The fourth annual (and my second) TCM Classic Film Festival is over. What a wonderful experience, one that I never expected would have exceeded that of the fantastic 2012 festival. I spent time with friends new and old, sipped cocktails poolside at the historic Roosevelt Hotel, had steaks and expensive wine in the Chaplin booth at Musso & Frank Grill, had a piece of memorabilia appraised by Bonhams, and enjoyed the greatest classic films on the big screen, several of them new-to-me. I barely slept, I ate like a bird, but I had the greatest time a classic film fan can have.
Before I made my trip to Hollywood for the festival, I wrote up my picks. Just like in 2012, I wasn’t able to stick to all of them. In some cases, the screenings were “sold out” and in other cases I either changed my mind at the last minute or was persuaded by friends. In case you missed it, here is my pre-festvial piece, The Tantalus Dilemma Redux.
In 2012 I attended the 3rd Annual TCM Classic Film Festival (and my 1st). In 2010 I was unable to attend because I had a bun in the oven and in 2011 the little bun was too young for me to leave. It was hard for me to stay here, watching the commercials, seeing the live blogs and tweets, and of course the footage from the Festival itself. I honestly didn’t think it would ever be a possibility for me to go. When the opportunity arose for me to attend in 2012, everything fell into place. All of the things I worried about were non-issues and all of the things I didn’t think would be issues? Well…
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.
You can order Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies from the TCM Shop or on Amazon
Here is a collection of some of my favorite DVD/Blu-ray releases along with some can’t miss deals:
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.
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…
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.
The Blu-ray release of Herbert Blaché’s The Saphead (1920) is the latest addition to Kino’s extensive catalog of Buster Keaton films. The Saphead holds the distinction of being Keaton’s first feature length motion picture. Prior to this movie, he starred in a number of two-reel shorts with dear friend and mentor Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle. The Saphead is adapted from Winchell Smith’s stage play The New Henrietta, whichstarred Douglas Fairbanks. WhenMetro Studios began casting for the film, Fairbanks was asked to recreate his role as the dim-witted, well-meaning Bertie Van Alstyne. He declined and suggested Keaton for the part.
Nicholas “Old Nick” Van Alstyne (William H. Crane) is a wealthy investor and businessman in New York City. Old Nick’s most recent acquisition is the Henrietta Mine, making him the richest man in town. Despite his prominence in the stock market and New York society, Old Nick struggles with the perpetual thorn in his side, son Bertie (Buster Keaton). Each night Bertie stays out late gambling and carousing, usually sleeping until late afternoon. Adding insult to Old Nick’s injury, Bertie is rather dense. Truth is, Bertie is actually feigning his wild behavior to win the heart of Agnes (Beulah Booker), who happens to be his adopted sister. Bertie’s biological sister Rose (Carol Holloway) knows that he loves Agnes, but must keep it a secret from their father. Upon returning home from college, Agnes informs Rose that she is in love with Bertie. Relieved that he no longer has to live the life of a playboy, Bertie proposes marriage to Agnes. Fearful of Old Nick’s reaction to their engagement, the couple asks Rose to break the news. Old Nick immediately condemns their engagement, citing Bertie’s n’er-do-well tendencies. Nick reluctantly agrees to bless their union on the condition Bertie establishes independence so to provide for Agnes. Despite the best of intentions, Bertie struggles to win his father’s favor. Stepping into the “ideal son” role is Rose’s husband, Mark (Irving Cummings). Although Old Nick respects and trusts him, Mark is a failure. Rose urges her father to help Mark steady his feet in the business world so he can be successful. The family doesn’t realize that Mark is dishonest and hiding a dark secret. Through a series of terrible events, Old Nick is on the verge financial ruin, but is rescued by a most unlikely hero.
