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22 June 2015

Classic flicks on TV this week

(Courtesy: Embassy Pictures)

"Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me.  Aren't you?"

Don't worry Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman), you weren't misreading those signs.  Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson is definitely trying to seduce you in, The Graduate, Mike Nichols' 1967 gem of a comic-drama-romance.

And she'll do it again Thursday at 12:30 p.m. (Central) on the Sundance TV classic movie cable channel.

The Graduate, which earned Nichols a best director Oscar and drew nominations for best picture, actor (Hoffman), actress (Bancroft) and supporting actress (Katharine Ross), just to name a few. is just one of several films I'm highlighting this week in my pleasant journey through the classic movie TV channels to make your weekly hunt for the best of the best quick, easy and enjoyable.

Before we get too far into this week's search, though, let me remind you that the times listed here are all Central Daylight Time.  Please check your local listings carefully.

Early risers and/or those handy with their TV recording device will also want to catch Dodsworth Sunday at 5 a.m. on TCM.  Directed by William Wyler, Dodsworth co-stars Walter Huston (John Huston's father and Anjelica Huston's grandfather) and Ruth Chatterton as a couple going through a mid-to-late-marriage crisis.

Would you like to see Tom Cruise in what I consider the fading superstar's finest acting performance?  That's easy.  Just be sure to catch Cruise taking on the persona of paralyzed Vietnam War vet Ron Kovic in Born on the Fourth of July Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. on the Sundance TV channel.  If you miss it Tuesday, no worries, it repeats Wednesday at 11:30 p.m., also on Sundance TV.

Directed by Oliver Stone, this gritty coming home war-drama of 1989 really gives Cruise a chance to stretch as an actor.  In fact, Cruise earned his first Oscar nomination for this gritty performance as Kovic, who became an anti-war activist.


If you haven't seen the offbeat, grisly drama Sling Blade (1996) written by, directed by and starring Billy Bob Thornton as, shall we say, unstable simple man Karl Childers, do not miss it Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. on Sundance TV.

Let's just say that once you see Thornton as the formerly institutionalized "gentle man" who loves "French fried taters," you are not likely to soon forget him.

Cinematic baseballs fans have a chance at a pretty impressive tripleheader this week.   Dennis Quaid gets under the skin of "old guy" Major League Baseball rookie Jimmy Morris in The Rookie (2002) on AMC Tuesday at 10 p.m.

But that's just the warm-up.   Kevin Costner is outstanding in his corn fields and hears voices that encourage him to build a baseball diamond in Field of Dreams (1989) Thursday at 7 p.m. on AMC.  Also, Robert Redford plays the title character in Barry Levinson's 1984 classic The Natural Sunday at noon on Sundance TV. 

I also like Tom Hanks and Michael Clarke Duncan in the fantasy prison-drama The Green Mile (1999) airing at noon Wednesday on AMC and Cameron Crowe's Almost Famous starring Billy Crudup and Kate Hudson (2000) Saturday at 11:45 a.m. on Sundance TV.

And what a pleasant surprise it was to discover that one of my favorite ensemble romantic comic-dramas of all time, Love Actually, lights up the small screen Friday at noon on Sundance TV.

Don't let the Christmas theme discourage you.  In fact, go with it.  This is an enchanting, edgy tale of eight couples dealing with the entanglements of romance in very loosely related tales.  And what a cast.  Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley and the great Bill Nighy are just the tip of the iceberg.

In fact, if I had to pick just one classic film to revisit this week, it would actually be Love Actually.


19 June 2015

Tropical Depression Bill blues buster

Got the Tropical Depression Bill blues?

Yeah, me too.  How about some entertaining classic movies to watch until the storm (emotional and real) subsides?

Here are some updated suggestions from the somewhat new Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff feature titled Classic Movies on TV This Week.

(Courtesy: MGM)

Who needs Botox when we've got movies like The Picture of Dorian Gray?  George Sanders, Donna Reed and Angela Lansbury are on screen in this eerie mix of drama, fantasy and horror.

