Wednesday, December 2, 2009

“I don't wanna get rough with you unless I have to!”

Been kind of busy with other projects today—including taking a peek or two at the Bogart films currently being shown on Turner Classic Movies—but I did want to give readers a heads-up and announce that TCM’s got a mini-tribute to TDOY idol John Garfield tomorrow, beginning at 6:00am with the 1940 Boom Town homage (“homage” being the French word for “rip-off,” as director John Frankenheimer once observed) Flowing Gold. There are still one or two films of Julie’s that I haven’t gotten around to seeing but of the ones I have seen, I think Flowing is probably the weakest. Keep in mind, however, that I’m such a huge Garfield fan I’ll watch him in anything—and that there are merits to the movie, namely a nice cast (Pat O’Brien, Frances Farmer, Raymond Walburn, Cliff “Ukelele Ike” Edwards, Tom Kennedy, Jody Gilbert) and an exciting finale that’s worth the price of admission.

After Flowing, The Fallen Sparrow (1943; 7:30am) is on deck—and this is one of my favorite Julie flicks, which features him as an idealistic Spanish Civil War vet returning to New York after spending two years in a Fascist prison…and being followed by the same Nazi bastards who are trying to pry the information from him that they could not when they had access to “more persuasive methods,” as Paul Henreid wryly comments in Casablanca. Sparrow, based on the novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, features an amazing performance by Maureen O’Hara as an atypical femme fatale, Walter Slezak as a treacherous psychiatrist, and Hugh “Ward Cleaver” as a blonde (!) Nazi. If you only have room to record one of these, this is the one that should get the nod.

Completing the Garfield hat trick is Nobody Lives Forever (1946; 9:15am), another goodie with Julie as a con man/cardsharp who teams up with his mentor (Walter Brennan) and Brennan’s boss (George Coulouris) to shake down a naïve young widow (Geraldine Fitzgerald). Things go a bit awry, as might be expected—Garfield falls in love with the mark and the whole magilla escalates into a kidnapping plot. (Humphrey Bogart had been originally cast in the lead role, so his departure was Julie’s good fortune.)

After the Garfield fest, make room for dessert: Fitzgerald co-stars with Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre in Three Strangers (1946; 11am), a woefully underrated movie that should be on DVD but isn’t. And when you’re done with that, you can catch Greenstreet—and a host of other Warner Bros. stars appearing in cameos—in It's a Great Feeling (1949), the best of the three films that Warner showcased Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan in the hopes of creating another Hope-and-Crosby.

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