This Week's Classic Movie Picks - 8/11 - 8/17

This Week's Classic Movie Picks - 8/11 - 8/17

Blog PhotoMonday – August 11th – It goes without saying that Marlon Brando represented a sea change in the way the craft of acting was approached as he was at the forefront of bringing Method Acting to the masses with his films.  Turner Classic Movies devotes 24 hours to his movies and it’s a showcase of some of his best work.  A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) airs at 7:00 pm and this adaptation of the Tennessee Williams play is as powerful today as it was over 60 years ago when it was first released.   Brando’s Stanley Kowalski, a brutish man who ultimately can’t control his animalistic nature, is such a distinctive characterization that no who’s taken the role since has been able to emerge from his shadow.  The Wild One (1953) at 9:15 pm features the actor in another iconic role as Johnny Strabler, leader of a motorcycle gang who terrorizes a small California town.  Brando’s able to elicit sympathy for this rebel without a clue and the role serves as a precursor for his Oscar-winning turn in On the Waterfront (1954) at 10:45 pm.  In Elia Kazan’s expose on corruption on the New York City docks, the actor breaks your heart as Terry Malloy, an ex-boxer caught between loyalty to his brother (Rod Steiger) and crooked mentor (Lee J. Cobb) and doing the morally sound thing at the urging of his new love (Eva Marie Saint). 

Blog PhotoWednesday – August 13th – If you were asked to provide the penultimate example of a movie star, in my mind Cary Grant would surely be one of the best illustrations you could put forth.  He’s on full display on TCM with 13 of his films being shown today with each facet of his talent on full display.  The Awful Truth (1937) at 5:00 am, Bringing up Baby (1938) at 6:45 am, His Girl Friday (1940) at 8:30 am and My Favorite Wife (1940) at 10:15 am all showcase his crisp comic-timing and undeniable charm, while Gunga Din (1939) at 10:15 pm and Destination Tokyo (1943) at 12:30 am show him as a solid man of action.  Though George Clooney comes close, the sort of natural charisma and natural acting style Grant possessed is rarely found in this day and age, making his film work all the more precious.

Blog PhotoThursday – August 14th – Very few filmmakers have taken the sort of chance Charlie Chaplin did when he made The Great Dictator in 1940 and TCM airs this vital work at 4:45 pm. As Hitler was marching across Europe and the United States was contemplating entering the fray, the director had the temerity to lampoon the Fuhrer in this gutsy satire.  Chaplin took on a dual role as a Jewish barber trying to fend off the rise of Nazism and Adenoid Hynkel, a dictator bent on world domination but surrounded by fools.  The scene in which Chaplin as Hynkel does a ballet with a floating globe is a brilliantly pointed commentary on the foolhardy yet dangerous madness Hitler had embarked on while the actor’s final plea for peace at the film’s conclusion is, unfortunately, as appropriate today as it was nearly 75 years ago. Dictator is not only great art but great history as well.   

The Esquire Network runs a classic of a different sort at 7:00 pm with Cool Hand Luke (1967), as Paul Newman’s performance in the title role takes center stage. A charmer with bad luck, Luke ends up in a cruel Southern prison where he bucks the powers-that-be, refusing to communicate and eventually becoming a symbol of defiance that needs to be eliminated in order to maintain order.  Though the Christian symbolism is far too heavy-handed at times, Newman is undeniably compelling and keeps us hooked even when the film threatens to overstay its welcome.  

Blog PhotoFriday – August 15th – Though it would be unfair to say that Faye Dunaway is forgotten today, she certainly doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. It’s remarkable how many great films she’s been in and TCM airs some of her best during this day devoted to her work.  Bonnie and Clyde (1967) at 2:30 pm showcases the actress as one part of the famous bank-robbing duo in a film that marked a change in the way violence was portrayed on screen and adult narratives were handled in American cinema. The satiric western Little Big Man (1970) at 4:30 pm showcases her as a less-than devout parson’s wife who attempts to civilize Dustin Hoffman’s Jack Crabb, a white man who’s spent much of his life living among Native Americans.  She’s deftly funny here, a side of her you don’t often see. At 11:00 pm, Dunaway gives an unforgettable performance in Chinatown (1974), Roman Polanski’s classic film noir about a private detective (Jack Nicholson) who gets in over his head when a case he’s investigating leads to murder and the discovery of corruption at the highest governmental level of Los Angeles. 


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