It is Hurd Hatfield who plays the tormented, but never-aging womanizer in director Albert Lewin's 1945 adaptation of Oscar Wilde's wild novel.

Mr. Gray, you see, never ages, but the portrait of him locked away in a special room does.  It turns into quite a grotesque demon, in fact. 

Well, you just have to see for yourself how it all works out.  The Picture of Dorian Gray airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on TCM.  (Please check local listings to confirm the time.)

I also like Get Shorty (1995), which is set for 5 p.m. Friday on MGM HD.  It's great to see John Travolta and Gene Hackman chewing the scenery in this comic crime-thriller also featuring Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina and James Gandolfini based on Elmore Leonard's novel.

Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, Wild Wild West), one of Hollywood's most underrated directors, calls the shots.

Also, today (Friday) is a big day for Bill Murray fans.  AMC has loaded its schedule with a triple load of Bill; Murray, not the tropical depression.  Mr. Murray defends our country, sort of, in Stripes at 1:30 p.m., attacks a pesky rodent on the golf course in Caddyshack (a personal favorite) at 7 and sees apparitions of dead folks in the first Ghostbusters at 9.


If I were just going to see one this week, though, I guess I'd still have to dust off The Picture of Dorian Gray (Saturday night at 7 on TCM).


15 June 2015

Special invite/Classic films this week


Before we get to this week's guide to classic movies on television, I would like to personally invite you to a very special event in San Antonio Thursday evening at 6:30.

Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy in "Father of the Bride." (MGM)

Help us celebrate the grand opening of the brand-spanking new Emerald Oaks Retirement Resort, the state-of-the-art 55-and-over retirement community at 20302 Bulverde Rd. north of Loop 1604 on the Alamo City's North Side.  I'll be onstage to inaugurate the spectacular theater that seats 150 in plush, stadium seating coolness.

My topic is my Movie Memories presentation titled "Father Knows Best, Or Does He?" and you can expect film clips from classic films such as Father of the Bride and To Kill a Mockingbird.  But that's just the beginning.

There will be movies that I hope will surprise and delight you as we search for the most fantastic fathers -- and perhaps an offbeat guy or two -- in movie history.  I can promise a fun-filled evening full of clips and quips that's a perfect tuneup for Father's Day.

Admission is free, but seating is limited and RSVP is required.  Please call 210-740-8105 today to reserve your seats.  Tell them Larry sent you.

I look forward to seeing you Thursday at Emerald Oaks!

Classic movies on TV this week

Looking for some good classic movies to watch this week at home?  Well, I've got some suggestions in the latest weekly feature from Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff.

(Courtesy: MGM)

First up:  A question.  Who needs Botox when we've got movies like The Picture of Dorian Gray?  George Sanders, Donna Reed and Angela Lansbury are on screen in this eerie mix of drama, fantasy and horror.

It is Hurd Hatfield who plays the tormented, but never-aging womanizer in director Albert Lewin's 1945 adaptation of Oscar Wilde's wild novel.

Mr. Gray, you see, never ages, but the portrait of him locked away in a special room does.  It turns into quite a grotesque demon, in fact. 

Well, you just have to see for yourself how it all works out.  The Picture of Dorian Gray airs at 7 p.m. Saturday on TCM.  (Please check local listings to confirm the time.)

I also like Get Shorty (1995), which is set for 5 p.m. Friday on MGM HD.  It's great to see John Travolta and Gene Hackman chewing the scenery in this comic crime-thriller also featuring Rene Russo, Danny DeVito, Dennis Farina and James Gandolfini based on Elmore Leonard's novel.

Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black, Wild Wild West), one of Hollywood's most underrated directors, calls the shots.

Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn and Sidney Poitier take center stage in Stanley Kramer's comic-drama classic Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? (1967) at 7 p.m. Thursday on TCM.  Tracy huffs and puffs a lot, at least at first, when daughter Joey (Katharine Houghton) brings home an unexpected fiance.

