Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cinéma Inhabituel for January 1-15

A Guide to the Rare and Unusual on TCM

By Ed Garea 


January’s Star of the Month is Robert Redford. Redford is emblematic of the new type of Hollywood star in that he first cut his celluloid teeth in television, which became the new “B-Movie” in the late ‘50s. He worked out of New York, which enabled him to find work on the Broadway stage and work in television when otherwise unemployed.

In 1962, Redford made his big screen debut in the Korean War drama War Hunt. The movie also marked the film debut of Sydney Pollack, who later turned to directing and became one of Redford’s strongest collaborators. Meanwhile, in 1963, Redford scored a major Broadway hit in Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park. He would reprise his role in the film adaptation.

Redford’s film breakthrough came with the 1969 megahit Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, a role he took to escape being typecast. Other leading roles followed in such box office hits as Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Candidate (1972), The Way We Were (1973), The Sting (1973), The Great Gatsby (1974), and All the President’s Men  (1976). There were flops as well: Downhill Racer (1969), Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969), and The Hot Rock (1972). However, these tend to be erased by the public consciousness when measured against the hits.

In 1980, Redford made his directorial debut with the drama Ordinary People. It won the Oscar for Best Picture and Redford was awarded a statue for Best Director. His next film, The Milagro Beanfield War (1987), flopped, but his third directorial project, A River Runs Through Hit (1992) returned him to mainstream success and is notable for bringing Brad Pitt to prominence.

He remains active today, both as an actor and director, with the occasional foray as a producer.

January 6: It’s a night of solid hits, staring at 8:00 pm with The Sting. Then it’s Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid at 10:15, and Jeremiah Johnson at 12:15 am. For those who love acting debuts, War Hunt comes on at 2:30 am.

January 13: Start with Sydney Pollack’s 1968 overheated adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ This Property is Condemned with Redford and Natalie Wood at 8:00. Then it’s Redford’s 1967 reprise of his Broadway hit, Barefoot in the Park, at 10:00 pm. At midnight, it’s the excruciating Inside Daisy Clover (1965) with Wood again; and finally, at 2:15, it’s Arthur Penn’s interesting 1966 drama, The Chase, with Redford, Jane Fonda, Marlon Brando, Angie Dickinson, and for old-time movie fans, Miriam Hopkins and Martha Hyer.


January’s Friday Night Spotlight is dedicated to the film adaptations of Broadway superstar scribe Neil Simon. Simon began his career as a writer for such programs as The Phil Silvers Show and Sid Caesar’s Your Show of Shows. His Broadway debut came in 1961 with Come Blow Your Horn, which ran for 678 performances. After that, it was hit after hit: Barefoot in the ParkThe Odd CoupleGod’s Favorite, Chapter Two, I Ought to Be in Pictures, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Biloxi Blues, Broadway Bound, The Goodbye Girl, and Laughter on the 23rd Floor, among others.

So it was only natural that Hollywood should come knocking, seeing the money to be made in adaptations

January 2: We begin with The Odd Couple at 8:00 pm. Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon were never funnier than in this 1968 adaptation of Simon’s Broadway hit. Then it’s Lemmon again, starring with Sandy Dennis in the Out-Of-Towners (1970) at 10:00 pm. It wraps up at midnight with Frank Sinatra, Lee J. Cobb, and the delightful Molly Picon in Come Blow Your Horn (1963).

January 9: Simon also wrote original screenplays, and we begin at 8:00 pm with his tribute to screen detectives, Murder By Death (1976). At 10:00 pm comes another original screenplay, an affectionate tribute to Bogart, The Cheap Detective (1978), starring Peter Falk, Marsha Mason, and the hilarious Madeline Kahn. At 11:30. we’re back to his adaptations with Plaza Suite (1971), consisting of three stories all set at the Plaza Suite hotel in New York City. And at 1:30 am. it’s his California Suite (1978), this time consisting of four stories set at the Beverly Hills hotel.


January 1: Beginning at 8:00 pm and running through the night. It’s a Marx Brothers marathon, with the films run in this order: 8:00 - Horse Feathers; 9:15 - A Night at the Opera; 11:00 - A Day at the Races; 1:00 am - Room Service; 2:30 am - At the Circus; 4:00 - Go West. The only disappointment is neither Duck Soup, their comic masterpiece, nor Monkey Business is included.


January 4: This night is reserved for one of the wonderful classics of cinema; a movie superbly written by Jacques Prevert and directed by the great Marcel Carne, and that film is Children of Paradise. It focuses on a theatrical troupe in 19th century France. Jean-Louis Barrault Jean-Gaspard “Baoptiste” Debureau, a romantic mime whose unrequited love for free-spirit Garance (Arletty) dominates his life, even after becoming famous on the stage. He’s not alone: Narcissistic actor Frederick Lemaitre (Pierre Brasseur) and master criminal Pierre-Francois Lacenaire (Marcel Herrand) are also pursuing her. However, all three are at a loss when Count Edouard de Montry (Louis Salou) enters the scene and convinces her to leave with him. Six years later, she returns to Paris and the rivalries are re-ignited, but this time with a deadly twist. Begun in 1943, during the Occupation, the film was not released until March 1945. Described by critics as an allegory of the Resistance, thing took a ironic turn when its leading lady, Arletty, was placed under house arrest due to her lengthy affair with Luftwaffe Colonel Hans Soehring, for whom she served as the proverbial “kept woman.” As it airs at the dreadful time of 2:00 am, recording is most advisable.

January 6: This day marks the 102nd anniversary of the birth of Loretta Young, and beginning at 6:15 am, TCM is honoring the occasion with a mini-marathon of her movies. And the fun part is that, with the exception of The Unguarded Hour from 1936, which airs at 6:30 pm, all of her other movies are Pre-Code. These include Big Business Girl (1931) at 7:30 am, followed by Taxi! (1932), with James Cagney, at 11:45 am, Employees’ Entrance, with Warren William, at 3:30 pm, and the sublimely gritty Heroes for Sale at 5:00 pm.

January 8: The anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birthday is also being celebrated with an all-morning and afternoon airing of his films. The best of the bunch are Viva Las Vegas (1964) at 11:15 am, and the concert film, Elvis: That’s The Way It Is (1970) at 6:00 pm.

January 11: The highlight of the day is Roman Polanski’s breakout film, Knife in the Water, airing at 2:00 am, followed by Purple Noon (1961), the best film version of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, starring Alain Delon in a remarkable performance as Tom Ripley.

January 13: At the absurd hour of 4:30 am airs one of the great Pre-Code films “exposing” the crimes of the chain gang, Hell’s Highway, from 1932. Richard Dix stars as a convict on the corruptly-run gang who has to change his escape plans when he learns that his younger brother, Tom Brown, will soon be joining him. Magnificently filmed and running the gamut of everything from racial prejudice to homosexuality, it makes for a powerful film that, unfortunately, fall flat on its face at the end.


January 14: TCM is devoting the morning and afternoon to teen films from the ‘60s. Such fare as Bikini Beach (1964), Herman Hermits in Hold On! (1966), and Get Yourself a College Girl (1964), are on the schedule, as is the incredibly awful Hootenanny Hoot (1963), which airs at 5:45 pm.

January 15: An entire morning and afternoon devoted to the works of William “One-Shot” Beaudine! We begin at 6:00 am with his 1942 work, Foreign Agent, and roll on until the last film, 1946’s Mr. Hex, with The Bowery Boys, at 6:45 pm. All were made for Monogram and all reflect the care and tenderness for which the studio is justly famous. Besides the aforementioned films, other highlights include Hot Rhythm (1944) at 9:45 am, Shadow of Suspicion (1944) at 12:30 pm, and Face of Marble (1946) at 5:30 pm.

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