Here's how this works: Visit the TCM schedule for the month -- the link
for May 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. ***
8:00 a.m. Trial (1955)
Dir: Mark Robson
A Mexican boy happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when an Anglo girl dies. That and a few ambiguous facts target him as the “perp” of a crime that was never committed. He becomes a beanbag in a welter of “isms” – racism, law-and-order-ism, communism. This movie from Don Mankiewicz’ novel – he also wrote the screenplay – is hampered cruelly by the times in which it was made. But it’s remarkably adult and interesting all the same. It’s helped by serviceable, no-nonsense direction, clean black-and-white cinematography, and an excellent cast. Glenn Ford does his usual thoughtful hero bit, which is what the part requires. Dorothy McGuire, Katy Jurado, Robert Middleton, John Hoyt, John Hodiak (who died not long after he made the film), and the magnificent Juano Hernandez dress up an already solid production. But for those like me – who see the film’s flaws yet have great fondness for it – the real star is veteran actor Arthur Kennedy. In his distinguished career of etching fine and honest characterizations, he’s never been better than he is here as the gutsy, fast-talking, faster-thinking, underhand party lawyer. He’s always in motion, always acting out his own agenda, always ready to nip at the hero’s hypocrisy (“You don’t want dirty communist money, you want good, clean American money . . .”). When his own staff warns him people won’t like his proposed scam, he’s quick to answer: “Not when I do it.” How right he is. It’s a great performance.
11:30 p.m. 100 Men and a Girl (1937)
Dir: Henry Koster
Deanna Durbin won a number of devoted fans in her brief film career. I’m not one of them. Her pictures almost invariably highlight her singing –- which is okay, I suppose, for those in a tip-toe through-the-tulips mood –- and, while I respect her late efforts to develop genuine acting skills, I can’t bring myself to watch her movies without fumigating the room afterwards. Why, then, do I cite this picture? The answer is complicated and it probably won’t satisfy you anyway. In this mighty opus Ms. Durbin is the daughter of impoverished musician Adolph Menjou. She works her not-too-gamine charms to create an orchestra to employ Daddy and many other needy musical artists. These are the 100 men of the title. There is a 101st man, however, and his appearance here shows how Hollywood in the ‘thirties pursued non-screen celebrities the same way it does now. The great conductor whom Miss Cuteness contrives to lead her Orchestra Of Forgotten Men is played by the great conductor – and he really was a great conductor – Leopold Stokowski. Gee, do you think he might be type-cast? In one of those scenes that linger with you like acne scars Leopold studies the boys in the band after he finds them unexpectedly playing muzak on his entryway staircase. He observes them in silence, keeps his grip until the rhythm is just too bitchen to withstand, then erupts spastically into conducting them, his arms swinging, carried away by a passion too overwhelming to control. And leave us not forget the loathsome rodentine looks of affection that Durbin and Menjou exchange during her final number. Come to think of it, don’t see this film. Its schmaltz content is dangerous to your health.
8:00 p.m. Gun Crazy (1949)
Dir: Joseph H. Lewis
A cult classic if ever there was one – a doomed young couple on the run story. And God – or TCM’s program director – is to be thanked for running it within 24 hours of 100 Men and a Girl. You need something like this to recover from the throes of saccharine toxicity. Yet as short as it is, it takes a while to get going. The writer evidently needs to explain to us that the hero’s love of guns has nothing to do with a violent or criminal nature, but is an element of his self-respect. Not so with the little gal in the cowboy suit he hooks up with. She knows what guns are really good for – and she definitely knows how to handle his gun. (How I wish she'd handle mine.) English actress Peggy Cummins is a particularly hot lick in this movie, all purr and guile and easy-mister-get-your-nose-outa-my-pants. She makes short work of John Dall. I can’t say I’d have done any better than he does.
6:15 a.m. Gentleman Jim (1942)
Dir: Raoul Walsh
Far and away my favorite Errol Flynn movie. No ordinary swashbuckling here. Instead of a sash and saber Errol wears boxing gear in a rousing – and mostly phony – “biography” of James J. Corbett, the celebrated heavyweight champeen in those rough-and-ready days when bare knuckles were just giving way to gloves and the Marquess of Queensbury rules. The star is clean-shaven and Oirish – I mean Oirish! – duking it out with his burly brothers as often as with the contendahs in the ring. His performance is right on the money – brash, charming, physical, jocular, a star’s performance. The picture is terrific, too. Even the unpleaseable Manny Farber regarded it highly. It has an added benefit in Ward Bond – genuinely affecting as John L. Sullivan.
12:00 a.m. Strange Cargo (1940)
Dir: Frank Borzage
One wonders how Louie B. Mayer let this escape from MGM, of all places. It definitely ain’t Andy Hardy material. Maybe he figured that with a pack of actors like this it had to be worth a try. It’s worth something – I can’t say what. At any rate it’s got Clark Gable, Joan Crawford, Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, Albert Dekker, Ian Hunter, Eduardo Ciannelli, all in the same boat, a group of runaways from Devil’s Island. On their trek to freedom each of them somehow confronts the nature of his (or her) life and the need for Grace. Helping this along is Ian Hunter, a fellow prisoner who is – there’s no other way to say it – Jesus Christ, or something like Him. Borzage directs this lunacy with genuflective conviction, and if you let its dick up your emotional ass only as far as its circumcision scars you might as well take all the rest of it. I’ve said this before – perhaps even in connection with this film – but I’ll repeat it: I’ve never been a Joan Crawford fan, and here she’s already starting to develop that sunken-cheeked Mommie-Dearest look that so frightened me as a child. But she has an almost natural gift for playing fallen woman roles, and she’s powerfully sexy as the stepped-on trollop who wants to make herself clean again.
