Sunday, September 16, 2018

Cinéma Inhabituel for September 16-30

A Guide to the Interesting and Unusual on TCM

By Ed Garea


Celluloid Club fan Joe Weber writes to inform us about a resident at the retirement home where he works. It is none other than famed graphic designer Pablo Ferro. If you’ve never heard of Pablo Ferro, you’re not alone. His is a talent that is always seen but rarely acknowledged. In fact every one who has seen a movie from 1964 to 2014 has seen Mr. Ferro’s work. He was a title designer, and not only just a title designer, but the best in the business according to directors Stanley Kubrick and Jonathan Demme. Kubrick hailed Ferro as the father of the sixties look and the MTV aesthetics. Pablo Ferro began his career in 1964 when he designed the titles for Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. Over the years he has served as title designer and graphics designer for 93 films, including The Thomas Crown Affair (1968), Midnight Cowboy (1969), A Clockwork Orange (1971), Harold and Maude (also 1971), Being There (1979), To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), L.A. Confidential (1997), the HBO movie Winchell (1998), Napoleon Dynamite (2004), and Men in Black 3 (2012). His titles and montage sequences have appeared in 12 Academy Award winning films.

For those of us old enough to remember the original NBC peacock, announcing that the program is in color, he created that, also. He also directed two movies: Me, Myself and I (1992) with Jobeth Williams and George Segal; and the TV movie Rage (1983). 

Pablo Ferro has won over 70 national and international awards, among them numerous Clios, a DGA Excellence in Film Award, and several Lifetime Achievement awards. He has also been nominated by such highly regarded institutions as the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt. In 1999 Pablo was awarded the prestigious DaimlerChrysler Design Award, and in 2000 Pablo was inducted into the Art Directors Hall of Fame.

There is also a documentary titled Pablo (2012), about his life and career. Look for it – you will not be disappointed. Joe told us that it’s a honor to have met him and that he is a joy to be around every day. Knowing Joe as I do, compliments from him do not come easily, so Pablo Ferro must be quite a man in addition to being a genius. 


September 30: A double feature from the groundbreaking Spanish director begins at 2:15 am with his 1973 feature, Spirit of the Beehive. Combining a serious view of village life in the ‘40s with a unique look at the world of childhood imagination, the film follows the adventures of a young girl named Ana (Ana Torrent). The daughter of a beekeeper, she is captivated when she sees a roadshow featuring the 1931 movie Frankenstein. Her sister Isabel (Isabel Telleria) tells Ana that the monster is a spirit who can be conjured up simply by calling out for him. Ana returns alone to an isolated barn where she and her sister routinely play, and there she meets a stranger that she believes is Frankenstein’s Monster. Following at 4:15 am is El Sur (The South) the director’s 1985 look at a southern Spanish village. Set in 1957, 15-year old Estrella (Iciar Bollain), is awakened by the barking of dogs in the distance, and the voice of her mother calling for her husband Agustin (Omero Antonutti). When Estrella finds her father's pendulum (which he wore on a chain around his neck) under her pillow, she realizes that he has left for good. What follows is told in flashback, as Estrella describes how her family came to live in this village, and her attempt to understand her mysterious, moody physician father Agustin. Both films examine not only the ives of their characters but also the atmosphere of Franco’s authoritarian regime and both are considered masterpieces of European cinema. 


September 16:  A double feature from the famed director begins at 2 am with his masterpiece, and one of the best films ever made, The Rules of the Game, from 1939. It’s a brilliant satire, using a veneer of light comedy, on the upper classes of France, following the romantic shenanigans (both upstairs and downstairs) that occur at a French country estate. During the course of the film Renoir sends up their follies, rituals and class distinctions. If he thought he was going to get away with it he was sadly mistaken, for the film was savaged upon its release, with audiences actually hissing. Of course, it’s a Must See.

Following at 4 am, it’s The Golden Coach (1953), a delight about a theater company touring South America in the 18th century and the amorous doings of the leading lady (Anna Magnani). Sumptuously filmed with a dazzling use of color, this has to be one of the best films ever made about the art of acting.


September 23: One film, two different versions. At 2 am comes the 1959 remake, Floating Weeds, about a struggling acting company that visits a remote island, where its leader (Ganjiro Nakamura) visits his illegitimate son and the son’s mother, with whom he had a passionate affair years before. Shot in color, it’s directed with Ozu’s usual thoroughness and is excellently acted. Following at 4 am is the original silent version, A Story of Floating Weeds, from 1934. Though sound had come to Japanese cinema in 1931, as late as 1938, roughly one-third of Japanese films were silent. But you shouldn’t let lack of sound prevent you from enjoying a well-made and moving film. Take it in, by all means.


September 27: At 11:15 pm comes one of the most lauded and successful foreign films, Black Orpheus (1959). An imaginative retelling of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice set against the backdrop of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, it features some of the most beautifully photographed color images ever to be shown. Gorgeous and totally compelling, with wonderful performances from its cast, it truly deserves to be be seen.


September 22: At midnight, it’s The Stranger, Orson Welles’s excellent 1946 tale of an escaped Nazi war criminal (Welles) who marries a local schoolteacher (Loretta Young) and settles down in a small Connecticut town where he lives quietly until federal investigator Edward G. Robinson tracks him down and exposes him. It’s one of Welles’s most underrated and compelling films, with excellent performances all around.

September 29: Sometimes, Monogram surprised everyone with a good film. Such is the case with The Gangster, from 1947. Produced by the King Brothers, Frank and Maurice,  it stars Barry Sullivan in a strong performance as Shubunka, a racketeer whose territory is coveted by fellow gangster Cornell (Sheldon Leonard). Belita co-stars as Shubunka’s show girl squeeze. She’s deeply in love with him, but his paranoia about Cornell is damaging their relationship as he thinks she’s two-timing him. John Ireland is along for the ride with a good performance as Frank Karty, a compulsive gambler who begs Shubunka for money or a piece of the action. Not the usual Monogram product, it, too, can be seen at Midnight. 


September 16: “On the funny side, there's the Marx Brothers, except Zeppo, the Ritz Brothers, no exceptions, both Laurel and Hardy, and Woody Woodpecker.”  Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker), My Favorite Year.

Although nearly forgotten today, in their heyday the Ritz Brothers (Al, Harry and Jimmy) had a large following. They were the stars of Broadway and enjoyed a movie career lasting from the late ‘30s to the early ‘40s. Although some fans compared them to the Marx Brothers, the Ritzes did not play contrasting characters like the Marxes. The boisterous Ritzes frequently behaved identically, which made it difficult for audiences to tell them apart. Harry was the ringleader with Jimmy and Al enthusiastically following his lead. They frequently broke into songs and dances during their feature comedies, and often did celebrity impersonations. They were a huge influence on comics such as Danny Kaye, Jerry Lewis, Sid Caesar, and Mel Brooks. Tonight, TCM pays tribute to the brothers with three of their films from Fox, beginning at 8 pm with Kentucky Moonshine. In this 1938 film, the boys learns that radio singer Tony Martin is going to Kentucky in order to boost ratings. Along with Marjorie Weaver they travel to Kentucky, posing as hillbillies in a bid to be discovered.

At 9:45 pm, the Brothers star in Life Begins in College (1937), their first feature film as headliners. Nat Pendleton is excellent as a rich student who, through the Ritzes, donates $50,000 to Lombardy College with two conditions: the football coach, under fire, must stay on, and the Ritzes must be allowed to play for the football team. Gloria Stuart and Joan Davis provide solid support.

The tribute wraps up at 11:15 pm with the 1938 comedy, Straight, Place and Show. The Brothers inherit a racehorse, raise training and entrance money in a wrestling match, help young Denny Paine train the horse of his fiancée, Barbara Drake (Phyliss Brooks), and expose some crooked Russian jockeys while they’re at it. With Ethel Merman.

It did not end well at Fox for the talented trio. After complaints about being cast in that old war horse, The Gorilla (1939), the Brothers left the studio and moved over to Universal.


