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Guest Programmers and their Films


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  • 6 months later...

Guest Programmer: Frank Langella

The Oscar-nominated star of Frost/Nixon (2008), who recently won a Screen Actors Guild Award as part of the ensemble cast of The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020), takes over as TCM programmer Thursday, May 27, to present three of his all-time favorite films. In a career spanning almost 60 years, Langella has played everything from Dracula (on Broadway and in the 1979 film version) to King Lear (at the UK’s Chichester Festival Theatre and the Brooklyn Academy of Music). He made his Broadway debut in Yerma at Lincoln Center, starring Gloria Foster, and he went on to win four Tony Awards. He made his film debut in 1970’s Diary of a Mad Housewife and has appeared in such notable features as The Twelve Chairs (1970), Those Lips, Those Eyes (1980), Masters of the Universe (1987), Eddie (1996) and Good Night and Good Luck (2005). His released his memoir, Dropped Names: Famous Men and Women As I Knew Them, in 2012.

Langella’s three programming picks, released during his formative years in New Jersey, are:

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945) — This adaptation of George Victor Martin’s novel stars Edward G. Robinson as a Norwegian-born farmer raising daughter Margaret O’Brien on a Wisconsin farm during World War II. The film is fondly remembered by fans of both stars and notable for its sensitive screenplay by Dalton Trumbo, penned a few years before he was blacklisted.

Arsenic and Old Lace (1944) — Joseph Kesselring’s uproarious stage farce focuses on two sweet old ladies given to poisoning lonely old men to end their suffering. Josephine Hull and Jean Adair reprised their performances as the murderous maidens from the original Broadway production, though the show’s producers would not release Boris Karloff to film his most famous stage role. Raymond Massey took his place in a film also starring Cary Grant and Peter Lorre.

The Stranger (1946) — Orson Welles had a rare box-office success directing and starring as an escaped Nazi war criminal living under an assumed name in a small Connecticut town. Loretta Young co-stars as his unsuspecting fiancée, with Edward G. Robinson (in a role originally planned for Agnes Moorehead) as the Nazi hunter on his trail. Langella met Young twice and wrote of her in his memoirs, “Miss Young wore [her beauty] like a halo: radiant and definitive….”

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Guest Programmer: Andrew McCarthy

Actor, writer and director Andrew McCarthy joins host Dave Karger for a special night as a guest programmer where McCarthy will discuss some of his favorite movies. Best known for the so-called Brat Pack movies of the 1980s, McCarthy has since forged a successful career behind the camera on such shows as Orange Is the New Black and as an award-winning travel writer while continuing to appear in film and television roles.

The evening starts with the film Charles Chaplin called “the greatest movie ever made about America.” Based on Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel “An American Tragedy,” itself inspired by a notorious 1906 murder and trial, A Place in the Sun (1951) stars two of the period’s most glamorous and sought-after young stars. Montgomery Clift plays a poor young man desperate to move out of his humble beginnings and live a privileged high life. His determination is fueled by his mounting desire and love for a beautiful young debutante, played by Elizabeth Taylor (and in 1951, society women didn’t come much more beautiful and desirable). His climb up the corporate and social ladder, however, is complicated by his own moral confusion, not least over an affair with a dowdy factory worker (Shelley Winters, abandoning her early bombshell appeal to whine and snivel her way to her first Academy Award nomination).

Troubled, wayward youth is also the focus of McCarthy’s second pick, East of Eden (1955), featuring a typically intense performance from James Dean, establishing himself quickly as a star and acting force in his first major feature. Money also plays a major role in this plot, as Dean seeks to win his stern father’s approval by capitalizing on the U.S. entry into World War I with a scheme to make a fortune growing beans on their failing farm. 

The story is based loosely on the fourth and final part of John Steinbeck’s sprawling 1952 best seller. Elia Kazan, fresh off his success with On the Waterfront (1954), directs a sterling cast that also includes Raymond Massey, Julie Harris, Richard Davalos and Jo Van Fleet, who won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her role as Dean’s “scarlet woman” mother.

Returning to high society glamour for the final screening of the night, McCarthy picks The Philadelphia Story (1940), George Cukor’s adaptation of Philip Barry’s long-running Broadway sensation. That was the play Katharine Hepburn went East to star in after she was declared “box office poison” and left her RKO contract. When MGM sought the screen rights, the studio found Hepburn owned them and, although reluctant to cast her, they couldn’t make it without her. To hedge their bets, they cast two of the biggest male stars of the time to support her: Cary Grant and James Stewart. Hepburn reportedly wanted Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy, who were otherwise committed. In any case, her co-stars were no slouches; Stewart won an Oscar for his performance. Her first teaming with Tracy would have to wait until her next picture, Woman of the Year (1942).

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On 6/15/2021 at 10:59 AM, Hibi said:

All shown to death on TCM.......

I was thinking the same thing.  I like all three movies but prefer when guest programmers choose movies that aren't in heavy rotation at TCM.

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  • 2 months later...

Guest Programmer: John Mellencamp


By Roger Fristoe
August 25, 2021

6 Movies / September 17 and 24

Singer/songwriter/artist John Mellencamp joins TCM as a special guest for two nights of hosted conversations about some of his favorite classic movies and performers. Mellencamp’s film choices offer a lineup of the “new breed” of earthy, Method-trained actors who changed the tone of film performances beginning in the 1940s and continuing through the 1950s and ‘60s: John Garfield, Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, James Dean and Paul Newman.

Mellencamp, born in the small town of Seymour, Indiana, in 1951, was fronting a soul band by the time he was 14. He was known for a time as Johnny Cougar and later as John Cougar Mellencamp. His first album was released in 1976 and, beginning in 1982, he amassed a series of 22 Top 40 hits. Mellencamp has sold more than 30 million albums in the U.S. and 60 million worldwide. He has won a Grammy Award and been nominated for a dozen others. His most recent album, Sad Clowns and Hillbillies, was released in 2017 to critical acclaim. He has several film credits as an actor.

He is also an accomplished visual artist, specializing in portraits with an influence of German Expressionism. His artwork has been the subject of several exhibitions. Below are the actors and films showcased by Mellencamp during his TCM appearance.

John Garfield (1913-1952) stars with Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamarr in Tortilla Flat (1942), based on John Steinbeck’s 1935 novel about life in a poor Mexican community near Monterey, California. Garfield, an alumnus of the famous Group Theatre, introduced a new kind of naturalism with his acting in this and other films including The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) and He Ran All the Way (1951). Mellencamp once said of Tortilla Flat, “It’s a movie about possessions and how useless they are.”

Montgomery Clift (1920-1966) has a relatively minor role in The Misfits (1961), playing a battered rodeo rider in support of stars Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. But a decade earlier Clift had been the ultimate sensitive young leading man in such films as A Place in the Sun (1951) and From Here to Eternity (1953).

Marlon Brando (1924-2004) won a Best Actor Oscar for On the Waterfront (1954) for playing Terry Malloy, a dockworker embroiled with the mob. He also stars in The Fugitive Kind (1960) as drifter Val Xavier, a character created by Tennessee Williams. Brando, who established his reputation as the most exciting actor of his generation in Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), also attracted attention in the 1953 film The Wild One. It was his appearance as a trouble-prone biker in this film that inspired Mellencamp’s lyric in his song “You’ve Got to Stand for Somethin’”: “I saw Marlon Brando/On a motorcycle/He was actin’ out rebellion.”

James Dean (1931-55) made his cinematic debut starring in East of Eden (1955) and appeared in only two more films before his life was cut short by a car accident. Dean, who specialized in playing alienated young loners, was also a master of attitude. Again, Mellencamp used the name of one of the actors he most admires in his lyrics. In his song “Jack and Diane,” young Jack does “his best James Dean” to impress Diane with how cool he is.

Paul Newman (1925-2008), the star of Cool Hand Luke (1967), was the successor to James Dean in certain ways, taking over some of the late star’s roles and proving his own skill at playing rebels who were tough on the outside but sensitive underneath. Newman’s other memorable vehicles included Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and Hud (1963). Mellencamp has commented that Newman was “the first movie star I liked.” He was especially intrigued by Cool Hand Luke and “the whole thing of this guy who was really at war with the system.”

