Monday, August 21, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for August 23-31

August 23–August 31


YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (August 26, 2:00 pm): I'm not a fan of musicals nor am I a fan of sentimental films that play with your emotions, particularly a largely fictitious biopic. Yet I'm a huge fan of Yankee Doodle Dandy, which obviously falls into all of the above categories. The sheer joy that James Cagney brings to the role of George M. Cohan is infectious. It's completely Cagney's movie. He is so spectacular, so engaging, so entertaining, that I find myself humming along to some of the corniest songs ever written and watching with a big smile on my face.

VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED (August 30, 10:00 am): This is a well-done and compelling sci-fi film. One day all the people and animals in a quaint English town become unconscious, wake up and two months later, all the women capable of having children are pregnant. In all, 12 very white-looking kids are born. The children are geniuses, are able to read minds and control others to do whatever they want, including murder and suicide. As time passes, a professor from the village (George Sanders) decides he's going to teach the mutant kids, who want to take over the world, to use their powers for good. While a noble idea, it's poorly thought out as these children mean business when it comes to world domination. Films like this can easily become cliche and embarrassingly bad, but this one is special. Sanders gives his usual fantastic performance and the kids are great.


DIABOLIQUE (August 25, 10:15 pm): Frankly, I cannot recommend this picture enough. Think of a perfect Hitchcock film without Hitchcock. That’s Diabolique, which is directed by Henri-Georges Cluzot. To no one’s surprise, he’s known as “the French Hitchcock,’ and Hitchcock himself was influenced by this film. This is a masterful psychological horror film that builds slowly to a final 15 minutes that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Although the twist ending murder plot has been done many times since, it’s never been done better. Diabolique takes place at a school where Simone Signoret helps her friend Vera Clouzot (real life wife of the director) drown her ogre of a husband (Paul Meurisse), who “returns to life” in a really terrifying scene. It’s a taut, beautifully woven thriller with a climax that will truly shock you. Fans of Hitchcock will love this, as will anyone that loves a well-written thriller with the emphasis on character rather than going for the cheap thrill.

THE GAY FALCON (August 30, 12:45 pm): There is nothing like the joy of a well-acted B-movie. When Leslie Charteris, creator ofThe Saint, pulled back his rights from RKO, it left the studio without a viable B-series. Not for long, however, for RKO reached out and bought the rights to Michael Arlen’s short story, “The Gay Falcon,” published in 1940. Although Arlen’s sleuth was named Gay Falcon, the studio rechristened him “Gay Laurence,” although they kept “the Falcon” as his crime-solving name. This gave them a catchy name to match that of the Saint. This is the first of the series, as the Falcon is trying to leave his crime-solving days behind, taking a job as a stockbroker. But this doesn’t last long, as he ends up chasing jewel thieves. It’s a short and entertaining movie. With Allen Jenkins as Laurence’s sidekick, “Goldie Locke,” who steals every scene he’s in.

WE DISAGREE ON ... SHIP OF FOOLS (August 25, 3:30 pm)

ED: F. For the most part, whenever I watch a Stanley Kramer picture, I feel I’m not being entertained so much as lectured to, as if I were an elementary school student. This film is one of his most egregious examples of the lecturing variety; an annoying Grand Hotel set at sea. Kramer and his smarmy screenwriter, Abby Mann, take Katherine Anne Porter’s delightful novel, set in 1931 in the pre-Nazi world, and move the scene ahead to 1933. Porter explained the title as a reference to the “simple almost universal image of the ship in world on the voyage to eternity.” She adds that she is a passenger on that ship. Critic Pauline Kael notes that Kramer and Mann have turned the novel into “a pompous cartoon.” I couldn’t agree more. Now the fools are those who don’t see what’s coming. I find it ludicrous that dinner party snubs are somehow harbingers of the Holocaust. In the novel, the central relationship is that of Jenny, who wants to be free, and David, who tries to own her. In the movie David (George Segal) is a proletarian artist of great talent and promise and Jenny (Elizabeth Ashley) has degenerated into in a neurotic rich bitch who keeps him and at the same time is jealous of his talent. Mann’s idea of dialogue is to have David tell her that she’s full of competition. “You’re so full of God knows what kind of sickness.” If you think that’s giggle inducing, it’s nothing compared to the relationship between the ship’s doctor (Oskar Werner) and Le Condesa (Simone Signoret), who – alas – has met him too late. (A sad waste of these two great talents). They’re given some of the worst dialogue in the movie. “You’re so strange – sometimes you’re so bitter,” the Doctor says, “then you’re like a child, soft and warm.” “I’m just a woman,” replies La Condesa. Oh brother. It’s also Vivien Leigh’s last film, and she couldn’t have chosen a worse way to end her career, with what may be her worst performance. (Katharine Hepburn was offered the role before Leigh, but had the good sense to turn it down.) It was released to great critical fanfare but has not worn well over the years.

DAVID: B+. Incredible acting performances highlight this compelling drama about a ship of all kinds of people heading for Nazi Germany in the early 1930s. The cinematography is wonderful and whoever cast this 1965 film did a brilliant job. The interaction between Oskar Werner as the ship's dying doctor and Simone Signoret as a drug-addicted Spanish countess on her way to a German prison, is touching and tragic. They were nominated for Best Lead Actor and Actress Oscars and the movie received a Best Picture nomination. It won two Oscars (including for Best Cinematography, Black and White) and was nominated for three more. Oscars certainly aren't the be-all and end-all when it comes to quality films, but the Academy got it right with this movie. In her last film, Vivien Leigh plays an aging divorced woman trying unsuccessfully to relive her youth. Also, great work by Michael Dunn for his "Greek chorus" performance as a philosophical dwarf (he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor). We know that when the ship docks in Germany that life for everyone aboard will change forever and almost certainly not for the better. The film captures that feeling of helplessness and/or ignorance that will follow the characters long after the movie fades to black. As for Ed's grade of F, it's obviously far too harsh. It's got an 81 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes. Bosley Crowther, the legendary film critic for The New York Times in his original review, wrote: "It is a perpetually engrossing and thought-provoking film that [director Stanley Kramer] has aptly put down at this moment, and it eminently deserves to be seen." While Ed does an excellent job dressing down the film, F grades should be reserved for those so terrible that even Mystery Science Theater 3000 wouldn't touch them - or later Bowery Boys films or the worst of director Ed Wood.

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Dark Tower

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

The Dark Tower (Columbia, 2017) – Director: Nikolaj Arcel. Writers: Akiva Goldsman, Jeff Pinkner, Anders Thomas Jensen & Nikolaj Arcel (s/p). Stephen King (novels). Stars: Katheryn Winnick, Idris Elba, Matthew McConaughey, Jackie Earle Haley, Abbey Lee, Nicholas Hamilton, Dennis Haysbert, Claudia Kim, Tom Taylor, Fran Kranz, Jose Zuniga, Victoria Nowak, Ben Gavin, Stephen Stanton &  Michael Barbieri. Color, Rated PG-13, 95 minutes.

