William Holden was the king of the 1950s. In 1939, he made his debut in Golden Boy alongside his dear friend Barbara Stanwyck. Throughout the 1940s, Holden was absent from Hollywood while he served in WWII. He then made a huge return with Sunset Blvd. (1950), Born Yesterday (1950), and Stalag 17 (1953), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Happy Holidays from The Fence!
It’s never been a better time to be a classic film fan. With numerous theatre screenings across the country, the TCM Film Festival, never before released and remastered films on DVD/Blu-ray– there’s an abundance of goodies for every fan. With only two weeks until Christmas, I have put together a gift guide for the classic film fans on your list. Already done with your shopping or don’t celebrate Christmas? Then pick something out for yourself! Make sure to scroll through the entire post for some fantastic deals and enter the giveaway.
I love reviewing books here at The Fence. It’s been a while since I’ve posted a review, but I’ve been keeping an eye on new releases. There are a few must-haves for classic film fans:
Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capitol, 1928-1937
by Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Viera
Angel City Press
Released in March 2011, Harlow in Hollywood is quite possibly the best classic film related book in my collection. With a well-researched biography and stunning photos of Harlow all throughout her career, this is an absolute must for Jean Harlow fans. You can find my detailed review of the book here.
Silhouettes From Popular Culture
by Olly Moss
Titan Books has released a collection of Olly Moss silhouettes from the hugely popular Paper Cuts exhibition. This is a fun book for not just film fans, but pop culture buffs too! Look for a review coming soon.
You can order Silhouettes From Popular Culture from Amazon.
Marilyn in Fashion
by Christopher Nickens and George Zeno
There are countless books on Marilyn Monroe. Let’s face it: most of them are complete garbage. There are gems scattered throughout the trash, and Marilyn in Fashion is one of those beautiful gems. The photos alone are worth the price, but the book is so much more. With anecdotes of Monroe’s working relationship with designers and her fashion transformation throughout her career, Marilyn in Fashion is a lovely book to add to your collection. Order on Amazon.com
Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies
by Christel Schmidt
University Press of Kentucky
I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this book. I just won a copy from TCM’s monthly Book Corner giveaway. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and read it yet, but have thumbed through it a bit. It is absolutely stunning.
Here is a collection of some of my favorite DVD/Blu-ray releases along with some can’t miss deals:
Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) on DVD and Blu-ray
Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) on DVD/Blu
Ernst Lubitsch’s Design for Living (1933) on DVD/Blu
* All of these Criterion titles and others are on sale at Amazon.com.
The Ultimate Buster Keaton Collection on Blu-ray
W.S. Van Dyke’s Rage in Heaven (1941)
Jean Harlow Collection
Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume 4
Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume 5
Fox Home Entertainment
Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection DVD/Blu-ray
Princess Bride: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD/Blu-ray
Can’t miss bargains
The Complete Thin Man Collection
This retails for $60.00. Right now on Amazon it is only $17.99! If you don’t have this set, it’s a must!
Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection
Another great deal for Powell/Loy fans (and really, who isn’t a fan of theirs?) at only $18.49. This is a great set. My personal favorites are Manhattan Melodrama and I Love You Again.
Tracy & Hepburn: The Definitive Collection
This set includes every single film Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn made together. It’s under $25.00. Need I say more?
Christmas in Connecticut
One of the greatest Christmas films ever is only $4.00! You can find it at Amazon and at your local Target.
For those of you with a Costco membership, you might want to take a trip to check out their movie section. Recent finds include The Joan Crawford Collection, Warner Gangsters Collections, The Premiere Frank Capra Collection, Busby Berkeley, The Marx Bros Collection– all for under $15.00. Also in stores are numerous “Signature Collection” sets including: Bogie/Bacall, Tracy/Hepburn, James Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable. Of course there are no guarantees on what is in stock, but I always find lots of goodies! I’m still kicking myself for passing on the Preston Sturges set…
Other classic film goodies
- Love Charlie Chaplin? Then you definitely need to check out this lovely canvas print of The Little Tramp over at Ikea. There’s an Audrey Hepburn version, too.
- Fans of TCM are all too familiar with Robert Osborne’s signature TCM bistro mug. I own two and drink my coffee out of them every single day. A must have!
- If you’re a big spender, you can always go for a pass to the TCM Classic Film Festival. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. Money well spent!
Last, but certainly not least…
- My pal Cliff over at Immortal Ephemera has an amazing deal right now: Free shipping on all orders over $25.00 with additional discounts depending on your total. Cliff sells classic film related photos, postcards, tobacco cards, and other ephemera. Great selection and fantastic customer service.
It’s giveaway time!
The lovely folks over at Fox Home Entertainment are providing a copy of Patton (1970) on Blu-ray.
To enter the giveaway there are two requirements:
1) In an effort to curb spam entries, I’m requiring all entrants to subscribe to this website via email. You can do so at the very bottom of the page. Don’t worry– your email will remain private.
2) You must send an email to Contests (at) sittinonabackyardfence (dot) com. Please include “PATTON GIVEAWAY” in the subject line.
You have until Monday, December 17th at Midnight EST to enter. The winner will be chosen via random drawing and contacted during the day on the 18th.
This contest is only available to U.S. residents.
Full disclosure: Some of the links to Amazon are linked to this site’s affiliates page.
I first saw Executive Suite in an unlikely setting: a broadcast management class at Indiana University in 1978. I don’t remember how the film pertained to the class (or if the professor just wanted to take a break from lecturing). But the film, an engrossing look at corporate politics, stuck with me over the years. I didn’t see it again until I discovered a copy at a local video store in the 1990s. This second viewing surprised me—Executive Suite was far better than I remembered.
The opening scene, shot in first-person, has business executive Avery Bullard entering a skyscraper, taking an elevator, and sending a telegram to his board of directors about a meeting at 6:00. Bullard then leaves the building, hails a taxi, and keels over dead. It’s a terrific sequence, all the more effective for its lack of music (which is replaced by bells and street sounds).
We quickly learn that the 56-year-old Bullard was president of Tredway, the nation’s third-largest furniture manufacturer, located in Millburgh, Pennsylvania. After the death of his second-in-command, Bullard delayed in naming a successor. As a result, Bullard’s untimely death places the company in the hands of five vice-presidents with equal authority. Since Wall Street viewed Tredway as a one-man company, the VPs realize the criticality of naming a replacement to Bullard over the weekend.
Loren Shaw (Fredric March), Tredway’s ambitious VP of finance, quickly starts lining up the required votes to become the company’s new president. But his “profit first” approach clashes with the philosophy of board members Fred Alderson (Walter Pidgeon) and Don Walling (William Holden). They believe that investing in research and producing quality furniture will attract loyal customers and, eventually, generate long-term company growth. Alderson and Walling launch a frantic drive to find their own candidate capable of defeating Shaw. Blackmail, illegal stock trading, and a spurned lover all come into play before the board of directors finally selects Avery Bullard’s successor.
I admit a penchant for movies set over a short period (24 hours in Executive Suite) as well as a plot that builds to a scheduled event (e.g., the assassination in Day of the Jackal). Director Robert Wise, one of Hollywood’s most versatile directors, expertly shapes Executive Suite into a “time ticking” film. As the clock counts down to the climatic vote, it’s fascinating to watch alliances shift and deals fall through.
It’s equally compelling to ponder the philosophical underpinnings of the business decisions that will shape Tredway’s future. Walling’s passion for quality over profit is convincing at first. It helps, of course, that Walling is good-looking, a family man, and plays well with others. We’re supposed to pull for him. In contrast, Shaw comes across as greedy, cunning, and unattractive (I love how March wrings his hands, as if nervous over whether his plan to come to fruition). But if one ignores the messengers, isn’t there a lot to be said for Shaw’s approach? More than one company has gone bankrupt because its business model emphasized quality for the sake of profit. In another favorite business film, Other People’s Money (1991), Danny DeVito’s character makes a persuasive case that businesses owe it to their investors to make money!
If the profit vs. quality theme creates the foundation for Executive Suite, then it’s the performers that make each of the arguments compelling. The standouts in the superstar cast are Fredric March and Paul Douglas. After two decades as a leading man, March gave some of his best performances in smaller roles in the 1950s and 1960s (e.g., Inherit the Wind and Seven Days in May). He captures the ruthlessness and the impatient frustration that makes Shaw such a vivid character. Paul Douglas is equally good in a supporting role as a confident executive who gets backed into a corner. It’s a nice change-of-pace for Douglas, who specialized in playing nice guys in comedies like The Solid Gold Cadillac and It Happens Every Spring.
Executive Suite is often compared with 1956’s Patterns, another boardroom drama that was adapted from a Rod Serling TV play. Most critics prefer Patterns, which stars Everett Sloane as the world’s worst boss. I find the two films hard to compare; they’re two very different, each a fine work in its own right. Patterns may be the more realistic of the two, but Executive Suite offers an optimistic viewpoint that works better as sheer entertainment.