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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar + Raquel Welch Classic Movie Picks

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Robert Osborne
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Robert Osborne
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Osborne: Classic movie selections on TCM.
Ramon Novarro Beyond Paradise

Basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will join Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne to present four of his favorite films in TCM’s “Guest Programmer” series on Monday, March 22.

Most “Guest Programmer” evenings are devoted to the best-known old classics, and Abdul-Jabbar (and Raquel Welch’s on April 1) will be no exception. Abdul-Jabbar’s tough-guy flicks consist of two of Humphrey Bogart’s and two of John Wayne’s best-remembered vehicles, respectively, The Big Sleep and The Maltese Falcon; and The Shootist and Stagecoach. Who knows? Perhaps if you watch The Big Sleep a tenth time you’ll be able to figure out what actually takes place in that movie.

The following is a schedule for Abdul-Jabbar’s Monday, March 22, stint in the programmer’s chair (schedule and synopsis – all times shown are Eastern – from TCM):

8 p.m. The Big Sleep (1946) – Humphrey Bogart stars as Raymond Chandler’s classic detective Philip Marlowe, who becomes involved with a socialite, played by Lauren Bacall. Howard Hawks provides the crisp direction in this highly entertaining thriller.

10 p.m. The Maltese Falcon (1941) – Bogart is Dashiell Hammett’s private eye Sam Spade in this quintessential film noir from director John Huston. Mary Astor is the woman who comes to Spade to help in a case involving a priceless statue. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet co-star.

Midnight The Shootist (1976) – John Wayne’s last film casts him as a gunslinger who tries to live out his last days in peace after learning he has cancer. But his past continues to bring havoc. Lauren Bacall, Ron Howard and such veteran stars as James Stewart, Richard Boone, John Carradine, Henry Morgan and Scatman Crothers co-star in this intelligent western from director Don Siegel.

2 a.m. Stagecoach (1939) – Wayne became a star with this John Ford classic about a fateful stagecoach journey. Part character study, part action adventure, this American masterpiece co-stars Andy Devine, John Carradine and, in an Oscar-winning performance, Thomas Mitchell.

Photos: Courtesy of Turner Classic Movies

Raquel Welch, Robert Osborne
Raquel Welch, Robert Osborne

Raquel Welch will join Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies this spring to present four of her favorite films in TCM’s “Guest Programmer” series on Thursday, April 1.

Welch will discuss Humphrey Bogart-Lauren Bacall’s To Have and Have Not, in addition to a couple of films featuring strong-willed women: George Cukor’s Adam’s Rib, starring Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, and Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, with Jean Arthur and James Stewart. The last presentation of the Welch evening will be the girl flick of 1961, Blake EdwardsBreakfast at Tiffany’s, in which Audrey Hepburn’s sweet sex worker (not that you’d actually be told what the character does for a living) finds both both love and her missing cat.

It’s too bad the evening won’t include Myra Breckinridge.

Welch’s new book, Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage, will be published on April 1. By the way, Raquel Welch was my favorite star when I was four years old. That was after I saw One Million Years B.C. on TV. Back in those days, anyone who had co-starred with large reptiles would have a special place in my heart.

The following are the films Raquel Welch has chosen for Thursday, April 1 (schedule and synopsis – all times shown are Eastern – from TCM):

8 p.m. Adam’s Rib (1949) – This fourth pairing of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy casts them as lawyers working on opposite sides of an attempted-murder case. The hilarious script by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin is one of Hollywood’s best examples of a battle of the sexes. Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell, David Wayne and Jean Hagen co-star under the direction of George Cukor.

10 p.m. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) – One of Frank Capra’s most beloved films, this slice of Americana stars Jimmy Stewart as a young man who suddenly finds himself a member of the United States Senate. There, his idealism is nearly crushed in the face of corruption. Jean Arthur, Claude Rains and Harry Carey co-star.

12:15 a.m. Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – Audrey Hepburn brings sparkling life to Holly Golightly, the backwoods girl who comes to mod New York in this adaptation of Truman Capote’s romantic comedy. George Peppard co-stars. Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” won an Oscar, as did Mancini’s outstanding score.

2:15 a.m. To Have and Have Not (1944) – Humphrey Bogart is a skipper hired to help the French Resistance in this Howard Hawks drama based on the Ernest Hemingway novel and scripted by William Faulkner and Jules Furthman. Lauren Bacall, in her screen debut, mixes toughness and sex appeal. Walter Brennan and Hoagy Carmichael co-star.

