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  1. Top News Stories

    • UCLA - Forbidden Fruit: The Golden Age of the Exploitation Picture in September

    • UCLA Film & Television Archive and the Hugh M. Hefner Classic American Film Program present


      September 20, 2019 - September 22, 2019 at the Billy Wilder Theater in Los Angeles

      The Production Code that went into effect in the mid-1930s was intended to purge the screen of Hollywood's more salacious predilections. While the big studios complied, a crop of independent producers sprung up to continue giving audiences what they really wanted--as quickly and cheaply as they could. Producers like J.D. Kendis, Kroger Babb and Dwain Esper cranked out lurid tales of sexual license, drug use and and violent crime to be exhibited, with commensurate carnivalesque ballyhoo, barnstorm-style at independent theaters around the country. Billed as educational films--invariably they open with scrolling statements of wholesome intent, dubbed in the trade, the "square up"--they purported to expose and inform the truth and consequences of society's pressing ills all the while seeking to shock and titillate with every frame. Generally devoid of anything approaching production value, their cardboard worlds, teeming with shadowy purveyors who lead innocents astray, hold their own kind of fascination, like the country's id run wild. This weekend series presents highlights and lowlights from the classic era of the exploitation film, all in new restorations from by Kino Lorber in association with Something Weird and the Library of Congress.

      She Shoulda Said 'No!' / Narcotic / Marihuana - September 20, 2019 - 7:30 pm

      The March of Crime (Volume 1, 1936)
      The history of the mondo film begins with this sleazoid newsreel packed with grizzly images of contemporaneous executions and murder scenes sutured together with scenes of modern policing techniques and a narration about the role of parental discipline in reducing crime to give the whole thing the thinnest veneer of responsibility.
      DCP, b/w, 9 min. Director: Dwain Esper.

      She Shoulda Said 'No!' (1949)
      The "All Star Hollywood Cast" touted in the opening credits of this police procedural with overtones of noir done on the dirt cheap includes--along with Alan Baxter and Jack Elam--Lila Leeds, the party host who was arrested in 1948 with Robert Mitchum in one of Hollywood's most notorious drug scandals. While Mitchum emerged with his career intact, Leeds was forced to go slumming for exploitation producers looking to cash in on her ill fame. Here art imitates life with Leeds playing a show girl who holds wild pot parties in her suburban home to help put her kid brother through college. When the boy finds out the source of his sister's support he kills himself for shame and she spirals into feverish madness before helping the cops catch the dealer who led her astray.
      DCP, b/w, 71 min. Director: Sam Newfield. Screenwriter: Richard H. Landau. Cast: Lila Leeds, Alan Baxter, Lyle Talbot.

      Narcotic (1933)
      Doe-eyed teens aren't the only cautionary tale victims of dope and its nefarious purveyors. Case in point, director Dwain Esper's exposé of the medical profession's easy path to dissolution in this "case history." Struggling to get his practice off the ground, Dr. William Davies is led to an opium den by a former classmate, a Chinese immigrant played in yellow face, to relieve his stress. Davies soon abandons his hippocratic oath to hustle miracle cures and keep feeding his habit. A greasy slab of pulp, Esper jolts the proceedings with shock cuts to documentary footage including graphic surgery, needle injections in close up and, in a particularly surreal gambit, a snake eating another snake inserted into a fight sequence between Davies and his disloyal partners.
      DCP, b/w, 61 min. Director: Dwain Esper, Vival Sodar't. Screenwriter: Hildegarde Stadie. Cast: Harry Cording, Joan Dix, Patricia Farley.

      Marihuana: Weed with Roots in Hell (1936)
      Exploitation auteur Dwain Esper and his wife and regular collaborator, screenwriter Hildegarde Stadie, virtually cornered the market on drug films in the 1930s, owing, perhaps, to Stadie's personal experience with addicts in her own family. Stadie's prologue for Marihuana cites "actual case histories" as the source for the sordid tale to follow although fantastical melodrama seems the likier inspiration. A dealer prowling a beer hall where the local wayward teens hang out convinces a group, including rebellious blonde Burma, to come back to his beach house where the gang smokes "the funniest cigarettes" they've ever seen. Before the night is over, a girl drowns and Burma gets pregnant beginning her steep descent into the underworld where she rises again as the "Queen of the Snow Peddlers" with murder, kidnapping and suicide still in the offing. Marihuana. It's a hell of a drug.
      DCP, b/w, 55 min. Director: Dwain Esper. Screenwriter: Hildegarde Stadie, Rex Elgin. Cast: Harley Wood, Hugh McArthur, Pat Carlyle.

      Mom and Dad / Test Tube Babies - September 21, 2019 - 7:30 pm

      The March of Crime (Volume 2, 1936)
      The second volume of this notorious newsreel zeroes in on the "new plague scourging the nation" kidnap murders. The Lindbergh case is a leaping off point for a detailed recounting of two other infamous kidnappings of the era, that of Marion Parker in 1927 in Los Angeles and the taking of nine-year-old George Weyerhaeuser in Tacoma in 1935.
      DCP, b/w, 10 min. Director: Dwain Esper.

      How to Take a Bath (1937)
      The easing of domestic tensions is the cover story for this little number. After history's most uncomfortable bridge game, two couples retire to their respective homes where the wives each undress incrementally before stepping in the bath. While one harangues her husband about his losing bridge game and failing career, the other offers her man reassuring compliments and soothing come ons.
      DCP, b/w, 14 min. Director: Dwain Esper.

      Mom and Dad (1945)
      The only film in this series on the National Film Registry, Mom and Dad was one of the most successful exploitation films of the 1940s, earning not only the wrath of the Legion of Decency and countless local DAs who sought to block its exhibition but also record grosses at the box office. The censorious brouhaha only served to reinforce the film's call for public sex education and condemnation of those who believe "ignorance is as good as virtue." An innocent highschool girl, Joan falls for an older guy and finds herself in "trouble" and no one to turn to. To provide the right educational cover for its titillating night club excursions and roadside rendezvous--Mom and Dad was exhibited with an intermission during which a sex hygiene "commentator" would address the audience.
      DCP, b/w, 97 min. Director: William Beaudine. Screenwriter: Mildred Horn. Cast: Hardie Albright, Lois Austin, George Eldredge.

      Test Tube Babies (1948)
      The post-war suburban swinger scene tempts a new bride because--so the logic of this film goes--her husband's work hours and their lack of a child leaves her terminally bored. As her mother advises, "You need a baby. You're getting neurotic." After an especially raucous neighborhood shindig climaxes in a living room clearing brawl between two drunk women, the couple seeks a doctor's help to find out why they can't conceive. The relentless drone of medical information about artificial insemination that follows verges on the hypnotic. A cruelly rational climax given the abandon of the set up.
      DCP, b/w, 69 min. Director: W. Merle Connell. Screenwriter: Richard S. McMahan. Cast: Dorothy Dube, William Thomason, Timothy Farrell.

      Child Bride / Sex Madness - September 22, 2019 - 7:00 pm

      Seventh Commandment trailer (1932)
      DCP, b/w, 2 min.

      How to Undress (1938)
      After a warning to the ladies about today's modern "super peeper," this short purports to reveal the educational power of candid cameras. Unawares in her bedroom, Elaine Barry Barrymore, the fourth and final wife of John Barrymore, demonstrates the correct method of disrobing as compared to the comic fumblings of former vaudeville star Trixie Friganza.
      DCP, b/w, 15 min. Director: Dwain Esper.

      Child Bride (1938)
      When the Legion of Decency condemned Child Bride for its "sensual presentation of sordidness, suggestive sequences... and indecent costuming," it may have had a point. Shirley Mills made her feature debut at the age of 12 as Jennie, a mountain ragamuffin and pre-adolescent object of desire for the men of her isolated town who have, by consensus, declared her "the prettiest young'un in the community." A crusading local teacher, moonshiners and a mob of backwood thugs all clash in the course of events as a consequence. Child Bride claims the mantle of progressive reform--raising the age of consent in the Appalachians--while director Revier takes every opportunity to present Mills--especially in a notorious skinny dipping sequence--as an object of desire for his audience, as well.
      DCP, b/w, 62 min. Director: Harry Revier. Cast: Shirley Mills, Bob Bollinger, Warner Richmond.

      Sex Madness (1938)
      Brace yourself. After a standard wringing of the hands over venereal disease--"humanity must be enlightened"--Sex Madness is a sizzle reel of show girls, champagne, moral hypocrisy and innuendo until suddenly it's not. After an astonishingly naive show girl puts her trust in the wrong smooth talker doling out champagne--"Oh, it fizzes!"--and catches a dose of syphilis, a doctor takes her on a tour of the hospital's VD ward. A graphic montage of advanced symptoms followed later, when she becomes pregnant, by a grim parade of similarly affected infants. No degree of ironic viewing will spare you.
      DCP, b/w, 59 min. Cast: Vivian McGill, Rose Tapley, Al Rigeli.

