Monday, December 22, 2014

TCM TiVo Alert for December 23-31

December 23–December 31


GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS (December 28, 7:45 am): 1939 was among cinema's greatest years with the releases of Gone With the WindNinotchkaOf Mice and MenWizard of OzMr. Smith Goes to WashingtonStagecoachWuthering Heights, and Dark Victory to name a few. But among all of them, Goodbye, Mr. Chips is my favorite. It's a sweet, sentimental, touching story about a stern school master, Charles Chipping – Mr. Chips for short – and how he wins the affection of his students after falling in love and marrying Kathy Ellis (Greer Garson). The cast is wonderful, but Robert Donat (one of cinema's most underrated actors) in the lead, a role that won him an Academy Award, is outstanding. 

ELVIS ON TOUR (December 31, 8:00 pm): TCM ends the year with films filled with music such as the Beatles' A Hard Day's Night, the Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter, and the Who's (awful) Tommy. The first and third are feature films featuring music performances with Gimme Shelter is a documentary that focuses on the end of the Stones' 1969 U.S. tour finishing with the infamous Altamont Free Concert. Among everything being shown, my favorite is Elvis on Tour, a fabulous documentary of "The King's" 1972 tour of 15 U.S. cities. It combines an insightful interview with Elvis, behind-the-scenes footage and performances from one of his greatest tours. Elvis sings some of his classics along with his interpretations of popular songs of that era, including Bridge Over Troubled Water and Never Been to Spain. The highlight for me is him singing Burning Love, my favorite Presley song, for likely the first time in front of an audience. He needs the sheet music to sing the correct lyrics. While Presley has said he didn't care for the song, his performance of it in this film, even though he's reading the lyrics while singing them, is absolutely amazing. 


THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (December 24, 4:00 pm): Ernest Lubitsch was at his absolute best when he directed this wonderful gem about two feuding co-workers at a Budapest notions store who do not realize that they are secret romantic pen pals. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, as the employees, bring the concept of charm to its ideal. They are aided and abetted by a sterling cast, including Frank Morgan (in one of the best performances), Joseph Schildkraut, Sara Haden, Felix Bressart, William Tracy, and Inez Courtney. It boasts a superb script by Samson Raphaelson, who adapted it from Nikolaus Laszlo’s play, Parfumerie. In fact, the film was so compelling that it was later remade as a Judy Garland musical, In the Good Old Summertime (1949), a Broadway musical, She Loves Me (1963, revived in 1994), and the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan vehicle, You’ve Got Mail (1998), where the lovers correspond via e-mail. However, the original still stands head and shoulders above the remakes and is an essential.

BRIGHTON ROCK (December 31, 10:45 am): From the Boulting Brothers comes this excellent adaptation (by Terence Rattigan) of Graham Greene’s novel about a gang of lowlife hoods in Brighton, England, and their teenage leader, Pinkie Brown. It’s a sequel of sorts to Greene’s novel, This Gun for Sale (published in the U.S as This Gun for Hire and made into a film in 1941 starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake). It’s also the breakthrough role for young Richard Attenborough as Pinkie. It was the most popular film in England when released in 1947, but didn’t do that much business here under the title Young Scarface. It also scored an incredible 100% on the Rotten Tomatoes website, if you’re looking for any further reason to watch. Oh, by the way, it has one of the best – and most cynical – endings of any film.

WE DISAGREE ON ... NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART (December 30, 12:15 am)

ED: C+. Cary Grant is one of my favorite actors. But not every film of his is “A” material. This film is a case in point. Grant is Ernie Mott, a free-spirited drifter who visits his ailing mother (Ethel Barrymore) in his old East End neighborhood in London. He is torn between his desire to care for her and his desire to escape all responsibilities when he falls for a gangster’s girlfriend (June Dupree). For Grant, this role was a stretch, a chance to do a serious role instead of the lighthearted roles that made him famous. And he was great in the role, as was Barrymore (she got a Oscar for it). But it’s the heavy-handed direction by Clifford Odets and the pretentious dialogue in a weak screenplay (also by Odets) that does the film in and brings it down. Watching Grant at work, however, is always fun, and in this film I got the impression that we were seeing the real man: not the suave, debonair Cary Grant, but the scruffy, street-wise Archie Leach. Watch it for Grant and Barrymore.

DAVID: B+. Unlike Ed, I'm not a huge Cary Grant fan. Some of his comedies, notably Bringing Up BabyArsenic and Old Lace, and Gunga Din, are overrated and of poor quality. However, I'm tremendously impressed with his dramatic performance in None But the Lonely Heart. He's so good as a Cockney drifter in this 1944 film that I'm convinced it's the precursor to the classic British "kitchen-sink" films. Those movies from the late 1950s and early 1960s focus on angry young men living directionless lives in post-World War II England. This film takes place in post-World War I England. Equally excellent is the legendary Ethel Barrymore as his dying mother. In addition to the amazing performances from Grant and Barrymore, the storyline is compelling, well-paced and really depressing. The movie lost money for RKO, which unfortunately meant Grant would never take on a similar role as the one in this film again despite his groundbreaking performance. 

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

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