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Sunday 18th Feb 2018

I guess it is no secret that I love classic movies and am a Turner Classic Movies (TCM) junkie.

And, I will watch some movies over and over and over again, in much the same way we will read an article or book more than once, although sometimes this is carried to ridiculous extremes.

For example I have seen William Wyler's fantastic biblical film Ben-Hur more times than I can count. In fact, I own the DVD. And, when TCM showed the movie two weeks ago on Saturday morning, I watched the whole thing. A week later, during a celebration of star Charlton Heston's birthday, TCM again showed the film and I watched it again.

Last Saturday I watched Dr. Zhivago for the millionth time (I own that DVD as well), and earlier this evening I watched Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers (which I also own). This weekend A Day at the Races, La Strada, The Bicycle Thief, The Heiress and Paths of Glory will all be shown, and I figure I will watch them all I suspect.

If I happen to be flipping through the channels and stumble onto one of the Stars Wars movies frequently shown on the Spike channel, I stop and watch for a while. And, yes, I own all of them and have seen them more times than I can keep track of.

Now, I realize this might seem excessive to some and obsessive to others, but I am a deconstructionist, meaning every time I see The Big Sleep, it becomes new for more. Well, I try for that anyway.

I remember years back when Cathy and I were into watching Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca over and over, one time I announced to her I was going to view from the perspective of Jasper, the black Cocker Spaniel who was the late Rebecca's dog and alien to Joan Fontaine's "I" character at first, but becomes her ally by the end of the film.

Similarly, Cathy pointed out to me one time that she noticed during a pivotal scene, where Fontaine's learns the truth of her husband's feelings for his late wife, that the muted greys the film has been shot with before suddenly become sharp and clear along with Fontaine's new clarity.

I like discovering these little signatures from directors and actors for they are the little touches that enhance or sharpen a work of art.

Last week I was in fact watching TCM as Diane and I crawled into bed, and Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo was coming on. Well, I am a huge Hawks (Bringing up Baby, The Big Sleep, Red River and Only Angels Have Wings are a few more of his films). I like Rio Bravo because it has John Wayne, the archetype marshall, but also Ricky Nelson, Dean Martin, and Walter Brennan in supporting roles, and that trio is just great.

There is a lovely scene where Martin and Nelson are singing "Get on Home Cindy Cindy" with Brennan playing (well, lip-synching) harmonica. But, I love this not just because of the guys, but all three actually had hit records in the 60's, for Brennan had Old Rivers, Nelson a ton, but we can cite Hello Mary Lou or Travelin' Man, and Martin Everybody Loves Somebody.

As it happened, as I turned on the movie TCM was having an evening with a guest programmer. For the channel a guest programmer is a celebrity and classic movie junkie, and that person gets to select four movies to watch with host Robert Osborne. Before and after the movie, the guest and Osborne discuss what they like about the movie.

On this evening film director John Carpenter (Halloween and Escape From New York, among others) was the guest, and before the showing of Rio Bravo, Osborne asked why he selected the movie.

Carpenter noted he spent his Saturdays as a kid at the movies, and he vividly remembered watching Rio Bravo, and that it captured his attention.

He also said he liked Hawks movies because the director often isolated heroes and forced them to have to rely on their courage and wits to work out of a tough jam.

And then he noted that Rio Bravo was really just a remake of Hawks movie To Have and To Have not, the first film for Lauren Bacall and the one where she met Humphrey Bogart. The story is actually loosely based upon an Ernest Hemmingway story, with one of the screenwriters being William Faulkner.

Carpenter noted that in Rio Bravo Angie Dickensen plays the bad girl Bacall role, with Wayne in the Bogart position.

This had never hit me, and as I started to watch Rio Bravo I realized that Carpenter was totally right. And, that was not only fun, but gave me a new slant and pleasure in watching.

In fact, on my list of things to do this week is to watch both films (yes, I own them both) back-to-back carefully and see how the director used similar vehicles to advance the plot and set up the story and relationships.

By the way, if you are a fan of the movie Get Shorty, Rio Bravo is a film that the Chili Palmer/John Travolta character, also a classic film buff, loves. In fact he notes the El Dorado, another Hawks movie, is essentially a remake of Rio Bravo, though with Robert Mitchum in the Dean Martin role, and James Caan in the Ricky Nelson role (Caan's name is Colorado, while Nelson is Mississippi).


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