Newsletter: Classic Hollywood: TCM tributes and some ‘Monkey Business’

This is Kevin Crust and I am your new tour guide as we continue to write about notable birthdays and deaths, movie and TV milestones, fun events around town and the latest in DVDs, soundtracks and books every Friday in our Classic Hollywood newsletter. You can also follow us on the Classic Hollywood Los Angeles Times Facebook page and our film staff will continue to write about historic Tinseltown.  

A ‘Conversation’ starter

Is there any doubt that Francis Ford Coppola is the greatest American filmmaker of the 1970s?


“The Godfather.” “The Conversation.” “The Godfather: Part II.” “Apocalypse Now.” Any two of those movies would put him in the running with Woody Allen, Robert Altman, Stanley Kubrick, Sidney Lumet, Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg and others as the decade’s top director. But that four-film run, not to mention the screenwriting Oscar he collected for “Patton” and the producing nomination for “American Graffiti,” puts him on another level.

“The Conversation” (1974)

Gene Hackman stars in Francis Ford Coppola's movie "The Conversation."

(L.A. Times file photo)

The TCM Classic Film Festival honors Coppola at 10:30 a.m. today with a handprint and footprint ceremony in the historic forecourt of the TCL Chinese Theatre (a.k.a. Grauman’s Chinese) in Hollywood. Coppola will sit for an interview at 2:15 p.m. in the theater. That will be followed by a screening of his 1974 psychological thriller, “The Conversation,” starring Gene Hackman.

Less frequently talked about now than Coppola’s other ’70s films, “The Conversation” did not go without acclaim. It won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the National Board of Review awarded it best picture, director and actor, and the film received Academy Award nominations for best picture (losing to “Godfather II”), original screenplay and for Walter Murch and Art Rochester’s sound.


John Singleton to talk ‘Boyz’ and more

“Boyz N the Hood” cannot be 25 years old, but it is. And filmmaker John Singleton cannot be just two years shy of 50, but he is. 

That is to say, it seems like just yesterday that Singleton’s bold debut earned him Academy Award nominations for writing and directing and grossed more than $50 million at the box office. At 23, Singleton became both the youngest person ever nominated for a directing Oscar and the first African American. Starring baby-faced Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube, the film chronicles the life of an Inglewood youth who goes to live in the Crenshaw district with his father (Laurence Fishburne) and must navigate the gang life raging around him.

John Singleton

Director John Singleton appears at TCM Classic Film Festival.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In the interim, Singleton directed films including “Shaft” (2000), “2 Fast 2 Furious” (2003) and “Four Brothers” (2005). More recently, he has been behind the camera for episodes of TV’s “Empire” and “American Crime Story.” He also has two series of his own in the offing, “Rebel” on BET and “Snowfall” on FX.

Singleton joins film scholar Donald Bogle at 6 p.m. tonight at the TCL Chinese 6 for a conversation before a screening of “Boyz N the Hood.”

Let the tributes begin

Finally, at the TCM Festival, our attention turns to tributes. Attention must be paid, as it were, and the lineup is an eclectic one with some potentially fascinating subjects taking the stage for extended conversations.


“An Afternoon With Carl Reiner” is exactly what it sounds like. Spend the day with the longtime funnyman beginning with a screening of his 1982 noir parody “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid,” starring Steve Martin, at 12 p.m. Saturday at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Afterward, Reiner will share stories from his career in show business. At 2:15 p.m., the tireless 94-year-old writer-director-actor will sign books in the theater lobby.

Reiner also appears in “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming,” director Norman Jewison’s 1966 Cold War satire, screening 4:15 p.m. Sunday at the Egyptian. Star Eva Marie Saint participates in a pre-show conversation.

Later on Saturday is a conversation that could get really interesting. The always provocative Alec Baldwin will interview Elliott Gould about his 50-year career at 4 p.m. at Club TCM at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel.

Gould will make two more appearances at the festival with conversations accompanying films he made with Robert Altman. He will appear before the screening of “The Long Goodbye” (1973) on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. at the Egyptian Theatre.

On Sunday, Gould will follow the 9:15 a.m. screening of “MASH” (1970) at the TCL Chinese Theatre with another conversation. Gould stars as “Trapper John” McIntyre opposite Donald Sutherland’s “Hawkeye” Pierce in the dark comedy set during the Korean War.

Gina Lollobrigida, the Italian actress and artist who once interviewed Fidel Castro, appears at the festival in support of two films. “Trapeze” with Tony Curtis screens at 2:30 p.m. today and “Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell” plays at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the TCL Chinese Theatre. Lollobrigida will also be interviewed at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at Club TCM.

On Sunday at 3 p.m., Faye Dunaway will tape “Live From the TCM Classic Film Festival” at the Montalban Theatre. It is a passholder-only event but will be shown later on TCM. Dunaway will also appear before the 8 p.m. Sunday screening of “Network” (1976) at the Egyptian.


Faye Dunaway, left, in the 1976 movie "Network,"directed by Sidney Lumet.

(United Artists Corp.)

‘Monkey Business’ turns 85

The Marx Brothers were born in New York City, and they really were brothers. They took their comedy act from vaudeville to Broadway with their stage success corresponding with the introduction of “talking” motion pictures. Their frenetic style was a perfect fit for the evolving medium, and they quickly became Hollywood stars.

By 1931, Paramount released their third feature, “Monkey Business,” and Times critic John L. Scott was an unabashed fan in a review published Sept. 21 of that year: 

“Mad moments with the Marx Brothers — insane chatter, outlandish situations on a large steamship, at a swanky party, and in a barn — these make up ‘Monkey Business,’ the new Paramount picture unreeling at the United Artists Theater to practically continuous laughter.

“Directed by Norman McLeod, a man who knows his comedy, and featuring Groucho, the talker; Harpo, the pantomimist; Chico, the hungry one; and Zeppo, the straight man, ‘Monkey Business’ is the funniest and the craziest effort to reach a screen in many a day.” 

An 85th anniversary celebration of “Monkey Business” will take place this weekend at the Old Town Music Hall, 140 Richmond St., El Segundo. Times: 8:15 p.m. today, 2:30 and 8:15 p.m. Saturday. Info: (310) 322-2592.