6:00 a.m. The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)
Dir: Sidney Franklin
Awright . . . so I’ve mentioned this one before. So sue me. So my bringing it up here is just more evidence of my well-known pussy-worship of Norma Shearer. What can I say? I’m a character out of Dostoevski, the pathetic, uxorious, groveling dog whose passion is never requited but who must constantly bear witness to his own degradation. My only defense is, “I can’t help myself!” Having gotten that off my chest I can say that this 1934 version of the love and elopement of poets Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning has considerable MGM gloss – Norma was, after all, the wife of the studio’s production chief – and a cast of Oscar-ed worthies. Besides herself, Frederic March and Charles Laughton were previous winners. And scrumptious Maureen O’Sullivan shows up in support. It derives from a reputable stage production and its theatrical dullness does contain some theatrical excitement, as well. I know this is all rationalization, but the picture really isn’t that bad. It isn’t! So don’t hold it against me when I confess that Ms. Shearer in this very role produced one of the most satisfying erotic episodes of my life when I saw this many years ago on an all-night L.A. movie channel. All part of what God wrought before the Coming of Cable-TV.
Tuesday, May 1 12pm Eastern
The Teahouse of the August Moon (Daniel Mann, 1956)
I've actually never watched it. But I've heard interesting things about Brando's unusual performance as a Japanese man and I'm a great fan of satire when it's done well. The plot: One year after world war II, Captain Fisby, played by Glenn Ford, is sent to the village Tobiki in Okinawa to teach the people democracy. First step is to build a school - but the witty folks know what they really want. They tell him about their culture and traditions - and persuade him to build something they really want: a teahouse. Fisby has a hard time to break this to his superiors.
It's undoubtedly lighthearted stuff that I'll record and get back to later on in the day.
Tuesday, May 1 1:45am Eastern
Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini, 1950)
I saw this one ages ago in a film class and remember being struck, mostly, by the cinematography. Ingrid Bergman does her usual forlorn thing but Rosellini is able to capture the provincial life of a fisherman with a certain aplomb. The plot: Karen, a young woman from the Baltic countries, marries fisherman Antonio to escape from a prisoners camp. But the life in Antonio's village, Stromboli, threatened by the volcano, is a tough one and Karen cannot get used to it.
(my remaining 3 picks to come)
All times Eastern Midnight to 11:59PM
3rd 7AM Dynamite (1929)
Cecil B. DeMille's first talkie and also his first of three films under MGM provides us a good example of what happens when life doesn't seem to go your way. Kay Johnson plays an heiress, in love with a married man, must get married by a certain date or she will lose the proceeds of a trust fund which she needs to get her lover a divorce. To meet the terms of this fund she marries a guy on death row and when society kills him she will then become a rich widow. But guess what? The real killer shows up, the guy on death row gets freed and now Kay Johnson is left with a man she doesn't want. Oh what a day!
3rd 9:15AM One Man's Journey (1933)
One of six RKO films previously thought "lost" but rediscovered and restored by TCM , the film portrays a self-sacrificing country doctor (Lionel Barrymore) who is willing to accept potatoes and eggs in lieu of cash for his services. The film covers a several-year period showing the doctor raising his son since his wife died in childbirth and because of his selfish ways the son had to learn the errors of his way sometimes the hard way. But the son prospered and became a surgeon. Also during this time the community got to learn more about the doctor, started showing him more respect and even later put on a testimonial dinner for him.
11th 4PM The Honey Pot (1967)
Inspired by the play "Volpone" Cecil (Rex Harrison) plots a practical joke to his three mistresses by pretending he is terminally ill. He invited them all to his bedside for the reading of the "will" and of course they were anxious to know who is getting his wealth and how much. But that night one of the mistresses dies and her nurse companion feels something is suspicious and decides to investigate the matter, thus discovering the plot
17th 12:45AM Stars in My Crown (1950)
Portraying Americana at its best this film shows Joel McCrea as a country parson just moving in this small community where religion appears to have been completely forgotten. As he tries to bring this religion back he is confronted with all kinds of problems-- a typhoid epidemic killing some of the children which almost included the parson's adopted son, the threat of the KKK terrorizing a farmer wanting his land and a budding romance between a doctor with a bad bedside manner and a pretty school teacher.
28th 2:45AM Germany Year Zero (1948 Italy)
This is a story of a young boy , who loses his soul to the ravages of the war, examining his struggle to reinvent a meaning in a physically and morally devastated society. This film is the final installment to Roberto Rossellini's war trilogy, the first two being "Rome, Open City" (1946) and "Paisan" (1946).
May 1 10pm Places In The Heart--Sally Field & John Malkovich--depression era picture of a lady trying to make ends meet growing cotton in Texas, and having a boarding house. Norma Rae comes on before it and it's worthwhile too, irrc.
May 1 4:15am The End--Burt Reynolds tries to kill himself and ends up in a psych ward. It's a black comedy, and I'm not a huge Reynolds fan, but it's fairly amusing and watchable.
May 3 12:14pm The Onion Field--police procedural of a crime and the shooting of a cop in an onion field and the repercussions of the event. Well told, and good performances by the actors, particularly John Savage & James Woods.
also: May 3/4 5am Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil--a reporter goes to Georgia to cover a socialite's party only to get involved with a murder trail and many of the local's lives. If you enjoy a good southern styled story, it's pretty good.
Friday May 18th 8pm American Graffiti--all star cast, I've seen it before a couple of times, but I haven't seen it in a while, and could probably sit thru it again.