Tuesday, December 13, 2016

TCM TiVo Alert for December 15-22

December 15–December 22


BEWARE, MY LOVELY (December 19, 7:45 am): Robert Ryan's character is a dangerous psychopath who has a bad habit – he kills people, blacking out and forgetting the evil deeds he's done. And Ida Lupino's character, who becomes his love interest, seems to be the last person in the world who realizes Ryan's rugged handyman has her at the top of the list of who he next wants to kill. It's a compelling and tense-filled drama with outstanding performances by the two leads. Both are seasoned film veterans who are able to take an average script and convince the audience that their characters are legitimate. This 1952 thriller isn't going to take your breath away, but it's a good 77-minute distraction. It sucks the viewer in as we squirm in our seats hoping Lupino finds a way to get away from Ryan's character who we fear. But we also pity him to a certain extent because his mental illness makes it impossible for him to control his actions.

MILDRED PIERCE (December 21, 6:00 pm): Joan Crawford is at her finest in this 1945 noir-soaper. She plays the title character whose goal in life is to spoil her oldest daughter (Ann Blyth, who is magnificent in this role) no matter the sacrifice. And what does Mildred get in return? A self-absorbed, selfish snob of a daughter who looks down at her mother and what she has done in order to give her everything she desires. The film is told in flashbacks and the ending is fantastic.


THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (December 15, 8:00 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 Sullavan, 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 such as hit that it was later remade as a Judy Garland musical, In the Good Old Summertime (1949), a Broadway musical, She Loves Me (1963, revived this year), 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.

REMEMBER THE NIGHT (December 22, 9:45 pm): This being the Christmas season, TCM rolls out the Christmas-themed movies. And this little item, written by Preston Sturges, is one of the best. Fred MacMurray is an assistant prosecutor in court against shoplifter Barbara Stanwyck and her lawyer. Knowing his chance for a conviction are slim and none, given the fact its the holiday season and Stanwyck’s lawyer is pulling out all the stops in presenting his client as a downtrodden poor woman, McMurray successfully has the trial postponed until after the holidays. Suddenly his conscience begins to bother him at the though of leaving Stanwyck in the clink over the holidays and he bails her out. She is poor and has nowhere to go. He learns that her mother has a farm in Indiana and as he is going to visit his mother and family in that state he arranges to drop her at her mother’s farm. However, her mother turns her back on her daughter. Stressed, MacMurray brings her to his family’s home, where she’s greeted almost as one of the family. Over the day that follow they fall in love, which leads to a bittersweet ending when he returns her to court after the holidays. Sturges’ script is intelligent, witty and incisive. Sturges described the movies as one that "had quite a lot of schmaltz, a good dose of schmerz and just enough schmutz to make it box office.” That’s putting it mildly, although having such actors as Stanwyck and MacMurray, supported by Beulah Bondi and Willard Robertson, made things a whole lot easier. It’s not a movie many think of when considering holiday fare, but it’s one of the best nevertheless.

WE DISAGREE ON ... THIRD FINGER, LEFT HAND (December 16, 10:00 am)

ED: C. There is a presumption with this column that a grade of anything less than a “B” means the film stinks. This is not true. Third Finger, Left Hand is an enjoyable, highly watchable picture with two good performances from its leads. But compared to other films that Loy made during this period, her most fecund with MGM, it lags behind in quality, for in reality, entertaining though it is, it is no more than a programmer, made to fill the demand for Myrna Loy films. What also does the film in to an extent is the plot. It’s an excellent, somewhat sophisticated story, but due to the stricture of the Code, it can only go so far. In reality this is a picture that would have played much better in the pre-Code era, where there was more room to manuever. Otherwise it’s a good way to spend 90 minutes or so.

DAVID: B. This is a vastly underrated, almost forgotten, screwball comedy starring Myrna Loy as Margot Merrick, a magazine editor who pretends she is married in order to stop the advances of her lecherous boss, who's hit on the last two editors causing his wife to fire them. Merrick creates an elaborate story about marrying a man she met one night in South America and hasn't seen since. Her story keeps changing, but few seem to notice, including the other men she comes across who want to date her. By chance, she meets artist Jeff Thompson (played by the marvelous Melvyn Douglas), and while there's initially some anger on his part because a mistake she made costs him a huge deal, she smooth talks her way with an art dealer (played by old hand Donald Meek) and all is forgiven. Jeff and Margot become attracted to each other and then he finds out about the "husband." He also quickly figures out the husband isn't real and to gain some revenge, he shows up at her family home claiming to be her spouse. Hilarity ensues as the two get married to legitimize a quickly divorce. But it's a rom-com so you can figure out the ending. But along the way, there are numerous amusing situations the two find themselves in, and Myrna doing a trampy Brooklyn accent at Niagara Falls is among the funniest scenes I've ever seen her do. It's very charming, moves at a great pace and the acting is outstanding. It's almost forgotten because Loy and Douglas made so many memorable films that it hasn't received the credit it so richly deserves.

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

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