Thursday, November 26, 2015

happy gratitude day!

Everyone routinely mistakes George Seaton's "Miracle on 34th St." (1947), featuring a young Natalie Wood and John Payne (above) and Edmund Gwenn (below), for a Christmas movie. 


It's actually a Thanksgiving movie.  Well, almost.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

cinema obscura: Buzz Kulik's "To Find a Man" (1972)

Lloyd Bridges and Pamela Sue Martin in Kulik's lost film, "To Find a Man"
Buzz Kulik, who died in 1999 at age 77, worked mostly in TV and is perhaps best known for his superior male weepie, "Brian's Song" (1971), about the friendship of NFLers Brian Piccolo (James Caan) and Gale Sayers (Billy Dee Williams) and the eventual, tragic death of Piccolo.

He started his career on the tube and ended there. But for a brief period, Kulik - a selfless craftsman, if there ever was one - ventured onto the big screen with such titles as "Warning Shot" (1967), starring David Janssen; "Riot" (1969), with Jim Brown and Gene Hackman, and Burt Reynolds' "Shamus" (1973), co-starring a game Dyan Cannon.

And then there was "To Find a Man" (1972), a tiny gem-like feature, adapted from the S.J. Wilson novel by Arnold Schulman - an extremely well-cast piece about a young girl who, as they used to say, is in trouble and about the brave boy who steps up and shyly helps her out.

With this film and Peter Hyams' also underrated "Our Time" (1974), the young Pamela Sue Martin positioned herself as a starlet to watch before becoming waylaid by the "Dallas" TV series. She's cast opposite Darren O'Connor (brother of Glynnis), seen here in his only feature film.

They make a naturalistic, affecting couple.

The ace supporting cast includes Lloyd Bridges and Phyllis Newman as Martin's parents; Tom Ewell, cast against type as a doctor who performs abortions and Tom Bosely who, as another doctor, has the film's most memorable line. When Martin asks him what the fetus of her unborn child looks like, Bosley deadpans, "a tadpole." Also on hand are veteran character actress Antonia Rey and the then-newcomer Miles Chapin who would appear together a few years later in Milos Foreman's "Hair" (1979).

Yes, "To Find a Man" is a matter-of-fact abortion film, made when people could talk about the topic without seething.  It could never been made today - never - given the hyper-hysterical sociopolitical climate surrounding the issue (pro or con). All reason has disappeared.

Kulik's small film brims with compassion and, in Martin, it has an unstoppable life force. The director's affection for his material and his characters (and this actress) has never been more fervent - something that's revealed in the fully-realized performances that dot "To Find a Man."

Monday, November 09, 2015

delon et schneider

Alain Delon and Romy Schneider were the "it" couple when movie stars actually gave off some heat - and when their names weren't "cleverly" spliced together by some socially stunted journalist (read: Brangelina).

The affecting Romy passed way too young in 1982 (of cardiac arrest) and Delon has outlived her by 33 years.  He was married once - to Nathalie Delon from 1964 to 1969 - but only once.  His relationship with Romy both predated his marriage and followed it.  She died; he never married again.

Alain Delon turned 80 yesterday.  Joyeux Anniversaire!

tonight at 8. center orchestra. two on the aisle.

Turner airs "the best damn musical!" this evening.  Can't wait.  It is possibly my all-time favorite film (as anyone who follows this site surely already knows).  Two items on my wish list, however. 

First, I hope that Robert (or Ben, or whoever introduces "Gypsy" tonight) doesn’t remind us for the 1,438th time that the role of Madam Rose was written for Ethel Merman.  (We know already. Besides, Roz rules.)  And, two, that the character isn't referred to - for the 1,439th time - as "Mama Rose."  She isn't called that in either the play or the film (as author Arthur Laurents kept reminding people).  She's called Rose, Madam Rose and Mama.

But never Mama Rose.  Never. That said, bring on Caroline!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

cinema obscura: Peter Ustinov's "Romanoff and Juliet" (1961)

Ignored by its distributor, Universal Pictures, for almost five dacades now, "Romanoff and Juliet" is Peter Ustinov's Cold War satire that playfully juxtaposes the familiar Shakepeare plot with the political atmosphere that was simmering in 1961. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been available on home entertainment in any form and I can't recall the last time it was televised. I'm guessing forty years at least.

I'm seriously dating myself here.

Sandra Dee and John Gavin (above), who also teamed the same year in Henry Levin's "Tammy, Tell Me True" (also for Universal), play the title characters - he being the son of the Soviet Ambassador to Concordia and she the daughter of his American counterpart. Ustinov essays the role of the leader of Concordia, virtually playing it drunk, and makes a most disarmimg cupid for Romanoff and Juliet.

Ustinov's satire compares favorably with "The Mouse That Roared," Jack Arnold's Cold War satire from the same period, but it inexplicably remains less known than Arnold's film.

The 1958 play which Ustinov wrote and on which his film was based was directed by none-other-than George S. Kaufman and included incidental music by Harold Rome ("Fanny") with lyrics written by Ustinov and ... Anthony Hopkins. Elizabeth Allen played Juliet and Edward Atienza played Romanoff. Ustinov recreated his original Broadway role for the film.

Note in Passing: Speaking of "Tammy, Tell Me True," it is available on DVD in a boxed set from MCA/Universal that includes "Tammy and the Bachelor" (1957) and "Tammy and the Doctor" (1963). I don't know about the other two "Tammys," but I'm a sucker for "Tammy, Tell Me True."