Saturday, December 31, 2011

More Christmas swag!

If you were curious as to why Brother Schweier seemed to have taken over the blog the past few days (not that this is necessarily a bad thing; his incisive reviews are always welcome) it’s because I took a short sabbatical while my sister Debbie and her family (husband Craige, daughter Rachel) graced us with their presence this week.  They have since made tracks toward their home base in the Iowa hinterlands, but not before stopping off in Memphis to watch Craige’s alma mater, Vanderbilt University, play Cincinnati in the Auto Zone© Liberty Bowl this afternoon (sister Debbie got them tickets as a Christmas gift).  After their stayover in The River City, it’s back to I-O-Way because my bro-in-law will be participating in the caucus come January 3rd.

Both Deb & Craige and niece Rachel bestowed upon me some gift certificates for presentry this year…which have already been spent on two DVD collections that I have had my eye on for some time now, Season 5 of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the fourth and final season of Dennis the Menace (I told ClassicBecky she’s welcome to my Dennis “rootpeg” set, and I wish I could say her reaction was one of boundless enthusiasm but that would be a lie).  As for the ‘rents, Deb & Craige splurged on a wireless router to allow their laptop internet access, so it will only be a matter of time before both Mater and Pater are zooming down the superinformation highway…and if past trips with my Dad are any indication, he’ll be pulling into some gas station any minute now to ask directions.  But on the off-chance that they do start surfing and stumble across this ‘umble scrap of the blogosphere…well, I’ll probably have to cut back on the profanity…and it wouldn’t hurt to tidy up some, too.

But the big bodacious gift we received here in the House of Yesteryear came from sister Kat and sister-in-law Katie (with financial kicking-in from Deb & Craige, too).  It’s a…wait for it

Viola!  A brand-spanking-new 32” Philips HDTV, which I have to say none of us was expecting.  Craige set this bad boy up last night (a necessary detour had to be made to our local Best Buy, however, because we didn’t have any shelving to sit it down upon) and my mom thinks its supercalifragilisticexpialidocious; it’s the first time she’s been able to read the score of a basketball game in years.  (My father has given it the thumbs-up as well—though there was a brief moment yesterday when I thought we’d have to break out the defib paddles because he was going through withdrawal being denied access to TV while the hookup was underway.)  Not only has Castle Yesteryear been outfitted with HDTV television and wireless internet capabilities, but Craige managed to fix the house thermostat so it comes on more than three times in the evenings.  All in all, it was a true Christmas miracle—the only downside is I’m having trouble sleeping at night because my bedroom is so warm.

This will be the last post here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear for 2011, so I want to wish all the TDOY faithful the happiest of New Year’s and best wishes for a better and prosperous 2012.  We’ve got a real feed planned this evening (my Mom is whipping up her world famous hot wings) and will then probably watch a Bait Car marathon…in HDTV, even.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Guest Review: Double Danger Stories

By Philip Schweier

Cry Danger (1951) is film noir at its finest, starring Dick Powell in a role not unlike his groundbreaking turn as Phillip Marlowe. He plays Rocky Mulloy, who five years ago was fingered in a robbery he had no part of. His alibi hinged on a bunch of Marines he was drinking with at the time, and now one of them, DeLong (Richard Erdman) has become aware of the case and stepped forward to clear his name.

Only DeLong isn’t quite the selfless patriot you might expect. Turns out he wasn’t one of the Marines, but he could’ve been. His hope is Mulloy will be grateful enough that he might share some of the $50,000 that’s been stashed away all this time. Could come in handy, as DeLong drinks most of his money away.

Powell is reunited with Nancy (Rhonda Fleming), who is married to the guy who was Mulloy’s alleged partner in the robbery. He’s also reunited with Castro (William Conrad), a local criminal who’s moved up in the world, bragging to Mulloy he’s 60 percent legit. Mulloy doesn’t care; he just wants half the robbery money. After all, he’s spent the last five years earning it.

On Mulloy’s tail is Cobb (Regis Toomey), a police detective who’s still looking for the robbery money, which after all this time has never surfaced, leading most of the players to believe Mulloy’s got his stashed some place, despite his cries of innocence.

This movie has everything: an anti-hero, a dame who loves him, an injured pal, a sympathetic cop, a manipulative fat man. I could go on, but too many similarities to The Maltese Falcon would give too much away. The only thing wrong with the film is that too much of it takes place in broad daylight. I like my film noir like I like my coffee – dark and bitter.

(Ivan’s ad-lib: “I dated a woman like that once.”)

Five Steps to Danger (1957) is a Hitchcockian thriller wannabe that capitalizes on Cold War era tropes. Ann Nicholson (Ruth Roman) is in a hurry to reach New Mexico, so much so that she picks up John Emmet (Sterling Hayden) along the way. His car broke down and she offers him a strictly business proposition of driving through the night with her. Along the way, Emmet is approached by Helen Bethke (Jeanne Cooper) a nurse who claims that the widow Nicholson is very ill, and so as not to alarm the patient, she would like Emmet to deliver his “fellow traveler” to her hotel in New Mexico.

