118 posts categorized "Classic movies"

15 September 2015

From the bottle to the bottom: It's a crying fame

(Courtesy: MGM)

Susan Hayward had quite a bit to cry about in the 1950s.

She won her only Academy Award (Best Actress) playing a hooker sentenced to the gas chamber for alleged murder in I Want To Live in 1958.

Three years earlier, however, Hayward channeled young Broadway star Lillian Roth, whose serious bumps in the emotional road led her to using the unsteady crutch of alcohol in the grisly biographical-drama I'll Cry Tomorrow.

Hayward was nominated for Best Actress for I'll Cry Tomorrow as well, but lost out to Anna Magnani of The Rose Tattoo (as did Katharine Hepburn for Summertime and Jennifer Jones for Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing).

Ms. Hayward may "cry tomorrow" in the powerful drama, but we'll have to wait until Thursday to see her do it.  I'll Cry Tomorrow airs Thursday at 11 p.m. on TCM.


Please remember that all times listed in this weekly classic films on TV update are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings for times in your area.)  

The theme of serious trouble continues this week with The Asphalt Jungle at 7:15 a.m. Friday on TCM.  Even though Marilyn Monroe gets 11th billing in this one and is featured on the poster, the 1950 heist drama directed by John Huston stars Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern and Jean Hagen.

Those looking for something gritty, smart and very well done, but more contemporary, need look no further than Erin Brockovich (2000) and Cinderella Man (2005). 

Both chronicle Hollywood's version of real-life stories.  Julia Roberts took home a Best Actress Academy Award for portraying Brockovich, a legal assistant fighting to protect victims from polluted water (9 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday on AMC), and Russell Crowe got under the tormented skin of world heavyweight boxing champion James BraddockCinderella Man airs Saturday at 10 p.m. and Sunday at noon on the Sundance TV Channel.

(Courtesy: United Artists)

If I had to pick just one classic movie to see this week, you know as a great escape from reality, it would be The Great Escape.  The 1963 World War II prisoner-of-war drama stars Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough and Charles Bronson, just to name a few of the impressive actors at work here.

If it's McQueen, there must be a motorcycle involved.  And as Hilts "The Cooler King," McQueen finds one in this tale that ranks as one of the great war flicks.

The unique thing about The Great Escape (9 p.m. Sunday on MGM HD) is that the first half of this based-on-truth story has a comic theme as POWs work to escape from an "escape proof" camp.  In the final reels, however, the mood turns more serious.


07 September 2015

Jungle fever heats up TV screens

(Courtesy: MGM)

Look out for an outbreak of jungle fever.  It'll be spreading fast Sunday afternoon at 1 over on TCM when Clark Gable tangles romantically with Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner in John Ford's adventurous romantic-drama Mogambo (1953).  Please note that all times listed are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings for times in your area.)

If Gable's great white hunter character and performance look a little familiar, that's Mogambo is a loose remake of Red Dust, a 1932 romantic-drama set on a rubber plantation.  That one also starred Gable, along with Jean Harlow.

Rumor has it, if you're into such things, that the romantic heat between Gable and Grace Kelly was real and erupted into an off-screen affair, even though Gable was in his early 50s and Kelly was in her mid-20s.


History buffs might not want to miss Windtalkers at 4 p.m. Saturday on MGM HD.  Based on the real-life experiences of Navajo Code Talkers in World War II, Windtalkers stars Nicolas Cage and Adam Beach in an action war drama about Marines assigned to protect the Native Americans using their language as an unbreakable radio code.

I like good Westerns, and I bet many of you do too.  There's a good one on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on TCM.  That's when Glenn Ford, Van Heflin and Felicia Farr share the screen in 3:10 to Yuma, an exciting drama about a broke rancher (Heflin) who takes the tough assignment to put a notorious outlaw (Ford) on the train to justice.

As you can imagine, the bad guy's gang has other ideas.  Note:  This film was remade, and remade very well, in 2007 with Russell Crowe in the role of the bad hombre and Christian Bale as the timid rancher.

How about a big ol' singing and dancing Hollywood musical this week?  We could do a lot worse than Shall We Dance, which brings up the curtain at 1:30 p.m. Friday on TCM.  Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers put on their dancing and romancing shoes for this one. 

The movie's tagline sums it up nicely:  "Foot-free Fred and joyous Ginger ... in their gayest, gladdest show!"

(Courtesy: Columbia Pictures)

And, if I may toss in a personal favorite:  My Mom and I loved to share movies.  When I was about 12 (in 1959), she was having a difficult day and suggested that we get out of the house for a while.

