Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on March 19, 2013
I am a man of few principles, but when a Raoul Walsh film comes out on home video I am duty-bound to write about it. The Warner Archive has been a blessing for Walsh enthusiasts, and their latest gift is a handsomely restored DVD of his Western Cheyenne (1947). It is somewhat of a neglected film in his career, having been released in the same year as the highly regarded The Man I Love and Pursued. Then its TV syndication title was changed to The Wyoming Kid, to stop people from confusing it with the long running series Cheyenne, and it’s road to oblivion was almost complete. It’s appropriate the film had its own case of mistaken identity, since that’s what the whole plot hinges on – a twisting thicket of shifting identities, doublings and double entendres. Walsh had vocal problems with the screenplay, which veers from bawdy sex farce to a violent adventure, and only seems fully engaged with the brutally efficient open air action sequences shot in Arizona. This friction gives the film an appropriately schizophrenic feel, from frothy banter to frothingly mad violence.
Posted by medusamorlock on February 16, 2013
Those of us who can’t resist a good MGM musical are no doubt now and again thinking about the great screen dancer Vera-Ellen, a sparkling screen presence in an number of films yet someone whose memory is overwhelmed by the passage of time and a peculiar lack of the proper respect paid to her accomplishments. On the occasion today of the 92nd anniversary of her birth on February 16, 1921, and although I wrote about her once already (way back in 2007, check out the post by clicking here), and though she’s been gone for over thirty years — she passed away from cancer on August 30, 1981 at only 60 years old – it’s a perfect time to remember again this most charming and talented actress.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on February 5, 2013
On July 13th, 1934 the madcap RKO comedy We’re Rich Again was released, the sixth collaboration between director William A. Seiter and star Marian Nixon. They married soon after, and five years later they collaborated in the birth of Jessica Seiter (now Jessica Seiter Niblo), whose Movietown Baby Grows Up is a breezily entertaining memoir of her upbringing in Hollywood. Published at an Espresso Book Machine at her local bookstore, it was intended as a gift for her family, but she is also selling it through Facebook for those interested in the careers and personalities of her talented parents. Seiter Niblo has a warm conversational tone, relating her parents’ romantic foibles and career bumps as if she were flipping the pages of a family album with you over a mug of Irish coffee.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on January 24, 2013
One of the best gifts I received during the holidays was a set of books that I’ve been eager to get my hands on, Michael Karol’s ABC Movie of the Week Companion and David Deal’s Television Fright Films of the 1970’s. I grew up watching and enjoying telefilms and last year I spent a lot of time revisiting some of my favorites. Today telefilms, much like direct-to-video movies, are often looked at with disdain and are considered unworthy of critical evaluation. But they frequently featured talented actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age such as Bette Davis, Ray Milland, Myrna Loy, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Melvin Douglas, Gene Tierney and Walter Brennan and were occasionally directed by noteworthy filmmakers including Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Don Siegel, John Badham, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Curtis Harrington. These small screen films were usually made in just a few short days with very little money but the performances, writing and directing choices periodically elevated the material and many of the best telefilms are still surprisingly effective and entertaining.
Posted by medusamorlock on January 19, 2013
In honor of tomorrow’s TCM Danny Kaye 100th Birthday 24-hour celebration, here are a few of my favorite pictures of him from my collection, in no particular order. It’s great to know that there is renewed interest in this most talented of entertainers — I’m not the only one who likes him! — and I’ll bet that there will be some new fans after Sunday’s festival! Here we go…Enjoy!