The next morning, Emmet and Mrs. Nicholson are stopped by a couple of deputies who claim she’s wanted in connection with the murder of a CIA agent in Los Angeles. Despite being handcuffed together, they manage to dodge the law long enough for Mrs. Nicholson to explain things. Her family emigrated from Germany when she was a small child, but returned to dispose of some business interests. War broke out and they were trapped there, and she is the only one to survive. Then she learned her brother Kurt was alive, trapped inside East Berlin. He tries to escape but is captured, never to be seen again. His companion finds her, and gives to her a steel mirror, which under the proper magnification is actually a transcript of German missile research. It is now her job to return to the United States and see it safely into the hands of Dr. Reinhart Kissel (Karl Lindt).

Kissel, and old family friend, is apparently teaching at a university in New Mexico, but when Emmet and Nicholson pay a call on college dean William Brant (Richard Gaines), he denies having ever heard of Kissler. This strengthens the assertion that Mrs. Nicholson is unwell, and Emmet hands her over to Nurse Bethke and her boss, Dr. Frederick Simmons (Werner Klemperer), then heads off to go fishing.

But their adventure together has prompted Emmet to fall in love with Mrs. Nicholson, and when he is approached by CIA operative Edward Kirkpatrick (Charles Davis), he decides Mrs. Nicholson hasn’t seen the last of him. What follows is a cat-and-mouse game of who’s a red-blooded American and who’s a pinko Commie.

Like many of Hitchcock’s movies, it a tale of an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances. But 50 years later, it is unfortunately dated, and it lacks the star power to make it truly entertaining. As to what the five steps to danger are, that’s never explained. The ending is tidy and efficient, allowing for a happy ending for every one (well, almost).

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Guest Review Double Feature: 99 River Street in The Naked City

By Philip Schweier

John Payne is in for the fight of his life in 99 River Street (1953) when he plays Ernie Driscoll, a former boxer turned cabbie. It seems the boxing commission barred him from fighting due to an eye injury, and now, four years later, he’s driving a cab in New York City. He’s got dreams of owning a gas station, maybe starting a family.

Pauline Driscoll (Peggie Castle), however, has other dreams. She was a showgirl who, with visions of the good life, hitched her wagon to Ernie, only to end up working in a flower shop. This is why she’s taken up with Victor Rawlins (Brad Dexter), a low-life crook. Together, they conspire in a jewel heist that goes wrong, and their intended victim ends up a little dead. Further complicating matters is their intended fence (Jay Adler) backs out on the deal when women are involved.

Rawlin’s sees Pauline as the opportunistic liability she is, and sets Ernie up for her murder. But Ernie’s already got the cops out looking for him. Why? Well, it’s kind of a funny story. Ernie’s friend Linda (Evelyn Keyes) is an actress, and following an audition, she comes running to Ernie – who’s just learned his missus is catting around on him – with a tale of accidental murder. He accompanies her to the theater where, after watching a performance of how the director ended up on the floor, he agrees to dispose of the corpus delecti.

Psych! He’s not dead. It’s all part of her audition! Isn’t that a hoot? Wait, Ernie, why aren’t you laughing? It’s funny!! Isn’t it?

Isn’t it?

Ernie proceeds to take out his growing anger on the theater folk, who afterwards swear out a warrant for assault and battery as part of their publicity strategy. Only when a boxer uses his fists in such a way, the stakes are higher. So Ernie’s decided to leave town and resume his boxing career wherever he can find it. That’s when he and Linda find Pauline’s body in his cab.

Ernie’s knows his wife’s lover is behind it, but without even knowing his name, he’s got little chance to find him. Aided and abetted by Linda, he sets out on the thin trail. Unfortunately for Rawlins, he not only got Ernie on his tail, but also his fence whom he has coerced into following through with the deal. The fence wants him dead, but Rawlins is the only one who can clear Ernie. Ernie and the fence converge on Rawlins before he leaves the country for a final showdown.

99 River Street is an excellent crime thriller, and possibly could have been much better received had it featured an A-list cast. Evelyn Keyes has a couple of moments to really shine, one in the theater gag, the other when she enters a riverfront dive in search of Rawlins. I highly recommend it.

Fans of the CSI franchise will enjoy The Naked City (1948), a police drama that follows the basic procedure as Det. Lt. Dan Muldoon (Barry Fitzgerald) and his younger partner, Det. Jimmy Halloran (Don Taylor) investigate the murder of Jean Dexter, a young woman whose life seem to be less on the up-and-up that most of her friends realized. A “person of interest” in the investigation is Frank Niles (Howard Duff), whose iron-clad alibi for the murder is negated by the various lame-brain excuses he offers the police.

Okay, turns out he didn’t do it, but I’m not going to spoil it by revealing the whos, whys and hows. It’s not an earth-shattering conspiracy of epic proportions. In fact, it would be a nothing crime if it weren’t murder. What is not nearly so important as the how: how the police chase down one flimsy lead after another, often ending up in dead ends, often struggling against the frustration at the layers of deceit and misdirection provided by those involved.

Unlike many cop movies of its day, The Naked City isn’t full of square-jawed detectives serving and protecting the citizens of New York City. The lead cop is Barry Fitzgerald, and a more unassuming son of the auld sod you’ll never find. But he is not the star of the film. The star is the city itself, New York City; “Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders…” No, wait, that’s Chicago.

It’s New York, N.Y., it’s a wonderful town. Producer Mark Hellinger makes his point in the opening narration (in lieu of credits) that the city is presented in all its unkempt, ill-bred, bright light, glorious demeanor, as immigrants rub shoulders with bankers on the El, as children play in the fire hydrants on a hot summer day while cops take a brief respite from murder and mayhem to watch. The city lives and breathes by its citizens, each one as vital as the red blood cells that provides life to the larger body.

