March TV Movies with a "Rand Connection"
This month cable and satellite television networks are brimming with films endorsed, admired by, or in some way connected to Ayn Rand.
Films of Greta Garbo
Ayn Rand greatly admired Greta Garbo, whose regal elegance and lonely dignity made her a film legend.
Camille (1936), based on the tragic tale by Alexander Dumas fils, casts Garbo as a doomed Parisian courtesan who falls in love with a shallow young nobleman. One of Garbo's signature roles; her screen presence is awesome. The film airs on the Turner Classic Movie (TCM) network on March 18.
Grand Hotel (1932) is a Garbo is a world-weary ballerina in this great ensemble classic, with a stellar cast playing a cross-section of society staying at for a day Berlin's Grand Hotel. TCM carries it on March 21st.
Ninotchka (1939) is Garbo's first romantic comedy roleand 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 comic masterpiecea deliciously savage satire of Soviet life, and a loving tribute to Western pursuit of happiness. Don't miss it on TCM on March 25th.
Films of Katherine Hepburn
In the 1970s, I was present at one of Rand's famous appearances at Boston's Ford Hall Forum, when she was asked whom she would cast for the role of her fictional heroine Dagny Taggart in a film version of Atlas Shrugged. Rand replied that she had thought a young Katherine Hepburn would have been right. This month you can take in some of Hepburn's finest performances from her long and illustrious career.
Adam's Rib (1949) teamed Hepburn with her real-life companion, the great Spencer Tracy. It's a delightful comedy of modern relationships, pitting a liberated lady lawyer against her long-suffering husband in a courtroom competition that gets very personal…and very funny. Airs on TCM March 9th.
The African Queen (1951) pairs the prim, Bible-toting missionary Hepburn with (or is it against?) cynical, whiskey-guzzling steamboat captain Humphrey Bogart. Their common foes include snakes, river rapids, jungle beasts, the Nazis, and each other. Result: a comedic masterpiece that deservedly won Bogart an Oscar and Hepburn (and the film itself) a nomination. American Movie Classics (AMC) broadcasts this romantic adventure classic on March 19, 20, 23, and 24so there's no excuse to miss it.
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 unexpectedly black fiancé of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn's very white daughter, it's notable mainly as the last film of Hepburn's beloved Tracyand for the poignant onscreen goodbye he delivers to her in the closing scene. AMC carries it on March 21, 22, and 24.
Holiday. If you want to discover exactly why Rand saw the younger Katherine Hepburn in the role of Dagny, I can think of no better film than Holiday (1938), co-starring Cary Grant. It's an utterly charming romantic comedy about young people's search for independence. Caryengaged to Hepburn's high-society sisterstruggles to resist the siren song of social conformity and remain his own man. His loneand lonelyally is the irrepressible and quirky Kate, who of course falls in love with her sister's fiancé in spite of herself, and… Well, you need to see how it all turns out for yourself. Screenplay by Donald Ogden Stewart, adapted from a Broadway play by Phillip Barry. See it on TCM on March 19th.
The Lion in Winter. As she aged, Hepburn only became greater as an actress. In 1968 she teamed with Peter O'Toole in one of the finest films ever made, The Lion in Winter. It's a brilliant dramatization of the impassioned love-hate relationship between Henry II and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaineand of their psychological duel of wits over which of their three devious sons will succeed him to the throne. O'Toole and Hepburn are simply awesome: acting just can't get any better than this, and Kate took home an Academy Award for hers while O'Toole received a richly deserved nomination. An added treat is the film debuts of Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton as two of their sons. James Goldman earned an Oscar for a stunning screen adaptation of his own playa fast-paced, superlative intelligent effort with what may be the most literate dialogue in film history. A must-see film, broadcast on AMC March 18, 19 and 23.
Little Women has been filmed repeatedly, but the otherwise overly sentimental 1933 version features an endearing and robust performance by the young Hepburn as Jo. TCM airs it March 13.
Morning Glory, also made in 1933, is one of several charming films (including Stage Door) in which the Hepburn plays an aspiring young actress…not unlike herself just a few years earlier. With Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as the romantic interest. TCM broadcasts it on March 21.
On Golden Pond (1981) is a moving story of people coming to terms with mortality in their twilight years. It showcases an Oscar-winning performance by the elderly Hepburn as the supportive wife of curmudgeonly Henry Fonda (in his last outing, for which he also won an Oscar). Kate's eyes light up the screen as she looks up to Fonda and says, "You were my knight in shining armor." See this tale of endless love throughout the month on AMC.
Pat and Mike (1952) is one of the many brilliant Tracy and Hepburn romantic comedies. In this one, he's an earthy promoter who falls for snooty gym teacher Hepburn, whom he touts as the world's greatest female athlete. Filled with great lines, great gags, and great laughs. TCM features it on the morning of March 20.
The Philadelphia Story. What many believe to be Kate Hepburn's signature role is that of beautiful, arrogant socialite Tracy Lord in this 1940 film classic. 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 outing by 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 serves it up on March 19. Trust me, you'll love it.
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 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 The Movie Channel March 12.
Stage Door (1937) features a terrific ensemble cast that includes the Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Eve Arden, and Lucille Ball as would-be starlets living, dreaming, and loving at a theatrical boarding house. The dialogue crackles with cynical witmuch of it drawn from the actresses themselves between takes. Great fun. On TCM March 21.
