Saturday, August 29, 2015

George C. Scott in Petulia (1968)

Today the subject of TCM's Summer Under the Stars is the very versatile and sometimes controversial George C. Scott.  He starred in so many different types of films and is probably most recognized for his title role in Patton and his over the top comedic performance in Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Stop Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb.  Some of my favorite roles of his are in The Hospital, They Might be Giants and Petulia.

From Journeys in Film's SUTS Blogathon Page
I had first heard about the movie, Petulia, about 5 years ago while reading Kate Gabrielle's delightful film blog: Silents and Talkies.  Her post encouraged me to check out the movie and I ended up really enjoying it.  It will be airing tonight on TCM at 12:15am Eastern/9:15pm Pacific, if that's too late try to set your DVR, it's definitely worth a watch.

It has a wonderful cast led by Julie Christie (Petulia) and George C. Scott (Archie) and includes Richard Chamberlain (David), Shirley Knight (Polo) and a cameo by Joseph Cotton (Mr. Danner).  It is directed by Richard Lester, who I know and love for being the Director of The Beatles movies: A Hard Day's Night and Help!.  The movie is extremely stylized and very much a product of the 60s.

Opening Credits
The opening credits are surprisingly minimalistic, the names appear over a solid black background and the music is almost ominous.  Not really preparing the viewer for what they are about to experience.

We then get whisked into the film.  There is then a mixture of juxtaposing images, wealthy people attending a fund raiser intercut with a musical performance by Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company (there are also cameos by The Grateful Dead).  The opening sequence pretty much sets the tone for the film.  Anything goes.

Then we are introduced to Petulia and Archie.

Petulia is a free spirit (with a fabulous wardrobe) who is married to an abusive and controlling man, David and she sees Archie as an escape, someone who is a healer, who is gentle and who can take care of her.  Archie doesn't exactly agree.  

Archie is a soon to be divorced surgeon who doesn't know what he wants out of life.  He tries to do the right thing, but also tends to do what he feels.  There are many scenes where he vacillates between two very different motivations.  The scenes with his soon to be ex-wife Polo really show how difficult it is for him to live with his decisions, as do the scenes with his 2 young sons.

The movie also makes use of it's location.  Set in San Francisco there are many beautiful shots of iconic and memorable locations around San Francisco.  In one scene, Archie takes his 2 children to visit Alcatraz. 

Some examples of the camera angles, imagery, and framing
At times it is a bit difficult to follow what is going on in this movie, there are intercuts, flashbacks, abrupt scene/location changes and unclear passages of time.  Oddities like an outdoor motorized stairway, a tuba, George C. Scott in tighty-whities, an automated motel complete with light up key that lets you know when you’ve arrived at your room.  There are many things to pay attention to in this film, there is a lot of seemingly random imagery (lots of nuns), many stylistic choices, especially when it comes to camera angles, framing, editing and storytelling.  But all these techniques make the movie that much more interesting and help exemplify some of the main points of the movie.  

At it's core the movie is about trying to be true to yourself and doing what makes you happy and realizing sometimes that doesn't work out the way you hope, but you can still maybe make an impact.  When the stylistic choices are removed the film is about relationships, connections, strength, weakness and regret.  One conversation that I think really sells the heart of this movie is this exchange:

Archie's friend Barney asks, “What do you want, Archie?”  

Archie replies, “I don’t know what I want.  To feel something.” 

Barney responds, “That’s no answer, grow up.”  

I chose to focus on this movie for George C. Scott’s special day because I think he delivers a wonderful performance (as does the rest of the cast), but also because it's really an atypical role for him.  He’s soft-spoken, kind and is in what could be classified as a romantic lead.  Not what you would normally expect from Mr. Scott.  The majority of his other roles are gruff, tough, fast-talking and more severe.  In this role he shows some vulnerability, uncertainty and the possibility of learning and growing because of another person.  It's nice to see him show some emotion.

What are your favorite George C. Scott roles?  Which movies are you going to try to catch on TCM today?  I really hope you have the opportunity to watch this movie tonight as part of George C. Scott's special day.  If you don't, it is very hard to come by on DVD.  It's currently over $40 on Amazon, but it does appear to be available to purchase through Amazon Instant.

And also be sure to check out the other contributions to the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Lighter Side of Ingrid Bergman

Today TCM is devoting an entire 24 hours to the incomparable Ingrid Bergman.  She is the focus today as part of the Summer Under the Stars programming and this is my contribution to the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon which is being wonderfully hosted over at Journeys on Film.

