Monday, May 28, 2012

Myth Making: The Misfits (1961)

Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Arthur Miller traveled to Reno, Nevada, in the spring of 1956 to divorce his first wife. Fulfilling the state's six week residency requirement until the marriage was legally dissolved, Miller stayed at a cabin on Pyramid Lake, about 100 miles from "the biggest little city in the world." During his time in this "forbidding but beautiful place," he got to know a few modern-day cowboy types who made their living capturing wild mustangs and selling them to be butchered for dog food. Miller was invited to join them on one of these hunts. From his experiences in a "whole state full of misfits," Arthur Miller later fashioned a short story that was published the following year in Esquire magazine.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Over the Rain-Forest and the Still Water Beach

Mismaloya Photos
Abandoned movie set, Mismaloya, Mexico: photo courtesy of TripAdvisor

The programmers at Turner Classic Movies may not have planned the schedule with me in mind, but they’ve lined up a fine mix of films for me on my birthday this year.

Bruno Ganz in Wings of Desire
I share my day with Sir Laurence Olivier (born May 22, 1907), and TCM has programmed some films of his that I haven’t seen, including Term of Trial (1962), co-starring the great French actress, Simone Signoret. Later on in the day my beloved San Francisco provides the setting for the 1955 sci-fi classic, It Came from Beneath the Sea, in which the city is attacked by a radiation-enlarged octopus. In the evening, this month's TCM guest programmer, Deborah Winger, is set to appear. Among her choices is one film I haven’t seen but have had on my to-watch list for a long time: Wim Wenders' 1987 classic, Wings of Desire, brought its director the Best Director prize at Cannes in 1987 and won or was nominated for a raft of other awards.

Winger has also chosen to spotlight John Huston’s masterful production of Tennessee Williams' The Night of the Iguana (1964), one of the great film adaptations of Williams' work.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Tales of Hollywood: The Wild Ride of Preston Sturges

Turner Classic Movies began its salute to Star of the Month Joel McCrea on Wednesday, May 2, with two of his most enjoyable films - and two of the best films from writer/director Preston Sturges: Sullivan's Travels and The Palm Beach Story. Sturges was one of Hollywood's brightest lights during the early '40s, writing and directing in quick succession a unique and inspired string of spirited satires: The Great McGinty (1940) for which he won the first Oscar awarded for Best Original Screenplay, Christmas in July (1940), The Lady Eve (1941), Sullivan's Travels (1941), The Palm Beach Story (1942), The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) and Hail the Conquering Hero (1944). His last great gem, the dark, deft Unfaithfully Yours (1948), was made during his fall from grace and was for years overlooked. The world of Preston Sturges was the definition of a "cockeyed caravan"* - onscreen and off...