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It's the PENULTIMATE: Films that were second to last


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Time for one of those shocking confessions. Are you ready? I love the word penultimate. It comes from the Latin paenultimas, which means "almost last."

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Anyway, I was thinking about how so many classic stars' penultimate films are overlooked, because the focus is often put on the last movie they made, not on the second to last movie. 

Incidentally, TCM programmers, this would make a great month-long series.

In the posts that follow, I will be highlighting different penultimate films. Feel free to add others as we go along...

 

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I'm starting in Naples with the first example.

Clark Gable made his penultimate film in the fall of 1959.

It was released the following summer.

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IT STARTED IN NAPLES (1960)

Extra trivia: Gable's last color film, and the last one to be released while he was alive (THE MISFITS was released posthumously in 1961).

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Let's talk about sweet Lillian.

Lillian Gish appeared in her penultimate film in the mid-80s.

She was directed by Alan Alda.

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SWEET LIBERTY (1986)

Extra trivia: Gish was 92 at the time; she is sixth-billed. She appeared in her last movie a year later.

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If only Peter Sellers had ended with Being There instead of The Fiendish Plot of Fu Manchu...

Or Vincent Price had ended with Edward Scissorhands instead of The Thief & the Cobbler...  😥

(BTW:  Just post the list now, and let the discussion fall where it may.)

And darn, from the title, thought it was going to be about penultimate films in a series, and why nobody believed me when I complained that "Avengers: Infinity War" was basically just the Marvel remake of "Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1".

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17 hours ago, EricJ said:

BTW:  Just post the list now, and let the discussion fall where it may.

What I have noticed is that for some stars with long careers, the penultimate films are occasionally quite bad. Like you can see why they would abandon their movie careers, since obviously the scripts coming their way were of poor quality.

Then there are the youngsters who died in their prime, and the penultimate films give us a glimpse of what might have been.

I am not including TV movies in this. But I am including roles where stars may do voice-over narration or voice characters in animated films. Those count.

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Carole Landis' penultimate film was a British crime flick called NOOSE (1948). But retitled as THE SILK NOOSE when it was released to theaters in the U.S. 

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Carole made this movie and her last one in Britain in 1947. She committed suicide in the summer of 1948. Both films were released after her death. Just before she died, she had signed a contract to do two more British-American pictures. So I don't think she was intending on killing herself.

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Andrea Leeds. Her film career only lasted from 1933 to 1940. But she made an impact in STAGE DOOR (1937), earning an Oscar nomination. She had starring roles after that, and gives a nice performance in her penultimate film:

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In this photograph Joan Bennett is not terrified because her cousin's a vampire. She's terrified because she just realized what a huge electric bill Collinwood Manor has. She has started turning off all the lights and that is why it is now a HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS (1970)

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Gene Hackman's penultimate film, 2003's Runaway Jury (and one he costars in with his old NYC apartment mate Dustin Hoffman during their salad years)...

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...is sure a heck of lot better film than the last one he ever made before he retired, the 2004 Ray Romano big screen comedy vehicle Welcome to Mooseport...

mooseport.jpg

 

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Bailiff: Do you swear to the tell the truth, THE WHOLE TRUTH (1958), and nothing but the truth?

Donna: Yes, I swear.

Prosecuting Attorney: Okay good. Now, Miss Reed, is it true that this is your penultimate film and that you would soon abandon the big screen for a TV sitcom?

Donna: Um, yes. I don't see any crime in that.

Prosecuting Attorney: And Miss Reed, is it true that Stewart Granger is a pretty darn good kisser?

Defense Counsel: Objection, your honor!

Prosecuting Attorney: I withdraw the question. But Miss Reed if would kindly answer that question for me after court adjourns, I would most appreciate it.

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The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He causes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul; He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake.

Even when I walk in the VALLEY OF THE DOLLS (1967), I will fear no evil for You Susan Hayward are with me; Your high camp performance and Your box office success-- they comfort me.

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