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The TCM Ten

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(For new visitors, each Friday I post a fresh set of ten films that catch my eye on the following week’s Turner Classic Movies schedule. Typically, these are movies not readily available on DVD, but I also sometimes mention favorites that aren’t as difficult to find.)

May 30-June 5

This is my first edition of The TCM Ten at clydefro.com and the last I’ll be posting at my Film Journal. The channel is trying something new in June by devoting each day to just one or two directors. It’s a great idea in theory, but, as you’ll often see, the schedule has been filled mostly with each director’s popular works instead of the rarer and harder to see things I tend to favor here. Still, it’s hard to complain when a night is devoted to, for example, Ingmar Bergman or Akira Kurosawa or King Vidor, or when one day has nothing but Otto Preminger and Ernst Lubitsch movies. As always, all times are EDT and program days begin at 6:00 AM.

Saturday May 30

1:15 AM The Wrong Box (Forbes, 1966) - C-106 mins. - A “Based on Robert Louis Stevenson” night lets this British comedy adapted from a Stevenson story tag along for the ride. I found the humor in this to be extremely British, and it was funny to read a quote from Michael Caine (who’s part of an amazing cast that includes Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Peter Sellers, John Mills and Ralph Richardson) blaming the film’s lack of domestic success on the British not seeing themselves in that stereotypical “eccentric, charming and polite” way. The semi-zany plot involves a large sum of money that will go to the heirs of whichever brother (Mills or Richardson) lives the longest. It’s not on DVD in R1, with Sony controlling, but a disc can be had in the UK exclusively from Moviemail. It’s one of a handful of Sony titles available only from that online retailer.

Sunday May 31

12:00 PM Tom, Dick and Harry (Kanin, 1941) - BW-87 mins. - Ginger Rogers again teamed up with her Bachelor Mother director Garson Kanin for this screwball romance about a telephone operator who attracts the attention of the three men of the title (played by George Murphy, Alan Marshal and Burgess Meredith). The writing earned an Oscar nomination, losing to Citizen Kane (good choice Academy). This film was also Rogers’ follow-up to winning the statuette for Kitty Foyle. Future director John Sturges served as editor of the picture. It was made for RKO and hasn’t been officially released in a legitimate DVD in R1. You can, however, pay $20 for a burned DVD-R at the Warner Archive if so desired.

8:00 PM The Winslow Boy (Asquith, 1948) - BW-118 mins. - I guess Anthony Asquith is an honorary member of TCM’s “Great Directors” club since a pair of his films will air on the eve of that monthlong celebration. Probably the best known screen version of this story, originally a play by Terence Rattigan, is David Mamet’s 1999 film. This initial take, with a screenplay written by Rattigan, hasn’t found its way to R1 DVD yet, though Optimum recently put out a disc in the UK. Robert Donat leads the cast as the barrister and Parliament member who picks up the cause of the title boy, accused of a petty theft and expelled from the Royal Naval College, and earns national attention in the process.  Cedric Hardwicke plays the father of the boy, steadfast in his son’s innocence. Eagle-Lion originally put the movie in U.S. cinemas, but I’m not sure where the rights have gone since then.

10:00 PM The Demi-Paradise (Asquith, 1943) - BW-113 mins. - This comparatively lighter Asquith film stars Laurence Olivier as a Russian engineer who moves to Great Britain before WWII to help with the implementation of a ship propeller he designed. He has some difficulty adjusting to the British way of life. The film isn’t on DVD even in the UK and seems unavailable everywhere. Universal is listed as distributor in the U.S., though who knows whether that studio still controls it. The Henry King-directed silent flim The White Sister, starring Lillian Gish and Ronald Colman, follows at midnight.

Monday June 1

7:30 AM Once Upon a Honeymoon (McCarey, 1942) - BW-115 mins. - I’ve read enough negative reactions to this film that I haven’t ever seen it, but with the movie now a part of the Warner Archive (pretty much eliminating its future on actual DVD) I’m ready to maybe give it a shot. Made for RKO, it’s billed as a comedy where burlesque girl Ginger Rogers marries an Austrian Baron (Walter Slezak) who turns out to be a Nazi. Radio man Cary Grant is there to save the day both for the cause and the girl. Several of Leo McCarey’s films, with Love Affair up next at 9:30 AM, air until prime time, when John Ford’s shift begins. Three Charley Chase shorts that McCarey directed precede Once Upon a Honeymoon, beginning at 6:00 AM.

Tuesday June 2

8:00 AM Test Pilot (Fleming, 1938) - BW-119 mins. - Another chance to catch Bombshell at 6:00 AM, and then this also unavailable Victor Fleming picture follows. A dream cast includes Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Myrna Loy, and Lionel Barrymore. Nominated for Best Picture, the film has Gable play a brash test pilot and Tracy the mechanic who holds him in awe. Gable stumbles upon farm girl Loy and eventually marries her, which leads to a few lifestyle complications. Several writers, including Howard Hawks, are credited and the actual story portion was Oscar-nominated. It was made for MGM, but Warner Bros. hasn’t released it to DVD yet. Seems like an obvious candidate. Another pilot-themed Fleming movie not on DVD, A Guy Named Joe, can be seen at 2:00 PM.

