Category Archives: Film on TV

Film on TV: July 16-22

Barbara Stanwyck in Illicit, playing Friday on TCM

[Every week I do a column at Row Three detailing the notable films playing on TV during the upcoming week. I will choose my top five recommendations from that list to specifically highlight here. Click through to see the full list.]

A Face in the Crowd

Wednesday at 8:00pm on TCM
A rare film role for homespun comedian Andy Griffith really shows his chops as he plays an Ozark hobo who becomes an overnight sensation on radio and TV; when the fame and power starts going to his head, the film shows the cynical dark underbelly of media sensations. One of the recently late Patricia Neal’s best roles, too, as the girl who discovers him.
1957 USA. Director: Elia Kazan. Starring: Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Walter Matthau, Lee Remick.


Thursday at 11:15am on TCM
What sounds like a B-level prison exploitation film is actually a cut above, thanks to solid, if not glossy, production values and strong performances from Eleanor Parker as a naive woman hardened by her incarceration and Agnes Moorehead as the kinder-than-she-seems warden. This one surprised me with how enjoyable and nuanced it was, for little more than a B picture.
1950 USA. Director: John Cromwell. Starring: Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead, Ellen Corby, Hope Emerson, Jan Sterling.

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Late Thursday/Early Friday at 12:15am on TCM
I will state almost categorically that this is the greatest adventure film ever made. Maybe it’s a dead heat between this one and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Errol Flynn is Robin Hood, Olivia de Havilland is Maid Marion, a whole raft of fantastic character actors fill out the rest of the cast, and it’s all done in gorgeous Technicolor (it’s one of the earliest Technicolor films).
1938 USA. Directors: William Keighley & Michael Curtiz. Starring: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Claude Rains, Basil Rathbone, Eugene Pallette, Alan Hale, Patric Knowles, Una O’Connor.
Must See

Barbara Stanwyck Pre-Codes

Friday at 8:00pm on TCM
Okay, it’s stuff like this that make me regret cutting cable (yes, that’s right, I continue to do these columns even though I can’t watch any of them – it’s exquisite masochism) – four Barbara Stanwyck Pre-Codes, none of which I’ve seen. Stanwyck is one of my all-time favorite actresses, and when she’s allowed to really go all-out, as she could before the Production Code cracked down, she’s absolutely mesmerizing no matter how banal the material might be. I don’t really know much about these movies. But I don’t need to in order to be extremely jealous of people who have the ability to watch this set of films this week.
includes Shopworn, Ten Cents a Dance, Illicit, Forbidden

The Great Escape

Sunday at 8:00pm on TCM
I expected to mildly enjoy or at least get through this POW escape film. What happened was I was completely enthralled with every second of it, from failed escape attempts to planning the ultimate escape to the dangers of carrying it out. It’s like a heist film in reverse, and extremely enjoyable in pretty much every way.
1963 USA. Director: John Sturges. Starring: Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, Donald Pleasance, James Coburn, James Donald.
Must See

Film on TV: July 9-15

The Naked Kiss, playing on TCM late Friday/early Saturday

[Every week I do a column at Row Three detailing the notable films playing on TV during the upcoming week. I will choose my top five recommendations from that list to specifically highlight here. Click through to see the full list.]

The Petrified Forest

Tuesday at 8:00pm on TCM
Bette Davis and Leslie Howard are top billed in this 1936 crime drama, but the thing you’ll remember is Humphrey Bogart in his first major film role as criminal-on-the-run Duke Mantee. They’re all holed up in a remote gas station while Mantee figures out his scheme to escape the manhunt for him. He fairly sizzles on screen.
1936 USA. Director: Archie Mayo. Starring: Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart, Genevieve Tobin, Dick Foran.

Sullivan’s Travels

Wednesday at 6:00am on TCM
Sullivan’s Travels is a slightly more serious turn for Preston Sturges, but ultimately upholds his comedic tendencies. Joel McCrea is a filmmaker known for his comedies who decides he wants to make a serious film about the depression; but as a successful Hollywood director, he doesn’t know anything about poverty and the working class, so he embarks on an odyssey to learn about them, picking up waifish Veronica Lake as a traveling companion.
1941 USA. Director: Preston Sturges. Starring: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake.
Must See

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Thursday at 8:00pm on TCM
A solidly entertaining and slyly witty film, quite worthy of being one of Howard Hawks’ few ventures into the musical genre. Marilyn Monroe gets probably her best role here – yes, better than Some Like It Hot for my money – and her wide-eyed dumb blonde show (which is exactly what it is, a show) is perfectly complemented by Jane Russell’s cynical but playful wit. Add in iconic moments like “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend,” and you have a film that I refuse to call a guilty pleasure. It’s simply wonderful.
1954 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell, Tommy Noonan, Charles Coburn, Elliott Reid.
Must See

