Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” thread, for the week of June 1-7, 2020. We're into the first full week of a new month, so we're going to get a new Star of the Month on TCM. But more on that later. We've got a bunch of interesting stuff this week, although I didn't find anything particularly apt for either the pandemic or the riots. (The Sidney Poitier No Way Out is not on this week, although the unrelated Kevin Costner movie with the same title is.) As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
Monday marks the birth anniversary of actor Frank Morgan, probably best remembered for playing the title character in The Wizard of Oz. But he was a character actor at MGM for years until his untimely death in 1949, and TCM is running a bunch of his other movies on Monday, including The Great Ziegfeld at 11:45 AM. Florenz Ziegfield (William Powell) was an impresario who got his start at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. He had a rivalry with fellow producer Jack Billings (Morgan), which included going to London and outbidding Billings for the services of Anna Held (Luise Rainer in an Oscar-winning role), who would go on to become Mrs. Ziegfeld. But Florenz lived large, constantly in debt from staging his lavish shows (and heaven knows there are lavish musical numbers in this movie) and taking on girlfriends such as chorus girl Audrey (Virginia Bruce). Flo would go on to marry again, this time to actress Billie Burke (Myrna Loy), and continued success, at least until the stock market crash of 1939 threatened to wipe him out.
Up against the Frank Morgan movies is A Fistful of Dollars, at 3:41 PM Monday on StarzEncore Classics. Clint Eastwood stars as the “man with no name”, actually named Joe, who comes riding into San Miguel, a town just across the Mexican border in the old west. He finds that there are two families which control everything in the town. On the one side, there are the Rojo brothers, who among other things kill a detachment of Mexican soldiers ostensibly buying arms from the Americans. On the other side, there's self-styled sheriff John Baxter (Wolfgang Lukschy). Joe discovers that there's a young woman named Marisol (Marianne Koch) who's trapped in the middle of this as her family stopped off in town at an inopportune time. She got kidnapped by the Rojos, and when Joe rescues her, that gets him in trouble with the Rojos. But he doesn't care for Baxter either, and decides he's going to play both sides against the other, hopefully making a financial killing in the process. This is the movie that really kicked off the genre of the spaghetti western.
We're into a new month, which means it's time for a new Star of the Month on TCM. This time it's Ann Sheridan, the “Oomph Girl” who as a star at Warner Bros. in the late 1930s and 1940s. Her movies are going to be on TCM every Tuesday in prime time, starting at 8:00 PM this Tuesday with Black Legion. Sheridan plays Betty, next-door neighbor to star Humphrey Bogart. He plays a factory worker named Frank Taylor, who's good at what he does and does well enough to support a wife Ruth (Erin O'Brien-Moore). However, Frank gets passed over for a promotion by Dombrowski, an immigrant who's clearly studied hard. This pisses Frank off, and one of his fellow co-workers is able to exploit that resentment, ultimately enlisting Frank into an organization called the Black Legion (based on a real organization which was not in fact the Klan) that promotes “American” values and woe betide any immigrant who runs afoul of Legion members. Can poor Frank realize the error of his ways before irreversible tragedy strikes?
Van Heflin made a couple of movies at Fox in the mid 1950s. I've recommended The Raid recently, but I think it's been rather longer since I mentioned Black Widow. That one is going to be on FXM at 7:35 AM Tuesday. Heflin plays Peter Denver, a Broadway producer married to Iris (Gene Tierney) and living in the same apartment building as the star of his latest play, Carlotta Marin (Ginger ******). One night at a part, Peter is introduced to aspiring writer Nancy Ordway (Peggy Ann Garner). They both hate the party, so decide to catch dinner together, which is a major mistake. Even worse is that Peter lets Nancy use his apartment as an office while Iris is away. Nancy winds up being found dead in the apartment, which could be suicide, or possibly murder, investigated by Detective Bruce (George Raft). It's only natural for suspicion to fall on Peter with the typically lurid allegations about what was really going on. So Peter feels he has to solve the case himself in order to exonerate himself.
I'm not certain if I've recommended Design for Scandal before, but you've got a chance to watch it this week at 9:30 AM Thursday. Walter Pidgeon plays Jeff Sherman, one of those newspapermen who seemed to show up a fair bit in the screwball comedies of the years just before World War II. This time, he's been fired by his publisher, Judson Blair (Edward Arnold), who it turns out needs Jeff. Blair got married to Adele (Mary Beth Hughes) and then divorced, and feels crushed by a heavy alimony settlement inflicted on him by the divorce court judge, Cornelia Porter (Rosalind Russell). So he wants Jeff to get Judge Porter into a compromising situation so that there will be a conflict of interest and the alimony settlement will have to be renegotiated on appeal. Jeff tries to get the judge involved as part of a love triangle with his fake fiancée Dotty (Jean ******), but Judge Porter isn't stupid and doesn't fall in love with Jeff for a while, and when the whole case does go to court again, it doesn't go to plan….
