Saturday, October 13, 2018

TCM TiVo Alert for October 15-22

October 15–October 22


STAGECOACH (October 18, 6:00 pm): Except for The Man Who Shot Liberty ValanceStagecoach is Wayne's finest movie. This 1939 Western, directed by the legendary John Ford, is about a group of people – including a prostitute, an alcoholic doctor, a pregnant woman, a gambler, and a bank embezzler – traveling by stagecoach in 1880 through the southwest through hostile Apache territory. Along the way, they pick up the notorious Ringo Kid (Wayne), who helps fend off the Indians. The ensemble cast that also features Claire Trevor, John Carradine and legendary character actor Donald Meek is the strong-point of this film with each actor getting enough screen time so viewers can understand and appreciate them. Wayne is perfectly cast as the young gun who's wrongfully accused, but fast with a gun and charming despite being rough around the edges. This was Ford's first talkie Western and one of his best. As with nearly all of Ford's films, the scenery in Stagecoach is breathtaking at times. It's one of the best Westerns ever made.

BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT (October 22, 12:45 pm): The last American film directed by Fritz Lang is an excellent one with Dana Andrews convinced by his newspaper publisher father-in-law to plant clues implicating him in the murder of a woman. The plan is to prove the weakness of circumstantial evidence and make a fool out of the local district attorney. The problem is the plan works and Andrews' father-in-law is killed in a car crash with the evidence that he didn't do it burned to a crisp. This leaves Andrews on death row and heading for the chair. The concept and subsequent plot twists are fascinating and riveting, and the film's conclusion is outstanding and brilliantly executed (pun intended).


THE EX-MRS. BRADFORD (October 17, 12:45 pm): Of all the Thin Man knockoffs William Powell made this is by far the best. Jean Arthur, while no Myrna Loy, is excellent as Powell’s ex-wife in this clever, though a little far-fetched, mystery about murders at the race track. Powell is his usual urbane self with Arthur providing the ditzy comedy that keeps us not only entertained, but moves the story right along with no dead spots. Arthur was an intelligent actress; it takes such an actress to make the part of Paula Bradford believable. The only other actress I can think of who could handle the role as written is Rosalind Russell. James Gleason provides solid support as Inspector Corrigan, and the murder weapon is most unusual. All in all, a very satisfying film.

EYES WITHOUT A FACE (October 21, 2:30 am): One of the most disquieting horror films of the 1950s and a film many consider a classic of the genre. Pierre Brasseur is a famous surgeon and researcher who kidnaps young women in an attempt to graft their faces onto that of his disfigured daughter (Edith Scob), whose face was disfigured in a car accident. Those I know who have seen it will forever remember the surgery sequence. Modern horror films may be far more grotesque and graphic, but this film will really unnerve you because of the quality with which it was made. Definitely not for the squeamish.

WE DISAGREE ON ... AN AMERICAN IN PARIS (October 16, 11:45 am)

ED: A+. During the early ‘50s the Freed Unit at MGM made three classic musicals: Singin’ in the RainThe Band Wagon, and this one. Made when star Gene Kelly was at the top of his creative powers with the studio, it was flawlessly acted by its cast, and directed by Vincente Minnelli. Kelly is Jerry Mulligan, an ex-GI and struggling American artist who stayed in Paris after the war ended. He is “discovered” by a socially connected heiress (Nina Foch) with an interest in more than Jerry’s art. In turn Jerry falls for Lise (Leslie Caron), a young girl already engaged to a cabaret singer. In addition to the two women, Jerry is entertained by Adam Cook (Oscar Levant), a would-be concert pianist. Fans of the musical form know that plot is the last thing they need worry about. It’s the music and the dancing. Both are well represented here, with the Gershwins supplying the music, and Kelly and Caron the dancing. The film is built around a simple idea: Kelly wanted to make a film with a lengthy ballet scene based on Gershwin’s tone poem. Freed and Minnelli took the idea and ran with it, adding plot complications plus some stunning backgrounds that bring to mind the works of the French impressionists. This is definitely a move for the eyes as well as the ear. Levant adds a safety valve of acerbic wit whenever the romantic complications threaten to become leaden. He does this simply by playing Oscar Levant, which he does in every film he’s in. However, his performance here tops all the others. Nina Foch provides a solid support, proving she’s come a long way since her B-ingénue days at Fox, and Leslie Caron, a discovery of Kelly’s, provides the eye candy as well as an underdog to root for along with Kelly. Those who have seen it know what I’m talking about, while to those that haven’t, I recommend this as a definite Must See.

DAVID: B-. Gene Kelly is among the two best dancers in the history of cinema with Fred Astaire, of course, being the other. Kelly was more physical and muscular than what most people think of dancers. He was quite charming and how can anyone hate that wonderful smile? During his career in Hollywood, Kelly fancied himself a visionary. An American in Paris is a perfect example. Kelly wanted a lengthy ballet-heavy dance performance that showcased Paris through the works of French impressionist paintings so that's what he did in the final number leading to the conclusion of this film. The concept is admirable, but the implementation is quite frankly boring – and it goes on for 16 minutes. I'm not a fan of musicals though there are some I greatly enjoy including Singin' in the Rain with Kelly (which also at one point spends more than 20 minutes on a daydream/dance that has little to do with that movie's plot). An American in Paris is a good film. Why else would I give it a B-? But it's certainly not a classic. Also, unfortunately it was a leader in Hollywood's move away from film noir toward lighter movies in the 1950s. The plot is basic as are the characters in the movie. Kelly wants to be a great painter, but is offended when a rich socialite takes an artistic and sexual interest in him. Kelly has two buddies: one wants to be a concert pianist and the other a cabaret singer. There's a simplistic love triangle with a happy ending. Leslie Caron, the female lead and the girl Kelly wants, could dance, but was a lousy actress. I've never understood her appeal as she always seemed way too young for her love interests. Her characters never have any depth, which is probably why she was in this film. I don't buy for a second the contention that a musical doesn't need to have a plot, and that we should primarily concern ourselves with the singing and dancing. When the music stops, why should our enjoyment or interest stop with it? The songs are good, the dancing – except the final one – is also entertaining, the scenery is magnificent and, as usual, MGM spared no expense when it came to the color of its big-time productions. It's good, but it's not a movie I'd ever seek out to watch.

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


  1. I disagree. I think The Searchers belongs at the top of John Wayne's list. Even watered down from the novel and with humor crammed into it - he's strong and dark and it's a much better performance than Stagecoach. He's a tough man to root for but he's what you've got.

    1. I place The Searchers fourth on my John Wayne's best film list behind the previously mentioned two and Red River. I'm not much of a Wayne fan, but when he puts in an excellent performance, such as in The Searchers, he deserves all the credit in the world.