Friday, February 01, 2008

turner this month - bravo!

Note: This is a regular monthly feature, highlighting, well, the highlights on Turner Classics' schedule. Why? Simple. Because Turner Classics remains a veritible college education in film.

It’s February, which means that Turner is celebrating "31 Days of Oscar," devoted to Academy Awards winners (and mere nominees, too).

February 2: Two sides of 1970s filmmaking are reflected in Bob Rafelson’s raw drama of alienation, “Five Easy Pieces,” and Blake Edwards’ big spy musical, “Darling Lili.” It’s difficult to imagine that these two were released the same year, 1970. Note that Turner is telecasting the longest cut of the Edwards’ film available, with a 143-minute running time that includes both overture and exit music. This version contrasts sharply with the 107-minute “director’s cut” of “Darling Lili” recently released on DVD by Paramount Home Video.

BTW, a reader on IMDb claims that there was a 190-minute roadshow version of the film. Not so. The film was never roadshown; it opened in New York at Radio City Music Hall. And it never ran beyond 136 minutes (minus its overture and exit music). Edwards might have had a longer rough cut of the film, but if so, it was never publicly shown - to the best of my knowledge.

Now for a bit of trivia: When it went into production in 1967, the full title of Edwards' film was "Darling Lili, Or Where Were You the Night You Said You Shot Down Baron Von Richthofen?" It took three years for the troubled movie to finally get to the screen with its truncated title.

Feb. 3: Savor the acting of Burt Lancaster in Louis Malle’s “Atlantic City” and Geraldine Page in Peter Masterson’s “The Trip to Bountiful.” Also on tap: a bunch of familiar MGM musicals and Robert Redford’s highly watchable “Quiz Show.”

February 4: Charles Vidor’s “The Joker Is Wild,” with an excellent Frank Sinatra as the ill-fated Joe E.Lewis.

February 5: Two moody titles – Francois Truffaut’s evocative “The 400 Blows” and Alan J.Pakula’s directorial debut, “The Sterile Cuckoo,” with Liza Minnelli in an unsettling performance as a frighteningly needy outsider.

February 6 George Seaton’s terrific journalism comedy “Teacher’s Pet,” with Doris Day, Clark Gable and Gig Young, and two must-see Hitchcock’s -“Vertigo” and “Rear Window.”

February 7: George Cukor directs two forces of nature, Anthony Quinn and Anna Magnani (certainly male/female counterparts), in “Wild Is the Wind” and Richard Brooks helms the Dostoevsky classic, “The Brothers Karamazov,” with Yul Brynner and Maria Schell.

February 8: “Easy Rider,” the Fonda-Hopper counterculture classic; Mark Rydell’s “The Reivers,” Steve McQueen’s most atypical film, and David Carradine as Woody Guthrie in Hal Ashby’s atmospheric “Bound for Glory.”

February 9: Talk about variety – Alan Parker’s “Midnight Express,” Robert Altman’s “Nashville,” Robert Stevenson’s “Bedknobs and Broomsticks,” Robert Zemeckis’ “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” (and what happened to the question mark?) and John Badham’s “WarGames.”

February 10: Tim Burton’s exquisite “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” one of the best film musicals of recent years (courtesy of an ace Danny Elfman score) that clearly prepared Burton for the task of taking on (triumphantly) “Sweeney Todd – The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.”

February 11: “Se7en,” David Fincher’s modern terror classic, starring a very good Brad Pitt.

February 12: Frank Capra directs his Depression charmer, “Lady for a Day” (and look for Turner to air Capra’s 1961 remake of it, “Pocketful of Miracles,” on February 21st). Plus the minor Bobby Driscoll classic, “The Window,” a nifty thriller; Irene Dunne in the charming, underseen “Theordora Goes Wild,” Billy Wilder’s pitch-black and pitch-perfect romance “The Apartment” and the indispensable Powell-Pressburger staple, “The Red Shoes” (in glorious color).

February 14: Here's a chance to movie-hop from Vittorio DeSica's
“Indiscretion of an American Wife,” starring Jennifer Jones and Montgomery Clift, to June Allyson, Van Johnson and Gig Young in “Too Young to Kiss,” to George Sidney’s best film, “Kiss Me Kate” (with a grand Cole Porter score).

