Legends of the film business—actors, directors, and screenwriters—recount their first trip to Southern California. Hear special guests Laraine Newman and Nancy Olson Livingston give dramatic readings of these humble and humorous first person accounts, culled from award-winning author Cari Beauchamp’s book, My First Time in Hollywood: Stories from the Pioneers, Dreamers and Misfits Who Made the Movies. Special guests also include: Bruce Goldstein, Sue Lloyd and David Ladd.
Hosted by French archivist Serge Bromberg, this Club TCM presentation will include footage from the second part of the lost Battle Of The Century pie-fight scene, a few examples of restoration, a discussion about lost films—why these films were lost and where to find them—and a special world premiere surprise!
A CONVERSATION WITH ELLIOT GOULD CONVERSATION WITH ELLIOT GOULD
Club TCM at The Hollywood Roosevelt
Legendary actor Elliott Gould will discuss his fifty-year career in film, television and theater in this hour-long conversation with actor Alec Baldwin. An Academy and Golden Globe-nominated actor, Gould is best known for his work in such films as Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), M*A*S*H (1970) and his role as Philip Marlowe in The Long Goodbye (1973) in addition to more recent hits including the Ocean’s Eleven franchise.
The Academy Film Archive shares gems from its collection with specially-selected home movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age including Lupe Velez making The Squaw Man (1931); stars at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club, filmed by Gilbert Roland; Ginger Rogers at home; behind the scenes of On the Waterfront (1954) in color; Natalie Wood on location; Disneyland in the 1950s; and dance legends the Nicholas Brothers. Enjoy unique, rarely-screened footage with special guests including Tony Nicholas and Michael Mortilla. Presented by Randy Haberkamp, Managing Director of Preservation and Foundation Programs for AMPAS, and Lynne Kirste, Special Collections Curator at the Archive.
When Kevin Costner agreed to star in this baseball fantasy, he said it was IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) for his generation. Indeed, when the film opened critics compared director-writer Phil Alden Robinson’s work to Frank Capra’s and Costner to James Stewart. Appearing in a decade marked by cynicism and the loss of faith in the American dream, FIELD OF DREAMS captured audiences’ hearts with its tale of Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Costner)—a drop-out from the rat race—who is inspired by a mysterious voice to build a baseball field in his corn field so that past players like Shoeless Joe Jackson (Ray Liotta) and Ray’s estranged father can play again. The story may seem like pure hokum, yet it’s carefully grounded by the realistic playing of Liotta, Costner, Amy Madigan as Ray’s wife, James Earl Jones as an embittered writer modeled on J.D. Salinger, and Burt Lancaster, in his last theatrical feature, as a failed player who turned to medicine. The film’s ability to move grown men to tears has become legendary; in fact, after almost giving up on getting it made, Robinson finally got a deal when Tom Pollock, chair of Universal Studios, read the script and cried.
(d. Phil Alden Robinson, 107m, Digital)
Director-writer Carl Reiner scored a masterful cinematic trick with this film noir spoof. The story of a private eye (Steve Martin) investigating the murder of the world’s leading cheese scientist provides an excuse to throw the star into the world of Golden Age Hollywood. Using creamy black-and-white photography, Reiner cuts Martin into a series of classic films, putting him in scenes with Ingrid Bergman from Notorious (1946), James Cagney from White Heat (1949) and Burt Lancaster from I Walk Alone (1948). Thanks to clever cutting, Reiner even had Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe in The Big Sleep (1946) play Martin’s mentor. To create a seamless blend of classic scenes and new footage, Reiner enlisted several Hollywood veterans to work behind the cameras. Production designer John DeCuir designed 85 sets, an unusually large number for a short feature, all in the old Hollywood style. Edith Head created vintage costumes for Martin and leading lady Rachel Ward, at times matching her work on pictures like Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) and Double Indemnity (1944). This was the last film for Head and composer Miklós Rozsa, whose score provides another connection to Golden Age Hollywood. A conversation with Carl Reiner will take place immediately following the screening. The prolific actor-writer-director Carl Reiner will discuss his career in film and television, and share stories of his work with such comedians as Mel Brooks, Steve Martin and others in this special extended conversation immediately following a screening of his hit comedy Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982) and a special tribute video. (d. Carl Reiner, 88m)
Presented in collaboration with Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Event starts at noon and signing is immediately after event at 2:15pm, in the lobby of the theatre.