The Naked Kiss

Late Friday/Early Saturday at 12:45am on TCM
The Naked Kiss signals its unconventionality right from opening credit sequence, which features a young woman beating the crap out of the camera, a stand-in, as we soon learn, for one of her male clients. She’s a prostitute, but she’s had enough of being misused and heads to a new town to start a new life as a teacher at a school for crippled children. Sounds hopeful, right? Wrong. Murder, pedophilia, and creepy scenes of kids singing creepy songs are in store. This is a really weird film that goes places you don’t really expect and yet remains utterly spellbinding pretty much the whole time.
1964 USA. Director: Samuel Fuller. Starring: Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly.
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The Films of Georges Méliès

Sunday at 12:00M on TCM
According to the TCM website, this program of Méliès films includes 16 shorts total, including A Trip to the Moon. I’m not sure what the other 15 are, but I definitely say it’s worth checking this program out. Méliès was one of the first to realize the trickery that motion pictures were capable of, bringing his magician background onto the screen with some of the first special effects ever created. If you’ve seen Scorsese’s Hugo, you’ll know these films retain their magic, and it’s pretty rare for TCM to play a whole chunk of them like this.
roughly 1900-1905. Director: Georges Méliès.
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Film on TV: July 2-8

[Every week I do a column at Row Three detailing the notable films playing on TV during the upcoming week. I will choose my top five six (this week) recommendations from that list to specifically highlight here. Click through to see the full list.]

Mildred Pierce

Thursday at 10:15am on TCM
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.

Ace in the Hole

Thursday at 8:00pm on TCM
Billy Wilder is known for his cynical streak, and this is pretty much Exhibit A. Kirk Douglas is a reporter, sent to middle-of-nowhere New Mexico after disgracing his paper, who gets wind of a cave-in trapping a lone miner. He pounces on the story, but manipulates everything to create the biggest media circus he can, with little thought of the trapped man’s safety. It’s an indictment both of media self-focus and of those who like to watch it, and aside from the safe ending, it’s lost none of its biting power.
1951 USA. Director: Billy Wilder. Starring: Kirk Douglas, Jan Sterling, Robert Arthur.

The Man from Laramie

Friday at 8:00pm on TCM
One of several westerns that James Stewart and Anthony Mann made together, and this one is one of the most solid; in this one, Stewart is a wagon train leader who gets pulled into a territorial feud against his will when one side torches his wagons. These westerns begin to show the dark side of the west, where the hero is only a hero because it’s expedient for him, or because he has some personal gain to get out of it.
1955 USA. Director: Anthony Mann. Starring: James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O’Donnell.


Late Friday/Early Saturday 4:15am on TCM
Psychological horror of the best kind, with Roman Polanski directing Catherine Deneuve in the role of a repressed young woman whose fantasies come out to play in very destructive ways when she’s left alone in her sister’s apartment for a few days. Her terror of men and sexuality leads to hallucinations of grasping hands reaching through the walls in one of the movie’s more famous scenes. Deneuve is basically batshit crazy here, and beautifully so.
1965 UK. Director: Roman Polanski. Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser.

The Thin Man

Sunday at 2:15pm on TCM
If there’s such a genre as “goofy yet sophisticated comedy-mystery,” The Thin Man is the apex of it. William Powell and Myrna Loy starred in thirteen films together, but never did their chemistry sparkle quite so much as here, in their first of six outings as husband-and-wife detectives Nick and Nora Charles. In between cocktails and marital moments, they investigate the disappearance of the titular thin man (later in the series, “thin man” erroneously became associated with Nick). There’s so much to love about this film – the great dialogue, hilarious supporting characters (only a few of which go too far over the top), and honestly, most of all, the amazing portrayal of a solid, loving marriage in the midst of so much chaos.
1934 USA. Director: W.S. Van Dyke. Starring: William Powell, Myrna Loy, Maureen O’Sullivan.

Band of Outsiders

Late Sunday/Early Monday at 2:00am on TCM
This relatively unassuming film about a trio of young people wandering Paris, taking English classes, talking in cafes, and oh yeah, planning to steal some money from the girl’s employer, is currently sitting pretty in fourth place on my all-time favorite film list. Its combination of dispassionate narrative with far-more-complex-than-they-seem relationships and motivatations hits my sweet spot, made Godard one of my favorite directors, and got me obsessed with the New Wave. Not bad.
1964 France. Director: Jean-Luc Godard. Starring: Anna Karina, Sami Frey, Claude Brasseur.