Mom took me to see the goofy comedy The Mouse That Roared starring Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers and Peter Sellers (in three roles) and co-starring Jean Seberg.  I'll never forget that special afternoon at the movies.  If you're curious about the movie, it will light up your TV screen at 11 a.m. Saturday on TCM.

And speaking of Sellers, if I had to choose just one classic movie to watch this week, it would be the delightfully offbeat, dark comic-drama Being There.  Sellers is magnificent as a simple gardener who, through no fault of his own, gets swept up into Washington politics and, ahem, much more.


01 September 2015

Celebrating Bergman, classic movies

Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund in "Casablanca." (Courtesy: ona.blog.so-net.ne.jp)

Had legendary Swedish actress Ingrid Bergman not died on her 67th birthday (Aug. 29) in 1982, the radiant screen star and three-time Academy Award winner would have turned 100 years old last Saturday.

We noted Bergman's lofty place in Hollywood history Sunday night during my "Savor Those Tunes -- Great Movie Music" Movie Memories presentation at Highland Springs retirement community in North Dallas.

Bergman won Oscars for Gaslight (1944), Anastasia (1956) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).  Since the "Savor Those Tunes" presentation is a focus on the best movie songs in history, we celebrated Bergman's performance opposite Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca (1942), which also happens to be my favorite film of all time.

Bergman, who could shed a tear on screen like no other, commanded the camera and audience attention as she asked Sam (Dooley Wilson) to play As Time Goes By "for old times sake."

Thanks to Barbara Blachly, community resources coordinator, and all the great folks at Highland Springs for an enchanted evening of Movie Memories.

Harvesting the Fields of classic movie comedy

(Courtesy: Universal Pictures)

Maybe it was the fourth-grade education, or perhaps it was the fact that his alcoholic father allegedly hit young William Claude Dunkenfield over the head with a shovel.  Whatever it was, caustic comedy came flowing out of W.C. Fields with a flourish.

One of our objectives here is to scan the classic movie TV channels early in the week to offer suggestions for viewing or recording what we consider to be the prime offerings.

That's where W.C. Fields comes in.  TCM (Turner Classic Movies) is having a Fields day, if you will, on Friday.  The high jinks begin at 7 p.m. with The Bank Dick, written by Fields (under the nom de plume Mahatma Kane Jeeves) and starring Fields as a henpecked guy who replaces a film director, appears to capture a bank robber and eventually gets hired as a guard at the bank.  Please note that all times listed are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings for times in your area.)

If that's not enough, TCM follows up with It's a Gift (1934) at 8:30 Friday evening and caps off the wacky comedy at 10 with You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939), in which Fields shares the screen with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy.  It's up to you to decide which one is the dummy.

That's just the tip of the classic movies iceberg this week, though.  My favorite Western of all time, John Ford's The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962) fills the screen with a great cast of Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Vera Miles, Lee Marvin, Andy Devine and Edmond O'Brien at 9 a.m. Saturday on AMC.

Later Saturday, at 7 p.m. on TCM, those in the mood for a little romance can enjoy a tangled web of romance and drama starring Bette Davis as a repressed and depressed woman looking for love in some of the wrong places in Now, Voyager (1942), co-starring Paul Henreid and Claude Rains.

If you're like me and you can't pass up a drama featuring the cinematic trifecta of Tennessee Williams (who wrote the stage play), director John Huston and gifted actor Richard Burton, check out The Night of the Iguana, co-starring Ava Gardner, Deborah Kerr and Sue Lyon, at 5 p.m. Thursday on TCM.

And, you might want to consider:

  • Dr. No (1962) -- The first in a long line of James Bond action-spy thrillers features a very young Sean Connery as British secret Agent 007.  Ursula Andress provides the eye candy as Honey Ryder.  (3 p.m. Friday on MGM HD)
  • How to Steal a Million (1966) -- Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole join forces in a romantic crime comedy.  (Noon Saturday on the FX Movie Channel)
  • Lars and the Real Girl (2007) -- OK, it's not quite a classic yet, but if you're in the mood for something filled with touching moments with just the right amount of dark, dark, comedy, try this extremely offbeat tale featuring Ryan Gosling as a lonely young man who falls in love with a real doll.  Note:  When I say a real doll, I do mean a real doll.  (4:55 p.m. Wednesday on MGM HD)

If I had to choose just one classic film to see, this week, I would settle in at 10 Friday night on TCM to see the great W.C. Fields do his comic magic in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man.  I'm a sucker for the outrageous ping pong match.


25 August 2015

The best movie you never heard of?


"Once again the residents LOVED the presentation! Please let me know what dates you have in October (I assume you don't have Sept dates available) and going forward.


