With Summer Under the Stars taking over August, suffice it to say quite a bit of news piled up on my makeshift desk. With September in full swing, let’s look at what’s going on in the world of classic news. I recommend having your lunch handy!
News that broke as I was starting to type: actor Dean Jones, best known for his work in the Disney films The Love Bug (1968) and The Shaggy D.A. (1974) has passed away at 84. He was a great, fresh face for Disney a la Dick van Dyke and he’ll be missed. You can read his full obituary at The Hollywood Reporter.
The Hollywood biopic train isn’t slowing down for anything. The Wrap announced that actress Cate Blanchett will star as Lucille Ball in an authorized biopic of the famous redhead, with a script penned by Social Network writer, Aaron Sorkin. Right now it’s only said that the project will explore Ball’s 20-year marriage to Desi Arnaz, but it’s unknown whether that’ll be the film’s main focus or not. I’m a taste skeptical about the project, not necessarily Blanchett’s involvement. Blanchett won an Oscar for flawlessly embodying Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator (2004), so I know she’ll do a great job, but Ball is one of those actresses who often falls into poor imitations (there’s a reason I haven’t touched on the few Ball/Arnez biopics out there). And if the film is just going to focus on Lucy and Desi, then it sounds no different than those biopics already in circulation. Lucie Arnaz and Desi Arnaz, Jr. are listed as producers, so it’s doubtful they’d allow a hatchet job, but there’s the possibility of an overly sanitized film as well. Either way, the Sorkin/Blanchett piques my interest. Any ideas who should play Arnaz?
Taking everyone by surprise last week, TCM announced the dates for the 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival. Usually reserved for November, TCM released the dates early, revealing the fest will be held in Hollywood on April 28th-May 1st. This year’s theme is entitled “Moving Pictures,” focusing on the movies that “bring us to tears, rouse us to action, and inspire us.” Festival passes will be available to purchase November 19th, and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel will continue to be the festival’s base of operations. After overcoming the shock of this early announcement, fans noted how late in the year this was. Last year’s festival was early, mid-March, and we’d have to go all the way back to the second film festival, in 2011 for these late Apri/beginning of May dates. The dates always depend on the availability of stars and the venues, so it’ll be interesting to see if almost a month later will help quell some attendees issues of unpredictability associated with last year’s earlier festival. The theme is also broad enough to prevent questions from last year’s historical theme regarding contemporary films and questionable titles. Pictures that move us, either positively or negatively, sounds amazing and stay tuned for my guesses on which films I’d love to see spotlighted. And, yes, I will, hopefully, be attending the festival again next year. 2016 will actually mark my first festival staying at the Roosevelt Hotel, adding to the excitement.
The joy of the TCM Classic Film Festival Dates was almost immediately swallowed up by internet fervor regarding the announcement of TCM’s latest ad campaign. Officially launching yesterday, “Let’s Movie” is a campaign focusing on getting new fans to the channel through promoting classic film gatherings. Much of this will be utilized via social media with the hashtag #LetsMovie that skews a bit too close to the popular #TCMParty events that happen almost daily. The network will also be using the campaign to promote their Watch TCM app which has led many to ask whether this is a preemptive strike towards a TCM streaming service? However, most interpreted the vague corporate speak as the possibility of showing more modern movies and changing the entire network dynamic, forcing Twitter responses from both Jennifer Dorian, TCM’s general manager, and on-air host Ben Mankiewicz proclaiming no changes were being made. Honestly, I interpreted this as a way of promoting the Watch TCM app, which Dorian confirmed to me on Twitter. Too often, any new campaign causes friction, and much of this played like bad overreaction online. Based on the TCM schedules for the next two months, I’m not seeing any channel shift. Either way, the “Let’s Movie” campaign appears in-line with much of TCM’s new marketing, especially their increased Fathom Events screenings.
In better news, TCM announced a month-long programming event dedicated to women in cinema. Entitled “Trailblazing Women,” the multi-year initiative kicks off October 1st with actress/director Illeana Douglas shining “a spotlight on cinema’s greatest female filmmakers and women who challenged gender stereotypes.” This is the most overt result of TCM’s partnership with Women in Film, Los Angeles. Co-hosting with Douglas throughout the month include directors Allison Anders, Julie Dash, Connie Fields, and Amy Heckerling, as well as film expert Cari Beauchamp.
