A messed up Shirley Knight (brilliant!) exploits a vulnerable James Caan (exceptional!) in Francis Ford Coppola's "The Rain People" (riveting!). Avec Duvall.Turner Classic Movies drives into autumn with a smash month devoted to every possible area of movies - silents, imports, titles from or inspired by The Telluride Film Festival, movies with scores by Bernard Hermann, movies directed by J. Lee Thompson and Phil Karlson, movies picked by Richard Lewis and movies with Claude Rains, Stephen Boyd, Harry Belafonte, Donna Reed, Sabu and Mia Farrow. And lots of Vincinte Minnelli (yeah! ) scattered throughout. So who needs a life anyway?
The month opens - auspiciously, in my opinion - on 1 September with a 7:30 a.m. showing (all times are est) of Ted Tetzlaff's modest gem, "The Window," a tight and tidy little thriller featuring a preternaturally shrewd performance by a young Bobby Driscoll (it gets an encore performance on 21 September) - followed later at 8 p.m. by a quintet of classics featuring scores by Bernard Hermann - "Hangover Square," "The Devil and Daniel Webster," "Citizen Kane," "The Magnificent Ambersons" and "On Dangerous Ground."
Every Wednesday at prime-time hours, starting on 2 September, will be devoted to Claude Rains, kicking off with such staples as "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "Casablanca," "Mr. Skeffington" and "Notorious."
Two reliable actresses from the 1950s - Diane Brewster and Carolyn Jones - have good roles in Michael Curtiz's "The Man in the Net," a little-known Alan Ladd drama that Turner will show at noon on 3 September.
J. Lee Thompson rarely gets his due but he did direct "Tiger Bay," the original "Cape Fear" and "The Guns of Navarone," which is being screened at 8 p.m. in Turner's tribute to him on 5 September. It will be followed by "I Aim at the Stars," "Taras Bulba" and the underrated Sherman Bros. musical, "Huckleberry Finn."
Mia Farrow, who receives a block of time later in the month showcasing five of her performances, is especially affecting in Woody Allen's fastidiously-made but deceptively dark "The Purple Rose of Cairo," airing at 6:30 p.m. in 6 September. She plyas Celia, a downtrodden, Depression-era housewife/film buff whose life is ruined by movies. Jeff Daniels, who replaced Michael Keaton early in the the production of the film, turns in a game performance in the dual role of both a movie star named Tom Baxter and the character he plays in film called "The Purple Rose of Cairo" - a twosome who turn Cecilia's life inside-out and upside-down for the most facile reasons.
Later that night at 10 p.m., check on the color version of Peter Bogdanovich's good natured "Nickelodeon," which transports Burt Ryenolds and Ryan O'Neal (and us) into the silent film era.
Screening at 6 a.m. on 7 September is the not-to-be-missed Cecil B. DeMille film, "The Godless Girl," a 1929 consideration of atheism and, at 3:45 p.m., "Park Row," a gripping newspaper drama that teams maverick director Samuel Fuller with maverick actor Gene Evans.
Telluride! Inarugably the best film festival. Ever.The addictive Telluride Film Festival - the most intimate and manageable of all film festivals - is held every Labor Day weekend and for the occasion this year, Telluride's guest director, Alexander Payne, selected 15 titles to air on 7 & 8 September that bare some connection to the fete. These films either played Telluride or reflect the festival's spirit.
Worth catching, back-to-back on 8 September, are Francis Ford Coppola's ahead-of-its-time "The Rain People" (at 2 a.m.), about a runaway housewife, and Sam Peckinpah's companionable "Junior Bonner" (4 a.m.), a family drama with a rodeo backdrop. Both films are hugely watchable, each boasting a perfect ensemble of actors in indelible performances.
Shirley Knight had her best film role in "The Rain People," a part which Daryl Chin told me was originally intended for Elizabeth Hartman, who starred for Coppola in "You're a Big Boy Now" and was a favorite of the director's. Coppola apparently also wanted Hartman for the Diane Keaton role in "The Godfather" films, but Hartman had emotional problems that cut her career short. She died at 44 by suicide in 1987.
Richard Chamberlain and Yvette Mimieux make a charming duo in Alex Segal's "Joy in the Morning," airing at 4 p.m. on 8 September and receiving an encore showing on 23 September at 2:45 a.m.
Aldo Ray - they don't build actors like him anymoreTwo a.m. on 9 September. Mark down that time and date and catch Raoul Walsh's lurid adaptation of Norman Mailer's lurid war novel, "The Naked and the Dead," which was something of a minor sensation in its day. Aldo Ray (currently being celebrated in Quentin Tarantino's terrific "Inglourious Bastereds) and Barbara Nichols, both inimitable, are a hoot together. Good, testosterone-drenched trash. During more reasonable hours on 9 September, you have your pick of Nicholas Ray's "They Drive by Night" (6 a.m.), John Berry's "Tension" (9:30 a.m.), John Sturges' "Mystery Street" (7:45 a.m.), Tay Garnett's "Cause of Alarm" (2 p.m.), Richard Fleischer's "The Narrow Margin" (3:30 p.m.) and Fritz Lang's "While the City Sleeps" (4:45 p.m.). Best of all is a littel-known film by Seth Holt titled "Nowhere to Go," a 1958 gem that creatively pairs George Nader with Maggie Smith and throws in Bernard Lee for good measure. Oh, just take the day off.
