“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (MGM, 1988). Who’s zoomin’ who? Two con artists–a suave European played by Michael Caine and a tacky American played by Steve Martin–try to out wit each other while conning women out of their money in the French Riviera. They meet their match when a young and (supposedly) naive American heiress played by Glenne Headly comes to town. Steve Martin’s portrayal of “half-brother Ruprecht” is not to be missed. Written by Dale Launer, Stanley Shapiro and Paul Henning. Directed by Frank Oz. “Excuse me. May I go to the bathroom first?”
Turner Classic Movies screened in theaters across America this week a beautiful new digital transfer of “Casablanca” (Warner Bros., 1942) in honor of the film’s 70th anniversary. Warner Bros. is also releasing this new transfer in a special limited-edition Blu-ray/DVD set next week.
Based on a then-unproduced play called “Everybody Comes to Rick’s,” screenwriters (and brothers) Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch (not their brother), director Michael Curtiz, producer Hal B. Wallis, and the perfect cast of Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre turned the story into cinema gold. Seeing it on the big screen was a dream come true for me. Thanks, TCM!
No matter the format, I hope you’ll take the time to watch this memorable, classic film–again or for the first time. “The fundamental things apply, as time goes by.”
“Waiting for Guffman” (Castle Rock, 1996). Uproarious “mockumentary” about a community theater troupe putting on a big show to celebrate their town’s 150th anniversary. As stated in the DVD special features, “Here was the production’s challenge: Twenty-nine days of shooting. Eight starring roles. Three-dozen additional speaking parts. A Super-16 camera. And no script.” After five days of rehearsal and some decisions about the overall story and character parameters, they shot 60 hours worth of material and edited it down to the final 84-minute movie. Brilliant, silly and really funny. Written by Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy (and improvised by all). Directed by Christopher Guest. “I always have a place at the Dairy Queen.”
“Bringing Up Baby” (RKO Radio Pictures, 1938). A lunatic, nonsensical, classic comedy. Cary Grant plays David, a nerdy paleontologist who is trying to finalize critical funding for the museum he works for. Katherine Hepburn plays Susan, a wealthy, wacky woman who falls in love with David and fouls up his life in every possible way. Add a pet leopard, another leopard that escapes from the local zoo, a rare dinosaur bone, a busy dog, and snappy, non-stop dialogue from the A-list cast, and you’ve got a fun, one-of-a-kind screwball comedy. Written by Dudley Nichols and Hagar Wilde. Directed by Howard Hawks. “I can’t give you anything but love, baby…”
“It Happened One Night” (Columbia, 1934). A classic American romantic comedy. Claudette Colbert plays Ellie, a spoiled heiress who is running away from her problems. Clark Cable plays Peter, an unsympathetic newspaper reporter who is always on the lookout for his next story. They meet and it’s hate at first sight (of course you know what happens from there…). Delightfully funny, charming and, well, romantic. Academy Award® winner for Best Picture, Best Actor (Gable), Best Actress (Colbert), Best Director (Frank Capra) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Riskin). “Behold the Walls of Jericho!”
“Raising Arizona” (20th Century Fox, 1987). An outlandish screwball comedy from the Coen Brothers. Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter play, respectively, an ex-con and a cop who are desperate to have a baby. When they find out they biologically can’t have children and the adoption agencies won’t place a baby in the home of a convicted criminal, the couple decides to kidnap one of the quintuplets of a prominent local businessman. (After all, “they have more than they can handle.”) Once the real parents post a reward for the return of their missing baby, things really start to get wild. Nicolas Cage and, in particular, Holly Hunter are brilliantly funny and sympathetic as the misguided couple. Surreal to watch and funnier after its over. Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. “I don’t know. Maybe it was Utah.”