Jennie Linden is the center of everyone's attention - Ann Firbank (from left), Richard Attenborough, Ian Holm, Lee Remick and Clive Revill - in Dick Clement's 1970 film version of the acerbic Iris Murdoch novel and play, "A Severed Head," adapted by Frederic Raphael. It airs 4:15 a.m. 1 September, on TCMIt's August. That means "Summer Under the Stars" on Turner Classic Movies, an annual event when each day of the month is devoted the trajectory of a single star's career, the lows as well as the highs.
Here's a glimpse at what I will be checking out (all times are est):
1 august: Henry Fonda, a quinessential American personality, is a good choice to kick off this year's actor-centric marathon, and an opening-day triple bill is a must-see afternoon treat (including two tense political dramas) - Franklin J. Schaffner's sly, fluid "The Best Man"(1964, at 1:30 p.m.), based on the 1960 Gore Vidal play and featuring a bang-up ensemble cast; Otto Preminger's edgy, still-astonishing "Advise and Consent" (1962, at 3:30 p.m.), based on Allen Drury's 1959 Pulitizer Prize-winning novel and Loring Mandel's 1960 stage adapatation and boasting an even more impressive ensemble cast (as well as a taboo-shattering gay-bar scene that still stings and disturbs), and Alfred Hitchcock's wrenching "The Wrong Man" (1956, at 6 p.m.), a rare fling into real-life drama, inspired by the troubling "Manny" Balestrero case.
2 august: Good, gray James Mason, although always appreciated, seemed to operate below the radar, particularly during the 1950s and '60s when his consistently accomplished, flawless performances were a given. (Glenn Ford and David Niven were members of the same club of outsiders, although Niven was rewarded with an Oscar.) Mason is the prime reason to tolerate George Cukor's elephantine quasi-musical/soap opera, "A Star Is Born" (1954, at 2 p.m.), propping up a trembly, narcissistic Judy Garland, and he adds a slithery sinisterness to Hitchcock's compulsively watchable "North by Northwest" (1959, at 10 p.m.), contrasting sharply with another good, gray Brit - Cary Grant.
3 august: I've a soft spot for Marion Davies whose reputation was gratuitously tarnished and ability diminished by that spiteful, self-important cad, Orson Welles, in "Citizen Kane," but she was a first-rate actress and a beguiling screen presence. Check out Edmund Goulding's fabulous "Blondie of the Follies" (1932, at 1:45 p.m.). Her affection for her character here is central to Davies' fully-realized performance.
Shawn and Coburn at war in Blake Edwards' "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?," airing 4 August on TCM.4 august: James Coburn day, lots of good stuff but one title here stands out - "What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?" (1966, at 6 p.m.). For the occasion, I'll quote Dave Kehr from his 2008 DVD review: "Directed by Blake Edwards from a screenplay by William Peter Blatty, this 1966 antiwar farce, made as things were heating up in Vietnam, is one of the most ingeniously constructed American comedies, a brilliantly sustained series of plot reversals, inverted identities and reconfigured values." The inimitable Aldo Ray and Dick Shawn co-star with Jimmy Coburn.
6 august: Judy Garland = Anathema. You get the picture. But I am amused by her in Charles Walters' enjoyably peppy and happy "Summer Stock" (1950, at 6 p.m.), one of those irresistible "let's put on a show in the barn" musicals that MGM regularly churned out. Amusing because it's a hoot to see Judy go through the motions of being an artless farmer who, overnight, becomes, well, Judy Garland! Throughout most of the film, she looks relatively normal, but for the "Get Happy" number - shot several months after principal photography, after she had slimmed down - she turns miraculously into a sophisticated glamour puss. Yes, amusing.
The presence of Gene Kelly definitely helps here.
7 august: Call in sick. Do anything to spend the day with Glenn Ford. It starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 6 a.m. I know I'll be there for the George Marshall duo, "It Started with a Kiss" (1959; at 9 a.m.) and "Cry for Happy" (1961, at 11 a.m.); Vincente Minnelli's "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (1963, at 1 p.m.); Charles Vidor's seminal "Gilda" (1946; at 8 p.m.); Delmer Daves' "3:10 to Yuma" 1957, at 11:30 p.m.); Burt Kennedy's "The Rounders" (1965, at 1:15 p.m., 8 august); Phil Karlson's "A Time for Killing" (1967, at 2:45 a.m.) and Lee H. Katzin's "Heaven with a Gun" (1969, at 4:15 p.m.), with Carolyn Jones, an actress who deserves to be remembered, and Barbara Hershey.
9 august: Cary Grant. All day. Bliss. Like spending a day snoozing - and dreaming only nice things.
10 august: Late-career Dirk Bogarde today - with the estimable actor showcased in Joseph Losey's perverse "The Servent" (1963, at 9:30 p.m.); Jack Clayton's difficult-to-see "Our Mother's House" (1967, at 1130 p.m.), with good performances by Pamela Franklin and Martin Lester; John Schlesinger's "Darling" (1965, at 1:30 a.m., 11 august), and Lewis Gilbert's "Damn the Defiant!" (1962, at 4 a.m.).