Although this is Keaton’s first feature-length motion picture, it is certainly not a Buster Keaton film. He did not have any creative control over the writing, production, and direction as he did in later films like The General, Our Hospitality, and Sherlock Jr.The Saphead is merely a mediocre film with a restrained, underused Keaton. There is one brief sequence near the end of the film allowing Keaton to show a glimpse of his physical comedy genius, but the scene feels disjointed from the rest of the movie.
Kino Classics has a tremendous reputation for providing high quality, extras-laden DVDs and Blu-rays. The Saphead is no exception. The video and audio are both exceptional, especially for a 92 year old film. The Blu-ray edition features two versions of the movie, one being the standard American release and the other an alternate version intended for international audiences. The disc includes a brief featurette comparing the two versions. Also included are two different scores: one by Robert Israel and the other by Ben Model. One of the most enjoyable extras is an audio recording from 1962 entitled Buster Keaton: Life of the Party. Although The Saphead is not a great movie, Kino’s release is a nice addition to your Buster Keaton collection.
The Saphead (Ultimate Edition)
Starring: Buster Keaton, Carol Holloway, Edward Connelly, William H. Crane
Composers: Ben Model & Robert Israel
Disclaimer: I received a review copy directly from Kino Lorber.
Note: You will NOT see the word “Bromance” mentioned in this post. I find it to be the most ridiculous term ever. I will also go on record to say that I strongly dislike “Chick-flick”, “Bromcom”, “Romcom”. You will see the words “man”, “manly” and “dude” maybe even “dudely.”
Ah, the buddy flick. Two guys (sometimes more) out to take on the world. It doesn’t matter when, where, and how their journey takes place, it’s about their friendship and how they deal with adversity and triumph. Women may come and go, and there may even be a fight between them over the same woman. Yet almost always, the friendship will prevail–even in death. Using the mechanism of the buddy film, Hollywood is able to appeal to men’s emotional side. In classic film, a vast majority of the buddy films appear to be dramas. In the gangster genre I immediately think of James Cagney and Pat O’Brien. These two were close friends in real life, and although they made all kinds of films (and frequently collaborated Frank McHugh, another close pal), I always think of their roles in Angels with Dirty Faces. Another pairing is that of William Powell and Clark Gable. Theirs was in Manhattan Melodrama, one of my favorites, and a similar story line to that of Angels with Dirty Faces: two young friends grow up together on the wrong side of the tracks. One makes it to the right side and lives an honorable and decent life, while the other continues in a life of crime. Despite their differences, they remain friends and can always pick up where they left off.
In the action/adventure genre there is only one teaming that comes to mind: Errol Flynn and Alan Hale. Although Hale was very much a supporting character to Flynn’s leading roles, it’s hard to think of one without the other. Flynn is charming and handsome, and Hale is the sidekick with all the funny quips. They get along so well because there is no competition over women. They each know their place and are friends until the very end. There are some classic comedies with best pals. First are the Road pictures starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. In the silent era, Buster Keaton and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle made quite the team. Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, The Marx Brothers are all perfect examples. There are even buddies in musicals, with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra starring in three films (Anchors Aweigh, On the Town, and Take Me Out to the Ballgame) immediately coming to mind.
Of all the genres, the two that are the fullest of testosterone and strong male friendships, are war stories and westerns. From Battleground to Ride the High Country, these films always feature two friends dealing with the toughest of circumstances.
In the 1980′s and early 1990′s, theaters were inundated with action-packed, testosterone-fueled BFF adventures: 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, and their respective sequels (and threequels and fourquels). These films definitely appealed to a very male audience, but frequently cast the current luscious beefcake to help draw in the ladies. At the time many of these films were considered edgy. By today’s standards, the “raunchy” language of 1980s Eddie Murphy is a distant memory (after all, he is Donkey, Doctor Dolittle and runs Daddy Day Care…oh and he occasionally gives car rides to needy transvestite hookers). In recent years the buddy flick has become an exposition for the raunchiest language, random and pointless nudity (each film appears to compete for the most hideous nude scene or most graphic discussions about bodily functions), and general caveman-like behavior. Their masculinity is worn not on their sleeve, but on a t-shirt three sizes too small and positioned squarely on their chest. Underneath is a tagline that says “I love boobies and I’m absolutely and positively NOT GAY!.” Some of these newer films are quite funny, despite their overt attempts at pure manly manliness (I give Judd Apatow a lot of credit because his films have heart, sometimes too much. They also appear to be a little insecure about acknowledging love between two friends, re: constant gay jokes).
