Saturday, May 31, 2014

Coming distractions: June 2014 on TCM

Boy howdy, cartooners—has it been a busy beginning of the month this time around!  I bit off a few more assignments than I could chew (plus my old friend Procrastination stopped by for a visit) so I thought there might not be time for another edition of what to expect in June on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™.  If you’re old enough to remember The Ed Sullivan Show, you’ll fondly recall those times when Ed would feature the guy(s) who managed to keep all those plates spinning in the air (to the tune of Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance).  That’s kind of the situation here at Rancho Yesteryear; I’ve got three blogathon commitments this week, plus two outside assignments…and since something was going to have to eventually give, I regret to inform you that I’ll have to curtail our weekly visit to Doris Day(s) this Monday.  (I can tell you’re crushed.)

Oddly enough, the June Star of the Month on Turner Classic Movies has a very close connection to our gal Dodo: her frequent movie co-star, Rock Hudson, will be in the spotlight—though Dor once commented in an interview that she called Mr. Hudson “Ernie” because “he’s no Rock.”  (Dor, you saucy minx!)  With twenty-two of his films slotted on Thursday nights in June (including his motion picture debut, 1948’s Fighter Squadron), classic movie fans can debate the age-old question as to whether or not Hudson ever possessed serious acting chops; one of the films on the schedule, Seconds (1966), will certainly give non-believers pause (not to mention his multiple collaborations with director Douglas Sirk, notably 1957’s The Tarnished Angels).  Here’s what’s on tap for Rock’s fans:

June 5, Thursday
08:00pm The Last Sunset (1961)
10:00pm The Tarnished Angels (1957)
11:45pm Hornet's Nest (1970)
01:45am Bend of the River (1952)
03:30am Winchester '73 (1950)
05:15am Fighter Squadron (1948)

June 12, Thursday
08:00pm Magnificent Obsession (1954)
10:00pm All That Heaven Allows (1955)
11:45pm Giant (1956)
03:15am Something of Value (1957)
05:15am A Farewell to Arms (1957)
June 13, Friday
08:00am Written on the Wind (1956)
09:45am Sea Devils (1953)

June 19, Thursday
08:00pm Pillow Talk (1959)
10:00pm Lover Come Back (1961)
12:00am Send Me No Flowers (1964)
01:45am Come September (1961)
03:45am Man's Favorite Sport? (1964)

June 26, Thursday
08:00pm A Fine Pair (1969)
09:45pm Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971)
11:30pm Ice Station Zebra (1968)
02:15am Seconds (1966)

Friday nights on the channel, you can indulge your passion for talking like a pirate (“Arrrrrrh…Jim lad…”) because Tee Cee Em is going to feature movies that allow viewers to go sailing on the bounding main.  The “Friday Night Spotlight” will be hosted by comedian Greg Proops (Whose Line Is It Anyway?) and the content will run the gamut from high adventure to lowbrow comedy (hey—Abbott & Costello Meet Captain Kidd is in the lineup…you do not get any more lowbrow than that).  With 23 features to unspool, here’s a look at the “Pirate Movies” schedule:

June 6, Friday
08:00pm The Sea Hawk (1924)
10:15pm The Black Swan (1942)
12:00am The Spanish Main (1945)
02:00am Pirates of Tripoli (1955)
03:30am The Golden Hawk (1952)
05:00am Hurricane Island (1951)

June 13, Friday
08:00pm The Crimson Pirate (1952)
10:00pm The Pirate (1948)
12:00am The Princess and the Pirate (1944)
01:45am Abbott & Costello Meet Captain Kidd (1952)
03:15am The Pirates of Blood River (1961)
04:45am Seven Seas to Calais (1962)

June 20, Friday
08:00pm Against All Flags (1952)
09:30pm Captain Blood (1935)
11:45pm The Sea Hawk (1940)
02:00am The Master of Ballantrae (1953)
03:45am Fortunes of Captain Blood (1950)

June 27, Friday
08:00pm Treasure Island (1934)
10:00pm The Boy and the Pirates (1960)
11:30pm Captain Kidd (1945)
01:00am Blackbeard, the Pirate (1952)
02:45am Raiders of the Seven Seas (1953)
04:30am Last of the Buccaneers (1950)

Fire up the DVR’s, o TDOY faithful…because here’s what else is in store for you in jumpin’ June!

June 1, Sunday – In the primetime spotlight—Cary Grant and director Howard Hawks collaborated on five motion pictures in their respective film careers…and two of them will be featured this evening, beginning at 8pm with Bringing Up Baby (1938) and I Was a Male War Bride (1949) following at 10.  Later on TCM Imports, the Russian classic Nine Days of One Year (1964) gets an airing at 2am, followed by the cult oddity Panic in Year Zero (1962) at 4am—for those of you who have been complaining about the lack of a good radioactive double feature.

June 2, Monday – The channel is not kidding when they observe that “June is busting out all over!”  In the daylight hours, June Haver will be featured in Look for the Silver Lining (1949; 6am) and The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (1950; 8am); June Havoc in Brewster’s Millions (1945; 10am), Sing Your Worries Away (1942; 11:30am) and Four Jacks and a Jill (1942; 12:45pm); June Lockhart in Son of Lassie (1945; 2pm) and Keep Your Powder Dry (1945; 3:45pm); and June Allyson (last month’s spotlighted star) in Till The Clouds Roll By (1946; 5:30pm).

