Friday, May 21, 2010

For the Weekend: If You're Lost Between Lost

Almost time for another weekend.  And if you're like me, this weekend is going to be all about one thing - the series finale of "Lost."  But since that only encompasses about 10 hours of the weekend (give or take a few), I've found some nice movies to occupy the rest of the hours.

First up is "The Natural" from 1984, starring Robert Redford, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley, and Barbara Hershey.  Based on the 1952 novel by Bernard Malamud, it tells the story of a middle-aged baseball player Roy Hobbs (Redford) who gets a second chance at glory.  This great baseball film (considered by many to by one of the greatest sports films ever made) was actually influenced by Homer and the Greek myths, as well as the Arthurian story of Sir Percival.  Hobbs is Odysseus (trying to find his way home), and Pop Fisher (Brimley) is Zeus and The Fisher King (from Sir Percival's story).  Even Close's character, Iris Gaines, resembles Penelope, Odysseus' wife, his true love whom he hadn't seen for 20 years as he was on his journey.  Hobbs, however, was also heavily influenced by real-life baseball players.  Boston Red Sox great Ted Williams had a single career goal, to have people say "There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived."  This is the same sentiment of Hobbs.  Redford even copied Williams' swing for the film.  Roger Angell of the New Yorker said Redford did such a good job playing authentically, "you want to sign him up."  You can catch "The Natural" on TCM Saturday at 1:45pm EST.

Next up is a rare gem - Lucille Ball in a western.  RKO's "Valley of the Sun" from 1942 stars Ball, James Craig, and Sir Cedric Hardwicke. Directed by George Marshall, it is about a government spy who goes after a crooked Indian agent in late-1800s Arizona.  RKO was in desperate times in 1942 mainly because of the lack of success from Orson Welles' "Citizen Kane" (1941) and "The Magnificent Ambersons" (1942).  Under new management, the studio polled the public about Ball's popularity.  She was an expensive star for them, making $3500 a week, and she only polled well in one area, the youth.  So, knowing that westerns did well with younger audiences and RKO had once been very profitable with westerns (RKO's only Best Picture winner was the western "Cimarron" (1931)), the studio decided to put Ball in a western.  However, it did not go over as well as they thought.  The studio marketed the film as being as grand an epic as "Cimarron" but the film never reached that epic stance.  And the critics said Ball and Craig didn't have the star pull to carry such a film.  However, some good things came from this, like Ball's respect for Marshall, leading to them working together again with the western comedy "Fancy Pants" (1950) along with Bob Hope.  "Valley of the Sun" is on TCM this Sunday at 5am EST.

Final treat of the weekend?  "Double Wedding" from 1937, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, the seventh of fourteen films the two made together.  This screwball comedy finds Loy, a dressmaker, trying to protect her younger sister from marrying a freelance artist, Powell.  Only, in the process, Powell falls for Loy instead.  Sadly during filming of "Double Wedding," Powell's fiancé Jean Harlow suddenly died of uremic poisoning at the age of 26.  Not only was Powell obviously devastated, but so was Loy, for Harlow and Loy were very good friends.  At Powell's request, the production was shut down for several weeks as he grieved.  They finished the film, but Loy said in her autobiography that it was one of the hardest jobs in her life and she hated it.  The film was still a huge success for MGM though, solidifying the star power of the acting duo, and exemplifying the talent of the two professionals.  Check it out this Sunday on TCM at 8:15am EST.

So, if you need some filler this weekend between "Lost" specials, recaps, the pilot and finale, be sure to check out these lovely films.  They are each a delight that is far from the confusion of "Lost," giving your brain a much-needed break.  Have a wonderful weekend, and I'll be back Monday (the post-Lost world).

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