"Now Listen to Me..."
Just some thoughts on current happenings:
There are two recommended films to watch on Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this month:
First up is 1950's Gun Crazy.
Joseph H. Lewis, who directed quite a few spirited film noirs (i.e., A Lady Without Passport, Cry of the Hunted, The Big Combo, et al) really outdid himself with this little number. The multifaceted personality of Bart Tare (perfectly captured by John Dall's naturalistic portrayal) is thoroughly examined, especially his strange fascination with guns from age 7 to young adulthood. This clever approach to character development really pays off when he first encounters carnival sharp-shooter Annie Laurie Starr (played to delicious perfection by a suitably sexy and sassy Peggy Cummins). These two go together like Smith & Wesson. They will embark on a life of crime armed by their mutual love of firepower, fully loaded by a continuous desire to reciprocate their burning passion for one another.
This is film noir's lively precursor to the classic Bonnie and Clyde, the latter film portraying the famous duo as mythical characters attractively re-invented for the rebellious youthful spirit of the late 60's. Furthermore, Bonnie and Clyde pays little attention to their motive for stealing with its "great depression" setting being explanation enough: A simple rationale totally befitting of the 1930's gangster movies. Alternatively, Gun Crazy's focus is clearly on the conflicting tumultuous psychologies of its partners in crime, eschewing external influences in favour of distinctively internal noir attributes of extreme desire, conflict, and identity. Even though they are impoverished at one point, their resulting decision to rob others will be analyzed in full by the principal and supporting characters. We come to know Tare quite well before he meets Starr, and will realize afterward the ever-widening gap between a strong will against violating his moral values like hurting people, versus an obsessive longing to keep the ruthless and vengeful Annie satisfied. Guess who wins?
The brilliantly fashioned, dynamic screenplay written by MacKinlay Kantor and Millard Kaufman (fronting for blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo), is like putty in the hands of director Lewis, whose directorial flare lights up every scene like the 4th of July. Don't miss his incredibly long take of the bank robbery photographed entirely from the back of Bart and Annie's vehicle. With this much inspired storytelling, there's no need to see what happens inside the bank; there's plenty of suspense outside. Witness the exhilarating moment afterward when Bart and Annie suddenly cannot separate. There's also no need for the frequent noir device of a voice over narration since Tare is constantly questioning life on the run, Starr's amoral actions, his own complicity, a deeply co-dependent relationship with Annie, and the resulting disappointment of his friends and family. These distinctive insights into character make both participants seem so noirishly real, add concern over their plight and allow them a developmental journey that finally becomes emotionally overpowering. One of the Top Ten Film Noirs it is scheduled to air on the evening of Monday, April 13 at 1:30am PST... (technically Tuesday morning).
My next TCM recommendation is a romance of a completely different variety, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir released in 1947.
Normally any movie with a benign "Ghost" in the title suggesting an unrealistic but sentimental subject matter would be an instant turn off. Those who decide not to partake, however, are truly missing out on a spiritual masterwork of subtle grace and loving intensity. Joseph L. Mankiewicz directs this memorable romantic fable with such intelligence, artistic style, and sincerity, it will forever resonate for those willing to suspend a slight amount of disbelief. The captivating beauty of Gene Tierney's Lucy Muir could only be enhanced by Bernard Herrmann who provides haunting themes for love's yearning and Captain Gregg's (a thoughtfully restrained Rex Harrison) resolve. Herrmann's musical tenderness which accompanies Anna Muir's revelation sharply contrasts with the composer's stirring description of the majestic seaside setting. It's one of cinema's supreme compositional accomplishments, perfectly capturing each timeless moment of this spellbinding movie-going experience. This work of art airs on Thursday, April 16, at 3pm PST.
TCM's current monthly schedule can be confirmed by clicking on any of the above 4 images. For those who live in parts of the U.S. other than the western region, the time zone can be adjusted in the upper right-hand corner of TCM's programme.
April's Soundtrack recommendation is Leonard Bernstein's one and only motion picture score composed for On the Waterfront.
It's a monumental achievement: Violently aggressive when it needs to be and alternately sublime when required. Bernstein's gorgeous love theme is simply divine. This original soundtrack can be ordered from Intrada Records by clicking on the image where there are additional details on this landmark recording.
A Happy Birthday greeting to actor John Gavin who turns 84 on April 8th! His appreciable talent has graced some popular classics of the past like Psycho, Spartacus, and Imitation of Life.
This month's recommended video is Anthony Mann's first directorial Western, the brutally uncompromising Devil's Doorway. This is Hidden Gem # 19 and has been previously "inspected" (reviewed) here. The DVD-R is available "on demand" from Warner Home Archive and can be ordered from Amazon U.S. by clicking on the image.