I do not aim with my hand. He who aims with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I aim with my eye. I do not shoot with my hand. He who shoots with his hand has forgotten the face of his father. I shoot with my mind. I do not kill with my gun. He who kills with his gun has forgotten the face of his father. I kill with my heart. The Code of the Gunslinger.

When I started reading the Dark Tower Trilogy by Stephen King, I was wrapped up in the saga of The Gunslinger, Roland Deschain of Eld, and how he traveled worlds through “portals” to recruit his three traveling companions in the second book, The Drawing of the Three and their adventures in The Wastelands the third book. I was eager to see how it all ended when the third book had all four companions in an exciting, life and death situation right to the last page, where it stopped.

After a brief rant at the author for not finishing a story, I continued on through four more voluminous, hard-covered books (the first three were paperback) until I reached the conclusion in the seventh book, The Dark Tower. The other three were Wizard and GlassWolves of the Calla, and Song of Susannah. I thought I was finished, but then King produced an eighth book whose story fits between numbers four and five entitled The Wind Through the Keyhole, and I found a short story, “The Little Sisters of Eluria,” which fits between five and six.

The Dark Tower is obviously King’s magnum opus spanning over thirty years of his life –The Gunslinger was published in 1982 and The Wind Through the Keyhole in 2012. I followed the fascinating tale through Mid-world every step of the way and was very interested to see what the first movie would produce visually, to compare it to the images in my mind.

I never expected Idris Elba to play the role of Roland. I pictured more of a Clint Eastwood/Lee J. Cobb type. You know, the gangly, tall, scruffy outlaw who outguns all the bad guys but never gets the girl? He doesn’t even wear a plainsman’s hat. But I was pleasantly surprised how well Elba performed (with the help of some fabulous stunt-doubles, special effects and slow-motion photography).

At one hour and forty-five minutes I knew that the whole series would not, could not, fit in the time span. Indeed it was only the first book, The Gunslinger with some cinematic enhancements to make the portals more fantastic than in the book, as well as the terrible magic powers of the evil sorcerer, The Man in Black (McConaughey). Both were impressive. Matthew McConaughey plays a perfect villain, confident, heartless and cruel to both friend and foe. Why Stephen King gave him the name Walter O’Dim, I’ll never understand.

Jake Chambers (Taylor) has been a misfit in his New York school as well as his home since his father died a year ago. He envisions a strange dark tower and a man in black trying to destroy it and a gunslinger trying to protect it. His stepfather and mother Laurie Chambers (Winnick) and various psychiatrists pooh-pooh all this and accredit it to trauma. Then one day a pair of “workers” from the psychiatric clinic (sent by Walter) arrive to take Jake away, he knows who they really are and escapes to an abandoned house he saw in one of his visions and finds a portal to Mid-world, where he meets Roland.

At first, Roland wants nothing to do with Jake, but as they travel together, he realizes that the boy has something special about him, the thing that Walter wants, “The Shining” (sound familiar?). Yes, Jake has superior mental telepathic powers, and, if hooked up to Walter’s doomsday machine, could destroy the Dark Tower. The rest of the movie is the push and pull to see whether or not that happens.

I found the film engaging and just as exciting as the book, even with the enhancements, i.e. the portals having to be powered up and created rather than just mysteriously “being there” and the monsters who finally reveal themselves and have to be fought off. An excellent cameo was performed by Dennis Haysbert as Roland’s father, Steven. Toward the end of the movie the “Wastelands” is mentioned and reference is made to a character who will be discovered by then, my favorite, a “bumbler” named “Oy.” There’s even humor in the movie. At one point, Jake hands a hotdog to Roland, and gets the reply, “Savages! What breed?”

The violence is virtually bloodless and the story is relatively close to the book. Though not a tale for little kids, it might entertain pre-teens. I’m looking forward to any and all sequels and hope they are made for the big screen, not for television.

Rating: 4 out of 5 martini glasses.

10 Murray Street, New York

Working downtown, I’ve passed this one-year-old Northern Indian restaurant several times before the opportunity presented itself to dine there. Formerly, the uninteresting Muscle Maker Grill, a health-food oriented eatery, it avoided my attention for many months.

The menu was truly varied and several dishes were new to me. Prashant, my server, dropped off a basket of Papadum with mint and tamarind chutneys, a traditional pre-appetizer I haven’t seen in a long time. The papadum was crisp, the mint chutney was mildly spicy and the tamarind chutney was sweet and tart at the same time. He suggested I start with an appetizer or soup.

I ordered a nice bowl of mulligatawny soup – chicken, lentils, coconut and curry leaves – and recalled the first time I ever had the soup and loved it. It was mildly spicy and had a good body without being thick. There was a lemony flavor that precluded using the slice of lemon accompanying it. Per Prashant’s recommendation, my appetizer arrived simultaneously with the soup. The seekh kebab, made with sautéed ground lamb was amazing! Tender enough to cut with a fork the tubes had spices that were tantalizing and the meat was savory and delicious.

Having had many opportunities to speak with Prashant I learned that they have two tandoor (clay ovens), one for bread and one for the meat dishes. My main course was something I haven’t had since that first restaurant in the 1970’s, the “Tandoori Mixed Grill” – assorted grilled meats, lamb and chicken two ways each. It was served with saffron rice and a mild spiced sauce. Everything was juicy and not overcooked, redolent with spice and crisp from the oven. Not to gild the lily, I ordered the steamed Basmati rice with peas, cooked to perfection. And, I made apologies for ordering the Peshawari naan stuffed with dried fruits and pistachios. Why? Because I know Peshawar is in Pakistan, not India. Still, it was delicious.

Prashant and I learned that we lived near each other in Queens as I ordered the White Chocolate Rasmalai for dessert. Rasmalai is homemade cottage cheese, but it was the white chocolate sauce that made the dish unique and wonderful. And no Indian dinner is complete without a cup of Masala Chai, mildly spice tea. I could taste the cinnamon and cardamom.

Aahar only has a beer and wine license to date but Prashant could tell I was a foodie and gave me a taste of his favorite cabernet as an after dinner drink. It was very good. 

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

French Rarebit

Animation Nation

By Steve Herte

French Rarebit (WB, 1951) – Director: Robert McKimson. Animation: Phil DeLara, Emery Hawkins, Charles McKimson, Rod Scribner. Backgrounds: Richard H. Thomas. Layout: Cornett Wood. Voices: Mel Blanc, Tedd Pierce (uncredited). Color, animation, 7 minutes.

Being a self-proclaimed gastronome, one of my all-time favorite Warner Brothers’ cartoons is Robert McKimson’s delightful portrayal of Bugs Bunny in Paris. The Brooklyn-raised and accented character expresses his diametrically opposed culture in his first few sentences and we know this is going to be funny. After he pops up from a crate of carrots that fell off a truck he concludes his location by reading street signs, “Eye-full Tower” and “Champs Elly-Eye-zeeyay.” Then he strolls off to look at the Mon-sewers and Madamoiselles.

