All starting times are eastern standard time.
Holden/McQueenSteve McQueen was the one name that came out of a recent poll asking young actors who was their greatest acting inspiration. McQueen, the cool guy with the seething intensity. But William Holden got there first - and arguably played the definitive Steve McQueen role as the fast-talking con J.J. Sefton in Billy Wilder's 1953 P.O.W. comedy "Stalag 17," airing 9 September at 10 p.m.
You can catch McQueen himself in a similar, if more laconic, variation on the same character in John Sturges' "The Great Escape," made a decade later in 1963, on 6 September at 6 p.m. McQueen's name in it? Most apt. Capt. Hilts - aka "The Cooler King."
Lotte Lenya, as Contessa Magda Terribili-Gonzales, with Beatty, as gigolo Paolo di Leo, in Quintero's "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone"If you can't get enough of Marsha Mason, particularly during her Neil Simon period, here's your chance. "Only When I Laugh" (1981), Glenn Jordan's film of Simon's excellent "The Gingerbread Lady" which pairs Mason with Kristy McNichol as mother and daughter, airs at 6 a.m. on 1 February; Herbert Ross' "The Goodbye Girl" (1977) at 10:30 p.m. on 20 February, and "Chapter Two" (1980) at 12:30 a.m. on 21 February.
The late James Coco is featured in "Only When I Laugh" and also in Arthur Hiller's 1972 film version of "Man of La Mancha," airing immediately afterward at 8:15 a.m., 1 February. During her recent PR blitz for "Nine," Coco's co-star in the Hiller film, Sophia Loren, stated several times that the reason she wanted to do Rob Marshall's "Nine" is because she had never made a musical. Say what, Sophia? "Man of La Mancha" is certainly a musical - not a particularly good one, but definitely a musical.
Six worth checking out: Nicholas Ray's epic "55 Days at Peking" (1963), with the socko cast of Charlton Heston, Ava Gardner and David Niven, at 10:30 a.m., 1 February; King Vidor's "The Champ," with an icredible performance from Jackie Cooper, at 7:15 a.m., 3 February; Elia Kazan's "Pinky" (1949), with a very fine Jeanne Craine, at 8 p.m., 3 February; Delmer Daves' "The Pride of the Marines" (1945), starring John Garfield, at 1:30 p.m., 4 February; Michell Leisen's Paulette Goddard celebration, "Kitty" (1946), at 10 p.m., 4 February, and Mervyn LeRoy's show-bizzy "Gold Diggers of 1933" (1933), at 10:45 a.m., 5 February.
Sidney J. Furie takes evident pleasure in meticulously re-creating the era and setting in his 1972 biopic of Billie Holliday, "Lady Sings the Blues," with a debuting Diana Ross in a jaw-dropping turn as the conflicted jazz singer. Alas, a competing Holliday film, starring the sublime Diana Sands in the title role, never got out of the gate. Furie got there first and his film, airing at mindnight on 5 February, soared.
This month, Turner also showcases Warren Beatty his first two film, made back-to-back in 1961. His first, Kazan's hauntingly beautiful "Splendor in the Grass," featuring Natalie Wood's best performance as a teenage girl driven mad by a repressed sex drive, airs at 1 p.m., 20 February. In "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone," at 2 a.m., 7 February, Beatty plays the hired lover of Vivian Leigh in the big-screen version of the Tennessee Williams novela. (Helen Mirren and Olivier Martinez appeared in a TV version in 2003.) "The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone" was the only film ever directed by José Quintero, the famed stage director who helmed the original production of "Long Day's Journey into Night."
Jean Simmons, who died 22 January at 81, plays a young Ruth Gorden in George Cukor's first-rate biopic of the actress/playwright's early years, "The Actress" (1953), at 5:30 a.m. 8 February. Spencer Tracy plays her father and Anthony Perkins co-stars.
In all honesty, I was never able to get through "A Thousand Clowns," the 1965 film version of the 1962 Herb Gardner play that brought much acclaim to star Jason Robards (then billed as Jason Robards, Jr.) and a Tony Award to his co-star, Sandy Dennis. Producer Fred Coe, who directed the Broadway production, recruited Robards to recreate his grating performance of a self-satisfied slacker for his film version, a movie that dares you - nay, forces you - not to fall head over heals in love with both Robards and New York City and all its dizzying eccentricities.
