Thursday May 1
9:30 AM Young Man With Ideas (Leisen, 1952) – BW-85 mins. – You could pretty well take your pick of Glenn Ford films TCM will be showing on what would have been the actor’s 92nd birthday. The Blake Edwards-directed Experiment in Terror airs at 3:00 PM and is followed by The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse at 5:15. I went with the Leisen picture because it sounds like an easygoing comedy-drama and has a swift running time. In the movie, Ford is a young family man married to Ruth Roman and practicing law in Montana. He’s encouraged to move to Los Angeles and continue as a lawyer there, facing adjustments that go along with newfound city life. It’s an MGM film, and Warner Bros. should have DVD rights.
3:45 AM Hot Millions (Till, 1968) – C-107 mins. – Peter Ustinov night! Quo Vadis leads off, then Death on the Nile, Topkapi and, finally, this little movie. Ustinov co-wrote the screenplay and picked up an Oscar nomination for his troubles. He also stars as an ex-convict who jumps right back into swindling, with Maggie Smith at his side. Karl Malden and Bob Newhart (!) round out the main cast. Not on DVD and released in theaters by MGM. Warner Bros. has thus far done an excellent job keeping it to themselves.
Friday May 2
6:00 AM Chance at Heaven (Seiter, 1934) – BW-71 mins. – Ginger Rogers and Joel McCrea? I really can’t resist, low IMDb score and all. It’s also pre-Code. McCrea is a gas station worker and, I believe, Ginger is his girlfriend until upturned society girl Marian Nixon shows up to movie-steal him away. I’ll keep my expectations low and enjoy the two leads. Looks to be an RKO production so Warner Bros. should control DVD rights.
Saturday May 3
12:15 AM The Scapegoat (Hamer, 1959) – BW-92 mins. – British director Robert Hamer’s penultimate film. He wrote the screenplay and Gore Vidal adapted Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name. Hamer is reunited with his Kind Hearts and Coronets scene stealer Alec Guinness, who plays a dual role. Guinness #1 is a Count who wants to kill his wife (played by Bette Davis) and then blame Guinness #2 for the murder. Released in the U.S. by MGM, the film is not on DVD. Warner Bros. should now have the rights.
Sunday May 4
8:00 PM Frank Sinatra – A Man and His Music (1966) – C-50 mins. – Let’s get this out of the way early in the month so I can avoid harping on it again. May 20 would have been Jimmy Stewart’s 100th birthday. May 14 will be the 10th anniversary of Frank Sinatra’s death. Instead of honoring Stewart all month, TCM chose to give him a single day of programming and devote a month’s worth of tributes to Sinatra. Warner Bros. has a big Sinatra promotion for several DVD releases and re-releases this month, as well. Each Sunday in May TCM is showing an entry in the singer’s television specials. They’re not on R1 DVD, but it looks like there is a release in R2. IMDb seems to list CBS as the company in control, and their DVD’s are put out by Paramount, but Warner released the R2 so maybe they own R1 rights, also. (They actually are, released by Warner Bros. in 1999.)
10:45 PM The House I Live In (LeRoy, 1945) – BW-10 mins. – This was a short film Sinatra appeared in, playing himself and singing the title song, that deals with religious tolerance. It’s very famous and was given an honorary Oscar. Mervyn LeRoy was even brought in to direct. It was made for RKO. That should mean the DVD rights are in Warner Bros.’ hands. However, Passport Video released a DVD called “Frank Sinatra Memorial” that has this short film on it.
Monday May 5
2:15 AM Age of Consent (Powell, 1969) – C-107 mins. – I know I picked this just the week before last, but I was away and missed seeing it. This is my reminder and the product of a somewhat slow week on TCM.
4:15 AM Pursuit of the Graf Spee (Powell & Pressburger, 1957) – C-114 mins. – Tonight (Cinco de Mayo) is also full of Michael Powell films, either solo or with Emeric Pressburger. The Edge of the World, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, and I Know Where I’m Going all air. The final film of theirs to air this evening is this one, which is also known as The Battle of the River Plate and was their next-to-last collaboration. Set during WWII, the film stars Peter Finch and John Gregson as German and British military counterparts, respectively. It utilizes actual war footage to recreate the story of a German ship being pursued by the British off the coast of Uruguay. It’s not on R1 DVD (Warner Bros., perhaps?), but can be had cheaply in R2 in an edition from ITV.
Tuesday May 6
6:30 PM The Little Hut (Robson, 1957) – C-90 mins. – Nothing like getting your hopes dashed because of some anonymous person denigrating a movie on IMDb. I hate giving credence to the reviews there at all, but seeing “Only one word can sum up this movie: DREADFUL!” when doing some basic research is still deflating. Maybe it is dreadful. I can’t say either way. I’m taking a chance because Mark Robson was a capable, if wildly uneven director and the film’s in color, meaning Ava Gardner is in color. The story is about three castaways shipwrecked on an island, played by Gardner, David Niven, and Stewart Granger. There has to be some value there, right? Right? MGM thought so when they made it, but Warner Bros. seem skeptical because the movie’s not yet on DVD.
Wednesday May 7
9:45 AM Sergeant York (Hawks, 1941) – BW-134 mins. – And this would have been Gary Cooper’s birthday, a fine month for Hollywood’s leading men. He’d be 107, but who’s counting. Sergeant York is readily available in a must-own edition from Warner Bros. (It’s one of my favorites.) Cooper always deserves a mention, though, and despite every film of his airing on TCM today being on DVD (7 in all), it’s worth pointing out that, to some people (me), the actor is more the embodiment of American movie star masculinity than John Wayne ever could be. The onscreen strengths of Wayne are also found in Cooper, but without the heavy baggage. He’s also the only actor besides Jimmy Stewart, to my knowledge, to star in films directed by both Billy Wilder and Ernst Lubitsch, and Cooper also worked with Frank Capra, Howard Hawks, Fritz Lang, and Anthony Mann.
Thursday May 8
2:30 AM The Crowd Roars (Hawks, 1932) – BW-70 mins. – I mentioned this back in early January when TCM showed it during their James Cagney month. I missed it then and you probably did, too. After devouring three Cagney-starrers in the Gangsters Vol. 3 set and a fourth film where he shows up to support Edward G. Robinson, I’m ready for more. A racing theme is on the channel this evening and Howard Hawks’ film apparently qualified for the field. Co-starring Joan Blondell, it’s from Warner Bros. and not on DVD.
Friday May 9
2:30 PM The Rack (Laven, 1956) – BW-100 mins. – Based on a television movie written by Rod Serling, the film stars Paul Newman as an American soldier imprisoned by the enemy during the Korean War. When he’s released, he faces criminal charges of collaborating with the enemy by way of being brainwashed. Lee Marvin has small supporting part, and the rest of the cast includes Wendell Corey, Walter Pidgeon, Edmond O’Brien, and Anne Francis. Made for MGM, it should now be a Warner Bros. property and is unavailable on DVD.
6:00 PM Lady L (Ustinov, 1965) – C-109 mins. – Really Sophia Loren’s film, but Paul Newman gets the second lead role. Loren is the lady of the title, who remembers her life of European love as an 80-year-old. Peter Ustinov directed, and the international cast is rounded out by David Niven, Marcel Dalio, and Philippe Noiret, among many others. Another film originally put out by MGM and not on DVD. Worth mentioning, the infamous trio of stupid 1930’s drug movies, Reefer Madness, Marihuana, and Cocaine Fiends, airs tonight starting at 2:00 AM.
Saturday May 10
6:00 PM Trapeze (Reed, 1956) – C-106 mins. – Burt Lancaster really was in the circus before becoming an actor, and here he gets to relive those days under the big top. Carol Reed, already a long way from The Third Man and The Fallen Idol, directed. Just a year before Sweet Smell of Success, the future Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) met his J.J. Hunsecker (Lancaster) in a totally different situation. Surprisingly, no R1 DVD of this well-regarded film. There is a disc in R2, though. It’s United Artists, meaning MGM has the rights.
Sunday May 11
7:45 AM The Catered Affair (Brooks, 1956) – BW-94 mins. – With a screenplay by Gore Vidal that was based on a Paddy Chayefsky play how can you go wrong. Richard Brooks, one of the more underappreciated and accomplished directors of his era, made this film about Debbie Reynolds marrying Rod Taylor, only to have their small wedding balloon to a less manageable event. Bette Davis and Ernest Borgnine co-star as Reynolds’ (unlikely) parents. No DVD, made for MGM. Warner Bros., with their remarkably vast library, should have the rights.
3:30 PM The Mating Season (Leisen, 1950) – BW-101 mins. – Director Mitchell Leisen struggled after his two best screenwriters, Billy Wilder and Preston Sturges, escaped to direct on their own. This is generally considered one of his best later efforts, and was co-written by Wilder’s writing partner Charles Brackett. Gene Tierney stars as the bride-to-be of John Lund (who, coincidentally, starred in Wilder’s A Foreign Affair). Lund’s mother is played by the dependable Thelma Ritter, who earned an Oscar nomination here, and she’s mistaken for a maid by Tierney. Strap yourself in for screwy hilarity, also with Miriam Hopkins. Made for Paramount, The Mating Season is yet to have a DVD release.
8:00 PM Frank Sinatra – A Man and His Music, Part II (1966) – C-50 mins. – Another installment of Sinatra’s concert specials. Daughter Nancy joins her papa on stage this time. Not on DVD in R1, but there is a release in R2 (and from Warners in R1).
Monday May 12
7:00 AM A Bill of Divorcement (Cukor, 1932) – BW-69 mins. – This was, believe it or not, Katharine Hepburn’s first film. For some reason, it seems like she started acting when the Lumieres set up shop. Regardless, Hepburn shares the screen with John Barrymore and Billie Burke. Barrymore is just out of spending 15 years in an asylum and Kate’s his daughter. The film was done for RKO, with Warner Bros. in control of the DVD Rights, but it remains unreleased.
11:30 AM Keeper of the Flame (Cukor, 1942) – BW-101 mins. – Right after Woman of the Year, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn re-teamed with George Cukor for this movie, about a reporter and his subject’s widow. It’s an MGM picture, with Warner Bros. now controlling DVD rights. Is this the last of the Tracy-Hepburn pictures not on R1 DVD? (The film is available in Warner Bros. Tracy-Heburn Signature Collection in R2.)
9:30 PM The Merry Widow (Lubitsch, 1934) – BW-99 mins. – If possible, first watch the quartet of films in the Eclipse Lubitsch Musicals release. Then watch The Merry Widow. It’s not that the earlier movies need to be seen beforehand, but you can get a better feeling of Lubitsch’s progression from using musical numbers with frequency to making them seem like afterthoughts. As in The Love Parade and One Hour with You, this film stars Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald as combatant paramours. I do think I prefer The Merry Widow to the other Lubitsch musicals, but they all should be seen. MGM originally released this film, with Warner Bros. now controlling the DVD rights and not yet making good on their obligation to release it. The 1952 remake starring Lana Turner airs later this evening, at 2:15 AM.
Thursday May 15
6:45 AM Dirty Dingus Magee (Kennedy, 1970) – C-91 mins. – Frank Sinatra in a western? Indeed, a comedy no less. Sounds interesting, at least, with Burt Kennedy at the helm. Released on VHS, but not DVD, It was made for MGM, and now controlled by Warner Bros.