Come nightfall, it’s a regular British Invasion!  One of the must-see movies of any serious filmgoer’s education, A Hard Day’s Night (1964), kicks it off at 8pm (a TCM premiere!) and is then followed by another new-to-the-channel movie, Go Go Mania (1965) at 9:45pm.  The remainder of the evening will be filled by Having a Wild Weekend (1965; 11:15pm), the Herman’s Hermits two-fer Hold On! (1966; 1am) and Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter (1968; 2:45am) plus Get Yourself a College Girl (1964) at 4:30am.

June 3, Tuesday – Tony Curtis celebrates what would have been his 89th natal anniversary today, and so TCM fetes him with a festival of his films: The Great Race (1965; 9:30am), Beachhead (1954; 12:15pm), Sex and the Single Girl (1964; 2pm), Not with My Wife, You Don't! (1966; 4pm) and Don't Make Waves (1967; 6:15pm).

When you hear the phrase “Final Frontier”…you can’t help but think of the can’t-kill-it-with-a-stick sitcom Mad About You, starring Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt as a couple who, if they came knocking at your door, you wouldn’t bother to answer it, pretending not to be at home.  (Okay, there was some 60s sci-fi TV series that popularized it, too.)  The channel is probably thinking of that show, because the movies scheduled in primetime have a science fiction bent: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968; 8pm), Alien (1979; 10:45pm), Destination Moon (1950; 1am), Marooned (1969; 2:30am) and Queen of Outer Space (1958; 4:45am).

June 4, Wednesday – The channel commemorates Rosalind Russell’s 107th birthday with They Met in Bombay (1941; 6:15am), Fast and Loose (1939; 8am), A Majority of One (1961; 9:30am), Auntie Mame (1958; 12noon), The Trouble with Angels (1966; 2:30pm), No Time for Comedy (1940; 4:30pm) and The Feminine Touch (1941; 6:15pm).

In primetime, legendary Bond girl Ursula Andress gets a doff of the TCM hat; there’s no Dr. No (1962) scheduled (boo) but you can watch Clash of the Titans (1981) at 10pm.  The other scheduled flicks are She (1965; 8pm), 4 For Texas (1963; 12:30am), The 5th Musketeer (1979; 2:30am) and Once Before I Die (1965; 4:30am).

June 7, Saturday – At 10:30am, TCM continues to showcase films from the “Doctor” franchise: Doctor at Large (1957) today, then Doctor in Love (1960; June 14), Doctor in Distress (1963; June 21) and Doctor in Clover (1967; June 28).

With a “doc” in the a.m. hours, Tee Cee Em switches to “docks” in primetime with The Essentials’ showing of On the Waterfront (1954) at 8pm, followed by Rumble on the Docks (1956; 10pm), The Mob (1951; 11:30pm) and Waterfront (1939; 1am).

June 8, Sunday – In the morning hours, TCM has scheduled a movie that’s been on my radar for a good many years: Face of Fire (1959), which stars Cameron Mitchell and James Whitmore in a tale of “a local handyman saves a child in a fire, but the burns he receives disfigure his face so much that the townspeople avoid him.”  To the Total DVR-for-Life©!

In primetime, it’s a live action-animation double feature beginning with Don Knotts as The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964) at 8pm and then the musical that lets Gene Kelly shake a tail feather with Jerry the Mouse, Anchors Aweigh (1945; 10pm).  TCM Imports also has an interesting double feature: Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus (1959; 2am) and Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus (1949; 4am).

June 9, Monday – “Someone left the cake out in the rain…”  What the hell was Jimmy Webb thinking about when he wrote MacArthur Park, anyway?  And why on Earth did Richard Harris sing it?  The closest you’re going to come to the song stylings of Mistah Harris this evening is Camelot (1967) at 10pm as TCM devotes its primetime hours to the Harris oeuvre…which will also highlight Robin and Marian (1976; 8pm), A Man Called Horse (1970; 1:15am) and Mutiny on the Bounty (1962; 3:15am).

June 10, Tuesday – Here’s another question (I know, you weren’t expecting a quiz—but I’ve been hearing rumors you people haven’t been keeping up with the assigned reading): why didn’t they ever let George “Goober” Lindsey do his Cary Grant impression (“Judy Judy Judy”) on Mayberry R.F.D. as he did on The Andy Griffith Show?  I became preoccupied with this knowing that today is Judy Garland’s birthday, and that TCM will pay tribute to her with Thoroughbreds Don't Cry (1937; 6:30am), Everybody Sing (1938; 8am), Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937; 9:45am), Babes in Arms (1939; 11:45am), Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940; 1:30pm), For Me and My Gal (1942; 3pm), The Clock (1945; 4:45pm) and Easter Parade (1948; 6:15pm).

Hey kids!  You won’t have to wait until the end of the month for Uncle Bobby Osbo to pull the projector down from the hall closet…because in the evening hours, host and oracle Robert Osborne kicks off a festival of his “picks” with a dynamite one-two punch of Fritz Lang in The Woman in the Window (1944; 8pm) and Scarlet Street (1945; 10pm).  Make Mine Mink (1960), with TDOY fave Kenneth “Stop messing about” Williams, is on at midnight, and then a return to birthday gal Ms. Garland at 2pm in The Harvey Girls (1946).

