Giant (1956)- James Dean strikes oil!

Ever have that acquaintance or family member that you never thought would amount to anything?-Well…The great James Dean Oscar nominated here as Jett Rink surprises everyone when he prospers by striking oil as what was considered worthless land in the George Steven directed masterpiece Giant (1956) also with great performances from screen greats Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson on TCM 10/25/16.

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The Conversation (1974) – I am afraid of murder

On TCM 9/9/16- The Conversation (1974) – Director/writer Francis Ford Coppola’s camera dissects visually the action around Cindy Williams (Ann) and Frederic Forest (Mark) as they walk through a busy, noisy and crowded Union Square in San Francisco while screen great Gene Hackman as sound recording surveillance expert Harry Caul and his colleague Stan played by the late great John Cazale bug this conversation dissecting the sound bites. But the meaning of the line: “He’d kill us if he got the chance.” makes the super paranoid Caul even more paranoid as later in a brilliantly directed dream sequence he tells an imaginary Cindy Williams: “I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder.” And why are Martin Stett (a young Harrison Ford) and his boss (Robert Duvall) so interested in this recording? Keep on watching and listening here as Coppola and Hackman will not let you down.

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Young Man with a Horn (1950)-Kirk Douglas Trying to Hit the High Note!

On TCM very early 9/10/16- Young Man with a Horn (1950) – Directed by Michael Curtiz with yet another energetic performance by Kirk Douglas this time as gifted young musician Rick Martin who has problems hitting the happiness high note in life. Also with the great acting and musical talents of Doris Day, a great if a little different performance by Lauren Bacall and the very entertaining narration and music of Hoagy Carmichael telling us the story of Rick from the perspective of a jazz insider. Catch the strong performance of veteran character actor Juano Hernandez as Rick’s mentor in life and music.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939) – The Touching European Vacation Romance

On TCM very early this morning 9/6/16-I always have responded with strong emotion whenever I think about Robert Donat as the beloved teacher in Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1939). I love the style of Oscar winning here Donat’s acting as well as the British school atmosphere and European vacation settings where Chips meets the love of his life, Katerine—played by the wonderful Greer Garson.  Catch the scene where Donat and Garson perform a ballroom waltz-one of the great acting/dancing moments in movie history. And this romance was encouraged by the great Paul Henreid as Staefel, a kindly fellow teacher, who prompted Mr. Chips to join him on this summer vacation.

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Martin Milner-standout actor

One year ago on 9/6/15 -Sad news about the passing at 83 of underrated Martin Milner: I remember the “Adam 12 and Route 66” actor as Wally the nice guy successful playwright in Marjorie Morningstar (1958) who one of many guys in love with Natalie Wood-“Welcome to Club!” he tells the new members! Martin was also one of the many intended victims of sleazy press people J.J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) and Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) in the brilliant Sweet Smell of Success (1957) as the very genuine Jazz musician Steve Dallas—Martin was a standout in classic movies and TV that will forever be missed.

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More about The Searchers (1956) – John Ford directs Ward Bond

On TCM very early 9/7/16- By composing Ward Bond as Capt. Rev. Samuel Johnson Clayton having his last sip of coffee before embarking on the posse to hunt down the Indian raiders with Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) getting an extra tender good bye from his sister-in-law Martha Edwards (Dorothy Jordan), Ford communicates economically without dialogue (like a silent film) another aspect of the story-that perhaps Martha and Ethan have a past. Great acting by Bond as a man attempting to mind his own business and an example of that unique Fordian touch which bring out such nuances in his movies.

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More on Citizen Kane (1941)-Welles Directs Agnes Moorehead

Another example of creative staging by director Orson Welles and deep focus technique by cinematographer Gregg Toland is the scene where Kane’s parents sign over their boy’s guardianship and fortune to Mr. Thatcher (George Coulouris) –Note the shot where Agnes Moorhead as Mrs. Kane (in a memorable short performance) is in close up screen right, Kane’s dad (Harry Shannon) and Thatcher are in progressively medium shots, and very deep into the frame through an open window is the young Charles Forster Kane playing in the snow (perhaps with his prized sled?) while his destiny is being decided in the foreground.

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Citizen Kane (1941)-Orson Welles directs Joseph Cotten

On TCM 9/5/16- the masterpiece Citizen Kane (1941) – When Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) breaks his “Declaration of Principles”, admirer Jedediah Leland (played brilliantly by Joseph Cotten) changes his mind about Kane-the scene where the Leland/Kane friendship explodes is creatively staged by Welles and filmed by master cinematographer Gregg Toland with the upset Kane in close up at a typewriter in the foreground and Leland still dressed in evening wear screen right with an empty late night office focused in the background-a perfect example (and there are many in Kane) of utilizing deep focus for dramatic effect and great composition. Catch the way Welles and Toland establish that Joseph Cotton as the older Leland is in a nursing home (with other residents in soft focus) asking: “Could you get me a cigar?”

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