13 august: It's Gloria Grahame Day. Where to start? Well, I plan to tune in for Vincente Minnelli's "The Bad and the Beautiful" (1952, at 6 p.m.) and stay through Nicholas Ray's "In a Lonely Place" (1950, at 8 p.m.), Fritz Lang's "The Big Heat" (1953, at 9:45 p.m.) and Minnelli's "The Cobweb" (1955, at 2:15 a.m., 14 august). Graham is grand/
15 august: There was always an elusive, fleeting quality about Deborah Kerr, a feature that wasn't successfully conquered until she made Fred Zinnemann's "From Here to Eternity" (1953, at 10:15 p.m.). But nevertheless she triumphed over and over again in such titles as Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's "The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp" (1943, at 2:30 p.m.), Minnelli's "Tea and Sympathy" (1956, at 5:30 p.m.) and especially Leo McCarey's "An Affair to Remember" 91957, at 8 p.m.). Turner is also airing a new title to me - Norman Taurog's "Please Believe Me" (1950, at 4:30 a.m. 16 august), co-starring Peter Lawford, Mark Stevens and Robert Walker.
Jennifer Jones, teaching - and with with Robert Stack and Biff Elliot, in a memorable scene from Henry Koster's sentimental "Good Morning, Miss Dove," airing on Turner Classic movies on 18 August.17 august: Make a point of watching (or recording) an early morning screening of Jennifer Jones in Henry Koster's "Good Morning, Miss Dove" (1955, at 1:30 a.m., 18 august), a sentimental, inspirational fable, a la "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," which was a huge audience favorite in the '50s. Like "Chips," Koster's film is about a dedicated teacher (Jones in the title role) whose precision and perfectionism are mistaken for rigidity and coldness. Jones takes the character from youth to old age and few scenes are as memorable as the ones detailing Miss Dove's retirement or the emblematic, heart-stopping moment when two of her former students, now adults, gallantly carry Miss Dove in a way that pays tribute to her regal bearing (see photo above). A most touching film, rarely cloying.
20 august: Both Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn were known to be hugely competitive actresses who not only fought with studios but also with other actresses who threatened them. This may well explain why I am not exactly a fan of either one (although their respective acting tics also have a lot to do with my lack of enthusiasm). One of Davis's many nemises is the singular Miriam Hopkins, a talent who Davis regularly sandbagged. One could see why. Hopkins was great.
If you have any doubt, keep your eye on her acting duets with Davis in Edmund Goulding's "The Old Maid" (1939, at 12:15 p.m.) and Vincent Sherman's "Old Acquaintance" 91943, at 2 p.m.) - and, of course, schedule William Wyler's "These Three" (1936, at 2:45 p.m.)
Hopkins is also a standout in Wyler's remake of "These Three" - "The Children's Hour" (1961, at 10 a.m. 11 august).
Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas touch but don't connect in Gilbert Cates' fine father-son drama, "I Never Sang for My Father," airing on 21 August.21 august: Gene Hackman packed it in after "Welcome to Mooseport" (2004) and quietly retired. Turner reminds us of exactly what we lost. He's great in every film in this line-up, starting with Burt Balaban's "Mad Dog Coll" (1961, at 6 a.m.), co-starring Jerry Orbach and Brooke Hayward (daughter of Leland Hayward and first wife of Dennis Hopper). I have a keen interest in seeing Gordon Flemying's "The Split" (1968, at 7:30 a.m.) again, as well as Woody Allen's "Another Woman" (1988, at 4:30 p.m.) Also on hand to savor: Robert Rossen's troubling "Lilith" (1964, at 6 p.m.); Arthur Penn's post-studio system classic, "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967, at 8 p.m.), Francis Ford Coppola's "The Conversation" (1974, at 10 p.m.) and, of course, Gilbert Cates' acute distillation of familial tensions, "I Never Sang for My Father" (1970, at 2:30 p.m.).
22 August: Sterling Hayden - what a great name! - gets his day, and we get Nicholas Ray's bizarre "Johnny Guitar" (1954, at 4 p.m.), a sort of feminist/lesbian Western with Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge going at each other; John Huston's "The Asphalt Jungle" (1950, at 8 p.m.), with that adjustable-wrench-of-an-actress Jean Hagen, Louis Calhern and of course a very young Marilyn Monroe, and Irvin Kershner's "Loving" (1970, at 4:30 a.m., 23 august), a compelling, beautifully judged psychodrama that transcends its late '60s influcences.