“There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.” It’s not a great story; what makes it great is in the telling.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Guest Review Double Feature: Call Northside 777 and Cry Vengeance

By Philip Schweier

Even when a Hollywood movie claims to be a true story, not every plot point in the film should be regarded as true and factual. Events are often compressed and characters are often composites for dramatic purposes. Some are completely fabricated in order to avoid an unfair portrayal. So even though Call Northside 777 (1948) claims to be true, it should be taken with a grain of salt.

The story begins in 1933, when a Chicago patrolman is gunned down in a speakeasy. Two men, Frank W. Wiecek and Tomek Zaleska (Richard Conte and George Tyne), are railroad on flimsy evidence for the crime. Eleven years later, an ad appears in the Chicago Times, offering $5,000 for information that will clear Wiecek.

Reporter Jim McNeal (James Stewart) is assigned to follow it up. The ad was placed by Wiecek’s mother, who has spent the past 11 years scrubbing floors to earn the reward money in the hopes that someone might come forward. McNeal’s human interest story captures the imagination of the Times’ readers, leading to a follow-up, and soon McNeal is convinced there may be something to Wiecek’s claim of innocence.

What follows is high drama (mostly) of the Times’ efforts to win Wiecek his freedom. I say mostly because there are some scenes that seem to drag on forever, such as when Wiecek is undergoing his lie detector test, and McNeal is pounding the pavement in search of the woman whose sole testimony is responsible for his Wiecek’s conviction. I can appreciate that such details were intended to convey the lengths to which McNeal and the Chicago Times go to win Wiecek’s case, but on film, they drag on interminably.

The film’s eventual resolution is a contrived yet effective plot device, but for the filmmakers to claim that it stems from true events is a disservice to the more naïve members of the audience. But that’s Hollywood; just as a newspaper will skew a story in the interest of stimulating public opinion – and thereby boosting readership – so to will Hollywood discard the lesser parts of a story in favor of something more dramatic.

Like the classic axiom of another James Stewart film, “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” In other words, never let facts get in the way of a good story. Call Northside 777 is a good story, but it shouldn’t be taken as gospel.

It features fine performances from James Stewart, who by now has perfected his “ordinary man fighting for an idealistic cause,” which we’ve seen in Mr. Smith Goes to Washignton and It’s a Wonderful Life, and Lee J Cobb, who co-stars as McNeal’s editor, Brian Kelly. Henry Hathaway directed the film, and according to the opening credits uses many of the actual locations featured in the story.

Mark Stevens both directs and stars in Cry Vengeance (1954), playing ex-cop Vic Barron. Three years ago Barron was framed for being on the take and was sent up. His wife and daughter were also killed in a car bomb meant which scarred him for life, and he blames crime boss Tino Morelli (Douglas Kennedy). Now that Barron’s out of prison, he’s looking for a little payback, if he can find Morelli.

Barron visits one of the local mob hangouts, where he runs afoul of hoodlum Roxey Davis (Skip Homeier). The old grudges between cop and criminal soon rear their ugly head, and Barron pays a visit to floozy Lily (Joan Vohs). She fesses up that Morelli has “retired” to the small fishing village of Ketchikan, Alaska. Steaming with anger, Barron catches the first plane out of San Francisco.

There, Morelli has settled down to a quiet life with his daughter, Marie (Cheryl Calloway), with lackey Johnny (Mort Mills) keeping him apprised of the business back home. Word reaches them that Barron’s on the way, so they begin to make ready.

Reaching Ketchikan, Barron starts looking for Morelli with a big chip on his shoulder, but that’s soon whittled down to size by a local tavern keeper, Peggy Harding (Martha Hyer). She tries to soften Barron up, while trying to keep him from locating Morelli. It seems Barron is the first man to catch her eye in some time, but she knows he’s on the path to doom and destruction.

Meanwhile, Roxey has orders from San Francisco to go up to Ketchikan and take care of Barron/Morelli problem permanently, and while he’s at it, take Lily along for the ride. He’s only too happy to do so. Only he gets it into his head that Morelli’s the easier target, and with him dead, Barron makes the perfect fall guy.

So while Morelli lies dead in a ditch, Barron pays a visit to his home, where he find little Marie. Having lost his own child, it’s just the tonic to make this Grinch’s heart grow big enough to let go of his need for vengeance. With Peggy’s help, he regains his mental balance and takes care of Roxey to boot.

It’s typical crime thriller fare of the day, trying hard to rise above its mediocre pedigree. It does okay, but Barron’s constant steaming over his desire for revenge becomes a bit tiresome. Peggy is way too attractive to remain single in Alaska for long. Perhaps the caliber of desirable men where she lives is somewhat lacking, but clearly her standards aren’t too high when she takes a shine to a self-destructive and physically scarred ex-convict. For me, the high point of the film was seeing future Mel Cooley Richard Deacon in a bit part.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Coming distractions: January 2012 on TCM

Since we’ve only a handful of days left in 2011, no one is more surprised than I that it’s taken me this long to cobble together Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s regular feature of what offerings to expect on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ (by the way, if you’re wondering where the ka-ching! has gone to…since Brooks is on his blogging hiatus, I figure I could borrow that a few times without writing the royalty checks, if you know what I mean) in the coming months.  You can’t even begin to fathom the depths of laziness I went to in putting off getting this done.  In fact, I so outdid myself I’m ready for a nap…but no, first things first.