June 11, Wednesday – A primetime salute to legendary action director Sam Peckinpah is on tap for this evening, spotlighting Sam’s feature film debut with The Deadly Companions (1961) at 10pm.  Before that, it’s longtime TDOY fave Ride the High Country (1962) starting things off at 8, and the rest of the evening is comprised of The Wild Bunch (1969; 12mid), Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973; 2:30am) and Major Dundee (1965; 4:45am).

June 12, Thursday – “Ida/Sweet as apple cider…”  Yes, “the poor man’s Bette Davis” is feted this morning; pay particular attention to the inclusion of Outrage (1950; 2:15pm) on the schedule—one of Ida Lupino’s earliest directorial efforts (and a goody).  The other entries are They Drive by Night (1940; 7:15am), High Sierra (1941; 9am), Out of the Fog (1941; 10:45am), The Hard Way (1942; 12:15pm), Beware, My Lovely (1952; 3:45pm), On Dangerous Ground (1952; 5:15pm) and The Hitch-Hiker (1953; 6:45pm)—another Lupino directorial effort.

June 13, Friday – Gasp!  It’s Friday the Thirteenth…but don’t be alarmed—TCM won’t be showing any of the entries from the universally reviled horror film franchise (not yet, anyway).  Instead, it’s movies with a “thirteen” theme, including two TDOY favorites, Thirteen Women (1932; 11:15am) and The Woman on Pier 13 (1950—a.k.a. I Married a Communist, 2pm), with The Hour of 13 (1952; 12:30pm), Dementia 13 (1963; 3:15pm), 13 Ghosts (1960; 4:45pm) and Thirteen Frightened Girls (1963; 6:15pm) tossed in for spice.

June 14, Saturday – TCM kicks off the morning with a Lucille Ball triple feature: Next Time I Marry (1938; 6:30am), The Affairs of Annabel (1938; 7:45am) and its follow-up, Annabel Takes a Tour (1938; 9am)…and these will be followed by an April 28, 1977 Tonight Show with Johnny Carson clip of Johnny interviewing The First Lady of Television herownself.

Later on The Essentials, the channel introduces a “Fathers and Sons” theme with a showing of The Champ (1931) at 8pm, followed by the Mickey Rooney romp Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941) at 9:45pm and the underrated I Never Sang for My Father (1970) at 11:45.

June 15, Sunday – This is all leading up to a mini-marathon of patriarchal-themed films to celebrate the day that honors the man my mother told me is my dad…and that’s good enough for me (never gets old):

06:00am Vice Versa (1948)
08:00am The Happy Time (1952)
09:45am The Reluctant Debutante (1958)
11:30am No, My Darling Daughter (1961)
01:30am Life with Father (1947)
03:45pm The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963)
06:00pm Father of the Bride (1950)
08:00pm The Yearling (1946)
10:15pm Sounder (1972)

June 17, Tuesday – The oeuvre of three-time Oscar-nominated director Joshua Logan is the order of the day on Tee Cee Em, with two of his nominated films, Sayonara (1957) and Fanny (1961), scheduled back-to-back at 11:30am and 2:15pm respectively.  Ensign Pulver (1964; 6am), Bus Stop (1956; 8am), Tall Story (1960; 9:45am) and Camelot (1967; 4:45pm) round out the entries.

Come nightfall, actor-director-writer Gene Wilder is welcomed as June’s Guest Programmer; resisting the urge to sneak in Blazing Saddles (1974) or Young Frankenstein (1974), Mr. Wilder sets aside as his four films of choice Random Harvest (1942; 8pm), The Merry Widow (1934; 10:15pm), Witness for the Prosecution (1957; 12:15am) and Dark Victory (1939; 2:30am).  Fittingly, the night is capped off at 4:30am with a 2008 edition of Role Model, in which Gene bravely spends an hour chatting with Alec Baldwin despite not having the foresight to get a distemper shot.

June 18, Wednesday – Cinephiles will want to mark their calendars for this date when TCM pays tribute to the mastery of French director René Clair; Sous les toits de Paris (1930) starts it off at 8pm, then it’s A Nous La Liberte (1931; 9:45pm), Le Million (1931; 11:15pm), The Grand Maneuver (1955; 12:45am), It Happened Tomorrow (1944; 2:45am) and the original French version of Gigi (1948) wrapping up the evening’s events at 4:15am.

June 19, Thursday – Happy birthday to Dame May Whitty, born on this date in 1865!  The films scheduled in her honor are The Thirteenth Chair (1937; 6:45am), Night Must Fall (1937; 8am), Suspicion (1941; 10am), Mrs. Miniver (1942; 12noon), Slightly Dangerous (1943; 2:15pm), Devotion (1946; 4pm) and If Winter Comes (1947; 6pm).

June 20, Friday – There’ll be some classic movie detection all day today as “the game’s afoot” with the likes of The Thin Man (1934; 6am), The Maltese Falcon (1941; 7:45am), The Big Sleep (1946; 9:30am), Laura (1944; 11:30am), Murder, My Sweet (1944; 1pm), Harper (1966; 2:45pm) and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970; 5pm).

June 21, Saturday – “It’s my happening, baby…and it freaks me out!”  Not satisfied with their earlier tribute to The British Invasion this month, the TCM faithful crank up the WABAC machine for another look at “The Swingin’ 60s” with The Essentials’ showing of I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (1969) at 8pm.  (I wouldn’t include that one on my list of essentials because it hasn’t dated well…your mileage, as always, may vary.)  Following the misadventures of Peter Sellers’ baked-on-brownies lawyer is Georgy Girl (1966) at 10, and then a much better candidate for essential viewing, Blow-Up (1966), finishes the 60s theme night at midnight.

