Films that caused a stir from Warner Brothers Studio is the focal point of Turner Classic Movies 4th day of their 31 Days of Oscar festival. Below are the highlights form Monday, Feburary 4th that are worth taking up space on your DVR.
Baby Doll – To say that this adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ work caused a bit of controversy is an understatement on par with saying that the Titanic has a minor mishap. Attacked by the Catholic Church and the first studio film to be targeted by the Legion of Decency, which managed to get 77% of the theaters where it was to play to cancel their screenings of it, the movie only made $600,000 at the box office. To be sure, it did deserve much of the attention that surrounded it as Warner Brothers embarked on a salacious ad campaign to promote this tale of middle age Archie Meighan (Karl Malden) who’s tormented by his child bride Baby Doll (Carroll Baker). They’ve been married for two years and are set to consummate their union on her rapidly approaching 20th birthday. However, this arranged marriage, brokered by the girl’s late father, is falling apart as Meighan’s finances are suffering and the arrival of a slick stranger (Eli Wallach) has Baby Doll turning a blind eye to her husband. As directed by Elia Kazan, this is a steamy, sexually charged movie that still packs a punch thanks in large part to Baker’s simmering performance, for which she earned a Best Actress nomination, and Malden’s turn as he shows Meighan’s frustration reach biblical proportions. (7:30 AM)
Days of Wine and Roses – Still packing a devastating narrative punch, this chronicle of one couple’s descent into alcoholism is a harrowing experience. Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick star as Joe and Kirsten Clay and they put their heart and soul into their performances, which lead to a heartbreaking conclusion. Blake Edwards provides an uncharacteristically deft touch with this material and brokers no compromise, despite the fact that studio head Jack Warner lobbied for a more upbeat ending. Having caught wind of this, Lemmon flew to Paris as soon as the film wrapped so that he wouldn’t be available for reshoots. Featuring a nice supporting turn from Jack Klugman, the film was nominated for five Oscars, with both leads being recognized. (Noon)
Splendor in the Grass – This examination of unrequited love marked the film debut of Warren Beatty and provided Natalie Wood with one of her better roles as they starred as two high school seniors in 1928 Kansas from decidedly different social arenas. Bud (Beatty) is from an oil rich family whose father (Pat Hingle) has grand plans for. His steady girlfriend Deanie (Wood) is hopelessly in love with him but knows that her resistance to consummate their relationship may drive him away while the specter of Bud going East for college looms over them as well. Wood is devastating here as the relationship takes a bad turn and she captures Deanie’s heartbreak with a degree of realism that’s heartbreaking and so effective that she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. (2:00 PM)
Bonnie and Clyde –It could be argued that Hollywood’s last era of great filmmaking began here as Arthur Penn’s gangster classic not only radically altered the genre, but paved the way, for good or ill, for the depictions of more graphic violence on screen, the rise of the anti-hero in modern cinema and the rise of a more realistic aesthetic. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway deliver iconic performances as the title pair, two Depression Era bank robbers whose aimlessness lead them into a life of crime. They’re joined by Clyde’s brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Oscar-winner Estelle Parsons) and while the crime spree they embark on makes headlines, it results in a bad end for all involved. The climactic death scene was shot with four different cameras, each running at a different speed and lasts 55 seconds. Meant to evoke comparisons to the Zapruder footage of the Kennedy assassination, this is one of the most memorable moments in screen history and forever changed the way violence was regarded and composed for the cinema. (7:00 PM)