What’s on TCM: October 2015

Ida Lupino

Happy October, everyone! Get yourself a cup of coffee (or other caffeinated beverage of your choice) and free up some space on your DVR because October is going to be one amazing month on TCM.

First of all, every Tuesday and Thursday night in October, TCM will be spotlighting trailblazing women filmmakers ranging from the days of Alice Guy-Blaché through Ava DuVernay. Speaking of Alice Guy-Blaché, October is going to be a good month for silent movie lovers because not only is there a night of silent films all directed by women, on the 18th, there’s going to be a night of silent movies that were thought to be lost but have been rediscovered, including Harry Houdini’s The Grim Game from 1919. There are also birthday tributes to Lillian Gish and Jackie Coogan, so there are plenty of silent films on during the daytime this month, too.

David Niven is October’s star of the month and his movies will be shown every Monday night this month. Lastly, no October line-up would be complete without horror movies. Lots and lots of horror movies. Stay tuned on Friday nights, plus all day long on October 30th and 31st, for plenty of classic horror films.


Why Be Good? (1929)


Why Be Good 1929

Pert Kelly (Colleen Moore) is a vivacious young woman who spends her days working as a department store salesgirl and loves to spend her nights out on the town dancing the night away. Her flirtatious, playful nature leads many to believe that she’s a bad girl, but in reality, she’s a very good girl. While out dancing one night, Pert meets Wintrhop Peabody Jr. (Neil Hamilton) and they fall in love with each other and they make a date for the following night. What Pert doesn’t know is that Winthrop is the son of the man who owns the department store where she works and is about to start working there the next day. Winthrop’s father has also wants him to stay away from the store’s salesgirls.

Due to her late night, Pert is a little late for work in the morning and much to her surprise, sees Winthrop. But when his father realizes there’s something between him and Pert, Winthrop’s father has Pert fired, despite the fact that she’s worked there for two years and was an excellent employee. Obviously, Pert assumes Wintrhop is the one who fired her and is very hurt, but he had nothing to do with it and tries to smooth things over with her by inviting her out again, much to his father’s dismay. His father warns him about how dangerous those wild, young girls can be and Winthrop decides to test Pert to find out whether or not she truly is a good girl.

I saw Why Be Good? for the first time at the 2015 TCM Film Festival and it was most decidedly one of my favorite movie discoveries from the festival. I had never had the pleasure of seeing a Colleen Moore movie before and after just a few minutes of seeing her in this movie, I had absolutely no problem understanding why she was such a popular star. She was an absolute delight to watch; bubbly, charming, and positively effervescent. For a movie that’s nearly 90 years old, Why Be Good? remains remarkably fresh and modern with a great commentary on the double standards for women. This is a great movie to show someone who thinks old movies are all stuffy, dull, and completely detached from the realities of modern life.

TCM Discoveries: The Great Dictator

Chaplin Great Dictator

I’ve been an avid viewer of Turner Classic Movies for about 10 years now, so to say that TCM is responsible for introducing me to a few good movies is putting it mildly. Thanks to TCM, I’ve been introduced to cult classics like Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, pre-code essentials like Gold Diggers of 1933 and Red Dust, masterpieces of international cinema like 8½, plus countless American classics. TCM has consistently been such an incredible way for me to discover movies that when I came up with the idea of my annual Blogging Under the Stars event in 2011, the entire point was to discourage myself from watching the same movies I’ve seen a dozen times and discover new things instead (and every year has been a big success in that respect.)

When Nitrate Diva announced her TCM Discoveries Blogathon, where all participants write about one special movie they discovered because of Turner Classic Movies, I instantly knew the movie I wanted to write about. Out of the hundreds of amazing movies I’ve discovered over the past decade, there’s one movie that stands out from the rest because of the huge influence it had in shaping my taste in movies and putting me on the path to being the movie nerd I am today. That movie would be Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator.

Sophia Petrillo Picture It

Picture it! Ferris State University, February 2005, semi-early on some Saturday morning.

At the time, two of my favorite things to do on a Saturday morning were watch The Soup on E! and laugh at really bad infomercials. This particular Saturday morning, I woke up a little earlier than usual for no apparent reason. The Soup wasn’t on yet so I flipped through the channels looking for infomercials to make fun of, but I was getting a little tired of watching the same infomercials over and over again. Then I remembered that TCM was having their annual 31 Days of Oscar programming event so I figured I’d see what they were playing. Whatever it was, it had to be better than watching people fail at cooking yet again.

I turned on TCM in time for The Great Dictator. I’d heard of the movie and knew it was considered one of the all-time great film comedies, so I figured I’d keep watching. I’d never seen any Charlie Chaplin movie before, but I knew he was a legend, so I was certainly intrigued to see one of his movies. It didn’t take long for me to understand his appeal. Not only was the movie absolutely hilarious and extremely daring for its time, but watching him move was absolutely hypnotic; I couldn’t take my eyes away from the screen. The famous globe dance scene was one of the most fascinating things I’d ever watched.