      For venue and ticket information, visit the UCLA Film & Television Archive.

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  1. New Books

    • Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star - The War Years 1940-1946

    • The second volume of award-winning critic and scholar Gary Giddins's eagerly anticipated Bing Crosby biography, BING CROSBY: SWINGING ON A STAR - THE WAR YEARS 1940-1946, is now available through the TCM Shop. It's been called "a cultural biography to croon over." The bestselling first volume, BING CROSBY: A POCKETFUL OF DREAMS, published in 2001, was selected by the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post as one of the year's best books and was a New York Times Notable Book.

      Perhaps no entertainer in the 20th century held sway over the affections and conscience of the public as long and as deeply as Bing Crosby. In this second volume on Crosby's life, Giddins masterfully re-creates the years when some of the singing icon's most enduring work - songs like "White Christmas" and "Swinging on a Star," films like Holiday Inn, Going My Way, The Bells of St Mary's, and the first four Road movies - was accomplished; when the seeds of the many changes he would usher into the film, broadcasting, and music businesses would be planted; and when the astounding number of his projects in and out of show business would break barriers and help define American culture, manhood, and responsibility during the war years and beyond.

      Giddins's decades-long investigation of this pivotal time in Crosby's personal professional life is granular and insightful. His own deep understanding and years of critical coverage of music and cinema give his analysis both heft and nuance when he undertakes the shifts in Crosby's artistic development both as a singer and as an actor. He pierces the famous steely-eyed privacy of his subject while keep the perspective wide enough to show readers what Crosby's work meant to his growing audience as World War II transformed the country.

      Who was Crosby, and why has his legacy endured? Giddins describes a paradoxical figure of his times. Perceived as a common man - the ideal family man - he embodied American style for four decades. From the carefree excess of Prohibition, to the sober introspection of the Depression, to the romantic idealism of the war, to the optimistic resolve of the booming middle class that followed, he reflected the country's evolution. He was modest about his accomplishments, with a seemingly endless appetite for hard work, an unflappable demeanor, and an unflashy dedication to his family. His films and recordings (with more gold records than even Elvis Presley) showed Americans a version of their own lives - marked by a largeness of spirit and an optimistic sense of the future. And while his work on the screen and recordings ranged from lighthearted romps to reveries of nostalgia to dramatic studies of American communities, he was unstinting in his support of soldiers, with his nonstop USO tours raising millions of dollars in war bonds. His personality and selfless support of the war effort exemplified the idea of a solid home front.

      Yet throughout these years, Crosby was beset by financial worries and battles with radio executives, was partner to an increasingly dysfunctional alcoholic wife, and had a troubled relationship with his four sons. He lived large at a time when a note to a powerful gossip columnist could keep the lid on the whispers about his troubled marriage and a leading lady. And he was also a prisoner of his success. The smooth calm of his baritone is what we remember, but Crosby was more than a crooner. A staunch supporter of artists of color, from his idol, Louis Armstrong, to the up-and-coming Nat King Cole, he established the under-appreciated Charioteers as regular cast members on his weekly radio show, Kraft Music Hall. In bringing African American artists to the forefront, he proved extraordinarily influential in mainstreaming not only jazz but also rhythm and blues and country and western, among other genres. He was a shrewd businessman whose innovations in the recording industry include those seasonal Christmas compilation albums every artist now rushes to put out. And he revolutionized the radio industry, transforming it from a live to a prerecorded medium.

      SWINGING ON A STAR chronicles a critical era, and to tell the story fully Giddins weaves together voices from the more than 300 interviews he conducted for the book; the insight and research of other writers and scholars; Bing Crosby's previously unknown letters; and a journal Crosby kept, detailing the complicated machinery of his USO tours at home and abroad, where he found himself within shouting distance of enemy territory. The former director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center, Giddins has long been one of this country's celebrated jazz writers and critics. For thirty years he penned the "Weather Bird" jazz column in the Village Voice, and he has written other acclaimed books, including biographies of Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker, and dozens of essays on cinema. Giddins is the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award, two Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Awards, six ASCAP Foundation Deems Taylor Awards for excellence in music criticism, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Peabody Award in Broadcasting.

      SWINGING ON A STAR is a study of the home front and the way song and movies held a fractured nation together - and continue to do so. You may find yourself revisiting the movies and recordings of Bing Crosby after reading SWINGING ON A STAR - Giddins makes them come alive all over again in this book.

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    • Dynamic Dames: 50 Leading Ladies Who Made History

    • By Sloan De Forest

      Celebrate 50 of the most empowering and unforgettable female characters ever to grace the screen, as well as the artists who brought them to vibrant life!

      From Scarlett O'Hara to Thelma and Louise to Wonder Woman, strong women have not only lit up the screen, they've inspired and fired our imaginations. Some dynamic women are naughty and some are nice, but all of them buck the narrow confines of their expected gender role -- whether by taking small steps or revolutionary strides.

      Through engaging profiles and more than 100 photographs, Dynamic Dames looks at fifty of the most inspiring female roles in film from the 1920s to today. The characters are discussed along with the exciting off-screen personalities and achievements of the actresses and, on occasion, female writers and directors, who brought them to life.

      Among the stars profiled in their most revolutionary roles are Bette Davis, Mae West, Barbara Stanwyck, Josephine Baker, Greta Garbo, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, Barbara Streisand, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Joan Crawford, Vivien Leigh, Elizabeth Taylor, Dorothy Dandridge, Katharine Hepburn, Pam Grier, Jane Fonda, Gal Gadot, Emma Watson, Zhang Ziyi, Uma Thurman, Jennifer Lawrence, and many more.

      Sloan De Forest is a writer, actress, and film historian who has written about film for Sony, Time Warner Cable, the Mary Pickford Foundation, and Bright Lights Film Journal. She is the author of Turner Classic Movies: Must-See Sci-fi. Sloan lives in Los Angeles, CA.

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    • All That Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson

    • By Mark Griffin

      Quintessentially tall, dark, and handsome, legendary movie star Rock Hudson epitomized all-American manhood at the pinnacle of his fame. The country's favorite leading man in the '50s and '60s, he exuded charm, strength, virility, and charisma in classics like Magnificent Obsession, Giant, and Pillow Talk. His mainstream appeal translated into box office success during the last hurrah of Hollywood's Golden Age. And yet, this Oscar-nominated talent's greatest performance came in real life, as for decades he kept his authentic self and his sexuality hidden in an extremely homophobic society.

      Now, in ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS: A Biography of Rock Hudson (Harper; Hardcover; On Sale: December 4, 2018), author Mark Griffin probes beneath the façade to craft the definitive biography of the complicated, conflicted individual and widely misunderstood icon, whose illustrious career spanned 40 years and who was the first major celebrity to die of AIDS.

      To survive a chaotic and financially strapped Midwestern childhood, young Roy Fitzgerald found escape from his troubles--an estranged father, a violent stepfather, and a controlling mother--at the local cinema. Despite his humble circumstances, he yearned for a future onscreen. Looks and drive, as well as his stint on the casting couch with a notoriously unscrupulous agent, eventually transformed that dream into reality. Painstakingly, an unskilled but fiercely ambitious former truck driver was transformed into the camera-ready persona of Rock Hudson.

      Rising through the ranks at Universal, Hudson emerged as the studio's prized asset, a clean-cut matinee idol adored by colleagues and fans alike. Professional glory had a psychological cost for this vulnerable, insecure soul though. On celluloid and in gossip columns, he wooed countless attractive women, burnishing his manufactured image as a swoon-worthy romantic hero. Offscreen, he courted disaster as his gay relationships, affairs, and flirtations made him a prime target for exposure by tabloids and spurned ex-lovers.

      Drawing on more than 100 interviews with co-stars, family members, and former companions and unprecedented access to private journals, personal correspondence, and production files, this comprehensive biography finally produces a multidimensional portrait of one of the most compelling figures in film history. Here, at last, are fresh insights into Hudson's controversial marriage to Phyllis Gates and his contentious dealings with boyfriend Marc Christian, providing answers to questions the late actor consistently evaded. Griffin also offers the first in-depth analysis of Hudson's entire body of work from his early bit parts to his collaborations with visionary director Douglas Sirk to his cheekily subversive bedroom farces with Doris Day to his transition to the small screen in the hit series McMillan & Wife. Along the way, this riveting account features memorable appearances from an A-list cast of characters, including Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, John Wayne, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and many other luminaries.

      Meticulously researched and vividly rendered, ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS illuminates an all-too-human superstar whose life and legacy have significantly influenced American culture.

      Mark Griffin is the author of A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli. His interviews, reviews, and essays have appeared in scores of publications, including The Boston Globe, Premiere, MovieMaker, and Genre. Griffin, who recently appeared in the documentary Gene Kelly: To Live and Dance, lives in Lewiston, Maine.

