Sunday, January 31, 2010

cinema obscura: Chantal Akerman's "A Couch in New York"/"Un divan à New York" (1996)

Dave Kehr devotes a lot of ink in his latest New York Times' DVD column to Criterion Collection/Eclipse's “Chantal Akerman in the Seventies,” which offers five films by the estimable Belgian director. In tandem, his column and most essential blog jogged my memory a bit, reminding me of a charming Akerman film that tends to come in under the radar.

The movie is 1996's "A Couch in New York"/"Un divan à New York" which is essentially a superior version of Nancy Meyers' "The Holiday," predating the Meyers romcom by 10 years. You know, the one about two people who switch residences - in the case of the Akerman film, Juliette Binoche, a Parisian woman feeling pressured by all the men in her life, and William Hurt, a New York psychotherapist tired of his patients and their problems.

So, they swap places - and, by extension, lives. Yes, both also become involved in the other person's life, with Binoche actually counseling Hurt's patients and Hurt being pursued by one of Binoche's jealous boyfrinds. When he finally gets fed up, Hurt moves back to New York, meets up with Binoche and, to paraphrase the old song, something gives.

What sounds like a generic, formulaic sitcom turns into something quite magical in Akerman's hands. She deftly targets the hapless transfer of people to different places as something not just playful but potentially unstable and dangerous. Relationships usually take one into uncharted territorty and that's what Akerman toys with so cynically here.

What makes her two difficult people seem so wrong for each other is exactly what makes them so exactly perfect for one another.

Not surprisingly, "A Couch in New York" has the kind of foreign fizz that's an acquired taste, especially for American audiences who are too easily put off by anything even remotely alien. The film may be Akerman's most accessible and commerical to date, but its distinctive technique is pure Chantal, resplendent with tiny bits of business and hugely observant.

Friday, January 29, 2010

cinema obscura: The Director's Cut of Colin Higgins' "Best Little Whorehouse..." (1982)

Back in the day, I interviewed Burt Reynolds on the Charlotte, N.C. set of what would become (arguably) his worst movie, "Stroker Ace."

It was 1982 and Burt's "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" had just opened. He was very high on it and, after the interview, he put on a cassette of "Whorehouse" outtakes - all musical stuff, including a different song written for the opening credits by by Dolly Parton - "Chick-Chick-Chicken Ranch" - in lieu of "20 Fans," and a soulful solo by Burt called "(Where) Stallions Run" which never made it into the truncated theatrical release. I've never quite grasped why studios "tweak" their musicals by editing out ... music - song and dance numbers.

Anyway, in 2002, when Universal released Colin Higgins' film on DVD, advertising "outtakes" among the bonus features, I fully expected those outtakes to be the amazing stuff that filled Burt's VHS tape. Wrong. The outtakes were the kind of blooper reels that Burt regularly screened for Johnny Carson's and Mike Douglas' TV audiences during the 1970s and '80s - you know, stuff of Charles Durning flubbing his lines, Dolly coming on like Mae West and Burt breaking up over some Dom DeLuise gaff. Strictly mundane. What happened to all the musical goodies?

Surprisingly, not even "(Where) Stallions Run" made the disc - surprising because the song was reinstated for the film's TV broadcasts, presumably to fill it out after more randy material was excised by the TV censors.

In his comments on the film on Amazon.com,
Greg M. Pasqua reports that "over 30 minutes of film was cut from the Director's print" prior to its release in '82. (The release print of the film clocks in at 115 minutes.)

Among the missing numbers include two by Parton - "A Gamble Either Way" and "Stallion's Ways," both of which appear on Parton's "Burlap and Stain" album. I'm not certain if "(Where) Stallions Run" and "Stallion's Ways" are different numbers or the same song reworked by Parton.

Pasqua reports that an entire subplot from the play, involving the hiring of a shy girl (Andrea Pike) who grows into a woman during the course of the storyline, was elminated, along with one of the show's better-known songs, "Girl, You're a Woman," inspired by that subplot.

"Also," writes Pasqua, "smaller roles from the Broadway show were cut, including the abbreviated role of Angel (Played by Valerie Leigh Bilxer), the whore who wants to see her little boy for Christmas, and other scenes involving Dolly and the whorehouse girls. Longer cuts of the big musical numbers also exist ('The Aggie Song,' '20 Fans' and 'Little Bitty Pissant Country Place'). All of these would make for a pretty good Special Edition."

Agreed.

And now that the 2002 DVD is out-of-print, it would be great if Universal finally releases the director's cut on DVD - or at least include the deleted and unused musical numbers as outtakes. My advice: Just call Burt.

Note in Passing: Other songs from Carol Hall's stage score that were eliminated from the film include "Watch Dog," "Doatsy Mae," "No Lies," "Good Old Girl" and "The Bus From Amarillo."

