Film on TV: July 23-29
The big thing to note this week is the day-long tribute TCM is airing to the recently deceased Ernest Borgnine on Thursday. I’ve picked out several of his best-known films to highlight, including a couple I haven’t featured here before (like Bad Day at Black Rock, pictured above – the film is actually in color, despite the still I used, which was the first one I found that actually has Borgnine in it), but they’re actually starting earlier in the day than that with some of his very early actioners and dramas.
Monday, July 23
2:30am (24th) – TCM – Captain Blood
This was Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland’s first of eight films together, and it’s one of the best. Flynn is the eponymous captain, a dentist named Blood who gets captured by pirates and ends up escaping and taking over the pirate ship himself. Full of swashbuckling and derring-do.
1935 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Lionel Atwill, Basil Rathbone, Guy Kibbee.
Tuesday, July 24
10:15am – TCM – Strangers on a Train
Guy Haines is a tennis star all set to marry into a posh, loving family, if it weren’t for that pesky and annoying wife he’s already got – a problem that fellow train-passenger Bruno has a solution for: all Guy has to do is kill Bruno’s troublesome father and Bruno will take care of Guy’s wife. This criss-cross setup begins one of Hitchcock’s best films, full of memorable shots and set-pieces, not to mention one of the most mesmerizingly psychotic performances in all of cinema in Robert Walker’s portrayal of Bruno.
1951 USA. Director: Alfred Hitchcock. Starring: Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman, Patricia Hitchcock, Leo G. Carroll, Laura Elliott.
4:30pm – TCM – D.O.A.
A man staggers into a police office to report a murder…his own. He’s been poisoned with an antidote-less poison, and he spends the rest of the film trying to convince the police what’s happened and trying to figure out who poisoned him and why. It’s not my favorite film noir, but it’s unusual premise and solid quality makes it worth watching.
1950 USA. Director: Rudolph Maté. Starring: Edmond O’Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler, Beverly Garland.
8:00pm – TCM – Pygmalion
A straight non-musical version of the George Bernard Shaw play that would later become My Fair Lady, with Leslie Howard as the prickly Professor Higgins who takes in street vendor Eliza Doolittle (Wendy Hiller) to turn her into a lady. A bit more acidic than the musical version.
1938 USA. Director: Anthony Asquith, Leslie Howard. Starring: Leslie Howard, Wendy Hiller, Wilfrid Lawson, Marie Lohr.
Wednesday, July 25
6:00am – IFC – The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Julian Schnabel’s intensely moving retelling of the true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was almost completely paralyzed in a car accident, able only to move his left eye. The impressionist storytelling lends an otherworldly beauty to the film, already solid due to the script and acting.
2007 France. Director: Julian Schnabel. Starring: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze.
(repeats tomorrow at 2:15pm)
8:00pm – Sundance – L.A. Confidential
A recent rewatch confirmed this as one of my favorite films of the ’90s, as it perfectly encapsules the feeling of film noir while telling a damn good story – convoluted but easy to follow, thanks to solid screenwriting and excellent turns by all the actors involved.
1997 USA. Director: Curtis Hanson. Starring: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito.
(repeats at 10:20pm)
8:15am – TCM – Meet John Doe
Not one of Frank Capra’s best takes on social idealism, but it definitely has its moments – and Barbara Stanwyck, what more do you really need? Stanwyck is a reporter who gets Gary Cooper to impersonate a fictional “John Doe” for a sensationalist protest story, but when he takes the role a little too seriously, things get out of hand. It’s a bit too on the nose even for Capra, but still worth watching.
1941 USA. Director: Frank Capra. Starring: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold, Walter Brennan.
10:30am – TCM – Sergeant York
Gary Cooper won his first Oscar for his portrayal of WWI hero Sgt. Alvin York, a pacifist who somehow decided that the fastest way to stop the killing was to join up and kill as many Germans as he could to end the war.
1941 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Gary Cooper, Walter Brennan, Joan Leslie, George Tobias, Margaret Wycherly, Ward Bond.
