Friday, June 18, 2010

For the Weekend: All About the Boys

Did you find something nice to give your father this Sunday?  Good!  How about some great movies to go along with it?  For your weekend suggestions today, I present some great films starring men of all types, sure to please any father out there.

First up is the western "The Big Country" (1958), starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Carroll Baker, Burl Ives, and Charlton Heston.  It's a wonderfully understated story about a sea captain (Peck) who decides to give up the sea and follow his fiancée (Baker) back to her father's ranch in Texas.  But when pacifist Peck learns the true spoiled, selfish nature of his bride-to-be and the West, he finds himself in the middle of a local civil war between her father and their neighbors.  Directed by William Wyler, this film ushered in the trend for the pacifist western.  Based on the novel by Donald Hamilton, good friends Wyler and Peck decided to team up and produce the film themselves so that they could make it their way.  (Wyler had always felt shortchanged and edited by the studios.)  Unfortunately, Peck and Wyler's "ways" were very different during filming, and fights ensued.  It was a harsh production for all, but it ultimately destroyed their friendship.  It would be years before they would patch up their friendship.  The only one not to have a horrible experience filming "The Big Country" was Ives, who ended up winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.  You can catch this great film on TCM Saturday at 12 noon EST.

Next up, how about a couple of loving fathers directed by Vincente Minnelli?  The first is the classic "Father of the Bride" from 1950, starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor.  You know this story.  It's the lighthearted tale about the wedding of a young woman, all told through the eyes of her father, from announcement to ceremony.  This smash hit premiered just two days after Taylor's first marriage (out of eight, you know) to Nicky Hilton.  Her marriage was the talk of the tabloids...and great publicity for the film.  MGM even had costume great Edith Head design Taylor's wedding dress, to give it that little extra push. It all helped skyrocket the film to box office success, and Taylor's tabloid popularity even lasted until the sequel "Father's Little Dividend," making it almost as successful as the first.  This classic is on TCM Sunday at 2pm EST.

The next Minnelli-directed father story is "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" (1963).  Starring Glenn Ford, Shirley Jones, and an adorable 9-year-old "Ronny" Howard (aka Ron Howard, the award-winning director), it's the story of a young boy who decides his widowed father is lonely and needs a wife, so he helps find one for him.  This was actually Howard's fourth film and concurrent with playing Opie on "The Andy Griffith Show."  It's an amazing performance by the child star, playing comedy and drama, and stealing every scene with it.  Ford is also great to watch as he completely lets Howard steal the show.  Even though reviews were good, the film did not make a profit.  However, it did become one of the first ever movies to inspire a television show (starring pre-"Hulk" Bill Bixby).  You can watch this gem on TCM as well Sunday at 5:45pm EST.

The final men-of-all-types film is actually about the younger ones - "Stand by Me" from 1986.  This coming-of-age story, based on a short story by Stephen King called "The Body," stars Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, and Kiefer Sutherland.  Four young friends, in the last days of the summer of 1959, decide to go in search of the body of a missing kid near their town.  While out on their own though, they start to grow up and lose that childhood innocence through laughs, fights, and even danger.  Brilliantly directed by Rob Reiner, you can tell the real-life personalities of the boys are not too far off their characters', making the story feel even more real.  It was a knack of Reiner's that Wheaton pointed out in a 2000 interview, along with his unbelievable patience working with 12-year-old boys.  (They were such a mischievous bunch that at their hotel they threw all the poolside furniture into the pool, and even dared Phoenix to cover Sutherland's car in mud, which he did.)  Its box office was actually very small, but thanks to word of mouth and video/dvd releases, it is now a cult favorite.  "Stand by Me" is on TCM Sunday night (aka Monday morning) at 4am EST, but you can also stream it on Netflix right now.

So, make sure you enjoy your weekend, you and your dad together.  There are so many stories to share, yet always so little time.  Have a wonderful time, everyone!  I'll be back Monday.

(Post-tidbit:  A remake of "The Courtship of Eddie's Father" is currently in preproduction, to star Nicolas Cage.  Really, Hollywood?  Cage?)

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