Love old or unusual movies but never know when they’re on? Here are several I recommend:
The Public Enemy (1931): See the movie that made the inimitable James Cagney a star. William Wellman’s scorching 1931 drama has lots more going for it than the famous scene in which Cagney smashes a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face. Also on hand are Jean Harlow and Joan Blondell as classic tough-talking broads. This Prohibition crime drama has a tremendous sense of gritty realism, plus one of the most shocking and disturbing endings in film history.
Turner Classic Movies, 11:45 a.m. Wednesday
Phoenix (2014): It’s always a mistake to think you’ve seen it all when it comes to Holocaust movies, because it turns out there’s always a new angle. The Oscar-winning Son of Saul proved that in 2015, and Phoenix proved it in 2014. Nina Hoss plays a Jewish death camp survivor who has been disfigured by a bullet wound to the face. She has plastic surgery to repair her face and heads out on a bizarre quest: To discover if her (non-Jewish) husband betrayed her to the Third Reich. To make things even weirder, her former husband truly believes that his wife is dead and this new woman simply looks like her … and the plot gets more complicated from there. This is a clever and surprising character study with terrific acting.
Now streaming on Amazon Prime.
First Man (2018): Director Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to his huge success La La Land didn’t exactly heat up the box office, but it’s really worth watching. It’s a quiet, beautifully made character study of a shy, retiring American hero: Neil Armstrong. The wonderful Claire Foy co-stars as Janet Armstrong. The movie shows us the heartbreak the couple endure early in their marriage, and the challenges of maintaining some sense of normalcy while working in the space program. And then when the movie gets to the rocket launch, it’s unlike any you’ve ever experienced in a movie. You hear and feel every rattle and creak of the tin can they’re hurtling to the moon in. And the sequence on the moon is simply stunning.
Now streaming on HBO GO / HBO NOW.
The Pink Panther (1964): Here’s the film that first brought us Peter Sellers’ classic Inspector Clouseau to audiences. Interestingly, the main character in this first film isn’t the Inspector, but playboy Sir Charles Lytton (David Niven), who is secretly the jewel thief known only as “The Phantom.” The “Pink Panther” is a diamond everyone is chasing, named so because of a flaw inside it that looks like a pink panther. The movie is stylish, elegant and, of course, hilarious. It not only spawned the career of Inspector Clouseau, but of a highly popular animated character, the Pink Panther himself.
Now streaming on Netflix.
Trivia Question 800: How many performers have won acting Oscars appearing in films helmed by First Man director Damien Chazelle?
Answer to Trivia Question 798: Actor Vince Edwards starred as the title doctor on television’s Ben Casey.