TCM’s Star of the Month in January will be Angela Lansbury, and though it saddens me sometimes when I stop to contemplate that so many young people know Ms. Lansbury only as that old lady who solves crimes, Angela gave outstanding performances in many a classic film of yesteryear…and on every Wednesday night of the month audiences will get the opportunity to sample her cinematic legacy with a lineup of 26 films (with a repeat of her 2006 visit with Bobby Osbo on Private Screenings and a 1956 telecast of Screen Director’s Playhouse):

Wednesday – January 4
08:00pm Gaslight (1944)
10:00pm National Velvet (1944)
02:15am The Harvey Girls (1946)
04:15am The Hoodlum Saint (1946)

Thursday – January 5
06:00am If Winter Comes (1947)
07:45am Tenth Avenue Angel (1948)
09:00am The Red Danube (1949)

Wednesday – January 11
08:00pm State of the Union (1948)
10:15pm The Three Musketeers (1948)
12:30am Samson and Delilah (1949)
02:45am Till the Clouds Roll By (1946)
05:15am Kind Lady (1951)

Thursday – January 12
06:45am A Lawless Street (1955)
08:15am Screen Directors Playhouse: “Claire” (04/25/56)

Wednesday – January 18
10:00pm The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
12:15am All Fall Down (1962)
02:15am The Court Jester (1956)
04:00am Season of Passion (1960)
05:45am The Reluctant Debutante (1958)

Wednesday – January 25
08:00pm Private Screenings: Angela Lansbury (2006)
11:30pm Death on the Nile (1978)
02:00am Mister Buddwing (1966)
03:45am Dear Heart (1964)
05:45am In the Cool of the Day (1963)

Thursday – January 26

On Thursday nights in January, Turner Classic Movies will fete one of the premier cinematographers in film, the late Academy Award-winning lensman (and sometimes director) Jack Cardiff.  What made Jack such an amazing cinematographer was his mastery of the Technicolor palette (his Oscar came for my favorite erotic nun movie, Black Narcissus, which will leave you agog with its breathtaking color), and even though for some inexplicable reason TCM left The African Queen (1951) off the schedule, there’s plenty here among the 18 films to enjoy, buttressed with several showings of a 2010 documentary, Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (and a night featuring movies he directed):

Thursday – January 5
08:00pm Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010)
09:30pm Wings of the Morning (1937)
11:00pm Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010)
12:30am The Four Feathers (1939)
02:30am Things to Come (1936)
04:30am Knight Without Armour (1937)

Friday – January 6
06:30am Caesar and Cleopatra (1945)

Thursday – January 12
11:00pm Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010)
02:30am The Red Shoes (1948)
05:00am Black Narcissus (1947) (also January 31 at 8:30am)

Thursday – January 19
08:00pm Under Capricorn (1949)
10:15pm The Master of Ballantrae (1953)
04:15am Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff (2010)

Thursday – January 26 (all films directed by Cardiff)
08:00pm Intent to Kill (1958)
09:45pm The Lion (1962)
11:30pm Young Cassidy (1965)
01:30am The Liquidator (1966)
03:30am Dark of the Sun (1968)

So with the major TCM draws dealt with, let’s take a look at a few more highlights for January…keeping in mind that all times are EST and are subject to last-minute changes if the channel simply isn’t feeling up to it:

January 1, Sunday – At 4am, TCM will show a 1947 British comedy-drama, Holiday Camp, which served as an introduction to a UK film series centering on a working class British family.  Actor Jack Warner played Joe Huggett in all four films, with Kathleen Harrison as his wife Ethel; the remaining Huggetts outings after Camp featured a young Petula Clark (as one of the Huggett daughters) as well as future stars like Diana Dors and Anthony Newley.  So on January 8 at 4:45am the first “official” Huggetts film, Here Come the Huggetts (1948) is scheduled, followed the next week by Vote for Huggett (1949; 4:15am) and finishing up with The Huggetts Abroad (1949; 4am) on the 22nd.

January 2, Monday – The channel addresses the “Cotten shortage” (hey…I never issued any written guarantees that the jokes would get better by 2012) by toasting one of TDOY’s favorite thesps (and a hell of a radio actor) Joseph Cotten beginning at 8pm with the ethereal Portrait of Jennie (1948).  It’s followed by a film that has been an elusive presence on TCM for far too long, The Farmer's Daughter (1947; 9:30pm), and then it’s The Steel Trap (1952; 11:15pm), Niagara (1952; 1:00am) and Lydia (1941; 2:45am) to take us into the wee a.m. hours.

January 3, Tuesday – Happy 115th birthday to Marion Cecilia Douras—better known to classic movie buffs as Marion Davies.  To celebrate, the channel will show The Florodora Girl (1930; 6am), Not So Dumb (1930; 7:30am), The Bachelor Father (1931; 9am), Five and Ten (1931; 10:45am), Blondie of the Follies (1932; 12:15pm), Peg O' My Heart (1933; 2pm), Operator 13 (1934; 3:30pm), Cain and Mabel (1936; 5pm) and Hearts Divided (1936; 6:30pm)…ignoring the fact that many of her silent films are better representations of her talent.  (A shame.)

Come nightfall, TCM salutes “The Women of the West” with Belle Starr (1941) kicking things off at 8pm, followed by Annie Oakley (1935) at 9:45Annie Get Your Gun (1950; 11:30pm), Westward the Women (1951; 1:30am), Mail Order Bride (1964; 3:30am) and Montana Belle (1952; 5am) round out the rest of the evening.

