Saturday, January 20, 2018

TCM TiVo Alert for January 23-31

January 23–January 31


ALL THE KING'S MEN (January 24, 12:30 am): This is the best political film ever made and one of the 10 greatest movies of all-time. I could watch this 1949 classic over and over again – and have. Broderick Crawford is brilliant as Willie Stark, a do-gooder who fails as a politician until he learns to work the system, gets dirt on friends and foes, and becomes a beloved populist governor. There are other incredible performances, particularly John Ireland as Jack Burden, a journalist who "discovers" Stark and helps him climb the political ladder, stepping over anyone in the way; and Raymond Greenleaf as Judge Monte Stanton, Burden's mentor and role model. If you love politics, this is the best movie on the subject ever made. If you hate politics, you'll love this film as it gives you plenty of reasons to confirm your belief on the subject.

LIBELED LADY (January 27, 12:00 pm): First, a few words about the cast. You can't possibly make a bad movie with William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy and Jean Harlow (the latter had top billing). The chemistry between all four in this 1936 screwball comedy is among the best you'll find in any movie. While Walter Connolly is fine as Loy's father, the legendary Lionel Barrymore was originally cast in the role. If that had come to pass, this would rival Key Largo as the greatest ensemble-cast film ever made. There are so many wonderful and genuinely funny scenes in this film with these four great comedic actors. Powell and Harlow were married at the time, but it was decided that Powell and Loy, one of cinema's greatest on-screen couples, would fall in love though Harlow got to do a wedding scene with Powell. Harlow died of renal failure the year after this film was released. She was only 26. The plot is wonderful with socialite Loy suing a newspaper for $500,000 for falsely reporting she broke up a marriage. Tracy is the paper's managing editor and Harlow is his fiancée who he won't marry. Tracy hires Powell, a slick newspaperman who is a smooth operator when it comes to women, to seduce Loy and then purposely get caught in a compromising position by Harlow, who would pretend to be his wife. Things don't turn out as planned with Loy and Powell falling in love. It's a great movie with a fantastic cast and a joy to watch.


EARLY SUMMER (Jan, 23, 5:15 am): Yasujiro Ozu was a director of extraordinary technical and emotional range. Give him two actors such as the beautiful Setsuko Hara and the superb Chishu Ryu to works with and the result is yet another Ozu masterpiece. His best films are subtle examinations of the clashes that take place in postwar Japanese families as traditional values are being replaced by modern ones. The Mamiya family, which consists of three generations who have lived together in Tokyo for the last 16 years, has it hard times. Father Shukichi (Ichirô Sugai) and  mother Shige (Chieko Higashiyama) want to keep the family together. To this end they have delayed their retirement to their birthplace in Yamato and continue to live with Shukichi's brother until their 28-year-old independent-minded daughter Noriko (Setsuko Hara) is married. Noriko’s older brother, Koichi (Chishu Ryu), is a doctor in the hospital. He and his wife Fumiko (Kuniko Miyake) have two young spoiled boys. Minoru, the older one (Zen Murase), has temper tantrums when he doesn't get his way. His younger brother, Isamu (Isao Shirosawa), is a mischief maker. In order that the family may retire Noriko must marry, but the problem is that she is in ho hurry to do so. The crux of the film is how Noriko handles her family’s pressure. The thread running through the film is one that those familiar with the director’s work will easily recognize: the changing family attitudes in bustling postwar Japan driven by a strong Western influences that are speeding up this inevitable change, giving women the freedom and power to choose their own husbands in a society that its becoming more and more consumer driven. In lesser hands this might turn out to be a turgid piece of melodrama, but Ozu’s deft use of a comic approach gets his points across without making the proceedings too heavy. This is a film that will touch the heartstrings of all who watch without making us grab for the Kleenex.

TROUBLE IN PARADISE (Jan. 24, 11:00 pm): Ernst Lubitsch was best known for what was called “the Lubitsch touch,” a style of sophisticated comedy unmatched by anyone else. And this film represents Lubitsch at his best. Jewel thieves Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins fall in love in one of the most riotous scenes of one-upmanship in the movies, but now find their newly minted relationship threatened when Herbert turns on the charm to their newest victim, rich Paris widow Kay Francis. Their mastery of their characters is helped along with a witty script full of sparkling dialogue, clever plotting, great sexual gamesmanship, and brilliant visuals. Critic Dwight MacDonald described the film “as close to perfection as anything I have ever seen in the movies.” All I can say is to watch for yourselves.

WE DISAGREE ON ... ON THE TOWN (January 30, 11:45 pm)

ED: A-. Produced in the Golden Age of MGM musicals, On the Town is a delight for the eyes and the ears. This musical about three sailors in New York City on 24-hours shore leave, marks an important departure in the history of the movie musical. Prior musicals were studio bound, never leaving the soundstage. Director Gene Kelly, who earlier managed to shoot a Brooklyn Bridge sequence in 1947’s It Happened in Brooklyn, wanted to shoot this film on location. However, the studio allowed him only a week of shooting, hence the breakneck pace of the movie, which often used hidden cameras for the crowd scenes. The other innovation Kelly made was to emphasize dancing over the singing. Hitherto, musicals were dominated by song, but On the Town is noted for its dancing, including the use of dance to advance the plot. From this point forward, dance became the driving factor in MGM musicals. Not that music was forgone entirely: though the songs “New York, New York” and “Come Up to My Place” were the only songs kept from Leonard Bernstein’s original score for the Broadway musical, MGM employed Betty Comden and Adolph Green to write new lyrics for some of the original songs, and Roger Edens wrote six new songs for the movie. All of this innovation and styling would have been for naught if the movie turned out to be a dud. Not to worry - On the Town is one of the best musicals in the history of Hollywood. The dance numbers meld perfectly into the plot and enhance the musical numbers. Having Frank Sinatra to warble five of the songs didn’t hurt, either. Were I to teach a course on the history of the Hollywood musical, this film would not only be featured on the syllabus, but would be lionized for the breakthrough film it was.

DAVID: C. As you can read from Ed's review, many cinephiles, particularly fans of song-and-dance films, love On the Town. It has a certain charm to it, but is vastly overrated and too over-the-top for me to consider it a classic. I consider it nothing more than an average movie with a few good moments. There's too much of an "aww, shucks, golly, gee whiz" feel to the film that it become a corny, very dated musical with dancing thrown in for good measure like Oklahoma! and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. There's a couple of problems with the song-and-dance focus Gene Kelly wasn't much of a singer as he was more of a melodic talker, and Frank Sinatra was certainly no dancer. The plot is so predictable that the viewer knows right away that when the three sailors meet the three women with whom they fall in love that each is a fait accompli. The songs aren't good or memorable. The dancing by Kelly, Vera-Ellen and Ann Miller can be entertaining, but it's not enough to make me want to watch the movie again. The sailors are on 24-hour leave and looking for love. You would think that would make the film fast paced, and it is at times, and yet there are portions of it that drag like an anchor is tied to the movie.

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

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