Spend a lazy summer day with dreamy Lee RemickThirty-one days. Thirty-One stars. Yes, it's August which, in the world of Turner Classic Movies, means it's time for Summer Under the Stars. Each day devoted to a selected filmography of one star, kicking off on 1 August with the commanding Basil Rathbone.
Turner, as creative as ever, gives equal value to films of note and those forgotten. Given the theme of this site, I'll dwell on those films that, while less well-known, that remain worthy. To me, at least.
Christie, all mod in "In Seach of Gregory," circa 1970The effortless sexy Julie Christie dominates 2 August, and two of her least-known films will be shown back-to-back, starting at 7:45 a.m. (est). "Young Cassidy," which was released in 1965, the same year that showcased Christie in John Schlesinger's "Darling" and David Lean's "Doctor Zhivago," stars the ever-underappreciated and underused Rod Taylor in arguably the best role of his career. It's the story of playwright Sean O’Casey and his involvement with the Irish rebellion of 1910. John Ford started the film but became ill and it was completed by Jack Cardiff. Christie and Maggie Smith are among Taylor’s estimable leading ladies in this fine, little film.
Even more obscure is Peter Wood's "In Search of Gregory," a Universal European co-production that the studio barely released here in 1970. It's a curiosity that doesn't work, largely because the leading man is lethargic Michael Sarrazin. In it, Christie plays the daughter of the much-married Adolfo Celi, who promises to introduce her to a fascinating American named Gregory if she comes to his latest wedding in Geneva. She sees a poster - of Sarrazin - at the airport and imagines that he is Gregory. Fantasy ensues, enlivend by the entertaining presence of John Hurt who plays Christie's layabout brother. At 4 a.m., on 3 August, Christie stars in the provocative "Demon Seed" (1977), the terrific Donald Cammell film in which she is raped by a computer. You heard me right.
For fun, check out Steve McQueen in one of his rare comedies, Richard Thorpe's "The Honeymoon Machine" (1961) at 10:15 a.m. on 3 August. It's based on the play, "The Golden Fleecing" that starred Tom Poston (in the McQueen role) and Suzanne Pleshette on Broadway. Bridgette Bazlen has the Pleshette role here. This film has an interesting backstory.
Pleshette was a talented actress, sadly misused by film, who ended up on TV, most notably on "The Bob Newhart Show," and it was in this medium that she became reaquainted with Poston, her 1959 Broadway co-star.
On stage, Lorenzo Semple, Jr.'s antic comedy was called "The Golden Fleecing" and was directed by Abe Burrows. The play wasn't a tremendous hit (84 performances, running from October 15 to December 26 at the Henry Miller Theater), but it was likable enough for MGM to buy the rights and produce a film verson. Retitled "The Honeymoon Machine," it was directed in 1961 by Richard Thorpe. Not surprisingly, neither Poston nor Pleshette was recruited to recreate their roles. They went to McQueen and Pleshette-lookalike Bazlen. (And whatever happened to her?) The popular MGM team Paula Prentiss and Jim Hutton, plus Jack Weston, had supporting roles. This most companionable little film has become something of a Turner Classics staple in recent years, and it's not hard to imagine Poston and Pleshette in the McQueen-Bazlen roles.
Anyway, "The Golden Fleecing," which naturally went unmentioned in all of Pleshette's obits, provides a kind of lefthanded footnote to her career and her life: She and Poston married in May of 2001, a little more than 40 years after they first met in "The Golden Fleecing," and they remained married until his death in 2007. Pleshette's first marriage was, of course, to Troy Donahue, her leading man on her first film for Warners, Delmer Daves' "Rome Adventure" (1962), based on Irving Finerman's novel. (She played Prudence Bell.) In-between Donahue and Poston, she was married to businessman Tom Gallagher for more than 30 years.
The estimable Woody Strode is given the spotlight on 5 August, and the string of eclectic films (starting at 12:15 p.m.) featuring him include "The Sins of Rachel Cade" (1960), "Sergeant Rutledge" (1960), "Two Rode Together" (1961), "Seven Women" (1966), "Shalako" (1968), "Once Upon a Time in the West" (1969) and "The Last Rebel" (1971).
Friday, 6 August is devoted to Ingrid Bergman and her own Cinema Obscura is Robert B. Sinclair's "A Walk in the Spring Rain" (1970), a story of infidelity in which Bergman betrays Fritz Weaver for Anthony Quinn.
Of the Bob Hope films that are scheduled, the one that interests me the most is Don Weis' "Critic's Choice" (1963), based on the Ira Levin play based on theater critic Walter Kerr and his playwright-wife Jean Kerr and being screened at 2:30 a.m. on 9 August. It's about a Broadway critic who faces the challenged of writing a negative review of his wife's play. On stage, Henry Fonda had the Hope role and Otto Preminger directed. For the film, Hope recruited friend Lucille Ball to play the playwright-wife.
FYI. Doris Day's "PLease Don't Eat the Daisies" (1960), based on a book by Kerr, was also about The Kerrs. David Niven had the Walter Kerr role.
Monday and Tuesday, 9 & 10 August celebrates the film work of Warren Beatty, including his lesser-known "Kaleidoscope" (1966), a caper directed by Jack Smight and co-starring Susannah York (shown at 12 noon), and the infamous Elaine May film, "Ishar" (1987), buried in a 4 a.m. timeslot but still worth seeking out for a little re-evaluation.
Guilty pleasure, anyone?
Joshua Logan, who directed "Mister Roberts" on stage and helmed certain uncredited sequences for the John Ford-Mervyn LeRoy 1955 film version, got the bright idea of continuing Thomas Heggen's beloved story by speculating on what happened to Ensign Pulver (the Jack Lemmon character, natch) after Mister Roberts (Henry Fonda) died in combat.