Monday, January 25, 2010

cinema obscura: Sidney Lumet's "A View from the Bridge" (1962)

Is rough-hewn Vallone in love with niece Lawrence or her boyfriend Sorel in "A View from the Bridge"?
As I opined in a previous post, the movie year 1962 was a great one, arguably the best - better than 1939 - with dozens of notable filmmakers working with a liberating freedom. One of them was Sidney Lumet, who devoted himself to adaptations of two legendary plays.

Most film aficionados admire the fidelity of Lumet's film of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Days Journey into Night," but few are even aware of his now largely forgotten version of Arthur Miller's hothouse drama, "A View from the Bridge," also from '62.
Vallone, Lawrence and Stapleton make up Arthur Miller's uneasy Brooklyn family.
Frankly, it also slipped my mind until I read Ben Brantley's review of Gregory Mosher’s latest New York revival, headlined by Liev Schreiber, Scarlett Johansson and Jessica Hecht, in today's New York Times.

They have the roles played by Raf Vallone, Carol Lawrence and Maureen Stapleton, respectively, in Lumet's film version. Very much an international production, Lumet's "A View from the Bridge," which cleaves closely to Miller's play, was a French-Italian co-production made in two versions - one spoken in English, the other a French-language version.

Vallone plays Eddie Carbone, an Italian longshoreman who lives in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, unhappily married to Stapleton's Beatrice. Eddie is really in love with Catherine, the 18-year-old niece who he and Beatrice have raised since childhood, but he is too artless to be fully aware of either his deeply suppressed feelings for Catherine or his casual rejection of Beatrice. And there might be something else going with Eddie.

Carol Lawrence, fresh from the stage production of "West Side Story," made her film debut under Lumet's direction and, to the best of my knowledge, Catherine remains her only big-screen role. She tested for the film of WSS but, of course, that role went to Natalie Wood.

She's a lovely presence here and Michel Kelber's stark black-&-white cinematography seems to love her pale, soft skin and regal cheekbones.

Eddie faces a crisis when he agrees to help two of Beatrice's cousins enter the country illegally, particularly when Catherine is attracted one of them, the handsome Rodolpho (played by the French actor Jean Sorel).

He interfers not only by reporting Rodolpho and his brother Marco (Raymond Pellegrin, very good) to the immigration department, but by also accusing Rodolpho of being a homosexual. The film's big scene - a cause célèbre at the time - has a desperate Eddie planting a big, wet kiss on Rodolpho to prove his point about the young man's sexuality. By this point, "A View from the Bridge" has gone haywire. I mean, is Eddie still lusting for Catherine or is he now really interesed in Rodolpho?

On stage, "A View from the Bridge" was not a popular success. It ran for only 148 performances in 1955. But the critics liked it. Movie critics were decidely more divided in 1962, with Dwight MacDonald praising it and Pauline Kael accusing it of being a lame, would-be Greek tragedy.

Distributed in America by Continental Releasing, Sidney Lumet's "A View from the Bridge" is now virtually impossible to see, a truly lost film.
Sorel's tentative relationship with Lawrence incites a repressed, jealous and ultimately explosive Vallone.

Monday, January 18, 2010

isn't it time...?

...for Meryl Streep to play Pauline Kael in a biopic?
Dave Kehr gamely suggests the working title, "Andy and Pauline." But who on earth would play Kael-nemesis Andrew Sarris? Any suggestions?

Speaking of Streep, in a night awash in really arch acceptance speeches, Streep's at the Golden Globes left me a tad confused. Winning for her performance in Nora Ephron's "Julie & Julia," Streep started out by checking out presenter Colin Farrell furtively and then making a crack about wishing her name was T-Bone - T-Bone Streep.

So far, so good.

"In my career, I’ve played so many extraordinary women that I’m getting mistaken for one, ... I secretly got to pay hommage to my own personal, not-so-famous hero – that’s my mother.

This is where the confusion came in - for me, at least,

"A lot of the people in this room knew my mother. She had a real joy in living...She just had no patience for gloom and doom. I’m not like that. I come to Golden Globes weekend and I am really honestly in conflict about how to have my happy movie self in the face of everything that I’m aware of in the real world. That’s when, I hear my mother’s voice: 'Partners in Health – shoot some money to Partners in Health. Put the dress on, put on a smile and just be damn grateful you have the dollars to help.'"

I took this - or mistook it, as the case is - for Streep granting herself permission to forget what's going on our there (read: Haiti) and to let the champagne and kudos flow. Wrong! As my friend Carrie Rickey has gently reminded me, Partners in Health is a relief organization and this was Streep's subtle way of expressly acknowledging the situation in Haiti.

Obviously, it was too subtle for me. Apologies all around, folks.

Friday, January 15, 2010

façade: richard quine, beyond columbia

Directing Lemmon and Novak in "Landlady"










Quine at work
Richard Quine never settled. Even as a house director at Columbia, where he was largely assigned work during the 1950s, he summoned an uneasy, idiosyncratic personal touch that made him a closeted auteur. Back then, he came in under the radar and, in some cinema circles, still does.

But he's a favorite of this site, not only because he coaxed the best, least mannered screen work out of Jack Lemmon (sorry, Messrs Wilder and Edwards), but precisely because his style was so uneasy and idiosyncratic - apparently, much like the complex, troubled man himself.

Lately, much has been written about Quine's work at Columbia. His name is invoked regularly on Dave Kehr's essential site, and he was the subject of "Richard Quine at Columbia," a mini-retrospective presented by the film arm of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in August of 2008.

His three main connections at Columbia were Lemmon (whose screen test was directed by Quine), studio head Harry Cohn (who put Quine under contract following Quine's years as an actor there) and Kim Novak (entrusted to Quine by Cohn to groom into an actress and a star).

Novak was Quine's muse-cum-fiancée, and when they made 1960's "Strangers When We Meet," a superior soap opera whose plot revolves around a swank Malibu home being designed for a writer, Columbia displayed its respect for Quine - and also support for his relationship with Novak - by building a real house for the film, which was to be given to them after shooting as a wedding present. But the couple part ways during the shoot and much of the anxiety in Novak's performance (her best) could directly stem from the real-life break-up.

Quine made his directing debut in tandem with William Asher on 1948's "Leather Gloves," whose cast included a young actor named ... Blake Edwards, and many of his Columbia films were made in collaboration with Edwards. Quine and Edwards, for example, wrote the script for the 1955 musical remake of "My Sister Eileen." (Perhaps not coincidentally, Quine had an acting role in Columbia's original 1942 version of "My Eileen Sister," playing along side Rosalind Russell.)

Working outside the axis of the Columbia lot on North Gower, Quine's work took on a different dimension. Early on, he did the Tony Curtis-Gene Nelson musical, "So This Is Paris" (1955) for Universal, but his extracurricular professional life really started in earnest in 1960 when he directed William Holden and Nancy Kawn in the film version of the Paul Osborn play, "The World of Suzie Wong" for Ray Stark and Paramount.

After directing Lemmon and Novak in "The Notorious Landlady" in 1962, Quine dove into three back-to-back comedies - "Paris - When It Sizzles" (1964), "Sex and the Single Girl" (1964) and "How to Murder Your Wife" (1965), for Paramount, Warner Bros. and United Artists, respectfully.

He returned to Columbia in '65 to direct Stella Stevens in the addiction drama, "Synanon," done verité-style; segued into Warners' "Hotel" in '67 and, the same year, had a reunion with Roz Russell directing her in his hugely idiosyncratic version of the Arthur Kopit play, "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad," for Paramount.

In 1969-1970, he did two solid Richard Widmark films - "A Talent for Loving" for Paramount" and "The Moonshine War" for MGM - neither getting much of a studio push. Quine's last two films, both disposable Peter Sellers vehicles, were Universal's "The Prisoner Zenda" (1979) and Warners' "The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu" (1980), which he started but never completed. Piers Haggard receives credit for "Fu Manchu."

Nine years later, Richard Quine would commit suicide by shooting himself, tired of waiting for offers to direct the kinds of films he wanted to make. Perhaps the kind he made his original home base, Columbia.

Quine did his best work there. He may have been that rare filmmaker who worked best as a hired hand, a contract director.

The standout among his final films is an unsung gem that is reminiscent of his "Pushover"/"Drive a Crooked Road" days working for Cohn. "W," a tidy thriller that Quine made in 1974 for Cinerama Releasing, fell through the cracks the minute it was released. It was barely noticed.

As he did with Kim Novak 20 years earlier, Quine nudged a credible, often appealing performance from Twiggy, cast as a woman hounded by a serial killer whose sole clue is the letter W left at the scene of each crime. It was her second film, following Ken Russell's "The Boy Friend" in 1971, and her sincerity at trying to give a valid performance is palpable.

I can't recall another performer who tried so hard to be so good - and much of Twiggy's drive here, I surmise, comes from having Richard Quine - and, yes, his uneasy, idiosyncratic touch - behind her.

BTW, "W" is available on DVD - but not as "W." It's been retitled for the occasion ... "I Want Her Dead." Yeesh.

Note in Passing: Richard Quine, the young actor, can be seen as Howard in S. Sylvan Simon's incredibly charming "The Cockeyed Miracle" (1946), in which he romantically pursues Audrey Totter. It airs on Turner Classic Movies at 6:30 a.m. (est.) on 20 January; it's Audrey Totter day on Turner. Frank Morgan, Keenan Wynn, Cecil Kellaway, Gladys Cooper and a very young Marshall Thompson round out Simon's game, happy cast.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

brainy & beautiful

"Brainy & beautiful" could refer either to James Cameron's sublime "Avatar" or to its equally exquisite star, Zoë Saldaña.

