August & September at the Movie Morlocks

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The last couple of months have been extremely difficult. In between doctor’s appointments while dealing with some eye problems I suffered a major shake up in the Napa earthquake, which did a lot of damage to my home & neighborhood. Naturally this impaired my writing but I still managed to compile a few articles for the TCM Movie Morlocks’ blog.

Carole Lombard’s Lasting Impact … on Napa!
Excerpt: “While pursuing my personal interest in local history here in Napa I was pleasantly surprised to discover how one of my favorite funny ladies, the brassy blonde bombshell Carole Lombard, had made a lasting impression on the area when she visited California’s Wine Country in 1939 to star in Garson Kanin’s THEY KNEW WHAT THEY WANTED (1940). This notable RKO production was based on a Pulitzer Prize winning play written by Sidney Howard that chronicled a complicated love triangle between an ambitious San Francisco waitress (Carole Lombard), a simple-minded Italian grape farmer (Charles Laughton) and his affable ranch hand (William Gargan). Much of the film was shot on location in the Napa Valley and during that time Lombard, along with her costars and husband Clark Gable, toured wineries, mingled with locals and befriended some well-heeled residents who still fondly recall family stories about encountering the lovely Lombard.”

Memories of Lauren Bacall 1924-2014
Excerpt: “Film fans have endured a rough summer. We’ve lost many talented people who have brought us immeasurable joy. Today I’d like to celebrate the late great Lauren ‘Betty’ Bacall who mesmerized audiences with her incredible beauty, quick wit, smoky voice and sultry style. She was a beloved stage and screen actress but she was also much more including an award-winning writer, a socially conscious political activist, an avid fashion enthusiast who designed her own maternity clothes and a survivor who out-lived two husbands (Humphrey Bogart and Jason Robards) and managed to raise three children on her own. What follows is a stunning gallery of portraits as well as a collection of personal observations about Bacall from friends, acquaintances and family members who knew her and loved her.”

Saying Good Night to Brian G. Hutton (1935-2014)
Excerpt: “I’m particularly fond of the two films Hutton crafted with Elizabeth Taylor in the 1970s during an intriguing period in her career that is often dismissed by critics as well as fickle fans. The first film Hutton and Taylor made together was a twisted love triangle with the cheeky American title X, Y & Z (1972). This blacker than black comedy pitted Taylor against Michael Caine in a sort of sexy update of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF set in swinging London. The film didn’t fare all that well with critics but audiences seemed to appreciate it and Taylor enjoyed working with the affable director who kept his two stars laughing during the shoot. Their second film was the Hitchcockian thriller NIGHT WATCH (1973), which reunited Taylor with Laurence Harvey, her longtime friend and costar from the Oscar winning BUTTERFIELD 8 (1960). Of the two films Hutton made with Taylor, NIGHT WATCH is my personal favorite for a number of reasons. First and foremost it’s a great little suspense filled feature with some surprising twists and turns that provided Elizabeth Taylor with one of her meatiest late career roles. Besides reuniting her with Harvey, the cast also includes horror film and television favorites Billie Whitelaw (TWISTED NERVE; 1968, FRENZY; 1972, THE OMEN; 1976, Etc.) and Linda Hayden (TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA; 1970, THE BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW; 1971, MADHOUSE; 1974, Etc.) as well as Robert Lang (THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD; 1971, THE MEDUSA TOUCH; 1978, TALES OF THE UNEXPECTED; 1980, Etc.).”

EARTHQUAKE! – An Update From the Trenches
Excerpt:”Imagine if you will (spoken in my best Rod Serling voice), it’s 3:20am on a Sunday morning in the small city of Napa. You’d gone to bed a few hours earlier after enjoying a few glasses of home grown wine while catching up with the latest offering from Hammer Films (THE QUIET ONES; 2014) but just as the onset of deep REM sleep begins to take hold of your body and brain, you’re jolted awake by what sounds like a locomotive crashing into your house. This is followed by what feels like King Kong picking you up and tossing you in the air for 20 seconds.”

A Killer Stalks the Streets of San Francisco in Edward Dmytryk ‘s THE SNIPER (1952)
Excerpt: “There’s a palpable sense of profound paranoia, lawlessness run amok, rage against social injustice and flat out despair to be found in some of Dmytryk‘s best post 1950 films including THE SNIPER as well as THE CAINE MUTINY (1954), WARLOCK (1959) and MIRAGE (1965) that I really appreciate. The filmmakers most interesting work during this period also frequently featured complex and fascinatingly askew female characters trying to assert their power such as Elizabeth Taylor’s mad southern heiress in RAINTREE COUNTY (1957), Carol Baker’s boozy sexually aggressive widower in THE CARPETBAGGERS (1964) and the entire female cast of WALK ON THE WILD SIDE (1962). In this regard THE SNIPER could be seen and appreciated as a kind of warning shot to audiences signaling the direction that Dmytryk‘s career would take over the next few decades. It would make a particularly interesting double feature with the director’s stylish adaptation of BLUEBEARD (1972), featuring Richard Burton as the bearded mad man who possesses an unhealthy desire to murder his wives.”

Gordon Parks: Filmmaker, Photographer & Renaissance Man
Excerpt: “Tonight TCM is offering up a very special selection of films directed by Gordon Parks and his son, Gordon Parks Jr. for your viewing pleasure. The films include THE LEARNING TREE (1969), THOMASINE AND BUSHROD (1974), AARON LOVES ANGELA (1975) and SHAFT (1971) along with a making of documentary, SOUL IN CINEMA: FILMING SHAFT ON LOCATION (1971) . . . Parks Sr. is undoubtedly one of the most interesting and multitalented men who ever sat behind a camera and directed a film. He lived a fascinating life and dabbled in many arts but today he’s probably best remembered for the Oscar wining action-packed crime drama SHAFT. This Blaxploitation classic is one of my favorite films from the 70s and besides its entertainment value, SHAFT is a wonderful showcase for many of the themes, ideas and passions that motivated Parks throughout his career as an award-winning photographer…”

You’re Invited! Join the #TCMParty on Twitter
Excerpt: “A couple of years ago I noticed that the hashtag #TCMParty was trending on Twitter while TCM was showing a marathon of Japanese giant monster movies from Toho Studios. Naturally this piqued my curiosity so I began following their activities at @TCM_Party. The Twitter group is made up of classic movie fans who regularly watch films shown on TCM and enjoy discussing them online. I’m not an active participant myself but I occasionally jump into conversations when they’re discussing a movie I love or happen to be watching.”