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.
Star of the Month (Every Thursday):
Directed by Frank Borzage
1 September: German filmmaker Gottfried Reinhardt (1913-1994), the son of Max Reinhardt, made precious few English-language films ("Betrayed" and an episode of "The Story of Three Loves" among them), and with his 1961 Kirk Douglas vehicle, "Town Without Pity" (airing at 6 a.m., est), he brought his Germanic insight to the subject of wartime rape as he plumbed the depths of grief and shame in this gloomy melodrama.
The film marked the first American sighting of Christine Kaufmann (the future Mrs. Tony Curtis, with whom she co-starred in Norman Jewison's witty "Wild and Wonderful") as the victim of Yank soldiers Robert Blake, Richard Jaeckel and Frank Sutton (just prior to his stint on "Gomer Pyle").
Like her director, Kaufmann eventually went back to making German films exclusively.
Reinhardt's film is hardhitting and expectedly disturbing but is perhaps best known for its Gene Pitney title song.
Larry Peerce - the son of another famous father, operatic tenor Jan Peerce - made his directorial debut with 1964's "One Potato, Two Potato" (airing at 11:45 a.m. est), one of the socially-conscious indies of the era, this one about an interracial relationship (beautifully acted by the singular Barbara Barrie and the forgotten Bernie Hamilton, with Richard Mulligan on the sidelines for disapproving edginess).
For reasons only that Peerce could explain, he then segued into directing episodic TV ("Batman," "The Green Hornet"), before bouncing back to the big screen in 1967 with the quasi-independent "The Incident" (20th century-Fox released) and making his breakthrough in 1969 with the seminal "Goodbye, Columbus," one of the staples/highlights of the New Wave of American filmmaking in the late '60s and early '70s.
Also: Three riveting courtroom dramas - Wilder's "Witness for the Prosecution" (1:30 p.m., est.), Preminger's "Anatomy of a Murder" (3:30 p.m., est.) and Lumet's "12 Angry Men" (6:15 p.m., est.)
2 September: Alan J. Pakula's deeply affecting 1982 film, "Sophie's Choice" (airing at 1:30 a.m., est.), is one of those occasional sort-of contemporary titles that Turner relegates to a late-night showing. I can't recall the film's rating - an R perhaps - but I also can't recall anything dubious or offensive about its content either, dealing as it does with Holocaust survivors in the most empathetic way.
Meryl Streep, arguably, turns in the best of all her screen performances and that's saying something) and Kevin Kline, alas, had perhaps the only film role here to showcase his potential.
For this occasion, Turner is screening the 157-minute Canadian version which, to the best of my knowledge, runs seven minutes longer than what played in the states. If anyone can clarify/correct, share!
2-3 September: All Shirley, All the Time. Starting at 8 p.m., est., MacLaine struts her stuff in James Brooks' "Terms of Endearment" (1982), in which she fights over exactly who has the lead role with the inimitable Debra Winger; Billy Wilder's songless and joyless "Irma La Douce" (1963), Wilder's much-better "The Apartment" (1960), in which she and Jack Lemmon became the ideal-screen-team-that-never-was, and her first film, Hitchcock's oddballl, "The Trouble with Harry" (1955).
Somewhere in there, Robert Osborne, easily the finest TV host, interviews the many Shirleys (3 a.m., est.).
Must see: Delmer Daves' 1957 original, "3:10 to Yuma," airing at 6 p.m, est., on September 2nd and also at 4:15 p.m., est., on September 14th.
3 September: Turner gets political with back-to-back screenings of some of the best political (or politically-oriented) films, starting at 8 p.m., est., with John Ford's "The Last Hurrah" (1958), with Spencer Tracy; Michael Ritchie's "The Candidate" (1972), with Robert Redford Kennedy; Franklin J. Schaffner's "The Best Man" (1964), in which Cliff Robertson plays the the democratic candidate and is told, "You know, Joe, the best thing about you is that you may sound like a liberal but, in your heart, you're an American," and Altman's messy but compulsively watchable "Nashville" (1975), another Turner title that always gets a late-night showing.
