Tag Archives: All About Eve

Stream It!: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

[Showcasing the best and highlighting the newest additions to the various streaming services, including but not limited to Netflix Instant, HuluPlus, Amazon Prime, and Warner Archive Instant.]

New on Netflix: Sunset Boulevard

sunset_boulevard

A bunch of new stuff hit Netflix at the beginning of the month, as usual, but the immediately standout was Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard. Wilder is known for his cynical yet often uproarious approach to his films, and here he turns that cynicism directly toward Hollywood, making one of the most scathing and ruthlessly entertaining movies about the movies you’ll ever see.

In true film noir fashion, our hero (?) tells the story of his inevitable undoing in flashback – but not only is he in existential defeat, as noir heroes usually are, he’s actually already dead, floating facedown in the pool of a decaying mansion on Sunset Blvd. His relationship with faded silent screen star Norma Desmond (played by silent screen star Gloria Swanson) takes up the bulk of the film, and Norma is a gloriously over-the-top character. This film is not going for realism in any way, but it’s about as perfect an encapsulation of Gothicism in a Hollywood setting as you could wish to see.

All the extra little touches Wilder brings are great, too, particularly in the casting. Erich von Stroheim plays Desmond’s butler, but he also used to be her director – Stroheim himself was a director (and actor) in the silent era, and directed Swanson in the unfinished Queen Kelly, footage from which is used within Sunset Boulevard. Stroheim’s relationship with Hollywood studios was notorious, baggage which certainly informs the critique Sunset Boulevard makes about the way the system chews people up and throws them away when it gets done with them. It’s kind of amazing Wilder even got this film made in Hollywood, to be honest – he doesn’t say a lot of good things about the system.

Double Feature: All About Eve

all_about_eveIn looking for a good double feature to go with Sunset Boulevard, I first thought of other films about Hollywood with similarly dark tones – Mulholland Drive, The Bad and the Beautiful, etc. But none of them were streaming. I thought I was going to have to go with a typical director pairing and choose Double Indemnity (which would be a good double feature, mind you), but then I thought why not pair one of the greatest films about Hollywood with one of the greatest films about the stage – and they just happen to have been made the same year!

All About Eve follows eager fan Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) as she worms her way into the life of established stage star Margo Channing (Bette Davis), but her intentions may not be the best. This is one of Davis’ absolute best roles; Margo’s combination of star power and neuroticism make her one of the great characters of the screen, while Baxter amazingly holds her own as the scheming Eve. That they were both nominated for Best Actress Oscars is fitting, though they may have split the vote (the Oscar went to Judy Holliday for Born Yesterday, a good film, but it ain’t All About Eve).

The rest of the cast is a dream, too, with Thelma Ritter especially shining, as always, as Margo’s no-nonsense maid Birdie, the only one of Margo’s crowd who sees right through Eve. The other person with Eve’s number is drama critic Addison Steele (George Sanders), whose acerbic wit grants many of the film’s devastatingly good one-liners. Look for a young Marilyn Monroe as “a graduate of the Copacabana School of Dramatic Arts.”

Film on TV: 19-25 January

It has come to my attention that the movie channels don’t tend to delay programming for the west coast; I somehow always assumed all stations did that, which was why I was giving EST and CST (figuring MST and PST would be the same as EST), but I suppose when there’s no specific primetime programming there’s no real need. So I’m just going to put up the EST start time from now on; subtract one, two, or three hours depending on where you are, and double-checking the listings for your time zone wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Monday, January 19

Ha, this was today. There wasn’t anything on. It’s nice for me how the networks keep scheduling nothing good on Mondays so I can be lazy Sunday afternoons.

Tuesday, January 20

9:45am EST – IFC – The Cat’s Meow
Slight but enjoyable Peter Bogdanovich-directed period piece, with Edward Herrmann as publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and Kirsten Dunst well-cast as his actress mistress Marion Davies. Based on the real-life events surrounding the mysterious death of wunderkind producer Thomas Ince at one of Hearst’s yacht parties.
(repeats 2:30pm)

8:00pm EST – TCM – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
It’s fitting that Spencer Tracy’s last role was opposite Katharine Hepburn; they play a couple whose daughter plans to marry a black man (Sidney Poitier), a volatile topic in 1967.