Jesse James was a popular character for Hollywood to put on screen, with quite a few movies about his life having been made. One I haven't recommended in a while is The True Story of Jesse James, which will be on StarzEncore Westerns at 2:09 AM Thursday. Robert Wagner plays Jesse James in this one, starting around the end of the Civil War in which he served in Missouri as part of Quantrill's Raiders. Jesse was going to surrender along with his brother Frank (Jeffrey Hunter) as part of the amnesty at the end of the war, but Union soldiers ambushed them, embittering Jesse and turning him to a life of crime along with Frank and the Youngers, Alan Hale Jr. playing Cole Younger. Jesse really just wants to settle down and farm with his eventual wife Zerelda (Hope Lange), but darnit if he doesn't need to keep robbing banks and trains for some reason until the Northfield MN raid goes wrong and some years later he's shot by Robert Ford. Somehow I doubt any movie has really gotten Jesse's life story right, but this one might be particularly egregious by Hollywood biopic standards.
There are a couple of movies titled Sea Devils, unrelated to each other other than having the same title. TCM is running the 1937 movie at 6:00 AM Friday. Preston Foster plays Mike O'Shay, a young member of the Coast Guard who falls in love with Doris (Ida Lupino), the daughter of a much older captain in the Coast Guard, William Malone (Victor McLaglen). Dad isn't very happy with Mike's pursuit of Doris, as Dad thinks that she would be much better of with another Guardsman, the nice but relatively meek Steve (Donald Woods). So Dad tries to keep Mike away from Doris while there's a lot of fighting between Mike and both of the other guys. Eventually, they're going to have to work together when the Coast Guard has to deal with an iceberg, with the plan being to explode it, because, well, that's what branches of the military apparently do. And then there's a yacht caught in a hurricane. All these disasters might give Mike a chance to win Doris' dad over and end up with Doris in the last reel.
There's some odd casting in Bedevilled, which airs at 6:00 AM Saturday on TCM. Anne Baxter isn't so odd; she plays Monica, a café singer who is doing the American abroad in Paris thing. The odd casting is Dana Andrews' brother, Steve Forrest, who gets to play a seminarian about to take his priestly vows! Forrest's Gregory Fitzgerald is supposed to take those vows in Rome, but has a few days time in Paris to kill. So he decides to explore the city, which is how he runs into Monica. She's running because, well, she's been involved in a murder and fears that she could be the next person to be killed! So Gregory decides he's going to do what he can to shelter her, when he really should have just taken her to the police to try to explain what happened. Monica falls in love with Gregory, who of course is supposed to be taking a vow of celibacy in a few days time so he shouldn't be reciprocating Monica's feelings for him. It goes on like this.
You probably remember all of the Peanuts holiday specials, but back in the day there were also a couple of Peanuts feature movies. One of them, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, shows up this week, at 7:45 AM Saturday on Epix Hits. Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang – including Snoopy and Woodstock! – head off to a summer camp for the traditional things kids do at a camp. The culmination of all this time at camp is going to be the big rafting race against a team from another camp. Except that the other team is a bunch of bullies and their horrible cat, who will stop at nothing to win, meaning a whole lot of cheating going on. Peppermint Patty and Lucy each try to be bossy in their own way, while Linus gets to use that blanket that seems to be able to do anything to good effect, and even Snoopy and Woodstock go down the wild river on their own raft. Oh, and we get to hear some real adults.
On Sunday night, TCM is showing a pair of movies starring Carole Lombard and William Powell, who as Lombard's husband before Clark Gable. I've mentioned My Man Godfrey (8:00 PM) several times before, so this time I'll mention the other movie, the lesser-seen Man of the World at 10:00 PM. Lombard plays Michael Trevor, a man with a past who is currently running a scandal sheet in Paris serving the bohemian Americans abroad. Trevor meets dim-witted Harry Taylor (Guy Kibbee), an American business who is visiting Paris with his niece Mary (Carole Lombard). Michael claims to have some information on Harry, and is perfectly willing to blackmail Harry in order to keep that information from being published. Meanwhile, Harry wants Michael to show Mary the city, and as he does, Michael begins to fall in love with Mary, to the point that he doesn't want Mary to be hurt by his dealings with Harry. And of course there are Michael's associates back at the paper who want Harry's money, and who cares what Michael wants.