4 September: The star power of Kay Francis, films from 1930-38 - "Raffles," "Jewel Robbery," "One Way Passage," "Divorce," "Man Wanted," "Women Are Like That,""Comet Over Broadway," "I Loved a Woman" and "Living on Velvet."
The Sherman Brothers wrote some of the best screen musicals, but they came along at a time when Hollywood lost interest in the genre and it didn't help that they were so closely associated with Disney. Their music and lyrics are up there with the best of Rodgers and Hammerstein, but no one ever really took the time to listen to what they wrote, not even the fan base that supported their films. The words are tricky and playful and the music is genuinely melodic.
Some of their best work was done for two companion films, made under the auspices of Readers Digest - Don Taylor's 1973's "Tom Sawyer" (airing on Turner at 10 p.m., est., on September 27th) and J. Lee Thompson's 1974's "Huckleberry Finn" (airing at 6 a.m. on September 4th). I've no idea why these two aren't being show back-to-back.
Jeff East, who was appealingly natural and unaffected as a child actor, stars in both as Huck Finn and shares his title-role film with Paul Winfield and three scene stealers, David Wayne, Harvey Korman and the great Arthur O'Connell (in one of his last screen roles).
"Tom Sawyer" stars the perfectly cast Johnny Whitaker in the title role, with grand support from Celeste Holms (who seems to get the pick of the Sherman Bros. score) and Jodie Foster (who, as Becky Thatcher, doesn't get to sing at all, strangely enough).
David Swift's not-entirely-terrific “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying,” airing at 12 noon, est., is worth singling out for a brief discussion. Robert Morse and Rudy Vallee, of course, were recruited to recreate their Broadway roles, and Dale Moreda was assigned the task of restaging Bob Fosse's original stage choreography. An observation: Morse's annoying facial mugging throughout the film - in close up, no less - and Vallee's stale performance, from years of doing it on stage, provide good arguments for not casting a film with a play's original cast.
Loesser’s play may have won the Pulitzer Prize, but that doesn’t mean that United Artists had much faith in the material – or in the idea of making a musical in general. Swift, in fact, filmed “dramatic bridges” to replace the musical numbers for the film’s European release. This may explain the stilted, tentative nature of the film whenever someone is about to break out in song. Note the opening title number in particular.
Also, much has been written about the excision of the memorable
“Coffee Break” number to accommodate a running-time dictum of Radio City Music Hall, where the film premiered, but nothing has been said about Cary Grant’s deleted bit.
When Morse sings the reprise of “I Believe in You” to himself in the mirror in the men’s room before his character’s big meeting, trying to pump himself up, his image in the mirror slowly turns into Cary Grant smiling back. For some bizarre reason, this was never in the release print of the film, even though it’s documented in the movie’s pressbook.
Why did Grant participate? Well, he had great affection for the piece because when he first met Dyan Cannon, she was playing Rosemary in the touring production of the show. “How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying” played a crucial role in their courtship.
Oh, one last thing about "Coffee Break." Because of Radio City, the rest of the country was denied seeing that number. It apparently never occured to U.A. to cut it only for Radio City (and release it complete in the rest of the country) - and it also never occured to the studio to save the footage. It's seemingly lost forever.
5 September: Unusual triple feature, starting at 12:15 p.m., est. - Otto Preminger's "Bonjour Tristesse" (1957), Charles Walters' "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" (1960), with Doris Day and David Niven as Jean and Walter Kerr, and Blake Edwards' fab "The Party" (1968), although star Peter Sellers' condescending comic turn here (much like Mickey Rooney's in Edwards' "Breakfast at Tiffany's") comes with a queasy racism that, for some bewildering reason, was acceptable in '68.
6 September: "Nothing Sacred" (1937). Lombard. March. Wellman directing. Heaven. It starts at 8:30 a.m., est.
Also: A double-bill of Wyler's "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946) and Laughton's "The Night of the Hunter" (1955), beginning at 5 p.m., est.