10:00pm EST – TCM – Bringing Up Baby
Classic screwball comedy, Kate Hepburn, Cary Grant, Howard Hawks, pet leopards, dinosaur bones, the dog from The Thin Man, cross-dressing, paleontology, broken heels, yada yada yada. It’s amazing, watch it, love it.

2:00am EST (21st) – TCM – The Philadelphia Story
Strangely, after 1938, the year of Bringing Up Baby and Holiday, Katharine Hepburn was declared box office poison and shunted out of Hollywood for a couple of years. The Philadelphia Story marked her return in 1940, and what a return. A sparkling high society comedy that still sets the standard for old Hollywood class.

Wednesday, January 21

Not a thing to watch, oh dear, what shall I do? Oh, right, catch up on all those other things I was supposed to watch…

Thursday, January 22

8:00pm EST – TCM – 42nd Street
By 1932 when 42nd Street came out, the Hollywood musical had already died. So excited by the musical possibilities that sound brought in 1927, Hollywood pumped out terrible musical after terrible musical until everyone was sick of them. 42nd Street almost single-handedly turned the tide and remains one of the all-time classic backstage musicals. It looks creaky by later standards, but there’s a vitality and freshness to it that can’t be beat.

9:45pm EST – TCM – A Star is Born (1937)
This is not the better-known Judy Garland version, but the non-musical version featuring Janet Gaynor in one of her last roles. Gaynor’s not well remembered now, but she won the very first Academy Award for Best Actress back in 1928, and she holds the story of a hopeful ingenue married to a has-been actor together. I still love Judy’s version better (because I can’t get enough of her singing “The Man That Got Away”), but this one is well worth watching as well.

11:45pm EST – TCM – All About Eve
If you wanna talk great movies about Broadway, you gotta start with All About Eve. The titular Eve (Anne Baxter) fangirls her way right into Broadway diva Margo’s (Bette Davis) dressing room and life, but her fawning attention masks her scheming motives. It takes a lot to match Bette Davis on screen, but Baxter holds her own wonderfully, and the rest of the ensemble cast (Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, Hugh Marlowe, Thelma Ritter, George Sanders, and a young Marilyn Monroe) plus a brilliantly catty script round this out to one of the best films ever made.

2:15am EST (23rd) – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
I wish I were as big a fan of Sunset Boulevard as I feel like I ought to be. Film noirish? Check. Seedy underbelly of Hollywood? Check. Steeped in cinematic lore? Check. Written and directed by Billy Wilder? Check and check. And yet – it has never quite caught me the way I want it to. You know what that means… Rewatch!

4:15am EST (23rd) – TCM – The Producers (1968)
The original, non-musical version of the recent Broadway hit. Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder play theatrical producers who figure out that they can make more money by producing a flop then by producing a hit, and they find the perfect vehicle: a musical titled “Springtime for Hitler.” Absolutely brilliant from start to finish.

Friday, January 23

5:45am EST – TCM – Singin’ in the Rain
You don’t need to be told to see this. So I won’t tell you. I’ll just casually point out the fact that it’s on.

8:00pm EST – TCM – Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Trust Stanley Kubrick to find the funny side of the Cold War. Peter Sellers plays multiple parts, including the President, an insane general who wants to nuke Russia, and the limb-control-impaired doctor of the title. It’s zany, it’s over-the-top, it’s bitingly satirical, and it remains one of Kubrick’s best films in a career full of amazing work.

Saturday, January 24

9:45am EST – TCM – The Big Heat
Director Fritz Lang came out of the German Expressionist movement of the 1920s, so it’s not surprising that he ended up making some of the better noir films, given film noir’s borrowing of Expressionist style. Glenn Ford is a cop working against his corrupt department, but the parts you’ll remember from the film all belong to Gloria Grahame in a supporting role as a beaten-up gangster’s moll. Her performance and Lang’s attention to detail raise the otherwise average story to a new level.