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    • Interview with Mark A. Vieira, author of "Forbidden Hollywood: The Pre-Code Era (1930-1934)"

    • Mark A. Vieira is an acclaimed film historian, writer and photographer. His most recent book, Forbidden Hollywood: The Pre-Code Era (1930-1934): When Sin Ruled the Movies is now available from TCM and Running Press.

      Raquel Stecher: Twenty years ago you wrote Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood for Harry N. Abrams. Why did you decide to revisit the pre-Code era with your new TCM-Running Press book Forbidden Hollywood?

      Mark A. Vieira: That's a good question, Raquel. There were three reasons. First, Sin in Soft Focus had gone out of print, and copies were fetching high prices on eBay and AbeBooks. Second, the book was being used in classes at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Third, Jeff Mantor of Larry Edmunds Cinema Book Shop told me that his customers were asking if I could do a follow-up to the 1999 book, which had gotten a good New York Times review and gone into a second printing. So I wrote a book proposal, citing all the discoveries I'd made since the first book. This is what happens when you write a book; information keeps coming for years after you publish it, and you want to share that new information. Sin in Soft Focus: Pre-Code Hollywood told the story of the Code from an industry standpoint. Forbidden Hollywood has that, but it also has the audience's point of view. After all, a grassroots movement forced Hollywood to reconstitute the Code.

      Raquel Stecher: Forbidden Hollywood includes reproduced images from the pre-Code era and early film history. How did you curate these images and what were your criteria for including a particular photograph?

      Mark A. Vieira: The text suggests what image should be placed on a page or on succeeding pages. Readers wonder what Jason Joy looked like or what was so scandalous about CALL HER SAVAGE ('32), so I have to show them. But I can't put just any picture on the page, especially to illustrate a well-known film. My readers own film books and look at Hollywood photos on the Internet. I have to find a photo that they haven't seen. It has to be in mint condition because Running Press's reproduction quality is so good. The image has to be arresting, a photo that is worthy in its own right, powerfully composed and beautifully lit--not just a "representative" photo from a pre-Code film. It also has to work with the other photos on that page or on the next page, in terms of composition, tone and theme. That's what people liked about Sin in Soft Focus. It had sections that were like rooms in a museum or gallery, where each grouping worked on several levels. In Forbidden Hollywood, I'm going for a different effect. The photo choices and groupings give a feeling of movement, a dynamic affect. In this one, the pictures jump off the page.

      Raquel Stecher: Why did you decide on a coffee table art book style format?

      Mark A. Vieira: Movies are made of images. Sexy images dominated pre-Code. To tell the story properly, you have to show those images. Movie stills in the pre-Code era were shot with 8x10 view cameras. The quality of those big negatives is ideal for a fine-art volume. And film fans know the artistry of the Hollywood photographers of that era: Fred Archer, Milton Brown, William Walling, Bert Longworth, Clarence Bull, Ernest Bachrach and George Hurrell. They're all represented--and credited--in Forbidden Hollywood.

      Raquel Stecher: What was the research process like for Forbidden Hollywood?

      Mark A. Vieira: I started at the University of Southern California, where I studied film 40 years ago. I sat down with Ned Comstock, the Senior Library Assistant, and mapped out a plan. USC has scripts from MGM, Universal and the Fox Film Corporation. The Academy Library has files from the Production Code Administration. I viewed DVDs and 16mm prints from my collection. I reviewed books on the Code by Thomas Doherty and other scholars. I jumped into the trade magazines of the period using the Media History Digital Library online. I created a file folder for each film of the era. It's like detective work. It's tedious--until it gets exciting.

      Raquel Stecher: How does pre-Code differ from other film genres?

      Mark A. Vieira: Well, pre-Code is not a genre like Westerns or musicals. It's a rediscovered element of film history. It was named in retrospect, like film noir, but unlike film noir, pre-Code has lines of demarcation--March 1930 through June 1934--the four-year period before the Production Code was strengthened and enforced. When Mae West made I'M NO ANGEL ('33), she had no idea she was making a pre-Code movie. The pre-Code tag came later, when scholars realized that these films shared a time, a place and an attitude. There was a Code from 1930 on, but the studios negotiated with it, bypassed it or just plain ignored it, making movies that were irreverent and sexy. Modern viewers say, "I've never seen that in an old Hollywood movie!" This spree came to an end in 1934, when a Catholic-led boycott forced Hollywood to reconstitute the Code. It was administered for 20 years by Joseph Breen, so pre-Code is really pre-Breen.

      Raquel Stecher: What are a few pre-Code films that you believe defined the era?

      Mark A. Vieira: That question has popped up repeatedly since I wrote Sin in Soft Focus, so I decided which films had led to the reconstituted Code, and I gave them their own chapters. To qualify for that status, a film had to meet these standards: (1) They were adapted from proscribed books or plays; (2) They were widely seen; (3) They were attacked in the press; (4) They were heavily cut by the state or local boards; (5) They were banned in states, territories or entire countries; and (6) They were condemned in the Catholic Press and by the Legion of Decency. To name the most controversial: THE COCK-EYED WORLD ('29) (off-color dialogue); THE DIVORCEE ('30) (the first film to challenge the Code); FRANKENSTEIN ('31) (horror); SCARFACE ('32) (gang violence); RED-HEADED WOMAN ('32) (an unrepentant homewrecker); and CALL HER SAVAGE ('32) (the pre-Code film that manages to violate every prohibition of the Code). My big discovery was THE SIGN OF THE CROSS ('32). This Cecil B. DeMille epic showed the excesses of ancient Rome in such lurid detail that it offended Catholic filmgoers, thus setting off the so-called "Catholic Crusade."

      Raquel Stecher: It's fascinating to read correspondence, interviews and reviews that react to the perceived immorality of these movies. How does including these conversations give your readers context about the pre-Code era?

      Mark A. Vieira: Like some film noir scholars, I could tell you how I feel about the film, what it means, the significance of its themes. So what? Those are opinions. My readers deserve facts. Those can only come from documents of the period: letters, memos, contracts, news articles. These are the voices of the era, the voices of history. A 100-year-old person might misremember what happened. A document doesn't misremember. It tells the tale. My task is to present a balanced selection of these documents so as not to stack the deck in favor of one side or the other.

      Raquel Stecher: In your book you discuss the attempts made to censor movies from state and federal government regulation to the creation of the MPPDA to the involvement of key figures like Joseph Breen and Will H. Hays. What is the biggest misconception about the Production Code?

      Mark A. Vieira: There are a number of misconceptions. I label them and counter them: (1) "Silent films are not "pre-Code films." (2) Not every pre-Code film was a low-budget shocker but made with integrity and artistry; most were big-budget star vehicles. (3) The pre-Code censorship agency was the SRC (Studio Relations Committee), part of the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors Association (MPPDA)--not the MPPA, which did not exist until the 1960s! (4) The Code did not mandate separate beds for married couples. (5) Joseph Breen was not a lifelong anti-Semite, second only to Hitler. He ended his long career with the respect and affection of his Jewish colleagues.

      Raquel Stecher: How did the silent movie era and the Great Depression have an impact on the pre-Code era?

      Mark A. Vieira: The silent era allowed the studios the freedom to show nudity and to write sexy intertitles, but the local censors cut those elements from release prints, costing the studios a lot of money, which in part led to the 1930 Code. The Great Depression emptied the theaters (or closed them), so producers used sexy films to lure filmgoers back to the theaters.

      Raquel Stecher: TCM viewers love pre-Codes. What do you think it is about movies from several decades ago that still speak to contemporary audiences?

      Mark A. Vieira: You're right. Because we can see these films so readily, we forget that eight decades have passed since they premiered. We don't listen to music of such a distant time, so how can we enjoy the art of a period in which community standards were so different from what they are now? After all, this was the tail end of the Victorian era, and the term "sex" was not used in polite society. How did it get into films like MIDNIGHT MARY ('33) and SEARCH FOR BEAUTY ('34)? There were protests against such films, and there were also millions of people enjoying them. What they enjoyed is what TCM viewers enjoy--frankness, honesty, risqué humor, beautiful bodies and adult-themed stories.

      Raquel Stecher: What do you hope readers take away from your book?

      Mark A. Vieira: One thing struck me as I wove the letters of just plain citizens into the tapestry of this story. Americans of the 1930s wrote articulate, heartfelt letters. One can only assume that these people were well educated and that they did a lot of reading--and letter writing. I want my readers to read the entire text of Forbidden Hollywood. I worked to make it accurate, suspenseful and funny. There are episodes in it that are hilarious. These people were witty! So I hope you'll enjoy the pictures, but more so that you'll dive into the story and let it carry you along. Here's a quote about SO THIS IS AFRICA ('33) from a theater owner: "I played it to adults only (over 15 years old). Kids who have been 12 for the last 10 years aged rapidly on their way to our box office."

