Sunday, July 29, 2018

TCM TiVo Alert for August 1-7

August 1–August 7


(August 1, 12:45 am): This excellent 1954 film noir is when Frank Sinatra became a legitimate actor. Before this, he did some weak musicals and the highly overrated From Here to Eternity. In Suddenly, Ol' Blue Eyes is an assassin preparing to kill the president, who is making a stop in the quaint California town of Suddenly. Sinatra is an excellent bad guy, completely believable as a ruthless killer. There's a great supporting cast including Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates. The film is in the public domain so if you don't have TCM there are several other ways to see it. The next film Sinatra made was The Man with the Golden Arm, probably his greatest role and our We Agree Film of the Week. But without expanding his acting range in Suddenly, it's doubtful Sinatra would have been so memorable in Golden Arm.

LIBELED LADY (August 2, 10:00 am): 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.

TOO HOT TO HANDLE (August 2, 1:00 pm): An overlooked and hilarious comedy with Clark Gable and Walter Pidgeon as competing newsreel photographers and Myrna Loy as an aviatrix looking for her lost brother in the Amazon jungle. Of course, soon Gable and Pidgeon are also competing for Loy’s charms, but who can blame them? The scene near the beginning with Gable staging a war scene in China is one of the funniest ever on film.

MYSTERY OF THE WAX MUSEUM (August 3, 8:00 pm): A great vintage Pre-Code horror film from Warner Brothers in two-strip Technicolor process with Glenda Farrell as a reporter investigating the sudden disappearance of young women. Could it have something to do with wax sculptor Lionel Atwill? He has his eyes of Glenda’s friend, Fay Wray. Tune in and find out. This film was later remade in 3-D as House of Wax, starring Vincent Price, but I much prefer the original. It has that ‘30s sass, especially from Farrell in the lead that the later version completely lacks.

WE AGREE ON ... THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM (August 1, 8:00 pm):

ED: A. This adaptation of Nelson Algren’s Chicago-set novel caused quite a stir when it was released though it seems somewhat dated today. Where other films about the subject treated it gingerly, director Otto Preminger went straight for the jugular. Star Frank Sinatra gave one of the great performances as the title character, poker dealer Frankie Machine. He is rhythmic, and instinctive, yet always under control. As his wife Zosch, Eleanor Parker is superbly irritating and pathetically insecure. Kim Novak scores as Molly, winning us over with her compassion and common sense. Her chemistry with Sinatra is pure gold. Backing them up is a stellar supporting cast, led by Darren McGavin and including Arnold Stang, Robert Strauss, Leonid Kinskey, and the always reliable George E. Stone. It’s a film that will grab you from the start and not let go. It’s one to see.

DAVID: A. While the scenery looks like it came from a summer stock play, it's the story and the characters that make The Man With the Golden Arm an excellent film. Frankie Machine (Frank Sinatra) is a junkie/expert card dealer who just got out of federal prison and has kicked his drug habit. He was a hardcore heroin addict. The drug is heavily implied in this film and never mentioned, but you'd have to be clueless to not know. He learned to play the drums while in prison and has dreams of playing in a big band, but the reality is he's back in his Chicago neighborhood hanging out at the same bar with the same losers and hustlers – including his drug dealer Louie (played so well by Darren McGavin) – trying to get a few bucks before a supposed music tryout. He quickly finds himself arrested for possessing a stolen suit and has to work dealing cards for Schwiefka (Robert Strauss), his former card boss in illegal high-stakes games, to pay the cost of the suit and a fine. This is a story of desperation – almost every character is desperate for something including Frankie's wife, Zosch (Eleanor Parker), who wants to keep her husband to the point that she fakes that she still can't walk from a car accident caused when Frankie was drunk years earlier. He married her out of guilt and she knows he'll leave her the minute she can walk. Frankie eventually gets hooked again and it leads to more trouble. When he wanted to Sinatra was an excellent actor and he shows it in this film. The movie is dark, authentic and gripping. This one pulls no punches leading it to not get a rating from the Motion Picture Association of America because it violates the Hays Code. For a film from 1955, it holds up well. Also of note is the excellent jazz soundtrack.

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

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