Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” Thread, for the week of March 12-18, 2018. I know none of you care about the basketball any longer since Wisconsin had such a crappy season. So now is a good time to spend with some movies. Once again, I've used my discerning taste to pick out a bunch of interesting movies and I know there's something for everybody here. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
This week we get a new Star of the Month on TCM: Elizabeth Taylor, who went from being a child star on the MGM lot to a beauty in the 1950s, Oscar-winner in the 60s, and ultimately to big-haired humanitarian by the 1980s. Normally, TCM does its Star of the Month thing one particular weeknight every week for the month, but this time around they're running Elizabeth Taylor films every weeknight in prime time this week. Actually, TCM have enough movies that they can start off before prime time. The schedule is a bit odd, however, for what isn't being shown.
Taylor won two Oscars, and while TCM is showing Butterfield 8 at 8:00 PM Thursday, it doesn't look like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is on the schedule. (Also not on the schedule is A Place in the Sun.)
They did, however, get what I think is the TCM premiere of The Only Game in Town, at 8:00 PM Friday. In this one, Taylor plays a woman stuck in Las Vegas who meets a lounge piano player (Warren Beatty) and falls in love with him, although he can't get out of Vegas either.
Friday also sees a documentary on Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor: An Intimate Portrait, at 4:45 PM.
For the juvenile actress, those movies will be on Monday, starting with Cynthia at 4:15 PM.
I'm not certain if I've recommended Mark of the Vampire before. It's going to be on TCM Monday at noon. Sir Karell is a nobleman in one of those small Central European towns where the townsfolk believe in vampires. One day, he's found dead in his study, with a couple of pinprick wounds that could easily enough be the mark of a vampire's fangs! And of course, the locals are certain who around them is a vampire: Count Mora (Bela Lugosi) and his daughter Luna! So they naturally believe he's the murderer. Not only that, but they just know that Karell's daughter Irena is next on the list of people to be murdered by the vampire. But the big-city cop (Lionel Atwill) isn't so certain. To help him figure out what really happened, he brings in noted vampire expert Professor Zelen (Lionel Barrymore). Zelen starts stalking Mora, until he can get enough evidence to find out whether or not Mora was the real killer, and what the killer's motive was. Odd little vampire movie.
If you want to see a good western over on StarzEncore Westerns, you could do worse than to watch Ride Lonesome, which will be on at 1:53 AM Wednesday. Randolph Scott plays Ben Brigade, a professional bounty hunter whose current job has him bringing in killer Billy John (James Best) for trial. It's not going to be easy for a bunch of reasons that are standard to the genre. One is that they have to go through Indian territory and there are going to be attacks. Ben saves Mrs. Lane (Karen Steele) in one of those attacks, and she becomes a source of romantic distraction. Ben has a couple of small-time criminals helping him in the form of Sam (Pernell Roberts) and Whit (James Coburn), promising them amnesty, but who knows what they'll do when the chips are down. Following this group is Billy John's brother Frank (Lee Van Cleef). The Indians are willing to deal with Billy John themselves, but Ben doesn't want that because he actually wants Frank following him, for reasons that will become clear in the climax.
Series of detective movies were quite the thing back in the 1930s and 40s. One of the odder series was the Nick Carter movies, which ended after just three movies. The final of those movies, Sky Murder, will be on TCM at 10:30 AM Wednesday. Walter Pidgeon of all people plays Carter, this time facing off against baddies who are obviously Nazis, except that the filmmakers didn't want to call them that because the movie was released in September, 1940, before the US was at war. Anyhow, a man is found dead in a locked airplane compartment, wit seemingly no way to get in, the “locked room” genre being a particularly rich vein of mysteries. Conveniently suspected is German refugee Pat (Karen Verne), but she insists she's innocent, and and Nick sets out to prove her innocence and find the real killer, and the how since this is a locked room mystery after all. One of the things that made the Nick Carter movies interesting is Carter's sidekick Bartholomew, played by Donald Meek. Meek is about the last person you'd expect to play a detective's sidekick, and part of Bartholomew's character involves him keeping bees, which he uses at various points in the plot! Bizarre.