Gina Lollobrigida gets to show off her skill at playing comedy in this charming tale of a 20-year-old lie that earned her a Golden Globe nomination for her work. She stars as a woman who finds herself pregnant during World War II with no idea which of her three GI boyfriends is the father. So, she tells each he has a daughter, raising the girl comfortably with their support checks while telling the townsfolk she’s the widow of a flyer named Campbell (for the soup). Twenty years later, the men return to the village, each hoping to see his daughter. Director Melvin Frank had started as a writer for Bob Hope before directing such hits as Danny Kaye’s The Court Jester (1955) and Hope’s The Facts of Life (1960). He had been impressed with Lollobrigida while working with her on the Rock Hudson comedy Come September (1961), and helped screenwriters Denis Norden and Sheldon Keller develop the script as a vehicle for her. He also surrounded her with top talent including Phil Silvers, Telly Savalas and Peter Lawford as the grown-up soldiers, and Shelley Winters and Lee Grant as two of their wives. But it’s Lollobrigida’s charm and innocence that keeps the whole thing afloat. The film would inspire the Broadway musical Carmelina before turning up, uncredited, as the inspiration for the musical Mamma Mia!(d. Melvin Frank, 108m, Digital)
One of the stage’s most electric performances came to the screen 60 years ago when 20th Century-Fox gave Yul Brynner $300,000, a percentage of the profits and script and cast approval. That was an unprecedented offer to an actor who had only made one other film (1949’s Port of New York). But it paid off with an impressive box office and an Oscar for Best Actor. Since the play’s original leading lady, Gertrude Lawrence, had died during the Broadway run, the role of the British governess who brings modern ways to 19th century Siam was wide open. Composer Richard Rodgers vetoed producer Darryl F. Zanuck’s first choice, Maureen O’Hara, but was fine when Brynner suggested Deborah Kerr, even though she would have to have her singing dubbed (by Marni Nixon). Everything about the film was top notch, with Irene Sharaff repeating her costuming work from the stage and the studio creating 40 lavish sets, 25 alone for the short sequence in which Kerr travels from her ship to the palace. Rita Moreno got one of her first big breaks as a rebellious slave who stages a musical version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin for the king and his guests. (d. Walter Lang, 133m, Digital)
Forty years ago, Sylvester Stallone created one of the screen’s greatest boxing films. The tale of Rocky Balboa, an unknown slugger who gets his life together and manages to go the distance against the heavyweight champ hit a chord with filmgoers, and the key was Stallone’s own personal connection to the story. He saw his own struggles to achieve recognition as an actor and writer in Rocky’s against-all-odds fortitude and put those feelings into his screenplay. Despite offers of up to $350,000 for the script alone, Stallone held out, eventually agreeing to do on-set rewrites for free if producers Irwin Winkler and Robert Chartoff would cast him in the title role. With an untested leading man, United Artists refused to put more than $1 million into the film. With such a low budget, many of the location shots were done guerilla style, without permits. The famous jogging scenes were made with director John G. Avildsen shooting surreptitiously from a van while Stallone ran through the streets of Philadelphia. To everyone’s surprise, ROCKY was a mammoth hit, becoming the top-grossing picture of its year and a very popular winner of the Best Picture Oscar. It would go on to inspire six sequels, including last year’s hit Creed (2015) which earned Stallone a Best Supporting Actor nomination for reprising his role as Rocky.
(d. John G. Avildsen, 119m, Digital)
In 1926, Warner Bros. took a gamble on a startling new technology—sound—by releasing the John Barrymore epic Don Juan with a synchronized score and sound effects. Accompanying the film were a bill of shorts that were, if anything, even more revolutionary, since they featured synchronized speech and song. These shorts began with Will Hays (president of the industry watchdog the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America) introducing the new process and continued for three yeas as Warner Bros. engaged the top musical acts of the day to perform for the cameras—and the microphone. The early Vitaphone shorts are some of the only surviving records of what vaudeville was really like, but many were lost to time. They were projected in synchronization with sound records that played from the inside out, and over time, the silver nitrate films faded or decomposed, while the discs were lost, broken or stored under less than optimum conditions. Since 1991, The Vitaphone Project, a collection of professional and amateur archivists and record collectors, have worked to restore original Vitaphone elements and transfer them to 35mm. Their work makes it possible for TCM to screen 7 vintage Vitaphone shorts, including the work of such future stars as George Burns and Gracie Allen, Baby Rose Marie and Molly Picon.