The result was 1964's immediately forgettable but strangely likable "Ensign Pulver" with the Lemmon-esque Robert Walker Jr. (the lookalike son of Robert Walker) assuming the title role. The film, airing Wednesday, 11 August at 11:45 a.m., is part of a day devoted to Walter Matthau, who co-stars in the film as Doc (the William Powell role). This is an excellent example of a film that's not especially good but that has a cast that makes it worthwhile.
The plot is negligble, but get this cast, in addition to Walker and Matthau:
-Burl Ives, taking over for James Cagney as Captain Morton.
-Kay Medford, always wonderful, this time as a tough head nurse who meets her match in Matthau's Doc.
-Millie Perkins as a young nurse and potential love interest for Ensign Pulver.
-Diana Sands and Al Freeman, Jr., hilarious as two rather worldly south-seas natives.
-Jack Nicholson, Dick Gautier, James Coco, Tommy Sands, Jerry Orbach, James Farentino, Larry Hagman, George Lindsey, Gerald O'Loughlin and Peter Marshall as assorted sailors on "The Bucket."
Prreceding "Ensign Pulver" (at 7:45 a.m.) is another Matthau curiosity - Norman Taurog's "Onionhead" (1958), which reunited Matthau with his "Face in the Crowd" pal, Andy Griffin, in a World War II Navy tale.
Felicia Farr, future wife of Jack Lemmon, Matthau's pal, co-stars.
Following "Pulver" at 4 a.m. on 12 August is William Asher's cult film, "Movers and Shakers" (1985) in which Matthau and Charles Grodin play Hollywood types who elect to adapt a sex manual into a movie.
More difficult-to-see items: Peter Ustinov's "Billy Budd" (1962), at 11 p.m., 13 August; John Flynn's "The Outfit" (1973), at 4 A.M. on 14 August, and John Farrow's "John Paul Jones" (1959), at 4 p.m. on 16 August. Bette Davis co-stars. The latter stars Robert Stack, whose film work is also celebrated with a showing of Douglas Sirk's "The Tarnished Angels" (1957), scheduled for 9:45 p.m. on 16 August, and by John Cassavetes' "Big Trouble" (1986), at 3 a.m., 17 August.
Elizabeth Taylor gets her day on 23 August, but the two films that most entice me are being shown early on 24 August - Anthony Asquith's all-star "The V.I.P.S," at 1:30 a.m. and Brian G. Hutton's soaper, "X, Y & Zee (1972)," at 4 a.m. Michael Caine and Susannah York co-star.
Great Lee Remick films on 26 & 27 August - Robert Mulligan's "Baby, The Rain Must Fall," Blake Edwards' "Experiment in Terror" and "Days of Wine and Roses," Arthur Hiller's "The Wheeler Dealers," Sir Carol Reed's "The Running Man," Don Sharp's "Hennessy," Don Siegel's "Telefon," Otto Preminger's "Anathomy of a Murder," Joel Oliansky's "The Competition" and Elia Kazan's "A Face in the Crowd."
But my personal pick would be Silvio Narizzano's game film version of Joe Orton's "Loot" (1970), being shown at 10 a.m. on 26 August. In the early 1970s, when things seemed to thin out for Remick in terms of Hollywood work, she went to England, where she made a couple of deliciously dark comedies that are just about impossible to see these days.
Narizzano ("Georgie Girl") directed Remick and an excellent supporting cast (Richard Attenborough, Hywel Bennett, Roy Holder and Milo O'Shea) in very faithful 1970 adaptation of the wicked Orton play, set in a funeral parlor where a pair of thieves are on the lam. Remick is a good sport as a painted-up nurse, but it's Attenborough who steals the film as a very bizarre, eccentric detective on the trail of the crooks.
Orton was in a ghoulish, exploitative mood here as he waged a frontal attack on some of the less flattering vices of dubious people. Not that he necessarily disapproved of them.
The film version of "Loot" opened in America two years later - in 1972. After making the Narizzano film, Remick stayed on in England to reteam with Attenborough in Dick Clement's 1971 film of the Iris Murdoch novel and play, "A Severed Head," a trip-y piece about the daisy chain relationships of a husband and wife who are equally unfaithful to each other. Turner aired it a few months ago.
From Lee Remick to Olivia de Havilland, who is honored on 27 & 28 August, with such titles as Anthony Asquith's "Libel" (1959), co-starring Dirk Bogarde, which kicks things off at 4 p.m. on the 27th, followed by Guy Green's excellent "The Light In The Piazza" (1962), William Wyler's "The Heiress" (1949) with Montgomery Clift, Mitchell Leisen's "To Each His Own" (1946), Anatol Litvak's "The Snake Pit" (1948) and Stanley Kramer's "Not As a Stranger" (1955), co-starring Mitchum and Sinatra.
O'Toole, impossibly young and dashing in 1962Two of Peter O'Toole's least-known but better films are early on 29 August, starting at midnight - Peter Medak's "The Ruling Class (1972), in which O'Toole does demented as no one else can, and Richard Rush's evocative "The Stunt Man" (1980), in which he plays a maverick filmmaker (shades of Altman?) at work on another troubled production.
Also on 29 August, as part of Henry Fonda's day - Alfred Hitchcock's "The Wrong Man" (1956), about a troubling case of mistaken identity - and on 31 August at 6 a.m., Arthur Lubin's "Escapade In Japan" (1957), a Cameron Mitchell film about a boy (Jon Provost) lost in Tokyo that features an early performance by Clint Eastwood whose day it is.