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on January 1, 2013
The beginning of the New Year means it’s time to catch up with the old. For the second year running the “First Look” series at the Museum of the Moving Image (January 4 – 13) provides an invaluable showcase for undistributed international cinema. Programmers Rachael Rakes, Dennis Lim and David Schwartz pluck adventurous work from festivals around the world, tracking developments in documentary form, the Berlin School, Korean indies and the continuing vibrancy of Portuguese film culture. In a clue as to the series’ disregard of commercial impulses, the series’ opening night film is Hors Satan, the latest by the divisive arthouse provocateur Bruno Dumont. Operating as a relatively youthful version of the New York Film Festival, First Look is an attempt to clue its audiences in to the possible future of the medium.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on December 6, 2012
By now you’ve probably heard about LIZ & DICK (2012), a heavily publicized made for television movie produced by the Lifetime Network that dramatically retold the story of how Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton met, fell in love and married not once, but twice. I’m extremely fond of both Taylor and Burton and I’ve written about them frequently but I had no interest in watching LIZ & DICK myself. I made the mistake of sitting through LIZ: THE ELIZABETH TAYLOR STORY (1995) when it originally aired so the temptation to watch another TV production featuring lesser actors portraying performers I genuinely admire held no appeal for me. And if I want to relive the tabloid troubles of Taylor and Burton there are plenty of publications I can read.
Countless newspapers and magazines throughout the ‘60s and well into the ‘70s documented Taylor and Burton’s complicated relationship. The two talented actors became household names after many publications around the world devoted space to their stormy romance. Some of these accounts have been broken down and described in books but there’s something utterly raw and deeply revealing about reading these tabloid stories firsthand. If you think tabloids are bad now, think again. Thanks to television and the World Wide Web we might have more access to outlets that revel in movie-related gossip but the sensational nature of celebrity news coverage hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years.
Posted by Susan Doll on October 15, 2012
From Baby Face to The Lady Eve to Double Indemnity, Barbara Stanwyck thrived during the 1930s and 1940s as the hardscrabble, working class dame who was accustomed to staying one step ahead of men. Her throaty voice and no-nonsense delivery suited her tough-talking screen persona. During the 1950s, Stanwyck appeared in a number of westerns that exploited the aggression and independence associated with her star image. The unofficial series included Cattle Queen of Montana, The Violent Men, The Maverick Queen, Trooper Hook, and Forty Guns. Oddly, this period in Stanwyck’s career is either brushed off as a time when the aging star was trying to re-establish her position in Hollywood, or simply presented as a decline in her career. After Forty Guns was released in 1957, she did not make another film until the colorfully flamboyant Walk on the Wild Side, released in 1962. Biographies then note the resurrection of her stardom on the small screen, first as the host of The Barbara Stanwyck Show, which won her an Emmy, and then in The Big Valley. Later, she costarred in the mini-series The Thorn Birds and lent her considerable star presence to Dynasty and its spinoff, The Colbys.
Posted by Susan Doll on October 8, 2012
The careers of character actors seem to be a study in contradictions: They are unsung in their roles yet highly respected in the industry; they are unknown by name but recognizable by face. Though today’s character actors can add texture and depth to almost any movie, their numbers can’t compare to the hundreds of supporting players in the films of the 1930s through the 1950s, which was as much a Golden Age for characters actors as it was for classic movies.
Character actors from the classic era were not movie stars. They rarely played the protagonist or leading lady, and expectations of their contributions to movies differed from that of stars. They specialized in well-defined secondary roles that were suited to their physical characteristics or individual voices. Once a character actor established a specific image, viewers learned to recognize the actor’s face and then associate him or her with certain roles. Characters that seemed sketchy or slight on the written page were vividly brought to life and given distinction by the casting of the right veteran character actors. Some of these actors played within a very narrow range, essentially appearing in the same roles for decades. Others enjoyed a versatile persona that allowed for some diversity while still fulfilling viewers’ expectations for their characters.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on September 18, 2012
It was a banner weekend for Paul Andersons, as Paul Thomas Anderson and Paul W.S. Anderson topped the specialty and worldwide box office. As PTA’s vaultingly ambitious The Master has understandably dominated the cultural conversation, I wanted to create some space to discuss the ever-workmanlike W.S. One of the few directors to fully embrace 3D, creating dazzling depth effects on half the budget of most Hollywood spectaculars, he’s an endlessly resourceful stylist. Despite this, W.S. has long been one of the worst reviewed directors in the United States. One of his staunchest defenders has been New York Times film critic Dave Kehr, so I went to see Resident Evil: Retribution 3D (rated 30% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) with him at the Regal Union Square in Manhattan. Afterward we sat down and had an informal chat about Paul W.S. Anderson’s work and career. [Warning: Spoilers Ahead]
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