Thursday June 4

8:00 PM The Dick Cavett Show: Ingmar Bergman (1971) - C-54 mins. - There’s a really great DVD set with episodes from Cavett’s show where he interviewed film actors and directors, but this isn’t included. TCM has shown it before, including just after Bergman’s death, and it’s always worth a look. There just aren’t American television programs like this any longer. It kicks off a night dedicated to many of Bergman’s most popular films, including Wild Strawberries and The Seventh Seal.

2:00 AM Hour of the Wolf (Bergman, 1968) - BW-87 mins. - MGM released a solid disc in R1 for this Ingmar Bergman picture but it’s fallen out of print. The large Bergman set that has Hour of the Wolf remains available, though at a substantial price. Persona, which is scheduled to air immediately prior at 12:30 AM, is my favorite in that set and also the best thing I’ve seen from Bergman, but I wanted to mention Hour of the Wolf since it’s now off the R1 market. This really seems like Bergman experimenting a little with psychological terror, bringing to mind the later sensibility of David Lynch. It stars Max von Sydow as a tormented artist sharing horrible memories with his wife, played by Liv Ullmann. The title actually refers to the hour just before dawn, but watching this late at night should have the desired effect.

Friday June 5

8:15 AM The Running Man (Reed, 1963) - C-104 mins. - Laurence Harvey fakes his death and meets wife Lee Remick in Spain, but his keep your enemies closer plan of cozying up next to insurance investigator Alan Bates proves risky. Carol Reed directed from an adaptation by John Mortimer. The color Scope cinematography was nominated for a BAFTA. Columbia released the film theatrically, but nothing on the DVD front.

10:00 AM Our Man in Havana (Reed, 1960) - BW-107 mins. - A very good film where Alec Guinness plays an inadvertent spy located in Cuba. Guinness’ everyman quality makes him enjoyable in the role and also serves him well, as it often did, with treading the line of likability in the character. I can’t think of another actor so gifted at playing passivity as he was. Though the film is available on DVD in R1 from Sony (also R2), the cover is so ugly as to make you question whether it’s really something you want to let in your home, and the image contrast is far too green.

Comments»

1. Robin Moss - January 12, 2008

The File on Thelma Jordon is an excellent movie and long overdue on DVD. The little-seen Richard Rober is particularly good as the lusty villain.

2. Craig Clarke - January 17, 2008

What a great service for TCM viewers. Thanks!

3. Matthew Sorrento - January 22, 2008

I agree — was jazzed to see Tourneur’s “Nightfall” coming to TCM. Cheers!

4. endzone - January 26, 2008

I know Crossfire (which is playing on the 28th) is readily available on DVD. In fact, you can own it separately or on Warner’s Film Noir Vol. 2. I haven’t seen it yet but I’d like to get your opinion on it seeing as you’re a big fan of film noir. Where does this film rank in the pantheon? Or does it rank?

5. clydefro - January 26, 2008

Crossfire has my favorite noir actors (Roberts Ryan and Mitchum) and actress (Gloria Grahame) so I can’t help but enjoy it a little. The social message agenda doesn’t play too well today, but it’s still probably an essential watch. The usual noir ingredients are mostly there, even if there’s a certain safeness in the tone and how the characters are presented. Not a lot of ambiguity really.

I do think it’s definitely worth watching, but it pales a bit in comparison to some of the harder-edged stuff.

6. endzone - February 7, 2008

I watched In a Lonely Place last night which I loved (first viewing). A little while later I sat down and watched Crossfire which paled in comparison. Actually I did not like it at all. The social message, as you said, does not play well today. Perhaps it did back then. It was a Best Picture nominee that year so that must tell you something about how the film’s message was taken at the time. I wasn’t very impressed with any of the performances either. Gloria Grahame, who was stunning in In a Lonely Place, was used sparingly here. Mitchum’s character was not necessary for the story. Overall, it was a mess. I also watched Detour earlier that day and that was sort of a minor mess, but still intriguing enough to pull me in.

Anyways, thanks for the recommendations. I hope to look at more soon.

7. clydefro - February 7, 2008

I don’t think I can disagree with any of that. In a Lonely Place is one of those top 8 favorite films I was talking about in a previous post and Crossfire is going to look soggy in comparison. Crossfire just isn’t a noir I have much desire to watch again because there’s nothing interesting going on. The cast, despite Dmytryk not getting what he should from them, makes it worth seeing, but still not entirely satisfying. You’re right, it is a mess and not a good one, whereas Detour is a mess but in a good way.

8. endzone - February 29, 2008

Thanks. I’m definitely checking out that new documentary. I haven’t seen any commercials advertising the documentary or the pre-code films. I remember a couple months back they had a commercial advertising that Lewton doc over a period of months.

9. endzone - March 7, 2008

I have the new DVD for ‘The Apartment’. I am very impressed with it; cheap price, great print and a top-notch commentary.

I think next week I will be watching ‘Macbeth’, ‘Three Strangers’, and the Fuller film, ‘Underworld U.S.A.’

A few months back I asked you when you’d have your top 50 films of the seventies up and I believe you said March. Is that something near your radar at the moment? It’s my personal favorite decade and your list will probably add some more films into my queue.

10. clydefro - March 9, 2008

The seventies are probably just behind the forties as my favorite. I’ve definitely made a point of watching some things from the decade. The list is actually not due until May so I’ve got a few more weeks. I haven’t even figured out what number one will be, but I’m sure Robert Altman will have a half dozen or so films on the list and it’ll skew heavily American.


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