Here's how this works: Visit the TCM schedule for the month -- the link
for April is here. Pick five films that you want to recommend. Please
include the title of the film, the day and time that it's on, and why you
are championing it. The idea isn't that these are the best films of the month,
just the five you want to recommend. Feel free to choose standards or the
more obscure. And remember, if you have to decide between two films,
try to choose the one that is not available on Netflix.
REMEMBER: *** ALL TIMES EASTERN *** AND *** TCM's DAY RUNS FROM 6:00 a.m. TO 6:00 a.m. ***
6:30 a.m. It's a Great Feeling (1949)
Dir: David Butler
Colorful Warner Brothers fluff. The story has something to do with Jack Carson trying to get a picture made against an insuperable obstacle -- that no one at the studio wants to work with him. His sometime "pal", Dennis Morgan, is at least willing to help him jumpstart the career of a prospective leading lady. The gimmick here is that Carson and Morgan play themselves -- as do the many real-life stars who show up in occasionally amusing cameos. As the dreamy-eyed prospective starlet Doris Day acts as the girl-who-came-to-Hollywood-but-now-wants-to-go-back-home-to-Shitsville-to-marry-the-schnook-who's-been-waiting-in-the-weeds. Getting her noticed by the production bigwig forms the essence of the plot. The film passes pleasantly enough, and there's something admirable in Carson's willingness to portray himself as a notorious jack-off.
6:30 p.m. Pretty Poison (1968)
Dir: Noel Black
Troubled young Anthony Perkins is a troubled young man with a troubled emotional past when this movie begins. And, of course, his troubles have only begun. But he seems on top of his game when he woos Tuesday Weld -- trouble enough for any man, young or old -- with ongoing nonsense about him being a secret agent on a dazzlingly complicated case. She's somehow delighted to be ensnared in his web of wild deceits. He discovers too late that she is the real spider. This movie is what's generally called a "sleeper" and has kept a relatively strong reputation in the many years since it came out. Perkins -- whom I respect but don't much care for -- gives a winning performance here. And various pros -- John Randolph, Beverly Garland -- provide able support. But it's Weld who takes home the cake. We always knew she was a fox. But a fox who could act ?!? That's dangerous territory, mon.
12:00 p.m. The Great Sinner (1949)
Dir: Robert Siodmak
One of the most-repeated stories of world literature is how Dostoevski was in the middle of writing Crime and Punishment when he realized, to his horror, that he had to deliver a new book to an unscrupulous publisher within a matter of weeks or face financial disaster. So he worked in a state of fever, dictated a short novel to a sixteen-year old girl, and finished it in time. He later married the girl. The book he composed under such demanding circumstances was one that -- for all too obvious reasons -- was drawn from his own recent experiences and, therefore, easiest to write. It was The Gambler, a tale of the excitement -- and madness -- of playing at the roulette tables at a continental casino. The film, of course, does not reproduce Dostoevski -- it is, after all an MGM production. But it is, after all, an MGM production. So it gives us a sense of Hollywood spiritual uplift, of Wagnerian redemption, and does it with a remarkable cast. I can't recommend this to readers who foam at the mouth when they see their favorite books shit on by the films made from them. But however wide of the mark this one fires its arrow, it still has a moment or two to keep you interested.
12:30 p.m. Topkapi (1964)
Dir: Jules Dassin
The maker of Rififi comes up with another heist movie, this one filmed on location in Istanbul. The caper itself is wonderfully done -- if more than a bit impossible to believe. But the cast is as much fun as anything else in the picture. As the befuddled small-time Levantine chiseler Peter Ustinov won himself a second Oscar, though he's given a vigorous run for his money by Akim Tamiroff. Maximilian Schell -- who'd won his own Academy Award not long before, is the mastermind, and inventor Robert Morley is among his recruits. The lone casting problem appears to be the choice of leading lady -- Melina Mercouri as the outrageous femina fatale. Glamorous she is, but Dassin -- whose wife she was -- struggles so mightily to make her an irresistible sex goddess-comedienne that she's completely out of control, so over the top that you're likelier to be put off by her man-eating persona. A shame, since the real-life Mercouri was not only an accomplished actress but also a noted Greek patriot and a very brave lady.
