In this last of the blogs focusing on the films that are being broadcast on Turner Classic Movies ‘Tribute to George Eastman House’ (all day today!), I’m highlighting the films made in the middle of the Twentieth Century. George Eastman House’s collections are packed with great silent films, and films from the early studio era, but the selection is broader than that. These last four films hint at the important work from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s that still needs preservation.
THE MOON AND SIXPENCE (1942) is one of only six films directed by writer Albert Lewin. Loosely based on the life of Gaugin, it follows George Sanders as he deteriorates from family man to self-obsessed painter hiding out in the tropics. Our material is notable for its sepiatone footage, similar to the ‘Kansas’ scenes that bookend THE WIZARD OF OZ. This type of toning imitated the look of silent films and was used for hundreds of projects from the ‘30s to the ‘50s, but most of the surviving prints no longer have the tone, but are instead black-and-white reproductions. There is also a scene using Cinecolor, a short-lived two-color process. The restoration was done in 1993 with the assistance of Crystal Pictures, Inc.
PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN (1951) is another of the 6 films directed by Lewin, along with the well-known PORTRAIT OF DORIAN GRAY (1945). One of our highest-profile restorations in recent years, this Technicolor marvel weaves together the legends of Pandora’s Box and The Flying Dutchman into a tragic 20th-Century romance starring James Mason and Ava Gardner. Especially important to the film, and essential that we get right, is the blue of the sea, often reflected in Gardner’s wardrobe, beckoning the two lovers into each other’s arms. This restoration was completed in 2009 with the help of The Film Foundation.
FEAR AND DESIRE (1953) was Stanley Kubrick’s first feature film, after he had worked as a photographer for Look Magazine in New York City and directed two documentary shorts for RKO. A low-budget, independent production, he cast New York actors and took them to the California hillsides to create an allegorical war drama that starred, among others, Paul Mazursky, who went on to direct such films as BOB& CAROL & TED & ALICE (1969), HARRY AND TONTO (1974) and DOWN AND OUT IN BEVERLY HILLS (1986). Legend has it that Kubrick was embarrassed by the film and sought out copies of it to suppress the title and remove it from his legacy. George Eastman House received their print from the original American distribution company and preserved the film in 1989.
The last film being shown on TCM is also the latest film in the tribute. In 1964, Philip Kaufman, who went on to write three Indiana Jones movies and direct such films as INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978), THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF BEING (1988), RISING SUN (1993) and THE RIGHT STUFF (1983) – a personal favorite – started his career with the impressionistic feature GOLDSTEIN, which dreamily follows the separate adventures of a pregnant woman and an old man in Chicago. This avant-garde film was preserved from original material donated to George Eastman House by the director himself, one of several artists that entrust us with their life’s work. The preservation was finished just this year and has not been seen in theaters.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my impressions of the salute and for watching the films on TCM (All day today!). I have the honor of appearing with Robert Osborne, starting at 8pm tonight to discuss four of our featured films: FEAR AND DESIRE, HUCKLEBERRY FINN, PANDORA AND THE FLYING DUTCHMAN, and ROARING RAILS. I hope that everyone reading this enjoys the salute as much as we at George Eastman House have enjoyed bringing it to you.
Jared Case is the Head of Collection Information and Access for the Motion Picture Department and one of the most popular instructors at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation. He graduated from the school himself in 2002 and has been with George Eastman House ever since. He is a film noir aficionado and can be found at film festivals, mystery conventions and noir conferences around the country.
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