(d: Various, 35mm)
Director Elia Kazan and writer Budd Schulberg had won Oscars for On the Waterfront (1954) when they decided to expand Schulberg’s short story “The Arkansas Traveler” into a feature about a television host whose down home image belies the way he revels in his power over public opinion. To research the project, they attended ad agency meetings to learn how Madison Avenue influenced the public and even met with then-Senator Lyndon Johnson to pick up some of his mannerisms. To keep costs down, they shot in New York City and on locations in Arkansas and Tennessee. They also assembled an offbeat cast chosen for talent rather than marquee allure. Andy Griffith and Lee Remick made their film debuts as Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes and the cheerleader chosen to be his wife. Patricia Neal returned to the screen after a four-year absence as the producer who makes him a star, with a young Walter Matthau as his head writer and Anthony Franciosa (who turned down more lucrative offers in order to work with Kazan) as his agent. Critics and audiences were put off by the film’s cynical view of American politics, but the picture has grown in popularity since and is now considered a true classic.
(d. Elia Kazan, 126m, 35mm)
This 70th anniversary screening celebrates the film noir that cemented the Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall screen team and gave horse racing a whole new meaning in a new restoration from Warner Bros and the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Director Howard Hawks had first teamed Bogie and Bacall in To Have and Have Not (1944), and he re-united them for this adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel—a mystery so convoluted even the original author wasn’t entirely sure whodunit. As detective Philip Marlowe, Bogart has the perfect outlet for his insolent sexuality, matched at every step by Bacall’s sultry performance as a society woman whose sister Bogart has been hired to get out of trouble. The film was actually completed in 1945, but when Bacall’s performance in her second film, Confidential Agent (1945), proved a disappointment, studio head Jack L. Warner ordered THE BIG SLEEP back into production to build up her part. The film was already pretty adult, with Bacall’s sister (Martha Vickers) and a bookstore clerk (Dorothy Malone) blatantly throwing themselves at Bogart and Bacall and a plot hinging on Vickers’ involvement with a pornographer. When Hawks and writers Leigh Brackett and William Faulkner added a suggestive scene in which Bogie and Baby discuss horse racing, it was a miracle any of it got past the Production Code. It did, giving the team a second big hit and sealing their image as the screen’s coolest couple.
(d. Howard Hawks, 114m, 35mm)
When Robert Altman’s dreamy, improvisatory take on film noir opened in 1973, critics and audiences were sharply divided on his adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s novel and the interpretation of private eye Philip Marlowe (Elliott Gould) as a man displaced in time. Today, however, the film is viewed as a classic and Gould’s performance as one of his best. Genre specialist Leigh Brackett, who had earlier adapted Chandler’s The Big Sleep (1946), had already started treating the character as an anachronism when Altman signed on, partly for the chance to work with Gould again after their work on M*A*S*H (1970). He carried those ideas further: having Gould dress in a black suit while everyone around him was more casual, having him drive a 1940s car and making him the only character to smoke. In addition, he allowed Gould to improvise, creating a memorable opening scene in which he tries to fool his finicky cat with cheaper food. The cast is almost surreal, with baseball star Jim Bouton as the friend whose request for a ride to Mexico starts the mystery rolling, Sterling Hayden as a drunken novelist Gould has to track down, director Mark Rydell as a soft-spoken gangster and Arnold Schwarzenegger as his hired muscle.