When most people think of Ingrid Bergman the first images that come to mind are usually these:

Looking passionately into Humphrey Bogart's eyes telling him she can't get on the plane in Casablanca (1942)

Trying to outwit Claude Rains with some slick key maneuvering in Notorious (1946)

Or questioning her sanity with Joseph Cotton in Gaslight (1944).

When I think of Ingrid Bergman these are the images that come to mind.  For some reason her two less dramatic and slightly silly roles have stuck with me.

Here she is cutting a rug with Walter Matthau, Goldie Hawn, and others in Cactus Flower (1969)

And navigating a relationship with Cary Grant in Indiscreet (1958)

I enjoy Ms. Bergman in these roles so much.  She is light, comical, shows broad emotions, laughs often and even dances!  She also seems a bit more human and fragile in these roles; instead of being seemingly untouchable and stoic like some of her other characters.  These roles show her well roundedness and ability as an actress.  It definitely would have been interesting if her filmography had more roles like these two.

These two movies have a great deal of similarities (other than Ms. Bergman's involvement).  They are both based on plays, both involve unconventional relationships, each film has an enjoyable dance scene, and both contain a lie that gets out of control.  I tend not to give away spoilers when I write about movies and I'm going to keep that streak alive with these two movies by not revealing too much of the plots.  Hopefully, that will encourage you to check them out for yourself.

In Cactus Flower, Bergman's character, Stephanie Dickinson, is the nurse to playboy Dentist, Dr. Julian Winston, played wonderfully by Walter Matthau.  She often goes above and beyond when it comes to her job responsibilities, but she doesn't have a social life to speak of and is extremely practical and pragmatic.

Eventually though she gets embroiled in Dr. Winston's relationship with (significantly) younger Toni, played by Goldie Hawn, and ridiculousness and hilarity ensue.  It should also be noted that this is the role that won Goldie Hawn her best supporting actress Academy Award.

This movie has a lot of heart, many funny lines and provides a great opportunity to see Ingrid Bergman try her hand and excel at light comedy.  And the dance scenes are a delightful added bonus, she invents a dance she names "The Dentist."

In Indiscreet, directed by Stanley Donen, Ingrid plays, Anna Kalman an accomplished stage actress who meets and has an immediate connection to the dashing traveling financier Phillip Adams, played by Cary Grant.

They carry on a not so discreet love affair.  Both Grant and Bergman behave like smitten young lovers.  They flirt, laugh, and have adorable phone conversations, complete with split screen that insinuates so much more.  This was done after the censors decided that having them in the same bed was too risque.

As in Cactus Flower, there is a great dance sequence.  As you can see Ingrid is extremely graceful and Cary has got some mad ups.

This role gives Ingrid a great deal to do.  There is a great sequence where she is putting together a plan to trick Cary's character.  In it she puts on a 30 second melodramatic performance.

Ingrid Bergman is often considered to be one of the best dramatic actresses and has been in beautifully romantic movies with some of the most dashing leading men, like Gary Cooper, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy, Joseph Cotton and various others.  She is often thought to be prim, proper and lacking humor; yet, in these two roles she has a chance to shows her silly side.  And I think it's a shame that these comedic/lighter roles don't always get the same attention as some of her other roles, so I'm doing my part to bring some awareness to them.

Well that does it for my views on Ingrid Bergman's less dramatic roles.  What are your favorite Ingrid Bergman performances?  Have you seen these two films?  Did you enjoy them?

I hope you check out Ingrid Bergman's movies on TCM today, check out the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon  for other great posts and that you check out these films of hers for a good laugh.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: Alan Arkin Summer Under The Stars Blogathon

Today TCM is shining it's spotlight on Alan Arkin, he is the 24 hour focus today during their  Summer Under the Stars tribute. And I'm so excited to be a part of the 2015 Summer Under the Stars Blogathon.
From Journeys in Film Blogathon Page
Arkin has a career spanning just about 6 decades, he is an Academy Award winner, Tony Award winner and is still going strong.  He has worked in so many different types of films, satire, comedy, suspense, he's worked in big studio films as well as independent films.  And he has brought his wonderful talent to each of them.  His career is extremely diverse and his performances are always engaging and memorable.

If you want to see one his most dramatic and magnetic roles, do yourself a favor today and watch The Heart is a Lonely Hunter on TCM (8pm Eastern/5pm Pacific) and be sure to keep some Kleenex within arms length.
Vital Stats:
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1968)
Starring Alan Arkin, Sondra Locke and co-starring: Stacy Keach, Chuck McCann, Percy Rodrigues, and Cicely Tyson
directed by: Robert Ellis Miller
based on the novel of the same name by Carson McCullers.