4:30 PM The Farmer’s Daughter (Potter, 1947) – BW-97 mins. – Loretta Young won an Oscar for playing the small town girl of the title, who goes to the city to be a nurse and ends up working for Congressman Joseph Cotten. TCM shows this with some frequency, but it’s not on DVD. RKO is listed as theatrical distributor, but it was a Selznick production and Anchor Bay put out the VHS. Your guess is as good as mine as to who now owns the DVD rights. MGM? Warner Bros.? My instinct says the former because MGM seems to have control over other Selznick titles, but who knows for sure.
Friday May 16
8:00 AM She Played with Fire (Gilliat, 1957) – BW-95 mins. – Also known as Fortune Is a Woman, this seems to be a little British murder thriller. Jack Hawkins, Arlene Dahl, Dennis Price, Christopher Lee in a small role, and the wonderfully named Violet Farebrother all show up in this story of an insurance investigator who gets roped into an ex-girlfriend’s devious schemes. Sidney Gilliat directed, produced, and worked on the screenplay. Sounds pretty good, actually. Looks to be a Columbia (Sony) release in the U.S., and no DVD yet released.
Sunday May 18
2:00 AM The Joker Is Wild (Vidor, 1957) – BW-127 mins. – Frank Sinatra plays real-life comedian Joe E. Lewis, whose vocal cords were cut by mobsters, leading him to a life of alcoholism and gambling. Mitzi Gaynor and Jeanne Crain are among Sinatra’s co-stars. With all this (manufactured) Sinatra hoopla from TCM and Warner Bros., one would think Paramount (rights holders on this film) might have seen such a time as a golden opportunity to put the movie on DVD. Ha! Not Paramount, not the studio who’d rather license out their titles to Criterion and crayon-crazy Legend Films than release anything from their back catalog.
Monday May 19
2:45 PM There Goes Kelly (Karlson, 1945) – BW-61 mins. – Not even having the required 5 votes for a rating on IMDb, Phil Karlson’s second film as director seems to be largely unseen. The TCM guide gives the plot as a “radio station page tries to solve a singer’s murder.” This was a cheapie made for Monogram Pictures and its lead actors Jackie Moran and Wanda McKay are not very well known. Karlson’s involvement is the only reason I’m including the movie here, but fans of the director who’s largely associated with low-budget film noir might want to check it out. I don’t think it’s on DVD anywhere.
8:00 PM Hobson’s Choice (Lean, 1954) – BW-108 mins. – Actor Tim Roth is guest programmer this month and chose some noticeably English-centric movies. His first choice is David Lean’s excellent film starring Charles Laughton as a widower who clings to his three daughters. The film won a BAFTA award for Best British film of 1955, but John Mills, instead of Laughton, received a Best Actor nomination. Strange omission there. With a release in R1 not yet on the table, it can be found in R2’s 9-disc David Lean Collection. Unless there’s a rights issue, MGM controls in the U.S., though Criterion released it on laserdisc.
1:30 AM Cathy Come Home (Loach, 1966) – BW-77 mins. – Roth also chose this even harder to find movie, a downbeat welfare drama from Ken Loach. Made as part of BBC’s “The Wednesday Play” television program, it’s not on DVD in R1, but the BFI did release it in R2. However, that DVD is out of print and very expensive on Amazon UK. It can also be had as part of the Ken Loach Collection Vol. 2 from Spirit Entertainment if you’re feeling spendy. Since it is a BBC property, any DVD in R1 would likely be distributed by Warner Bros. I wouldn’t hold my breath on that and anyone interested should probably make a point to catch this airing.
Tuesday May 20
8:00 AM The Mortal Storm (Borzage, 1940) – BW-100 mins. – 100 years ago on this date, little James Stewart was born. Disappointingly, not much has been made of Stewart’s centennial that I’ve seen. Universal is re-releasing six of his westerns in a box set, some with improved transfers and The Far Country with a widescreen aspect ratio. TCM is smart to devote the entire day to him, but every film in their tribute is already on R1 DVD except this one. Frank Borzage’s The Mortal Storm is almost a little secret among Stewart (and, presumably, Borzage) fans because it’s not terribly well known but is an excellent film. As with the same year’s The Shop Around the Corner, Margaret Sullavan gets top billing. The plot concerns a German family torn apart when the Third Reich comes to power in the early ’30s. MGM released the picture, and Warner Bros. control the DVD rights.
Wednesday May 21
9:45 AM The Easiest Way (Conway, 1931) – BW-74 mins. – A slew of early Robert Montgomery movies from the 1930’s are on tap today, which would have been his 104th birthday, and I don’t believe any are on DVD, at least in R1. In fact, that’s the entire daytime schedule, nine films in total. I liked the cast here and Jack Conway also directed Libeled Lady, probably not a bad rationale in singling this one out. Constance Bennett is the star of this romantic drama. She accepts the advances of Adolphe Menjou despite really loving Montgomery. Clark Gable also shows up in a supporting role. An MGM production, rights now held by Warner Bros.
Thursday May 22
5:30 PM The Big Sky (Hawks, 1952) – BW-138 mins. – I’m afraid I’ve never seen this one, directed by Howard Hawks and starring Kirk Douglas, but it surely seems ripe for a DVD release. The story looks to be set in the world of trappers and frontiersmen, but the title alone conjures up a vivid enough idea of what the film is probably about. Co-starring Dewey Martin and Arthur Hunnicutt, Oscar-nominated here, The Big Sky is available from France in an Editions Montparnasse release. TCM will apparently be showing the full version and not the edited one that was missing 20 minutes.
Friday May 23
4:30 PM He Laughed Last (Edwards, 1956) – C-77 mins. – Putting my trust in the capable hands of Blake Edwards, who wrote and directed this movie, I’m including this here despite the star being Frankie Laine, who I have nothing against personally other than the fact that I can’t imagine voluntarily watching a movie he was the lead in. I do love the mixing of comedy and gangster genres, but this was only Edwards’ second film (his first was Laine’s other lead film role) so my confidence is shaky. This was a Columbia title, isn’t on DVD, and is controlled by the sniveling region-coded monkeys at Sony.
8:00 PM How to Murder Your Wife (Quine, 1965) – C-118 mins. – Readily available on DVD from MGM, but worth mentioning all the same. Jack Lemmon certainly was the closest heir apparent to Jimmy Stewart that Hollywood ever had. He started out in comedies, showed a flair for more serious parts and then developed a somewhat bitter screen facade in the ’70s and beyond. Here he’s still funny, but with a hint of the pathos he handled so well. Playing a happily single cartoonist who marries Virna Lisi while he’s intoxicated (what a very welcome mistake), Lemmon excels as a guy who inadvertently comes under suspicion for killing his wife due to his comic strip fantasies. The screenplay was by George Axelrod, who also wrote the adaptation of The Manchurian Candidate and the original Broadway plays The Seven Year Itch and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
2:00 AM Sugar Hill (Maslansky, 1974) – C-91 mins. – A blaxploitation zombie flick. Made for American International, it’s not on DVD. I normally wouldn’t have a bit of interest, but the film stars Marki Bey, who was in Hal Ashby’s The Landlord. She only made five movies and none after 1974, though Hangup (inexplicably, directed by Henry Hathaway) also is listed for the same year. Also of interest, the guy who directed Sugar Hill, Paul Maslansky, doesn’t have any other directing credits, but did work as a producer on the “Police Academy” movies and television show. Lots of tangents running around there.
Sunday May 25
6:45 AM A Guy Named Joe (Fleming, 1943) – BW-120 mins. – This was my grandmother’s favorite film and it’s not yet on DVD. Spencer Tracy stars as a pilot killed in action who comes back as a ghost/angel seen only by fellow airman Van Johnson, now courting Irene Dunne, who had been Tracy’s girl. Steven Spielberg remade the movie as Always, but Richard Dreyfuss is no Spencer Tracy and Holly Hunter is a pretty far cry from Irene Dunne. It was made for MGM and Warner Bros. should have the rights now.
Wednesday May 28
7:00 AM The Garment Jungle (Sherman, 1957) – BW-88 mins. – Solid-sounding noirish drama starring Lee J. Cobb as a garment factory head pressured to unionize. Richard Boone co-stars as a gangster and Robert Loggia is an ethnic union baddie. Vincent Sherman, an unflashy craftsman, is credited as director, but Robert Aldrich apparently worked on the picture some, as well. It’s not on DVD and was made for Columbia.
8:30 AM Affair in Trinidad (Sherman, 1952) – BW-98 mins. – Another Sherman movie released by Columbia, this time a reuniting of Gilda’s Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth. She’s a nightclub performer whose husband is murdered. He’s the brother-in-law trying to find the killer. It’s not available yet in R1, but was put out by Sony in the UK and Spain. (A DVD Beaver review with screencaps is here.)
6:00 PM Duffy (Parrish, 1968) – C-101 mins. – I’d never even heard of this film, but several elements interested me. It was written by Donald Cammell, co-director of Performance. One of the stars of that film, James Fox, co-stars here, alongside a pair of other Jameses – Coburn and Mason. Susannah York is added to the mix for even more enticement. Coburn is the title character who is hired by Fox to hijack a boat. That’s just a bare synopsis, though. Anyone who’s seen the film, feel free to chime in. It’s not on DVD and is another Columbia release.
12:30 AM Not As a Stranger (Kramer, 1955) – BW-137 mins. – A heck of a cast, but mostly wasted in Stanley Kramer’s directorial debut. Robert Mitchum, Olivia de Havilland, Frank Sinatra, Broderick Crawford, and the lovely Gloria Grahame are on the main line. Even the supporting players are of note, with Lee Marvin, Lon Chaney, Charles Bickford, Harry Morgan, and Mae Clarke, 24 years after she tasted an unwanted grapefruit in The Public Enemy. It’s a soapy melodrama centered around Mitchum’s doctor and was made for United Artists. Not on DVD, MGM has the rights.
Sunday June 1
2:00 AM Cruel Story of Youth (Oshima, 1960) – C-97 mins. – I wasn’t terribly impressed with this when it aired on TCM last year sometime. Despite Oshima’s reputation as a daring Japanese New Wave director, this one plays like a Rebel Without a Cause knock-off. Still, Oshima’s early work is so hard to find that anyone interested will probably want to make an effort to catch this and I would recommend seeing it. Janus Films controls U.S. DVD rights so expect a Criterion or, more likely, Eclipse release at some point, but the question would be how far off that happens. In the UK, Yume Pictures has promised their own DVD release for this year.
Tuesday June 3
4:30 PM The Big Boodle (Wilson, 1957) – BW-84 mins. – What an interesting title. Errol Flynn, well past his glory days, stars as a casino dealer in Havana. From reading the plot description without having seen the film, it sounds like Flynn is pursued by police who believe he’s counterfeiting and counterfeiters who believe he’s stolen something. Sounds like a classic film noir set-up, but I don’t think this is usually classified as such despite a screenplay from Jo Eisinger, who worked on Night and the City, Gilda, and The Sleeping City. Pedro Armendariz co-stars. Made for United Artists, MGM should control DVD rights, but it’s unreleased.
1:45 AM The Bitter Tea of General Yen (Capra, 1933) – BW-87 mins. – Ah, finally a Capra-Stanwyck picture. She’s an American missionary dispatched to Shanghai who encounters the powerful General Yen (played by Nils Asther). This was the last of the collaborations between director and star. Capra would make It Happened One Night the following year. Wake up and release these things on R1 DVD Sony!