June 22, Sunday – By now, mostly everyone (except me) has managed to sneak into a movie googolplex to watch the latest incarnation of Godzilla romp and stomp on major cities…and realize they enjoyed it much more when it had Raymond Burr in it.  Your prayers have been answered: the original Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956) is scheduled for this evening at 8pm, followed by a gargantuan who came close to taking ‘Zilla’s title away from him, Mighty Joe Young (1949) at 10pm.  After the TCM Silent Sunday Nights showing of the 1920 classic The Mark of Zorro at midnight, you might want to program the DVR for Krzysztof Kieslowski’s renowned “Colors” trilogy: Blue (1993; 2am), White (1994; 3:45am) and Red (1994; 5:30am).

June 23, Monday – I wonder what common theme the movies planned for today share—could it be…Satan?!!  (Why did we ever think that was funny, by the way?)  On tap are Haxan (1922; 7:15am), Inflation (1942; 9:15am), The Devil with Hitler (1942; 9:45am), The Seventh Victim (1943; 10:45am), Cabin in the Sky (1943; 12noon), Angel on My Shoulder (1946; 1:45pm), The Story of Mankind (1957; 3:30am) and The Devil's Bride (1968—a.k.a. The Devil Rides Out; 5:15pm).

The 1943 Barbara Stanwyck film Lady of Burlesque (a film adaptation of The G-String Murders, penned by none other than famed ecdysiast Gypsy Rose Lee) is not on the schedule this evening…but other females working in the Burly-Q are, beginning with the cult classic Dance, Girl, Dance (1940) at 8pm.  That’s followed by a TDOY fave, The Night They Raided Minsky’s (1968), at 9:45 and then Doll Face (1945; 11:30pm), Gypsy (1962; 1am) and She's Working Her Way Through College (1952; 3:45am).

June 24, Tuesday – TCM’s a little late with a kickoff to celebrate the first day of summer (June 21)…so they attempt to make up for their tardiness with daytime showings of Summer Holiday (1948; 7am), In the Good Old Summertime (1949; 8:45am), Summer Stock (1950; 10:30am), Hot Summer Night (1957; 12:30pm), A Summer Place (1959; 2pm), The Picasso Summer (1970; 4:30pm) and Corvette Summer (1978; 6:15pm).

Come nightfall—a novel theme spotlighting movies made on the other side of the pond…but featuring big-name Hollywood stars.  Thunder in the City (1937) with Edward G. Robinson starts the ball rolling at 8pm, followed by Another Man's Poison (1951—Bette Davis & Gary Merrill; 9:45pm), Sanders of the River (1935—Paul Robeson; 11:30pm) and No Orchids for Miss Blandish (1948—Jack La Rue; 1:15am).  Later in the a.m. hours, I will definitely program the DVR for The Ghost Train (1941; 3am), which stars Band Waggon’s Arthur Askey and Richard Murdoch (based on the play co-written by Arthur Ridley, best known as the incontinent Private Charles Godfrey on the long-running Britcom Dad’s Army).

June 25, Wednesday – You shouldn’t expect any happy endings in the movies scheduled for the daylight hours…because as I learned from Bugs Bunny, there ain’t no such animal in operas (and these movies are opera-themed).  Kidding—I’m just kidding, the lineup features A Lady's Morals (1930; 6:15am), Forget-Me-Not (1936; 7:45am), That Girl from Paris (1936; 9am), Maytime (1937; 10:45am), Music for Madame (1937; 1pm), That Midnight Kiss (1949, 2:30pm), The Toast of New Orleans (1950; 4:15pm) and Interrupted Melody (1955; 6pm).

Now this is what I’m talkin’ about—the channel devotes the evening hours to one of the best bad guys in cinema (though I wish they had made room for 1947’s The Devil Takes a Ride).  Lawrence Tierney’s oeuvre will be explored starting at 8pm with Dillinger (1945), then it’s Badman's Territory (1946; 9:15pm), Born to Kill (1947; 11pm), The Hoodlum (1951; 12:45am), Step By Step (1946; 2am), Back to Bataan (1945; 3:15am) and San Quentin (1946; 5am).

June 26, Thursday – László Löwenstein celebrates what would have been his 110th birthday today; we know him best as screen menace and character great Peter Lorre.  There’s not a bad Lorre movie in the bunch on the schedule; the must-see M (1931) starts things at 6:15am, then it’s Stranger on the Third Floor (1940; 8:15am), Background to Danger (1943; 9:30am), The Constant Nymph (1943; 11am), The Conspirators (1944; 1pm), Passage to Marseille (1944; 2:45pm), Hotel Berlin (1945; 4:45pm) and The Verdict (1946; 6:30pm).

June 28, Saturday – I’m just gonna call this one a day in honor of my BBFF Stacia: in the early morning hours, a most fitting double feature of First a Girl (1935; 6am) and Victor/Victoria (1982; 8am) begins the day’s festivities…then later on, afternoon-wise, a showing of mutual favorite Quatermass and the Pit (1967—a.k.a. Five Million Years to Earth) at 4:15pm.

