Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” Thread, for the week of April 5-11, 2021. Since we're in 31 Days of Oscar on TCM, there's no Star of the Month for this or the next couple of weeks. That doesn't mean there aren't good movies, of course. We've got a whole bunch of them, as well as one that's not so good but a heck of a lot of fun because of its badness. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
First up this week is Five Easy Pieces, at 10:00 PM Monday on TCM. Jack Nicholson plays Robert Dupea, a very talented classical pianist who for various reasons, is estranged from the rest of his musical family. So he's more or less dropped out of life, taking on various jobs in a lower-class blue-collar lifestyle, currently with girlfriend Rayette (Karen Black) and best friend Elton (Billy Green Bush). But then he learns from his sister Partita (Lois Smith) that his father has had a stroke. So Robert heads up to the family home in Puget Sound where his brother Carl (Ralph Waite) and sister still live, to see Dad one more time. Of course, there are all the old resentments that cased Robert to abandon this life in the first place, and new complications such as a young pianist (Susan Anspach) that Carl is giving lessons to. This is one of those movies that you don't watch as much for the plot as for the acting and the character study of Robert.
Apparently, I haven't mentioned Tumbleweed in these pages before. StarzEncore Westerns has it on this week, at 2:36 AM Monday, so now would be a good time to point it out. Another Audie Murphy western, this one has Murphy playing Jim Harvey, who saves a Yaqui Indian before becoming a guard and scout on a wagon train of pioneers heading west, including love-triangle interest Laura Sanders (Lori Nelson). She likes Jim, but her sister thinks she should pair up with Lam (Russell Johnson), who isn't a drifter like Jim. The wagon train gets attacked by the Yaqui, and most of the men get killed. The local sheriff, Murchoree (Chill Wills) comes to the not unreasonable conclusion that it was Jim who was in cahoots with the Yaqui to attack the travelers, and he's sentenced to hang. So he has to break out of jail to prove his innocence, although trying to break out will of course make him look more guilty and put the posse on his trail. Another serviceable Audie Murphy western.
As this is a football forum, I would be remiss if I didn't mention The Fortune Cookie, airing on TCM at 11:45 AM Tuesday. Jack Lemmon plays Harry Hinkle, a cameraman for CBS living in Cleveland. Part of his job involves being a sideline cameraman at Cleveland Browns games at the old “mistake by the lake”. At one of the games, he's so busy focusing in wide receiver Luther “Boom Boom” Jackson (Ron Rich) that he doesnt realize the receiver is coming right at him, ultimately bowling Harry over as he runs out of bounds. Harry only suffers a mild concussion. But, he's got an estranged wife and a brother-in-law Willie Gingrich (Walter Matthau) who is a lawyer. An ambulance-chasing lawyer, no less. Willie convinces Harry to fake a serious back injury and sue everybody involved for as much as he can get. (Suing Roger Goodell for not warning them about the dangers of concussions, however, was not on the table.) Seeing Harry's “injury” screws up Luther's career, and how long can Harry keep the lie up, anyway?
If you like 1980s comedies, there are a couple airing this week. First up is Blind Date, at 6:22 PM Tuesday on StarzEncore Comedy. Bruce Willis plays Walter Davis. He's an executive who is so busy with his work and his need to get ahead in life that he hasn't paid any attention to things like looking for a possible wife. His company is about to have an important business meeting and dinner with some potential international clients, and it wouldn't make such a good impression if Walter were seen to be a bachelor. He's in luck, in that his brother Ted (Phil Hartman) has a wife whose cousin is new to town and who would make a suitable date. There's only one catch: cousin Nadia (Kim Basinger) absolutely can't hold her liquor. Don't let her have even just one drop, or there will be hell to pay. You know what's going to happen next, which is that Nadia is going to ingest some champagne, and sure enough, all hell breaks loose. Then when it comes time for the trial, it turns out that Nadia's defense attorney David Bedford (John Larroquette) is her ex-boyfriend, and a nut too.
Another movie that's always worth mentioning is Fury. It's on again this week, at 5:15 AM Wednesday on TCM. Spencer Tracy plays Joe Wilson, a young man in love with Katherine Grant (Sylvia Sidney) but not having much money. So she moves west to make some money, on the grounds that Joe will follow her eventually. After making that money with his brothers, he gets a car and heads west. But when he stops in one small town by Bugs Meyers (Walter Brennan), deputy to the sheriff (Edward Ellis). Joe has some circumstantial evidence that would link him to a local missing persons case, even though we all know he's innocent. The locals don't, and when they hear of his arrest they get antsy since this is a notorious case, ultimately turning into a lynch mob that burns down the police station and its jail. Joe is presumed dead, but he's actually escaped the fire. He's so bitter, however, that he decides not to reveal his survival to anybody, instead willing to let the local townsfolk stand trial for his murder. How will the Production Code resolve this?
