Sunday, February 28, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert For March 1-7

March 1–March 7


CAGED (March 2, 7:00 am): The mother of all women-in-prison films, but this one is unique to the genre as it features excellent acting. Eleanor Parker was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar as the young innocent Marie Allen, Agnes Moorehead is great as warden Ruth Benton, and Hope Emerson was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar as the deliciously evil matron Evelyn Harper. Almost anything bad you can imagine happens to Marie – her new husband is killed in a robbery, she ends up in prison because she is waiting in the getaway car, she's pregnant while serving her sentence, she's victimized by other inmates and Harper, she has to give up her baby for adoption, and finally becomes bitter and hardened from all of her bad experiences. It also features powerful dialogue and an actual plot, it was nominated for a Best Writing Oscar, making this stark, realistic film stand out among others in the genre.

THE PUBLIC ENEMY (May 3, 8:30 am): This Pre-Code classic is one of the greatest gangster movie ever made. Tom Powers (James Cagney) and Matt Doyle (Edward Woods) grow up committing petty crimes before finally making it big thanks to bootlegging during Prohibition. It's a Warner Brothers gangster film from 1931 so obviously it's gritty. Thanks to a brilliant performance by Cagney and an incredible directing job by William A. Wellman, this goes far beyond any other gangster film of its time and even to this day. Gangster films have become more violent and bloody, but The Public Enemy is so authentic and brutal, you can't turn away from it, It includes two of the most iconic scenes in cinematic history: Tom shoving a grapefruit in the face of Mae Clarke and the end when a rival gang shoots him up, wraps his body almost like a mummy and delivers it to his family's house.


SPARTACUS (March 2, 8:00 pm): As much a film of ideas as of action, directed with style by Stanley Kubrick and boasting great performances from a cast including Kirk Douglas, Peter Ustinov, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons, Charles Laughton, Woody Strode and Tony Curtis. Adapted by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo from Howard Fast’s best-seller, it covers the traditional ground of Roman-era epics while breaking with established censorship in showing a greater scope of Roman decadence, especially in matters of sex. Its greatest strength, perhaps, is in closing without the obligatory happy ending, which keeps it true to its intentions, and makes it essential viewing.

RED-HEADED WOMAN (March 3, 1:00 pm): Jean Harlow’s breakthrough role and one of the best and most provocative films to come from the Pre-Code era. Written by Anita Loos, it’s a perverse comedy of manners with Harlow as Lil, a woman who’ll stop at nothing to win boss Chester Morris, even if it means breaking up his marriage. However, she finds that having is not nearly as good as wanting, especially when the crowd he socializes with wants nothing to do with her. Look for Charles Boyer in the small role as Lil’s chauffeur.


ED: B. No studio pushed the envelope harder during the Depression than Warner Bros. And no director at the studio pushed the envelope harder than William A. “Wild Bill” Wellman. Wild Boys of the Road is typical of his oeuvre during this time, based on the headlines of the time and substituting shock for style. The story of two boys who feel useless at home as their families can’t find work, they decide to hit the road in search of a better life. Along the way they meet others, both youths and those who would prey on youths, along with hostile populaces in the cities and towns along the way who tell them they cannot support their own citizenry, let alone a seeming army of jobless kids. Anyone who thought riding the rails was a romantic experience will get the shock of their lives after seeing this. Wellman makes it clear there is no romance on the rails, only hunger and terror. However, after building a rather radical and pessimistic picture, Wellman cops out with a happy ending straight out of Andy Hardy (said to be tacked on at the insistence of the studio). It essentially takes the sting out of what we’d just been watching, For those who would like their Wellman undiluted, try Heroes for Sale.

DAVID: A. This is the best Depression-era film of the Depression era. Wild Boys of the Road paints a stark, dark and tragic picture of two boys – Tommy (Edwin Phillips) and Eddie (Frankie Darro) – who lead normal lives until the Depression destroys their families. The two decide to run away from home to take the burden of supporting them off of their parents and to hopefully make something of themselves. Nothing goes right for the two. As they ride the rails with other young hobos, things get progressively hopeless. Among the other kids they meet is Sally (Dorothy Coonan, who would later marry William Wellman, the film's director). She is going to Chicago to stay with her aunt. The police meet the train and send the most of the kids to a detention center. But Tommy and Eddie luck out by going with Sally to her aunt, but their luck runs out a few minutes later as the place is raided and they're on their own again. Everywhere they go, they encounter problems with the worst of it being Tommy getting knocked unconscious and ending up on a rail line with a train approaching. He tries to get out of the way, but loses his leg. Eddie steals a prosthetic leg, which only causes more problems for the lost kids living in a teenage shantytown. Unlike Ed, I like the ending. The kids finally get a break from the system that has caused them so much pain, but it's not the first time someone in authority felt sympathy for them. Also, the trio will never lead normal lives so there's only a hint of happiness at the film's conclusion. Wellman does a masterful job directing this 1933 film that takes viewers and slaps them in the face, pointing out the injustice facing these lost boys and girls. Kudos to the children actors who put in amazing performances.

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

1 comment: