Tuesday September 1
4:00 PM Escape from East Berlin (Siodmak, 1962) – BW-89 mins. – Director Robert Siodmak gets you in the door and then we’ll have to see if it’s worth sticking around for the movie. I believe it’s based on a true story where a group of people dug a tunnel underneath the Berlin Wall, an event which took place earlier in the year of the film’s release. Don Murray stars as an East German. Werner Klemperer is in the cast too and actually listed as also doing the casting on the film. It was shot in Berlin, at a time when Siodmak had already finished his stint working in Hollywood. Like too many of Siodmak’s films, this is not available on DVD. It was released theatrically by MGM so Warner Bros. should now have the rights.
Thursday September 3
12:00 PM The Man in the Net (Curtiz, 1959) – BW-97 mins. – One of Michael Curtiz’s last films, this “suspense-charged” drama finds artist Alan Ladd being accused by his new Connecticut neighbors after his alcoholic wife (Carolyn Jones) disappears. Help comes in the unlikely form of the neighborhood kids. Mirisch Productions made the film with United Artists releasing. MGM should control now, though it hasn’t been released on DVD. More movies starring Alan Ladd follow, including The Blue Dahlia at 2:00 PM.
Friday September 4
8:30 AM Behind the Rising Sun (Dmytryk, 1943) – BW-88 mins. – TCM is really focusing on director Edward Dmytryk today, the anniversary of his birth, with all 8 features in the daytime schedule having been helmed by the former blacklistee and eventual namer of names. The remarkable thing is that none of these films set to air have DVD releases in R1. Cornered, a noir with Dick Powell scheduled for 2:15 PM, might be the best known, but otherwise the selection is of fairly overlooked works. Behind the Rising Sun sounded interesting because its cast includes Margo (recognizable to fans of Tourneur’s The Leopard Man), Tom Neal (from Detour), J. Carrol Naish, and Robert Ryan, in a supporting part. The plot is listed as: “A Japanese publisher urges his American-educated son to side with the Axis.” Naish never met an ethnicity he didn’t like and he plays the Japanese publisher, but it’s more surprising to find Neal as the son. Russell Metty did the cinematography. The film can be had in R2 from the French Editions Montparnasse label.
Sunday September 6
10:00 PM Nickelodeon (Bogdanovich, 1976) – C-122 mins. – If you look back at the films Peter Bogdanovich made in the 1970s, and not all can be easily seen right now, they typically either take place decades earlier or act as a somewhat modern homage to a time from the past. The inspiration then often comes from Hollywood’s golden age. Nickelodeon, which finally hit R1 DVD earlier this year in both its original color version and a newly created black and white director’s cut, stars Ryan O’Neal as a lawyer who becomes a screenwriter and then a director during the movies’ silent era. The cast also includes Burt Reynolds, Tatum O’Neal, Brian Keith, and Stella Stevens. If you notice a voice that sounds like the cartoon cat Garfield, that would be Lorenzo Music. That DVD release is from Sony and also includes The Last Picture Show.
Monday September 7
6:00 AM The Godless Girl (De Mille, 1929) – BW-119 mins. – A silent from Cecil B. De Mille wherein atheism ruins lives. Lina Basquette (a Warner widow already at just 20 years old) is “The Girl” and ill-fated Marie Prevost is “The Other Girl” while Tom Keene (aka George Duryea) is “The Boy.” When Christianity gets left behind for secret meetings bubbling with godlessness, disaster strikes in the form of a school stairwell and a reformatory fire (with sets designed by Mitchell Leisen). When the film was finally released in 1929 audiences were anxious for talking pictures, and this ended up being De Mille’s final silent. If you miss this showing or just enjoyed it so much you have to own a copy, there is a release in R1 but it’s not a standalone. The Godless Girl is part of the Treasures III: Social Issues in American Film 1900-1934 set, which isn’t cheap but does include lots of other fascinating things from that era.
11:00 AM Uncle Silas (Frank, 1947) – BW-103 mins. – If director Charles Frank’s name doesn’t immediately make any sort of impression, don’t worry, as he only made three features and one of those was in his native Belgium. That leaves the little-seen Intimate Relations (adapted from a Jean Cocteau play) and this film, also known as The Inheritance and starring Jean Simmons and Katina Paxinou. The plot has Simmons’ father dying and her going to live with the title character (Derrick De Marney), who plots with Paxinou’s governess to kill the young woman for her inheritance. Because this was a British film not distributed by a major studio in the U.S., I’m not sure at all as to where the R1 rights would be. It’s not on DVD here or in the UK. There is a Greek R2 import edition that seems to exist. Anthony Mann’s searing French Revolution noir The Black Book follows at 1:00 PM. The eclectic set of films TCM is showing today form a nice tribute to the Telluride Film Festival.
3:45 PM Park Row (Fuller, 1952) – BW-83 mins. – Not the first time TCM has shown Sam Fuller’s self-financed tribute to early newspaper men, but it is the only airing since John Sayles served as guest programmer way back in January 2008. Still no DVD either. I think MGM controls the rights to the film. After Fuller had worked for producer Robert Lippert’s independent production company on his first three films, each doing modestly well, and moved up to Fox for the also successful Fixed Bayonets!, he thought it would be a good time to pour himself into a real passion project about the men, like the lead character played by Gene Evans, who were leading the charge of the press in late 19th century New York City. He couldn’t find any backers so Fuller did the whole thing with his own money, which he failed to make back after the movie underperformed at the box office. He got his picture though, and you can see the drive Fuller had in every frame.
Tuesday September 8
7:15 AM Three Girls About Town (Jason, 1941) – BW-73 mins. – Joan Blondell fans take note: TCM has five of her films airing this morning and none seem to be on DVD. Airing just before this one is Off the Record, a drama also with Pat O’Brien, and three comedies she did with Melvyn Douglas and director Alexander Hall follow. That leaves Joan with Binnie Barnes as sisters working at a hotel who must find a good hiding spot for a dead body in between conventions. Robert Benchley co-stars as the hotel manager. Director Leigh Jason had some experience with kooky dead body films having made The Mad Miss Manton a few years earlier. A Columbia picture, Three Girls About Town has been hidden quite well by the folks at Sony.
1:15 PM The Clay Pigeon (Fleischer, 1949) – BW-63 mins. – How exciting of a day for the Blondell mini-marathon to be followed by this rarely shown Richard Fleischer film noir. A man (played by Bill Williams) awakens from a coma to learn he’s been court-martialed for treason after being in a Japanese prison camp during WWII. Barbara Hale (the future Della Street on Perry Mason) co-stars as a helpful military widow. I’m anxious to finally get to watch this film after seeing it mentioned often over the years. RKO originally released, likely giving Warner Bros. the rights. It’s not on DVD.
8:00 PM Five Fingers (Mankiewicz, 1952) – BW-108 mins. – Or, if you prefer, 5 Fingers. Director Joseph L. Mankiewicz was Oscar-nominated for his work here, as was screenwriter Michael Wilson. The espionage-laden plot sounds rather complicated, and my memory of seeing the film is fuzzy, but TCM’s description mentions that a British valet (James Mason) in Turkey during WWII sells secrets to the Germans. Ophuls’ Madame de… Danielle Darrieux is the female lead. For some reason, the film rarely shows up or gets mentioned. This is Mankiewicz’s centenary year and while a few tributes have popped up, no momentum has crept into the DVD world so far. Fox has the rights here in R1 but hasn’t released the film. In terms of studios failing to realize the potential of catalog DVD releases, Fox has become the new Sony. Even when Fox was very active in that market, the choices were often baffling, and not finding a place for this film or Wild River or Bigger Than Life, just to name a few, makes no sense to me. Optimum has had a more than affordable edition out in the UK for over five years now.
2:00 AM The Naked and the Dead (Walsh, 1958) – C-131 mins. – Raoul Walsh directed the screen version of Norman Mailer’s novel about an Army platoon in the Philippines during World War II. Cliff Robertson is the main character, a lieutenant who serves as an aide to the general played by Raymond Massey. Aldo Ray is the combative sergeant. Had The Night of the Hunter not tanked at the box office, this film might very well have starred Robert Mitchum and been directed by Charles Laughton. Like Five Fingers, it continues the monthlong celebration of composer Bernard Herrmann by TCM. RKO was the intended releasing studio, but Warner Bros. actually distributed the film. The same production company that made The Night of the Hunter was also behind The Naked and the Dead so I’m not certain whether Warner Bros. would have any control in R1 or if, like the Laughton picture, MGM might currently have the rights (though United Artists did distribute Hunter originally). Probably Warner Bros. Either way, it’s unreleased on DVD.
Wednesday September 9
11:15 AM Dial 1119 (Mayer, 1950) – BW-75 mins. – Film noir in the daylight on TCM this Wednesday. Four of the pictures are on DVD in Warner Bros. much-missed noir sets plus there’s Loretta Young in Cause for Alarm which is available from Alpha Video. Dial 1119 is one of a quartet of unreleased-in-R1 movies. It’s a hostage drama, where an ex-mental patient murders a bus driver and then holds the patrons of a bar against their will. Marshall Thompson is the madman, but the cast also includes Andrea King, Sam Levene and William Conrad. Director Gerald Mayer was mostly a television guy. It was made for MGM, meaning Warner Bros. should now have the rights.
4:45 PM While the City Sleeps (Lang, 1956) – BW-100 mins. – It was just a few days ago that TCM showed this newspaper drama directed by Frtiz Lang, but I only mentioned it in passing then as part of Ida Lupino’s day. Dana Andrews is the star, as he was on Lang’s other 1956 film Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, but this is altogether different. While the City Sleeps is a looser, almost sprawling look at the inner workings of a newspaper in turmoil after the publisher dies and his son (Vincent Price) pits three men (James Craig, George Sanders, and Thomas Mitchell) against each other and the clock, with the first to get the scoop on an uncaught serial killer receiving a promotion to run the paper. It’s really an excellent, layered film and not on DVD thanks to, I believe, Warner Bros. A British noir with Maggie Smith, Nowhere to Go, follows at 6:30 PM.
Saturday September 12
7:30 AM Shield for Murder (O’Brien, Koch, 1954) – BW-82 mins. – Edmond O’Brien received co-directing credit and starred in this noir drama as a bad cop in L.A. who’s first seen killing a man before taking $25,000 cash off his dead body. The material has a good pedigree, with novelist William P. McGivern’s work also inspiring The Big Heat and Odds Against Tomorrow and writer John C. Higgins a veteran of several Anthony Mann pictures like T-Men and Raw Deal. The cast also includes John Agar as O’Brien’s partner and Carolyn Jones as an easy blonde. United Artists was the original distributor so MGM probably now has the rights. It doesn’t seem to be on DVD.
Tuesday September 15
10:30 AM See Here, Private Hargrove (Ruggles, 1944) – BW-101 mins. – Hooray for Robert Benchley, who was born this day back in 1889 (120 years ago!). Few character actors of the ’30s and ’40s delight me with their presence more than Benchley. His “How to” shorts are always great fun. TCM is paying tribute to him by airing 7 films he appeared in during today’s lineup. This one stars Robert Walker as the title character, a real life figure whose memoirs form the basis of the picture. His misadventures in the Army make it a comedy and his interest in Donna Reed’s character adds the romance. Keenan Wynn plays a fellow private. MGM released the movie, meaning Warner Bros. now controls it. No DVD has been released.
Wednesday September 16
6:45 PM The Affairs of Martha (Dassin, 1942) – BW-67 mins. – An early Jules Dassin-directed picture for MGM. Marsha Hunt stars as a maid who writes a novel inspired by things she’s seen at work. Scandal erupts. There’s another strand with Richard Carlson as the family son who’d married Martha before going away but now returns with a new would-be wife. And it’s all a comedy! The plot could have been played up as a melodrama just as or even more easily. Warner Bros. would have the rights and the film isn’t on DVD.
11:45 PM Juarez (Dieterle, 1939) – BW-121 mins. – TCM’s description calls this the “[t]rue story of Mexico’s Abraham Lincoln and his fight against Napoleon’s empire.” Gotta love those stretched points of reference. The Sincero Abe here is Paul Muni’s Benito Juarez, who led a revolt against the French-placed Maximilian (Oscar-nominated Brian Aherne) and his wife Carlotta (Bette Davis). The Napoleon mentioned is, of course, not the well known Monsieur Bonaparte since this all happened around the 1860s, but his nephew Louis Napoleon (aka Napoleon III), played in the film by Star of the Month Claude Rains. The cast list goes on and on and also includes John Garfield as Porfirio Diaz, Donald Crisp, Joseph Calleia, and Gale Sondergaard. John Huston was one of the screenwriters. Huston later commented that Muni had “ruined” Juarez because of his insistence on shifting the focus to his character instead of Maximilian and Carlotta. Warner Bros. was the studio behind the picture, though not yet behind a DVD release.
Thursday September 17
7:00 AM Hearts Divided (Borzage, 1936) – BW-76 mins. – Here’s the payoff after watching Juarez because Claude Rains plays Napoleon Bonaparte in this film. The casting takes an odd turn from there, with Dick Powell as Bonaparte sibling Jerome and Marion Davies as his American love Elizabeth Patterson. Charlie Ruggles plays a Senator Henry Ruggles. The director was Frank Borzage. If it seems like Borzage made a lot of pictures in the ’30s it’s because he did. A quick count shows his name on 25 movies just that decade. He did this one for the Warner Bros. and it’s not found its way to DVD so far. A couple more films with Claude Rains, Stolen Holiday co-starring Kay Francis and Lady with Red Hair with Miriam Hopkins, immediately follow.
1:15 PM The Sea of Grass (Kazan, 1947) – BW-124 mins. – This might be Elia Kazan’s most obscure film (after The Visitors, at least), which initially seems peculiar considering it stars Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. It was only Kazan’s second feature. He was under contract at Fox, but it wasn’t an exclusive deal so he was allowed to work at MGM on this project. Production was apparently tenuous, with Kazan initially envisioning the film about land struggles driving a married couple apart as needing to be shot on location, with unfamiliar and hardened faces in the lead roles. The result was instead Tracy and Hepburn on a soundstage with rear projection.
5:00 PM Rancho Notorious (Lang, 1952) – C-89 mins. – A pretty great western from Fritz Lang, with Arthur Kennedy as a rancher who seeks revenge against the murderers of his fiancee. This quest takes him to the gambling and outlaw haven known as Chuck-A-Luck, run by Marlene Dietrich’s Altar Keane. Mel Ferrer is memorable (for once) as Altar’s man Frenchy, with whom Kennedy strikes up a short-lived bond. It’s a classic Lang picture and one I’d love to see on R1 DVD. Not really a fan of the theme song though. Apparently Lionsgate controls the rights to Rancho Notorious here, which doesn’t bode well for a high quality release. There is an edition available in R2 from Optimum, but negative reviews have kept me away from it. Nick Ray’s Johnny Guitar, which shares some things with Lang’s western, airs later at 10:00 PM.
