Welcome to another edition of Fedya's "Movies to Tivo" Thread, for the week of March 11-17, 2019.  The college basketball tournament is coming up, but it won't be until Sunday night that you find out where you're going if you want to see your Badgers.  So why not spend the wait with some good movies?  There's more from Star of the Month Fredric March; the monthly TCM Spotlight; and more on other channels too.  As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.

 

I'm not certain if I've recommended La bête humaine (translates to The Human Beast, not “The Stupid Human”) before, but it's going to be on TCM at 6:00 AM Monday. Jean Gabin stars as Lantier, an engineer on an SNCF train. One day, he comes across conductor Roubaud (Fernand Ledoux) and his wife Séverine (Simone Simone). M. Roubaud has been in a dispute with another man and killed that man, with Séverine being a witness. Lantier, for his part, figures that the best thing to do is to fall in love with Séverine and start having an affair with her! So, when the police investigation comes along, Lantier figures the obvious thing to do is to lie in order to protect Séverine. Séverine's husband starts to treat her increasingly badly, so she suggests to Lantier that they run off with her husband's money, or even kill him. This is a French precursor to Hollywood's film noirs, and this one was actually remade in Hollywood in the early 1950s as Human Desire, which is why the plot may have sounded familiar to you.

 

A movie that's back on FXM after an absence is High Time, which will be on at 6:00 AM Tuesday.  Bing Crosby plays Harvey Howard, a 50-something widower who started building a successful restaurant business from a young age, and started a family, too.  Now that his wife has died, Harvey decides that he's going to do some of the things that he didn't have time to do in his youth, such as go to college.  Not only that, he wants to do it the same way the young people do it, living in a dorm and all the other stuff.  Of course, being an older student, there are all sorts of problems, such as falling in love with the French professor, Gauthier (Nicole Murrey).  That, and his children not approving of his decision to go to college.  And there's a chemistry professor (Gavin MacLeod) who doesn't get along with him.  Still, Harvey tries to help the other students (teen idol Fabian, Tuesday Weld, and wooden Richard Beymer among others) while he learns about living life again.

 

We get another round of Fredric March movies on Tuesday in prime time on TCM. One that shows up relatively rarely is the 1935 version of Les Misérables, which will be on at 11:30 PM Tuesday. March plays Jean Valjean, who spent an eternity in prison for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family, and then trying to escape prison. Once out of prison, Valjean does good work but is also facing parole violations, so the inspector Javert (Charles Laughton) chases Valjean from one end of France to the other, never showing any mercy. Javert rescues the orphan girl Cosette (Rochelle Hudson) from Thénardier (Ferdinand Gottschalk) and pays for her education, with her ultimately meeting Marius (John Beal) and the two falling in love much to Valjean's chagrin since he knows the hotheaded Marius is headed for a bad end. Sure enough, another of France's revolutions comes, and Marius joins the barricades. It's tough to make anything more than an abbreviated story out of a 1000-plus-page book, but this is one of the better film adaptations of Victor Hugo's novels ever made.

 

It's easy to forget that among the Hollywood cowboys was one Buster Crabbe -- yes, the Olympic swimmer.  By the early 1940s he started playing Billy the Kid, and then played Billy Carson in a series of films, such as The Ghost of Hidden Valley, which will be on StarzEncore Westerns at 5:48 AM Wednesday.  The plot is relatively predictable.  An Englishman (John Meredith) comes out west to inherit a ranch.  The bad guy (Charles King) has been using the isolated land to transport rustled cattle, so he certainly doesn't want anybody coming to the ranch and try to run it as a going concern.  Our bad guy uses violence instead of ghosts to try to keep the tenderfoot away, and it's up to Billy Carson and his sidekick Fuzzy (Al St. John) to help The Englishman keep his ranch and win the girl.  It's predictable, formulaic, and over in a brief hour, but then movies like this weren't made with the thought of what people 70 years later would think.  Perhaps the ghost should have made some salad dressing instead.

 

Warner Bros. put out really good programmers and B movies. A good example of this is We're in the Money, which will be on TCM at 11:00 AM Thursday. Joan Blondell plays Ginger, a process server who works with her friend Dixie (Glenda Farrell) for lawyer Homer Bronson (Hugh Herbert). Apparently, women are better at serving papers in divorce cases because the wayward husband or the “other man” lets his guard down around them. This time, however, they're expected to serve papers on C. Richard Courtney, who is notorious for avoiding such servers. One day on a park bench, Ginger meets Carter (Ross Alexander)and falls in love with him. What she doesn't know is that Carter is actually Courtney in disguise: how do you think he avoids all those servers. Things spiral out of control from there. Alexander was being groomed for bigger things at Warner Bros. in the mid 1930s, but his wife's tragic death combined with his own likely homosexuality led to a spiral that led to his own suicide at the age of 29 in 1937. To replace the sort of roles Alexander did, the studio brought in… Ronald Reagan.

