Orson Welles’ EVIL – Still Touching Third Rails, 57 Years Later

Welles TOUCHTOUCH OF EVIL was supposed to be Orson Welles’ triumphant return to Hollywood after a decade in overseas exile. Sadly, that’s not how it turned out.

“Universal loved the rushes,” Joseph McBride, author of three books on Welles, said last night before a screening of the “preview cut” of the director’s 1958 masterpiece at New York’s Film Forum. “But when they saw the film put together they were horrified.”

Although Welles wasn’t Communist, McBride said, his progressive politics and support for “radical causes and minority groups” had gotten Welles blacklisted and “run out of Hollywood” shortly after the HUAC hearings in 1947. He returned ten years later when Charlton Heston – in those days a liberal Democrat who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – asked Universal to let Welles direct EVIL, in which Heston had been cast as the lead and Welles was to play “the bad guy.”

Universal reluctantly agreed, but lived to regret it.

1345_still01_small“They weren’t ready for a film like this. It’s very shocking in terms of its subject matter,” he said. “He’s attacking the authority of the police, and this was made during the Civil Rights period, and a Mexican is the suspect.”

Universal kicked Welles out of the edit room  and hired director Harry Keller to shoot additional scenes and to re-shoot scenes the studio didn’t like. In the meantime, Welles jetted off to Mexico to work on his film of Don Quixote. He screened the studio’s 108-minute cut (with Keller’s footage integrated) in December of 1957 and wrote a now-infamous 58-page memo with his comments. Universal ignored him and further lacerated TOUCH OF EVIL to a scant 93 minutes, then dumped the film on the back end of double bills.

“They didn’t even have a press screening; it got ignored and disparaged and American critics attacked it,” McBride said. “It played at the Brussels Film Festival and got the Grand Prize, so the French critics realized this was a great film.”

What could have been a comeback became Welles’ last American studio film as a director.

LeighFast forward to 1975, when UCLA professor Bob Epstein requested a print of TOUCH OF EVIL from Universal to screen for a class. The studio inadvertently sent him the preview version, which had been sitting on the shelf for 17 years. Epstein thought he had discovered the Holy Grail.

“He called me at Variety and I wrote a story (about how he) had found the director’s cut. And then we quickly realized this was not the director’s cut, it was the studio’s version,” McBride recalled. “The ‘director’s cut’ vanished; it doesn’t exist anymore. It was probably pulled apart and thrown away.”

That didn’t stop Universal from promoting the 108-minute version as the “director’s cut” in home video releases in the 1980s. The studio did the same thing in 1998, when producer Rick Schmidlin and legendary editor Walter Murch did a high-profile “reconstruction” of TOUCH OF EVIL based on Welles’ memo.

33-charlton-heston-theredlist“Murch made 50 changes in the film. They were all terrific changes that improved the film, but he couldn’t make all the revisions Welles wanted. It’s not possible, because the negative is only the 93-minute version. But they were able to use the print of this preview version, which has additional scenes,” McBride added. “That’s why there are three versions of this film, none of which are Welles’ version.”

McBride says viewers can learn a lot from watching the different cuts of TOUCH OF EVIL, all of which are available on a limited edition 2014 Blu-ray release from Universal. He believes the film, based on the 1956 novel Badge of Evil – Universal changed the title to not imply that cops could be evil – is still relevant more than half a century later.

“Welles believed very strongly in attacking the abuse of authority, and that’s what this film is about: a police captain who is violating the law,” McBride said. “And today, with the abuses of police authority, and the question of ‘Is the policeman above the law?’ this film couldn’t be more timely.”

The 93-minute release version of TOUCH OF EVIL screens at Film Forum on January 29 and the 111-minute reconstruction on February 1 and 2 as part of the five-week series Welles 100, which runs though February 3. For a complete schedule, click here. For an explanation of the differences in the three versions, click here. The digital restoration of the 1998 reconstruction premiered at the 2014 TCM Film Festival. You can read a report on that screening here


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UPDATE: 5 Tips to Be a TCM “Fan Favorites” Programmer

23632_006_2945.jpgUpdated 1/13/15 with additional info from TCM spokesperson

How many times have you watched a celebrity guest programmer chat with Robert Osborne or Ben Mankiewicz on Turner Classic Movies and thought, “I could do that!”