January 4, Wednesday – You’d think that TCM would have finished out the rest of those Screen Director’s Playhouse reruns in 2011 (especially since they’re starting encores like the “Claire” episode for their Angela Lansbury salute) but think again, Playhouse fans—there’s still a few more installments of the Hal Roach-produced series (based on the 1949-51 radio anthology) in the warehouse, which precede a feature film showcasing the star of each episode:

06:30am Episode #29: “Partners” (07/04/56) with Brandon De Wilde, Robert J. Wilke
08:45am Episode #30: “White Corridors” (07/11/56) with Linda Darnell, Patricia Hitchcock
10:45pm Episode #31: “The Carroll Formula” (07/18/56) with Michael Wilding, Steven Geray
01:15pm Episode #32: “Apples on the Lilac Tree” (07/25/56) with Macdonald Carey, Joan Caulfield
03:15pm Episode #33: "Bitter Waters" (08/01/56) with George Sanders, Constance Cummings
05:15pm Episode #34: “The Day I Met Caruso" (08/08/56) with Walter Coy, Barbara Eiler

January 5, Thursday – The channel fetes Jane Wyman on what would have been her 95th birthday with a short feature film tribute: Ready, Willing and Able (1937; 11am), He Couldn't Say No (1938; 12:45pm), Private Detective (1939; 1:45pm), Gambling on the High Seas (1940; 3pm), The Doughgirls (1944; 4pm) and Cheyenne (1947) at 5:45pm.

January 6, Friday – Loretta Young is next on the birthday celebration list, and since they’re showing my favorite of her films on Monday with The Farmer’s Daughter, I’ll make it a point to tune into my second favorite today at 2:45pm with The Stranger (1946).  Before she matches wits with fugitive Nazi Orson Welles, however, it’s the great pre-Code sleeper Heroes for Sale (1933; 8:45am), then She Had to Say Yes (1933; 10am), The Unguarded Hour (1936; 11:15am) and The Bishop's Wife (1947; 12:45pm).  After Stranger, TCM appropriately schedules Rachel and the Stranger (1948) at 4:45pm…with Key to the City (1950) rounding out the festivities at 6:15.

In the evening, the channel settles in for a spotlight dance with the fabulous gams of Betty Grable; Pigskin Parade (1936) starts things off at 8pm, followed by A Yank in the R.A.F. (1941) at 10 and My Blue Heaven (1950) at midnight.  Then on TCM Underground, my good friend Hal at The Horn Section can temporarily abandon his quest to get Little Darlings (1980) on DVD because it’s scheduled for a 2am showing (I just hope TCM letterboxes this, because it’s never shown that way on Showtime/Flix).

January 7, Saturday – Tee Cee Em continues its Saturday scheduling of movies from Columbia’s Lone Wolf film series with Warren William and Eric Blore (whose chemistry makes these little B-films most enjoyable).  Counter-Espionage (1942) is scheduled at 10:30am, and the following week (January 14), it’s Passport to Suez (1943) at that same time.  Suez would be William’s swan song in the series; three years later Blore would get a new boss in OTR veteran Gerald Mohr, who plays Lanyard in The Notorious Lone Wolf (1946; January 21 at 10:30am) and The Lone Wolf in London (1947; January 28).

Things are still going strong in the Bomba the Jungle Boy series that TCM runs at noon on Saturdays; Elephant Stampede (1951) starts off the month followed by African Treasure (1952; January 14), Bomba and the Jungle Girl (1952; January 21) and Safari Drums (1953; January 28) finishing us out.

Come evening, TCM Essentials’ scheduling of City Lights (1931) at 8pm provides the impetus to salute the immortal Charlie Chaplin for the rest of the evening with a mixture of feature films and shorts: following Lights at 9:45 is Modern Times (1936), then A Dog's Life (1918; 11:30pm), Shoulder Arms (1918; 12:15am), The Kid (1921; 1:15am), The Idle Class (1921; 2:15am), Pay Day (1922; 3am), The Circus (1928; 3:30am) and the film that introduced me to the wonders of The Little Tramp, The Gold Rush (1925) at 4:45am.

January 8, Sunday – I’m expecting to receive an e-mail from Edward Copeland any day now as to what he’s planning to feature on his blog in 2012…and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a centennial tribute to Academy Award-winning actor José Ferrer on the list, as the distinguished Mr. Ferrer’s 100th natal anniversary will be observed on this day.  TCM will certainly uncork some champagne, starting with the film that got José his Oscar, Cyrano de Bergerac (1950) at 8pm…followed by his feature film debut in Joan of Arc (1948) at 10.

January 9, Monday – Those of you who missed seeing Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion in 2011 can always seek the film out on home video or VOD…in the meantime, TCM offers up its own version of “killer-disease-needs-to-be-contained” films starting with the sci-fi classic The Andromeda Strain (1971) at 8pm.  That’s followed by the low-budget version of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, The Last Man on Earth (1964, with TDOY fave Vincent Price) at 10:15pm and then two films that should be on your Must See list: The Satan Bug (1965; 12mid) and The Killer That Stalked New York (1950; 2am).  The little-shown 80,000 Suspects (1963) finishes up the contagion festival at 3:30am.