Friday September 18
9:30 AM Greta Garbo Part 1: The Temptress (1986) – BW & C-60 mins. – Ms. Garbo would’ve been 104 years old today. TCM celebrates with three of her films and the two parts of this Swedish television documentary, narrated by Bibi Andersson. Clips abound since MGM helped out with the production, but the special wasn’t included on Warner Bros.’ Signature Collection from a few years back. Part 2: The Clown follows at 10:30 AM. Garbo’s last film Two Faced Woman, which was a re-teaming with Melvyn Douglas, then comes on an hour later at 11:30 AM.
4:30 PM Dust Be My Destiny (Seiler, 1939) – BW-88 mins. – A screenplay by Robert Rossen is generally a positive so I’d like to catch this John Garfield-Priscilla Lane (a year after Four Daughters) crime picture. Garfield is, what else, a tough guy with bad luck who’s just getting out of prison for a burglary he didn’t commit. He doesn’t stay out long, soon finding himself back on the chain gang at a prison farm. While there he falls for the daughter (Lane) of his prison boss. Garfield had such a strong presence on film and it’s terrible that he became typecast in these sorts of films when much stronger roles ideally should’ve been there. That hardly any of Garfield’s films are on DVD proper, particularly the ones like this which are controlled by the WB, is a further insult.
4:00 AM Mudhoney (Meyer, 1965) – BW-93 mins. – TCM has shown this before but not in a long while. It’s preceded by Russ Meyer’s slightly more famous Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! at 2:00 AM. Neither is readily available on R1 DVD. The Depression-era plot involves a drifter who goes to work on a farm in Missouri. The land is owned by an older man with an attractive niece, but the niece’s husband is abusive and you can sort of see where things are going from there. If you’re familiar with Meyer, you can also easily picture some of the other details in Mudhoney.
Saturday September 19
10:00 PM Devotion (Bernhardt, 1946) – BW-107 mins. – Party with the Bronte sisters. We have Emily, played by Ida Lupino and author of Wuthering Heights (the film version of which airs immediately prior at 8:00 PM), and Charlotte, best known for writing Jane Eyre and portrayed here by Olivia de Havilland. The lesser-known sister Anne is present as well and played by the lesser-known actress Nancy Coleman. Also look for Sydney Greenstreet as Thackeray and Paul Henreid as Charlotte’s husband. Arthur Kennedy is the Brontes’ brother Branwell. There were actually six Bronte children in total, but they all died very young. The two youngest never saw their teens and the longest-living, Charlotte, was just 38 when she died. Devotion was made for Warner Bros. but hasn’t been released on DVD.
3:00 AM Kes (Loach, 1970) – BW-111 mins. – Often in the mix for greatest British movie ever (the BFI ranked it #7) yet not on DVD here in R1, Ken Loach’s second feature film is about a teenage working-class boy whose main refuge seems to be spending time with his pet falcon. Beyond that, let’s just watch the movie and see for ourselves. I don’t really have much of an opinion on Loach either way but it is surprising how poorly his films are represented on R1 DVD. The R2 disc is from MGM, but I’m not sure whether that studio controls the rights in the U.S.
Sunday September 20
12:15 AM Wild Oranges (Vidor, 1924) – BW-88 mins. – As King Vidor’s silent features remain virtually ignored on DVD, the best way to watch them might be through TCM’s odd showings. This one was a landmark in cinema for Vidor’s insistence on traveling outside the studio lot and shooting the tale of a girl and her grandfather on a remote island amid the sweltering Florida heat. The plot picks up when an escaped convict finds them and takes a particular interest in the girl. I believe there’s a shorter version in existence but, given the amount of time slotted, TCM will probably air the longer cut. The film was produced by Goldwyn Pictures Corporation and this is another one where I’m not sure about the current rights situation.
Monday September 21
8:00 AM The Affairs of Dobie Gillis (Weis, 1953) – BW-73 mins. – I haven’t seen this movie, but I did enjoy the television show quite a bit when I was a kid (and it was on Nick at Nite). I always liked the opening titles and theme song. Someone should really release the television show on DVD. Bobby Van plays Dobie in the film but the star is Debbie Reynolds whose character name is Pansy Hammer. No Maynard or Thalia here I guess, not even Milton Armitage. You do get future Cabaret and All That Jazz director Bob Fosse in what would seem to be a fairly large acting role. The film is set at a college (fictional Grainbelt University), with Dobie pining for Pansy. It’s not on DVD and was made for Warner Bros. Probably a good candidate for the burn-on-demand Warner Archive program.
3:45 PM The Window (Tetzlaff, 1949) – BW-74 mins. – This is a very atmospheric, suspense-laden film noir about a young boy known to tell a tale or two who really does witness some nefarious happenings only to have no one believe him except the perpetrators. Bobby Driscoll is the little boy while Arthur Kennedy and Barbara Hale are his parents. The neighbors/villains are played by Paul Stewart (who was probably never better than here terrorizing young Driscoll) and Ruth Roman. It’s from a Cornell Woolrich story. The film is definitely worth checking out and it really should be on R1 DVD by now. Made for RKO, Warner Bros. likely controls. A French R2 DVD from Editions Montparnesse would be another option.
Tuesday September 22
8:15 AM Hi, Nellie! (LeRoy, 1934) – BW-75 mins. – Paul Muni all day, which gives viewers a chance to see several films not yet on R1 DVD like The Story of Louis Pasteur (1:15 PM) and Black Fury (9:45 AM). I was less familiar with this comedy where Muni plays a committed newspaper editor who gets demoted to the love advice column but still keeps hard at work. Muni is re-teamed with Glenda Farrell and Mervyn LeRoy, the female lead and director, respectively, of I Am Fugitive from a Chain Gang (his best film in my opinion and one airing at 6:30 AM). Hi, Nellie! is Warner Bros. It’s not on DVD.
Thursday September 24
4:15 AM Billy the Kid (Vidor, 1930) – BW-95 mins. – Another King Vidor film this week, though I’m less confident about this one. The title character is played by Johnny Mack Brown, a former University of Alabama football star and a B-western actor, while Wallace Beery is Pat Garrett. There are so many versions of this story on film that the surrounding facts are far less interesting than the characterizations from movie to movie. I’m curious to see how Vidor handled the material. MGM did the film so Warner Bros. should have the rights. No DVD.
Friday September 25
8:30 AM Child of Manhattan (Buzzell, 1933) – BW-70 mins. – TCM saved the best day of the week for last, beginning with several pre-Code efforts in the morning. Ann Carver’s Profession stars Fay Wray as a lawyer and airs just prior at 7:00 AM, but Child of Manhattan caught my eye just a tad stronger. It has Nancy Carroll playing a dance hall girl who secretly marries a rich playboy (John Boles) after she gets pregnant. I’m especially intrigued by the fact that the film was based on a play by Preston Sturges. It was the second filmed adaptation of a Sturges play after 1931’s Strictly Dishonorable. Look for Betty Grable in a small role as Carroll’s younger sister. This was a Columbia picture. It seems like so many pre-Code movies were done for that studio and haven’t made it to DVD yet.
