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Periodically, some of the channel numbers change and this happened again Wednesday 4 November. It shouldn’t be a problem, as a message usually comes on screen asking you to retune your television. Less than 24 hours after Talking Pictures TV showed Hell Drivers, media outlets were posting the news that Sir Sean Connery had passed away after a long illness – another sad loss for film fans.
PATHS OF GLORY (1957) Saturday 7 November 1.00-2.25am BBC 2
1916. Following a failed attempt to capture a German position known as “the Ant Hill”, three French soldiers are selected to be tried for cowardice – pour encourager les autres and to absolve the generals of any malfeasance. Colonel Dax (Kirk Douglas) defends them to the best of his ability at their court-martial, but a verdict of ‘not guilty’ isn’t part of the plan. This was only Stanley Kubrick’s third feature, but his mastery of mood, camera and the highly-contrasted settings of chateau and trenches is astonishing. Such was the impact of its anti-military stance it was banned from US bases, by France until 1974, and was withdrawn from the Berlin Film Festival.
ON THE TOWN (1949) Saturday 7 November 2.40-4.15pm BBC 2
Also showing Thursday evening, BBC 4 (see later notes).
PERFECT 10 (2020) Saturday 7 November 10.00-11.20pm BBC 2 P
The BBC premières continue with a quite impressive directorial debut from Eva Riley. Leigh (Frankie Box) is a teenage gymnast, struggling with bereavement, who finds some dubious support from an unknown half-brother.
I WAS MONTY’S DOUBLE (1958) Sunday 8 November 2.50-4.30pm BBC 2
Based on true events, this is the very watchable story of a minor actor, ME Clifton James, who bore a remarkable resemblance to General Montgomery, and whose impersonation of him helped conceal Allied war plans from the Germans.
THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD (2018) Sunday 8 November 10.45pm-12.20am BBC 2
If you missed it in the cinema two years ago, do watch it. Director Peter Jackson colourised, with painstaking care, footage from the First World War. It is fresh, vibrant, very moving and a remarkable tribute to the Fallen.
EL DORADO (1966) Monday 9 November 11.00am-1.45pm Film Four
Howard Hawks reworked Rio Bravo – this time with Robert Mitchum (as the drunken deputy) and James Caan co-starring with John Wayne. It isn’t quite as good, but to borrow the Duke’s phrase from Rio Bravo, you “wouldn’t want to live on the difference”.
THE LAST STAND (2013) Monday 9 November 9.00-11.10pm Film Four
Film four is running an Arnold Schwarzenegger season this week; here’s he’s the sheriff of a small town that modernisation has passed by who battles a drugs cartel. It’s predictable in the extreme, but quite well done – and there’s not a lot on this evening!
RETREAT, HELL! (1952) Tuesday 10 November 3.00-4.50pm Film Four
I wrote about cult director Joseph H Lewis a while back; his assignment here is a chronicle of the Marine withdrawal from Changjiin Reservoir during the Korean War. It’s a decent example of what he could do on a low budget. Frank Lovejoy is, as usual, a competent lead and there is a role for a young Russ Tamblyn, here billed as Rusty.
THE COCKLESHELL HEROES (1955) Tuesday 10 November 5.05-7.10pm Channel 41
José Ferrer directs and stars as Major Geoffrey Stringer who led British Marines on a daring raid of the Bordeaux docks. There’s a nice balance between the training and the raid itself and lots of familiar faces – rather like having some old friends round to reminiscence over tea.
THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES (1936) Wednesday 11 November 11.35am-1.20pm Ch 41
One of two gentle films today – here, Roland Young tries to use his powers to create a better and more peaceful society. Despite the then topicality of the government’s appeasement policy, it underperformed compared to other Alexander Korda productions. Nevertheless, all his films are worth seeking out and this is a rare opportunity – it must be at least 30 years since I last saw this one. Perhaps George Fotheringay has worked one last miracle!
HAND IN HAND (1960) Wednesday 11 November 6.55-8.30pm Talking Pictures (Channel 81)
This is Philip Leacock’s lovely little film that I referenced a while ago. Two children, a Jewish girl and a Catholic boy, become friends and through them we learn about tolerance and acceptance. Recommended by Eleanor Roosevelt, remember!
THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942) Thursday 12 November 11.30am-1.15pm Channel 41
The crime drama that made the careers of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. He’s a hitman seeking revenge and she’s the obligatory chanteuse (and promoter of the peek-a-boo hairstyle). It was adapted from Graham Greene’s A Gun for Sale.
ON THE TOWN (1949) Thursday 12 November 8.00-9.35pm BBC 4
Another of the great Hollywood musicals has three sailors (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin) on a 24-hour pass in New York. The songs (including “New York, New York”) are wonderful, the dancing (the three are joined by Ann Miller AND Vera-Allen) is energetic, but the real key to its success, is that they left the MGM backlot and filmed in the city itself.
BLANCHE FURY (1948) Friday 13 November 12.40-2.30pm Film Four
Fury was one of the last of the ripping-yarn melodramas so popular in the 1940s and by now filmed in colour. Stewart Granger is the estate manager and there is a governess (of course), entitlement issues and censor-permitted passion.
A SIMPLE FAILURE (2018) Friday 13 November 10.45pm-12.35am BBC 1 P
Single mother Stephanie (Anna Kendrick) becomes friends with PR director Emily (Blake Lively) and investigates when she disappears. So there is some crime, some mystery and some comedy; it doesn’t work all the time, but it’s diverting enough and good to watch some of the new generation of talent.
RANDOM WORDS AND RANDOM MEMORIES
DAYS OF THE WEEK
In October, I went through a year’s calendar to see if I could come up with enough films (and names) linked to each month. John Marriage suggested I do the same with days of the week, so here goes:
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