Woman of the Year. Tracy and Hepburn first played opposite each other (and fell in love off-screen) in Woman of the Yeara 1942 romantic comedy exploring the conflicts of liberated women. Tracy is a lowbrow sports columnist to Hepburn's highbrow political journalist. Of course, they fall madly in love and marry. But what comes first for Kate: marriage or career? In turns poignant, funny, thought-provoking, and far ahead of its time, the film airs on TCM March 19.
Films of Walter Pidgeon
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.
Mrs. Miniver. Make a point to catch Mrs. Miniver (1942). It's a timeless 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, poignant filmwhich Winston Churchill said did more for the British war effort and 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. The September 11th terrorist atrocitieswhich brought war to American shoreshave given Mrs. Miniver new resonance and relevance. See it on TCM on March 17th.
Funny Girl (1968) puts Pidgeon in a capable supporting role as Florence Ziegfield, creator of the famous Ziegfield Follies. But the real reason to see this wonderful musical is to appreciate the stunning, Oscar-winning turn by the young Barbra Streisand in her screen debut, as comedienne Fanny Brice. This is one of the best film musicals ever made, featuring a brilliant script, a magnificent score, and poignant performances by Streisand and her elegant co-star, Omar Sharif, as her lover Nicky Arnstein. You'll hum the tunes for days afterwards. On HBO's Signature network March 2, 6, 7, 10, 14 and 29.
Films of Alfred Hitchcock
Rand wrote that Hitchcock was one of the few modern directors who had maintained both his stature and his audience. His films are constantly shown on cable, and this month you can see some of his best:
Rear Window (1954) casts James Stewart as a wheelchair-bound photographer who, during his bored recuperation, gets caught up in voyeurism from his apartment balconyand witnesses a murder. The stunningly beautiful Grace Kelly is his girlfriend and co-spy, and soon they're both in mortal jeopardy as the wife-killerchillingly played by Raymond Burrrealizes that they are on to him. On the OXGN network March 29 and 30.
Strangers on a Train (1951) is another Hitchcock masterwork, starring Robert Walker and Farley Granger. A tennis star meets a psychopath on a train, and before he knows it, he is ensnared in a nightmare plot whereby each will murder someone for the other. Hitchcock's hallmark irony and set pieces are in abundant display in this nail-biter, which you can see on TCM March 31.
For a taste of other fine fare by the Master of Suspense, sample Suspicion (TCM, March 29), The Birds (OYGN, March 22 and 23), Lifeboat (Family Movie Classics, March 9, 10, and 27), and Spellbound (Mystery Channel, March 11, 23, and 27).
Other Films With a "Rand Connection"
The Winslow Boy. We've previously observed here that Terence Rattigan was one of Ayn Rand's favorite playwrights. "The Winslow Boy"the 1999 movie version of one of Rattigan's most beloved playsis a true gem. It sports uniformly fine performances, especially those of Nigel Hawthorne and Jeremy Northam (appearing in the current theatrical release "Gosford Park"), and an interesting screenplay adaptation by David Mamet. Mamet subtly shifts some emphasis among characters from the play, and adds a bit of a contemporary flavor to the story line. But he still maintains all the dignity, grace, and moral passion of the original. Highly recommended.
The Browning Version. Another wonderful Rattigan play served as the basis for this movie. Much inferior to the outstanding 1951 film version starring Michael Redgrave, this 1994 update nonetheless features a strong performance by Albert Finney as a retiring schoolmaster trying to maintain his dignity in the face of his career failure and his wife's infidelity. Worth a look when it airs on the WE (Women's Entertainment) Channel on March 25.
Apollo 13 (1995). Ayn Rand was profoundly moved by the heroism of 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 is a soaring tribute to the resolution and resourcefulness of the human mind. Broadcast by the Encore network on March 5, 6, and 23.
Gone With the Wind (1939). Ayn Rand admired Margaret Mitchell's great American novel, Gone With the Wind. The film masterpiece of Mitchell's tale of the Civil War South starred Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivien Leigh as Scarlett, in performances that will endure foreveras will the film itself. This one is at or near the top of every critic's list of the greatest movies of all time. On TCM on March 4.
The Miracle Worker (1962) was enthusiastically praised by Rand as a great story about epistemologythe way in which the mind achieves knowledge. She also hailed film's magnificent Oscar-winning performances by Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke. Bancroft plays Anne Sullivan, the teacher of deaf and blind Helen Keller, portrayed by young Duke. Intense, moving, and inspiring, this filmlike Apollo 13depicts the heroic potential of human intelligence. On TCM March 11th.
In the Heat of the Night (1967). In the past we've recommended this detective classic of murder and racism starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in memorable performances. A favorite of Ayn Rand's, this great film on TCM March 9th and 10th.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). Victor Hugo was Rand's favorite author, and this film remains the best Hollywood rendition of Hugo's tragic tale of the love triangle between a deformed cathedral bellringer, a gypsy girl, and a Catholic priest. Charles Laughton is simply amazing as anguished hunchback Quasimoda, and Maureen O'Hara is beguiling as the girl he loves. On TCM March 29th.
Blithe Spirit (1945). Rand also enjoyed the plays of Noel Coward, and this 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. The Movie Channel airs this ghostly romp on March 29th.
Check your local listings for the broadcast times in your area.