Showing posts with label Blogathon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blogathon. Show all posts

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Young Man With a Horn (1950)


Young Man With a Horn (1950) airs on TCM Friday August 30th at 8AM EST for the Kirk Douglas Summer Under the Stars day and it's not a film to be missed. This post is my second contribution to this year's Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Jill and Michael.

The story is based on the novel Young Man With a Horn by Dorothy Baker. The books is considered to be the first jazz novel and is loosely based on real life jazz trumpeter Bix Beiderbecke but is really in essence a work of fiction. I plan to review the novel for my 2013 Summer Reading Classic Film Challenge so stay tuned for that!

The film follows the life story of Rick Martin (Kirk Douglas), a jazz trumpeter, from beginning to end. We first see Rick as a young boy. He's parentless and being raised by his sister. He discovers music, jazz in particular, purely by accident and is instantly enamored. Rick watches jazz musicians turn out tunes and dreams of owning the trumpet he sees in a local pawn shop. He's a white kid amongst a lot of African-American jazz musicians including Art Hazzard (Juano Hernandez), who would become his life-long friend. The years pass and Rick fine tunes his skills and becomes a professional jazz musician.

Rick meets Jo Jordan (Doris Day), the girl he should be with, and Amy North (Lauren Bacall), the girl he wants to be with. Jo is a singer who befriends Rick and tries to help him out during his many low points. However, Rick has his eye on Amy, a sophisticated and glamorous socialite who is enamored with Rick. She's talentless and is intrigued by Rick's wealth of talent. She goes to school and parties to fill the hours of her days because she's terribly bored. Rick and Amy marry but it's a turbulent marriage that sends Rick on a downward spiral.

Young Man With a Horn is a wonderful film. When reading the novel, I discovered that while the film doesn't stay very true to the original story, it focuses more on Rick's romantic life and downward spiral, it still stands well on its own. The film was released 63 years ago and is notable because, as of today, all three main stars are still alive: Kirk Douglas, Lauren Bacall and Doris Day. It deals with issues of race, love and alcoholism. Kirk Douglas is really good at playing characters who are intense and passionate and the character of Rick Martin is no exception. Doris Day has an opportunity to sing as well as to play the good girl character she's become known for in the years that followed. Lauren Bacall is really enticing as the femme fatale whose siren call is Rick's downfall. Lesbianism is hinted at in the story when Amy North brings home a female companion for what looks like a romantic rendezvous. Author Dorothy Baker didn't include this in the novel but was interested in homosexual characters and they appear in several of her novels. We talk a lot more openly today about homosexuality so for modern audiences this doesn't mean much but probably did mean a lot in 1950.

I've seen this film several times and feel a sort of bond with it. I watched the film early on when I started to develop an interest in classic movies and it has stuck with me ever since. Each time I watch it I get something new out of it.

TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Kirk Douglas DVDSo get up early or set your DVR for Young Man With a Horn (1950)! If you do miss it, it's available to rent from ClassicFlix and Netflix and you can purchase it as part of the TCM Greatest Classic Legends: Kirk Douglas DVD Set or the Doris Day Collection Volume 1. It used to be available as a stand-alone DVD but has since gone out of print.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Watch Bullitt (1968)

My contribution to the TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon

Bullitt (1968) will be showing on August 9th (Friday) 4:00 PM EST on Turner Classic Movies as part of the Summer Under the Stars Steve McQueen day. Here are my top 10 reasons why I think you should watch this fantastic film.

1. The fantastic car chase through the streets of San Francisco - I do enjoy a good car chase scene and this one does not disappoint. The exciting twists and turns and jumps along San Francisco's hilly and windy streets are perfect for this scene. And there is a nice big finale that is just oh so satisfying. I could watch this car chase over and over again and never be bored. While there was a stunt driver for some of the difficult maneuvers, Steve McQueen does a lot of the driving himself. There is also a really good airport chase scene too.

2. Steve McQueen - This is the ideal type of role for Steve McQueen. McQueen was especially good at performances in which there was limited dialogue because his efforts were better spent being cool, commanding the screen, racing cars and doing other physical work. This film was produced by McQueen's production company Solar Productions in conjunction with Warner Bros. and Seven Arts. So it's got the special Steve McQueen touch.

3. Confusing Plot - The plot is convoluted and confusing and pretty typical for a 1960's detective movie. Why is this a good thing? Because it gives you the opportunity to sit back, relax and take in the movie without having to preoccupy yourself with the plot details on your first viewing. With repeat viewings, the story starts to make more sense. And because of the convoluted nature of the plot, you find something new with each viewing that you didn't quite catch before. This film just begs to be watched over and over again.

4. Robert Vaughn - He is so wonderfully despicable in this film. According to IMDB, Vaughn didn't want to do the film. McQueen had his heart set on having Vaugh in the film and Warner Bros. kept offering more and more money until Vaughn said yes. Looking back on the film, Robert Vaughn said it was one of his best performances. Vaughn's character Walter Chambers is the polar opposite of McQueen's Frank Bullitt. Chambers's style is a lot more formal and conservative and his motivations are more political. Bullitt just wants to get the bad guy.

5. Steve McQueen's Style - Turtleneck, gun holster, sports coat, dark trousers and Chukka boots (or brown suede boots depending on which fashion guru you talk to). Gentleman, take special note of McQueen's outfits in this. He's casual and while his outfits may seem understated at first glance, they stand out from all the rest.