The career of Hermann, who wrote the score for "The Naked and the Dead," is further celebrated on 8 September, starting at 8 p.m., with "Five Fingers," "The Snow of Kilimanjaro, "Beneath the 12-Mile Reef" and "The Three Worlds of Gulliver."
Turner devotes several hours to a few of the films made by Sabu, starting at 8 p.m. The same day, Robert Stevenson's "Old Yeller," made for Disney, sensitively illustrates what an animal tale could be when animal tales weren't so frivolous or completely kid-centric. It begins airing at 5:45 a.m. - so be prepared to start the day crying.
To cheer up, make sure to watch Allan Dwan's antic "Brewster's Millions," starring the affable Dennis O'Keefe and airing at 9:45 p.m. on 11 September. Commanding Joanne Woodward is the focus on 12 September, starting with a screening at 8 p.m. of Martin Ritt's "The Long Hot Summer," followed by her Oscar-winner "The Three Faces of Eve," "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams," "Count Three and Pray" and ending with "Paris Blues," another Ritt title.
"Divorce, American Style," starring Debbie Reynolds and Dick Van Dyke, is now more than 40 years old, but it remains as astutely observant and contemporary as ever. If anything, this scathing comedy, airing at 6 p.m. on 13 September, has improved with age.
A bit of trivia: Take note of the funny sequence which Reynolds and Van Dyke share with their respective divorce lawyers, played by Shelley Berman and Dick Gautier - both of whom had a history with Van Dyke at the time. Berman and Van Dyke had appeared on Broadway with Nancy Walker and Bert Lahr in the 1959 musical revue, "The Boys Against the Girls," and, a year later, Gautier played the title role in Van Dyke's musical hit, "Bye, Bye Birdie." (For some bizarre reason, Columbia didn't recruit the witty Gautier to recreate his stage role for its film of "Birdie," giving it instead to a gyrating blank named Jesse Pearson.)
Glenn Ford and Hope Lange were a momentary couple in the early 1960, making two films together - Frank Capra's "Pocketful of Miracles" in 1961 and David Swift's 1962 "Love Is a Ball" (originally titled "The Grand Duke and Mr. Pimm"), which airs at 4:15 a.m. on 14 September.
King Vidor's epic "Solomon and Sheba," playing at 3:45 p.m. on 14 September, stars Yul Brynner as Solomon, the role that was started by Tyrone Power, who died on set of a heart attack. This being a United Artists film, none of the footage of Power was retained. Gina Lollobrigida co-stars as Sheba.
The film versions of two Broadway comedies get early-morning slots on 15 September. Herb Ross's "The Owl and the Pussycat" stars Barbra Srtreisand and George Segal in roles played on stage by Diana Sands and Alan Alda. It airs at 3:30 a.m. Immediately following: Steve McQueen and Brigid Bazlen take over for Tom Poston and Suzanne Pleshette in "The Honeymoon Machine," Richard Thorpe's adaptation of "The Golden Fleecing." Meanwhile, at 6:45 a.m., Robert Montgomery is a bohemian artist and Roz Russell a society dame in George Fitzmaurice's "Live, Love and Learn."
More Bernard Hermann, starting at 8 p.m. on 15 September with a trio of Hitchcock scores - "The Trouble with Harry," "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and "Vertigo." Hitch's "Rich and Strange," about a young couple who are just that, pops up at 7:15 a.m. on 16 September. A day later, at 10 p.m. on 17 September, Crawford and McCambridge go at each other in Nicholas Ray's "Johnny Guitar."
Get more out of life - See a movie with Richard LewisOn 18 September, Harry Belafonte is showcased in Otto Preminger's "Carmen Jones," Sidney Poitier's "Buck and the Preacher" and Jan Kadar's "The Angel Levine," co-starring Zero Mostel.
It all starts at 8 p.m.
Another by Marty Ritt: "The Great White Hope," James Earl Jones' breakthrough film, gets a showing at 6 p.m. on 19 September. Based on the play in which Jones also appeared, it is appropriately stagebound. If you want something looser, try the inimitable cinema verité of Ken Loach - "Kes," the stark, affecting tale of a young man is transported from his dreary life whenever he works with his pet falcon. See it at 3 a.m. on 20 September.
On 21 September, you can watch David Niven slum in Michael Gordon's "The Impossible Years" (based on a play that starred Alan King), at 6 a.m., and then pull up a chair as comic Richard Lewis sits down at 8 p.m. with Robert Osborne to discuss his four picks of the night - Buster Keaeton's "Sherlock, Jr.," Charles Keisner's "Steamboat Bill, Jr." (starring Keaton), Elia Kazan's "On the Waterfront" and Stanley Kubrick's 'Dr. Strangelove."