Film on TV: June 11-17

West Side Story, playing Wednesday on TCM

[Every week I do a column at Row Three detailing the notable films playing on TV during the upcoming week. I will choose my top five recommendations from that list to specifically highlight here. Click through to see the full list.]


Tuesday at 8:00pm on TCM
A pulpy noir with Joan Crawford driving herself crazy (literally) pining over a man who strings her along. He’s basically an homme fatale, which is interesting, with Crawford taking on the typically male noir role of the one pulled into ever darker despair by trampled-on love. The film tries to do too much, throwing in all sorts of other noirish plot points, but remains a really good watch for noir fans.
1947 USA. Director: Curtis Bernhardt. Starring: Joan Crawford, Van Heflin, Raymond Massey, Geraldine Brooks.
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West Side Story

Wednesday at 8:00pm on TCM
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.
Must See

The Spiral Staircase

Thursday at 3:15pm on TCM
A classic example of the “old dark house” atmospheric thriller, with Dorothy Maguire as a mute domestic servant whose life is endangered when a serial killer seems to be targeting people with disabilities like her. In the subgenre of creepy old mansions horror films, this one is often mentioned right up there with The Haunting and The Innocents.
1945 USA. Director: Robert Siodmak. Starring: Dorothy Maguire, George Brent, Ethel Barrymore, Kent Smith, Rhonda Fleming, Elsa Lanchester.
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Late Friday/Early Saturday at 2:30am on TCM
This is quite possibly the most insane movie I have ever seen. Japanese schoolgirls set to go on holiday arrive at the house where they plan to stay, and are beset by crazy cats, carnivorous pianos, deadly pools, and I don’t even remember what all else. As soon as you think Nobuhiko Ohbayashi has certainly included everything he could possibly think of, he throws in more stuff. It’s like he took every cinematic element ever and every filmmaking technique ever and just mashed them all up together into one glorious, ridiculous, amazing film. You gotta see it.
1977 Japan. Director: Nobuhiko Ohbayashi. Starring: Kimiko Ikegami, Miki Jinbo, Kumiko Ohba.
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Rio Bravo

Sunday at 8:00pm on TCM
A ragtag group made up of a sheriff, a cripple, a drunk, and an untried youth guard a man in jail against the expected rescue attempts by his brother, the local bad guy. One of the most enjoyable westerns ever made, with all the actors having a great time with their characters.
1959 USA. Director: Howard Hawks. Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan.
Must See

Film on TV: May 14-20

An excellent week coming up on TCM, with a few scattered cool things on other channels, but for the most part, this week is all TCM all the time, and I’m hardly exaggerating. Especially look out for the Frank Capra marathon on Friday, including some of his early works, which are a whole lot of fun, even if Capracorn isn’t quite your thing.

Monday, May 14

6:00pm – TCM – Stage Door
I cannot describe to you how much I love this film. I’m not sure it’s wholly rational. Katharine Hepburn plays an heiress who wants to make it on her own as an actress, so she moves (incognito) into a New York boarding house for aspiring actresses. Her roommate ends up being Ginger Rogers (who’s never been better or more acerbic), and the boarding house is rounded out with a young Lucille Ball, a young Eve Arden, a very young Ann Miller, and various others. The dialogue is crisp and everyone’s delivery matter-of-fact and perfectly timed, and the way the girls use humor to mask desperation makes most every moment simultaneously funny and tragic – so that when it does turn tragic, it doesn’t feel like a shift in mood, but a culmination of the inevitable.
1937 USA. Director: Gregory La Cava. Starring: Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Adolphe Menjou, Andrea Leeds, Gail Patrick, Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, Ann Miller, Constance Collier.
Must See

11:30pm – TCM – 100 Men and a Girl
Deanna Durbin was Universal’s answer to Judy Garland back in the 1930s and early ’40s, a fresh-faced ingenue with a grown-up sounding set of pipes. Deanna’s voice tends more toward the operatic than the pop, though, which could conceivably be a turn-off to modern audiences. She’s still delightful on screen, though, and this is one of her most charming films, playing a young girl determined to save her father’s struggling orchestra by getting renowned violinist Jascha Heifetz (playing himself) to play with them.
1938 USA. Director: Henry Koster. Starring: Deanna Durbin, Adolphe Menjou, Alice Brady, Jascha Heifetz, Eugene Pallette, Mischa Auer, Billy Gilbert.
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