TCM TiVo ALERT
August 8–August 14
DAVID’S BEST BETS:
CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS (August 11, 9:30 am): This 1937 film had the potential to be a disaster. Spencer Tracy, with a Portuguese accent, saves Freddie Bartholomew, a spoiled rich boy, who, after being rescued, is stuck on a fishing schooner. The potential obstacles are buying Tracy's accent and hoping Bartholomew gives the performance of his life. Amazingly, both occur in this fantastic film. Tracy won the Oscar for Best Actor, and would win it again the following year for Boys Town. Captains Courageous also features the always-excellent Lionel Barrymore as the ship's captain and solid performances from a cast that includes John Carradine, Melvyn Douglas and a young Mickey Rooney. It's a great coming-of-age film, adapted from English novelist Rudyard Kipling's 1897 book of the same name. The ending is somewhat sappy, but it doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment of the movie.
ED’S BEST BETS:
THE FALLEN IDOL (August 13, 10:15 pm): Ralph Richardson heads a superb cast in this tale about a young boy who idolizes a household servant. The relationship is a bit rocky after the servant is accused of murder, and the boy, believing that the servant is guilty, begins a series of lies to cover for his friend, a series that almost puts him in jail. The film is based on Graham Greene’s story, “The Basement Room,” and is expertly realized by screenwriters Greene, Lesley Storm, and William Templeton, and sharply directed by Carol Reed. Movies don’t get any better than this.
THE BAND WAGON (August 14, 8:00 pm): In my estimation, this is the greatest musical ever to come out of Hollywood. Fred Astaire has never been better than he is here playing a faded Hollywood musical star lured out of retirement to star in a stage musical based on Faust, of all things. He has tremendous support from the lovely Cyd Charisse, Nanette Fabray, English song-and-dance man Jack Buchanan, and Oscar Levant, who, although playing Oscar Levant as in every other film, has never done it better than this. There are lots of great numbers topped off by Astaire and Charisse in “Girl Hunt,” a mystery set in swingtime. Fabulous. It really doesn’t get any better than this.
WE AGREE ON ... THE WRONG BOX (August 13, 6:00 pm)
ED: A. This dark farce revolves around two brothers, Masterman (John Mills) and Joseph (Ralph Richardson) Finsbury, who are the last survivors of a unique insurance wager called a tontine. As the sole survivor will be the one to inherit the vast fortune, it is inevitable that they would try to kill one another. What follows is a hilariously concocted tale of premeditated murder, accidental death, police dragnets and a wonderful subplot involving the notorious Bournemouth Strangler. As Masterman’s health begins to decline, he decides to kill his brother so he may give the fortune to his grandson (Michael Caine), a rather unpromising medical student. Joseph, on the other hand, is being watch closely by his greedy nephews (Peter Cook and Dudley Moore), who are also plotting to gain the inheritance. Thus the stage is set for one of the funniest and most intelligent comedies ever made. To say they don’t make them like this anymore is an understatement; the spirits of Mack Sennett and Charlie Chaplin rebounds through the film. With such distinguished supporting performers as Cicely Courtneidge, Willard Lawson (wonderful as Peacock the Butler), and Peter Sellers, who, in a small role as Dr. Pratt, nearly walks off with the picture.
DAVID: A. Ed perfectly describes the plot so there's no need for me to restate it. It's an exceptionally funny dark comedy featuring some of the best British comedians of the era – notably Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, who were a legendary team, and the always brilliant Peter Sellers – along with excellent "serious" actors – in particular Ralph Richardson, Michael Caine and John Mills – who show their comedic talent. The 1966 film is an adaption of an 1889 book. While the film has a detailed absurd plot, it is the quips and sight gags that make me laugh out loud every few minutes. Because the plot is so outrageous, it's a testament to the actors that they're able to show some restraint as to not let the film's story spiral out of control. If you haven't seen it or it's been a few years since your last viewing, you owe it to yourself to watch it. If you've seen this film a few times, well, I don't need to convince you to watch it again.
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