"North by Northwest." Hitchcock & Grant. At 8 p.m. on 22 September. Got that?
Ben Mankiewicz has great tasteWeekend Turner host Ben Mankiewicz offers up his monthly pick on 23 September - Hitchcock's "Marnie," at 12:30 a.m. I salute Ben. If I had to pick only one Hitchcock film that I could keep in my DVD collection it would be “Marnie” – hands-down. I know 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.
Christine Edzard's two-part "Little Dorrit" project will be aired later on 23 September - with "Nobody's Fault" showing at noon and "Little Dorrit's Story" at 3 p.m.
Mitchum's the man on 24 September, overlapping with Minnelli - Vincente, that is. Starting at 7:45 a.m., you can see Bob in "Thunder Road," "Young Billy Young" and Minnelli's commandingly tense "Home from the Hill," which takes us right into two more Minnelli titles - "The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse" and the great "Two Weeks in Another Town."
You can't go wrong with a Phil Karlson film. They're rough-edged and endlessly fascinating. Turner serves up four on 25 September, starging at 8 p.m. with "Scandal Sheet," "The Phenix City Story," "The Brothers Rico" and "Ladies of the Chorus."
Minnelli (again) worked with CinemaScope for the first time with "Brigadoon," showing at 10 a.m. on 27 September and, in order to use the process, had to film his musical on an MGM soundstage, rather than on locaton as he had planned and wanted to. Later in the day: Richard Quine's cult fave, "Strangers When We Meet" at 2 p.m.
Before there were the virile Irish actors Liam Neeson and Gabriel Byrne, there was Stephen Boyd, who died young, but made an indelible impression in "The Bravodos," "The Best of Everything, "Jumbo" and "Ben-Hur," the latter kicking of a mini-tribute to the late actor on 26 September. It starts at 8 p.m. and is followed by "Genghis Khan," "The Beasts of Marseilles" and "Abandon Ship!" Roberto Rossellini's "Flowers of St. Francis" and Anatole Litvak's "Goodbye Again" are on tap for early-morning screenings (2 a.m., anyone?) on 28 September, a day which then devotes itself to six titles with Donna Reed - and five with Mia Farrow.
Farrow's titles, which start unreeling at 8 p.m., include two by Woody Allen, "Alice" and "A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy," Richard Fleischer's "See No Evil," John Guillermin's "Death on the Nile" and ... Anthony Mann's long-lost "A Dandy in Aspic," his final movie, airing at 1:30 a.m. on 29 September.
Farrow & Harvey, Together - in "A Dandy in Aspic"Quite atypical for Mann, "A Dandy in Aspic" is a Cold War thriller with a mod touch. Mann died while the film was still in production and receives sole credit, although the film's very game star, Laurence Harvey, completed the film for Mann. The nifty plot, based by Derek Marlowe on his novel, casts Harvey as Alexander Eberlin, a secret Russian double agent chosen by the British Secret Service to track down another double agent who is working for the Russians and is responsible for the deaths of three British spies. Actually, the Russian double agent that Eberlin is ordered to assassinate is ... Eberlin himself. As it goes on, the movie becomes as convoluted as it is moody, a perfect example of the subgenre of films about British intelligence in the late 1960s and early '70s that tried to deflate the silly glamour of the Bond flicks. Sidney Lumet's "A Deadly Affair" with James Mason and Simone Signoret, and Martin Ritt's "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold," with Richard Burton, Oskar Werner and Claire Bloom, were two other dour, dead-serious spy films.
Farrow, in her prime, plays a trendy British photographer who becomes involved with Eberlin, and the ace supporting cast includes Harry Andrews, Per Oscarsson, the veteran Lionel Stander, a very young Peter Cook and Calvin Lockhart and the great Tom Courtenay, but the film is both driven and anchored by Harvey, as brooding here as he was in Frankenheimer's "The Manchurian Candidate."
The estimable Christopher Challis did the cinematography; Quincy Jones composed the ga-roovy score and Pierre Cardin (who else?) dressed Farrow. (BTW, there was a rare screening of "A Dandy in Aspic," yete another lost Columbia film, by the American Cinemathique in Los Angeles in January, 2008. It was shown on a double-bill with the aforementioned "A Deady Affair" at Hollywood's Egyptian Theater.)
I can't think of a better way to spend a midweek evening than in the company of Francois Truffaut and Jeanne Moreau who memorably collaborated on the sublime "The Bride Wore Black"/"La Mariee Etait en Noir," scheduled for 8 p.m. on 29 September.
Brooding Frank and wistful Shirley in Minnelli's
"...Some Came Running"
End the month on 30 September with late, late night screenings of Brian DePalma's "Obsession" and Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver," starting at midnight, and Minnelli's pitch-perfect "...Some Came Running," penciled in for 3:45 p.m. that day. The end to a perfect TCM month.