Guest Programmer: Keith Carradine - 9/10
"I'm a TCM addict," says Keith Carradine, TCM Guest Programmer for September. Carradine tells host Ben Mankiewicz that he loves classic films, and especially those shot in black and white: "I realize that not everything TCM plays is in black and white, but if I see black and white, I always stop. I love old films, I love the craft of them, I love the masterful storytelling."
Carradine comes by his devotion to the classics naturally, as part of an acting dynasty headed by his father, John Carradine (1906-1988). One of Hollywood's most accomplished and best-loved character actors, the elder Carradine was a member of the Cecil B. DeMille stock company and later appeared in 11 John Ford films. He had roles in hundreds of movies including such legendary titles as 1939's Stagecoach, 1940's The Grapes of Wrath and 1956's The Ten Commandments.
Along with Keith, the Carradine acting clan includes three more of John's sons: David, who died in 2009; Robert; and Bruce. Four of John Carradine's grandchildren either are or have been actors, including Keith's daughters Martha Plimpton and Sorel Carradine. Keith's maternal half-brother, Michael Bowen, is also a well-known actor.
Keith Carradine was born in San Mateo, CA., and studied English and drama at Colorado State University. He performed onstage for a year in the original Broadway version of Hair (1969), then entered films with Robert Altman's McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971). A high point in his career came with Altman's Nashville (1975), in which he played a country-Western performer and won an Oscar® for writing the haunting song "I'm Easy."
In addition to dozens of other films, including several for Altman protégé Alan Rudolph, Carradine has won praise for his appearances onstage, including a Tony award for The Will Rogers Follies (1991); and on television, where he was Emmy-nominated for his role in Chiefs. Among dozens of other television appearances is his current role as President Conrad Dalton in the CBS series Madam Secretary.
Here are Carradine's movie choices as Guest Programmer:
Captains Courageous (1937) is MGM's black-and-white adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling novel, with John Carradine playing Long Jack in a cast headed by Freddie Bartholomew and Oscar® winner Spencer Tracy. Keith remembers his father saying, "You know, I've been in some of the best pictures ever made, and some of the worst." (This one went into his "best" category.) Films made during this period, when John was in his 30s, provided Keith with a glimpse into his father's early years. "You know, he was 43 when I was born, so by the time I was coming of age he was an older guy." In addition to his dad's youthful appearance, he is struck by the "contemporary" feel of his acting: "There's nothing dated about what he's doing."
Random Harvest (1942), adapted from the James Hilton novel, is another of the black-and-white classics enjoyed by Carradine. His reason for choosing this one? "Greer Garson. She has a timeless beauty, and she invites you in [to her performances] in a way that few actors do." Carradine also notes that male lead, Ronald Colman, is "the quintessence of urbanity," and that, together, the two stars manage to make an "outlandish" plot seem believable and touching. "I burst into tears every time," he admits. "I'm both embarrassed by that and kind of proud of it!"
Performance (1970), described by Carradine as "psychedelic noir," is a British crime drama with Mick Jagger in his dramatic film debut as a rock star involved with a murderous London gangster (James Fox). Directed by Nicolas Roeg and Donald Cammell, the film originally created controversy because of its mix of violence and sex but has since been recognized as a serious and influential work. Carradine says he first saw Performance in a theater at the time of its original release and was so stunned that he sat through it a second time. He was hesitant to include the film since he wasn't sure how it would fit in with the usual TCM programming. "But I do believe it has become a bona fide cult classic."
Thieves Like Us (1974) is another movie that made our Guest Programmer "trepidatious" to choose, since one of the stars is none other than...Keith Carradine. Mankiewicz acknowledges that it took a bit of "arm-twisting" to get Carradine to include this one. He gave in because of the chance to talk about Robert Altman, who directed this study of doomed young lovers (Carradine and Shelley Duvall) during the Depression era. "I couldn't believe that I was being invited to play a role like this for this director," says Carradine, who credits Altman with "putting me on the map." One of the secrets of Altman's success with actors, according to Carradine, was that "He would create this space where you felt completely safe and had the security of taking chances."
by Roger Fristoe