(d. Robert Altman, 112m, 35mm)Presented in collaboration with MGM/United Artists and Park Circus LLC
Learn more about the technological tradition that has fascinated filmmakers and audiences from the earliest days of cinema to the present day in this special presentation. Filmmakers experimented with wide-screen cinema as early as 1897 when The Corbett-Fitzsimmons Fight was shot on 63mm stock. The process was even used throughout the 1920s and ‘30s—with examples ranging from Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927, on polyvision) to Fox’s 70mm The Big Trail (1930). In the 1950s, desperate to compete with television, Hollywood’s studios brought back widescreen filming, which led to a series of imitations and off-shoots including Cinerama (This is Cinerama ), Cinemascope (The Robe ), Todd-AO (Oklahoma! ) and Super Panavision 70 (Lawrence of Arabia ). A celebration of the journey widescreen has taken throughout its history, this presentation will use a variety of film clips to highlight the many technological and stylistic changes to filmmaking that widescreen has brought on.
(d. various, various formats)
Writer-director-producer Billy Wilder called this powerful indictment of sensationalistic journalism the runt of his cinematic litter, mainly because if flopped at the box office. But contemporary audiences and critics have found it to be a trenchant depiction of the worst side of U.S. culture. Kirk Douglas stars as a journalist in disgrace, forced to work in a small-town paper
in New Mexico. When he stumbles on the story of a local man trapped in a cave, he blows it up into a national obsession—all in an effort to get his career back on track, even if it means risking the man’s life by delaying his rescue. He even seduces the
man’s wife (Jan Sterling), one of the screen’s most acrid leading ladies. When Douglas suggests she pray for her husband’s safety, she quips, “I don’t go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons.” This was Wilder’s first film as producer and his first without longtime writing partner Charles Brackett. That may account for its more cynical tone in comparison to his earlier films (including Sunset Boulevard ). It was also a big production, with Wilder having a fake cliff dwelling built on location outside Gallup, New Mexico. When filming ended, the studio sold tickets to the set to recoup some of the picture’s cost.
(d. Billy Wilder, 111m, Digital)
Ken Kesey’s counter-culture novel took more than a decade to reach the screen, but when it got there it struck a chord with audiences and became the top-grossing film of its year. The tale of a small-time crook shaking up the establishment when he’s committed to a mental hospital struck a chord in the industry, too. On Oscar night, it became the first film since It Happened One Night (1934) to capture Best Picture, Director (Milos Forman), Actor (Jack Nicholson), Actress (Louise Fletcher) and Screenplay (Lawrence Hauben and Bo Goldman). Kirk Douglas discovered Kesey’s novel while it was in galleys and bought the film rights. Although he starred in a 1963 Broadway version, he could not get a major studio interested in the project. When he grew too old for the lead, he passed the rights on to his son, Michael Douglas, who decided to produce it. He also suggested Forman as director after seeing his work in Czechoslovakia. In only his second U.S. feature, Forman turned in a film that captured the growing anti-establishment sentiment here. Nicholson’s clashes with Fletcher as Nurse Ratched, the ultimate representative of the system, are now considered iconic. They’re supported by Brad Dourif, Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Will Sampson and 89 inmates from the Oregon State Hospital, where they filmed on location.
(d. Milos Forman, Digital)
Two Oscar-winners, sound editor Ben Burtt and special effects technician Craig Barron, share their unique insights into George Pal’s Oscar winning science-fiction classic. The tale of a Martian invasion of Earth had been on Paramount’s schedule since 1924, when it bought the rights to the H.G. Wells novel for Cecil B. DeMille. By the time they finally made the film, however, DeMille was too busy preparing for The Ten Commandments (1956) and personally chose George Pal, famed for his work with stop-motion puppets, to produce the film. As a tip of the hat to DeMille, Pal included a shot of a movie marquee advertising the director’s Samson and Delilah (1949). Pal’s special effects, including full-sized Martians and flying ships modeled on manta rays, were so impressive he won an Oscar. Some of the sound effects, like the Martian heat rays and the hovering scripts, would become stock effects for later movies and for TV shows like Star Trek. With most of the film’s budget earmarked for special effects, Pal cast relative newcomers Gene Barry and Ann Robinson in the leads, but their simple, sincere acting helped ground the film. The Wells estate was so impressed, they offered Pal his choice of the authors’ works, leading to his 1960 production of The Time Machine.
