Wednesday, December 21, 2011

TCM Guest Programmer: Winona Ryder

Tonight sees the Guest Programmer for December, Winona Ryder come to TCM. Presumably, she did a good job, and that would be why she was asked to fill in for Robert Osborne during part of his vacation over the last several months. Her choices are interesting in that two are comedies and two are not only rather different from comedies, but rather different from each other:

The Front at 8:00 PM, an anti-anti-communist movie from 1976 about how horrible the 1950s blacklist was;
Ball of Fire at 10:00 PM, in which Barbara Stanwyck hides out with Gary Cooper and his band of stuffy professors;
Born Yesterday at midnight, in which William Holden teaches Judy Holliday a lesson in civics; and
A Face in the Crowd at 2:00 AM, in which Andy Griffith plays a populist yokel who becomes a TV celebrity drunk on power.

One thing I find interesting is that A Face in the Crowd was written by Budd Schulberg, who testified against the communists before Congress, so it's certainly odd to have this paired with The Front. To be fair, Schulberg softened his stance later in life, although he also pointed out that the communists really only seemed to care about freedom of speech when it was speech with which they agreed: they didn't seem to want him to say the things he did. I'm not a particularly big fan of A Face in the Crowd, mostly because I find Griffith's character so unappealing -- even though the fact that his character winds up unappealing is part of the point of the movie. Still, I find the character less than appealing at the start of the movie.

On the other hand, the big problem I have with The Front is that I find it so "easy". That is, by the 1970s, it became de rigueur to bash the McCarthy era of the early 1950s, and it no longer took any courage to speak out about it. In fact, you could argue we got to the point where it took more courage to point out the evils of the communists. Even today, with the recent death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il, there are people who say he wasn't as bad as the anti-communists make him out to be.

I should probably also include a link to my October 2011 post about anti-communist movies.

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