A few surprising new ones this week, in the sense that I can’t believe Taxi Driver (Friday) and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Tuesday) have never come up in Film on TV before, at least not that I could find. In addition to those two Must Sees, TCM has a trio of Burt Lancaster films that I’ve admittedly never seen but quite want to for their Summer Under the Stars tribute to him on Thursday. The other tributes this week are Joan Crawford on Monday, Conrad Veidt on Tuesday (hence Caligari), Joan Blondell on Wednesday, Peter Lawford on Friday, Linda Darnell on Saturday, and Carole Lombard on Sunday (I’d especially recommend her night, with a whole raft of amazing screwball comedies).
Monday, August 22
11:00pm – TCM – Mildred Pierce
In quite probably Joan Crawford’s best role (only perhaps excepting her catty “other woman” in The Women), she plays a woman trying to work her way up in the world from lowly waitress to entrepreneur, all the while dealing with her shrew of a daughter. Melodrama isn’t a particularly prized genre these days, but films like Mildred Pierce show how good melodramas can be with the right confluence of studio style, director, and star.
1945 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Ann Blyth, Eve Arden.
2:30am (23rd) – MGM – Midnight Cowboy
Notable as the first and only X-rated film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, Midnight Cowboy doesn’t work that well for me, but it does have moments of brilliance in its story of a young cowboy (Jon Voight) trying to make his way in New York by offering her services to wealthy ladies, mostly due to the older, wiser, and sadder character played by Dustin Hoffman.
1969 USA. Director: John Schlesinger. Starring: Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman.
(repeats at 10:00pm on the 27th)
Tuesday, August 23
7:30pm – Fox Movie – The Verdict
Powerhouse filmmaker Sidney Lumet returns to his 12 Angry Men courtroom milieu for The Verdict, starring Paul Newman as an on-the-rocks lawyer who takes a medical malpractice suit to trial in a somewhat desperate attempt to salvage his career.
1982 USA. Director: Sidney Lumet. Starring: Paul Newman, Charlotte Rampling, Jack Warden.
(repeats at 12:15am on the 24th)
10:00pm – TCM – The Thief of Bagdad
An early Michael Powell film (in collaboration with several others), before he teamed up with Emeric Pressburger, but no less an impressive display of stunning Technicolor cinematography on the fantastic Arabian Nights story.
1940 UK. Director: Michael Powell, Ludwig Berger. Starring: Sabu, Conrad Veidt, June Duprez.
12:00M – TCM – Casablanca
Against all odds, one of the best films Hollywood has ever produced, focusing on Bogart’s sad-eyed and world-weary expatriot Rick Blaine, his former lover Ingrid Bergman, and her current husband Paul Henreid, who needs safe passage to America to escape the Nazis and continue his work with the Resistance. It’s the crackling script that carries the day here, and the wealth of memorable characters that fill WWII Casablanca with life and energy.
1943 USA. Director: Michael Curtiz. Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains.
3:15am (24th) – TCM – The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
One of the most notable examples of German Expressionism, its also a highly watchable film about a strange series of murders that may be tied back to a somnambulist controlled by the somewhat sinister Dr. Caligari. The heightened emotions and strikingly off-kilter set designs and high contrast lighting would all be greatly influential on film noir a few decades later.
1919 Germany. Director: Robert Weine. Starring: Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher.
Wednesday, August 24
8:00am – IFC – Pan’s Labyrinth
One of my absolute favorite films of the past decade (or ever, really), an absolutely beautiful and terrifying fantasy that juxtaposes the gruesome horrors of the Spanish Civil War with an equally horrifying fantasy world that provides, if not escape, at least some measure of importance and control to the film’s young heroine. Guillermo Del Toro solidified my view of him as a visionary filmmaker with this film, and it still stands to me as a testament to what fantasy can and should do.
2006 Spain/Mexico. Director: Guillermo Del Toro. Starring: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Meribel Verdú, Doug Jones.
(repeats at 3:15pm)
2:45pm – TCM – Gold Diggers of 1933
The story’s nothing to get excited about (and in fact, the subplot that takes over the main plot wears out its welcome fairly quickly), but the strong Depression-era songs, kaleidoscopic choreography from Busby Berkeley, and spunky supporting work from Ginger Rogers pretty much make up for it.
1933 USA. Director: Mervyn LeRoy. Starring: Joan Blondell, Warren William, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell, Aline MacMahon, Ginger Rogers, Guy Kibbee.
4:30pm – TCM – Footlight Parade
Other Busby Berkeley-choreogaphed films are better known than this one (42nd Street, the Gold Diggers series), but this one is one of my favorites, with James Cagney taking on a musical role and giving the film that extra burst of energy that he brings to everything. Though known mostly for his gangster roles, Cagney was actually a song-and-dance man before he came to the movies, and it’s fun to see him hoofing his stuff.
1933 USA. Director: Lloyd Bacon. Starring: James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell.
2:00am (25th) – MGM – Radio Days
This essentially plotless Woody Allen film consists of a series of nostalgic vignettes about a 1940s working class New York family. The title comes from their love for the radio, the center of pop culture at the time; the radio also provides the subplot following Mia Farrow as a wanna-be radio singer who gets mixed up with gangsters. It’s not particularly deep, but it’s also pretty enjoyable.
1987 USA. Director: Woody Allen. Starring: Julie Kavner, Mia Farrow, Seth Green, Dianne Wiest.
(repeats at 12:00M on the 26th)
3:30am (25th) – Fox Movie – The Name of the Rose
A fine adaptation of Umberto Eco’s novel of medieval mystery and religion, with two monks tasked with finding a murderer in their midst. Not as esoteric as the novel, which is probably just as well for a film, but more thoughtful and deep than many mystery films.
1986 France/Italy. Director: Jean-Jacques Annaud. Starring: Sean Connery, Christian Slater, Helmut Qualtinger.