Wednesday January 2
2:45 PM The Woman in White (Godfrey, 1948) – BW-109 mins. – A mystery with a ghostly twinge. Gig Young stars with Eleanor Parker, Sydney Greenstreet, and Agnes Moorehead. The supporting cast alone makes the movie interesting. Unavailable on DVD and a Warner Bros. property.
8:00 PM Sinners’ Holiday (Adolfi, 1930) – BW-60 mins. – James Cagney is TCM’s January Star of the Month and his debut feature, not yet on DVD, kicks off the festivities. A year later, The Public Enemy would deservedly catapult Cagney to stardom. Interestingly, Al Jolson purchased the film rights to the Broadway version of Sinners’ Holiday and only allowed the movie to be made if Cagney and Joan Blondell were in the cast. It’s funny to realize that we have Jolson to thank for Cagney’s start. Another Warner Bros. film.
Thursday January 3
6:45 AM The Crowd Roars (Hawks, 1932) – BW-70 mins. – More early Cagney and Blondell, this time from Howard Hawks and in a race-car drama. An alternate (French) language version was made with Jean Gabin in Cagney’s starring role. IMDB shows Warner Bros. as the company for both, neither on DVD yet.
12:30 PM Show People (Vidor, 1928) – BW-79 mins. – Five films starring Hearst love and Kane inspiration Marion Davies show up on TCM this afternoon. It looks like this is the cream of the crop, a silent comedy gem also starring William Haines. She’s a Georgian hillbilly (so hilarious to laugh at Southern people!) who goes out to Hollywood to make a name for herself. IMDB mentions that Gloria Swanson served as an inspiration for the film. Sounds intriguing and worth a look, if nothing else for the presence of director King Vidor. An MGM film, with WB now controlling DVD rights and currently unreleased.
Friday January 4
10:15 PM Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (Polonsky, 1969) – C-98 mins. – The blacklisted writer/director Abraham Polonsky made the devastating Force of Evil starring John Garfield in 1948 and wasn’t able to secure a feature directing credit again until this film, starring Robert Redford and Katharine Ross in the same year as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Robert Blake plays a Native American pursued by sheriff Redford for killing Ross’ father in self-defense, in a story based on real-life events. I saw this years ago and was probably too young to appreciate the film, but it has a very good reputation. Surprisingly unavailable on DVD, Universal owns the rights. TCM is airing a trio of solid Redford films, with The Natural and Three Days of the Condor as bookends.
2:00 AM Skidoo (Preminger, 1968) – C-98 mins. – Rejoice, the rarely seen and even more rarely broadcast Skidoo looks to be actually shown on television. Would you like to see a movie starring, among others, Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, Groucho Marx (as God, no less), Mickey Rooney, Peter Lawford and three (!) “Batman” villains (Cesar Romero, Burgess Meredith, and Frank Gorshin)? Me too! Add a bit of LSD for good measure and you’ve got one of the strangest films ever made by a renowned director. Even the upcoming Preminger retrospective at New York’s Film Forum isn’t showing the film. A Paramount film, no DVD has been released.
Saturday January 5
4:00 PM Hell in the Pacific (Boorman, 1968) – C-102 mins. – Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune stuck on an island together near the end of World War II. An underrated classic that was Marvin and director John Boorman’s follow-up to the previous year’s Point Blank. There are a couple of different endings, but I’d think TCM will show the more explosive one that Boorman didn’t approve of instead of the alternate finale found on DVD. (Yep, they did.) Anchor Bay released it first in R1, but their version went out of print to make room for MGM’s release. Neither do the movie justice though, failing to anamorphically enhance the 2.35:1 picture. Even worse is a R2 release that’s fullscreen.
11:15 PM I Married a Witch (Clair, 1942) – BW-77 mins. – After making a series of inspired French comedies like Le Million and À nous la liberté, director René Clair began working in English, first on The Ghost Goes West in 1935 (forthcoming on R2 DVD from Network), and then moving on to Hollywood fare like The Flame of New Orleans and this film. The consensus seems to be that Clair lost something in the process, but this charming little picture starring Veronica Lake as a witch works quite well. The idea is that Lake and her father Cecil Kellaway were burned long ago and she put a curse on the prosecutor’s male ancestors. When she falls in love with the current generation descendant (Fredric March), things get sticky. Susan Hayward co-stars as March’s bride-to-be. Preston Sturges actually served as one of the film’s producers, but refused screen credit after an argument with Clair. Despite the film’s relative popularity and merits, Warner Bros. hasn’t yet put it out on DVD, though Spanish and French versions do exist for those multi-region impatients.
Sunday January 6
8:15 AM Interlude (Sirk, 1957) – C-90 mins. – Probably for Sirk fans mostly, but still worth mentioning. The master of melodrama directed this adaptation of James M. Cain’s novel and put June Allyson in the lead role. She goes to Germany and finds love with a married conductor and an American doctor practicing in Munich. I haven’t seen a lot of encouraging comments on the film, but its unavailability on DVD warranted a heads-up. Rights are controlled by Universal. EDIT – Interlude seems to have been the victim of a schedule change and didn’t make it onto the air.
Monday January 7
4:30 AM American Matchmaker (Ulmer, 1940) – BW-87 mins. – Or Americaner Shadchen. Poverty Row filmmaker Edgar G. Ulmer’s last Yiddish film prior to making the cross-country trek to Hollywood, this was written by his wife Shirley and stars Leo Fuchs as a Jewish-American who’s working on his 8th engagement. The 26 votes at IMDB lead me to believe the movie doesn’t get shown a lot and it’s not everyday that TCM puts on a Yiddish language selection. Amazon has a DVD of the film for sale that seems to originate from the National Center for Jewish Film, but it’s really expensive at $36 retail and I have no idea on the quality (though a reviewer there was unhappy with the subtitles).
Tuesday January 8 – Happy Birthday Elvis! The King would have been 73 today. TCM celebrates with the concert film Elvis: That’s the Way It Is 2001 and 7 of his starring vehicles. I think I’ll celebrate with a peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Wednesday January 9
2:45 AM Blonde Crazy (Del Ruth, 1931) – BW-80 mins. – A back-to-back pair of James Cagney-Joan Blondell films starts here and ends with Lloyd Bacon’s He Was Her Man following at 4:15 AM. Neither are on DVD and both are rather short and sound great. He’s a cocky bellhop and she’s his chambermaid girlfriend who helps him con hotel guests in Blonde Crazy. The second film is more serious, with Cagney as a ex-con safecracker who sets up the men responsible for his prison sentence. When things go awry, Cagney must go on the run but gets distracted by ex-prostitute Blondell. These two are both Warner Bros. pictures, and hopefully more of Cagney’s early work makes it to DVD this year (in addition to the upcoming Gangsters Collection Vol. 3 that will prominently feature the electric actor).
Thursday January 10
12:00 PM The Conspirators (Negulesco, 1944) – BW-102 mins. – Two years after Casablanca, Warner Bros. reunited Paul Henreid with Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre for a love story about a freedom fighter who flees the Nazis in a neutral European city. The intent is obvious. Hedy Lamarr is top-billed as the love interest. I’m not much on Henreid generally, but you can’t go wrong with the other three. This one’s not on DVD.
2:00 PM Joan of Paris (Stevenson, 1942) – BW-92 mins. – “A waitress risks her life to help downed pilots escape occupied France.” Michèle Morgan, the French actress who starred in Marcel Carne’s Port of Shadows (Le Quai des brumes), plays the title character and Paul Henreid continues his 8-film tribute on TCM this afternoon with a lead role as well. The great Laird Cregar portrays a Nazi identified as “Herr Funk” and Alan Ladd has a small part too. An RKO picture, Warner Bros. hasn’t released it on DVD.
Friday January 11
9:00 AM Strange Cargo (Borzage, 1940) – BW-114 mins. – I’m going to keep picking films directed by Frank Borzage and unavailable on DVD until I either run out of titles or catch up on the director’s filmography. This one stars the reliable team of Joan Crawford and Clark Gable. Gable is a Devil’s Island convict who escapes with other inmates, including Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre and Ian Hunter as a Christ-like figure. It was made for MGM, and is unreleased on DVD will be included in the upcoming WB Joan Crawford Collection Vol.2.
3:00 PM Ada (Mann, 1961) – C-109 mins. – Director Daniel Mann followed up Butterfield 8 with another ridiculous plot, here starring Dean Martin as a candidate, then governor who beds and marries prostitute Susan Hayward. Ralph Meeker and Martin Balsam headline the supporting cast. This was the kind of interesting trash Hollywood loved to make before the production code was eliminated. I’m interested in watching this for the intriguing cast, but my expectations are decidedly low. MGM is listed as the original distributor, meaning Warner Bros. should control the DVD rights. They trickled out the previous Mann-Hayward vehicle I’ll Cry Tomorrow late last year so I guess a release is possible somewhere down the road.
6:30 PM Out of the Fog (Litvak, 1941) – BW-86 mins. – John Garfield is a hood who tries to extort a couple of working class fishermen while romancing the daughter (Ida Lupino) of one of the men. Thomas Mitchell and John Qualen provide solid support as Jonah and Olaf, the two extortion victims. With a screenplay by Robert Rossen and the fine cast, the film is a bit of a letdown but still worthwhile. Maybe it was too early for the noir effect to have hit, causing a little too much melodrama and not enough intrigue here. Warner Bros. released the film in theaters, but haven’t put it out on DVD yet.
Sunday January 13
6:30 AM Shopworn (Grinde, 1932) – BW-66 mins. – A little pre-code Barbara Stanwyck film where she’s a waitress who falls for a wealthy young man. Regis Toomey and Zasu Pitts co-star and the screenplay is by Robert Riskin and Jo Swerling. IMDB lists the running time at 72 minutes, a bit longer than what TCM has down (the 66 minutes I have here is from the channel’s Now Playing program guide). Hopefully one is a mistake and the 6 minutes aren’t cut for any reason. It’s a Columbia picture so a DVD from Sony is unlikely, and I doubt TCM will air it with much frequency.
2:00 AM Tokyo Drifter (Suzuki, 1966) – C-83 mins. – Seijun Suzuki’s crazy yakuza film is a treat, but Criterion’s early DVD is one of their worst – it’s non-anamorphic and the transfer is lousy. I’ve seen the spruced-up print TCM shows and it’s miles better. If this isn’t Suzuki’s best among his Nikkatsu output, it’s pretty close. A great introduction to the director’s madcap style and just a fine piece of filmmaking.