February 15: Dustin Hoffman, proving his versatility in Sydney Pollack’s “Tootsie” and Arthur Penn’s “Little Big Man.”

February 16: “Save the Tiger,” Jack Lemmon’s Oscar winner about a man who wants to feel again, and “Steel Magnolias” with Sally and Shirley and Dolly and Daryl and Julia and Olympia, under Herb Ross's direction.

February 18: “L.A. Confidential,” Curtis Hanson’s retro/modern noir, and the Samuel L. Bronston/Anthony Mann bigtime collaboration, “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”

February 19: The two “Cimerron”s – Wesley Ruggles' 1931 original and Anthony Mann’s 1960 remake – both very good (and shown here back-to-back). Plus a trio of tough Westerns – Mann’s “The Tin Star,” William A. Wellman’s “The Ox-Bow Incident” and King Vidor’s “Duel in the Sun.”

February 20: Billy Wilder times two - “One Two Three” and “Some Like It Hot.”

February 21: Anthony Quinn directs Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston in “The Buccaneer,” a remake of his then-father-in-law Cecil B. DeMille’s 1939 adventure (which, btw, is slated to be broadcast by Turner on February 26th).

February 22: Capra’s “Pocketful of Miracles” (see “Lady for a Day” on February 12th) and Wilder’s deliciously untrustworthy “The Fortune Cookie.”

February 23: “Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams,” a little-seen Joanne Woodward film directed by Gilbert Cates; three (among others) by Hitchcock - “The Man Who Knew Too Much” “North by Northwest” and “The Birds” – and Redford’s “Ordinary People” with a potent Mary Tyler Moore. (Moore was robbed; Sissy Spacek won the best actress award that year for “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”)

February 24: Scorsese directs DeNiro’s greatest performance in “Raging Bull,” while Franklin J. Schaffner oversees Luciano Pavarotti’s only starring-role film, “Yes, Giorgio,” MGM’s unsuccessful attempt to recreate the Mario Lanza franchise. Also: The Broadway musicals “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “Oliver!” and the underrated “Annie,” in which director John Huston prodded star Albert Finney to affect Huston’s own vocal tones as Daddy Warbucks and famously advised Carol Burnett to “play it soused” as Miss Hannigan.

February 26: “The Buccaneer,” the original, directed by DeMille. (See February 21st for the remake directed by DeMille’s then-son-in-law, Anthony Quinn.) Plus, Vincente Minnelli’s great “Some Came Running,” with Sinatra in fine form as another one of his moodily disenfranchised men, and Preston Sturges’ playful “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek” with playful Betty Hutton and Eddie Bracken.

February 29: Bryan Forbes directs Kim Stanely (and Richard Attenborough) in one of her few film performances, arguably her greatest, in the creepy “Séance on a Wet Afternoon.” Also: Geraldine Page in Peter Glenville’s film of the Tennessee Williams play, “Summer and Smoke.”

March 1: Walter Matthau stars as a cantankerous old guy in “Kotch,” the only film directed by his buddy, Jack Lemmon (although, drat, Lemmon was once slated to direct Susan Sarandon and Jill Clayburgh in a film of John Ford Noonan's play, "A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking," with a script by Wendy Wasserstein).

Note in Passing: Speaking of Lemmon, his birthday is on February 8th but, unfortunately, it’s never been celebrated by Turner. Neither have the birthdays of other stars born in February. That's because all programming in February and early March is devoted entirely to the Oscars. It’s the one downside of Turner’s annual "31 Days of Oscar" celebration. Hopefully, one of these days, the cable channel will find room to celebrate both Oscar winners as well as those movie icons born during the month.

* * *

(Artwork: Poster art for Edwards' "Darling Lili," Gig Young, Doris Day and Clark Gable in Seaton's "Teacher's Pet," an ad for the 40th anniversayr reissue of Wilder's "The Apartment," Aileen Quinn, with Sandy, as Huston's "Annie" and the poster for Minnelli's "Some Came Running.")

Anyone interested in perusing some 2060 of my film reviews, dating back to 1994, can do so by simply going to RottenTomatoes.Com


jbryant said...

Wow, I'd love to have that Some Came Running poster; I've probably seen that movie more times than any other, except maybe Citizen Kane and The Hustler.