I had the pleasure of seeing this movie for the first time at the 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival as part of their tribute to Alan Arkin.  And it has stuck with me ever since.  This movie not only ripped out my heart, but then proceeded to stomp on my aforementioned heart.  When the lights came up after the movie ended I sincerely needed a moment to collect myself.  All of the performances are stunning, while also subtle.  The story/plot is poignant and really captures the human condition, gets to the root of loneliness and shows how hard it is to really connect.

Alan Arkin plays a deaf-mute, Mr. Singer, a man who moves to a new, small town to be near his best friend, Spiro, who has been institutionalized.  While adjusting to his new life he meets a wide variety of people.

His character, without the ability to speak or hear, changes the lives of almost every person that he encounters including: an aimless drunk (Stacy Keach), an extremely stubborn doctor (Percy Rodrigues), the doctor's daughter (Cicely Tyson) and a precocious 14 year old girl (Sondra Locke) who lives in the house where he's staying.  Throughout the movie he becomes a support, confidant, secret-keeper, friend, and a shoulder to cry on for everyone around him.  All the while he is silently searching and yearning for a meaningful connection and never quite getting it.

His best friend is a fellow deaf-mute, Spiro (Chuck McCann), who's one and only motivation is candy (I can relate).  While Arkin's character does have a friendly connection to Spiro, wants to look out for him, and is able to communicate with him, he isn't getting that deeper connection that he so desperately needs.  There are even moments where it looks like Singer is wishing and hoping he could just be normal, or not draw attention to himself.

Throughout the movie, Mr. Singer maintains a positive, helpful, upbeat attitude, but in many moments it is evident that he wants something more.  It's as if he yearns for someone to be there for him and to provide him with support or a shoulder to cry on when he needs it.  You can see it in the look on his face when his new friend forgets about their chess game, or when Mick doesn't have time to listen to records.

One of the most interesting lines and pretty much the crux of the movie, is said by Stacy Keach's character, he says to Mr. Singer: "I could talk to you, and you listened, you really listened.  I think you're the only one who ever did."  While he's saying this Singer is signing, "No, no, I read lips."  It's really powerful that all the characters feel this connection to him and feel like he hears and understands them, while they were unable to do the same for him.  Even still their lives are made better and changed by this person who takes the time to "listen."  This movie really embodies the old adage that actions speak louder than words.

And this spoke to me so completely.  Everyone has times in their lives when they feel alone or are looking for ways to connect.  The film really captures loneliness on a visceral level.  Singer isn't isolated or literally alone.  He does have people in his life, he has people who he interacts with and cares for and they try to care about him, but these people can't or won't provide him with the stimulation or connection that he is missing. The acting in the movie is absolutely stellar, both Arkin and Locke were nominated for Academy Awards (how Arkin didn't win is beyond me).

Alan Arkin and Ben Mankiewicz interview at 2014 TCM Classic Film Festival
I hadn't heard of this movie before it was announced as part of the festival and I really didn't know what to expect from the film.  During the pre-movie interview between Alan Arkin and Ben Mankiewicz, Ben had asked Alan if they had considered using subtitles for the film.  At the time I had no context for the question, but Mr. Arkin said that was a good question and that subtitles had been considered, but the final decision was to not use subtitles.  I think ultimately it was the right choice to forego subtitles because Arkin is able to convey so much with facial expressions, gestures, body language and his sign language (I took a sign language course a number of years ago and was able to pick up a few signs here and there).

If you don't take my advice and watch The Heart is a Lonely Hunter during Alan Arkin's special day on TCM you can find it on DVD through Amazon or  I'm also going to bet that the book is a great read, I haven't had the opportunity to read it yet, but it is also available through Amazon or I'm sure it can be found at your local library.

Have you already seen this Arkin film?  Thoughts? Which other movies are you going to enjoy during Alan Arkin's Summer Under the Stars Day? Any movies of his that you wish were screening today?  Hope you enjoy it!

Please be sure to check out the rest of the Sumer Under the Stars Blogathon over at: Journeys in Classic Film

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

"I am serious...and don't call me Shirley."--Day 3 of the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival

Welcome back faithful readers.  As promised here is a recap of Day 3 of the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival. Don't worry there's plenty of plutonium to keep our time machine running to get us all the way back to April 27th, 2013.
My favorite design from this year, I may have a coffee mug and a sweatshirt with the design
I ended up skipping the first block of movies, although in hindsight seeing Polly Bergen in attendance at a screening of Cape Fear probably would've been a wise decision, damn you past me.  That's what I get for commuting to the festival, the option of getting extra sleep is too tempting and something that hopefully doesn't happen again.

