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"Tarzen" index: When I started going to movies, Lex Barker was Tarzen, Johnny Weistmuller had become "Jungle Jim", and Jock Mahoney was the "Range
Rider", when I could visit a friend's
home and watch TV. Ron Ely and Milo
O'Keefe were ,at best, in kindergarten,
or maybe not yet born.
My family got TV when I was thirteen.
In rural Alabama, with antenna television, we got an NBC station, and
another that combined CBS and ABC programmiing. Ages l6-21, I was away at school, then in the military on a
foreign posting (Berlin Crisis, pre-
Viet Nam). Much of what I know about entertainment in those years I picked up in reruns, sometimes years later.
I was a big reader all my life, something of a joke as a bookworm. I
tend to approach movie/tv presentations from that perspedtive--
the script as literature. The freshman theme question: What is this writer /director /cast and crew trying to express? Do they succeed? I have
little interest in fanzine stuff, and I don't don't consult those programs or publications. True story: I've watched and mostly enjoyed Kevin Bacon's work for years. "Secondhand
Lions" focused my attention on Kera
Sedgwick, and that made me a fan of her TV series. I found out about two weeks ago that they are married. Mel
Gibson, Robert Blake and Wennona Rider got into the regular news, and I became aware of their non-work problems; if their stories had stayed in "Entertainment Tonight" I would have missed it. I care little about
personal lives, political activism, etc. If they avoid spousal abuse, child abuse or stomping baby ducks, I'm all about the work they do.
There's a lot out there that is very good, and I'm willing to scan through
a lot of meciocre stuff to experience
An A-to-Z of an artistic creation
This episode of Telephone Time tells a story of actor/composer Hoagy Carmichael, and the creation of one of his songs. He puts the music to a poem that was sent to him, and finds that he has a quite nice song, and that someone wants to record and publish it. It then becomes necessary to track down the original poetess, and get permission to use her words, which have becomes lyrics. The step-by-step of this process makes for an entertaining detective story, with a surprise at the end. It closes with Dick Powell's voice in the original recording of the opus that is also the title of the episode. Other Entertainment and News personages also appear as themselves.
Baby the Rain Must Fall (1965)
A symbol that works.
The desperately hopeful wife (Lee Remick) wants to help establish a home by planting a tree on their lawn. She hooks the husband (Steve McQueen) into the project to help with their bonding, but he really isn't into gestures like that. They dig the hole; then, while she is distracted by a conversation, he drops in the sapling, STILL ROOTED IN THE #10 CAN IN WHICH SHE BROUGHT IT HOME, into the ground and covers it up, getting the chore over with and done.
Thie one passage tells us where the story, and their lives, are going. Nothing reverses this omen. The frantic dash after the truck at the ending is also a good working symbol of their destiny.
Sister Mary Explains It All (2001)
Catholics and Marines
WHERE I'M COMING FROM: I grew up in a Protestant family and church, and I am an adult-convert Catholic. I can give one item of perspective that I don't think I've seen expressed here. Listening to "cradle Catholics" describe Perochial School ("Sister School")is a lot like watching a group of Marines sit around discussing the Parris Island experience. There is pride there, often. They are describing something that had it's unpleasant features, but they are glad and proud to have borne up under it. They are glad they survived it.
I have seen "Sister Mary" both on stage and in this film. I feel that the playwright speaks with authority on what he experienced and observed. He has made his argument; those who feel he was unfair can now express their own views.
The Scarlett O'Hara War (1980)
Reason Movie Meter is up 2%
Written 04/27/2007; I caught your notation that the movie meter was 'up'(pointed arrow) and the question "why?". I logged onto the "why?" and found myself in a maze of questions for showbiz folk with paid up credit cards. I got out of there; I had gone in there trying to answer your question. The TCM Message Boards has a "forum" called "Hot Topics", and within that is a "thread" called "The'other roles'thread". Under that heading contributers are passing along what they have learned re actors who turned down certain roles, or GOT turned, and the consequences in some cases. The name of S. O'Hara kept cropping up and I got suspicious. I saw this movie when it was first broadcast, but there's a whole generation come to adulthood since then. My theory is that some contributers are raiding your cast list, then going back to the TCM pages with one or two names at a time. I don't know if this info qualifies as a "comment"; just thought you'd like your question answered. Oh -- If it matters, I loved 'The Scarlett O'Hara War'. Tony Curtis as David O. Selnick -- Hoot and a half.