Well, here’s your chance.

TCM announced today that they’re seeking viewers to introduce their favorite films on-air for a segment appropriately called Fan Favorites. In postings on FacebookInstagram, and Google Plus, the network revealed that they’re looking for viewers “with interesting, funny or poignant stories about their relationship to classic films” to chat with host Ben Mankiewicz. The interviews will be conducted via Skype and edited for broadcast.

Update 1/13/15 – A TCM spokesperson tells me the network is hoping to make the Fan Favorites segment “a programming staple” with installments “a few times a year,” each with four viewers participating.

ben-mankiewicz-tcm-325The “pilot” (sorta) for this series aired on the afternoon of Saturday, November 29 as Mankiewicz remotely interviewed four fans: blogger Citizen Screen introduced Vincente Minnelli’s MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944); Paula Guthat, co-founder of the TCM Party live tweeting community, chatted with Ben about THE LEMON DROP KID (1951); Horrible Imaginings Film Festival director and podcast host Miguel Rodriguez introduced THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951); and TCM Party contributor Joel Williams debated with Ben about BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID (1969).

Once selected, the four initial guests were asked to submit a list of ten films they would like to intro. TCM made the final choice, based upon availability and programming considerations. The interviews were recorded in August via Skype and, according to Guthat, took 20-30 minutes to record. The chats were cut down to 5-6 minutes for air, with guests doing both and intro and an outro.

For this go-round, viewers have been instructed to suggest one film they’d like to introduce, and explain why. TCM says they will select a “handful” of fans to participate, and that the choices will be made “very soon” and at their “discretion.”

So how can you get the moment in the classic film klieg lights that you’ve been waiting for your entire life?

Here are my five tips:


It appears that TCM is only accepting Fan Favorites applicants via social media platforms. As of this writing, the Facebook post has 537 comments, Instagram has 64 comments, and Google Plus has 8 comments. So join Google Plus! (It’s not hard to do, and you never have to use it again if you don’t want to.)

Even though I’m sure a TCM representative will thoughtfully and thoroughly consider every single comment posted on every single social media outlet, it’s much easier to stand out among a handful of comments than among hundreds. And longer Google Plus posts are generally easier on the eyes than Facebook comments. (Do you know how to make paragraph breaks in Facebook comments? Because I don’t, and I’m a relatively intelligent person.)

Update 1/13/15 – Regarding the requirement that submissions be made through social media, a TCM spokesperson tells me:We do want to hear a diversity of voices, though, so our platform outreach may change in future. Our outreach may also include non-social options.”


If you watch TCM, you know what they air and what they don’t. Be smart in your suggestion.

Don’t suggest a film the channel has aired a million times, like CASABLANCA (1942), THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939) or GONE WITH THE WIND (1939).

Avoid newer films TCM would be disinclined to air, like any post-2000 release (I’d actually stick to pre-1980 to be safe). And since the previous Fan Favorites segments aired during daytime hours, don’t suggest an older film with “mature” content, like THE PAWNBROKER (1964), A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971), or LAST TANGO IN PARIS (1972). (You know what I mean. Nothing that would shock Grandma.)

And don’t suggest a film that always airs on another channel, or that TCM is unlikely to be able to secure the rights for, for example: IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) which airs exclusively on NBC and sister network USA; WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954 – AMC); THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965 – ABC); THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956 – ABC).

And don’t suggest a film that TCM has never aired, like the notoriously unavailable LETTY LYNTON (1932) or the eight-hour cut of GREED (1924).


I’ve seen a number of comments posted with film suggestions only, and no explanation of the personal connection to the commenter. Guess what? TCM doesn’t need your suggestions. They have a programming department for that. What they want from you is a good story.

One persistent narrative TCM likes is the concept of classic film as a family heirloom, passed down from generation to generation. Who introduced you to classic film? When did it happen? What was the movie? Tell that story. Make it emotional. Everybody likes a good cry.

Also: this is not a one-sentence comment you should dash off on your iPhone while you’re on line at 7-11. Sit down, think about it, and take time to craft a nice little paragraph or two. Think of this as your elevator pitch.