8:00 PM Scandal Sheet (Karlson, 1952) – BW-82 mins. – There’s a great scene in Sam Fuller’s The Big Red One where the character Robert Carradine plays, who’s modeled on Fuller himself, is off at war and sees another soldier reading a book he had actually written but didn’t realize had been published. That’s apparently just the way it happened in real life with Fuller’s first published novel The Dark Half, which was later turned into this movie directed by Phil Karlson. It’s a noirish murder mystery set in the world of tabloid newspapers. Broderick Crawford and Donna Reed star. I think Fuller really would have preferred to have made the picture himself and didn’t quite like what Karlson and co. did with it, including the name change. Nonetheless, Sony will soon be releasing Scandal Sheet as part of a Fuller-themed box set in R1.
9:30 PM The Phenix City Story (Karlson, 1955) – BW-100 mins. – Despite Fuller’s reluctance to embrace Scandal Sheet, I’m excited to see TCM dedicate the night to director Phil Karlson, whose pictures like Kansas City Confidential and 99 River Street are classics of film noir. One that’s supposed to be good but I’ve not yet seen is The Phenix City Story, which is set in Alabama and involves a corrupt political machine. John McIntire, Richard Kiley and the lovely Kathryn Grant (Crosby) head the cast. Karlson’s The Brothers Rico, soon to be on DVD in Sony’s film noir box, and the Marilyn Monroe starrer Ladies of the Chorus follow. I haven’t come across any official DVD releases for The Phenix City Story. Its original distributor was Allied Artists, which puts the rights where?
Saturday September 26
12:00 AM Genghis Khan (Levin, 1965) – C-126 mins. – If you’ve already watched the nearly four hours of Ben-Hur which precede this showing, here’s a chance to see star of the night Stephen Boyd in yet another historical epic. Omar Sharif is the man who would be Khan while his noticeably light-skinned co-stars include James Mason, Eli Wallach and Telly Savalas. The woman at the center of things was played by Françoise Dorléac, who would be seen the following year in Polanski’s Cul-de-sac. The Yugoslavian-shot Genghis Khan was distributed by Columbia. Sony presumably has the rights now, though it’s not available on DVD in R1. I see an edition can be had from Spain.
Monday September 28
11:45 PM See No Evil (Fleischer, 1971) – C-89 mins. – Listed at IMDb as Blind Terror (the UK title and a better one, in my opinion), this Richard Fleischer-directed thriller stars Mia Farrow as a blind woman who returns to her country home not realizing that there’s a house full of corpses. Elmer Bernstein did the score. Anything halfway curious-sounding from Fleischer I tend to mention (and usually watch) so this has my attention. It’s Columbia and was on DVD in R1, but is now out of print and fetching high prices through third party sellers at Amazon. There’s also an R2 disc in the UK.
1:30 AM A Dandy in Aspic (Mann, Harvey, 1968) – C-107 mins. – Unfortunately, it’s morbid curiosity that’s responsible for most of the interest in this film. Director Anthony Mann died of a heart attack during production and had to be replaced by a largely in over his head Laurence Harvey, also the star of the picture. I haven’t seen it but most of the reaction I’ve read hasn’t been very positive. The plot sounds promising, with Harvey as a British spy assigned to kill a Russian agent despite Harvey’s character being the only one who realizes the two men are one and the same. One of my favorites, Tom Courtenay, is second-billed while Mia Farrow, Harry Andrews and Peter Cook help round out the cast. The score was done by Quincy Jones. This too was made for Columbia Pictures and hasn’t been released on DVD in R1. Sony did put it out in the UK.
Tuesday September 29
6:00 AM Blossoms in the Dust (LeRoy, 1941) – C-100 mins. – This was released on DVD by Warner Bros. last year in the Classic Holiday Collection Vol. 2 set, but I don’t have that nor do I really want it. For some reason, Netflix doesn’t seem to carry Blossoms in the Dust so I’ve been waiting for TCM to show the film again (it was an Oscar nominee for Best Picture) and I’m glad the channel is obliging. Greer Garson, who also received Academy recognition for her performance and who’s in all of the films airing during the day, stars as a real-life champion of orphans’ rights in Texas. Walter Pidgeon plays her husband.
10:00 PM The Road Builder (Reid, 1971) – C-96 mins. – Adapted for the screen by Roald Dahl, this one has his wife Patricia Neal as the lead in a story about a drifter who becomes a handyman for a spinster, leaving the film room for the exploration of various sexual and psychological undercurrents. It’s also known, perhaps more popularly, as The Night Digger. The picture is airing on TCM as the final night of a monthlong tribue to composer Bernard Herrmann and I’m anxious to catch it. Looks like MGM released originally, probably giving Warner Bros. the rights, though there isn’t a DVD out in R1. Weird how the rating listed at IMDb is “X” in the UK and “R” in the U.S. but only “TV-PG” now. Progress, I suppose.
12:00 AM Obsession (De Palma, 1976) – C-98 mins. – Another Bernard Herrmann score follows, in Brian De Palma’s Hitchcock-inspired (Vertigo, to be specific) tale of a man (Cliff Robertson) taken with the woman who looks like just like his murdered wife (Genevieve Bujold). De Palma’s films have never done anything for me but I can’t remember ever watching this one and the R1 DVD from Sony is – surprise – out of print and now very expensive to obtain. Paul Schrader’s presence as screenwriter on Obsession also perks me up. His most famous piece of writing, Taxi Driver (also with Hermann’s last score), follows at 2:00 AM.
Wednesday September 30
8:30 AM The Green Years (Saville, 1946) – BW-125 mins. – I’ve grown fond of Charles Coburn after seeing a couple of his comedic performances so here’s a presuambly good example of the actor’s more serious side. He was Oscar-nominated for playing a Scottish grandfather who raises an orphaned Irish boy. Dean Stockwell plays the boy as a youth. It’s easy to forget how great and long-lasting a career Stockwell has had. He doesn’t get enough attention. The cast also includes the real-life married couple Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, with the latter actually in the role of the former’s daughter! The Green Years hasn’t made it to DVD yet. Having been done for MGM, it should now be a Warner Bros. property.
10:00 PM Twilight of Honor (Sagal, 1963) – BW-104 mins. – The, er, reign of Claude Rains as Star of the Month comes to a close tonight. Some nice and noirish films are on tap, including They Won’t Forget, the Warner Archive-d The Unsuspected, and the solid Where Danger Lives where Rains has just one scene but still makes a strong impact. There’s also this legal drama starring a Kildare-era Richard Chamberlain as a lawyer who must defend client Nick Adams, in an Oscar-nominated turn. (It was Rains’ next-to-last film to be released, coming two years before The Greatest Story Ever Told.) It was an MGM production, now probably controlled by Warner Bros. and not on DVD.
Thursday October 1
8:00 AM Nora Prentiss (Sherman, 1947) – BW-112 mins. – Melodrama noir starring Ann Sheridan and recently relegated to the Warner Archive treatment by the magnificent WB. Sheridan is a night club singer mildly injured and treated by married doctor Kent Smith. The doc falls head over heels and wants to be with Sheridan by any means necessary, causing super problems for both. Robert Alda and Bruce Bennett head the supporting cast. Behind the scenes, Franz Waxman composed and the incomparable James Wong Howe was cinematographer. It’s a full Warner Bros. picture and it should be, in a just world, available widely on a real, pressed disc.
Friday October 2
3:30 AM The Wild Party (Horner, 1956) – BW-82 mins. – TCM’s regular dose of sleaze and cheese on the Friday night Underground continues with this Anthony Quinn starrer about an ex-football player who becomes part of a “wild party” and gets involved in kidnapping and extortion. Kathryn Grant (future wife of Bing Crosby) plays the teenager Honey. This was the last feature directed by Horner, whose other pictures haven’t impressed me but who had a better career as a production designer on films like The Hustler and Walter Hill’s The Driver. United Artists released The Wild Party in cinemas and it’s not on DVD in R1. The rights are likely to be with MGM.
