Posts Categorized: Saturday, April 12

THE STRANGER’S RETURN: A Hick Pic the Sticks Nixed!

“STICKS NIX HICK PIX” proclaimed Variety on July 17, 1935, in one of the most famous headlines in newspaper history. The meaning was this: rural audiences were not turning out at the box office to see movies with rural settings and themes. One of the many films that contributed to the state of affairs was THE STRANGER’S RETURN (1933), which, seen freshly 81 years later, turns out to be a remarkably accomplished, mature, adult work — at least as seen in the cosmopolitan setting of Hollywood.   Another sold-out festival audience turned up to see what film critic Leonard Maltin… Read more »

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS: A Family Film From Woody Allen

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986) is one of Woody Allen’s most acclaimed and commercially successful movies — which is exactly why he has always treated it with apprehension. To Allen, the more popular a movie is, the more he suspects that he failed to make it challenging enough. But perhaps he doesn’t give his audience enough credit. HANNAH was actually an especially difficult film for Allen to begin with. The story’s multiple storylines and numerous characters proved difficult to balance correctly. Unsatisfied with his original cut, Allen gathered the cast again and re-shot 80% of the footage. While he’s been… Read more »

CITY LIGHTS: A Chaplin Masterwork

Saturday morning’s screening of CITY LIGHTS (1931), which I have seen several times and rank as my favorite Chaplin movie, was perfect. Big theater, beautiful print (a DCP), a large, attentive and respectful audience, and a sincere introduction by Jason Lee to set the right mood.  Over half of those present had never seen the film before, and that made it even more magical. Chaplin started developing CITY LIGHTS in 1928, just as sound was starting to overtake Hollywood. By 1931, silent pictures were gone, and every movie was a talking one. Except CITY LIGHTS. Chaplin took his time preparing… Read more »

A rediscovered classic… William Friedkin’s SORCERER (1977)

The Force was not with William Friedkin’s SORCERER at the time of its theatrical release in June of 1977. Friedkin’s widely-anticipated follow-up to the box office juggernaut that was The Exorcist (1973), a nominal remake of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s The Wages of Fear (1953), had the misfortune to open a month after George Lucas’ Star Wars… in fact, SORCERER was booked into Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (then known as Mann’s) in Los Angeles right after the Lucas film. As if a switch had been flipped somewhere in the world, Star Wars had become in a moment state of the art, the new model for what a blockbuster should… Read more »

A Conversation With Thelma Schoonmaker

Film editor Thelma Schoonmaker spent an interesting hour in conversation with author Cari Beauchamp on Saturday in Club TCM.  Schoonmaker met Martin Scorsese in 1963 at a six-week NYU film class, and edited his student film. She went on to cut his first feature, Who’s That Knocking at My Door, a few more in the following years, and then Raging Bull and every Scorsese movie since. “He taught me everything I ever knew about film editing,” Schoonmaker said. Schoonmaker is also the widow of the great English film director Michael Powell, who with Emeric Pressburger formed The Archers, the brilliant… Read more »

“Dirty…slimy…FREAKS!” Still Packs a Punch

Is there a more perfect midnight movie for the TCM Classic Film Festival than FREAKS (1932)? One of the most infamous and unique films ever released by a Hollywood studio, it was so badly received by audiences, critics, and even the studio that made it (the unlikely MGM), that it destroyed its director’s career and built a reputation for vile, despicable hideousness that persists in some quarters even to this day. The truth is that FREAKS is barely even a horror movie. It turns into one at the end, but up to that point the main tone of the piece… Read more »

Edgar G. Ulmer breaks free of Poverty Row

And now for the rarest picture in the entire 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival.   HER SISTER’S SECRET is a recently revived feature by that most revered of independent filmmakers, Edgar G. Ulmer. Running afoul of the Universal brass around the time of his hit Karloff-Lugosi horror classic The Black Cat, Ulmer found himself unable to land a studio job. After assisting and designing for some of the greatest film artists of all time, Ulmer became something of a cinema gypsy, taking jobs wherever they could be found. He made regional-ethnic films for Yiddish and Ukrainian audiences, and eventually shot… Read more »

Bewitched, Bothered and… Kim Novak

The classy Columbia bauble BELL BOOK AND CANDLE  is a playful romantic comedy about witchcraft in New York, starring a very attractive Kim Novak as a soulful sorceress and James Stewart as the neighbor she snags with a minor magic spell. Based on the John Van Druten play, its witches and warlocks have been disassociated from any mention of the Devil or Satanism; Novak’s character has even gotten into the Christmas spirit. Forget the horrors of Rosemary’s Baby or even The 7th Victim; this witchery is little more than an unusual lifestyle choice.  Nope, the delightful folk we meet here are merely… Read more »