Wednesday June 4
8:00 PM Too Bad She’s Bad (Biasetti, 1954) – BW-95 mins. – Sophia Loren is star of the month for June. The selections this evening are especially interesting. Here she’s paired with Vittorio De Sica and a young Marcello Mastroianni (De Sica would direct her and Mastroianni together in Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow which airs immediately afterwards). Mastroianni is a cab driver who falls for Loren despite her trying to steal his taxi. De Sica is her father, who’s also a thief. The story comes in part from Alberto Moravia. An outfit called Ivy Video released the film on DVD in R1, but I have no idea what the quality is like.
12:00 AM The Millionairess (Asquith, 1961) – C-90 mins. – Who can resist Sophia Loren with Peter Sellers? De Sica shows up here, as well, along with Alastair Sim and Dennis Price. She’s the world’s richest woman and he’s an Indian doctor. He’s impervious to her physical charms, but she improbably falls in love with him. It’s based on a play by Shaw. Fox Lorber released a DVD in R1 that’s now out of print. It can be found in the UK alongside Trial and Error in a Sellers double feature from Arrow films.
5:30 AM C’era una Volta (Rosi, 1967) – C-103 mins. – Strange to see that Francesco Rosi followed up Salvatore Giuliano, Hands Over the City, and The Moment of Truth with this romantic comedy-fantasy. Omar Sharif is a prince and Sophia Loren is the peasant girl he falls in love with. Dolores del Rio appears as the queen mother. The English title is More Than a Miracle. Because of Rosi, I’m very intrigued to see this one. It’s not on DVD, at least in an English-friendly edition. Looking at IMDb, it seems that MGM originally released the film theatrically so Warner Bros. may control the rights.
Thursday June 5
7:00 PM Anna May Wong – Frosted Yellow Willows: Her Life, Times and Legend (2008) – C-50 mins. – A new documentary on the Chinese-American actress who has a bit of a cult following and starred in films like The Toll of the Sea, Old San Francisco, Piccadilly and Daughter of the Dragon (all of which follow in that order).
2:00 AM Shanghai Express (von Sternberg, 1932) – BW-82 mins. – One of the most frustratingly absent films in R1 DVD is Josef von Sternberg’s highly regarded work. It was at one point destined for a Criterion release, but Universal’s film elements were apparently not up to their liking. Marlene Dietrich fans have suffered the consequences, even seeing Universal release a Glamour Collection absent the movie. Hopefully the print TCM shows will look relatively good. The film can be found on DVD in a Dietrich set in R2, though it isn’t available individually.
Saturday June 7
12:30 AM The L-Shaped Room (Forbes, 1962) – BW-126 mins. – With direction and screenplay from Bryan Forbes, this is a fairly well-known film still absent in R1 DVD. Leslie Caron was Oscar-nominated for her role as a young woman who’s pregnant and unmarried and takes up in a London apartment house. She also won the BAFTA award, and the film was nominated in the Best British Film category. Optimum released a DVD in R2 last year. Sony should have the rights here.
Sunday June 8
12:00 AM The Goddess (Wu, 1934) – BW-77 mins. – I’m not going to pretend to know anything at all about this one, a silent film from China about a woman who supports her child through prostitution. It’s airing as part of TCM’s monthlong look at Asian cinema. Amazon does have a DVD listed (here), but I’ve never even heard of the distributor and the fine print mentions the disc is manufactured on demand using a DVD-R. I’ll stick with TCM for now.
Monday June 9
7:30 AM They Won’t Believe Me (Pichel, 1947) – BW-80 mins. – Robert Young stands trial for murder after both his mistress and his wife end up dead. Film noir territory here. Susan Hayward and Jane Greer co-star. It was made for RKO, most likely giving Warner Bros. R1 rights, and isn’t on DVD (anywhere, I don’t think). A possible candidate to show up in a WB film noir box somewhere down the line, I’d think. Four more films that I’ve picked in the past air later in the afternoon, beginning with the wacky Deadline at Dawn at 10:30 AM and continuing through Ada (12:00 PM), Rafter Romance (2:00 PM), and A Lady without Passport at 5:00 PM.
12:30 AM Seventh Cavalry (Lewis, 1956) – C-75 mins. – The idea of Joseph H. Lewis, a stylish director often associated with film noir for his movies like Gun Crazy and The Big Combo, making a Randolph Scott western is a little too much. I might have to make a point to watch this. If you’re not sold yet, the plot concerns General Custer’s body. Another Columbia film and Sony property not on DVD.
Tuesday June 10
1:15 AM Daughter of Shanghai (Florey, 1937) – BW-63 mins. – Sandwiched between a bunch of Mr. Moto and Mr. Wong films is this little curiosity starring Anna May Wong. She plays a woman looking for the men who killed her father. The supporting cast includes J. Carrol Naish, Charles Bickford, Buster Crabbe, and a young Anthony Quinn. It was made for Paramount, but Universal controls the rights. I don’t believe the film is available on DVD.
Wednesday June 11
6:15 AM Don’t Worry, We’ll Think of a Title (Jones, 1966) – BW-84 mins. – Mostly for fans of The Dick Van Dyke Show, as this stars Morey Amsterdam, Rose Marie, and Richard Deacon. Something about mistaken identity and foreign spies. I wouldn’t worry too much about the plot. Tons of great cameos, though, with everyone from Carl Reiner and Milton Berle to Moe Howard and Steve Allen dropping in for a scene. It’s not on DVD and you sort of get the feeling it won’t be anytime soon. United Artists released the film theatrically, putting MGM with the rights now.
8:00 PM The Key (Reed, 1958) – BW-126 mins. – Just before this airs, Billy Wilder Speaks comes on at 6:45 PM. Definitely watch that if you’ve not seen it or don’t have the Kino DVD release. Then stay for The Key, a William Holden-Sophia Loren movie directed by Carol Reed. The plot sounds fascinating. Holden is a tugboat commander in WWII alongside Trevor Howard, who gives the American a key to an apartment where Loren is waiting. The key has passed from man to man, however, and been a source of grave bad luck. Sony/Columbia again, with no DVD and probably none planned.
10:15 PM That Kind of Woman (Lumet, 1959) – BW-92 mins. – What was Sidney Lumet doing directing this? I don’t know and I intend to watch in hopes of maybe getting some idea. TCM lists the plot as a “kept woman falls in love with a young paratrooper during the final days of WWII.” Released and controlled by Paramount, but not on DVD. TCM will be showing Loren’s Oscar-winning Two Women right after this and, later, Brass Target where she co-stars with John Cassavetes, at 3:45 AM.
Friday June 13
9:30 AM George Washington Slept Here (Keighley, 1942) – BW-91 mins. – Jack Benny and Ann Sheridan are a married couple who move from New York to a Pennsylvania country house where the nation’s first president supposedly slept during the Revolutionary War. They struggle to adapt to their new (rundown) home. The two leads really interest me here. It’s based on a play by Kaufman and Hart. A Warner Bros. picture, not on DVD.
2:00 AM Machine Gun McCain (Montaldo, 1970) – C-94 mins. – 1.) I couldn’t resist the title and its political implications (is that imperative or descriptive). 2.) The film stars John Cassavetes and Peter Falk. Also with Britt Ekland, the plot involves a gangster defying the mob by robbing a casino. Looking at IMDb, it seems this was released theatrically by Columbia (though it’s Italian-made) and is not on DVD.
Saturday June 21
7:30 AM Caesar and Cleopatra (Pascal, 1945) – C-128 mins. – A little difficult to top Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra (in Technicolor). Starring Claude Rains as Caesar, the film was adapted by George Bernard Shaw from his own play. I’m not much for epic type films, but it’s still surprising to discover there’s no R1 DVD for this. ITV did release it in the UK for R2, but MGM, likely rights holders since the film was originally made for United Artists, haven’t put it out.
12:30 PM Tulsa (Heisler, 1949) – C-88 mins. – This Susan Hayward western is out on DVD in R1, but seems to be in the public domain. The release DVD Beaver reviewed looks like smeared watercolors. (Is the R2 in the same shape?) TCM’s print may not be any better, but I doubt it’ll be worse. I also enjoy Hayward’s performances and am sometimes surprised her star status hasn’t aged very well. She was obviously a well-respected actress, accumulating five Oscar nominations in just eleven years, but I’m not sure how appreciated she is today. Regardless, Hayward here plays the daughter of a killed rancher who vows to seek revenge by building her own oil business, only to become corrupted in the process. It was a cheap Eagle-Lion film, accounting for its mishandling on DVD.
Sunday June 22
10:30 PM The Hurricane (Ford, 1937) – BW-104 mins. – John Ford goes to the South Pacific. Thomas Mitchell picks up an Oscar. The movie is about a man wrongly imprisoned who eventually escapes only to have a dangerous storm rise up. Dorothy Lamour, Mary Astor, John Carradine, and Raymond Massey all co-star. The Samuel Goldwyn Company was the original studio of production, and HBO released a DVD in R1 a decade ago, which has since gone out of print. If I understand the Goldwyn library accurately, MGM should now have the film’s DVD rights.
12:30 AM Love (Goulding, 1927) – BW-83 mins. – A Garbo silent that’s an adaptation of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. John Gilbert co-stars as Vronsky, and IMDb lists him as an uncredited director alongside Edmund Goulding. Garbo returned to the same material eight years later, with Fredric March (and sound). That version was released in WB’s Garbo Signature Collection back in 2005, but Love remains unavailable. Warner Bros. has not only neglected their silents to an unfortunate degree, but their remaining Garbo films have also been ignored.
2:00 AM Roma (Fellini, 1972) – C-119 mins. – On letterboxed DVD from MGM in R1 and R2 (with different color schemes), but worth mentioning anyway. It’s probably one of Fellini’s most Felliniesque films. There’s no real plot as various Rome-inspired episodes unfold with different actors playing the director. The next year, Fellini would slightly straighten his narrative for the superior Amarcord. Certainly not an ideal first film for those uninitiated in Fellini (look at his ’50s work instead), but still an important part of the director’s monumental career.
Monday June 23
6:45 AM Two-Gun Man from Harlem (Kahn, 1938) – BW-65 mins. – This is a very low-budget Gene Autry-type movie, but built around black actors and starring Herb Jeffries. I mostly just like the title and the plot. (”When a cowboy is framed for murder, he travels to Harlem and masquerades as a gangster.”) The film itself will probably creak, though I’ve no doubt it’ll be interesting. There appear to be seem cheap DVD releases out there. I’d guess their quality is probably suspect.
Tuesday June 24
8:00 PM The Crimson Kimono (Fuller, 1959) – BW-82 mins. – The jewel of the month, I’d say. Victoria Shaw is a witness in a stripper’s murder and cops Glenn Corbett and James Shigeta both become romantically interested in her. TCM is airing the film primarily because of Japanese American actor Shigeta and Fuller’s unflinching portrayal of a love story between him and Shaw, as part of their Race & Hollywood focus this month. This is a Sam Fuller film that’s long been difficult to see, and I believe the airing is TCM’s premiere. Sony controls the movie, but hasn’t released it on DVD. I’ve always loved the title, even before I was a Fuller fan.
9:30 PM The Mountain Road (Mann, 1960) – BW-102 mins. – That’s Daniel Mann behind the camera, not Anthony. James Stewart starring could easily throw some people off. In a rare military role, Stewart plays an American who helps Chinese villagers stave off the Japanese advance during WWII. The film is hardly known at all and not on DVD. Rights rest with Sony.
