If you play by the rules, you miss all the fun~Katharine Hepburn
This week, we are celebrating the May 12th birthday of Katharine Hepburn and TCM is offering some of her classics along with a rare interview. Hepburn is ranked the #1 woman in the AFI’s “50 Greatest Movie Legends”.
She has always been one of my personal favorites; playing dramatic and comedic roles in her own special way, on her own terms. She even did her own stunts since no one could stand up as straight as her; reinforcing my personal mantra to always stand tall.
Tuesday May 8
AMERICAN IN PARIS, AN (1951)
An American artist finds love in Paris but almost loses it to conflicting loyalties.
Dir: Vincente Minnelli Cast: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant
BW-114 mins, TV-PG, CC
The studio created 44 dramatic sets despite Kelly’s wanting to shoot on location in Paris. The romantic story set against Paris with fabulous choreography, combined with the general Gene Kelly casual coolness definitely make this a bucket list musical. Kelly discovered Caron while on vacation in Paris and she replaced the originally cast Cyd Charisse, who had discovered she was pregnant. At times, the numbers can seem overblown, but really, you risk that in any musical when characters suddenly burst into song and dance. Although, I sometimes think, trying life scenarios could totally be diffused with a good, choreographed number.
A heroic slave leads a revolt against the corrupt Roman Empire.
Dir: Stanley Kubrick Cast: Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Jean Simmons
C-197 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format
I have to admit that I did not see this film until last summer and I was so taken with Kirk Douglas. The film was shot on a 10 acre site in Los Angeles, using about 10,500 people for battle scenes; filmmaking before CGI. Over 180 stuntmen were actually trained in the rituals of a gladiator, battle to the death. “I am Spartacus” was voted as the #64 greatest movie line by Premiere in 2007.
Thursday May 10
I WANT TO LIVE! (1958)
True story of the small-time lady crook who fought to escape the gas chamber.
Dir: Robert Wise Cast: Susan Hayward, Simon Oakland, Virginia Vincent
BW-121 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format
One of the first “old” movies I saw when I was in high school. I still remember watching it with my mom and being absolutely riveted. At that time, I was all about my 1980’s John Hughes genre; Molly Ringwald was my benchmark for dramatic acting. I held my breath as I watched Susan Hayward’s character scream, “I want to live!” A bit walk on part for this film was awarded on “The Price is Right”. Really.
Saturday May 12
BRINGING UP BABY (1938)
A madcap heiress upsets the staid existence of a straight-laced scientist.
Dir: Howard Hawks Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, Charlie Ruggles
BW-102 mins, TV-G, CC
Hepburn was almost mauled by the leopard when she turned around too quickly, shooting a scene, saved only by the quick reaction of the trainer and his whip. Cary Grant never said “Judy, Judy, Judy” in a film, but he says, “Susan, Susan, Susan” in this one. One of four movies that Hepburn and Grant would do together. Cary Grant…*sigh*
KATHARINE HEPBURN: ALL ABOUT ME (1993)
In a rare interview, Katharine Hepburn shares her memories and memorabilia.
Dir: David Heeley Cast: Katharine Hepburn
C-70 mins, TV-G, CC
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER (1967)
An aging couple’s liberal principles are tested when their daughter announces her engagement to a black doctor.
Dir: Stanley Kramer Cast: Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poitier, Katharine Hepburn
C-108 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format
Easily, one of my all-time favorite movies. Houghton is Hepburn’s real niece and named after her. I think you can see shades and similarities of a young Hepburn. Poitier is perfectly “Poitier”. This was Tracy’s last movie. His last monologue, at the end of the movie, was filmed 14 days before he died. Be sure to watch Hepburn’s face as she watches him deliver his lines. She knows it’s the end. There is also a scene at the drive-in diner where director Kramer catches her wistfully looking off camera, teary eyed; but then smiles and delivers her line, back in full character. Hepburn could never watched this film.
ADAM’S RIB (1949)
Husband-and-wife lawyers argue opposite sides in a sensational women’s rights case.
Dir: George Cukor Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday .
BW-101 mins, TV-G, CC
Ranked #7 on the AFI’s “Romantic Comedy” list. Mesmerized and incredibly nervous, Holliday is literally shaking in her first scene with Hepburn. Tracy ad-libs a line to Hepburn, “Oh, you’re giving me the Bryn Mawr accent.”; Hepburn’s actual alma mater. Their on-screen chemistry is visible, authentic and a bit melancholy given their real life circumstances.
Sunday May 13
Happy Mother’s Day!
CATERED AFFAIR, THE (1956)
A working-class mother fights to give her daughter a big wedding whether the girl wants it or not.
Dir: Richard Brooks Cast: Bette Davis, Ernest Borgnine, Debbie Reynolds
BW-94 mins, TV-G, CC, Letterbox Format
One of Davis’ best performances, as she doesn’t over glamorize the character. Also, one of Reynolds few dramatic roles and she is outstanding. It is puzzling why she only continued to do bubbly, comedic musical roles. She clearly had it in her to become a dramatic actress.
STELLA DALLAS (1937)
After divorcing a society man, a small-town woman tries to build a better life for their daughter.
Dir: King Vidor Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Anne Shirley
BW-106 mins, TV-G, CC
Falling in love with old movies has been an eye-opening experience for me. For instance: I grew up in the 70’s/80’s, hence “The Thorn Birds” is part of my cultural DNA. Who knew how gorgeous and cool Barbara Stanwyck was in her day?! I just knew her as the creepy old lady on” Drohgeda” that wanted Father Ralph for herself, ew. I love her classic films, including her portrayal of “Stella”. I had only seen Bette Midler’s milder version. Wow. Stanwyck is stellar and I consider myself a new fan.
MILDRED PIERCE (1945)
A woman turns herself into a business tycoon to win her selfish daughter a place in society.
Dir: Michael Curtiz Cast: Joan Crawford, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott .
BW-111 mins, TV-PG, CC
If you ever question your mothering skills, watch Veda in full force, then go ahead and pick out your outfit for your acceptance of your “Mother-of-the-Year” award. Crawford won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of the mother that never stops spoiling. But, Ann Blyth should have won an award for her portrayal of the daughter that never quits b*tching! I cannot even envision Shirley Temple playing the part of Veda and she was actually considered for the role. This was Crawford’s comeback film after a series of flops and being labeled “box office poison”. She won the Best Actress Oscar for this role.
Monday May 14
A Texas ranching family fights to survive changing times.
Dir: George Stevens Cast: Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, James Dean
BW-201 mins, TV-PG, CC, Letterbox Format
This was the last film James Dean made. He was killed while filming the last of “Giant”. Ironically, he filmed an anti-speeding PSA on the set, in the clothes of his character “Jett”, just two weeks before his fatal car crash. Hudson did not care for Dean and used his animosity to play up his role. When Hudson learned of Dean’s death, he was inconsolable with guilt and never forgave himself for being petty. On set, Taylor heard the news and was unable to work; as compared to “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” when she continued to work after her husband’s death. So, besides all that, a great epic drama as big as the great state of Texas!