Fedya's "Movies to Tivo" Thread, Week of May 14-20, 2018

Monday night on TCM brings a bunch of movies based on fairy tales. I don't know that The Wacky World of Mother Goose, at 4:30 AM Tuesday, is a TCM premiere, but I don't recall ever seeing it on the schedule before. It's an animated version of the Mother Goose stories, with the voice of Margaret Rutherford as Mother Goose and animation done by Rankin/Bass, the same people who brought us Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Earlier in the evening, at 3:00 AM Tuesday, there's Jack and the Beanstalk. This is a version of another well-known children's story, starring Abbott and Costello. The framing device has them as babysitters to an obnoxious kid who winds up reading them “Jack and the Beanstalk” as the two doze off and dream about Jack and the giant and all that stuff. 6' 7” Buddy Baer, younger brother of boxing champ Max, plays the giant, while a bunch of relative unknowns play the other roles.

 

Over on FXM Retro on Monday, they're showing The Silent Call at 6:00 AM. This is a familiar story in that it's been done in a bunch of guises, probably better recalled from some of the Lassie films. A family in middle-of-nowhere Elko NV has to move when Dad (David McLean) gets a job in Los Angeles. So he, Mom (Gail Russell in her last role before the alcoholism killed her), and the kid Guy (Roger Mobley) load up the car with as much as they can, which is unfortunately not big enough to include Guy's beloved dog Pete. So the parents arrange with one of the neighbors to take care of the dog for a few weeks until they can get back to Elko to get the dog which is quite a haul since there aren't major north-south highways in Nevada. Guy is pissed, but the dog isn't happy either, and he predictably escapes and sets out trying to find his beloved master Guy. This is a much lower-budget thing than the Lassie movies, however.

 

Tuesday morning and afternoon on TCM is given over to the movies of Joseph Cotten. One that doesn't get much mention is Walk Softly, Stranger, at 7:45 AM. Cotten plays Chris, who returns to what he says is his home town in Ohio and takes a job at the local shoe factory where the owner's daughter Elaine (Alida Valli) is unfortunately crippled having suffered a skiing accident some time earlier. Elaine is Chris' real motive for showing up in town. He plans to romance her and wind up with the money. But one of the expected catches happens, which is that Chris falls in love with her. There's another problem in that Chris had a past which involved other ways of getting easy money, not just snaring a rich girl. In this case, that past involves having robbes a casino with his partner Whitey (Paul Stewart). Sure enough, Whitey shows up in town looking for Chris to ask for more money. Chris was just trying to lay low, and now he's going to have the mob after him again. Veteran character actress Spring Byington plays Chris' landlady, and Jack Paar has a rare acting role.

 

Another movie that I think is a first-time recommendation here is The Electric Horseman, which will be on StarzEncore Classics at 11:50 PM Tuesday. Jane Fonda, just off having played a TV reporter in The China Syndrome, plays another one here, named Hallie. She senses there's a story in Sonny Steele (Robert Redford). Sonny is a retired rodeo champion who, because the rodeo doesn't pay enough to retire on, is now working as the corporate spokesman for a breakfast cereal company. Sonny doesn't like the work or the way he's treated by the company, but even more than that doesn't like the way the company treats the horse they bought to be part of the ad campaign alongside Sonny. So Sonny decides that he's going to horsenap the horse and ride off into the sunset, with the police and the company right behind, the company not wanting the real story to get out. Hallie understands this is even a better story, so she goes chasing after Sonny too to try to get the story from him. But as with Walk Softly, Stranger, falling in love might be a problem….

 

You may recall hot young Christina Applegate from Married… With Children. She's 46 years old now, but why not think back to when she was 19 and making silly movies like Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead? That's airing at 11:05 AM Thursday on 5Star Max. Applegate plays Sue Ellen, a 17-year-old who's the eldest of five children of a single mother and has your typical teenage angst with the rest of the family relations. Anyhow, Mom announces she's going on vacation to Australia for the summer, leaving the children behind (what?) with a sweet old babysitter. Except that the babysitter isn't so sweet. She's sure old, though, and when she sees one of the kids' rooms, she dies of a coronary on the spot. You'd think the kids would be happy at their newfound freedom, but they quickly realize that they don't have any money to last the summer. Sue Ellen is going to have to go out and get a job to support her siblings, without them letting on to Mom what really happened. Sue Ellen learns about maturity along the way, and well, you get the rest. This wasn't meant to be deep.

