Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” Thread, for the week of July 9-15, 2018. We're getting closer to the opening of football training camps, but we're not there yet. So why not spend the time waiting with some good movies. Once again, I've used my good taste to select a series of movies that I know you'll all like. And I didn't even pick anything from Star of the Month Steve McQueen (Thursday in prime time on TCM). As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
It's been a while since TCM has run The Secret Partner. It's going to be on this week, at 6:15 AM Tuesday. Stewart Grainger, who had made a bunch of period pieces at MGM in the 1950s, returns to his native Britain to play John Brent, a businessman married to Nikki (Haya Harareet). Stewart is being blackmailed, however, by a dentist Bledon (Norman Bird), who knows that Brent had a shady past, and wants money from Brent to keep from revealing that past. Meanwhile, Nikki thinks the missing money is going to other women. Things get complicated when a masked man who has learned about the blackmail approaches the dentist and wants to force him to drug Brent to get the key. It's all a case for Det. Supt. Hanbury (Bernard Lee, who would soon become M in the James Bond movies), who is just about to retire from the police and hopes to resolve this one last case quickly. However, the case has a whole bunch of twists and turns….
It's been a while since I've recommended Midnight Cowboy, but you've got a chance to catch it this week at 11:19 PM Monday on StarzEncore Classics. Jon Voight plays Joe Buck, a dishwasher in a small-town Texas diner who decides that he's going to make it big by going to New York and becoming a hustler and gigolo to rich women. It's a ridiculous idea, but he goes to New York anyway, only to find that the big city people are far better at hustling him than he is at hustling anybody. And then he meets Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), who's seen too much of the world. Ratso invites Joe to live with him in an abandoned apartment building where he's squatting, and Ratso will teach Joe about hustling while Joe will take care of Ratso, since Ratso has an annoyingly nagging cough that's probably a harbinger of something more serious. In fact, Ratso knows it's serious, to the point that he wants to save up enough money to go to Florida where the climate is better and will help him get back to health. Except that he's just as naïve as Joe…. Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin'", played over a shot of Voight walking through the New York crowds, has become iconic, but the song wasn't Oscar-eligible since it wasn't original to the movie.
TCM is running a spotlight this month of 50 states in 50 movies, every Monday and Tuesday in prime time. This week includes a bunch of southern states. For Alabama you'd think they could use To Kill a Mockingbird, but instead they're running The Phenix City Story, at 12:30 AM Wednesday. Phenix City, AL, is just across the border from Fort Henning, GA, an army base with a huge number of naïve young recruits. So, corrupt elements in Phenix City set up gambling joints and all other sorts of vice to separate the soldiers from their money. Good-government types don't like this and the fact that the law is turning a blind eye to it. So local attorney Albert Patterson (John McIntire) runs for Attorney General, only to get assassinated when it looks like he's going to win. Alberta's son John (Richard Kiley) takes up his father's crusade, but it's going to put his own life at risk. This is based on a true story, and there's an opening prologue of a journalist interviewing some of the real people whose stories are told.
I may have mentioned it before, but a lesser-known Fred Astaire movie is on TCM this week: A Damsel in Distress, at 1:30 AM Thursday. This time Astaire's dance partner isn't he frequent co-star from the 1930s Ginger Rogers, but 19-year-old Joan Fontaine, at the beginning of her career as an RKO contract player. Fontaine plays Alyce, a young upper-class British woman who hs, much to her parents' (Montagu Love and Constance Collier) chagrin, has fallen in love with an American she met in Switzerland last year. So she absconds from the house to go off to London to try to meet with the guy again, servants following behind her to try to stop her. To get away from the servants, she hops in the back of a cab, where she runs into Jerry (Fred Astaire). Jerry learns about Alyce's problem, and decides to rent a cottage near Alyce's family to see if he can help her out. George Burns and Gracie Allen provide comic relief as Jerry's press agent and secretary, respectively. The movie is based on a story by P.G. Wodehouse, and includes a bunch of George Gershwin songs, notably “Nice Work if You Can Get It”.
