Warren Oates


“There were forty western series, and I went from one to the other. I started out playing the third bad guy on a horse and worked my way up to the No. 1 bad guy,” Oates once quipped.

Most known for the films/tv by director Sam Peckinpah (Ride the High Country, Major Dundee, The Rifleman) Warren Oates succeeded at playing the wayward cowboy. Persistence, a love of filming on location (which gained and lost him 3 wives), and pure old fashioned grit won him a long list of tv appearances and a few substantial roles- his most famous being The Wild Bunch.

But what is fame when you have talent?

Oates role as GTO in Monte Hellman’s 1971 cult classic Two-Lane Blacktop was so powerful that it has been studied in film schools in large part due to Oates’ heartbreaking portrayal of GTO. Famed film critic Leonard Maltin himself has remarked that Oates’ performance in this film was as good as any he’d seen and should have won the Oscar.

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The Cat and the Canary

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This is what I like about The Cat and the Canary.

-A creepy old mansion on the Bayou, with hidden paths and passages
-A 10 year delay in the reading of a WILL
-A hidden necklace that was presumed stolen
-Spirits that warn you of imminent danger
-Paulette Goddard playing the wide eyed heroine, and Bob Hope as the clumsy guy who tries to be brave.
-That a well placed rubber eraser solves the crime

This movie felt scary enough to watch in October with all the other haunted films, but lighthearted enough that I may actually want to watch it again to see if I missed any of the clues the first time.

With psychic gongs that tell the inhabitants of the old mansion how many people will still be alive by morning, it amazes me that any of those involved were brave enough to attempt sleeping- but yet they all keep attempting throughout the film. Luckily the feistiness inherent of Paulette Goddard( and most of her characters) keeps her and her distant relative Wally( Bob Hope) determined to figure out who is trying to kill her( to get the money of course), what happened to that stolen necklace, and if they can outsmart that escaped lunatic from the nearby asylum known as the “The Cat”.

The chemistry between Bob and Paulette here is great. Funny lines, a good plot, and excellent direction all make this an absolute favorite for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TCM FILM FESTIVAL 2015

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Passes for the TCM FILM FESTIVAL 2015, go on sale today!

History told through movies. Already we’re seeing some featured titles: Apollo 13, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Spartacus, Steamboat Bill Jr. , and there are sure to be more coming soon. The theme History According to Hollywood is something that rings true with all of us. In fact we probably reference film more than history books on a daily basis. And if your honest, know that the way Hollywood tells it is probably closer to the truth than some like to admit. From an archivists perspective long after all of us are gone, humanity will be understood through our films, thank god we have Classic Hollywood to tell is straight.

Bob Hope Entertainer of the Century

 

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TCM honored Bob Hope on November 4th, reminding me why this man was an icon in film. While I’ve had many a pretty-boy phase in Classic Hollywood, I never ventured over to Bob Hope Land… until now. Just one film into the Bob Hope Collection and I was hooked, so I’ll be sharing some his films through the month in hopes of spreading good cheer and laughter to you all in preparation for Thanksgiving.

Richard Zoglin also honored Bob Hope on November 4th with the release of this new biography HOPE: Entertainer of the Century. Make sure to get some laughter in before the holiday rush starts stressing you out!

Enjoy!

The Sheik

TCM’s Silent Sundays gives us access to a plethora of great silent films.

The Sheik was the film that propelled Rudolph Valentino into super stardom as the first sex god of the screen. Watching it the other evening, I was reminded by how much was not shown in these old films. Sure, you get some scandalous stuff in early films bearing see through shirts and underwater scenes with a well placed branch… but what you get in The Sheik is a drawn curtain, and an assumption. The assumption of rape.

A no holds barred storyline has the Sheik holding an English beauty Lady Diana( Agnes Ayres) captive, and pretty much doing whatever he wants with her. We’re only given glimpses of the relationship through some horrific close-ups of Valentino’s eyes, and the dismay felt by the close friend of the Sheik’s (Adolphe Menjou) when he sees the savagery the Sheik has succumbed to. Every thing else is behind the scenes. So behind the scenes in fact that we’re hardly given the idea that Lady Diana is indeed falling in love with her captor, and as all good Classic Hollywood films go the truth is finally revealed at the end.

Valentino died at 31, his last film The Son of the Sheik had him in dual roles as son and father. His death caused riots and suicides. If you want to see what the commotion of Valentino was all about make sure to catch him on TCM this month.

 

 

 

 

Theodora Goes Wild

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Irene Dunne plays Theodora- a woman who has a secret that she intends to keep. As all the people in her small town throw a fuss about the new erotic romance novel sweeping the country, Theodora tries to find distractions in the city, and finds it in a very curious artist playboy-  played by Melvyn Douglas. So intrigued by Theodora, ….he somehow traces her back to her little town, putting her secret identity as the erotic author- Caroline Adams- at risk. No one that writes books like that could possibly be this wholesome. Let the seduction and slapstick begin.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House


Melvyn Douglas narrates this film, and as Bill Cole( aka the best friend/lawyer) shares the billing with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy ( Mr. and Mrs. Blandings).

Trapped in a small apartment in NYC, the uptight  Mr. Blandings needing something, anything… sees the potential for salvation in a broken down old house, while trying to avoid a 7,000 dollar interior decorating bill thought up by his wife. Bill acts as the only voice of reason, and Melvyn Douglas does a commendable job trying to talk the insane Cary Grant out of getting swindled in a country house purchase. But the heart wants what the heart wants.

“Good thing there are two of you, one to love it and one to hold it up.”

This, like so many other films, was remade into an 80’s Cult Classic with Tom Hanks and Shelly Long. While The Money Pit may seem like a far stretch given it’s classy and sophisticated predecessor- the premise is the same. Take your biggest and best dream, and finally get yourself into the place to reach it ( aka- the dream house), then watch it fall apart right before your eyes. Being the uptight, type A man- it’s difficult to let the dream go, so you poke it and prod it, and pour money into it. That’s what you do. All your beliefs support it. Meanwhile, your family falls apart and your marriage strains. The plumbing, electricity and foundation crumbles, and still you are sure, so sure, this is your dream- you must save it! So while you’re best friend makes a play for your wife, and your sad bank balance forces you to borrow credit, you stick by principles that you made up to support dreams you think you should have. But sometimes, most times, that little voice inside you knows what its doing. Sometimes its not blatant stubbornness, and the heart really does know what its doing. What culminates is something you can be proud of- an external representation of a necessary journey.

The Money Pit successfully drives this concept home through ridiculous antics( tom hanks stuck in the floor), and lots of screaming, while Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House uses cartoon imaginings and snarky remarks from Melvyn Douglas. But the message is the same,

“Why is he always hanging around, why doesn’t he get married or something?” “Cause he can’t find a girl as sweet and pretty and wholesome as I am.”