ValentineXavier

What docs would you like to see on TCM?

21 posts in this topic

There have been some arguments about some docs that some people don't think belong on TCM, so I thought it might be nice to hear what docs people would like to see on TCM. I like documentary film, and would like to see just a bit more on TCM, but obviously, docs should not become a large percentage of their films.

 

I see on the IMDb that they have listings for more than 1200 docs made before 1900! I wonder how many still exist? Of course in the early days of film, most of it was just pointing a camera at something happening in the world, so you might say that in the beginning, almost ALL films were documentary!

 

Of course I would like to see old and rare stuff, and much as I love Michael Moore's docs, I don't think his films are right for TCM, except perhaps if shown occasionally in some appropriate context. But, I don't think a doc has to be ancient, or even rare to deserve a place on TCM.

 

To demonstrate, and answer my own subject question, I would like to see some of the docs of Les Blank. He is well-known to doc buffs, but doesn't get much air play. His first film, made in 1960, *Running Around Like a Chicken With Its Head Cut Off* would be great to see on TCM. Another favorite is 1987's *Gap-Toothed Women*. It has some performers, like Lauren Hutton, and Claudia Schmidt, plus lots of other accomplished women, Sandra day O'Connor for one, who are "gap-toothed women." It is very amusing, and I doubt it has ever been shown on television.

 

The one film Les made that does get some play, on the IFC, IIRC, is *Burden of Dreams*, about the making of Werner Herzog's film *Fitzcaraldo*. It is an excellent film, which will greatly enhance your appreciation for *Fitzcarraldo*. No need for TCM to show that one.

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I'm open to anything, preferably older, but none more than *The Fighting Lady* (1944), Edward Steichen's color documentary shot on board the USS Yorktown .

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I'd like to see that one too. Good color film from WWII is fairly rare, and I don't think I've seen that one.

 

Another Les Blank film I have never seen, but would love to see, is *A Poem is a Naked Person*, shot over a three year period, hanging out with Leon Russell, in Oklahoma, and at his home recording studio. Not available on DVD.

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I've never heard of that one, and I love Russell. Musical and war documentaries hold my interest better than most.

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Others are fine that talk about the studio system and the people in the business such as the photographers who took the stills of the stars and the men that ran the studios. Its just would be nice to see stories on these women who helped make Hollywood.

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"Brother Can You Spare A Dime" a 1975 documentary depicting the great depression...from human tragedy to Hollywood glitter. I seen this many years ago. It was either on TCM or AMC, I can't remember which.

 

 

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Now that TCM has struck a deal with Fox to show their films, I think "Marilyn Monroe: The Final Days" would be a great documentary to show. The focus is on her relationship to the studio and the filming of "Something's Got To Give", without the controversial murder/suicide/overdose questions, so it would be very appropriate for a channel which focuses on movies and moviemakers. And it ends with a forty minute reconstruction of what "Something's Got To Give" would have looked like, using the available footage. This is significant since for many years the public accepted the story floated by the studio (and Hedda Hopper) that the footage was unusable because Marilyn was so out of it, acting as if "underwater". This was probably a ploy to establish an insurance claim, even though it blackened the name of their biggest star. Anyone who gets a look at this reconstruction will see that Marilyn was stunning in her maturity and very much in the moment. The camera still loved her. This documentary includes an astonishing revelation from studio documents (and not something known to previous biographers, apparently) that the studio itself regretted its action and quietly rehired her just before she died to complete the film, but it was the humiliation of her public firing that has become the history. This fascinating documentary goes a long way in reestablishing Marilyn's tarnished professional reputation.

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In 1973 and 1975, PBS aired a terrific documentary about Stalin that was written and produced for the BBC by Hungarian emigre documentarian Robert Vas (1931-1978). Running 3 hours, it was a very powerful mix of period film (including fascinating and chilling examples of Soviet Stalinist propoganda) and contemporary dramatic readings from British actors Peter Copley, Sebastian Shaw, Lee Montague, Jill Balcon, and Michael Gough, who was the narrator.

 

If TCM could obtain it from the BBC's archives (a very tall order, I know) it would be a tremendous service to both history and the art of documentary filmmaking to air it. It is one of the best documentaries about Stalin ever made.

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At the risk of seeming excessively focused on Marilyn, I'd love to see "Marilyn" (1963). It's essentially a compilation film from Twentieth Century-Fox, released after her death. A suave, cigarette smoking Rock Hudson strolling through a Fox soundstage provides the narration which strings together clips from her films for the studio. (It sort of prefigures the "That's Entertainment" films in this way.) The obvious fault is that some of her major work was for other studios and is not represented, but this film offers an opportunity to see her work in infrequently shown movies for Fox such as "O. Henry's Full House" and "A Ticket to Tomahawk". Also included are major musical numbers. All-in-all, it's a good introductory overview of her career at Fox and a very respectable tribute to her per se. I have no idea of whether or not a good copy exists, since The Fox Movie Channel hasn't ever shown it (to my knowledge). I saw it at the time in a theater and once again on Boston TV's "The Movie Loft" in the 1980's (not a great print). If it's available at all, it would be a good anchor for a block of Marilyn films on TCM.

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I really enjoyed when TCM showed DAVE BRUBECK IN HIS OWN SWEET WAY (2010) a few years ago-it was excellent.

 

I also think TITLE KING (2008) about Saul Bass would be great to see on TCM. They could show WHY MAN CREATES (1968) as a double feature with it.

 

What about the fun SEARCHING FOR DEBRA WINGER about today's women's complaint there's no good roles for women outside of sexpots? And the wonderful THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE about filmmaker Robert Evans?

 

They certainly have "classic movies" tie-ins.

 

Interesting "making of" documentaries that are often part of Criterion sets are also an untapped source for TCM. Although most are a total bore*, sometimes movies with special effects offer interesting behind-the-scenes view on movie making. The often shown POLTERGEIST one TCM shows as a filler comes to mind.

 

*I understand they are often made for insurance documentation purposes.

 

And as much as I love THE ARISTOCRATS, it's not suitable for TCM.

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