January 10, Tuesday – Here’s an interesting birthday twofer: the channel starts off the morning with a tribute to birthday boy Ray Bolger at 6am with Four Jacks and a Jill (1942), followed by Look for the Silver Lining (1949; 7:15am), April in Paris (1952; 9:15am), The Daydreamer (1966; 11am) and Just You and Me, Kid (1979; 12:45pm).  Then they roll out another birthday cake on a cart for the benefit of Sal Mineo, giving him his due with Rebel Without a Cause (1955) at 2:30pm, followed by Crime in the Streets (1956) at 4:30 and The Young Don't Cry (1957) at 6:15pm

January 12, Thursday – Doo wop diddy wop diddy wop doo…all of them changes you put me through…yes, it was a crazy ’65 love affair—and you can wax nostalgic with me when TCM’s daytime lineup features films released that year: Hysteria at 8:45am, followed by Inside Daisy Clover (10:15am), Joy in the Morning (12:30pm), Bunny Lake is Missing (2:15pm), Once a Thief (4:15pm) and The Cincinnati Kid at 6:15pm.

January 13, Friday – To ward off the superstition that comes with today, why not take a day off and enjoy the carefree New York bachelor life with a lineup that starts off with The Apartment (1960) at 7am, followed by Any Wednesday (1966; 9:15am), Sunday in New York (1963; 11:15am), Boys' Night Out (1962; 1:15pm), Bachelor in Paradise (1961; 3:30pm) and The Tender Trap (1955; 5:30pm).

Seeing that TCM is planning a three-film to Napoleon Bonaparte beginning at 8pm with Conquest (1937) reminds me of how much I miss those wonderful Napoleons at Rum Runners Bakery in Savannah.  But that’s neither here nor there: after Conquest, it’s one of Woody Allen’s “early, funny films” in Love and Death (1975) at 10pm and Anthony Adverse (1936) at 11:30pm.

January 14, SaturdayCliff Aliperti alert: before the last of the Warren William Lone Wolf films, Passport to Suez, unspools at 10:30am TCM’s got Cleopatra (1934) on tap at 8:45am.  (Just doin’ my part.)

When evening shadows fall, TCM Essentials will roll out Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) at 8pm…signaling the beginning of a Spencer Tracy film festival that will also feature Adam's Rib (1949; 10:30pm), TDOY fave The Last Hurrah (1958; 12:15am),  Father's Little Dividend (1951; 2:30am) and Cass Timberlane (1947; 4am).

January 15, Sunday – The channel occupies a perfectly good Sunday morning with a three-film tribute featuring She Who Must Not Be Named: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944; 6am), The Secret Garden (1949; 8am) and Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945; 10am).  (Don’t say you weren’t warned.)

At 8pm, something that’s a little more my meat and a movie that has become a tradition here at Rancho Yesteryear every Halloween: Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).  Another of Bud and Lou’s best, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951), follows at 9:30pm (I watched this one last Halloween, too) and to close out the night, Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955) at 11pm.

January 16, Monday – “Some preach wrong and some preach right/Some preach love and some preach fright…”  A day of fine films has been scheduled to commemorate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

07:45am Cry, the Beloved Country (1952)
09:30am Pressure Point (1962)
11:00am Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
12:45pm Lost Boundaries (1949)
02:30pm Intruder in the Dust (1949)
04:00pm A Raisin in the Sun (1961)
06:15pm The Defiant Ones (1958)
08:00pm My Brother's Wedding (1983)
09:30pm The Learning Tree (1969)
11:30pm Black Girl (1972)
01:30am Stir Crazy (1980)
03:30am Watermelon Man (1970)

January 17, Tuesday – With beloved host Robert Osborne having returned from his sabbatical, he’s ready to choose some of his personal favorites from the voluminous Turner Classic Movies library: What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice? (1969; 8pm), Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955; 10pm), Night in Paradise (1946; 12mid) and The Diary of a Chambermaid (1946; 1:30am).  (This last one, an English language film directed by the great Jean Renoir, will definitely have to be recorded by both Laura and yours truly.)

January 18, Wednesday – It’s that time of year when pal Page puts up her Cary Grant decorations, and she’ll no doubt have friends and family over to celebrate what would have been Archie Leach’s 108th birthday with The Toast of New York (1937; 6:15am), Topper (1937; 8:15am), Holiday (1938; 10am), In Name Only (1939; 12noon), My Favorite Wife (1940; 1:45pm), Every Girl Should Be Married (1948; 3:15pm) and Room for One More (1952; 4:45pm). (I’ll be by when Holiday comes on to sing Grant carols.)

January 19, Thursday – TCM spends a day pretty much in the same fashion as my father: reminiscing about World War II.  But one of the films they’ve got on the schedule is one that I’ve been hunting high and low ever since I saw it on American Movie Classics (which is how I spend my days, reminiscing when AMC showed old movies): Joan of Paris (1942), with Michèle Morgan, Paul Heinreid, Thomas Mitchell and the always welcome Laird Cregar.

January 20, Friday – Happy birthday to a true TDOY fave—the Oscar and Tony Award-winning actress, Patricia Neal.  On tap for the occasion: It's a Great Feeling (1949; 6am—Jeffrey Bushdinkle alert, Becks!), John Loves Mary (1949; 7:30am), The Fountainhead (1949; 9:15am), Bright Leaf (1950; 11:15am), The Hasty Heart (1949; 1:15pm), A Face in the Crowd (1957; 3pm) and The Subject Was Roses (1968; 5:15pm)

Come evening, another TDOY idol gets some much needed attention: an actor who has never given a bad performance in any of the venues I’ve seen him in.  You can enjoy some of Martin Balsam’s fine thespic turns in Al Capone (1959; 8pm), The Anderson Tapes (1971; 10pm) and Vince Keenan fave The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974; 12mid).