(d. Byron Haskin, 85m, Digital)
Fifty years ago, surfer and filmmaker Bruce Brown rented a small theatre in New York to show a film he had made over the previous year. He didn’t have a distributor or even a publicist, but audiences and critics fell in love with his straightforward account of a trip around the world in search of “the perfect wave.” Even by 1960s standards, the film is amazingly lowtech. Brown shot on a single 16mm camera and added the sound in post-production (including music by The Sandals), all for a cost of just $50,000, but the results are magical. If nothing else, the film serves as a beautiful travelogue, capturing the beaches and waves of Malibu, Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Oahu. Beyond that, however, it represents surfing culture at its most pristine. The surfers Brown follows, Mike Hynson and Robert August, have an innocence and laid-back energy that audiences continue to find immensely appealing. Brown’s narration matches their personas with a sense of youthful naiveté in stark contrast to the political realities of the decade. Almost 30 years later, Brown shot a sequel with his son, Dana Brown, The Endless Summer 2 (1994), about the making of the original film, and Hynson and August’s continuing love of the sport.
(d. Bruce Brown, 95m, Digital)
Jean-Luc Godard once described this film as “Alice in Wonderland meets Franz Kafka.” The Alice part certainly fits his beautiful leading lady: his then-wife Anna Karina. She stars as a bored student who takes up with two small-time crooks (Sami Frey and Claude Brasseur) with whom she plots to steal some money from her aunt’s house. Much of the picture seems to be a dreamlike riff on American gangster films. It’s also a love letter to Paris, transporting the American crime figures to a Parisian world of cafes and landmarks. In one memorable scene, the three kill time before the crime by trying to break the record for racing through the Louvre. Godard needed a commercial hit at the time, after the failure of Les Carabiniers (1963). He appealed to Columbia Pictures for $100,000, then, on François Truffaut’s advice, picked an adaptation of Dolores Hitchen’s roman noir Fools’ Gold from the list of suggestions they sent him. Although the film was panned in Paris, American critics like Manny Farber and Pauline Kael hailed it as one of his most accessible works. It was also a big influence on Quentin Tarantino, who named his production company A Band Apart, for the film’s French title, Bande à part. (d. Jean-Luc Godard, 95m, Digital)Presented in a US premiere restoration in collaboration with Rialto Pictures
See what ads trumpeted as “THE CREATURE OF TOMORROW” as it was meant to be seen, in wide-screen Eastmancolor and 3D, for the first time since Gog’s press screenings in 1954. Producer Ivan Tors’ film is a sci-fi mystery about a series of suspicious deaths at Herbert Marshall’s underground research facility. Enter Richard Egan, as a scientific investigator out to solve the crimes with the help of undercover agent Constance Dowling (later Mrs. Tors). Much of the film’s futuristic science, including a supercomputer and plans for a space station weapon, is surprisingly prescient. But the film is also very much a product of the ‘50s, filled with male chauvinism and anti-Communist paranoia. Director Herbert L. Strock had such poor vision in one eye he couldn’t see the 3-D effects he was shooting. By the time the picture was finished, the 3-D fad had faded, so it was released flat. For years, the film’s 3-D version was thought lost, and the few television screenings were in black and white. Then, a badly faded left-eye print was discovered in the 1990s. This is 3D version is a world premiere restoration by the 3D Film Archive, which restored the film’s color quality to create a sumptuous 3-D experience.
(d. Herbert L. Strock, 85m, Digital)
Lionel Barrymore’s subtle performance in this family drama was next to impossible to find until 2006, when TCM picked up six RKO films whose ownership was given to former studio head Merian C. Cooper after a lawsuit. More’s the pity, as it offers viewers a very different Barrymore: he starts the film as a young doctor and single father who brings his young son back to the small town where he grew up. While working for whatever goods his impoverished patients can give him, he helps raise a young girl whose mother died in childbirth, and becomes an essential part of the community. All of this is limned quietly, with a restraint not usually associated with the theatre veteran’s work. His depiction of a man who doesn’t realize how valued he is in his small town provides a fascinating bookend to one of his most famous films, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946), in which he bedeviled another small-town man (James Stewart) who didn’t realize his own value. This is also a film touched by marriage. McCrea and on-screen sweetheart Frances Dee married a month after the film came out, while Barrymore’s adoptive daughter, Dorothy Jordan, had married Cooper in secret before production started.
