Lots and lots of news this week; the result of not posting a news column since my trip to TCM (and yes, I’m finally back in the habit of homework and blogging regularly). We’ve got a little bit of everything today from news to a plethora of summertime events and DVD/Blu-ray releases. Hope you have a few minutes to spare!
This announcement was so odd I almost wondered if April Fool’s came late this year. Women and Hollywood is reporting that Megan Ellison, the powerhouse producer of Zero Dark Thirty, and her Annapurna Pictures is working on a television series about Marlene Dietrich and Greta Garbo. And that’s it! The article says the series is being overseen by Angela Robinson and Alex Kondrake who have strong ties to HBO but there’s no story or other elements included other than mentioning both actresses were bisexual. Why do I see a trashy sitcom wherein both actresses “want to be alone” but end up rooming together where shenanigans ensue? With Ellison working on this I doubt they’re going the sitcom route but where could this go? I’m open to suggestions.
A controversial casting announcement rocked the classic film community Tuesday. According to The Playlist Jessica Chastain is playing Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik’s adaptation of Blonde. Hollywood’s been trying to turn Blonde into a feature for decades. The Joyce Carol Oates novel’s already received the miniseries treatment (I’m hoping to review it this weekend), and a few years ago Naomi Watts signed on to the picture only to watch it languish for a few years more. Dominik, director of Killing Them Softly, says he has a script in place and hopes to start shooting sometime this year. I’m all for Chastain playing Monroe. Yes, she played a Monroe-esque character in The Help (pictured above), and part of why I believe she’ll succeed is because of said role. I’ve never read the Oates novel, but the miniseries is focused squarely on Monroe and you’ll need an actress who can act first and act like Monroe second. I think Chastain has what it takes. Now, the male characters are the the ones I’m interested in. The book only peripherally mentions JFK so no need to cast him, but we need a Joe DiMaggio and an Arthur Miller. Any ideas?
Speaking of Marilyn, clear another space on your Marilyn Monroe shelf because another book about the star is set for publication. Bear Manor Media is releasing the ambitious Icon: The Life, Times, and Films of Marilyn Monroe, Volume 1 by Gary Vitacco-Robles. This two-volume series encompasses the entirety of the star’s life and career with a psychological bent towards analyzing her various neuroses. The second volume, no publication date set, is clocking in at over 1,000 pages, putting it up there with Victoria Wilson’s recent Barbara Stanwyck biography. With so many bios on Monroe it’s hard to find a new angle but authors continue to. Bear Manor Media is an intriguing publishing house whose Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye: The Barbara Payton Story sits on my shelf, waiting for review. Icon is available to purchase through Bear Manor Media’s website.
Up next is a summertime event if you’re visiting the L.A. area. First off, the UCLA Film & Television Archive are celebrating actor Norman Lloyd (Hitchcock’s Saboteur) with an centennial party entitled Stages: Norman Lloyd and American Television. The series runs from now till June 8th at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood Village. Each week sees the airing of various television shows from Lloyd’s career including episodes of Hollywood Television Theater and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Admission is free, and you can see the schedule of events at the UCLA Cinema website.
It’s hard for me to report on TCM’s upcoming events without a twinge of desire to return to the film festival atmosphere. But the TCM train keeps rolling and they’ve announced another awesome summer with Bill Hader, host of the Essentials, Jr. This year’s Essentials Jr. is a mix of features perfect to get kids into the world of classic movies. The series starts June 1st with Bringing Up Baby and concludes August 31st with Shane. (Remember when TCM didn’t have the rights to air Shane?) All movies are set to air at Sundays at 8pm. Bill Hader always makes me smile during the Essentials Jr., and that was before I actually met him in person (yes, I’m name-dropping). If you’re hoping to get a child into classic films, or if you just want another reason to watch classic films during the summer before Summer Under the Stars, give these a gander. The full schedule can be found on the TCM website.
If you’re watching getTV I’m very envious of you because they aren’t available through my cable provider yet. It’s just been announced that the cable channel is honoring director Frank Capra every Thursday in May, including a nine-film marathon of Capra’s best works celebrating his 117th birthday on May 18th. Movies set to air for Capra month include Platinum Blonde, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Meet John Doe, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. James Coburn, Vincent Price, and Irene Dunne are also set to receive tributes throughout the month. Saturdays in May are dedicated to Westerns such as Santa Fe, Range Feud, and The Gun That Won the West. The entire schedule is up at the getTV website.
