Friday, February 12, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for February 15-22

February 15–February 22


ON THE WATERFRONT (February 16, 8:00 pm): There is so much to enjoy and admire about this 1954 film. The story is complex yet simple – the struggle facing Terry Malloy as to whether he should do the right thing or the smart thing, and the repercussions that decision has on him, his brother, other longshoremen and those living near the dock. The acting is brilliant with Marlon Brando at his best and incredible performances by the supporting cast, in particular, Lee J. Cobb and Rod Steiger. It's the best film Elia Kazan directed and he directed some of cinema's finest. The movie features two of cinema's greatest scenes; both toward the end. The first has a desperate Charley (Steiger) begging his brother Terry (Brando) to not testify against union boss Johnny Friendly (Cobb). Terry was a promising boxer who threw a fight at the request of Charley because Friendly bet against him. He's confused and disillusioned by always listening to his older brother. This gives us the iconic quote, "I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody instead of a bum, which is what I am." The other is Terry, beaten and bloodied by Friendly's goons for testifying against the union boss, still standing with the other longshoreman, who finally side with him breaking the stranglehold Friendly has over them. The film takes you on a roller-coaster of emotions – anger, joy, hostility, frustration, sympathy, sadness and happiness. It's rare for a movie to not only do that, but do it exceptionally well.

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (February 19, 11:45 pm): An authentic film that pulls no punches about three soldiers returning home from World War II attempting to adjust to life. The film features incredible performances by the legendary and lovely Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Fredric March and Harold Russell (an actual WWII vet who lost both his hands in the war). The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Unlike some multi-Oscar films, this one is truly a classic that remains as real and as powerful as it must have been to movie-goers when it was released in 1946. It's very touching and beautiful. It’s nearly impossible to not be moved while watching this film.


BLACK LEGION (February 16, 8:30 am): Warner Bros. was studio famous for their “ripped from today’s headlines” approach, and the subject of this film was no different. The Black Legion was a real organization, a splinter group of the Klan that existed primarily in Michigan and Ohio during the ‘30s with an especially sordid resume – everything from kidnapping and extortion to lynching and murder. They dominated headlines in 1936 as 12 of their members were prosecuted in the kidnapping and murder of WPA organizer Charles Poole. The film’s star, Humphrey Bogart, made his living for Warner Brothers in the ‘30s by playing bad guys, but nothing will prepare you for the depths he sinks to in this dark drama about a white supremacist organization much like the Ku Klux Klan. Bogart is Frank Taylor, a machinist and family man who is enraged when he’s passed over for promotion at his company. Worse, the man who got the promotion is a hard-working Polish immigrant named Dombrowski (Henry Brandon). Embittered, and thus vulnerable, Taylor is recruited by the Black Legion, who promise him revenge. To see Taylor’s transformation from loving family man and all-around good guy into a vicious racist still carries quite a punch today, due to Bogart’s riveting portrayal. Taylor’s downfall is not an individual one, and Warner Bros, to their credit, did not tack on a happy ending, which, given what we saw in the movie, would have been totally unconvincing.

THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (February 21, 6:00 am): Ever watch a film that just makes you feel better after it’s over? That’s exactly the case with this movie. 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.

WE AGREE ON ... STAGECOACH (February 15, 2:30 am):

ED: A+. John Wayne rode a long, hard road in the ‘30s. Cast as the lead, along with Marguerite Churchill, in the Fox production of The Big Trail, Wayne bore the blame when the film tanked at the box office, even though it wasn’t his fault. In order to get work, Wayne was forced to start at the bottom, appearing in a slew of B-Westerns for Columbia, Warners, Mascot, and Monogram. He even worked as a singing cowboy named “Singing Sandy Saunders” in Riders of Destiny (1933) for producer Paul Malvern and director Robert N. Bradbury at Monogram. But Wayne learned his trade well and moved up to Republic in the mid-30s, a better grade of B-Western. John Ford, who had recommended Wayne to Raoul Walsh for The Big Trail, now figured the big guy was ready, and after convincing producer Walter Wanger and protracted negotiations with Republic, Ford got his man and cast him as The Ringo Kid. And Wayne doesn’t let him down; in fact the role made Wayne a star, one of many in this marvelous ensemble piece that grossed nearly a million dollars after it was released in 1939, making Wanger a handsome profit. It also changed Hollywood’s thinking about Westerns and opened the door for the return of the A-Western, a genre that’s been with us ever since. Its one of those films I find something new to think about every time I see it.

DAVID: A+. No one should ever confuse me for a John Wayne fan. His films have been the subject of numerous disagreements between Ed and myself. There's McLintock!The Quiet ManShe Wore a Yellow Ribbon, and They Were Expendable. He's made numerous other films I can't stand including True GritRooster CogburnThe Fighting Seabees. I think I've made my point. I'm not a fan, but Wayne has been in a number of excellent films, primarily with strong ensemble casts, such as The Man Who Shot Liberty ValanceRed River, and StagecoachThis 1939 Western, directed by the legendary John Ford, is about a group of people – including a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor, a pregnant woman, a gambler, and a bank embezzler  – traveling by stagecoach in 1880 through hostile Apache territory in the Southwest. Along the way, they pick up the notorious Ringo Kid (Wayne), who helps fend off the Indians. The cast that also features Claire Trevor, John Carradine and Donald Meek is the strong-point of this film with each actor getting enough screen time to let viewers be interested in every character. Wayne is perfectly cast as the young gun who's wrongfully accused, but fast with a six-shooter and charming despite being rough around the edges. This was Ford's first talkie Western and one of his best. As with nearly all of Ford's films, the scenery in Stagecoach is breathtaking. It's one of the best Westerns ever made.

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

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