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CLASSIC FLICK PICKS: Pre-code naughtiness, Chuck Jones animation, vintage sci-fi, more
March 23, 2009  | By Diane Werts

This week's movie treats range from raunchy pre-code Hollywood all the way to late-century Steve Martin.

the purchase price poster.jpgFirst up: More racy "forbidden Hollywood" Monday night, in pre-code movies directed by William "Wild Bill" Wellman (all night Monday starting at 8 p.m. ET, Turner Classic Movies)

-- Wild Boys of the Road and Other Men's Women lead off a lineup of six seedy Wellman features from the early '30s. Wild Boys (8 p.m. ET) stars Frankie Darro among its Depression-era gang-ers, while 1931's Other Men's Women (9:15 p.m. ET) is one of the handful of films featuring James Cagney prior to his "overnight" stardom in The Public Enemy (also forcefully directed by Wellman). The rest of the lineup, all made 1932-33: The Purchase Price (11:30 p.m. ET) with Barbara Stanwyck, pre-Baby Face; Frisco Jenny (12:45 a.m. ET), with Ruth Chatterton and Louis Calhern; Heroes for Sale (2 a.m. ET), a drug tale with Richard Barthelmess; and Midnight Mary (3:15 p.m. ET), with Loretta Young and Richard Cortez. There's also the immensely entertaining Wellman portrait from The Men Who Made the Movies(11:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. ET), evoking all the director's hell-raising glory in a late-life interview spiced with vintage clips.

chuck jones.jpgChuck Jones: Memories of Childhood (Tuesday at 8 and 10:30 p.m. ET, TCM) -- In a lively new half-hour featuring original animation, the late cartoon king recalls how influences from his early years inspired his legendary classics. Which then unspool in all their one-reel glory -- nine Warner Bros. gems and two MGM cartoons, along with his 1969 feature The Phantom Tollbooth (11 p.m. and 3 a.m. ET). Among the seven-minute gems: Duck Amuck (9:30 p.m. ET), One Froggy Evening (9:40 p.m. ET) and What's Opera Doc? (9:50 p.m. ET, all on TCM). The entire lineup repeats starting at 10:30 p.m. ET.

Day Earth Stood Still.jpgThe Day the Earth Stood Still (Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. ET, Fox Movie Channel) -- Forget that horrible Keanu Reeves remake. Enjoy 1951's spellbinding black-and-white original starring Michael Rennie as the wise alien trying to snap the people of Earth out of their aggression with warnings that the rest of the universe will put a stop to it. Patricia Neal and Father Knows Best kid Billy Gray play his human pals. Klaatu barada nikto!

Steve Martin sextet (Thursday starting at 3:10 p.m. ET, Encore)
-- Hollywood has never quite known what to do with this comedian's exuberance. But you can watch directors try to figure it out in a six-film marathon. The movies: 1983's The Man With Two Brains (3:10 p.m. ET), a horror spoof written by Martin, directed by Carl Reiner and costarring Kathleen Turner; 1984's The Lonely Guy (4:45 p.m. ET), with Charles Grodin; his 1996 remake of TV's beloved Sgt. Bilko (6:20 p.m. ET), featuring former Saturday Night Live playmates Dan Aykroyd and Phil Hartman; 1991's smash Father of the Bride (8 p.m. ET) and its 1995 sequel Father of the Bride II (9:50 p.m. ET); and 1991's romantic L.A. Story (11:40 p.m. ET), which Martin wrote for himself and then-wife Victoria Tennant, also giving former kid star Sarah Jessica Parker an early adult role.

young-frankenstein wilder.jpgGene Wilder double feature (Thursday starting at 6 p.m. ET, FMC) -- The mid-'70s saw Wilder hitting his stride as both a writer and a star -- and a film fan. Young Frankenstein (8 p.m. ET), co-written with director Mel Brooks, still stands as a horror appreciation above all others, lampooning those old black-and-white spooky castle cliches, while giving comic room to roam to Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Peter Boyle, Teri Garr and Cloris Leachman. Silver Streak(6 and 10 p.m. ET) provided the propitious initial on-screen pairing of Wilder and Richard Pryor, in a comedy-mystery aboard a cross-country train.

Things to come poster.jpgThings to Come (Thursday at 10 p.m., TCM) -- H.G. Wells adapted his own science-fiction novel into this 1936 saga of a war-torn world bombing itself into oblivion before forging a more technologically advanced future. Lavishly produced in Britain's Korda Brothers factory (and shown here as part of TCM's monthlong Kordas salute), it's a visual stunner. The futuristic production design evokes Metropolis while creating its own remarkable milieu.

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