Yancy Derringer (1958)
Really Smooth Heros!
I was a big fan of 'Yancy Derringer' from the first episode. By the time it was canceled, I had been accepted at a private school, and had gone away to a no-TV environment. But I remember it fondly.
In these very innocent times, in the small-town South, there was nothing wrong with possession of a pocket knife, even on school grounds. My friends and I came up with a recess game of tossing open pocket knives back and forth to each other, in imitation of Yancey and Pahoo. (In the show's context, the two men used this method of the man with the knife delivering it to the one who needed to throw it at somebody, stab somebody, or maybe sharpen a pencil.) We felt especially good when A could get the knife to B, who could then throw it and stick it in a tree. We broke a few knife points, but nobody got hurt. File under: God takes care of idiots.
I am aware that New Orleans during Reconstruction was a rougher place than pictured in the series. But it made for a good fantasy. Like other contributers, I would appreciate seeing it in reruns or in DVD release
A Step Out of Line (1971)
Good Film, hard to find
I saw 'A Step Out Of Line' on a daytime rerun at some point in the 1990's, and thereafter had a hard time proving it existed. When I wanted to see It again, it seemed to have fallen off the radar entirely. It isn't listed in Leonard Maltin's 'Movie Guide'. Katz's 'Film Encyclopedia' does not list it in the filmographies of Peter Falk or Peter Lawford. I was able to verify its existence only after getting a computer, getting online, and finding my way around the IMDb. Now I've tracked it down, and there seems to be no way to seeing it again. Nobody seems to be showing it.
But I remember very well why I liked it, and why I want to see it again. I'm a big fan of "gather the crew and let's caper" plots (CF 'The Magnificent Seven', 'Ocean's Eleven', etc). This story is a good example of the type, but it is one of the noirish ones.
***SPOILERS*** A group of ageing men getting close to what should be retirement age do not feel they have the financial resources they actually need. The Peter Falk character is especially stressed because of the medical needs of his sickly father. Peter Lawford, post-Kennedy years, post- Rat Pack, gives a good performance as a man who had expected to be much more solvent at this point in his life. They gather some like-minded partners and target an armored-car company on a long weekend, when the place is closed. Things go wrong. They end up with not enough money to solve their problems, and with the police closing in. The Falk character is especially pitiable. He's going to prison, and his father is going to be a charity case.
I don't feel too badly about the spoilers here. It looks like no one is ever again going to be able to view this very good story.
Mother Knows Best (1997)
The Positively True Adventures Of the Alleged Socalite Son-In-Law Murdering Mom!
I saw 'Mother Knows Best' when it was first run, and again as a daytime rerun. Looking it up recently, I couldn't remember the title, couldn't remember the names of the stars. No problem, I would approach it through the names of supporting players. However, the filmography of William Daniels didn't help, because David Spielberg had played that role (bride's father). The filmography of Anne Meara didn't help because the name I needed was Jeanette O'Conner (groom's mother). I won't bother revealing the blunder that finally got me to the right site, but I did get here.
In spite of my memory gaps about the cast, I do recall the plot points that help drive this very good story. On the bride's side, the social-climbing mother with a creative view of facts, and a venomous sense of entitlements. And a head-in-the-sand father who served as a passive accomplice to the mother. He is long past EVER telling the mother anything she doesn't want to hear. On the groom's side, the hard-working, good-hearted soul, his mother, who wanted to help the young folks.