Actually, it applies to both.

I came to Cameron's achievement belatedly and, frankly, with few expectations. And it is an achievement - a love story, a war flick and a message film, a plea on behalf of the environment, all wrapped in a green-hued, extraordinarily handsome package. Eye Candy for grown-ups.

Cameron's gentle tirade is about Pandora - a stand-in for the Garden of Eden or maybe Oz (take your pick) - and the ravaging of its resources by a private military company, a la Blackwater, that charges in and, with a sense of entitlement, brutally pushes aside the inconvenient indigenous population. (Cameron wittily names its chief resource Unobtainium.)

Pandora's natives, the amazonian, blue-skinned Na’vi, are beautifully embodied by Saldaña in a bracing, impassioned performance that handily brusts through Cameron's tricky "motion capture" technique.

"Avatar" is topical, political and empathetic. Technically, it is intimidating - particuarly in Imax 3-D - but, narratively, it is genuinely humbling.

cinema obscura: James L. Brooks' "I'll Do Anything" (1994) - The Musical Version

James L. Brooks' notorious musical-turned-romantic comedy is a DVD candidate in its orignal form, something that has evaded the work.

For more than 15 years now.

You remember. The film started life as a full-fledged original musical, featuring
nine songs written by Prince, Sinead O'Connor and Carole King, with choreography by Broadway's Twyla Tharp, but when test audiences complained that some of the musical numbers interfered with the movie, Brooks methodically started to remove them, one by one.

By the time he got through, all of the songs were gone, except for a snippet of one King song sung by little Whittni Wright in the movie.

The weird thing is, "I'll Do Anything," which stars Nick Nolte (in photo below), is all about Hollywood and its test screenings, and how principles are sacrificed for the bottom line - namely to please audiences. In short, the film ironically turned into exactly what it's about.

Brooks apparently has closely guarded the deleted songs, making sure no one sees or hears them, although the laser disc version of the movie included a "making of" documentary which provides glimpses of co-stars Albert Brooks and Julie Kavner performing.

Back on February, 20th, 1994, the reliable Chris Willman wrote an article for The Los Angeles Times, titled "Princely Bootleg: Some People'll Do Anything to Hear These Songs," about bootleg CDs of the soundtrack songs from "I'll Do Anything" that were making the rounds at the time.

Willman wrote:

"Albert Brooks croons two songs: 'I'll Do Anything' (lyric: 'What good is a captain if he ain't got a crew / What good is a me if I AIN'T . . . GOT . . . A YOU!') and 'There Is Lonely.' Brooks' singing voice has been described charitably as gravitating toward the Jimmy Durante or Tom Waits end of the gravelly scale, and less charitably as an Oscar the Grouch affectation.

"There are two more torturous tunes that draw the greatest winces from illicit listeners. One is Julie Kavner's 'My Little Pill,' a sort of update of 'Mother's Little Helper' related to the truncated drug subplot, and recited in a maddeningly childlike sing-song voice. The other is Whittni Wright's rendition of Sinead O'Connor's mopey 'This Lonely Life' that won't have anyone comparing her to the other singing Whitney."

Apparently, Prince wrote something called "Wow!," for which Willman printed the lyric in its entirety. Not good. Still, I'd give anything to see and hear Nolte's singing debut on a song called "Be My Mirror."

Maybe one day...

Friday, January 08, 2010

façade: Edmund Goulding


Barrie Chase, one of the
stars of Goulding's "Mardi Gras," in her strip routine
In my previous piece on "Mardi Gras," I neglected to mention that the Pat Boone ensemble musical, airing on the Fox Movie Channel at 2 p.m. (est.) on 13 January, was the final film of its director, Edmund Goulding.

The film was released in November, 1958 and the London-born Goulding died a year later in December, 1959 of suicide.

He was was 68.

An actor/playwright/director on the London stage, Goulding came to Hollywood as a writer and eventually segued into direction. His novel, "Fury," was made into a film by Henry King, with Goulding writing the adaptation himself. It was his 22nd writing assignment in Hollywood.

Goulding's first film as a director was 1925's "Sun-Up." His second film, made the same year, was the incredibly popular "Sally, Irene and Mary." Something of an adjustible wrench as a filmmaker, Goulding directed 41 films, including Garbo's "Anna Karenina," Marion Davies' "Blondie of the Follies," the back-to back Davis films "The Old Maid" and "Dark Victory," MGM's all-star "Grand Hotel," the Eleanor Parker remake of "Of Human Bondage," Dorothy McGuire's "Claudia," Tyrone Power's terrific "Nighmare Alley," "The Razor's Edge" with Power and Gene Tierney, and finally...

