Anthony Quinn

What’s on TCM: April 2015

Anthony Quinn

Happy April, everyone! Ready for a new line-up of movies to look forward to?

Anthony Quinn will be TCM’s Star of the Month for April and his movies will be featured every Wednesday night this month. The theme for this month’s Friday Night Spotlight is A. Arnold Gillespie, MGM’s top visual effects artist. He helped bring some of MGM’s most famed movies to life, including The Wizard of OzSan Francisco, and Forbidden Planet, just to name a few.

One thing that will definitely be worth setting your DVR for is on April 14. TCM will be airing an all-star tribute to Robert Osborne, which was taped at the 2014 TCM Film Festival. I didn’t get to see it in person, but I heard it was one heck of an event, so I’m excited to finally see it for myself.

Now, let’s get on to the schedule!


The Happening (1967)

The Happening 1967

After an all-night party they had been attending is broken up, hippies Sandy (Faye Dunaway), Sureshot (Michael Parks), Taurus (George Maharis), and Herby (Robert Walker, Jr.) head off on a boat looking for adventure. Along the way, they stop to play soldiers with some kids they see and in the excitement, they all run into the home of former mafia kingpin turned legitimate businessman Roc Delmonaco (Anthony Quinn). When Roc wakes up to all the commotion, he fears some of his old enemies have come to kidnap his children and insists they take him instead.  The hippies figure, hey why not, and decide to hold Roc hostage.

But there’s one little problem the hippies never considered — nobody wants to pay the $200,000 ransom they’re demanding. Roc tries getting the money from his wife Monica (Martha Hyer), his business partner Fred (Milton Berle), his old mob cohort Sam (Oskar Homolka), even his mother, but nobody is willing to come up with the money. Angry that his dearest friends won’t pay his ransom, he decides to kidnap himself and blackmails his wife, friends, and mother into giving him $3,000,000. Roc takes control of the whole gang and teaches them everything they need to know to have a successful life of crime.

The Happening is only really noteworthy for two reasons: being Faye Dunaway’s first film and for its theme song by The Supremes.  This is the sort of movie where I saw the description “A kidnapped gangster joins forces with the hippies who abducted him,” saw that the cast included Faye Dunaway, Anthony Quinn, and Milton Berle, and decided I needed to see this movie just because it sounded so insane. Pretty much the only reason to watch The Happening is just for the pure ridiculousness of it all. Definitely don’t watch it for the plot; it’s an hour-long story that got dragged out to an hour and 40 minutes. It might be tempting to watch it for the cast, but it will just leave you thinking that everybody in this movie deserves so much better. (And I’ve really got to hand it to Faye Dunaway because she made The Happening very shortly before doing Bonnie and Clyde and The Thomas Crown Affair. Faye knows how to upgrade fast.) But at least it has a good theme song, I’ll give it that.

Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)

After seventeen years in the ring, Louis “Mountain” Rivera’s (Anthony Quinn) career as a boxer comes to an end after being knocked out by Cassius Clay.  Rivera has reached a point where he could go blind if he continues to fight so he’s left with no other option but to find a new job.  But finding a job is easier said than done.  Rivera has a sixth grade education and has no skills other than boxing.  The years of fighting have taken a toll on his appearance and speech and many places won’t hire him because he’s too big to fit into their standard size uniforms.  He heads off to an employment agency, where he meets Grace Miller (Julie Harris).  She’s moved by his story arranges an interview for him to be an athletic director at a summer camp.

When Rivera retired from boxing, he wasn’t the only one out of a job.  His trainer Army (Mickey Rooney) and manager Maish Rennick (Jackie Gleason) also found themselves jobless.  Army is supportive of Rivera’s retirement, but Maish is in desperate need of some money to pay off some gamblers.  Before Rivera’s last fight, he had told notorious gambler Ma Greeny (Madame Spivy) that Rivera would go down early.  So when he lasted longer than expected, she lost a lot of money and she wants it back.  Maish knows a promoter who wants Rivera to get into wrestling and Maish sees this as a way to get the money he needs.  He talks to Rivera about it, but Rivera is ready to move on and work at that camp.

Just before Rivera is supposed to interview for the camp job, Maish takes him out to a bar and gets him completely drunk so he won’t be hired and will have to take the wrestling gig.  The plan works, but when Rivera sees himself in the humiliating wrestling outfit he’s supposed to wear, he doesn’t want to go out like that.  But then the truth about Maish comes out.  Even though Rivera and Army want nothing to do with Maish anymore, Rivera knows Maish could be killed if he doesn’t do the match.  So Rivera lets go of his last shred of dignity and does the match while Army stands off to the side, unable to watch his friend humiliate himself.