10:15pm – IFC – Evil Dead 2
The sequel/remake to Sam Raimi’s wonderfully over-the-top demon book film, set in the same creepy wood-bound cabin, with even more copious amounts of blood and a lot more intentional humor. I’m still not sure which I like best, but either one will do when you need some good schlock. (I still haven’t seen Army of Darkness, I’m shamed to admit.)
1987 USA. Director: Sam Raimi. Starring: Bruce Campbell, Sarah Berry, Dan Hicks.
(repeats at 2:15am on the 26th)
Thursday, July 26
5:15pm – TCM – The Dirty Dozen
An unconventional major is given a group of convicted murderers as a squad to take behind enemy lines during WWII. Featuring a disparate cast including Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine (as one of the generals setting up the mission), John Cassavetes, Charles Bronson, Donald Sutherland, and more, the film is a favorite among war film fans.
1967 USA. Director: Robert Aldrich. Starring: Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, George Kennedy, Ralph Meeker, Robert Ryan, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland.
8:00pm – TCM – Private Screenings: Ernest Borgnine
As part of their all-day tribute to Ernest Borgnine, who died on July 8th, TCM is replaying their Private Screenings interview with Borgnine. I haven’t seen this particular episode, but I have seen Robert Osborne interview Borgnine in person at the TCM Festival, and he’s quite a good interview. This should be well worth watching, along with the dozen or so films that TCM is showing all day and night in honor of Borgnine’s long career.
(repeats at 5:00am on the 27th)
9:00pm – TCM – Marty
Ernest Borgnine won an Oscar for his role as the schlubby, lonely title character, resigned to being unloved, until he meets a plain schoolteacher whose similar resignedness might make her his perfect match. The idea of having unlovely people in lead roles was a new one in Hollywood in the 1950s, and Marty capitalized on Paddy Chayefsky’s story with great results.
1955 USA. Director: Delbert Mann. Starring: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti.
10:45pm – TCM – From Here to Eternity
There’s the famous part, yes, where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr make love on the beach among the crashing waves. But there’s also a solid ensemble war tale, involving young officer Montgomery Clift and his naive wife Donna Reed, and embittered soldiers Frank Sinatra and Lee J. Cobb.
1953 USA. Director: Fred Zinnemann. Starring: Burt Lancaster, Deborah Kerr, Frank Sinatra, Donna Reed, Montgomery Clift, Lee J. Cobb.
1:00am (27th) – TCM – The Wild Bunch
One of several westerns in the sixties and seventies preoccupied with aging cowboys and their displacement as the world moves on around them – and one of the best, with a level of grit and violence that hadn’t really been seen up to this point. Uncompromising direction from Sam Peckinpah plus a cast that knew their way around traditional westerns make this one to remember.
1969 USA. Director: Sam Peckinpah. Starring: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O’Brien, Ben Johnson.
3:30am (27th) – TCM – Bad Day at Black Rock
When Spencer Tracy gets off the train in Black Rock, a small western town, he’s greeted none too warmly – the town is suspicious of strangers, and as his purpose for being there unfolds, it threatens their darkest secret and they rally against him. A dark and gritty noirish neo-Western crime drama mystery (whew) with a rock-solid cast.
1955 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Anne Francis, Dean Jagger, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin.
Friday, July 27
11:15am – IFC – Che
Steven Soderbergh’s ambitious two-part epic about South American revolutionary Che Guevara. IFC is playing both parts back to back.
2008 USA. Director: Steven Soderbergh. Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Julia Ormond, Rodrigo Santoro.
8:00pm – TCM – Dick Tracy
It may be over-the-top, silly, and feature Madonna in a major role, but I have a big soft spot for Warren Beatty’s version of Dick Tracy. Okay, fine, a lot of that is BECAUSE it’s over-the-top, silly, and features Madonna doing the best breathy showgirl she can manage, and singing original Stephen Sondheim songs to boot. Add in a bashful Beatty and an all-too-literally-designed roster of baddies, and this is a trashy good time.
1990 USA. Director: Warren Beatty. Starring: Warren Beatty, Madonna, Al Pacino.
10:30pm – TCM – Dick Tracy movies
TCM follows up the 1990 film with several entries in the 1940s movie series, starring Morgan Conway. I haven’t seen any of these, but I’m intrigued by B-level movie series like this, and would love to check it out if I could.
