November TV Movies with a "Rand Connection"
Cable and satellite television networks offer in November a large number of classic films featuring artists that Ayn Rand enjoyed. For all of these movies, check your local listings for the exact broadcast times in your area.
Rand very much liked the masculine, sophisticated actor Walter Pidgeon, and you can see him at his best this month in two of his most popular films.
In the wee hours of November 2nd, on the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) network, 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, so set your VCR. And if you miss it, do make a point to rent it.
If you love Ayn Rand's heroic portraits of entrepreneurs and capitalists, you'll enjoy Walter Pidgeon as a colorful 19th Century "robber baron" in the epic drama, Mrs. Parkington. Again it co-stars the captivating Greer Garson in the title role, for which she won a Best Actress nomination. Told in flashbacks spanning six decades, Garson rises from boarding house maid to society wife when she meets and falls in love with the roguish Pidgeonthen must decide what to do with their extended family of whining, worthless potential heirs. This is a wonderful depiction of the Gilded Age in all its glory, and of the contrasting values of the creators who build fortunes versus the parasites who consume them. Lavish costumes and fine performances decorate this charming tale of lifelong love and ambition. See it on TCM on November 10th.
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.
A very young Katherine Hepburn plays a world-class British aviatrix in the 1933 drama, Christopher Strong, which the American Movie Classics (AMC) cable network will broadcast on November 8th. The spitfire independence, blunt honesty, and raw courage that were to become hallmarks of Hepburn performances are all in evidence in this early outing.
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. Take this delightful Holiday on November 22nd on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
On the same day, TCM also shows what many believe to be Kate Hepburn's signature rolethat 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. Once again, 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. Trust me, you'll love it.
Hepburn teamed with her real-life companion, the great Spencer Tracy, in Adam's Rib (1949). It's a hilarious 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. See it on TCM November 24th.
Also on TCM on the 24th is 1944's Dragon Seed. Hepburn plays a Chinese villager fighting Japanese invaders. It's not one of her more memorable outings, but worth a look.
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, this one airs on TCM on the 13th and 22nd.
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. American Movie Classics will run this magical movie several times, on November 8th, 9th, and 26th.
The mature Hepburn also lit up the screenand won another Oscarfor On Golden Pond (1981), playing the supportive wife of curmudgeonly Henry Fonda (in his last performance, for which he also won an Oscar). It's a moving story of people coming to terms with mortality in their twilight years. Kate's eyes are unforgettable as she looks up to Fonda and says, "You were my knight in shining armor." See this tale of endless love on the Women's Entertainment (WE) channel, November 3, 4, 8, 22, and 23.
Ayn Rand also greatly admired Greta Garbo, whose regal elegance and lonely dignity made her a film legend. Two of her most memorable roles are Camille (1936)based on the tragic tale, by Alexander Dumas fils, of a doomed Parisian courtesan and her young lover; and Queen Christina (1933), in which the 17th-century Swedish queen, escaping the palace by posing as a boy, falls in love with the Spanish ambassador. TCM airs Camille on November 4th, and Queen Christina on the 20th.
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:
North By Northwest (1959) stars Cary Grant as an Everyman caught up in international intrigue due to a case of mistaken identity. When the chips are down, can he really trust cool blonde beauty Eva Marie Saint, lover of villain James Mason? It's a roller-coaster romp across America, replete with famous scenes including the crop duster (shudder!) attack in a Midwest cornfield, and the cliffhanger finale atop Mount Rushmore. On TCM November 4th and 16th.
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. One of the best suspense films ever made, Rear Window will be broadcast by AMC on the 18th and 28th.
To Catch a Thief (1955), starring Cary Grant as a reformed (or is he?) cat burglar, exchanging suspicions and sparks with heiress Grace Kelly across the roads and rooftops of Monaco. Kelly is at her most elegant and ravishing in this sumptuously-mounted romantic thriller, shown on TMC on the 7th, 8th, and 17th.
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 airs on TMC on the 6th.
Rebecca (1940) is Hitch's stylish adaptation of Daphne DuMaurier's classic suspense novel. Joan Fontaine is an innocent bride in a lonely mansion, trying desperately to live up to the image of Rebeccathe deceased wife of husband Laurence Olivier. But all is not what it seems, and she soon finds herself in grave danger. The film airs on the LOVE channel on November 20th and 26th.
Vertigo (1958) is a film noir classic. Former San Francisco detective James Stewart, who dreads heights in the wake of a personal trauma, becomes obsessed with Kim Novaka dead ringer for his late former lover. What is real, what isn't, and whom can you trust? Many consider this dark and moody drama to be the best film by the Master of Suspense. Decide for yourself when AMC shows it on November 5th.
Other Films "with a Rand Connection"
Some movies that I've recommended over the past months also air again in November. So if you missed them before, catch them now. They include Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (Showtime, Nov. 13th), and Blithe Spirit (FLIX channel, Nov.10, 16, 19, 22, and 29), as well as In the Heat of the Night (TCM, Nov. 13th).