Saturday, July 11, 2020

TCM Summer Under the Stars 2020

Next month is August, which means one thing for Turner Classic Movies fans: Summer Under the Stars. For those unfamiliar with Summer Under the Stars, it is a month long programming block during which each day is dedicated to the films of one actor. For many TCM fans, it is the most anticipated month of the year. I have to confess that I always look forward to Summer Under the Stars as well, with the one caveat that it means a month without Noir Alley!

This year's Summer Under the Stars sees days dedicated to those major movie stars one would expect, as well as a few actors who don't receive as much attention. August 4 is dedicated to beloved character actor S. Z. Sakall, featuring such films as In the Good Old Summertime (1946) and Christmas in Connecticut (1945). August 7 is Sylvia Sydney's day, with such films as Fury (1936) and Sabotage (1936). Sammy Davis Jr. is honoured on August 11 with such films as Robin and the Seven Hoods (1964), Ocean's 11 (1960), and Sweet Charity (1969). August 21 is dedicated to Diana Dors, including such films as Man Bait (1952) and The Long Haul (1957). August 31 is dedicated to Alain Delon and includes such movies as Red Sun (1971) and Purple Noon (1961).

For the most part I am pleased with the selection of stars they honouring in this year's TCM Summer Under the Stars. I do wish they would have had a day dedicated to Humphrey Bogart, but then he is honoured most  years. As it is I am happy to see days dedicated to Barbara Stanwyck, Rock Hudson, S. Z. Sakall, Ann Miler, Norma Shearer, Sammy Davis Jr., Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, William Powell, Diana Dors, Bette Davis, and Alain Delon.

As might be expected, I do have my opinion as to what movies TCM fans should absolutely try to see this Summer Under the Stars. They are as follows (all times are Central):

August 1, Barbara Stanwyck
7:00 PM Ball of Fire (1941)
9:00 PM Double Indemnity (1944)
11:00 PM Meet John Doe (1941)

August 2, Rock Hudson
7:00 PM Pillow Talk (1959)
11:00 PM Giant (1956)

August 3, Rita Hayworth
5:00 PM Cover Girl (1944)
7:00 The Lady from Shanghai (1948)
9:00 Gilda (1946)

August 4, S. Z. Sakall
7:00 PM In the Good Old Summertime (1946)
9:00 PM Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

August 5, Ann Miller
5:00 AM Room Service (1938)
9:00 PM On the Town (1948)
11:00 PM Kiss Me Kate (1953)
1:00 AM Easter Parade (1948)

August 6, Burt Lancaster
10:15 AM The Crimson Pirate (1952)
7:00 PM Elmer Gantry (1960)

August 7, Sylvia Sydney
3:15 PM Dead End (1937)
5:00 PM Fury (1936)
10:15 Sabotage (1936)

August 8, Charlie Chaplin
8:30 AM The Gold Rush (1925)
8:45 PM Modern Times (1936)

August 10, Norma Shearer
10:45 AM The Divorcee (1930)
7:00 PM The Woman (1939)
11:30 PM The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934)

August 11, Sammy Davis Jr.
2:30 PM Robin Hood and the Seven Hoods (1964)
4:45 PM Ocean's Eleven (1960)
11:30 PM Sweet Charity (1969)

August 12, Lana Turner
11:00 AM The Merry Widow (1952)
3:00 PM The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
7:00 PM Peyton Place (1957)
10:00 PM The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

August 13, John Barrymore
7:00 PM Grand Hotel (1932)

August 14, Steve McQueen
3:15 PM Bullitt (1968)
7:00 PM The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)
9:00 PM The Great Escape (1963)
12:00 AM Papillon (1973)

August 15, Nina Foch
12:45 PM Scaramouche (1952)
7:00 PM An American in Paris (1951)

August 16, Cary Grant
7:00 AM Topper (1937)
9:00 AM Bringing Up Baby (1937)
10:45 His Girl Friday (1940)
2:45 PM Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
9:00 PM Charade (1963)

August 17, Maureen OHara
1:00 PM At Sword's Point (1951)
7:00 PM The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)
9:15 PM Miracle on 35th Street (1947)

August 18, Warren Beatty
5:00 PM Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

