A TCM perennial shown recently to honor star of the month Jane Wyman– So Big (1953)-“She is like the woman who came over on The Mayflower and crossed America on a covered wagon.” Master director Robert Wise with great artistry and perfect casting in tune with a great Max Steiner score adapted Edna Ferber’s Pulitzer Prize winning story of Selina DeJong (Jane Wyman), an influential teacher in a turn-of-the-century farming community near Chicago. Great performances here by: Sterling Hayden (as Selina’s Dutch farmer husband), Steve Forrest (real life brother of Dana Andrews) as their son Dirk and Tommy Rettig as Dirk, age 8; Richard Beymer as Selina’s devoted student Roelf Pool and Walter Coy (Recognize him as John Wayne’s brother Aaron Edwards in The Searchers?) as the very successful adult Roelf and Nancy Olsen as great artist Dallas O’ Mara— When Selina years later is attending a Roelf Pool concert, we are treated to a touching tour de force in direction and film editing (remember Mr. Wise edited Citizen Kane) and Jane Wyman acting via a superimposed flashback recalling when Selina gave the young Roelf a piano lesson!
To celebrate the 104th birthday of screen great Victor Mature –Catch here where the master John Ford with his usual brilliance cast Victor in My Darling Clementine (1946) as an educated Doc Holiday who knows his Hamlet well enough to complete the lines of Alan Mowbray as actor Granville Thorndyke doing a Tombstone saloon Shakespearean gig-featuring here other greats Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp and Walter Brennan as Old Man Clanton. Who else other than pappy Ford would bring Hamlet into the movie western?
I always look forward to the next TCM showing of my favorite Paul Newman flick The Young Philadelphians (1959) — He gives rich Billie Burke (Glinda in The Wizard of Oz) smart tax advice while petting her lap dog, defends much underrated actor Robert Vaughn (in a striking Oscar nominated performance here) of a murder charge with sting like cunning, wows beauties Barbara Rush and Alexis Smith with his Paul Newman blue eyes and proves to be a great son to his audience only knowing father, Brain Keith. Watch the Paul Newman eyes explode with even greater intensity when he learns the revealing fact (known to us in the audience) that his father is really regular guy Mike Flanagan (Brian Keith) and not the high society William Lawrence II (Adam West).
Robert Mitchum was the perfect film noir lead actor in Out of the Past (1947) being a tough guy with a wonderful soul as revealed by his voice over narration gets into trouble by being a victim of femme fatal Jane Greer. All further brought out by the creative use of lighting and complete tonal range of black and white by cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca.
On TCM tonight 1/24/17– Caged (1950) – A very disturbing NOIR directed by John Cromwell with Eleanor Parker as Marie Allen a teenage newlywed sent to prison for being an accessory to a robbery, Agnes Moorehead as Ruth Benton, sympathetic reformist warden, Oscar nominated here Hope Emerson as Evelyn Harper, the sadistic matron right out of NOIR hell. I must issue a warning to cat lovers-it might be hard to deal with the very disturbing fate of the kitten found in the jail yard that Eleanor Parker tries to make it a pet.
The much underrated actor James Edwards in The Caine Mutiny (1954) as Whittaker (Lt. Cmdr. Queeg’s aide) by adding military restraint to his ridiculous task enhanced the impact of Humphrey Bogart’s famous mad quest to prove with “geometric” logic that someone took an extra portion of frozen strawberries. Similarly in Patton (1970) as Sergeant William George Meeks, the general’s valet, Edwards has a very strong scene where he is very understanding of Patton’s (played by Oscar winner here George C. Scott) dilemma of losing his command over a “measly slap.”
On TCM very early this morning 1/22/17-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.
On TCM today 1/21/17-The phenomenal Jerome Moross original soundtrack on vinyl of The Big Country (1958) directed by the great William Wyler brings memories via my restored Technics turntable of wide open western vistas to my Burbank living room and the father son act by Oscar winning here Burl Ives and “Rifleman” Chuck Connors in quite a different part as Burl’s misguided son Buck.
A TCM perennial–William Wyler directed masterpiece The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) shot by great cinematographer Gregg Toland -famous for use of “Deep Focus” in Citizen Kane (1941) and The Grapes of Wrath (1940)… Catch an example here in the sequence where Frederic March (Al Stephenson) asks Dana Andrews (Fred Derry) to call his daughter Peggy during a dual close up at a table in Butch’s place. Then Fred goes to a phone booth and Al runs into Harold Russell (Homer) and Hoagy Carmichael (Uncle Butch) extreme screen right who are unaware of the issue between Al and Fred but sense something is wrong when they see Fred making the call extreme screen left. Very powerful sequence where Toland’s deep focus camera set up and Wyler’s framing enhances the dramatic impact.
There is nothing like the pleasure of viewing master director Howard Hawk’s Bringing Up Baby (1938) and admiring the fast talking of “Screwball Comedy” super stars Cary Grant (Birthday today 1/18) and Katherine Hepburn as they deal with a pet baby leopard “Baby” in Connecticut and a terrier George (played by Asta -a prolific scene stealer if you ask Nick and Nora Charles) who refuses to reveal where he buried the priceless intercostal clavicle bone. Catch the moment when Baby and George become friends!