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Scorsese Screens - May 2013
Remind Me
,The Mortal Storm

May Highlights on TCM

LATE KING VIDOR (May 2, 8pm)--This month TCM is saluting the great American filmmaker King Vidor with a selection of his "late" films, although "middle-period" would be more like it. Comrade X, a minor romantic comedy patterned after Ninotchka, has the historical distinction of being the only film ever made set during the 10-month German-Soviet Pact of 1939. Also included is another minor film, the romantic melodrama Lightning Strikes Twice. But An American Romance, his epic story of a central European immigrant's rise to success as an auto magnate, and his two pictures with Jennifer Jones are fascinating films. Duel in the Sun was the very first picture I ever saw, and there are scenes and images that have always stayed with me. In a sense, it's incorrect to call it a King Vidor picture, because the unifying vision behind the enormous, sprawling, emotionally overpowering Technicolor western really belongs to its producer David O. Selznick, and there were other directors involved (including William Dieterle, Selznick himself and, touching up Jennifer Jones for her close-ups, Josef von Sternberg). Nonetheless, it feels like a Vidor film. Ruby Gentry, made with Jennifer Jones in black and white a few years later, is smaller in scale but just as emotionally violent, expressive and exciting--in both films Vidor links the emotions of the characters with the landscapes where they play out their passions, particularly in the Wagnerian climaxes (on a desert rock formation in the blistering heat and in a swamp, respectively). An American Romance is a hymn to industrial innovation and power, the kind of film that no one would think of making today--yet, unlike other pictures of the period, it's more than just propaganda (although it's that, too) because Vidor was really invested in the dynamism of American manufacturing. The film is severely compromised--MGM altered it after the sound had been mixed, so the cuts are made around the music cues. All the same, it's quite visually stunning, and the scenes inside the hero's factory, of cars and then planes being assembled and coming off the assembly lines, are remarkable--sleek, gleaming, the great dream of industrial America.

JAMES STEWART (May 20, 6:15am)--Also this month, a salute to one of the greatest of all American actors, James Stewart. Apart from the absence of any one of the four pictures he made for Hitchcock, it's a fairly representative sample of Stewart's career in movies, including: Frank Capra's You Can't Take It With You; Frank Borzage's deeply moving 1940 version of The Mortal Storm, one of Hollywood's first truly anti-Nazi pictures; Winchester '73, the first of eight pictures that Stewart made for Anthony Mann in the '50s and the movie (along with Delmer Daves' Broken Arrow) that launched him after the war as a western star; and Robert Aldrich's The Flight of the Phoenix. A lot has been said and written about Stewart over the years. I can only add to the chorus by saying that whenever I re-visit one of his pictures I'm always surprised by his work. There's always something fresh, new, and I'm amazed all over again by his extraordinary bravery--very few actors have ever left themselves so emotionally exposed onscreen. The cliché is that he played upbeat, wide-eyed optimists before the war and tortured heroes after, but his light comedies aside, his early work is just as intense as his later films. He was a master of the art of acting before the camera.

by Martin Scorsese

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