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Saturday Night at the Movies

16/10/2021

1 – A Farewell to Arms (1957) Charles Vidor

Set against the backdrop of the Italian front during World War I, an American Army volunteer (Rock Hudson) meets a British nurse (Jennifer Jones) on the eve of the big offensive in the Alps and they fall passionately in love. Torn apart, then reunited, they escape to Switzerland to await the birth of their child – and the tragic conclusion to their once-in-a-lifetime romance.

2 Forbidden Area 1956 Charlton Heston, Vincent Price

Playhouse 90 is an American television anthology series that aired on CBS from 1956 to 1960 for a total of 133 episodes. The show was produced at CBS Television City near the Los Angeles district of Hollywood in California. Since live anthology drama series of the mid-1950s usually were hour-long shows, the title highlighted the network’s intention to present something unusual: a weekly series of hour-and-a-half-long dramas rather than 60-minute plays. — The producers of the show were Martin Manulis, John Houseman, Russell Stoneman, Fred Coe, Arthur Penn, and Hubbell Robinson. The leading director was John Frankenheimer (27 episodes), followed by Franklin Schaffner (19 episodes). Other directors included Sidney Lumet, George Roy Hill, Delbert Mann, and Robert Mulligan. With Alex North’s opening theme music, the series debuted October 4, 1956 with Rod Serling’s adaptation of Pat Frank’s novel Forbidden Area. The following week, Requiem for a Heavyweight, also scripted by Serling, received critical accolades and later dominated the 1956 Emmys by winning awards in six categories, including best direction, best teleplay and best actor. Serling was given the first Peabody Award for television writing. For many viewers, live television drama had moved to a loftier plateau. Playhouse 90 established a reputation as television’s most distinguished anthology drama series and maintained a high standard for four seasons (with repeats in 1961). From the start, productions were planned to be both live and filmed, with a filmed show every fourth Thursday to relieve the pressure of mounting the live telecasts. The first filmed Playhouse 90 was The Country Husband (November 1, 1956) with Barbara Hale and Frank Lovejoy portraying a couple in a collapsing marriage. The filmed episodes were produced variously, by Screen Gems and CBS. The ambitious series frequently featured critically acclaimed dramas, including the original television versions of The Miracle Worker (with Teresa Wright as Annie Sullivan), and The Helen Morgan Story (with an Emmy to Polly Bergen for her performance in the title role), In the Presence of Mine Enemies (Rod Serling’s Warsaw ghetto drama starring Charles Laughton, with Robert Redford in an early role), and the original television version of Judgment at Nuremberg, featuring Maximilian Schell in the role he would repeat in the 1961 film, but with an otherwise different cast, including Claude Rains in the Spencer Tracy role. Playhouse 90 received many Emmy Award nominations, and it later ranked #33 on the TV Guide 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. In 1997, the acclaimed “Requiem for a Heavyweight” was ranked #30 on the TV Guide 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time.[1] Early on, in 1956, Playhouse 90 faced some controversy due to scheduling. It was thought by independent producers that, in Playhouse 90’s procurement, scheduling, and promotion decisions, major networks favored programs that they produced or, in which they had ownership interest. Worried about this issue, CBS suspended its plans for the series in fear that they had violated anti-trust laws. Soon afterward, however, CBS received an oral opinion from its legal counsel that no laws had been violated, and the show continued

3  Checkpoint 1956

Checkpoint is a 1956 British film noir crime drama film directed by Ralph Thomas and starring Anthony Steel, Odile Versois, Stanley Baker, and James Robertson Justice

O’Donovan breaks into a safe in a factory in Florence, Italy, late at night. That triggers a burglar alarm, and he is forced to shoot the night watchman and at least one policeman; his gunfire also starts a fire that consumes the factory. He goes to Francesca and demands she put him in contact with Petersen, her boss. Petersen hides O’Donovan at his villa.

In England, Warren Ingram tells Michael of his connection to the fiasco. Ingram, an industrial magnate, hired O’Donovan to lure away the designer for the Volta D’Italia car racing team, in hopes of making his team world champions. When O’Donovan failed, he turned to industrial espionage, against Ingram’s explicit orders not to do anything illegal, violent or risky. Now the factory has been destroyed and five lives lost. Michael suggests having Petersen, Ingram’s agent in Italy, arrange for O’Donovan to “disappear altogether”, but Ingram states he is “a businessman, not a gangster”. Ingram decides to smuggle O’Donovan out of the country. Michael recommends recruiting driver Bill Fraser because he does not have “a nerve in his body” and needs money for a race car he has designed and is building.

The team board a flight to Italy, followed by Ingram and Michael. There, Fraser mends his strained romantic relationship with Francesca (he was away for a year). Hiding at Petersen’s villa, O’Donovan is displeased to hear that Ingram has arranged for him to go to Bombay via Switzerland. O’Donovan tells Petersen to inform Ingram that he will sell the plans for the “fuel intake” Ingram wanted. At his team’s garage, Ingram tells team manager Thornhill to reinstate suspended young driver Johnny Carpenter and team him with his friend Fraser for the important upcoming race from Florence to Locarno. Ingram then sends Thornhill to the refueling stop at Milan. Ingram then meets face-to-face with O’Donovan and reluctantly buys the plans.