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  1. DVD Reviews

    • Dick Dinman & Gary Giddins Swing with Fred & Bing!

    • DICK DINMAN & GARY GIDDINS SWING WITH FRED & BING!: Producer/host Dick Dinman is joined by Gary Giddins the acclaimed author of the riveting new biography BING CROSBY: THE WAR YEARS as both marvel at the sheer brilliance of the possible pinnacle of the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers musical masterworks SWING TIME which has just been released on Blu-ray in typically exemplary fashion by the Criterion Collection.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to or

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    • Dick Dinman's "Road" Trip with Bob, Bing & Dottie!

    • DICK DINMAN'S "ROAD" TRIP WITH BING, BOB & DOTTIE!: Producer/host Dick Dinman welcomes acclaimed film historian Jack Theakston as both can't stop guffawing at the hilarious comedic antics of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour in ROAD TO SINGAPORE, ROAD TO ZANZIBAR, ROAD TO MOROCCO and ROAD TO UTOPIA which Kino Lorber have just delivered on Blu-ray to classic film fans desperate for intense belly laughs!

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to or

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    • Dick Dinman & John Fricke Return to SUMMER STOCK!

    • DICK DINMAN & JOHN FRICKE RETURN TO "SUMMER STOCK!": "Forget Your Troubles Come On Get Happy" belts the magnificent Judy Garland in SUMMER STOCK (her final MGM film) and producer/host Dick Dinman and returning guest and first rank Garland biographer John Fricke marvel at the sheer delight that this buoyant bonbon of musical mirth elicits at every screening and both thrill to the visual Technicolor magnificence of the Warner Archive's stunning new Blu-ray release of this certifiable classic which costars Gene Kelly at his brilliant best.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to or

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    • Dick Dinman Survives Amazon Headhunters in 3D JIVARO!

    • DICK DINMAN SURVIVES AMAZON HEADHUNTERS IN 3D "JIVARO"!: 3D dead? Not as long as the talented folks at the 3D ARCHIVE keep releasing such immersive in-your-face 3D stunners such as JIVARO and acclaimed producer/historian Jack Theakston joins producer/host Dick Dinman and discloses the myriad of challenges the 3D Archive faced in restoring this incredibly exhilarating Kino Lorber 3D release to fruition.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to or

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    • Dick Dinman & Alan K. Rode Meet THE PHANTOM LADY

    • DICK DINMAN & ALAN K. RODE MEET "THE PHANTOM LADY! Producer/host Dick Dinman and acclaimed author and Film Noir Foundation charter director Alan K. Rode salute the Arrow Academy Blu-ray releases of two certifiable Noir classics MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS and PHANTOM LADY. PLUS: Arrow hits the Blu-ray mark with SO DARK THE NIGHT and THE DAY OF THE JACKAL!

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to or

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  1. Press Release

    • TCM Remembers Peter Fonda (1940-2019)

    • Turner Classic Movies Pays Tribute to Peter Fonda on Sunday, September 15 with the following films. This program will replace the previously scheduled movies for that day so please take note.

      The new schedule for Sunday, September 15 will be:
      8 PM Ulee's Gold (1997)
      10 PM Easy Rider (1969)

      Possessing his father's piercing blue eyes, Peter Fonda also inherited his old man's talent, but not the same level of drive and commitment that passed on to older sister Jane. Still, the stubbornness and tenacity that enabled the black sheep of the Fonda acting dynasty to fashion an iconic career as the quintessential 1960s "hippie," also kept him focused into the 21st Century, where, long after Jane's "retirement," he continued to come into his own as an actor of quiet restraint to rival even his famously taciturn father. For many, he would always be Captain America, the spaced-out cat in "Easy Rider" (1969), the low-budget motorbikes-and-drugs road movie that perfectly captured the Zeitgeist of its day and made Fonda, as producer, "filthy rich." To another younger generation, he was simply Bridget Fonda's dad, but there were still chapters yet to be written, having survived the classic "dysfunctional" family and putting the substance abuse of his youth behind him.

      Born Feb. 23, 1940 in New York, NY to his famous father, actor Henry Fonda and financier Frances Ford Seymour, Fonda was the younger brother of big sis, Jane. Tragically, his mother took her own life when he was just 10 and on his 11th birthday, he accidentally shot himself - nearly dying as well. As he grew older, the tormented Fonda traded his Eastern boarding school existence for the Midwestern stability of his Aunt Harriet and Uncle Jack's Omaha, Nebraska - Henry Fonda's hometown. It was there that he first gravitated to the stage, acting in the same community playhouse that had once nurtured his father, before quickly moving to Broadway in 1961 and starring as the earnest Private Ogletorpe of "Blood, Sweat and Stanley Poole." He also acted in a 1962 episode of ABC's "Naked City" while in New York, and for the next few years, alternated between NYC and Hollywood, progressing from the boy-next-door of his feature debut, "Tammy and the Doctor" (1963), to the rebel biker of Roger Corman's "The Wild Angels" (1966). En route, he delivered a strong portrayal of a neurotic infatuated with Jean Seberg's "Lilith" (1963) - but it was his second picture with Corman - "The Trip" (1967) - which laid the groundwork for filmmaking history, introducing him to Jack Nicholson (its screenwriter) and Dennis Hopper, whose intuitive, improvisatory approach to acting had allegedly led to an eight-year exile from Hollywood.

      Co-written by Fonda, Hopper - who also directed and co-starred - and Terry Southern, "Easy Rider" boasted a great soundtrack of late 1960s rock music and featured a 16mm LSD sequence, during which Hopper coaxed Fonda up on a headstone in a New Orleans cemetery to confront his real mother's 1950 suicide ("Mother, why did you?"). Remembering the catharsis later, he said, "That was it. That was the high point of the whole thing. That was real tears, real time, a real question." Hailed by critics, "Easy Rider" earned a bundle and sent Hollywood studios scrambling to duplicate its uniqueness; the resulting shake-up opening the door to a new generation of filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Though Nicholson stole the show as the wealthy alcoholic who joins the two rebels on their sojourn, Fonda's marketability soared, and for nearly a decade, he starred in B-movies made on the strength of his name. Ironically, the hippie-capitalist's salary was always a third to a half of the total budget. The pictures invariably suffered, and his reputation for being difficult ("You know, I didn't play the game in town") precluded his working with better talent in bigger-budget pics.

      Fonda and Hopper reteamed on Hopper's virtually incomprehensible and pretentious "The Last Movie" (1971), but a falling out over "Easy Rider" profits made Hopper's name taboo around Fonda's Montana digs. He branched into directing at the helm of a critically-acclaimed commercial failure - the offbeat Western "The Hired Hand" (1971) - opting to step far away from his Captain America pose, as a cowboy who g s to work for the wife (Verna Bloom) he had deserted seven years before. His foray into experimental sci-fi, "Idaho Transfer" (1973), taught him never to again invest his own money in a directing project, and "Wanda Nevada" (1979), his last film as director, gave him the only opportunity of his career to work with his father. Convinced that the beard he was wearing looked fake, the older Fonda insisted his son shoot him from a distance, but Peter's response was to throw some dirt and spit licorice juice in his father's face to weather his countenance.

      Fonda enjoyed a memorable turn in the non-stop actioner "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" (1974), stealing money for a competition sports car, then careening around rural California accompanied by Susan George with a demonic officer of the law (Vic Morrow) in hot pursuit. He also delivered the goods as a fishing boat captain duking it out with a nemesis (Warren Oates) in Thomas McGuane's "92 in the Shade" (1975), and as an investigative reporter in "Futureworld" (1976), the strong sequel to 1973's "Westworld." Fonda was back on a bike for the pointless moneymaker "Cannonball Run" (1981) and the 1983 epic "Dance of the Dwarfs," in which he was a drunken helicopter pilot searching for a lost pygmy tribe - both of which epitomized the decline in quality of his projects. There were starring turns in two 1983 foreign films ("Peppermint Frieden" from West Germany; "All Right, My Friend" from Japan), followed by forgettable titles like "Certain Fury" (1985) and "Mercenary Fighters" (1987)- making "The Rose Garden" (1989) look like an inspired choice by comparison. His contributions to the script of "Fatal Mission" (1990), in which he starred as a gung-ho war hero, failed to save that promising film from its disastrous final reel.

      Things started to turn around for Fonda with his understated portrayal of the vampire hunting Van Helsing in Michael Almereyda's quirky "Nadja" (1994), but his big break came when Nick Nolte passed on the leading role in Victor Nunez's "Ulee's Gold" (1997). Fonda gave the performance of his life as an emotionally crippled beekeeper raising his granddaughters and experiencing romance with a divorcee (Patricia Richardson), drawing raves and reminding people of the kind of decent yet stoic loner that his father made a career of playing. Looking through the lens, Nunez could see the elder Fonda in the son's drooping shoulders and flat-footed walk. The actor described his technique to USA Today: "It's like a little pond, no movement on the surface, so you can look down. If I overdramatize, it would disturb the surface. You won't see the depth." Fonda followed up this career highlight with a starring turn as Gideon Prosper, a man blinded by sorrow over the death of his wife, in "The Tempest" (1998), NBC's novel Civil War take on the Shakespeare classic, and gave an even more nuanced (and Emmy-nominated) turn as the passive, pitiful spouse of Ayn Rand (Helen Mirren) in "The Passion of Ayn Rand" (Showtime, 1999).