"Mardi Gras."

capricorn

Elvis was born 75 years ago today in Tupelo, Mississippi.

To celebrate, both Turner Classic Movie and the Fox Movie Channel have scheduled a cross-section of his films.

Turner's line-up - which runs all day long - consists mostly of the throwaway stuff that Presley made for MGM, with the exception of Norman Taurog's "Blue Hawaii," a 1961 Paramount release that TCM is airing at 4:30 p.m. (est). The other near-interchangable titles include two by actor-dancer Gene Nelson, "Kissin' Cousins" (1964) and "Harum Scarum" (1965); John Rich's "Roustabout" (1964), co-starring Barbara Stanwyck; Boris Segal's "Girl Happy" (1965), a bastardization of the old musical; two more by Taurog - "Spinout" (1966)and "Speedway" (1968) - and, of course, George Sidney's dependably awful "Viva Las Vegas" (1964).

Richard Thorpe's "Jailhouse Rock" (1957) caps the day with a midnight screening. This film has a reputation greater than it deserves; its only notable element is the clever staging of the title number.

Two Elvis docs complete the Turner's full-bodied schedule.

Fox Movie Channel, meanwhile, airs two of The King's better efforts, both made for Twentieth Century-Fox - Philip Dunne's "Wild in the Country" (1961), which teams Elvis with three very good leading ladies, Hope Lange, Millie Perkins and Tuesday Weld, in a script by no less than Clifford Odets, and Don Siegel's "Flaming Star" (1960), a Western co-starring the great Delores Del Rio. They air at 2 and 4 p.m. (est.), respectively.

Unfortunately, Elvis' best films aren't represented.

Missing are Michael Curtiz's "King Creole" (1958), based on the Harold Robbins novel and starring Walter Matthau, Carolyn Jones and Delores Hart; Gordon Douglas' charming "Follow That Dream" (1962), with Arthur O'Connell, Anne Helm and Joanna Moore (Tatum O'Neal's mother), and Phil Karlson's remake of "Kid Galahad" (1962), toplined by Gig Young, Lola Albright, Joan Blackman, Robert Emhardt and Charles Bronson.

The most glaring omission is Elvis' debut film, Robert D. Webb's "Love Me Tender" (1956), which offered The King his ideal leading lady.

Debra Paget.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

cinema obscura: Sir Carol Reed's "The Public Eye" (1972) and Brian G. Hutton's "The Pad (and How to Use it)" (1966)

In 1964, two delightful one-act plays by Peter Shaffer opened on Broadway, titled "The Public Eye"/"The Private Ear."

Or perhaps it was the other way around.

Shaffer also wrote "Equus," "Amadeus," "The Royal Hunt of the Sun" and "Five Finger Exercise," all plays eventually made into movies.

Universal, which was busy in those days scouting Broadway productions, immediately snapped up the film rights to "The Public Eye"/"The Private Ear" and then didn't know what to do with two one-act comedies. Both were eventually made into very pleasing, if little-seen movies.

















"The Private Ear" was filmed by Brian G. Hutton in 1966 and retitled "The Pad and How to Use it" - a title inspired a little too obviously by Richard Lester's successful "The Knack and How to Get It."

It's thin but appealing plot - about a shy man who finally has the nerve to approach a woman while at a concert, only to lose her to his more dashing friend - provided material in which the film's young stars: Britain's Brian Bedford as the nerd, James Farentino (above) as the dashing hunk and especially Julie Sommars as the girl - truly excelled.

Essentially a glorified TV movie that was released, albeit briefly, to theaters, "The Pad and How to Use It" deserves to be rescued and seen.

"The Public Eye," finally filmed in 1972, had better luck.

Well, sort of.

It was adapted for the screen by Shaffer himself and directed by the estimable Sir Carol Reed.

In it, a dull British banker named Charles (played by Michael Jayston) hires Julian Cristo (Topol), an odd, eccentric private detective, to follow his American wife, Belinda (Mia Farrow, above), whom he suspects is cheating on him. (The film was titled "Follow Me" in all other countries, except the United States, which honored Shaffer's original title.) When Belinda becomes aware that she is being followed, she's flattered by the attention and starts to play games with her potential paramour. The private eye figures everything out - that the wife isn't unfaithful at all, but merely looking for something that her husband isn't providing - but that she's getting from him.

"The Public Eye" made it into theaters - but just barely. Universal opened in unannounced and without any advance critics' screenings.

Friday, January 01, 2010

turner this month - bravo!