August 20, William Powell
8:00 AM The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
11:00 AM The Thin Man (1934)
1:00 PM Another Thin Man (1939)
5:00 PM Libelled Lady (1936)

August 21, Diana Dors
6:45 AM Oliver Twist (1948)
10:30 AM Man Bait (1952)
7:00 PM The Long Haul (1957)

August 22, John Wayne
11:00 PM Angel and the Badman (1947)
1:00 PM 3 Godfathers (1948)
3:00 PM Stagecoach (1939)
1:00 AM The Comancheros (1961)

August 23, Bette Davis
5:00 AM Marked Woman (1937)
9:00 AM The Corn is Green (1945)
11:30 PM What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

August 24, George Raft
7:00 PM They Drive by Night (1940)

August 25, Anne Shirley
10:00 PM Stella Dallas (1937)

August 26, Laurence Olivier
9:30 AM That Hamilton Woman (1941)
11:45 AM Pride and Prejudice (1940)
7:00 PM Wuthering Heights (1939)

August 27, Claudette Colbert
7:00 PM It Happened One Night (1934)
9:00 PM The Egg and I (1947)
11:00 PM The Palm Beach Story (1942)

August 28, Paul Henried
7:00 PM Now, Voyager (1942)
11:00 PM Casablanca (1942)
1:00 AM The Spanish Main (1945)

August 29, Eva Marie Saint
5:00 PM On the Waterfront (1954)
7:00 PM North by Northwest (1959)

August 30, Charlton Heston
8:30 PM The Omega Man (1971)
10:15 AM  The Three Musketeers (1973)
11:145 PM Planet of the Apes (1968)
1:15 AM Soylet Green (1973)

August 31, Alain Delon
1:15 PM Red Sun (1971)
5:00 PM Purple Noon (1961)
10:15 PM Le Samourai

Here I want to stress that the number of films I picked for each day does not reflect how I feel about that day's performer! Bette Davis is one of my favourite actresses, but for some reason this year TCM isn't showing many of my favourite Bette Davis movies (The Letter, The Man Who Came to Dinner, All About Eve, and so on). Anyway, I hope my fellow TCM fans enjoy this year's Summer Under the Stars!

Friday, July 10, 2020

The Late Great Ennio Morricone

Ennio Morricone, the prolific composer who scored such movies as the Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) and The Untouchables (1987), died on July 6 2020 at the age of 91.

Ennio Morricone was born on November 10 1928 in Rome. It was his father who taught him to play various instruments and to read music. He attended the National Academy of Saint Cecilia where he studied the trumpet under Umberto Semproni. Already established as a composer and an arranger, Mr. Morricone began his career in film as a ghost writer for well-known composers. His first credited work was The Fascist in 1961.

While Ennio Morricone may be best known to many for his work on Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns, he was extremely versatile and composed scores for films in a number of genres. Among his earliest scores were those for light comedies, including Eighteen in the Sun (1962), The Basilisks (1963), and Menage, Italian Style (1965). He would continue to write scores for comedies throughout his career, including scores for such films as La Cage aux Folles (1978), Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990), Bulworth (1998), and Tutte le Donne della mia Vita (2007).

Mr. Morricone also worked extensively in the genres of drama and action. He wrote scores for such films The Battle of Algiers (1966), Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom (1975). The "Human" Factor (1975), The Mission (1986), Cinema Paradisio (1988), Casualties of War (1989), Bgusy (1991), and The Legend of 1900 (1998). His epic score for The Untouchables was one of six films for which he was nominated for the Oscar for Best Music, Original Score. After being nominated five times, he finally won for an Academy Award for The Hateful Eight (1986). Ennio Morricone composed scores for everything from political thrillers to science fiction movies. He even composed the score for the supervillain movie Danger: Diabolik (1968).