I absolutely loved Requiem for a Heavyweight. This is a movie that really grabs your attention right off the bat and doesn’t let it go until the very last frame.  Requiem opens with a tracking shot of bar patrons listening to the fight, then it cuts to a shot from Rivera’s point of view during the match.  We see Cassius Clay (who plays himself) as he knocks Rivera out.  We see what he sees as he is helped out of the ring and led back to his dressing room, his vision blurring all the way.  It all leads up to the big moment when Rivera catches a glimpse of his battered face in the mirror.  It’s hard to do point-of-view shots and not have it come off as gimmicky, but the way it’s used here is really powerful and totally unforgettable.  In fact, this may be one of my absolute favorite movie opening sequences.

There are plenty of movies out there about boxers, but it was interesting to see one that really focused on what it’s like to be a boxer who can’t box anymore.  There’s Raging Bull, which focused on both the rise and the fall of Jake LaMotta, but Requiem is just about the fall.  It’s such a raw, honest and completely heartbreaking movie with an incredible cast.  Anthony Quinn was absolutely perfect as Rivera and Mickey Rooney was excellent as Army.  Since I know Jackie Gleason primarily from comedies, it was very interesting to see him playing such an awful person.  And with the first-rate direction by Ralph Nelson, Requiem for a Heavyweight is easily one of the best boxing films out there.

City for Conquest (1940)

Danny Kenny (James Cagney) isn’t a man with big dreams.  He likes working as a truck driver, he’s got his girlfriend Peggy (Ann Sheridan), he’s got a roof over his head, what more could he want?  Well, he could use some extra cash so that he can send his musician brother Eddie (Arthur Kennedy) to music school.  To get the money he needs, he starts participating in boxing matches.  He’s a great boxer, but he doesn’t want to make a career out of it.

Peggy, on the other hand, has loftier ambitions.  She loves to dance, and when she meets fellow dancer Murray Burns (Anthony Quinn), it’s immediately clear that they make great dancing partners.  They keep entering and winning dance contests around New York, and when they have the chance to get into the vaudeville circuit, she can’t resist the opportunity and leaves Danny behind.  Danny decides to make something of his life and starts pursuing boxing more seriously in the hopes of winning Peggy back.

Danny fights his way to the top, and when he’s in the same town for a fight as Peggy is for a show, he goes to see her.  She still loves him and they decide to get married as soon as her tour is over.  But when she gets another big opportunity, she’s in a position where she just can’t say no.  Danny becomes even more determined to win her back, and when he’s fighting for a championship title, he refuses to give up, even when his opponent puts rosin on his boxing gloves and blinds Danny by rubbing the rosin in his eyes.

City for Conquest is exactly the type of movie you think of when you think of Warner Brothers.  It’s tough and gritty, it’s got James Cagney in top form, and it’s even got some songs you’ll recognize from other classic Warner Brothers hits such as 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933Anthony Quinn was perfectly slimy as Murray and it was really interesting to see Elia Kazan in one of his few acting roles.  It’s not the same caliber as The Public Enemy or Angels With Dirty Faces, but it is pretty enjoyable.

For my money though, Ann Sheridan was a big scene stealer.  She did such a good job as Peggy, especially in the scene where she comes back to her hotel room and finds Murray and their manager waiting to tell her about their new big deal.  It’s easy to see Peggy as nothing more than an ambitious woman, but I think she’s more complex than that.  Peggy’s got a dream and when she and Murray started to make it, of course she got stars in her eyes and gladly said yes to anything that she thought would make it happen.  But then she found out the man she trusted to help her is a controlling, abusive monster.  She wanted to get away from him but was deeply conflicted between wanting to leave him and not wanting to give up on her dream.  And then when she finally does get away from him, she ends up broke because she made the mistake of letting Murray control all the money.  They could have done an alternate version of this movie told from Peggy’s perspective and it could have been pretty interesting.

What’s on TCM: August 2012

How is it already time for another round of Summer Under the Stars?!  As usual, TCM has done a great job of coming up with a nice blend of stars who are no strangers to the SUTS schedule and stars who have never been featured before.  The more I look at the schedule, the more excited I get to start my Blogging Under the Stars marathon.

Some of the days I’m most looking forward to are: Myrna Loy (August 2), Marilyn Monroe (August 4), Toshiro Mifune (August 9), Ginger Rogers (August 12), James Cagney (August 14), Lillian Gish (August 15), Jack Lemmon (August 22), Gene Kelly (August 23), Kay Francis (August 21), and Warren William (August 30).  I have seen woefully few Akira Kurosawa films, so I am really looking forward to Toshiro Mifune’s day.  As a fan of silents and pre-codes, I was thrilled to see Lillian Gish, Kay Francis, and Warren William got spots on this year’s line-up.  Lately, I’ve been really getting into Tyrone Power movies, so I’m glad to see he got a day this year.  And since I’ve always wanted to see more Jeanette MacDonald movies, I’ll definitely be tuning in a lot for her day.

The complete Summer Under the Stars schedule is available to be download here.