Ben Gazzara and John Cassavetes get intimate in Cassavetes' arresting "Husbands"(1970)
Turner Classic Movies covers a lot of ground this month, with esoteric tributes to Method Acting, the New York Film Critics Circle and Russia.
Jimmy Stewart in two different moods in two different genres
1 January: The jaw-dropping versatility of James Stewart is honored on the first day of the new year, starting at 6:45 a.m. with Richard Quine’s “Bell, Book and Candle” (1958), followed by Otto Preminger’s “Anatomy of a Murder” (1959), Sam Wood’s “The Straton Story” (1949), Anthony Mann’s “The Man from Laramie” (1955). John Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence” (1962) and the Henry Hathaway segment (“The Rivers”) of “How the West Was Won” (1962). (Repeats: "Bell, Book and Candle" on 24 January at 12:30 p.m. and "Anatomy of a Murder" on 14 January at 3:30 p.m.)

2 January: For a bit of kink, there's David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” (1986) at 2:15 a.m. and Nicholas Roeg’s “Bad Timing” (1980) immediately following at 4:15 a.m. And the male mid-life crisis is examined in both Stanley Kubrick’s “Lolita” (1962) at 8 p.m. and John Cassavetes' “Husbands” (1970) at 10:45 p.m. - and with such accuracy that you will wince and smile at the same time.

Falk, Gazarra and Cassavetes in "Husbands" (1970)
3 January: Robert Wise’s “Two for the Seesaw” (1962) at 3:15 a.m. is based on the William Gibson two-hander that starred Henry Fonda and Anne Bancroft. For his film, Wise went with Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine, who would team with Bancroft years later in Herbert Ross' "The Turning Point."

4 January: Alfred E. Green’s “Top Banana” (1954) at 2:30 p.m. is a truncated, filmed-on-stage version of the Phil Silvers-Rosemarie musical comedy. The film, originally 100 minutes, is now 84 minutes and is missing two musical numbers and, not surprisingly, its 3-D sequences. This is the version that was released on video by MGM Home Entertainment back in the day.











Cyd Charisse could do more than dance (here with Fred Astaire), as Turner programmers prove
5 January: Samuel Goldwyn, Jr.’s “The Young Lovers” (1964) at 1:45 p.m. is the usual soap opera warning that sex leads to pregnancy. The couple in trouble is played by Peter Fonda and Sharon Hugueny, with Nick Adams, Deborah Walley and Jennifer Billingsly in support. Earlier in the day, Cyd Charisse is showcased in one of her rare non-dancing roles in Vincente Minnelli’s “Two Weeks in Another Town” (1962) at 9:45 a.m.

On 12 January, Charisse has a solid dramatic role in Nicholas Ray’s terrific mob flick, “The Party Girl” (1958), co-starring Robert Taylor and the great Lee J. Cobb. It airs at 6 a.m.


The singular Sandy Dennis gets a two-film tribute
5 January: The too-often neglected Sandy Dennis had one of her best roles in Robert Mulligan’s immensely popular “Up the Down Staircase” (1967), one of handful of gems that Mulligan made in tandem with producer Alan J. Pakula. Based on Bel Kaufman's enduring novel, set in an inner-city New York high school, the film underlines the soul-killing bureaucracy of the school system that, unbelievably, has gotten worse and more intense in the four decades since the film was made.

"Up the Down Staircase" has a huge supporting cast, led by the Irish stage actor Patrick Bedford (in one of only two film performances that he gave) and a gallery of noted actors from the Broadway stage - the wonderful Ruth White, Florence Stanley, Roy Poole, Frances Sternhagen, Eileen Heckart, Sorrell Booke, Jean Stapleton, Vinette Carroll. But front and center is Dennis who, as always, is totally singular.

Airing at 5:45 p.m., "Up the Down Staircase" - scripted for the screen by Tad Mosel - is a superior school drama that, inexplicably, is often overlookd when school-films are programmed. A second Dennis title, Robert Ellis Miller’s “Sweet November” (1968), about a young woman who refuses to let her love affairs last longer than a month , airs at 6 p.m. on 10 January. It co-stars Anthony Newley and was the subject of the recent Keanu Reeves-Charlize Theron remake.
A bracing farewell to the divine Jennifer Jones


7 January:
Samuel Fuller’s “The Baron of Arizona” (1950), with Vincent Price as a crafty swindler, screens at 1:30 p.m. It is the first of a string of films today featuring the great character actress Beulah Bondi (left).

And the night has been set aside for the divine Jennifer Jones who recently left us, starting with King Vidor's "Duel in the Sun" (1946) at 8 p.m., followed by John Huston's "Beat the Devil" (1954), from a Truman Capote script, Vincente Minnelli's "Madame Bovary" (1949) and Vittorio DeSica's "Indiscretion of an American Wife" (1954). (The Jones series replaces the previously announced marathon of Western about old codgers - “Will Penny,” William A. Fraker’s “Monte Walsh,” Sam Peckinpah’s “Ride the High Country,” Don Siegel’s “The Shootist” and Mann’s “The Man from Laramie.”)

