Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” Thread, for the week of March 19-25, 2018. No Star of the Month, since TCM decided to do it this month as all five weeknights in prime time one week, and that was last week. However, there's still a lot of other interesting stuff out there. And it's all as fresh and new as my jokes! (Tasteful and erudite, too.) As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
I can't recall whether I've recommended The Count of Monte Cristo before, but you've got a chance to catch it this week, at 1:30 PM Monday on TCM. Robert Donat plays Dantes, a young sailor who in 1815 is given the task of delivering a letter from Napoleon who is in exile on Elba. Of course, this is a big no-no, so his rival Fernand Mondego (Sidney Blackmer) has Dantes arrested and imprisoned in the Chateau d'If. It also leave Fernand free to marry Dantes' girlfriend Mercedes (Elissa Landi) once he's able to convince Mercedes that Dantes died. Of course Dantes didn't die; he's just stuck in a brutal prison. One old prisoner befriends him and tells him of the location of buried treasure on the island of Monte Cristo. Eventually, Dantes is able to escape, get to Monte Cristo to find that treasure, and then use his new wealth to work on a scheme to take revenge on the people who wrongly imprisoned him.
Burt Reynolds wasn't much of an actor outside of light comedy, Deliverance aside. A good example of this is Malone, which will be on StarzEncore Classics at 5:37 AM Tuesday. Reynolds plays Malone, a CIA assassin who's tired of the job and just wants to retire. The agency, however, wants to kill him because, well, the trope of the CIA being the bad guys was a thing in the 80s. (Now that they're against Trump, they and the FBI are the unalloyed good guys or something.) So they send his ex-partner and love interest Jamie (Lauren Hutton) after him. Meanwhile, Malone gets stuck in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming in a small town where it seems as though the mysterious Delaney (Cliff Robertson) is buying everything up. Delaney turns out to be some sort of right-wing whackjob and is taking over the town as part of a plot to serve as a stepping stone to the White House, as if any of this makes sense. Malone realizes he has to stop Delaney.
It's been a year and a half since I've recommended An Ideal Husband, which will be on TCM at 7:30 AM Tuesday as part of a day of movies with a blackmail theme. Hugh Williams plays Sir Robert, a prominent member of the House of Commons in the late Victorian era. He's opposed to funding a canal project in London, but at a party, the American Mrs. Cheveley (Paulette Goddard) comes to Sir Robert with an offer he can't refuse. She's invested heavily in that canal, and if Sir Robert doesn't support it, she'll tell everybody about how he sold a state secret 25 years earlier. Sir Robert turns to his friend Viscout Goring (Michael Wilding) for help; the viscount comes up with a plot to catch Cheveley, with a little help from Sir Robert's unmarried sister Mable (Glynis Johns). Meanwhile, Sir Robert's wife, Lady Gertrude (Diana Wynyard) is none too happy with her husband's change of heart on the canal matter, not knowing about his past. The always delightful C. Aubrey Smith plays the Viscount's father. This is all based on a popular play by Oscar Wilde and filmed in lively Technicolor.
The day of blackmail movies on TCM concludes with Alfred Hitchcock's 1929 Blackmail, his first talkie and a really good early talkie about a woman who kills in self defense, only for there to be a witness to the crime who tries to blackmail her. Speaking of Hitchcock, StarzEncore Mysteries is running Rope this Thursday at 6:53 AM and Sunday at 5:59 AM. Farley Granger and John Dall play a pair of classmates who, having learned odd theories on philosophy about who deserves to live from one of their professors (James Stewart), decide to kill another of their classmates. Then, in a fit of hubris, they hold a dinner party and serve a buffet off a chest of books that actually has the dead body inside it! And they've invited the dead guy's girlfriend as well as their old professor. (Of course, the movie isn't a mystery since the murder is committed in the opening scene and we know damn well who the killers are.)
There were about half a dozen Michael Shayne movies made in the early 40s, although FXM Retro only shows two or three of them. One that they do show is Dressed to Kill, which will be on at 6:00 AM Tuesday and 4:45 AM Wednesday. Michael Shayne, played by Lloyd Nolan, was Fox's answer to the popular detective movie series at the other studios. In this one, he's on the verge of getting married (I'm reminded of Torchy Blane and her policeman boyfriend), to his fiancée Joanne (Mary Beth Hughes). But as he's picking her up, they hear screams in the apartment a floor above. So of course Michael investigates, and finds two dead bodies! So of course Michael has to investigate a murder case. In this case, the two dead people were found in costume at the dinner table, so they were obviously part of the theater: the dead man was a producer, and the woman an actress in his latest play. And since they were involved in the theater, there are a lot of suspects, any of whom could be in disguise. William Demarest plays the incompetent policeman unable to crack the case which of course Michael ultimately does.
