Katharine Hepburn

The Lion in Winter (1968)

The Lion in Winter 1968

Just before Christmas in the year 1183, King Henry II (Peter O’Toole) knows the time has come for him to choose an heir to his throne. He has three surviving sons, Richard (Anthony Hopkins), John (Nigel Terry), and Geoffrey (John Castle), with his wife Eleanor of Aquatine (Katharine Hepburn). Henry ordered Eleanor imprisoned for organizing several civil wars against him, but he allows her to be released for holiday courts and other special events. Henry would prefer for John to inherit the throne, but Eleanor wants the crown to go to Richard, and Geoffrey isn’t happy about being overlooked by both parents.

When Eleanor arrives to join Henry, their sons, Henry’s mistress Princess Alais (Jane Merrow), and Alais’s brother Phillip II (Timothy Dalton), the King of France, for Christmas court at the family’s primary residence at Chinon, choosing an heir to the throne is the primary subject for discussion. Henry and Eleanor are both very conniving and do everything they can to get the son they want next in line for the throne, while Geoffrey is busy making plans of his own to be the next king. All of their schemes and plots unfold over the holiday, culminating with Henry deciding that none of his sons will do and he’d rather have his marriage to Eleanor annulled so he can marry Alais and have new sons. Henry throws all of his sons down in the wine cellar and plans to kill them, for the sake of protecting his future heirs with Alais, but Eleanor refuses to let that happen.

I’m not generally the biggest fan of these types of historical dramas, but The Lion in Winter is most definitely an exception to the rule. For all of the incredible roles Katharine Hepburn had the chance to play over the course of her career, trying to pick the absolute best of all of them isn’t an easy task, but it’s safe to put Eleanor of Aquatine pretty high on that list. It’s truly a role she was born to play; she’s an absolute tour de force. Not only is Katharine Hepburn absolutely phenomenal in it, she’s got an incredible supporting cast with Peter O’Toole, Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton, Nigel Terry, and John Castle. Everybody involved in the film brought their “A” game. The script is full of razor-sharp dialogue and much more humor than you might expect. I keep trying to think of something I didn’t like about The Lion in Winter, but I just can’t think of anything. A truly magnificent film.

Holiday 1938

Holiday (1938)

Johnny Case (Cary Grant) has been working since he was ten years old and now that he’s 30 years old, he dreams of being able to take a long vacation to find a more substantial meaning to his life beyond making money. When he meets Julia Seton (Doris Nolan), it’s love at first sight. Even though he doesn’t know much about her, he wants to marry her. He comes to visit Julia at her family’s home to meet her family and get her father’s blessing to marry her, and is shocked to discover Julia comes from a very wealthy family. Her father is Edward Seton (Henry Kolker), a prominent, very conservative banker who believes work is the meaning of life.

Julia also lives with her brother Ned (Lew Ayres) and her sister Linda (Katharine Hepburn). Ned has been defeated in spirit after years of working his father, while Linda is the rebel of the bunch who doesn’t care for the upper class lifestyle her family leads. Johnny finds a friend in Linda, who completely supports his idea of taking that vacation.

At first, Edward is hesitant to give Johnny his permission to marry Julia, but changes his mind when he finds out how hard Johnny has worked in his life. Although Linda has started falling in love with Johnny, she’s thrilled for her sister and wants to throw them a very small, informal, personal engagement party, more Johnny’s style. However, the party they end up having is anything but small and informal. Linda wants nothing to do with it and spends the party alone in the house’s playroom and ends up having lots of fun with some of Johnny’s friends and, eventually, Johnny. Just before their engagement is to be announced, Johnny tells Linda and Edward about his plan to take time off, which horrifies both of them. Their relationship becomes very strained, but is there hope for Johnny and Julia?

Mention Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn and they will likely think of The Philadelphia Story or Bringing Up BabyHoliday often seems to get lost in the shadow of those two, and that’s really too bad because Holiday is a very sharp, charming comedy with a lot of heart to it and a good dose of social commentary thrown in. It’s not a screwball comedy the way Bringing Up Baby and Philadelphia Story are, this is more of a grounded comedy. But that doesn’t mean Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn are any less charming. They shine as brightly as they ever did and have a tremendous supporting cast with Lew Ayres, Edward Everett Horton, Jean Dixon, Doris Nolan, and Henry Kolker. Not to mention excellent direction from George Cukor. It’s simply delightful.

What’s on TCM: May 2015

Dr. Strangelove Poster

Happy May, everyone! Ready for a new month of movies to look forward to?

Sterling Hayden is the Star of the Month for May and his movies can be seen every Wednesday night this month. In addition to Sterling, there’s also a lot of Orson Welles on the schedule this month because he’ll be the subject of this month’s Friday Night Spotlight.

