Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” thread, for the week of February 12-18, 2018. TCM's 31 Days of Oscar continues, with some really interesting Oscar-nominated movies; there's some good stuff on other channels too. And we've got a couple of other observances this week that deserve mention. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
Our first selection this week is the 1931 version of The Front Page at 10:00 AM Monday on TCM. This one should sound familiar to you. Hildy Johnson (Pat O'Brien) is a Chicago newspaper man planning to marry Peggy (Mary Brian) and take a job in advertising in New York. However, Hildy's editor Walter Burns (Adolphe Menjou) wants Hildy to cover one last story: the execution of killer Earl Williams (George Stone). Burns has no intention of losing his star reporter, so he plans on keeping Hildy covering the story as long as possible. Things heat up when Williams escapes, and Hildy finds him and hides him from the police. Keeping on the story begins to make it clear to Hildy and Walter that Earl might have been framed for the benefit of bigwigs in high political places. This is the first movie version of the story which would be remade in the 70s by Billy Wilder, but more famously in 1940 by switching the gender roles, making Hildy a woman, and titling it His Girl Friday. This version and His Girl Friday are both excellent in their own way.
Apparently I haven't recommended Top Gun before. It's going to be on StarzEncore Westerns at 9:44 PM Monday. Why, you may ask, is Top Gun on a Westerns channel? Well, this isn't the movie you're thinking of. No beach volleyball here; this is a 1955 western starring Sterling Hayden. Hayden plays Rick Martin, a gunfighter who is not into superstition, black cats or voodoo dolls. Instead, he's returning to his hometown after having spent some time in prison, hoping to find out what really happened to his mother. Unsurprisingly, the townsfolk know of Martin's past and don't want him around. There's been quite a bit of violence afoot, and a lot of people think that Martin is behind it. But as he investigates he learns that there's a gang led from afar by landowner Canby Judd (William Bishop) that's responsible, and that they might even have killed Rick's own mother! And the rest of the gang is going to come back to town. Canby is trying to get rid of Rick and steal Rick's girlfriend Laura (Karin Booth). Watch for a very young Rod Taylor in a small role as Lem.
There were a few silent films nominated for Oscars in the first two years the awards were given out. One such movie is The Divine Lady, which will be on TCM at 4:00 AM Tuesday. The lady in question is Lady Hamilton, wife of Lord Hamilton and lover of Admiral Nelson in early 19th century Britain. Before becoming a lady, though, she's young Emma (Corinne Griffith) daughter of a cook (Marie Dressler) working for a wealthy man Grenville (Ian Keith). Grenville eventually decides to use Emma in a plot to get Lord Hamilton's (played by H.B. Warner) wealth: Hamilton is his uncle and Hamilton would never marry Emma, so Hamilton will die with no heirs and Grenville will inherit the money! Of course, Hamilton does marry Emma. And then Admiral Nelson (Victor Varconi) falls in love with now Lady Hamilton. Nelson goes off to fight Napoleon's navy the first time, is a big success, and wants to settle down with Lady Hamilton. Except that Napoleon decides to attack again…. Of course, you know all this from having watched That Hamilton Woman which I've recommended a couple of times.
With Mardi Gras and Rio's Carnival ending on Tuesday, what better way to wind down than to watch Black Orpheus, at 2:15 AM Wednesday on TCM. Orfeo (Breno Mello) is a streetcar driver in Rio by day, and a musician by night who is going to be performing in the energetic Carnival. Every Orpheus needs his Eurydice if you know the legend, and sure enough Eurydice (Marpessa Dawn) shows up, this one a woman from the country visiting her cousin Serafina in order to get away from a man who has been pursuing her back home. Eurydice is convinced that this man is going to kill her. Serafina is getting ready for Carnival with an elaborate costume, and Eurydice joins in. Orfeo meets her and falls in love with her, never mind that he's already got a fiancée. If you know the Orpheus legend, you'll know that Death comes for Eurydice; Orpheus descends into the underworld to see Eurydice one last time, and is told he can after both leave the underworld – if only he doesn't look back first. Orfeo leaves and looks back, and, well, you know the rest. An absolutely gorgeous movie to watch.
Thank you for being a friend and watching the next movie, Golden Girl, at 6:00 AM Wednesday on FXM Retro. Based on a true story, this one purports to tell the story of Lotta Crabtree, played here by Mitzi Gaynor. Lotta was born in New York, but her father got caught up in the California Gold Rush and moved the family out there to look for gold. That didn't work so Dad (Lola's parents are played by James Barton and Una Merkel) started a hotel and made his daughter part of the entertainment. She'd eventually come to the attention of one Matt Taylor (Dennis Day) who falls in love with her, as does another man, Tom Richmond (Dale Robertson). Lotta begins to tour, and then the Civil War comes, splitting everybody up until the finale. Fox's musicals were never as ambitious as those at MGM, especially by the early 1950s. This one is also filled with the usual inaccuracies, most notable implying that Lotta started performing at 16; in reality she started at age 6! Mitzi Gaynor is talented, though, and enjoyable enough to watch.