3:30 a.m. The Owl and the Pussycat (1970)
Dir: Herbert Ross
Before she became a "genius" Barbra Streisand was indeed a funny girl. This movie demonstrates just how funny she could be when matched with a gifted co-star and armed with a script and a skilled director. One of those "New York" films of the 'seventies that catered to a neurotic urban sensibility it has more laughs than you'd expect from a story so minute and so pedestrian. Really a chamber piece for two instruments it occasionally lets a few other actors in, and they do rather well, but if you don't go for the principals themselves you might as well stay away. If you stick around, however, you'll get some well-etched dialogue scenes with a pair of stars at the peak of their charm.
4:30 am. The Mask of Dimitrios (1944)
Dir: Jean Negulesco
I wrote last month about Eric Ambler's pre-War novels of intrigue. This one -- which I read under the title A Coffin for Dimitrios -- is my favorite of the lot. On screen it doesn't quite have the resonance of the book, but what adaptations do? It does feature the usual crew of transplanted Europeans that so enriched Hollywood in the studio era, and it was made by the most stiff-dicked studio of the age -- Warner Brothers. We travel from Turkey to Paris with stops along the way and never leave its Burbank lot. The cast, quite naturally, gives the story a powerful pelvic thrust, but for all the Masters on parade, it's the young Zachary Scott who, I think, comes closest to delineating what Ambler first had in mind. And his final moment -- right out of the book -- is delivered as forcibly as it was on the printed page.
All times Eastern, midnight to 11:59PM
2nd 2:30AM HIGH AND LOW (1963 Japan) - Viewed by some critics as Akiro Kurosawa's best film, we get to see a corporate takeover and to what extent they are willing to go with it--the kidnapping of what they believed was the executive's child. The executive now faces a terrible choice--pay the ransom and lose his entire fortune or refuse to pay thus risking the boy's life.
5th 3:30AM THE WEST POINT STORY (1950) - James Cagney takes the starring role doing what he enjoys best, song and dance, although overshadowed somewhat by his several gangster films. We see him producing a show for the cadets "100 Nights" (100 nights before graduation) program. At first he refused since he was working under some of them during his war days and he also had a girl friend problem who was planning on leaving him and go back to Las Vegas. Eventually everything started working out in his favor and the show went on as scheduled.
14th 8PM THE FALLEN IDOL (1948 UK) involves a friendship between a boy living at the embassy while his parents are away and a butler working there. The butler, who is married, is having an affair with another embassy worker. The wife gets suspicious and decides to do some spying but accidentally she fell to her death. The boy immediately suspects his butler friend was involved and so as to protect him the boy begins a series of lies. Unfortunately the boy gets his lies mixed up and unknowingly jeopardizes his butler friend.
16th 1:30AM GET OUT AND GO UNDER (1920) - For the Harold Lloyd's fans we see him trying to get to his own stage show on time before a rival will take over and possibly take away his girl friend as well. But this is the time when the automobile was "born" and it appears Lloyd is more in love with his precious Model T than his gal, even though the car has been giving him so much trouble, hilariously of course, throughout the film.
25th 9:30PM JALNA (1935) - Based on a novel by Mazo de la Roche we have three romances all rolled into one at the Whiteoak's estate Jalna. First is Eden Whiteoak, the poet, and Alayne, the outsider, whom he has met in New York. Second is that between Piers and Pheasant, the illegitimate daughter of Maurice Vaughn who had been betrothed to Meg Whiteoak until Pheasant's unexpected arrival. Third and the most important is the complications between Renny and Alayne realizing they are falling in love with each other since Eden has become bored over Alayne's insistence that he, Eden, should take her away from Jalna as quickly as possible. Oh what a wonderful life it is at Jalna.
"The Fallen Idol" is an old fave of mine as I first saw it twenty years ago. I will stop everything I am doing and sit motionless when this is shown in order to see the performances of just everyone in this but especially of the young boy. Each time I see it I grasp a minor detail I missed before and that is always the mark of a really good movie! Now that I am twenty years older I understand much more about how difficult this situation is to portray than I did when I first saw it. Subtlety and unspoken truths!
I need to tape the Kurosawa film thanks. :)
I'm not one of those who think it's Kurosawa's best, but in truth I didn't understand what it was really about until the very last shot in the film.
If you like this movie you may like "Inkaar" (1977) which appears to be a photocopy of this film except, of course, a few years later.