Wednesday June 25
6:15 PM The Naked Spur (Mann, 1953) – C-92 mins. – Though Warner Bros. released the film on DVD a couple of years ago, many people complained that the print shown on TCM actually had better image quality. Regardless, it’s a superb film that draws out tension like few others, westerns especially. The five principal cast members (James Stewart, Robert Ryan, Ralph Meeker, Janet Leigh, and Millard Mitchell) are all excellent and Anthony Mann’s direction is accomplished as ever. I recently revisited the Mann-Stewart westerns made for Universal and it’s a complete struggle in trying to rank the four after Winchester ‘73. They really all demand attention.
Friday June 27
11:15 AM The Last Challenge (Thorpe, 1967) – C-96 mins. – Western with Glenn Ford as town marshal and Chad Everett a young gun who rides into town, eying the marshal’s lady (Angie Dickinson). This was near the end both of Ford’s leading man days and of the many westerns he made. I’ve always found Ford to be a comforting presence in film, a star who never made it huge, never received a lot of acclaim or even a single Oscar nod. Director Richard Thorpe had a long, steady career, beginning all the way back in 1923 and ending with this picture. I’m not sure he ever made anything exceptional, though who doesn’t like Jailhouse Rock, but there are a few solid ones in the pile. He directed Carbine Williams, which I’d like to see Warner Bros. release. The Last Challenge is also controlled by WB, as it was made for MGM. It’s not on DVD.
Saturday June 28
8:00 PM The Spiral Staircase (Siodmak, 1945) – BW-84 mins. – It’s on DVD in R1, but Siodmak is a favorite and his films during this period were excellent. Dorothy McGuire plays a mute girl who’s threatened by a serial killer targeting the handicapped. Ethel Barrymore picked up an Oscar nomination, as she also did for Hitchcock’s The Paradine Case which follows.
Sunday June 29
10:00 AM Force of Evil (Polonsky, 1948) – BW-79 mins. – Great little film noir starring John Garfield as a lawyer whose brother (Thomas Gomez) is part of the numbers racket he wants to end. A tough, dynamic movie and it was Abraham Polonsky’s first as director. Polonsky would soon be blacklisted and unable to really direct again until 1969’s Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here. The R1 DVD was put out by Republic and could use an upgrade. It’s cheap, at least. The film’s rights must be in some sort of odd situation become MGM is listed as the original distributor, but Republic put out both VHS and DVD editions.
12:00 AM Phantom (Murnau, 1922) – BW-117 mins. – Already out in R1 from Flicker Alley and soon to come from Eureka’s Masters of Cinema label (apparently later this year), F.W. Murnau’s silent classic nevertheless gets a rare television showing. Probably not the ideal starting point in diving into the director’s work, but not a terrible one either.
2:00 AM The Fifth Horseman is Fear (Brynych, 1968) – BW-99 mins. – I’m shocked TCM is showing this at all because it’s more obscure than their usual “TCM Imports” selections. The Czech film replaces the originally scheduled showing of Fellini’s Satyricon. Facets released an edition in R1 and I’ve read that it’s a surprisingly competent transfer. Someone at Amazon commented that a scene was cut, though, and I’m not sure whether TCM will be airing the same print. Regardless, the film sounds enormously interesting, with a plot set during WWII and concerning a Jewish doctor in Czechoslovakia who helps an injured political fugitive. The channel’s schedule doesn’t indicate it’s letterboxed, which would be a problem especially since the aspect ratio is 2.35:1, but hopefully it will be.
Tuesday July 1
6:30 PM Crime School (Seiler, 1938) – BW-85 mins. – Remake/reworking of The Mayor of Hell, replacing Cagney with Bogart. I didn’t even like the earlier film very much, but anything with Bogart in a lead role that isn’t on DVD should probably warrant a mention. It’s a Warner Bros. title.
12:30 AM My Sister Eileen (Hall, 1942) – BW-97 mins. – Really interesting origins here. The film is based on stories by Ruth McKenney, who moved from Ohio to New York with her sister Eileen. Rosalind Russell plays Ruth while Janet Blair is Eileen. The real life Eileen married novelist Nathanel West, but their union was short as the couple died in a car accident just eight months after the wedding. Russell, TCM’s star of the month, received an Oscar nomination for her role here. The film is not on DVD and was made by Columbia, leaving the dreaded Sony with its rights.
2:15 AM No Time for Comedy (Keighley, 1940) – BW-93 mins. – Rosalind Russell also plays the lead in this film, co-starring James Stewart. The two are married, with Stewart a playwright specializing in comedy and Russell his lead. He’s persuaded to try his hand at tragedy, but the results are underwhelming and life-altering. Interestingly, Stewart’s role was apparently played by Laurence Olivier on Broadway, according to an IMDb reviewer. The Epstein brothers, who would go on to write the Casablanca screenplay, did the adaptation. It’s unavailable on DVD and was done for Warner Bros.
Wednesday July 2
9:00 AM The Feminine Touch (Van Dyke, 1941) – BW-98 mins. – More Russell, but this time with Don Ameche. The two are married and he’s a college professor who’s written a book, but publisher Van Heflin is much more interested in Roz than the book. Van Dyke’s specialty was the romantic comedy (and he cranked ‘em out with abandon), but the cast here, also including Kay Francis as Ameche’s editor, seems quite strong. It sounds like the kind of airy escapism that I love from the studio system. The studio in question here would be MGM, putting Warner Bros. in control of the DVD rights. It’s currently unreleased.
1:30 AM Dancing Co-Ed (Simon, 1939) – BW-84 mins. – A very early Lana Turner vehicle (she would have been 18 at best when it was made) that’s controlled by Warner Bros. (made for MGM) and not on DVD. The plot is something about a contest search for a dancer. Artie Shaw plays himself. I believe the film airs as part of TCM’s July focus on big bands. That also sets up several shorts playing on the schedule, frequently late at night. Perhaps the best musical live action short ever made in Hollywood happens to get an airing early in the morning, at 5:10 AM. The wonderful and mesmerizing Jammin’ the Blues is a must-see. It’s available from Warner Bros. on DVD, but you have to to buy the entire Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection Vol. 2 because the disc it’s a supplement on (Passage to Marseille) is exclusive to that set. However, it can also apparently be found on a release entitled Improvisation that features other jazz-related curios.
Thursday July 3
4:45 AM What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (Allen, 1966) – C-80 mins. – Woody Allen’s first film as director, wherein he famously re-dubbed a Japanese movie to center the plot around an egg salad recipe. I recently discovered that the R1 DVD has gone out of print and is fetching some pretty decent prices. Those who’d just like to watch the movie will get that chance here. If you have to have it on DVD, Optimum released a disc in R2 earlier this year and it’s cheaper to import than to dive into the secondary market for the R1.
Monday July 7
8:00 PM TCM Presents Elvis Mitchell: Under the Influence - Sydney Pollack (2008) – C-28 mins. – The channel debuts a new series where film critic Elvis Mitchell sits down to interview well-known actors and directors. This initial episode should be bittersweet as it was one of Pollack’s last interviews before passing away in May. For better or worse, his recent death will add an entirely different dimension to the viewing. The program repeats at 10:00 PM and also on Saturday morning.
4:45 AM To Paris With Love (Hamer, 1955) – C-78 mins. – A little film that once again pairs director Robert Hamer with Alec Guinness. The story is slight, with Guinness playing a man who takes his young adult son to Paris in search of a proper mate. Once there, it’s Guinness who finds a young woman to romance. I couldn’t find a DVD available in the UK or the US so it seems to be unreleased. IMDb lists Rank as the original UK distributor and Continental in the states. Where that leaves DVD rights is anyone’s guess.
Tuesday July 8
8:00 PM Craig’s Wife (Arzner, 1936) – BW-75 mins. – More Rosalind Russell this evening, beginning with a movie directed by Hollywood’s lone female director from the studio system. As such, it’s not surprising that this is what one might call a “woman’s picture,” but maybe slightly subversive of that. Russell plays a character who grabs for materialism instead of more female-centric attributes. Dorothy Arzner’s films often get labeled as giving women a masculine edge and this would certainly fit in that mold. The same story was remade in 1950 as Harriet Craig, with Joan Crawford in the lead. Neither are on DVD, with Sony controlling.
1:30 AM Sister Kenny (Nichols, 1946) – BW-116 mins. – What was Dudley Nichols doing when he wasn’t writing screenplays for John Ford, Howard Hawks and Fritz Lang? A little bit of directing, it turns out. He earned credit on three films in total including this one. Rosalind Russell again stars in the fact-based story about an Australian nurse who discovered a way to effectively treat polio. Russell won a Golden Globe and picked up an Oscar nomination for her portrayal. Made for RKO, the film is not on DVD and its rights should rest with Warner Bros. in R1.
Wednesday July 9
12:00 PM Surprise Package (Donen, 1960) – BW-99 mins. – If you’re not sold by Yul Brynner as a deported gangster then how about Noel Coward as a king whose crown Brynner is trying to take for himself. Stanely Donen’s comedy adaptation of Art Buchwald’s novel A Gift from the Boys doesn’t sound particularly good, but it does look to be interesting. Mitzi Gaynor livens things up further as Brynner’s girl. The film was made for Columbia and hasn’t found a DVD release from Sony. I would say it probably won’t either, but the company might surprise as they did recently when word slipped out that a series of unrelated treats, including Husbands and $, are due soon as “martini movies.”
10:00 PM I Dood It (Minnelli, 1943) – BW-102 mins. – What a stupid title. Vincente Minnelli was put on the film by MGM after original director Roy Del Ruth was fired. Minnelli had just made his first feature Cabin in the Sky and probably wasn’t thrilled about stepping in to direct Red Skelton and Eleanor Powell. Skelton plays a tailor’s assistant who develops a crush on stage star Powell. Though you won’t see his name anywhere in the credits, Buster Keaton and his Spite Marriage were the inspiration for I Dood It, and Skelton apparently lifted gags verbatim from Keaton. Some of what’s in the final version of this film is Del Ruth and some of it is Minnelli. Fans of the latter may be able to detect a number he did with Lena Horne and Hazel Scott against an all-black chorus. Things weren’t all bad for Minnelli, though, as he got to make Meet Me in St. Louis for his next picture. I Dood It isn’t on DVD, and is controlled by Warner Bros.
Thursday July 10
1:00 PM Dead Heat on a Merry-Go-Round (Girard, 1966) – C-107 mins. – James Coburn seemed like a pretty cool guy in the ’60s, right. The Flint movies, The President’s Analyst, and some odd ducks like this and Duffy (which I mentioned in a past week and which also follows at 3:00 PM). Coburn here is a con man who plans an elaborate airport bank robbery. I’ve read comparisons to Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. Bernard Girard was credited both as director and sole screenwriter for the film, but doesn’t have much else of interest in his CV. The movie was at one point on R1 DVD, but a victim of Sony’s inane removal of several titles from the marketplace. It seems to be easy enough to find on the secondary market, but is technically out of print.
4:45 PM The Happening (Silverstein, 1967) – C-101 mins. – More sixties oddness here. Director Elliot Silverstein’s follow-up to Cat Ballou is about hippies who abduct a gangster, only to have him see things their way when his family doesn’t demand his return. Anthony Quinn stars as the kidnapped man, but it’s Faye Dunaway in a supporting role (the same year as Bonnie and Clyde was released) that caught my attention. Other members of the supporting cast include Michael Parks, Milton Berle and The Apartment’s Jack Kruschen. Columbia again and not on DVD either.