Of course, Ennio Morricone may be best known for his work in Spaghetti Westerns. In fact, among his earliest work was on the Western Gunfight at Red Sands (1963).  He first worked with Sergio Leone on the film A Fistful of Dollars (1964), the first in what is often called "the Dollars Trilogy" or "the Man With No Name Trilogy." Mr. Morricone also scored the next two films in the trilogy, For a Few Dollars More (1965), and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Ennio Morricone's score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly became particularly well known. In fact, its theme, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" even reached no. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States. Ennio Morricone also composed the scores for Sergio Leone's Western Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) and Sergio Leone's gangster movie Once Upon a Time in America (1984). Beyond Sergio Leone's Westerns, Ennio Morricone also scored several others, including Navajo Joe (1966), The Big Gundown (1966),.The Mercenary (1968), Guns for San Sebastian (1968), Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970), and Duck, You Sucker! (1971).

While many motion picture composers are best known for a particular style, Ennio Morricone utilised a variety of styles throughout his career and worked well with all of them. His score for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly had a contemporary sound that still evoked the Old West. In contrast, his score for The Untouchables was a more traditional score for a Hollywood epic, yet still one that was starkly original. It was not unusual for Mr. Morricone to use multiple styles in one film. His score for Once Upon a Time in America could rightly be described as an epic score that occasionally breaks into Dixieland jazz. Two Mules for Sister Sara included passages that were either serious or comic depending upon the scene. Of course, this is what made Ennio Morricone such a great composer. Mr. Morricone had a gift for being able to create the perfect music for any given scene. As a result, his scores were always a perfect fit for any movie for which he was the composer. If Ennio Morricone numbers among the greatest and most influential movie composers of all time, it is perhaps because he was not only versatile, but instinctively knew the perfect music for any given scene.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Dimension X

By the early Fifties, Old Time Radio was in decline. In metropolitan areas where there were already television stations, radio often found itself losing its audience to television. This situation would only grow steadily worse as the Fifties progressed. As more and more television stations opened throughout the United States, Old Time Radio would lose more and more of its audience to the younger medium. That is not to say that classic Old Time Radio shows did not continue to debut in the Fifties. One of the best remembered radio shows of the Fifties was the science fiction anthology series Dimension X.

Prior to the Fifties, most science fiction shows on American radio, such as Buck Rogers in the 25th Anniversary and Flash Gordon, had been made for a juvenile audience. The year 1950 saw the advent of the first American science fiction radio show made for adults when 2000 Plus on the Mutual Broadcasting System on March 15 1950. The following month would see the debut of Dimension X on NBC on April 8 1950. Newspaper radio listings include another adult science fiction show, Beyond Tomorrow, but it is unclear if it ever aired on CBS or if it announced but cancelled before it ever aired. Regardless, only four segments of Beyond Tomorrow (including the audition show were produced).

Fortunately Dimension X would last a bit longer, although for a show that is well remembered by many its run would be brief. The show debuted with an adaptation of Graham Doar's short story "The Outer Limit." This would set the pace for the rest of the series. While Dimension X would feature some original episodes, the majority of its episodes were adaptation of stories by such writers as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Robert A. Heinlein, H. Beam Piper, and Jack Williamson. A highlight of the show's first season was an adaptation of Robert A. Heinein's novel Destination Moon, in conjunction with the movie of the same name.

The announcer and narrator on Dimension X was Norman Rose, who would provide voices for the Saturday morning cartoon Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales and work on the radio show CBS Mystery Radio Theatre. Its episodes were directed by Edward King and Fred Weihe. Among the actors who appeared on Dimension X were Mason Adams, Ralph Bell, John Di Santis, and Jan Miner.

Dimension X ran from April 8 1950 to January 14 1951. The show was then off the air for five months, but returned on June 3 1951. Its final episode, an adaptation of Isaac Asmiov's "Nightfall," aired on September 29 1951.

While Dimension X had ended its run, it would return after a fashion. On April 24 1955 the science fiction radio show X Minus One debuted on NBC. X Minus One began as a revival of Dimension X, so that its first 15 episodes were new versions of old Dimension X episodes. While X Minus One, like Dimension X before it, would continue to features episodes based on stories by famous science fiction writers, with its sixteenth episode it began adapting new material. Over all, X Minus One would prove to be more successful than Dimension X. It would run for 126 episodes until January 9 1958. Dimension X only ran for 50 episodes.

While Dimension X only ran for 17 months in total, the show remains well remembered to this day. Most of its episodes still exist and are available both online and on CD. While it was short-lived, Dimension X proved science fiction could be more than juvenile entertainment.