Welcome to another edition of Fedya's “Movie to Tivo” thread, for the week of November 13-19, 2017. While Blair Kiel is looking forward to this year's Beaujolais nouveau arriving on Thursday, there are a bunch of interesting movies showing up on TV. We get more from Star of the Month James Stewart, as well as good stuff in a bunch of other places, too. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
TCM's November spotlight is on the Hollywood blacklist, in which Hollywood pats itself on the back defending people who believed in a wicked ideology. On Monday and Tuesday nights they're showing movies made by people who got blacklisted. Monday's lineup starts off with screenwriter Abraham Polonsky's Force of Evil. Leo Morse (Thomas Gomez) is a man who runs a small-time front in the numbers racket, content to remain in the small time. What he doesn't realize is that his own brother, lawyer Joe (John Garfield), has ideas of making the numbers racket a big thing. Of course, a big thing requires an organization that can run it, which means the Mob, and Leo's desire to stay clear of the mob is in part behind why he wants to stay small. Joe and the Mob, however, have decided that they're going to engineer it so that the little guys have to capitulate to the Mob. This even if it hurts everybody around Joe.
Israeli producer Menahem Golan made a bunch of interesting movies in the 1980s. One that I don't think I've recommended here before is The Delta Force, which will be on StarzEncore Classics at 12:16 AM Tuesday. A plane flying from Athens to Rome is carrying a cast of older stars (Joey Bishop, Shelley Winters, Martin Balsam, and even George Kennedy as a Catholic priest!, among others) when said plane gets hijacked by Muslim terrorists and diverted to Beirut (remember TWA Flight 847?) The terrorists then threaten to start killing the passengers if Israel doesn't release a bunch of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons. (Ah, the good old days of terrorism being “over there”.) The Israelis have good comandos, but they also enlist the help of the American Delta Force, commanded from Washington by Gen. Woodbridge (Robert Vaughn), who sends in a crack team led by Col. Alexander (Lee Marvin in his final movie looking all of his 62 years) and second-in-command Maj. McCoy (Chuck Norris). For all the American rah-rah stuff, the movie was actually shot entirely in Israel.
If you want a silly little romantic comedy, you could do worse than A Letter For Evie, which will be on TCM at 2:00 AM Wednesday. Evie (Marsha Hunt) is a secretary at a shirt company that makes shirts for soldiers. One of her colleagues got a man by slipping a letter into the pockets of one of the shirts, so Evie tries the same thing, putting a letter into the pocket of a large shirt – she wants a big guy. Wolf (John Carroll) gets the shirt with the letter, but gives the letter to his Army pal John (Hume Cronyn), who is a lot smaller. John starts corresponding with Evie, although because he realizes Evie wants a big guy, he lies about his true identity and sends along a photo of Wolf. Needless to say, this causes all sorts of complications. But, of course, we know that Evie and John are ultimately right for each other, since Hollywood wouldn't set up a story this way to have a downer ending.
A movie on FXM Retro that I don't think I've recommended before is Five Gates to Hell, which will be on Tuesday at 9:20 AM and Wednesday at 8:35 AM. Dolores Michaels plays Athena, a nurse at a Red Cross field hospital in French Indochina in 1950, there with a diverse set of co-workers: a French head nurse, a German, a Brit, a nun, and a Japanese, and a couple of male American doctors. One day, the warlord Chen Pamok (Neville Brand) leads his men into the encampment, shooting it up and taking the surviving doctors and nurses hostage. It turns out that Chen's current superior is dying and needs urgent medical care, and Chen is going to get that care for the guy even if he has to kidnap people to do it. Of course the medical staff don't like being kidnapped, and would like to escape. But they're in a hilltop castle, and the rod out includes a bridge and a couple of other natural choke-points (the titular gates in the title; the castle gate is the fifth gate). And when the doctors get shot in an escape attempt, the nurses have to escape alone.
James Stewart's turn as TCM Star of the Month this week includes such interesting movies as No Highway in the Sky, at 4:00 AM Thursday. Stewart plays Theodore Honey, an aeronautical engineer who fell in love with a British woman before the war and married her and had a daughter, although Mom died during the war. He's stayed there, not fitting in with anybody. working with a firm that's proud of its newest airplane model, the Reindeer. However, one of the Reindeer crashes, and Theodore works out the idea that it was an issue with metal fatigue. He predicts that after a certain number of hours of service, there will be enough of a problem that the tail will just catastrophically fall off! And then a second Reindeer crashes, and recovery teams can't find the tail, so Theodore is sent to Newfoundland where the plane crashed to investigate. Unfortunately, he's on a Reindeer, and the plane is close to its service limit. Marlene Dietrich plays a fellow passenger who is a movie star, and Glynis Johns plays the stewardess on the plane ride. A few years after this movie, there was a real-life problem with the De Havilland Comet.