7 September: Director Phil Karlson and star Ginger Rogers make an intriguing combination in 1955's "Tight Spot," but it works - intriguingly. It airs at 8:15 a.m., est. Later in the day, starting at 2:15 p.m., a Guilty Pleasures spree - George Sidney's "Viva Las Vegas" (1964), with a virltually unwatchable Ann-Margret, Swift's "Under the Yum Yum Tree" (1963) with Jack Lemmon playing a creepily lecherous landlord, Hitchcock's "Psycho," Sirk's "Imitation of Life" and Wendkos' "Gidget."
If you're still up for it, late at night (starting at 2 a.m.), Turner turns on the subtitles with Fellini's "I Vitelloni" (1953) and the art with Antonioni's
8 September: David Swift, already represented this month on Turner with "How to Succeed," "Under the Yum Yum Tree" and "The Parent Trap," also shows up with 1964's "Good Neighbor Sam" (airing at 11:30 a.m.), based on the book of the same title by the estimable Jack Finney ("Body Snatchers") and headlined by Swift's "Yum Yum" star, Jack Lemmon.
In fact, Lemmon and Swift made "Yum Yum" and Sam" back-to-back, and on the basis of these two titles and "Irma La Douce" (released just prior to "Yum Yum"), Lemmon reigned as the Number One box-office star of 1964 (the only time in his career that he enjoyed that position), but with much chagrin. While Jack held back from saying anything negative about "Irma" - it's a Wilder film, after all - he was highly critical of both "Yum Yum" and "Sam," unfairly so in the case of the latter.
"Yum Yum" is not a good film, but in many ways, "Irma La Douce" is much worse - and cause for one to adjust one's opinion of Wilder downward. But "Sam" has the contours of an old-fashioned, classic farce, with Jack doing double-duty as a happily married man (to Dorothy Provine) and as the pretend husband of his wife's best friend (good sport Romy Schneider, clearly having the time of her life). There's a lot of rushing about by Jack and a wonderful interlude in which he parties with Romy in her house and then rushes back home to force down Dorothy's burnt macaroni cassarole.
"Good Neighbor Sam" is a minor classic, a charmer that's been harshly underrated. I had a lot of debates with Jack about his films and always defended this one. He never quite understood how I could prefer "Sam" to his Oscar-nominated "Days of Wine and Roses," an incredibly poorly written, facile film on a serious subject. But while "Wine and Rose" manages to get worse each year, "Good Neighbor Sam" improves.
Oh, yes, and it has one of the most charming credit sequences, nicely set to Frank De Vol's sprightly theme music for the film.
9 September: Busy day, starting at 10:30 a.m., est., with Guy Green's "Light in the Piazza" (1962), featuring affecting work by Yvette Mimieux; Vincente Minnelli's shrewd film version of Judy Holliday's "Bells Are Ringing" (1960); Kelly and Donen's underappreciated "It's Always Fair Weather" (1955), a sort of sequel to "On the Town," and Minnelli's expansive "Brigadoon" (1954).
With “Bells Are Ringing,” Minnelli, seemingly cognizant of changing times, serious redefines the film musical into something lighter, less insistent and virtually dance-free. Note in particular the revolutionary way in which Minnelli staged "I Met a Girl" and what's left of "Mu-Cha-Cha."
10 September: Aram Avakian's difficult-to-see "Cops and Robbers, with Cliff Gorman and Joseph Bologna, airs at 2:15 a.m., est.
If I had to pick only one Hitchcock film that I could keep in my DVD collection it would be 1964's “Marnie” (airing at 4:45 p.m., est.) – hands-down.
I realize Grace Kelly was Hitch’s intended star here, but Tippi Hedren turns in a revelatory, intricate performance that has grown in restrospect as a damaged woman caught in a destructive cycle.
This time around, listen to the sad, child-like voice Hedren affects whenever she regresses into her past. Sean Connery is the empathetic man who takes the time to understand her.
Also: Preminger's provocative "Advise and Consent" (1962), featuring an incredible cast and one of the creepiest gay-bar scenes ever, airs at 8 p.m., est.