 

I think I might have recommended The Tuttles of Tahiti once before. This rarity is going to show up on TCM at 3:30 AM Friday. The Tuttles are a large family living on Tahiti and led by patriarch Jonas (Charles Laughton, who isn't Polynesian at all but casting was like that back in the day). Jonas and most of the rest of the family just want to get along with the minimum of effort, although they're good at fishing so they've at least got some skill. Still, Jonas would rather put his roosters into cockfights. So he's thrilled when his son Chester (Jon Hall) returns from several years in the merchant marine with a new rooster for Jonas to use in the big cockfight with the other clan, led by Emily (Florence Bates). They're so sure this cock will win that they bet the house on it, quite literally. And then the cock doesn't win, which causes all sorts of problems. An odd little movie that also had the problem of being released at the wrong time, a few months after Pearl Harbor.

 

Another movie that it's been a long time since I've recommended is Garden of Evil, coming up at 4:43 AM Friday on StarzEncore Westerns. Gary Cooper plays Hooker, stuck in a Mexican seaside town along with Fiske (Richard Widmark) and Luke (Cameron Mitchell). They were hoping to go to California for the gold rush, but the ship they were planning to take is out of service. They may get another job, however, in the form of Leah (Susan Hayward). Her husband John (Hugh Marlowe) was mining for gold up in the mountains, and he's gotten himself injured, so she needs men to bring him to safety. The men see a chance for money from the job, as well as a chance to get some of that sweet sweet gold that doomed everybody in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. You'd think they would have learned. Still, they go. And along the way at least one of the guys tries to put the moves on Leah knowing she's already married. Oh, and the trip back to safety is going to be fraught with danger because of the local Indians.

 

Alastair Sim gets a night of movies on Friday night. I'm not certain if it's a TCM premiere, but the night kicks off with School for Scoundrels at 8:00 PM. Ian Carmichael plays Palfrey, who is what we might describe today as a cuck, a bit of a milquetoast constantly getting one-upped by Delauney (Terry-Thomas), losing first a restaurant seating and then his girlfriend to Delauney. So Palfrey decides he's goin gto go to the “School of Lifemanship” run by Potter (that's Sim if you didn't recognize him). Lifemanship, to put it mildly, is a way of living so as always to be one up on your rivals or, I suppose, the sort of man PUAs style themselves as being. Basically it means constantly being slightly underhanded. Palfrey takes the lessons and finds that they have an effect on him. Perhaps too much of an effect; what's Palfrey's girlfriend April (Janette Scott) going to do when she discovers the truth about how he suddenly changed? It's one of those fun British comedies that doesn't quite translate to American moviemaking, as a very subpar 2006 remake showed.

 

Spencer Tracy had some interesting roles early in his career before he made any movies with Kathatine Hepburn. One of his efforts from the beginning of his time at MGM is Riffraff, which TCM will be showing at 6:00 AM Saturday. Dutch (Tracy) is a fisherman in a town reminiscent of the one in Min and Bill several years earlier. He's a good fisherman, and charms the ladies, too, eventually charming Hattie (Jean Harlow) into a marriage. Hattie works at the cannery, and Dutch gets the idea of unionizing the men. It leads to a strike and the men ultimately wind up out of jobs, causing Dutch to leave town to try to make ends meet and Hattie believing it's the end for them despite the fact that she still loves him. In fact, she loves him so much that when she learns he's not able to make ends meet, she decides to try to steal to get him some extra money. Mickey Rooney plays Hattie's nephew; Una Merkel Hattie's sister; and Joseph Calleia the cannery owner who would have liked to put the moves on Hattie himself.

 

This week's Noir Alley selection, at 10:00 AM Sunday on TCM, is Crime Wave. Morgan (Ned Young) is a small time crook whotogether with his partners Doc (Ted de Corsia) and Ben (Charles Bronson) hold up a gas station. He gets shot and left behind, so he turns to an old friend for help, Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson). Steve served a stretch in prison with Morgan, but he's been paroled and living with his wife Ellen (Phylis Kirk). Hiding a wanted criminal is a serious problem, even if they guy does need medical assistance. On top of that, Morgan already called a de-licensed doctor to the house. Turning him in to the cops is going to cause a problem with the other criminals. Police detective Sims (Sterling Hayden) is on the case, and since he knows Steve knew Morgan, he turns up the heat on Morgan to try to give information that could find Morgan and the other guys. (We know that Morgan is already dead, of course.) As for the other guys, they'd like to use Steve in their next job robbing a bank.

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