TCM is unlikely to admit this, but age, location, and ethnicity will play a part in who is chosen and who isn’t. They don’t want five 60-year-old white people from New Jersey. They want an eclectic collection of fans who properly represent the diversity of their audience. TCM loves to talk about how young their viewers are, and they like to demonstrate that in viewers to participate in live appearances at their annual film festival and on air. When TCM selected 20 fan programmers to celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2014 one of the most memorable was 10-years-old. So if you’re young, play that up! And if you have an unusual hook regarding where you live, tell them. Use every arrow in your quiver, like ROBIN HOOD (1938).


Maybe I lost you when I mentioned Skype earlier in this post. (It’s actually very easy to use, so relax.) Or maybe you got nervous when TCM said you need to have “access to an Internet hard-line” connection. (That just means you need to plug your computer directly into your cable modem, rather than use a wireless connection, because the Skype connection will be better and more reliable.)

Ignore all that technical stuff. If you have a relatively recent computer or laptop and a broadband Internet connection in your home, you can make this work. And if TCM likes you and your story, they’ll most likely provide a man (or woman) “behind the curtain” to help (remotely) with the technical stuff.


As they used to say in the Lotto commercials, “Ya gotta be in it to win it!” Don’t talk yourself out of going for this. If you get selected it won’t be as nerve-wracking as sitting in one of the red leather chairs in the TCM studio, I promise. This is a relaxed and casual chat that will take place in your home, and nobody is better than Ben Mankiewicz at making you feel comfortable and relaxed.

So go for it. You’re ready for your close-up!


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UPDATE: TCM Remembers Rod Taylor w/ Five-Film Tribute

TaylorUpdated 1/10/15 with additional info and links

Turner Classic Movies announced today that they will pre-empt scheduled programming on Thursday, January 29 in honor of Rod Taylor, who died on January 7 of natural causes at age 84.

TCM’s five-film tribute to the ruggedly handsome Australian actor, who enjoyed a nearly-60-year career in film and television, kicks off at 8 p.m. with THE TIME MACHINE (1960).

Set in Victorian England, director George Pal’s and screenwriter David Duncan’s adaptation of the 1895 H.G. Wells novel casts Taylor as Wells (called the “Time Traveller” in the book) and features 18-year-old MGM contractee Yvette Mimieux as his futuristic girlfriend (a member of the Eloi species in the year 802,701) and Alan Young as his friend Filby in 1900 and Filby’s son in later years. (Young, perhaps best known as Wilbur on the 1961-66 CBS series Mr. Ed, is still with us at age 95.) The MGM release won an Oscar for Gene Warren and Tim Baar’s special effects, which include an unlikely lava flow (made of oatmeal colored orange and red) that destroys London after a nuclear blast in 1966. Who knew there were volcanoes in England?

hedren-taylor-birdsNext up at 10:00 p.m. is THE BIRDS (1963), which will likely forever remain Taylor’s best known film, thanks to its directorial pedigree. Based on a novella by Daphne Du Maurier, Alfred Hitchocock’s follow-up to PSYCHO (1960) stars Tippi Hedren as Hitch’s typically icy blonde, Taylor as the hottest lawyer in in the fishing hamlet of Bodega Bay, Suzanne Pleshette as his doomed ex, and hundreds of winged killers (real, optical, and puppet) as the title characters. THE BIRDS is a pessimistic parable of mid-century paranoia, and, thanks to the complete lack of explanation for the attacks, one of Hitchcock’s creepiest and most disturbing films.

“Rod was a great pal to me and a real strength, we were very, very good friends,” 84-year-old Hedren said in a statement to People. ‘He was one of the most fun people I have ever met, thoughtful and classy, there was everything good in that man.”

TCM’s tribute continues at 12:15 a.m. with SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963), director Peter Tewksberry’s film of Norman Krasna’s play, with an adapted screenplay by Krasna.