Chaplin Globe Great Dictator

When the movie was over, I was hooked. I spent a considerable part of the day reading about Chaplin on the Internet, learning all I could about his life and his career. Although The Great Dictator isn’t a silent movie, I credit it with being the movie that got me interested in silent film because it made me want to see any Chaplin silent I could get my hands on. As I saw more of his silent films and learned more about the film industry during Chaplin’s heyday, the more I wanted to see movies starring other legends of silent comedy like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd as well as movies starring some of Chaplin’s contemporaries like Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford. (On a related note, a couple of months later in April 2005, TCM had this month-long spotlight called April Fools, during which they played a ton of movies by people like Chaplin and Keaton. As someone who was newly interested in those types of film comedians, that spotlight was pure gold and remains one of my favorite months ever on TCM.)

I hesitate to call The Great Dictator my gateway drug into becoming a classic film fan because it was far from being the first classic film I’d ever seen or liked and I clearly had enough of an interest in them to know February is Oscar month on TCM. But it was the movie that made me realize that classic films were my favorite types of films. From then on, I started watching TCM very regularly, making a point to look through their monthly schedules and make notes of anything that sounded interesting so I wouldn’t forget to watch or record any movie that intrigued me.

Thanks to Charlie Chaplin and The Great Dictator, I was not only introduced to silent film, it pushed me into the online classic film community, where, over the years, I’ve met so many wonderful people and made so many good friends. The fact that, essentially, all of this ended up happening because I was tired of watching infomercials one Saturday morning is pretty wild to me.

The Nitrate Diva TCM Discoveries Blogathon

Visit The Nitrate Diva to read about other bloggers’ favorite TCM discoveries as part of TCM’s #LetsMovie celebration.

Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)

Odds Against Tomorrow 1959

David Burke (Ed Begley) is a former police detective who was forced to leave his job who has a plan to rob a bank, but needs some help to pull it off. First is Earl Slater (Robert Ryan), a real tough guy and former criminal, and then there’s Johnny Ingram (Harry Belafonte), a nightclub performer with a fondness for gambling. Earl isn’t interested in it at first, but David has promised him $50,000 for his assistance and Earl could really use the extra money because he feels guilty for letting his girlfriend Lorry (Shelley Winters) support him. Johnny doesn’t want to be involved at first, either, but he has a fondness for gambling and owes some money to a gangster who has threatened to harm his ex-wife and daughter if he doesn’t get his money. Both Earl and Johnny reluctant agree to help David with the heist, but there’s one major problem — Johnny is a black man and Earl is deeply racist. Earl wants to back out when he finds out who his partner in crime will be, but ultimately can’t stand being a kept man.

David has planned the heist out in detail, but Earl’s intolerance of Johnny puts the heist in jeopardy. When the time comes to rob the bank, they start to carry out their plan, but it all goes awry because Earl refuses to trust Johnny.

Three words for Odds Against Tomorrow: first-rate noir! It’s an incredibly gritty movie with a gripping story, a great score, excellent performances, and fascinating characters. And when I say it’s gritty, I mean this is a movie that absolutely revels in grit and grime. It’s a movie that didn’t hit any wrong notes with me and that almost makes it hard for me to write about, because there’s nothing negative for me to say; I liked it all. This was a B-picture, so it’s a an excellent example of how you don’t need a huge budget to make a real knock-out of a movie.

What’s on TCM: September 2015

Susan Hayward

Happy September, everyone! Hope everyone had fun with Summer Under the Stars this year, I know I did. That’s always a hard programming line-up to top, but there’s a lot of very interesting things coming up on TCM in September.

Susan Hayward is September’s Star of the Month and her films will be shown every Thursday night. On Tuesdays, TCM will be running a series called Five Came Back, spotlighting five major American film directors who were involved with World War II by working to create documentaries and other films for the government. The series will include some of these films, as well as their movies that directly deal with the war and show how their wartime experiences changed their styles. This should be an absolutely fascinating series; I’m really looking forward to it.

On September 25, there will be a spotlight on the television career of James Dean. This should definitely be interesting, since these appearances are rarely seen. If you’ve only seen his major Hollywood films and always wanted to see more of his work, this is a golden opportunity.

Without further ado, let’s get on to the rest of the schedule…


Friendly Persuasion (1956)

Friendly persuasion

The Civil War was a difficult time for everyone and the Birdwell family was no exception. The Birdwells are a family of Quakers from Pennsylvania. Eliza (Dorothy McGuire) is a very devout Quaker minister who abhors any type of violence, even if it’s just her youngest son Little Jess (Richard Eyer) having a conflict with her pet goose. The rest of the family isn’t quite as devout as Eliza. Her husband, Jess (Gary Cooper), enjoys things like music, racing his carriage, and is willing to bring the children to the county fair, all things Eliza disapproves of. He even purchases an organ without Eliza’s permission, knowing she won’t be happy about it. Their teenage daughter Mattie (Phyllis Love) has fallen in love with Gard Jordan (Peter Mark Richman), a soldier. And their oldest son Josh (Anthony Perkins) is against the violence of war, but isn’t against playing soldiers with Little Jess and even understands violence may be necessary at times.

