Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movies to Tivo” Thread, for the week of May 31-June 6, 2021. Today is Decoration Day, or at least was until it got rolled into Memorial Day celebrated on the last Monday of May. So we've got one more day of war movies on Monday until we start getting into June programming themes on Tuesday. Watching good old movies is also a way not to deal with football players allegedly disgruntled over their contracts, something we don't have any power to do anything about, anyway. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
The war movies continue on Memorial Day, and we've got another World War I movie: Ace of Aces, at 7:00 AM Monday on TCM. Richard Dix plays Rocky Thorne, a sculptor who's also a pacifist and, when the United States enters the Great War, derides those who would fight. His fiancée Nancy (Elizabeth Allan), however, decides that she's going to become a nurse to assist those wounded in war. She also questions Rocky's courage, leading him to sign up to become a flyboy. Not that he's necessarily happy about it at first, but when the Germans start shooting at him, he gets the natural survival instinct, which starts to change his attitude to the war. This attitude continues until one of the Germans that he shoots down doesn't die, but only gets wounded and winds up as a prisoner being treated in the same hospital where Rocky is. This might change Rocky's attitude back to what it was before the war. The early 1930s is a time that saw a bunch of movies questioning America's attitude towards Germans (and German-Americans) during the Great War.
One more war movie that's coming up this week is M*A*S*H, which will be on multiple times this week, including Tuesday at 7:40 AM on FXM Retro. The precursor to the popular TV show, starts with two draftee doctors, Capt. Hawkeye Pierce (Donald Sutherland) and Capt. Duke Forrest (Tom Skerritt, playing a character not in most of the TV series) showing up in Korea to serve with a mobile surgical hospital that thends to the war wounded. The particular field hospital where they will be working, only a couple of miles from the front line, is run my Col. Blake (Roger Bowen). Also arriving is Trapper John (Elliott Gould). All three are definitely not “by-the-book”, and they soon try to make the field hospital run to their particular tastes. Not pleased by this are the more proper officers, Maj. Frank Burns (Robert Duvall) and chief nurse Hot Lips O'Houlihan (Sally Kellerman). Chaos, dark comedy, and conflict ensue. About the only person who would reprise his role here on the TV series is Gary Burghoff as Radar O'Reilly.
Now that we're into June, we've got a new Star of the Month on TCM. That star is Cyd Charisse, a dancer known for her extremely long legs. Her movies will be airing every Tuesday in prime time, starting at 8:00 PM this Tuesday with The Band Wagon. Fred Astair is the real star here, as Tony Hunter, a Hollywood star of musicals whose type of movie is, however, unfortunately on the decline for him. So he heads back to New York, where his good friends the Martons (Nanette Fabray and Oscar Levant) write shows for Broadway. They've got a new show, and they think that Tony would be perfect for the male lead in it. They also know who would be perfect for the female lead: Gabrielle Gerard (that's Cyd Charisse). But she's a clasically-trained ballerina, and her boyfriend isn't so certain that she'd be right for Broadway, and that it would interfere with her career as a “serious” dancer. Tony isn't so certain either. But after the usual musical complications and the breaking into song, you can guess where this leads.
Right after The Band Wagon you can switch over to Showtime Women, where you'll have a chance to catch Carrie at 10:05 PM Tuesday. Based on the Stephen King novel, the movie stars Sissy Spacek as Carrie, a high-school girl who has been raised by her domineering, fundamentalist Christian mother Margaret (Piper Laurie). Carrie doesn't have much in the way of friends, and the other girls tease her relentlessly. What the other students don't know, however, is that Carrie was blessed (or cursed depending upon your point of view) with the power of telekinesis, and it's just starting to come to the fore. Those other girls try to make Carrie fit in with the upcoming prom, with Sally (Amy Irving) asking her boyfriend Tommy (William Katt) to take Carrie to the prom. But one mean girl plays a prank on Carrie involving a bucket of pig's blood, not realizing that Carrie's telekinesis will start to be used to bad ends. And there are a lot of people for Carrie to gain revenge on.
If you want a fun B horror movie, you could do a lot worse than to watch Tormented, on TCM at 12:15 PM Wednesday. Richard Carlson plays Tom Stewart, a jazz composer who's engaged to be married to Meg (Lugene Sanders) and is preparing for the wedding on an island with no road link to the mainland. At the old abandoned lighthouse, he's approached by Vi Mason (Juli Reding) his ex-girlfriend, who threatens him with blackmail. In their struggle, she breaks one of the railings, nearly falling into the sea below but holding on for dear life. Tom decides to do nothing and let her fall, since nobody's seen her. But as in The Telltale Heart, Tom begins to have the distinct feeling that Vi is around, tormenting him in everything he sees, even though nobody else sees it. He tries to put Vi out of his mind, but things get more complicated when the skipper Vi paid to take her out to the island shows up demanding the second half of his payment.
