Sunday, August 10, 2008

On TCM: Monday with Richard Widmark

He never won an Oscar, but Turner Classic Movies is giving the late actor his own day tomorrow as its "Summer Under the Stars" series continues this month. You can get an early start at 2:30am, when TCM winds down its "Doris Day" with one of his few comedies, 1960's The Tunnel of Love. Then rise and shine at 6am with the Vikings and Moors epic The Long Ships (1964)--a false start, as it was the least of his pictures with co-star Sidney Poitier, and a credit he disliked. "Don't do me any favors," I can hear him snarling, through clenched teeth.

But things pick up at 8:30am, with one of his best grinning bastard roles, opposite the aged-in-wood Robert Taylor in 1958's The Law and Jake Wade. 1955's The Cobweb, a glossy asylum melodrama co-starring Lauren Bacall and directed by Vincente Minnelli, follows at 10am. Worth recording is 1956's Run for the Sun, a Most Dangerous Game remake with he and future Against All Odds co-star Jane Greer pursued by Trevor Howard in the Mexican jungle. It's the 4:30pm movie. 1978's Coma, which closes out the day at 4am, takes the grinning bastard out of the Old West and plunks him down in a modern hospital, a little smoother and more civilized this time.

The highlight is Sam Fuller's Pickup on South Street, at 8pm. His pickpocketing pas de deux with Jean Peters in a New York subway is one of the great erotically charged moments in strait-laced Fifties cinema. And he and Oscar nominee Thelma Ritter are equally combustible together. I love this exchange, as her stoolpigeon gives him grief for consorting with Red spies who are after microfilm in his possession:

Ritter: What's the matter with you? Playing footsie with the Commies!
Widmark: You waving the flag, too?
Ritter: Listen, I knew you since you was a little kid. You was always a regular kind of crook. I never figured you for a louse.
Widmark: Stop, you're breaking my heart.
Ritter: Even in our crummy line of business you gotta draw the line somewhere.

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