The family has tried to stay out of the war, but they’re forced to confront the reality of the situation when a Union officer comes to services at their meetinghouse and asks how, given their pacifist beliefs, they plan to deal with the impending threat of Confederate troops moving closer to home. Although some of the Quakers admit to wavering in their pacifist nature, none of them immediately agree to join the Home Guard. Some time later, Gard comes to visit as he is recovering from a gunshot wound and Josh admits he’s considering joining the Army.

Just days later, the Confederates are dangerously close to the Birdwell’s home and Josh decides to go off to fight; a decision that makes Eliza feel like he’s turning his back on her. Jess, on the other hand, is more understanding of Josh’s decision, but hesitates to pick up a gun until it is absolutely necessary. When Jess finally leaves the family home with a gun, Confederate soldiers arrive and even Eliza realizes that she is capable of acting against her deeply held beliefs.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned by doing Blogging Under the Stars for the past few years is that having a second choice movie for each day is essential. Inevitably, there’s a couple of days during the month where I can’t watch my first choice movie either because I forgot to set the timer to record it or because the power went out during the movie and messed up my recording. This can be frustrating, but luckily for me, it tends works out in the end because my second choice movie often ends up being something really good; probably better than my first choice. Friendly Persuasion is definitely one of my best “second choice” movie discoveries. (In case you were wondering, my first choice for today’s movie was One Sunday Afternoon.)

At first, I kinda had my doubts about how much I’d like Friendly Persuasion because even with my history of having good second choices, I had really wanted to see One Sunday Afternoon. But it didn’t take long for Friendly Persuasion to start winning me over. I loved everything about it. The writing by Michael Wilson and direction by William Wyler were both excellent. Although Dorothy McGuire and Gary Cooper were also both excellent, Anthony Perkins really steals the show here; this was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen by him. Since Perkins is so famous for playing Norman Bates, a deranged murderer, in Psycho, it’s really interesting to see him play a character (beautifully at that) on the opposite end of the spectrum and is extremely reluctant to resort to violence. The movie is so wonderfully sensitive and the characters so intriguing, Friendly Persuasion is the kind of movie I could easily watch over and over again. Loved every minute of it.

The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964)

The Yellow Rolls Royce 1964

The Yellow Rolls-Royce follows the journey of a single yellow Rolls-Royce as it changes ownership three times and the role it plays in all their lives. The Rolls-Royce is originally purchased by Charles (Rex Harrison), the Marquess of Frinton as an anniversary gift for his wife Eloise (Jeanne Moreau). It’s their tenth anniversary, so he wants to get her something truly special. Unbeknownst to him, Eloise has been having an affair with another man. Charles is enthusiastic about horse racing and dreams of winning a big title, but when the day of the big race comes and his horse comes in first, Charles’ day is tainted by catching Eloise together with her lover in the brand new Rolls-Royce. He isn’t about to divorce her; it wouldn’t look good. However, he does sell her new car.

Next, the Rolls-Royce is bought by gangster Paolo Maltese (George C. Scott) as a gift for his girlfriend Mae (Shirley MacLaine), who are on vacation in Italy. Not long after they buy the car, Paolo has to leave to tend to some “business,” so he has his associate Joey (Art Carney) to take her out and keep an eye on her. Mae is bored of Italy, but her trip gets a little more interesting when she meets photographer Stefano (Alain Delon) and falls in love with him. Joey allows their affair to carry on, but when the news of Paolo’s “business trip” (a brutal murder) makes headlines, he feels the need to remind her of who she’d be dealing with if she left. Although she loves Stefano dearly, she reluctantly decides to leave with Paolo.

The third owner of the Rolls-Royce is Gerda Millett (Ingrid Bergman), a wealthy American woman taking a trip in Europe, who decides to buy the car on a whim. She meets Davich (Omar Sharif), who is looking to get back into Yugoslavia, to avoid a Nazi attack. She reluctantly agrees and isn’t happy about being involved, until she realizes just how serious the situation is. After getting a taste of what the Nazis are capable of, Gerda becomes active in smuggling people to safety. She works very closely with Davich and the two begin to fall in love, but they realize they can do more good for the cause by working apart than they can together.

The Yellow Rolls-Royce has a similar concept to The Earrings of Madame De…, a story about how an object finds its way to different owners. While I really liked The Earrings of Madame De…The Yellow Rolls-Royce didn’t do anything for me. The only story I found interesting was the one with Ingrid Bergman and Omar Sharif, but since that was the last chapter, that wasn’t enough to redeem the movie for me. The first two stories didn’t hold my interest at all. The movie is full of great stars, but none of them are at their best. It’s one of those movies that made it hard for me to muster up any reaction stronger than, “meh.”