Monday January 14
10:00 AM Mystery House (Smith, 1938) – BW-57 mins. – Here’s Ann Sheridan in a low-budget movie she made for Warner Bros. the same year as Angels with Dirty Faces. The idea of a detective (played by Dick Purcell, who went on to play Captain America in a 1944 serial) in a house full of murder suspects doesn’t sound very original, but it’s not often you run across features that are less than an hour long. Well, not with Ann Sheridan at least. It’s unavailable on DVD. The Last Gangster, starring the unlikely combination of Edward G. Robinson and James Stewart, follows at 11:00 AM.
3:45 PM The Secret Bride (Dieterle, 1935) – BW-64 mins. – I can’t resist picking Stanwyck films from the ’30s when they’re not on DVD. She plays the daughter of a governor who must keep her marriage a secret because the new husband is the state attorney general trying to convict her father of taking bribes. A little convoluted, but, hey, it’s a slow week. This one’s Warner Bros.
8:00 PM Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2008) – BW&C-90 mins. – TCM’s big January premiere is this feature-length documentary made by critic and Film Society of Lincoln Center programmer Kent Jones, with narration and above-the-title help from Martin Scorsese. Lewton was a producer at RKO in the early 1940’s who was behind creepy atmospheric classics like Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie, and my personal favorite The Leopard Man. On January 29th, Warner Bros. is releasing this special on DVD both by itself and packaged with their excellent Lewton set from a few years back.
Tuesday January 15
1:15 PM Lost Angel (Rowland, 1943) – BW-91 mins. – Something about this movie intrigued me, though I’m not familiar with it at all. Famous child actress Margaret O’Brien (who gets 6 3 films on TCM’s schedule this afternoon, including Jules Dassin’s The Canterville Ghost) plays a very young girl genius who realizes she’s missed out on a few of life’s magical mysteries and ventures out on her own. It looks like O’Brien was only about 6 years old when this was made so I’m really amazed that she could have carried a movie at that age. It’s not on DVD, was made for MGM, and should now be controlled by Warner Bros.
8:00 PM The Landlord (Ashby, 1970) – C-110 mins. – Hopefully I’ll clear away some time for writing about Hal Ashby in the future because he’s one of my favorites and someone who doesn’t get nearly enough attention. Probably most famous for directing Harold and Maude, Ashby also made the truly great Being There and The Last Detail, but struggled after the end of the 1970s and died much too young at the age of 59, in 1988. He got his start in Hollywood as editor for Norman Jewison, including winning an Oscar for In the Heat of the Night, and Jewison helped Ashby secure financing for his directorial debut The Landlord. The strange premise of the film concerns Beau Bridges as the rich and spoiled owner of a Brooklyn tenement building. For some reason, the movie isn’t available on DVD. It was released by United Artists originally and MGM now has distribution rights.
Wednesday January 16
10:15 AM The Citadel (Vidor, 1938) – BW-113 mins. – I have to plead ignorant here also and I’ll admit that I probably won’t be watching this showing because medical-centric films and television shows don’t interest me. Regardless, King Vidor’s films are usually worthwhile and Robert Donat was Oscar-nominated for his role here as an English doctor torn between a struggling practice on his own terms and exploiting the rich in a more lucrative setting. Made for MGM, Warner Bros. has the DVD rights and hasn’t yet released the film on disc.
4:15 AM Taxi! (Del Ruth, 1932) – BW-69 mins. – Star of the month James Cagney gets a night dedicated to the musicals he made. This isn’t a pure musical for sure, but does have a dance number between Cagney and co-star Loretta Young. He plays a cab driver trying to fend off intimidation from a syndicate. A solid good guy role for Cagney. The Warner Bros. film is not on DVD.
Friday January 18
8:00 AM The File on Thelma Jordon (Siodmak, 1949) – BW-100 mins. – Very excited to see this on the schedule, apparently TCM’s premiere showing. Barbara Stanwyck (again!) is the femme fatale title character, who seduces a DA (played by Wendell Corey) right before her aunt is found dead. A gem of a film noir, directed by the unsung master of the style Robert Siodmak. This was made for Paramount and I believe they still control it. It’s not on DVD, which just slightly opens up the door for Criterion since they’ve already shown interest in Siodmak (The Killers) and Stanwyck (The Lady Eve) and recently hinted that Anthony Mann’s The Furies, also with Stanwyck, is forthcoming.
Sunday January 20
2:30 AM Mississippi Mermaid (Truffaut, 1969) – C-124 mins. – Based on a Cornell Woolrich/William Irish novel, the story involves a plantation owner and his mail-order bride with a secret. It’s one of François Truffaut’s more Hitchcock-like films and contains a pairing of iconic French actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Catherine Deneuve. There are DVDs in R1 and R2 from MGM, though the R1 isn’t anamorphic and neither look great in this DVD Beaver comparison.
Monday January 21
9:00 AM The World, the Flesh and the Devil (MacDougall, 1959) – BW-95 mins. – Harry Belafonte is trapped in a cave-in and emerges to find a post-nuclear world with only Inger Stevens and Mel Ferrer left alive. TCM is celebrating the Martin Luther King holiday by airing a day’s worth of films that prominently feature black actors. Belafonte also stars in Odds Against Tomorrow, which follows at 10:45 AM and is available on DVD from MGM. This film, however, is not on DVD. It was released by MGM theatrically and the current video rights should rest with Warner Bros.
12:30 PM Paris Blues (Ritt, 1961) – BW-99 mins. – It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this all the way through, but I remember it as a personal favorite. Having Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier star with Joanne Woodward and Diahann Carroll, plus Louis Armstrong, certainly helps. Newman and Poitier play jazz musicians in Paris. Duke Ellington provided the original music. Originally distributed by United Artists, MGM now controls DVD rights.
4:15 PM Edge of the City (Ritt, 1957) – BW-86 mins. – Director Martin Ritt had already worked with Sidney Poitier prior to Paris Blues. He first teamed the actor with John Cassavetes and Jack Warden here for his directorial debut about corruption and racism amid the New York City docks. Echoes of On the Waterfront, but Ritt himself had faced considerable turmoil from the Hollywood blacklist and his jump into film was a daring one. The movie is a little-seen gem that has somehow yet to find a place on DVD. Made for MGM, DVD rights are most likely held by Warner Bros.
8:00 PM Killer of Sheep (Burnett, 1977) – BW-83 mins. – Charles Burnett’s brilliant, long-unseen feature debut emerged last year as a triumph in theaters and on a definitive two-disc DVD from Milestone. The very loose narrative of a lower middle class family man struggling to balance the tired realities of his job in a slaughterhouse with the increasing demands of his home life is difficult to accurately describe but easy to appreciate. It’s not for people who require an abundance of plot, but those who enjoy films of rich humanity and fans of the Italian neorealist movement will hopefully warm to Killer of Sheep. In a rare move, TCM has given Burnett the entire night. The three shorts and feature film My Brother’s Wedding that can be found on the Milestone DVD set will also air, with all five being repeated later in the evening.
Tuesday January 22
8:00 PM Park Row (Fuller, 1952) – BW-84 mins. – Samuel Fuller couldn’t get Daryl Zanuck and 20th Century-Fox to bankroll his story of an early New York City newspaper man so he put his own money into the film. It became one of Fuller’s most passionate projects, but remains little-seen today. Guest programmer John Sayles convinced TCM to air the film tonight and thousands of fans are forever grateful. It was originally released by United Artists so logic says MGM should now own the rights unless something unusual is at play. I don’t think there’s a proper DVD release anywhere in the world.
1:30 AM Paisan (Rossellini, 1946) – BW-113 mins. – Sayles also chose Roberto Rossellini’s Italian neorealist classic Paisan, a film about the aftermath of the Allied invasion in Italy. This is unavailable on DVD officially, I believe. There was a release that’s no longer available pairing the film with De Sica’s Two Women (also on TCM this evening), but I’ve read the quality was poor. TCM has shown Paisan before and the print they used isn’t in great shape so I’d guess that’s a big part of what’s preventing a DVD release. It’s speculation, but I could see Criterion releasing it if they felt the technical quality was up to their standards.
Wednesday January 23
11:15 AM Nightfall (Tourneur, 1956) – BW-79 mins. – Originally set to make its debut back in September but pre-empted for a memorial tribute to Jane Wyman, Jacques Tourneur’s film about a man (Aldo Ray) on the run was based on a David Goodis story. It also features Anne Bancroft’s film debut. I hate that TCM is burying this showing on a late morning in the middle of the week, but I’m extremely excited it’s getting aired at all. Anyone who misses it this time around should be able to catch it when the channel airs the film again in March. Don’t hold your breath for a DVD release since Sony owns the rights and they’re basically worthless when it comes to releasing the Columbia back catalog.
5:00 AM The Oklahoma Kid (Bacon, 1939) – BW-81 mins. – Cagney and Bogie in a western! A Warner Bros. film and not yet on DVD.
Thursday January 24
11:30 AM Jimmy the Gent (Curtiz, 1934) – BW-68 mins. – Looking through the vast pile of Cagney pictures TCM is airing this month, this is probably the one I wasn’t familiar with that sounded the most promising. He plays an “unscrupulous” private detective who specializes in lost heirs. Bette Davis is the love interest he loses to a rival investigator. I like the idea that it’s apparently a comedy and Michael Curtiz as director is almost always a plus. Another WB property, also unreleased on DVD.
Saturday January 26
6:15 AM The Outrage (Ritt, 1964) – BW-97 mins. – I’m not sure which idea’s crazier – doing a direct remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon in English or having Paul Newman star as a Mexican bandit. Newman and his frequent director Martin Ritt, following up the success of the previous year’s Hud, reunited for the story of a rape and murder told four distinctly different ways by four separate characters. The eclectic cast includes Laurence Harvey, Claire Bloom, Edward G. Robinson, and a pre-Star Trek William Shatner. MGM released the film theatrically and DVD rights should have transferred to Warner Bros.
10:00 AM Armored Car Robbery (Fleischer, 1950) – BW-67 mins. – This was tucked away at the end of James Ellroy’s guest programmer night back in November and I found myself unable to turn away from the screen. Absolutely no nonsense and straightforward telling of a heist and the aftermath, but done so with extraordinary flair. William Talman (the chilling title character in Ida Lupino’s The Hitch-Hiker and future Hamilton Burger on the Perry Mason television show) is the notorious criminal mastermind and Charles McGraw plays a police lieutenant on his tail. Director Richard Fleischer made this a couple of years before re-teaming with McGraw on 1952’s excellent The Narrow Margin, which was released by Warner Bros. in its second Film Noir box set. Armored Car Robbery, another Warner-controlled title, isn’t yet available on DVD.