But scheduled for this evening’s Essentials is the Ernest Lubitsch classic To Be or Not to Be (1942; 8pm)…and the male star of that film will encore in The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936) at 10pm and College Holiday (1936) at midnight.  (If only he could have blown a horn then…)

June 29, Sunday – The primetime schedule offers up a Carol Reed-directed two-fer in A Kid for Two Farthings (1955; 8pm) and The Fallen Idol (1948; 10pm)…but you can also catch a third Reed classic earlier in the day with The Third Man (1949) at 2pm.

June 30, Monday – Two additional events to close out the month of June—Edythe Marrenner was born on this date in 1917…but as Susan Hayward, she would win a Best Actress Oscar for I Want to Live! (1958) and be featured in the films during the channel’s daytime lineup: Girls on Probation (1938; 6am), The Hairy Ape (1944; 7:15am), Deadline at Dawn (1946; 9am), They Won't Believe Me (1947; 10:30am), Rawhide (1951; 12:30pm), The Lusty Men (1952; 2pm), I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955; 4pm) and Ada (1961; 6pm).

Then as evening shadows descend, another Academy Award winner (the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian prize in 1986) is feted in musician-composer Quincy Jones…who’s yet to win a competitive Oscar, though it’s not for lack of trying (he’s been nominated four times).  All of the movies featured this evening were scored by Q: The Pawnbroker (1965; 8pm), In the Heat of the Night (1967; 10pm), The Slender Thread (1965; 12mid), $ (Dollars) (1971; 2am) and The Italian Job (1969; 4:15am).  Good viewing this month, campers!

Government Agents vs. Phantom Legion – Chapter 5: Deadline for Disaster

After a week’s hiatus, we’re back with another installment of Serial Saturdays…and if you were with us last time on Big Gubmint Agents vs. Phantom Legion, you’ll remember that henchies Regan (Dick Curtis) and Cady (Fred Coby), having overheard a two-way radio conversation between Hal Duncan (Walter Reed)—Special Government Agent!—and his gal Friday Kay Roberts (Mary Ellen Kay), snuck into the Interstate Truck Owners Association offices to look for a reward payoff of $50,000.  Hal’s number two (heh) man, Sam Bradley (John Pickard), was placed in charge of guarding the fifty large but suffered a beatdown at the hands of the two bad guys…and it was really all for naught, anyway, because the money wasn’t actually there, as the two thugs discover to their disappertment.  They do spot, however, the silhouette of Mr. D on a glass door as he returns to the ITOA and fire at it…but I don’t have to tell you that Hal survives the encounter.

Regan and Cady beat a hasty retreat out the same window they came in…and as Hal enters the office in pursuit, the camera covers the bad guys’ departure only as far as the fire escape before we fade in to another dull ITOA meeting.  (You never learn if they made it back to their lair or not.  For all we know, they could still be trapped on the fire escape.)

But you have been with this serial long enough to know that each week, Hal explains to the other four members—Armstrong (Pierce Lyden), Crandall (Arthur Space), Thompson (Mauritz Hugo) and Willard (George Meeker)—that he’s painfully inept in bringing not only Regan and Cady to justice but their boss, the mysterious individual known only as…The Voice.  This is because unbeknownst to our hero, one of the four is that no-goodnik, incognito…we just don’t know who.

HAL: So I was able to save the reward money…but the shipment of electronic instruments was completely destroyed…
WILLARD: That certainly won’t help our reputation with the government…why, they’ll be afraid to use our trucks after this!

To be honest, I’m puzzled as to why they still keep any of you on the payroll…unless some Senator has recently been receiving hefty contributions to his re-election campaign.

WILLARD: Especially with that uranium!
HAL: Well, not necessarily…they still want you to go on moving critical supplies to the national stockpile—but they’re imposing certain conditions…so from now on, all government shipping orders will be given to me…and I’ll hand them out, one at a time, to your different companies at the last minute…

“So let the sucking up to me commence!”

ARMSTRONG: Just how much business are we going to get?
HAL: Well, I can’t give you any details…but there’s a considerable amount of refined uranium to be moved to the central stockpile…as the consignments are ready, I’ll hand out shipping orders to each of you…
CRANDALL: Well, that sounds perfectly reasonable…

“Aw, bite us, Crandall,” the others are probably thinking…though Thompson isn’t shy about his opinion, saying “Well…we’d better get plenty of business to pay for being treated like this.”  The action then shifts to the Metz Building—where inside, The Voice brings his goons up to speed on the fact that Hal will now be calling the shots with regards to the shipments.

VOICE: So the only shipping orders I will be able to see are the ones issued to my own company…and if we should take any of those cargos, I would immediately be under suspicion…but I must have a supply of uranium for my foreign customer!
REGAN: Is there any chance of getting those schedules from Duncan?
VOICE: Possibly…if we did, he’d just order them cancelled…unless we had some other hold on him…
REGAN: What do you mean?
VOICE: Miss Roberts, the Association’s secretary, is our best chance…if we were holding her prisoner—I believe Duncan would do anything we asked…

I doubt that very much.  Secretaries are a dime a dozen, and Hal has a pocket full of dimes.  But since that’s going to be this week’s plot, let’s run with it.

REGAN: How do we work it?
VOICE: She doesn’t leave the office until dark…so get there just before six…

Jeebus, she sure has to work late.  If activity at the ITOA is virtually at a standstill, what the hell is she doing there all that time—playing Minesweeper?  The scene fades to Kay’s tidying up of the office just as she’s preparing to go home to her lonely single gal existence, where she’ll dine on Stouffer’s Mac-and-Cheese and then later design outfits for her cats.  Salvation arrives in the form of Regan and Cady, who burst into the office like they own the joint.

REGAN: Now just take it easy, Miss Roberts…and you won’t get hurt…where are those government shipping schedules?

“If they were up your ass, you’d know…”

KAY: Why—I don’t know…Mr. Duncan has charge of them and I don’t know what he does with them…
REGAN: Oh?  Well, we’re gonna take a look around and you’re gonna help us!

“Goody!  I’ve always dreamed of trashing my own office!”  As The Voice’s hired help gives the ITOA a going-over, the action switches to Hal and Sam, who are en route to the office after a long day of…well, whatever the hell it is they do.

HAL: We better get to the office…I want to pick up my mail before Kay leaves…
SAM: Suits me…

“Hey—it’s a good thing she works a dead-end job with so little hope for advancement…huh, pal?  Otherwise you’d have to wait until tomorrow on your mail!”  A dissolve finds us back in the office, with Cady keeping an eye on Kay as Regan looks through paper in her desk.

REGAN (throwing down the papers): Where else can we look?
KAY: I tell you I don’t know—maybe Mr. Duncan has them with him…
REGAN: Okay, let’s go… (As he heads towards the door, he grabs Kay’s arm) We’re gonna keep you with us until someone gives us those schedules!

As Hal and Sam pull in, the two men notice Regan and Cady shoving Kay into their sedan.  “It’s Regan and Cady…they’ve got Kay!” exclaims Sam, drawing his weapon and getting ready to fire out the passenger window.

Hal holds him off.  “No—you might hit her,” he tells his partner.  (“Maybe not…maybe I’ve been practicin’…”)  Duncan decides to let the two men drive off, and he and Sam will trail them with their car.

The car chase begins with another dissolve, and as Regan motors down a familiar stretch of highway Cady gets a look behind them.  “Hey—it looks like somebody’s trailing us,” Cady observes.  “You better step on it!”

At one point during the chase, it looks as if Kay tries to lunge for Cady’s gun…but after a brief tussle he knocks her unconscious.  This amused me because in this screen cap…

…it looks like Kay just decided to take a nap during a long trip.  (“Kay?  Honey?  Put your shoes on…we’re at Grandma’s…”) “Here goes,” declares Hal in the other car.  “I’ve gotta crowd ‘em off the road without a smash-up.”

“Who’s pushin’ who off the road?” cracks Sam the Smartass.  Duncan’s second attempt also ends in failure…he and Sam wind up stuck in a ditch with their back wheels spinning.

Back at the ITOA…

SAM: Any news?
HAL: Yes…I just got this ransom letter…”If you wish to see Miss Roberts again, bring duplicates of the uranium shipping schedules to Apartment 27, 954 Clayton Street…say nothing to anyone until we have time to get the uranium…then Miss Roberts will be released…”
SAM: So we give ‘em all the dope and then sit back and wait for ‘em to hijack all the stuff?

“No—we let them keep Kay.  I’m sure she’ll understand, seeing as this is national security and all that nonsense.  But I’ll need you to put an ad in the classifieds.”

HAL: Yeah…and then trust them to turn Kay loose…
SAM: So are you gonna do it?
HAL: Not quite…I’ll take the papers to them…and then we’ll try a trick of own, too…

Oh, Dunky…you clever little sod, you!  As is so often the case in serials, Hal will give Sam the details along the way…so a dissolve finds our heroes pulling up at the address in the letter.  Fortunately for what will eventually take place, the villains’ car is also parked directly outside the apartment building.

SAM: That’s their car…
HAL: It sure is…I’ll go on in and see what gives…you do your stuff and then get out of sight…
SAM: Okay…

Hal enters the building, and there’s a cut to Regan inside the apartment—fortifying himself with a slug of Scotch.  Hal knocks on the door and Regan walks over to answer it, gun at the ready.  (“Helllooo…Duncan…”)

REGAN: Anybody with ya?
HAL: No… (Regan shuts the door, then turns to Hal) Where’s Miss Roberts?
REGAN: We’ll talk about her later
HAL (after a pause): All right…what’s the proposition?
REGAN: Gimme those shipping schedules now…if they’re okay, and nobody bothers us…Miss Roberts will be turned loose as soon as we get the uranium…
HAL: That’s what you say…

Oooh, Regan!  Ya burnt!  “You better believe me,” replies Regan, “if you ever want to see that girl again.”  Hal drops his pathetic tough guy bluff and admits defeat, as he pulls the schedules out of his vest pocket.

Regan grabs the schedules greedily and puts them in his own pocket.  “You stay here till I get away,” he warns Duncan.  “And don’t get any ideas about following me.”

But Hal is already several chess moves ahead of Regan.  For as Regan leaves the building and gets into his badass sedan, Sam watches him, concealed in the bushes.  It would appear Sam left Regan a little surprise in his radiator…

HAL: Looks like it worked, all right…
SAM: Yeah…I put the calcimine in the radiator, and opened the pep cock a little…he’ll be easy to track till he runs out of water…
HAL: Let’s get going!

So with Regan leaving a trail of whitewash like Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs, our heroes have no difficulties following Regan’s ride to the hideout where Cady is keeping Kay under wraps.  Regan eventually stops at a familiar-looking farmhouse, and upon getting out notices his radiator is about to blow over.

CADY: Howdja make out?
REGAN: Okay…I got the schedules all right, nobody tried to follow me here…but my radiator’s boiled dry—fill it up for me, will ya?

I guess Cady is the mechanic out of the outfit.  The henchman leaves to do the other henchman’s bidding as Regan pores through the uranium schedules.  In the distance, Hal and Sam pull up in their auto far enough to keep from being detected.  “We’d better leave the car here,” intones Hal to his chum.  (Well, where the hell else would you leave it?)

As Hal and Sam inch slowly toward the farmhouse, they observe Cady tending to the dry radiator.  “Hey,” Sam nudges his pal, “he’s liable to see that stuff in the radiator.”

“If he does, he’ll be expecting us,” Hal assures Sam.  “Let’s circle around and try the back door…”  Sure enough, the sharp-eyed Cody notices that there’s been some whitewash deviltry afoot…and rushes back to report to Regan.

CADY: Say…somebody put whitewash in your radiator, then opened the pep cock…probably figured to trail you here…
REGAN: Watch that door—I’ll put a gag on the girl…

Not so fast, my greasy friend!  Hal and Sam enter the barn through the back entrance!  “Hold it!” Duncan warns.  “Drop that gun!”  As the two of them come closer, Regan grabs Kay (with gag in mouth) and places his pistola to her temple.  “Now drop your guns!”

Regan orders Cady to rustle up some rope, then begins to gloat as only Dick Curtis can.  “Well, Mr. Duncan—you’ve outsmarted yourself this time,” jeers Gloaty McGloat.  “You two are gonna live just long enough for me to make certain that these schedules aren’t phonies!”

If you’re thinking—“Hey…we’ve almost gone through this entire chapter without a Republic fistfight©”—I will not disappoint you.

"Saracen pig!"

"Spartan dog!"

As the four men continue to roughhouse, Kay remains tied up on the sidelines.  “Mmm-mph!” she says, which translated means “Kick his ass, Hal!” 

Predictably, Sam is of little help.
As the fight nears its conclusion, Cady throws a pickax blade at Hal and it winds up lodged in one of the barnstall walls…and echoing a similar scene in The Adventures of Frank and Jesse James, Hal is thrown into that very wall and onto the blade!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Guest Review: John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy – Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) and Rio Grande (1950)

By Philip Schweier

With the recent passing of classic film icon Shirley Temple, I got to thinking about any of her films I may have seen, but only one came to mind: Fort Apache (1948), in which she co-starred with Henry Fonda and John Wayne under the direction of John Ford.

It was the first entry into what has been referred to as John Ford’s “Cavalry Trilogy,” all centering on the same theme of the army out West. Though I’d come across passing mentions of the trilogy, I’ve never taken the opportunity to sit and examine the three films together.

Join me… won’t you?

John Ford’s Westerns often feature the sweeping vistas of Monument Valley, as well as various members of the legendary “John Ford Stock Company”: John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Victor McLaglen, Ward Bond and Harry Carey Jr., among others. The Cavalry Trilogy is no exception, beginning with Fort Apache.

Loosely based on Custer’s infamous “Last Stand,” Henry Fonda plays Lt. Col. Owen Thursday, a career officer now posted to Fort Apache, an assignment he obviously sees as woefully beneath him. But like a good soldier, he follows orders. Joining him in the transfer is his teenage daughter Philadelphia (Shirley Temple), fresh from a finishing school in Europe. She doesn’t mind the assignment to way out West; she’s just happy to be with her father.

At the stagecoach’s last stop, 35 miles from the fort, they encounter a young Lt. Michael O’Rourke (John Agar in his film debut; he and Temple were married at the time). Soon afterward, a handful of soldiers arrive to pick him up. It’s clear from the greeting that they are old family friends, played by Pedro Armendariz, Victor McLaglen and Jack Pennick. Thursday is dismayed that they haven’t been sent for him.

Arriving at the fort, Thursday is further disappointed that the party being held is not for him, but instead in honor of Washington’s Birthday. So he is informed by Capt. Kirby York. Meanwhile, young Lt. O’Rourke, fresh from West Point, is reunited with his father, Sgt. O’Rourke, played by Ward Bond in what is perhaps the most sedate family reunion ever captured on film.

I chalk it up to the overall “Irishness” of the film. Being a descendant of the Old Sod meself, I have the greatest respect for their contributions to the growth of these United States. And I’m well aware of director John Ford’s fondness for his heritage, but watching this film, one might come to believe the West was tamed largely by Sons of Erin, while others, like Lt. Col. Owen Thursday, fell victim to a combination of their own egos and Indian arrows.

Lt. O’Rourke and Philadelphia soon strike up a budding romance, until an early morning ride amidst concerns over Indian attacks requires the colonel put an end to it. At best, he tolerates the young lieutenant, mainly because he’s the only one to adhere to military decorum despite their remote posting. Most of his other officers and NCOs are much more relaxed.

When news arrives of Cochise being on the warpath, Capt. York (Wayne) and Sgt. Beaufort (Armendariz) are dispatched to seek him out in the hopes of convincing him to return peacefully to the reservation. They manage to do so, and learn the source of Cochise’s grievance is a corrupt Indian agent named Meacham (Grant Withers). Cochise and his band seem willing to discuss terms, which include Meacham’s removal.

However, Col. Thursday has other plans. With Cochise’s guard down, Thursday is all too willing take advantage of the opening to run the Indian’s to ground. York urges him not to, and is ordered to hang back with his men while the colonel and his loyal – soon to be dead – officers engage the enemy. The volume of Indians that overrun Thursday and his command is insurmountable, and York is forced to observe the massacre as it happens.

The film’s coda takes place a few years later, as reporters interview the now-Lt. Col. Kirby York regarding his heroic commander. As with a later John Wayne film, he is content to let them print the legend. Philadelphia is now married to Captain O’Rourke, though at this point in the film, Shirley Temple’s appearance seems superfluous. Her character had lost its purpose once the focus shifted to the battle between the Indians and the cavalry.

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) takes its title from the tradition of women wearing yellow ribbons in their hair to signifying their beaus being in the cavalry, as indicated in song throughout the film. The female lead, Joanne Dru, does so, but it regularly remains a question as to whom the yellow ribbon is for.

The story begins with the news of Custer’s Last Stand, or by loose association, that of Col. Thursday in Fort Apache. Everyone is anticipating a renewed Indian war, and at Fort Stark, Capt. Nathan Brittles (John Wayne) is less than a week from retirement when he is ordered out on patrol.

Sent along with him are the wife and daughter (Mildred Natwick and Joanne Dru) of the fort’s commander. Brittles assignment is to see them safely to the stagecoach station for passage east and out of harm’s way. Complicating matters are two squabbling lieutenants, Cohill and Pennell (John Agar and Harry Carey Jr.), both interested in the major’s daughter.

Ben Johnson plays Tyree, an army scout who warns the troops of the movements of the collecting Indian nations. Tyree also keeps Brittles apprised of the actions of Rynders, an Indian agent who is providing guns and ammunition to the Indians.

Brittles’ mission, which comprises much of the center of the film, ends in failure. He is forced to leave a small company under the command of Lt. Cohill behind to cover the retreat of the rest of the expedition. Returning to the fort, Brittles has one day left before his retirement. Unable to allow his final mission to end badly, he rejoins Pennell on his way to collect Cohill.

The three men lead the cavalry to rout the Indian forces in typical John Wayne fashion. Joining Wayne in the production is Victor MacLaglen as his sergeant, Quincannon. While both MacLaglen and Johnson will play characters with the same names in the follow-up, Rio Grande, it should be noted that they may or may not the same characters. I found it helpful for my own sense of continuity to watch the three films out of order, but your mileage may vary.

Rio Grande (1950) is more of a direct sequel to Fort Apache, focusing on Wayne’s character, Lt. Col. Kirby Yorke. He is now posted to the Texas frontier, frustrated by constant skirmishes with Apaches who are quick to flee across the Rio Grande beyond his reach.

Further complicating Yorke’s command is the arrival of his son Jefferson (Claude Jarman Jr.). Having just flunked out of West Point, the young man has enlisted, and by chance has been posted under his father’s command. Neither has laid eyes on the other for 15 years, and both are determined not to allow their family relation to influence their roles as soldiers. Trooper Yorke is befriended by two other recruits, Tyree (Ben Johnson) and Boone (Harry Carey Jr.).

As if this isn’t trouble enough, the estranged Mrs. Yorke arrives (Maureen O’Hara), determined to buy her son’s discharge and return with him to Virginia. Her reunion with her son has overtones of “Let me kiss it and make it better,” but to his credit, he is committed to his service.

Meanwhile, Tyree is accused of manslaughter, stemming from an incident involving an insult to his sister. He manages to escape the stockade, stealing the colonel’s horse in the process.

As Col. and Mrs. Yorke begin to renew their marriage while at the same time sparring over their son’s future, the colonel is handed a tough assignment. Gen. Sheridan (J. Carrol Naish) tasks him with crossing the Rio Grande – effectively invading Mexico – in pursuit of the Apaches, to run them down once and for all.

Tyree comes upon Col. Yorke’s troops as they head into Mexico. But the Apaches they’re in search of have captured a wagonload of children headed to the safety of Fort Bliss. Tyree has already reconnoitered the Indians’ camp, where the children are being held in an old church. He convinces Col. York a small group of men will have a better chance of rescuing them than a full-scale assault. He asks for two volunteers: troopers Boone and Yorke.

At the church, they manage to free the children, where one loud-mouth, Margaret Mary (Karolyn Grimes, best remembered as Zuzu in It’s a Wonderful Life) signals for Col. Yorke’s attack by ringing the church bell (“Get me. I’m giving out wings!”). Col Yorke is wounded in the battle, and following his recovery he witnesses the award ceremony as his son receives a commendation for his service.

This was the first of five films featuring the on-screen couple of Wayne and O’Hara. Their next project was The Quiet Man (1952), also directed by Ford. Legend has it that Republic convinced Ford to make Rio Grande to make up the money it expected to lose producing The Quiet Man, only for the latter film to become a box office hit.

Modern audiences might find the three films uneven, due to the fact they don’t form one cohesive story. But it should be remembered they were never intended as such.  All three portions of the Cavalry Trilogy were based on stories by James Warner Bellah, who would later write the screenplay for the previously-referenced The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962). The characters he crafted were often tough, heroic but often flawed; well-suited for John Wayne to flesh out on screen, especially under the master direction of John Ford.