Mario Garcia

Enrichment Coordinator | Madison Estates

San Antonio, TX 78240

(Courtesy: Warner Bros.)

I was humbled when I received this email from Mario the other day.  He was referring to my Movie Memories presentation titled "The Best Movies You've Never Heard Of."

I like to keep the contents of that presentation under wraps a bit because the surprise of some of the films we talk about adds to the fun.

Let's just say that Cobb, Ron Shelton's gritty-to-the-bone dramatic biography starring Tommy Lee Jones as legendary baseball Hall-of-Famer Ty Cobb, is on the list.

Cobb may be one of Jones' lesser-known dramas, but the way San Antonio's resident Academy Award winner gets under the skin and down to the icy cold soul of the arrogant, abusive Cobb is a cinematic ride you are not likely to soon forget.

So, thanks Madison Estates residents, for always welcoming my Movie Memories presentations warmly.  And a special thank you to enrichment coordinator Mario Garcia for the kind, humbling words.  I look forward to returning to Madison Estates next month for something a little different; my stand-up comedy presentation titled "We Might As Well Laugh."

Look, you can see 'The Invisible Woman'

(Courtesy: Universal Pictures)

It sounds impossible, doesn't it?

It's true, though.  You can see The Invisible Woman, at least the classic 1940 sci-fi romantic-comedy co-starring Virginia Bruce, John Barrymore and John Howard, if you tune to classic TV cable channel TCM Tuesday night at 8:30.

That comic caper revolves around an attractive model (Bruce) with a few scores to settle.  She thinks being invisible might be just the ticket.  The Invisible Woman is just one of the vintage films I'm recommending this week.  Please note that all times listed are Central Daylight Time.  (Check your local listings for times in your area.)

And speaking of classic films with lady leads, Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke both took home Academy Awards for their performances as Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, respectively, in Arthur Penn's The Miracle Worker (1962).  The mesmerizing biography-drama hits the MGM HD screen Sunday at 2:55 p.m.

This is also a big week for Greta Garbo fans.  Ninotchka (1939), one of all-time favorites, airs Wednesday at 5 p.m. on TCM.  I love the snappy banter between Garbo's title character, a stiff-as-nails Russian woman, and easy-going Leon, portrayed flawlessly by Melvyn Douglas.

In fact, at 10:45 Wednesday evening on TCM, you can light up the night with the second half of your own Garbo double-feature.  That's when Grand Hotel, Oscar's best picture of 1932, pairs the legendary Swedish actress with John Barrymore in a classic ensemble romantic-drama.

Some other choices of note:

  • Casablanca (1942), still the greatest film ever made in my humble opinion, heaps on romance and intrique at 7 p.m. Friday on TCM;
  • Meet John Doe (1941), featuring Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck in a Frank Capra classic, on TCM at 12:30 p.m. Sunday;
  • Tombstone (1993), teaming Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, respectively, at 6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday on AMC and;
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Woody Allen's masterpiece about a dashing movie character (Jeff Daniels) who steps off the screen and into the life of a depressed woman (Mia Farrow) in the audience during the Great Depression.  It airs Sunday at 11:20 p.m. on MGM HD.

If I had to only pick one classic to watch this week, however, I'd hustle over to TCM Saturday at 7 p.m. for The Hustler (1961) just to see Paul Newman as Fast Eddie Felson and Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats chalk up their cue sticks and go at it one more time.


10 August 2015

Murray answers 'Ghostbusters' call

(Courtesy: gossipmagazines.net)

Stand down, Ghostbusters nation, Bill Murray has finally answered the call.

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting (which is what they do best) that Murray "ain't afraid of no reboot."

That may be a recent development.  The standout star of the original Ghostbusters in 1984 and the not-as-magical 1989 sequel (GhostbuIsters II) has been coy and reportedly resistant about strapping on the ghostbusting gear for the third time for years.

If the Hollywood Reporter report holds up, however, the utterly likable actor will take the plunge in director Paul Feig's upcoming gender-bender, which will star established big-screen comic stars Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig and Saturday Night Live cast members Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones.

The latest installment is set to open next July.

"Murray has has long been resistant to star in a third Ghostbusters. He told David Letterman earlier this year that his hesitancy stems from Ghostbusters II not having been as well-received as the first one," the Hollywood Reporter post states.

Sequels are tough to pull off, especially one that arrives more than a quarter of a century after the previous sequel.  And there's this:  Will Feig's reboot please members of the mighty Ghostbusters cult?

This I know.  It'll have to go some to out ghostbust the '84 original directed by Ivan Reitman and starring Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver and Harold Ramis.