(d. John S. Robertson, 72m, 35mm)
In only his second talking film, director William Wyler proved himself a master of the new medium. Movies were certainly nothing new to him—he had been directing silent Westerns for Universal Pictures for six years—but, unlike so many other directors of the time, he refused to surrender to the tyranny of the microphone. He was one of the first to move the camera for a sound film, creating some wonderful tracking shots for this tale of a grizzled Pacific coast fisherman (Walter Huston) who weds a mail order bride (Helen Chandler) only to have her fall for his despised son (Kent Douglass, later known as Douglass Montgomery). Wyler also made creative use of sound in the climactic storm scene and an early sequence in which two young men leave their mother’s funeral only to stop at the sound of dirt hitting her coffin. The film is also a particular triumph for Huston, who gets to show off his range in a role that echoes his stage success in Eugene O’Neill’s Desire Under the Elms. He even got to work with his son John, who supplied additional dialogue for the film. Huston and Wyler would remain friends for years after.
(d. William Wyler, 70m, 35mm)
Ronald Colman returned to the role that made him a star with this semi-sequel to his 1929 Bulldog Drummond. It’s only partially a sequel as it was made at a different studio (Darryl F. Zanuck’s new 20th Century Pictures) with different production personnel. Although Herman C. McNeile, creator of the British soldier of fortune, had written a novel with the film’s title, the picture is actually an adaptation of a different work. In it, Drummond is back in England for his friend Algy’s wedding when he stumbles across a damsel in distress (Loretta Young) and a body that keeps going missing. The film is decidedly more light hearted than its predecessor, often poking fun at itself with self-aware dialogue and absurd plot twists (every time Colman tries to show something to Scotland Yard’s Captain Nielsen, be it a body or a witness, it goes missing). The film benefits from strong production values, with Richard Day’s art direction on the lavish side, cinematography by J. Peverell Marley and occasional music by Alfred Newman. It also has a great cast, with C. Aubrey Smith as Nielsen, Charles Butterworth as Algy, Una Merkel as his constantly disappointed bride and Warner Oland as the villain. Little wonder some fans consider it the best of all Bulldog Drummond movies.
(d. Roy Del Ruth, 83m, 35mm)
Although best known for directing Greta Garbo in such sophisticated romances as Flesh and the Devil (1926) and Anna Karenina (1935), Clarence Brown also excelled at telling simple tales of American life. As in Ah, Wilderness! (1935) and Intruder in the Dust (1949), this touching film views the world through the eyes of a young man. Adapted from Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ Pulitzer Prizewinning novel, it focuses on a 19th-century Florida farm boy hopelessly attached to a pet deer that is quickly becoming a major nuisance. MGM first put the picture into development in 1940, with Spencer Tracy and Anne Revere shooting on location in Florida. Location conditions, clashes with director Victor Fleming and problems with the Georgia boy cast as young Jody Baxter led the studio to shut down the film at a loss of $500,000. When production resumed in 1944, Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman took over as the farming couple and Nashville boy Claude Jarman, Jr. won the role of Jody over 19,000 other boys. Combining location footage (some from the original shoot) with shots done in the studio and around California, the film created such a convincing picture of Florida farm life it won Oscars for cinematography and art direction, along with a special juvenile award for Jarman. It also became MGM’s top-grossing film of the year.
(d. Clarence Brown, 128m, 35mm)
Republic Pictures, the small studio known for its low-budget Westerns, made a bid for the big time when they signed Oscar winning director Frank Borzage in 1945 and gave him $2 million to make one of his famous romance movies. They even sprung for Technicolor for the first time and hired Arthur Rubinstein to supply the piano music for this tale of a beautiful young pianist (Catherine McLeod) torn between her gruff, insensitive mentor (Philip Dorn) and her childhood sweetheart (Bill Carter). Borzage uses music throughout the picture to mirror the characters’ emotional states, particularly in not one but two performances of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto—both times played as a duel between pianist McLeod and conductor Dorn. I’VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU did not fare well with critics, partly because the plot was too similar to the previous year’s The Seventh Veil, and Brief Encounter had already made extensive use of the Rachmaninoff piece. Yet, Borzage’s romantic devotion to the story makes it oddly compelling and today, it stands as a tribute to one of the screen’s most individualistic directors.