What he’s not expecting is to be sized up and measured for the stew pots of two rival chefs with restaurants directly across the street from each other. But he catches on quickly. “Somethin’ tells me this little grey hare is in the middle again.” Chefs Francois (Mel Blanc) and Louie (Tedd Pierce) both attack with covered plates simultaneously and Francois returns to his door victorious. But it isn’t Bugs he’s caught. “Eh, whatcha got in the tooreen, Doc?” Francois is still bubbling over his prize, but Bugs takes a look and disagrees. Flustered, Chef Louie stumbles from the plate and the two argue over whose the rabbit (they say rabbeet) is.

Bugs can’t help but interfere. He whispers into each one’s ear and has one tweak the other’s “pink tomahto nose” and get his beard yanked in return. The battle goes on until Chef Francois snatches Bugs up with an “Ah Ween!” Into the pot on the stove goes Bugs. He asks Francois what’s cooking and proudly, Francois recites his famous rabbit dish. “Oh,” says Bugs, dismissively, and hints at knowing the recipe for Louisiana Back-Bay Bayou Bunny Bordelaise a la Antoine. “Antoine of New Orleans?” “I don’t mean Antoine of Flatbush.”

At the time of the creation of this cartoon, Antoine’s of New Orleans was already 110 years old and the name was virtually synonymous with fine food. Ignoring the ridiculous title of the dish, Francois takes Bugs out of the pot and insists he teach him the recipe. 

OK Doc, I’ll be the chef.” Bugs dons and apron and a toque. “And you’ll be the rabbit.” “But I don’t look like a rabbeet.” After cutting off two fingers from a rubber glove and putting it on his head, shoving two sugar cubes to act as buck teeth into Francois’ mouth, and making whiskers from a broom, Bugs holds up a glassless mirror and looks through it at Francois. 

Convinced he does resemble a rabbit, he allows Bugs to dowse him in a barrel of wine, stuff him into a jar, shake it violently, coat him with flour, roll him out with a rolling pin, knead him severely, and fill his mouth with the fieriest spicy ingredients in the kitchen until flames burst out of his lips. Then it’s back into the bowl to be showered by vegetables, when Francois hoists up a sign saying “Hold La Onions.” “Oh, OK.”

At this point Monsieur Louie bursts in and tries to take Monsieur Francois back as his rabbit but Francois slams him on the head with a mallet. “Monsieur Francois!” “You were expecting maybe ‘Umphrey Bogart?” “Wha Hoppen?” When Francois explains that he’s learning a recipe, Louie wants to learn as well. Bugs is only too happy to accommodate him, putting him through all the tortures he visited on Francois. Now there are two faux rabbits in the bowl.

Bugs carries them to “La Oven” commenting to the audience, “Don’t they look yummy, yummy?” Lastly he hollows out a “nice big carrot” and puts in a stick of dynamite, closing the oven door. The blast blows the oven door off and there they both are, basting themselves, singing Alouette and shouting “Vive Antoine!” Bugs again turns to us and says, “Poisonally I prefer hamboiger.”


The title of this cartoon is a play on the delicious cheese and beer dish, Welsh Rarebit, often mispronounced as “Welsh Rabbit.” Tedd Pierce is credited for the clever writing of this wonderful bit of animation and was fabulous as the voice of Chef Louie.

In fact, it was this cartoon that motivated me to make a reservation for myself and my quartet at Antoine’s of New Orleans when I visited there in 1992 at the time of the Barbershop Harmony International Convention. Though I do not remember all I ate (we only arrived at about 10:30 pm) I will not forget the experience. Our waiter spoke slower than Droopy the Dog and I thought our order would never be taken, much less fulfilled, but it was, and it was worth it.

Antoine’s was established in 1840 by Antoine Alciatore and set a standard not only in New Orleans, but in the entire United States. When Antoine returned to France and died a year later, his son Jules took over and eventually invented Oysters Rockefeller. I’m almost sure I ordered that dish. I love it. We sat in the large annex, one of ten different rooms to choose from and it was charming. There was Potage Alligator au Sherry on the menu and a choice of a Demi-Bordelaise Sauce, but no Louisiana Back-Bay Bayou Bunny Bordelaise a la Antoine.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Cinéma Inhabituel for August 16-31 

A Guide to the Interesting and Unusual on TCM 

By Ed Garea

We are dedicating this column to two extraordinary actors who will each have a day dedicated to them: Ann Harding (August 21) and Simone Signoret (August 25).

Both tend to be overlooked today, one because the vast majority of her work was in the Pre-Code era and was unavailable on television for decades, and the other because she didn’t work for long in Hollywood.

ANN HARDING was born Dorothy Walton Gatley on August 7, 1902, at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, the daughter of a career army officer. She grew up in East Orange, N.J., and graduated from East Orange High School and Bryn Mawr College. 

She began her acting career on the stage and made her Broadway debut in 1921. While appearing in Pittsburgh with the Nixon Players she married fellow actor Harry Bannister in 1926. They had one child, a daughter named Jane, before divorcing in 1932.

Harding made her movie debut in Paris Bound for Pathe (1929), co-starring Frederic March. She was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Linda Seton in the 1930 version of Holiday (Her performance completely blows away that of Katharine Hepburn). After Pathe was absorbed by RKO, Harding was promoted as the studio’s answer to MGM’s Norma Shearer., starring in the studio’s prestige productions. 

Her second film, Her Private Affair (1929), portraying a wife of questionable morality, was a huge success, both critically and commercially. During this period, she was regarded as one of cinema's most beautiful women, noted for her waist-length blonde hair. She was also considered as one of the major stars in the Hollywood firmament.

Tired of being typecast by the studio as the innocent, self-sacrificing young woman, and with her films diminishing in both box office and quality (a loan-out to MGM didn’t help), she retired from the screen after marrying conductor Werner Janssen in 1937 (divorced 1962). She returned in 1942 for MGM’s Eyes in the Night with Edward Arnold, and went on to work until 1956, with her last film being Strange Intruder for Allied Artists, with Edmund Purdom and Ida Lupino. She then segued to television, appearing as a guest star in various productions until 1965.

Harding died on September 1, 1981, at the age of 79 in Sherman Oaks, California. Her ashes are interned at Forest Lawn.

Films in bold blue are especially recommended.

6:00 am - Her Private Affair (1929). 7:30 am - Condemned (UA/Goldwyn) 9:00 am The Conquerers (RKO, 1932). 10:30 am - The Life of Vergie Winters (RKO, 1932). Noon - The Lady Consents (RKO, 1936). 1:30 pm - The Witness Chair (RKO, 1936). 2:45 pm - Janie (WB, 1944).4:30 pm - Eyes in the Night (MGM, 1942). 6:00 pm - It Happened on 5th Avenue (Monogram, 1947). 8:00 pm - Biography of a Bachelor Girl(MGM, 1935). 9:30 pm - The Animal Kingdom (RKO, 1932, read our essay here). 11:15 pm - When Ladies Meet (MGM, 1933). 1:00 am - The Flame Within (MGM,1935). 2:30 am - Double Harness (RKO, 1933). 4:00 am - The Magnificent Yankee (MGM, 1950).

SIMOME SIGNORET was born Simone Henriette Charlotte Kaminker on March 25, 1921, in Wiesbaden, Germany, the eldest of three children (two brothers). Her father, Andre, was a French-born army officer from a Polish Jewish family. He was one of the first interpreters for the League of Nations. Her mother, Georgette, was a French Catholic. When she was young her father moved the family to Neuilly-sur-Seine on the outskirts of Paris, where Simone grew up.

During the German Occupation of France, Simone turned to acting in films to support her mother and two brothers, as her father fled to London to join General De Gaulle. She took her mother’s maiden name to hide her Jewish identity from the Nazis. Her sensual and earthy looks led her to be often cast in roles as a prostitute. It was in this role, as Leocadie, that she first gained fame in Marcel Ophuls’ Le Ronde, in 1950. 

The British Film Institute awarded her a BAFTA as Best Foreign Actress for her role as the prostitute Marie in Jacques Becker’s Casque d’or (Golden Helmet, 1951). Other notable films during this period include Therese Raquin (1953), Les Diaboliques (Diabolique, or The Devils, 1954) for Henri-Georges Clouzot, and Les Sorcières de Salem (The Crucible, 1956), based on Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

In 1958 her performance as Alice Aisgill in the British film Room at the Top won her the Best Actress Award at Cannes, the Best Actress BAFTA and the Best Actress Oscar, becoming the first French actor to win those awards in the same year and the only French actress to receive an Oscar until Juliette Binoche (Supporting Actress) in 1997 and Marion Cotillard (Best Actress) in 2008. She worked in Hollywood from 1965 to 1969 (earning a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Ship of Fools, in 1965) before returning to France for the remainder of her career.

Signoret was married twice, first to filmmaker Yves Allegret (1944-49, with whom she had a daughter, actress Catherine Allegret), and the Italian-born French actor Yves Montand (1953 until her death). Signoret died on September 30, 1985, at age 64 from pancreatic cancer. She was buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. Husband Yves Montand was later buried next to her.

Films in bold blue are especially recommended.

6:00 am - La Ronde (Commercial Pictures, 1954). 8:00 am - Casque d’or (Paris Film, 1952). 10:00 am - Against the Wind (Ealing, 1948). Noon - Gunman in the Streets (UA, 1950). 1:30 pm - The Deadly Affair (Columbia, 1967). 3:30 pm - Ship of Fools (Columbia, 1965). 6:00 pm - Term of Trial (Romulus/WB, 1962). 8:00 pm - Room at the Top (Romulus/Continental Dist., 1959). 10:00 pm - Diabolique (Filmsonor/Cenedis, 1955). 12:30 am - The Confession (Valoria Films, 1970). 3:15 am - Police Python .357 (Les Films de la Boetie, 1976). 


August 17: Check out Rosalind Russell in the original Craig’s Wife (Columbia, 1936), later remade with Joan Crawford as Harriet Craig in 1950.

August 27: It’s Leslie Caron, Gene Kelly and Oscar Levant in the arty but delightful, An American in Paris (1951, 1:30 pm).


August 26: James Cagney’s day is celebrated with Blonde Crazy (1931, 6:00 am), The Crowd Roars (1932, 7:30 am), Jimmy the Gent (1934, 8:45 am), and The Mayor of Hell (1933, 4:30 am).

August 29: A good Pre-Code haul can be had on a day dedicated to Marion Davies. Civil War drama Operator 13 (1934) with Gary Cooper airs at 7:30 am. At 1:30 pm its Five and Ten (1931) with Leslie Howard, followed by Peg O’ My Heart (1933, 3:15 pm)  The Floradora Girl (1930, 5:00 pm), Marianne (1929, Midnight), and Blondie of the Follies (1932, 2:00 am), with Robert Montgomery.


August 16: The day is dedicated to Elvis Presley, who died on this date in 1977. Of the films shown the best is 1957’s Jailhouse Rock at 6:00 pm.

August 17: Rosalind Russell and Clark Gable are competing jewel thieves in 1941’s They Met in Bombay (1:30 pm).

August 18: Rod Taylor fights Morlocks in The Time Machine (1960, Noon) and our feathered friends in The Birds (1962, 8:00 pm)

August 19: Angela Lansbury appears with Laurence Harvey and Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate (1962, 8:00 pm), followed by Gaslight (1944, 10:00 pm) with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Berman, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (1982, 2:30 am)

August 23: Slim Pickens is celebrated with Blazing Saddles (1974, 10:00 pm).

August 31: George Sanders stars in five psychotronic classics, beginning with Village of the Damned (1961) at 10:00 am. Then The Saint Strikes Back (1939) at 11:30 am, The Gay Falcon (1942) at 12:45 pm, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) at 2:00 pm, and finally, Lured (1947), with Lucille Ball at 2:00 am.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

TCM TiVo Alert for August 15-22

August 15–August 22


VIVA LAS VEGAS (August 16, 10:00 am): For the most part, if you've seen one Elvis film from the 1960s, you've seen them all. While 1964's Viva Las Vegas doesn't stray too far from the Elvis Formula – he has a rugged-type job, somehow gets into a jam, sees a pretty girl, sings some songs, gets into a fight, gets the girl and lives happily ever after – it is significantly better than most of them. That's not much of a compliment, but this is one of Presley's best films. The reason? The on-screen and off-screen chemistry between Elvis, who plays race-car driver Lucky Jackson, and Ann-Margaret, who plays Rusty Martin, his love interest in one of her sexiest roles. While not the best actress to play opposite Elvis, Ann-Margaret is the most entertaining and interacts better with him than any other. Rusty is a swimming instructor and dancer, great excuses for her to wear skimpy clothes. But it's more than a T&A film. There's some great dance numbers that are filmed nicely with the use of several different camera angles, the excellent theme song along with a few other musical numbers, an exciting car race (of course Elvis is a race-car driver, a job he had in several of his films), and Presley's charisma, rarely captured during this era. Is it a masterpiece or even Elvis' best movie? No, but it's very entertaining to watch.

GASLIGHT (August 19, 10:30 pm): As a huge fan of Joseph Cotten and Ingrid Bergman, it's great to see that when the two teamed together in this 1944 film that the result was spectacular. (Unfortunately, the chemistry between the two wasn't nearly as good when they worked together on Alfred Hitchcock's Under Capricorn five years later.) Gaslight has fantastic pacing, starting slowly planting the seeds of Bergman's potential insanity and building to a mad frenzy with Cotten's Scotland Yard inspector saving the day and Bergman gaining revenge. While Charles Boyer has never been a favorite of mine, he is excellent in this role as Bergman's scheming husband who is slowly driving her crazy. Also deserving of praise is Angela Lansbury – I'm not a fan of her either – in her film debut as the couple's maid. Lansbury has the hots for Boyer and nothing but disdain for Bergman. A well-acted, well-directed film that is one I always enjoy viewing no matter how many times I see it.


MYSTERY STREET (August 15, 12:00 am): This is a neat little B-thriller that stands out today as one of the first procedural police dramas from Hollywood. Starring Ricardo Montalban as a Cape Cod detective and Bruce Bennett as a Harvard professor, it follows the discovery of the remains of a murdered B-girl on a Cape Cod beach straight through to the arrest of her killer. It’s an early exercise in forensic science as they trace the clues step-by-step, interview witnesses, and even overcome class prejudice to finally lead them to the murderer. It’s intelligent, well written and expertly acted. Look for Elsa Lanchester as an eccentric landlady.

WHEN LADIES MEET (August 21, 11:15 pm): A smart and sophisticated Pre-Code drama. Myrna Loy is a successful novelist enamored wth her publisher, Frank Morgan. But Morgan is married to Ann Harding. Loy’s boyfriend, Robert Montgomery, decides to break up Loy’s budding romance by introducing her to Harding without telling either lady who she’s meeting. When the cat is finally let out of the bag, the fireworks begin as Harding gives Loy some common sense advice about her husband. The fly in the ointment is Morgan, who is horribly miscast as a love interest, but Loy and Harding are so good that we forget after awhile and concentrate on the give-and-take between the ladies. Remade in 1941 with Joan Crawford, Greer Garson and Robert Taylor, but this is the version to see.


ED: A+. The title of this film has passed into the popular culture to indicate a brainwashed sleeper, one who has been hypnotized and instructed to act when his controllers pull his psychological trigger. But packaged as a political thriller, it may be the most sophisticated political satire ever to come out of Hollywood. Seen today, it’s lost none of its punch; the satire still has bite, and its story uncannily echoes through contemporary halls. Kudos to George Axelrod, who adapted Richard Condon’s best-selling novel, and John Frankenheimer, who guides the film with a steady hand. The performances are terrific from top to bottom, with Janet Leigh taking a wonderful turn as the mysterious Rosie. Angela Lansbury was the political mommy of all mommies – one of the great villains of the movies – and James Gregory shines as her weak-willed husband. Sinatra is Sinatra – pitch perfect, and Laurence Harvey has never been better. Legend has it that Sinatra purchased the rights and kept it out of release from 1964 until 1988, supposedly over remorse about JFK’s death. But Roger Ebert said that director Frankenheimer told him that the real reason was that Sinatra had a dispute with United Artists about the profits, and bought the rights with the intention that it would earn no money for the studio or anyone else. Forget Jonathan Demme’s 2004 remake. This is the one to see.

DAVID: A+. This is my favorite Cold War film, telling the chilling story of Staff Sgt. Raymond Shaw – played by the vastly underrated Laurence Harvey in his greatest performance – who, along with other members of his unit are captured during the Korean War and brainwashed by Chinese and Russians. But the soldiers don't know they've been brainwashed and that Shaw has been turned into a killing machine. When he's playing Shaw while under the spell of the Communists, Harvey is brilliant – detached, robotic and commands your attention. While Frank Sinatra and Janet Leigh also get their names above the title, this film belongs to Harvey and Angela Lansbury. Only three years older than Harvey, Lansbury plays Shaw's wickedly evil, incestuous, opportunistic, calculating, red-baiting – though she is working with the Communists – mother. I'm not a Lansbury fan for the most part, but she is marvelous here. Sinatra is excellent, accepting his secondary role, and Leigh's small part is about as strange and intriguing as you'll find. The movie clocks in at a little over two hours, but the time just flies by and the ending is absolutely shocking the first time you see it. It's a strong, stark, powerful, terrifying film. 

For the complete list of films on the TCM TiVo Alert, click here.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (STX Entertainment, 2017) – Director: Luc Bresson. Writers: Luc Bresson (s/p). Pierre Christin & Jean-Claude Mézières (comic book). Stars: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Sam Spruell, Alain Chabat, Rutger Hauer, Peter Hudson, Xavier Giannoli, Louis Leterrier, Eric Rochant & Benoit Jacquet. Color, Rated PG-13, 137 minutes.

What has fabulous stage sets, mind-boggling special effects, moves like the latest video game and has acting that mannequins could out-perform? Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.

The trailers were so very promising. Unfortunately, this movie, based on the comic book Valerian and Laureline was better delivered and more believable on the page than on the screen.

Alpha Space Station in the year 2020 has not only become International but Intergalactic and, with the hundreds of add-on modules, has become too heavy to remain in Earth orbit. So, they turn on the engines and jet off into interstellar space (where traffic is not too much lighter).

Meanwhile, on a far-away planet called Mül, a peaceful population of opalescent, pearly people are living a happy, simple existence on white sand beaches with palm trees and little friendly creatures called “converters.” They spend their days harvesting power pearls from the ocean and feeding them to the converters who multiply all they are fed, thus returning the gift to the ocean. Until one day, a space war overhead sends ships crashing through their atmosphere, destroying their planet. The royal family of Empress Aloi and others take shelter in a crashed spaceship, but it is too late for Princess Lihio-Minaa. She literally sends out her spirit in a powerful pulse of energy that hits Major Valerian (DeHaan) in a dream.

Valerian can’t get this dream out of his head, even on a mission with his agent partner, Sergeant Laureline (Delevingne). The mission is to retrieve a converter stolen by space pirate Igon Siruss of Kodar’Khan (Goodman), who, by the way bears a striking resemblance to Jabba the Hutt in Star Wars – The Return of the Jedi. Two of the pearly people are trying to bargain with Igon when Valerian not only apprehends the converter but also swipes the “power pearl” they offered in trade.

Alpha Station has its own problems. An “infection” has been discovered in the core of the generally spherical station that is mysteriously growing and will encompass the whole place in weeks. Valerian and Laureline are assigned to Commander Arun Filitt (Owen) as guardians when he speaks before the World State Federation members, but lose him when the “pearlies” attack and encase everyone in sticky pods and make off with the Commander.

Why did the peaceful pearlies attack? Why did they kidnap the Commander, and where did they take him? These are Valerian’s and Laureline’s tasks for the remainder of the movie. Oh, and besides all that, Valerian is repeatedly, clumsily trying to propose to Laureline. It would be funny if it wasn’t done so badly. Maybe Director Luc Besson should have left the film in French. It might have made more sense.

I busied myself in enjoying the computer generated aliens and the wonderful imaginative sets and effects. When Laureline is abducted by degenerate humanoids who look a lot like Sid the Sloth from the Ice Age animated series, Valerian has to kill Jolly the Pimp (Hawke) in a section of Alpha Station which is obviously a red light district. Then he must free Bubble (Rihanna), a glamopod who can morph into any character she chooses, and use her to infiltrate the humanoids and save Laureline from becoming the blue plate special for Emperor Boulan Bathor – he only likes her for her brains.

The movie was entertaining, but often lame. The greatest part was everything that didn’t involve live actors. The two young men sitting next to me were unimpressed. The one thing that impressed me was that the film was squeaky clean of vulgarity, gore and unnecessary love scenes. Maybe if it were made into a musical, it might be much better. The scenes on Mül would be excellent fodder for Broadway song writers. And if they threw in a few hastily written melodies and some ill-choreographed dancing for Valerian and Laureline we might have had a better movie than La La Land.

Rating 1 1/2 out of 5 Martini glasses

239 West Broadway, New York

Why would anyone rename the space formerly known as “Montrachet” (one of the premier wine areas of France) with the French word for bastard? That was my question when this three-year-old appeared on

About two blocks south of Canal Street one could miss the small maroon entrance of Bâtard, whose only identification is the name in gold letters engraved on the window. Inside, all is golden with bare-topped tables and glittering crystal chandeliers that look like they should be hanging on walls rather than suspended from the ceiling. The gold wallpaper has bas-relief designs of white birds roosting on elegant vines.

Although a distinguished, tall man named David was my main server, I was waited upon by at least three others. While David went for water another server took my drink order. I chose the Sazarac Cocktail – Bache-Gabrielsen cognac, St. George absinthe and Peychaud bitters – a bewitching red potion with a spicy flavor and the mysterious effects of the green fairy.

The menu has prices determined by how many courses you choose and was sufficiently intriguing for me to have three courses ready when David next returned. The wine list was a laugh a minute. I have never seen so many grossly overpriced wines in my life. The “under $100 a bottle” group were a distinct minority. I had just made my decision when the sommelier sidled up to my table. I told him that I had found a burgundy that I adored and ordered the 2009 Bourgogne Rouge Domaine Daniel-Etienne Defaix. He didn’t bat an eye but seemed stunned that he couldn’t go into a spiel. It was not like any burgundy I’ve ever had. It was a rich, almost bright, ruby red (not the dark garnet I’m used to), had a woody nose and high tannins – surprising considering the color. It was delicious, especially in the tall, artistic wine glass with a slender stem.

My first course was actually chosen when I looked at the menu online for its outré name. The “octopus pastrami” was a slice of a larger loaf (tentacles lengthwise) that resembled a good head cheese rather than a pastrami and was garnished with braised ham hocks, pommery mustard, new potatoes and one giant caper. I’m always fascinated how chef can make octopus so tender that it can behave like a cold cut. The sweet ham hock meat vied for attention with the vinegary and spicy ingredients to continue the image of eating charcuterie. My wine was a perfect match.

Next was an order of rabbit sausage. Three decent-sized slices resting on a rich, gooey risotto, and garnished with spigarello (a kind of wavy broccoli) and Meyer lemon. The sausages had the wonderful gamy quality of rabbit with the slightly salty, cured herbal flavors of a good French sausage. Mated with the equally salty risotto it was amazing, while I wondered how much water I would drink.

Where you would find Bugs Bunny, you would likely find Daffy Duck, especially in Rabbit Fire (1951)where each tries to tempt Elmer Fudd with dishes from a cook book. My rabbit sausage was ably followed by the duck breast, juicy, tender slices of duck with crispy skin sided with braised salsify, cara-cara orange (a breed of navel orange), crispy quinoa (made into a kind of egg-roll), and garnished with baby carrot and basil. The presentation was so attractive it prompted a young woman at the next table to ask if it was good. I told her it was wonderful, which it was. Cooked medium rare (per the chef) it was truly a delight. The crispy quinoa was a taste tour de force an most unusual, but it did not interfere with the duck.

I had asked David to wait on my choice for dessert until I was ready for it (they were listed on the main menu) and now I was ready. Though there were some inviting sweets the cheese list was much more attractive, especially the last four. Again, the price depended upon how many you select. I chose the “Nancy’s Camembert”: ewe’s milk triple cream, Ossau-Iraty (natural rind, raw ewe’s milk), Calderwood (1-year-old, hay-wrapped raw cow’s milk), Middlebury Blue (blue-veined raw cow’s milk), and Ewe’s Blue (blue-veined ewe’s milk), with honey, apricots, balsamic vinegar dots and celery slices. It was like a carnival of cheese, the soft, almost earthy camembert, the solid, assertive Ossau-Iraty, the subtle Calderwood and the two tangy bleus were creating a party in my mouth between bites of toasted raisin baguettes.

My usual double espresso followed and a beautiful crystal glass of Garrison Brothers Kentucky Bourbon finished a fancy, yet down to earth meal. Although Bâtard appeared snooty when I made the reservation, there was nothing high-brow about the service or the atmosphere. The food was definitely a cut above the average and the choice of wines, though ludicrously priced, was impressive. The raspberry marshmallow bon-bon served after dessert in its gilt-edged crystal bowl was a nice touch.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Jeanne Moreau: In Memoriam

By Gabrielle Garrieux

I was in England with my husband when the news of Jeanne Moreau’s death broke, announced by none other than President Emmanuel Macron, who said she died at her home on July 31 at the age of 89. His announcement was an acknowledgement of her status in France, and to the arts she represented.

I had interviewed her several times over the years. Although we got on well and the interviews were excellent and revealing, I never got close to her like I did with others in the entertainment world. She always seemed to keep a distance, letting you in only so far. I took it as part of her mystique, a mystique that served her well over the course of her career. In France we called her the thinking cinephile’s femme fatale and she fit that description perfectly.

The American press labeled her “The Femme Fatale of the New Wave,” but she more than transcended that label. She was a powerful actress. While not as glamorous as contemporaries Jean Seberg and Anna Karina, her acting ability enabled her to bring a new dimension to her roles. She embodied a new kind of freedom, seen in the spontaneous, seemingly unpredictable style of her performances and in the characters she played, characters that broke the bounds. 

Although she was not generally considered photogenic, she more than made up for it by using her personality and stage training, showing audiences that sexy is not simply a matter of glamour, but in how one carries oneself. She once told me, “Want to make men notice you? Then carry yourself as if you don’t give a damn.”

The first time I saw her was while I was at the university. I attended a screening of Jules and Jim at a revival theater in Paris. She played Catherine, a capricious woman, loved by the title characters (Oskar Werner and Henri Serre) and who turned their desire into a tragic ménage à trois.

I was captivated by her command of the screen, and after awhile I forgot all about Werner and Serre and concentrated on Jeanne. She possessed a personal magnetism that made one follow her, as if she and she alone was the only person on the screen.  

Later, when I met and interviewed her, I realized that she was Catherine, headstrong and willful in her decisions. It’s what made her into a star.

Jeanne was a true daughter of Paris, born there Jan. 23, 1928. Although she seems the essence of France, her mother, Katherine (nee Buckley) was born in Lancashire, England, and danced at the Folies Bergère. Her father, Anatole-Désiré Moreau, was the owner of a Montmartre hotel and restaurant. 

Thinking about her mother, she let out a quiet laugh. “Maybe that’s why I attracted so many Anglo-Saxon directors like Orson Welles and Tony Richardson,” she said as she took a sip of espresso. “I’m very proud of my English heritage. It made me different from other actresses of the time and I think audiences could see that.”

