Martin Balsam: Oscar winner supported Joanne Woodward & Rod Steiger + Charles Bronson
Best Supporting Actor Academy Award winner Martin Balsam (A Thousand Clowns) is Turner Classic Movies’ unusual (and welcome) “Summer Under the Stars” featured player today, Aug. 27. Right now, TCM is showing Sidney Lumet’s The Anderson Tapes (1971), a box office flop starring Sean Connery in his (just about) post-James Bond, pre-movie legend days.
Next, is Joseph Sargent’s thriller The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). Written by Peter Stone (Father Goose, Arabesque) from John Godey’s novel, the film revolves around the hijacking of a subway car in New York City. Passengers are held for ransom while police lieutenant Walter Matthau tries to handle the situation.
Now considered a classic (just about every pre-1999 movie is considered a “classic” these days), The Taking of Pelham One Two Three was remade (as the more numeric-minded The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3) in 2009: a box office dud in North America and a moderate-to-disappointing performer elsewhere, the $100 million-budgeted new version was directed by Tony Scott, and starred John Travolta and Denzel Washington. It’ll likely be referred to as a classic in 2023 or so.
‘Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams’: Brilliant Joanne Woodward, Sylvia Sidney
Another ’70s “classic” is Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams (1973). Directed by Gilbert Cates, better known as the producer of about a dozen unwatchable Oscar ceremonies, Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams may not be Ingmar Bergman-caliber drama, but it is a must-see all the same: Martin Balsam is fine as the husband of a troubled middle-aged woman superbly played by Best Actress Academy Award nominee Joanne Woodward. Hers, in fact, is one of the best performances of the decade – hell, of any decade. Also first-rate is veteran Sylvia Sidney (Fury, You Only Live Once) as Woodward’s mother, whose life is (quite literally) changed after she goes to see Bergman’s Wild Strawberries.
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams was not a big box office hit. That may help to explain the fact that Glenda Jackson was the year’s Best Actress Oscar winner for the minor (but highly popular) A Touch of Class, while Paper Moon‘s nine-year-old Tatum O’Neal beat Sylvia Sidney in the Best Supporting Actress category.
Good Indians and Bad Mafiosi
Directed by Bonnie and Clyde‘s Arthur Penn, Little Big Man (1970) is a “revisionist” Western. Unlike the barbaric animals found in countless John Wayne Westerns, in Little Big Man the Indians are the (recognizably human) victims of White Civilization, which, like any other civilization regardless of color, spreads its civilizing ways via murder, pillage, destruction, and abuse of power. Dustin Hoffman has the title role (his Old Man make-up is precious), but it’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee Chief Dan George who steals the show.
The Stone Killer is a Charles Bronson movie directed by Michael Winner. Need I say more? Well, in case you think I do, in The Stone Killer Bronson goes after the Sicilian mafia. Expect lots of campy musical numbers and explicit sex scenes. Kidding. In truth, The Stone Killer should be clean and wholesome Family Friendly Fun: all guns, no sex (or high camp).
According to the IMDb, Martin Balsam’s last movie was Martin Goldman and Michael Spence’s Legend of the Spirit Dog, released posthumously in 1997. Balsam had suffered a fatal heart attack the year before.
Martin Balsam movies: TCM schedule on August 26
5:00 AM AL CAPONE (1959). Director: Richard Wilson. Cast: Rod Steiger, Fay Spain, James Gregory, Martin Balsam. Black and white. 104 mins. Letterbox Format.
5:00 PM THE ANDERSON TAPES (1971). Director: Sidney Lumet. Cast: Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, Martin Balsam. Color. 99 mins. Letterbox Format.
7:00 PM THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE (1974). Director: Joseph Sargent. Cast: Walter Matthau, Robert Shaw, Martin Balsam. Color. 105 min.
9:00 PM SUMMER WISHES, WINTER DREAMS (1973). Director: Gilbert Cates. Cast: Joanne Woodward, Martin Balsam, Sylvia Sidney. Color. 88 mins. Letterbox Format.
10:45 PM LITTLE BIG MAN (1970). Director: Arthur Penn. Cast: Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, Martin Balsam, Chief Dan George. Color. 140 mins. Letterbox Format.
1:15 AM THE STONE KILLER (1973). Director: Michael Winner. Cast: Charles Bronson, Martin Balsam, Jack Colvin, Paul Koslo, Norman Fell, David Sheiner, Stuart Margolin, Ralph Waite, Alfred Ryder, Walter Burke, Kelley Miles, Eddie Firestone, Charles Tyner, Byron Morrow, Lisabeth Hush, Frank Campanella, Robert Emhardt, David Moody, John Ritter. Color. 95 mins. Letterbox Format.
Movie schedule via the Turner Classic Movies website.