07 August 2015

ScreenGems: Senior class of 2008

(Courtesy: impawards.com)

How do you measure movie satisfaction?

The obvious answer, I suppose, is paying hard-earned money for a movie you think will be good, and then walking away with the cinematic fuzzies; content with the fact that a proven star, say Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks or Robert Downey Jr., has delivered the goods.

I may be a little different than some, but about as good as it gets in a movie house from this aisle seat is when I have no idea what I'm in for and being swept away by chill-bump magic.

I'm talking about movies that not only make you want to tell your friends about them, but gather those friends up and drive them to the theater yourself to make sure they have a chance to share the same wonderful experience that only rare, special films can provide.

My hope with the ScreenGems spotlight is to showcase some of those magical moments I have enjoyed and share with my speaking engagement audiences in my Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff presentations.

Young @ Heart, the rousing, extremely heartfelt and often funny 2008 documentary about a chorus of senior citizens from Northampton, Mass., is a perfect example.

I know the subject matter may not shout "rousing" and "funny" at first.  But once you realize that co-directors Stephen Walker and Sally George will fill the screen with a motley gang of senior warblers (with an average age of 81) who take on rock tunes from Coldplay, Jimi Hendrix and Sonic Youth, the infectious nature of these seniors and their chorus leader Bob Cilman will grab your heart and not let go.


04 August 2015

ScreenGems: 'That's the press, baby'

(Courtesy: 20th Century-Fox)

A post on The Hollywood Reporter website caught my eye.

I have to respectfully wonder if the writers really managed to round up what they call the "Best and worst journalists in film."

All the President's Men, the excellent 1976 political/journalism drama about the Watergate Scandal and the fall of President Richard Nixon starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford as Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, is No. 2 out of 15 in the Hollywood Reporter gallery. 

My favorite Cameron Crowe movie, Almost Famous (2000), slides in as No. 3.  Crowe was absolutely on top of his film-making game with this symphony of chaos, thrills and surprises when a young writer (Patrick Fugit) lands a seat on a rock 'n' roll group's bus.  What a ride for him and for those of us sitting in a darkened theater hoping to jump on the bus at the next stop.

From this aisle seat, though, the Hollywood Reporter list is as significant for movies left off the list as those included.

I have no problem giving the list kudos for State of Play, Kevin Macdonald's cinematic hash of drama, crime and mystery revolving around Washington, D.C. journalist -- let's just go ahead and say it, a newspaperman (Remember those?) -- portrayed by Russell Crowe.  Rachel McAdams and Ben Affleck co-star.  The best thing State of Play does, though, is blend old school, traditional journalism with New Age electronic reporting.

Like or hate what journalism has morphed into, State of Play captures very well the two-headed frustrations and the benefits of changing times in journalism.

I get it.  I'm on board with the 24-hour news cycle that has spread like wildfire (or a virus, depending on your point of view) from TV to the Internet and, sadly (depending on your point of view), to newspaper newsrooms.

Re:  The Hollywood Reporter gallery, though, I would include True Crime, the 1999 mystery crime-drama starring (and directed by) Clint Eastwood as alcohol-soaked womanizer Steve Everett, who also happens to be a talented writer for an Oakland newspaper.

And what about Deadline - U.S.A., a personal favorite?  Humphrey Bogart fights to take down a powerful crime boss in that 1952 crime-drama with newspaper presses sometimes rumbling in the background.

In my Movie Memories presentations, I often talk about my Mom letting me stay up way past my bedtime when I was a kid to watch old movies on the Late, Late Show (when it was a TV programming device and not a talk show).  That's when I first saw Bogart take on the mob in Deadline - U.S.A.

Because I'll always remember sharing that moving drama and other classics like them with my Mom and because I'll never get newsprint ink out of my blood (or even want to), Deadline - U.S.A. becomes the first movie in a new Movie Memories feature I'm calling ScreenGems; classic moments in classic movies.

That's the press, baby!


03 August 2015

(Dan) Rather interesting, this

Robert Redford, left, portrays Dan Rather in "Truth." (Courtesy: hollywoodreporter.com)

Can you see Robert Redford as Dan Rather?

Let me put that another way.

You can see screen legend Redford as the Houston-born news legend Rather on the big screen as early as Oct. 16, according to an article posted on the Hollywood Reporter website.

The film, to be released by Sony Pictures Classics, is titled Truth.  According to the Hollywood Reporter post, it "tells of the firestorm that erupted in September of 2004 after Rather reported that George W. Bush had received special treatment while serving in the Air National Guard during the Vietnam War."