Sunday October 4
6:15 AM The Beast with Five Fingers (Florey, 1946) – BW-89 mins. – October brings Halloween and an emphasis on the scary, suspenseful, thrilling, horror sort of movies. My interest in these pictures, the classic varieties at least, has slowly increased over the years. The Beast with Five Fingers involves the hand of a pianist (Robert Alda) which somehow survives the body’s death and goes out on its own in search of vengeance. Anything with Peter Lorre, who stars, is usually worthwhile. Warner Bros. was the studio behind this film. I don’t believe it has a DVD release.
12:00 AM Tell It to the Marines (Hill, 1926) – BW-103 mins. – Lon Chaney is a drill sergeant in the U.S. Marines who faces off against a particularly troublesome new recruit, played by William Haines. Complicating matters further, the two men share a common interest in the same woman (Eleanor Boardman). Director George Hill later did the still potent prison movie The Big House. Chaney, the famed “man of a thousand faces,” apparently wore no make-up for his role. This silent was done for MGM and should now be with Warner Bros. It’s unreleased on DVD. Two Jean Renoir pictures follow, with La bête humaine airing at 2:00 AM and The Southerner at 4:00 AM.
Monday October 5
6:00 AM The Whistler (Castle, 1944) – BW-60 mins. – “Whistlin’ Monday” begins with the first film in the Whistler series, directed by low-budget horror man William Castle. The intriguing plot has Richard Dix as a man in such despair from his wife’s death that he get another man to hire an assassin (J. Carrol Naish) to kill him (Dix). The uh-oh comes when the wife turns up alive but Dix can’t call off the hit. Gloria Stuart is the female lead, Dix’s secretary. Six more of these Whistler films follow today, with three Red Skelton “Whistling in … ” movies airing afterward. None of these are on DVD (in R1 at least) and all were released by Columbia.
1:15 AM Lili (Walters, 1953) – C-81 mins. – Star of the Month for October is Leslie Caron and TCM brings out the heavy (and musical) hitters on night one with Best Picture winners An American in Paris (Caron’s debut) and Gigi. Also on tap is Caron’s Oscar-nominated performance as a French orphan who befriends puppets. I’ve read lots of good things about this film – and I also mentioned it back in March – but haven’t seen it. Definitely will be making an effort this time. Director Charles Walters was also recognized by the Academy with a nomination. Mel Ferrer co-stars. It’s now in Warner Bros.’ hands via MGM, but not released on DVD.
Tuesday October 6
9:15 AM Brief Moment (Burton, 1933) – BW-69 mins. – Tuesday looks to be my favorite day of the week on TCM as it’s full of lighthearted thirties comedies, including three with Carole Lombard. Here she’s a nightclub singer who marries a rich playboy (Gene Raymond). I’ve been waiting for more of the hard-to-see Lombard films to air since she was Star of the Month a full year ago. Sony controls this one. There should be enough Columbia films for a Lombard DVD box set but I’m not holding my breath just yet. Lady by Choice, which TCM has aired two or three times this year, follows.
12:00 PM In Name Only (Cromwell, 1939) – BW-95 mins. – Cary Grant is married to Kay Francis but wants a divorce so he can marry widow Carole Lombard. Francis gets the villain part. Also with Charles Coburn, the film was made for RKO and did get a VHS release. I guess the R1 rights are now with Warner Bros., but nothing has come along DVD-wise. Manga Films put out a (R2) disc in Spain. Kay Francis joins Ronald Colman in Raffles at 2:00 PM before re-treaming a couple of years later on …
3:30 PM Cynara (Vidor, 1932) – BW-78 mins. – Colman is an English barrister who succumbs to temptation in the form of shop girl Phyllis Barry while wife Kay Francis is away. After years of fidelity, the affair is just a fling to him but more to the younger woman. King Vidor directed for the Samuel Goldwyn Company. IMDb has United Artists as theatrical distributor so MGM might now control in R1, though I can’t be sure. The film isn’t available on DVD.
Wednesday October 7
10:00 AM Yolanda and the Thief (Minnelli, 1945) – C-108 mins. – This seems like the sort of film deserving of a DVD release. Vincente Minnelli directed, Arthur Freed produced, and Fred Astaire was the lead. He plays a con man in a fictional Latin American country who poses as the guardian angel of rich girl Yolanda (Lucille Bremer). Technicolor MGM musical. Warner Bros. controls the rights.
Thursday October 8
2:15 AM Girls of the Road (Grinde, 1940) – BW-60 mins. – I’m really interested in the Depression-centered films TCM will be showing on Thursdays this month. Several have made their way to DVD by now, including the first four pictures shown tonight, but this short, largely unseen B-movie is a rarity. It stars Ann Dvorak (Paul Muni’s sister in Scarface) as a governor’s daughter whose social consciousness compels her to assume the life of a runaway. Along the way, she meets girls with nothing to fall back on. Columbia released theatrically. Black Moon, a voodoo horror picture starring Fay Wray, airs next at 3:30 AM.
4:45 AM The Missing Juror (Boetticher, 1944) – BW-66 mins. – TCM has been good about showing Budd Boetticher’s early B-picture crime dramas lately and this is one of his earliest. The plot has jurors in a big murder case being murdered one by one and a detective out to stop the killer. Judging by the film’s title, there’s probably an unaccounted for juror in the mix. This is another Columbia picture unreleased by Sony.
Saturday October 10
4:30 PM Sirocco (Bernhardt, 1951) – BW-98 mins. – On DVD in R1 from Sony but now out of print, this Humphrey Bogart starrer was based on a novel by Joseph Kessel, who also wrote the source material for Belle de jour and Melville’s Army of Shadows, and co-adapted for the screen by A.I. Bezzerides, screenwriter of On Dangerous Ground. Bogart plays an American expatriate in the 1920s who becomes involved in gun-running for the Syrians in their fight against the French occupation. Lee J. Cobb and Everett Sloane are among the supporting cast.
12:15 AM Dr. Socrates (Dieterle, 1935) – BW-70 mins. – Paul Muni all night this evening. He’s reunited with Scarface co-star Ann Dvorak in this crime drama from writer W.R. Burnett. Muni plays a doctor forced by gangsters to provide medical treatment. Barton MacLane is the ring leader and Mayo Methot plays his moll. This looks to be one of those quick little gangster pictures Warner Bros. was so good at churning out at the time. It’s not on DVD. Seemed like a good candidate for entry in a Gangsters Collection before the studio gave up on releasing box sets. The Story of Louis Pasteur follows at 1:30 AM.
Sunday October 11
2:30 AM Ecstasy (Machaty, 1933) – BW-87 mins. – Scandalous! Hedy Lamarr (using her given name Hedy Kiesler) caused an international uproar when she appeared nude in this film. It certainly got her noticed, but she still wouldn’t make another picture until 1938’s Algiers. The Vienna-born Lamarr plays a frustrated wife in Ecstasy, which is actually considered to be a Czech film. I’ve tried watching it before but found it tough going filmwise. A DVD is available in R1 from Image (and it has a stunning cover). Those in the New York City area will soon have the opportunity to get a better look at Hedy, on the big screen, when the film shows at the Film Society of Lincoln Center on October 25.