And on TCM Underground: one of the most fascinating cases in the annals of crime unfortunately doesn’t fare well in the 1977 cult curiosity The Town That Dreaded Sundown (2am); even Ben Johnson can’t save this turkey.  Fortunately Underground rebounds at 3:45am with what may very well be my favorite Blake Edwards-directed film, Experiment in Terror (1962)

January 21, SaturdayThe Glass Key (1942) is scheduled for a 9am airing.  I don’t have to tell you what that means.

January 22, SundayStacia alert!  A three-film testament to the incomparable Bela Lugosi kicks off at 8pm with Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)…and while I wouldn’t try to put you off the movie, it pales to the delights that await you in The Black Cat (1934), which follows at 9:15 (“Supernatural, perhaps…baloney, perhaps not…”).  The excellent Island of Lost Souls (1932), which the doyenne of She Blogged by Night was nice enough to float me a copy some time back, closes out BelaFest at 10:30pm.

January 23, Monday – I came across The Kid from Kokomo (1939) in Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movies Guide and it sounds like a film I’d very much like to see…with a cast that includes Pat O’Brien, Joan Blondell, Wayne Morris, May Robson, Jane Wyman, Sidney Toler, Edward Brophy and “Slapsie Maxie” Rosenbloom, it’s got to be good.  Kokomo’s on at 9am, and later at 11:45am the channel unspools Charles Starrett’s final Durango Kid oater, The Kid from Broken Gun (1952).

Good things are scheduled beginning at 8pm as TCM spotlights the four English-language films directed by the legendary Max Ophüls: the little-seen (and simply splendid) The Reckless Moment (1949) starts off the evening, followed by two other winners in Caught (1949; 9:30pm) and Letter From an Unknown Woman (1948; 11:15pm).  Ophüls’ first Hollywood effort, The Exile (1947), is up-to-bat at 1am and to round out the evening, two of the director’s finest efforts in La Ronde (1950; 2:45am) and The Earrings of Madame De… (1953; 4:30am).

January 24, Tuesday – It’s always risky writing these in advance…but if the Fates aren’t heckbent on tripping me up, I can say with confidence that Ernest Borgnine’s drinking from the Fountain of Youth will pay dividends when he celebrates his 95th natal anniversary today.  Join the Academy Award-winning thespian for a day of wonderful films beginning at 6:15am with From Here to Eternity (1953), followed by Bad Day at Black Rock (1955; 8:15am), Marty (1955; 9:45am), The Catered Affair (1956; 11:30am), The Badlanders (1958; 1:15pm), Torpedo Run (1958; 2:45pm) and The Dirty Dozen (1967; 4:30pm).  Ernie’s Private Screenings chat with Bobby Osbo in 2009 finishes out the day at 7pm.

January 25, Wednesday – The channel is going to show the 1944 musical comedy Show Business, starring two of my OTR favorites, Eddie Cantor and Joan Davis, at 6:30am.  Scratch another title off my Warner Archive wish list.

January 27, Friday – The campy cult classic Women’s Prison (1955) is just one of several films being featured in a tribute to life in prison…or what I’ve decided to call “Bars and Stripes Forever.”  The rest of the lineup includes Numbered Men (1930; 6am), Personal Property (1937; 7:15am), Each Dawn I Die (1939; 8:45am), Millionaires in Prison (1940; 10:30am), The Getaway (1941; 11:45am), Dr. Gillespie's Criminal Case (1943; 1:30pm), Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison (1951; 3:15pm) and House of Numbers (1957; 6:15pm)

In the evening, the channel turns its attention to more serious matters…well, I think they’re serious, anyway.  A most fitting tribute to one of the great film directors, James Whale, is on tap at 8pm with The Great Garrick (1937) and then continues with the rarity One More River (1934; 9:45am) and his horror classics The Invisible Man (1933) and Frankenstein (1931) at 11:15pm and 12:30am, respectively.

Come the wee a.m. hours, TCM Underground shows an infamous film here in the House of Yesteryear—it is the only movie that I have ever walked out on in all the films I’ve watched unspool in motion picture theaters, the 1981 horror movie Possession (1981; 2am).  (The fact that they had to re-title this turkey “The Night the Screaming Stops” when it snuck into the Abercorn Cinemas in 1982 should have been a tip-off.)

January 28, Saturday – With TCM Essentials scheduling The Misfits (1961) at 8pm, the channel devotes the evening to what it’s calling “Post Mortem” movies—films that spotlight the final performances of some of the cinematic legends.  Misfits was the swan song for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe (her last film, Something’s Got to Give, was never finished), and after it comes Saratoga (1937; 10:15pm—Jean Harlow) Soylent Green (1973; 12mid—Edward G. Robinson) and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967; 4am—Spencer Tracy).  Rebel Without a Cause (1955) is also on the schedule at 2am, but I don’t know if they’re arguing it was the final film James Dean worked on because the final feature released was, of course, Giant (1956).

