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  • Writer's pictureCarrie Specht

Winona Ryder to Co-Host a Night on TCM

Winona Ryder, the distinguished star of such films as The Age of Innocence and Little Women, has a secret passion; she adores old movies. She first discovered her lifelong love when her mother would occasionally keep her home from school whenever a particularly special film was airing on television. This was perhaps a questionable parenting practice, but had her mother not exposed her to the joys of classic cinema, Ryder may not have turned to acting as a profession. Personally, I think her mom made the right choice. And now, Ryder gets the opportunity to share her thoughts on a few of her favorites with TCM host, Robert Osborne as she presents her hand selected line up for Wednesday, December 21.

After reviewing her choices I think I may have discovered a long lost sister. With the exception of the first film, The Front, which I have yet to see, the others are on my own personal favorite list and I highly encourage everyone to take this opportunity and see them within the bookends of an Osborne/Ryder introduction and postscript. I plan on watching myself, but have already set the Tivo for The Front just in case something unforeseen occurs. It is a film that TCM airs less frequently than the other three, and I don’t want to take the chance of catching it next during the day when Osborne does not provide commentary.

In case you’re not familiar with the films, here’s a little breakdown of what you have to look forward to starting at 5 p.m. (PST). The Front is a bit of a dark comedy from the mid 70’s starring Woody Allen and Zero Mostel (both comic geniuses). Set during the House Un-American Committee enquiries, Allen (in a rare turn in a film not directed by him) is a bookie who puts his name on scripts for blacklisted writers. The film strikes Ryder as a cautionary tale, showing what can, “potentially happen in certain political climates.”

Ball of Fire is up next at 7 p.m. (PST). This 1941 comedy is one of Ryder’s absolute favorites, and for good reason. It stars Gary Cooper in a rare comedic role and Barbara Stanwyck, whom Ryder says, “could do anything and was tremendously sexy.” A very astute observation, one with which I doubt any film aficionado would disagree. As a nightclub singer, Stanwyck beguiles the sheltered language professor played by Cooper. Particularly charming are the seven older professors with whom Cooper resides. Played by the most recognizable character actors of the day, they lead a stellar supporting cast that includes Dana Andrews, Dan Duryea and Allen Jenkins. If you watch a lot of classic movies you know that these names always insure a good performance. Ball of Fire is a good selection indeed.

And the list just gets better and better! At 9 p.m. (PST) Osborne and Ryder will introduce Born Yesterday. It was for this film that Judy Holliday received the Academy Award in 1950 as Best Actress (beating out Bette Davis in All About Eve and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd.). In George Cukor’s adaptation of the Broadway play Holliday portrays a ditzy blonde who learns from a bespectacled William Holden that knowledge is power. Ryder praises Holliday’s performance as, “complete uniqueness” in this wonderful comedy and her statement couldn’t be more true. This is Holliday at her absolute best. Here you’ll see that no one in the history of the movies personified a dumb blonde in a more charming or endearing way as this bubble-brained towhead.

Last up at 11 p.m. (PST) is the heart wrenchingly wonderful, A Face in the Crowd. Ryder describes herself as having been, “blown away” by director Elia Kazan’s dark satire. Particularly riveting is Andy Griffith’s performance as a country bumpkin who becomes a media (and then political) sensation. Ryder is impressed at how well the story demonstrates, “how power and money can corrupt.” If you’ve never seen this film before then you are likely to be left in awe of Griffith. His character here is a long cry from what the public has come to know him as on the long running Andy Griffith Show. The same can be said of co-star Walter Mathau, who gives one of his greatest dramatic performances as a newsman who doubts Griffith’s intentions from the very beginning. And Patricia Neal is simply wonderful as the woman who discovers Griffith, only to have him treat her like a dog. I think it’s too much to say that this is very likely her finest performance.

All in all this a stunning selection of some of the finest films old Hollywood has to offer. I’m very impressed with Ryder’s fine sense of taste and impressive sense of cinema. Obviously, her appreciation is reflected in her work which has always been a pleasure to see. Without a doubt, I’m sure that her films will one day eventually be deemed classics, And then someone else will have the pleasure of presenting them to a whole new audience on Turner Classic Movies.

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