Tuesday, November 28, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for December 1-7

December 1–December 7


NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART (December 1, 12:30 pm): Cary Grant is so good as a Cockney drifter in None But the Lonely Heart that I look at this 1944 film as the precursor to the classic British "kitchen-sink" films of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Those films focused 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 despite his groundbreaking performance.

FURY (December 5, 10:15 am): This is director Fritz Lang's first American film, and it's one filled with suspense, revenge, mob rule, hostility, intolerance and action. Spencer Tracy established himself as one of Hollywood's best actors when Fury was released in 1936. Tracy plays Joe Wilson, who is accused of a crime he didn't commit. While he sits in jail, waiting for the police investigation into the crime, the local townspeople get worked up and go to lynch him. Unable to get inside, they torched the jail with Wilson killed in the fire – or so it seems. The great plot twist is that Joe escapes, but is presumed dead, with the people responsible for the incident facing murder charges. With the help of his brothers, Joe seeks revenge against his would-be killers. Tracy does a great job going from a hardworking, mild-mannered guy into one controlled by anger and vengeance. The film moves from a love story to suspense to a courtroom drama.


KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS (December 2, 4:00 pm): This classic from Ealing Studios is mostly known for the fact Alec Guinness plays eight different roles – all members of the D’Ascoyne family – in this hilarious tale of revenge. Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price) is an Englishman born into poverty, but who has a distant connection to royalty on his mother’s side. The problem is that eight members of the D’Ascoyne family stand between him and what he feels is his rightful inheritance. Louis solves this problem by systematically bumping off each member. Joan Greenwood adds to the fun as the greedy Sibella, and Valerie Hobson is wonderful as Edith D’Ascoyne. It’s one of the most intelligent black comedies ever made and if you haven’t yet seen it ... let’s just say that if there ever such a thing as a real “Must See,” this is it.

LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (December 5, 10:00 pm): The Andy Hardy series at MGM was the most profitable B-movies series ever made. They were essentially B-movies with an A-budget and style. They are also a guilty pleasure of mine. Sure, they were corny as hell and tried to evoke an America that didn’t even exist at that time, but they are a lot of fun to watch, although I think it all comes down to how one feels about Mickey Rooney. This one tends to stand out due to the supporting cast, specifically Lana Turner and Judy Garland. Turner’s a wonder to behold here, with her natural auburn hair (before it was bleached), and Garland plays the role of a young girl with a crush on Andy Hardy almost to perfection. And she gets to sing, as well. The plot, with Andy minding his friend Beezy’s girlfriend (Turner) while he’s away, and the sidebar, with Mrs. Hardy having to travel to Canada to nurse her sick mother, are nominal. It’s the Rooney-Garland relationship that comes to the center of the film. The only flaw in the pudding is that Andy’s girlfriend, Polly Benedict, is also conveniently away for the holidays, so we miss out on the gorgeous Ann Rutherford for most of the film. Also look for a young Gene Reynolds (who went on to become a prolific television director) as a young friend of Andy’s.

WE AGREE ON ... BRUTE FORCE  (December 4, 6:15 pm)

ED: A. Jules Dassin’s postwar prison noir, a film that clearly lives up to its name, draws its inspiration from both a real life prison riot at Alcatraz and the POW experience in Nazi Germany during the war. The cons we meet in the film, led by Burt Lancaster, Howard Duff and Charles Bickford are closer to prisoners-of-war; morally righteous men whose shared brotherhood is threatened by the screws, the camp guards. Hume Cronyn is superb as Munsey, the fascistic captain of the guards with a love of torture unheard of in previous prison dramas. He’s not out to simply discipline a prisoner; he’s out to totally break the prisoners in his charge, to take away their hopes and dreams, and completely dehumanize them. The worst form of torture in this gulag is assignment to “the drainpipe,” a never-ending excavation defined by one inmate as “Nobody knows where that drainpipe is goin’, or where it’ll come out, or even if it’ll ever be used.” It’s not meant to break those considered by other inmates as unbreakable; it’s meant to kill them. Pushed beyond their capacity, the prisoners ultimately rebel, even though they know that rebellion to be futile. That’s the real point of the film.

DAVID: A. This 1947 film pulls no punches in showing how brutal life is in Westgate Prison, an overcrowded penitentiary run in theory by a weak-willed warden. In reality, it's the sadistic Captain Munsey (Hume Cronyn in his greatest role) who runs the prison through his emotional and physical beatings of the inmates. His cruelty seems arbitrary as he causes one inmate to commit suicide through mind games and another to plant a shiv on Joe Collins (Burt Lancaster) causing him to end up in “the hole.” Collins leaving solitary confinement and planning his revenge and escape starts this hard-hitting film. Lancaster, as usual, is brilliant, compelling and authentic in Brute Force, only his second film. The inmates are largely sympathetic characters, but certainly are no angels and the way they exact revenge on the con who planted the shiv on Collins will make some viewers shutter. Collins and the others in cell R17 plan an escape by going through "the drainpipe," which Ed expertly explains above. The plan is doomed from the beginning and even when it becomes obvious to Collins, he decides taking the chance to escape is better than spending another day with Munsey in Westgate. The film's driving points are inmates are human beings who deserve some dignity, and no matter what happens, prisoners who eventually get released still carry the scars of their time being incarcerated. It's not to be missed.

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

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