Posted by Susan Doll on February 24, 2014
Tonight’s line-up on TCM features the five films nominated in 1965 for Best Art Direction-Set Direction (Black and White). It is an impressive and diverse selection: Ship of Fools, King Rat, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Slender Thread, and A Patch of Blue.
My favorite Oscar races are those from the mid-to-late 1960s when the lists of nominees reflected the changes occurring in the American film industry. From choice of actor to style to content to modes of production, the nominees from these years revealed that a new breed of filmmaker was invading Hollywood. And, yet, the studios were still producing or financially supporting movies in familiar genres with mainstream actors or Golden Age stars. Big studio-based films from 1965 that ended up in the list of nominees included The Sound of Music, The Agony and the Ecstasy, The Greatest Story Ever Told, The Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, and The Great Race. They competed against gritty dramas and quirky genre busters produced by small American production companies, such as The Pawnbroker, A Patch of Blue, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, and Cat Ballou, as well as British films like Darling.
Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on February 23, 2014
“I thought you might want to go to the picture show. Miss Mosey is having to close it. Tonight’s the last night.” – Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms)
How is it that nobody has done a modern version of The Last Picture Show? I realize that Peter Bogdanovich’s 1971 film, based on the novel by Larry McMurtry, is about much more than Miss Mosey having to close down the movie theater due to dwindling business and the rise of television, but let’s face it: the death of the Royal Theater in a small town, circa 1952, serves as a larger emblem of the many chapters in life that open and close for the characters of Anarene, Texas. It does so in ways that are understandable for anyone going through adolescence, their mid-life, and even death. Still: so much is implied by the four simple words of the title that it’s no surprise the book caught the eye of someone like Bogdanovich.
There’s a risk in peaking too early. Just ask Jean Renoir—one of the greatest names in cinema history, whose prolific career was eclipsed by its first act. Having made too many masterpieces as a young man, he set a bar he could never cross again. And nowhere is that clearer than in 1962’s delightful The Elusive Corporal—lively, gorgeously photographed, briskly paced and full of memorable incidents, richly characterized, and fantastic on just about every level—except for not being The Grand Illusion. As if being not quite as perfect as The Grand Illusion constitutes some kind of sin. But there you have it, folks, a glorious film that would have made the career of almost anyone else, but forgotten and dismissed because it (gasp!) wasn’t a masterpiece.
Posted by Richard Harland Smith on February 21, 2014
Character actor Royal Dano died twenty years ago this May. That’s about the only rationale I can offer for why he’s been on my mind lately. I haven’t, to the best of my knowledge, seen him in anything recently and his birthday isn’t coming up for nine months. He’s not turning 100 or anything… he just popped into my head the other day. I confess Dano is never very far from my thoughts. If you went to the movies between 1950 and 1990, or grew up during the Golden Age of Television, you knew his face. And that voice, as deep as Big Muddy. And those eyes, so blue, like the big sky hanging over the American prairie. A working actor from 1947 on, Dano appeared on stage, in films, and on television for nearly fifty years. He only stopped working because he died. I though today I might talk a little about Royal Dano so that, when the anniversary of his death comes along on May 15th of this year, we might all mourn together the loss of a great American actor. [...MORE]
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on February 20, 2014
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Turner Classic Movies. To celebrate the event as well as give back to the many devoted viewers who regularly watch and enjoy the network’s programming, TCM has teamed up with Warner Brothers to offer free theatrical screenings of the romantic wartime classic CASABLANCA (1942). The film will be playing nationwide in 20 selected cities on Tuesday, March 4th and tickets are currently available to download free of charge on the TCM 20th Anniversary website. Although tickets are free seating is limited to a first-come, first-served basis and they do not guarantee entry. Want to know where you can catch a free screening of CASABLANCA? Read on but be prepared to wade through a few of my thoughts about the film first.