Going back to classics, I have to admit that I love a lot of the “manly” genres. Some of my favorite films feature two male friends. Sure there might be a love interest, but the friendship is always a main attraction. When thinking about the films for this blogathon, I turned to my husband. The two of us compared our list of quintessential male buddy films and we had a lot of duplicates. However, he had several listed that I did not consider. A few of them are highlighted below.
Cool Hand Luke
My husband is very adamant over Cool Hand Luke being the essential buddy flick. There are no women (unless you consider the big bosomed car wash lady), thus no traditional romance. The “romance” is between the two main characters Luke (Paul Newman) and Dragline (George Kennedy). It is Luke’s strength and determination (and Messiah-like presence) to find a way out that has Dragline and the whole chain gang admiring him. Dragline’s devotion to Luke is so strong and he risks his life just to be around him. Call it hero worship. They are a mismatched duo, but they have each other’s back right to the end. No women, no fortune, no prospects– just brought together by incredibly horrendous circumstances. How does Cool Hand Luke appeal to women? I don’t think I should have to answer that one.
I have to admit that George Stevens’s classic is one of my all time favorites. In my opinion it is one of the greatest action/adventure films ever made. The friendship between Cutter (Cary Grant), MacChesney (Victor McLaglen), and Ballantine (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) is unwavering. That’s not to say they do not have their differences. Cutter is a bit of a handful with his pipe dreams about finding hidden treasures and golden palaces, and often agitates his comrades. MacChesney is the highest ranked officer of the trio and tries to maintain straight military protocol. Ballantine struggles over starting his life with the woman he loves, or continuing the adventures with his best friends. In addition to the strong friendship between the three, Cutter forms an unlikely bond with the regiment’s water boy, Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe). The two have a mutual admiration and both set out to find their fortunes. Although there is a female character, Ballantine’s fiancee Emmy (Joan Fontaine), she is negatively portrayed as needy and generally whiny. Not great for female viewers, but it helps reinforce the unbreakable bond between the best friends. Despite this, I still love the story and the main characters. Although it ends on a bittersweet note, Gunga Din is also quite a funny film at times.
I realize that Blazing Saddles does not fall under the traditional “classic film” label because it was made after the 1969 cut-off, but it would be flat out wrong to dismiss it strictly based on when it was made. Mel Brooks is a master and Blazing Saddles is his finest masterpiece. Sure it is off-color at times, but it all comes from a good place. Brooks took the typical western (and the musical) and turned it upside down. The Ballad of Rock Ridge is a parody of the main theme in the film High Noon, Madeline Kahn is in full Marlene Dietrich mode with her stage performances, and the hero is…black. Whoa! A western with a black hero? And his sidekick is white? Obviously this arrangement makes way for a endless amount of jokes, but also serves as a commentary on racism. Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) and Jim (Gene Wilder) form a fast friendship. They are both social outcasts– Bart because he is black, and Jim because he’s a drunk, and fallen from his glory days as sharpshooter The Waco Kid. The pair team up to save the town of Rock Ridge against the evil forces of Hedley “That’s Hed-ley” Lamarr (Harvey Korman). Underneath the sometimes gross humor (the farting scene) and colorful language, is a story about two best friends…who ride into the sunset not on their horses, but in a limousine.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
For my husband, Cool Hand Luke is the ultimate buddy film. For me, I look no further than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. From start to tragic finish, it is a beautiful film. Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) rob trains and banks. They are really good at it too. Although criminals, they are loved from the first moment. The two are partners through and through right until the bloody end. Butch and Sundance are truly living an outlaw’s life, but having loads of fun in the process. They are also fortunate enough to keep company with the beautiful Etta Place (Katharine Ross), who loves them both. She teaches them manners and Spanish, and goes along with their schemes for a time. She doesn’t overstay her welcome though. This is one of the few male geared films that has a positive female role.