Photos: Courtesy of Turner Classic Movies.

William Holden, Robert Duvall, Peter Finch in Network
William Holden, Robert Duvall, Peter Finch in Sidney Lumet’s Network

Joan Bennett, Edward G. Robinson, William Holden, Ava Gardner, John Wayne, Boris Karloff, Bette Davis, Burt Reynolds, Faye Dunaway, Robert Ryan, Grant Williams, Miss Piggy, and the recently deceased Kathryn Grayson. Murder, madness, mayhem, mutants, muppets, satanists, and singers.

All that and more will be offered movie fans in the March film series at the Library of Congress Packard Campus for Audio Visual Conservation in Culpeper, Va., starting March 4. (See further below.) My chief recommendations are:

  • Sidney Lumet’s totally out-of-control drama Network, the best Hollywood movie of 1976 and featuring two of the greatest male performances of the ’70s: Peter Finch, the Oscars’ first posthumous acting winner, as a crazed newscaster, and William Holden as a TV executive.
  • George Sidney’s Showboat (1951), a color musical with the best that MGM had to offer. Ava Gardner had her singing voice dubbed in the movie, but she’s great as the part-white, part-black young woman who happens to be very unlucky in love. Kathryn Grayson hits a career high here and so does Howard Keel as Grayson’s gambler husband. Grayson is also good in Sidney’s Kiss Me Kate (1953), co-starring once again with Howard Keel and this time supported by show-stealer Ann Miller.
  • The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), directed by Jack Arnold and starring Grant Williams as a man who, thanks to some sort of radioactive poisoning, starts shrinking and shrinking until he becomes one with the universe. A very curious film. So is Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934), a tale of satanism and revenge starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi. Don’t expect spooks. The film is just plain weird – and for that reason The Black Cat is a must-see.
  • The Set-Up (1949), eons more hard-hitting than Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull, is in my invariably humble opinion the greatest boxing movie ever made. Robert Ryan and Audrey Totter are both superb. Don’t expect Million Dollar Baby-style melodrama, even though Robert Wise (of The Sound of Music) directed.

From the Packard Campus press release:

Programs are preceded by an informative slide presentation about the film, with music selected by the Library’s Recorded Sound Section. Some screenings will also include short subjects before the main feature. Titles are subject to change without notice.

All Packard Campus programs are free and open to the public. For reservation information, call (540) 827-1079 extension 79994 or (202) 707-9994 during business hours, beginning one week before any given screening. In case of inclement weather, call the theater reservation line about three hours before showtime to confirm cancellations. For further information on the theater and film series, visit the LoC website.

Images: Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Miss Piggy in The Muppet Movie

Series Schedule

Thursday, March 4, 7:30 p.m.

Network (MGM, 1976, R-rated*)
Driven mad by corruption, trivia and his network’s obsession with ratings, a veteran anchorman threatens to blow his brains out on live television. Directed by Sidney Lumet, the film was named to the National Film Registry in 2000. Its stars Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, William Holden and Robert Duvall.
*No one under 17 will be admitted without a parent or an adult guardian.

Friday, March 5, 7:30 p.m.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (Universal, 1957)
When he mysteriously starts to shrink, a man finds a new world of danger in everyday situations. Directed by Jack Arnold and starring Grant Williams and Randy Stuart, the film was named to the National Film Registry in 2009.

Saturday, March 6, 2:00 p.m.

The Muppet Movie (Associated Film, 1979)
Kermit the Frog is persuaded to pursue a career in Hollywood by his agent. Along the way, Kermit picks up Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and a motley crew of other Muppets with similar aspirations. The movie was named to the National Film Registry in 2009. Featuring the voices of Jim Henson and Frank Oz, The Muppet Movie was directed by James Frawley.

Thursday, March 11, 7:30 p.m.

Scarlet Street (Universal, 1945)
A meek, henpecked middle-aged man is drawn into a world of crime and deception by a seductive young woman and her manipulative boyfriend. Directed by Fritz Lang, the film stars Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea.

Friday, March 12, 7:30 p.m.

Showboat (MGM, 1951)
The daughter of a riverboat captain falls in love with a charming gambler, but their fairytale romance is threatened when his luck turns sour. Directed by George Sidney, with music by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein, Showboat stars Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel and Ava Gardner.

