Saturday, October 6, 2018

TCM TiVo Alert for October 8-14

October 8–October 14


EXECUTIVE SUITE (October 8, 2:00 pm): A fascinating look inside the cutthroat world of the business boardroom as allegiances are formed through a variety of ways, including blackmail and seduction. Top executives at a major furniture company are fighting it out to see who will run the company after the president drops dead on the sidewalk. The dialogue is riveting and the storyline is compelling. A large part of the film takes place inside an office, particularly the boardroom, which normally detracts from a film. But this is quite the engaging movie. The film's greatest strength is its all-star ensemble cast – William Holden, Barbara Stanwyck, Frederic March and Walter Pidgeon at the top of the bill.

I LOVE YOU AGAIN (October 11, 4:00 am): Cinema's greatest couple, William Powell and Myrna Loy, are reunited in this 1940 film with W.S. Van Dyke, who directed them in the 1934 classic, The Thin Man. When you have Powell and Loy working together, the chemistry is magic. It's a fun film to watch with Powell showing great range, playing the same character two completely different ways. Before a head injury that reverts Powell's character back to his old self as a conman, he promised to take a group of Boy Rangers on trip into the woods to learn about deer-tracking techniques. He has no idea what to do so he makes stuff up. He ends up falling into holes, getting caught in traps and is completely lost. It's Powell's best physical-comedy role that I've seen. And Myrna, what can you possibly write to capture her beauty and talent? Well, you could write a book. But I'll leave it as she is wonderful and delightful in this movie with her character evolving with the changes in Powell's character.


THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET (October 8, 4:00 pm): One of history’s most celebrated romances was that of the poets Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett in 19th century England. Norma Shearer and Frederic March bring Elizabeth and Robert to light in this handsome, well-acted and most entertaining feature. Shearer, who was reluctant to take the role, brings forth the essence of the famous poet, whose illness confined her to bed and sofa for much of her young life. March is adequate as Browning, but it’s Shearer’s show and she makes the most of it. However, Charles Laughton, as her rotten father, almost steals the picture. The censors toned down the incestuous leanings of Barrett’s father, but Laughton nevertheless gets the point across and makes the role of Elizabeth’s father even more villainous. Even those who aren’t partial to poetry should enjoy this one.

HORROR OF DRACULA (October 10, 10:00 pm): A sumptuous retelling of Dracula with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing at the top of their games as Count Dracula and Professor Van Helsing, respectively. Filming the story in color forever changed the paradigm of horror films for better or worse, with shadows being replaced by blood. But with a great atmospheric story, a great score by James Bernard, and supporting performances that serve to enhance the work of the leads. And who can forget Valerie Gaunt as one of Drac’s vampire women?

WE AGREE ON ... MY MAN GODFREY (October 11, 10:00 pm)

ED: A+. The screwball comedy was one of the best things to come from Hollywood in the ‘30s and there was no better example of the genre than this film. All right, the plot is somewhat preposterous, but that was true of screwball comedy in general – absurd reactions to absurd situations. Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard) is a scatterbrained socialite who wins a treasure hunt when she finds a “forgotten man” living in the city dump. That man is none other than Godfrey (William Powell), who accompanies her to the society ball with her to prove her claim and ends up as the family’s butler as she feels sorry for him. While Godfrey is the perfect butler, the Bullock family is anything but normal; a bunch of spendthrifts who are bankrupting patriarch Alexander (the wonderful Eugene Pallette), the only reasonable member of the family. Her mother, Angelica (Alice Brady), lives in luxury, keeping a "protégé" (Mischa Auer) whose duties should involve declaiming great literature and playing the piano, but whose real talents lie in leaping about the room like a gorilla and scarfing up second helpings at every meal. Her sister Cornelia (Gail Patrick) is bitter because she not only lost the scavenger hunt but got pushed into an ash heap after insulting Godfrey. Meanwhile the maid, Molly (Jean Dixon), briefs Godfrey on the insane world he is entering and falls in love with him. Irene loves Godfrey, too, and perhaps down deep, even does Cornelia. Godfrey, though, has a secret: he was born rich but down on his fortune after a heartbreaking romance. The family never do manage to figure out he's too good to be a butler (or a bum); they're all blinded by their own selfishness, except for Irene, who would like to undo the buttons on his pants, a clever way of getting around the censors. Godfrey, for his part, has come to like and admire his fellow hobos at the dump. Offended by the way the Bullocks treat their wealth so uselessly, his solution is one of those outcomes we love so much in screwball comedy because it’s totally impossible in real life. For the film to work and work so well, the chemistry between Godfrey and Irene must be as strong as steel. The studio originally wanted Constance Bennett for Irene, but Powell held out for Lombard, an actress he was once married to from 1931-33, and whose divorce from her was one of the few amicable examples in Hollywood, so he knew they had chemistry. (By the way, this is the first instance of a divorced couple playing a couple in a film.) Though the rest of the cast is wonderful, the only competition faced by Lombard and Powell comes from that gravelly voiced genius, Pallette who, if given a few more scenes, might well have walked away with the movie. His speech in the scene where he’s finally had enough ranks with the best ever spoken in a comedy: "What this family needs is discipline. I've been a patient man, but when people start riding horses up the front steps and parking them in the library, that's going a little too far. This family's got to settle down!" Besides the direction by Gregory La Cava and the screenplay co-authored by Marx Brothers veteran Morrie Ryskind, pay particular attention to Ted Tetzlaff’s cinematography. As Roger Ebert points out in his review, never has a black and white film looked so alluring: “Everything that can shine, glimmers: the marble floors, the silver, the mirrors, the crystal, the satin sheen of the gowns.” Just another reason why I love this movie so much.

DAVID: A+. This is one of the most sophisticated screwball comedies I've ever seen. It is also a great social commentary as the nation emerged from the Great Depression. William Powell plays Godfrey, who we first see as a "forgotten man," an unemployed guy who lives in a shack by New York City's dump next to the East River. A spoiled socialite (Gail Patrick) needs him as part of a scavenger hunt, offering him $5 to come with him. He pushes her into an ash pile, which draws laughter from her sister Irene (Carole Lombard). Irene turns out to be a genuine and kind person, and Godfrey agrees to be her "forgotten man" to win the game. He then tells off the rich socialites participating in the spectacle. Irene offers him a job as her family's butler, which Godfrey accepts. It turns out her family, the Bullocks, are bizarre and hilarity ensues. It's later revealed that Godfrey himself comes from a wealthy family but gave it all up after a bitter breakup that made him suicidal with plans to jump into the East River. The rich are portrayed as self-centered idiots while those down on the luck are the salt of the Earth. That probably played well with the movie-going audience in 1936 when the film was released. But the story is timeless and holds up exceptionally well today. The movie moves at a fast pace with terrific lines delivered by an incredibly strong cast. It's a very clever film and one to be enjoyed.

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

1 comment:

  1. My Man Godfrey....BRILLIANT and you can watch it again and again and enjoy every moment