11 September: More Kay Francis, in films made between 1932-37 - "Trouble in Paradise," "Cynara," "A Notorious Affair," "The Feminine Touch," "Street of Women," "Give Me Your Heart," "Stolen Holiday," "Mary Stevens, MD," "Passion Flower," "Another Dawn," "The Goose and the Gander" and "The House on 56th Street."
Cary Grant is in top form - with both Shirley Temple and Myrna Loy - in Irving Reis' 1947 "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" (airing at 3 p.m., est.), one film that timid Hollywood would never think of remaking. Also: Minnelli's 1958 "Gigi" at 5 p.m., est.
12 September: Directed by the great Frank Borzage - "Shipmates forever" (1935), "Three Conrades" (1938) and "Secrets" (1933).
13 September: Grant shows up in another lightweight winner for the same period, H. C. Potter's 1948 "Mr. Blandings Builds His Dreamhouse," airing at 6 a.m., est. The day also provides screenings of such assorted titles as Jack Arnold's 1958 "High School Confidential" (3:45 a.m., est.)Peter Masterson's 1985 "The Trip to Bountiful" ( 6 p.m., est.) and John Huston's 1961 "The Misfits" (8 p.m., est.).
14 September: Richard Burton, the oringal Anthony Hopkins, excels in Tony Richardson's 1958 film of John Osborne's "Look Back in Anger," at 10:15 p.m., est.
15 September: Early-morning screenings of Albert Lamorisse's "The Red Balloon" (`956) and Victor Erice's "The Spirit of the Beehive" (1973), starting at 1:30 a.m., est. Must-see: Doris Day, Clark Gable and Gig Young in George Seaton's urbane and literate "Teacher's Pet" (1958), at 6 a.m., est.
16 September: Rodgers and Hammerstein's sprawling "The King and I," directed in 1956 by Walter Lang, is screened at 8 p.m., est. Yul Brynner and Deborah Kerr give definite performances in the lead roles and, for once, Marni Nixon's usually soulless voice matches up with the actress she's dubbing.
17 September: Get up - at 7:15 a.m., est. - with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball in Melvin Frank's comedy of (would-be) adultry, "The Facts of Life" (1960). Not as creepy as you'd think, it's actually sophisticated and droll.
18 September: Kay Francis, between 1931-40 -"Transgression," "Secrets of an Actress," "Women in the Wind," "King of the Underworld," ""It's a Date," "Play Girl," "Little men," "My Bill" "In Name Only," "The Keyhole" and "I Found Stella Parish."
20 September: Carl Reiner's supremely witty and observant "Enter Laughing" (1967), based on his autobiographical book and the Joseph Stein play adapted from it, gets an early-morning airing at 12:15 a.m., est. Reni Santoni has the Reiner role that Alan Arkin played on stage. (Arkin and Reiner, of course, were famously reunited for Norman Jewison's "The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming.")
Also: Two from William Castle - "13 Ghosts" (1960) and "The Tingler" (1959), airing back-to-back starting at 2:15 a.m., est. Look for an encore of Preminger's "Anatomy of a Murder" at 5:15 p.m., est.
21 September: Basil Dearden nudges an ace performance out of Dirk Bogarde in 1961's "Victim," at 12:15 a.m., est. Two musicals are showcased today - 1953's "Kiss me, Kate," arguably George Sidney's best film, at 6 a.m. est., and Stanley Donen's bizarrely unsatisfying "Funny Face," a faux-MGM musical made at Paramount, airing at 6 p.m., est.
Also: "How to Murder Your Wife" (1965), a disappointing Lemmon-Quine effort, at 2 p.m. est., and the Ernie Kovacs-Robert Wagner "Sail a Crooked Ship" (1961) at 10 p.m., est., which, directed by Irvin Brecher, is much better.
22 September: 1978's "Interiors," showing Woody Allen at his most arch and self-conscious. You have to wake up at 4 a.m., est., to see it.
23 September: A Cross-Dressing Film Fete - "Barbra Streisand's "Yentl" (1983), Blake Edwards' "Victor, Victoria" (1982), Wilder's"Some Like It Hot" 91959) and Sydney Pollack's sublime "Tootsie" (1982), starting at 8 p.m., est. and running until 5:15 a.m.