Saturday, March 13, 7:30 p.m.

Fort Apache (RKO, 1948)
Resentful of his loss in rank and transfer to the West after serving gallantly in the Civil War, a vain calvary officer insists upon imposing rigid authority on rough-and-tumble Fort Apache. Directed by John Ford, Fort Apache stars John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Shirley Temple and John Agar.

Thursday, March 18, 7:30 p.m. (Double Feature)

The Body Snatcher (RKO, 1945)
A doctor must buy corpses from a grave robber to continue his medical experiments. Starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, the film was directed by Robert Wise.

The Black Cat (Universal, 1934)
A satanist faces off with the vengeful man whose wife and daughter he has kidnapped. Starring Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, the film was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer.

Friday, March 19, 7:30 p.m.

The Set-Up (RKO, 1949)
An aging boxer defies the gangsters who ordered him to throw his last fight. Directed by Robert Wise, the film stars Robert Ryan, Audrey Totter and George Tobias.

Saturday, March 20, 7:30 p.m.

Kiss Me Kate (MGM, 1953)
Feuding co-stars reunite for a musical version of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew. The film was directed by George Sidney with music by Cole Porter. Kiss Me Kate stars Kathryn Grayson, Howard Keel, Ann Miller and Keenan Wynn.

Thursday, March 25, 7:30 p.m.

The Man Who Came to Dinner (Warner Bros., 1942)
When acerbic theater critic Sheridan Whiteside slips on the front steps of a provincial Ohio businessman’s home at Christmastime and ends up in a wheelchair, he and his entourage take over the house indefinitely. Starring Bette Davis and Monty Woolley, the film was directed by William Keighley.

Friday, March 26, 7:30 p.m.

Deliverance (Warner Bros., 1972, R-rated*)
During a hunting vacation, four men fight against a murderous clan of backwoodsmen. Directed by John Boorman, the film was named to the National Film Registry in 2009. It stars Burt Reynolds, Jon Voight and Ned Beatty.
*No one under 17 will be admitted without a parent or an adult guardian.

Saturday, March 27, 2:00 p.m.

Paint Your Wagon (Paramount, 1969)
Two California miners share a gold claim and a wife. Featuring music by Alan Jay Lerner, André Previn and Frederick Loewe, the film was directed by Joshua Logan. It starsLee Marvin, Clint Eastwood, Jean Seberg and Ray Walston.

Buster Keaton, Norma Talmadge, Constance Talmadge: Kansas Silent Film Festival

Buster Keaton’s Our Hospitality will be introduced by Keaton’s granddaughter Melissa Talmadge Cox at the opening of the 14th annual Kansas Silent Film Festival at 7 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 26, in White Concert Hall, Washburn University. The Festival continues Saturday, Feb. 27. Admission is free both days.

According to the KSFF press release, Talmadge Cox “will relate how the 1923 film was a family affair, with both her grandparents as the stars (Buster Keaton and Natalie Talmadge) and her great-grandfather (Joe Keaton) and her father (James Keaton) in small roles.” Musical accompaniment will be provided by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra of Boulder, Colo. Preceding Our Hospitality will be two comedy shorts, Angora Love (1929), featuring Laurel and Hardy, and The Vagabond (1916), with Charles Chaplin.

Natalie Talmadge, by the way, was the lesser-known sister of silent era superstars Norma Talmadge and Constance Talmadge, both of whom can be seen on recently released must have Kino DVDs. (More on that in an upcoming post.) They can also be seen in Kansas as well: Norma in the 1922 romantic melodrama Smilin’ Through – the highlight of the two-day festival, as far as I’m concerned – and Constance in The Matrimaniac, a likable 1916 comedy in which she co-stars with Douglas Fairbanks, in the days when he was the all-American go-getter. In this particular film, he goes get his wife-to-be.

Also worth of note is The Yankee Clipper, an adventure drama starring William Boyd, a handsome silent era leading man who’s best remembered today for playing Hopalong Cassidy on television.

Kansas City film historian Denise Morrison will provide introductions for the films and “give an overview of the silent film era and the artists of that time.” Accompaniment for the feature films and shorts will be provided by the aforementioned Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra; Marvin Faulwell and Greg Forema, organ; Bob Keckeisen, percussion; and Jeff Rapsis, piano.

For more information on the Kansas Silent Film Festival visit their website. The KSFF organization runs the festival through sponsorships and donations. See schedule below.