September 23: Anna Neagle and Michael Wilding were a popular pair in English cinema who Daily Mirror columnist and critic Godfrey Winn called “the greatest team in British films.” TCM is running a double feature honoring the pair, beginning with Spring in Park Lane (1948) at 8 pm, a romantic comedy with Neagle as a diamond merchant’s niece who falls for the new footman (Wilding), unaware he is actually an impoverished aristocrat. In Maytime in Mayfair (1949) at 10 pm,  Michael Gore-Brown (Wilding) is a broke playboy gentleman who inherits London's leading dress store in the posh Mayfair district. Instead of selling it for cash, he falls in love with the shop’s manager, Ellen Grahame (Neagle) and decides to make a go of   the business, especially when he learns that a rival shop across the street seems to get the new fashions first. This is a delightful musical comedy and the pair’s first in Technicolor. 


September 18: Director King Vidor is featured in a double feature beginning at 2 am with his all-Black musical, Hallelujah (1929), followed at 4 am with his acclaimed 1931 drama of life in New York City’s tenements, Street Scene, starring Sylvia Sidney and Beulah Bondi. Both films are Must Sees.

September 19: Ex-convicts Robert Young, Nat Pendleton and Ted Healy help impoverished Louisiana shrimper Jean Parker Parker and her family fight off a hostile takeover by the half-Chinese C. Henry Gordon in the meandering 1934 drama Lazy River at 2 pm.

September 24: William Powell and Joan Blondell star in the 1933 drama Lawyer Man at 12:45 pm. Following at 3:15 pm it’s Lionel Barrymore, Norma Shearer and Clark Gable in 1931’s A Free Soul (read our review here). At 5 pm, Warren William shakes things up in The Mouthpiece (1932); and at 6:30 pm John Barrymore stars in State’s Attorney, also from 1932.

September 26: John Gilbert is a chauffeur up to no good in the excellent Downstairs (1932) at 11 am, and at 2:30 pm newlywed Helen Hayes discovers that she and husband Robert Montgomery’s snooty family speak different languages in Another Language (1933).

September 27: Six pre-Codes are featured today, beginning with Norma Shearer in The Divorcee (1930) at 7:30 am. Following in order are Madame Satan (1930) at 9 am, Hepburn and Colin Clive in Christopher Strong (1933) at 11:15 am, Stanwyck and Blondell in Illicit (1931) at 12:30 pm, Constance Bennett and Lowell Sherman in What Price Hollywood? (1932) at 2 pm, and finally, Stanwyck and Brent in Baby Face (1933) at 3:30 pm.


September 17: A different kind of monster threatens Tokyo run the 1962 kaiju feature, Mothra, airing at 3:30 am.

September 18: George Sanders in The Gay Falcon (1942) at 7:30 am. A Val Lewton double feature kicks off with Cat People (1942) at 8:45 am, followed by The Seventh Victim at  10 am.

September 20: Tamara Dobson fights the scenery chewing Shelley Winters in Cleopatra Jones (1973) at 1:45 am.

September 21: The Bowery Boys encounter genie pic Blore in Bowery to Bagdad (1955) at 1 am, followed by Macon County Line (1974) and Return to Macon County (1975 beginning at 2:15 am.

September 22: At 10 am the last of TCM’s Saturday morning Tarzan series, Tarzan the Magnificent (1960), airs at 10:09 am, preceded by Popeye in Dizzy Divers (1935) at 10 am.

September 24: In an evening dedicated to director Martin Scorsese, one of his early efforts, Boxcar Bertha (1972), starring Barbara Hershey and David Carradine, is showing at 11:15 pm.

Joseph Lewis’s classic, Gun Crazy (1950), is scheduled for 3 am.

September 25: Melvin Van Peebles’s satirical 1970 classic, Watermelon Man, starring Godfrey Cambridge and Estelle Parsons, will air at 11:30 pm.

September 28: Alone in the Dark (1982), with Jack Palance and Donald Pleasance, will be shown at 2 am, followed at 45 am by Deborah Kerr and David Niven in Eye of the Devil (1966).

September 29: A Tom and Jerry cartoon, The House of Tomorrow (1949), will air at 8 am. At 10 am, Popeye returns in You Gotta Be a Football Hero (1940), followed immediately by Louis Heyward in The Saint in New York (1938). Read our review here.

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