Friday July 11
8:45 AM Penelope (Hiller, 1966) – C-98 mins. – The good news is that a Natalie Wood box set is supposedly on the way from Warner Bros. later this year. It was informally announced but nothing official yet. The bad news is that this wasn’t included in the list of titles in the box. Natalie plays a wife who feels neglected by her husband (Ian Bannen) and decides to rob a bank as a way of getting attention. Peter Falk and Jonathan Winters co-star. Director Arthur Hiller was pretty obviously an uneven craftsman, but he did make at least two extremely good movies (The Americanization of Emily and The Hospital, plus the more well-known Love Story, Silver Streak, and The In-Laws) so perhaps Penelope has its charms. It was made for MGM, but Warner Bros. should have the rights.
8:00 PM Paper Lion (March, 1968) – C-105 mins. – Alan Alda when he was “Robert Alda’s son” instead of “Hawkeye Pierce.” It’s mildly unbelievable that there’s no DVD of this film yet. Writer, sometime actor, and general participant in most everything the world had to offer George Plimpton posed as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions training camp and turned it into a book. Alda plays Plimpton and numerous football players appear as themselves. United Artists released the film so MGM should have its DVD rights. What’s the hold-up, though? Football movies, especially ones that are fairly well-known, seem to be popular enough to warrant release. This was Alda’s breakthrough so it’s shocking to still not have it out. Those who missed Otto Preminger’s Skidoo last time it aired, TCM has another showing scheduled for 2:00 AM. It’s likely to be the same full frame print, however.
Saturday July 12
4:15 AM A Letter for Evie (Dassin, 1946) – BW-89 mins. – One of Jules Dassin’s MGM pictures before he saw the dark of noir. The director was critical of these earlier efforts, which has lead me to mostly avoid them previously, but now I think I’m ready to give most anything his name was attached to a try. The film seems to be a romantic comedy, about shirt factory worker Evie who slips a letter into a soldier’s shirt to begin a pen pal correspondence of sorts. Dassin only had one more film to go before his simmering Brute Force, which, like this movie, features Hume Cronyn. A Letter for Evie isn’t on DVD and has its rights controlled by Warner Bros.
Sunday July 13
6:00 AM You Belong to Me (Ruggles, 1941) – C-95 mins. – The other Barbara Stanwyck-Henry Fonda comedy from 1941. If it’s not hardly as good as The Lady Eve, it’s probably because few films are. From a story by Dalton Trumbo, the movie has Stanwyck as a doctor who falls for and marries Fonda’s rich playboy. He then becomes jealous of her male patients and takes a job at a department store. Ehh, the plot’s a little creaky, but the two leads make the film at least a curiosity. It was made for Columbia and isn’t on DVD.
12:00 AM The Racket (Milestone, 1928) – BW-84 mins. – I’ve only seen the 1951 remake with Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan as, respectively, a cop and crook, and I thought it was pretty terrible. Nicholas Ray was inserted by RKO boss Howard Hughes to work on some scenes. John Cromwell was the credited director, but a host of others worked on the picture too. Regardless, this silent original has a better reputation and even received a Best Picture nomination. Hughes also produced it, but the film languished for decades after its initial release, unseen until Flicker Alley, along with TCM and UNLV, conducted an extensive restoration on The Racket and two other Hughes productions. Those television airings premiered in 2004, but still no DVD. I’m unaware of the reason for the hold-up, but I’m glad TCM is showing the film again.
5:30 AM Black Magic (Ratoff, 1949) – BW-105 mins. – A largely unknown film starring Orson Welles as Cagliostro, a gypsy hypnotist out for revenge against his parents’ killers. Welles apparently did some or even most of the directing himself, though it’s uncredited. Frequent Welles co-star Akim Tamiroff co-stars, along with Nancy Guild and Valentina Cortese. It was made in Italy, outside the Hollywood system, and released in the U.S. by United Artists. I don’t think UA retained distribution rights, though, because the VHS was released by a small outfit. I’d guess that indicates possible public domain status, which, if true, makes its lack of availability on DVD strange. So I’ll just punt away questions of ownership then.
Monday July 14
1:45 PM The Black Book (Mann, 1949) – BW-88 mins. – Also known as Reign of Terror, Anthony Mann’s film noir set during the French Revolution is certainly a unique entry in the style. It’s more in line with the other films Mann was making at the time than owing to any traditional period drama conventions. As such, it’s essential viewing for fans of the director and/or cinematographer John Alton. The cast includes Richard Basehart, Robert Cummings, Arlene Dahl, and Charles McGraw. Avoid the VCI disc, though I can’t speak with certainty about the quality of TCM’s broadcast either. Most of Mann’s forties films unfortunately look terrible on DVD.
8:00 PM TCM Presents Elvis Mitchell: Under the Influence – Bill Murray (2008) – C-28 mins. – I was going to share a story about encountering Murray up close, but decided against it. Not a pleasant experience. Anyway, I still enjoy his work and his humor so this should be a pretty fast half hour. Mitchell’s guests the next couple of weeks are Laurence Fishburne and Quentin Tarantino.
3:00 AM Hitchcock (Schickel, 1973) – C-58 mins. – I believe this is actually the Hitchcock episode from Richard Schickel’s The Men Who Made the Movies series. Hitchcock is interviewed on camera and the program is narrated by Cliff Robertson. These occasionally show up on Warner Bros. DVD’s, but this one hasn’t been included on any of the studio’s Hitchcock releases so this might be the best opportunity to see it (until TCM shows it again).
Tuesday July 15
12:00 PM Sleuth (Mankiewicz, 1972) – C-138 mins. – Because the R1 disc is out of print ($117 new from an Amazon third party seller!) without any current expectation of being available again, I thought it might be worth highlighting the channel’s showing of Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s Sleuth – a cracking film that proves two strong actors can carry a longish film all by themselves when the direction and source material are this good. Based on the Anthony Shaffer play, the story involves a mystery writer played by Laurence Olivier who invites his wife’s lover (Michael Caine) to his large, isolated estate with possible intentions of revenge. It would be Mankiewicz’s final film as director, ending one of the great Hollywood careers for a writer/director. Really a shame about the lack of (R1) DVD availability, though. I’m not sure it’s currently in print anywhere. Paramount of course did put the film out in R2 back in April.
Wednesday July 16
12:00 PM It Had to Be You (Hartman, Maté, 1947) – BW-98 mins. – TCM serves up several Ginger Rogers movies this morning and afternoon, beginning with Phil Karlson’s Tight Spot at 10:00 AM. In It Had to Be You, she plays a runaway bride tamed by fireman Cornel Wilde. I can’t imagine what was going on behind the scenes to have two distinctly different voices informing the direction. Don Hartman was a producer and writer of things like some of the “Road” movies with Hope and Crosby while Rudolph Maté, whom I’ve mentioned before, was an amazing cinematographer who worked with Dreyer, Lang, Hitchcock, and Lubitsch. This was the first directing credit for both. The film was made for Columbia and isn’t on R1 DVD. It can be found in the R2 Ginger Rogers set, which I don’t own but which also has Tight Spot, the very funny Bachelor Mother and three films already available in R1 (Top Hat, The Major and the Minor, and The Gay Divorcee). It’s only eleven pounds as of this writing so not a bad deal at all.
Thursday July 17
2:00 PM The People Against O’Hara (Sturges, 1951) – BW-102 mins. – Four years before teaming on Bad Day at Black Rock, Spencer Tracy and John Sturges made this courtroom drama with the actor starring as a retired alcoholic attorney who tries to defend a young man on murder charges. John Hodiak plays the DA, Pat O’Brien is a detective, and James Arness has the role of the defendant. The film obviously doesn’t have the reputation of the most excellent Bad Day (probably my favorite film from both actor and director), and it’s not really in that league. However, it’s a somewhat typical lawyer movie and it’s not on DVD. Made for MGM, Warner Bros. should now control the film’s rights.
Saturday July 19
8:00 AM Operation Mad Ball (Quine, 1957) – BW-105 mins. – Early Jack Lemmon comedy, but one that’s been difficult to see for many years. He plays an Army private (in peacetime) who tries to throw a crazy dance party without his strict superior officer (Ernie Kovacs) finding out. The supporting cast includes Mickey Rooney, Kathryn Grant, and Arthur O’Connell. Blake Edwards worked on the screenplay and direction is by Columbia favorite Richard Quine, who worked with Lemmon many times. It’s not available on DVD. Another Lemmon movie, 1956’s You Can’t Run Away From It, directed by Dick Powell and a musical remake of It Happened One Night, airs late in the day, at 10:15 PM.
1:15 AM You Can’t Get Away with Murder (Seiler, 1940) – BW-79 mins. – Here’s a gangster movie, starring Humphrey Bogart as a small-timer, that hasn’t made its way to DVD just yet. Bogie corrupts teenager Billy Halop into taking the blame for one of his crimes. Gale Page is Halop’s older sister. You have to think Warner Bros. will eventually get around to releasing the film on DVD due to star and genre.
Sunday July 20
6:00 AM Turnabout (Roach, 1940) – BW-83 mins. – Hal Roach is, of course, best known as a producer of silent shorts and Little Rascals comedies (1140 producing credits on IMDb!), but he did make a few features without established characters, including this one. It stars Adolphe Menjou, John Hubbard, and the ill-fated Carole Landis. The latter two are a married couple who somehow switch bodies. The set-up came from a Thorne Smith novel which was published a few years after his successful Topper book. Not really sure why I latched onto this one; it was probably Landis’ name that caught my eye. It was originally made for Roach’s studio and distributed theatrically by United Artists. Some quick research seems to indicate a company named RHI Entertainment, known somewhat for its television movies and miniseries work via Hallmark, now controls the Roach library.
2:00 AM The Cranes Are Flying (Kalatozov, 1957) – BW-95 mins. – Available from Criterion in an edition completely without any extras on the disc, this Russian language film about war and love is a stunner. Its story may seem basic, about a young couple split apart by his entry into the military during WWII and her resulting difficulty in dealing with his loss, but it’s very well done. The cinematography has to be seen to be believed. Highly recommended. I’m debating whether to finally purchase the film at Deep Discount’s unbelievably cheap Buy One Get One Free Criterion sale currently in progress.
Monday July 21
2:30 PM The First Time (Tashlin, 1952) – BW-89 mins. – What a nice coincidence that a film so named would actually be Frank Tashlin’s initial feature directing credit. Though he’d done re-shoots on The Lemon Drop Kid with Bob Hope the year before, he didn’t receive an on screen mention for it. With Son of Paleface, also with Hope, and this picture, Tashlin broke into feature comedies outright. Robert Cummings and Barbara Hale star as a married couple “hilariously” struggling through her first pregnancy and ensuing birth, hence the risqué-riffic title. It’s a Columbia/Sony title and not on DVD. Incidentally, TCM is showing a ton of stuff not on DVD this afternoon, most of which I’m not interested in, though Jack Carson in a movie called The Good Humor Man (6:00 AM) sounds like a pretty decent backup plan.
Tuesday July 22
8:00 PM Night Must Fall (Thorpe, 1937) – BW-116 mins. – Back a couple of years ago (three maybe?), TCM anointed Robert Montgomery star of the month and I tried to catch his crime-related films because I’d enjoyed Ride the Pink Horse so much a few years ago. I watched Lady in the Lake and liked it more than the consensus so I was then anxious to visit Night Must Fall. The film earned Montgomery an Oscar nomination for playing a drifter who’s hired by an older lady only to have his true identity revealed to be…something sinister. The problem is it’s very stagy, owing to its basis as a play, and completely missing any suspense. Montgomery is good, notwithstanding his accent, but the film hasn’t aged well. Rosalind Russell co-stars, and gets the night to herself. None of the seven films being shown are on DVD, including three more starring Montgomery. Night Must Fall was made for MGM and is now controlled by Warner Bros.