      Fonda teamed with fellow 1960s icon Terrence Stamp in Steven Soderbergh's "Point Blank"-like revenge thriller "The Limey" (1999), which used elements from both actors' real-life pasts in improvisational moments during filming. The director's virtuoso editing style paid homage to the Godardian New Wave jump-cutting that inspired the original "Point Blank," and Fonda had a blast patterning his corrupt Hollywood record exec after some of the self-absorbed industry types whose paths he had crossed. He also got a chance to play opposite Thomas the Tank Engine in Britt Allcroft's live-action adaptation "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" (2000), creating a convincing grandpop for the children who frequented Shining Time Station.

      Fonda was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2003 and in 2007, finally returned to the big screen in a pair of well-received supporting roles. Still first on the wish list for any motorcycle-related film, he co-starred with Nicholas Cage in an adaptation of the Marvel Comic "Ghost Rider" (2007) playing villain Mephistopheles with an unsettling, understated coolness that brilliantly contrasted the roar of the hero's engine. Fonda took on another bad guy in the James Mangold remake of "3:10 to Yuma," co-starring with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. The character-driven Western featured Fonda as career killer Byron McElroy who gives Crowe's Ben Wade cause to reconsider his own path. The film opened at number one at the box office and critics hailed it among the best of the season's slew of Westerns. On August 16, 2019 Fonda died at age 79 from respiratory failure due to lung cancer.

      --Biographical info courtesy of TCMDb

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    • TCM Remembers Doris Day (1922-2019)

    • The beloved actress/singer, one of the last remaining icons from Hollywood's Golden Age, passed away May 13 at the age of 97. Turner Classic Movies pays tribute to Doris Day on Sunday, June 9 with the following festival of films. This program will replace the previously scheduled movies for that day so please take note.

      The new schedule for Sunday, June 9 will be:
      6:00 AM Romance on the High Seas (1948)
      8:00 AM My Dream is Yours (1949)
      10:00 AM Tea for Two (1950)
      11:45 AM On Moonlight Bay (1951)
      1:30 PM Carson on TCM: Doris Day (1976)
      1:45 PM Love Me or Leave Me (1955)
      4:00 PM Calamity Jane (1953)
      6:00 PM Please Don't Eat the Daisies (1960)
      8:00 PM Pillow Talk (1959)
      10:00 PM Lover Come Back (1961)
      12:00 AM Move Over Darling (1963)
      2:00 AM The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)
      4:00 AM Julie (1956)

      She embodied an image she hated, and for much of her life, sought a familial ideal never achieved, becoming, in the process, the biggest box-office draw in the movie business at one time before simply fading away. Doris Day became a phenomenon of sight and sound, a hit song machine in the first part of her career and, in the second, Hollywood's No. 1 female box-office star and the epitome of the girl next door. Her resume composed an American archetype - the pristine, bright-eyed sweetheart of America's neo-Victorian 1950s, even if she was far from her on-screen type. Though often successfully paired with leading man Rock Hudson in a series of iconic romantic comedies, off-screen she longed for what her characters always seemed to get in the end: the simple, stable existence of a housewife tending her corner of the American Dream.

      She was born Doris Mary Anne von Kappelhoff on April 3, 1922, in the Cincinnati, OH, suburb of Evanston, to Alma and Frederick von Kappelhoff and was the youngest of three children in a troubled household. In spite of the family's Catholicism, her parents divorced when Doris was only 12, due to Frederick's philandering. A tomboy in her earlier years, by adolescence she had developed a penchant for dance, but those aspirations were shelved when a car accident left her with a compound fracture of one leg and a tough 14-month rehabilitation. She began singing instead and, while still just a teenager, scored a job with the local dance band of Barney Rapp, who redubbed her Doris Day, after her number "Day After Day." She also met Al Jorden, a trombonist in Rapp's band and a temperamental character whom she disliked initially, but whom she eventually agreed to date.

      Around this same time, she landed a much bigger gig with the touring Les Brown and His Band of Renown. Both Brown, who took on a paternal role, and her mother discouraged her relationship with Jorden, especially when he proposed, but the 17-year-old Day insisted she only wanted to become a housewife. They married in New York in early 1941 while she was on tour, but it got off to an ominous start when, according to biographer David Bret, Jorden dragged his new wife to their hotel room and beat her up after seeing her kiss a fellow musician on the cheek. By Bret's account, violence was not infrequent during the marriage. When Day discovered she was pregnant, Jorden subjected her to a series of violent histrionics, including threatening to shoot her at one point, and leaving her ostensibly "for good." In February 1942, Day gave birth to a son, Terry. A repentant Jorden gave Day a brief reprieve, but he soon returned to his psychotic ways, so she began divorce proceedings. Jorden would kill himself a few years later.

      In 1944, she scored her first hit with Brown, "Sentimental Journey," which would strike a chord over the next year with many soldiers journeying home from war. She also developed a diva complex and became notoriously difficult to work with, throwing tantrums and cursing liberally when she did not get her way. Thus, it may have been a relief to some in the band when she and saxophonist George Weidler announced their engagement and her intentions, again, to leave show business for a simple family life. While quitting the touring circuit, Day agreed to a guest shot on the radio show "The Bob Hope Pepsodent Show." It led to recurring appearances, and Hope began referring to her on air and off as "J.B." - short for "jut-butt," in reference to her posterior. It also got the attention of Al Levy, an agent with the firm Century Artists, who soon began representing her. The buzz around her proved too much for the insecure Weidler, leading Day to divorce him after only eight months of marriage.

      Levy netted her a contract with Warner Bros. with a curious indenture to director Michael Curtiz, who, in addition to putting her in a series of films - starting with the musical comedy "Romance on the High Seas" (1948) - took in 50 percent of all non-movie showbiz revenue she earned. The dailies for "Romance" horrified Day, who insisted she take acting lessons, to which Curtiz responded, "You're a natural just as you are - if you learn how to act, you'll ruin everything." A song she sang for the soundtrack - "It's Magic" - reached No. 2 on the pop chart and earned her an Oscar nomination. Day also began an affair with co-star Jack Carson, which complicated amorous relationships with both Levy and Weidler. Jealous, Levy began stalking her and at one point tried to rape her, but she fended him off. Century Artists convinced her to not press charges as long as they agreed to shuffle him out to the firm's New York office. Partner Marty Melcher took over her business, and she soon began an affair with him, even though he was married to singer Patty Andrews of the famed Andrews Sisters. She reteamed with both Curtiz and Carson, getting top female billing in "My Dream Is Yours" (1949), and remained under the director's stewardship in "Young Man with a Horn" (1950), co-starring Kirk Douglas and Lauren Bacall, and "I'll See You In My Dreams" (1952).

      Much of her early film work would prove fluffy treacle - "Tea For Two" (1950), "On Moonlight Bay" (1951), "The West Point Story" (1951), "Lullaby of Broadway" (1951), "April In Paris" (1952), "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" (1953), "Lucky Me" (1954), all imprinting her public image as the Pollyannaish "Girl Next Door." Her music career buoyed her film career and vice versa, with nearly every film issuing some kind of hit tune, resulting in seven of her 10 albums released between 1949 and 1955 charting in the top five. One rare non-crooning dramatic role, the anti-Klan noir film "Storm Warning" (1951), saw her wind up involved with two of her co-stars in that film, Ronald Reagan and Steve Cochran. But Day and Melcher married in 1951, with Melcher also adopting Terry. Many of her show business friends thought Melcher was just in it for the star's money. In fact, while making "Young at Heart" (1954), Frank Sinatra came to dislike Melcher so much he had him banned from the set.

      Day, who came to hate her virginal image, did manage to play out of type as she eased into her career. Her breakthrough role, in fact, tapped her tomboy youth for what would become her personal favorite of her films, "Calamity Jane" (1953). She played the butch Western heroine through a light-hearted romantic musical frame, with another song "Secret Love," becoming a chart-topper along with the entire movie soundtrack. She showed dramatic range again in "Love Me or Leave Me" (1955), playing 1920s singing star Ruth Etting, whose career was marred by a relationship with a gangster, played by James Cagney. She did her turn in Alfred Hitchcock's famous stable of blondes in "The Man Who Knew Too Much" (1956), with even Hitchcock slipping in a song for her, "Que Sera, Sera," which went on to win the Oscar for Best Song. She went much darker with "Julie" (1956), a thriller in which Day's character discovers her second husband to be abusive, violent and the murderer of her first spouse. Day loathed it, as it smacked too much of personal experience, but she did the film because Melcher served as producer.

