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Joanne Woodward Movies: One of the Best Film Actress of the 20th Century

Joanne WoodwardDespite her Best Actress Academy Award win, Joanne Woodward never became a major box office draw. No matter. Woodward was one of the best film actresses of the 20th century, as can be attested by her work in The Three Faces of Eve; Rachel, Rachel; Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams; The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds; and Mr. and Mrs. Bridge. Woodward’s absence from the big screen after a supporting role in Jonathan Demme’s 1993 AIDS drama Philadelphia is indeed cinema’s loss.

On Tuesday, Aug. 16, Turner Classic Movies will be presenting 13 Joanne Woodward movies as part of TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars” film series. (See Joanne Woodward Movie Schedule below.) Four of those are TCM premieres:

  • Leo McCarey’s weak comedy Rally Round the Flag, Boys! (1958), with Paul Newman as Woodward’s love interest, and Joan Collins sultrily stealing the show;
  • Burt Reynolds’ highly successful black comedy The End (1978), about a dying man’s attempts at killing himself with the assistance of a mental patient (Dom DeLuise). In addition to Woodward, the The End cast also includes Sally Field, Strother Martin, Robby Benson, Carl Reiner, and veterans Myrna Loy and Pat O’Brien.
  • The aforementioned The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds (1972), a solid family drama beautifully directed by Newman, with Woodward superb as the troubled mother of two daughters (one of whom, Nell Potts, was Woodward and Newman’s real-life daughter);
  • Martin Ritt’s The Sound and the Fury (1959), quite possibly Ritt’s weakest collaboration with screenwriters Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch. This adaptation of William Faulkner’s novel isn’t helped by a badly miscast Yul Brynner as the de facto head of a decadent Southern family. But despite its countless flaws, The Sound and the Fury should be watched at least once because of its cast: in addition to Woodward and the bizarrely cast Brynner, there are Margaret Leighton, Ethel Waters, Françoise Rosay, Jack Warden, Stuart Whitman, John Beal, and Albert Dekker.
Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Gilbert Cates, best known as the producer of countless monumentally tedious Oscar telecasts, was once (or twice) a sensitive filmmaker: in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973), he elicits first-rate performances out of Woodward, Martin Balsam (as her husband), and veteran Sylvia Sidney (as her mother). Woodward and Sidney should have won Oscars that year; instead, enough Academy members opted for Glenda Jackson for Best Actress (A Touch of Class) and nine-year-old Tatum O’Neal as Best Supporting Actress (Paper Moon). As an aside, I should add that Cates’ 1970 family drama I Never Sang for My Father is also very much worth watching; Melvyn Douglas, Gene Hackman, and Estelle Parsons star.

Martin Ritt’s Paris Blues (1961) is quite dull – what with Paul Newman and Sidney Poitier as jazz players with issues – and so is Stuart Rosenberg’s The Drowning Pool (1975), in which Woodward has what amounts to a supporting role. Curiously, Woodward’s films with Paul Newman (e.g., Paris Blues, The Drowning Pool, A New Kind of Love, From the Terrace, etc.) were of much lower caliber than her films for him (Rachel, Rachel; The Glass Menagerie; The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds). The one exception I can think of is James Ivory’s excellent Mr. and Mrs. Bridge (1990), which TCM – unfortunately – isn’t showing on Joanne Woodward Day.

George Sherman’s Count Three and Pray (1955), starring Van Heflin, is just a passable Western, notable only as Woodward’s film debut. George Englund’s Signpost to Murder (1964), however, sounds intriguing. Whether it fulfills its promise I can’t tell, as I haven’t watched it, yet – but the two leads are good: Woodward and Stuart Whitman.

Gerd Oswald’s A Kiss Before Dying (1956), adapted by Lawrence Roman from an Ira Levin novel, is a surprisingly good minor thriller. Woodward fans will be disappointed, however, as she doesn’t last very long in this one: as her sister, Virginia Leith gets more screen time. Robert Wagner and ultra-handsome Jeffrey Hunter star. As a plus, Mary Astor and George Macready are great in supporting roles.

Joanne Woodward movies

Schedule (ET) and synopses from the TCM website:

6:00 AM COUNT THREE AND PRAY (1955) A Westerner turns preacher to overcome his shady past. Director: George Sherman. Cast: Van Heflin, Joanne Woodward, Phil Carey. Color. 102 min.

7:45 AM RALLY ROUND THE FLAG, BOYS! (1958) The arrival of an Army missile base shatters the peaceful life of a suburban town. Director: Leo McCarey. Cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Joan Collins. Color. 107 min. Letterbox Format.

9:45 AM PARIS BLUES (1961) Two jazz musicians deal with romantic problems in Paris. Director: Martin Ritt. Cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sidney Poitier. Color. 99 min. Letterbox Format.

11:30 AM SIGNPOST TO MURDER (1964) A convicted murderer, who escaped from a mental institution, hides out in the home of a woman whose husband is missing. Director: George Englund. Cast: Joanne Woodward, Stuart Whitman, Edward Mulhare. Black and white. 77 min. Letterbox Format.

1:00 PM A BIG HAND FOR THE LITTLE LADY (1966) A pioneer woman replaces her ailing husband in a poker game after he loses most of their money. Director: Fielder Cook. Cast: Henry Fonda, Joanne Woodward, Jason Robards Jr.. Color. 95 min. Letterbox Format.

2:45 PM A FINE MADNESS (1966) A womanizing poet falls into the hands of a psychiatrist with a straying wife. Director: Irvin Kershner. Cast: Sean Connery, Joanne Woodward, Jean Seberg. Color. 104 min. Letterbox Format.

4:30 PM SUMMER WISHES, WINTER DREAMS (1973) A New York City housewife faces a midlife crisis that forces her to re-consider her way of life. Director: Gilbert Cates. Cast: Joanne Woodward, Martin Balsam, Sylvia Sidney, Win Forman. Color. 88 min. Letterbox Format.

6:00 PM THE DROWNING POOL (1975) A private eye’s investigation of an anonymous letter leads to murder. Director: Stuart Rosenberg. Cast: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Tony Franciosa. Color. 108 min. Letterbox Format.

8:00 PM A KISS BEFORE DYING (1956) A college student tries to get rich quick by wooing two wealthy sisters. Director: Gerd Oswald. Cast: Robert Wagner, Jeffrey Hunter, Virginia Leith. Color. 95 min. Letterbox Format.

10:00 PM THE SOUND AND THE FURY (1959) Passions divide a declining Southern family. Director: Martin Ritt. Cast: Yul Brynner, Joanne Woodward, Margaret Leighton. Black and white. 110 min.

12:00 AM RACHEL, RACHEL (1968) A small town teacher tries to overcome her shyness. Director: Paul Newman. Cast: Joanne Woodward, James Olson, Kate Harrington. Color. 101 min. Letterbox Format.

2:00 AM THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN-IN-THE-MOON MARIGOLDS (1972) A recluse tries to deal with her daughters’ growing pains. Director: Paul Newman. Cast: Joanne Woodward, Nell Potts, Roberta Wallach. Color. 101 min. Letterbox Format.

4:00 AM THE END (1978) A dying man enlists a mental patient to help him commit suicide. Director: Burt Reynolds. Cast: Burt Reynolds, Sally Field, Dom DeLuise. Color. 95 min.

TCM website.

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