January 6th, 2010

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From Russia, via Hollywood

Above are the exterior and interior of the Vibetsky railway station in St. Petersburg, Russia, one of the most beautiful -- and historic -- rail stations in the world. Built in the early 1900s, while the czars were still in power, its architectural majesty has inspired generations. The concept of grandeur in travel was even appropriated by neighboring Moscow when it built its beautiful subway stations in later decades.

It's a fascinating part of the world, and I consider myself fortunate to have visited both cities back in 1973, when St. Petersburg was a year away from its 50th anniversary of being known as Leningrad. (It reverted to its old name in the early 1990s, following the end of the Soviet Union.) At times an ally of the West, sometimes an adversary, Russia has been an enigma for decades. (I earlier wrote about Russia and Hollywood at http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/84481.html.)

LiveJournal has a strong presence in Russia; indeed, several members of "Carole & Co." hail either from Russia or from areas that were once part of the Soviet Union, such as Ukraine. This entry should be of special interest to them, even though it's about something they won't be able to see...a retrospective from Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. on how American films have perceived Russia over the years. It begins tonight, and will run each Wednesday in January.

The idea for this series came from the New York Post -- no, not Rupert Murdoch, but Post film critic Lou Lumenick -- and a blogger -- no, not yours truly, but Farran Smith Nehme, who blogs as the Self-Styled Siren.

(Nehme's blog, http://selfstyledsiren.blogspot.com/, is the gold standard for classic movie blogging. I'm honored to be listed among her "old acquaintances.")

Now for the schedule (all times Eastern):

Jan. 6
Part One: Twilight of the Czars
* 8 p.m. --
"The Scarlet Empress" (1934). A young innocent masters the decadent ways of Imperial Russia in order to reign as Catherine the Great. Marlene Dietrich, Sam Jaffe, Louise Dresser.

* 10 p.m. -- "Rasputin And The Empress" (1932) True story of the mad monk who plotted to rule Russia. John Barrymore, Ethel Barrymore, Lionel Barrymore (the only film all three Barrymore siblings did together).
Part Two: Red Romance
* 12:15 a.m. --
"The Red Danube" (1949). A Russian ballerina in Vienna tries to flee KGB agents and defect. Walter Pidgeon, Janet Leigh, Ethel Barrymore.
* 2:30 a.m. -- "Reds" (1981). American activist John Reed travels to Russia to witness the revolution and its aftermath. Warren Beatty (who also directed), Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson.
Jan. 13

Part Three: The Lighter Side of the Revolution
* 8 p.m. --
"Comrade X" (1940). An American warms up an icy Russian streetcar conductor. Clark Gable, Hedy Lamarr (whom Carole Lombard trusted by this time after showing little interest in Gable while making "Boom Town" earlier that year), Eve Arden. Directed by King Vidor.
* 10 p.m. --"Ninotchka" (1939). A coldhearted Soviet agent is warmed up by a trip to Paris and a night of love. Thanks to the Lubitsch touch, Garbo laughs! Also starring Melvyn Douglas, Ina Claire.
Part Four: The Left on Campus
* midnight --
"The Way We Were" (1973). A fiery liberal fights to make her marriage to a successful writer work. Barbra Streisand, Robert Redford, James Woods. Directed by Sydney Pollack.
* 2:15 a.m. -- "Spring Madness" (1938). A Harvard man romances a coed from a nearby college. Maureen O'Sullivan, Lew Ayres, Ruth Hussey.
* 3:30 a.m. -- "The Strawberry Statement" (1970). A college student joins a group of revolutionaries to meet girls but ends up committed to their goals. Bruce Davison, Kim Darby, Bud Cort.
Jan. 20
Part Five: Our Red Army Pals
* 8 p.m. --
"The North Star" (1943). Ukrainian villagers unite to fight off invading Nazis. Anne Baxter, Dana Andrews, Walter Huston. Directed by Lewis Milestone, who 13 years before had directed the anti-war "All Quiet On The Western Front."
* 10 p.m. -- "Mission To Moscow" (1943). True story of U.S. Ambassador Joseph E. Davies' attempts to forge a wartime alliance with the Soviet Union. Walter Huston, Ann Harding, Eleanor Parker. Directed by Michael Curtiz. (If you're in New York, you can catch this ahead of schedule, as it will be shown at 7 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Rose Theater at the Brooklyn Academy of Music -- to be followed by a panel discussion featuring Lumenick and the Siren.)

Part Six: Diplomatic Immunity
* 12:15 a.m. --
"The Kremlin Letter" (1970) .A team of spies tries to recover a CIA letter that could trigger an international incident. Richard Boone, Bibi Andersson, Patrick O'Neal. Directed by John Huston.
* 2:15 a.m. -- "Conspirator" (1949). A newlywed suspects her husband of being a Communist spy. Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Harold Warrender.
* 4 a.m. --"Counter-Attack" (1945). Two Russians fight to escape the seven Nazi soldiers trapped with them in a bombed building. Paul Muni, Marguerite Chapman, Larry Parks.
Jan. 27
Part Seven: Spies Among Us
* 8 p.m. --
"My Son John" (1952). A woman suspects her son is a Communist spy. Helen Hayes, Robert Walker (who died during production), Van Heflin. Directed by Leo McCarey (yep, the same guy who did "Duck Soup" and "The Awful Truth")..

* 10:15 p.m. -- "I Was a Communist For the FBI" (1951). When an FBI agent goes undercover in the Communist Party, his wife and friends question his patriotism. This was also a popular radio series. Frank Lovejoy, Dorothy Hart, Philip Carey.
Part Eight: The Height of the Cold War
* midnight --
"The Manchurian Candidate" (1962). A Korean War hero doesn't realize he's been programmed to kill by the enemy. The original version of this brainwashing saga. Laurence Harvey, Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury. Directed by John Frankenheimer.
* 2:15 a.m. -- "The Bedford Incident: (1965). An American destroyer, with a journalist on board, pursues a Russian submarine during the Cold War. Sidney Poitier, Richard Widmark, Donald Sutherland.
And as a bonus, two more Russian-related films to end the proceedings:
* 4:15 a.m. -- "Scarlet Dawn" (1932). A Russian nobleman and his fiancee elope to live as peasants in Turkey. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Nancy Carroll, Earle Foxe.
* 5:15 a.m. -- "The Doughgirls" (1944). Honeymooners in Washington get caught up in wartime crowding, with disastrous results. Alexis Smith, Jane Wyman, Eve Arden (she plays a Russian soldier stationed in D.C.).
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