Leslie Parrish and Laurence Harvey in John Frankenheimer's juicy "The Manchurian Candidate," which has a 23 August playdate.23 august: Angela Lansbury has a great filmography and 24 hours simply are too few to do it justice. But Turner has come up with a pleasing selection, starting with George Sidney's "The Harvey Girls" (1946, at 6 a.m.) and ending with Albert Lewin's intriguing "Season of Passion" (1959, at 4 a.m. on 24 august), co-starring Ernest Borgnine, John Mills and Anne Baxter. In-between, pencil in here two Frankenheimer titles, "All Fall Down" and "The Manchurian Candidate" (both from 1962, airing at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively); Vincente Minnelli's "The Reluctant Debutante" (1958, 4:15 p.m.); the short version of Robert Stevenson's "Bedknobs and Broomsticks" (1971, at 6 p.m.), her breakthrough film, "Gaslight" by George Cukor (1944, at 8 p.m.) and John Guillermin's "Death on the Nile" (1978, at 11:30 p.m.).
Fred & Kim together at last in Delbert Mann's "Middle of the Night" from Paddy Chayefsky24 august: Thirteen films starring Fredric March. Watch them all. But pay special heed to Delbert Mann's affectingly dark May-December romance, "Middle of the Night" (1959, at 1:30 a.m., 25 august), based on the Paddy Cahyefsky play and starring an unadorned Kim Novak. (Edward G. Robinson and Gena Rowlands had the roles on stage.)
26 august: Whether or not you're into Yul Brynner, you might want to catch Terence Young's "Triple Cross" (1967, at 3:30 p.m.), with Romy Schneider and Christopher Plummer; the twins "Westworld" and "Futureworld" (1973 & 1976, at 12:45 and 2:15 a.m., 27 august) and the career-making/career-killing "The King and I" by Walter Lang (1956, at 8 p.m.).
27 august: Ida Lupino worked steadily and always with fine precision and without the self-importance that made some of her contemporaries unbearable, bad company. The studio system seemed to take her for granted and, at a certain point, she turned to directing. Even off-screen, you could somehow see her. She was indeliable and I look forward to renewing my acquaintance with her again with her "The Bigamist" (1953, at 10 a.m.), Anatole Litvak's "Out of the Fog" (1941, at 11:30 a.m.), Lewis Seiler's "Women's Prison" (1955, at 2:30 p.m.), Robert Aldrich's "The Big Knife" (1955, at 4 p.m.), Vincent Sherman's "The Hard Way" (1942, at 10 p.m.) and Sam Peckinpah's "Junior Bonner" (1972, at 4 a.m., 28 august), in which she showed she never changed.
She was still Ida.
Dave Hirsh & Ginnie Moorehead of "Some Came Running"28 august: Sinatra. Goes down like Scotch. Has he ever been bad? I think not. Today, I'll watch Minnelli's belated classic, "Some Came Running" (1958; at 8 p.m.) and Charles Walter's "The Tender Trap" (1955, at 12:30 a.m., 29 august) -
29 august: Turner gives us Peter Sellers in Stanley Kubrick's "Lolita" (1962, at 8 p.m.) and Blake Edwards' "The Party" (1968, at 4:15 p.m., 30 august), two of his greatest performances. But there are also a handful of lesser-known titles - Jack Arnold's "The Mouse That Roared" (1959, at 7:30 a.m.); Anthony Asquith's "The Millionairess" (1961, at 11 a.m.); John Guillerman's "Waltz of the Toreadors" (1962, at 11 p.m.), featuring a bravura turn by Margaret Leighton, and Roy Boulting's "There's a Girl in My Soup" (1970, at 2:30 a.m., 30 august), an early Goldie Hawn vehicle from her Mike Frankovich/Columbia days.
31 august: A day for sublime Claire Bloom and, of course, it includes Robert Wise's "The Haunting" (1963, at 10 p.m.), with Bloom and Julie Harris teamed effectively. With Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn.
But my main interest here is the film she made in England with Lee Remick and Richard Attenborough - Dick Clement's movie of the Iris Murdoch novel and play, "A Severed Head" (1971, at 4:15 a.m., 1 September), a trip-y piece about the daisy chain relationships of a husband and wife who are equally unfaithful to each other.
Remick is married to Ian Holm but wants to be with Attenborough, while Holm has a secret thing going on with the much younger Jennie Linden, who played one of the two female leads, along with Glenda Jackson, in Ken Russell's "Women in Love." (And whatever happened to her?) Then there's Attenborough's provocateur-sister, played by Bloom, who taught the Linden character at Oxford and decides to wise up Remick about Holm's infidelity. Bloom further confuses things with a genuinely radical turn by introducing Clive Revill to Linden, hoping that sparks fly.
And they do.
"A Severed Head" is free-flowing, pliable and light - and should be seen, if only for Bloom's and Remick's dryly comedic performances and their respective beauty. They're both gorgeous here. By the way, the Broadway production of "A Severed Head," staged in 1964, was a troubled, notable flop. Original stars Joan Fontaine, Elliott Reid and Lee Grant were all replaced during a tryout at Philadelphia's Forrest Theater. A young Jessica Walter was in the production (in the Linden role).