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Guest Programmer: Dana Delaney


By Roger Fristoe
August 25, 2021

2 Movies / September 18

Celebrated actress and TCM friend Dana Delaney joins host Ben Mankiewicz on this evening for a double feature of films she enjoys watching and discussing. New York City-born Delaney had her breakthrough role and won two primetime Emmy Awards for ABC-TV’s China Beach (1988-91). She is also well-remembered for such films as Tombstone (1993), The Margaret Sanger Story (1995) and Fly Away Home (1996).

Delaney has played major roles in several television series including ABC’s Desperate Housewives and Amazon’s Hand of God. She has also done some high-profile voice work, notably for the DC Animated Universe, where her roles have included Lois Lane in Superman.

Delaney has been a special guest at several TCM Classic Film Festivals and served as guest host introducing films on the network. Interviewed at the 2019 Festival, she said, “I love TCM. It’s my go-to-channel and I have it on all day. Of course, I get nothing done because I get sucked in by the movies. But it makes me happy!”

“Obviously I like dark, sad movies,” Delaney has said of her film picks in the past. She remains true to that motif with her choices here, both filmed in black-and-white with a noir flavor.

Once a Thief (1965), Delaney’s first selection, stars Alain Delon as an Italian immigrant with a checkered past who struggles to go straight in San Francisco. The strong cast also includes Ann-Margret as Delon’s wife, Van Heflin as a police inspector determined to find him guilty of robbery and murder and Jack Palance as Delon’s scheming brother. Ralph Nelson directs from a script by Zekial Marko.

Man on a Tightrope (1953), Delaney’s next choice, is one of director Elia Kazan’s lesser-seen films – an atmospheric drama about a circus manager (Fredric March) in Czechoslovakia who plans to lead his troupe in an escape from behind the Iron Curtain. Also starring are Gloria Grahame as March’s wife and Terry Moore as his daughter. The screenplay by Robert E. Sherwood is based on Neil Paterson’s novel, which in turn was inspired by the real-life exploits of the Circus Brumbach, a troupe that escaped from East Germany in 1950.

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Guest Programmers: Guillermo Del Toro & Kim Morgan


By Rob Nixon
November 15, 2021

TCM host Dave Karger welcomes director and screenwriter Guillermo del Toro and screenwriter Kim Morgan as they discuss films that inspired their new version of Nightmare Alley (2021), coming to theaters on December 17, 2021, and starring Bradley Cooper, Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. The trio will present films from the heyday of the film noir style of the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Lizabeth Scott, the noir blonde with the smoky voice, plays one of her characteristic ruthless women, a discontented housewife who accidentally comes into possession of a large sum of stolen money and will do anything to keep it in Too Late for Tears (1949). Directed for the second time by Byron Haskin (I Walk Alone, 1947), she plays a dangerous game with law-abiding husband Arthur Kennedy and noir’s favorite sleazy thug Dan Duryea.

Another indelible fixture of film noir, Dana Andrews (Fallen Angel, 1945; While the City Sleeps, 1956) stars in Otto Preminger’s Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950). He plays a brutal cop who accidentally kills a gambler and falls for his estranged wife (Gene Tierney, Andrews’ co-star in an earlier Preminger film, Laura, 1944). When her innocent cabbie father is accused of the crime, Andrews has to race against time to cover up his deed and shift the blame onto a racketeer.

The evening’s program wraps up with the original version of Nightmare Alley (1947), in which ambitious carney Tyrone Power (cast wildly against his romantic leading man type) cooks up a scheme to bilk rich people by posing as a mentalist, with disastrous results. Jules Furthman (Shanghai Express, 1932; The Big Sleep, 1946) adapted William Lindsay Gresham’s dark, harrowing 1946 novel, with a hopeful ending tacked on by order of Twentieth Century Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck. The picture was so distasteful to Zanuck that he had it quickly withdrawn from distribution. Re-released in the mid-1950s, it proved to be a hit, especially on the drive-in circuit. Word is that del Toro and Morgan have stayed closer to the original source material for their new version, hitting theaters in mid-December.

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