In addition to the drama starring Redford as Rather, Cate Blanchett portrays Mary Mapes, Rather’s producer.  The plot, of course, is driven by the former CBS anchor’s fall from grace.

The plan appears to be a slow roll-out.  Truth will only be told in New York and L.A. at first with other cities to be added later, apparently.

So, as they say, stay tuned.

27 July 2015

You can hear them now; just ask

Movies290Do you have trouble hearing your favorite movie stars when you're watching them on the big screen in a theater?

Did you know that most movie house chains now offer listening devices to solve that problem for you and make your movie outing a pleasure again?

Some people who have no hearing loss will likely say something like, "Hey, they already blast the sound in movie houses, what could possibly be the problem?"

To that, you (and I) might reply, "What?"

Of course for many of us, including some who haven't quite admitted it or even faced it yet, hearing loss can take the fun out of going to the movies.

Well, it's time to let the good times roll again.

According to an article posted on the ideasconsultinginc.com website titled "Now Hear This," the solution could be as simple as asking for an assisted listening device at the box office window.

Click here to read the article.

20 July 2015

Raging bull and 'Raging Bull'

(Courtesy: United Artists)

Thirty-five years ago this month I got paid to review a movie for the first time.

Reluctantly leaving behind semi-stunned family and friends, I ventured south from the relative comfort and financial security of an enjoyable dead-end job in Dallas to pursue a dream to forge a career as a professional film critic.

Looking back, I'm grateful I landed at the Valley Morning Star, a small daily newspaper in sleepy (at the time) Harlingen, located in far South Texas.  The locals and "winter Texans" call it The Valley.

The Valley is not quite Mexico, which my dad used to call Old Mexico, but it's close.  Let's put it this way.  You don't have to stop at a Texas Border Patrol checkpoint going south on Highway. 281, but you do when you're headed north.

I had what they now call a hidden agenda when I took the lowest-rung job (compiling the scoreboard page) in the sports department at the Valley Morning Star.  The world was just waiting for my knowledgeable, witty comments in the world of film criticism.  It was just that no one but me realized it at the time, which was 1980.  April 1, 1980, in fact. 

Yes, I launched the career that has taken me around the U.S. numerous times, to foreign countries including France, Great Britain and Scotland, to the Academy Awards, to a position as film critic for the NBC News Channel and to the Cannes Film Festival (among others) on, uh, April Fools' Day.

Looking back, that explains so much.  But to stay focused here, 1980 was a very good year for quality, memorable movies. The Elephant Man opened that year, and so did The Blues Brothers, Ordinary People and The Shining; you know, the one where a crazed writer played by Jack Nicholson crashes the bathroom door to get to his terrified wife while yelling, "H-E-E-E-E-R-S JOHNNY!"

Raging Bull, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro in a brilliant performance as raging  boxer-with-issues JaKe LaMotta, opened in December that year.  In my humble opinion, Raging Bull exploded on the screen as the finest film of the decade.

My first review, however, was none of those.

It took me about three months to convince the extremely understanding folks at the Valley Morning Star that what their already fine newspaper needed was a film critic.  So on the morning of July 2, I -- with notepad and Mild Duds in hand -- took a seat in a Harlingen movie house to review Airplane!

(Courtesy: Paramount Pictures)

For those who may not be familiar with the wildly comic spoof of every airplane disaster movie (but especially Zero Hour) that had come before, co-writers and co-directors Jim Abrahams, David Zucker and Jerry Zucker pulled out all the stops from wordplay jokes ("Surely you can't be serious."  "I am serious, and don't call me Shirley.") to physical humor like a line of passengers (including a nun with a mean right slap) taking turns to "convince" a hysterical female passenger to get a grip.

I had no idea what the filmmakers and hilarious co-stars Leslie Nielsen, Lloyd Bridges, Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty and Peter Graves were doing, except that it appeared everyone was channeling the Marx Bros. and somehow justifying mayhem and silliness for a new era.

I managed to hold on to my notepad, which examined later was a jumbled mess of wildly drawn lines and OMG! before OMG was cool (if it really is or ever was).  It may also be the only time in 35 years of reviewing movies that I ever dropped a Milk Dud.

I realized before the lights even came up that I had a decision to make.  Airplane! was clearly either a revolutionary new high in lowbrow comedy, or the dumbest movie I had ever seen.

Luckily, I went with both gut feelings.  Airplane! landed a spot in cinematic history as just that, a cutting-edge dose of lunacy that has inspired scores of imitators.

Recollection of experiences like that and other stops along the path of an entertainment journalist specializing in cinema forged what has become Movie Memories, the public speaking chapter of a life often best lived in the dark.

Mild Duds, anyone?