10:00 PM The Velvet Touch (Gage, 1948) – BW-97 mins. – Another one of those seven is this title, also listed as a suspense thriller. The director, Jack Gage, doesn’t have much going for him since this was his only time helming a feature, but anytime you get Sydney Greenstreet in support the cinematic ground automatically firms up a little. The plot seems to concern Russell as a Broadway actress who accidentally kills her producer (played by Leon Ames). Claire Trevor plays a rival who may also be a suspect and Greenstreet is the police captain. As mentioned, it’s unavailable on DVD and was made for RKO, making it a Warner Bros. property.
Thursday July 24
12:00 PM 711 Ocean Drive (Newman, 1950) – BW-102 mins. – I know one or two readers must’ve seen this film noir, but I haven’t and, further, I just watched the same director’s Dangerous Crossing last week without much enthusiasm. Edmond O’Brien plays a telephone repairman in Los Angeles who gets involved with a bookie and some gangsters and murder and the usual. Joanne Dru, probably best known for Red River, though she was also in John Ford’s Wagon Master and All the King’s Men around the same time, co-stars. Sony controls the DVD rights and there’s actually some forum fodder that several of their classics along this line will see the light of day, as early as next year.
9:30 PM Confessions of a Nazi Spy (Litvak, 1939) – BW-104 mins. – In celebration of the 100th anniversary of the FBI (which is actually a bit erroneous since the Bureau wasn’t christened as such until the 1930s), TCM has a slate of movies lined up for tonight dealing with the government agents. I’ve thought about trying to join the FBI before actually, but always thought better of it. That will probably continue and then I’ll be too old in a few years and so forth. Anyway, this movie somewhat improbably stars Edward G. Robinson as a G-Man who infiltrates a Nazi spy ring. George Sanders and Paul Lukas co-star. Anatole Litvak directs. It was made for Warner Bros. and is not on DVD.
1:15 AM Walk a Crooked Mile (Douglas, 1948) – BW-91 mins. – Take your pick between this, Walk East on Beacon! at 11:30 PM, and Down Three Dark Streets at 3:45 AM. All are more FBI-oriented movies. Dennis O’Keefe stars as an agent who pairs with Scotland Yard investigator Louis Hayward to stop security leaks from a California nuclear plant. Carl Esmond and Raymond Burr lead the supporting cast while Reed Hadley (Sam Fuller’s Jesse James) narrates to give everything a docudrama feel. Another Columbia picture, though I’m not entirely sure they still have the rights. I didn’t find a DVD release for this one.
Saturday July 26
12:30 PM Western Union (Lang, 1941) – C-95 mins. – Randolph Scott, Robert Young, and Dean Jagger in Fritz Lang’s second western, this one about the trials of implementing telegraph lines. It’s available from Optimum in the UK, but not yet on R1 DVD. Fox made the film and should still have the rights.
2:00 AM Rope (Hitchcock, 1948) – C-81 mins. – Available on DVD from Universal, but bear with me here. When I was a kid, there was no Turner Classic Movies. My cable company didn’t carry TNT. I didn’t have any premium movie channels. TBS mostly still showed crap back then like they do now; it was just older, testosterone-heavy crap. The saving grace in my formative days was A&E, which aired old movies during the day and also on weekend nights. That channel liked to show Rope and I liked to watch it. The commercial interruptions sort of take you out of the film, but its length was otherwise perfect for the short attention span of youth. So if you take out the ads, as TCM will, I think Hitchcock’s film is really more perfect for television than DVD or video because it ideally should be seen in one uninterrupted sitting (as all movies should, but some are harder than others to accomplish this with). I’m pretty sure it was the first time I’d seen a Hitchcock or a Jimmy Stewart movie and I still have a nice place reserved for the film.
Sunday July 27
10:00 AM High Sierra (Walsh, 1941) – BW-100 mins. – Also easy to find on Warner Bros.’ DVD, but it’s my favorite of Raoul Walsh’s films and there’s not a lot else going on this week. Probably as important to Humphrey Bogart’s career as any film he made, High Sierra established the actor as a leading man movie star and also began the vital link he had with John Huston, who wrote the script from W.R. Burnett’s novel. The Maltese Falcon would then follow later the same year. Something I really like about High Sierra is how it plays with the gangster genre, climaxing in a breathtaking outdoor manhunt, while also serving up a protagonist made sympathetic by Huston’s writing and Bogart’s acting. His absolute best roles (here, but also Falcon, Casablanca, Sierra Madre, In a Lonely Place) are shaded in more grey than any other movie star’s. The characters are flawed, surprisingly charismatic, and varying degrees of likable, but we always care about them.
Tuesday July 29
1:00 PM Double Harness (Cromwell, 1933) – BW-69 mins. – Believed to be lost until recently, and first shown on TCM in April of last year, the film stars William Powell and Ann Harding as an unhappily ever after newly married couple. Several RKO pictures were unearthed at the same time and I don’t think any have yet made it onto DVD. Warner Bros. is in charge of R1 rights.
4:45 AM Mrs. Pollifax–Spy (Martinson, 1971) – C-110 mins. – From the popular series of books about an older lady who improbably joins the CIA. Rosalind Russell stars and also received final screenplay credit under a pen name. The director is Leslie H. Martinson, whose work you may know because he not only made the Cliff Robertson as JFK picture PT 109, but, also, the Adam West Batman film! Darren McGavin co-stars with Russell, whose last role this was. The film was released by United Artists theatrically, giving MGM its rights now. It isn’t on DVD.
Wednesday July 30
10:45 AM The Old Dark House (Whale, 1932) – BW-72 mins. – I’ve been going through Universal’s most recent release of the original The Mummy so it’s a nice coincidence for TCM to air another of the studio’s horror films from the same year and with Boris Karloff. This one has James Whale re-teaming with Karloff after the huge success of Frankenstein the year before. The supporting cast, including Melvyn Douglas, Charles Laughton, and Gloria Stuart, isn’t bad either. It’s on DVD from Kino.
1:45 AM This Could Be the Night (Wise, 1957) – BW-104 mins. – Robert Wise comedy about a teacher who takes a secretary job at a night club run by gangsters. Jean Simmons stars, with Paul Douglas, Anthony Franciosa, and Joan Blondell in support. Made for MGM, it’s Warner Bros.’ film to release now, but nothing doing yet on DVD.
Thursday July 31
8:00 PM Monte Walsh (Fraker, 1970) – C-99 mins. – I caught this during FSLC’s Lee Marvin retrospective last summer and it’s a pretty good, early ’70s kind of western. Certainly worth releasing on DVD, though I’m not sure which studio controls the film. (Fox released on VHS, but Warner Bros. has the Tom Selleck remake.) Marvin is a behind-the-times cowboy, with Jeanne Moreau his casual lover and Jack Palance his friend. Marvin and Moreau together is an interesting combination and Palance’s role is somewhat atypical of the actor’s usual tough guy parts. Mitch Ryan plays the young bad guy and was sitting in the back row of the screening I attended, just enjoying the movie. He probably doesn’t have a copy of it either.
Friday August 1
6:00 AM Two-Headed Spy (De Toth, 1958) – BW-93 mins. – I saw De Toth’s Day of the Outlaw, released just after this film, not long ago. It wasn’t hardly on par with Crime Wave, but a fairly good film all the same. Two-Headed Spy concerns a British agent (Jack Hawkins) who inserts himself into a command position with the Nazi military during WWII. Michael Caine has a brief appearance, in one of his earliest film roles. Kicking off TCM’s star a day month of August, Caine gets the whole day to himself. Released by Columbia, the film isn’t on DVD (at least in R1; nothing showed up for the UK either).
4:30 AM The Destructors (Parrish, 1974) – C-89 mins. – Also (and perhaps more popularly) known as The Marseille Contract. The plot concerns a U.S. federal agent trying to take down a drug lord, and ultimately hiring a contract killer to do the job. It’s all about the cast as far as I’m concerned. Anthony Quinn is the agent, James Mason is the baddie, and Michael Caine is the hit man. Plus Maurice Ronet and Alexandra Stewart, both from Louis Malle’s The Fire Within, appear. I don’t care about the 5.4 rating at IMDb, but my expectations are placed accordingly. American International Pictures is listed as original U.S. distributor and the film isn’t on DVD. Some of the company’s productions are now controlled by MGM, but I’m unsure about this one specifically.
Sunday August 3
12:00 PM Days of Glory (Tourneur, 1944) – BW-86 mins. – The film debut of Gregory Peck, directed by Jacques Tourneur, and with a concept inadvertently not lending itself to patriotic fervor in the U.S. in the years following its release. Peck immediately got a starring role as a member of Russian guerrilla forces fighting back a Nazi invasion. I can’t imagine, as the Cold War blanketed the nation, that Americans would have been very perceptive to the film considering it made heroes (not undeservedly) out of our enemies. It was originally put out by RKO, and should be controlled by Warner Bros. in R1. There’s already a French disc available from Éditions Montparnasse.
10:15 PM Man with a Million (Neame, 1953) – C-89 mins. – Known in the UK as The Million Pound Note, Ronald Neame’s film takes a Mark Twain story about that old adage “it takes money to make money” and spins it for an hour and a half. Peck stars as a poor American in 1903 England who becomes part of a wager between two wealthy brothers, with one claiming the mere presence of a million pound note will allow Peck to thrive while another believes he must spend it. Amazon UK has something from Granada that seems out of print, but nothing is listed in R1. United Artists is listed as original distributor here, though I’m not sure if they still have the film’s rights.
Monday August 4
10:00 PM Min and Bill (Hill, 1930) – BW-66 mins. – Marie Dressler is not a name easily recognized, and I mostly know of her because she co-starred with Chaplin in Tillie’s Punctured Romance (airing at 8:00 AM) and won the fourth Best Actress Oscar ever awarded, for this film. Dressler is Min and Wallace Beery plays Bill. The waterfront-set plot revolves around a young woman, Nancy, raised by Min and their desire to find her a better place to live. Not on DVD, it was made by MGM, thus giving Warner Bros. the rights. What has happened in WB-land this year? Their releases have been sporadic at best and often of middling interest.
Tuesday August 5
4:30 AM Lady with Red Hair (Bernhardt, 1940) – BW-78 mins. – You can’t just let a full day of Claude Rains movies go unmentioned. Several of the ones TCM is airing have been previous picks (They Won’t Forget and The Unsuspected), but my knowledge of this film is limited. It seems to be a biography of Leslie Carter, who gets divorced in Chicago amid scandal only to come to New York City with hopes of being a Broadway star. Producer David Belasco (who now has a theatre named in his honor on the Great White Way) takes the bait. Miriam Hopkins is Carter and Rains is Belasco. It’s a Warner Bros. picture and not on DVD.
Wednesday August 6
8:00 AM The Naked Street (Shane, 1955) – BW-85 mins. – Some interesting picks by the TCM folks today. It really calls attention to the fact that Bancroft’s earlier, pre-Graduate films aren’t much on DVD. Nightfall, Seven Women, The Pumpkin Eater are among those I’m talking about here. The Girl in Black Stockings, airing at 11:00 AM and from 1957, also sounds like it has potential and seems rarely shown. As for The Naked Street, it got the nudge because of its noir elements and strong cast. Anthony Quinn stars as a mobster who makes sure that the guy who impregnated his little sister (Bancroft) gets off death row. Farley Granger is Mr. Death Row and Peter Graves is billed fourth. Writer/director Maxwell Shane only helmed five films, with one of the others being The Glass Wall starring Gloria Grahame and Vittorio Gassman. The Naked Street is a U/A picture, giving MGM the rights for a DVD release not yet realized.