 

On the four Thursdays in March, TCM is running a spotlight on journalism in the movies.  Ben Mankiewicz sits down with Carl Bernstein for the first two Thursday nights, and then with Anderson Cooper for the last two.  One of the movies airing this Thursday is Ace in the Hole, which will be on at 8:00 PM Thursday.  Kirk Douglas plays Chuck Tatum, who at the start of the movie is riding in to Albuquerque where he's forced to stay because his car is broken down.  He's a journalist who, like his car, is broken down, although in his case it's because of his drinking and being less than fully ethical.  He's able to fast-talk the editor of the local paper into giving him a job, although it's human interest stories.  Wouldn't you know it, though, but Tatum lucks into the biggest human interest story of them all when he finds Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict) has gotten himself stuck in an old mine that's caved in around him.  Tatum writes the original story, then draws it out so that he can keep reporting on it.  Along the way, he falls in love with Leo's wife (Jan Sterling), while a carnival develops outside the entrance to the mine.

 

We've got a couple of 80s movies this week, with the first of them being The Secret of My Success, at 10:24 PM Thursday.  Michael J. Fox plays Brantley, a young man from Kansas who moves to New York to get on the corporate ladder.  However, his job was axed by mergers and acquisitions almost before he could start.  So he goes to distant uncle Howard (Richard Jordan), a CEO, to ask for help.  Help comes in the form of a mail-room job that's at the bottom of the ladder, but at least it's a job.  Brantley meets nice executive Christy (Helen Slater) and sees how large parts of the business are being mismanaged, leading him to create a fake opening for young hotshot Whitfield (obviously Brantley in disguise) to come in and fix things.  Sounds like a good plan, but how is Brantley going to keep everybody from finding out what's really going on?  And could anything like this happen in real life anyway?

 

Also in the business world, but 50 years earlier, is The Toast of New York, at 7:00 AM Friday on TCM.  Edward Arnold plays Jim Fisk, who along with his friend Nick Boyd (Cary Grant) is scamming folks in Maryland, being forced to flee north when they're found out.  Then the Civil War comes, and Fisk figures out a way to make huge sums of money by smuggling Confederate cotton to mills in the North.  And it would have worked too if his other partner, Luke (Jack Oakie) hadn't invested the profits in Confederate bonds.  Time to start over, which Fisk does by going up against Cornelius Vanderbilt (Clarence Kolb) and his partner Daniel Drew (Donald Meek) in a plan to take over the Erie railroad.  But it's Fisk's attempt to corner the market in gold that Nick finally thinks is a step too far.  Not only Nick, but also Jim's girlfriend Josie Mansfield (Frances Farmer), after whom Nick has also pined.  Like most biopics, it doesn't get things quite right, but it's grand entertainment in late 1930s Hollywood style.

 

If you like 80s movies, we've got a second one this week: Baby Boom, which will be on Showtime Showcase at 9:30 AM Sunday. Diane Keaton plays J.C. Wiatt, the epitome of the 80s yuppie (do they even use that term any more?): lives in New York, works long hours to make good money at a firm where she's about to be made partner, and has a live-in boyfriend in Steven (Harold Ramis). Then she learns she's receiving an inheritance from a distant relative. Unfortunately, that inheritance isn't money, but an infant child! At first she finds herself unable to take care of the child properly and thinks giving it up for adoption is the best thing for the child, but the baby girl already formed an attachment with her. Steven can't handle it and leaves, so J.C. decides the best thing to do is to get out of the rat race and moves to Vermont with the baby girl. There she meets town veterinarian Dr. Cooper (Sam Shepard) and falls in love with him, while making baby apple sauce for the daughter that turns out to be a hit.

 

This week's Noir Alley selection is a good one, although I don't know if I'd quite call it a noir: High Sierra, at 12:30 AM Sunday and again at 10:00 AM Sunday. Humphrey Bogart plays Roy Earle, who at the start of the movie is serving a life sentence for murder. He gets sprung on a bogus pardon from the governor; it's a ruse to get Roy to take part in a jewel heist at a swanky casino out west in California. On the way out to the mountains to plan the heist, Roy runs into club-footed Velma (Joan Leslie) and her parents (Harry Travers and Elisabeth Risdon) and takes a shine to Velma even though she's got a boyfriend back home. Roy isn't so certain of the plan's chances for success, especially when one of the other guys brings his girlfriend Marie (Ida Lupino) to the camp. Of course, Marie is really more right for Roy, but he won't realize that until too late. Sure enough, the plan goes wrong, with a couple of guys killed and one of them ratting Roy out. He hides out back in the mountains, in the hope that Marie can escape back to Los Angeles.

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