Coe - who would direct only one other movie, Patty Duke's affecting "Me, Natalie" (1969) - ineplicably replaced Dennis with Barbara Harris (in her film debut) and A. Larry Haines with Martin Balsam (who, even more inexplicably, would win an Oscar). The rest of the stage cast remains intact - William Daniels, Gene Saks and, unfortunately, Barry Gordon, one of those cloyingly precocious stage kids who were quite ubiquitous at the time. (John Megna and Paul O'Keefe come to mind immediately.)
Trivia!: First, the film's title song, warbled by Rita Gardner (then the wife of the playwright/screenwriter), was penned by Gerry Mulligan and ... Judy Holliday. (They were an item at the time and had a scene together in Minnelli's "Bells Are Ringing"; Holliday died the year that "A Thousand Clowns" was released.) Also, Tom Selleck played the Robards role in the very short-lived 2001 revival of the play.
"A Thousand Clowns" screens at 8 p.m. 8 February.
Hackman and Douglas engage in a bracing acting duet in Gilbert Cates' "I Never Sang for My Father""Death ends a life, but it does not end a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor's mind toward some resolution, which it may never find."
This beautiful line - written by Robert Anderson - bookends Gilbert Cates' fully-realized 1971 film version of Anderson's "I Never Sang for My Father," spoken in voiceover by star Gene Hackman at both the beginning and conclusion of the narrative. The autobiographical film, on Turner at 7 a.m., 9 February, details the contentious relationship between a grown man, played by Hackman, and his willful father, a commanding Melvyn Douglas. Acting doesn't get much better than this. Estelle Parsons, who played Hackman's wife in "Bonnie and Clyde," is his sister here, a role played on stage by Anderson's wife, Theresa Wright. Anderson's relationship with his own father clearly had an impact on his art; his "Tea and Sympathy" also deals with a son and a disapproving father.
There are many reasons to watch Irvin Reis' delicious "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" (1947) - 6 p.m., 9 February - but this time, watch it specifically for the hilarious and hilariously tricky dinner-table repartee during the extended nightclub sequence.
LAURENTS & SPIGELGASS & SONDHEIMIf I had to pick one element of "Gypsy" (1962) that I find transporting, it would be its language - the wordplay devised for both stage and screen, the film version being screened at 5:30 p.m., 10 February.
Arthur Laurents wrote a master script for the play, abetted by the witty, incisive lyrics that Stephen Sondheim penned for Jule Styne's melodies, while playwright Leonard Spigelgass made the smart move of retaining nearly all of Laurents' dialogue for the film version, adding some all-important narration and a few lines of his own here and there.
Rose, learning her chorus boys are bailing: "Ingrates! You'd take the bread out of that man's mouth (pointing to Herbie) and spit it in his face! Well, as the good Lord says, 'Good riddance to bad rubbish.'" (Laurents)
Rose, testifying to a theatre manager that he children like the candy that Herbie's trying to sell: "Butterfingers and Baby Ruth. So help me. I speak as a mother - and who could argue with a mother?" (Spigelgass)
Miss Mazeppa, trying to impress the young Gypsy: "Once I was a schlepper / Now I'm Miss Mazeppa." (Sondheim)
The airing of "Gypsy" is preceded by two Gene Kelly flicks, "On the Town" (1949), which Kelly directed with Stanley Donen, and Charles Vidor's "Cover Girl" (1944), beginning at 10:15 a.m., and it is followed by two Richard Widmark noirs - Henry Hathaway's "The Kiss of Death" (1947) and Sam Fuller's "Pickup on South Street" (1953).
Roz Russell, of course, inherited Ethel Merman's stage role in "Gypsy." You can see The Merm herself, recreating her own stage role in Walter Lang's "Call Me Madam" (1953) at 10 p.m., 11 February - worth checking out if only to hear co-star George Sanders sing. It is followed by two movie-musical classics - the Kelly-Donen tandem affair, "Singin' in the Rain" (1952,) and Vincente Minnelli's saavy "The Band Wagon" (1953), with Fred Astaire and Jack Buchanan, beginning at midnight.
J. Lee Thompson's "The Guns of Navarone" - airing at 8 p.m. on 13 February - was a 1961 best picture Oscar nominee. It was a good year. The other nominees were Joshua Logan's "Fanny," Robert Rossen's "The Hustler," Stnaley Kramer's "Judgment at Nuremberg" and the winner, "West Side Story," directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins.
