Paul Newman

Harper (1966)

Harper 1966When Elaine Sampson’s (Lauren Bacall) wealthy disappears, she calls detective Lew Harper (Paul Newman) to track him down. Elaine doesn’t care if her husband is dead or alive, but she knows he’s likely drunk and with another woman and she just wants to find out where he is before he gets too generous in his drunken state and gives away something valuable yet again. He starts by talking to Sampson’s daughter Miranda (Pamela Triffin) and personal pilot Allan Taggert (Robert Wagner). After finding out Sampson had been keeping a bungalow in Los Angeles, Harper takes a trip there to investigate and finds a picture of washed-up starlet Fay Eastabrook (Shelley Winters). Harper spends an evening with Fay, and when he brings her home very drunk, he answers a mysterious phone call from a woman thinking she was talking to Fay’s husband.  The woman calling says she saw Fay out with a strange man that night and that she ought to get rid of before “the truck comes through.” From there, he keeps following lead after lead until he finds himself tied up in a conspiracy involving Taggert, Fay, Troy, drug-addicted singer Betty Fraley (Julie Harris), a cult leader, and that mysterious truck.

This movie is just plain awesome. I absolutely loved Paul Newman in this role. Lauren Bacall was a flawless choice to play the jaded, bitter wife. Pamela Triffin was so campy and over the top, but when she was on screen with Lauren Bacall, their two attitudes were so big, that it was just too much and I mean that the best possible way. If drag queens are not already re-enacting that scene in their acts, they are missing a golden opportunity. But fun, campy moments aside, Harper is a quality mystery.  The story’s got enough twists and turns to keep you on your toes the whole time and there’s a great twist at the end. From start to finish, it’s nothing but good, quality entertainment.

Paris Blues (1961)

Ram Bowen (Paul Newman) and Eddie Cook (Sidney Poitier) are a couple of American musicians living in Paris.  They each have their own reasons for living there instead of America.  In Paris, Eddie doesn’t face the kind of discrimination he would in America and Ram thinks living there is good for his career.  The two of them play in a nightclub, stay out all night, and Ram is hard at work writing a concerto.

The two of them are quite content with their lives, but that all changes when two American tourists, Lillian Corning (Joanne Woodward) and Connie Lampson (Diahann Carroll), come to Paris for a two-week vacation.  They meet up with Ram and Eddie and Ram starts dating Lillian and Eddie dates Connie.  However, Connie and Lillian don’t seem to share the guys’ enthusiasm for Paris.  Connie acknowledges that there may be less racial discrimination in Paris, but she wants to stay close to her roots in America.  And even though Ram has fallen in love with Lillian, he doesn’t want to leave his career opportunities behind to go to America with her.  Both men are left to choose which they love more — Paris or their girlfriends.

Paris Blues was pretty disappointing.  With a cast like this, I was definitely expecting something more substantial.  I just felt like there wasn’t a whole lot of meat to the story, nothing I could really grab hold of.  I think it had the potential to be something more and I could tell this movie really wanted to be something more, but it just didn’t quite hit the mark.  However, it isn’t a bad movie and it isn’t poorly acted, either, it’s just very middle-of-the-road.  All of the key actors have had finer moments.  I found myself being most interested in the soundtrack, which features a lot of great jazz music by Duke Ellington.  This is one of those movies that I’ll probably like to have playing in the background while I’m busy with something just because it’s so nice to listen to.

My Top 100, 80-71

It’s Friday again, which means it’s time to count down ten more of my favorite movies!  All I really have to say about this bunch of movies is that almost all of my favorite types of movies are represented here.  Silents, musicals, foreign, film noir, drama, comedy, they’re all there.  The only way this week’s bunch could be more ‘me’ is if I had worked in some offbeat B-movie in there somewhere.  Now, onto number 80…


What’s on TCM: August 2010

It’s August, and that can only mean one thing: Summer Under the Stars!  Like 31 Days of Oscar, Summer Under the Stars never disappoints and I’m definitely excited for this year’s schedule.  There are plenty of days dedicated to showcasing some SUTS mainstays like Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, and Henry Fonda.  But this year they’re really mixing things up and spending nearly half the month focusing on people who have never been part of SUTS before, including John Gilbert, Ethel Barrymore, and Gene Tierney.  Not only are there lots of stars who are new to SUTS, there are also tons of movies being premiered this month.  I counted a grand total of 54 TCM premieres in August, 19 of which are on Thelma Todd day alone.

Here is a complete list of the stars featured this month.  To get the complete schedule, you can download a copy here.