August 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.
SUMMER UNDER THE STARS--It's interesting to consider the many different kinds of changes that have happened in cinema across the last few decades. Some took place suddenly and others took years or decades to occur. It seems to me that the world of movie appreciation, the shared understanding of movie history and its place in our lives, has been changing slowly but steadily. If you were to stop a stranger on the street 30 years ago and ask them who Humphrey Bogart or the Marx Brothers or Carole Lombard were, they probably would have known because they were common reference points. Now, with the possible exception of Bogart, that seems unlikely. Things change. Several generations of stars and styles of acting have come and gone. Home video followed by digital restoration techniques followed by TCM and other classic film channels followed by DVDs, BluRays and streaming have made much of film history instantly accessible. But instant accessibility also makes it easier to take film history for granted. And as this was happening, many moviegoers (or watchers) have grown used to episodic television and superhero stories and their particular kinds of visual storytelling. I think it's come to the point where much of the cinema's past feels as distant as the Italian Renaissance. Those of us who know and love cinema are now carriers of precious knowledge. We have to hand it down and transmit it to future generations, like the book people at the end of Truffaut's Fahrenheit 451.
Devoted TCM fans know a lot about every one of the actors and actresses highlighted in this year's edition of Summer Under the Stars, but at this point in time we have to start telling the stories of what these artists meant to younger people, not just why they mattered but how. For instance, how did an actor like Dana Andrews (spotlighted on August 22) affect audiences? Who was he in relation to the other actors of his era - Frank Sinatra (August 1), for instance, who came to movies at roughly the same time, or an older actor who started in the early talkie era like Clark Gable (August 18)? How did movie acting change during the span from Miriam Hopkins in The Stranger's Return (August 16) to Carroll Baker in Baby Doll (August 25) to Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's pictures (August 4)? What about an actor like Gary Cooper (August 11)? If you glimpse a moment or two from Mr. Deeds Goes to Town or The Fountainhead on YouTube, you might not know what to make of him, but if you study his acting closely you can see that he was a real artist with an extremely sharp sense of the way he looked, moved and sounded on screen. If you pay close attention to Joan Crawford in Frank Borzage's Mannequin, you can see a side of her that's quite different from the standard image we get from clip reels. We watch these pictures with younger people who want to know and learn, and we pass down your knowledge as if it were a treasure. And, in the bargain, we get to see the films through new eyes.
by Martin Scorsese