Sunday, January 25

6:00am EST – TCM – Ninotchka
“Garbo Laughs!” proclaimed the advertisements, playing up the comedic factor of the usually implacable Greta Garbo’s 1939 film. True enough, though it takes a while for the charms of Paris and Melvyn Douglas to warm the Communist Ninotchka to the point of laughter. Pairing up director Ernst Lubitsch and writers Charles Brackett and Billy Wilder (who had yet to become a director himself) turns out to be a brilliant move, as Ninotchka has just the right combination of wit and sophistication.

2:00am EST (26th) – TCM – Jules and Jim
Jules and Jim are best friends. Then Catherine falls into their lives like a hurricane – she’s almost a force of chaotic primal nature. She marries Jules, but when Jim reconnects with the couple after WWII (in which the two friends fought on opposite sides), their relationship gets…um…complicated. I keep trying to write more, because I just saw this again in the cinema, and it’s all roiling around in my head, but Truffaut will do that to you. Not as much as Godard does, but then Jules and Jim feels quite Godardian to me, but with more angst. But I won’t go into it all right now. Just know that this is one of the classics of the New Wave, and exemplifies the movement’s realistic style, dispassionate camera and narration, and intellectual pursuits.

Film on TV (Oct 27-Nov 2)

Monday, Oct 27

2:00pm EST / 1:00pm CST – TCM – Roman Holiday
Not Audrey Hepburn’s film debut (that would be a brief walk-on in the British crime caper The Lavender Hill Mob), but the film that thrust into international stardom. She plays a sheltered princess who runs away to see real life and falls in with reporter Gregory Peck and photographer Eddie Albert. Slight story, but Hepburn’s charm fills the screen.

4:00pm / 3:00pm – TCM – An American in Paris
American ex-pat Gene Kelly dances around Paris, snagging Leslie Caron along the way. Oh, yeah, and dancing a mind-blowing modern ballet through Parisian art to Gershwin’s title piece. These days it usually plays second fiddle to Singin’ in the Rain, but American in Paris rewards a viewing.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – To Be or Not To Be
If you never listen to anything else I ever say, listen to this: To Be or Not To Be is one of the greatest films of all time, and you should see it. It’s a comedy about Nazi Germany. I know. Jack Benny plays the leader of a Polish theatre troupe, specializing in playing Hamlet along side his wife Carole Lombard. I know. When Hitler takes over Poland, the troupe engages in an act of espionage both dangerous and ridiculous. I know! It’s simultaneously hilarious, ominous, and heartbreaking. Director Ernst Lubitsch’s finest hour? For me it is. Carole Lombard’s best role (the final one of her career, before she was killed in a plane crash returning from a war bond tour)? For me it is.

Tuesday, Oct 28

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Sunset Boulevard
Billy Wilder’s classic noir explores the dark side of the rich and formerly famous, as a struggling screenwriter gets involved with a silent screen star seeking to make a comeback in the sound era. In one of the most brilliant cast films ever, actual silent screen star Gloria Swanson returned to the movies to play the delusional Norma Desmond, actual silent star/director Erich von Stroheim (who worked with Swanson on the never-finished Queen Kelly, portions of which appear in Sunset Boulevard) plays her former director/current butler, and Buster Keaton makes an appearance as an old friend.

10:00pm / 9:00pm – TCM – Ace in the Hole
This is a Wilder film I haven’t seen yet, but it’s got a reputation for being one of the most cynical films of all time. Sign me up for that!

4:00am / 3:00am (29th) – TCM – Some Like It Hot
And if Wilder-does-depressing-noir and Wilder-does-cynical-drama doesn’t grab you, how about Wilder-does-madcap-cross-dressing-comedy? Quite probably the best comedy ever made, in fact. Musicians Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis dress as women to join an all-girl band and escape the mob after witnessing the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. Keeping their cover as women becomes quite a chore after they discover the charms of Marilyn Monroe are ALSO in the band.