1945-1947 USA. Director: various. Starring: Morgan Conway.
Saturday, July 28
7:15am – IFC – Doubt
An acting tour de force thanks to the presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman as a priest and Meryl Streep as the nun who accuses him of getting a bit too close to the children he teaches. Amy Adams acquits herself well as the novitiate caught in the middle, while Viola Davis is a standout in a very small but intensely memorable role. The film tends toward the stagy side thanks to its origins as a play (and the fact that it’s directed by the playwright), but the showdowns between these actors is well worth it.
2008 USA. Director: John Patrick Shanley. Starring: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis.
12:00N – TCM – Green Hornet
Continuing the theme started with the Dick Tracy series last night, TCM plays four episodes from the 1940 Green Hornet serial. This was truly a serial rather than a movie series, with cliffhangers and the whole bit. It’s pretty cool that TCM is running some of these serial-type episodes – it’s a part of movie history that’s not well-remembered.
1940 USA. Director: Ford Beebe, Ray Taylor. Starring: Gordon Jones, Wade Boteler, Anne Nagel, Keye Luke.
5:00pm – TCM – The Best Years of Our Lives
One of the first films to deal with the aftermath of WWII, as servicemen return home to find both themselves and their homes changed by the long years of war. Director William Wyler and a solid ensemble cast do a great job of balancing drama and realism without delving too much into sentimentality.
1946 USA. Director: William Wyler. Starring: Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Virginia Mayo, Herbert Russell, Cathy O’Donnell.
8:00pm – TCM – What Ever Happened to Baby Jane
Perhaps the definition of Hollywood Gothic, with aging stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as aging former actresses. Davis was a child star whose glory was utterly usurped by sister Crawford as they grew up, making her bitterly long for their roles to be switched again. Add in a crippling car accident, psychological abuse, and delusions of continued fame, and you have an engrossing (and deliciously campy) cult film and possibly one of Davis’s best performances ever.
1962 USA. Director: Robert Aldrich. Starring: Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono, Wesley Addy, Maidie Norman.
10:30pm – IFC – The Thin Red Line
Breaking Terrence Malick’s twenty-year filmmaking silence since 1978′s Days of Heaven, this film applies his contemplative and poetic view of the world to a WWII story. It remains a favorite among Malick fans, and an interesting counterpoint to Spielberg’s action-oriented Saving Private Ryan, released the same year.
1998 USA. Director: Terrence Malick. Starring: Sean Penn, Jim Caviezel, Nick Nolte, Elias Koteas, Ben Chaplin.
1:45am (29th) – TCM – Strait-Jacket
Joan Crawford takes the screen in William Castle’s tale of madness and murder as a psychotic woman just let out of the mental institution twenty years after committing an axe murder – but is she ready to return to society?
1964 USA. Director: William Castle. Starring: Joan Crawford, Diane Baker, John Anthony Hayes, George Kennedy.
Sunday, July 29
5:15pm – TCM – West Side Story
I unabashedly love musicals, Shakespeare, and stylized choreography. Hence, I love West Side Story. I wish Richard Beymer and Natalie Wood were a little more interesting as the leads, but the supporting cast is electrifying enough that it doesn’t much matter, especially with Bernstein and Sondheim music and Jerome Robbins choreography.
1961 USA. Director: Richard Wise & Jerome Robbins. Starring: Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, George Chakiris, Rita Moreno.
8:00pm – TCM – The Band Wagon
There are many reasons to consider The Band Wagon among the best movie musicals ever made. The satirical plot involving a Shakespearean director who tries to turn a lighthearted musical into a doom-and-gloom version of Faust, the bright yet sardonic script and score by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who basically appear in the film as the characters played by Nanette Fabrey and Oscar Levant), the last really great role for Fred Astaire (maybe Funny Face is a contender, but barely), and of course, the never-surpassed beauty of dance numbers like “Dancing in the Dark” with Fred and Cyd Charisse. But even if it didn’t have all that, I’d still rank it among my favorites for the epic “Girl Hunt Ballet” number spoofing hard-boiled detective fiction.
1953 USA. Director: Vincente Minnelli. Starring: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Jack Buchanan, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabrey.