April TV Films With an "Ayn Rand Connection"
This month cable and satellite television networks are brimming with films endorsed, admired by, or in some way connected to Ayn Rand.
Rand appreciated tap dancing above most other forms of dance, and regarded Fred Astaire (along with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson) as its best exponent. You can catch the elegant Mr. Astaire at the top of his form throughout April. Most of his films are so frothy that efforts to describe the story lines are superfluous: just watch them for the incomparable dancing.
Fred teams with longtime partner Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway on TCM on the 15th; with the beautiful Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on the 18th; with Leslie Caron in Daddy Long Legs on the Fox Movie Channel (FMC) on the 4th, 5th, 18th, 19th, and 30th; with Judy Garland in Easter Parade on TCM on the 12th; with Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face on the FLIX cable network on the 9th, 13th, 14th, 19th, 24th, and 29th; with Jane Powell in Royal Wedding on TCM, April 10th; and once again with Cyd Charisse in Silk Stockings on TCM, April 25th.
Silk Stockings, incidentally, is a 1957 musical remake of the superb 1939 comedy, Ninotchka, which also airs this month. It was the first romantic comedy outing for one of Rand's favorite actresses, Greta Garbo. And she's hilarious as a grim Soviet agent dispatched to police the antics of a trio of Russian trade representatives, who've been endearingly corrupted by the good life in Paris. Director Ernst Lubitsch created a deliciously savage satire of Soviet life, and a loving tribute to Western pursuit of happiness. Don't miss Ninotchka on TCM April 16ththen, for an interesting contrast, tune in to Silk Stockings on the 25th.
Garbo appears again on April 26th in Camille, based on the tragic tale by Alexander Dumas fils of a doomed Parisian courtesan and her young lover. And on April 23rd she's the femme fatale in Mata Hari. Both films air on Turner Classic Movies.
Films of another artist much admired by Randdirector Alfred Hitchcockare cable TV staples. Dial M for Murder, a chiller starring Ray Milland and Grace Kelly, airs all month long on the FLIX network. Joel McCrea is an intrepid war journalist in Foreign Correspondent, an engrossing thriller that TCM will show on the 9th. A great ensemble cast finds themselves adrift in a Lifeboat; find out who lives and who dies on Fox Movie Classics (FMC) on the 13th, or on the MYST (Mystery) channel on the 5th, 14th, 18th, and 22nd.
Sean Connery is forced to deal with Tippi Hedren's dangerous neuroses in Marnie on the OXGN channel April 12th and 13th, while man-on-the-run Cary Grant wonders if he can really trust Eva Marie Saint in one of Hitchcock's best spy thrillers, North By Northwest, broadcast on HBO's Signature channel on the 5th, 17th, and 26th. Cary is scary to naïve Joan Fontaine in Suspicion, which appears on TCM April 6th. Then the ever-suffering Joan becomes Laurence Olivier's frightened bride in Hitch's screen version of Daphne DuMaurier's Gothic masterpiece, Rebecca; see it on MYST April 10th or 28th.
The infamous Leopold-Loeb thrill killing gets a quirky screen treatment by the Master of Suspense when James Stewart confronts two young sociopaths in Rope, airing on the OXGN April 5th and 6th. Stewart must face his own demons, and the haunting image of Kim Novak, in what many think is Hitchcock's suspense masterpiece, Vertigo. Its diabolically twisted plot is sure to leave you dizzy when OXGN broadcasts it April 19th and 20th.
Finally, I doubt that Rand would have liked Hitchcock's horror classic Psycho, but nobody who has seen it can ever forget it. That includes actress Janet Leigh, who says she's never been able to take a shower since encountering creepy Anthony Perkins there in the Bates Motel. See why when OYGN pulls back the shower curtain on April 26th and 27th.
Nothing could be a greater contrast in mood than Bringing Up Baby, one of the best screwball comedies ever filmed. It's even funnier because stars Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn (one of Rand's favorite actresses)usually the epitomes of elegant restraintgive giddy comedic turns in a plot that's indescribably absurd. You'll laugh yourself silly when you watch it on TCM on the 19th. Pat and Mike is another fine comic vehicle for Kate, one of several that pair her with her beloved off-screen companion Spencer Tracy. In this one, he's an earthy promoter who falls for her, a snooty gym teacher, whom he touts as the world's greatest female athlete. Filled with great lines, great gags, and great laughs, see it on TCM April 24th.
Two other vehicles also team Hepburn with her beloved "Spence" this month. Tracy wants to become President of the United States in State of the Union; but Kate is there to make sure he doesn't lose his soul in the process. It airs on TCM April 21. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967) is a dated but light-hearted look at racism, as seen by 1960s liberals. Co-starring Sidney Poitier as the very black fiancé of Tracy and Hepburn's very white daughter, it's notable mainly as Tracy's last filmand for the poignant onscreen goodbye he delivers to her in its closing scene. On American Movie Classics (AMC) April 21 and 22.
What many believe to be Hepburn's signature role is that of beautiful, arrogant socialite Tracy Lord, in the 1940 film classic, The Philadelphia Story. A virtually flawless romantic comedy, it showcases not only Hepburn, but also a brilliant counterpoint performance by Cary Grant as her devious ex-husband, "C. K. Dexter Haven," and an Oscar-winning effort Jimmy Stewart as a cynical tabloid reporter with a romantic's soul. Donald Ogden Stewart adapted a Phillip Barry Broadway hit, and deservedly won the Best Screenplay Oscar for his efforts. This is on the short list of all-time "must-see films," so put it on your calendar when TCM screens it on the 19th.
The Rainmaker (1956) is a poignant tale of romance and trust. Burt Lancaster is a con man who promises to bring rain to drought-stricken ranchersand in the process brings love to lonely spinster Kate Hepburn. It looks a bit stagynot surprising since it's based on N. Richard Nash's play; but Lancaster and Hepburn conjur not only rain, but screen magic. Airs on Showtime on the 17th and 20th. Stage Door (1937) features a terrific ensemble cast that includes Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden, and Lucille Ball as would-be starlets living, dreaming, and loving at a theatrical boarding house…not unlike the Hollywood boarding house that Rand herself once lived in. The dialogue crackles with cynical witmuch of it drawn from the actresses themselves between takes. Great fun. See it the 12th on TCM.
Ayn Rand very much liked the masculine, sophisticated actor Walter Pidgeon, and you can see him at his best this month in some his most popular films.
The September 11th terrorist atrocitieswhich brought war to American shoreshave given Mrs. Miniver (1942) new resonance and relevance. Make a special point to catch it on TCM April 25th. It's a four-star drama of a British family's stiff-upper-lip courage during the Nazi bombing of Britain during World War II. Pidgeon is the brave husband and father, playing opposite the lovely, courageous, and commanding Greer Garson in her most beloved role. This powerful and poignant filmwhich Winston Churchill said did more for the British war morale than armies of soldierswon six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Garson), and Best Director (William Wyler), plus a Best Actor nomination for Pidgeon.
How Green Was My Valley (1941) pairs Pidgeon with the beautiful Maureen O'Hara in the tale of a beleaguered coal-mining family in Wales around 1900. On FMC the 10th and 11th. In addition, Pidgeon plays an archetypal mad scientist in the 1956 science fiction classic, Forbidden Planet. The sometimes creepy plot draws cleverly on both Shakespeare and Freud, so you can forgive some of the dated attitudes and corny dialogue between co-stars Leslie Nielson and Anne Francis. You'll have fun watching it on TCM on the 5th, 17th, or 23rd this month.
Gary Cooper played Howard Roark in the screen version of Rand's The Fountainhead. But three years later, in 1952, he won an Oscar playing another man of integrity standing against the mob: Sheriff Will Kane in High Noon. Kane must face four killers alone when he's abandoned by the townspeople he's sworn to protect, including Lloyd Bridges as a Peter Keating-ish deputy, and Quaker wife Grace Kelley. Perhaps the best Western ever made, and certainly the most inspiring, see it on TCM April 7th.
A few other fine films round out this month's cinematic riches.
A major object of admiration for Ayn Rand was the Apollo space program. And I have no doubt she would have loved the gripping, extraordinarily inspiring docudrama Apollo 13, starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, and Ed Harris. Based on the true events of the near-disastrous lunar expedition, it's a soaring tribute to the resolution and resourcefulness of the human mind. And it soars all month on the Encore cable network. Another inspiring tribute to flight, and to a real-life hero admired by Rand, is The Spirit of St. Louis. James Stewart plays aviator Charles Lindbergh in this suspenseful re-creation of his famous solo flight across the Atlantic. Tune in to TCM on the 28th, then buckle your seatbelt and hang on for the ride.
Rand enjoyed the plays of Noel Coward, and Blithe Spirit (1945) is a charming rendition of one of his finest stage efforts. Widower Rex Harrison remarries, only to find that his long-dead wife isn't happy about the new arrangement. This ghostly romp glides from the FLIX channel into your living room on the 5th, 10th, 23rd, and 29th. Rand also liked the work of Oscar Wilde. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Michael Redgrave heads the cast in Wilde's famous and hilarious comedy of manners. FLIX also airs this one on the 5th, 13th, and 16th.
As always, check your local listings for the exact broadcast times in your area.