Wednesday, Oct 29

7:45am / 6:45am – TCM – Notorious
Hitchcock turns in his finest spy drama; US agent Cary Grant recruits Ingrid Bergman to get close to enemy target Claude Rains. When “get close” becomes “get married to” their own budding romance is in jeopardy, not to mention Bergman’s life if Rains discovers her true affiliation.

11:45pm / 10:45pm – TCM – Out of the Past
Out of the Past comes up in most conversations about film noir. It’s got all the elements: low-key lighting (due in this case to budgetary concerns), an existential anti-hero (Robert Mitchum), a femme fatale (Jane Greer), etc. It’s honestly not my favorite noir, but it’s a good one to see once.

Thursday, Oct 30

9:00am / 8:00am – TCM – I Walked With a Zombie
In case you missed it during the Val Lewton festival last week.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – Dead of Night
A group of people gather at a lonely English country house and tell scary stories. One of the earliest horror anthology films, it remains one of the best. The framing device particularly makes me happy, and I’m really looking forward to revisiting the film.

2:00am / 1:00am (31st) – TCM – Kwaidan
One of the more famous and lauded horror anthology films, Kwaidan is a set of Japanese ghost stories. I watched and didn’t completely love Kwaidan earlier this year, but I promised myself I’d give it another chance. I was highly distracted the first time.

4:45am / 3:45am (31st) – TCM – Spirits of the Dead
I haven’t heard of this film, but I looked it up, and it’s an anthology film of Edgar Allan Poe stories directed by Federico Fellini, Louis Malle, and Roger Vadim. I know, right?! So I have to check that out.

Friday, Oct 31

7:30am / 6:30am – TCM – Cat People
In case you missed it during the Val Lewton festival last week.

Saturday, Nov 1

2:00pm / 1:00pm – TCM – 2001: A Space Odyssey
In case you missed it last week. Wow, lots of repeats, TCM. What’s up with that?

6:15pm / 5:15pm – TCM – Forbidden Planet
What’s better than Shakespeare’s The Tempest? Why, a science fiction The Tempest set on a planet run by a maverick genius, his robot, and his daughter, of course. Okay, Forbidden Planet isn’t really better than The Tempest, but it is an interesting take on the play, and an obvious influence on the original Star Trek.

10:15pm / 9:15pm – TCM – A Star is Born (1954)
After four years away from the screen trying to recover from depression and addiction, Judy Garland returned for this film of a singer/actress getting her big break in show business just as her actor husband’s career is falling off the rails. Along the way, she belts “The Man That Got Away” and other great tunes that define her late career. (The 1937 non-musical version of the film with Janet Gaynor and Fredric March is also worth watching; I couldn’t say about the 1976 version with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, because I have not yet personally found it worth watching.)

1:15am / 12:15am (2nd) – TCM – All About Eve
The ultimate backstage drama. Superfan Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) worms her way into working for Broadway diva Margo Channing (Bette Davis), but she really aims to replace her. The superb supporting cast includes Celeste Holm, Gary Merrill, George Sanders, Thelma Ritter, and a young Marilyn Monroe, all spouting crackling dialogue by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Sunday, Nov. 2

6:00pm / 5:00pm – TCM – Gigi
Vincente Minnelli’s Oscar-winning musical seeks to answer the age-old question – can a Parisian playboy marry for love? This is quite a mature-themed musical, focusing as it does on Louis Jourdan’s intent to make Leslie Caron his mistress rather than his wife, not to mention Maurice Chevalier’s slightly disturbing rendition of “Thank Heaven for Little Girls,” but it has many rewards in a wonderful score and beautiful art direction. You just may not want to make it family movie night.

8:00pm / 7:00pm – TCM – All the President’s Men
The Watergate scandal becomes a follow-the-money mystery of investigative reporting by main characters Bernstein and Woodward of the Washington Post. Great filmmaking, and tour de force performances from Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as the rookie/outcast reporters who earn their stripes on the story of the decade.