Fedya's "Movies to Tivo" Thread, Week of April 7-23, 2017

Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” Thread, for the week of April 17-23, 2017. Judging by the site traffic, everybody is sick of the waiting for the NFL Draft. So why not spend the time waiting for it watching some good movies instead? Once again, I've used my good taste to select a bunch of movies I know you'll all like. And there's a guest programmer on TCM this week, too, as well as the character actors on Tuesday and Thursday. As usual, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.


This month's TCM Guest Programmer, actor William Daniels, will be on Monday night. The website suggest he's only presenting three movies instead of the four the programmers normally select. So I don't know whether he's selected the night's fourth film, Cass Timberlane at 3:15 AM Tuesday. Cass is actually a man, a judge in one of those small towns where all the people in polite society know each other and gossip if any of them step out of line. Into Cass' courtroom one day walks Ginny (Lana Turner). Cass falls hard for Ginny, despite the fact you'd think there are judicial ethics rules about carrying on with witnesses. The other problem is that Ginny is from the “wrong” side of town, so a relationship with her sets off the scandal mongers. And then her baby dies at birth and she develops a friendship that may or may not be more than just friendship with Cass' good friend, younger lawyer Brad (Zachary Scott). As good an actor as Spencer Tracy was, this is entirely the wrong material for him, and the result is a spectacular mess.


What sort of movie would you get if Jacques Tourneur directed a western? You'll get a chance to find out when StarzEncore Westerns runs Canyon Passage, at 8:43 AM Tuesday. Dana Andrews plays Logan Stuart, a former scout/now store and freight owner in Oregon in the time it was a territory. He's got a girl in Caroline (Patricia Roc), but he's escorted Lucy (Susan Hayward) here because Lucy's fiancé George (Brian Donlevy) is Logan's good friend. The relationship, however, is quite a bit more complicated than that. Lucy finds herself falling for Logan as he accompanies her to her new home town. George, for his part, is an inveterate gambler, and losing money hand over fist. He's also the local banker, so it become easy for him to embezzle when the time comes for him to pay off his gambling debts. But perhaps it's really Honey (Ward Bond) who's been stealing the gold…. Watch also for a very young Lloyd Bridges, as well as Hoagy Carmichael singing a song which was nominated for an Oscar.


For those of you who like more recent movies, StarzEncore Classics is running Uncle Buck at 6:29 AM Wednesday. Buck's brother Bob is married to Cindy, and together they have three children. One night, Cindy's father suddnely suffers a heart attack, and Bob and Cindy have to go out of town to be by her father's side. But there's the problem of what to do with the children: even though the oldest, Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly) is a teenager, she's not old enough to take care of the two younger ones for an extended indeterminate length of time. Bob and Cindy look around, but the only choice left is Uncle Buck (John Candy). You can see why he's the last resort, as he's a lazy slob who seems about as able to take care of the younger kids as Tia. And he has no parenting skills. But the two younger kids (including a pre-Home Alone Macaulay Culkin) take to Buck. Tia, being a teenager, is much more defiant, especially because Buck doesn't like Tia's boyfriend.


I'm not certain if I've ever recommended Rage before. It's on TCM at 2:00 PM Wednesday, so now's as good a time as any to mention it. George C. Scott plays Dan Logan, a rancher who with his son, spends a night out camping near where their flock of sheep is. The military is conducting exercises nearby, and something must have gone wrong, as Dan wakes up the next morning to find all his sheep dead, and his son extremely ill. Dan, for his part, is kept at the hospital for observation, questioned by military doctor Maj. Holliford (Martin Sheen) about what happened. Dan suspects that something is going on and that the truth is being kept from him, but he doesn't realize just how frighteningly right he is. Eventually he breaks out of the hospital, finds his son has died from some sort of new military nerve gas, and decides to go after all the people who lied to him. And when I say “go after”, boy do I mean it! Scott not only stars; he directed.