Sunday January 27
4:00 PM The Sterile Cuckoo (Pakula, 1969) – C-106 mins. – Liza Minnelli received an Oscar nomination for her work here as a lonely young woman who finds love. It was also Alan J. Pakula’s directorial debut. He’d go on to helm a trio of must-see suspense films in the 1970s – Klute, The Parallax View, and All the President’s Men. TCM will be showing The Sterile Cuckoo again in just a few days, on February 5. A Paramount release, the movie is not yet on DVD.
Monday January 28
4:30 PM The Day They Robbed the Bank of England (Guillermin, 1960) – BW-86 mins. – Aldo Ray leads an IRA mission to steal gold from the Bank of England. I believe this was Peter O’Toole’s big break in film and the role that helped him get Lawrence of Arabia. Surprisingly, there’s no DVD release even in R2 that I could find. MGM put the movie out in the U.S. and Warner Bros. holds the home video rights.
2:00 AM The Squall (Korda, 1929) – BW-103 mins. – Myrna Loy plays a Gypsy girl on the run in Hungary. Director Alexander Korda would go on to direct and/or produce numerous British films, like The Thief of Bagdad and Jungle Book. A teenage Loretta Young co-stars in this early sound effort. No DVD, but this was a First National production so WB has the rights.
Tuesday January 29
7:30 AM Hold Your Man (Wood, 1933) – BW-87 mins. – TCM has half a dozen Jean Harlow movies scheduled for this morning. It’s not her birthday or the anniversary of her death, but I suppose any day is as good as another since Ms. Harlow is sorely underrepresented on DVD. This one stars Harlow and Clark Gable. He kills a man, takes off and leaves her to take the rap. The story and screenplay are by Anita Loos, a prolific screenwriter who also wrote the novel Gentleman Prefer Blondes. An MGM film, rights now held by Warner Bros.
12:00 PM Personal Property (Van Dyke, 1937) – BW-84 mins. – Harlow teams up with Robert Taylor this time. Taylor is supposed to watch over the widowed Harlow’s house and furniture (hence the title). My guess is they fall in love at some point, probably after a little bickering at first. Saratoga, another Gable-Harlow picture, follows at 1:30 PM. I believe, out of these six Harlow films on today’s schedule, only Red Headed Woman is available on DVD (the other two not yet mentioned are The Girl from Missouri and Reckless). They’re all in Warner Bros.’ control.
8:00 PM Beau Brummel (Beaumont, 1924) – BW-128 mins. – I can’t be of much help on Beau Brummel, but I did want to make mention of this screening because it’ll include a new score from the winner of TCM’s annual Young Film Composers Competition. John Barrymore stars and has the night to himself, with The Mad Genius, A Bill of Divorcement, and Topaze following. Also with Mary Astor, the silent Beau Brummel repeats at 2:30 AM and isn’t on DVD. It’s another Warner Bros. film.
Wednesday January 30
5:45 AM The Strawberry Blonde (Walsh, 1941) – BW-99 mins. – James Cagney only made four films with director Raoul Walsh. This one came a couple of years after The Roaring Twenties and eight years before White Heat. Unlike those two, The Strawberry Blonde is a comedy. Cagney and Jack Carson are both after Rita Hayworth. Olivia de Havilland figures in there as well and the supporting cast includes Alan Hale and George Reeves. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the movie and can’t understand why Warner Bros. hasn’t yet put it out on DVD. I can only figure it’ll show up in a second Cagney box or maybe a Hayworth set.
Thursday January 31
9:00 AM Boy Meets Girl – (Bacon, 1938) – BW-87 mins. – Cagney’s 37-film month has to end somewhere and this is among the last of them, with the official end coming at noon when The Millionaire plays. Here he’s teamed with good friend and frequent co-star Pat O’Brien. They play a pair of Hollywood screenwriters who pester a pregnant waitress and get inspired to write a movie, with the unborn baby as the star. The always reliable Ralph Bellamy adds support and a future U.S. president plays “radio announcer at premiere,” according to IMDB. Warner Bros. must have something in the works with their vast library of unreleased Cagney, or at least one can hope so.
February is here and that means “31 Days of Oscar” on TCM. They even put a four page advertising supplement in the New York Times this weekend with the schedule. What apparently translates to more viewers for TCM means a departure from the rarer, more obscure films not available on DVD that inspired this weekly column. Thus, I’ve decided to spotlight only ten films for the whole month of February and will return to the weekly updates for March. There are obviously a ton of great, great films airing here this month, but most are readily available from Netflix (or on our own DVD shelves). As always, all times are EST and program days begin at 6:00 AM.
Monday February 4
8:00 PM Wings (Wellman, 1927) – BW-141 mins. – The first Best Picture Oscar winner (technically “Best Production”) is not on R1 DVD and rarely shows up on television. The film tells the story of two men (Richard Arlen and Charles “Buddy” Rogers) who become WWI pilots and compete for the attention of the same woman (played by It girl Clara Bow). Gary Cooper has a small role. Paramount made the movie, but with Universal’s acquisition of their pre-1950 library they should have the rights now. The other Oscar winner from 1927 (given a special “Unique and Artistic Picture” prize and usually not considered the true Best Picture winner), F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise follows at 10:30 PM. It’s not readily available on R1 DVD, though Fox did put out a special release in their Studio Classics Best Picture set and the Masters of Cinema R2 can easily be had.
Wednesday February 6
2:15 AM Bullfighter and the Lady (Boetticher, 1951) – BW-124 mins. – Those familiar with Budd Boetticher and his films know that he had a passion for bullfighting. Prior to helming the Randolph Scott westerns he’s best known for today, Boetticher directed Robert Stack as an American who goes to Mexico to bullfight and impress the lady of the title. Co-starring Joy Page, Gilbert Roland, and Katy Jurado, Bullfighter and the Lady earned Boetticher a Best Story Oscar nomination. It was made for Republic Pictures and remains unavailable on DVD. I believe Paramount owns the R1 rights and maybe Universal has control in the UK (though I’m not positive).
Friday February 8
7:15 AM The Sin of Madelon Claudet (Selwyn, 1931) – BW-76 mins. – I’m always up for a good pre-Code mother turned hooker story. Helen Hayes took home an Oscar for playing the title character, who takes up prostitution as a means of sending her son to medical school. I love Irving Thalberg’s quote found on IMDB and taken from Anthony Holden’s book Behind the Oscar: “Let’s face it. We win Academy Awards with crap like Madelon Claudet.” I wonder if TCM has considered using that as their February tag line. Thalberg’s studio MGM made the film and Warner Bros. controls the DVD rights.
Saturday February 9
6:15 AM The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (Pal, 1964) – C-100 mins. – Anyone who’s read my reviews of Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? or The Odd Couple knows what I think of Tony Randall, a superb comedic actor. Here Randall plays all seven faces, everything from Merlin to the Abominable Snowman, of Dr. Lao, a Chinese circus performer with magical powers. Barbara Eden adds support. I can remember several years ago Michael Jackson wanted to remake this film, but, for better or worse, that obviously never happened. Even though director George Pal lived until 1980, he never made another movie. There is a DVD out from Warner Bros. in R1, but I’ve not seen it. Dr. Lao’s Oscar nomination was in the Visual Effects category.
Tuesday February 12
6:30 AM The Window (Tetzlaff, 1949) – BW-74 mins. – Film noir fans should make time for this, as it’s rarely shown and not on R1 DVD. I saw it at Film Forum back in the summer and enjoyed the movie very much. Young Bobby Driscoll stars as a boy who often invents wild stories to tell parents Arthur Kennedy and Barbara Hale. When he sees a real murder committed by his upstairs neighbors, no one believes him. Like most child actors, Driscoll can be grating but the role actually fits that quality and his acting is still impressive. The film was based on a Cornell Woolrich story and its Oscar nomination was for Best Editing, though BAFTA put it up against the likes of The Third Man, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and eventual winner Bicycle Thieves for its Best Film award in 1950. Made for RKO, The Window’s DVD rights are controlled by Warner Bros. (perhaps a future spot in a Film Noir Classic Collection volume?). Theodora Goes Wild, a fine little film with Irene Dunne that I saw back in December, follows at 7:45 AM.
Wednesday February 20
7:30 AM The Red Danube (Sidney, 1949) – BW-119 mins. – After the end of WWII, British Colonel Walter Pidgeon is assigned to help the Soviet Union return its citizens from Vienna. While in a convent run by Mother Superior Ethel Barrymore, Pidgeon and a major played by Peter Lawford are forced to deal with the plight of a young Russian ballerina (Janet Leigh, more than a decade before Psycho) who does not want to return to the Soviet Union. I’ve never seen this or, I believe, anything else George Sidney directed, but it certainly sounds interesting. Nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (B&W), the film is unavailable on DVD, with Warner Bros. controlling the rights from MGM.
Thursday February 21
9:15 AM Strategic Air Command (Mann, 1955) – C-114 mins. – Currently the only Anthony Mann-James Stewart picture not available on DVD, Strategic Air Command tells the story of a baseball player who becomes an Air Force bomber pilot. Stewart, a WWII veteran who flew several bombing missions himself, refused to capitalize on his “war hero” status in Hollywood and this was his first military-type role. The film was made for Paramount and shot in its VistaVision process. It was nominated for a Best Motion Picture Story Oscar.
Friday February 22
5:45 AM Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (Cates, 1973) – C-89 mins. – Gil Cates has probably become better known for producing the Academy Awards than for directing films like this one and I Never Sang for My Father. Those movies maybe haven’t aged particularly well, but they were popular with Oscar during their initial release. Joanne Woodward and Sylvia Sidney picked up acting nominations here. Woodward is a housewife in a midlife crisis with a gay son and Sidney is her mother. IMDB says Bergman’s Wild Strawberries is shown in one scene so that might give you an idea of what this picture was going for. Still, it’s not on DVD and, since it’s a Sony-owned title, the chances aren’t great for a release. The 93 minutes given as the running time on IMDB versus the 89 TCM lists in their guide and 95 on their website concerns me a little, but the channel does brag about being “uncut and commercial-free.”
Sunday February 24
9:00 AM Bachelor Mother (Kanin, 1939) – BW-83 mins. – Shop girl Ginger Rogers gets mistaken as being the mother of an abandoned baby. Laughs ensue. David Niven is her boss and romantic interest. Ginger in a screwball comedy about a lost child and an illegitimate mother just promotes itself, right. Garson Kanin never had as much luck as a director as he had as a writer, but I enjoy the film he made after this, My Favorite Wife. I was a little surprised to see Bachelor Mother sits at #41 on TCM’s Not-On-Home Video fan vote list. It was made for RKO and rights should sit with WB. A DVD is out in the UK’s Ginger Rogers set from Universal (70% off at Amazon UK at the time of this writing) and as a single release in France. The film’s Oscar nomination was in the Best Original Story category.