(d. Frank Borzage, 117m, Digital)
Writers Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett combined a fairy tale with a screwball comedy for this delightful tale of a showgirl (Claudette Colbert) rescued from poverty by a French nobleman (John Barrymore). He hires her to pose as a baroness and seduce wife Mary Astor’s lover. Colbert is soon on the road to snaring a rich husband when her true love, taxi driver Don Ameche, shows up, posing as her insane husband. After Wilder and Brackett submitted their script, a Paramount Pictures executive decided to get another writing team to improve it and mistakenly sent it right back to the original authors. They simply re-typed it and sent it back with nobody the wiser. They didn’t get off so easily with director Mitchell Leisen. Although his work was visually stylish, with creamy photography by Charles Lang and some stunning gowns by Irene, he insisted on re-writing their script, convincing Wilder to turn to direction to safeguard his own work. Barrymore pretty much steals the film despite the fact that he was in such bad shape from heavy drinking that his lines had to be written on blackboards just out of camera range. To keep him under control, Leisen also cast his wife, Elaine Barrie, in a small role.
(d. Mitchell Leisen, 94m, Digital)
Walt Disney eschewed fantasy for a poetic picture of woodland life in his fifth animated feature. That was a shock to audiences at the time, and the film lost money and scored only mixed reviews on its initial release. Over time, however, it has become one of his most beloved films, inspiring generations of animal rights activists. The story of a young deer growing up in the forest who gradually learns of the dangers posed by hunters and wildfires started out as a very adult novel by Austrian writer Felix Salten. Director Sidney Franklin originally bought the rights in 1933, planning a live action film with Henry Fonda and Margaret Sullavan providing the voices. When he realized that current technology would make the film impossible as he envisioned it, he sold the rights to Disney, who dedicated the picture to Franklin. Disney focused on the relationships in the novel, adding comic characters like Thumper the rabbit, and driving his animators to find new ways of illustrating animals. For the first time, he insisted on casting only child actors including Donnie Dunagan, who provided the voice for Bambi to provide the younger characters’ voices. He also worked with Chinese animator Tyrus Wong to create a new look for animation, with less detail around the edges of the image to draw focus to the more detailed characters screen center.
(d. David Hand, 70m, Digital)
One hundred years ago, D.W. Griffith demonstrated the power of creative editing by linking four stories of prejudice and oppression: the fall of Babylon, the crucifixion of Christ, the slaughter of the French Protestants in 1572 and a modern story about a young laborer falsely accused of murder. As each story moves to its climax, Griffith cuts between them and shots of Lillian Gish (the “Eternal Mother”) in ever-shorter sequences, allowing the editing to intensify the excitement. As a result, the film became highly influential, particularly in the Soviet Union, where filmmakers like Sergei Eisenstein studied Griffith’s work to master the concept of montage. It also serves as a wellspring of U.S. filmmaking, partly because future directors Erich von Stroheim, Tod Browning and W.S. Van Dyke all worked on it as assistant directors. Yet, it was an economic failure that haunted Griffith the rest of his life. He made the film as a reply to critics who had attacked the racism in The Birth of a Nation (1915), attacks he took so personally he produced his next film on an unprecedented scale. That scale extended to the exhibition. Griffith’s demands that theatres be remodeled to show the film and hire live orchestras to accompany the silent feature made it impossible to turn a profit.
(d. D.W. Griffith, 197m, Digital)
The shot of Dustin Hoffman through Anne Bancroft’s raised leg in The Graduate (1967) and the historical detail that helped make Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I (1981) so funny are the work of an amazing, unheralded Hollywood couple. Harold and Lillian Michelson came to Hollywood in the 1950s when his work as a magazine illustrator brought him a contract to design movie posters for Columbia Pictures. Before long, he was storyboarding films, including Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments (1956), William Wyler’s Ben-Hur (1959) and Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960). Lillian soon found a berth in Hollywood as well, becoming the most sought after researcher in town. She helped Alfred Hitchcock study avian behavior for The Birds (1963), dug up historical details for Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974) and kept the realities of drug running clear for Brian Da Palma’s Scarface (1983). When they worked together, the team was unbeatable, with Harold bringing Lillian’s research to life on screen. Documentarian Daniel Raim studied “Camera Angle Projection” with Harold at the American Film Institute. He and producer Danny DeVito, who worked with the Michelsons on Hoffa (1992) and Matilda (1996), set out to pay tribute to the careers and the amazing 60-year marriage of this couple, often referred to as Hollywood’s secret weapon.