For my first movie of the day I went with Lady and the Tramp at the El Capitan.  I love that that theater is part of the festival and I definitely love the inclusion of Disney titles at the festival.  I grew up with Disney movies and still love them to this very day.  The theater is wonderful because they have an amazing live organ player who regales the crowd with organ versions of popular Disney songs, it's delightful.  The theater also has beautiful decorations and ornate detail.

The screening was introduced by Leonard Maltin, who is also always a delight to see.  It's so wonderful that he's been involved in the festival ever since it's inception and I'm sure he has helped to incorporate more Disney films into the festival.

He informed us that we were going to be watching the film in it's original ratio of 2:55:1, which is used for Cinemascope.  Something that I think the #AspectRatioPolice would appreciate. It was great getting to see a movie that I had probably seen over 100 times in that amazing theater on that amazing big screen.  The print looked stunning and the music was infectious.

Next up was On Golden Pond, starring Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn, and Jane Fonda the screening was at the Egyptian Theater.  I was very much looking forward to this screening with Jane Fonda in attendance.  It's funny writing about it now because I really love the new Netflix series Grace and Frankie, which did not yet exist in 2013, but I digress.  Before the interview and movie I caught a glimpse of Jane in the "green room" taking pictures with Robert Osbourne, I'm gonna guess that this is one of the pictures they too together.

From TCM
It was such a thrill to be in her presence and to hear her speak so candidly with Robert.  It was also so wonderful that she was honored at the festival with a handprint ceremony.

Jane's interview was extremely emotional, there were moments when she cried remembering her father and the whole experience of filming the movie.  She talked about working with Katharine Hepburn and shared a few stories about working with both of them.  She did describe Hepburn as not being that nice or perhaps Hepburn not really liking her at first.  However, it sounded like Hepburn ended up being very encouraging and even a little playful with Ms. Fonda.  Jane Fonda shared that after she had lost the Oscar and Hepburn and Henry Fonda had won theirs, Katharine said to her, "you'll never catch me now."
One big happy family
It was great to get that context before the movie and understand just how personal the movie was to the Fondas and the ups and downs of getting it made.  It was also an extremely beautiful movie to see in a theater, the beautiful landscapes and shots on the water.  Really amazing experience.

After that emotionally charged movie I went with some lighter faire, The Lady Eve at the Chinese Multiplex.  Directed by Preston Sturgess and starring Barbara Stanwyck and none other than Jane's father, Henry Fonda.  Definitely an interesting Henry Fonda double feature, seeing him late in his career in On Golden Pond followed by his much earlier work in The Lady Eve.  The screening was introduced by Cari Beauchamp.

Ms. Beauchamp told us some interesting tid-bits about the cast and crew.  She told us that Barbara Stanwyck always took the time to get to know everyone in the cast and on the crew.  She talked about the acting talents of Henry Fonda.  She said that he would flip a switch and become a reflector.  She also told us that Roget Ebert often referred the scene (captured in the photo above and in the poster) as one of the sexiest scenes in cinema.

To end the 3rd day of the festival I decided on a screening of Airplane! at Grauman's Chinese theater.  I had originally planned to go to the screening of Mildred Pierce with Ann Blyth in attendance, but was swayed by the 2 friends and cousin who were kind enough to join me that evening of the festival.  I gave into the peer pressure, but ultimately I was glad that we had decided on the movie Airplane, because I don't think I ever remember laughing that hard in a movie theater.  And it is always nice to share the classic movie madness with friends and family.

Before the screening, the 2 writer/directors Jim Abrahams and David Zucker and Robert Hays were interviewed by / had a discussion with Ben.  Jim and David talked about the making of the film and leading man Robert Hays talked mostly about his involvement in a show called, Angie.  He talked about it so frequently that I found it to be a bit awkward.

Jim and David talked about how the movie came to be and about their inspiration: the film Zero Hour.  They also talked about the casting process and about preview screenings.  They were worried that the film had pacing problems cause the test audiences weren't responding to the second half, but luckily the pacing was just fine.  They also talked about having to convince Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, and Peter Graves to take on the roles due to the fact that those actors had predominately taken on more serious roles.
Lovely cast
Whatever the difficulties, the movie just works.  The comedy is so universal and so spot on, which was evident by the entire theater cracking up the entire film.  Every joke landed and you could sense the anticipation of memorable lines.  Seeing a comedy like this one in a packed theater like Grauman's was a truly remarkable experience and I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone who likes to laugh.

Alright, so that does it for Day 3 of the 2013 TCM Classic Film festival, only a few more to go before I'm all caught up, woo hoo!

I'm also working on some posts that will be up later this month as part of the TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon which is being hosted by Journey's in Classic Film.

Tune in next time, same blogging time, same blogging station.