January 29, Sunday – Dum de dum dum…M. Bouffant, hobbyfan, Our Lady of Great Caftan, Brother Brent McKee, VP81955 and myself—along with millions of other Jack Webb fans in the blogosphere—will be glued to our TV sets this evening because TCM rolls out two films in the oeuvre of the Dragnet creator, The D.I. (1957) at 8pm and -30- (1959) following at 10.  (“You’re pretty high and far out, son…what kind of trip are you on?”)

Following on TCM’s Silent Sunday Nights at 12 midnightExit Smiling (1926), a film recommended to me by Silent Volume’s Chris Edwards and another movie I can cross off the Archive wish list.

January 30, Monday – Finally, another ageless star (who celebrated her 95th in October 2011) receives her proper due when TCM devotes the evening hours to Academy Award-winner Joan Fontaine.  One of my high school chum Lory’s favorite classic movie outings, Jane Eyre (1943) starts the ball rolling at 8pm and then a movie I’ve been trying like the dickens to catch, The Constant Nymph (1943) at 10pm.  Joan’s deliciously wicked turn in Born to Be Bad (1950) turns up at midnight, followed by her Oscar-winning showcase in Suspicion (1941) at 2am and then finally Ivanhoe (1952) at 4am.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas swag!

The above is the only thing I asked anybody for this Christmas—the first volume of I’m Dickens…He’s Fenster, the classic (and sadly, short-lived) sitcom starring John Astin and Marty Ingels telecast on ABC from 1962 to 1963.  Even though it’s going to be officially released next April (at Amazon, etc.) I requested this as a gift because those individuals who purchased it early will be acknowledged as “architects” when the second volume of the show is put out later next year.  (Yes, I am starved for publicity.  I would appreciate it if you would transform those piteous looks into something resembling respect.)  Also, by getting in the ground floor on this, I received a free autographed postcard from…wait for it

That’s right, friends and neighbors!  Lee “Catwoman” Meriwether!  You are a little bit more impressed…perhaps a little envious, no?  No?  Not even a…okay.

Other DVD goodies received by yours truly include these two sets…

…released by Platinum Disc Collection, they contain a total of eighty-some B-westerns, something I am a sucker for—and the nice thing about receiving these was there was duplication of content in only three instances: I taped one of the movies (The Carson City Kid, with Roy Rogers) off of Encore Westerns sometime back and two of the Three Mequiteers features (Hit the Saddle, Riders of the Whistling Skull) were previously made available to me courtesy of my pal Rodney Bowcock.  The America’s Greatest Westerns (yeah, a bit of a misnomer) volumes were bestowed upon me by my dear ol’ Dad (probably because I always seemed to be watching one whenever he’d come by the old apartment) and even though the prints contained within are not pristine (I watched a Cisco Kid feature, The Gay Amigo, last night and it’s a little…no, it’s a lot blurry) I know I’m going to have a lot of fun watching these.  (Platinum has sort of compounded its public domain crime by sticking their logo randomly throughout the running time of these films as if to say “Don’t even think about trying to copy our free movies!”)

Also on the western front—my BBFF Stacia gifted me with Gunsmoke: The Fifth Season, Volume 2.  This means that if there is a Great Beyond she will be feted like royalty, invited to high tea with folks like Bette Davis and Marie Prevost and getting access to all the classic movies and cheesy horror flicks she can handle.  Thanks again for the present, kiddo.

Finally, Mom used one of her valuable Barnes & (Ig)Noble coupons to get me 11/22/63, the new fiction novel by horrormeister Stephen King (I had casually mentioned an interest in reading the book due to its subject matter even though I couldn’t tell you the last time I read one of King’s novels); she also got my father (down goes another coupon) the book that Hardball host Chris Matthews has been shilling like a madman on his program and any other venue that will have him, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero,  Now, because my mother and I have nothing else to do with our evenings but wait patiently in the living room until the heat kicks on, we are also held hostage by Chris Matthews, whose Hardball program is watched religiously by Dad and who has been plugging this book (you can’t even begin to imagine my schadenfreude when I read over at that the book has a few factual errors) above and beyond the call of your normal self-promotion.  Matthews will cut a segment short with his guests (usually when the discussion is starting to develop fatal traces of being interesting) just so he’ll have time to do his “Let Me Finish” segment at the end of the show (if there has ever been a time when someone has not let Chris Matthews finish something, send me that info because that person will be my new best friend) where, admittedly, you have to admire the ingenuity he employs to mention that goddamn book at every turn.  His television chyron should read “Completely devoid of shame”; he even got his wife to plug the book in a cutesy instance last week where she “interviewed” him on the show.

Okay, that was a long-winded wind-up to this: my father asks me what King’s 11/22/63 is about, and I explain to him that the protagonist in the novel journeys back in time to try and prevent the Kennedy assassination.  He pauses for a second, and then says: “If only that were so.  Then I wouldn’t have this book (Matthews’) in my hands.”  (He’s a panic sometimes.)

I also got some mailing envelopes (don’t ask) and a pair of slippers from my Mom.  All in all, it was a splendid Christmas.  And now…Christmas card roundup!

From Stacia:

From faithful TDOY reader Dan O. (don’t everyone “awwww” at once):

From Laura of Miscellaneous Musings fame (love this card!):

From sister Debbie (I love how the dog gets included—Debbie is just inches away from including one of those yearly “newsletters” that some families write…):

And finally—not a Christmas card per se but a picture of my nephew Davis showing off the fact that he’s one of Santa’s close, personal friends (game on, Best Buy):

I hope everyone out there in YesteryearLand had as wonderful a Christmas as I did.