SUNDAYTaylor plays Mike (a role originated in the Garson Kanin-directed Broadway production by Robert Redford) and Jane Fonda, in one of her earliest film roles, is Eileen, “the only 22-year-old virgin left in the world.” They meet cute on a New York City bus and move their racy patter (for 1963) to the apartment of Eileen’s airline pilot brother (Cliff Robertson), a ladies man who has his own thoughts about appropriate behavior for ladies who happen to be his sister. Farce ensues.

Despite the controversy (at the time) over its subject matter, SUNDAY IN NEW YORK is an innocuous, old fashioned love story, and Taylor and Fonda have sweet chemistry. Even more interesting is the fact that, five years later, sexually frank films like Fonda’s own BARBARELLA would make SUNDAY look like a decades-old relic.

Interesting side note: on the first-ever TCM sightseeing bus tour in August of 2013, legendary actress Jane Powell told me that this film was her favorite movie set in New York City.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 6.37.18 PMThe evening continues at 2:15 a.m. with YOUNG CASSIDY (1965), based on the rowdy life of Irish dramatist Sean O’Casey (1880-1964). In the film, which was shot on location in Dublin by director Jack Cardiff (who replaced an ailing John Ford), Taylor plays playwright John Cassidy (O’Casey’s birth name) with Julie Christie and Maggie Smith as his love interests, Dame Flora Robson as his mother, Dame Edith Evans as his sponsor, Lady Gregory, and Sir Michael Redgrave as William Butler Yeats. Ford only directed about 10 minutes of the final film, but it’s still billed as “A John Ford Film.”

TCM has a short making-of documentary on YOUNG CASSIDY on the website, along with the original trailer and clips from the film.

The tribute concludes at 4:15 a.m. with THE GLASS BOTTOM BOAT (1966), Frank Tashlin’s Cold War comedy with Taylor as an inventor and Doris Day as a disaster-prone public relations rep who doubles as a mermaid Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 6.42.56 PMon her father’s glass bottom boat excursions. The supporting cast is a Murders’ Row of 1960s and ’70s TV character actors, with George Tobias and Alice Pearce (Abner and Gladys Kravitz from Bewitched), Paul Lynde (who needs no introduction), Dick Martin (from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in), Arthur Godfrey (talent show host), Dom DeLuise (The Dean Martin Show), Ellen Corby (The Waltons) Robert Vaughn (The Man from U.N.C.L.E) and John McGiver (The Patty Duke Show).

Laura from Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings also reviews a few of the films in TCM’s tribute at her site, which you can read here. And Terry Canote  has an extensive career retrospective on his blog, A Shroud of Thoughts.

Sadly missing from TCM’s retrospective is Taylor’s final, unforgettable performance on film, as Winston Churchill in Quentin Tarantino’s INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (2009). That film is available to stream at Amazon Instant. And here’s a great 2009 interview with Taylor about his role in the film, and meeting and working with Tarantino. It includes some behind-the-scenes footage that may make you weep.

Posted in TCM | Tagged | 6 Comments

UPDATE: “Lost” Bill Murray Film Resurfaces on TCM

Ron Galella, Ltd.

UPDATE 1/7/15 -  If you missed the tweet-along to NOTHING LASTS FOREVER (1984) w/ special guest Zach Galligan, you can read highlights here.

Original Post – 1/6/15

Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd appeared in two sci-fi action comedies in 1984 – one you’ve heard of, and one you probably haven’t.

The first, Ivan Reitman’s GHOSTBUSTERS, was released by Columbia in June and spawned one of the most lucrative franchises in Hollywood history, with a chart-topping theme song, TV cartoon spin-off, comic books, theme park rides, video games, a 1989 sequel, a 2014 theatrical re-release, and a planned all-female reboot from director Paul Feig (BRIDESMAIDS).

The second, Tom Schiller’s NOTHING LASTS FOREVER, originally scheduled for release in September – ostensibly to ride the coattails of GHOSTBUSTERS’ success – was instead shelved by the financially unstable MGM/UA.

It remains unreleased, in any form, three decades later.

Screen Shot 2015-01-06 at 5.45.15 PMFast forward to this past Saturday, when Turner Classic Movies gave the legendary “lost” film its American TV premiere as part of the TCM Underground cult film series. But what should have been an opportunity for rejoicing was missed by many film fans (including me), who slept through the 2 a.m. broadcast in a protracted New Year’s hangover.