      She made another splash in musical comedy with the movie adaptation of the Broadway hit "The Pajama Game" (1957), but the fanciful genre was on the wane. She would return to suspense in 1960's "Midnight Lace," but with the further reminders of her own violent past, she swore off darker films. She veered almost exclusively to straight, mild-mannered comedy roles as a savvy housewife or intrepid, romantically stand-offish career "gal" typically paired with lead males such as Clark Gable in "Teacher's Pet" (1958); David Niven in "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" (1960); Cary Grant again in "That Touch of Mink" (1962); James Garner in "The Thrill of It All" (1963) and "Move Over Darling" (1963); and Rod Taylor in " Do Not Disturb" (1965) and "Glass Bottom Boat" (1967). For all her pairings, it would be her trio of romantic comedies with Rock Hudson (and an ever-supporting Tony Randall) that would have the most resonance. It started with "Pillow Talk" (1959), a for-the-time steamy "sex" comedy with Day as a New York professional with no time for men, constantly exasperated by the charming playboy in her apartment building who shares her party phone line. The movie became one of the top-grossers of 1959 and Day's turn earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. They reunited in "Lover Come Back" (1961), as rival ad executives who, sight unseen, grow to hate each until they hook up, while "Send Me No Flowers" (1964) had them married off and Hudson, mistakenly thinking he's dying, trying to set Day up with a new husband. The irony of the dynamic on-screen relationship and the friendship that developed off-screen, was that Hudson was a closeted homosexual, which Day claimed not to know until his later death from AIDS.

      With the American New Wave beginning to churn out less glossy, more realistic films, Day's formulaic and tepid movies began to seem dated. She famously turned down a role that might have reinvented her, the randy Mrs. Robinson in "The Graduate" (1967). Just after the production ended on her last movie, "With Six You Get Egg Roll" (1968), Melcher began feeling ill and one day did not wake up. A review of her business showed that he had managed it poorly and squandered much of her fortune. He had also signed off on a new project unbeknownst to her; an eponymous CBS sitcom, which now became a necessity. "The Doris Day Show" (1968-1973) began with her as a widowed big city woman moving back to her rural roots with her sons. Though it did well in the ratings, the show was retooled every season, adding bland premises such as moving to San Francisco, working as a secretary, writing for a magazine and sending the kids off to boarding school. When her network contract was up in 1973, she effectively retired to Carmel, CA where she became an animal benefactor with her Doris Day Pet Foundation, which found homes for stray animals, and the Doris Day Animal League, an animal rights group that in 2006 merged with The Humane Society.

      She mostly retired her showbiz name, becoming known to locals as Clara Kappelhoff - with Clara a pet name given her during the making of "Tea For Two" in 1950. In 1976, she married again to Barry Comden, a maitre d' at a favorite restaurant of hers, but it would last only five years. She returned to TV briefly in 1985 in the Christian Broadcasting Network's "Doris Day's Best Friends" (1985-86), a show about pets. When Rock Hudson appeared as a guest on one episode, viewers were shocked at how his illness had emaciated him. He died only months later. In 2008, she was awarded a lifetime achievement Grammy Award, but did not show up at the ceremony to accept it, effectively proving herself to be one of the more dedicated recluses Hollywood had yet produced.

      (Biographical info courtesy of TCMDb)

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    • Agnes Varda (1928-2019)

    • The Belgian-born French film director passed away in Paris on March 29, 2019 at the age of 90.

      Agnes Varda is often called the "grandmother of the New Wave." Although not a member of the Cahiers du cinema critical fraternity which formed the core of this movement, the Belgian-born Varda completed her first feature, "La Pointe Courte," in 1954, five years before the New Wave's first films. With almost no academic or technical knowledge of film (though she had been a still photographer for Jean Vilar's Theatre National Populaire), Varda told two parallel tales (a structure inspired by William Faulkner's "Wild Palms"): the jagged romance of a young married couple and the struggles of the fishermen in the village of La Pointe Courte. Critic Georges Sadoul called this work "certainly the first film of the Nouvelle Vague" and it set the tone for Varda's career to come, combining fiction with documentary and also, in its debt to Faulkner, illustrating Varda's desire to expand the language of film. "I had the feeling," she said later, "that the cinema was not free, above all in its form, and that annoyed me. I wanted to make a film exactly as one writes a novel."

      Unfortunately for Varda, "La Pointe Courte" (which was edited by Alain Resnais, who initially refused to work on it because Varda's techniques were close to those which he was developing) would be the only feature she would make in the 1950s. Although she lit the fuse under the New Wave, it was not until the explosive feature debuts of her male counterparts that Varda received another opportunity to direct a feature, "Cleo From 5 to 7" (1961), which established her as a significant talent on the international film scene. In "Cleo," the story of two hours of a woman's life as she waits to hear if she has cancer, we witness the emergence of a great Varda theme, borrowed from Simone de Beauvoir: "One isn't born a woman, one becomes one."

      From her first film to her most recent projects, Varda has shown a strong connection to the Earth, becoming a kind of cinematic Mother Nature, whose characters have been personifications of wood and iron ("La Pointe Courte"), sickly trees ("Vagabond," 1985), animals ("Les Creatures," 1966) and food ("Apple" of "One Sings, The Other Doesn't" 1977). The world of Agnes Varda is one expansive Garden of Eden, where characters can live without the human burden of morality or sin, whether that world is the French Riviera (the short "Du cote de la cote" 1958), the city ("Cleo from 5 to 7"), or the country ("Le Bonheur," 1965; "Les Creatures," "Vagabond"). Varda knows that this Eden is a mythical place which exists only in the minds of her main characters and for this reason, her films also contain contrasting elements: troubled characters (the struggling fishermen of "La Pointe Courte" or the suicidal wife of "Le Bonheur") or less picturesque surroundings (the frozen landscape of "Vagabond").

      Although Varda's initial impact on cinema was a powerful one, by the mid-1960s her career as a commercial filmmaker began to wane. After the improvisational and obscure "Lions Love" (1969), about an avant-garde woman director who goes to Hollywood, Varda completed only one more fictional commercial feature over the next fifteen years--the epic feminist tale of womanhood and motherhood, "One Sings, the Other Doesn't." She remained active by directing numerous shorts and documentaries, but much of her work went unseen or unnoticed.

      It was not until the mid-80s that Varda reemerged in the commercial realm. While "Kung Fu Master!" (1987) was a misnamed and rather tentative story of the abortive romance between a middle-aged woman (Jane Birkin) and a 14 year-old video game buff (played by Varda's son Mathieu), "Vagabond," a documentary-style feature about a young French female wanderer, was arguably her best work to date. It dealt with all her major concerns: the independence of women, the coexistence with nature, the need for freedom, the acceptance of chance, the cyclical nature of birth and death, the personification of nature, and the seamless blending of documentary and fiction. Sadly the illness and death of Varda's husband, filmmaker Jacques Demy, helped to inspire her affectionate docu-valentine to his youth in "Jacquot/Jacquot de Nantes" (1992).

      (Biographical info courtesy of TCMDb).

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    • TCM Remembers Stanley Donen (1924-2019)

    • Turner Classic Movies Pays Tribute to Stanley Donen on Monday, March 18 with the following festival of films.

      The schedule for the evening of Monday, March 18 will be:
      8:00 PM Private Screenings: Stanley Donen (2006)
      9:00 PM Singin' in the Rain (1952)
      11:00 PM On the Town (1949)
      1:00 AM Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954)
      3:00 AM Royal Wedding (1951)
      5:00 AM It's Always Fair Weather (1955)

      The gifted director/choreographer, one of the last remaining filmmakers from Hollywood's Golden Age, passed away February 21, 2019 at the age of 94.

      Between 1949 and 1959, Stanley Donen was either the key creative force behind or an essential element in the production of some of the most critically acclaimed musicals in Hollywood history. A former dancer, he befriended Gene Kelly, who joined forces with Donen on Broadway and later in feature films for the dancing legend like "On the Town" (1949) and what was widely considered the most popular musical ever made, "Singin' in the Rain" (1952). Donen also directed his idol Fred Astaire in "Royal Wedding" (1951) and "Funny Face" (1957), and helmed such crowd-pleasing titles as "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (1954) and "Damn Yankees" (1958). In later years, he showed a deft touch with light comedies like "Indiscreet" (1958), as well as thrillers like "Charade" (1963). Though his directorial career wound down in the early 1980s, the visual and technical brilliance of Donen's body of work, which was rightfully feted with an honorary Academy Award in 1998, ensured that he would remain in the upper reaches of Hollywood's pantheon of musical directors as long as viewers continued to draw joy and inspiration from them.