How Green Was My Valley is going to be on FXM Retro a couple of times this week, at 9:20 AM Thursday and 4:00 AM Friday. Roddy McDowall plays Huw Morgan, the youngest child of a family in a Welsh village circa 1900 where pretty much all the men go to work in the coal mine. Dad (Donald Crisp) and Mom (Sara Allgood) would like something more for little Huw, however, trying to get him an education. Meanwhile, new to town is the new preacher Mr. Gruffydd (Walter Pidgeon). He falls in love with Huw's older sister Angharad (Maureen O'Hara), although there's a lot of gossip about it, especially from the other deacons, and Gruffydd eventually makes the difficult decision to leave town without Angharad. Huw's older brothers want to start a miners' union, but the folks in Dad's generation aren't so sure. All of these plans may be scuppered when there's a disaster at the mine…. How Green Was My Valley often gets denigrated because it won the Best Picture Oscar over Citizen Kane, but it's actually a very good movie in its own right.
I can't recall the last time I recommended The Purchase Price here. But TCM will be running it at 8:30 AM Thursday, so I'll mention it this week. Barbara Stanwyck plays Joan, a New York nightclub singer who, because the movie was made during the Prohibition era, naturally has a gangster boyfriend Eddie (Lyle Talbot). She's sick of the way he treats her, so one night she up and takes the train to Montreal to escape to Canada. Unsurprisingly, Eddie eventually finds her up there and wants her back. Just as thinks look bleakest however, Joan learns that her maid was intending to start a new life as a mail-order bride! So Joan decides to switch places with her maid, becoming the bride to… Jim (George Brent), a wheat farmer in North Dakota. Probably not the sort of life she was expecting, but she's going to try to make the best of it. The other farmers wish they could have such a looker for a wife, and of course Eddie is still looking for her. Barbara Stanwyck makes everything she's in worth a watch.
The plot may sound like it came out of a screwball comedy, but a movie that was only made about 30 years ago is Overboard, which will be on StarzEncore Classics at 10:49 AM Friday. Kurt Russell plays Dean, a carpenter and single father to four boys. One day he gets a job for rich Joanna Slayton (Goldie Hawn), who lives on a yacht with her husband Grant (Edward Herrmann). Joanna stiffs him on the job and is a total jerk to him, and apparently everybody she meets since the crew applauds Dean for standing up to her. And then she has an accident in which she falls overboard, getting picked up by a garbage barge and suffering from a case of amnesia. Grant comes to claim her, but finally seeing what a jerk she is by the way she treats the hospital staff, denies knowing her. Dean decides he'll claim her by saying she's his wife, and punish her by forcing her to play housewife and mother his four kids. You can probably guess that what really happens is that all this begins to change Joanna's personality, and that Dean begins to find himself falling in love with her for real.
Bette Davis spent a while in London in 1937 suing Warner Bros. for giving her bad roles that she claimed were ruining her career. The movie that allegedly brought about the departure from Hollywood was God's Country and the Woman, which will be on TCM at noon Friday. Robert Barratt plays Jefferson Russett, who owns a big forestry concern. He's hired on his no-good son Steve (George Brent) to work for the company, and Steve promptly screws up by giving the rival Barton logging company too good a deal on the use of the Russett rails. The resulting dust-up results in Steve trying to flee, winding up stranded in the Barton logging camp, which is run by pretty Jo (Beverly Roberts in the role that Bette Davis was presumably going to play). You can guess that they fall in love, which is going to be a problem when Steve is revealed to be a Russett since Steve's dad hates Jo and the rest of the Bartons. This was one of the first outdoor movie produced in the three-strip Technicolor format. Judge for yourself whether it would have hurt Davis' career.
After all the basketball is over for the weekend, you can watch Madigan, at 8:00 PM Sunday on TCM. Madigan, played by Richard Widmark, is one of those cops who populated movies of the late 60s and early 70s: somewhat unorthodox and using methods that would give his bosses, in this case police commissioner Russell (Henry Fonda), fits. It doesn't always come up roses for Madigan, though. While trying to bring in a suspected murderer Benesch in Spanish Harlem, Madigan and his partner Bonaro (Harry Guardino) get waylaid, with Benesch not only getting away, but getting Madigan and Bonaro's guns in the process. For fairly obvious reasons, this pisses the commissioner off to no end, so he give the two detectives an ultimatum. Bring Benesch in in 72 hours, or else. Russell, for his part, has all his professional duties like dealing with the political muckety-mucks, or the wives of injured cops, and doesn't need another headache like Madigan.