TCM is running a night of Claude Rains movies on Wednesday in prime time, and he was such a good actor that he could overcome serious miscasting, as in They Made Me a Criminal, which will be on at 3:30 AM Thursday. In this one, Rains plays Phelan, a homicide detective from Queens! Phelan winds up on the trail of Johnnie (John Garfield), a boxer whose private life is different from his public image. Apparently, Johnny likes to party in his private life, and when a reporter spills the beans, Johnnie's manager conks the reporter on the head killing him, and runs off with Johnnie's girlfriend (a young Ann Sheridan), dying in a car crash. The police other than Phelan figure the guy killed in the crash is Johnnie. Meanwhile, Johnnie is also scammed by his lawyer, leaving Johnnie to go on the lam. He winds up in Arizona on a farm with a grandma (May Robson), her granddaughter (Gloria Dickson) and a bunch of orphans (the Dead End Kids, several years before they'd become the Bowery Boys). Johnnie and the granddaughter fall in love, but the farm needs a cash infusion, and when a barnstorming boxer offers big money to anybody who can survive one or more rounds in the ring, Johnnie is just the right person to do it. Except that his past will come to light if he does. Garfield is the star here, but Rains is as good as usual despite not being from Queens in any way.


A movie that's been back on FXM Retro for a couple of weeks now, but which I'm only getting around to mentioning this week, is Emperor of the North, which will be on at 6:00 AM Friday. The setting is the Depression, when millions of people were displaced and a lot of men became hobos, riding the freight trains as stowaways to try to get from one itinerant job to the next. A Number 1 (Lee Marvin) is one of those men, and he's considered to be one of the best at what he does, evading the conductors who for understandable reasons don't want stowaways. Shack (Ernest Borgnine) is one of those conductors, and dammit, he doesn't want anybody at all who isn't supposed to be on his train on it. And he's willing to go to pretty violent lengths to ensure people won't stay on his trains. So A-1 considers it a point of pride to be able to take Shack's train to Portland OR. Joining A-1 for the ride is young Cigaret (Keith Carradine), a young hobo who wants to prove that he too can be just as good as people like A-1.


Another relatively recent movie this week is An Officer and a Gentleman, which will be on several times during the week, including 5:35 PM Friday on Starz Cinema (not the regular Starz channel): An Officer and a Gentleman. Richard Gere plays Zack, a young man who's had a rough childhood. His estranged father was always away in the Navy, while his mother committed suicide. So when he grows up, he decides to join the Navy himself and become a naval fighter pilot. However, he thinks he can just sail through basic training and flight school, and his commanding officer, Sgt. Foley (Louis Gossett Jr.) isn't about to let that happen. Meanwhile, Zack and all the other enlistees are warned about getting to friendly with the civilian women off base, but Zack is cocky enough to think that he can just ignore all that advice, taking up with young Paula (Debra Winger). It might just be enough to derail (or technically run aground, since this is the Navy) Zack's chances at becoming an officer. Watch for a young David Caruso, as well as Victor French as Paula's father.


If you like Navy movies, you're in luck, as this week sees The Enemy Below on TCM at 8:00 PM Saturday. Robert Mitchum plays the captain of a destroyer in World War II who lost his previous command when the Germans torpedoed it to smithereens. Although he's gotten a new command, it's in the middle of nowhere in the southern half of the Atlantic Ocean, far away from the action. Or so he thinks. A German U-boat on a courier mission captained by Curt Jürgens shows up, with no intention of combat, except of course that this is World War II. So the destroyer tries to depth charge the sub while not getting itself into a position where it can be torpedoed, while the sub has to try to torpedo the American destroyer while not being noticed by it when it surfaces. It is in many ways predictable since there's only so much you can do on a submarine, but it's still well done.


Finally, for something that's just pure fun, you could do worse than to watch A Hard Day's Night, at 4:00 PM Sunday on TCM. John, Paul, George, and Ringo, known collectively as the Beatles for any of the young readers, are incredibly popular musicians from Liverpool who have been invited down to London to perform some of their new music for a TV special. So we get a lot of their earliest music, most memorably “Can't Buy Me Love” while they escape from adoring crowds down a fire escape. Subplots involve the Beatles' having to deal with those fans, but also the presence of Paul's grandfather (actor Wilfrid Brambell, not his real grandfather), and the fact that already at this point, Ringo is already seen as the odd man out who's just there to make up the numbers even though he really does have talent of his own and is an all-around nice guy. And John has a sense of humor and isn't the pretentious blankety-blank Yoko Ono turned him into.

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