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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Rocker Chris Isaak to Guest Host on TCM

TCM is forever coming up with some of the coolest guests for their monthly Guest Programmer series, and this June’s segment is no exception. The suave and oh-so-cool rocker, Chris Isaak will be sitting down with on air host Robert Osborne Wednesday, June 15th to present four of his favorite classic films. Known for his rock-a-billy persona, it’s only appropriate that the films the popular crooner has selected are all from the 1950s. And they include a couple of my all time favorites.

Starting at 5PM (PST) the first film up is “The Night of the Hunter” with Robert Mitchum. Actor Charles Laughton directs (for the first and only time) this film about a fiendish preacher who suspects a couple of kids of hiding some money their deceased father stole. Mitchum is particularly creepy as he terrorizes the two children who turn to an elderly woman (Lillian Gish) for protection. This is an exceptionally well executed film presented in a minimalist manner to great effect, truly a not to be missed film.

“God’s Little Acre” follows at 7PM (PST), and then Elia Kazan’s “A Face in the Crowd” airs at 9:15PM (PST). I have a great fondness for this film for many reasons, but mostly due to the bravado, first time performance of Andy Griffith. Griffith portrays a character like you’ve never seen Griffith play. He’s a drunken drifter who becomes a nationwide sensation as a folk hero when radio producer Patricia Neal discovers his talent. Walter Matthau is the reporter who follows his meteoric rise and spectacular fall. Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil” finishes out the night.

I had the opportunity to speak briefly with Isaak this past April in a manner I will never forget. One of the biggest surprises for me at the resent TCM Classic Film Festival was discovering Isaak on the opening night Red Carpet. I think I knew he was there to introduce the poolside screening of Elvis Presley’s “Girl Happy”, but it had just slipped my mind, and suddenly there he was. This beautiful, gorgeous man, the rocker who sang one of the hottest songs from my college days (Wicked Game) was right in front of me looking like he hadn’t aged a bit during the past 20 years. And he was talking to me about his love of classic films.

The very first question I had for the very dapper looking Isaak was if his presence at the festival signaled a transition from being a classic rocker to becoming a classic film star and he answered in his well-known self-effacing manner, “I might be, I might be old time, but (laugh) I’m trying to be up to date but I’m pretty old time any way.” When I followed up the question by complementing him on his signature classic looks Isaak did a quick double take over his left shoulder and excused his distractedness with this explanation, “You know, I’m just excited because I’m getting to go out and I’m standing close to Haley Mills. For everybody that’s neat, but particularly for me it’s special because the court order usually keeps me a hundred yards away from her. So tonight is a special night for me.”

After my laughter died down I had to let Isaak go so he could finish the red carpet and get over to the Roosevelt Hotel where he would be co-hosting the poolside event with Mary Ann Mobley and Priscilla Presley. But not before I did some speculating about some upcoming collaboration he might be having with TCM. He neither denied or confirmed, but rather swayed his head in a half nod and offered up a light laugh with that famous charming smile. That was at the end of April, and sure enough my suspicions have come true. I like it when that happens.

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