White men rule on TCM: ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ & ‘The Four Feathers’ + ‘Young Winston’
Turner Classic Movies’ “Race and Hollywood: Arab Images on Film” continues this evening with four movies about European powers and their difficult relationship with “the Arab races”: Lawrence of Arabia, Lion of the Desert, The Four Feathers, and Young Winston.
In David Lean’s sprawling Lawrence of Arabia, Peter O’Toole is a much taller version of T. E. Lawrence, the Englishman who fought alongside – i.e., guided – Arabs at the time of World War I. Lawrence of Arabia won a total of seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director; it’s also considered by many one of the greatest movies ever made.
Peter O’Toole is fine as Lean’s version of T. E. Lawrence – one that Lawrence himself might not have recognized. But as far as I’m concerned, the film’s best performance is that of Claude Rains, who steals the show in his few, quiet moments. As for David Lean, while watching Lawrence of Arabia I sorely missed the guy who had directed Brief Encounter, This Happy Breed, The Passionate Friends, and Hobson’s Choice.
The Four Feathers is the British version of Hollywood’s Gunga Din and Beau Geste; in other words, Europeans are good, whereas Arabs are, well, Arabs. Great color cinematography (Georges Périnal), though. And C. Aubrey Smith, too.
I haven’t watched Lion of the Desert or Young Winston. The former stars Anthony Quinn, which makes me think it’ll be something akin to “Zorba the Arab.” But I could be wrong. The latter stars Simon Ward as the young Winston Churchill. Richard Attenborough directed, which makes me think it’ll be something very stately and very old-school, along the lines of Gandhi and Shadowlands. But I could be wrong. Young Winston was nominated for three Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay.
Schedule (ET) and synopses from the TCM website:
8:00 PM LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) A British military officer enlists the Arabs for desert warfare in World War I. Director: David Lean Cast: Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn. Color. 227 mins Letterbox Format
12:00 AM LION OF THE DESERT (1981) A Libyan resistance leader fights against Italian invaders on the eve of World War II. Director: Moustapha Akkad Cast: Anthony Quinn, Oliver Reed, Irene Papas. Color. 173 mins Letterbox Format
3:00 AM THE FOUR FEATHERS (1939) A disgraced officer risks his life to help his childhood friends in battle.
Dir: Zoltan Korda Cast: John Clements, Ralph Richardson, C. Aubrey Smith. Color. 115 mins
5:00 AM YOUNG WINSTON (1972) The young Winston Churchill overcomes a bad family life and early military mistakes to launch his political career. Director: Richard Attenborough Cast: Simon Ward, Peter Cellier, Ronald Hines. Color. 153 mins Letterbox Format
Turner Classic Movies website.
The Criterion Collection has posted a series of images providing a glimpse behind the scenes of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1947 classic Black Narcissus. Set in the Himalayas, this adaptation of Rumer Godden’s novel was filmed entirely in Britain, chiefly at Pinewood Studios. Make sure to check it out here.
In the beautifully nuanced Black Narcissus, Deborah Kerr stars as an Anglican nun sent to a convent in the Himalayas. The location’s rarefied air and the presence of David Farrar brings to the surface the nun’s latent ambivalence toward her vows. Tragedy ensues when another nun, played by Kathleen Byron, falls madly in lust/love with Farrar’s character.
Also in the Black Narcissus cast: Flora Robson, Sabu, Jean Simmons (in heavy make-up as a local girl), and Esmond Knight.
For her efforts in both Black Narcissus and I See a Dark Stranger, Deborah Kerr received the New York Film Critics Circle’s Best Actress award of 1947. Cinematographer Jack Cardiff and production designer Alfred Junge won Oscars in their respective (color) categories.
Clara Bow & Rex Bell actor-politician son Rex Bell Jr. has died
A former Republican Lieutenant Governor and Clark County (Las Vegas and surrounding areas) district attorney who believed in long sentences and more and bigger prisons, Bell Jr didn’t have much of a career in films. He appeared in only a couple of run-of-the-mill A. C. Lyles Westerns in the mid-1960s, Stage to Thunder Rock (1964) and Young Fury (1965).
At that time, Paramount producer Lyles used faded stars – and children of faded stars – in his series of B Westerns: Stage to Thunder Rock features Barry Sullivan, Marilyn Maxwell, Lon Chaney Jr, Wanda Hendrix, and John Agar; in addition to Chaney and Agar, Young Fury has Virginia Mayo, Rory Calhoun, Richard Arlen, Merry Anders, and Jody McCrea, son of Joel McCrea and Frances Dee.
Clara Bow died at the age of 60 in 1965. Rex Bell died at 59 while running for (Republican) governor of Nevada in 1962. According to one source, Bell Jr looked after both his parents and his troubled younger brother.
Jane Powell, Tippi Hedren & Robert Wagner Replacing TCM Host Robert Osborne
Robert Osborne, 79, is taking a three-month leave of absence from Turner Classic Movies. TCM announced in a statement that Osborne will undergo minor surgery and then will go on vacation.
During that time, he’ll be replaced by Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ Jane Powell, The Birds’ Tippi Hedren, and Prince Valiant‘s Robert Wagner. TCM will also continue to air pre-recorded segments featuring Osborne.
A former actor and the author of the “official history” of the Academy Awards, Osborne has been TCM’s host since 1994. In recent years, he has also acted as host on the Academy Awards’ red carpet.