I disagree about Mary Tyler Moore being "robbed," good as she was. For what it's worth (not much), Spacek outpaced Moore that year in critics' awards, too. They both were able to win Golden Globes due to the way categories split (Moore for Drama, Spacek for Comedy/Musical).

jbryant said...

You'd think TCM could find a way to pay tribute to the February-born stars by simply picking another month. For Lemmon, why not June, the month in which he died? But then I guess celebs who both came into the world and left it in February would still be out in the cold. :)

As I'm sure you know, Lemmon has a blink-and-you-miss it cameo in Kotch, dozing on Matthau's shoulder on a bus. If I remember correctly, he's wearing a hat and mustache, and the entire shot lasts only about 3 seconds.

joe baltake said...

First... I purchased my copy of the "Some Came Running" poster from Posteriati, for which I provide a link on my blog (under

Check it out. There's a great Saul Bass display currently on it.

I'm aware of Lemmon's clever cameo in "Kotch," arguably one of the best things about the movie.

Don't get me wrong. I really admire Spacek in general and in "Coal Miner's Daughter" in particular. It's just that most of her success in that movie (for me) is based simply on spot-on casting. She was perfect for the role and probably would have been good even if she phoned in her performance. I can't imagine anyone else in that role.

But I feel the same way about Moore in "Ordinary People," only more so. No one else could have played that role. No one. It's such a delicate, focused, thoroughly singular performance.

jbryant said...

The Oscars should have more tie votes. :)

Actually, now that I think about it, my vote for Best Actress of that year probably would have gone to Judy Davis for "My Brilliant Career," a 1979 Australian film eligible for the 1980 Oscars (it scored a nomination for Best Costumes, but not for Davis).

Daryl Chin said...

One reason that THE STERILE CUCKOO and WILD IS THE WIND are making it to TCM at "odd" hours (one would have thought that these films would have rated prime-time scheduling) is that, once again, these are coming from MCA-Universal, and what is being shown are the pan-and-scan TV prints.

MCA-Universal: for shame! (But SUMMER AND SMOKE is in the Cinemascope letterbox edition; it was shown last month that way.)

joe baltake said...

Hi, Daryl--

Actually, Turner has presented "The Sterile Cuckoo" twice so far in late afternoon and early evening slots - 4 p.m. on January 27 and 6 p.m. on February 5.

But you're right about "Wild Is the Wind" (a first-timer for Turner) being played in an early, early morning slot - and about both films (Paramount productions, not from Universal) being panned-and-scanned.

Oddly, "Summer and Smoke" (also a Paramount film from the same period) was presented letterboxed as you state.

Daryl Chin said...

Though the films were made by Paramount, within the last three years, MCA-Universal bought up the Paramount library, which is why these films are seeing the light of day. Paramount was just sitting on them; MCA-Universal is trying to get them around, but the situation is that they are finding that there are many films in which they cannot find a proper print. So MCA-Universal is simply leasing what they have to TCM, and if it's pan-and-scan (as was the case with WILD IS THE WIND, LOVE WITH THE PROPER STRANGER, THE STERILE CUCKOO and SKIDOO), that's the best they can do until they decide to invest in making new prints from the origianl negatives (if those still exist).

That is why Universal will be putting out DVDs of four Paramount classics in April: THE MAJOR AND THE MINOR, MIDNIGHT, EASY LIVING and SHE DONE HIM WRONG. Because MCA-Universal now owns the rights.

(This information comes from Dave Kehr, who received a press release about MCA-Universal's plans for the Paramount library of some 700 titles from the silent period to the early 1970s. Obviously, MCA-Universal felt that the NY Times rates, and they wanted to make sure that information on their plans to release a series of Paramount classics on DVD was a matter of record.)

joe baltake said...

Thanks Darly (and, by extention, Dave) for the update. Much appreciated. It explains a lot about the pan-and-scan situation involving these old Paramount titles.

BTW, I just received this from a friend regarding old Columbia titles still not available on DVD:

"I just read where Columbia made a deal so lots of their unavailable library will be available through a deal with Hewlett-packlard, where people can order titles on demand directly from Sony in a generic packaging. Which would explain why they’ve been snoring on putting out library titles for DVD. What a nod of support for companies like us who have been dealing with them for 30 years and would welcome carrying these titles."

Fascinating, right?