Thursday August 7
2:00 AM Two Faced Woman (Cukor, 1941) – BW-90 mins. – Even though she lived almost fifty years more, this was to be Greta Garbo’s final film. She was reunited with Melvyn Douglas from Lubitsch’s Ninotchka for another round of comedy, but the success was much more modest. Garbo plays a ski instructor who quickly marries Douglas, and then sees him with ex-flame Constance Bennett. Garbo then impersonates/creates a twin sister to try and win Douglas back. Trite, yes, but it’s still Garbo and her elusiveness afterwards probably makes the picture more interesting now than it was upon release. Picking on Warner Bros. again, but they control this one and I wonder when/if the next set of Garbo releases should be expected. It’s been almost three years since the Signature Collection set came out and nothing since.
Friday August 8
7:45 AM Mister Buddwing (Mann, 1966) – BW-99 mins. – I’m disappointed the kids at IMDb seem so averse to this film (5.8 rating), though it could be justified as I’ve never seen it. I suppose I’m let down with the idea that a movie starring James Garner that has an interesting premise would be underwhelming. Here he plays an amnesiac who walks around New York City confronting various women (Jean Simmons, Suzanne Pleshette, Katharine Ross, Angela Lansbury) as he tries to figure out who he is. Strange that Garner also played a man who loses his memory in 36 Hours (airing at 4:15 PM), which unfortunately is not as good as it should be. That’s the fate I’m afraid this one may have also, though I’ll be sure to tune in and find out because it’s not on DVD. MGM originally distributed, and Warner Bros. should now control.
12:30 PM The Wheeler Dealers (Hiller, 1963) – C-106 mins. – Just a year before The Americanization of Emily (airing at 3:00 AM), my pick for Garner’s best film, the actor teamed up with director Arthur Hiller for this comedy about a Texas oil tycoon on a business trip to New York City. There he meets and romances a stock analyst (Lee Remick). Phil Harris, Chill Wills, and Jim Backus add support as older tycoons. A DVD of this would be nice, also, and it’s another MGM released/WB controlled title. A Garner set would seem to be an obvious possibility. Cash McCall, which is apparently in the works as part of a Natalie Wood box, follows at 2:30 PM.
11:30 PM They Only Kill Their Masters (Goldstone, 1972) – C-98 mins. – This sounds the least promising of these four Garner pictures, but I’d imagine it’s not easily seen. The TCM description really does let you know what you’re in for here: “A small-town sheriff attempts to clear a Doberman of murder charges.” I’m reminded of Sam Fuller’s White Dog without the racial aspect or, most likely, the merit. The supporting cast is at least eclectic, featuring Katharine Ross, Hal Holbrook, June Allyson, Edmond O’Brien, Tom Ewell, and Peter Lawford among many others. More MGM/WB, more unavailability.
1:15 AM Marlowe (Bogart, 1969) – C-97 mins. – James Garner as Philip Marlowe, directed by a guy whose last name, coincidentally, is Bogart. The story is based on Raymond Chandler’s The Little Sister, the fifth Marlowe book, and the screenplay was written by Stirling Silliphant. The film suffers from viewer recognition of Hawks’ The Big Sleep and Altman’s The Long Goodbye, two very different portrayals of the character that each work better than this one. It’s not really Garner’s fault. He does a pretty good job and fans of the detective will want to see his version. Watching this airing might be the best way to do so, as this film is also not on DVD. It too was made for MGM, with Warner Bros. now in charge of the rights. (See? A Garner set is right here, ready to go.)
Saturday August 9
10:15 PM The Lady Is Willing (Leisen, 1942) – BW-92 mins. – Mitchell Leisen’s follow-up to Hold Back the Dawn, starring Fred MacMurray and Marlene Dietrich. My distrust in Leisen is sprinkled throughout several reviews now so I’ll just let whatever merits can be found here speak for themselves. The plot follows Broadway actress Dietrich as she finds a baby, but can’t adopt it unless she’s married. Enter doctor MacMurray. Were there abandoned babies flying out of nowhere at this time? 1939’s Bachelor Mother also has a woman (Ginger Rogers) finding a baby. The Lady Is Willing was made for Columbia and isn’t on DVD in R1. It can be found in the R2 Dietrich set, and there’s also a Spanish standalone release.
Monday August 11
12:30 PM A Prize of Gold (Robson, 1955) – C-98 mins. – Seemingly little-known Richard Widmark movie about a U.S. military officer who helps a refugee (Mai Zetterling) in postwar Berlin. Stolen gold is involved. This movie hardly even exists on IMDb, with no reviews or plot synopsis and only 42 votes. It was released theatrically by Columbia and isn’t on DVD (nor was it apparently on VHS).
2:30 PM Time Limit (Malden, 1957) – BW-97 mins. – Karl Malden’s only directing credit. It sounds Paths of Glory-ish, with a plot involving military officers, court-martial, and apparent innocence. Widmark is the military investigator and BAFTA-nominated Richard Basehart is the Major accused of treason. June Lockhart, Martin Balsam, and a young Rip Torn also appear. The film is a United Artists release, and should be controlled by MGM. It’s not on DVD. Run for the Sun, which just came out on R2 DVD but isn’t yet available in R1, follows at 4:30 PM.
9:30 PM Take the High Ground! (Brooks, 1953) – C-101 mins. – First and foremost, Pickup on South Street airs just previous at 8:00 PM. If you’ve not seen that, Criterion’s DVD is one of their best lower-priced efforts, but just seeing the film is preferable to missing it altogether. Richard Brooks’ military boot camp drama finds Widmark as a tough drill sergeant (is there any other kind?) whipping young recruits into shape for the war in Korea. Karl Malden co-stars as his colleague. The film did pick up an Oscar nomination for story and screenplay, where it lost, along with The Naked Spur and The Band Wagon, to Titanic. It was made for MGM, but rights holder Warner Bros. hasn’t released a DVD yet.
Tuesday August 12
10:30 AM Phffft! (Robson, 1954) – BW-88 mins. – Silly name for a pretty good movie. Judy Holliday actually is the star and Kim Novak is a little further down, with Jack Lemmon second-billed in an early role. Jack and Judy are a married couple who decide to divorce, but ultimately…well take a guess. Take a minute and admire George Axelrod’s screenplay. I’d like to read more about him, as he adapted The Manchurian Candidate and Breakfast at Tiffany’s, wrote the original plays of The Seven Year Itch and The Girl Can’t Help It, and both wrote and directed Lord Love a Duck. The best one of those is what seemingly doesn’t belong. Phffft! was made for Columbia and isn’t on DVD.
2:00 PM The Notorious Landlady (Quine, 1962) – BW-123 mins. – Another Novak-Lemmon pairing, this time set in London, though starring three Americans as Americans. He’s a diplomat who rents from and falls for her, not knowing people think she killed her husband. His boss, played by Fred Astaire, tries to set things right. The script was by Blake Edwards and Larry Gelbart, from a Margery Sharp story. Sharp also wrote the source material for Cluny Brown and The Rescuers. Quite anxious to see this one. It’s not on DVD, with rights controlled by Sony. So many of Novak’s films are unavailable, and another one I thought sounded interesting is Five Against the House, directed by Phil Karlson and airing at 9:45 PM this evening.
1:30 AM The Legend of Lylah Clare (Aldrich, 1968) – C-130 mins. – It’s been several months since TCM last aired this. I caught a glimpse when it was on, but fell asleep and have been waiting for another showing. Novak plays an unknown actress hired by Peter Finch’s director to play a movie star of the past named Lylah Clare. Things get strange, but I was intrigued by what I saw. For someone with a tough guy reputation, Robert Aldrich could really direct women. This film is controlled by Warner Bros., having been made for MGM, and it’s not available on DVD.
Wednesday August 13
3:30 PM Background to Danger (Walsh, 1943) – BW-80 mins. – An entire day of Peter Lorre movies may never have happened anywhere else on any other channel. The international setting and the presence of Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet immediately bring to mind Casablanca, but at least the pedigree is there. The film was directed by Raoul Walsh and the screenplay was adapted by W.R. Burnett from Eric Ambler’s novel. IMDb even lists William Faulkner as an uncredited writer. It’s set in Turkey, and George Raft plays the American in the middle. Something to do with Germans and Russians and maps. Brenda Marshall is Lorre’s sister in the film. Not on DVD, and made by Warner Bros.
5:00 PM Quicksand (Pichel, 1950) – BW-79 mins. – I don’t think I’m alone here, but picturing Mickey Rooney in a film noir seems all wrong. The plot of a guy who takes $20 from his employer so he can pay for a date, only to get increasingly in debt trying to pay back the original amount, is a perfect noir idea. Putting Rooney as the protagonist makes less sense. Regardless, I’ll be watching and I’m sure Lorre’s turn will be a highlight. Quicksand was originally released by United Artists, but appears to have slipped into the public domain. Several cheap releases are available, plus an expensive one from Image, in R1, but I’m not sure on quality. One of Lorre’s better films, the unavailable The Mask of Dimitrios, airs later in the night, at 12:15 AM.
Friday August 15
1:30 PM The Money Trap (Kennedy, 1966) – BW-96 mins. – Fifth and final star pairing of Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth, though Rita is apparently not in the film very much. The other four are also sprinkled throughout today’s schedule, including The Lady in Question at 3:00 AM. TCM describes the plot as: “A cop with financial problems turns crooked.” Joseph Cotten and Elke Sommer co-star. The Money Trap would seem maybe the rarest of the Ford-Hayworth films, even if it may also be the least, so that’s why I latched onto it. Gilda and The Loves of Carmen are currently available in R1, with Affair in Trinidad forthcoming. This one’s from MGM, currently owned by Warner Bros. but the other four are all Columbia.
Monday August 18
9:15 AM Ten Seconds to Hell (Aldrich, 1959) – BW-93 mins. – Half a dozen German soldiers return to Berlin at the end of WWII to dispose of bombs amid highly dangerous conditions. Palance and Jeff Chandler lead the group. Certainly this is the kind of material Robert Aldrich excelled at, foreshadowing The Dirty Dozen by a few years. The potential for tension is enormous. Though it was released by United Artists in the U.S., the film was apparently produced by Hammer Films. It’s not on DVD, to my knowledge.
4:30 PM Once a Thief (Nelson, 1965) – BW-106 mins. – Alain Delon’s presence ups the intrigue. He’s joined by Palance, Ann-Margret, and Van Heflin in a typical noirish story. Delon is an ex-con with a family, trying to go straight, etc. No relation to the John Woo film of the same name (though Chow Yun-Fat was sort of the Hong Kong version of Delon). This one was made for MGM, should now be controlled by Warner Bros., but isn’t on DVD.
6:30 PM Second Chance (Maté, 1953) – C-82 mins. – Robert Mitchum, Linda Darnell, and Jack Palance? Does the plot really matter? Unfortunately, this was designed to be seen in 3-D, a gimmick that doesn’t breed confidence in overall quality of the material. The Mexican-set movie still has my interest, but it may not be as good as the three leads would indicate. Without looking into it very much, I also wonder if Howard Hughes might have tinkered with the picture since it was made for RKO. His changes rarely improved coherence. The film’s not on DVD and its rights are held by Warner Bros. in R1.
