'Hearts and Minds' & Twisted Gay Love: TCM Films

William Holden, Maggie McNamara in The Moon Is Blue
Maggie McNamara, William Holden in Otto Preminger's scandalous The Moon Is Blue

Turner Classic Movies has a lot to offer tonight and tomorrow morning. There's a lot to say about the scheduled movies, but since time is short – the first one listed below has already started, I'll be brief.

First of all, don't miss Sidney Franklin's The Hoodlum, a 1919 comedy-drama that feels more modern than most of the stuff that gets released today. Mary Pickford is simply sensational in the title role.

Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon, considered by many one of the greatest movies ever made, features one of the greatest performances ever: Machiko Kyo's conniving wife.

Peter Davis' Oscar winning Hearts and Minds probably caused strokes and heart attacks in American militaristic right-wingers. One sequence that haunts me to this day shows a U.S. military officer describing the Vietnamese as cold, detached people unlike “us.” The next scene shows a desperate Vietnamese woman who had lost a loved one in the war. (Does the demonizing of the Vietnamese ring familiar to those witnessing the far-right's current demonization of Muslims?)

Hearts and Minds, which caused a political commotion even at the Oscars (thanks to Republicans Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra), remains one of the most important motion pictures produced in the 1970s.

Otto Preminger's The Moon Is Blue – which features the word “v*rgin” – marked the beginning of the end of the Production Code's censorship madness after it was released without a Seal of Approval and became a gigantic box office hit. Someone should have the guts to do the same to the current sex-o-phobic prudes at the MPAA.

Starring Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole as, respectively, Thomas Becket and King Henry II, Peter Glenville's Becket is a theatrical bore. But it's also a curious historical piece (based on a play by Jean Anouilh) that chiefly works as a twisted gay love story.

David Lean's Summertime has spinster Katharine Hepburn at her best. In a supporting role, Isa Miranda manages to steal a few scenes. I wouldn't say Summertime is one of Lean's greatest, but it's still superior to most love stories out there.

Schedule and synopses from the TCM website:

9:30pm [Silent] Hoodlum, The (1919)
A spoiled rich girl fights for her life when she's trapped in the slums.
Cast: Mary Pickford, Ralph Lewis, Kenneth Harlan, Melvin Messenger Dir: Sidney A. Franklin BW-83 mins

11:00pm Rashomon (1950)
In medieval Japan, four people offer conflicting accounts of a rape and murder.
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Machiko Kyo, Takashi Shimura, Masayuki Mori Dir: Akira Kurosawa BW-88 mins

12:45am [Documentary] Hearts and Minds (1975)
Filmmakers capture conflicting attitudes toward the Vietnam War.
Cast: Daniel Ellsberg, General William Westmoreland, Clark Clifford, Georges Bidault Dir: Peter Davis C-112 mins

2:45am [Documentary] Harlan County, U.S.A. (1976)
Kentucky miners risk their lives in a violent strike.
Cast: Nimrod Workman, E B Allen, Bessie Lou Cornett, Jim Thomas Dir: Barbara Kopple C-104 mins

4:30am Moon Is Blue, The (1953)
Two womanizers fall for a woman determined to keep her virginity.
Cast: William Holden, David Niven, Maggie McNamara, Tom Tully Dir: Otto Preminger BW-99 mins

6:30am [Suspense/Mystery] Crimson Kimono, The (1959)
Two detectives clash over the hunt for a stripper's killer in Los Angeles' Japanese district.
Cast: Victoria Shaw, Glenn Corbett, James Shigeta, Anna Lee Dir: Samuel Fuller BW-81 mins

8:00am [Romance] Summertime (1955)
A schoolteacher is surprised to find love on a Venetian vacation.
Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi, Isa Miranda, Darren McGavin Dir: David Lean C-100 mins

10:00am Becket (1964)
England's King Henry II appoints his best friend Archbishop of Canterbury then turns on him.
Cast: Richard Burton, Peter O'Toole, John Gielgud, Donald Wolfit Dir: Peter Glenville C-148 mins

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