Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on December 29, 2011
2011 marked the 40th anniversary of Masterpiece on PBS and I couldn’t let the year pass without making note of the show’s accomplishments and sharing some highlights from their current schedule. After 40 long and impressive years Masterpiece is better than ever and if you’re not watching you’re missing some of the most thoughtful, well-written and wonderfully acted programs on television. I also happen to think that some of the shows currently airing on Masterpiece are more interesting and entertaining than anything you’ll find playing at your local multiplex.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on November 8, 2011
In one of the stranger experiments in cable television history, Showtime’s 1994 Rebel Highway series commissioned ten filmmakers to remake a 1950s exploitation movie. It was the brainchild of Lou Arkoff (the son of American International Pictures founder Samuel Z. Arkoff) and Debra Hill (producer of Halloween). They gave directors $ 1.3 million and a 12 day shooting schedule, to roughly approximate the original shooting conditions (modified for inflation). Unlike the ’50s cheapies, though, they were given final cut, and could choose their own screenwriter, editor and director of photography. This proved irresistible to the (mostly) impressive list of talents who signed on: Robert Rodriguez (Machete), John McNaughton (Wild Things), Mary Lambert (Pet Sematary), Allan Arkush (Rock ‘N’ Roll High School), Joe Dante (Gremlins), Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused), John Milius (Conan the Barbarian), William Friedkin (The Exorcist), Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat) and Uli Edel (The Baader Meinhof Complex).
All of the filmmakers, except for Rodriguez, were old enough to have lived through the era of the film they remade, engaging the aesthetics and politics of the originals in strikingly different ways, alternating between affection and parody often in the same film. Since its original airing, the series has completely disappeared from cultural memory, but Netflix Watch Instantly, that haphazard repository of moving image detritus, is now streaming every entry, and it’s well worth sampling the project’s eccentric film-historical time travel. Below, some thoughts on my favorites.
Posted by medusamorlock on October 31, 2011
I really wanted to contribute something to this Halloween blogfest, so I offer a little nonsensical coda about a movie I’m sure a lot of us have seen many times and probably enjoy. Funny + spooky has been a movie tradition forever, and nobody did it quite as well as the limber-limbed and rubber-faced actor/comedian Don Knotts in his 1966 feature film The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.
Posted by medusamorlock on August 24, 2011
As we’ve seen this past week on our Blondell Blog-a-thon, Miss Joan Blondell was a survivor. Through her long movie career she always managed to come out on top, and her image as a plucky dame was one that audiences cherished and wouldn’t forget. As her motion picture career began to slow down and she entered middle age — never a wonderful time for an actress, then as now — she was fortunate to still have some great career choices available to her. Joan returned to the stage to much acclaim in the 1950s, and also began to appear on television during the same time, picking up roles on many of the prestigious dramatic (and often live) anthologies of the TV’s early years. In the first half of the decade she delighted audiences with roles on Schlitz Playhouse (as Calamity Jane), Suspense, Lux Video Theatre (with her A Tree Grows in Brooklyn co-star James Dunn), Fireside Theatre, Shower of Stars, G.E. True Theater, Shower of Stars, Playwrights ’56, Studio One, Playhouse 90, and The United States Steel Hour. The worst part about this fertile period in Joan’s career is that it’s pretty much impossible today to actually watch any of her performances in these very early TV series. Our loss, for sure.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on August 18, 2011
During the month of August TCM highlights the work of a select group of talented performers as part of their annual Summer Under the Stars festival. The Movie Morlocks were asked to select one overlooked star from the Summer Under the Stars line-up to spotlight during a weeklong celebration of their work. Last year the Morlocks highlighted the accomplishments of Woody Strode and before that, Gloria Grahame and Fred MacMurray. This year the Morlocks are setting their sights on Joan Blondell with a blogathon that takes place August 18th – 24th.
I’ve never really considered the Oscar nominated Blondell to be an overlooked star. With her bright blond hair, big blue eyes and winning smile she seemed larger than life and many of her signature roles have a timeless quality that’s extremely enduring. She was sexy, sassy, smart and incredibly funny but she never achieved the same kind of success that many of her contemporaries did. Hopefully Joan Blondell will gain a few more fans and admirers during the coming week as the Morlocks take a look at her lengthy career in front of the camera.
Posted by medusamorlock on August 17, 2011
Although he’s been retired from movies and television since the early 1980s, actor Skip Homeier is a talented character actor whose face will be familiar to almost anyone with a passing interest in popular entertainment. Born in 1930, Homeier started out as a child actor on stage and made his big screen debut repeating his theater role playing a young teenage Nazi being assimilated into American life in 1944’s Tomorrow the World, a shocking portrayal that he had originated on Broadway. Young Homeier more than held his own opposite screen veteran Fredric March who starred as the man who took young Emil into his home and tried to do a political makeover on the young herr . Skip’s performance as the cold and calculating Hitler Youth who eventually begins to see the light was electrifying and unpleasant, and unfortunately somewhat typecast Homeier as a bad guy, even well into his adult career.