      Born April 13, 1924 in Columbia, SC, Donen struggled to grow up Jewish in a region marked by intolerance for his particular faith. He found refuge at the movies, and fell in love with dancing after viewing one of Fred Astaire's effortless performances. He took tap lessons in his home town and graduated early from high school at 16, whereupon Donen lit out for New York City to make his way in show business. He earned his first Broadway credits as a member of the chorus in 1940's "Pal Joey," starring Gene Kelly. The veteran dancer befriended the younger man and later called on him to assist with the choreography for the play "Best Foot Forward." When Kelly lit out for Hollywood, he brought Donen with him, and the pair began their collaborations in film with the movie version of "Best Foot Forward" (1943). Donen soon began accumulating choreography credits on countless musicals, both with and without Kelly, including "Cover Girl" (1944), "The Kissing Bandit" (1948) with Frank Sinatra, and "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (1948) with both Kelly and Sinatra. The following year, he and Kelly shared directorial credit on "On the Town" (1949), a sprightly Comden and Green tune fest with Kelly, Sinatra and Jules Munshin as sailors on leave and in love in New York City. The Big Apple locations - the first for a movie musical - and memorable tunes like "New York, New York" made it a box office and critical hit, as well as an Oscar winner for Best Music.

      The picture established the Donen-Kelly team as one of the freshest and most innovative in Hollywood, and together, they were responsible for some of the genre's most enduring classics. "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) was perhaps the most iconic of these; an unflaggingly charming take on Hollywood's transition from silent pictures to talkies, it featured what was unquestionably one of the most indelible screen images of all time - the sight of Kelly crooning the title song while dancing through a studio-produced downpour. So great was its impact upon generations of viewers - many of whom were moved to explore dance and musicals after seeing the film - that it was later placed at #5 on the American Film Institute's Top Films of All Time and the top spot on its list of 100 Greatest Musicals.

      Had Stanley Donen stopped directing musicals after "Singin' in the Rain," his legacy would have been ensured for time in memoriam, but he continued to work on some of the form's best efforts for the better part of the next decade. He directed Fred Astaire - arguably the greatest of all musical film performers - in two projects. "Royal Wedding" (1951) was his first turn as a solo director, and featured the spectacular "You're All the World to Me" number, which saw Astaire literally dancing up the walls and across the ceiling of a room. It would later serve as the inspiration for countless scenes in other films and television shows, as well as the 1986 music video for Lionel Richie's pop hit "Dancing on the Ceiling," which Donen also directed. Donen also helmed "Funny Face" for Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, which earned him a Golden Palm nomination at the 1957 Cannes Film Festival.

      The success of his efforts with Kelly and Astaire made Donen one of the top musical directors of the fifties, with perhaps only Vincente Minnelli ranking above him. As a solo director, he helmed such hits as "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" (1954) and "The Pajama Game" (1957) with Doris Day. Having firmly established himself as a top director of musicals, he was reluctant to rejoin Kelly in 1955 for "It's Always Fair Weather," and the experience - already tainted by Kelly's disintegrating relationship with MGM - was reportedly an unpleasant one. But "Damn Yankees" (1958), which Donen co-directed with the director of the Broadway production, George Abbott, brought the most active phase of his musical career to a close on a high note, as well as his fourth of five nominations from the Directors Guild of America, which had previously honored him for "Singin' in the Rain," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "Funny Face."

      With the decline of the Hollywood musical in the late 1950s, Donen began making inroads to other genres. He made his first foray into romantic comedies with the delightful "Indiscreet" (1958), which marked the reunion of "Notorious" co-stars Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. The film was nominated for Best Picture at both the Golden Globes and BAFTA Film Awards. His next collaboration with Grant - 1960's "The Grass is Always Greener" - was a critical and financial flop, but their third go-round was "Charade" (1962), an engaging and polished thriller marked by Grant's repartee with co-star Audrey Hepburn and a terrific score by Henry Mancini. "Arabesque" (1966) attempted to recreate that film's chemistry with Gregory Peck and Sophia Loren, but not even their star power could elevate the ponderous end result.

      Donen reunited with Hepburn for "Two for the Road" (1967), a bittersweet comedy-drama that explored the dissolution of a marriage between two seemingly hopeless romantics (Hepburn and Albert Finney). Told in a non-linear fashion that evoked the arthouse scene of Europe, the film was praised as Donen's boldest non-musical effort. He followed this with "Bedazzled" (1967), a cult favorite built around the then-popular comedy duo of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore. A colorful pop revamp of the Faustian legend, Moore starred as a nebbish short order cook who is granted his every wish - including a bedroom romp with Raquel Welch as the embodiment of lust - by a sardonic Devil (Cook) with a sense of coal-black humor. The film was a sizable hit with college audiences, who appreciated its fractured structure and nose-thumbing attitude towards religion.

      "Bedazzled" would prove to be Donen's last successful film. His follow-up, "Staircase" (1969), was a comedy-drama with Richard Burton and Rex Harrison as an aging gay couple. The offbeat casting led Fox to market the film as camp, which resulted in a backlash of negative reviews that lambasted the film as being in bad taste. "The Little Prince" (1974) failed to generate the same sense of wonder as the classic Antoine de Saint-Exupery book on which it was based, despite a score by Lerner and Lowe and the presence of Gene Wilder and Bob Fosse in its cast. "Lucky Lady" (1975) squandered the star power of its leads - Gene Hackman, Burt Reynolds and Liza Minelli - in a moribund dramedy about romance between bootleggers in the 1930s. "Movie Movie" (1978) was the sole standout of the decade for Donen - an amusing send-up of genre pictures from the 1930s by Larry Gelbart, the film's two-movies-in-one structure offered some terrific comic turns from the likes of George C. Scott and Eli Wallach. Sadly, the momentum it generated was squelched by "Saturn 3" (1980), an ill-advised foray into science fiction with Kirk Douglas and a badly miscast Farrah Fawcett as astronauts terrorized by a dubbed Harvey Keitel and his colossal, amorous robot. The film did manage to generate some attention for brief nude scenes by Fawcett, who at the time was still riding high on her post-"Charlie's Angels" (ABC, 1976-1981) popularity.

      Donen's final turn in the director's chair for a major motion picture was "Blame It on Rio" (1984), an uncomfortable sex comedy which asked viewers to find Michael Caine's attempts to seduce his daughter's nubile teenage friend (Michelle Johnson) amusing. The abundance of nudity helped to make the film a modest hit, but Donen's heart was clearly not in the picture. He was absent from directing for most of the 1980s, save for a lovely musical number on an episode of "Moonlighting" (ABC, 1985-89) in 1986. Donen also lent his name and legacy to the Academy Awards telecast by serving as producer of the 58th annual ceremony that same year.

      In 1993, Donen made his stage musical directing debut with an adaptation of Michael Powell's classic ballet fantasy-drama, "The Red Shoes" (1948), but the production was not a success. He returned behind the camera for the 1999 TV-movie "Love Letters," based on the long-running play by A.R. Gurney, with Steven Weber and Laura Linney as the lovers whose romantic history is played out over the course of several decades' worth of correspondence. As befitting a director of his stature, Donen received his share of lifetime achievement awards in the 1990s, which culminated in an honorary Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1998. His acceptance speech was marked by the charm and grace that he brought to his classic musicals - upon receiving his award, he executed a gentle dance with the trophy while crooning Irving Berlin's "Cheek to Cheek." The moment served as a heart-warming reminder of Donen's legacy, as well as the whimsy and joy he brought to moviegoers throughout his career.

      (Biographical info courtesy of TCMDb)

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    • Albert Finney (1936-2019)

    • British actor Albert Finney passed away Friday, February 8, 2019 at the age of 82.

      A dynamic, often explosive stage and screen star, Albert Finney emerged from the same class at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art as Peter O'Toole and Alan Bates to become one of the most respected British performers of his generation. After earning his stripes in productions of such classics as "Julius Caesar" (1956) and "Othello" (1959), Finney had his breakthrough performance on the big screen as the rakish "Tom Jones" (1963), a role that earned him his first Academy Award nomination. He made himself practically unrecognizable as the titular "Scrooge" (1970) and as famed sleuth Hercule Poirot in "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974). Following a lengthy absence from features to concentrate on the stage, Finney returned to the big screen the following decade for Oscar-nominated turns in "The Dresser" (1983) and "Under the Volcano" (1984). Finney was memorable as a Thompson-wielding Irish mob boss in the Coen Brothers' "Miller's Crossing" (1990). He emerged triumphant again with his Academy Award-nominated performance in "Erin Brockovich" (2000), which opened the doors for supporting parts in big studio films like "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007) and smaller independents like "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" (2007), giving the esteemed Finney a new lease on an already distinguished career.