Thursday February 28
4:oo AM Summer and Smoke (Glenville, 1961) – C-119 mins. – Spinster (Geraldine Page) is in love with doctor (Laurence Harvey) who instead has eyes for a girl from the wrong side of the tracks (Rita Moreno). It’s based on a Tennessee Williams play so my interest level isn’t terribly high, but Page and Una Merkel picked up nominations, as did Elmer Bernstein’s score and the art direction-set decoration. Plus there’s no DVD release. Becket director Peter Glenville also got a DGA nod for his work here. It looks to be a Paramount title.
Saturday March 1
3:30 AM The Dresser (Yates, 1983) – C-118 mins. – Am I the only person in the world who thinks Peter Yates is an underrated director? Bullitt, The Hot Rock, The Friends of Eddie Coyle (rumored to be coming from Criterion later in the year), and Breaking Away should be enough to give Yates a little credit, not to mention this film. Starring Tom Courtenay and Albert Finney (a twosome worthy of a recommendation by themselves), The Dresser is about an actor in a production of King Lear and his dresser, circa WWII. TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar is still in effect here, and Yates’ film was well rewarded in nominations, including nods for director, Courtenay and Finney in lead actor, Ronald Harwood’s screenplay, and the film in the main Best Picture category. The Dresser is available on DVD from Sony/Columbia in R1 and R2.
Monday March 3
4:00 PM Jamaica Inn (Hitchcock, 1939) – BW-99 mins. – By most accounts not one of Hitchcock’s best, but it was the last film he made before going to Hollywood for Rebecca. Plus it has Charles Laughton and pirates. In R1, I believe all the DVD releases are pretty dismal so it might be worth watching to see what TCM’s print quality is like.
9:30 PM Thou Shalt Not: Sex, Sin and Censorship in Pre-Code Hollywood (2008) – BW-70 mins. – To coincide with Warner Bros.’ Forbidden Hollywood Vol. 2, TCM presents a new documentary included in the DVD set, as well as all five pre-code films found therein. What self-respecting classic movie fan doesn’t enjoy a selection of early 1930s goodness? This will also air later in the night, at 2:30 AM.
Tuesday March 4
12:00 PM Nobody Lives Forever (Negulesco, 1946) – BW-100 mins. – John Garfield in a film noir with screenplay and novel by W.R. Burnett, writer of, among others, The Asphalt Jungle, Little Caesar, and co-author of the screenplay for This Gun for Hire. He plays an ex-GI con who falls for a widow he’s trying to fleece. Garfield is really one of the great noir actors, in my opinion, and TCM is showing eight of his films throughout the day, when he would have turned 95 years old. Nobody Lives Forever is unavailable on DVD, with rights owned by Warner Bros.
5:00 PM He Ran All the Way (Berry, 1951) – BW-78 mins. – Another little Garfield noir, this time with Shelley Winters co-starring. It also aired last November and was among my picks then as well. Garfield’s last role before succumbing to heart problems at only 39 years of age. Here he’s a fugitive who hides out with a reluctant Winters. No DVD, with MGM controlling the rights from United Artists. Those interested in Garfield might want to make a point of checking out Force of Evil, arguably his best film and airing right after this one, at 6:30 PM.
Wednesday March 5
3:00 AM The Happy Thieves (Marshall, 1962) – BW-90 mins. – Let’s gather a little information here. This was based on a novel by Richard Condon, well-known for writing The Manchurian Candidate, Prizzi’s Honor, and Winter Kills. It stars Rex Harrison and Rita Hayworth, plus Alida Valli, and concerns an art thief who is implicated in a murder. The director George Marshall was a bit of a hack, but he did make Destry Rides Again and The Blue Dahlia. I think this is another MGM property, released theatrically by United Artists, and it’s not on DVD.
Thursday March 6
12:15 PM Babbitt (Keighley, 1934) – BW-74 mins. – Even though I’ve not seen this, I can say with a reasonable amount of certainty that it pales next to the source novel by Sinclair Lewis. As an ardent fan of Lewis, I think this is one of the great American novels and I’m sure that Keighley couldn’t possibly have done it justice in only 74 minutes. Still, I’d be willing to give it a chance and see how Guy Kibbee does playing Babbitt. Aline MacMahon plays the equally delusional Mrs. Babbitt. A Warner Bros./First National picture, the film is unavailable on DVD.
5:15 PM High Pressure (LeRoy, 1932) – BW-74 mins. – William Powell as a con artist trying to sell investors on a synthetic rubber company? Sold! Warner Bros. and no DVD yet. A French version was also made simultaneously, entitled Le Bluffeur, with a different director and actors. It’s not available on DVD either.
Friday March 7
10:45 AM The Great Sinner – (Siodmak, 1949) – BW-110 mins. – Based on the Dostoyevsky novel, Siodmak’s film stars Gregory Peck as a writer who travels to Paris and Monte Carlo, only to lose everything as a result of his gambling addiction. I’ll watch anything Siodmak did from the 1940s, and this reunites him with Ava Gardner so there’s another huge plus. With a great supporting cast that also includes Walter Huston, Melvyn Douglas, Ethel Barrymore, and Agnes Moorehead, The Great Sinner somehow remains unreleased on DVD. It was made for MGM, and Warner Bros. now have the rights.
6:15 PM A Rage to Live (Grauman, 1965) -BW-102 mins. – The late Suzanne Pleshette stars as a “woman whose insatiable sex drive destroys her life.” The film was based on a John O’Hara novel and most likely intended to capitalize on the success of his Butterfield 8, which won Elizabeth Taylor an Oscar five years earlier. Nymphomania or not, it was 1965 so it’s hard to imagine the movie being anything but silly (and relatively safe). Ben Gazzara co-stars. It was made for the Mirisch Corporation and distributed by United Artists, leaving the DVD rights currently with MGM.
Saturday March 8
8:00 PM The Apartment (Wilder, 1960) – BW-126 mins. – I’m mentioning Billy Wilder’s deservedly beloved classic not because it’s unavailable (a recent DVD even improves on the prior release, and I’ll be reviewing it for DVD Times soon) or rarely shown, but because it’s being included in “The Essentials,” TCM’s weekly showing of a canonized film with chat between Robert Osborne and a co-host before and after the airing. Tonight begins a new season and ushers in a new host, the unlikely choice of Rose McGowan. I’m interested in what she has to say and it certainly can’t be any worse than Carrie Fisher’s stint.
Sunday March 9
10:00 AM Wild Is the Wind (Cukor, 1957) – BW-114 mins. – I was surprised to find out this film isn’t on DVD (thanks Paramount). TCM also included it in their 31 Days of Oscar last month because both Anna Magnani and Anthony Quinn earned lead acting nominations. It doesn’t really sound like the kind of film I like, but the two leads are intriguing. The plot involves Quinn marrying Magnani, who is the sister of his dead wife, only to have her fall for Quinn’s son, played by Anthony Franciosa. Worth mentioning, at least.
Monday March 10
8:00 PM Macbeth (Welles, 1948) – BW-107 mins. – Officially, this was the fifth film Orson Welles directed, just after The Lady from Shanghai, and his first cinematic stab at Shakespeare. Welles himself also played Macbeth and Jeanette Nolan (who, five years later, would be memorable as the conniving widow of a suicidal cop in The Big Heat) made her film debut as Lady Macbeth. I don’t see a DVD release in R1 for this, but Second Sight did put it out in R2 (no idea on the quality). The IMDb company credits are a mess. They have Criterion as putting a DVD out in 2004, but this is inaccurate. Maybe they will in the future, but they’d have to license it from, I believe, Lions Gate, who control the Republic Pictures library save for It’s a Wonderful Life.
Tuesday March 11
11:00 AM Three Strangers (Negulesco, 1946) – BW-93 mins. – Here’s another one of the unavailable-on-DVD Sydney Greenstreet-Peter Lorre pictures that Warner Bros. made following the success of, first, The Maltese Falcon and, then, Casablanca. Geraldine Fitzgerald is the third person of the title and, together, all three are in search of a mysterious fortune that has something to do with a Chinese goddess. If you need another excuse to make time for this one, John Huston is credited as co-screenwriter. For whatever reason, TCM is stingy with showing these Greenstreet-Lorre teamings and there’s been no official indication that DVDs are in the works (though they seem to beg for a TCM Archives set).
8:00 PM High Wall (Bernhardt, 1947) – BW-100 mins. – TCM has crafted a monthlong theme of films dealing with psychotherapy and most are at least of mild interest. (After The Cobweb, Robert Rossen’s Lilith airs, but it’s on DVD from Sony) A solid cast, including Robert Taylor, Audrey Totter and Herbert Marshall, highlight this story of a brain-damaged pilot who confesses to murdering his wife. After being committed, the man’s psychiatrist (Totter) starts to believe he’s innocent. It’s supposed to be more film noir than melodrama. Made for MGM, the film is not on DVD and rights are held by Warner Bros.
10:00 PM The Cobweb (Minnelli, 1955) – C-124 mins. – I can say with confidence that The Cobweb is a mile away from being a good movie, but it’s too silly to be boring and the cast reads like the best episode never made of The Love Boat. I had some fun writing about the movie last year and I plan to at least check out the print TCM airs. With Richard Widmark, Gloria Grahame, Lauren Bacall, Lillian Gish, and Charles Boyer in a film literally about drapes at a mental institution, I think I found my version of camp. MGM distributed the picture originally and Warner Bros. currently have the rights, but there’s no DVD release yet.
Wednesday March 12
4:00 PM Pickup Alley (Gilling, 1957) – BW-92 mins. – IMDb lists this movie as Interpol and claims the tag line was “This Is A Picture About DOPE!” Does one need any more recommendation than that? In case you do, I can also add that it stars Victor Mature as a narcotics agent on the trail of international drug smuggler Trevor Howard via Anita Ekberg. Albert Broccoli, of James Bond fame, was a co-producer and, coincidentally, the screenwriter for this film was John Paxton, who also adapted William Gibson’s book for The Cobweb. Another film from the same period (1956) with Anita Ekberg, Man in the Vault, airs earlier in the day, at 11:00 AM. Pickup Alley, aka Interpol, is not on DVD and was made for Columbia, but Sony is so terrible about releasing their back catalog that I’d advise catching it now instead of waiting.