The police-procedural part of the story -- making their case while avoiding any action that could be construed as entrapment -- makes this film a worthy companion piece to that story about a high-school cheerleading squad in Texas. Because they prevent the planned murder, it ends on a pretty lighthearted note, and there is some humor along the way. It would have done this viewer's heart good to have one more scene; the incarcerated mom scrubbing toilets or negotiating with the cellblock Bad Mama. But maybe the scriptwriters knew what they were doing.
Like others who have commented, I would like to have someone broadcast it again, so I can tape it. Eight stars.
Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)
It's about more than baseball
This movie,"Bang The Drum Slowly", is about much more than a baseball season. Similar stories have been set in other locations, among other groups of men. The field hands in a bunkhouse in "Of Mice And Men", or the military barracks in "The Hasty Heart". These are all stories about friendships among men, at a time when those men need those friendships.
When Michael Moriarty learns his friend Robert De Niro is incurably sick and will soon die, he makes a decision to give his friend a final season of friendship and support. These men talk half-bright teenager among themselves, and then try to sound like sports-interview aces in formal situations. Note Moriarty's awkwardness in refusing to have an unwritten clause about not trading De Niro away from the team: "No verbal words. Must be wrote." He is equally awkward, and must move cautiously, in persuading the other players to help, and to keep mum when symptoms of the illness appear. Eventually, everybody is in on the effort to help. De Niro is welcomed into the TEGWAR games, and into the glee club. The team doctor is in the dugout at every game. The patient is able to hold up his end as catcher when the rotation brings him up to catch a game. At bat, it seems his best play all year is to hit a good solid triple and come into third standing up. In what turns out to be his last game, his team-mates see the trouble coming. The first baseman dashes in and snags a pop fly that De Niro can no longer handle himself.
In his final monologue, walking away from De Niro's graveside, Moriarty gives what could be considered a strong contender for the best curtain line ever: "From here on in, I rag nobody."
Rancho Deluxe (1975)
Discontent / False Nostalgia
"Rancho Deluxe" assembles a group of characters who think they want things to go back to the way they used to be, but they mostly have simplistic views about the past. The wealthy ranch owners made their pile with a string of beauty parlors. The two ranch hands--an appliance repairman and a TV pitchman--quit those jobs to live in a bunkhouse and ride fenced-in range. The two cattle rustlers take one beef at a time, and haul it away in a pickup -- but they shoot it with an antique buffalo rifle. They all think something was lost in the past which they would like to recover. A braver time, a lost simplicity, perhaps.
By contrast, two of the oldest characters, the elderly Indian and the retired horse thief- turned range detective, observed more of the past and know it better, and they approve of progress. Joseph Spinnell lectures his son, "The homesteads, hospitals, schools and welfare of the state of Montana have been sold down the river to buy pickup trucks!" The detective sets a honey-trap to ferret out just who expects to come into some money soon, a very modern ploy. Then, seemingly for fun, he dons chaps and six-guns and mounts a white horse to pull over the cattle-laden tractor-trailer before it can get to a roadway. He then dismounts and asks for some more peach pie. He lectures the ranch owner, "All big money crimes are inside jobs. Remember that and you may hang on to this ranch of yours."
In the end, even the captured rustlers are somewhat content. Turns out the Montana penal system has a prison ranch, if you can earn "trusty" status.
With all the fun going on in this story, there is also that core of serious thought about nostalgia not being what it used to be.
The Station Agent (2003)
A worthy story,powerful performances.
Peter Denklage has a lot of acting chops, and he brings a whole load of it to this story. His size may matter somewhat to the plot, but it has little bearing on his talent. This script knows how to deal with reality: Talked into visiting a classroom to discuss trains, he does NOT blossom into a fun guy ala Afterschool Special; he concentrates on his note cards and gets through his bare-facts lecture while ignoring a snotty young heckler--just as he's had to do all his life.
And if "feeling good was easy, Lord, when Bobbie sang the blues", it can also feel good to sit quietly with your friends after a good meal.
Oh.-I couldn't find my way into the site about movies with similar themes, but I scrolled through it. I saw a lot of good suggestions, but I didn't see "Benny And Joon". That's the one I'd recommend.