Murder, deceit and romance are the name of the game in the original 1946 version of The Postman Always Rings Twice set for 5 a.m. (Yes, a.m.) Friday on TCM.  John Garfield plays the handsome stranger who drifts into town and woos a married woman portrayed by sultry Lana Turner in this one.

And if you enjoy a good submarine action war drama, you could do a lot worse than Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), pairing Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.  This is my choice this week for night owls and insomniacs.  Run Silent, Run Deep ships out at 1 a.m. Wednesday on MGM HD.

If I were just going to see one this week, I guess I'd have to dust off The Picture of Dorian Gray (Saturday night at 7 on TCM).



12 June 2015

Movie 'Scandals' too hot to handle?

Marie Millsapps Hunt enjoying her Movie Memories special prize.

You didn't need to be near a McKinney, TX construction site to see "dirt" being tossed around Thursday afternoon.  It was just a theater full of retired Pioneer Ridge residents enjoying the "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals" Movie Memories presentation.

"We hope you're not going to burst too many bubbles," one of the residents said before we even kicked off the afternoon with Hollywood's first serious scandal involving huge silent film star "Fatty" Arbuckle in the early 1920s.  "We love our movie stars," she added.

Pioneer Ridge, located in one of McKinney's quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods between U.S. Highway 75 and the Dallas North Tollway just off Virginia Parkway and North Stonebridge Drive, is a beautiful, modern facility that feels like home.

I'd like to thank Loretta and Rick Pearman for being such gracious hosts, and Frank Potter, manager, for getting all the paperwork taken care of in short order.  It was an honor to spend time with all the Pioneer Ridge residents I had to the pleasure of meeting.

Cup200A special shout out goes to Marie Millsapps Hunt.  One of Pioneer Ridge's first residents when the doors opened about a year ago, Marie won the afternoon's grand prize; a Movie Memories coffee mug stuffed with microwave popcorn, a box of Junior Mints and good cheer.

I always ask the people who end up with my mugs to promise to give them a good home.

"I will," Marie said.  "I have a good home here."

Thanks again, everyone at Pioneer Ridge.  I had a great time and can't wait to return.  I don't think we dished too much Hollywood dirt.  I must admit, though, this clip of Peter Lawford introducing Marilyn Monroe just before she sang Happy Birthday to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 at New York's Madison Square Garden inspired some spirited response in the darkened, state-of-the-art Pioneer Ridge Theater.


08 June 2015

This week: Classic movies on TV

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine have a little chat in Paris. (United Artists)

The art of viewing classic movies on TV has come a long way since the 1950s.

Back then my mother would allow me to stay up way past my bedtime to enjoy what we called at the time "an old movie."  That was before the late night talk shows, after the 10 p.m. news and before the playing of The National Anthem (as jets flew over a waving U.S. flag), sign-off, a test pattern and the annoying noise of static, which signaled the abyss of television nothingness until the next morning.

I fondly remember those magical nights that represent a close bond shared between my mom and only me, when I had her all to myself.  I didn't realize it until years later, but those wonderful nights of watching Humphrey Bogart solve murder mysteries in The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep  or share a riverboat with Katharine Hepburn in The African Queen forged my deep appreciation and love for classic movies.

It's much easier to find quality classic films on TV these days.  Movie channels such as TCM, AMC, MGM, Sundance TV and more dot almost all cable company and satellite TV schedules.  So much so, in fact, that it can be a chore to scroll through all the listings to pick out the cinematic gems of the week.

That sounds like the perfect job for yours truly.  It is my pleasure to offer some classic movie suggestions for the week.  Please note, all times listed are central daylight-saving time.

First up is Billy Wilder's 1963 romantic-comedy Irma la Douce, starring Jack Lemmon as a beat cop in Paris who falls in love with a prostitute portrayed beautifully by a young Shirley MacLaine.  Airing at 3 p.m. Sunday on TCM, Irma la Douce won an Academy Award for Andre Previn's score.

It also earned MacLaine her third Best Actress Oscar nomination, following Some Came Running in 1958 and The Apartment in 1960.  She finally took Oscar home in 1984 for her spectacular, nuanced performance opposite Debra Winger and Jack Nicholson in Terms of Endearment.


