A cursory glance at the official painting of President Bill Clinton that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery would easily miss an ode to the lowest point of his presidency — Monica Lewinsky.
But it’s there, the artist revealed in an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News. Philadelphia area painter Nelson Shanks cunningly included a shadow over the fireplace cast from a blue dress on a mannequin.
Shanks said painting Clinton was his hardest assignment because “he is probably the most famous liar of all time.” So he added the nod to the Lewinsky scandal because it had cast a shadow over Clinton’s presidency.
“He and his administration did some very good things, of course,” Shanks said, “but I could never get this Monica thing completely out of my mind, and it is subtly incorporated in the painting.” He told the Daily News:
If you look at the left-hand side of it there’s a mantle in the Oval Office and I put a shadow coming into the painting and it does two things. It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there. It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him.
I know a lot of you like a good microbrew. Today is Beer Day in Iceland, celebrating the day that the prohibition on beer was finally lifted... in 1989. (Who knew the moral scolds had gotten beer banned that long?)
Welcome to another edition of Fedya's "Movies to Tivo" thread, for the week of March 2-8, 2014. We're finally finishing up wtih 31 Days of Oscar, which means we're going to get back to the regular programming on TCM, with a new Star of the Month and new Friday night spotlight. This is also the week that we movie our clocks forward an hour so we can have the invreasing daylight at the end of the day and not when we're all asleep in bed, so when you get to Sunday morning, be careful of the schedules. As always, all times are in Eastern, unless otherwise mentioned.
We'll start off this week with a western that I haven't mentioned in quite some time: Hondo, at 3:20 AM Monday on Encore Westerns. John Wayne stars as Hondo Lane, a dispatch rider for the cavalry in an era when the Indians were still attacking Americans. He gets attacked and, losing his horse, winds up at the ranch run by the widow Lowe (Geraldine Page). She nurses him back to health and the two fall in love. The only thing is, it turns out that she isn't a widow, but married to an outlaw who's abandoned her. Hondo eventually runs into the husband on one of his cavalry missions, gets attacked, and kills the husband in self-defense. Meanwhile, the Army is trying to evacuate people like Mrs. Lowe and her son before the Apaches can attack, which they eventually do for the climax. The movie was originally filmed in 3D, as can be deduced from one or two fight scenes, but is a film which works just fine in flat 2D.
Monday night sees TCM running a complete showing of the Lord o the Rings trilogy. If you're not bored of the rings like I am, you can see if you have the same patience as those Richard Wagner fans who sit through his entire "Ring" cycle, although this one is only 10 hours and not 16 or so like the operas put together. The Lord of the Rings:The Fellowship of the Ring kicks things off at 8:00 PM. Then, at 11:15 PM, you can catch Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Finally, at 2:30 AM Tuesday, there's Lord of the Rings:Return of the King.
On FXM Retro you can catch the little-seen movie The Mudlark, at 11:15 AM Monday and 3:00 AM Tuesday. Queen Victoria (Irene Dunne) went into a deep depresion after the death of her husband Prince Albert. So she retreated to her castle and refused to appear in public, much to the consternation of her Prime Minster Benjamin Disraeli (Alec Guinness). And then an orphan boy named Wheeler, the titular "Mudlark" because he ekes out an existece scavenging the banks of the Thames, finds a cameo of Her Majesty and sets off to see the Queen herself. His unauthorized presence at the castle should be a problem because of the security implications, but it might also just get the Queen out of her funk. Rounding out the cast is Findlay Currie as John Brown, the Scottish servant who along with Victoria is the subject of the 1997 film Mrs. Brown also covering the period after Albert's death but in a more serious way.
All-star disaster movies were a staple of the 1970s, starting with Airport, which is coming up later this week. One that turned out to be a big flop was The Swarm, at 3:30 PM Monday on TCM. You can probably guess from the title that the "swarm" refers to bees, or more specifically the Africanized "killer" bees that started agressively interbreeding with South American colonies with the fear that they'd take over beekeeping in North America too. That means bees stinging people to death and causing all sorts of other problems. Ah, but we've got more stars than even MGM could bring together for Dinner at Eight on the case. Michael Caine is the entomologist studying the bees; Richard Widmark is the Army General who wants to use force to deal with the problems; Henry Fonda plays an immunologist; Richard Chamberlain is another scientist; Olivia de Havilland is pursued romanitcally by Fred MacMurray; and on and on. Irwin Allen didn't intend people to laugh at stuff like this, but he's been dead for over 20 years, so go ahead and laugh without worrying whether he's spinning in his grave.
Another horriifically bad movie that unlike The Swarm had no pretensions of being anything close to an A movie, is The Brain That Wouldn't Die, at 8:45 AM Wednesday on TCM. Jason Evers plays Dr. Bill, a doctor working on experimental transplant techniques engaged to lovely Jan (Virginia Leith). While driving out of town, Bill gets in a car accident that leaves poor Jan decapitated. What's a doctor specializing in transplantation to do? Why, try the world's first head transplant! Of course, he's got to keep Jan's head alive, which he does by putting it in a pan in his basement laboratory and attachting electrodes to it. Jan, understandably, doesn't like this arrangement, and starts to get snarkier and snarkier, as she develops a psychic relationship with whatever is making ominous noises behind the locked door. Meanwhile, pervy Bill is looking for the right body for Jan by going to what passed for a red-.light district in early 1960s Hollywood movies and ogling the women who, of course, don't know his plan. The plot is ludicrous but hilarious.
