Friday, July 21, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for July 23-31

July 23–July 31


INHERIT THE WIND (July 23, 11:45 am): An all-star cast – featuring Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly, Claude Akins, and Harry Morgan – do a splendid job in this well-written film adaption of this fictionalized version of the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial in which a teacher in the South is brought up on criminal charges for teaching the theory of evolution to his high school class. Most of the film takes place in a courtroom. The film, expertly directed by Stanley Kramer, gives viewers the feeling of being in that hot, packed courtroom with hostility in the air. While the storyline is an attack on Creationism, the actual target of this 1960 film is McCarthyism. 

THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (July 31, 9:15 am): This is one of my favorite films. Kirk Douglas is a movie mogul who needs the help of former friends, he betrayed all of them, for his comeback film. While waiting for his call, the three former friends – an actress (Lana Turner), a screenwriter (Dick Powell) and a director (Barry Sullivan) – share their stories of getting burned by Douglas in the office of a producer (Walter Pidgeon). The 1952 film is based on actual Hollywood figures or at least composites of them. It's an  enjoyable film to watch as it's smart, wickedly funny and entertaining with a wonderful cast. Gloria Grahame has a small but memorable role (that earned her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress) in addition to the fine job by the actors previously mentioned. Vincente Minnelli's directing brings out the best in each of the performers with a great screenplay from Charles Schnee. A bit of trivia: the five Oscars won by The Bad and the Beautiful is the most by any movie not nominated for Best Picture. The mystery is how did this film not even get nominated, particularly with the Best Picture award that year going to the overrated and overproduced The Greatest Show on Earth.


CAT PEOPLE (July 26, 1:00 pm): Producer Val Lewton’s first horror hit, this tale of a strange, shy woman (Simone Simon) and the man (Kent Smith) who fells in love with her depends more on shadows and suggestion than actual visual horror. Lawton creates an eerie atmosphere of mood and style that draws us in, and once it has us, builds relentlessly until the finale. Tom Conway and Jane Randolph give wonderful supporting performances. Watch for the swimming pool scene. Lewton’s first film and the harbinger of more wonderful horror to come.

DAY FOR NIGHT (July 31, 4:30 pm): This is one of Francois Truffaut’s wittiest and most subtle films – a film about the making of a film. While on the set of Je vous presente Pamela (Introducing Pamela), the story of an English wife running off with her French father-in-law, we also get to know the cast and crew shooting the film, each with his or her own set of problems. Hence the title: a technical cinematographic term for simulating a night scene while shooting during the day. Special filters and optical processors are employed to create the illusion. While Nathalie Baye and Jean-Pierre Leaud are wonderful in their roles, Valentia Cortese steals the picture as the fading actress Severine. For those new to Truffaut, this is the perfect introduction and one not to miss.

WE AGREE ON ... BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (July 29, 4:45 pm)

ED: A. A cursory glance at the title might lead one to think this is another run-of-the-mill Western, but it is taut, compelling drama about the injustice done to man because he was different from his neighbors. This is the first film to focus on the wartime outrages against Japanese-Americans, and is something of a cross between a Western and film noir. The film is set in the fictional Southwestern town of Black Rock, where the inhabitants are bound to a code of silence over the murder of Kokomo, a local Japanese-American farmer. On that bad day a one-armed stranger named Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) arrives on a train looking for Kokomo, only to be told by one of the town’s leading citizens, Reno Smith (Robert Ryan), that Kokomo was interned during the war. Macreedy’s not buying the explanation and begins to ask questions. That’s when the proverbial crap hits the fan as Smith and his henchmen try to keep Macreedy from finding out the truth. Though the film has its share of melodrama, director John Sturges keeps it moving at a brisk pace. Not one line or shot is wasted during the length of the film, and the photography by William C. Mellor perfectly captures the bleak atmosphere, using color and Cinemascope to its best advantage. Also not to be overlooked is the casting, with Tracy ultimately up against Smith and his henchmen, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. For his part Ryan gives the film another Western connection in that he was beginning to make name for himself as a villain in Westerns around this time. Written by Don McGuire and Millard Kaufman from the short story "Bad Time at Honda" by Howard Breslin. Produced by Dore Schary for MGM.

DAVID: A. This 1955 film is a combination of the suspense of an Alfred Hitchcock thriller with the action of a great martial-arts movie done in a Western style. The cast is filled with all-stars, led by Spencer Tracy playing a mysterious stranger with the use of only one arm. Robert Ryan is the main bad guy, aided by Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine, along with Dean Jagger as the town's alcoholic sheriff and Walter Brennan as its undertaker. It's obvious from the moment the stranger, John J. Macreedy (Tracy), gets off the train in Black Rock that, well, it's going to be a bad day there. Macreedy has a reason to be in town. That reason and his presence in Black Rock results in a lot of havoc for the townsfolk. The best scene is when Macreedy, using martial arts and only one hand, beats up Coley Trimble (played by Borgnine in my favorite role of his in cinema) in a bar fight. He only hits Trimble about five times and the fight lasts for about two minutes, but it's incredibly effective. See for yourself. A smart story with excellent action and great acting. 

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

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