6:00 PM Underworld U.S.A. (Fuller, 1961) – BW-99 mins. – After showing Park Row a couple of months ago, TCM is dusting off another Sam Fuller film otherwise unavailable. It’s also an unreleased Sony/Columbia property, but, right now, another airing is scheduled for May, as well. The film focuses squarely on revenge, with Cliff Robertson playing a man who saw his father murdered as a child and, years later, wants vengeance. So he’s basically a more well-adjusted Batman. Not exactly, but what I wouldn’t have given to see Fuller tackle a Batman film. Anyway, this was the last film Fuller made during his run at Columbia and, wouldn’t you know it, Sony hasn’t released any of ‘em on DVD. Verboten! and The Crimson Kimono are the other two, though I know for certain the former has aired on TCM in the past.
Thursday March 13
6:00 AM Flight – (Capra, 1929) – BW-112 mins. – A very early talkie directed and co-written by Frank Capra about two pilots who fall for the same woman. I really don’t know a lot more, but Capra’s involvement caught my eye. It does seem kind of lengthy though. This is yet another Columbia film not available on DVD that Sony is likely keeping stashed away for no apparent reason.
Friday March 14
8:30 AM All My Sons (Reis, 1948) – BW-94 mins. – Edward G. Robinson plays a successful businessman who knowingly sold planes that were inadequate and caused soldiers’ deaths during WWII and Burt Lancaster is the son who learns the truth in this adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play. This isn’t on DVD and was made for Universal. My unofficial eleventh pick of the week would be Kirk Douglas in Lonely Are the Brave, airing at 12:00 PM, but I’ll mention it again next month when it comes on again.
Saturday March 15
8:30 AM Berlin Express (Tourneur, 1948) – BW-87 mins. – Right after directing the prototypical noir Out of the Past, Jacques Tourneur took a train to post-war Germany with this film about a group of multinational passengers traveling from Paris to Berlin. Merle Oberon, Robert Ryan and Paul Lukas lead the cast. Curt Siodmak is credited with the story and Lucien Ballard was the cinematographer. Made for RKO, the film isn’t on R1 DVD, but can be found in an Editions Montparnesse release from France.
Sunday March 16
12:00 PM His Girl Friday (Hawks, 1940) – BW-92 mins. – I don’t think there’s any need to make an excuse for mentioning one of the funniest movies ever made, despite its easy availability on DVD. Out of all the great movies Howard Hawks directed, this is unquestionably my favorite. I just read the other day about some of the pranks Rosalind Russell played on Cary Grant during filming and it reminded me how endlessly watchable and fun the film remains. Every classic film fan has a few unwatched skeletons in their backlog closet. If this is yours, it’s time for a spring cleaning.
Monday March 17
11:00 AM Pot o’ Gold (Marshall, 1941) – BW-86 mins. – This is, of course, St. Patrick’s Day and TCM can never resist an opportunity for a theme so here we have several Irish-related movies lined up. This is one of the very few Jimmy Stewart movies I haven’t seen, mostly because I’ve always been under the impression it wasn’t much. Keeping that in mind, the film’s public domain status has prevented it from getting any kind of definitive DVD release so watching it on television seems like a reasonable idea. Stewart co-stars with Paulette Goddard and plays a small town guy who strikes up a friendship with a family of Irish musicians, much to the dismay of his uncle. It was one of Stewart’s last films before joining the military and fighting in World War II.
6:00 PM Young Cassidy (Cardiff, 1965) – C-110 mins. – Ace cinematographer Jack Cardiff took over directing duties from John Ford to make this biographical drama about Irish playwright Sean O’Casey. Rod Taylor stars in the O’Casey role, changed to John Cassidy for the film, and is supported by an excellent cast that includes Maggie Smith, Edith Evans, Michael Redgrave, and Julie Christie. It’s an MGM-distributed film, with Warner Bros. controlling the rights, and not yet released on DVD.
4:15 AM Five Easy Pieces (Rafelson, 1970) – C-96 mins. – It’s worth mentioning that TCM scheduled a night of what it’s calling “counter culture classics,” lead off by Nicholas Ray’s They Live by Night and originally scheduled to include Michelangelo Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point, which isn’t on DVD in the U.S. or UK. At some point, the Antonioni film was cut in favor of Arthur Penn’s Alice’s Restaurant, which now airs at 2:15 AM. The Bob Rafelson-directed film Five Easy Pieces, starring Jack Nicholson as a gifted piano player who has abandoned his past for a ponderous life working in oil fields, is on DVD from Sony/Columbia, but it’s been a good while since I’ve seen it and I need a fresh viewing for my 1970’s list. Nicholson in the ’70s rivals Bogart in the ’40s for strongest decade ever for a Hollywood movie star.
Tuesday March 18
11:00 AM Possessed (Brown, 1931) – BW-76 mins. – I saw this title and that Joan Crawford was the star, and I assumed it was the on-DVD 1947 film. Turns out she made two films called Possessed and this pre-Code one co-stars Clark Gable. It doesn’t have anything to do with the later film. She’s a factory worker and he’s a wealthy businessman. He wants a mistress, but she wants a husband. Made for MGM, the DVD rights reside with Warner Bros.
3:30 AM Three on a Couch (Lewis, 1966) – C-109 mins. – The Tuesday night psychiatry theme continues with Jerry Lewis directing and playing multiple characters. Janet Leigh is his fiancee, a psychiatrist who will only marry him after her patients are cured of their dislike for men. This causes Lewis to attempt to cure the women himself, by pretending to be a different person for each of the patients. Released by Columbia, I’m assuming this would be a Sony property. It’s not on DVD.
Wednesday March 19
7:00 AM The Strange Woman (Ulmer, 1946) – BW-100 mins. – Hedy Lamarr isn’t Star of the Month until April, but here’s an apparent preview. She’s a femme fatale-ish seducer who lands a wealthy husband in 1820’s Bangor, Maine and promptly has affairs with the man’s son and George Sanders’ woodsman. Shoestring director Edgar G. Ulmer adds some flair. TCM is repeating The Strange Woman on March 25 at 10:00 AM and as part of Lamarr’s monthlong spotlight on April 24. It can be tracked down on DVD as part of Image’s Edgar G. Ulmer: Archive set.
Thursday March 20
9:15 AM Rafter Romance (Seiter, 1933) – BW-73 mins. – I mentioned this back in December, but I neglected to watch it even though I really wanted to. Ginger Rogers shares an apartment with a night watchman and unwittingly falls in love with him, without realizing he’s her absentee roommate. I saw Bachelor Mother not too long ago so I’m ready for more Ginger and reminding myself to set the machine this time. The plot of Rafter Romance also sounds a little like that story idea Joe Gillis was telling Betty Schaeffer in Sunset Blvd. It’s Warner Bros. property via RKO and not on DVD.
Friday March 21
12:00 PM The Prizefighter and the Lady (Van Dyke, 1933) – BW-102 mins. – Myrna Loy sort of seems like the perfect wife, doesn’t she? I was watching Love Me Tonight recently and I think my enjoyment was impaired by the idea that Maurice Chevalier would go after Jeanette MacDonald over Myrna Loy. Anyway, before she was Nora Charles, Loy was directed by her future Thin Man helmer W.S. Van Dyke in this boxing romance starring real-life fighter Max Baer as her love interest. Boxers Jack Dempsey and Primo Carnera are also in the cast, as is Walter Huston. Frances Marion’s original story earned an Oscar nod and Howard Hawks apparently did some uncredited directing on the picture. It’s not on DVD, with the rights held by Warner Bros. via MGM.
Sunday March 23
6:00 AM Stars in My Crown (Tourneur, 1950) – BW-90 mins. – Two weeks in a row picking a Jacques Tourneur film, but he is generally underrepresented on DVD. This one stars the great Joel McCrea as a Civil War veteran minister who brings peace to a small Tennessee town. Anything Tennessee-related is a good bet to show up here (speaking of which, where’s Wild River?) and both Tourneur and McCrea are favorites. Also starring Ellen Drew, Dean Stockwell, and several other recognizable faces like Alan Hale and Ed Begley Srs., the film was made for MGM and is unavailable on DVD, with Warner Bros. controlling the rights.
Monday March 24
8:15 AM The Last of Mrs. Cheyney (Boleslawski, 1937) – BW-99 mins. – Joan Crawford would have been 103 (or 100, depending on who you want to believe) on the 23rd and TCM is devoting a full 24 hours to her films. This one interested me because of Boleslawski, whose Theodora Goes Wild I enjoyed, and for the presence of William Powell and Robert Montgomery, possibly my two favorite ’30s actors. I haven’t seen a plot summary that seems entirely coherent, but I’ve gathered that high society jewel thievery is involved. It’s also a remake of a film made only eight years earlier, with Norma Shearer in Crawford’s role. Both were made for MGM and Warner Bros. hasn’t released either on DVD.
Tuesday March 25
6:00 AM The Dark Angel (Franklin, 1935) – BW-107 mins. – Coincidentally, the earlier version of Mrs. Cheyney was helmed by Sidney Franklin, who also directed this picture, from a screenplay co-written by Lillian Hellman. Notwithstanding Jessica Alba, the title here brings to mind some great noir possibilities, but unfortunately it’s all for nothing. Instead we have a romantic drama with Merle Oberon Oscar-nominated for playing a woman who grew up with best friends Fredric March and Herbert Marshall. Despite having affection for both, she chooses to marry March just before WWI, but both men join the military and Marshall finds himself sending March into battle. The film was made for the Samuel Goldwyn Company, and I believe MGM controls the home video rights.
2:00 PM The Slender Thread (Pollack, 1965) – BW-99 mins. – I see this on almost every other month or three, but I always find something else to pick (and watch) instead. Sidney Poitier is one of my favorite actors and I generally like Sydney Pollack’s earlier films so I’ll give it a chance this time out. Poitier is a college student (he was in his mid-thirties in real life) working a crisis hot line who gets a call from suicidal Anne Bancroft and the film goes from there. Telly Savalas co-stars as a doctor. It was Pollack’s film debut, after cutting his teeth on episodic television. This just seems like a natural film to be released on DVD given the star power in front of and behind the camera, but it’s surprisingly unavailable. Paramount owns the rights. They’ve seemingly given up on releasing their back catalog.
