Turner has me in its hold this month. The mere idea of a weeklong Doris Day marathon is catnip for me. Every night during the first week of April, starting at 8 p.m. each night, we get Doris and only Doris.
Star of the Month: Doris Day
Turner will be screening 28 titles - including two with Rod Taylor and two with James Garner - but the biggest attraction for me will be its showing of David Miller’s “Midnight Lace” (1960), which for some bizarre reason has evaded DVD release to date, on April 4 @ 8 p.m. Charles Vidor’s “Love Me or Leave Me” (1955) - airing @ 8 p.m. on April 6 - runs a close second in the must-see category.
If I had to pick one night, however, for my Doris binge, it would be April 5. Starting @ 8 p.m., Turner serves up: Charles Walters’ “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” (1960) (to be encored on April 17 @ 12:45 p.m.); Norman Jewison’s “The Thrill of It All” (1963); Frank Tashlin’s “The Glass Bottom Boat” (1966); Richard Quine’s “It Happened to Jane” (1959), and David Butler’s “April in Paris” (1952).
Conspicuously missing are George Seaton's “Teacher’s Pet” (1958), which has always been a Turner staple, and Stanley Donen and George Abbott's “The Pajama Game” (1957), which features one of Day's most feminist performances and, oddly, has never been on the Turner menu. Tragic.
Lillian Hellman's play about two spinster sisters who have been supporting their loser brother through several failed business ventures opened February 25th, 1960 at the Hudson Theatre and ran for 456 performances. Maureen Stapleton and Irene Worth played the sisters; Jason Robards was their brother, and Rochelle Oliver played his young wife.
Arthur Penn directed.
The 1963 film version starred Geraldine Page and Wendy Hiller as sisters Carrie and Anna Berniers, respectively; Dean Martin as their brother Julian, and Yvette Mimieux as his bride. The great Gene Tierney played the role that won Anne Revere as Tony for the stage version.
James Poe adapted the Hellman play for director George Roy Hill, helming his second film here, following his 1962 debut with the adapation of another play - "Period of Adjustment," the Tennessee Williams comedy he directed on Broadway (and which is screening on a day devoted to Williams film adaptations; see Façade directly below). Hill's next film was 1964's delightful "The World of Henry Orient" (which Hill would eventually direct as a stage musical, "Henry, Sweet, Henry") and, of course, he became a major player with 1969's "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."
"Toys in the Attic" is a talky to-do - but what talk! - about an unusually dysfunctional and repressed family unraveling. In short, a wonderful afternoon at the theater.
Joshua Logan’s “Tall Story” (1960) April 4 @ 4:45 p.m.
George Marshall’s “The Happy Thieves” (1962) April 7 @ 2 a.m.
Henry Koster’s “A Man Called Peter”(1955) April 9 @ 4:15 a.m.
John Brahm’s “Hot Rods to Hell” (1967) April 18 @ 4:30p.m.
Bert I. Gordon’s “Picture Mommy Dead” (1966) April 25 @ 4:45 p.m.
Leslie Kardos’ “The Strip”(1951) April 27 @ 6:30p.m.
Jay Levey’s “UHF” (1989) Aprill 28 @ 4 a.m.
Tennessee Williams / April 26, starting @ 6 a.m.:
John Huston’s “The Night of the Iguana” (1964)
George Roy Hill’s “Period of Adjustment” (1962)
Richard Brooks’ “Sweet Bird of Youth” (1962) and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (1958)
Elia Kazan’s “Baby Doll” (1956)
Tennessee Williams receives arguably his best screen adaptation ever in Richard Brooks’ version of “Sweet Bird of Youth,” with Paul Newman as hustler Chance Wayne, a scam artist who returns to his hometown with desperate, aging movie queen Alexandra Del Lago - played by Geraldine Page - in tow. Chance Wayne and Alexandra Del Lago - what marvelous names!
Newman and Page reprised their Broadway roles for Brooks' adaptation. Ed Begley won an Oscar for his performance as the town boss.
Rita Hayworth / April 6, starting @ 8 p.m.:
Charles Vidor’s “Gilda”(1946)
Orson Welles’ “The Lady from Shanghai” (1948)
Robert Rosen’s “They Came to Cordura” (1959)
Charles Vidor’s ”The Lady in Question” (1940)
Vincent Sherman’s ”Affair in Trinidad” (1952)
Stanley Donen / April 13, starting @ 6 a.m.:
“On the Town” (1949)
“Fearless Fagan” (1952)
“Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1953)
“It’s Always Fair Weather” (1955)
Barbra Streisand / April 24, starting @ 8 p.m.:
Sydney Pollack’s “The Way We Were” (1973)
William Wyler’s ”Funny Girl” (1968)
Streisand's “The Prince of Tides” (1991)
Herbert Ross’ “The Owl and the Pussycat” (1970) and “Funny Lady” (1975)
Peter Yates’ “For Pete’s Sake” (1974)
Jean Simmons / April 17,starting @ 4:45 p.m.