Cue Andy Ross. The 29-year-old, Greenville, Tennessee-based newspaper columnist, a regular participant in the #TCMParty Twitter community, is co-hosting a special live tweet-along of the film– which is available on the Watch TCM streaming app– tonight at 8 p.m. (ET).

“It’s such a fascinating footnote from a time where there really aren’t many, if any, ‘lost’ big studio movies,” Ross told me in an email. “The fact that TCM did one of their lovely sneaky surprises like this is amazing. It’s very much worth supporting.”

“It shouldn’t be as much of a secret as it is,” Ross added.

7530320.3Written and directed by Schiller, an Emmy-winning writer perhaps best known for the 1978 short DON’T LOOK BACK IN ANGER (wherein an elderly John Belushi eerily dances on the graves of his fellow SNL cast members), NOTHING LASTS FOREVER is clearly a film ahead of its time. Like Schiller’s LOVE IS A DREAM, a touching 1988 short starring Phil Hartman and Jan Hooks, NOTHING LASTS FOREVER is an homage to classic film, with stylistic and storytelling tropes from the Studio Era interwoven in a post-modern satire about a dystopian New York City.

So why has this delightful film, which stars Zach Galligan of GREMLINS fame and Lauren Tom from THE JOY LUCK CLUB (1993) and features appearances by Eddie Fisher, Sam Jaffe, Imogene Coca, Mort Sahl, and the legendary Calvert DeForest (a.ka. David Letterman’s Larry “Bud” Melman), remained unseen?

“MGM/UA was going through one of many rough patches in 1984,” Lou Lumenick, classic film historian and co-host for tonight’s live tweet, told me via email. “MGM had acquired the faltering UA (their distributor since 1973) in 1981, and by 1984 owner Kirk Kerkorian was looking to unload the combined company. A number of shaky movies (like HOUSE OF GOD) got shelved; NOTHING LASTS FOREVER was always a unlikely film for a major studio release.”

nothing-lasts-forever-12According to Lumenick, Schiller was invited to Cannes in both 1984 and ’85 with the film, but MGM wouldn’t permit it.

“By 1985, Ted Turner had bought MGM/UA but sold it back to Kerkorian after 90 days minus its MGM, pre-1950 WB and RKO holdings (but not the post-1952 UA library, which MGM still owns),” Lumenick added. “NOTHING LASTS FOREVER fell through the cracks with just a few special screenings over the last 10 years at Bill Murray’s insistence.”

Tonight’s live tweet is also an historic event for the TCM Party community, which launched in September of 2011 and has transformed the sometimes lonely experience of watching obscure classic films into a 24/7 “party” on Twitter.

“This will be the first time we’ve ever live-tweeted a film on the TCM streaming app,” TCM Party co-founder Paula Guthat told me. “Streaming has changed the way many fans watch classic movies, and we hope to bring the shared, community experience of #TCMParty to that.”

vlcsnap-2010-06-16-06h09m05s136To distinguish from tonight’s regularly scheduled TCM programming, Guthat developed an alternate hashtag for viewers of NOTHING LASTS FOREVER -#WatchTCMParty. If you’ve never tweeted along to a film before, simply add #WatchTCMParty to your tweets and open up a search window in your Twitter app so you can see what other viewers are tweeting.

One important reminder: Watch TCM is only available to authenticated cable and satellite subscribers who currently receive TCM as part of their cable package, and not all providers support it. (I’m looking at you, Time Warner Cable.) The app is available for iOS (iPhone, iPad) and Android devices or you can simply watch on the TCM website. You’ll need the username and password you use to access your cable or satellite account to log in; if you don’t have that, call your provider and ask for help. (And if they don’t help you, threaten to cancel. That always works for me. Plus they may throw in a free month of HBO).

While NOTHING LASTS FOREVER has an ostensible happy ending, the future of the film remains unclear.

“A rep for Warner Home Video told me today that they’re still working on clearing the rights necessary for a release,” Lumenick said. “Just because a film has been cleared for TV or even for streaming doesn’t mean it’s clear for home video.”

If you can’t make tonight’s live tweet, you have until Sunday, January 11 to watch the film on TCM’s app and website. Because nothing lasts forever.