8:00 PM The Dark Past (Maté, 1948) – BW-75 mins. – It’s pretty well-documented that William Holden’s leading man career was on life support before Billy Wilder cast him in Sunset Blvd. After hitting it big with Golden Boy in 1939, Holden struggled to find another hit. He actually did 20 movies in those eleven years, including this one. He co-stars with Lee J. Cobb and Cobb actually gets the good guy role, with Holden playing a criminal who takes a psychologist hostage. Rudolph Maté is not that well-known of a director, but he also made D.O.A. with Edmond O’Brien and was an ace cinematographer of things like Gilda, Foreign Correspondent, Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be, and, most famously, Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc and Vampyr. The Dark Past was made for Columbia, but it’s not on DVD. Edward G. Robinson and Humphrey Bogart in The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse follows at 9:30 PM.
Wednesday March 26
2:15 AM Madeleine (Lean, 1950) – BW-115 mins. – Compensating for those last two lengthy write-ups: David Lean. Woman on trial in 1857 Glasgow, Scotland for poisoning her lover. True story. No R1 DVD. MGM announced at one point, but canceled before release.
Thursday March 27
10:30 AM Between Two Worlds (Blatt, 1944) – BW-113 mins. – John Garfield leads an ensemble cast in a film about people who gradually realize they’re between life and death (heaven or hell). Obviously a fascinating concept, the movie was based on a play called Outward Bound, which had a revival directed on Broadway by Otto Preminger. The cast members, including Sydney Greenstreet, Paul Henreid, Edmund Gwenn and a young, beautiful Eleanor Parker, awaken on a strange luxury liner that is actually in the afterlife. This version was updated for a World War II setting. It was director Edward A. Blatt’s first time behind the camera, but he’d only make two more films. The original Outward Bound from 1930, starring Leslie Howard and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., airs just before, at 9:00 AM. Both are Warner Bros. and neither is on DVD.
4:45 AM The October Man (Baker, 1947) – BW-96 mins. – Another directorial debut, this time for Roy Ward Baker, who’d go on to make the Titanic-set drama A Night to Remember and the Richard Widmark-Marilyn Monroe thriller Don’t Bother to Knock. This one stars John Mills as a survivor of a bus crash who then becomes a murder suspect. It’s not available on R1 DVD, but is in the R2 John Mills Centenary Collection (though it cannot be purchased individually). A look at IMDb provides a somewhat cloudy rights situation because it was released by Eagle-Lion Films, so I couldn’t say for certain who controls R1 rights. From reading, my guess is that United Artists/MGM would be the owner.
Friday March 28
11:15 AM A Woman’s Secret (Ray, 1949) – BW-85 mins. – Nicholas Ray’s worst film, in my opinion, but nonetheless worth seeing once. It stars Maureen O’Hara as a would-be singer and Melvyn Douglas as a songwriter. Gloria Grahame, who met the director and soon married him, comes along as O’Hara’s protegée and makes a mess of everything. Screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz recycled his Citizen Kane flashback structure somewhat, but the result is far from successful. Still, it was Ray’s first released film and there’s a scene or two of interest. Plus it’s not on DVD yet, aside from a French Editions Montparnasse release. Made for RKO, Warner Bros. controls the rights.
12:45 PM Toys in the Attic (Hill, 1963) – BW-91 mins. – Dean Martin getting to act, with co-stars Geraldine Page, Wendy Hiller and Gene Tierney in one of her very last performances. Dino returns to New Orleans with young bride Yvette Mimieux and drama ensues among his sisters, played by Page and Hiller. It was also directed by George Roy Hill, who made the two Newman-Redford pictures (and only 14 films total), and based on a Lillian Hellman play. Sounds interesting for a rainy day. A Mirisch Corporation/United Artists production, the DVD rights sit with MGM.
Saturday March 29
3:00 AM Love with the Proper Stranger (Mulligan, 1964) – BW-101 mins. – Several Steve McQueen films are on tap for this evening, with this one finishing things off. McQueen gets Natalie Wood pregnant after a one-night stand and the two are faced with some difficult decisions. From a viewing several years ago, I remember the acting as quite good and the entire thing handled very delicately. Of course, the two leads were incredibly charismatic, attractive movie stars who both died much too young. The film earned five Oscar nods, including one for Wood. TCM shows it quite a bit, but there’s surprisingly no DVD yet. Paramount has the rights.
Sunday March 30
8:15 AM Comrade X (Vidor, 1940) – BW-90 mins. – This sounds quite a bit like Ninotchka. Clark Gable plays an American reporter who thaws out Hedy Lamarr while she’s trying to leave her native Soviet Union. It’s based on a story by Walter Reisch, who not coincidentally worked on the Ninotchka screenplay. A re-airing, as part of TCM’s monthlong tribute to Lamarr, comes later in the week on April 3 at 10:15 PM. Made for MGM, the film isn’t on DVD and Warner Bros. should control.
2:15 AM Mafioso (Lattuada, 1962) – BW-105 mins. – Criterion just released this on DVD last week, but I haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet. The Italian language film stars Alberto Sordi, who I really liked in Fellini’s I, Vitelloni, and, also, The White Sheik, as a family man who returns to the Sicily he grew up in only to be inadvertently connected to the Mafia. It errs on the side of comedy, I believe. I plan to get the DVD so I think I’ll be sitting this one out, but it’s nice of TCM to coincide the showing with the Criterion release.
Tuesday April 1
6:15 AM Men Are Such Fools (Berkeley, 1938) – BW-69 mins. – All you really need to know is that this movie stars Humphrey Bogart and was directed by Busby Berkeley, whose elaborate musical numbers are synonymous with a certain kind of cinematic spectacle. The TCM plot description says, “ambitious secretary uses the men in her life to turn herself into a radio star.” The secretary is played by Priscilla Lane. A Warner Bros. picture that’s unreleased on DVD.
10:30 AM Fools for Scandal (LeRoy, 1938) – BW-80 mins. – The morning is full of films with the word “fool” somehow incorporated into the title because of it being April Fool’s Day, quite possibly the stupidest “holiday” man has invented thus far. My crankiness aside, anything that gets more Carole Lombard on television has at least some degree of upside. Co-starring Fernand Gravet and Ralph Bellamy, the movie is about American actress Lombard going to Europe and a scandal erupting over a romance. Another Warner Bros. title not on DVD.
12:00 PM Fools’ Parade (McLaglen, 1971) – C-97 mins. – You have to pay attention to TCM sometimes because they throw you a curve ball and serve up something like this little early seventies James Stewart-starrer. Stewart didn’t really make a “great” film again after The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance in 1962, and he came to rely on his folksiness as a way to combat the increasingly violent direction Hollywood was going. Still, I like what I’ve seen of Stewart’s later period solely because of the actor’s presence, even if I wouldn’t consider the movies to be particularly good or interesting. This one brings together George Kennedy, Anne Baxter, Strother Martin and, believe it or not, Kurt Russell for a story about a trio of recently released ex-cons in mid-1930s West Virginia who want to open a general store but are met with resistance from the town. Topping things off, this looks to be a Columbia film and I really wouldn’t expect Sony to put it on DVD anytime soon.
Wednesday April 2
5:00 PM Merrily We Live (McLeod, 1938) – BW-95 mins. – And this sounds a lot like My Man Godfrey. Constance Bennett plays a society matron who likes to hire ex-cons and hobos as servants. Brian Aherne is a writer who dresses up like a tramp to get in on the rich people action. It seems promising. The film was originally released by MGM, meaning Warner Bros. should control DVD rights. The strange thing is IMDb lists Janus Films, the theatrical distributor closely tied to Criterion, as a distributor. I definitely question the accuracy of this, but one can never be sure. EDIT: Indeed, the Janus logo (the older blue one) preceded the MGM opening so it seems they do have some form of rights.
12:00 AM Colorado Territory (Walsh, 1949) – BW-94 mins. – Joel McCrea, Virginia Mayo, and Dorothy Malone star in a remake of High Sierra, with director Raoul Walsh returning behind the camera. Though it’s probably not the conventional choice, High Sierra is my favorite Walsh picture by a good margin so I’m excited to catch this one. The term “western noir” has been bandied about a few times in describing the film, so there’s another positive. Warner Bros. again, not on DVD.
Thursday April 3
1:45 AM Algiers – (Cromwell, 1938) – BW-98 mins. – I believe this was a full-on remake of Julien Duvivier’s French film Pepe le Moko starring Jean Gabin and released the year before. The source material, a novel by Henri La Barthe, is the same, but I’m not sure of the exact connection between the French and American versions. Regardless, I have to admit to never seeing this and, despite not particularly caring for Charles Boyer, I do want to watch it. Hedy Lamarr co-stars here and her notorious nude bathing scene in Ecstasy can be seen right afterwards at 3:30 AM. There’s actually a DVD in R1 for Algiers, but it’s from Alpha so I’m skeptical on the quality.
5:00 AM Complicated Women (2003) – BW&C-56 mins. – An original documentary narrated by Jane Fonda that looks at Hollywood actresses during the pre-Code era of 1929-1934. This hasn’t made it to DVD despite conventional wisdom leading one to believe that it might have been on the first Forbidden Hollywood set. I believe there was a rights issue preventing the documentary’s inclusion, but I don’t know the specifics. I assume the problem might be something like TCM licensed clips for television broadcast, but not for use on DVD.
Friday April 4
I was originally going to mention Gregory La Cava’s Primrose Path, which was scheduled to air this evening, but removed to make room for a tribute to Richard Widmark, who passed away last week at the age of 93. Starting at 8:00 EST, TCM will show Alvarez Kelly, Take the High Ground!, and The Tunnel of Love, the latter two not available on DVD. Here’s the thing though: Despite Widmark being contracted to Fox for the first, and arguably most fruitful, years of his career, TCM is really slighting one of the absolute best and most interesting actors of the studio era by dedicating only three films and choosing some odd selections to boot. I’m sure TCM is reluctant to disrupt their schedule and the Fox films may be difficult to show because the channel only rarely pulls out anything by that studio. Taking those things into consideration, Widmark still deserves much, much more, perhaps even something like a full day or a weekend. The number of true stars still alive who frequently have their films shown on TCM has diminished considerably since the channel’s inception, and only a small handful still remain with us. A more extensive way of honoring Widmark’s work would have been the right way to go and I’m disappointed in TCM for not paying their respects in a more generous manner.
Saturday April 5
2:30 AM Dangerous (Green, 1935) – BW-79 mins. – The entire day is dedicated by Bette Davis, whose 100th birthday this would have been. My favorites are The Letter, airing at 12:45 PM, and All About Eve, on 8:00 PM. Dangerous, however, was the film where she earned her first Oscar (also winning three years later for Jezebel). She plays an alcoholic actress whose career is in shambles and Franchot Tone tries to rehabilitate her. It’s surprisingly not on DVD, despite three full box sets already released by Warner Bros.
