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Great Capers - Spotlight of the Month
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Remind Me
,How to Steal a Million

Great Capers Introduction

Webster defines the word "caper" both as "a capricious escapade" and "an illegal or questionable act." Each definition applies to the adventures in this month-long look at professional pilferers and the heists they attempt to pull off (with varying degrees of success) in a sparkling array of movies.

Action and suspense abound in each of our themes, and some categories include deliciously entertaining TCM premieres.

Casino Crime has Bob le Flambeur (1956), the noir-flavored French film about an aging gambler and would-be robber (Roger Duchesne) in which writer-director Jean-Pierre Melville set the standard for all caper movies to follow; plus Henry Hathaway's Seven Thieves (1960), with Edward G. Robinson and Rod Steiger heading up an unlikely gang bent on robbing the Monte Carlo casino. The cast of the latter film also includes Joan Collins in her spectacular prime as a sexy "exotic dancer."

Bank Robberies introduces Richard Brooks' $ (1971), with Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn as a security expert and a call girl bent on lifting a fortune from a German bank. In the same category, Basil Dearden's The League of Gentlemen (1960) crackles with British wit as a band of civilized former soldiers led by Jack Hawkins plots to pull off the perfect robbery.

Art and Museum Jobs boasts the only teaming of scintillating costars Audrey Hepburn and Peter O'Toole in William Wyler's How to Steal a Million (1966), a delightful lark involving a fake sculpture and a besotted burglar. Among our Armored Car Heists is Peter Collinson's original British version of The Italian Job (1969), an influential and much-loved movie about a plan to steal a gold shipment from the streets of Turin. This is the caper that helped give both Michael Caine and Mini Coopers their cool!

Other categories offer the return of non-premiere caper movies that still exude style, tension and humor. Jewel Thieves include David Niven in Blake Edwards' The Pink Panther (1963), with a scene-stealing Peter Sellers in his first outing as the hilariously bumbling Inspector Clouseau; and Vittorio Gassman in Mario Monicelli's Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), in which a motley crew of Italian thieves attempts to burglarize a pawn shop.

More Creative Capers are forthcoming in Sidney Lumet's The Anderson Tapes (1971), starring Sean Connery as a career criminal who hatches a plan to rob all the tenants in a ritzy New York apartment building; and Gordon Flemyng's The Split (1968), with Jim Brown as a thief whose target is the Los Angeles Coliseum. The latter film has an amazing supporting cast that includes Gene Hackman, Julie Harris, Donald Sutherland, Ernest Borgnine, Jack Klugman and Warren Oates.

In all, TCM is offering 27 exhilarating caper films on Tuesdays throughout January.

by Roger Fristoe

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