She told me that when she was about a year old, “my father moved us down to Vichy, where he opened a small hotel and restaurant. We lived in a small town outside Vichy called Mazirat.” The Moreau family dominated the village; Jeanne said she came from a long line of farmers. “It was so nice,” she said. “It seemed that almost every tombstone in the local cemetery had the name Moreau on it. I was quite the tomboy, climbing trees, riding my bicycle around the countryside, and generally getting into trouble with my sister. I went to a strict Catholic school, so you could imagine how I drove the nuns to distraction.” 

Beneath the idyll, however, existed a personal hell. Her parents’ marriage was far from a happy one. “I used to wonder later in life why my parents ever married,” she said. “My father’s family was ashamed of him for marrying a dancer and never made my mother feel welcome.” In addition, Anatole drank heavily. “He even refused to learn English, I think, just to spite my mother.” The stress in the marriage led Katherine to pack up Jeanne and her sister Michelle and move back to England, but when war broke out Katherine decided that her place was with her husband and returned to France. 

During the war the family was separated and she lived in Paris with her mother while her father hid down south from the Germans, making occasional visits to Paris. Her mother, as an enemy alien, was forced to stay in Paris and report to the Gestapo every day. “We lived in an apartment right above a brothel,” she said. “I remember whenever I went out on an errand or to see my friends I had to make my way past the line of German soldiers waiting their turn. I ran fast and tried not to look. Is it any wonder that books became my escape?” 

She was an excellent student, but when she saw a performance of Jean Anouilh’s Antigone at the age of 15, she knew what she wanted to do with her life. “My father had forbidden me to go to the theatre or the cinema, but my school friends spoke of little else. It wasn’t like there was a lot to do in Occupied Paris. We decided one day to skip a Latin class and see Antigone. Being there in the audience I felt that my place wasn’t there in the dark. No, it was on stage. I came out of the theatre completely overwhelmed, knowing the path I wanted to follow in life. I wanted more than anything to be an actress. It was not a money or a fame thing but an escape from real life. I went to see more and more plays, becoming entranced with the idea of acting for a living. I forgot about school.”

But when she told her father for her future plans, “he slapped me across the face and called me a whore. He said he never wanted to hear me speak of it again.” (Jeanne’s father reconciled withhis daughter’s profession only a few years before he died in 1975.) 

I believe his opposition to my choice was that he didn’t want me following in my mother’s footsteps,” she said. “And I never spoke of it again, at least to him,” she said. “My mother, on the other hand, was more sympathetic. She asked a neighbor of ours, who was an actor, for advice. He recommended a drama teacher.”

The teacher carefully and painstakingly prepared her for an audition at the Conservatoir National d’Art Dramatique. He did his job well, for she was accepted almost immediately after her audition, and a year later made her debut at the Comédie Francaise in Turgenev’s A Month in the Country. At only 20 years old she became a member of the company, the youngest ever to achieve that position. During her four years there she appeared in 22 parts, being cast in almost every production.

When I asked her about her father’s violent opposition, she said it was a blessing in disguise, for it steeled her resolve to make a success of her career. “I wanted to prove to him that I was right and that he was wrong.”

While at the conservatory her parents separated. “My mother, after 24 very difficult years in France, finally got the strength to leave my father. She took my sister Michelle and returned to England.”   

In 1949, she married Jean-Louis Richard. “We met at the Conservatoire and one could say it was love at first sight. I was alone. I wanted to get away from my father. Jean-Louis was the right man at the right time, unfortunately. He was wonderful to me, but we married for all the wrong reasons. But I did get a beautiful son out of the marriage.” The day they married Jeanne gave birth to a son, Jerome. She returned to work a month later, leaving Jerome in the care of her mother-in-law. Soon the marriage began to fall apart. After two years of marriage, Richard left, although they would remain close friends. They didn’t officially divorce until 1964.  

Jeanne left the Comédie Francaise in 1952, spending a year at the prestigious Théatre National Populaire, where she was a cast in a supporting role as a prostitute in a new play by Anna Bonacci called L’Heure Eblouissante (The Dazzling Hour). On the second night, the star of the show fell ill and Jeanne was asked to take her part. She learned it overnight, and the next evening, since the two characters never appeared onstage at the same time, she was able to play both roles. “I was alternating between an honest woman who feels like a street walker and a streetwalker who feels like an honest woman.” The play was a hit, running for two years and almost 500 performances.   

Jeanne moved onto other productions, including Jean Cocteau’s La Machine Infernale and George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, in which she had a two-year run. It was while she was in the Paris production of Tennessee Williams’s melodrama Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that she was spotted by director Louis Malle, who immediately saw her as the star in his new production.

It is supposed by some that Jeanne’s movie debut was because of Malle, but in reality Moreau had been appearing in films since 1949, accepting small parts here and there. Her most famous role back then was her turn as the call girl dancer Josy in Jacques Becker’s 1954 crime drama Touchez Pas au Grisbi (Don’t Touch the Loot), a role she barely remembered in our interview. “I never felt comfortable in films because I felt I was far from beautiful. It might have continued like that if not for Louis.”

Malle wanted her as the star of his debut feature, Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud (Elevator to the Gallows, first released in America in 1961 as Frantic.). She played a woman whose lover (Maurice Ronet) murders her rich husband in a perfectly planned murder, only to find himself trapped in a broken down elevator while leaving the scene of the crime. Malle hit upon the idea of using light makeup on his star, allowing her to fill in the rest. By using her natural charisma instead of relying on makeup, she created a new sort of “natural” star, one French women could identify with. “Louis thought I was crazy to think I wasn’t good looking. He showed me how just a little makeup and the ability to carry oneself could bring out my natural beauty, as he called it. I placed myself in his care and never regretted it for one moment.”

Malle and Moreau followed this up in 1958 with his film Les Amants (The Lovers) with Moreau as a bored wife who abandons her home and family for a casual lover she has met. The film’s explicit love scenes caused it to run into trouble with the censors, which, in turn, made an ordinary drama into a must-see picture. But the intensity of the love scenes, added to the attention Moreau was drawing from the press, led her to end her affair with Malle, through they remained close friends for years afterward. He later directed Moreau in Le Feu Follet (The Fire Within, 1963) and Viva Maria! (1965), co-starring with Brigitte Bardot.     

While filming Moderato Cantabile (Seven Days, Seven Nights, 1960) on location in the south of France, Moreau suffered a near personal tragedy. Co-star Jean-Paul Belmondo invited her 10-year-old son Jérôme for a ride in his sports car. They crashed and the boy was rushed to a clinic where he lay in a coma for 16 days before eventually making a full recovery. Moreau saw it as a wake-up call. Having experienced the near death of someone she loved made her value life all the more. This in turn led her to new interests, such as becoming a recording artist. With a husky voice honed by a nearly three pack-day Gauloises habit, she had a string of successful releases. (She also performed with Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall.) She purchased a farm house in the south of France, where she would spend most of her leisure time reading, cooking, and entertaining friends.  