A search of the site says it's been five years since I mentioned Whispering Smith. It's on again this week at 3:24 AM Wednesday on StarzEncore Westerns. Alan Ladd plays Luke “Whispering” Smith, a railroad detective brought in by the company to find the people who robbed one of their trains. As part of the investigation, Smith meets his old friend Murray Sinclair (Robert Preston), who works as a wrecker for the railroad and who also married Smith's old girlfriend Marion (Brenda Marshall). Smith also worries about Murray's work for rancher Barney Rebstock (Donald Crisp), who might be harboring the one surviving member of the gang that robbed the train, Blake Barton (Murvyn Vye; yes that was his real name). Barney is in fact the bad guy, and hires a gunman to get Smith. But is Murray a good guy or a bad guy. This movie marked a turn for Ladd away from the noirs he had been doing and was his first western.
Back in the 1930s, Warner Bros planned for a series of mystery movies as part of something called the “Clue Club”. Only a handful of the movies wound up getting a Clue Club card in the opening credits, and one of them, Murder by an Aristocrat, will be on TCM at 9:45 AM Thursday. William Davidson plays Bayard Thatcher, the black sheep of an aristocratic family who has decided that he's going to blackmail the rest of the family and reveal their dark secrets if they don't give him a bunch of money. He gets shot, and a doctor, Allen Carick (Lyle Talbot) is called in to attend to Bayard, along with a nurse, Sally Keating (Marguerite Churchill). Needless to say, Bayard gets shot again, this time fatally, and it's up to the good doctor and nurse to find out who actually did it because the authorities don't seem ablt to do so. And with a family like this, you can figure that everybody is a suspect. Another of the Clue Club mysteries, While the Patient Slept, is on at 7:15 AM, but I've recommended that one fairly recently.
Another of the programming themes on TCM in June is juvenile delinquent movies, which will be on every Thursday in prime time. The spotlight kicks off with a movie I mentioned recently in another thread: High School Confidential!, at 8:00 PM Thursday. Russ Tamblyn plays Tony Baker, a tough guy who's been kicked out of several high schools and now ends up at this one, looking to “rumble”, which is how he gets involved with J.I. Coleridge (John Drew Barrymore). He's the leader of the Wheeler Dealers gang, and knows where to score the stuff. In fact, however, Tony is really Mike Wilson, a narcotics officer who's part of an operation to figure out who's above Coleridge dealing all the various drugs to him and the other small-time dealers. That somebody will wind up being the mysterious Mr. A (Jackie Coogan). Along the way, Jerry Lee Lewis sings the title song on a flatbed truck; Michael Landon tries to get Tony not to be such a hoodlum; Tony seems to have a relationship with his guidance counselor (Jan Sterling); and there's Tony's “aunt” (Mamie Van Doren). It's absolutely ridiculous 60-plus years on, but it's a really fun ridiculous.
An intriguing movie that unforutnately has a few problems because of its ultra-low budget is The Watermelon Woman. It'll be on Flix at 1:45 AM Friday. Director Cheryl Dunye plays a version of herself, an aspiring filmmaker who works at a video store in Philadelphia with her lesbian friend Tamara, who keeps trying so set Cheryl up with other women and gets miffed when Cheryl falls for a white customer, Diana. Cheryl likes old movies and sees a (fictional) 1930s movie called Plantation Memories with a mammy character played by an actress billed as “The Watermelon Woman”. Cheryl decides she's going to make a documentary finding out the real identity of the Watermelon Woman who, among other things, was also a lesbian and had a relationship with white director Martha Page (all of these characters are fictitious). The mockumentary is much more fun than the parts about the relationshp between Cheryl and Tamara and their various girlfriends, and Camille Paglia has a funny cameo going on about Italian-Americans and watermelons.
Finally, we'll conclude with Paris Blues, at 10:15 PM Sunday. Paul Newman plays Ram Bowen, an American jazz trombonist living in Paris with his friend Eddie (Sidney Poitier). Ram goes to the train station to pick up Louie Armstrong, and finds two American women there, Lillian (Joanne Woodward) and Connie (Diahann Carroll). Lillian and Ram fall in love right away, and you know that when Connie and Eddie meet they're going to become a couple too. But things are quite complicated. Eddie left America to get away from the stifling racism and finds Paris liberating, while Connie sees that civil rights change is coming to America and can't see why people like Eddie would just pick up and leave rather than fighting the good fight for the people who don't have the wherewithal to escape. Lillian left behind a man and kids, but Ram seems to be married to the music and might not want a long-term relationship with Lillian. Along the way, we get lovely black-and-white cinematography of Paris and some nice jazz music for those into jazz.