24 September: Are you as crazy about Edmund O'Brien as I am? Then check him out in Joseph M. Newman's 1950 "711 Ocearn Drive," a pleasing noir, airing at 12:45 p.m., est.
25 September: More of Kay, from 1934-45 - "Mandalay," "Doctor Monica," "Confession," "First Lady," "Always in My Heart," "Stranded," "Storm at Daybreak,""Guildy hands," "Allotment Wives" and "The White Angel."
Blake Edwards' often neglected seriocomic wartime fable, "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?" (1966), will be screened at 4:15 p.m., est. The film, which features a terrific turn by Dick Shawn, was reviewd at length in the New York Times by Dave Kehr on June 3rd when the film was finally released on DVD.
26 September: Sal Mineo, a good actor who was too often the butt of bad jokes by uninformed people, does his bruised-boy thing in Alfred L. Werker's 1957"The Young Don't Cry" at 10:30 a.m., est.
Meanwhile, Brian G. Hutton fans can enjoy back-to-backs of 1970's "Kelly's Heroes" and 1969's "Where Eagles Dare," starting at 8 p.m., est. Also: At 12 noon, est., Karel Reisz's "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning," with Albert Finney and Rachel Roberts.
27 September: Jerry Lewis reunites with his "Living It Up" co-star, Janet Leigh, in 1966's "Three on a Couch" (6 a.m., est.), which he also directed. It's followed by Howard Hawks' "Bringing Up Baby" (1938), Jack Conway's "Libeled Lady" (1936) and Charles Vidor's "Gilda" (1946).
28 September: The director is Phil Karlson. His cast includes John Payne, Preston Foster and that dish, Coleen Gray. The film is "Kansas City Confidential" (1952). Watch it. At 12 midnight, est.
After it, catch Irvin Kershner's 1961 "The Hoodlum Priest," with Don Murray and Kier Dullea.
Also: Two great films for kids, beginning at at 8 p.m., est. - Ida Lupino's 1966 "The Trouble with Angels," with Roz Russell and Hayley Mills, on at 2 p.m., est., and Swift's enduring "The Parent Trap," from 1961, with Mills again, Maureen O'Hara and Brian Keith. Lupino's film has popped up on several of Film Comment's Guilty Pleasures lists over the years.
29 September: Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds and Rod Taylor star for Richard Brooks in his 1956 version of Paddy Chayefsky's "The Catered Affair," airing at 4:15 a.m.
30 September: Two with Deborah Kerr, starting at 4 p.m., est. - Jean Negulesco's 1959 "Count Your Blessings," co-starring Rossano Brazzi, and Anatole Litvak's "The Journey," also from '59, with Yul Brynner.
Trivia: "The Journey" features a very, very young Ronny Howard (as the son of Anne Jackson and E.G. Marshall) and then-newcomer Jason Robards, Jr. Howard would eventually direct Robards many years later in two films - "Parenthood" and "The Paper."
Robards is the only actor from Howard's past who Howard would direct in a film. Surprisingly, Howard never directed Andy Griffith, his TV pa, or Shirley Jones with whom he made two films - Morton Da Costa's "The Music Man" and Minnelli's "The Courtship of Eddie's Father."
(Artwork: Jack Lemmon as Sam Bissel, with his Junkmobile, one of his best but least recognized comedy performances in David Swift's "Good Neighbor Sam"; vintage shot of Kay Francis and director Frank Borzage behind the camera; Francis with William Powell in "One Way Passage"; Robert Morse in Swift's flawed "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and with Michele Lee and Kay Reynolds in the "Been a Long Day" number; more of Jack - and Romy - in "Good Neighbor Sam"; display ad for Minnelli's "Bells Are Ringing"; Hedren with Sean Connery in Hitchcock's "Marnie"; Kay is a studio pose; Marilyn, Gable and Ritter in Huston's "The Misfits"; Day, Gable and Young in Seaton's "Teacher's Pet"; Sydney Pollack, director of "Tootsie," and Dick Shawn and James Coburn in Edwards' "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?")