Wednesday, December 13, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for December 15-22

December 15–December 22


MEET JOHN DOE (December 16, 1:45 pm): This is a wonderful film and I've never seen Gary Cooper more relaxed in a role than of the fictitious John Doe, the every-man who is created by fired newspaper columnist Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck writes a column with a letter from "John Doe," who is tired of the corrupt system that has left him jobless and bitter, and plans to jump off the roof of city hall on Christmas Eve. The story takes on a life of its own so she convinces the paper's bosses to find a John Doe and write articles about him, thus creating a national movement. The movie is a comedy with an important message about how society ignores the regular guy. Frank Capra's films are often too sentimental for my tastes, but he hits the right notes with this movie. The supporting cast is solid, particularly Walter Brennan as Cooper's tramp buddy, known as the Colonel, and James Gleason as the headline-hungry managing editor. 

SEVEN DAYS IN MAY (December 18, 11;45 am): In Seven Days in May, Burt Lancaster teams up with Kirk Douglas (the two co-starred in seven movies during their cinematic careers) to make a memorable and outstanding film. Lancaster is the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is leading several of its members in a conspiracy to remove the president (Fredric March) from office because he signed a nuclear disarmament treaty with the Soviet Union. Douglas is a Marine Corps colonel and military adviser who finds out about the proposed coup and tells the president. It's among the best political thrillers ever made. An interesting tidbit: the shots taken outside the White House were done with the permission of President John F. Kennedy (those scenes were done in 1963 before his assassination), but Pentagon officials weren't cooperative, refusing to permit Douglas to be filmed walking into that building. 


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 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 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 in 1934), 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, 10:00 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 it's 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 thought 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 the holiday fare, but it’s one of the best nevertheless.

WE DISAGREE ON ... 42nd STREET (December 16, 8:15 am and December 21, 10:00 pm)
EDA++. This is the mother of all Pre-Code musicals, and the prototype for all future musicals. The story is simple – Sugar Daddy Abner Dillon (Guy Kibbee) is backing a new Broadway show titled “Pretty Lady,” which will star his squeeze Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels). The trouble is that while Brock is Dillon’s Main Squeeze, she doesn’t want to be squoze by him. She’d rather be in the arms of old boyfriend George Brent, with whom she’s still in love. Things come to a boil, with the result that Bebe breaks her ankle and can’t go on. Just as it looks like there’s going to be a dark theater, young Peggy Sawyer (Ruby Keeler) is plucked from the chorus line by director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) and given the chance to be the star. You know the rest. Once Busby Berkeley takes over staging the dance numbers, it’ll never be quite the same again, both for the musicals and for Berkeley. Not only does the film contain unforgettable numbers such as “Young and Healthy,” Shuffling Off to Buffalo,” and the title song, but listen in and catch some of the most risque lines and scenarios ever to populate a musical. Ginger Rogers, in an early role, plays a character named Anytime Annie. “She only said ‘No’ once, and that was when she didn’t hear the question,” says backstage manager Andy Lee (George E. Stone). Also watch for the homosexual innuendo between Julian Marsh and Andy Lee. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen this film over the years, but each time I sit down to watch, it comes across still as fresh as the first time I saw it.
DAVID: C-. When I saw the play on Broadway in 1982 (two years after it opened), I thought it was fun, primarily because of the great choreography. The plot is simplistic and there's a handful of good songs. When I saw the 1933 movie, of which the play is based, a few years ago, I wondered why anyone would take a mediocre at best film and make it a play. (Of course, the play was an unbelievable success and the film was well-received.) The movie is filled with cliche lines about putting on a Broadway musical including the unknown chorus girl becoming the star. The only missing piece is Mickey Rooney. Like its play adaption, the movie's plot is virtually nonexistent. The film is a shade under 90 minutes and about 20 minutes of it is three song-and-dance numbers from the fictitious play being put on in the film. The Busby Berkeley dance numbers have entertaining moments and the cinematography is good, but not nearly enough to keep my interest. If, like me, you're not a musical fan, there's no reason to watch this movie.

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

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