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TCM Presents the Art History Underworld

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For Turner Classic Movies’ programming in the first half of March see my earlier blog. 

This March, Turner Classic Movies is featuring films about art and artists, airing Mondays at primetime.  The festival showcases 18 films on themes ranging from conventional biopics to stylish horror-thrillers, all with one thing in common: awesome art!  I’ll be tuning for a few of my old favorites, and some newfound gems I can’t wait to watch.  Join me for my top ten picks, and leave a comment with your ratings.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Creepy Art and Artists: March 21

1. The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)

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Barbara Stanwyck isn’t too pleased with her husband’s portrait of her in The Two Mrs. Carrolls.

In this slick, Hitchcockian melodrama, Barbara Stanwyck plays a young woman who falls in love with and weds a widower artist, played by Humphrey Bogart.  Only problem is, he has an unfortunate habit of painting his wives as the Angel of Death, and his wives have the unfortunate habit of dying under mysterious circumstances afterward.  Studio artist John Decker created original paintings for the movie, recalling female surrealists like Frida Kahlo and Dorothea Tanning with their signature mix of sensuality and brutality.

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The Broken Column by Frida Kahlo in the Dolores Olmedo Museum (left), portrait for The Two Mrs. Carrolls by John Decker (center), and Deirdre by Dorothea Tanning (right).

2. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

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Portrait of Hurd Hatfield as the prettyboy Dorian by Henrique Martin, from The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Based on Oscar Wilde’s famous morality play of a youth who sells his soul to have a portrait age while he remains eternally young, The Picture of Dorian Gray is a first-rate horror-drama.  Though filmed predominantly in beautifully atmospheric black and white, the movie features two blazing color scenes; one of the unspoiled Dorian painted by Henrique Martin, and one of the twisted inner-soul of Dorian by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright.  A very young Angela Lansbury in an Oscar-nominated performance is another selling point.

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The Picture of Dorian Gray, turned grotesque by a lifetime of sin, by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, in the Art Institute of Chicago.

Fakes and Forgers: March 28

3. Scarlet Street (1945)

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Joan Bennett, femme fatale with an artistic twist, in Scarlet Street.

Scarlet Street is a gritty, disturbing film-noir by German Expressionist director Fritz Lang.  Original gangsta’ Edward G. Robinson (himself an avid art collector) plays a hobby painter infatuated with a sultry con artist, played by Joan Bennett.  She passes off his amateur paintings as her own work, and sells them behind his back to wealthy collectors convinced she is a primitive-surrealist prodigy.  The critics are wowed by her “masculine” touch, an amusingly sexist analysis, considering the paintings used in the movie closely resemble those of contemporary female surrealists.  Frida Kahlo comes to mind again, as well as California-born artist Rosa Rolanda.  The paintings were done by John Decker who also did The Two Mrs. Carrolls.

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“Self-Portrait” of Joan Bennett from Scarlet Street (left), and Autorretrato (self portrait) by Rosa Rolanda, in the Blaisten Collection (right).

For a perfect Art-History-themed viewing party, or an easy way to impress a date, go to your local Safeway or gourmet grocery for Rembrandt and Van Gogh aged Gouda, two rich and robust cheeses to match a film of visual substance.

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Pair with your favorite Da Vinci wine for an evening of art-inspired enchantment.

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Go to tcm.com for full schedule and detailed showtimes, and be sure to catch our top ten picks, and the eight other wonderful movies in the program.  Happy screening, and don’t forget to log onto Sartle after each film to give us your comments. We want to know what you think of our selections!

By: Griff Stecyk

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Griff Stecyk

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