Saturday, May 24, 2008

"The Notorious Landlady" Surfaces!

That's Jack Lemmon jumping for joy. Actually, it's a shot from the climatic (and hilarious) foot chase from Richard Quine's long-missing 1962 comic gem, "The Notorious Landlady."

But I'd like to think Jack is jumping for joy over that fact that Turner Classics has come to the film's rescue, scheduling it for a 2 p.m. showing (est) on Tuesday, August 12th, as part of an all-day Kim Novak marathon.

A second lost Lemmon-Quine comedy, 1957's "Operation Mad Ball," had previously been scheduled by Turner for a showing on Saturday, July 19th at 8 a.m. (est). Neither title has ever been released on home entertainment in any form.

I was alerted to the "Landlady" broadcast by a fellow fan of the film, named John, who's from Ohio and who wrote in:

"I share your love of 'The Notorious Landlady.' I saw this film at the Valley Drive-In theatre in Newark, Ohio. It was the first feature of a four-film 'Dusk to Dawn' showcase. We stayed through all four films. Following 'The Notorious Landlady' was 'Ride the High Country' with Joel McCrea and Randolph Scott, 'Claudelle Inglish' with Diane McBain and Arthur Kennedy and 'Satan Never Sleeps' with William Holden and Clifton Webb. I can't wait to see it again."

Wow. "Claudelle Inglish" with Diane McBain. Another lost title.

John went on to share drive-in memories that made me particularly nostalgic:

"I saved all of the old flyers that our two local drive-ins issued. I have most of them from 1962 up until they stopped printing them around 1971 or so. I'm able to look through them and remember what films I saw.

"We went to two other 'Dusk to Dawn' specials around that time. The first was 'Spencer's Mountain' with Henry Fonda and Maureen O' Hara, 'The Thrill of It All' with Doris Day and James Garner, Alfred Hitchcock's 'The Birds' and 'Gidget Goes to Rome.'

"The final one we went to was made up of 'Days of Wine and Roses' with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, 'Captain Newman M.D.' with Gregory Peck and Tony Curtis, 'A Gathering of Eagles' with Rock Hudson and Rod Taylor and '40 Pounds of Trouble' with Tony Curtis and Suzanne Pleshette. That's a lot of movies for one admission price."

Who says movies are better than ever? Those marathons sound like heaven to me, especially at a drive-in venue. Drive-ins were great for families, who could make all the noise they wanted without disturbing anyone; for young couples who wanted a little privacy and for movie buffs who wanted to discuss the film while it was in progress (again, without disturbing anyone else).

But back to "The Notorious Landlady," a tight and tidy mix of Hitchcock hommage and comic sophistication, boasting a particularly literate script co-written by Blake Edwards and Larry Gelbart ("A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and TV's "M*A*S*H"), based on a short story by Britain's Margery Sharp that originally appeared in Collier's magazine (under the title "The Notorious Tenant"), the February 3rd, 1956 issue.

Aside from Lemmon and Novak, the top-flight cast includes Fred Astaire, Lionel Jeffries, Estelle Winwood, Maxwell Reed and Phileppa Bevans. George Duning handled the score which makes good use of George and Ira Gershwin's "A Foggy Day" (fitting for the London settng) and strains from Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Pirates of Penzance" for the chase finale.

BTW, the day that Turner has set aside for Novak drives home the point that she has a most interesting filmography. Also screening on August 12th are George Sidney's "The Eddie Duchin Story" and "Jeanne Eagles," Mark Robson's "Phffft!" (also with Lemmon), Billy Wilder's "Kiss Me, Stupid," Delbert Mann's "Middle of the Night," Robert Aldrich's camp classic, "The Legend of Lylah Clare," Quine's "Strangers When We Meet" and "Pushover," Phil Karlson's "Five Agaist the House," Ken Hughes' "Of Human Bondage" and Alfred Hitchcock's "Vertigo," natch.

All that's missing are Quine's "Bell, Book and Candle," Sidney's "Pal Joey," Otto Preminger's "The Man with the Golden Arm" and Joshua Logan's "Picnic."

Novak is long overdue for a tribute, preferrably at Lincoln Center. She worked with a lot of great filmmakers and must have tons of stories.

As for "The Notorious Landlady," hopefully, it's next stop will be on DVD.

(Artwork: Lemmon in the climatic chase scene in Quine's long-missing "The Notorious Landlady"; Lemmon between takes with Novak, and Lemmon and Novak in a publicity shot for the film)


Daryl Chin said...

Over the years, Kim Novak would say that she had no interest in writing an autobiography, but then (about 15 years ago) she was rumored to have started writing one. But then there were all those brushfires and wildfires, and her ranch was burnt to the ground. And she said that she could not face trying to remember her Hollywood days again, she just wants to live her (happy) life. As with Doris Day, she devotes a lot of her time to the care of animals (her husband is a veterinarian). So she seems not to want to relive her memories. (There were some memories, such as her relationship with Sammy Davis Jr. and the repercussions and the threats, which evidently remain too painful for her to discuss.)

jbryant said...

Re Novak: Yeah, it's a shame the dish won't dish.

TCM's Novak day is filled with treasures. Almost as exciting to me as The Notorious Landlady is the resurfacing of Karlson's Five Against the House, a great little heist picture with a rather intense Brian Keith performance.

The mention of Spencer's Mountain perked me up - it's the first movie I can remember seeing in a theatre. Coincidentally enough, the first movie I recall seeing at a drive-in is yet another Delmer Daves title, Susan Slade. Both traumatized me, by the way. If I ever go into therapy, I should send the bills to Daves' estate.

joe baltake said...

I can understand Novak's desire to forget Hollywood and her apprehension about delving into it in a book. I'm sure the situation with Sammy Davis, Jr. was publicly painful and, of course, there are the reports of the disdain and condescending ways with which Harry Cohn callously treated her.

Her love for animals is legendary and I read a while back that she so bonded with the cat that played Pyewacket in "Bell, Book and Candle" that she adopted it after the filming was completed.

I'm fascinated by these beautiful actresses, usually blondes, who have a deep affinity for animals - Novak, Doris Day, Kim Basinger, Tippi Hedren and, of course, Bridgette Bardot.

j kaiser said...

I'll watch anything with Lemmon. He could make me laugh or cry, sometimes in the same film. The first movie I remember seeing him in was "The China Syndrome" when I was a kid. My parents took us to see it at the drive in. I knew who Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas were, but Lemmon was new to me. He was fantastic. I remember being in the back of the station wagon near tears at his death scene, the way he layed there in Jane Fonda's arms with his eyes open. Months later I was watching "The Great Race", I was shocked when my mother pointed out who was playing Professor Fate. I could not believe it was the same man. I remember thinking, "now that's acting". Over the years I've seen anything of his I could, and now to find out that I can see two more performances of his brand new. Fantastic.

Jack Lemmon, you are greatly missed.

Sean said...

Great column about Jack Lemmon's missing movies on video/DVD. I own everything of his available on both formats, but as I was born in 1972, there are a few movies of his I have never seen. Luckily, three of those - Notorious Landlady, Operation Madball and You Can't Run Away From It - will be on TCM in July or August.
I did want to add, however, that Phffft! was released on video in 1990 by Goodtimes Home Video. I own a copy of it.