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Robert Osborne - May 2013
Remind Me

Robert Osborne on Tough Guys

What is it that is so eternally intriguing about watching bad boys and tough guys misbehaving in a movie? Good question. Ever since celluloid first started flowing through movie projectors, it's been the rough-edged rascals, more than the rock-solid heroes, who consistently seem to intrigue us the most on movie screens--be it a maniacal Lon Chaney creating chaos in the 1920s as the Phantom of the Opera (meanwhile, who remembers the name of the actor who costarred in that film as the good, kind, heroic Raoul? * see below); or what about, in the 1940s, the sadistic Richard Widmark, gleefully pushing poor Mildred Dunnock, strapped in a wheelchair, down a steep staircase in Kiss of Death (it's Widmark we most vividly recall, not the fellow who played the stalwart leading man in that knockout film, ** name also below). It's the same with 90 percent of the fellows populating the Tarantino and Coen Brothers films of today: it's the bad apples and/or those hardened by raw deals that we usually find the most intriguing, eye-catching and unforgettable.

Reason enough, we feel, to devote Tuesday nights this month to the pick of the litter among the toughest hombres who have populated the movies--fellows we've admired, rightly or wrongly, through the years. This month we'll be bringing you 16 of the most memorable tough guys, those with the most remarkable snarls and the coldest eyes, playing characters with the blackest or most wounded hearts. The genius of these actors was their ability to not only appear hard as steel but also, on occasion, give us a glimmer that deep down they might as easily have ended up a good ol' boy if fate, life, circumstances and screenwriters had given them an occasional kind break.

Throughout the month we'll be giving you samplings of the best of the bad boys from eight different decades: Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and France's equivalent of Bogie, Jean Gabin, in gangster films of the 1930s; Widmark, James Cagney, John Garfield and two Roberts (Mitchum and Ryan) in rugged crime dramas from the 1940s; Sterling Hayden and Dana Andrews in film noir-ish gems of the '50s; Lee Marvin and Steve McQueen on the mean streets in the '60s; Charles Bronson and Richard Roundtree flexing their muscles in the '70s; and Clint Eastwood and Chow Yun Fat showing everyone who's boss in the 1980s.

The treats never stop: in one night alone (May 21) you can see Robinson giving the performance that made him an overnight star (Little Caesar), Bogart in the first film in which he made an indelible impact (The Petrified Forest), plus Cagney giving his all-time greatest tough guy performance (White Heat). But every Tuesday night will be overflowing with equal muscle and action as well. And, of course, where there are tough guys there are invariably also intriguing "dames," including Marilyn Monroe, Gene Tierney, Bette Davis, Jacqueline Bisset, Angie Dickinson, Ida Lupino, Gloria Grahame, Rhonda Fleming, Jane Greer and Virginia Mayo.

In short: many dazzling, hard-knuckled movie treats will be coming your way Tuesdays in May on TCM. I hope we'll see you there.
(Answers to questions above: * Norman Kerry; ** Victor Mature)

by Robert Osborne