TCM’s Ultimate Fan on The Naked City

As part of TCM’s twentieth anniversary celebrations Ultimate Fan Contest winner Tiffany Vazquez discussed one of her favorite films, director Jules Dassin’s THE NAKED CITY (1948), with Film Noir Foundation President Eddie Muller. Tiffany asked for a show of hands from the audience and many of the audience members in attendance were there to see THE NAKED CITY for the first time, myself included. Several of her Ultimate Fan runner ups were in attendance, cheering her on. Vazquez got a laugh from the crowd after Muller asked how many times she’d seen the film, and she responded ‘This year?’ A native… Read more »

Quincy Jones Scores Tonight at THE PAWNBROKER

A man with many major firsts to his credit, music legend Quincy Jones has made quite a splash at the TCM Classic Film Festival this year with an appearance for The Italian Job and a Club TCM discussion with Leonard Maltin. Now on Saturday night at the Egyptian Theater, it was TCM’s Robert Osborne’s turn to sit down with Jones for a Q&A about his first American film score. Shot in 1964 but unseen in America until the following year, THE PAWNBROKER smashed down the barriers of film censorship by depicting levels of nudity unimaginable under the guidelines of the… Read more »

Jerry Lewis Brings the Flahoyvin to the TCMCFF

The unstoppable Jerry Lewis sat down for an interview with Illeana Douglas Saturday evening at the El Capitan, prior to a screening of THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963).  In her introduction Douglas advised the audience to “fasten your seatbelts,” but the 88-year-old comic was mostly restrained and serious during the discussion.  (Perhaps Jerry was better able to indulge in hijinks on Saturday morning during the courtyard handprint ceremony, at which he bit Quentin Tarantino on the hand!) Lewis and Douglas exhibited a natural rapport and the intelligent questions brought up topics that ranged from Lewis’ childhood all the way through the… Read more »

Fun with the Filthy Rich in WRITTEN ON THE WIND

For sheer lurid delirium, it would be tough to beat the opening credits of Douglas Sirk’s 1956 fever dream, WRITTEN ON THE WIND. The names of the four principals are emblazoned across the actors’ faces as booze-swilling oil tycoon Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack) drunkenly veers his car up to a mansion, pistol in hand, while his best friend, Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson) watches anxiously through a window. Then there’s Kyle’s wife, Lucy (Lauren Bacall) in the background collapsing to the floor, while Mitch’s sister, Marylee (Dorothy Malone), gazes at the camera with only her eyes illuminated. A shot rings out,… Read more »

Dancing Up a Storm

Thanks to a recent resurgence of interest on YouTube and various social media venues, it’s now a given that the Nicholas Brothers’ staggering dance number at the end of STORMY WEATHER (1943) still holds its place for current generations as one of the best ever put on film, and most likely the best. As uplifting, energetic, and staggeringly accomplished as any other physical feat performed in front of a camera, this is still one from the ages and, as proven at this afternoon’s screening of the film at the Chinese Multiplex, a showstopper in the greatest sense that earns a… Read more »

“Everybody Jump in the Pool!”

It was that kind of night as TCM closed out Saturday with a poolside screening of THE MUPPET MOVIE (1979) at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. TCM’s Essentials Jr. host Bill Hader was on hand to introduce the film. Right out of the gate he got the audience laughing—“’The Rainbow Connection’ and everyone jump in the pool. You think I’m kidding? I’m not,” Hader quipped. He spoke affectionately about THE MUPPET MOVIE, remembering that he had it on vhs as a kid, along with The Great Muppet Caper (1981). Hader and his sisters used to “play MUPPET MOVIE” it seems. And… Read more »

Ginger and Sally Will Check Your Hat

HAT CHECK GIRL (1932) sounds pretty swell on paper: it has a solid pre-Code release year, a snappy-sounding 64-minute running time, sexy stars Ginger Rogers and Sally Eilers, and a plot involving blackmail and bootlegging. And yet… as seen tonight in a world premiere restoration from the Museum of Modern Art (introduced by MoMA’s Katie Trainor and Anne Morra), the picture seemed a tad disappointing. Perhaps we’re spoiled by the availability of truly great pre-Code films like Baby Face, Red-Headed Woman and Employees’ Entrance (which screened here Friday night), but HAT CHECK GIRL, while entertaining, does lack a bit in… Read more »

It’s the Good version of The Great Gatsby

The 1-sheet poster for Paramount’s 1949 THE GREAT GATSBY tells the tale: Alan Ladd’s Gatsby is pictured not in a dinner jacket, nor in one of those famous shirts that he tosses on the bed for Daisy to giggle at, but in a rumpled trench coat. Yes, this is the film noir Gatsby, that emphasizes the murder angle with occasional low-key mysterioso lighting. Noir icon Elisha Cook Jr. even appears playing a piano, further cluing us into the somewhat re-directed emphasis given F. Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel.   This B&W GATSBY has been wrongfully slighted for a number of… Read more »