Every married man knows that You Can't Fool Your Wife. The movie is airing at noon Thursday on TCM. Lucille Ball, realtively early in her career, plays Clara, a woman who's been happily married to Andrew (James Ellison) for five years now. However, her mother (Emma Dunn) doesn't like the son-in-law and constantly plots against him, giving Clara ideas that he's being unfaithful. It doesn't help that Andrew is spending a lot of time with his work trying to climb the corporate ladder. It leads to Clara eventually splitting from Andrew, at least temporarily. Andrew's boss (Robert Coote) comes up with an idea to brin Andrew and Clara back together that sounds like a plot out of an I Love Lucy episode: have Clara dress up as a zany South American heiress, with the housekeeper also in on it all. Episodic TV would ultimately replace this sort of B movie in the 1950s.
On Thursday night, TCM is running a bunch of Marsha Mason movies. (It's always Marsha. Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!) She's probably best known for the movies she did based on Neil Simon plays back when she was married to him in the late 1970s. However, the only one of those movies airing is The Goodbye Girl, at 10:15 PM. The night kicks off at 8:00 PM with Cinderella Liberty, in which Mason plays a single mother in Seattle who meets a sailor (James Caan) on a brief leave and the two start a relationship even though it's going to be problematic for all involved.
A movie on StarzEncore Westerns that I don't think I've recommended before is The Lone Hand, which will be on at 7:54 AM Friday. Joel McCrea plays Zachary, a widower with a young son Joshua (Jimmy Hunt), who moves to Colorado to start a new life as ranchers. However, it's not an easy life, and to help make ends meet, Zachary winds up falling in with a bunch of outlaws (including James Arness). Meanwhile, to try to find a mother for his son, Zachary has gotten remarried to Sarah (Barbara Hale). When the wife and kid find out about Zachary's outlawry, they're both disillusioned – how could the man they loved do this to them? Of course, this is Joel McCrea, and you know that by this point in his career he's not going to be playing the bad guy, so you're just waiting for the other shoe to drop. Still, there's a lot of nice scenery, and Joel McCrea is as reliable as ever.
It's nice to see a prime-time airing of The Wind, which will be on TCM at 8:00 PM Friday. Lillian Gish plays Letty, an easterner who moves out west to live on the ranch run by her cousin Beverly (Edward Earle), who is married to Cora . Unsurprisingly, Cora resents all this, and thinks that Letty is going to try to steal Beverly away from her. Cora wants Letty out of the house, so Letty complies by taking a marriage proposal from one of the other men in town, Lige (Lars Hanson), even though she really doesn't love him. She begins to find out just how tough life out on the range. The deer and antelope don't play; all that happens is the wind blows, and blows, and blows. And then a strange man comes in from out of the wind and tries to take advantage of Letty. It's almost all too much for her. The print TCM showed the last time I watched it had a nonagenarian Gish talking about her experiences making the movie as an introduction; it was a harrowing shoot thanks to the extreme weather conditions – not just the wind, but obscenely hot in the Bakersfield area.
The Razor's Edge is back on, and I don't think I've recommended it in a while. You can catch it at 7:30 AM Sunday on TCM. Tyrone Power plays Larry, a man who's returned from World War I with a fiancée Isabel (Gene Tierney) waiting for him. But he decides that he needs spiritual fulfillment in his life, and goes off to find it. When Isabel discovers he's serious about it, she decides to settle down with businessman Gray (John Payne) instead of waiting for Larry. Fast forward a decade. Gray has lost his fortune in the crash of 1929, and Isabel's uncle Elliott (Clifton Webb) invites Larry and Gray to live with him). It's there that Isabel meets both Larry as well as a former mutual friend, Sophie (Anne Baxter, who won an Oscar). She too had gotten married, but her husband and child died in a car crash, and now she's drinking herself to death in Paris. Larry wants to help her; Isabel wants to dump Gray and marry Larry. Herbert Marshall plays Somerset Maugham, who actually wrote the book on which the movie is based.