The Many Faces of Scarlett O’Hara

goneopenerOn Sunday, September 28, and Wednesday, October 1, a remastered version of Gone With the Wind will be exhibited in select theaters across the country in a special screening presented by Fathom Events, Turner Classic Movies, and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. There are two showings each day, 2:00 pm and 7:00 pm. The occasion honors the 75th anniversary of Hollywood’s most famous movie—an icon of the Dream Factory, a monument to the production values of the studio system. Check here to see if GWTW is playing near you.

Much has been made of the behind-the-scenes struggles that defined GWTW’s production, which were revealed in the 1988 documentary Making of a Legend: Gone With the Wind. Subsequent books have expounded on the problems surrounding the beleaguered production, detailing everything from the headaches over the multiple versions of the script to the mammoth search for an actress to play Scarlett. I sometimes think that the lore surrounding the film has overshadowed the magnificence of Scarlett O’Hara. Or, perhaps aspects of Scarlett are just not politically correct by today’s standards, so it is easier to focus on the behind-the-scenes casting than the on-screen character. As a screen heroine, Scarlett has been admired, applauded, condemned, ridiculed, and reclaimed for new generations of viewers. The word “icon” is tossed around too often as a synonym for fame or legend, but Scarlett truly is an icon of pop culture—a symbol who has evolved and developed over time to represent something more than just a character in a book and movie.

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TO SOME, SCARLETT REPRESENTS THE PLANTATION SOUTH AND ITS SYSTEMIC RACIAL SUPERIORITY.

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PARDON THE INTERRUPTION

No doubt many of you noticed the Movie Morlocks blog was unavailable yesterday. We know how much you love to catch up on your Morlocks reading over the weekend and apologize for the inconvenience. Things will soon be back on track, as Susan Doll will post this evening and Pablo Kjolseth will jump back in for his next scheduled post on October 5.

Thanks for your understanding and we hope you continue to enjoy the work of the Morlocks.

–Your friends at TCM

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September 20, 2014
David Kalat
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The Horn Blows at Midnight Blows, or Does It?

This morning (Saturday the 20th) TCM is running the notorious flop The Horn Blows at Midnight. Chances are by the time you read you’ll either have already seen it or already missed it, and nothing I can say here will retroactively change that. But I’m going to yammer on about it for a few paragraphs because that’s what I do.

Regular readers of this blog know that “notorious flops” are always ripe for redemptive reappraisals. I’ve personally come out swinging on behalf of the likes of Popeye and Neighbors, my fellow Morlocks have defended the honor of Ishtar and Heaven’s Gate (not posted here, but by Greg Ferrara nonetheless.  Go on click the link, you know you want to.)

But The Horn Blows at Midnight offers a special sort of edge case for this sort of approach, as we shall see.

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KEYWORDS: Jack Benny, Raoul Wa, The Horn Blows at Midnight
COMMENTS: 4
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The rules of the meme

15

I’ve been tagged on Facebook by several friends to participate in that “15 Movies That Stuck With Me” meme but I haven’t yet jumped in. Clever Me (as opposed to Regular Me) has made the executive decision not to play the game on Facebook but to do it here and call it work. And so, without any further ado, I present my list of “15 Movies That Have Stuck With Me.”

THE RULES: List 15 movies you’ve seen that will always stick with you. Don’t think about it too long. Spend no more than 15 minutes.  List the first films that you can recall.

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Gordon Parks: Filmmaker, Photographer & Renaissance Man

gparks00“Something mighty there is inside a man that takes him from being the youngest of 15 children raised in Kansas poverty, something that lets him clear the cruel hurdles implanted by a racist society, something that permits not merely survival but mastery of all that he embraced. A poet, and a pianist, a classical music composer, and one very at home with the blues, which permitted him to make the fine biopic called LEADBELLY (1976), a nice partner to his ceaselessly hip SHAFT (1971), and a journalist, a novelist and a man with enough life that even three autobiographies cannot contain the whole, a painter of oils and water colors, and a photographer of street gangs and Paris boulevards, of fashion extravaganzas and mean Rio streets, and, most of all, a man who will not yield to intimidation . . . It is not simply that he was the first black man to do all these things, but that any man was able to do all these things and do them well.” – John Loengard on Gordon Parks from The Great LIFE Photographers (2004)

Tonight TCM is offering up a very special selection of films directed by Gordon Parks and his son, Gordon Parks Jr. for your viewing pleasure. The films include THE LEARNING TREE (1969), THOMASINE AND BUSHROD (1974), AARON LOVES ANGELA (1975) and SHAFT (1971) along with a making of documentary, SOUL IN CINEMA: FILMING SHAFT ON LOCATION (1971). As LIFE magazine photo editor John Loengard makes clear in his brief biological sketch of Parks that I shared above, Parks Sr. is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and multitalented men who ever sat behind a camera and directed a film. He lived a fascinating life and dabbled in many arts but today he’s probably best remembered for the Oscar wining action-packed crime drama SHAFT. This Blaxploitation classic is one of my favorite films from the 70s and besides its entertainment value, SHAFT is a wonderful showcase for many of the themes, ideas and passions that motivated Parks throughout his career as an award-winning photographer for organizations such as FSA (Farm Security Organization), the OWI (Office of War Information), the Standard Oil Photography Project as well as publications such as Vogue magazine, Essence magazine and LIFE.

