Friday, August 20, 2010

For the Weekend: Hello, Mr. Newman!

Yay!  Tomorrow's is Paul Newman Day on TCM, the best actor ever!  This is one of the few days I wish I could just turn on the television in the morning and let it play all day long...if only I had cable.  Damn you, cable companies and your ridiculous prices!  Well, for those of you who can enjoy Mr. Newman tomorrow, I highly recommend watching TCM.  Really, the entire day is filled with a lot of my favorite films, like "Cool Hand Luke" (1967) and "The Sting" (1973) (which I'll talk about soon, I promise).  But if you need help selecting a few choice tidbits, below are some gems you shouldn't miss out on.

First up is "Until They Sail" (1957) at 7:45am EST.  More girl-centric than Newman's films usually are, it tells the story of four sisters in New Zealand, and how their lives are changed by the US Marines who arrive in their small town during World War II.  Starring as the sisters are Jean Simmons, Joan Fontaine, Piper Laurie, and a 14-year-old Sandra Dee in her film debut.  Directed by Robert Wise and based on a story by James A. Michener, Newman was originally a little reluctant to do the film, thinking his part was really irrelevant to the story.  But due to his contract with Warner Bros, he, of course, had no choice.  He did get to reunite with Wise, though, who directed him in his breakout performance the year before in "Somebody Up There Likes Me" (on at 11:45am EST).  It's a great little fresh-for-its-time look at WWII, and Newman and Simmons chemistry is not to be missed.

Next, try and catch "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" (1958) at 1:45pm EST.  This film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' famous play was a big success, even though Williams himself hated how his story was altered for production codes at the time.  (Williams even stood in the queue lines for the film telling people "This movie will set the industry back 50 years. Go home!")  Originally the project was going to star James Dean and Grace Kelly, but during the length of time it took to get the film made, Dean sadly died young in a car crash and Kelly retired from acting after marrying Prince Rainier of Monaco.  Thus, Newman and Elizabeth Taylor were cast instead.  Taylor was the one to really give this film publicity though.  Shortly after filming began, her third husband Mike Todd was killed in a plane crash.  Distraught, she locked herself up at home for three weeks (director Richard Brooks shot around her for that time).  She managed to come back and finish the picture with surprising strength (even if she was much weaker physically).  Yet, by the time the film came out, Taylor was having her affair with Eddie Fisher, husband to Debbie Reynolds.  It was the scandal of the year, which caused people to flock to the film even more.  Yet, she and Newman did give unbelievably good performances, both earning Oscar nominations.

At 12:30am EST (Saturday night or Sunday morning, whichever way you want to look at it) is a special Newman treat - "Rachel, Rachel," his directorial debut.  Released in 1968, it stars Newman's wife Joanne Woodward as the title character.  Newman stayed behind the camera for the entire project, so we don't get to look at him unfortunately.  But it's a great little film about a 35-year-old school teacher who realizes she's never really experienced life like she wants to when she starts dating an old high school friend.  Based on the book A Jest of God by Margaret Laurence, Woodward fell in love with the project after Newman's business partner John Foreman brought it to her.  With a screenplay by Stewart Stern, the three shopped the script all over town but there were no takers.  During this time, Newman had no interest in directing the project.  Yet, after helping his wife and partner out with advice and improvements for so long, he became so invested that he realized there was no other choice but to direct.  So, with Newman, they finally managed to sell it to Warner Bros (as long as Newman and Woodward did some other pictures for them).  "Rachel, Rachel" received much critical acclaim, including four Oscar nominations (Best Actress for Woodward, Best Supporting Actress for Estelle Parsons, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture).  Even though Newman didn't get a Directing Oscar nom, the two were extremely proud of their project, and they did get to share awards during the Golden Globes that year.

So, flip on the television and watch the best actor to grace the screen tomorrow.  I know, it's a jam-packed day full of greats, but try not to miss these gems too.  Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!  Be back on Monday!

(Post-tidbit: "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" was originally going to be filmed in black and white like Williams' previous play adaptations "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1951) and "Baby Doll" (1956), but once Newman and Taylor were cast, director Brooks insisted on filming in color to capture the famous vibrant eyes of his leads (Newman's blue and Taylor's violet).)


  1. Are they playing "Harper"? Great early William Goldman film, from a great Ross Macdonald novel, so you've got at least three canonical talents involved.

  2. Yes, "Harper" is part of the lot of greats. It's on at 5:45pm EST. I just figured writing about them all would be a bit excessive. haha!! But I do love "Harper" too. :)