Sunday, October 29, 2017

Cinéma Inhabituel for November 1-15

A Guide to the Interesting and Unusual on TCM

By Ed Garea

November is somewhat of a unique month on TCM, as it’s a month that segues from a free basing schedule into the holiday classics that carry over into December.


Gripped in the Cold War, politicians began looking for scapegoats, convenient people to pin blame on for “communist subversion” of our country. And no place had more scapegoats than Hollywood. Better yet, the Hollywood folks were not really on the bright side and thus not able to put up a good fight. Whether directors, actors, screenwriters, or even composers, someone, somewhere must be to blame for the emergence of the U.S.S.R. as a world power. The films TCM is airing all have directors, writers or actors who were later blacklisted. Watching these films today, one wonders what all the hubbub was about? But back then, the search for Commies was relentless. Anyone would be named by witness for the slightest of reasons. For instance, actor Lionel Stander was named by one witness for whistling “the Internationale” while waiting for an elevator in a scene. He didn’t work again until 1965. For those who wanted someone out of the way, whether for personal or professional reasons, this was the perfect way to accomplish it.

Were there Reds in Hollywood? Sure, but the films really don’t reflect their influence. The wartime films were made at the behest of the U.S. government, and Russia was to be portrayed as a loyal ally. That this fit in with the agenda of the Hollywood Reds was merely convenient. Postwar films reflected more the producers’ desires for social change than a call to revolution by the screenwriters and directors. As mentioned before, the Hollywood leftists were dim bulbs and made great fodder for opportunistic politicians. Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo used to host poolside parties at his mansion calling for support for the proletariat while underpaying and overworking his household staff. The watchword among Hollywood lefties was “What’s yours is mine, but what’s mine is mine and you’d better keep your hands off.”

Each film listed has its director or writer listed in parentheses. In the case of an actor, the full name is given. 

November 6: Begin with the excellent documentary, Hollywood on Trial at 8 pm, then settle back for Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (Kaufman, 1945) at 10 pm, Tender Comrade (Dmytryk, 1944) at midnight,  and Crossfire (Dmytryk, 1944) at  2 am, and One Man’s Journey (Ornitz, 1933) at 3:35 am.

November 7: Hollywood goes to war with Objective, Burma! (Cole, 1945) at 8 pm, The Master Race (Biberman, 1944) at 10:30 pm, Woman of the Year (Lardner, Jr., 1942) at 12:15 am, Counter-Attack (Lawson, 1945) at 2:30 am, and Pride of the Marines (Maltz, 1945) at 4:15 am. 

November 13Force of Evil (Polonsky, John Garfield, 1948) at 8 pm, The Man I Married (Pichel,1940) at 9:45 pm, The Racket (Cromwell, 1951) at 11:15 pm, Here Comes Mr. Jordan (Buchman,1941) at 1 am, and The Naked City (Dassin, 1948) at 3 am.

November 14: He Ran All the Way (John Garfield, Endore, 1951) at 8 pm, Anthony Adverse (Gale Sondergaard1936) at 9:45 pm, Scarface (Mahin, 1932) at Midnight, A Letter for Evie(Dassin, 1945) at 2 am, and A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan, 1951) at 3:45 am. 


November 9: At 3:30 in the afternoon comes the beautiful and touching 1956 Japanese antiwar film, The Burmese HarpDirected by Kon Ichikawa and based on a popular Japanese novel by Takeyama Michio, it stars Shoji Yasui as Private Mizushima, who volunteers to persuade a group of mountain fighter to surrender at the end of World War II, but while fulfilling his mission he undergoes a religious experience and becomes obsessed with the desire to bury war casualties. It is a beautifully nuanced and affecting film. The director remade it in 1965, but the original stands superior.

November 10: Truffaut’s masterpiece, Jules and Jim, is scheduled for 3:15 pm. See the upcoming November 8-14 TiVo Alert for our take on the picture.

At 8:00 pm it’s Giuseppe Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso. The film was shot in Tornatore's hometown of Bagheria, Sicily and was drawn from the director's own life and times. A famous director, Salvatore Divitta (Jacques Perrin) learns of the death of elderly projectionist Alfredo (Philippe Noiret). Returning to his home town for Alfredo’s funeral, Salvatore recalls his childhood under the tutelage of the projectionist and how he learned to love movies through this tutelage. It’s a lovely coming-of-age film that tugs the heartstrings without going too far in the suds department. 


November 5: Luchino Visconti’s 1961 drama, Rocco and His Brothers is scheduled for 3:45 am. Widow Rosaria Parondi (Katina Paxinou) has moved with her five sons: Rocco (Alain Delon), Simone (Renato Salvatori), Ciro (Max Cartier), Luca (Rocco Vidolazzi) and Vincenzo (Spiros Focas) from the south of Italy to Milan in the north in search of a better life, but discovers that the big city has corrupted her family in the process. Made near the end of the Neorealist era, the film was found lacking by several critics, but it is entertaining, more than I can say when Visconti later eschewed entertainment for Art in his later films. It was also his most commercially successful film. Alain Delon stars, but watch for the performance of Annie Girardot as the disillusioned prostitute Nadia.


