Spotlight: Anne Baxter

Spotlight: Anne BaxterAnne Baxter was born in Michigan City, Indiana, on May 7, 1923. She was the daughter of a salesman and granddaughter of world-renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

By the time she was 13, she had already appeared on stage in New York to rave reviews. In 1937, Anne went to Hollywood to have a go at the film industry, but she was thought to be too young for film. She returned to the New York and continued to act on Broadway and in summer stock. Anne returned to California two years later to try again.

This time she was given a screen test at 20th Century-Fox and she was signed to a seven-year contract. As often happened during the “studio years” in Hollywood, Anne was loaned out to MGM before she would make a movie with Fox. At home in a variety of parts, she won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1946 for her work in The Razor's Edge. She was nominated again in 1950 for performance in the title role of All About Eve, her most memorable role.

In 1960, Anne married Randolph Galt, American owner of a cattle station near Sydney, Australia. She left Hollywood in 1961 for Australia, an experience she described in her critically-acclaimed book Intermission: A True Story. Anne died of a stroke in New York. She was 62.

Other notable movies include Charley’s Aunt (1941), The Fighting Sullivans (1944), and The Ten Commandments (1956).

Spotlight: 1930s Germany

Spotlight: 1930s GermanyIf you have just finished reading In the Garden of Beasts (Erik Larson’s portrait of Germany as the Nazis rise to power and influence), you might like one of the following movie depictions of the same time and place.

Cabaret (1972) is the popular musical starring Liza Minelli as the original “good time girl” who is oblivious to the changes happening around her. Based on The Berlin Stories of Christopher Isherwood.

Three Comrades (1938) is a poignant story of the love between fragile Margaret Sullavan and Robert Taylor. Taylor’s other two comrades are Franchot Tone and Robert Young.  Young, politically active, runs into trouble with the pro-Nazi marchers in the streets.

Mephisto (1981) is a German language movie with Klaus Maria Brandauer, as an actor who sells his soul to the devil in order to keep working in Nazi-era Germany.

The Harmonists (1997) is based on the true story of a successful German singing group that was forced to disband in 1934 because three of its members were Jewish.

Spotlight: 1956

Spotlight: 1956Almost two years ago I wrote about 1939 being the most celebrated year in American film history. After seeing that Jubal did not receive any academy award nominations, I did a little research on 1956.

1956 was a most spectacular year as well. The Searchers – one of best American films of all time, Bergman's classic The Seventh Seal, Invasion of the Body Snatchers – one of the best sci-fi movies of all time, the classic Moby Dick – all came out in 1956 and none of them received an academy award nomination.

What were some of the films that did receive awards and/or nominations in 1956? Around the World in Eighty Days, Friendly Persuasion, The King and I, Giant, The Ten Commandments, Anastasia, Lust for Life, Richard III, The Rainmaker, The Bad Seed, The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Forbidden Planet.

That's quite a list. With one exception, Indian Prairie has all of these fine films in its collection.

Spotlight: Ann Sheridan

Spotlight: Ann SheridanAnn Sheridan was making movies in the days when Hollywood marketed movie stars by giving starlets names like “the Oomph Girl.” Ann Sheridan was a glamour girl, but she specialized in playing the hard-boiled type. Although she never really made the top rank of great stars, she always made the movie better because of her warmth and intelligence.

The 1940s was Sheridan’s most fertile movie-making decade when she made Angels with Dirty Faces (with Humphrey Bogart), Torrid Zone (with James Cagney and Pat O'Brien), Castle on the Hudson (with John Garfield), City for Conquest (with James Cagney), The Man Who Came to Dinner (with Monty Woolley and Bette Davis), and I was a Male War Bride (with Cary Grant). All of these and more are available at Indian Prairie.

Her work in King's Row (1942) demonstrated her acting ability and opened the door to a wider variety of parts. The film, which also features Ronald Reagan, is the story of a group young people growing up in a small American town in 1890. The social pressure, challenges and tragedies of their lives make for an emotional, albeit melodramatic movie.