Posted in TCM | Tagged , | 5 Comments

The Faces of TCM Remembers 2014

936full-lauren-bacallBreak out the Kleenex, because the 2014 edition of TCM Remembers is here.

In mid-December of every year, TCM honors the cinematic luminaries we’ve lost in the last twelve months with an emotional assemblage of film clips, artfully rendered still images, and newly shot framing footage, scored with an emotional piece of popular music. It’s an annual moment of reflection and catharsis for classic films fans, and an opportunity to pay one final tribute to beloved figures we’ve lost. This year’s montage is a powerful piece of filmmaking, covering a period in which an inordinate number of icons left us: Shirley Temple, Lauren Bacall, Mickey Rooney, and James Garner, among many others – along with gone-too-soon contemporary performers like Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Annex - Temple, Shirley_21TCM Remembers 2014 includes original framing footage shot on the grounds of the Swan House, an historic Atlanta mansion completed in 1928 for the Edward H. Inman family. The music track is “All I Want,” an ethereal ballad by the Irish rock band Kodaline which was also featured in THE FAULT IN OUR STARS. The montage opens with an image of Eli Wallach from THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (1960) and concludes with truly tear-jerking vocals of Shirley Temple singing “Auld Lang Syne” from WEE WILLIE WINKIE (1937). In between, the film honors 68 actors, directors, producers, writers, cinematographers, visual designers, make-up artists and stuntmen. There’s even a shot of Frank Mankiewicz, the journalist, political strategist and father of TCM host Ben Mankiewicz.

The five-minute film debuted on-air today, and is also posted on TCM’s YouTube page.  TCM Remembers 2014 was produced by TCM’s Andrew Alonso and directed and edited by Scott Lansing of Sabotage Film Group.

Here’s a list of the unforgettable faces in TCM Remembers 2014:

072014-kabc-garner11. Eli Wallach, actor
2. Mickey Rooney, actor
3. Richard Attenborough, actor/director
4. Maximilian Schell, actor
5. Gordon Willis, cinematographer
6. Frank Yablans, producer
7. Philip Seymour Hoffman, actor
8. Andrew V. McLaglen, director
9. Donald Sinden, actor
10. Saul Zaentz, producer
11. Mike Nichols, filmmaker
12. George Sluizer, director
13. James Rebhorn, actor
14. Birgitta Valberg, actress
15. Bob Hoskins, actor
16. Joan Rivers, comedian/actresseli-wallach-768
17. Alicia Rhett, actress
18. Jacques Bergerac, actor
19. Paul Mazursky, writer/director/actor
20. Elaine Stritch, actress
21. Menahem Golan, producer/director
22. Alain Resnais, director
23. Brian G. Hutton, director
24. Ralph Waite, actor
25. Gottfried John, actor
16. Carla Laemmle, actress
27. Angus Lennie, actor
28. Don Keefer, actor
29. Keiko Awaji, actress
30. Joan Lorring, actress
31. H.R. Giger, visual designer
32. Herb Jeffries, Actormickey-rooney-5
33. Lauren Bacall, actress
34. Dickie Jones, actor
35. Juanita Moore, actress
36. Ken Takahura, actor
37. Gary McLarty, stuntman
38. Lorenzo Semple Jr., screenwriter
39. Ann Carter, actress
40. Martha Hyer, actress
41. Marc Platt, actor
42. Ken Thorne, composer
43. Mary Anderson, actress
44. Shirley Yamaguchi, actress
45. Renee Asherson, actress
46. Oswald Morris, cinematographer
47. Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., actorAnnex - Bergen, Polly_01
48. James Shigeta, actor
49. Richard Kiel, actor
50. Audrey Long, actress
51. Karlheinz Bohm, actor
52. Rosemary Murphy, actress
53. Frank Mankiewicz, journalist
54. Donatas Banionis, actor
55. Russell Johnson, actor
56. Polly Bergen, actress
57. Stefan Gierasch, actor
58. Richard Schaal, actor
59. Shoji Yasui, actor
60. Dick Smith, make-up artist
61. Stanley Rubin, writer/producer
62. Sid Caesar, actor
63. Harold Ramis, writer/director/actor
64. Geoffrey Holder, actor
65. Robin Williams, actor
66. Ruby Dee, actress
67. James Garner, actor
68. Shirley Temple, actress

Kudos to all involved on another fine job.

