The concept of "Hollywood" -- a magical movie capital -- has cast a spell over people for generations. Heck, it's even cast a spell on Hollywood itself.
Turner Classic Movies -- which wraps up its initial festival in Hollywood tomorrow -- pays homage to this on its U.S. channel Sunday night, showing a trio of self-examining movies. Two are well-known and classics in just about anyone's book; the third is from the silent era and is relatively unheralded. All are worth checking out if you haven't see them already. The schedule (all times Eastern):
8 p.m. -- "Singin' In The Rain" (1952). If this isn't the greatest movie musical ever made, it's a definite contender. And yet, it was only nominated for two Academy Awards, including Jean Hagen as best supporting actress, and was shut out. (It wasn't up for best picture, an award inexplicably won not by "High Noon" or "The Quiet Man," but "The Greatest Show On Earth.")
There are so many classic moments in "Singin' In The Rain" -- Gene Kelly's routine to the title song, Cyd Charisse's sensual dancing (a turn that propelled her into stardom), and fine performances from not only Hagen, but Debbie Reynolds and Donald O'Connor. It's a clever glimpse at the film industry during those hectic days in the late 1920s when sound caused a seismic upheaval.
10 p.m. -- "Sunset Boulevard" (1950). Gloria Swanson parodied herself in a wonderfully over-the-top portrayal of demented silent star Norma Desmond in this Billy Wilder classic. Unfortunately, Swanson is now seen as Norma Desmond, a persona she clearly was not. Seems like Gloria (someone who Carole Lombard admired and became friends with) could use some posthumous career rehabilitation a la Marion Davies and Norma Shearer.
That said, this is a splendid examination of how Hollywood had changed by mid-century, featuring a terrific performance by William Holden as screenwriter Joe Gillis. (Montgomery Clift was reportedly Wilder's first choice, but he chafed at playing in a romance opposite a woman substantially older than he; Fred MacMurray may have also been a candidate.) You'll also get to see Erich von Stroheim in a supporting role, and glimpses of Buster Keaton, Anna Q. Nilsson and other luminaries from silent days.
midnight -- "Souls For Sale" (1923). This has been on TCM's "Silent Sunday Nights" a few times before, so some of you may have seen it. For those who haven't, it's worth checking out. The director was writer Rupert Hughes, whose stories later were adapted into the Lombard films "Ladies' Man" and "No One Man" (http://community.livejournal.com/carole_and_co/293673.html).
"Souls For Sale" stars Eleanor Boardman as a young woman who winds up working in the film industry and experiences the sordid side of the business through the man she marries. There are a number of cameos here from Blanche Sweet and Nilsson, among others (including Boardman's future husband, King Vidor, whose Davies vehicle "Show People" might have fit in here as well); we even get to see von Stroheim in action directing his ultimately truncated epic "Greed."
All in all, a good trio of movies in which to view Hollywood.