Johnny Carson interviews & Billy Wilder movies on TCM
Billy Wilder is Turner Classic Movies’ Director of the Evening tonight, July 8, 2013. But before Wilder Evening begins, TCM will be presenting a series of brief interviews from The Tonight Show, back in the old Johnny Carson days – or rather, nights. The Carson interviewees this evening are Doris Day, Charlton Heston, Tony Curtis, Chevy Chase, and Steve Martin.
As for Billy Wilder, TCM will be showing the following: Some Like It Hot (1959), The Fortune Cookie (1966), The Spirit of St. Louis (1958), and The Seven Year Itch (1955). Of course, all of those have been shown before and are widely available.
Some Like It Hot vs. The Major and the Minor: Subversive and subversiver
Some Like It Hot is perhaps Billy Wilder’s best-known film. This broad comedy featuring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in drag (Curtis dons drag twice: as a female and as Cary Grant), Joe E. Brown, former Warner Bros. leading man Pat O’Brien, George Raft, and assorted gangsters in Florida in the late ’20s was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director, Best Actor (Lemmon), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond, from a story by Robert Thoeren and Michael Logan).
Although I enjoy Some Like It Hot, in my humble opinion there are other much funnier comedies out there, including Wilder’s own The Major and the Minor. And although Some Like It Hot has some interesting subversive elements – e.g., Joe E. Brown’s attraction to Jack Lemmon, whether or not he believes Lemmon to be a woman – The Major and the Minor, with Ray Milland falling for Ginger Rogers while she’s passing for a twelve-year-old, raises horrified p.c. eyebrows to this very day.
Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch: Marilyn Monroe, Tom Ewell at their best
The Seven Year Itch is quite a bit stagy (based on a play by co-screenwriter George Axelrod), but I actually prefer it to Some Like It Hot as well. Marilyn Monroe is at her best as a likable, none-too-bright blonde, and so is Tom Ewell as Evelyn Keyes’ itchy husband. It’s just too bad that Gone with the Wind‘s Keyes is underused in only a couple of scenes.
The Spirit of St. Louis, starring an absurdly miscast James Stewart as Charles Lindbergh, was a box office bomb, while The Fortune Cookie – one of Wilder’s (many) lesser comedies – earned Walter Matthau a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. Never mind that Matthau’s role in the film is about as big as Jack Lemmon’s.
Johnny Carson interviews and Billy Wilder movies schedule (PT)
5:00 PM CARSON ON TCM: DORIS DAY (1/16/76) (2012). Doris Day on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Color. 12 min.
5:12 PM CARSON ON TCM: CHARLTON HESTON (3/2/76) (2012). Charlton Heston on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Color. 12 min.
5:24 PM CARSON ON TCM: CHEVY CHASE (12/12/86) (2012). Chevy Chase on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Color. 12 min.
5:36 PM CARSON ON TCM: STEVE MARTIN (6/15/79) (2012). Steve Martin on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Color. 12 min.
5:48 PM CARSON ON TCM: TONY CURTIS (1/10/73) (2012). Tony Curtis on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Color. 12 min.
6:00 PM SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959). Fleeing the mob, two male musicians join an all-girl band. Dir.: Billy Wilder. Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Joe E. Brown, George Raft, Pat O’Brien, Nehemiah Persoff, Joan Shawlee, Billy Gray, George E. Stone, David Barry, Mike Mazurki, Edward G. Robinson Jr. Black and white. 121 mins. Letterbox Format.
8:15 PM THE FORTUNE COOKIE (1966). Crooked lawyer goes after an insurance case. Dir.: Billy Wilder. Cast: Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ron Rich, Judi West, Harry Holcombe, Lurene Tuttle, Cliff Osmond, Les Tremayne, Lauren Gilbert, Ann Shoemaker, Sig Ruman, Archie Moore, John Anderson. Black and white. 126 mins. Letterbox Format.
10:30 PM THE SPIRIT OF ST. LOUIS (1957). Charles Lindbergh flies from New York to Paris. Dir.: Billy Wilder. Cast: James Stewart, Murray Hamilton, Patricia Smith, Bartlett Robinson, Marc Connelly, Virginia Christine, Aaron Spelling. Color. 135 mins. Letterbox Format.
1:00 AM THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH (1955). Married man falls in lust with blonde neighbor. Dir.: Billy Wilder. Cast: Marilyn Monroe, Tommy Ewell, Evelyn Keyes, Sonny Tufts, Robert Strauss, Oskar Homolka, Marguerite Chapman, Victor Moore, Dolores Rosedale, Donald MacBride, Carolyn Jones, Kathleen Freeman. Black and white. 104 mins. Letterbox Format.
Johnny Carson interviews and Billy Wilder movie schedule via the TCM website.