Now that we're in a new month, we're getting a new Star of the Month. This time around, it's Ann Sothern, who starred in a lot of B movies in the 1930s and 1940s before turning to TV in the mid 1950s. Her movies are going to be running every Wednesday night in March, starting thiw Wednesday at 8:00 PM with Grand Exit. Sothern plays the female lead; the male lead is Edmund Lowe (the doctor seeing Jean Harlow in Dinner at Eight). Here, Lowe plays Tom, an insurance investigator. His services are needed because somebody is setting a string of fires at various businesses. This arsonist also seems to be very clever, as the fires all seem to be set by remote control. Sothern plays a woman who may or may not have something to do with the fires, but is also being pursued romantically by Tom, who needless to say isn't pleased by the fact the girl he's falling in love with might be an arsonist!
I mentioned Airport briefly above. It's airing Thursday night at 11:30 PM on TCM as part of a night of movies celebrating the actress Helen Hayes. Based on the book by Arthur Hailey (the guy who gave us "Hotel", not to be confused with Alex Haley of "Roots" fame), it tells the story of how an airport is run behind the scenes by looking at the various people using the airport, be it in administration, for the airlines, or as passengers. Burt Lancaster plays Mel Bakersfield, who manages the airport, and has to deal with the worst snowstorm in decades. Dean Martin plays the pilot who winds up on the doomed flight that has to land in the snow, and that's going to be the least of his problems. Van Heflin is on the plane planning to hijack it; Maureen Stapleton his wife back at home, and Helen Hayes plays a repeat offender stowaway. So there's a lot of soap-opera drama going on here, and I've only mentioned half the cast. There's also Jean Seberg, Jacqueline Bisset, George Kennedy, and some well-known character actors.
Where Airport is an ensemble story about the goings-on at an airport, there were a couple of similar ensemble movies made all the way back in the 1930s. One of the lesser-known is Central Park, airing at 7:30 AM Friday on TCM. Joan Blondell plays Dot, who's out of work what with the Depression and spendin gher days in New York's Central Park, which is where she meets Rick (Wallace Ford). Dot gets mixed up with a gangster-run beauty contest; Rick gets hired to help Irish cop Charlie (Guy Kibbee; the movie is airing because it's his birthday) wash police motorcycles. Charley has a secret, which is that he's going blind, but he's trying to keep working for a few more weeks until he hits the amount of service when he can get his pension. The other subplots involve the gangsters' plan to rob the Central Park Casino, and an insane zookeeper who runs amok. SO many plot lines for one hour, but Warner Bros. were quite good at making these little movies.
Friday night sees a new Friday Night Spotlight on TCM. Michael Feinstein prsents a month of roadshow musicas. Roadshow films were a sort of big deal engagement, with a full orchestral overture, usually an intermission, and exit music around the actual film, and seating was usually strictly reserved in advance. Epics such as Ben-Hur were given roadshow releases, but a lot of the films were musicals. If you like the overblown later musicals, Friday nights will be for you!
The British "Carry On" moies return on Saturday morning, but now they will be preceded by episodes fro the 1943 serial Batman, with those episodes showing up at 10:00 AM Saturdays for the next several Saturdays.
A movie that's wound up in the FXM Retro rotation in the past few months is Sierra Baron, which will be airing twice this week on FXM Retro, at 1:35 PM Saturday and 9:05 AM Sunday. Rick Jason plays Miguel Delmonte, a Spaniard whose ancestors got a large tract of land in California in the late 1700s. But now it's 1848, and California is a territory of the US, with Anglos pouring in to the territory to find their fortunes, incluing on Migeul's land. This, even though presumably the treaty is going to uphold old Spanish land titles. So the Anglos hire gunman Jack McCracken (Brian Keith) to try to drive the Delmontes off their land. Several complications arise. First is that Jack meets Delmonte's sister Felicia (Rita Gam) and falls in love with her; seond is that a group of pioneers who were attacked by Indians on th eway west wind up on the Delmonte land and ask to grow one crop so that they can harvest it for seed and then work their way further west. It's not a bad movie, but it's predictable and FXM shows it panned-and-scanned.
Saturday at 8:00 PM sees the return of The Essentials to TCM, with the start of a new season. This time, we get a new co-host for Robert Osborne: two-time Best Actress Oscar winner and former flying nun Sally Field. The first movie they're presenting is Roman Holiday. Audrey Hepburn plays Princess Ann, a young princess who doesn't like the fact that she has to do a bunch of diplomatic crap in Rome; she'd like to see the city. Her royal handlers drug her, but she still manages to escape the embassy. She's picked up by Joe (Gregory Peck), a newspaper man who's desperate for a story, and finds that the biggest story in Italy has fallen into his lap! So he and his photographer friend Irving (Eddie Albert) show Ann around the city while secretly working on the story, only to have a change of heart as Joe begins to fall in love with Ann. This even though it's a love that could never continue in real life. Hepburn is delightful, and there are a lot of lovely (if black and white) views of vintage Rome.
Finally, a couple of shorts worth mentioning. First, at 4:51 AM Monday, is The Battle of Gettysburg. Leslie Nielsen narrates this version telling the story of the pivotal Civil War battle, without using any actors, but extensively using the battlefield itself, which in its color cinematography is just as good-looking as any actor. With the end of 31 Days of Oscar, we start getting Traveltalks shorts again, with one of the first being Sacred City of the Mayan Indians at 10:23 PM Wednesday. One of the earlier FitzPatrick shorts, this one goes down to Guatemala to look at the descendants of the Mayan people, and how they live in he present day (well, the present day being 1936) and their handicrafts. It's the typical patronizing attitude of "look at those happy natives" that these shorts had, but that in itself is interesting and these vintage color shorts are always worth a watch.
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