-up clown looking to make a comeback. He meets Terry (Claire Bloom), a suicidal young ballet dancer, and takes care of her while helping to revitalize her career. The two are wonderful together. The final scene is one for the ages with Calvero reuniting with his old partner (played by Buster Keaton) on stage making a comeback that runs the gambit of emotions. It's the only film to include Chaplin and Keaton, and one to not miss.
ED’S BEST BETS:
LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (November 13, 6:00 am): The Andy Hardy series at MGM was the most profitable B-movies series ever made. They were essentially B-movies with an A-budget and style. They are also a guilty pleasure of mine. Sure, they were corny as hell and tried to evoke an America that didn’t even exist at that time. But they are a lot of fun to watch, although I think it all comes down to how one feels about Mickey Rooney. This one tends to stand out due to the supporting cast, specifically Lana Turner and Judy Garland. Turner’s a wonder to behold here, with her natural auburn hair (before it was bleached), and Garland plays the role of a young girl with a crush on Andy Hardy almost to perfection. And she gets to sing, as well. The plot, with Andy minding his friend Beezy’s girlfriend (Turner) while he’s away, and the sidebar, with Mrs. Hardy having to travel to Canada to nurse her sick mother, are nominal. It’s the Rooney-Garland relationship that comes to the center of the film. The only flaw in the pudding is that Andy’s girlfriend, Polly Benedict, is also conveniently away for the holidays, so we miss out on the gorgeous Ann Rutherford for most of the film. Also look for the young Gene Reynolds (who went on to become a prolific television director) as a young friend of Andy’s.
THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG (November 13, 1:30 pm): Yet another wonderful film shown at an inconvenient hour. This one is definitely worth recording, or just taking a mental health day to watch. Jacques Demy directed this unusual musical, in which every line is sung, sort of like the latest incarnation of Les Miserables. But unlike that movie, Umbrellas isn’t nearly as annoying. The singing voices of the actors are wonderfully dubbed. It stars Catherine Deneuve and Nino Castelnuovo as star-crossed lovers separated when he has to go off to fight in Algeria for the French Army. As they pledged their love until their death, the circumstances make for a good test of the pledge. Demy makes what could easily become a maudlin unintentional parody of the Hollywood musical into a bittersweet, poetic slice of romantic life. Though it’s set in the French town of Cherbourg (in Normandy), it has the look of a Hollywood studio musical, thanks to the good townspeople allowing Demy to paint their houses in loud, bright colors. It’s a fragile line for Demy to traipse, but he pulls it off with panache, and stay tuned for the final, moving scene in the snow.
WE DISAGREE ON ... TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (November 11, 11:45 pm)
ED: A+. This is one of those rare film adaptations of a classic novel that managed to please both fans of the book and its author. It is a beautiful time capsule of an era more naïve than today, when just men, whether black or white, stood up for what was right, and had to tread carefully due to the mores of society at that time. Director Robert Mulligan does a fine job of capturing the sleepy Alabama town of Maycomb, and Horton Foote’s screenplay keeps the relationships at the heart of the book intact. For although the book is set during a crisis time of race relations in the South, the film keeps its focus on the relationship between Scout, a tomboyish six-year old, her older brother, Jem, and Atticus, their attorney father. Although the front porch sociology of the film seems at bit fatuous at times – Tom Robinson, the black man railroaded for a supposed rape, is just too good to be true, and Gregory Peck (not one of my favorite actors) lays it on a bit too thick at times, almost as if he’s imagining himself as the next Lincoln or Supreme Court Chief Justice. But, aside from that, the film adaptation retains its essential viewpoint of life from a child’s point of view. We must be careful not to view the happenings in 1932 Alabama through the prism of 2015 America. As a film it is excellent; as a statement, which is film set in the past cannot hope to be, it falls far short. Roger Ebert, for instance, thought it unreal that Ewell, the man who framed Tom Robinson for rape, could, after his death walk up to the other members of Robinson’s African-American community and sneer in their faces, “call one of them ‘boy’, and not be touched." Ebert obviously doesn’t understand the hold that Jim Crow had on the South in those days. That’s part of the problem with viewing the film, through a contemporary lens. View it as a film and all will be fine.
DAVID: B-. Gregory Peck is magnificent as Atticus Finch (he won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal) and the actors who play his two children, Mary Badham as Scout and Phillip Alford as Jem, are quite good. However, this film lays the morality of the characters on far too thick and for far too long. I agree with Ed that it's not fair to view this 1962 film about life in the Deep South during the 1930s from what we know today. However, the film doesn't hold up well today. I appreciate what it's trying to say about life in a small Alabama town 80 years ago despite some of the over-the-top scenes. One in particular has Scout unknowingly break up a lynch mob prepared to storm the local jail to kill a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman by innocently shaming one of the mob's leaders. It's just too good to be true. While Peck is superb, he's able to do so while reciting some really corny lines. The film is too long at 129 minutes. It's supposed to relate the viewpoint of the children in the film, but too often they fade into the background such as during the trial of Tom Robinson, the black man falsely accused of rape. While there are shortcomings to the movie, overall, it's an engaging film that is worth seeing. But I wouldn't include it in any discussion about cinema's all-time classics.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.
For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.