A movie on FXM Retro this week that I don't think I've recommended before is Night Train to Paris, at 4:50 AM Friday. Leslie Nielsen plays Alan Holiday, who works in public relations for an American airline in London. One New Year's Eve, a bunch of people try to get tickets to the Continent, but everything is booked solid. Then in comes Jules (Hugh Larimer). Jules and Alan had worked together in intelligence back in the Korean War, and Jules is still part of the spy service. Apparently a tape containing defense plans has been stolen, and could Alan get them to France to retrieve it? Eventually the result is tickets on the night train with a bunch of supermodels doing a photo shoot for skiwear, a man in a bear suit, a French spy Catherine (Alizia Gur), and the bad guy trying to kill everybody. Decidedly B material, but it does entertain, and vintage 60s London is interesting.
Robert Taylor was in my opinion one of the weaker A-list stars MGM had in its heyday in the 1930s and 40s. Still they gave him big female stars, such as Hedy Lamarr (that's not Hedley) in Lady of the Tropics, which will air at 6:15 AM Saturday on TCM. Taylor plays Bill Carey, a rich American playboy who is traveling the world with his idle rich friends. They've stopped in Saigon, which at the time the movie was made (1939) was part of French Indochina. There, Bill meets the lovely Manon (Lamarr), and the two fall in love. Manon has a serious problem in that she wants to get out of the country. But, she's mixed-race, and bizarre French passport laws won't allow Asians to leave Indochina. Perhaps if Bill marries her that will help, so they get married. But it doesn't help. Meanwhile, Manon's old boyfriend Pierre (Joseph Schildkraut) wants Manon for himself and is doing everything he can to stop Bill and Manon from succeeding. Love did not conquer all in those days.
A western I don't think I've recommended before is Raw Edge, at 4:28 AM Sunday on StarzEncore Westerns. This one is set in Oregon before statehood, so fairly early for a western. The golden rule in the territory is basically he who has the gold (or in this case land) rules, and that's Gerald Montgomery (Herbert Rudley). One of the rules in his little fiefdom is that if you want a wife, you can just claim her for yourself; first come, first served. Gerald uses this to take Hannah (Yvonne de Carlo) for a wife. And then a small-time rancher Dan Kirby (John Gavin early in his career), married to half-Indian, half-white Paca (Mara Corday) says something about Hanna that Gerald doesn't like. So Gerald has Dan hanged, and assigns Paca to another man. Dan's brother Tex (Rory Calhoun) apparently finds out about all of this, because he comes riding into town wanting revenge. The only problem is, he's in a town where everybody is looking out for themselves. Can he really find any allies?
Sunday is the final of the World Cup, so it's almost time to get back to gridiron football. Hollywood made a lot of movies about football during the studio era, mostly college football since that was the big thing back then. One of the better known movies, Knute Rockne, All American, is on the TCM schedule at 6:00 AM Sunday. Rockne (played as an adult by Pat O'Brien) was born in Norway in 1888, and when he was young his parents (John Qualen and Dorothy Tree) emigrated to America. Knute worked to pay his way to Notre Dame, where he excelled at football, eventually being asked to coach the football team and introducing such innovations as the forward pass. Rockne would become a national figure in the 1920s as he made Notre Dame a national powerhouse, and they're still coasting on that reputation to this day. Rockne, however, wouldn't live to see the legacy, having died in a plane crash in 1931. Ronald Reagan famously plays George Gipp, a Notre Dame player who dies tragically young.
Finally, I'll mention Rising Sun, at 8:20 AM Sunday on StarzEncore Suspense. Before the current hysteria about Russia, there was a hysteria about Japan 30 years ago. A Japanese company headed by Yoshida (Mako) is opening an American headquarters in Los Angeles, and of course there's some resentment. At the party marking the opening, an escort is found murdered on a table in one of the boardrooms! The police assign a pair of liaison officers who have more knowledge of Japanese culture, young Web Smith (Wesley Snipes), and older John Conner (Sean Connery) to the case after the standard investigation is unable to find the killer. This, even though there's video evidence of the crime. Perhaps there are people who just don't want the case to be solved, and just want a convenient scapegoat; after all it's only one of those Japanese companies taking over America. Based on a book by Michael Crichton; it's hard to believe Crichton has been dead almost 10 years.