Monday October 12
6:45 AM Five Golden Hours (Zampi, 1960) – BW-90 mins. – An Ernie Kovacs-Cyd Charisse pairing sounds pleasant enough. He’s a con artist specializing in rich widows and she’s, yep, a rich widow. The catch is that her baroness character isn’t quite so innocent. George Sanders does what he does in support. Chris Challis was director of photography. The releasing studio was Columbia, though it’s not on DVD from what I can tell.
6:00 PM The Appointment (Lumet, 1969) – C-115 mins. – TCM rolls on today with a nice tribute to Anouk Aimée. Fellini’s masterful 8½ plays at 1:45 PM in a rare afternoon showing of a foreign language film. It’s followed by Model Shop and this unheralded Sidney Lumet feature. If you noticed my signed Dog Day Afternoon sleeve I posted last week, it won’t come as a surprise that I’m a Lumet fan. He still has a surprising number of films unavailable on R1 DVD, including this picture which also stars Omar Sharif. The two leads play a married couple in Rome. Sharif’s character suspects his wife is spending her free time as a high end prostitute. Doesn’t sound like your typical Sidney Lumet film, though his versatility is sometimes taken for granted. MGM released theatrically, giving Warner Bros. the rights now. It’s not available on DVD.
8:00 PM The Man Who Understood Women (Johnson, 1959) – C-105 mins. – Romain Gary, who’d marry Jean Seberg in 1962 and later write the story on which Sam Fuller’s White Dog is based, had his novel adapted by writer/director Nunnally Johnson for this film. It sounds fascinating. Henry Fonda stars as a Hollywood producer trying to turn wife Leslie Caron into a major sex symbol. She becomes so disenchanted with the whole thing that she leaves him and the business to go back to France, where she also finds another man. Especially intriguing is that the Fonda character in Gary’s book was apparently modeled after Orson Welles (married, of course, to Rita Hayworth at one time). That Gary went on to marry and then direct Seberg before the two divorced also makes for a sad coda to the story. The film was made by Fox, and isn’t on DVD.
Tuesday October 13
10:00 PM Escape Me Never (Godfrey, 1947) – BW-104 mins. – Lucky Errol Flynn gets paired with Ida Lupino and Eleanor Parker in this romantic drama. He’s a composer in Venice who’s engaged to Parker but falls for Lupino, who herself is engaged to Flynn’s brother (Gig Young). The film was made by Warner Bros. and is not on DVD. Flynn pops up again in the Raoul Walsh-directed Northern Pursuit at midnight.
Wednesday October 14
9:15 AM La Boheme (Vidor, 1926) – BW-94 mins. – Lillian Gish was born on this day in 1893. TCM honors the screen legend with seven films on the daytime schedule. She’s paired with John Gilbert in this King Vidor silent about a romance in Paris in the 1830s. He’s an artist and she’s a seamstress, both struggling to make ends meet. Looking forward to this one. It was MGM but now should be in the hands of Warner Bros. Nothing on the DVD front. The Scarlet Letter follows at 11:00 AM.
12:45 PM The Wind (Sjostrom, 1928) – BW-82 mins. – TCM aired this a couple of years ago and I don’t think it’s been on since. It’s truly a masterpiece of silent cinema, and Warner Bros. should be embarrassed at not having yet released a DVD version. Gish plays a somewhat fragile young woman who moves to Texas and faces a tumultous series of events. If you have any interest at all, try to make time for this one. It remains an incredibly affecting film. MGM was the original studio.
Thursday October 15
6:15 AM Parole Girl (Cline, 1933) – BW-68 mins. – Good to see a pre-Code Mae Clarke picture pop up on the schedule. Information is sparse, but it seems to be a drama where she’s paroled from prison for a crime she didn’t even commit. Edward Cline, who also did The Bank Dick, directed. Ralph Bellamy gets the male lead. Made for Columbia, the film hasn’t been put on DVD.
Saturday December 5
8:30 AM Street Scene (Vidor, 1931) – BW-79 mins. – Producer Samuel Goldwyn paid big money for the rights to this popular play, set entirely in a New York tenement location, and handed it off to director King Vidor. The early sound picture has an ensemble cast including a young Sylvia Sidney, Beulah Bondi, and Walter Miller. A murder takes place, but little otherwise occurs plotwise. Anything Vidor directed around this time is worth a watch. Hard to believe, but the out of print R1 DVD from Image will now cost you at least $300 through Amazon’s third party sellers.
12:00 PM Fitzwilly (Mann, 1967) – C-102 mins. – That would be Delbert Mann of the (unrelated) filmmaking Manns behind the camera for this one. Dick Van Dyke stars as a loyal butler to an old lady (Dame Edith Evans) whose fortune has run out. Not wanting to let their boss down, Van Dyke and other staff members conceive ways of redistributing the wealth via criminal enterprise. Barbara Feldon (yes, Agent 99) plays a new secretary and love interest to Van Dyke’s character. The Christmas Eve department store raid explains the film’s two appearances on the schedule this month, with another showing set for December 10th at 10:00 PM. Walter Mirisch produced and United Artists originally released the movie. It’s not on DVD and should be controlled by MGM (though who will control MGM is of course another matter).
Sunday December 6
12:00 AM Miss Mend (Otsep, 1926) – BW-250 mins. – TCM kills two birds with a single Soviet serial tonight as both the silent and import quotas are met by this airing. I can’t claim much familiarity with this four-plus hour serial but the plot seems to involve three reporters who must stave off western capitalists’ plans to spread germ warfare in the USSR. It sounds fascinating and fun. If you miss the TCM showing or just want it for your library, Flicker Alley will be releasing a two-disc set with bonus features on December 15.
Tuesday December 8
3:30 PM The Prize (Robson, 1963) – C-135 mins. – Most of Monday’s schedule is devoted to Frank Capra, and it’s interesting to see the WWII documentaries airing during the day. All, or almost all, are on DVD. Completely unrelated to that, The Prize is a Paul Newman movie about Nobel Prize winners embroiled in intrigue while in Stockholm. Edward G. Robinson and Elke Sommer co-star. People seem to really go for this film, often making comparisons to Hitchcock, but Warner Bros. opted not to release it on DVD either with the Newman box a few years ago or in the more recent wave of single titles. Who knows if it’ll see the light of day now.
Wednesday December 9
11:30 AM Racket Busters (Bacon, 1938) – BW-71 mins. – Bogart Bonanza continues with several of his pre-stardom crime and adventure pictures that haven’t made it to DVD yet. Men Are Such Fools, directed by Busby Berkeley, immediately precedes this one, at 10:15 AM. The Manhattan produce racket is the subject of Lloyd Bacon’s Racket Busters and Bogie plays the leader. George Brent is the good guy truck driver while Walter Abel gets to be the buster of the title, reportedly based on Thomas E. Dewey. What drew me to the film was Robert Rossen being credited for the story and screenplay. He’d later direct The Hustler and All the King’s Men, but his writing credits (films like Blues in the Night and The Roaring Twenties) were typically strong as well. Warner Bros. is the studio and no DVD of the film yet. Barring another Gangsters Collection or Bogart box, I’ll expect the Warner Archive treatment at some point.
5:45 AM King of the Underworld (Seiler, 1939) – BW-67 mins. – W.R. Burnett wrote the story for the earlier Paul Muni film Dr. Socrates and this picture is a remake with a gender twist where Kay Francis plays the Muni role of a doctor forced into providing medical services for gangsters. Humphrey Bogart ended up with top billing as the main tough guy/arm twister. This too is not on DVD and a Warner Bros. property. The Oklahoma Kid, a Cagney and Bogart western that I like a whole lot, airs in prime time at 8:00 PM.