A search of the site claims that it's been just over three years since I last mentioned Overboard. It's got an airing this week at 8:05 PM Wednesday on StarzEncore Classics. Goldie Hawn plays Joanna Stayton, a super-wealthy harridan wife from hell who treats everyone around her badly, from husband Grant (Edward Herrmann) to the head of her yacht's servants, Andrew (Roddy McDowall), to Dean Proffitt (Kurt Russell), the carpenter she hired to replace the closet in her yacht's master suite when the yacht was docked off Dean's home town in Oregan. She stiffs him out of his fee, but that night, she has an accident and falls overboard, getting picked up by a garbage scow. The next morning, she has a severe case of amnesia, not knowing who she is. Grant realizes this is his opportunity to get free and doesn't claim her. Dean, who is a widower with four young sons, sees it's his chance to get a woman around the house for long enough to do enough chores to pay off the $600 she stiffed him, claiming that she is his wife.. As you can figure out, however, Dean and Joanna, now named Annie, begin to fall in love; Annie thinks she might have a home with these kids; and the kids need a mother and don't want to let her go when the time comes.
I don't recall if I've talked about The Green Years before. You have a chance to catch it this week, at 1:45 PM Thursday on TCM. Robert Shannon (Dean Stockwell as a kid and Tom Drake as an adult) is an orphan in Ireland whose mother died, but since she had emigrated from Scotland, Robert is sent there to live with his family. Grandpa Leckie (Hume Cronyn) is stereotypically parsimonious, keeping Robert from being spoiled and being emotionally distant. Thankfully for Robert, he's got a great-grandfather Gow (Charles Coburn), who is much kinder to Robert, as is Leckie's daughter Kate (Jessica Tandy). As Robert grows up there's young Alison (Beverly Tyler) as a love interest, and eventually Robert wants to go off to university and medical school as a way of avoiding the fate that would otherwise befall most young men in this part of Scotland. But it's going to be a rocky road for him to get there.
If you like motorcycles, be warned that the movie Hell's Angels has nothing to do with them. Instead, it's a gripping World War I drama on TCM at 10:15 PM Friday. In 1914, Monte and Roy Rutledge (Ben Lyon and James Hall respectively) are studying at Oxford together with a German friend, Karl (John Darrow). If you know your histtory, you'll know that the Great War (obviously there hadn't been a second world war yet and the movie was released in 1930 before the start of World War II) breaks out that summer, resulting in Karl getting drafted into the German military while Monte and Roy join the British air corps. The Rutledge brothers both meet Helen (Jean Harlow) and fall in love with her before getting sent to France, although the feeling isn't quite mutual. Meanwhile, Karl is in the zeppelin corps, which means he's part of the crews trying to drop bombs from the dirigibles onto London, which conflicts him because of his time at Oxford. The storyline may not be the greatest, but the effects are excellent by the standards of 1930. No CGI, and stop-motion would have been murder on the pilots.
We've got a pair of sports movies on Sunday, starting with Rocky, at 3:40 AM Sunday on HBO (or three hours later if you only have the west coast feed). Sylvester Stallone plays Rocky Balboa, who lives in a working-class neighborhood in northeast Philadelphia, where he makes a tiny amount of money as a boxer, and the bulk of his living as a debt collector for the mob. It's not much of a life, although one bright spot might be the woman at the pet store, Adrian (Talia Shire), with whom Rocky falls in love. Things are about to change, however, when Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) comes to town. He's the heavyweight champion set for his latest title defense. But the contender gets injured and has to pull out of the fight. Apollo looks for a patsy opponent, and comes up with the gimmick of plucking an unknown from obscurity, picking Rocky because of his nickname, “The Italian Stallion” (sorry Blair Kiel). Rocky trains with his coach Mickey (Burgess Meredith), while everybody else expects him to get knocked out early.
There are some lousy movies TCM can show in 31 Days of Oscar because they have an Oscar-nominated song. A good example of this is Ice Castles, at 1:30 PM Sunday. Lynn-Holly Johnson plays Alexis Winston, a small-town Iowa figure skater who is good but who hasn't had real training, just local amateur Beulah Smith (Colleen Dewhurst). Beulah thinks Alexis is good enough for a professional coach and possible qualification for the national championships and eventually the Olympics, but Dad (Tom Skerritt) isn't so sure. And Alexis' boyfriend Nick (Robby Benson, looking like he would have been teenage Goldie's #1 boyfriend), a hockey player who's gone about as far as his ability will take him, doesn't want to lose his girlfriend. But she does try to grab the brass ring under the tutelage of coach Mackland (Jennifer Warren), and gets pretty far, until… she has a freak accident which takes away most of her eyesight. She wants to drown in her self-pity, but eventually starts training for a comeback, which is thoroughly ridiculous since how are you going to keep your bearings on the ice when you can't see the boards? The song isn't even that good 40 years on.