Only Angels Have Wings
Although heavy on the adventure and romance, Only Angels Have Wings features a strong friendship between two men: Geoff Carter (Cary Grant) and Kid Dabb (Thomas Mitchell) and they absolutely adore one another. Each would walk through fire for the other, and both value honesty, even when the truth hurts. Geoff has his problems with commitment to women, although Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) is making quite the impression. When Geoff grounds Kid from flying, the decision is not an easy one. Geoff knows how much it bruises Kid’s ego, but it’s the right decision to keep everyone safe. That is what a true friend does– makes a hard decision to save a life, even if it damages the friendship.
There are several more films that need an honorable mention. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the ultimate buddy epic. Two best friends, Frodo and Sam literally going to the ends of the earth knowing they may never make it back. Not only do they have each other, but they have the support of many others from their original band of brothers. The Big Lebowski features two friends (three if you count poor Donny) that couldn’t be more different. The Dude (Jeff Bridges) is a burned out hippie who lives for bowling, Creedence, White Russians, and his rug (which really tied the room together). Walter (John Goodman) is a Vietnam vet with major anger issues, who often babysits his ex-wife’s dog (“It’s a f*cking show dog with f*cking papers”). This mismatched duo, with their sad little friend Donny, encounter the most bizarre of situations. Although The Dude is often disgusted with Walter’s behavior, he ultimately enjoys his company.
To close out this entry on a testosterone fueled note, here are BFF’s Roddy Piper and Keith David beating the shit out of each other.
Note: The video features fantastic shit-kickery and some bad language, so don’t watch at work, church, or around the kiddies.
“Either put on these glasses, or start eating that trash can.”
I hope everyone is having a lovely October! I have a few announcements to make regarding some upcoming events here at Sittin’ on a Backyard Fence:
I am starting a couple of ongoing series. I will be working my way through the essential films listed for each actor, actress, and couple mentioned in the TCM Unforgettable Studio Era series of books. Although there are many films listed here that I have seen, it will be nice to revisit them. Also, there are some actors and actresses mentioned that I am not at all familiar with so this will be a nice addition to my ongoing classic film education. Like the books, I have decided to go in alphabetical order and alternate between the Actors and Actresses. Every once in a while I will highlight selections from the Couples book. Once I have completed the essential works of a particular actor/actress/couple, I will post my thoughts.Obviously this is a very long term project. I encourage discussion along the way and of course feel free to join me in this quest. I will post the current star in the sidebar so you can stay up to date.
Another ongoing series I’m planning will feature supporting actors/actresses and character actors. Some of my favorite actors are often considered supporting cast, but definitely no less important than the top billed stars. It will be nice to highlight the careers of those who don’t get as much recognition.
Guest Blogger Kimalysong has a couple posts in the works! Exciting! Also during the entire month of October, The Kitty Packard Pictorial is hosting Project Keaton. The event features submissions in virtually any form– reviews, artwork, poetry, video– as long as it honors Buster Keaton.
Are you a James Stewart fan? Lindsay is. She is currently working her way through his filmography. And if you don’t like Stewart, don’t worry. I’m sure she will still let you read her blog. She writes about all classic film! Check it out!
I have been reading Raquelle’s blog for a long time (perhaps one of my first blogs besides Cinema OCD). She attends screenings, reviews books on classic film stars, and is currently in the midst of a Jack Klugman Fest. Love!
I realize that The Lady Eve has received the Liebster Award before, but it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t recognize her here. I have read the blog for a while and have nothing but respect for her. The Lady Eve is an excellent writer, covering a wide range of subjects in the classic film world, and is a Cary Grant fan! I definitely approve!