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Second Looks - Friday Night Spotlight
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,Alice in Wonderland

Introduction to Second Looks

TCM presents the second installment of its Friday Night Spotlight, a prime-time franchise featuring a month-long festival of movies programmed by a special guest. In this case Illeana Douglas, an actress/filmmaker with many movie and TV credits, presents the theme Second Looks, featuring films that were not highly regarded during their original release but now seem ripe for reappraisal.

Massachusetts-born Douglas, a granddaughter of Oscar®-winning American actor Melvyn Douglas and a great-granddaughter of Latvian-born composer/pianist Edouard Hesselberg, has made her own mark in movies and television as an actress, director, screenwriter and producer. Early in her career she acted in several Martin Scorsese films including The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), New York Stories (1989), Goodfellas (1990) and, memorably, Cape Fear (1991). She had a starring role in Grace of My Heart (1996) and notable supporting parts in To Die For (1995), Message in a Bottle (1999) and Ghost World (2001).

On television Douglas has enjoyed roles on such series as The Larry Sanders Show, Seinfeld, Frasier, The Drew Carey Show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Entourage and Ugly Betty. In 2002 she was nominated for a primetime Emmy as Outstanding Guest Actress in Six Feet Under. Among her projects as writer and/or director are the comedy short The Perfect Woman (1993) and the documentary Everybody Just Stay Calm - Stories in Independent Filmmaking (1994). Her credits as producer include Easy to Assemble, a series for which she also served as writer and actress, and Illeanarama, a collection of her short films for the Sundance Channel.

The Second Looks festival includes two significant TCM premieres beginning with The Arrangement (1969), which has the brilliant, Oscar®-winning director Elia Kazan adapting his own novel about marital infidelity for the screen with a superb cast that includes Kirk Douglas, Deborah Kerr, Faye Dunaway, Richard Boone and Hume Cronyn. Elaine May wrote, directed and stars in A New Leaf (1971), a black comedy in which she plays a wealthy wallflower pursued by an impoverished playboy (Walter Matthau) with murder on his mind.

Among movies that deserve a second look after a less-than-enthusiastic initial reception is The Bride Wore Red (1937), one of the Joan Crawford vehicles that led to her being labeled "box office poison." It's worth seeing as the work of pioneering woman director Dorothy Arzner and for the Adrian costumes Crawford wears with such flair. Then there's I Take This Woman (1940), a Spencer Tracy/Hedy Lamarr romantic drama that endured so much re-shooting that studio wags called it I Re-Take This Woman. The movie flopped in its time but today stands as an entertaining example of its genre and period, thanks to Lamarr's sensational beauty and some pithy dialogue by Charles MacArthur. The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945), a fantasy-comedy jokingly bad-mouthed for years by its star, Jack Benny, is really quite delightful. Under Capricorn (1949), a compelling murder mystery set in 19th-century Australia, is one of the few Alfred Hitchcock films of its period not to capture the public fancy, despite the presence of Ingrid Bergman and Joseph Cotten.

Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole (1951, also known as The Big Carnival) was poorly received despite being sandwiched between two of Wilder's biggest hits, Sunset Boulevard (1950) and Stalag 17 (1953). The cynical Ace, which tells of a reporter (Kirk Douglas) who capitalizes on the tragedy of a man trapped in a mine shaft, later was recognized as a brilliant satire and gained a cult following. It's Always Fair Weather (1955) seemed to get lost in the shuffle of other MGM musicals including Singin' in the Rain (1952) and The Band Wagon (1953), yet is quite engaging in its own right and boasts dancing legends Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse and Dan Dailey at the top of their form.

The Cold War satire Our Man in Havana (1959) failed to find the audience it deserved, despite a bright script by Graham Greene, masterly direction by Carol Reed and an amazing international cast that includes Alec Guinness, Noel Coward, Maureen O'Hara, Ralph Richardson, Ernie Kovacs and Burl Ives! Similarly, Inside Daisy Clover (1965), a musical drama about the hazards of fame, faltered at the box office although it has a lot going for it: A compelling star performance from Natalie Wood; fine support by Robert Redford, Ruth Gordon and Christopher Plummer; and a socko song ("You're Gonna Hear from Me").

A rare misfire from director Steven Spielberg, the World War II saga 1941 (1979) is an odd blend of comedy and disaster flick; from a distance one can now appreciate the humor of such performers as John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. And it's hard to resist the nostalgic charms of Those Lips, Those Eyes (1980), director Michael Pressman's valentine to the world of summer stock in the 1950s, with the mega-talented Frank Langella in an engaging turn as an actor who lacks the abilities to become a true star.

Also deemed worthy of Second Looks in this Friday Night Spotlight are Alice in Wonderland (1933), No Greater Glory (1934), You're in the Army Now (1941), The Great Moment (1944), Top Banana (1954), The Loved One (1965) and Mickey One (1965).

By Roger Fristoe

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