9 January: Tito Davison’s “The Big Cube” (1969) airs at 2 a.m., but look, it stars Lana Turner, George Chakiris and Richard Egan.

You can't top that wacky cast.

Robert Mulligan’s “Fear Strikes Out” (1957) screens the same day at 2 p.m. Astute movie buffs know that Karl Malden played Herbie to Roz Russell’s Rose in Mervyn LeRoy’s sublime film version of the Styne-Sondheim musical, “Gypsy” (1961) which, of course, is about a horrible stage mother who brutalizes her daughters while ushering them to potential stardom. What some fans may not have picked up on is that Malden did a male variation on the material in Mulligan’s “Fear Strikes Out,” playing the toxic “stage father” of ballplayer Jimmy Piersall (essayed by Anthony Perkins in a stunning performance). Papa Piersall bullied his gifted, athletic son into a nervous breakdown, all so that the son could achieve Pop’s dreams. Just like Mama Rose.

11 January: Jean Renoir’s
“Boudu Saved from Drowning” (1932), at 2:15 a.m., is the delightful French film that was remade by Paul Mazursky in 1986 as "Down and Out in Beverly Hills." While in production, Mazursky's film was titled ... "Jerry Saved from Drowning."

Also on 11 January, hunky Rod Taylor gets is own day, starting at 6 a.m. with Rudolph Mate’s “Seven Seas to Calais” (1962), followed by George Pal’s “The Time Machine” (1960), Peter Tewksbury’s “Sunday in New York” (1963), George Seaton’s “36 Hours” (1965), Jack Cardiff and John Ford’s “Young Cassidy” (1965), Frank Tashlin’s “The Glass-Bottom Boat” (1966) and Cardiff’s “Dark of the Sun” (1968), co-starring his "Time Machine" leading lady, Yvette Mimieux. Taylor can also be seen as Debbie Reynolds' fiancé in Richard Brooks’ “The Catered Affair” (1956), screening at 12:30 p.m. on 22 January. Hey, where's "The Birds"?

Julie Harris and James Dean explain it all, method-style
11 January: Method Acting is vividly illustrated, starting at 8 p.m. by Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters in George Stevens’ “A Place in the Sun” (1951), followed by Marlon Brando and Karl Malden in Elia Kazan’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) and Julie Harris and James Dean in his “East of Eden” (1955), Harris in Fred Zinnnemann’s “The Member of the Wedding” (1952) and by Seth Holt’s “Scream of Fear” (1961), the last-mentioned a European horror film with Susan Strasberg, daughter of Lee, the guru of The Method. "The Member of the Wedding" will be repeated at 4:14 p.m. on 22 January.

13 January: W.S. Van Dyke’s “The Feminine Touch” (1941), with Rosalind Russell and Don Ameche.
14 January: Stuart Hagmann’s “The Strawberry Statement” (1970) screens at 3:30 a.m. Directed by Hagmann from a script by Israel Horowitz (adapted from a novel by James Kunan), this campus drama is an overwrought, exploitative story about a clueless kid (Bruce Davison, hot off Frank Perry's "Last Summer") who joins a student revolution as a way to meet girls and eventually gets caught up in campus violence.

Talented Kim Darby, who was a protegé of the great Kim Stanley at the time (see "The Goddess" below), had the female lead and her role here was supposed to rescue her from the memory of the very square "True Grit" (1969), her breakthrough movie. But it was not to be. She eventually found a good role in Robert Aldrich's lost film, "The Grissom Gang" (1971), but actually had better luck in an earlier movie, Harvey Hart's "Bus Riley's Back in Town" (1965).

15 January: Ralph Thomas’ “No Love for Johnnie” (1961), at 1 a.m., is a political drama-cum-love story starring two British film reliables - Peter Finch and Mary Peach. And you can stay up all night on the 15th watching Burt Reynolds in Joseph Sargent’s “White Lightning,” which airs at 11 p.m., and then Robert Mitchum in Peter Yates’ “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” (1973), followed by two Jerzy Skolimowski titles, “Deep End” (1970) and “The Shout” (1979).

16 January: Rudolph Mate’s “Miracle in the Rain” (1956) at 10:15 p.m. is an affecting tearjerker starring Jane Wyman and Van Johnson.

17 January: A rare screening of Peter Glenville’s “Me and the Colonel” (1958) at 8 a.m., starring Danny Kaye and Curt Jurgens in the title roles. Anthony Mann’s once-ribald “God Little Acre” (1958), with Robert Ryan, Aldo Ray and Tina Louise, screens at noon.

Coca! The comic with the rubber face
17 January: The hilarious Imogene Coca made far too few films, but she is shown to good effect in David Swift’s “Under the Yum Yum Tree” (1963) at 6 p.m., so good that Swift immediately designed a shortlived but delightful TV sitcom around her, titled "Grindl," in which she essentially played the same role Coca essayed in "Yum-Yum" - that of a housekeeper.

