It's the beginning of the month once again and that means it's time to look back at all the classic movie stars and directors born in the month of December. A few are still with us, but all should be remembered for their contributions to film and for how deeply they touched our lives.
In case you've missed it, Turner Classic Movies, Columbia Pictures, and the Film Foundation joined forces last month to release a five-film box set featuring some off-the-radar titles directed by John Ford.
The set, John Ford: The Columbia Films Collection, contains three films that have never appeared on DVD in the Unites States before. The first is the Depression-era comedy The Whole Town's Talking (1935), starring Jean Arthur and Edward G. Robinson, whose flagging career was revived in part because of the film.
Also never before released on DVD is Gideon's Day (1958), which starred Jack Hawkins as a Scotland Yard inspector contending with crime on the streets and corruption in the precinct, and Two Rode Together (1961), a revisionist Western with touches of gothic horror starring James Stewart and Richard Widmark.
The final two films in the set have been previously released on DVD, but have since gone out of print. They include The Long Gray Line (1955), an inspirational biopic about Irish immigrant Marty Maher starring Tyrone Power and Ford favorite Maureen O'Hara, and The Last Hurrah (1958), starring Spencer Tracy as an aging politician waging his final campaign.
The John Ford: The Columbia Films Collection was released early last October.
DVD cover for 'John Ford: The Columbia Films Collection (2013)/Sony Pictures
According to the Hollywood Reporter, independent production companies Star Partners and Hummingbird Productions have put the sequel into active development with an eye toward a theatrical release late next year. Granted, the two companies are outside the studio system, so no shame on Hollywood for trying to capitalize on a favorite classic movie. Yet.
Still, producers Allen J. Schwalb and Bob Farnsworth managed to raise $25-35 million for the production, according to Variety magazine. And they even managed to land original co-star Karolyn Grimes to appear in the film. Grimes played Stewart's young daughter, Zuzu, and is reportedly reprising the character as an angel for the sequel.
How did this all come about? Part of the story undoubtedly involves the original movie being in the public domain thanks to seeing its copyright lapse due to a clerical error in 1974. Paramount Pictures does hold home video rights to the original through the copyright of the source material, The Greatest Gift, so time will tell what's to happen with the sequel once it actually goes into production.
Donna Reed, James Stewart, and Karolyn Grimes in 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946)/Paramount Pictures
In celebration of her 100th birthday this year, the Cohen Film Collection will release a four-movie set starring Vivien Leigh on Blu-ray.
Featuring some of Leigh's lesser-known titles, the collection will contain four pre-Gone With the Wind movies that the actress made in England: the comedy of manners Storm in a Teacup (1937); the period costume drama Fire Over England (1937), co-starring Laurence Olivier; the romantic spy drama Dark Journey (1937); and the showbiz melodrama St. Martin's Lane (1938).
The collection coincides with the acquisition of Leigh's personal archive by London's Victoria & Albert Museum earlier in the year. Among the vast amount of memorabilia were photographs, scripts with Leigh's personal notes, diaries, awards, and extensive correspondence with husband Olivier, as well as letters from the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Judy Garland, Arthur Miller, and even Winston Churchill.
The Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection will be released on Nov. 19th.
Cover for 'The Vivien Leigh Anniversary Collection' (2013)/The Cohen Film Collection
In another case of what's old is new again, a documentary filmed in 1965 and featuring Marlon Brando has resurfaced after nearly 50 years.
Shot by famed filmmakers Albert and David Maysles, the 30-minute documentary Meet Marlon Brando will be available for viewing on Fandor, an online on-demand site run by self-described film fanatics, on November 15.
The film was culled from an interview session Brando gave in 1965 to a fawning press that at points in the interview seemed overly flirtatious. Brando returned in kind, and even spoke in French and German, while passionately talking about his position on Civil Rights.
Marlon Brando being interviewed in 'Meet Marlon Brando' (1965)/Fandor
As they do every month, Turner Classic Movies showcases the work of a classic movie star and this November features one of the greatest actors of all time, Burt Lancaster.
Starting tomorrow and continuing every Wednesday this month, TCM will show 29 movies starring Lancaster, some of which feature some of the best performances ever put on film. Lancaster's career was as diverse as it was iconic, and Turner aims to display that diversity with a wide range of his movies.
Some of the many highlights include Best Picture winner From Here to Eternity (1953), co-starring Deborah Kerr and Frank Sinatra; the nail-biting conspiracy thriller Seven Days in May (1964), co-starring friend and frequent collaborator Kirk Douglas; the legendary Western Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957); and the exquisite courtroom drama Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), in which Lancaster delivered a compelling turn as a Nazi war criminal.
Turner's November line-up will also feature Jim Thorpe - All American (1951), a rise-and-fall biopic of the 20th century's greatest athlete; the noirish melodrama Sweet Smell of Success (1957), co-starring Tony Curtis; Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), which contained what many feel was Lancaster's greatest performance; Elmer Gantry (1960), which earned the actor his only Oscar for Best Actor; and of course, The Killers (1946), the gripping film noir that turned Lancaster into a star.
TCM's showcase of Lancaster begins tomorrow, Nov. 6th at 8:00 p.m. EST with The Killers, and will continue every Wednesday in November.
Burt Lancaster as convicted killer Robert Stroud in 'Birdman of Alcatraz' (1962)/MGM Home Entertainment
It's the beginning of the month once again and that means it's time to look back at all the classic movie stars and directors born in the month of November. A few are still with us, but all should be remembered for their contributions to film and for how deeply they touched our lives.