TCM will also be doing a spotlight on disaster films on May 7, 14, and 21. On May 23, 24, and 25, TCM will be doing their annual Memorial Day war movie marathon.

May’s celebrity Guest Programmer is Tony Bennett and Gary Sargent, whose selections I really love.  But I’d say the highlight of the month is the night of May 2, which will give me the chance to indulge my love of both Garbo movies and bad disco movies.

Without further ado, let’s take a better look at the schedule.

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What’s on TCM: March 2015

Ann SothernHappy March, everyone! I hope you’ve been enjoying 31 Days of Oscar, which extends into March for a few days. But then it’s back to TCM’s usual schedule. March’s Star of the Month is Ann Sothern, which I’m excited about since I like her, but haven’t really seen many of her movies. The Friday Night Spotlight theme will be roadshow musicals and I have a hard time resisting a good musical.

What I’m most excited about this month is coming up on March 24th, an evening all about Alan Arkin. TCM will be premiering the Live from the TCM Film Festival interview Arkin did with Robert Osborne at last year’s TCM Film Fest. I didn’t attend the taping of that, but I did get to see Arkin speak with Ben Mankiewicz before a screening of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I found the discussion with Arkin so fascinating that it made me very eager to see what the longer interview had in store. This should be a real treat.

Now, on to the rest of the schedule…

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What’s on TCM: May 2014

June AllysonHappy May, everyone! April was a rather unusual month for TCM, but it’s back to the usual schedule for May.  June Allyson is May’s Star of the Month and will be featured every Wednesday night.  Friday Night Spotlight returns with a look at Australian cinema hosted by Jacki Weaver. Since I haven’t seen many Australian films, I look forward to having the chance to see more. For Memorial Day weekend, TCM will be having their annual 72-hour marathon of war films.  May’s Guest Programmer is none other than Rev. Mother Dolores Hart, who will be showcasing a few of her favorite movies on May 27th.

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Pat and Mike (1952)

Pat Pemberton (Katherine Hepburn) is a first-class athlete, but you’d never know it if she’s playing while her fiance Collier Weld (William Ching) is around.  Whenever he’s nearby, he makes her so nervous that she just can’t play as well as she normally would.  One day, she and Collier go golfing with Mr. and Mrs. Beminger.  Collier is hoping to get Mr. Beminger to make a large donation to Pacific Tech College, so he asks Pat to be Mr. Beminger’s partner and tells her to do her very best so he’ll win.  Of course, the pressure makes her a nervous wreck and she doesn’t have a good game.  When she gets tired of Mrs. Beminger giving her unsolicited golfing advice, she makes several perfect drives all in a row and storms off.  Collier isn’t impressed, but Charles Barry (Jim Backus) sees her real talent and convinces her to enter a tournament.

Pat quickly becomes one of the top players in the tournament and she catches the attention of Mike Conovan (Spencer Tracy) and his assistant Barney Grau (Sammy White).  Mike wants to become her manager and when he first approaches her about it, she turns him down.  As the tournament continues, she does very well and nearly had it won it until Collier showed up and ruined her concentration.  As they get on the train to go home, Pat and Collier get into a fight which makes Pat decide to take Mike up on his offer.  After getting to know Pat better, Mike is surprised to learn that she’s actually pretty new to golfing and that she’s even better at tennis.

Under his guidance, she becomes a famous tennis player, but she still can’t play well if Collier is around.  When Collier causes her to lose a big match, Mike and Collier get into an argument, but Pat is getting tired of being treated like a piece of property. But despite that, Pat continues training with Mike and they begin to fall in love with each other.  When Mike runs into some trouble with some gamblers, Pat helps him out by beating up the gamblers, which makes Mike admit he’s having a hard time dealing with a woman stronger than he is.  Collier hasn’t given up on Pat yet, though, and when he accuses her of having an affair with Mike, she lets him believe it.  With Collier finally out of the picture, Mike realizes he needs Pat just as much as Pat needs him and together, they’re unstoppable.

Of all the movies Katharine Hepburn made with Spencer Tracy, Pat and Mike was her personal favorite of the bunch and it’s easy to see why.  Hepburn was always a very athletic woman and she clearly enjoyed being able to show off her golfing and tennis skills alongside real-life female athletes like Babe Zaharias and Gussie Moran.  As always, Hepburn and Tracy were delightful to watch together and Tracy has just as much fun as Mike as Hepburn had as Pat.  Simply, it’s just a nice light-but-smart romantic comedy.  Even if you’re not a big fan of sports, Pat and Mike is still extremely enjoyable.  If I were to rank my favorite Tracy/Hepburn movies, I’d say Pat and Mike is my second favorite, right behind Adam’s Rib.

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.

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