Speaking of women in film, if you’re visiting the Los Angeles area this weekend, consider taking a trip down to the Billy Wilder Theatre in Westwood Village for the UCLA Film & Television Archives final two films in their retrospective of director Dorothy Arzner. Honor Among Lovers (1931) and Merrily We Go to Hell (1932) play on September 11th, while Dance Girl Dance (1940) and The Bride Wore Red (1937) screen on the 18th. Full details can be found at the event website.
There’s also time to take in any of the films shown during The Films of Frank Borzage. History Is Made at Night (1937), Humoresque (1920), Strange Cargo (1940), and more will screen until September 20th. Even details are here.
I haven’t covered The Nitrate Picture Show film festival as much as I should, mainly because I probably won’t be attending anytime soon (I panic flying to Los Angeles, you don’t want to see me fly cross-country). Presented at the Dryden Theatre in Rochester, New York, The Nitrate Picture Show has, based on what I’ve heard from past attendees, the potential to give TCM a run for their film festival money. Unfortunately, fans will have to choose which festival to attend, as The Nitrate Picture Show already announced their 2016 festival as taking place on April 29th-May 1st, the same dates as TCMFF. Also, if you’re in the New York area, they’ll be screening Nothing Sacred (1937) at the Dryden on September 5th.
A lot happening at getTV in the month of September. Kicking things off, the network will be singing and dancing during the month with several classic musicals taking over primetime every Thursday in September. A few of the works set to air: Bye Bye Birdie (1963), Pennies From Heaven (1936), and Down to Earth (1947). More presentations of “The Year Was,” where the day’s programming adheres to a specific year, have been announced starting September 8th with the year 1954. Other years set for scheduling include 1962 and 1978. getTV also announced the addition of television shows Nichols, Hondo, and A Man Called Shenandoah will be added to their Saturday Western lineup. You can find all this, as well as a complete schedule of shows and movies, at getTV’s website.
New on DVD and Blu-ray
Flicker Alley: Flicker Alley will release a five-disc set of Charlie Chaplin’s Essanay Comedies on November 10th. Along with the shorts will be bonus content including unofficial Chaplin films, various one and two-reels shorts associated with Chaplin, and a 28-page booklet.
Olive: Starting off September 22nd, Olive announced the 12-episode Republic serial, The Invisible Monster (1950) will debut on DVD and Blu-ray. Also, on October 27th you can purchase Flying Disc Man From Mars (1950) as well as the 1955 crime drama, No Man’s Woman, starring Marie Windsor.
Kino: Kino is on a releasing bonanza of late with their October and November slates already announced.
- October 13th – The Phantom of the Opera (1925) on 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray
- October 20th – Louise Brooks’ Diary of a Lost Girl (1929) on DVD and Blu-ray
- October 27th – I Want to Live! (1958) and Lilies of the Field (1963) on DVD
- November 17th – A Bullet for Joey (1955), The Crooked Way (1949), Faust (1926), and Pitfall (1948) on DVD. Faust will be released on a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack while the rest will see individual DVD and Blu-ray releases
- November 24th – A Child is Waiting (1963), The Devil’s Disciple (1959), and The Hurricane (1937
Columbia Classics: Columbia released the 1931 Buck Jones western The Deadline for the first time on DVD.
Video Artists International: Fans of filmed television performances of musicals are in luck as the beloved Mary Martin and her performance of Peter Pan is now available on DVD and Blu-ray. This marks the first time both the 1955 and 1956 NBC broadcasts of the Broadway show will be available on HD.
Universal: W.C. Fields fans will want to pick up the five disc collection of W.C. Fields films coming to DVD on October 13th. The 18 film collection will only include one film new to DVD, 1932’s If I Had a Million.
Paramount: After being yanked from its December 2014 release date, Paramount is finally ready to release the 50th Anniversary edition of My Fair Lady (1964) on Blu-ray and DVD. The new release date is now set for October 27th.
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.