Between them, Petersen and his girlfriend Gabriela manage to drug Johnny’s drinks. The next day, Ingram calls Bill to Johnny’s room. Johnny is unconscious next to a whiskey bottle. Bill knows that no last-minute driver changes are allowed, and if the officials are alerted to Johnny’s seeming intoxication, it will cost him his license, as well as the race for the team. Ingram offers Bill a way to save his friend and the team, and also dangles financial backing for his race car in exchange for taking the risk of substituting another co-driver for Johnny. Bill agrees.

On the day of the race, Francesca goes to Johnny’s room to fetch him, but runs into O’Donovan and Petersen. Petersen holds Francesca captive while O’Donovan masquerades as Johnny. Ingram tells Francesca that if she notifies the authorities, Bill will go to prison. She is then released, though Ingram orders Petersen to follow her. She books a flight to Milan and breaks away from Petersen and gets aboard.

At the Milan stop, Francesca warns Bill, but O’Donovan points his pistol at him, so Bill resumes the race. Francesca seeks Thornhill’s help; he drives her on a shortcut across the mountains to intercept Bill and O’Donovan without involving the police. Bill pull overs, complaining of a loose wheel or flat, and tries to overpower O’Donovan, but fails. O’Donovan orders Bill to not stop at the last checkpoint, even they need to refuel to reach the finish line. Fearing for his life, Bill ignores O’Donovan’s order to slow down, since O’Donovan cannot safely shoot him without endangering himself. Bill then takes the wrong turn, heading back from Switzerland into Italy. Once O’Donovan realises what Bill is doing, he tries to grab the wheel. The car goes off the road and teeters on the edge of a cliff. The two men get out and fight, as Ingram, Francesca and the others converge on the scene. O’Donovan is knocked into the car, which then plunges over the cliff and into the lake. Ingram, struck by falling debris, makes a full confession to a frontier guard, taking full responsibility.

4 Career – 1959 – Dean Martin, Tony Franciosa, Shirley Maclaine,

Career is a 1959 American drama film co-written by Dalton Trumbo and starring Dean Martin, Tony Franciosa, and Shirley MacLaine.

The movie involves actor Sam Lawson (Franciosa), bent on breaking into the big time at any cost, braving World War II, the Korean War and even the blacklist, something that writer Trumbo knew all too well from being blacklisted himself.

Career was written by Bert Granet, James Lee (whose play served as the foundation for the film), Philip Strong and Trumbo, and directed by Joseph Anthony. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards and won one Golden Globe Award.

Back from action in World War II, Sam Lawson (Tony Franciosa, who has second billing in the film despite being in every scene) leaves home and friends in Lancing, Michigan to fulfil his ambitions to make it as an actor in New York. After many auditions he joins the off-Broadway grassroots theatre group called the Actors’ Rostrum, run by actor-director Maurice “Maury” Novak (Dean Martin) out of a seamen’s mission in Greenwich Village. When the theatre group runs out of money, Novak leaves the theater eventually to become a well known Hollywood director.

Both men know Sharon Kensington (Shirley MacLaine), who is the alcoholic daughter of powerful Broadway producer Robert Kensington (Robert Middleton).

Lawson continually tries to establish himself as an actor, suffering the slings and arrows of rejection despite his dedication and passion for the theater. It costs him his first wife, played by Joan Blackman. Lawson’s long-suffering agent Shirley Drake (Carolyn Jones) attempts to get him work and after marrying Sharon Kensington and with the grudging backing of his new father-in-law, Lawson’s star slowly begins to rise. But Sharon is in love with Novak and pregnant with his child. Lawson makes a deal to give her a divorce for the lead in the new Novak production. But Novak reneges on the deal. After more struggle, Drake manages to find Lawson a job but he has been called up from the reserves to serve in Korea, where he sees out the end of the war.

Lawson returns to the rounds of auditions in New York. Just as he’s about to land a long-term TV announcing job, his loyalty is researched and to Lawson’s shock he is found to be on the blacklist. This is owing to his connection with Novak and the allegedly “subversive” theater work of the Actors’ Rostrum. Drake explains, “Sam, these are very responsible, patriotic people. They’re just trying to protect their country.” The now blacklisted Lawson, reflecting the realities of real-life blacklisted actors, is forced to take work as a waiter. When Drake asks him what he’s going to do, Lawson replies: “There’s only one thing for me to do. Survive.” In one sense this was among Hollywood’s first direct documentations of the blacklist in a dramatic film.

Novak, himself on the skids, appears back in Lawson’s life, vowing to start fresh with a new off-Broadway theater. Novak confesses that he was briefly a communist in the past, but for opportunistic, career reasons. He offers Lawson a chance to work together again. After an accidental meeting with his first wife, who now understands Lawson’s ambition, Lawson quits restaurant work and accepts the offer. With the blacklist past, the new play becomes successful and heads to Broadway. With Lawson finally emerging as a major actor, Drake, who has fallen in love with Lawson, asks him in the final scene, thinking of his struggles and humiliation, if it was “worth it.”

“Yes,” says Lawson. “It was worth it.”

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