Posted by gregferrara on February 19, 2014
When asked if I have ever seen a movie, my answer falls into one of three categories: One, “I have seen it.” This one is simple. It means I have seen it, yes, and I remember it well. Two, “I have not seen it.” This one is also simple. It means exactly what it says, that the movie in question is not one I have yet seen. The third, “I have but…” means, yes, I have seen it but it was so long ago I may as well just say I haven’t because I can’t remember anything about it. I honestly never thought I’d get to that stage in my life but I have. I have sat through countless movies, thirty years ago, that I have not seen since, that I can no longer remember at all. At all. The Best Picture winners are no different. In my early days as a cinephile, I made it a point to see every winner, and as many nominees as possible, of Best Picture by the Academy. And so I did. But now, as I look over the past winners in my mind, in keeping with TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar, I must admit, many of them are a blur.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on February 18, 2014
In the closely watched race of American directors most misidentified as European, Cyril (Cy) Endfield finishes close behind Joseph Losey and Jules Dassin. Dassin is well-known for his French heist film Rififi, Losey for his Pinter adaptations, and Endfield for his English colonial war picture Zulu (1964). All had their Hollywood careers annihilated by the blacklist, and their national identity with it, having to flee overseas to continue working. In Endfield’s necessarily vagabond career, his most lasting working relationship was with Welsh tough guy actor Stanley Baker, with whom he made six features, including the cynical two-fisted action films Hell Drivers and Sands of the Kalahari (I wrote about the latter here). Zulu was the one Endfield looked back on most fondly, though, with a script he carried around for four years before he could get it made in the manner he wanted – on 70mm VistaVision. It is available on Blu-ray from Twilight Time through Screen Archives Entertainment, in somethings approximating its original glory. The film depicts the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, when 150 British colonial troops defended a garrison against thousands of Zulu warriors, as a grim procedural – heroism rendered nauseous and ashamed.
Posted by Susan Doll on February 17, 2014
Throughout the month of February, TCM’s 31 Days of Oscar has offered a variety of fan favorites and familiar classics. On Thursday morning, February 20, a lesser-known Oscar-related gem airs at 6:15am. The Letter stars Jeanne Eagels in the first film adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s story. The 1929 drama lacks the star power of the well-crafted remake from 1940, which featured Bette Davis in her prime, but this version has film history on its side. The Letter represents Eagels’ only surviving sound film, and therefore the only record of the acting style that made her a Broadway legend during the 1920s. And, for those intrigued by Oscar trivia, Eagels is the first performer to be posthumously nominated for an Academy Award. While six actors have been posthumously nominated, including James Dean (twice), Spencer Tracy, Peter Finch, Ralph Richardson, Massimo Troisi, and Heath Ledger, Eagels is the only actress to be nominated after death.
Posted by gregferrara on February 16, 2014
Tomorrow at noon (EST), The Young Lions airs on TCM. I wrote it up for TCM’s website (click here) and with it airing tomorrow, it got me to thinking about something I only touch on in the article, the luck and timing of the careers of Montgomery Clift and Marlon Brando. Dean Martin figures in there, too, though not as prominently. Coming off a successful run at comedy, he wanted to try his hand and drama and The Young Lions provided the vehicle after the studio nixed first choice Tony Randall. If you’ve seen The Young Lions and know Martin’s part, you’ll know how odd that first choice was but, nonetheless, I can see, in a stretch, Randall handling it. But who the movie really mattered to was Montgomery Clift and, sadly, it didn’t fulfill the promise he hoped it would.
Later this week, TCM is running a programming block to pay tribute to all of the 1937 Best Supporting Actor Nominees. Which is one of those gloriously random, weirdly specific programming decisions that makes TCM such a delightful destination for obsessive compulsives. The channel will run Leo McCarey’s screwball classic The Awful Truth, in honor of Ralph Bellamy’s Best Supporting Actor nod. And that’s all fine and well and good—Bellamy is excellent in his “Right Wrong Man” role—but if you really want to celebrate the best supporting performance in this film, you need to be looking at Asta the Dog.
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