Friday, July 29, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for August 1-7

August 1–August 7


LITTLE CAESAR (August 1, 7:30 pm): You can't go wrong with any of the Edward G. Robinson films being aired on August 1 to honor the legendary actor. I selected this one because it's the one that made Edward G. Robinson a legitimate movie star. Warners set the standard for its gritty, engaging, violent, tense-filled gangster films in 1931 with the release of Little Caesar on January 9 and Public Enemy with James Cagney on April 23. Both are classics. Robinson and Cagney set the bar very high for cinematic gangsters in the two films. In Little Caesar, Eddie G. plays Caesar Enrico "Rico" Bandello, a small-time hood who does everything possible to become a mob boss in Chicago. Robinson's portrayal of Rico, also called Little Caesar, is so authentic. His ability to get into character, playing someone that cold-blooded, ruthless and single-minded without a concern about anything or anyone else is impressive. The ending is a classic with Rico gunned down in the gutter saying with surprise, "Mother of mercy! Is this the end of Rico?" It is, but hardly the end of Robinson's career as a Hollywood gangster. Myah!

THE SEARCH (August 6, 4:00 pm): A touching film about a young boy in post-World War 2 searching for his mother after the two were separated while held in a concentration camp. Montgomery Clift is an Army engineer in Germany after the Nazis are defeated who finds the boy and takes care of him. Clift rarely gave a bad performance, but this is one of his most special ones. The 1948 movie was primarily filmed in post-war Germany, showing the ruins of what was left of several cities.


DOCTOR X (August 4, 10:15 am): Art Deco meets German Expressionism in this early exercise in horror from Warner Brothers and director Michael Curtiz. It’s worth watching for more than its curiosity value as a film made in the early two-strip Technicolor process; it’s an interesting exercise in Grand Guginol – and where else would Warner Brothers stage a horror film but right in the city? Lee Tracy is a wise-cracking reporter hot on the trail of the “half-moon murders.” The trail leads him to the mysterious Doctor Xavier (Lionel Atwill), the head of a medical academy located on Manhattan’s lower East Side. When Atwill moves his staff to his Long Island country estate for an elaborate reenactment of the murder, Tracy suddenly shifts from mere observer to actor when the killer threatens Atwill’s lovely daughter, Joanne (Fay Wray), with whom Tracy has fallen in love. I have often thought the comic element was introduced to keep the critics at bay, for this film has something for everyone: cannibalism, rape, dismemberment, and even necrophilia. The two-strip Technicolor process, added to the sets by Anton Groh and the makeup from Max Factor, heightens the eeriness already present, and once we hear the words “synthetic flesh,” they’ll remain with us always.

KING KONG (August 4, 10:00 pm): Is there anyone out there who hasn’t seen this film? Along with The Lost World, it’s the granddaddy of the “monster-on-the-loose,” films and still holds its grip on us to this day. The search for and capture of a gigantic ape on a previously unknown island is stuff of our childhoods and I know of few people who aren’t in love with this adventure. Animator Willis O’Brien created one of the classic creatures of filmdom which, combined with an intelligent script, continues to dazzle with each viewing. The addition of Fay Wray only ratchets up the mythic heat with a modern take on Beauty and the Beast: She and co-stars Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot do an admirable job of acting, but it’s Kong we’ve come to see. And when he finally dies in a hail of bullets atop the Empire State Building, there’s not a dry eye left in the house, for he proves to have more humanity than his captors.

WE DISAGREE ON ... GOING MY WAY (August 3, 8:00 pm)

ED: A+. Leo McCarey was one of the greatest directors in Hollywood history. He was noted for his comedies, such as Duck SoupThe Awful Truth, and Good Sam. He was also the director who first paired the classic duo of Laurel and Hardy back in the late ‘20s. But besides comedy, McCarey also loved one other thing: schmaltz – and plenty of it. This film is a prime example of it, with Bing Crosby as the youthful priest who comes to the failing St. Dominic’s and not only saves the church, but wins over the crusty old pastor, Father Fitzgibbon, played by Barry Fitzgerald, in the process. It won Oscars for Crosby (Best Actor), Fitzgerald (Best Supporting Actor), Best Original Story, Best Screenplay, Best Song (“Swinging on a Star”), and Best Director. In a rare occurrence, Fitzgerald was nominated both in the categories of Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. It’s a beautifully constructed film and is perhaps McCarey’s optimistic ‘40s answer to his 1937 story of unwanted senior citizens, Make Way for Tomorrow. In this film the older pastor is not shunted aside but made into a vibrant force renewing the failing church. The best moment of the film comes when Bing and opera star Rise Steven sing the wonderful “Ave Maria,” one the most moving songs ever written. It’s one of the best moments in the history of film. It’s one of my favorites and I’m relatively immune to schmaltz, but when it’s done right, as in this case, it’s worth watching.

DAVID: C+. This isn't a musical though Bing Crosby sings a bit too much in it. The film is an overly sentimental story about Father Chuck O'Malley (Crosby), a young priest, sent to New York City to take over St. Dominic's Church from the grumpy old pastor, Father Fitzgibbon (Barry Fitzgerald). I don't hate the film – I gave it a C+ – but there's no way it deserved to win seven Oscars including for Best Picture. Among its competitors were the vastly superior Gaslight and Double Indemnity. There are plenty of cliches in Going My Way in which the old and supposed new ways of the two priests clash. Fitzgibbon is convinced the youth in the inner-city neighborhood to be beyond saving while O'Malley believes the boys to be good because at least they come to church. O'Malley convinces the boys to join the church choir. We get the well-worn story of the church in financial woes and the only way to save it is for the gang to get together and put on a play. Oh, wait a minute, this has Crosby in it so the plan is to get the kids together and perform a song, "Going My Way," at the Met. The song will be a big hit and sold to a record company with the profits going to pay the church's mortgage. However, the music executive (William Frawley – Fred Mertz from I Love Lucy) doesn't think it will sell. So the boys sing "Swing on a Star," which he loves and buys. The church is saved! I bet no one saw that coming. It's got a few cute moments, but it's pretty hokey and runs too long at 126 minutes.

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

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