Sunday April 6
2:00 PM The Rat Race (Mulligan, 1960) – C-105 mins. – I was excited to spread the word of TCM scheduling Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy this month, with Pather Panchali showing this evening at 2:00 AM. Then when I cross-checked their website with my schedule I found out the three Ray films were pulled. Argh. Airing tonight instead is Godard’s Contempt, which, incidentally, is showing at Film Forum in New York City in what is supposedly an excellent print. The daylight consolation prize is a Tony Curtis-Debbie Reynolds film about a musician (Curtis) who comes to NYC and ends up sharing an apartment with a dance hall girl (Reynolds). Produced by William Perlberg and George Seaton’s Perlsea Company, The Rat Race was made for Paramount and isn’t on DVD.
Monday April 7
6:00 PM Only Two Can Play (Gilliat, 1962) – BW-106 mins. – Based on the novel by Kingsley Amis and with a script from Bryan Forbes, the film stars Peter Sellers as a small town librarian looking to spice up his life by having an affair with Mai Zetterling. Also with Richard Attenborough, this very British British/Welsh outing was directed by Sidney Gilliat, who frequently worked with Frank Launder on screenplays like The Lady Vanishes and other films including Green for Danger. It looks like Columbia released the movie on VHS here in the United States, so I’m assuming Sony controls the DVD rights. It’s unavailable in R1, but can be found in Optimum’s R2 Peter Sellers Collection.
Tuesday April 8
6:30 PM Merton of the Movies (Alton, 1947) – BW-83 mins. – Red Skelton stars as a theater usher in Kansas during the silent film era. He goes out to Hollywood thinking he’ll be a big star, but ends up being let down (though I’m sure it’ll work out in the end). Director Robert Alton only helmed two films, and is better known as a choreographer on Broadway and in the movies. More importantly, to me anyway, Gloria Grahame is along for support. Gloria made a quartet of films released in 1947 (Crossfire, Song of the Thin Man, It Happened in Brooklyn, and Merton), and this is soon to be the only one not on DVD (It Happened in Brooklyn is out in May both as an individual release and in the Frank Sinatra – The Early Years box set). Merton of the Movies was made for MGM, and the rights now reside with Warner Bros.
Wednesday April 9
6:15 AM Outrage (Lupino, 1950) – BW-75 mins. – Ida Lupino’s second credited outing as director is inferior to her next two (Hard, Fast and Beautiful and The Hitch-Hiker), but it has one of the most harrowing scenes of pre-rape stalking, from the female’s perspective, that I’ve seen in a classic film. The movie does concern the ostracizing of a young rape victim and, despite a brave effort, it loses something along the way, but the initial lead-up to the attack is absolutely frightening. The recently deceased Malvin Wald, who earned a Best Motion Picture Story Oscar nomination for The Naked City, co-wrote the screenplay. The film was made for The Filmakers, the production company of Lupino and her husband Collier Young, and distributed by RKO. Judging from the other Filmakers’ titles, I’m afraid it might be in the public domain. Continuing on TCM’s odd rape theme this morning, Lewis Gilbert’s Loss of Innocence (aka The Greengage Summer), starring Danielle Darrieux and Kenneth More, follows at 7:45 AM.
9:30 AM Something Wild (Garfein, 1961) – BW-113 mins. – Jack Garfein made, I think, only two movies (some sources mention a third, but fail to name it and I couldn’t turn anything up) despite directing his then-wife Carroll Baker in this rape-themed oddity when he was just entering his thirties. Filmed on location in New York City, with no less than Eugen Schüfftan as cinematographer, the film centers around Baker as a young rape victim who takes refuge with Ralph Meeker. The critical consensus is mixed, though it seems to be popular in Europe, but Something Wild is difficult to find and definitely worth checking out. Saul Bass even did the opening titles and the score is by Aaron Copland. Never on VHS or DVD, the film seems to have been released initially by United Artists. If that still holds, MGM would control home video rights.
Thursday April 10
8:00 PM Come Live with Me (Brown, 1941) – BW-87 mins. – More Hedy is always welcomed. Both Come Live with Me and Ziegfeld Girl, which follows at 9:30 PM, co-star James Stewart. This one, a comedy directed by Clarence Brown, lets immigrant Lamarr sidestep deportation by wedding Stewart in name only. It was made for MGM, and sits unreleased in the WB vaults.
11:45 PM H.M. Pulham, Esq. (Vidor, 1941) – BW-120 mins. – Hedy gets more dramatic as businessman Robert Young’s mistress. A good supporting cast is filled out by Ruth Hussey, Charles Coburn, and Van Heflin. Of passing interest, John P. Marquand, who wrote the novel the film is based on, also penned the Mr. Moto books, which inspired a series of movies starring Peter Lorre as the Japanese detective. This film, directed by King Vidor, isn’t on DVD and was originally put out by MGM. Hedy teams with William Powell for Crossroads, a suspense thriller, at 2:15 AM.
Friday April 11
7:15 AM Day of the Outlaw (De Toth, 1959) – BW-93 mins. – Out on DVD in May from MGM, Andre De Toth’s western stars Robert Ryan and Burl Ives. The story concerns competing cattlemen who join up to combat a gang of outlaws. Tina Louise (aka Ginger from Gilligan’s Island) is the female lead. Philip Yordan, whose credits include Johnny Guitar and The Man from Laramie, wrote the screenplay.
12:15 AM Enter Laughing (Reiner, 1967) – C-112 mins. – Tonight’s theme is Jose Ferrer, but the inspired choice was in airing this little-known comedy about an aspiring actor written and directed by Carl Reiner. Ferrer stars, and Shelley Winters gets second billing. The supporting cast is decidedly eclectic, lead by Elaine May, Jack Gilford, Michael J. Pollard, Don Rickles, and Richard Deacon. It was Reiner’s first directorial effort outside of some episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show. Made for Columbia, it’s not on DVD. EDIT: This airing is now off the schedule, to make room for the better part of a day’s worth of Charlton Heston films.
Saturday April 12
4:00 AM Let No Man Write My Epitaph (Leacock, 1960) – BW-106 mins. – I was surprised to find out this movie is a sequel to Nicholas Ray’s Knock on Any Door, or, more accurately, it’s based on a novel that was a sequel to the source of Ray’s film. Regardless of the seeming limitations in making a follow-up eleven years later and from a film that wasn’t particularly successful, Columbia fired up the idea of how young street thug Nick Romano’s child would adjust to life without a father. The cast is pretty interesting, headed by Burl Ives and with Shelley Winters as the mother and James Darren the younger Romano. Even more intriguing, Jean Seberg appears the same year Breathless was released, Ricardo Montalban plays a drug dealer and Ella Fitzgerald portrays an addict singer. With no DVD released or really foreseeable, this looks like a definite watch.
Monday April 14
12:15 AM Lonely Are the Brave (Miller, 1962) – BW-107 mins. – Kirk Douglas cites this as his favorite role and it’s a very good one. An atypical contemporary western, the film finds Douglas as a cowboy in the era of paved roads and cars. He has difficulty adjusting, to say the least. Gena Rowlands and Walter Matthau co-star. There was a movie a couple of years ago starring Edward Norton called Down in the Valley that drew obvious inspiration, though it took a darker path. I enjoyed both films quite a bit, and it’s disappointing that Lonely Are the Brave hasn’t yet received a DVD release in R1. Universal has the rights. As a complete aside, TCM is airing an odd marathon of exceptional films throughout the day, beginning with Singin’ in the Rain at 6:00 AM, followed by North by Northwest, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca, The Philadelphia Story, Citizen Kane, and The Adventures of Robin Hood.
Tuesday April 15
4:45 PM It’s Trad, Dad! (Lester, 1961) – BW-78 mins. – Something about “trad” jazz in a small English town. It was Richard Lester’s feature directing debut, which he then segued into The Mouse on the Moon and, of course, A Hard’s Day Night. I’ve always liked Lester’s work, but his post-Petulia output depresses me for the near-total waste of his considerable talent. On the slightly bright side, he’s probably the only man to ever have directed the Three Musketeers, Butch and Sundance, Robin Hood, Superman, and the Beatles. It’s Trad, Dad! is not on DVD, and Columbia released it in theaters originally.
8:00 PM Role Model: Gene Wilder (2008) – C-59 mins. – This is a new series on TCM and hopefully it leads to future episodes without bringing the channel down into TV Land/Bravo/AMC territory. Gene Wilder, whose new book I’m sure just coincidentally happens to be on the shelves, is interviewed in a conversation with Alec Baldwin. The TCM website and monthly guide indicate the program will be in black and white, but I’m pretty confident this is inaccurate. TCM will also be showing a selection of Gene Wilder films, including The Producers, Blazing Saddles, and Start the Revolution without Me, all of which are available on DVD. The “Role Model” episode will be repeated at 1:00 AM.
Wednesday April 16
2:00 PM A King in New York (Chaplin, 1957) – BW-101 mins. – Without sounding terribly hyperbolic, I think Chaplin is film’s ultimate genius, someone whose contribution to the medium will never be paralleled. This is the anniversary of his birth and TCM is rightly recognizing his work by devoting the entire morning and afternoon to him. Everything airing is on DVD, but A King in New York gets little respect and I wanted to mention it. There are some really brilliant swipes in the film, especially at the sadly devolving state of television (then and now!), and a few extremely funny bits. It’s a little awkward overall, and probably the least of his feature films, but still brimming with genius.
Thursday April 17
6:00 AM Rachel and the Stranger (Foster, 1948) -BW-80 mins. – William Holden and Robert Mitchum in the same film? Loretta Young actually gets top billing in this western about widower Holden purchasing/marrying Young. Things get complicated when drifter Mitchum rides into town. Waldo Salt wrote the screenplay before getting blacklisted. The film was made for RKO, with rights held by Warner Bros. in R1, and is not on DVD here. A French Editions Montparnasse release is available in R2. A Holden marathon follows on what would have been his 90th birthday. A selection from a couple of weeks back, The Dark Past, airs at 1:00 PM.
11:30 PM The Heavenly Body (Hall, 1943) – BW-95 mins. – With their Star of the Month tribute to Hedy Lamarr, TCM appear to be going in chronological order. This comedy co-stars William Powell and the plot concerns an astronomer’s wife who takes up astrology (and an astrologer, apparently). Alexander Hall directs, but Vincente Minnelli filled in the last three weeks of the shoot. It was made for MGM, and remains unavailable on DVD from Warner Bros., who seem less than eager to put out these Lamarr films.