I mentioned Michael Wilding in An Ideal Husband above; I suppose I should also mention him in The Glass Slipper, which will be on TCM at 6:30 AM Thursday, as part of a day of movies about ballet or ballet dancers. As you can probably figure out from the title, it's a version of the Cinderella story, told with some dance and a dash of comedy. Wilding plays the Prince Charming character, here renamed Charles, and Leslie Caron plays the Cinderella character, renamed Ella. There's not quite as much magic here, as the “fairy godmother” (Estelle Winwood) is just the local crazy lady, and a kleptomaniac who steals to get the things Ella needs to go to the ball at the castle. Just return everything by midnight, hon. Of course, since there's no magic here, Charles might actually be able to find Ella with the help of that glass slipper Also in the cast are Walter Pidgeon as the narrator, Elsa Lanchester as the wicked stepmother and Amanda Blake, soon to be on Gunsmoke, as one of the stepsisters.
I see that Sunset Boulevard is back on the TCM schedule, at 8:00 PM Thursday. William Holden plays Joe Gillis, a failed Hollywood screenwriter who is in danger of having his car repossessed, that's how badly he's doing. As he's trying to escape the creditors, he pulls in to the driveway of what looks like an abandoned house on Sunset Blvd, and finds a crazy old and her butler are expecting him, thinking he's the undertaker for the funeral she's holding for her monkey! Of course, that's not the case. The old lady is Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), a silent film star who used to be big (she still is, she'll tell you; it's the pictures that got small). Her butler Max (Erich von Stroheim) moves all of Joe's stuff into the room over the garage overnight, because Norma could use a script doctor (not that they used the term back then) for the screenplay she's been working on for her comeback movie, a retelling of the Salome with her as the star. Joe realizes all this is bonkers, but he's trapped as the sugar baby to an insane woman.
On StarzEncore Westerns against Sunset Boulevard is Hombre, at 8:12 PM Thursday. Paul Newman plays John Russell, a white man who was raised by the Indians and now that he's an adult, decides he'd rather live on the reservation. However, he's inherited a place in the city, and that requires going back into white civilization to deal with all the probate matters and selling the place for what he really wants. His travels require him to get on a stagecoach with a bunch of characters who comprise the usual western archetypes: an older agent from the government sent to deal with the Indians (Fredric March); his wife (Barbara Rush); a sheriff (Carmon Mitchell); and his ex-fiancée (Diane Cilento) who is starting a business in a new town. They don't particularly like John for his rejection of white civilization, but they're going to need him after the stage is held up and the lack of water the group suffers from threatens their survival. There's more dissension in the group than just their dislike for John….
Among the programming changes TCM made with the conclusion of 31 Days of Oscar is the moving of TCM Underground to overnight between Friday and Saturday. This week sees a double bill of Willard (2:45 AM Saturday) followed by Ben (4:30 AM Saturday). I'll mention Willard since I've watched it more recently. Willard Stiles (Bruce Davison) is a meek man living with his widowed mother (Elsa Lanchester) and putting up with a nasty boss Martin (Ernest Borgnine) who Mom thinks stole the business out from under Dad. The only comfort Willard has is with the rats that are in the basement and out back. So Willard decides to start training them, finding that two of them, Ben and Socrates, are particularly good leaders. Willard then uses the rats to try to gain some measure of revenge on Martin, but you can probably guess that he's playing with fire in that a large number of rats becomes hard to control.
I'm not certain if I've recommended The Eagle and the Hawk before. It'll be on TCM at 8:30 AM Sunday. World War I was the first major conflict with airplane combat, and any number of people with a sense of adventure volunteered even before their countries were officially belligerents. This movie looks at three Americans: Jeremiah (Fredric March), Mike (Jack Oakie), and Henry (a very young Cary Grant) who all go over to England to volunteer for the air corps that would eventually become the RAF. Henry washes out as a pilot and gets assigned to become a tail-gunner instead, while Jeremiah becomes an excellent reconnaissance pilot. Well, except for the fact that he keeps losing his partners in the two-man biplane crews. This, combined with the fact that he's actually killing Germans, begins to give him intense feelings of guilt about what he's doing. Carole Lombard shows up for a bit to provide everybody a romantic break amongst the horrors of war.