Tuesday August 19
11:15 AM Forbidden (Capra, 1932) – BW-85 mins. – A day full of Stanwyck and I feel limited to just a couple of choices. Many of the films being shown aren’t on DVD so fans of hers may want to consult the channel’s schedule. This pre-Code movie is usually considered the least compelling of the Capra-Stanwyck collaborations, but it still has some charm. The story spans 20 years, with Stanwyck’s Lulu falling for a married district attorney played by Adolphe Menjou. The film’s title hints at some of its supposed tawdriness. Made for Columbia, there’s no DVD available in R1 and, I think, this title is absent elsewhere as well. It’s not in the R2 Stanwyck that contains The Miracle Woman and The Bitter Tea of General Yen.
8:00 PM The Locked Door (Fitzmaurice, 1929) – BW-74 mins. – A must-see for Stanwyck fans (which presumably explains the time slot) because it was her first leading role, and regarded by her as a debut film. She’d previously only had a small part in a silent movie called Broadway Nights. With art direction by William Cameron Menzies. The film was put out by United Artists, but I’d guess it’s now in the public domain. A couple of other interesting Stanwyck pictures, Witness to Murder at 11:15 PM and B.F.’s Daughter at 4:00 AM, air later in the night.
Thursday August 21
9:00 AM The Bribe (Leonard, 1949) – BW-98 mins. – The lovely Ms Gardner is joined by Robert Taylor, Charles Laughton, Vincent Price and John Hodiak in a sweaty, Central American-flavored noir (noir-lite?). Taylor is a federal agent, initially narrating in flashback, on the trail of stolen plane motors. He runs into married couple Hodiak and Gardner, and is attracted to Ava. The film was made for MGM, but hasn’t been released on DVD by rightsholder Warner Bros.
4:45 AM My Forbidden Past (Stevenson, 1951) – BW-70 mins. – Ava is in love with doctor Robert Mitchum, but their marriage plans are interrupted after a secret is uncovered. Melvyn Douglas co-stars. The film is set in 1880s New Orleans and is another of Howard Hughes’ RKO hackjobs. Seventy minutes, really? And why does IMDb list 81 minutes for the UK version? Though it’s not out in R1, a French Éditions Montparnasse release is available. Check out Mitchum in his white suit on that cover.
Friday August 22
8:30 AM The Golden Salamander (Neame, 1949) – BW-96 mins. – This is an excellent week on TCM so I’m somewhat surprised to find myself picking three titles from Trevor Howard day. He’s joined by Anouk Aimée and Herbert Lom in Ronald Neame’s foreign intrigue crime drama. Howard is an archaeologist working in Tunisia, where he encounters a criminal syndicate. The film was released by Eagle-Lion Classics in the U.S. so where does that place it now rights-wise? Well, Eagle-Lion Classics was the product of a merger between J. Arthur Rank’s Eagle-Lion Films and Film Classics. The library of their output was purchased by United Artists so MGM most likely holds the R1 rights to The Golden Salamander. It doesn’t seem to be on DVD anywhere in the world.
8:00 PM Outcast of the Islands (Reed, 1951) – BW-102 mins. – Another rare Trevor Howard movie, this Carol Reed adventure was the director’s follow-up to The Third Man. It’s based on a Joseph Conrad novel centered on betrayal and destruction. There are also some cannibalistic bits thrown in for good measure. Ralph Richardson headlines, with a noted performance from Robert Morley and Wendy Hiller in further support. It’s not on DVD, but I’m really not sure what outfit controls the rights in R1. Warner Home Video released a VHS version in the UK.
2:00 AM The Passionate Friends (Lean, 1949) – BW-95 mins. – Howard reunited with his Brief Encounter director David Lean for this H.G. Wells adaptation. Ann Todd plays a woman who again finds Howard’s professor character, the man she’d once loved, and their tortuous feelings of romance are scandalously rekindled despite her marriage to the older Claude Rains. (!) This was one of the titles announced for R1 DVD release by MGM a few years ago, but abruptly canceled. It’s still not in R1, but ITV has a new edition due on September 15th in R2, which is probably the same disc found in their David Lean Collection and Centenary Collection sets. Again, I couldn’t say who has the rights in R1, though the film is currently touring as part of a Lean retrospective. It will be at Film Forum in New York City on September 16.
Sunday August 24
7:30 AM Let Us Live (Brahm, 1939) – BW-68 mins. – Fonda plays one of two men convicted and sentenced to death for a murder they didn’t commit. Maureen O’Sullivan and Ralph Bellamy work to catch the real killer before the sentence is carried out. I’ve enjoyed some of director John Brahm’s other work so this might be worth a look. Based on a true story, the film is not on DVD. It was made for Columbia.
2:00 AM Welcome to Hard Times (Kennedy, 1967) – C-103 mins. – I was really interested to see that E.L. Doctorow, noted author of Ragtime and other historical novels, wrote the source book for this film, which was adapted and directed by Burt Kennedy. Fonda plays a weak town mayor who allows a violent stranger to wreak havoc, struggling to maintain any sense of order as a result. The plot itself doesn’t sound particularly unique in the western genre, but Fonda excelled at this kind of role. Several well-known faces and names are in the cast, including Keenan Wynn, Aldo Ray, and Warren Oates. Looks to be a Warner Bros. title now, via MGM. It’s not on DVD.
4:00 AM Wanda Nevada (Fonda, 1979) – C-107 mins. – As of now, this is Peter Fonda’s last directed film (only his third total). He got his father to play an old prospector. It’s a small role, but TCM has used it as a welcome excuse to air the film on Henry Fonda day. Brooke Shields actually plays the title role here, a young orphan won in a poker game by star Peter Fonda. A little Paper Moon-ish, maybe? The movie’s reputation is quite poor, and probably a big reason as to why Fonda hasn’t directed since. A DVD was released in Spain, but nothing yet in R1. The original American distributor was United Artists so MGM should control home video rights.
Monday August 25
6:00 AM Stromboli (Rossellini, 1950) – BW-107 mins. – The first of five straight collaborations between Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini. The scandal that erupted was perhaps the most notorious adultery-related episode to ever hit Hollywood. I’ve seen the second of their films, Europa ‘51, but not this one, and it’s been a little while since TCM aired it. Ingrid is a refugee who marries an Italian fisherman and has difficulty adjusting to the titular town and its volcano. Something to keep in mind is that TCM lists 107 minutes as the runtime, yet they only devote 105 minutes in the schedule. IMDb has a U.S. version at just 81 minutes, presumably done by Howard Hughes at RKO, though surely this will be longer than that. (I believe there’s also an Italian language version that’s shorter than the advertised 107 minutes.) I’ll probably pad the recording times a few minutes to be sure. The film may be on DVD somewhere in the world (Italy?), but I’m not sure where. It’s not been released in R1. Despite RKO originally distributing in the U.S., I believe Criterion actually will be the ones to release these Rossellini-Bergman films on DVD.
12:30 PM Rage in Heaven (Van Dyke, 1941) – BW-85 mins. – Still here? This one sounds interesting because it stars a young Ingrid and Robert Montgomery, with George Sanders in support. The plot is also intriguing – Montgomery plots to fake his own death in order to implicate his wife’s lover Sanders. I can smell the stench of mediocrity and somehow I don’t care too much. I’d still like to see it. Made for MGM, it’s not on DVD and should be controlled by Warner Bros.
3:30 AM The Yellow Rolls-Royce (Asquith, 1964) – C-123 mins. – How did Anthony Asquith, directed of films like A Cottage on Dartmoor, The Browning Version, and The V.I.P.’s, end up making this, his last film? At least it’s worth watching for an unbelievable cast that includes Bergman, Rex Harrison, Jeanne Moreau, Shirley MacLaine, George C. Scott, Omar Sharif, Alain Delon, and, wait for it, Art Carney! The gimmicky plot concerns the car of the title and three different sets of owners, focusing mostly on their heartbreak along the way. Another MGM release, not yet put onto DVD by Warner Bros.
Tuesday August 26
2:00 AM One Is a Lonely Number (Stuart, 1972) – C-97 mins. – Golden Globe-nominated Trish Van Devere stars as a woman whose husband leaves her, causing the new divorcee to rebuild her own life. Janet Leigh and Melvyn Douglas are there in support. As an aside, Douglas is listed at 111 acting credits and his final movie was released in 1982, a year after he died. I half-expect him to pop up in everything now. One Is a Lonely Number was directed by Mel Stuart, who seemed to work mostly in nonfiction and whose name I recognized because he also did I Love My Wife starring Elliott Gould. This was yet another MGM and, now, Warner Bros. title, and is not on DVD.
Wednesday August 27
10:15 PM Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick, 1957) – BW-96 mins. – Nearly all the Curtis films TCM is showing today are on DVD so I almost picked Boeing Boeing (at 5:00 PM) just because it’s not available, but then I wised up. Sweet Smell of Success is a special film and despite other movies that might be looked at as similar, there’s really nothing else like it. Curtis is such a weaselly whipping boy, and Burt Lancaster plays a character more repulsive than 90% of screen murderers. When I watched Atlantic City the other day, I was thinking about Lancaster’s performance here and how complete of a career the guy had. I still have this nagging feeling that he’s a bit underrated. And this movie is the kind you can easily watch once a year and never get tired of it. The MGM DVD is completely bare save for a trailer.
Thursday August 28
7:30 AM The Buccaneer (Quinn, 1958) – C-120 mins. – This isn’t really something I’m interested in, but I was surprised to find it’s not easily available on DVD (and I was looking for some filler). Of note, it was the only film Anthony Quinn directed and he’s not in the cast. It was a remake of the 1938 DeMille original starring Fredric March as Jean Lafitte. Yul Brynner takes over this time and is joined by Claire Bloom, Charles Boyer, Inger Stevens and Charlton Heston as Andrew Jackson. If you like actual pirates and stories about the War of 1812, this could be your movie. It was done for and should still be owned by Paramount.
Friday August 29
6:00 AM The Fugitive Kind (Lumet, 1960) – BW-121 mins. – Here’s a somewhat off-the-wall pick, but I’ve been interested in seeing this for awhile without actually taking the plunge. If anyone’s familiar with the film, feel free to chime in with advice. The pros, for me, are Sidney Lumet, Brando, Anna Magnani, and Joanne Woodward. However, many of those are the cons, as well, with both Brando and Magnani being inconsistently tolerable. It’s also written and adapted by Tennessee Williams, whose work I’ve never enjoyed. So I don’t know what to think, really. Drifters and lusty women in the south rarely interest me in Williams’ stories. The alternative to this broadcast is a DVD from MGM available in R1, which DVD Beaver chastised for having no supplements and not being enhanced for widescreen televisions.
Sunday August 31
11:30 PM A Man’s Castle (Borzage, 1933) – BW-69 mins. – I’ve heard excellent things about this film, which had been on the July schedule at one point only to be nixed before air. Spencer Tracy stars as a Deperession-era man with no job. After getting girlfriend Loretta Young pregnant (a reminder of the film’s pre-Code origin), he turns to crime. Tracy and Young really were a couple after meeting on the set (despite her being just 20 to his 33). From what I’ve read on the film and about Borzage’s delicate romanticism, it seems like a major outing. An early Columbia picture, A Man’s Castle is not on DVD. (I’m bothered by TCM’s 69 minutes of promised runtime versus the 75 in IMDb’s listing, especially since TCM originally had the latter.)