January 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.
STEWART AND MITCHUM (January 14, 8pm)--On July 1,1997, Robert Mitchum passed away. A day later, James Stewart followed him. For anyone who knew and loved American movies--actually, let's just make that movies--it was a profoundly sad and, I suppose, disorienting moment. Here were two great icons, two great artists, who, it seemed, would always be there. They were like the pillars of the temple. And then, within a day of each other, they were gone. In many ways they were quite different. Stewart was almost ten years older than Mitchum, he started his career eight years earlier and they came out of two distinct eras in American studio moviemaking and acting: Stewart was pre-war and Mitchum, although he started in the early '40s, was basically a post-war actor. Stewart formed close working relationships with different directors--he made many of his greatest pictures with Frank Capra, Anthony Mann and Alfred Hitchcock. Mitchum, on the other hand, was very much a loner, and while he wound up working with a few directors more than once, it seems to have happened only by chance (he did not work twice with Otto Preminger, they didn't get along--he allegedly punched Preminger in the nose on the set of Angel Face). Both actors were prolific, but Stewart probably made more good movies. Mitchum just kept steadily acting in all different kinds of movies, and every once in a while he would appear in a masterpiece in which his presence and his skills and instincts were essential artistic elements. Stewart was, by all accounts, a modest man who led a relatively quiet life, and he served with distinction in WWII. Mitchum was pretty much the opposite, to put it mildly: in many ways, he seemed closer in style and sensibility to Beat Generation writers like Kerouac and Ginsberg and Creeley than to his fellow movie stars. They acted together here and there, but I don't know if they were friends--I would guess that they weren't. They were alike in other ways. First of all, they both kept the names they were born with, which was unusual for stars of the studio era. More importantly, they were both extremely committed and serious artists with an exceptionally refined sense of cinema, and they were fearless as actors. TCM's January 14th tribute is comprised of a handful of films, but it does include two genuinely great pictures, The Philadelphia Story (1940) and Out of the Past (1947) .
DIRECTED BY ELIA KAZAN (January 2, 9, 16-- 8pm)--This January, TCM will also be doing a month-long tribute to Elia Kazan on three successive Wednesdays. I've covered Kazan many times in this column. He was one of the greatest artists we've had in the cinema, his influence was vast and his pictures affected me on a level that goes way beyond profound--it ran so deep that I made a film about it, called A Letter to Elia. Of the 12 pictures in the tribute, two of them--On the Waterfront and East of Eden--are absolutely essential. They opened up our ideas of what movies could actually do and be. And they lit a fire within me.
by Martin Scorsese