6. Young Jacqueline Bisset & Robert Duvall - Jacqueline Bisset is so young in this that she's barely recognizable! Bisset plays Cathy, Bullitt's architect girlfriend. Her role is small but very important. She represents the innocence and the emotion that Bullitt is missing in his life. Watch for Robert Duvall . He has a small role as a taxi driver who feeds Bullitt some useful information.

7. 1960s San Francisco - If you want to see what 1960s San Francisco looked like, watch this film! There are lots of great shots and views, especially during the car chase scene.

8. Realism - On location shooting, McQueen doing his own stunts, real life doctors and nurses in hospital scenes. This is not a glossed up Hollywood production. This is a gritty detective film.

9. Lalo Schifrin's Score - I have a difficult time writing about music so I don't often discuss soundtracks or scores on this blog. Lalo Schifrin is an Argentinian musician and composer with a long history of composing music for TV and film. The score for Bullitt is especially good. What I like about the score is that it complements the film very well. I think contemporary films are often weighed down with too much music. Bullitt has moments of silence and moments when the score is needed to build tension or excitement. 

10. Cinematography, Film Editing and Direction - This film was beautifully shot. It's directed by Peter Yates and the cinematography is by William A. Fraker. Film Editor Frank P. Keller won the film's only Academy Award for Best Film Editing! The editing and cinematography is especially noticeable in the car chase scene. There is one particular shot I love of Bullitt wearing sunglasses and looking in a rear view mirror. If you watch the movie, look for it. It's classic!

So there you have it. Clear off your schedule or rev up your DVR and make sure to watch Bullitt (1968). If you miss it on TCM, the film is available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

A special thanks to my husband Carlos who helped me with this post!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon ~ Sidney Poitier ~ A Patch of Blue (1965)

This post is my contribution to the TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon hosted by Jill of Sittin' on a Backyard Fence and Michael of ScribeHard on Film. Sidney Poitier is the featured actor on Tuesday August 7th on TCM.

If you only watch one Sidney Poitier film on Tuesday’s TCM Summer Under the Stars special, make sure it's A Patch of Blue (1965). This sensitive ground-breaking film features fine performances from Shelley Winters, then-newcomer Elizabeth Hartman and the great Sidney Poitier.

A Patch of Blue is one of those films that merits repeat viewings. Every time I watch it, I’m reminded of several things: the importance of kindness, the injustice of racial prejudice and the blindness of love.

Selina D’Arcy (Elizabeth Hartman) is a blind girl living with her mother Rose-Ann (Shelley Winters) and her grandfather Ole Pa (Wallace Ford), both of whom are consistently drunk and getting into trouble. Rose-Ann’s promiscuity has always been the source of pain and suffering for Selina. When two of Rose-Ann’s lovers get into a quarrel, a bottle of acid is thrown by accident at 5 year old Selina leading to her permanent blindness. A Patch of Blue refers to Selina’s happy memory of seeing the color blue before she went blind.

Selina is not allowed to have an education and is forced to keep the home, make dinner and work on beading necklaces and jewelry to supply more income to the family. As Rose-Ann gets older, she becomes more and more jealous of Selina’s youth and beauty and is constantly finding ways to bring her down. Then one day Selina meets Gordon Ralfe (Sidney Poitier) in the park. He’s the first person to be kind to her. Genuinely kind. He helps her with her beads, pulls a caterpillar out of her shirt, gives her pineapple juice, teaches her how to use a payphone, corrects her grammar, and more. Rose-Ann had worked so hard to keep Selina paralyzed and sheltered.  It’s much easier to control someone when you deny them the tools to defend themselves and become independent. But it only took one kind person to give Selina a new chance at life. Sidney Poitier’s Gordon is the catalyst who makes Selina’s world open up with many possibilities.

A handsome 38-year-old Sidney Poitier is a marvel to watch. He’s tall and graceful, has beautiful skin, bright eyes and a smile that could light up a room.

Sidney Poitier’s Gordon is my favorite character in the film. Gordon could have continued his walk through the park not paying any mind to Selina. Instead, he took pity on her and decided to help her out. If anything this world needs it’s more kindness. I really gravitate towards characters such as Gordon whom despite their own problems extend kindness to others in need. Gordon’s generosity towards Selina always makes me cry.

I mean c’mon! She’s got a sad bag of crackers for lunch and he takes pity on her and leads her to the local deli for corned beef sandwiches and pineapple juice. He could have just left her to her sad lunch but instead he treated to something better and taught her how to get out of the park and navigate traffic too! He doesn’t baby her. He enables her to be independent and to do things on her own. And that’s key! It’s one thing to be nice to someone and it’s another to empower them.

The film is ground-breaking because it shows, for the very first time, a kiss between a white woman and a black man. According to IMDB, this scene was cut out of versions shown in certain states in the American south because at that time miscegenation was still illegal there. To me this film is especially important because it shows how two people can fall in love regardless of race. Selina’s blindness demonstrates how love itself is blind and what’s important is who we are inside. Her naïveté about society's rules regarding race could fuel discussion of why those rules ever existed.

While it was Shelly Winters who won the Academy Award for her performance, I think there is a lot to Sidney Poitier's sensitive portrayal of Gordon Ralfe. This film made me fall in love with Sidney Poitier and I've been a happy fan ever since.

Thanks to Jill and Michael for hosting the TCM Summer Under the Stars (SUTS) blogathon and for letting me participate!

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