Turner Classic Movies 31 Days of Oscar festival enters its third day on Sunday, February 3rd with more from Warner Brothers Studios. All are worth seeing but below are the highlights from a day that should keep your DVR busy.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – John Huston’s adaptation of the B. Traven novel features Humphrey Bogart’s finest performance. As the treasure seeker Fred C. Dobbs, he enlists the aid of Curtain (Tim Holt), a fellow “down-and-outter” and Howard (Walter Huston), a crusty old prospector so that they can head into the Sierra Madre Mountains and search for gold. They succeed but it ends up being far more than they bargain for, as they have to contend with Mexican bandits and their own greed and paranoia. Huston’s sense of pacing is masterful as he steadily builds the tension throughout as the relationship between the three principles steadily frays, with Bogart fully invested in Dobbs’ descent into madness. One of the first American films to be shot completely on location outside the United States, this is a completely captivating and thrilling movie, that was the first production in which members from the same family took home Oscars with John winning for Best Director and Best Screenplay, while his father Walter won Best Supporting Actor. Watch for the younger Huston’s cameo as an American who gives Dobbs money at the beginning of the film and the elder Huston’s dance of joy after the trio hits pay dirt. It’s a bit of improvisation that’s a wonder to behold. (3:00 AM)
A Streetcar Named Desire – Screen acting changes in an instant with Elia Kazan’s adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ classic play about the aging Blanch Dubois (Vivian Leigh) who seeks refuge by coming to live with her pregnant sister-in-law Stella (Kim Hunter) and brutish brother-in-law Stanley (Marlon Brando), who clash with tragic results. A summation of the film’s plot would do it a disservice as this is a story that concerns itself with the behavior of its characters and how the different ways in which they live leads to disaster. The acting across the board is exceptional but it’s Brando that dominates the film here, bringing a natural, animalistic quality to the screen that points to a more organic realistic style of acting that revolutionized how others would approach roles in the future. Ironically, while Leigh, Hunter and Karl Malden would all take home Oscars for the film, Brando lost out to Humphrey Bogart for his role in The African Queen. (5:30 AM)
The Music Man – It’s a shame that Robert Preston is mostly forgotten today. He was the rare actor who could exude charm and likability with an ease that most of us find in breathing. His brand of charisma is on full display here in his signature role of Harold Hill, a full-time con man who sweeps into small towns, convinces the rubes at hand to spend their cash on uniforms and instruments for a boy’s band and then skips town with their cash. However, when he blows into River City, Iowa he finds himself willing to hang around longer than usual, having caught the eye of Marian Paroo (Shirley Jones) the local librarian. Though the film runs 2 ½ hours, it hums right along as Meredith Willson’s snappy familiar tunes keep things moving. Among the songs you’ll find yourself humming days after seeing this are “Trouble,” “The Wells Fargo Wagon,” “Shipoopi,” and “Seventy-six Trombones.” Interestingly, Warner Brothers’ first choice for Harold Hill was Frank Sinatra, but Willson informed then that if they did not use Preston, who won a Tony for originating the role on Broadway, there would be no movie. With Ole Blue Eyes on board, what a different film this would have been. (7:00 PM)
My Fair Lady – The winner of eight Oscars, including those for Best Picture, Best Director (George Cukor) and Best Actor (Rex Harrison), this is arguably the greatest of movie musicals as it has a grandeur about it that’s hard to top. Based on the play “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw, the story concerns the uptight Professor Henry Higgins (Harrison) who makes a wager that he can turn anyone into a lady. The subject of the bet is Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn), a flower seller she finds on the street and takes into his home. As the etiquette and diction lessons ensure, Higgins begins to think he’s bitten off far more than he can chew, as his pupil seems incapable of putting her old ways behind her. The antagonistic chemistry between the two leads is priceless as Harrison and Hepburn go at each other with fierceness that’s hilarious to behold. The songs from Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe (“Wouldn’t it be Loverly,” ”I Could have Danced All Night,” “On the Street where you Live” among them) are classics of the American Musical Theater and are wonderfully performed here. (The only thing that prevented Hepburn from being nominated for an Oscar was the fact that Marnie Nixon dubbed her singing.) Make sure not to miss the Ascot race scene. Not only is it a gorgeous example of production design but it also contains one of the film’s funniest moments as Eliza’s true self comes out at the most inopportune time. (10:00 PM)