October Highlights on TCM
STARRING BURL IVES (October 7, 8pm)--On October 7, TCM is paying a small tribute to the folk singer and actor Burl Ives with a selection of three excellent films he made during the 50s. Ives first became known to radio audiences in the 40s with a CBS show called The Wayfaring Stranger, on which he sang old folk and gospel songs like "Streets of Laredo," "Big Rock Candy Mountain," his signature song "Blue Tail Fly" and the title tune, after which he later named his famous Columbia album of the 50s and his autobiography. Ives sang with Lee Hays, Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Josh White, the actor Will Geer and others in a loosely affiliated folk group called The Almanac Singers, which initially sang songs opposing American involvement in WWII--later, they shifted their stance in favor of intervention. In the early 50s, every member of the Almanac Singers was affected by the Red Scare. Geer refused to appear before HUAC and was blacklisted. Seeger appeared but refused to answer questions and was convicted for contempt of congress. Ives and White testified and named names, and it's interesting that Ives' first notable screen appearance was in East of Eden by Elia Kazan. He is absolutely remarkable as the sheriff in that picture, and his presence carries a brooding weight that feels grounded in personal experience. The same could be said of his performances as truly malevolent patriarchs in Wind Across the Everglades, written by Budd Schulberg and directed by Nick Ray (there is some debate about who is responsible for what on that picture, but the signatures of both men are evident), and Andre de Toth's overlooked Western set in snow country, Day of the Outlaw. The only films missing from this tribute are William Wyler's grand scale Western The Big Country and Richard Brooks' adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, with Ives as Big Daddy. Those five performances are remarkable creations reaching back into the American past of Melville, Hawthorne and the old folk songs and murder ballads that Ives did so much to keep alive and pass on.
GUEST PROGRAMMER: TODD HAYNES (October 19, 8pm)--On October 19, there is a lovely selection of films from guest programmer Todd Haynes. I have a lot of admiration for Todd's work and I'm excited to see his newest picture, Wonderstruck, set in New York in the 20s and the 70s. Like Hugo, Wonderstruck is based on a graphic novel by Brian Selznick, and silent cinema is a key element in both stories. Todd has selected one of the greatest New York films of the silent era, King Vidor's The Crowd, in addition to The Night of the Hunter (which we've talked about a lot in this column) and two pictures from the 70s, Sounder by Martin Ritt and Nicolas Roeg's Walkabout. Even if you know these pictures, it will be interesting to hear Todd talk about them.
'70s FUTURE SHOCK (October 26, 8pm)--Speaking of the 70s, there is a very special night of 70s sci-fi films on October 26--George Lucas's debut THX-1138, Logan's Run (with great production design by Dale Hennessy), The Omega Man and Soylent Green (both with Charlton Heston and both terrifying) and, of course, Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.
By Martin Scorsese