When receiving an invitation from our gracious hostess, Paula, to indulge in a favored pasttime and add to many and varied perspectives of Cinematic History, I would be remiss if I didn’t break out a fresh set of coveralls, miner’s cap, and excavation tools to dig deep and rummage about neglected corners of massive archives, tales, anecdotes and personal experience regarding a visionary and trailblazer of cinema from the late 20th Century to the present. Though, not in an arena most would expect. So, allow me a few moments to align, refine and define…
Roger Corman: Rebel, Pioneer. The Guy With The Arrows In His Back!
One may ask where a transplanted Michigander, graduate of Beverly Hills High and Stanford University, with a degree in Industrial Engineering in hand, got his start and first taste of 1947 Hollywood and “The Film Business”? Why, in the Mail Room at Twentieth Century Fox, of course!
TCM has some really intriguing stuff scheduled for this week. Crank up the DVR and let’s go…as usual, all times are Eastern.
Monday, July 16
TCM’s Classic Adventure series continues with a full 24 hours of rip-roaring action. Must-sees include The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936) with Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland at 2:00 Eastern; Gunga Din (1939) starring Cary Grant, Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Victor McLaglen at 4:00 p.m.; and The Thief of Baghdad (1924) with Douglas Fairbanks and Anna May Wong at 3:45 a.m. Tuesday.
Tuesday, July 17
Today kicks off with a couple of silents, The Sheik (1921) starring Rudolph Valentino, and Our Modern Maidens (1929) with soon-to-be newlyweds Joan Crawford and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. The latter is the first of a block of eight ’20s and ’30s films directed by Jack Conway. Conway began as an actor in D. W. Griffiths’ Westerns and moved into directing, first at Universal, then at MGM, where he proved to be adept and prolific. He worked cost-effectively in all genres, bringing pictures in on time and within budget, a capability that endeared him to studio honchos Irving Thalberg and Louis B. Mayer. He is probably best known for A Tale of Two Cities (1935), starring Ronald Colman and Elizabeth Allan, and one of my all-time favorites, Libeled Lady (1936). Enjoy his work until George Cukor takes over at 8:00 p.m. tonight.
Star of the Month: Leslie Howard
I am a huge fan of Leslie Howard, but even I have to admit he was horribly miscast in Romeo and Juliet (1936), scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Though the film is gorgeous, Howard, in his forties, and his Juliet, Norma Shearer, in her mid-thirties, are both too old to portray a teenaged couple caught up in their first love. (Shakespearean scholars estimate that a real Romeo would have been 16 or 17 years of age and it’s directly mentioned in the text that Juliet has just turned 13.) But the rest of Howard’s films tonight — A Free Soul and Smilin’ Through, both also with Shearer, and Outward Bound (Howard’s Hollywood debut) and Captured! both with Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. — look pretty interesting.
At 8:00 p.m., TCM is featuring The Science of Movie Making, a block co-hosted by sound designer Ben Burtt and visual effects supervisor Craig Barron, both Oscar-winners in their fields, who have chosen films that have inspired them.
Friday, July 20 Stanwyck Pre-codes ***TCM PARTY***
Presumably in honor of Ms. Stanwyck’s 105th birthday (July 16), TCM has scheduled four films she made before enforcement of Hollywood’s Motion Picture Production Code (aka Hays Code) began in 1934. The pre-codes include Shopworn (1932), Ten Cents A Dance (1931), Illicit (1931) and Forbidden (1932). Look for us on Twitter…watch and tweet along with #TCMParty.
Saturday, July 21 To Have and Have Not (1944) ***TCM PARTY***
In Martinique during World War II, a fishing-boat captain (Humphrey Bogart) gets mixed up with the French Resistance and a beautiful saloon singer (Lauren Bacall). This was Bacall’s first film and she was such a natural that screenwriter William Faulkner started adding to her part. The critics said it had “much more character than story” and that it was “confusing and klutzy, the ending is weak, and the secondary characters are poor substitutes for Casablanca‘s (1942) memorable cast of heroes and villains” but I think it’s great. Look for us on Twitter…watch and tweet along with #TCMParty. Guest hosted by @joelrwilliams1.
Sunday, July 22
If you haven’t seen Christmas in July (1940) at 10:30 a.m., Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) at 2:00 p.m., or The Great Escape (1963) at 8:00 p.m., definitely tune in for those. There’s a silent at 12:30 a.m. Monday, The Mating Call, and at 2:00 a.m. there’s The Leopard (Il gattopardo – 1963), starring Burt Lancaster and Alain Delon. Set in the early 1860s during the turmoil that preceded Italy’s unification, the film follows the slow fall of aristocratic Prince Fabrizio (Lancaster) and the parallel rise of upstart Tancredi (Delon). This film has lavish detail, gorgeously shot, and is unfortunately dubbed (you can’t have everything). It’s also a very poignant film, infused with a sense of nostalgia for a lost time and the inevitability of one generation letting another take over.