March Highlights on TCM
In partnership with The Film Foundation, Turner Classic Movies is proud to bring you this exclusive monthly column by iconic film director and classic movie lover Martin Scorsese.
TCM Spotlight: Great Movie Endings (March 19 to March 23. 8pm ET) In the middle of March, TCM is doing a small program devoted to great endings of movies. In other words, great movies. I don't think it's really possible to have a great ending of a not-so-great movie. When an ending is great, it feels inevitable: everything beforehand has accumulated force and energy and led right to that one particular point or state, which resonates on different levels. In The Lady from Shanghai, the final shootout between Rita Hayworth and Everett Sloane with Orson Welles in the middle is, in one sense, the emotional struggle between the characters reenacted in a stylized microcosm; it's also the peak moment of disorientation in a very disorienting movie. In Citizen Kane, we're suddenly taken away from the characters on a series of dolly shots looking down on the vast array of possessions Kane has accumulated over the years to fill the void in his life, arranged in such a way that they suggest a city filled with skyscrapers shot from above. Then we land on one apparently random object thrown into an incinerator and in a flash we understand the answer to the question that the entire film has been asking. Everything ties together thematically, visually and emotionally. Welles was a master of rhythm, and both of those endings come suddenly and shockingly. The end of The Searchers, on the other hand, is all carried in one image--John Wayne's extraordinary body language, the framing in the doorway that closes as he turns and walks away, the fact that he has come home only to wander once more. In 2001, as in those other films, the ending doesn't explain anything per se, something that only happens in murder mysteries. It actually takes us deep into the mystery of our own creation and leaves us on another plane far beyond our understanding. It's interesting to consider these pictures from this particular perspective.
Starring Ben Johnson (March 27, 8pm ET) On March 27, TCM will pay tribute to a very special actor, Ben Johnson. Johnson was born on the Osage Reservation in Oklahoma, and he grew up handling horses for his father, who was a rancher, horse breeder and rodeo rider. Like Richard Farnsworth, another fine actor, Johnson started as a stunt rider. He doubled for Henry Fonda in Fort Apache and John Ford put him under contract as an actor. Johnson was apparently fond of understating his acting ability: he was quoted as saying that everybody in town was a better actor than he was "but none of them can play Ben Johnson." What he's describing is, in fact, extremely difficult. Anyone without training as an actor knows how hard it is to simply walk across a room believably. In Johnson's case, he started on camera by doing what he knew best--riding and handling horses--and I suppose that it paved the way for his wonderful onscreen presence. Ford built one of his best movies, Wagon Master, around that presence. Johnson, who never stopped riding horses (he was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame), was always good, but Ford's beautiful cinematic ballad was his finest picture.
by Martin Scorsese