Friday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m.:
Angora Love (1929): Laurel and Hardy comedy
The Vagabond (1916): Charlie Chaplin
Our Hospitality (1923): Buster Keaton plays Willie McKay, who is caught in the middle of a bitter family feud, similar to the Hatfields and the McCoys.

Saturday, Feb. 27
10 a.m.:
Rescued by Rover (1905): The first film in which a dog takes the lead, propels the story and becomes the hero.
The Iron Mule (1925): Featuring Al St. John who started his career in movies as a comedic sidekick to his uncle, Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle
Thundering Fleas (1926): with Our Gang and an all-star cast of Hal Roach regulars.
The Magic Clock (1928): Fantasy film from one of the pioneers in stop-motion puppets.
(Lunch break)

1:30 p.m.:
Flaming Fathers (1927): Featuring comedian Max Davidson
The Matrimaniac (1916): Comedy starring Douglas Fairbanks and Constance Talmadge
Interview with Melissa Talmadge Cox, who will share memories of her great-aunts Norma and Constance Talmadge.
Smilin’ Through (1922): A drama with Norma Talmadge and Harrison Ford
(Dinner break)

5:15 p.m.:
Kansas Silent Film Festival cinema reception and buffet dinner, Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center.
Melissa Talmadge Cox will speak about life in the lavish Hollywood mansion of her grandfather, Buster Keaton. This is an informal dinner, but paid reservations are required. Cost: $25 per person (portion of fee goes to KSFF). Call 785.670.3151 or send reservations to KSFF Cinema-Dinner, Box 2032, Topeka 66601-2032.

7 p.m.:
The Unchanging Sea (1910): D.W. Griffith short
A Moony Mariner (1927): starring Billy Dooley
The Yankee Clipper (1927): Premiere showing of full-length, original version. Produced by Cecil B. DeMille, this lavish drama of the high seas, stars William Boyd (TV’s future Hopalong Cassidy) and child actor Junior Coghlan. This film depicts a race from China to Boston in the 1850s and has everything a sea-going epic should have – adventure, romance and remarkable high seas footage.

The four-film series “Sound and Silents” – part of the wider “Birds Eye View Film Festival” celebrating women filmmakers – to be held at London’s bfi Southbank and the Barbican from March 6-10.

The four screening silent films are: King Vidor’s The Patsy (1928), starring Marion Davies; Sidney Franklin’s Her Sister from Paris (1925), starring Constance Talmadge and Ronald Colman (right); Cecil B. DeMille’s Chicago (1927), with Phyllis Haver and Victor Varconi; and Lotte Reiniger’s animated The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926). All four films will feature live musical accompaniment.

The most enjoyable of the four is Sidney Franklin’s Lubitschesque Her Sister from Paris, which offers Constance Talmadge at her screwballish best – and this before screwball comedies became known as such. In the film – written by frequent Lubitsch collaborator Hanns Kräly – housewife Talmadge decides to spice things up with hubby Ronald Colman by pretending to be her wordly sister (from Paris). George Cukor would remake it in 1941 as a Greta Garbo vehicle called Two-Faced Woman. The film lost (a little) money and turned out to be Garbo’s last. Jane Gardner will provide a “specially commissioned” live musical accompaniment for Her Sister from Paris.

King Vidor’s The Patsy has its ups and downs, but Marion Davies’ imitation of fellow silent-screen stars Lillian Gish, Mae Murray, and Pola Negri is a masterpiece of comic acting, while the now totally forgotten Orville Caldwell proves himself a likable leading man. The Patsy will have another specially commissioned musical accompaniment, this one by Gwyneth Herbert.

Chicago, for its part, has Victor Varconi at his handsomest and Phyllis Haver at her sluttiest. In my view, Haver’s ambitious, selfish, self-centered Roxie Hart is a much superior comic performance to any I’ve seen by Buster Keaton, Charles Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and all other revered comedy geniuses of the silent era. Cecil B. DeMille, who had made the pious (and all but unwatchable) The King of Kings that same year, opted to have assistant director Frank Urson credited as the official director of the eye-popping Chicago. Rob Marshall should have watched this one before directing the dreadful – and dreadfully miscast – (Oscar-winning) 2002 remake. Patti Plinko will provide the live musical accompaniment.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed is a bit on the slow-moving side. In fact, I’d say it’s less a “movie” than animated “performance art.” If you look at it that way, Prince Achmed a stunning piece of artwork. Mira Calix will be present to premiere her new musical accompaniment for this animated classic.