And here are the individual TCM Remembers montages for Shirley Temple (who died on February 10), Mickey Rooney (April 6), Eli Wallach (June 24), James Garner (July 19), and Lauren Bacall (August 12).

Posted in TCM, Uncategorized | Tagged | 26 Comments

Play It Again, TCM Auction

LionFollow the Yellow Brick Road to Bonhams in New York City on Monday, November 24 for There’s No Place Like Hollywood, the “definitive movie memorabilia auction,” presented in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies.

Beginning at 1 p.m. (ET) in their Madison Avenue showroom, Bonhams will auction 378 costumes, props, scripts, personal items, posters, and all manner of movie memorabilia from the 1910s to the 2010s. And if you’re not able to be there in person, just click your heels – and your mouse – and log on to Bonham’s website, where you can follow the festivities live. (The auction is expected to last 5-6 hours.)

I attended a press preview on Thursday and got up close and personal with the original Cowardly Lion costume worn by Bert Lahr in THE WIZARD OF OZ. (There was a secondary costume used in the film and in live events which sold at auction recently for $1 million; this costume is expected to far exceed that.)

Designed by MGM’s famed designer Adrian, the Lion costume was constructed of actual lion skin and fur and contains a hidden front zipper and an attached tail. Archivist and collector James Comisar, founder of the Museum of Television, acquired the costume twenty years ago after it was re-discovered in one of the oldest buildings on the MGM Lot. I chatted with textile conservator Cara Varnell who told me about cleaning the costume hair-by-hair, to restore the Lion to his cowardly former glory. And you thought your job was tough.

You can see all my pictures from the press preview here.

And, since I know many of you won’t make it to Bonhams for the auction, I shot a little video tour of the Cowardly Lion costume and some of the other WIZARD OF OZ items.

The other signature item at the auction is Sam’s piano from CASABLANCA (1942). If the Maltese Falcon sold for a record $4 million (with Bonhams premium) at the first TCM auction last year, who knows how much the piano will go for. CASABLANCA is probably the bet known classic film of all time, and Sam’s piano is the most integral prop in the film. Outside of the ruby slippers, there may be no other item more representative of the Studio Era.

And if you don’t believe me, just ask Robert Osborne, who spent some time chatting with me at the press preview, and was nice enough to pose for this exclusive picture.

2014_11_20_Osborne_by-Will“Thanks for everything you do for the fans,” I said to the patron saint of classic film. “We really appreciate it.”

Here’s looking at you, Bob.

Posted in TCM | Tagged | 6 Comments

UPDATE: TCM Returns to DISH Network After Month-Long Blackout

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 12.25.28 PMGreat news for classic film fans who subscribe to DISH Network: Turner Classic Movies is back. At least until March.

After a monthlong blackout that began on October 21, a joint announcement was made today that DISH and Turner have reached an agreement that will temporarily restore TCM, CNN, CNN en Espanol, HLN, TruTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Boomerang to more than 14 million subscribers nationwide. With this new agreement, the threatened blackout of TNT and TBS will also be forestalled. DISH’s contract for carriage of TNT and TBS was set to expire on December 5.

According to a Turner statement, first quoted by The Wrap, “DISH Network and Turner Broadcasting announced today that they have mutually decided to restore service of CNN, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, truTV, TCM, HLN, CNN en Espanol and Boomerang, and extend the carriage of TBS and TNT. Dish and Turner will not have any further comment.”

Variety is reporting that the agreement is only a short-term extension. The deal that was confirmed this morning will restore the Turner networks only through March, essentially giving both sides five more months to resolve their differences.

Both sides have dismantled their propaganda websites, as well, with the Dish Stand For You site and Turner’s Save My Shows page trumpeting the resolution of the dispute. Of course neither side mentions that the solution may only be temporary.

This article will be updated periodically as more information becomes available. 

Screen Shot 2014-11-21 at 4.48.05 PM


Posted in DISH Network, TCM | Tagged , | 10 Comments