Spotlight: Stieg Larsson Films

Spotlight: Stieg Larsson FilmsGet your money's worth with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. These must-see foreign movies capture the essence of Stieg Larsson’s “best of the bestselling books.” After thoroughly enjoying the Millennium Trilogy, I thoroughly enjoyed the movies. If you have read the books, the subtitles highlight the dialogue making it easier to follow. My only regret is there will not be another book/movie in this series.

Did you know? An American version of the film is in the works starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara.

Spotlight: Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope Osborne

Spotlight: Magic Tree House Series by Mary Pope OsborneIn Frog Creek, Pennsylvania, siblings Jack and Annie travel in a tree house. An enchantress from Camelot, Morgan, cast a spell on the tree house. Jack and Annie travel to places in time, space, and fantasy. They are fun books – I can’t stop reading them!

Start with Dinosaurs before Dark and The Knight at Dawn.

Visit the author's website and learn more about the series.

Spotlight: Graham Greene

Spotlight: Graham GreeneGraham Greene was one of the most important and popular English writers of the mid-twentieth century and his works are defined by that century. The Blitz (The End of the Affair - 1951), the Vietnam issues (The Quiet American - 1955), and British colonialism (The Heart of the Matter - 1948) —all these things are fading fast from living memory but are the basis for his very engaging stories. There is in his writing a lasting relevance; he reported on the human condition and drew searing insights into it. His novels are still to be enjoyed as are the movies that were produced based on many of them.

Listen to NPR's Scott Simon reflect on Greene's books, learn more about the author from the website Greeneland: the world of Graham Greene and explore the New York Times topics on Graham Greene.

Spotlight: Larry McMurtry

Spotlight: Larry McMurtryLarry McMurtry, author of 29 novels, has also written more than 30 screenplays. Predominantly set in the American Southwest, McMurtry’s works are as much about the place as about the people who live there. The TV miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989) is McMurtry's epic tale of a cattle drive full of action and unforgettable characters; the book won him the Pulitzer Prize. The story follows two longtime friends and former Texas Rangers, Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae (Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall) at the end of the 1800s. Their lives as cattle ranchers along the Rio Grande have lost the excitement of their younger lawman days so they set off on a long and difficult cattle drive to Montana.

At his best when he thoroughly removes romanticism of the American West, McMurtry's immense talent takes the myth out of the cowboy legend. His ability to create believable and lovable characters, no matter what the setting, may be the reason his movies are so successful. And McMurtry’s explanation of this phenomenon? "I can write characters that major actors want to play, and that's how movies get made."

He is perhaps best known for the film adaptations of his work, especially Hud (1963) (from the novel Horseman, Pass By), starring Paul Newman and Patricia Neal; the Peter Bogdanovich directed The Last Picture Show (1971); and James L. Brooks's Terms of Endearment (1983), which won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture (1984).

In 2006, he was co-winner (with Diana Ossana) of both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for the screenplay of Brokeback Mountain (2005).

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 3 of 3)

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 3 of 3)
Our final Graham Greene film is The Third Man. Also check out his other movies available at Indian Prairie.

The Third Man (1949)
An American writer of pulp westerns (Joseph Cotten) arrives in post-war Vienna to take a job with an old friend, but discovers he has been murdered. Or has he? This classic film noir thriller plays on national loyalties during the Cold War. Orson Welles is prefect as the manipulative Harry Lime, a black market drug dealer and Cotton does a great job as the quintessentially brash American. The underground sewer sequence is extraordinary. The film is scored with a haunting theme by Anton Karas on unaccompanied zither to an eerie effect.

Other Graham Greene films at Indian Prairie:

The Fallen Idol (1948)

This Gun for Hire (1942)

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 2 of 3)

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 2 of 3)
Thanks for joining our spotlight on Graham Greene. The second movie we're highlighting is The End of the Affair.

The End of the Affair (1999) R
During the Blitz of WWII, married Londoner Sarah Miles (Julianne Moore) unexpectedly ends her affair with writer Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes). After a chance meeting with her husband, Henry (Stephen Rea), Bendrix begins to believe Sarah is having another affair. His suspicion causes him to hire a detective (Ian Hart) to follow her, and Bendrix discovers her reasons for breaking off with him is her spiritual reawakening. Compellingly adult drama about love, faith, and moral dilemmas. This is a remake of the 1955 version produced in England with Deborah Kerr, Van Johnson, John Mills, and Peter Cushing.