November 12: At 2:45 am TCM is bring a Bergman double feature, beginning with the 1953 film that established the director on the international scene, Summer With Monika. Following at 4:30 am is his 1964 comedy, All These Women. Cornelius (Jarl Kulle), a pompous music critic, is out to obtain an interview with a famous cellist, but his real agenda is to get the man to perform a piece that he’s composed. Failing to get an interview, he moves instead into the cellist's summer home, where he starts interviewing the women in his subject’s life, which include his wife (Eva Dahlbeck), his official mistress (Bibi Andersson), the housemaid (Harriet Andersson) with whom the musician was involved, and various other women who have had affairs with him. Eventually, Cornelius becomes romantically involved with them and now seeks to become the subject of his proposed interview. 


November 2: It’s an evening with the famed Italian beauty, starting at 8:00 pm with the delightful Marriage - Italian Style from 1964. At 10 pm it’s 1963’s Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow with Marcello Mastroianni. Following at 12:15 am is her Oscar-winning performance in De Sica’s Two Women (1961). At 2 am we see her interviewed in Live from the TCM Classic Film Festival: Sophia Loren (2016), after which at 3:15 am comes A Special Day.

The setting is 1938 Italy. Hitler has come to meet Mussolini and Loren’s husband leaves her behind to attend the affair. Meanwhile she strikes up friendship with mysterious neighbor Mastroianni. As day becomes night the two develop a very special relationship that will radically affect their lives. Finally, at 5:15 am, priest Marcello Mastroianni takes up with troubled parishioner Loren in the comedy The Priest’s Wife from 1970).


November 2: It’s an entire morning and afternoon of films starring the lovely and underrated Ann Rutherford. We begin at 6 am with Ann as the Spirit of Christmas Past in MGM’s 1938 production of A Christmas Carol

Other must sees for the Rutherford fan include You’re Only Young Once (1938, 9 am), the film where she appears for the first time as Andy Hardy’s girlfriend, Polly Benedict; Four Girls in White (1939, 10:30 am), stars Ann as one of four student nurses in an ensemble drama; The Ghost Comes Home (1940, 1:30 pm), with Ann as the daughter of henpecked and browbeaten Frank Morgan, who is presumed dead by his family after he misses his boat connection to Australia and they learn the boat has sunk, which leads to complications when he returns in this light comedy; Keeping Company (1940, 3 pm), a decent B-drama from MGM with Ann as a young woman whose engagement runs into trouble when her fiancee’s old girlfriend suddenly shows up; and Whistling in Brooklyn (1943, 6:15 pm), an entry in a comedy series starring Red Skelton as radio detective Wally “the Fox” Benton. Ann plays his long-suffering girlfriend, Carol Lambert.


November 6: At 3:45 am, it’s Lionel Barrymore, May Robson, Dorothy Jordan and Joel McCrea in the 1933 drama, One Man’s Journey

November 7: At 7:45 am, Lionel Barrymore, Miriam Hopkins and Franchot Tone star in The Stranger’s Return (1933).

November 14: Monarch George Arliss thinks he can find a much simpler life with former wife Marjorie Gateson in The King’s Vacation (1933). Of course, he’s wrong, but it’s nice to see him learn the error of his ways in this gentle comedy that also stars Arliss’ wife, Florence. 

At midnight comes the original 1932 Scarface, from director Howard Hawks and starring Paul Muni, George Raft, Boris Karloff, and in her breakthrough role, Ann Dvorak.


November 3: At 2:00 am Genevieve Bujold is looking into the strange doings at Boston Memorial Hospital in the 1978 thriller, Coma, written and directed by Michael Crichton and based on his novel. It’s followed by Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1972). 

November 4: Commies blackmail shipping executive Robert Ryan into spying for them in the hilarious 1950 melodrama The Woman On Pier 13, aka I Married a Communist, at 12:30 am. Immediately following (2 am) Matthew Laborteaux and Kristy Swanson star in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend (1986), followed at 3:45 am by another showing of Swamp Thing (1982).

November 6: The day is devoted to a marathon of Falcon films starring George Sanders and later, Tom Conway, George’s real-life brother.

November 9: At midnight it’s the original Little Shop of Horrors from director Roger Corman. 

November 12: At 10 am, compulsive liar Bobby Driscoll can’t convince his parents he really saw a murder committed in RKO’s 1949 thriller, The Window. Barbara Hale and Arthur Kennedy play young Bobby’s parents and Ruth Roman and Paul Stewart are the neighbors who aren’t what they seem.

Abbott and Costello are magicians drawn into intrigue in the bizarre city of Port Inferno in MGM’s 1944 Lost in a Harem at 2 pm. Marilyn Maxwell is the cabaret singer who travels with them and who they must rescue when she is kidnapped.

November 15: At 10:00 am it’s Gun Crazy, director Joseph H. Lewis’ 1949 psychotronic masterpiece about a young gun-crazy couple (Peggy Cummins and John Dall) who decide to turn their obsession into a life of crime. Definitely one not to be missed.


November 5: At 12:45 am, Harold Lloyd is the weakling in a family of he-men who must prove himself by defeating a nasty villain in The Kid Brother. This 1927 film is generally regarded as one of Lloyd’s best. 

November 9: John Gilbert is a young innocent who suffers the horror of World War I in director King Vidor’s The Big Parade. Both Gilbert and co-star Renee Adoree became stars as a result of the film’s popularity.

November 10: Greta Garbo is married to Lewis Stone, but falls for dashing Nils Asther while on a trip to Indonesia in MGM’s Wild Orchids (1929) at 9:30 am.

November 12: Spirited Norwegian lass Mona Martenson is torn between two suitors and two cultures in Laila (1929, airing at midnight.

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