Sony Movie Channel is another one I don’t receive who’ll be honoring the late Ray Harryhausen throughout the month of May. Starting May 7th, and every Wednesday in the month of May, Sony Movie Channel is airing two Harryhausen classics. Movies on tap include 20 Million Miles to Earth, all three Sinbad features, Jason and the Argonauts, and Mysterious Island. The rest of the month’s schedule, as well as their listing of contemporary films, is up on their website.
NEW ON DVD AND BLU-RAY
TCM: In case you weren’t aware, TCM’s released a collection of Robert Osborne’s greatest interviews in a compendium entitled Conversations With Robert Osborne. The set includes two episodes of Private Screenings, three installments of Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival, and a biographical essay written by Roger Fristoe. Upcoming live interviews set for home video release are Don’t Say No Until I Finish Talking: The Richard D. Zanuck Story (which I reviewed last year), A Night at the Movies Vol. 1, and The Horrors of Stephen King. There’s no release dates announced for those, but you can purchase Conversations With Robert Osborne exclusively at shop.tcm.com.
Shout Factory: If you’re a fan of classic espionage you might want to pre-order I Spy: The Complete Series from Shout Factory and Timeless Media. The Bill Cosby/Robert Culp series ran from 1965 to 1968 and is getting an 18-disc box set containing all 82-episodes. I Spy: The Complete Series hits shelves June 24th.
Warner Archive: Warner’s released a lot over the last two weeks. This week’s spate of releases are a mix of showbiz dramas, re-releases from Paramount and a new Blu-ray. Coming out on Blu-ray is the toe-tapping musical adaptation Hit the Deck (1955) starring Debbie Reynolds and Vic Damone. In the showbiz dramas you can purchase Irene (1940), and two sets of double features: The Smartest Girl in Town/She’s Got Everything (1936, 1937), and The Mayor of 44th Street/Radio Stars on Parade (1942, 1945). Also out this week: Broadway Bill (1934), Detective Story (1951) and Islands in the Stream (1977). And in case you missed last week’s releases racing movies ruled the roost: Wildcat Bus (1940), Race Street (1948), Sky Full of Moon (1952), and A Slight Case of Larceny (1953). All of these are manufactured on-demand and can be purchased at Warner Archive’s site.
20th Century Fox: The TCM Film Festival honored Oklahoma this year and 20th Century Fox is keeping the train rolling by releasing the Rodgers and Hammerstein Collection on Blu-ray. The five disc set includes the most enduring classics from the lyrical duo including The King and I, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma, South Pacific, and State Fair. Bonus features include a Sing Along track for The King and I, and an hour of behind-the-scenes footage on Oklahoma. Stand-alone Blu-ray and DVD combo packs for Oklahoma and The King and I hit shelves October 7th, so if you want all the best movies on Blu-ray be sure to snag the Rodgers and Hammerstein Collection on May 6th.
Flicker Alley: Flicker Alley dropped two major announcements in the last two weeks. The older of the two is their release of two documentaries on Blu-ray and DVD focused on old movie palaces and itinerant filmmaking. We’re in the Movies: Palace of Silents and Itinerant Filmmaking includes Palace of Silents: The Silent Movie Theatre in Los Angeles. This 2010 documentary looks at the classic movie palace on Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. The other doc in the set, When You Wore a Tulip and I Wore a Big Red Rose, is a 1983 look at the rediscovery and restoration of the 1914 film The Lumberjack and the “local talent” style of filmmaking. Both movies have extensive bonus features including short films from the era and original essays. The set releases June 17th but are available to pre-order through Flicker Alley. Flicker Alley’s also prepping release of Charlie Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies (1916-1917) and The Mack Sennett Collection, Vol. 1 (1909-1933). The former is a five-disc Blu-ray/DVD set with twelve newly restored comedies from the Little Tramp. Bonus content features a 34-page booklet and two documentaries. The latter includes a whopping fifty of Sennett’s films with new musical scores, commentary tracks, and a 16-page booklet. Chaplin’s Mutual Comedies and The Mack Sennett Collection, Vol. 1 hit shelves July 29th.
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.