I Never Sang For My Father

The arrival of the ratings system in 1968 didn’t just open up American movies to violence and sex. The ‘adult themes’ that had been discouraged since 1934 included frank appraisals of life as it is really lived, including the less flattering aspects. In other words, the Dream Factory gave a little ground to more realistic stories about less-than-perfect people. The late ‘60s saw a number of short story and play adaptations that looked at personal problems, dysfunctional families and the kind of strife that most of us come in contact with sometime in our lives. Joanne Woodward in Rachel, Rachel,… Read more »

Richard Dreyfuss and THE GOODBYE GIRL

The 1970s were good to Richard Dreyfuss. He landed his first starring role in future George Lucas classic American Graffiti (1973). He quickly became a top box office earner in Spielberg blockbusters Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). And along the way he won a Best Actor Oscar for the Neil Simon romantic comedy THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977). Dreyfuss was only thirty years old when he won the Oscar for THE GOODBYE GIRL—the youngest man to win Best Actor at that point. Not a bad run. Especially considering that Dreyfuss wasn’t even scheduled to play THE… Read more »

Mr. Deeds vs the City Cynics

  Frank Capra was one of the greatest communicators in Hollywood history. His formula for connecting with audiences mostly involved honoring everyday sentiments and keeping things simple: an uncomplicated idea clearly expressed beats a complex theory any day. By the middle 1930s he’d proved himself a master of cynical comedies as well as tear-jerking stories of mother love. He even found ways to make racy sex content seem clean enough to satisfy the Production Code.   As Capra gained confidence his films took on stronger political ideas, most notably his impressive American Madness with Walter Huston. With 1936′s MR. DEEDS… Read more »

The immortal Maureen O’Hara, live at the TCM Classic Film Festival

Festival attendees who queued up for this afternoon’s screening of John Ford’s HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941) at the historical El Capitan Theatre would have been wholly satisfied just to see that magnificent motion picture up on the big screen again or for the first time… but the icing on the cake for all 600-plus of us was the exclusive personal appearance by the film’s star, actress Maureen O’Hara, in coversation with TCM host Robert Osborne. Now 93 years old (though she had to take the word of a fan to tell her, having long lost lost interest in keeping score)… Read more »

Celebrating 75 Years of THE WOMEN

It’s rather hard to believe that this year marks the 75th anniversary of George Cukor’s THE WOMEN—the acerbic wit and knockout performances by each of its leading ladies gives the film a timeless quality so that, no matter how many times you revisit the film, it always seems fresh and hysterically funny. And this freshness could not have been felt more than with the crowd that came to the El Capitan on Saturday night. While I had certainly enjoyed (and loved) the film in home viewings before, the cheers and laughs from the crowd helped me discover it anew (as… Read more »

Go Go GODZILLA!

Historians will likely spend the next few generations locked in heated debate about which particular film was the event, the defining moment, the raison d’etre (pardon my French) of the fifth annual TCM Classic Film Festival… but for this reporter it had to be the world premiere of the new restoration of Ishiro Honda’s Gojira… better known on this side of the Pacific — and, really, everywhere at this late date — as GODZILLA (1954). If you will permit a personal note, the first feature film I ever saw as a new resident of Hollywood back in the summer of… Read more »

Happy 50th Anniversary, MARY POPPINS

I have to admit, this one’s personal. I have a thing for MARY POPPINS (1964). I loved the movie as a kid. Still love it as an adult. And, since I saw Saving Mr. Banks (2013) (the Tom Hanks-Emma Thompson movie about author P.L. Travers and the making of MARY POPPINS) last year, I’ve been meaning to rewatch the film that inspired it. TCM screened the movie this morning at the enchanting El Capitan Theater. I hadn’t seen MARY POPPINS in years, and I could not have picked a more perfect venue to rediscover a favorite. Projected in widescreen digital,… Read more »

The TCMCFF Turns It Up to ‘11’

To state it emphatically this blog entry must be turned up to ‘11’ so please pardon the noise: IF YOU HAVE NEVER SEEN THIS IS SPINAL TAP (1984), YOU MUST GO TO THE CHINESE MULTIPLEX 1 AT 9:45 TONIGHT! It is often the case that a film frequently designated as a “Cult” Movie (like Rob Reiner’s THIS IS SPINAL TAP) would not truly qualify for the label unless the public’s perception of that film has changed over time.  The normal trajectory for altered perceptions can often be tracked as an under-the-radar film that becomes a “hit” long after its original… Read more »