Posted by medusamorlock on August 5, 2011
This coming Saturday — tomorrow, August 6th – marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of show business’ forever and always top funny lady Lucille Ball, and also a day of Lucille Ball on TCM’s Summer Under the Stars. It would be more than appropriate for anyone to celebrate this significant milestone, but I especially love Lucy. My mother used to say that when I was a kid everytime she would come into a room I’d be watching I Love Lucy on TV, and I used to talk about it all the time. Still do even today — watch and talk about it! READ MORE
Posted by medusamorlock on July 31, 2011
I’m not going to assume that you know French and Saunders, that is, Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders, but I bet that you might. Even if you haven’t ever caught their eponymous comedy series and specials via some means (they’ve been doing them for British TV since the late 1980s), perhaps you know Dawn French in the title role of The Vicar of Dibley (frequently seen on PBS stations), and Jennifer Saunders as the creator and co-star (as Edina Monsoon) of Absolutely Fabulous. Both French and Saunders are funny and fabulous, and one of the frequent features of their work together were parodies of popular movies, old and new, with both ladies playing all parts, often male and female, and having a riot doing it.
Posted by Susan Doll on May 9, 2011
“My name is Victoria Winters. My journey is just beginning. A journey that I am hoping will somehow begin to reveal the mysteries of my past. It is a journey that will bring me to a strange and dark place. . . to a house high atop a stormy cliff at the edge of the sea. . .to a house called Collinwood.”
So began the first episode of Dark Shadows, a gothic soap opera with supernatural plotlines that ran from 1966 through 1971. I remember racing home from school each day to catch the show at 4:00pm, sandwiched between the traditional soap opera General Hospital and Dick Clark’s daily rock ‘n’ roll show, Where the Action Is. Viewers of my generation will be setting their Tivo and home-recording devices for this Wednesday, May 11, at 3:00am EST, because TCM is airing House of Dark Shadows, the feature film based on the soap’s most popular character, vampire Barnabas Collins.
Posted by moirafinnie on December 8, 2010
“Looking at [Ann] Harding,” wrote film historian Mick LaSalle in his book, Complicated Women (St. Martin’s, 2001), “is like looking into clear, deep water. Nothing stands in the way. No stylization, no attitude, no posing. In fact, little about her technique could date her as a thirties actress.”
These are some of the words that inspired Scott O’Brien, author of Ann Harding – Cinema’s Gallant Lady (BearManor) in his research into the career and life of actress Ann Harding (1902-1981). For those who met her during the height of her Hollywood career, she left starkly different impressions. Laurence Olivier called her “an angel.” Henry Hathaway said that she “was an absolute bitch.” Myrna Loy found her “a very private person, a wonderful actress completely without star temperament, but withdrawn.” Ann Harding may not be as well-remembered as actresses whose stellar careers extended well beyond the pre-code era, such as Norma Shearer or Barbara Stanwyck. Her natural reserve means that her name does not automatically come up when particularly saucy favorites of the period like Ruth Chatterton, Joan Blondell or Dorothy Mackail are discussed. Powerful icons whose last name conjures something singular, such as Garbo, Dietrich and West, are better remembered. In recent years, in large part because of the rediscovery of her early films on Turner Classic Movies, occasional revivals of her movies and the work done by film historians reassessing the pre-code period, Harding has begun to captivate audiences again. Her lustrous beauty and surprisingly modern style of acting are only part of her appeal.
With the publication earlier this year of Scott O’Brien’s beautifully illustrated and well written biography, a balanced portrait of a skilled actress emerges, as well as some sense of the publicly guarded but privately intense woman behind her fame. Recently, I had a chance to ask the author of this meticulously researched and long overdue biography of Ann Harding about his interest in this unique, transitional figure in American film. Perhaps after reading this post a few more people who have yet to discover her work will pause next time one of her rarely seen films, such as Devotion (1931), The Animal Kingdom (1932), Double Harness (1933), When Ladies Meet (1933), The Flame Within (1935) or Peter Ibbetson (1935) emerges from the movie vault. This often surprisingly modern actress may intrigue and touch you with her presence. You might find yourself unexpectedly enthralled.
MovieMorlocks.com is the official blog for TCM. No topic is too obscure or niche to be excluded from our film discussions. And we welcome your comments on our blogs and bloggers.
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