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Home Movie CraftsActors + Actresses Warren Beatty Movies: From Oscar Winner Reds to Box Office Disaster ‘Ishtar’

Warren Beatty Movies: From Oscar Winner Reds to Box Office Disaster ‘Ishtar’

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

Eleven Warren Beatty movies will be shown on Turner Classic Movies on Monday, Aug. 9, as part of TCM’s “Summer Under the Stars” series.

Two of those Beatty vehicles are TCM premieres: Kaleidoscope (1966), a box office disappointment co-starring Susannah York, and Ishtar (1987), a box office disaster of mythical proportions that sank Elaine May’s directorial career. Dustin Hoffman and Isabelle Adjani co-star in this reboot of the old Bing Crosby-Bob Hope-Dorothy Lamour Road flicks.

Of the Beatty movies I’ve seen, there are two that I heartily recommend: Reds (1981) and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961).

Reds, the story of communist-sympathizing US journalist John Reed, features what’s probably Beatty’s most effective performance – even though he’s out-acted by his leading lady (Diane Keaton at her finest) and fellow supporting players Maureen Stapleton, Edward Herrmann, and Jack Nicholson.

Reds deservedly won Beatty a Best Director Oscar, for it is that rare romantic-political-sociohistorical melodrama that works both in terms of scope (David Lean would have approved) and characters/situations (Beatty and Trevor Griffiths co-wrote the screenplay).

Jose Quintero’s The Roman Springs of Mrs. Stone is a meandering film version of Tennessee Williams’ novel (adapted by Gavin Lambert) in which Beatty, as a young Italian escort named Paolo di Leo, is so absurdly miscast he almost single-handedly destroys the whole movie.

So why do I recommend it? Because The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone offers one of Vivien Leigh’s greatest performances as an older woman in love/lust with the ridiculous jerk Paolo. Not to be missed.

Of note: The invariably pleasant silent film performer Bessie Love, one of the stars of The Broadway Melody – the first talkie to win a Best Picture Oscar – has bit parts in both Reds and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone as, respectively, Mrs. Partlow and Bunny. Keep an eye out for her.

Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (1967) is a cinematic landmark, but even though I appreciate it, I much prefer some of the old black-and-white crime dramas it emulates. Michael J. Pollard is my favorite character in this one.

Elia Kazan’s old-fashioned (but perfectly watchable) Splendor in the Grass (1961) belongs to leading lady Natalie Wood, while Alan J. Pakula’s out-of-control paranoid The Parallax View (1974), a poor man’s The Conversation, belongs to cinematographer Gordon Willis. Pakula would be much more successful two years later with another political thriller, All the President’s Men.

Other Warren Beatty flops to be shown on his TCM Day are Lilith (1964), Mickey One (1965), and The Fortune (1976).

I’ve never seen John Frankenheimer’s All Fall Down (1961), but it does have a good reputation. The cast includes first-rate talent such as Eva Marie Saint, Brandon De Wilde, and Angela Lansbury.

Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde
Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde

Schedule and synopses from the TCM website:

3:00 AM Roman Spring Of Mrs. Stone, The (1961)
A fading stage star gets caught up in the decadent life of modern Rome when she hires a male companion. Cast: Vivien Leigh, Warren Beatty, Lotte Lenya. Director: Jose Quintero. Black and white. 104 min.

4:52 AM Short Film: Man Who Makes The Difference, The (1968)
A behind the cameras featurette showcasing the action film “Ice Station Zebra” (1968) and the talents of John Stevens, renowned second unit/stunt photographer, who filmed the racing sequences in “Grand Prix” (1966). Color. 7 min.

5:00 AM All Fall Down (1962)
A young drifter’s romance with an older woman is threatened by his possessive mother. Cast: Warren Beatty, Eva Marie Saint, Angela Lansbury. Director: John Frankenheimer. Black and white. 110 min.

7:00 AM Lilith (1964)
A young psychiatrist finds himself drawn to a beautiful young mental patient. Cast: Warren Beatty, Jean Seberg, Peter Fonda. Director: Robert Rossen. Black and white. 114 min.

9:00 AM Kaleidoscope (1966)
A pretty girl lures a luckless gambler into a dangerous poker game. Cast: Warren Beatty, Susannah York, Clive Revill. Director: Jack Smight. Color. 103 min.

10:50 AM Short Film: Meeting The Challenge: International Velvet (1978)
C-9 min.

11:00 AM Fortune, The (1975)
A married man tries to figure out how to share in his rich girlfriend’s fortune. Cast: Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Stockard Channing. Director: Mike Nichols. Color. 88 min.

12:49 PM Short Film: Comedians In Africa, The (1967)
C-11 min.

1:00 PM Mickey One (1965)
A comic tries to escape his mob connections. Cast: Warren Beatty, Alexandra Stewart, Hurd Hatfield. Director: Arthur Penn. Black and white. 93 min.

2:38 PM Short Film: Darkness Into Light (1956)
C-20 min.

3:00 PM Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
The legendary bank robbers run riot in the South of the 1930s. Cast: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard. Director: Arthur Penn. Color. 111 min.

5:00 PM Splendor In The Grass (1961)
Sexual repression drives a small-town Kansas girl mad during the roaring twenties. Cast: Natalie Wood, Warren Beatty, Pat Hingle. Director: Elia Kazan. Color. 124 min.

7:08 PM Short Film: Penelope Featurette (1966)
C-4 min.

7:30 PM Reds (1981)
American activist John Reed travels to Russia to witness the revolution and its aftermath. Cast: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson. Director: Warren Beatty. Color. 198 min.

11:00 PM Parallax View, The (1974)
A reporter uncovers the deadly conspiracy behind a political assassination. Cast: Warren Beatty, Hume Cronym, Paula Prentiss. Director: Alan J. Pakula. Color. 102 min.

12:47 AM Short Film: On Location With “Fame” (1980)
C-12 min.

1:00 AM Ishtar (1987)
Two bad singers booked by a Moroccan hotel get mixed up in international politics. Cast: Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman, Isabelle Adjani. Director: Elaine May. Color. 108 min.


Turner Classic Movies website.

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1 comment

Nick -

Yes, I’ve been watching. Reds has always been a bit of a mysterious picture for me to come to a firm conclusion on, I like the photography and composition more than anything else. I am also enjoying The Parallax View which is on right now…pretty decent marathon.


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