Immediately following - at 8 p.m. - is Fred Schepisi’s excellent “Roxanne” (1987), a contemporary remake of Michael Gordon’s “Cyrano De Bergerac” (1950), which screens at 10 p.m. Steve Martin and José Ferrer co-star, respectively.

18 January: Another Method Acting exhibition, starting at 8 p.m. with Don Murray, Eva Mair Saint and Anthony Franciosa in Fred Zinneman’s “A Hatful of Rain” (1957), followed by Carroll Baker, Eli Wallach and Karl Malden in Elia Kazan’s “Baby Doll” (1956) and Andy Griffith, Patricia Neal, Lee Remick, Anthony Franciosa and Walter Matthau in his “A Face in the Crowd” (1957), Ben Gassara in Jack Garfein’s “The Strange One” (1957) and John Cromwell’s “The Goddess” (1958), starring the great Kim Stanley and Lloyd Bridges.
Fabulous Shelley Fabares, B-level teen queen
19 January: While Sandra Dee and Tuesday Weld had the teen market cornered in the 1950s, the appealing Shelley Fabares took over in the '60s with a string of B-level flicks (many of them starring Elvis). She gets the spotlight today, starting at 11:30 a.m. with Arthur Dreifuss’ “A Time to Sing” (1968), followed by Arthur Lubin’s “Hold On!” (1966), Norman Taurog’s “Spinout” (1966), Boris Sagal’s “Girl Happy” (1965) and William Castle and Don Taylor’s “Ride the Wild Surf” (1964)

20 January: Ulu Grosbard, who directed the Broadway production, brought Frank Gilroy’s “The Subject Was Roses”(1968) to the screen with the same two leading men - Jack Albertson and Martin Sheen. But Patricia Neal replaced Irene Daily (Dan's sister) in the central mother role. "The Subject Was Roses" screens airs at 6 p.m.

21 January: John Huston’s little-known, little-seen “The Kremlin Letter” (1970), with the inimitable Richard Boone in a rare big-screen starring performance, airs at 12:15 a.m.

22 January: Fielder Cook’s “How to Save a Marriage and Rui Your Life” (1968), with Dean Martin, Eli Wallach and Stella Stevens, at 6 p.m., followed by Arthur Hiller’s “The Out-of-Towners” (1969), arguably the only Neil Simon film that has improved with age, at 8:30 p.m.

23 January: Lemmon and Kovacs are the prime cut-ups in Richard Quine’s “Operation Mad Ball” (1957) at 10 a.m.



















Judy Holliday as the incorrigible Gladys: "It's Glover! Not a C, like you got it - G, like you haven't got it!"
24 January: Women in comedy - with Quine’s “Bell, Book and Candle” (1958), starring Kim Novak, Elsa Lanchester, Hermione Gingold and Janice Rule, kicking things off at 12:30 p.m., followed by George Cukor’s “It Should Happen to You” (1954), with Judy Holliday, Blake Edwards’ "Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1961) with Audrey Hepburn and Delbert Mann’s “That Touch of Mink” (1962), with Doris Day and Audrey Meadows.
25 January:, More Method acting, starting at 8 p.m. with Vicnent J. Donehue’s “Lonleyhearts” (1958), starring Robert Ryan, Montgomery Clift, Maureen Stapleton, Myrna Loy and Delores Hart, followed by Richard Brooks’ “Sweet Bird of Youth” with Paul Newman and Geraldine Page (see above photo), George Stevens’ “The Diary of Anne Frank” (1959) with Millie Perkins, Joseph Schildkraut and Shelley Winters, John Flynn’s “The Sergeant” (1968) with Rod Steiger and Sidney Lumet’s “The Fugitive Kind” (1960), with Joanne Woodward, Anna Magnani and ... Marlon Brando.

27 January: George Cukor’s hugely watchable “Heller in Pink Tights” (1960), with Anthony Quinn, Sophia Loren and a great supporting cast, will be shown at 2:30 a.m.; Don Weis’ delectable “I Love Melvin” (1953), with Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor, screens at 12:30 p.m.


29 January: Mervyn LeRoy’s “No Time for Sergeants” (1958), one of many incarnations of the enduring Mac Hyman novel/Ira Levin play, screens at 8 p.m. Andy Griffith and Myron McCormick recreate their Broadway roles; Nick Adams has the role Roddy McDowell played on stage.

31 January: Sam Wood’s version of the Edna Ferber charmer about revenge, “Saratoga Trunk” (1945), stars Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman and shows at 3:45 a.m. It was adapted into a Broadway musical in 1959 by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, with Howard Keel and Carol Lawrence in the lead roles. Directed by Morton DaCosta, it closed after 80 performances.