Barbara Stanwyck and her nerdy professors in Howard Hawks' irresistible "Ball of Fire"Howard Hawks' eminently playful 1942 comedy, "Ball of Fire" (from an original screenplay credited to Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, who borrowed from the "Snow White and Seven Dwarfs" fable), screens at 6 p.m., 14 February. Not to be missed, it offers up a brassy Barbara Stanwyck as Sugarpuss O'Shea, a burlesque dancer who falls in with eight bookish/nerdy professors assembling a dictionary of slang.
One of them is Gary Cooper, younger and more attractive, but no less proper and nerdy; the other seven are played by studio stalwarts Richard Haydn, O.Z. Whitehead, S.Z. Sakall, Tully Marshall, Oscar Homolka, Leonid Kinskey and Aubrey Mather.
Back in August, I invoked the title of the delightful Chuck Lorre sitcom,
"The Big Bang Theory," a Hawksian effort that owes much to "Ball of Fire."
"My Favorite Year" (1982), set for 6 p.m. on 17 February, is a reminder of what a bright start Richard Benjamin had as a director. This was his first film. "Racing with the Moon" and "City Heat" followed in 1984. There have been eleven more titles but Benjamin matched the success of his debut film - although I kind of like all of his efforts, particularly his last, Lisa Kudrow's "Marci X" in 2003, a very funny, underrated movie.
Dino & VincenteThe ever-resourceful programmers at Turner have come up with a doozy of a double-bill for the morning of 19 February. Starting at 7:45 a.m., TCM is airing back-to-back screenings of two Dean Martin/Vincente Minnelli collaborations, "Bells Are Ringing" (1960) and "...Some Came Running" (1958).
With his shrewdly-made “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 Martin's "I Met a Girl" number and what's left of "Mu-Cha-Cha."
“...Some Came Running,” based on the James Jones book, stars Frank Sinatra in fine form as another one of his moodily disenfranchised; Martin as his gambling partner/enabler and Shirley MacLaine as a "pig" (Martin's word for her) who devours a juicy, dripping hamburger in a scene that will have you hankering for one after the show.
Mark this date: Saturday, 20 February, 10:30 a.m. Mike Nichols' "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" (1966), with Burton, Taylor, Dennis and Segal.
Cocktails and flirting - Paige uses both on Bob Hope in Jack Arnold's "Bachelor in Paradise" (1961)Two solid comedies open and close 21 February. Jack Arnold directs Bob Hope and Lana Turner in the randy "Bachelor in Paradise" (1961), airing at 7 a.m., but the one to watch is the ever-watchable and incorrigible Janis Paige.
Much later, at 2:30 a.m. 22 February, catch Richard Quine's Judy Holliday comedy, "The Solid Gold Cadillac" (1956), and notice just how topical it is. (Abe Burrows adapted the 1953 play by George S. Kaufman and Howard Teichmann.) BTW, it's a black-&-white film but the final scene, featuring the titular Caddie, is in glorious color.
On 23-24 February, Turner airs Vincente Minnelli's two Paris musicals, both Oscar-winners - "Gigi" (1958) at 11:15 p.m. and "An American in Paris" (1951) at 1:15 a.m.
Arguably, the crown jewel in George Stevens' impressive filmography, "The Diary of Anne Frank" (1959) gets a prime-time showing at 8 p.m. 24 February. Shelley Winters won a Oscar for her solid work here; Joseph Schildkraut, Gusti Huber and Lou Jacobi recreated their Broadway roles; Ed Wynne took over the role played on stage by Jack Gilford; newcomers Richard Beymer and Diane Baker were quietly showcased by Stevens, and Millie Perkins makes an exquisite Anne.
Whitman and Leigh in "An American Dream" and Taylor and Smith in "The V.I.P.s"The month winds down with two curiosities - "An American Dream" (1966), Robert Gist's game film of the Norman Mailer exploitative novel starring Suart Whitman and Janet Leigh, shows up at 5:45 a.m. on 26 Friday. Later that afternoon, there's Anthony Asquith's "The V.I.P.s" (1963), a Burton-Taylor vehicle that was the rage in its day. It was hotly anticipated (Jolie and Pitt would be a hoot in a remake) but also something of a letdown, hugely anticlimatic. What redeems it are the charming supporting performances of Rod Taylor and Maggie Smith, who would go on to do "Young Cassidy" for Jack Cardiff and John Ford.