3:00 AM Experiment Perilous (Tourneur, 1944) – BW-91 mins. – What a great title. Sounds like a Bond film, or a British invasion band name. The TCM guide says it’s about a small-town doctor (George Brent) who tries to help a beautiful woman (Hedy Lamarr) with a deranged husband (Paul Lukas). For awhile there was a different not-on-DVD Anthony Mann film every month on TCM, but it seems like they’ve moved on to Jacques Tourneur. This is RKO so Warner Bros. should have the rights. An Editions Montparnasse release is out in France.
Friday April 18
6:00 AM Coquette (Taylor, 1929) – BW-76 mins. – Mary Pickford remains one of the most famous actresses of early Hollywood, but I dare say few have seen any of her films. IMDb lists 248 acting credits(!), but she didn’t appear in films after 1933, despite living until 1979. Coquette was her first sound picture, and the one she got an Oscar for. I try to stay away from IMDb reviewer opinions, but I was struck by someone calling Coquette “absolutely miserable.” Expectations lowered. It’s not on DVD, though, and that’s one of the main points of emphasis in figuring out what to pick here. Appropriately, United Artists distributed the film, so MGM should control home video rights.
11:15 AM Heat Lightning (LeRoy, 1934) – BW-64 mins. – “A lady gas station attendant gets mixed up with escaped murderers.” A little crime drama based on a play, starring Aline MacMahon, Ann Dvorak, and Preston Foster. It was remade just a few years later as Highway West, which TCM has scheduled for 6:30 PM this evening. Neither is on DVD and both were made for Warner Bros.
Saturday April 19
12:00 PM Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife (Lubitsch, 1938) – BW- mins. – TCM’s gift of the month because the new-to-DVD She Done Him Wrong was scheduled to play here, but it was replaced by the Wilder-Brackett comedy starring Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert. Lubitsch’s film has the famous “meet-cute” scene where Cooper wants to buy just a pair of men’s pajama pants and Colbert wants just the shirt. A great week for fans of Billy Wilder’s early writing and this is a real treat because it’s not on DVD and hasn’t been shown on the network in a very long time. Universal own the rights.
Sunday April 20
12:00 AM Michael (Dreyer, 1924) – BW-86 mins. – Available from Masters of Cinema in R2, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s silent film can be had in R1 from Kino. Benjamin Christensen and Walter Slezak star in the story of an artist’s relationship with his former model. Thanks to TCM for showing it in their Silent Sunday time slot. Criterion’s just-announced edition of Vampyr, followed soon after by MoC’s own version, will hopefully be a worthy, if altogether different, companion.
Monday April 21
6:30 AM In Person (Seiter, 1935) – BW-87 mins. – Ginger Rogers gets the apple this week for having a trio of films mentioned. She’s a troubled movie star who ventures into the mountains and meets George Brent. Will it cure her agoraphobia? Do comedies from the 1930s ever end on a sour note? I think I’d watch Ginger in most anything this decade, and it’s not yet on DVD. Made for RKO, Warner Bros. has the rights.
3:30 AM Age of Consent (Powell, 1969) – C-107 mins. – Featuring James Mason and a very young Helen Mirren, this was Michael Powell’s late-career film about a painter who goes to the Australian coast and finds a nubile young woman willing to model for him. TCM showed this back in November, but a running time discrepancy caused several would-be viewers to miss the ending. Here’s another chance, and it’s also scheduled to air in May. This is a crisp new print from Sony that’s been restored to Powell’s original cut, but no word on a possible DVD. One can only throw salt over his shoulder and hope for the best when Sony’s involved.
Tuesday April 22
8:00 PM Easy Living (Leisen, 1937) – BW-88 mins. – Universal has shined its golden light upon classic film enthusiasts on this day by releasing a quartet of comedies, including this Preston Sturges-scripted gem. Of course, when it wasn’t on DVD the channel couldn’t find time to air the film, but now that it gets a release a showing also pops up. Regardless, soak in Jean Arthur and company. Midnight, also directed by Mitchell Leisen and written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, follows. It’s the superior film of these four, in my opinion.
11:30 PM The Major and the Minor (Wilder, 1942) – BW-100 mins. – Again, TCM peels off Billy Wilder’s first film as a Hollywood director just when it gets a DVD release in R1. Ginger Rogers stars as a woman who doesn’t have the money for an adult train ticket so she pretends to be a child for the reduced fare. Ray Milland is the military major who happens to pass through the same train at the same time, causing Rogers to continue the ruse far longer than she’d intended. Ginger’s adorable as always and Milland is pretty good, as well. It’s an excellent rebirth for Wilder, who was quite the smart cookie to pick a very commercial picture when Paramount finally gave him the chance to direct. In many ways, this is perhaps the most quaint film Wilder ever directed, but you still can’t ignore the fact that it involves a woman pretending to be underage who develops a relationship with an older man in the military. Borderline pedophilia never felt so funny!
Wednesday April 23
9:00 AM Rogue Cop (Rowland, 1954) -BW-93 mins – Robert Taylor and Janet Leigh, with Steve Forrest, Anne Francis and George Raft, in a little MGM noir about a policeman whose brother gets mixed up in witnessing a murder and faces gangster consequences. This was nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar, which I’m assuming means something since it’s a relatively small film. John Seitz was responsible for that nomination. His other nods include the Billy Wilder films Double Indemnity, The Lost Weekend, Five Graves to Cairo, and Sunset Blvd. (He lost every time!) Rogue Cop isn’t on DVD, presumably with rights held by Warner Bros.
11:00 AM Tight Spot (Karlson, 1955) – BW-96 mins. – Available in R2 from Sony/Columbia in Japan (and the UK), another Ginger Rogers movie, but this time a film noir where she moves from gangster to cop. Ginger’s past her prime, as is Edward G. Robinson who co-stars, but director Phil Karlson was hitting all the marks. Brian Keith picks up the slack. I’m planning on seeing 99 River Street this next weekend, but I’m really warming up to Karlson, who may have been one of the unsung noir directors. No DVD in R1 yet, with Sony controlling here also.
1:00 PM Pushover (Quine, 1954) – BW-88 mins. – Fred MacMurray alert! Richard Quine, noted director of Kim Novak films including this one, gets the reins in the story of a bank heist where Novak cozies up next to MacMurray’s cop. TCM is really bringing the noir this Friday. Dorothy Malone is along for the ride. Roy Huggins, who was behind The Fugitive television series, wrote the screenplay. Columbia released the film in theaters. Sony would be the one to badger for a DVD, but likely to no avail.
Thursday April 24
12:00 AM A Lady Without Passport (Lewis, 1950) – BW-74 mins. – Hedy in a Joseph H. Lewis film. With John Hodiak, Lamarr stars as an illegal immigrant who makes friends with his secret service agent. MGM released the film so Warner Bros. keeps it cool in their vaults. I’m thinking we need a Hedy Lamarr set from the WB.
Saturday April 26
6:00 AM The Search (Zinnemann, 1948) – BW-104 mins. – Seemingly a good candidate for a DVD release, but not yet available, Montgomery Clift stars as an American soldier who helps a Czech boy in postwar Europe. The film picked up a handful of Oscar nominations (Director, Actor, Screenplay) and won Best Story. Young Ivan Jandl, in his only film, also received the juvenile award. It was made for MGM, and rights currently sit with Warner Bros.
Sunday April 27
7:00 PM Abel Gance: The Charm of Dynamite (Brownlow, 1968) – BW-50 mins. – Silent film guru Kevin Brownlow made this documentary about the legendary French director and it kicks off TCM’s nightlong focus on Abel Gance. Lindsay Anderson, noted filmmaker of This Sporting Life and if…., narrates. I don’t think the documentary is on DVD, but it could be hidden in plain sight somewhere I overlooked.
8:00 PM J’Accuse (Gance, 1919) – BW-166 mins. – Antiwar film about a woman’s husband and her lover entrenched together in World War I. Whether you’re interested in silents, foreign language movies, or depictions of war, this is a rare chance to see something highly lauded and otherwise unavailable. I’ll be learning with everyone else. J’accuse! (I Accuse!, in English) repeats at 3:30 AM and is not on DVD yet. The excellent silent film boutique label Flicker Alley has a 2-disc release listed as “coming soon” on their website.
11:00 PM La Roue (Gance, 1922) – BW-263 mins. – La Roue was Gance’s massive follow-up to J’accuse! and is similarly well-regarded. In simple terms, the plot concerns a rail worker and his son falling for the same woman. At over 4 1/3 hours, surely things get a little more complex than that. The silent film is on its way to DVD, and will be released by Flicker Alley on May 6 in R1.
Monday April 28
12:15 PM The Delinquents (Altman, 1957) – BW-72 mins. – Rather improbably given what he’d accomplish over the next half century, but this little juvenile delinquent cheapie was Robert Altman’s feature film debut, serving as both writer and director. Even crazier is that it stars Tom Laughlin, who’d go on to low-budget fame as Billy Jack in Born Losers and a series of films afterwards. TCM is devoting the daylight hours to several of these delinquent-themed films, including Basil Dearden’s Violent Playground at 8:45 AM and Alfred Werker’s The Young Don’t Cry, starring Sal Mineo, at 10:45 AM. The Delinquents is not on R1 DVD and is listed at IMDb as being released by United Artists theatrically. Depending on the rights situation now, MGM might control. There is a release in R4, from Australia.
Tuesday April 29
7:30 AM The Seventh Cross (Zinnemann, 1944) – BW-112 mins. – I’m far from an expert on Fred Zinnemann, but I believe this was somewhat of a breakthrough for him, and it earned Hume Cronyn an Oscar nomination. Cronyn was already married to Jessica Tandy, who also plays his wife in the film. Spencer Tracy is the lead and plays one of seven men who escape from a concentration camp. Having only read about the movie, the title itself seems like something of a spoiler, but who knows. The Zinnemann momentum continues throughout the day, with four more of his movies airing after The Seventh Cross. It’s not on DVD, and, like The Search, was an MGM picture. Warner Bros. now has the rights.
Wednesday April 30
9:15 PM Union Station (Maté, 1950) – BW-81 mins. – Reunited with his director on The Dark Past, William Holden was also teamed with Nancy Olson for this noirish film, the same year they co-starred in Sunset Blvd. Supported by Barry Fitzgerald and Jan Sterling, Olson is a secretary who thinks she sees some suspicious train activity and contacts a skeptical railroad detective played by Holden. Union Station is part of the last night in TCM’s rail-themed series this month. It isn’t on DVD and was made for Paramount.