Robert Wise’s “Until They Sail” (1957)
Lloyd Bacon’s “She Couldn’t Say No” (1954)
Hope Lange / April 29, starting @ 8 p.m.:
Mark Robson’s ”Peyton Place” (1957)
David Swift’s “Love Is a Ball”(1962), one of two films that Lange made with her then-lover Glenn Ford (the other being Frank Capra's "Pocketful of Miracles"); "Love Is a Ball" was made under the title "The Grand Duke and Mr. Prim."
Shirley MacLaine / April 24, starting @ 11:30 a.m.:
Robert Wise’s “Two for the Seesaw” (1962)
Charles Walters’ “Two Loves” (1961), which is also a cinema obscura.
Vincente Minnelli’s “Some Came Running” (1958)
Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment” (1960)
A trio of idiosyncratic winners airs on April 10, starting @ 10:15 p.m.:
Georges Franju’s “Eyes Without a Face” (1960), compulsively creepy and complusively watchable.
Mike Hodges’ “Get Carter” (1971)
Bruce Robinson’s “Withnail & I” (1987)
David Greene’s “Godspell” (973) April 8 @ 7:30 a.m.:
David Greene's refreshingly miminalist 1973 film version of John Michael Tebelak's Carnegie-Mellon student project/off-Broadway curiosity, "Godspell," is airing as Turner Classic Movies' Easter morning special and it remains as youthful and fresh as ever, even though it is now, unbelievably, 39-years-old. (Other Turner holiday fare for the day ranges from Charles Walters' quaint tuner, "Easter Parade," to Richard Fleischer's arty epic, "Barabbas.")
"Godspell," which was the "Glee" of its day, is Tebelak's witty take on the Gospel according to St. Matthew, fortified by a remarkable score by Stephen Schwartz, and its in-your-face religiosity remains as charming - and as charmingly inoffensive - as it was back in '73. (Did I say "witty"? Yes. Remember, the Canadian production featured such Second City stalwarts as Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin.)
Even though time, strangely enough, has not aged "Godspell, the film is now tinged with a certain melancholy, largely because so many of its contributors are now gone. Greene died in 2003 after directing some 80 projects, including two of my favorite Guilty Pleasures, "The People Next Door" (1970), which he had previously directed for television, and "Hard Country" (1981) which introduced Kim Basinger in a smashing early role.
Tebelak passed in 1985 at the age of 36.
Arguably sadder, however, is the realization of the fading of the movie's most companionable young cast. The commanding David Haskell, who plays John the Baptist and Judas and seemed to come with such promise, died of brain cancer in 2000, his career sadly cut short; the versatile Lynn Thigpen died of a cerebral hemorrhage in 2003; Jeffrey Mylett died of AIDS in 1986, and Merrell Jackson, so sweet in his heart-rending version of ""All Good Gifts," died young in 1991 of undisclosed causes.
All but one of the surviving cast members seemingly left show business after the film, the exception being Victor Garber, who plays the film's most ethereal Jesus and who has become one of our more reliable and recognizable characters actors. Incidentally, this role was played on Broadway by Don Scardino who is now a producer and the house director of NBC's "30 Rock" and by, yes, Jeremy Irons in the 1973 London production that played the Wyndham Theatre. (The role of Jesus was created off-Broadway by Stephen Nathan, who went on to do the films "The First Nudie Musical" and "You Light Up My Life" and who is now a producer-writer, mostly in television.)
This time out, in addition to Schwartz's most hummable score, savor the inventive choreography of Sammy Bayes, particularly his rousing staging of Thigpen's "Bless the Lord" number, and the hands-down show-stopper, "All for the Best," which culminates atop the World Trade Center, which was under construction at the time. More melancholy.
Thirty-nine years. A lifetime.
Alan J.bPakula’s ”The Sterile Cuckoo” (1969) April 13 @ 2 a.m. (with a most affecting Liza)
Paul Wendkos’ “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” (1961) Apri 17 @ 9:45p.m. (Love it!)
Kinji Fukasaku’s “The Green Slime” April 21 @ 3:30 a.m. (which is exactly as its title implies)
Be sure to pencil in three really nifty musicals - Leslie Kardos’ “Small Town Girl”(1953), April 12 @ 9:15 a.m.; Stanley Donen’s “Give a Girl a Break”(1953), April 13 @ 12:30 p.m., and Jean Negulesco’s “Daddy Long Legs” (1955) April 20 @ midnight - as well as a genuine curiosity, Robert Parrish’s turgid “Fire Down Below”(1957) April 24 @ 6 a.m., with Robert Mitchum, Rita Hayworth and, yes, Jack Lemmon.