Tuesday, June 13, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for June 15-22

June 15–June 22


THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER (June 20, 1:45 pm): Warner Brothers wasn't known for making excellent comedies in the 1930s and 40s, and Bette Davis didn't become famous for her comedic skills. However, this 1942 screwball comedy is the exception to the rule. Davis is delightful and funny as Maggie Cutler, secretary to Monty Woolley's character. Woolley's Sheridan Whiteside is an arrogant, acerbic lecturer and critic who slips on the front steps of the house of an Ohio family, injuring himself in the process. Since he's going to be laid up for a while, Whiteside thinks nothing of completely takes over the house, leading to some funny and madcap moments. Woolley, who reprised the role he first made famous on Broadway, is the best part of the movie. Davis is great here and showed legitimate promise as a comedic actress.  

FLAMINGO ROAD (June 22, 6:15 pm): Joan Crawford plays a carnival dancer (who is supposed to likely be about half her real age) who stays in a small town when the show moves on. She quickly becomes the object of attraction of a number of the men, and chooses a businessman with a drinking problem (played by David Brian) to marry. They move to Flamingo Road, the richest section of the town. While Crawford is solid and her name is above the title, it is clear that Syndey Greenstreet, who plays Sheriff Titus Semple (the corrupt local political boss), is the best part of the movie. Greenstreet, who was ill when making this film and comes across as a guy who is dying, is listed not only below Crawford, but Zachary Scott, who plays a sheriff's deputy. Greenstreet is perfect as the sleazy political boss who creates and ruins careers and lives. The confrontational scenes with Crawford and Greenstreet are outstanding. This was the second to last film for Greenstreet, who died less than five years after this 1949 movie was released.


THE SPY IN BLACK (June 15, 6:00 am): Director Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger teamed for the first time in this fine espionage drama set in World War I about a German spy (Conrad Veidt) assigned to gather intelligence about the British fleet stationed in Scapa Flow. A female agent (Valerie Hobson), posing as the town’s schoolmistress, and a disaffected British naval officer (Sebastian Shaw), are sent to provide assistance. Veidt is charmingly sinister and becomes involved in a bittersweet romance with Hobson. There are several nice little surprise twists as the story progresses, and the ending is not quite what we expect, which makes it all for the better. Powell and Pressburger are one of my favorite screen teams and this movie is an excellent example of their work.

IN A LONELY PLACE (June 17, 2:30 pm): Nicholas Ray directed this gripping drama about a troubled, self-destructive screenwriter (Humphrey Bogart) who has an affair with starlet Gloria Grahame while trying to clear himself of murder charges. Long acknowledged as one of director Nicholas Ray’s finest films, strong performances dominate this tale of two turbulent characters in an atmospheric and quite cynical Hollywood backdrop.

WE DISAGREE ON ... CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (June 15, 12:00 am)

ED. A-. The censors watered down Tennessee Wiliiams’s classic Pultizer Prize winning play about greed and mendacity in the South, but it still packs one hell of a punch, thanks to a great cast, especially Elizabeth Taylor, who gives one of her best performances and steams up the screen in doing so. Jack Carson scores in one of his last roles as Paul Newman’s brother (and Burl Ives’ son). Newman himself isn’t as dominant in this as he usually is in other films, but still manages to give a powerful performance nevertheless. However, considering the censorship, this is a film that should have been made during the ‘80s, when such topics could be honestly addressed, as Williams did in his play. It’s the excellent cast that puts this film over the hump for the audience, and it’s a wonderful film to see just for the performances.

DAVID: C+. This isn't a bad film, but there are a number of reasons I don't think it's anything special. First the good: Burl Ives is fantastic as Big Daddy, the patriarch of the dysfunctional family featured in the movie. He plays his role to near perfection. To begin the not-so-good list, the screenplay of this Tennessee Williams' play is too melodramatic. As I've mentioned before, I'm not much of a fan of Paul Newman or Elizabeth Taylor. This 1958 film is an example of why. The pair lack chemistry together, and, yes, I know the idea is the two have marital issues. But that doesn't mean Newman and Taylor can't work together to make a good film. Taylor's character goes from understanding to psychotic in the snap of a finger, and she fails to convey any authenticity, which comes as no surprise to me. As for Newman, he overuses "method" acting in this film as he was prone to do when playing angst-ridden characters. His character broods and then lashes out during the entire film for no logical reason. The Hays Code wouldn't permit the heavily suggested homosexual aspects of Newman's character that are in the play to be included in the film so viewers are left to wonder: why is any of this occurring?

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

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