Thursday December 10
12:00 PM Lonelyhearts (Donehue, 1958) – BW-103 mins. – A Nathanael West novella formed the basis for this film starring Montgomery Clift as a young advice columnist who gets too emotionally involved in the plights of his readers. A lot of sadness runs through the story, with Robert Ryan as a newspaper editor who berates his alcoholic wife (an against type Myrna Loy) and Oscar-nominated Maureen Stapleton making her film debut as one of the paper’s correspondents. John Alton was the cinematographer. I’m not sure why now but I watched this a long while ago and didn’t get much out of it. I probably owe it another shot. United Artists released and there’s no DVD available to my knowledge. MGM should control the rights.
2:00 AM Susan Slept Here (Tashlin, 1954) – C-98 mins. – Dick Powell is a Hollywood screenwriter and Debbie Reynolds plays the juvenile delinquent runaway who combine to form an unlikely romance. Not your typical holiday fare. This was one of director Frank Tashlin’s earlier features and he’d further his “live-action cartoon” style with movies starring Jerry Lewis and the best two appearances of Jayne Mansfield’s career. The film was made for RKO and hasn’t been brought to DVD yet. It’s with Warner Bros. here. If you can’t catch this showing, TCM also has Susan Slept Here lined up for the 13th at 2:00 PM and again on Christmas Day.
Friday December 11
10:15 AM This Land Is Mine (Renoir, 1943) – BW-103 mins. – It looks like a Spanish R2 DVD exists for this Jean Renoir picture, but nothing yet here. Charles Laughton is a school teacher in Nazi-occupied France who’s reluctant to choose sides at first but ultimately finds himself drawn to the resistance. I really have to see this, and it seems amazing to consider a film with this sort of plot would have been made when it was. Maureen O’Hara and George Sanders are among the supporting cast. Released by RKO, Warner Bros. likely controls in R1.
2:00 PM The Bribe (Leonard, 1949) – BW-98 mins. – More Laughton, after Jules Dassin’s enjoyable The Canterville Ghost at 12:15 PM. I’m mentioning The Bribe because, for one thing, it’s an excellent little noir starring Robert Taylor as a federal agent tempted by Ava Gardner. John Hodiak plays Gardner’s husband and Vincent Price rounds out the sleaze. What bothers me is that Warner Bros. threw this very deserving film into the Archive trash compactor so there’s virtually no hope in getting a proper DVD release of it. It’s the sort of picture I like well enough to own on DVD but not really so essential that I have to have an overpriced DVD-R of it right now.
Sunday December 13
6:00 PM Travels with My Aunt (Cukor, 1972) – C-109 mins. – Maggie Smith was Oscar-nominated for her role as the eccentric aunt to a young man (Alec McCowen) whose mother has just died. The two hit it off and take trips across Europe. Louis Gossett, Jr. is among the supporting cast. The film is an adaptation of a Graham Greene book. Since MGM released the film theatrically, Warner Bros. should now control the rights. There isn’t a DVD release so far.
4:45 AM Private Potter (Wrede, 1962) – BW-89 mins. – TCM has the silent Ben-Hur at midnight, followed by Dreyer’s Ordet at 2:30 AM and this little seen, little known Tom Courtenay picture. If you’re familiar with what the first two share then you might be able to guess some of the subject matter of Private Potter. It turns out to involve, yes, God in that Courtenay’s character stops fighting a military mission in Cyprus because he claims divine intervention. This was Courtenay’s film debut and he also made The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner the same year. Knowing that, I’m in for a watch. Another person of note involved was screenwriter Ronald Harwood. It was his first movie too. With MGM and now probably Warner Bros., the film doesn’t seem to have been put on DVD.
Monday December 14
8:00 PM The Bitter Tea of General Yen (Capra, 1932) – BW-87 mins. – On the strength of It’s a Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, there was a time when Frank Capra was probably my favorite director. I’ve, for better or worse, grown up since then and despite still loving both of those films as well as a few others Capra made I can see why his status critically isn’t on par with Ford and Hitchcock and their ilk. That said, the great, rarely discussed section of Capra’s work might be his Columbia films with Barbara Stanwyck in the early ’30s. TCM is showing an avalanche of Capra this month (though, due to rights reasons, not It’s a Wonderful Life) and I believe all are on the schedule. The two best are The Miracle Woman, which airs next week, and this one, with Stanwyck as an American who travels to China and slowly forms a bond with the man of the title (played by Nils Asther, a native Scandinavian who I incidentally just watched in the absolutely charming James Whale picture By Candlelight). Both Capra movies are on DVD in the UK in a Stanwyck set but still waiting to be released here in R1. I’ve read rumblings that Sony has something in the works, maybe for 2010.
3:45 AM The Younger Generation (Capra, 1929) – BW-84 mins. – Early, partial talkie from Capra here, which follows Dirigible (1931) and Flight (1929). It sounds pretty interesting. Ricardo Cortez is a Jewish businessman (last name: Goldfish) whose methods and ambitions contrast with those of his more traditional parents, played by Jean Hersholt and Lina Basquette. Apparently there are both silent and talking sequences. It was done for Columbia and isn’t on DVD.
Wednesday December 16
11:15 AM It All Came True (Seiler, 1940) – BW-97 mins. – With so many Humphrey Bogart pictures being shown on TCM this month, finding a couple each week not on DVD that sound worthwhile isn’t too tough. Most are crime movies and this is no exception. Bogie plays a nervous gangster who transforms a boarding house into a criminal enterprise. Add Ann Sheridan and that’s a recommendation in itself. Mark Hellinger was a producer, which usually promises a slightly more polished film. Warner Bros. for this one.
1:00 PM The Wagons Roll at Night (Enright, 1941) – BW-84 mins. – In the Bogart timeline, 1936’s The Petrified Forest is what really lead to all of those gangster pictures where he was usually playing the same tough character who’d often find his death before the film was over. That went on for about five years, until High Sierra came along in 1941 and The Maltese Falcon followed later in the same year. Between those two, this quite different film opened. I don’t know if it made much of an impact on making Bogart a star, but the subject matter was certainly a departure. Here he’s a carnival manager with an escaped lion. The lion is found by Eddie Albert, who somehow transitions into being lion tamer for the show. Things are fine until Albert gets eyes for Bogie’s younger sister played by Joan Leslie. This same basic story was done just a few years earlier as Kid Galahad (and years later too, with Elvis Presley) but without the circus hook. Bogart had been in that picture too. Here he’s also reunited with Dead End co-star Sylvia Sidney. Warner Bros. was the studio and it’s not available on DVD.
Thursday December 17
6:30 AM Have a Heart (Butler, 1934) – BW-80 mins. – Even with its significant flaws, IMDb tends to be the best place to figure out what’s worth mentioning on the TCM schedule from week to week and finding information about the things I do pick. I try to place as little worth in the User Comments as possible but they are always there on the screen, lurking and waiting to be read. In a pinch, they sometimes can’t be avoided. So what we end up with is finding a film like Have a Heart, directed by David Butler (who has several movies on today’s schedule), and starring James Dunn and Jean Parker as, respectively, the scrappy Irish guy and a dancer who can no longer use one of her legs after a fall. Going by these User Comments, I learned that the picture could be a nice little rainy weekend watch, that it gives Una Merkel a scene-stealing turn in support, that it’s dated, will break your heart, and, in a one-star review, that it’s a “strange little movie.” I don’t yet know whether I’ll enjoy Have a Heart, but I do know that I tend to like strange little movies. So there. The wasteland successfully navigated once again. MGM produced and Warner Bros. should now control. No DVD.