“Is Good:” An Afternoon with I REMEMBER MAMA

We might still be a little while off from Mother’s Day, but you’d hardly know it from this afternoon’s showing of I REMEMBER MAMA (1948) at the Chinese Multiplex. Richard Corliss, film critic for Time since 1980 and author of the TCM-commissioned book Mom in the Movies: The Iconic Screen Mothers You Love (And A Few You Love To Hate), made an encore after his appearance this morning to provide a valuable introduction in which he placed the film in context with two other major memoir-based family studies from the same period, Meet Me in St. Louis and A Tree… Read more »

Hollywood Home Movies: Treasures From the Academy Film Archive

Each year, one of the most popular events held in Club TCM is the Hollywood Home Movies screening, brought to us by the Academy Film Archive. Hosted by Randy Haberkamp, managing director of programming, education and preservation for AMPAS, and Lynne Kirste, special collections curator at the Academy Film Archive. Michael Mortilla provided musical accompaniment to the silent film clips. Special guests in attendance to discuss the clips were Nicole Burke Stephenson, great granddaughter of actress Billie Burke; John Kimball, son of animator Ward Kimball; Miriam Nelson, choreographer and former wife of actor/dancer Gene Nelson; and Tim Zinnemann, son of director Fred Zinnemann. Mr…. Read more »

A Conversation with Richard Corliss

Club TCM kicks of the second day of discussions with a great line up. First off we have author and film critic Richard Corliss, who wrote the new book MOM IN THE MOVIES: THE ICONIC SCREEN MOTHERS YOU LOVE (AND A FEW YOU LOVE TO HATE). Mr. Corliss was interviewed by TCM’s own Shannon Clute. Below are a few highlights from their discussion: “I think every child thinks his or her family is a normal family, until you meet other families. And mine, I probably took it for granted, was idyllic. Very loving, let me see all the movies I… Read more »

Happy Jerry Lewis Day!

What better way to wake up in the morning than a dose of Jerry Lewis? That’s what everyone felt today with crowds lining up around the block at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd., with some arriving before 8 a.m. for the hand- and footprint ceremony for Jerry in the theater courtyard. The tradition of celebrities preserving their handprints and footprints in wet cement (along with a few other curious objects in some cases) extends all the way back to 1927, and the spot remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Los Angeles area. It’s hard… Read more »

THE FAMILY BUSINESS: A TRIBUTE TO HUBLEY ANIMATION

Here’s a friendly recommendation to passholders: Don’t miss the program of rare Hubley animation shorts showing in the multiplex this afternoon and hosted by Leonard Maltin!  Previous TCM Classic Film Festivals have included fascinating programs of animated shorts, including a very rare showing of censored Warner Bros. cartoons at the first Fest in 2010, a collection of Walt Disney’s silent and rarely-screened Laugh-O-Grams in 2011 and last year’s assemblage of prime Bugs Bunny cartoons in honor of the rascally rabbit’s 75th birthday.  This year passholders will be treated to a varied and eye-popping collection of animation produced by John and… Read more »

Stanwyck Shines as Definitive Stella Dallas

Many people, including Barbara Stanwyck, felt that Stanwyck was robbed at the 1938 Academy Awards ceremony when Luise Rainer walked away with the Best Actress Oscar for The Good Earth (1937); referring to producer Sam Goldwyn’s 1937 version of STELLA DALLAS, Stanwyck later said, “My life’s blood was in that picture.  I should have won.”  This morning a 35mm print screened at the Multiplex—an absolutely gorgeous print, in fact (courtesy of the Academy Film Archive). Stanwyck’s taking on the title role was a risk; some thought that Goldwyn was crazy to revive the property in the first place.  The dramatic… Read more »

I Do…Love Elizabeth Taylor and Spencer Tracy*

It’s day three here in Hollywood, and first up this morning, TCM is going to the chapel with bride Elizabeth Taylor in FATHER OF THE BRIDE (1950). Screened at the Egyptian Theatre, in a gorgeous 35mm print from Warner Bros., the charming domestic comedy played to a receptive 9 AM crowd. On hand to introduce the movie was film historian Cari Beauchamp who praised Spencer Tracy, spilled on Joan Bennett’s career ending extra-marital scandal and called Elizabeth Taylor “absolutely stunning.” And that certainly proved true at today’s screening. You may have seen FATHER OF THE BRIDE countless times on TV, but… Read more »

A Conversation with Richard M. Sherman

Club TCM’s last discussion on Saturday night featured composer and lyricist Richard D. Sherman. Interviewed by film critic Leonard Maltin, Sherman discussed his parents, partnership with his brother Robert B. Sherman and his legendary career at Disney. Seated in front of a keyboard Sherman played a few bars from his father’s songs, several hits including “Tall Paul,” “You’re Sixteen,” “I Wan’na Be Like You” from The Jungle Book (1967), “Admiral Boom” which was cut from 1964′s Mary Poppins, and closed the interview by singing “Feed the Birds” from the same film, which led to a standing ovation from the teary-eyed crowd. Below are… Read more »