Fedya's "Movies to Tivo" Thread, Week of April 9-15, 2018

Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” thread, for the week of April 9-15, 2018. We've got more movies from Star of the Month William Holden, as well as more from the spotlight on Michael Curtiz. And there's a lot of other interesting stuff elsewhere. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.

 

Class is something Jaymo doesn't have. Class is also the title of a movie airing on Starz Encore Classics at 2:22 AM Monday. Andrew McCarthy plays Jonathan, a shy, naive small-town boy who has gotten a scholarship to a tony prep school in hopes of getting into Harvard. There, he's roomed with Skip (Rob Lowe), a rich kid who treats Jonathan rather badly, constantly making him the butt of all jokes. Meanwhile, he's also trying to figure out how to help Jonathan lose his virginity. Eventually, Jonathan goes to Chicago, meets Ellen (Jacqueline Bisset) and, lying about his identity, gets her to make love to him. Until she learns he's a student at a prep school. And then Skip invites Jonathan to visit him at home over the Christmas break, and things take an even more shocking turn. There's still the issue of trying to get into college, and some of the students may have been cheating…. John Cusack and Virginia Madsen also show up right at the beginning of their movie careers.

 

There's no one-armed man, but TCM is showing The Fugitive at 3:15 PM Monday. Based on a story by Catholic writer Graham Greene, the movie stars Henry Fonda as The Priest (otherwise unnamed) in an unnamed Latin American country that has recently installed an anti-clercial government which is trying to eradicate all traces of religion. But The Priest is able to get away thanks to the help of the Gringo (Ward Bond), an American fugitive; and the Indian Woman (Dolores Del Rio; you'll notice that none of the characters are named). Meanwhile, a police lieutenant (Pedro Armendáriz) is trying to find the priest and bring him to justice. Then an informant (J. Carroll Naish) who knows where the Priest is tricks him into offering last rites to the Gringo in what is really a trap for the police to find him. This movie isn't one of my favorites, but most of the people who review it give it much more positive reviews than I do.

 

There's another night of William Holden films on Monday night continuing into Tuesday morning, this time films made in the 1950s. One I don't think I've mentioned before is Boots Malone, which will be on TCM at 7:00 AM Tuesday. Boots (Holden) is an agent for horse racing jockeys who has fallen on hard times after his big star jockey died a few years back. Trying to work his way back up, he spots a good horse, but doesn't have a good jockey. But he's about to get a bit of luck thanks to young Tommy (Johnny Stewart). Tommy is running away from his family and is actually a rich kid who'd like to ride the horses. Boots and his friend Stash (Stanley Clements) figure out that Tommy is rich, and decide that they're going to try to swindle Tommy by fleecing him while they train him. Of course, it doesn't quite work out that way. Meanwhile, the horse is becoming a success, and coming to the attention of the sort of people who fix the races. They want the horse to lose. What's Boots going to do?

 

A movie returning to FXM Retro after a long absence is The Barbarian and the Geisha, which you can watch at 11:15 AM Monday and 7:10 AM Tuesday. Based on a true story, this one stars John Wayne as Townsend Harris, the first US Consul to Japan. You'll recall from your history classes that Japan closed itself off from the world for 250 years, and it wasn't until 1853 that the US more or less forcibly opened the country to the West. Still, Japan wasn't going to capitulate meekly, and forced Harris to live in a small enclave well away from the capital Edo (modern Tokyo) together with his assistant Heusken (Sam Jaffe) while the negotiations for diplomatic recognition are going on. Meanwhile, the local governor (So Yamamura) sends a geisha Okichi (Eiko Ando) to look after Harris and Heusken. Harris and Okichi begin to fall in love during the long waiting, although there's always the looming question of whether their love can endure since they're from such different cultures. The diplomatic parts are apparently relatively accurate by Hollywood standards; who knows what happened between the real Harris and Okichi, although it's the stuff of legend in Japan.

 

The focus on TCM's Michael Curtiz spotlight on Wednesday is the films he made with Errol Flynn. Starting with Four's a Crowd at 9:45 AM, it's all Curtiz and Flynn (although exactly how much of The Adventures of Robin Hood [8:00 PM] Curtiz directed and how much was done by William Keighley is debatable). This gives you a chance to catch Dodge City, which is on at 12:15 AM Thursday. Errol Flynn plays Irish immigrant and former Union soldier Wade Hatton who, together with his friend Rusty (Alan Hale) is keeping the buffalo away from where the railroad is being built, and keeping poachers from taking the cattle. Among those poachers are Jeff Surrett (Bruce Cabot). Fast forward to 1872, and Wade is not working as a cattle driver and taking Abbie (Olivia de Havilland) and her brother north to Dodge City. Her idiot brother gets herself killed; Abbie blames Wade; but you'll know they'll fall in love later. Meanwhile, Dodge City is being predated upon by Jeff and his friends. Wade is pressed upon to become the new marshal and clean up the town. It's energetic with an exciting climax and in glorious Technicolor.