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Discovering John Huston

Earlier today, TCM ran The Asphalt Jungle, the great 1950 noir starring Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen, and an early career making role for Marilyn Monroe.  The movie was directed by John Huston, one of the first directors whose career I chose to discover.  That is, once a became a full-fledged movie fanatic, certain directors (Orson Welles, David Lean, Federico Fellini) took up a special place in my heart and I decided to see as many of their movies as possible.  When I did that with Mr. Huston, the results were spotty at best, eternally frustrating at worst.  To this day, John Huston has one of the most indefinable directorial careers out there.  For someone seeking out consistency, it was a journey frought with peril.

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Death’s Design: Final Destination (2000)

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John Waters wishes he directed Final Destination. At the recently completed John Waters retrospective at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, there was a sidebar of films Waters was “Jealous I Didn’t Make”. One of them was Final Destination, the 2000 horror film about five teens who cheat death – for which Death itself wants bloody recompense. It spawned four sequels (the most recent was Final Destination 5, released in 2011), having created the ideal  machinery for the mid-budget franchise. The main character was non-corporeal, with Death’s presence represented as a light breeze or a trickle of water, so there was no worry of escalating salary demands. Then they could replace each iteration of the cast with unknowns, as Death plucked them off one by one in “accidents” of savage everydayness (a slip in the bathtub, a mug springing a leak). In his introduction to the screening (in blessed 35mm), Waters reminisced about his time in Baltimore grindhouses, bonding with the brood of rats that scrambled under his feet while marvelling at the depravity on-screen. He considered Final Destination worthy of that heritage, a resourceful exploitation film with shades of Ingmar Bergman. These are teenagers who are grappling with their morality for ninety-eight minutes, though on the genre level. So instead of playing chess with Death, they try to outsmart it as various pointy things hurtle towards their fleshy areas. Waters repeatedly stated that he was not being ironic, that the film is not camp, but a well-crafted fright film. I agree with the distinguished Mr. Waters.

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In the Aftermath of Errol Flynn

flynnklineRecently, 57-year-old actor Stephen Bauer was photographed with his new girlfriend, 18-year-old aspiring journalist Lyda Loudon. The paparazzi pounced on the couple as they emerged from a restaurant. Afterward, the media mentioned their age difference in every paragraph of the stories about their May-December romance as a way to hint that their relationship must be aberrant or deviant. I briefly thought of Bauer and Loudon as I watched The Last of Robin Hood, an indie film about Errol Flynn’s end-of-life romance with teenager Beverly Aadland. Apparently, the press treated Aadland with the same combination of sensationalism and disdain.

Kevin Kline, who looks and sounds like Flynn, offers a believable interpretation of the debauched movie star. Flynn was only 50 when he died, but after a lifetime of “living every day like it was my last” (as he says in the movie), he looked decades older. The film begins when Flynn meets 15-year-old Beverly on the Warner Bros. lot, where she is in the chorus of the Gene Kelly film Marjorie Morningstar. Flynn sends costume designer Orry-Kelly to bring her to his office/dressing room, where he proceeds to offer her an audition for a non-existent part. He seduces the teenager, robbing her of her virginity. Flynn continues to pursue young Beverly, who looks and acts older than an adolescent, and the two become seriously involved. After he learns Beverly’s actual age, he beguiles her mother into accompanying them when they are out on the town in order to create the illusion that he is actually fostering Aadland’s career.

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SARANDON AS FLORENCE AADLAND

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Rousing Rivalries

Today TCM airs two movies, The Old Maid and Old Acquaintance, both starring Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins, about rivals in life and love.   Of course, Bette Davis made another movie about a rivalry that’s a little more familiar to people, and we’ll get to that in a second, but first let me just state how much I love a good rivalry on film.   Sometimes people confuse a nemesis for a rival and while a nemesis isn’t necessarily a rival, a rival is often a nemesis.  True rivals; two or more people pursuing the same goal, prize, lover, etc.; can be competing benevolently or downright maliciously.  Below are some of my personal favorites through the years.

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September 13, 2014
David Kalat
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Jean and Clara, Bombshell and It

Coming up on Friday on TCM is a delightful pre-Code screwball comedy called Bombshell. If you haven’t seen it before, you owe it to yourself to catch up with it this time around since it is at once a zippy, aggressively paced comedy with one of early film’s most glamorous comediennes, while also being a sharp-edged and angry satire about Hollywood power dynamics and women’s sexuality. It is also an M.C. Escher-like knot of in-jokes and life-imitating-art-imitating life self-referential whorls. It is a bubbly, bitter comedy emerging from the intersection of two great comediennes, whose earthy sexuality was both their ticket to stardom and their downfall; two women whose careers were tragically destroyed before they reached the age of 30 but who managed in that short window of time to permanently etch their names and memories into pop culture posterity. You’ll be hard-pressed to identify 90 minutes of celluloid that accomplishes more than this.

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KEYWORDS: Bombshell (1933), CLara Bow, It, Jean Harlow
COMMENTS: 5
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