It was while she was at a personal crossroads that she met Francois Truffaut. At this point Jeanne was desperate for a part in which she could sink her heart and soul into. Truffaut offered her the part of Catherine in Jules et Jim. Adapted from Henri-Pierre Roché's novel of the same name, it takes place in the belle époque period in Paris, telling the story of best friends Jules and Jim who both fall in love with the same woman.   

In the months leading up to production, Truffaut spent much of his time at Moreau’s house developing the script with his star. This developed into a passionate, though brief, love affair,. However, by the end of filming it had evolved into an everlasting friendship. Truffaut introduced her to serious filmmakers and intellectuals, expanding her horizons and allowing her to see cinema as something beyond simply being an actress. Jules et Jim became a critical and commercial success, winning numerous prizes worldwide and cementing Moreau’s status as a major actress and cultural icon. Her portrayal of a woman who lives for the moment inspired many young women to rethink their roles in society.

After Jules et Jim Moreau hit a speed bump of sorts with the production of Eva, in which she plays a high-class prostitute who destroys the life of a Welsh writer (Stanley Baker) living in Venice. “I asked the producers for Jean-Luc Godard as director,” she told me. “He signed the contract, and got some money upfront, for which he was supposed to deliver a first draft in a month. Well, the month comes and goes. The producers want to know where the screenplay is. I don’t know. Godard’s supposed to deliver it. Finally he does – and it’s a one-page letter! Now the producers are yelling at me! ‘Where did you get that crazy bum?’ Finally, my co-star, Stanley Baker suggested his friend Joe Losey and I agreed. He was a good director, although I found him a bit strange.”

Jeanne’s next starring role saw her give one of her best performances. In La Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels, 1963) she plays Jacqueline Demaistre, a compulsive gambler who leads a young bank clerk (Claude Mann) astray. She was so impressed with the then unknown director, Jacques Demy, that she agreed to co-produce the film. “I was disappointed that we could never get together to do a musical. I mean, Deneuve couldn’t even sing. I could. It would have been a lot of fun.”

Her growing international fame brought offers to appear in English language productions, the best of which was John Frankenheimer’s The Train (1965), with Burt Lancaster and Paul Schofield. “I enjoyed working with Burt,” she said. “He always challenged himself during the filming and I admired that.” Although the films gave her exposure outside France, none compared with the smaller films with which she made her name. She summed them up as “a learning experience.”

One of her best films was made in 1964 for director Luis Bunuel. Diary of a Chambermaid saw her as an unscrupulous maid who discovers she has an ability to influence the lives of her masters. Though a critical and commercial flop when released, it has since come to be regarded as a classic.

In 1966 she became involved with director Tony Richardson, with whom she made two films, Mademoiselle (1966) and The Sailor from Gibraltar (1967), both commercial and critical flops. When Richardson’s then-wife, Vanessa Redgrave, filed for divorce, she named Moreau as co-respondent.

In 1967 she turned down the role of Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate (“It just wasn’t for me.”) to star in Truffaut's homage to Hitchcock, La Mariée était en Noir (The Bride Wore Black, 1968) as a widow who kills the men responsible for her husband’s murder. If she looked worn on the screen it was due to the stress of her break-up with designer Pierre Cardin. 

After the failure of Orson Welles’ troubled production of The Deep, Jeanne retreated to her farmhouse, remaining there for almost a year. She was now 40 and feeling exhausted. “I was unhappy with my recent work and wanted time to reflect. So I threw myself into other things, tending the vineyards, making jam, and looking after my sick father. The less time I had to brood over my career the better off I was.”

She was lured out of this semi-retirement to make Monte Walsh (1970), with Lee Marvin and Jack Palance. In 1975, with encouragement from Orson Welles, she took her first turn at directing.Lumière follows four actresses of different ages and their relationships with one another, their men and their careers. The reviews were good enough to get Jeanne behind the camera once again with L’Adolescente (The Adolescent, 1979), a tender coming-of-age story set in the French countryside in the years just before World War Two based on her personal experiences. (In 1983 she directed a documentary about silent-screen star Lillian Gish.)

L’Adolescente came at the right moment. I was depressed after my second marriage fell apart and needed to lose myself in work.” In 1977 Jeanne married director William Friedkin, moving with him to Los Angeles. But their conflicting schedules left little time to be together, and as a result, the marriage floundered. “The marriage was an extraordinary experience, extremely painful and violent, but I never regretted it,” Moreau said. She moved back to Paris and took a small apartment in Paris, taking time off to recover her health. “I could have retreated to my farmhouse,” she said. “But at this time I felt I needed to be around people, to be in the city and feel the vibrancy.”

In 1982 she made a comeback in Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s film, Querelle. When Fassbinder died shortly after completing the film, Moreau took it upon herself to promote it, a difficult undertaking because of its explicit gay subject matter.   

She spent the next four years traveling, forming her own production company (producing a number of projects for television), and acting in a few television productions. These included L’Arbre (1984) and The Last Séance (1986), both of which dealt with death. This was a theme that preoccupied Jeanne at the time, having lost such close friends as Orson Welles, Francois Truffaut and Luis Bunuel. “I’ve learned that as long as I think of them and continue to be influenced by them, they remain alive to me each and every day.”

In 1986 she not only returned to the silver screen, but also to the stage, where her performance in the play Le Récit de la Servante Zerline (as a servant who tells a guest in a château the story of her life), marked her greatest stage triumph since the 1950s. She revitalized her career by taking the production on a worldwide tour. It would have been easier just to sit back and drink in the plaudits, but that was never Jeanne’s style.

Notable films included Luc Besson’s Nikita, a thriller about a female government assassin, and Wim Wenders’  epic Until the End of the World (1990), where she played a blind woman who, at the end of her life, is finally able to see. She also starred in a series of six television films based on Jean Giorno’s Ennemonde, as a wife and mother of nine who falls for a fairground wrestler and finds the real meaning of love.

Other films followed, keeping Moreau busy until the end of her life. Her last film appearance was in 2015, in a small role as the protagonist’s grandmother in Alex Lutz’s comedy Le Talent de Mes Amis (The Talent of My Friends).

A recipient of many awards during her lifetime, Jeanne also achieved that rare phenomenon of being celebrated while still working, with film retrospectives in her honor. Among the many awards she has received are the Légion d’honneur, the Fellowship of the British Film Institute, a Golden Lion for career achievement at the 1991 Venice Film Festival and a 1997 European Film Academy Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also the first woman inducted into the Académie des Beaux-Arts.   

I remember an interview she granted me while in her 70s. “People – especially women – worry about aging,” she said. “But, believe me, if you want to look younger, then don’t worry about it. Don’t give it even so much as a thought. Beyond the beauty, the sex, the titillation, the surface, there is a human being. And that has to emerge.”

Rarely has a star so captivated her audience to the extent Jeanne Moreau did. She remained vitally alive throughout her career, refusing to be deterred by circumstances or fortunes. Her son Jerome, an artist, survives her.