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 1 of 3)

Spotlight: Graham Greene (Part 1 of 3)
Over the next week, we'll be highlighting three movies based on Graham Greene novels, plus present a selection of his other movies available at the library. First up is The Quiet American.

The Quiet American (2002) R
Set amidst the communist insurgence of Ho Chi Minh into French-held Indochina, this film is an examination of America's role in the Vietnam conflict, and how it was perceived by the rest of the world. Michael Caine plays the role of a lifetime as the English journalist Thomas Fowler. He is an aging and cynical correspondent based in 1950s Saigon obsessed with his beautiful young Vietnamese mistress Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen). When she also becomes a romantic object for brash American Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser), Fowler becomes both suspicious and jealous of this do-gooder on a medical mission.

Check back on Tuesday for our next Graham Greene movie!

Spotlight: Katherine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy

Spotlight: Katherine Hepburn & Spencer TracyThe chemistry between Hepburn and Tracy delights viewers, old and new. Blue collar and blue blood ignite the screen still. These three movies stand alone and stand above the gold bar.

Adam’s Rib (1949) is courtroom comedy. It established their reputation as the wittiest, most brilliant couple on screen. It is even better in the light of some modern day duds.

Pat and Mike (1952) continues to illustrate this team in a totally different setting, on the links and off the links. They continue to complement each other like bread and butter.

Desk Set (1957) is the final movie. In their ongoing battle of the sexes, I’m happy to say, everybody wins.  I think these movies represent the best of the “oldies.”  Enjoy, my friends.

Spotlight: 1939

Spotlight: 19391939 – the most celebrated year in American film history – produced more outstanding films than any other 12-month period. It was impossible for the Academy to nominate or honor all the rich, outstanding films of the year.

Some of the movies that came out that year: Gone With the Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Wuthering Heights, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Wizard of Oz, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Stagecoach, Destry Rides Again, Dark Victory, Ninotchka, Beau Geste, Gunga Din, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Of Mice and Men and many others.

Quite a list, isn’t it?

TCM commemorates the 70th anniversary of Hollywood's greatest year with "39 examples of the great filmmaking that abounded in this golden era." Visit their website for more on 39 movies from 1939.

Spotlight: Horton Foote

Spotlight: Horton FooteHorton Foote is an Academy Award, Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award-winning (and Tony Award-nominated) American author and playwright. Perhaps his best known work is his screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird. Here are two of his other movies that you may enjoy:

Tender Mercies (1982) PG

Mac Sledge is a down-and-out country singer with his own demons. His ex-wife, Dixie, is now making popular the songs that Mac had written and sung. When he befriends a young widow and her son, the friendship provides the support he needs to find happiness and enables him to find the inspiration to resume his career.

A Trip to Bountiful (1985) PG
Set in 1947 Houston, A Trip to Bountiful is a quiet leisurely paced story that's more character than plot driven. It revolves around Carrie Watt's escape from the three-room Houston apartment she shares with her son Ludie and daughter-in-law Jessie Mae to revisit Bountiful, the small Texas town of her youth, which she still refers to as "home.” After several near-misses, Mrs. Watts makes a successful escape and her last trip home.

Spotlight: Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine

Spotlight: Ruth Rendell and Barbara VineRuth Rendell, who also writes under the name Barbara Vine, is an English bestselling mystery and psychological crime writer. Her Ruth Rendell novels are about police detective Chief Inspector Wexford, guardian of fictional south of England town, Kingsmarkham or about individual psychological suspense thrillers, with no detective and no recurring characters. She specializes in examining the inner darkness of her characters, whether they are ordinary or alarmingly aberrant. Try Murder Being Once Done, a Chief Inspector Wexford title, for a taste of this fine series.

Writing as Barbara Vine, she crafts psychological crime novels (such as A Dark Adapted Eye) which explore the minds of people who commit murder, often through obsession or social inadequacy. The Vine books maintain the theme of relationships between families by delving back into the past, which set them apart from the Rendell work.

Under either name, her novels are complex in character development and precise in sense of place. Always suspenseful and viscerally compelling, I highly recommend them.

Check back next month to read Sally’s review of The Minotaur by Barbara Vine.