People of a certain age will remember that screenshot from the old video game The Oregon Trail. There have been multiple movies titled The Oregon Trail, one of which will be on StarzEncore Westerns at 12:32 PM Wednesday and 1:07 AM Thursday. Fred MacMurray plays Neal Harris, a New York reporter who is sent west by his editor to get what could be an important story. Pioneers are heading west from Missouri on the Oregon Trail, and there are rumors that President Polk is sending US soldiers along. The thing is, at this time, there was still a dispute over the territories the pioneers were heading towards. Russia had given up its claims, but the US claimed territory up to 54°40' North, while the UK claimed territory south to 42 degrees (today the border between Oregon and California; Mexico still held California as the Mexican-American War hadn't yet occurred). So the thinking was that the US would be including soldiers among the settlers to get military on the disputed territory secretly. Of course, the way west here has all the standard tropes in pioneer trek movies.

 

This week's then in the Victorian era in film spotlight is Victorian science and exploration. This includes a showing of First Men in the Moon, at 1:15 AM Friday. In the current day (ie. 1964 when the film was released), the UN is organizing the first manned trip to the Moon. Or so they think. When the astronauts get there, they find a Union Jack and a document saying that the Moon has already been claimed for the UK and Queen Victoria! So why the hell didn't any of them know about this? A search begins back on earth to find out what really happened all those years ago. It turns out that one of the members of that expedition, Arnold Bedford (Edward Judd), is still alive but living in an old-folks home, and willing to tell his story. A professor acquaintance, Cavor (Lionel Jeffries) invented a substance that repelled gravity, and wants to use it to get to outer space. So Cavor and Bedford plan to go to the moon, but Bedford's fiancée Kate (Martha Hyer) stows away and comes along. When they get to the moon, they find a strange insect-like species living underneath the moon's surface, a species that could threaten mankind's existence.

 

For those of you with the HBO package, they're showing Welcome to Mooseport a couple of times, including 12:05 AM Wednesday and 8:40 AM Friday. Gene Hackman, in his final film, plays Monroe “Eagle” Cole, the former President of the US who is about to settle down to a lucrative retirement of giving speeches and dictating his memoirs. He's retiring to his former vacation home in the small town of Mooseport, ME, which creates quite a stir among the townsfolk there. The town fathers need somebody for the mayoralty since the old mayor is retiring, and they suggest Cole; consider the PR and all that. Unbeknownst to any of them, the owner of the local hardware store, local handyman Handy Harrison (Ray Romano) has also entered the mayor's race. Handy has a long-suffering girlfriend in local veterinarian Sally (Maura Tierney); they've been going out for six years and he's never popped the question. He's willing to pull out of the mayor's race, until he realizes that if he does so, he's going to lose Sally's respect for good. And Cole can't pull out either.

 

Hollywood's annus mirabilis of 1939 produced things like Dodge City mentioned above, but also superb little pictures like On Borrowed Time, which TCM is running at 6:00 AM Saturday. Lionel Barrymore plays Gramps, married to Granny (Beulah Bondi) and raising a recently orphaned grandkid Pud (Bobs Watson). One day a Mr. Brink (Cedrick Hardwicke) comes and wants to see Gramps. But we've already seen Brink, as he got in a car with Pud's parents, and the car promptly crashed, killing the parents. Gramps realizes that Mr. Brink is an agent of the Grim Reaper, and that Brink is here to take him to the afterlife. Gramps doesn't want this, so he traps Brink in a tree. But neighbors don't believe any of this, and insist that Gramps is going insane and should be put in an an old-folks' home. (Conveniently, they'll get control of Gramps' property.) Only Dr. Evans (Henry Travers) realizes that all of the things that should be dying aren't, and that Gramps needs to let Death down from the tree.

 

There was a big change in British filmmaking in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with a bunch of “kitchen sink” dramas based on realism. One such movie, A Taste of Honey, will be on TCM at 4:00 PM Sunday. Jo (Rita Tushingham) is living with her hard-drinking, hard-sexing mother Helen (Dora Bryan) in decidedly lower-class areas of Manchester. So she rebels by seeing the first guy who takes an interest in her, the black sailor Jimmy. Naturally, the sailor's life, his love and his lady, is the sea, so he winds up going back to the merchant marine just in time for Jo to be left fully alone: Helen has gotten married to a man who doesn't want Jo around. Except that Jo isn't quite alone, as Jimmy knocked her up. Se rents a run-down loft and eventually meets Geoffrey (Murray Melvin), who is a great friend to Jo. But that's all, and it's not going to go further, because Geoffrey is gay in a time when it was still illegal in Britain. Still they try to make a relationship together so that the baby will have a second parent around. Until Mom shows up again and decides she should be the one running the show.

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