(d. Daniel Raim, 96m, Digital)
When Casablanca (1942) scored a surprise Best Picture win in the 1943 Oscars, this was the front-runner (with 12 nominations) it beat. THE SONG OF BERNADETTE is more than just a footnote in Oscar history, however. It stands on its own as an example of studio filmmaking at its finest. 20th Century-Fox made this adaptation of Franz Werfel’s bestseller its biggest film of the year. To re-create the world of Bernadette Soubirous, the 19th-century French peasant whose visions of the Virgin Mary inspired a shrine still acclaimed for its healing properties, the studio turned two acres of its back lot into the villages of Lourdes and Massabielle. They even built a 450-foot long, 30-foot wide river. The big news, however, was the casting of the title role. After testing Anne Baxter, Gene Tierney and Linda Darnell, director Henry King cast Jennifer Jones, a recently signed protégée of independent producer David O. Selznick. Her simple, sincere performance made her a star and brought her the Best Actress Oscar. Of course, the studio carefully hid the facts that she had made two earlier films as Phyllis Isley and was already a married woman with two children. (d. Henry King, 156m, Digital)
In the first of four very profitable monster team-ups, Universal Pictures created a single sequel to both The Wolfman (1942) and The Ghost of Frankenstein (1942). Lon Chaney returns as Larry Talbot, searching for a cure to his lycanthropy in Dr. Frankenstein’s abandoned castle when he stumbles upon the Monster (Bela Lugosi, in his only attempt at the role). Originally Chaney was to have played both roles (he had played the Monster in the previous film), but studio executives feared the extensive makeup would drag out the shooting schedule. Instead, they turned to Lugosi, who had played Ygor the hunchback in Son of Frankenstein (1939) and The Ghost of Frankenstein. Ygor’s brain had been put into the Monster’s body in the previous film, rendering the creature blind. Originally, FRANKENSTEIN MEETS THE WOLF MAN included scenes in which the Monster spoke with Talbot and revealed his plans to conquer the world. Feeling the scenes would remind audiences too much of Adolph Hitler, studio executives had all of Lugosi’s dialogue scenes cut, including references to his blindness. Critics blasted Lugosi for his lumbering walk, but his movement, with hands outstretched, became the standard for later depictions of the Monster. Maria Ouspenskaya also returns from The Wolfman as Maleva the Gypsy.
(d. Roy William Neill, 74m, Digital)
Enjoy samples of several delicious wines from the TCM Wine Club during a guided tasting led by the club’s wine expert, Clare Tooley. Come meet with the team that works behind the scenes to match these exclusive wines to the perfect films on TCM. Spaces are limited so be sure to arrive early.
MGM made its first foray into science fiction 60 years ago with this classic space opera about the investigation of a failed colony on Altair IV. Writers Allen Adler and Irving Block originally envisioned their picture as a B movie, but pitched it to a major studio anyway. To their surprise, MGM not only bought the story, but also gave it their usual style and class. FORBIDDEN PLANET is far from the typical sci-fi film. For one thing, it’s a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, with Walter Pidgeon as the stranded wizard, Anne Francis as his daughter, Robbie the Robot as Ariel the helpful island sprite, and the invisible monster from the id as Caliban. For another, MGM invested almost $2 million in the film, and it shows. Where most movie robots were just men inside cardboard suits, Robbie was a complex assemblage of electrical parts costing about $125,000. The sets were elaborately decorated, with a 10,000-foot circular painted backdrop for exteriors. They borrowed Josh Meador, one of Disney’s top animators, to create the monster from the id. Best of all, the studio hired experimental composers Louis and Bebe Barron to create the screen’s first electronic musical score, which turned out to be one of the film’s top selling points.
(d. Fred M. Wilcox, 98m, Blu-ray)