- Burt Lancaster - Nov. 2
- Charles Bronson - Nov. 3
- Vivien Leigh - Nov. 5
- Joel McCrea - Nov. 5
- Hedy Lamarr - Nov. 9
- Richard Burton - Nov. 10
- Claude Rains - Nov. 10
- Grace Kelly - Nov. 12
- Dick Powell - Nov. 14
- Rock Hudson - Nov. 17
- Martin Scorsese - Nov. 17
- Gene Tierney - Nov. 20
- Eleanor Powell - Nov. 21
- Geraldine Page - Nov. 22
- Robert Vaughn - Nov. 22
- Boris Karloff - Nov. 23
- Ricardo Montalban - Nov. 25
- Virginia Mayo - Nov. 30
Vivien Leigh as Blanche DuBois in 'A Streetcar Named Desire' (1951)/Warner Bros.
Once again, it's time f0r vampires and haunted houses to occupy our imaginations, and there's no better place to watch a string of Halloween classics than Turner Classic Movies.
This year, Turner has a lineup of lesser-known, but no less frightening movies on the schedule. In the morning, the classic movie station will start the day with two Terence Fisher chillers, The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) and The Mummy (1959), both starring Peter Cushing.
TCM will continue Halloween with a showcase a number of Christopher Lee films, starting with Horror Castle (1963) and The Castle of the Living Dead (1964). In the afternoon, be sure to catch Lee as the titular Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) and as a French nobleman caught up in Satanic rituals in Fisher's compelling supernatural thriller, The Devil's Bride (1968).
Following Lee's reprisal of The Count in Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1969), Turner focuses the spotlight on October's star, Vincent Price, with a trio of classics directed by Roger Corman, Pit and the Pendulum (1961), The Haunted Palace (1963), and The Masque of the Red Death (1964).
Those too scared to fall asleep can ride out the rest of Halloween by seeing Price play a man long thought dead in The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) and a man obsessed with his dead wife in Corman's The Tomb of Ligeia (1964).
Christopher Lee as 'The Mummy' (1959)/Warner Bros.; screen shot from 'The Devil's Bride' (1968)/Anchor Bay; and Vincent Price in 'Pit and the Pendulum' (1961)/MGM Home Entertainment
At first, it must have seemed like a good idea. A remake of a classic horror movie based on an acclaimed novel by one of our greatest authors. But as Sony Screen Gems and MGM just found out, that's not always a recipe for box office success. In fact, it often never is.
The 2013 version of Carrie had a lot going for it. It featured fast-rising young star Chloë Grace Moretz as the titular outcast teen, Carrie White, and Oscar-nominated actress Julianne Moore as her religiously insane mother. Kimberly Pierce, who directed the widely hailed indie Boys Don't Cry (1999), was behind the camera. And, of course, it was adapted from Stephen King's monstrously successful first novel.
With a brand name property, high-end talent on screen and off, and a widespread marketing campaign that even featured a supernatural prank at a New York coffee shop that went viral, studio honchos must have felt like they had a hit on their hands. Instead, Carrie brought in an anemic $17 million in 3,100 theaters and came in third for the weekend behind hold-overs Gravity and Captain Phillips.
What went wrong? Come Monday, there will be no shortage of autopsies from armchair critics trying to figure out why Carrie failed to draw an audience. So let me start with the idea that they never should have made the movie in the first place.
Now it has been long standing tradition in Hollywood to remake old movies. In fact, some of our most cherished classics are remakes. But these days it seems there's been a big uptick and it's easy to see why. In the last five years alone, there have been dozens of remakes released by the studios. Everything from True Grit and Straw Dogs to Beyond a Reasonable Doubt and The Day the Earth Stood Still have been retread for contemporary audiences. And while some have been great (True Grit), most have been unnecessary (Footloose) or complete flops (Straw Dogs).
So why does Hollywood keep churning out remakes? Do the studios really believe there's a clamoring among audiences for rehashed versions of old classics? Are younger audiences salivating to see their favorite stars play iconic roles?
Or is it the same old story of Hollywood trying to capitalize on a known commodity because it abhorrently fears failure? What happens when studios begin to realize that it's not the name of the film that puts an audience in the seats, but the fact that moviegoers are looking for something they haven't seen before?
Will Hollywood continue to remake movies? Of course. Always have, always will. Even Gus Van Sant's disastrous carbon copy of Psycho (1998) didn't deter anyone. And there's nothing to be done other than to grin and bear it. Hollywood will make new movies out of old ones regardless of what anybody says. So far, some of all-time greats remain untouched. But before you say woe be to Hollywood for trying to remake Casablanca or Gone With the Wind, remember that The Wizard of Oz is already in development.
Original movie poster for Brian De Palma's 'Carrie' (1976)/MGM Home Entertainment
According to several reports, the Academy Award-winning film-turned-stage musical will actually make its debut at the Théâtre de Châlet in Pars in December 2014 with an eye toward making the jump to the Great White Way sometime in the spring of 2015. The production will be directed and choreographed by ballet veteran Christopher Wheedon.
Minnelli's film version, which was choreographed by Kelly himself, was shot almost exclusively in Culver City, CA, with songs like "I Got Rhythm" and ""S Wonderfil" by the great team of George and Ira Gershwin. An American in Paris won six Oscars in 1951, including Best Picture.
Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron in 'An American in Paris' (1951)/Warner Bros.