Sunday, March 09, 2008

On TCM: Three for Tuesday

I hate it when Daylight Savings Time begins and ends. Exactly enough time elapses for me to forget how to reset those clocks in the house that don't make the change automatically, so I spend a few fretful minutes trying to figure things out.

But at least the calendar stays the same, and I can report that there are a few noteworthy films on Turner Classic Movies in the next day or two. There's always something good on TCM (which is where I leave our dial, though the wife inevitably switches over to one of those home and hearth channels at some point of the day) but there's a clutch of good programming on Monday-Wednesday, and all the better for me not having seen that much of it. Discoveries await.

Monday night brings a night of Shakespeare, including Orson Welles' curious 1948 Macbeth (8pm EST), which I'll take another stab at. More fitfully bizarre than fully realized, I'll tune in, the Broadway-bound Patrick Stewart version having stoked my interest. (Roman Polanski's 1971 film still leads the pack.) Lora's all-time favorite movie, 1968's Romeo and Juliet, is on the bill, but that's already on our shelf. I'm looking forward to catching Peter Brook's King Lear (1971), starring that man for all seasons, Paul Scofield (3:30am Mon/Tues).

I can enthusiastically recommend Tuesday morning's airing (11am) of Jean Negulesco's Three Strangers (1946), the best of the six Warner Bros. films to pair Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet. (There were ten, actually, but the first, The Maltese Falcon, is in a class by itself, they had no scenes together in the second, Casablanca, and two others, In This Our Life and Hollywood Canteen, were cameos.) Co-adapter John Huston based the script on his own short story, from his own misadventure with a Burmese statue; in the film, the fates, financial and otherwise, of Greenstreet, Lorre, and Geraldine Fitzgerald (pictured) are bound up with the likeness of a Chinese god in London. The off-center scenario and one of Fitzgerald's best, witchy parts as a most desperate housewife complement the peerless teaming of the two great character actors. I don't think of any of their noir-ish mysteries are available on DVD; a smashing idea for WB's box set unit, along with a retrospective documentary, I think.

Two other journeys into the unknown are up next, in late night Tues/Wed slots as part of a night on the analyst's couch. Robert Rossen's Lilith (1964) ended the career of the filmmaker behind All the King's Men and The Hustler on a strange, symbolist note; a flop, it was star Jean Seberg's favorite film, and surely the most interesting credit for Warren Beatty between Splendor in the Grass and All Fall Down and his career-changing headlining of Bonnie and Clyde three years later. Peter Fonda and Gene Hackman have early roles besides. It airs 12:30am.

1963's Maniac (4:15am) is that rare Hammer horror I haven't seen. Its late star, movie Sinbad Kerwin Matthews, is said to do the twist. As SCTV 's Count Floyd would say, "Ooh, scary, kids."

Wednesday night (6pm) brings Samuel Fuller's typically hard-hitting Underworld U.S.A., with Cliff Robertson throwing the punches. And, bringing us back to Broadway at 10pm, is the 1965 farce Boeing Boeing, with Tony Curtis and Jerry Lewis. It's being revived this spring with England's Mark Rylance, clearly stretching. Thank goodness the programming grid on my cable setup does all the time-shift figuring for me, though I noticed that the TCM schedule failed to "spring ahead" today. So I wasn't the only one...


Cheryl said...

Nice post! "Three Strangers" is one of my favorite Lorre & Greenstreet films, too.

But -- they made only 9 movies, not 10. "In This Our Life" is not in their filmography. Their "appearance" in the Roadhouse sequence is a rumor that got started some 30 years ago in the book "The Films of Bette Davis" and has been passed around in other books and then on the internet ever since. TCM runs the film often; next time it airs, take a look at the scene. You will not find Peter Lorre, or Sydney Greenstreet, or Humphrey Bogart, or Mary Astor -- all of whom are supposedly playing cards in the scene. (Nobody is playing cards. Some half-dozen guys who look like they came from Central Casting are standing at the bar, trying to listen to a sports program on the radio, which they can't hear above the jukebox Bette Davis keeps playing.)

Lenny Moore said...

Thanks for the heads up on THREE STRANGERS, Bob. It's a film I've long been interested in seeing.

Robert Cashill said...

Lenny, it's always nice to find other Lorre/Greenstreet fans, and/or convert others to the cause.

Cheryl, thanks much for that info. I've seen the film, and may have imagined their appearance therein, based on a still photo that I know I've seen. (Right?) What I do know, for sure, is that Three Strangers is worth checking out.

Cheryl said...

You're welcome, Robert! I heard a rumor (on the internet) earlier this year that Warner Bros. does intend to release a "Lorre & Greenstreet" box-set some time this year. That's all I know, though; we'll just have to keep watching for a press release on it. Meanwhile, you might be interested in this book: "The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre", by Stephen Youngkin, which has a section on Sydney Greenstreet and his working relationship with Peter.

Robert Cashill said...

I must read the Youngkin book. A Lorre/Greenstreet box seems like a natural. Did they get along?

Cheryl said...

Yes, they did. They didn't socialize much off-set, but they enjoyed working together very much. Sydney did find Peter a little frustrating at times, because Peter loved to ad-lib while filming. Go here -- -- to find more information about "The Lost One". The Photo section has some stills of Peter and Sydney on-set.