Monday, April 7, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for April 8-14

April 8–April 14


THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL (April 10, 12:15 am): This is easily one of the finest all-around films – acting, directing, screenplay and costumes – ever made. Kirk Douglas is a movie mogul who needs the help of former friends, who were betrayed by him in one way or another, 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 incredibly 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.

GASLIGHT (April 14, 11:00 am): As a huge fan of Joseph Cotten and Ingrid Bergman, it's gratifying to see that when the two teamed together in this 1944 film, the result is spectacular. It has fantastic pacing, starting slowly planting the seeds of Bergman's potential insanity and building to a mad frenzy with Cotten's Scotland Yard inspector saving the day and Bergman gaining a certain level of revenge. While Charles Boyer has never been a favorite of mine, he is excellent in this role as Bergman's scheming husband who is slowly driving her crazy. Also deserving of praise is Angela Lansbury in her film debut as the couple's maid. It's Lansbury's best role on the big screen who has the hots for Boyer and nothing but disdain for Bergman. A well-acted, well-directed film that is one I always enjoy no matter how many times I see it.


DRESSED TO KILL (April 8, 7:45 am): No, it’s not the highly overrated 1980 Brian DePalma film, but rather the last of the Sherlock Holmes series from Universal in 1946. Holmes and Watson (Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce) are racing to recover stolen five-pound bank note plates from associates of the jailed thief that stole them. The key to the location of the plates is hidden inside the coded tunes of three music boxes made by the thief in Dartmoor Prison. Opposing Holmes are the thief’s associates, led by the beautiful Patricia Morison. It takes all of Holmes’ powers of deduction, but he’s stumped until an inadvertent remark by Watson gives him the answer. Most movie series end on a flat note, but Dressed to Kill only makes us wish the duo of Rathbone and Bruce had not gone on to make other entries in the series.

SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (April 13, 6:15 pm): This film is rightly said to be writer/director Preston Sturges’s masterpiece. John L. Sullivan is a noted director of light musical fare such as Ants in Your Plants of 1939 and Hey, Hey in the Hayloft. However, he wants to make an Important Film, and he has one in mind, namely O Brother, Where Art Thou, a leaden novel concerned with the struggle between Capital and Labor. The studio execs pooh-pooh it, noting that he grew up rich and never suffered. So, Sullivan sets out to see how the other half lives, and ends up with far more than he bargained for when everybody assumes he died. It’s both hilarious and touching with many insights from Sturges into the human ego versus the human condition. It’s best to record it to be seen again later – and you will definitely want to see it again.

WE DISAGREE ON ... GIRL HAPPY (April 13, 12:00 pm)

ED: C. The best thing one can say about an Elvis film from the ‘60s is that it’s not annoying or stupid. The amazing thing about Elvis movies is that they followed trends of the time rather than becoming trailblazers. In this case, it’s the influence of the “Swinging London” films of the mid-‘60s. In their seemingly never ending quest to find a character for Elvis, Colonel Tom and the producers moved him around during the decade from country boy to army guy to swinging bachelor. In this film, he’s the swinging bachelor, hired by a gangster to keep an eye on his wayward daughter. Although the film starts off well – with a great title track – it bogs down as Elvis gets deeper and deeper into his mission. Like every other comedy of its type, we can quickly see just where the plot is going and where it will end. For his part, Elvis is in his usual good form. It would also have helped if he had been given a vibrant leading lady instead of the rather bland Shelley Fabares, but I always got the feeling that the producers figured the presence of Elvis alone is enough to get the movie over. The real shame is that he was never given a script of real quality. By the way, the film also features the song, “Do the Clam,” written by none other than Dolores Fuller, Ed Wood’ ex-girlfriend.

DAVID: B. Of all the "Elvis Formula" films Presley made, Girl Happy is my second favorite, behind Clambake (1967). There's nothing unpredictable about Girl Happy, but it's a fun and enjoyable movie. It's a late 1950s beach film released in 1965. Elvis' character, Rusty Wells (his characters typically had cool names) is the leader of a four-man band working in a Chicago nightclub for Big Frank, a guy who's obviously a gangster. The boys are on their way to Fort Lauderdale for spring break, but Frank tells them they've been booked for an extended stay. Trying to work any angle to get down for their annual "fun in the sun," Rusty finds out Frank's innocent daughter Valerie (Shelley Fabares) is heading to Lauderdale and tells him he and the band will go to keep an eye on her. Who would be dumb enough to trust Elvis to protect his hot daughter? Don't say, "Only in the movies," because that's what Priscilla (Wagner) Presley's father did. Of course in Girl Happy, Rusty falls for her, but she's the boss' daughter and the boss. Meanwhile, he's got a good-time party girl (Mary Ann Mobley) ready to go. Oh, the problems Elvis' characters had having to pick between two great-looking girls. As Ed mentioned, the script isn't strong, but Elvis and the rest of the cast are solid. Of greater importance in an Elvis film, the songs are very good and there are a lot of them. I absolutely love "Do the Clam" (and the dance is hysterical), "Puppet on a String," the amusing "Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce," and "Meanest Girl in Town" with Fabares doing a funky dance on the last one. I disagree with Ed on Fabares. She always had great chemistry with Elvis, so much so that she was in more of his films – this, Spinout a year later and Clambake the next year – than any other actress.

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

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