11:30 PM Never Say Goodbye (Kern, 1946) – BW-94 mins. – Errol Flynn gets a rare romantic comedy opportunity in this Warner Bros. film with a Christmas touch. He’s a magazine editor whose marriage to Eleanor Parker (an excellent and quite nice-looking actress I tend to mention frequently) has taken a rough turn. Their young daughter plots to reunite the couple. Of interest particularly in this Bogart-centric month is an impression Flynn does of the actor which Bogart himself apparently voiced. Promises to be fun. IMDb User Comment calls it a “predictable puffball.” Maybe I like predict- Oh nevermind. The picture is absent from DVD.
Friday December 18
6:00 AM Bachelor Bait (Stevens, 1934) – BW-75 mins. – Several 1930s George Stevens pictures are being shown today. This, the Fred Astaire starrer A Damsel in Distress and the excellent Vivacious Lady are all in need of R1 DVD releases (particularly the latter which I fear will be Warner Archive-d any week now). Bachelor Bait is about a marriage agency for lonely bachelors to find wives. Stuart Erwin and Rochelle Hudson headline. Skeets Gallagher is also in the cast. I’ve seen probably half a dozen thirties pictures with Gallagher and he seems to always play the same guy – a leaching drunk – but I enjoy it every time for some reason. This one was done for RKO, meaning Warner Bros. probably has R1 rights. It’s not on DVD to my knowledge.
12:00 AM Amazing Grace and Chuck (Newell, 1987) – C-115 mins. – Not one of TCM’s more inspired programming decisions, and it deviates heavily from what’s listed in my Now Playing guide, tonight’s line-up is dedicated to films directed by Mike Newell. Three of them actually, starting with Enchanted April and Four Weddings and a Funeral – not the usual TCM fare and for good reason. Some people might be interested in the chance to see this drama concerning nuclear proliferation. The plot is about a promising little league baseball player who vows to stop playing until nuclear weapons are disarmed. His idea catches on, first with a Boston Celtics player (played by real life NBA star Alex English, who never did play for the Celtics) and later with other athletes. The cast is certainly varied, with Jamie Lee Curtis, Red Auerbach as himself, William L. Petersen and even the great Gregory Peck as the President. I’m not overly familiar with this film so I don’t know what the hold-up regarding a DVD release is. You would think it would be available but it’s never been released here in R1. IMDb lists TriStar as theatrical distributor and Warner Bros. as the studio behind the VHS. HBO, now part of the same umbrella as WB, actually put the VHS out, which seems weird since TriStar is connected to Columbia/Sony.
Wednesday December 23
1:00 PM Conflict (Bernhardt, 1945) – BW-86 mins. – Rarely shown Humphrey Bogart thriller where he plays a husband anxious to get rid of his wife. The question as to whether she’s dead or not soon haunts Bogart’s character. Sydney Greenstreet co-stars. Warner Bros. made the picture and it’s not yet on DVD.
4:15 PM The Two Mrs. Carrolls (Godfrey, 1947) – BW-94 mins. – Bogie teams with Barbara Stanwyck in another hard to find noirish film. Again with Bogart and the bad husband, multiple lady friends type of deal. This is Warner Bros. too, and also not available on DVD.
Thursday December 24
10:00 PM Chicken Every Day (Seaton, 1948) – BW-94 mins. – Financially irresponsible Dan Dailey is married to the long-suffering Celeste Holm in the early 1900s in this warm comedy. Look also for Alan Young of TV’s Mister Ed, William Frawley and a young Natalie Wood. A rare Fox film popping up on TCM. Doesn’t seem to be on DVD.
Sunday December 27
8:00 PM Bedtime Story (Hall, 1942) – BW-85 mins. – Two by director Alexander Hall dot the schedule tonight, with probably his most famous picture, Here Comes Mr. Jordan, following. This is a screwy comedy set in the world of the theatre. Fredric March stars as a playwright whose wife Loretta Young is his frequent lead actress. When she wants to retire, it leads to a divorce but one that turns out to be invalid. Robert Benchley and Eve Arden are among the strong supporting cast. It was made for Columbia, leaving Sony with the rights but apparently not the desire to release a DVD.
Monday December 28
8:00 PM Broadway Bill (Capra, 1934) – BW-102 mins. – An heiress and her brother-in-law go off to harvest his dream of taking care of a racehorse. Warner Baxter and Myrna Loy star. The story is by Mark Hellinger. Paramount’s R1 DVD is out of print for some reason. No idea why. It’s getting up there in price on the secondary market.
10:00 PM Riding High (Capra, 1950) – BW-112 mins. – This too has gone out of print in R1 courtesy of Paramount. It’s a remake of Broadway Bill, but now with Bing Crosby and Coleen Gray. A couple of actors (Raymond Walburn and Clarence Muse) reprise their roles from the earlier picture. Most accounts place this as the inferior version, but watching both might make for an interesting contrast.
Tuesday December 29
8:30 AM Manhatta (1921) – BW-12 mins. – Well-regarded short featuring images of Manhattan against the poems of Walt Whitman. I’ve heard a good deal of praise but not yet acquainted myself with this. Plan to do so this time around, especially given the short length. You’d think a DVD including this short would exist somewhere but I don’t know if that’s the case.
Wednesday December 30
8:00 PM Deadline U.S.A. (Brooks, 1952) – BW-87 mins. – The last night of the Bogart tribute reminds us that there are still several of his films not on DVD even beyond the early crime ones. This was written and directed by Richard Brooks, who doesn’t really get his due nowadays. It centers around Bogart as the editor of a newspaper that’s about to be sold to a competitor with less journalistic integrity. He has just a few days to nail down a story involving a local gangster (Martin Gabel). Meanwhile, Bogart is also dealing with his ex-wife (Kim Hunter) remarrying and hasn’t lost hope at getting the paper’s owner (Ethel Barrymore) to change her mind. Battle Circus, a Brooks-Bogart pairing from 1953, airs earlier in the day at 12:45 PM. There’s also the documentary Bacall on Bogart, done in 1988, that sounds interesting and is scheduled for 6:30 PM. Fox did Deadline U.S.A. but it’s not on DVD. Fox has totally lost interest with releasing classic titles in R1.
9:45 AM The Left Hand of God (Dmytryk, 1955) – C-87 mins. – Bogart is joined by Gene Tierney in this unusual outing. He plays a Catholic priest (sort of) who comes to a mission in China. Tierney is the war widow nurse he takes up with and Lee J. Cobb is in support as bad guy “Mieh Yang,” a ludicrous piece of casting. This is Fox too. It’s great to see these on the schedule since they rarely show up even on the Fox Movie Channel. Not on DVD. A proper Jennifer Jones tribute is scheduled for January 7th, but you can also see her with Bogie at 11:30 PM in Beat the Devil.
4:00 AM Two Guys from Milwaukee (Butler, 1946) – BW-90 mins. – I saw The Hard Way, with Ida Lupino, Joan Leslie and co-starring Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson, the other night. This sounds like a much different teaming of Morgan and Carson, with Leslie along here also. Morgan plays a prince who runs off to America in the hopes of seeing Lauren Bacall (like Borat crossed with Coming to America). He meets cabbie Carson in the quest. The tipping point is that I.A.L. Diamond, Billy Wilder’s future collaborator, co-wrote the script. The film was done for Warner Bros. It’s not on DVD.