Metropolis Fritz Lang
Metropolis Fritz Lang

“Maybe you’ve heard the buzz about Metropolis,” reads a newsletter from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (website). “The incredible discovery of long-lost footage from director Fritz Lang’s masterpiece. Found in a vault in Buenos Aires, the complete film has been reconstructed and restored by the F.W. Murnau Foundation.” The restored 1927 silent classic starring Alfred Abel, Brigitte Helm, and Gustav Fröhlich had its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival on February 12.

Come next July, SFSFF will screen the restored version as part of its 15th anniversary festival. The screening will be accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra.

Back to Metropolis at the Berlin Film Festival: The sold-out screening at the Friedrichstadt Palace was beamed simultaneously to about 2,000 fans at the snowy Brandenburg Gate. The Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra provided live musical accompaniment for the film.

“The extra footage (totalling 30 minutes) had been transferred to 16mm so the new scenes could not be restored to the same aspect ratio of the 35mm original,” explains Kaleem Aftab in The Independent. “Consequently, in the latest restored version there is a slight resizing of the picture when the newly inserted scenes are shown and they are marked with black lines, in contrast to the pristine restoration of 35mm footage. This does not detract from the overall film. Holes in the story have been plugged and the added footage rachets up the tension dramatically. There are far more reaction shots throughout, whole new sequences and a fresh pacing which emphasises the feeling of the perils to come.”

Photos: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung / Museo del Cine

The Los Angeles Filmforum will be hosting the Munich Film Museum’s Stefan Droessler on Friday March 12, 8:00 pm at the The Echo Park Film Center. As per the Filmforum press release, the Museum “has an ongoing program of restoration of film works and issuing exemplary DVD editions through the Edition Filmmuseum label.”

At Filmforum, Droessler will “present the issues and process involved in their restoration of the pioneering film work of Walther Ruttmann, followed by a presentation of the classic poetic documentary masterwork Berlin: Symphony of a Great City [1927]. The presentation will include photos, scans of paintings, and Ruttmann’s short films OPUS I-IV, and will last about 60-80 minutes, followed by intermission and the screening of Berlin, which is 65 minutes.”

From Filmforum:

Walther Ruttmann (1887-1941) is a pioneer of modern multimedia art. His first short films are unique experiments with forms, colors, and rhythm, his innovative commercials connected abstract animation art with concrete messages. The symphonic documentary Berlin, die Sinfonie der Großstadt is one of the most famous silent classics, the travelogue Melodie der Welt became the first German sound feature film. With the radio play Weekend Ruttmann created the first “sound film without images” while his short In der Nacht transforms music to images and is a prototype of modern music videos. The 2-disc DVD by Edition Filmmuseum combines for the first time all surviving works by Walther Ruttmann from 1920-1931 in newly restored and reconstructed versions, often with original scores.

Where: The Echo Park Film Center, 1200 N Alvarado St. (@ Sunset Blvd.) Los Angeles, CA. 90026 | (213) 484 – 8846 |

Admission $10 general, $6 students/seniors, free for Filmforum members

Advance ticket purchase available through Brown Paper Tickets (website).

Save Cahuenga Peak

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is joining efforts to save the land surrounding one of the nation’s most iconic landmarks – the famous Hollywood sign. TCM will help raise awareness for the Campaign to Save Cahuenga Peak through a multi-faceted plan that will leverage the excitement for the first-ever TCM Classic Film Festival, which takes place in Hollywood April 22-25.

“The Hollywood sign is an iconic symbol known the world over, but the land surrounding it is in grave danger of being developed in a way that could destroy its appearance,” said TCM host Robert Osborne. “As we’re about to celebrate the history of Hollywood with our first-ever TCM Classic Film Festival, we are eager and proud to help preserve an important aspect of that history through this important initiative.”

The Campaign to Save Cahuenga Peak is an ongoing initiative to buy and preserve land surrounding the Hollywood sign. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), one of the partnering groups on the campaign, needs to raise $12.5 million by April 14 to buy the 138 acres on Cahuenga Peak, located behind and to the left of the “H” in the iconic sign. Land purchased through the Campaign to Save Cahuenga Peak will be protected and added to Griffith Park.

For additional information about the campaign or to make a donation, go to

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