(United Artists)

If you enjoy the somewhat odd genre stew of romance, war and thrills, then head on over to AMC Thursday at 6:45 p.m. for Eye of the Needle (1981), starring Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan and directed by Richard Marquand.

It takes a pretty good actor to keep me even interested in a German killer spy nicknamed "Needle" because that is his weapon of choice.  Sutherland is up to the task in this gripping thriller, and so is Nelligan as married woman (the wife of a disabled man) who may not be able to resist the lure of a mysterious stranger.

For silly fun, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby team up as playboys trying to put past romances behind them, at least that's the plan until them encounter Dorothy Lamour in Road to Singapore (1940).  Frankly, this isn't the funniest or the finest Hope and Crosby "Road" frolic.  But it is the first one, which makes it a must-see.  Hit the Road Wednesday at 9 p.m. on TCM.

Also this weekThe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel of 2011 (Saturday at 8 a.m. on Sundance TV); Greed (1924), the great silent dramatic-thriller from Erich von Stroheim (Sunday at 11 p.m. on TCM); and Lenny (1974), Bob Fosse's biting biography of caustic comedian Lenny Bruce portrayed by Dustin Hoffman, (Wednesday at 1:15 a.m. on MGM).

If I had to pick just one this week, though, I'd be off to Paris to see Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon mix it up in Irma la Douce.


01 June 2015

Thanks again, Houston and movie titles that really get my goat

Remembering "The Alamo" and other "Movies Set in the Lone Star State" with Joan Pyle in Houston. (Courtesy: Eagle's Trace)

I was fortunate enough to expand the Movie Memories presentations market to Houston recently.

It was a pleasure to meet many of the residents of the Eagle's Trace retirement community for my "Movies Set in the Lone Star State" presentation.

That presentation begins and ends with Alamo movies and includes Academy Award-winner Giant, the larger-than-life, star-studded 1956 tale of cattle, oil and bubbling emotions starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean.

My host, Joan Pyle, who is "Jo" to her friends, met me at the door when I arrived.  The entire staff couldn't have been nicer or more helpful.  I can't wait to return to Eagle's Trace to make more Movie Memories in the Bayou City.

What's in a title?  Well, ...

Let's get right to the point.  Some movie titles, like Of Mice and Men, It's a Wonderful Life and Thank You for Smoking (a personal favorite from Jason Reitman) are perfectly in tune with what the film is about.

They either intrigue, entice or, for whatever reason, make you want to throw down your hard-earned money and see the movie.

That's not what this item is about, however.

Let's consider for a moment the worst movie titles of all time.  Often an unfortunate or carelessly planned title provides a hint that something wicked this way comes.  That almost always turns out to be the case.

George Clooney and friend in "The Men Who Stare at Goats." (Overture Films)

For every lousy film title you can think of that fronted a movie that wasn't all that bad, such as The Shawshank Redemption, for instance, I can counter with something like The Men Who Stare at Goats.  In my humble opinion, that was one of the few awful clunkers George Clooney has ever appeared in.  

Then there are the real stinkers like Freddy Got Fingered, a nearly unwatchable little ditty starring, if we can call it that, Tom Green as a cartoonist who moves back in with his parents.

Maybe you can name some yourself.  I'd love to hear from folks who over the years have come across some movie titles they feel are so bad they make it nearly impossible to appreciate even a good movie that follows the title.  

If you could use some suggestions to refresh your memory, the folks over at The Hollywood Reporter have come up with a list they call The 50 Worst Movie Titles of All Time, which does, by the way include both The Men Who Stare at Goats and that disgusting Freddy one.  (Click here for the link.)

Oh, and there's this one:  Dude, Where's My Car?  Really, dude?


06 May 2015

Hot, hot! Movie Memories on sale

Marilyn Monroe (Courtesy:

It's the first ever Hot, Hot, Movie Memories sale.

You better act fast, though.  This is a limited offer and sales like this don't come along very often.

From now through May 31, we're offering deep discounts on Movie Memories with Larry Ratliff presentations:  Book one presentation celebrating the magic of the movies and save $50.  Book three presentations by May 31 and bump the savings to $75.

Book five Movie Memories presentations by May 31 and save a whopping $100.

The presentations can be set for anytime in the future.  They just need to be booked by May 31 to get in on this special offer.

You read right.  That means your group, corporation or senior residential facility can honor those who died in active military service around Memorial Day with "A Salute to the Great War Movies," heat up the summer with "Hollywood's Hot Movie Scandals," enjoy the much-talked-about "Best Movies You've Never Heard Of" in the early fall, keep the party going with "Romantic Comedies of the 1990s and 2000s" in late fall or early winter and still celebrate the festive season with "Happy Ho-Ho-Holidays:  Great Holiday Movies" all for just ...

Well, we don't want to shock anyone with these low prices in print, so call 214-364-7364 to book your fun, insightful trip down Cinematic Memory Lane.

But wait, there's more!  This is a mix-and-match sale, which means your group can choose from our entire menu of 26 Movie Memories presentations.  Click here to view the entire menu.  Call today -- 214-364-7364 -- to reserve your presentations before all the slots are filled.

Remember, you must book your Movie Memories presentations by May 31 to get the drastically reduced price of ... Well, you just have to call.

That's 214-364-7364.  Operators are standing by, lounging around or perhaps even dozing off, but they'll be ready to go when you call.  Are you?

Making Movie Memories in the Bayou City

Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson take on ranching, drilling for oil and loving Texas style in "Giant." (

It was an honor to motor over to Houston's Eagle's Trace retirement community recently for my "Movies Set in the Lone Star State" presentation, which began and ended with Alamo movies and included Academy Award-winner Giant, the larger-than-life, star-studded 1956 tale of cattle, oil and bubbling emotions starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean.

Thanks to Jo Pyle and all the fine folks at Eagle's Trace for a most enjoyable afternoon of classic movies, interesting moments and classy folks.

27 April 2015

How's the New Year's resolution going?

Computer300rSorry, I just had to ask, primarily because mine is going so well. 

Not that I want to gloat, but I've lost enough weight that our bathroom scale is now down into the numbers range.  It wasn't always that way.

For longer than I care to remember, that little window on the scale -- the dreaded eye into our soul of self-loathing, if you will -- didn't show any numbers at all, just letters or words.

"One at a time" was probably my favorite at the highest point of actual weight and lowest ebb of self-esteem.

Then, after some half-tries to do something about my situation, I eased down into the "OMG!" range and, finally, after self-discipline which I figure equals the resolve of "The Little Engine That Could," I got the scale to merely whimper "Help" for a while.

Now I'm down into numbers, baby, and descending with the not-so-blazing speed of a packed elevator at the end of a long day touring the refried bean factory.

I guess you're wondering how I pulled off this amazing success.  Easy ...

We got bikes!

We bought them at night, in a hurry.  What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, actually.  My wife Suellen's fun-on-two-wheels machine actually turned out to be a semi-rusted demonstrator suffering from MacArthur Park syndrome. You know, the song?  Except it wasn't the cake left out in the rain.  In this case, it was her bicycle, which will actually reluctantly shift a gear or two after five or six squirts of WD-40 and some serious handlebar-grip twisting.

Bike300rMy shiny new ride is a Huffy.  I like to refer to it as a Huffy Puffy, mainly because we have some gently sloping hills in our neighborhood that appear to transform into Pikes Peak with speed bumps once I'm on the saddle.

(Saddle:  The proper name for a bicycle seat, which I think was invented by a disturbed man or woman who enjoyed watching others suffer.  Also, "bicycle seat sore" just doesn't have a ring to it like "saddle sore" does.)

The hills in our 'hood may not actually jut 14,115 feet into the sky like that Pikes Peak thing, but it sure feels that way when I'm pedaling at about a thousand RPMs and tipping the speedometer at somewhere between 3/4 and 1 mph.

Not that I have a speedometer on my bike.  I just know I'm not setting any speed records because a newborn puppy-dog just learning to stand on all fours  beat me up the hill the other day.  Also, it's common for people on that street to come out in their front yards to snicker at me (and, I suspect, place bets) as I sweat and pedal my way up the gradual slope.

Whatever.  My diet and exercise program is working, so what do I care about how the neighbors feel?  And just for the record, I'm pretty sure that little doggie is part greyhound.  In fact, I'm declaring success.  My New Year's resolution of 1979 has finally been accomplished.  So congrats to me.

Now I can get serious about the next year's resolution:  Become a world famous standup comedian before 1980 comes to an end.

I can't worry about that right now, though.  Gotta go.  It's time for my snack.

Yum, frijoles refritos.

16 March 2015

Joanie get your gun(s)

Joan Crawford acting tough in "Mildred Pierce" (1945), in which she earned her only Best Actress Academy Award. (

Thanks to all the fine folks over at Highland Springs retirement community in North Dallas for inviting me back once again on a recent Sunday evening.

Since March was an important month for Texas history (The Alamo fell, Texas Declaration of Independence was adopted), activity director Barbara Blachly opted for the popular Lone Star Movie Stars presentation, which spotlights prominent actors from Texas.  Of course that includes Lucille Fay LeSueur, whom you may know better as legendary actress Joan Crawford.

We also spent a good deal of time talking about Dennis Quaid and Oscar winners Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones, just to name a few.  As usual, the Highland Springs crowd welcomed me warmly into their home and responded enthusiastically to the presentation.

Maybe it has something to do with baseball season about ready to throw out first pitches in a couple of weeks, but I especially enjoyed sharing the trailer for The Rookie, starring Quaid, the son of a Houston electrician who has done very well for himself since his relocation to Hollywood after attending the University of Houston.

Speaking of The Rookie, see if that young actor who played Quaid's son in 2002 looks familiar.  Can you name the TV sitcom he co-starred in later?


A fun-filled, unique opportunity for your group

Of course, Lone Star Movie Stars is just one of 26 Movie Memories presentations available.  Click this link to view all 26 presentations (with descriptions of each one) or take a look at a partial presentation list below.

Be a hero.  Get in on the fun for your corporate event, group gathering, special event or retirement community.  Call 214.364.7364 to book your Movie Memories event today.

Operators are standing (or sitting) by.

Flyer presentations464






11 March 2015

Unfortunate film title of the week

(Fox Searchlight Pictures)

It doesn't matter how entertaining The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is, it has already proclaimed itself second best with a most unfortunate movie title.

Sequel or not, what are the geniuses behind the follow-up to the 2011 delightful, poignant tale of British retirees finding adventure in a semi-restored hotel in India thinking?

"How was it?" someone is bound to ask as movie-goers head back out into the daylight after seeing The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

"Oh, you know, really semi-top notch, second rate."

What else can they possibly say?

Unfortunate movie titles are nothing new.  The action-comic Western Straight to Hell didn't set the bar very high in 1986.  And there actually was a short film titled The Bad Movie in 2004.

Some of you might remember Really Bad Movie! on TV a couple of years back.  Me?  I can't wait for The Extra Bad Movie, supposedly coming to your neighborhood bijou sometime later this year.

(Paramount Pictures)

Back in 2007, I interviewed Jerry Seinfeld when he stopped off in Dallas to stir up a little buzz, if you will, for Bee Movie.  The legendary TV sitcom star told me he came up with the idea for the computer-animated tale of a bee with a mind of his own during a lull in dinner conversation with Steven Spielberg.

You may remember that Seinfeld voiced the lead character, Barry B. Benson, himself.  It was a labor of love for Seinfeld, who spent about four years getting the project to the screen.

But I remember thinking there was something unfortunate about that title:  Bee Movie.

So I took a deep breath, decided why not challenge one of the great comic minds of our generation and said something like, "You know, to some people that term B-movie means second rate or low budget."

Seinfeld looked at me a little funny and said, "You're the first person who has brought that up."

Not that there's anything wrong with that.