Friday, March 5, 2010

Girls of the Road (1940): Ann Dvorak Alert!

Ann Dvorak Alert!

Late, I know, but I just wanted to let others know that one of the terrific actress Ann Dvorak's most interesting later films, Girls of the Road (1940-Nick Grinde), is on very early tomorrow on TCM, on March 6th, 2010 at 4:15AM EST. Dvorak plays a governor's daughter who goes the Black Like Me and Each Dawn I Die route by facing a social problem incognito, (this time it is young women hitting the road during the Depression). The pint-sized actress Helen Mack and the always interesting tough gal, Lola Lane as well as the great utility actress Ann Doran are along for the ride!

Half-serious, occasionally scary and touching, (especially the girl who's hauling her wedding dress with her as she hitchhikes across country), it has a bit of grittiness along with the Hollywood gloss on the facts. I hope you will post about it if you have a chance to see this most intriguing programmer. There's a great background article here from TCM's MorlockJeff on the movie.

The Oscar (1966) Warm-Up

To assist us in our appreciation of this Sunday's Oscar ceremony, I thought I'd post these particularly splendid moments from the greatest movie about Inside Showbiz that has ever been made,The Oscar (1966-Russell Rouse).

Yes, as the advertisement promised, it is the story of "The dreamers and the schemers...the hustlers and the hopefuls...the free-loaders and the phonies...the fakers and the famous...all fighting for the highest possible award!"

Btw, this epic is being broadcast on TCM at the same time as the real Oscars on Sunday, March 7th. Lest we forget, there was a script, scribblers and at least one great writer behind this baroque morality play, sixties-style: Richard Sale, who wrote the novel that started it all, Russell Rouse, who also directed, and Clarence Greene--as well as the gifted and often frequently hilarious Harlan Ellison. If you like Ellison's sharp tongued, often brilliant observations, you may enjoy the documentary about this man, Dreams with Sharp Teeth (2008), which can be purchased here.

Highlights of the best moments (oh, those immortal lines!):

Tony Bennett's Immortal Meltdown, followed by Boyd's diatribe:

A Short, Happy Safari into Hemingway Movies

*Spoilers Abound Below*
Ernest Hemingway may have loathed most of the translations of his own stories to film, and sometimes with good reason. Happy endings were tacked on to many of his stories. In The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) a conflicted hero lived, despite a touch of systemic septicemia, a gangrenous leg, and a heckuva death wish. (The author fumed and called it 'The Snows of Zanuck' in private). Political realities were sometimes lost. For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) does not seem to have a commie in sight and only one mention of a fascist is made, at least by name. Evocative situations were embellished. The Killers (1946) left Hemingway's terse masterpiece behind after the first superb fifteen minutes, but the author expressed some liking for that one despite this amplification, (his acceptance of the film may have been partly due to the presence of Ava Gardner and the likability of the producer, Mark Hellinger). "A fat actor"--in Hemingway's words--played one of his best characters when an aging Spencer Tracy took the lead in The Old Man and the Sea (1958) a novella that led to the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to the writer in 1954.

Other, lesser known adaptations of Hemingway stories fared a bit better, with glimmers of the writer's elusive style in A Farewell to Arms (1932), and The Breaking Point (1950).Of course, Ernie wasn't allergic to the money the studios tossed in his lap for these tales, though he was miffed when he learned what some of them eventually earned after he sold the rights to the books to filmmakers. He reportedly didn't speak to Howard Hawks for six months after he challenged the director to make a movie from what Hawks called "his worst book"; only to have To Have and To Have Not become a giant hit, even though the story had little to do with the original novel. Nor did he disdain the company of the beautiful and the gifted people who sometimes took roles in these movies. Who can blame him for feeling the pull of the glamorous company of his hunting buddy Gary Cooper, radiant Ava Gardner or the glorious Ingrid Bergman, among others?

As early as 1926, when The Sun Also Rises became a best selling account of the wounded and rootless members of The Lost Generation adrift in Europe, Maxwell Perkins, the renowned Scribner's editor, asked his suddenly famous author how he wanted him to field inquiries from the movie capital. Hemingway replied "As for movie rights please do the best you can i.e. the best money you can get--I do not go to the movies and would not care what changes they made. That is their gain or loss. I don't write movies,"...more on the TCM Movie Morlocks


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