TCM has been having more luck getting movies from Fox to show, such as the 1953 version of Titanic, which will be on at noon Thursday. Barbara Stanwyck plays Julia Sturges, an American who is trapped in a loveless marriage in England circa 1912. So she's decided to divorce her husband Richard (Clifton Webb) and book passage back to America with her and the two kids, daughter Annette (Audrey Dalton) and son Norman. Dad decides he's not going to give up on the marriage so easily, and also books passage aboard the ship to try to reconcile with Mom. Unfortunately for all involved, the ship they booked passage on is the RMS Titanic which, as you all know rather impudently hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank forthwith, killing some 1500 people. Who survives? Annette has made a boyfriend on board (Robert Wagner); there's a Molly Brown type (Thelma Ritter), and Richard Basehart basically doing Gene Hackman 20 years before The Poseidon Adventure. At least this one doesn't have that horrendous Celine Dion song.
Also crossing the Atlantic on Thursday is Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, which will be on Starz Comedy at 9:55 PM Thursday. Murphy plays Akeem, the Prince of Zamunda. He's just turned 21 and his parents (James Earl Jones and Madge Sinclair) have arranged a royal wedding for him. The problem is, Akeem hasn't seen his bride-to-be, and he knows that anybody in the kingdom is only going to worship him because he's royalty. He wants a wife who will respect him for his personality, not for being of royal birth. So what's the best way to find a future queen? Akeem and his companion Semmi (Arsenio Hall) decide that the most logical place to look for a queen is… Queens, NY. They set off, trying to pass themselves off as common immigrants looking for jobs, and the fish out of water theme presents all sorts of opportunities for comic relief. But Akeem also does find a love interest in the daughter (Shari Headley) of the owner of the restaurant where Akeem gets a job.
I mentioned Manhattan Melodrama briefly a couple months back because it features the tune that would eventually become “Blue Moon”. Anyhow, the movie is on TCM this week, at 6:00 AM Friday. Blackie (Mickey Rooney) and Jim (Jimmy Butler) are young friends in early 20th century NYC who survive a boat disaster and eventually go their separate ways as they grow up. Fast forward to the 20s, and Blackie (Clark Gable) is a bootlegger, while Jim (William Powell) is a crusading lawyer working for the district attorney trying to bring the gangsters down. However, every time the two men meet they're still reminded of that old friendship that's never really gone away. Not even a woman can screw up that friendship, as Blackie's girlfriend Eleanor (Myrna Loy) leaves him to marry Jim! Jim decides to run for governor, and if that friendship with Blackie is a problem, well, Blackie can just take it on himself to get some meddling people out of the way. It might be a problem for Jim if he finds out, however….
Valentine's Day is this week. Those of us with a more cynical bent may prefer to watch My Bloody Valentine, which will be on StarzEncore Classics at 12:39 AM Saturday. Twenty years before the action in the movie, a small mining town in Nova Scotia held a Valentine's Day party, with some of the folks supposed to provide security for the mine being at the party instead. There was a mining disaster killing everybody in the mine but one, Harry Warden. Harry was mentally scarred and decided to gain revenge by killing the people he thought responsible; for this he was put in a mental institution and the town decided it wasn't going to hold another Valentine's Day party. Fast forward twenty years, and the town's young folk have decided that now is the time to start having a Valentine's Day party again. But what they don't know is that Harry has escaped from the institution, and this coincides with the killings of people celebrating Valentine's Day….
When you think of comic actresses, you probably don't think of Ingrid Bergman. But she did some comedies in Sweden before coming to Hollywood, and in Hollywood showed her comic chops with an excellent turn in Cactus Flower, which will be on TCM at 1:00 PM Saturday. Walter Matthau plays Dr. Julian Winston, a New York dentist who has a series of young girlfriends whom he eventually dumps by telling them that he's married. His current girlfriend Toni (Goldie Hawn) can't take that, so her first thought is to try to commit suicide, although she's saved by her neighbor in the apartment across the way Igor (Rick Lenz). With a renewed desire to live, Toni decides she wants to meet Mrs. Winston. Except that there really is no Mrs. Winston. Poor Dr. Julian has to enlist his dentist's assistant/secretary Stephanie (that's Bergman) into playing the part of his wife. Along the way, we find that Stephanie really loves Julian, and that Igor is probably the right man for Toni. But will the characters figure all that out in time? Goldie Hawn earned the Oscar, but it's Bergman who's really marvelous in this one.