Posts tagged ‘TCM’
In just over a week, Hollywood is getting, well, the Hollywood treatment with the 4th annual Turner Classic Movie Film Festival. The billboards are already up over town and, as a Hollywood local, I gotta say: forget the holidays. This is the most wonderful time of the year. For three days, I get to see Hollywood as it used to be: glamorous, sophisticated and exciting.
It’s my fourth straight year and, of course I’m looking forward to rendezvous-ing with good friends and eager to meet new film fans from all over the world. Deciding on the schedule is always torture– one I look forward to eagerly each year– and here are my picks for this year’s fest in true Pictorial fashion:
Classic film fans have, over the past several years, embraced an emerging, and vibrant, niche community. This is highly evident right here in the blogosphere where, if I do say so myself, the very finest blogs on the interwebs are those manned by classic film fans (Shameless plug for Hollywood Revue, Backyard Fence, Out of the Past, True Classics, MovieStar Makeover, Sales on Film, Filmoria, and so many many many more amaaaaazing blogs — all of these and many more will rock your black and white world.) But the unsurpassed leader of this long-surpressed niche, is the cable network Turner Classic Movies.
So the other night I’m halfway through my second glass of Shiraz and I’m hit with a sudden craving. You know what I mean … that inexplicable, sudden, maddening craving that is generally fulfilled by processed sugars . Or complex carbohydrates. Or MGM musicals. Or all three, really, who am I kidding? MGM musicals, after all, have much in common with my empty-calorie companions: there is little, if any, nutritional value but boy-oh-boy if they don’t make you feel good! So last night I satisfy the itch by tearing through my DVD library looking for something to hit the spot … hidden in the back is ‘Till the Clouds Roll By, from 1946.
Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, June Allyson, Kathryn Grayson, Angie Lansbury and Van Johnson in an MGM technicolor extravaganza? That tingly sensation took hold. This was gonna be a great night.
Problem was, I purchased the DVD from a grocery store checkout line and the quality of the video transfer was shameful, and especially disappointing because I really wanted the bright, popping, obnoxiously potent pigments of the original print. (Kinda like getting animal crackers when what you really want is a big fat oreo.)
It’s not like I was expecting Ghandi, OK? And Hollywood biopics of the 40s and 50s are particularly notorious for flouting fact in favor of fiction so I was ready to take the plot of ‘Till the Clouds Roll By, the supposed story of the life of Jerome Kern, with a grain of salt. All I wanted was musical delirium and was quite prepared to fast-forward through the gosh-oh-gee-ain’t-life-swell scenes to get my fix.
But the fast-forward button was foiled by one Van Heflin.
Now I was going to have to pay attention. I’m sure all of us have certain favorites who more or less dictate whether or not we’re going to give a movie a shot. Van Heflin is absolutely one of mine. Even if my finger is about to switch the off button, if Heflin walks into the frame I have no choice but to watch. He simply leaves me no choice in the matter.
To some, Van Heflin may look like a “squat-faced kumquat” (<– © my Mother) but, I beg to differ. Maybe I’m just a sucker for squat-faced kumquats, but Heflin possesses a just-the-right-side-of-danger bad-boy edge that never fails to make my toes curl. The bobby-soxers may have swooned for Van Johnson when he makes his toe-tapping cameo in ‘Till the Clouds Roll By, but this gal’s swooning heart belongs to the other Van.
One never quite knows what to expect when Heflin steps into a picture. Is he going to melt my heart or murder my grandmother? Heflin toes the line between kindness and cruelty, danger and delight, with ease and dexterity … for it is perfectly clear that he is entirely capable of both. Suffice to say, Heflin is not a granny killer in ‘Till the Clouds Roll By (nor is he in any of his films, so I don’t know why I’m so gung-ho on the analogy) but Heflin’s very likeable role as Kern’s mentor and friend is still shadowed with his unique brand of roguish charm. Was this effect augmented by the fact that in Till the Clouds Roll By Heflin is surrounded by 1-dimensional, superficial character cut-outs? (Even darling Robert Walker is a bit of a yawn.) Well … perhaps. But I wager it’s due to the fact that Heflin is an absolute powerhouse of an actor, a total scene-stealer, and more often than not simply ends up walking away with any picture he’s in.
Once upon a time, Louis B. Mayer took one look at Heflin and told him flat-out, “You’ll never get the girl at the end [of the movie].” Heflin said, “I just didn’t have the looks and if I didn’t do a good acting job I looked terrible.”
Well, Mr. Mayer? Taking inventory of Heflin’s show-stopping performances in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, Johnny Eager, Possessed, The Prowler, Black Widow, Shane and 3:10 to Yuma, I think what you’ll find staring you back in the face is a prominently raised middle finger.
His best roles are the 40s noirs that demanded a new breed of leading man. John Garfield and Humphrey Bogart weren’t matinee idols, but they smoldered on screen and Heflin was perfect for the postwar realism that American audiences, sobered by War, demanded. The Robert Taylors of the world found themselves having to toughen up their image while guys like Hef were ahead of the curve. There is a confidence, even swagger, to Hef’s complete command of himself on screen, giving full credit to the credence that confidence is sexy. Not only do we believe that Joan Crawford is dangerously obsessed with him in Possessed… we totally get it.
Whatever Heflin may have lacked in conventional good looks mattered nothing. His undeniable appeal was rooted deep within and his performances, when viewed today, are still fresh and exciting. Overlooked today as, sadly, his work tends to be, Heflin was without doubt one of the finest actors to first emerge on the scene of postwar American cinema… and one hell of a cool cat.
This post is in conjunction with Sittin’ On A Backyard Fence’s “Summer Under the Stars Blogathon”—a month-long celebration of the film icons being spotlighted each day, all day, on Turner Classic Movies. Today, the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the tragic passing of Marilyn Monroe, I am dedicating this post to the Blogathon and, more importantly, to Monroe. A tormented woman of strength and talent that, five decades on, still shines… and inspires.
Perhaps one of the many reasons I have such a deep admiration and respect for Marilyn is due to the fact that the first film I saw of hers, or rather, the first film I remember watching start to finish ( Marilyn’s films are so rooted in our cultural subconscious that someone can feel as though they’ve seen her films even if they haven’t) was not her fluffy, fun, frivolous light comedies that immortalized her. Read more ►
Welcome Back Bob has generated a flurry of activity over on Twitter and Tumblr– thanks to any and all who have turned out to voice their support of Mr. Robert Osborne’s return to TCM. Since today is the big day, The Pictorial is letting its readers know that at 8PM Eastern Standard Time, when Osborne hits the airwaves, we are co-hosting a massive Live Tweet.
If by chance you are a Twitter user, please do log on at 8PM EST and post a quick tweet welcoming him back. (And don’t forget to use the hash tag #WelcomeBackBob so we can find you!) If you don’t have a twitter account, do feel free to send your thoughts to the Pictorial and we shall post it for you.