      Born on May 9, 1936 in Salford, Lancashire, England, Finney was raised by his father, Albert Sr., a bookie, and his mother, Alice. Educated at Salford Grammar School, he failed his final GCE exams in a whopping five subjects. From the time he was 12 years old, Finney was performing in school plays, logging some 15 productions until the age of 17. Soon he found himself honing his craft at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, where he won the Gertrude Lawrence Scholarship during his second and third terms while attending alongside Peter O'Toole, Alan Bates and Brian Bedford. Finney left the Academy in 1955 with the Emile Little Award under his belt, which was bestowed upon students who had the most outstanding character and aptitude for the theater. Following his professional debut with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre's production of "Julius Caesar" (1956), he premiered in London with the company's staging of George Bernard Shaw's "Caesar and Cleopatra" (1956). Two years later, Finney earned critical acclaim opposite Charles Laughton in a West End production of "The Party" (1958).

      After his West End triumph, Finney joined the famed Shakespeare Memorial Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon for their 100th anniversary season, performing Cassio in "Othello" (1959), directed by Tony Richardson with Paul Robeson in the lead; reuniting with Laughton to play Lysander in "A Midsummer Night's Dream;" and understudying Laurence Olivier's "Coriolanus." A small role as Olivier's son in Richardson's "The Entertainer" (1960) marked Finney's entreé into films, which he followed by receiving excellent reviews for his stage turn in "The Lily-White Boys" (1960). His stellar performance on the London stage as "Billy Liar" (1960) significantly raised his profile, while his portrayal of the dissatisfied, working-class anti-hero Arthur Seaton in "Saturday Night and Sunday Morning" (1961), director Karel Reisz's classic of British "angry young man" cinema brought him worldwide acclaim. Though he quit the starring role in David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) after four days in order to avoid being locked into a long-term film contract, Finney cemented his film stardom as the rakish, picaresque hero "Tom Jones" (1963) in Tony Richardson's lavish, bawdy hit, earning his first Best Actor Oscar nomination.

      That same year, Finney took Broadway by storm in John Osborne's "Luther" (1963), again directed by Richardson, before reteaming with Reisz for the remake of "Night Must Fall" (1964), on which Finney also made his debut as producer. In 1965, Finney founded Memorial Enterprises Productions with actor Michael Medwin, which was responsible for several outstanding features including his own directorial debut, "Charlie Bubbles" (1967), Lindsay Anderson's "If..." (1968) and "O Lucky Man!" (1973), as well as numerous plays, including Peter Nichols' "A Day in the Life of Joe Egg" (1968). Much to his chagrin, Finney reinforced his reputation as a romantic leading man opposite Audrey Hepburn as a bickering couple trying to save their happiness in "Two for the Road" (1967). Disdainful of his new sex symbol image, Finney sought to diminish his pretty boy status by hamming his way through the title role of "Scrooge" (1970), a musical take on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and delivering a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of a Humphrey Bogart wannabe in "Gumshoe" (1971). His reaction to the sex symbol nonsense prompted him to absolutely submerge himself in the role of Agatha Christie's famous sleuth Hercule Poirot for "Murder on the Orient Express" (1974), which garnered the barely recognizable actor his second Oscar nomination for Best Actor.

      After "Murder on the Orient Express," Finney appeared in only one film over the next seven years, playing a small role in Ridley Scott's "The Duellists" (1978). From 1972-75, he directed several plays while serving as associate artistic director of London's Royal Court Theatre. Beginning in 1975, Finney concentrated exclusively on stage acting as a member of the National Theatre, portraying the title roles of "Hamlet," Christopher Marlowe's "Tamburlaine the Great," "Macbeth" and Anton Chekhov's "Uncle Vanya." In the early 1980s, Finney returned to the screen with a flurry of new movies, though the first few - "Loophole" (1981), Wolfen" (1981) and "Looker" (1981) - were embarrassments. But later that year he hit his stride in Alan Parker's harrowing portrait of divorce, "Shoot the Moon" (1981), giving a sexually-charged, rage-filled performance as a writer crazed with jealousy that his wife (Diane Keaton) and children seem to be getting along fine without him. After pocketing a nifty sum to play Daddy Warbucks in "Annie" (1982) for John Huston, he essayed the aging Donald Wolfit-like actor-manager to Tom Courtenay's "The Dresser" (1983), with both actors earning Best Actor Oscar nominations for their superb work.

      Over the years, Finney made a specialty of playing large, boozy, blustery men and was perhaps never better in this vein than as the gruelingly drunk diplomat of Huston's "Under the Volcano" (1984), adapted from Malcolm Lowry's autobiographical novel set in 1930s Mexico. Without overplaying the extremely difficult role, he imbued the self-destructive man with tragic nobility, earning his fourth Best Actor Oscar nomination for an extraordinary performance. Finney reprised his stage role as a deceptive, drunken Chicago gangster in "Orphans" (1987), demonstrating his flair for dialects with an authentic South Side accent. In the Coen Brothers' "Miller's Crossing" (1990), Finney was an Irish mob boss warring with rival Italians, whose artistry with a Thompson machine gun was felt by four would-be assassins in a memorable shootout set to the Irish ballad, "Danny Boy." Continuing his sting of Irish characters, he was convincing as a tragic constable in a small Northern Irish border town in "The Playboys" (1992), a sexually repressed bus conductor in "A Man of No Importance" (1994) and an Irish cop unable to express his emotions in "The Run of the Country" (1995).

      In between his string of Irish-centric roles, Finney dropped his adopted brogue to make a fine, frumpish Southerner for Bruce Beresford's "Rich in Love" (1993), which he later followed with an appearance alongside old RADA chum Tom Courtenay in the London stage production of "Art" (1996). He next played a perpetually besotted television writer in two Dennis Potter-scripted miniseries, "Karaoke" (Bravo, 1996) and "Cold Lazarus" (Bravo, 1996), and the equally sodden Dr. Monygham in the lavish six-hour "Masterpiece Theatre" miniseries, "Joseph Conrad's 'Nostromo'" (PBS, 1997). In "A Rather English Marriage" (PBS, 1999), Finney played a former Royal Air Force squadron leader devastated by the loss of his wife, who forms an unlikely bond with a retired milkman (Tom Courtenay) sent by a concerned social worker to help care for his decaying estate. Following his turn as the grizzled, eccentric writer Kilgore Trout in "Breakfast of Champions" (1999), Finney essayed a former racing commissioner in the film adaptation of Sam Shepard's "Simpatico" (1999). The latter was particularly well-suited to this breeder of horses and son of a bookie.

      Though continually working, Finney had by this point in his career found himself less of a known commodity than in years past. But that changed when he was cast by director Steven Soderbergh to star opposite Julia Roberts in the commercial smash "Erin Brockovich" (2000). Finney played the skeptical, but open-minded California lawyer boss of Roberts' titular legal assistant, whose interest in a cancer cluster case gradually re-energizes him for what becomes the case of his career. Just like his character onscreen, Finney's own career was given new life, especially after he earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination - his first such honor in 16 years. That same year, he had a cameo as a chief of staff in Soderbergh's deftly crafted "Traffic" (2000), which he followed with a turn as acclaimed novelist Ernest Hemingway in "Hemingway, The Hunter Of Death" (2001). In 2002, he took on the role of Winston Churchill in the acclaimed HBO drama "The Gathering Storm," a love story offering an intimate look inside the marriage of Winston and Clementine Churchill (Vanessa Redgrave) during a particularly troubled, though little-known moment in their lives.

      For his role in "The Gathering Storm," Finney received widespread critical praise, including an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie, a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television, a BAFTA TV Award as Best Actor, and a Broadcasting Press Guild Award. He received another Golden Globe nomination the following year, this time for his role as the senior Ed Bloom, a man whose tendency toward fanciful self-mythologizing puts him at odds with his disillusioned son (Billy Crudup) in Tim Burton's "Big Fish" (2003). After voicing Finnis Everglot in Burton's animated "Corpse Bride" (2005), Finney was the deceased uncle of a high-flying London businessman (Russell Crowe) who makes his nephew the sole beneficiary of his modest vineyard in "A Good Year" (2006). In "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007), Finney played Dr. Albert Hirsch, the man responsible for creating Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) by erasing his former identity and creating a new one through behavior modification. Next he portrayed 18th century clergyman and writer of hymns, John Newton, in Michael Apted's underappreciated historical drama, "Amazing Grace" (2007). Finney teamed up with Sidney Lumet for the director's excellent crime thriller, "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" (2007), playing a man who suffers the devastating loss of his wife (Rosemary Harris) during the botched robbery of their jewelry store perpetrated by their own desperate and misguided sons (Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman). Surprisingly, Finney was relatively inactive over the next five years, appearing in the next decade with a reprisal of Dr. Hirsch for "The Bourne Legacy" (2012) and a turn as Kincade opposite Daniel Craig's James Bond in "Skyfall" (2012).

      (Biographical info courtesy of TCMDb).

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Hollywood Black: The Stars, the Films, the Filmmakers
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That Touch of Mink DVD
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  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca