TCM Leads Up to DALLAS Premiere with Top 10 Texas Movies List
Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is celebrating this week's premiere of TNT's all-new series Dallas by unveiling a 10-gallon list of the Top 10 Texas Movies. Exemplifying the best and most distinctive aspects of the state, its culture and its history, the films chosen for TCM's Top 10 Texas Movies list range from Victor Sjöström's The Wind (1928), one of the last great silent films, to Joel & Ethan Coen's unforgettable Best Picture Oscar(R) winner, No Country for Old Men (2007). The list also includes popular classics, like Red River (1948), Giant (1956) and The Alamo (1960); powerful dramas like Written on the Wind (1956), The Last Picture Show (1971) and Lone Star (1996); and contemporary favorites like Dazed and Confused (1993) and Friday Night Lights (2004).
TCM's list of Top 10 Texas Movies comes just in time for TNT's new series Dallas, which launches Wednesday, June 13, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) with a two-hour premiere. In fact, the series has a strong connection to one of the films on TCM's list. Before the original Dallas got off the ground, CBS executives were looking for a "big" drama series for primetime. They specifically cited George Stevens' 1956 drama Giant as a model for the kind of show they wanted. Giant, with its larger-than-life story about a cattleman (Rock Hudson) and an oilman (James Dean) battling over land, features a relationship similar to the long-running rivalry between Dallas' J.R. Ewing (Larry Hagman) and Bobby Ewing (Patrick Duffy).
TCM will also celebrate TNT's premiere of Dallas tonight, June 11, with a look at the movie career of Dallas star Larry Hagman. The triple feature includes The Group (1966) at 8 p.m. (ET), Harry and Tonto (1974) at 10:45 p.m. (ET) and Ensign Pulver (1964) at 1 a.m. (ET).
TCM's Top 10 Texas Movies is the network's latest list highlighting the history of the movie industry. TCM's previous lists have included 10 Most Influential Silent Films, 10 Favorite Marilyn Monroe Moments, 10 Great Low-Budget Science Fiction Movies, 10 Great Overlooked Performances, 10 Favorite Baseball Films, 10 Great Comedy Lines and 15 Influential Soundtracks.
TCM's List of Top 10 Texas Movies
The Wind (1928) - Directed by Victor Sjöström Swedish director Victor Sjöström (credited as Victor Seastrom) perfectly captured the harshness of West Texas life in this silent classic. Although often classified as a Western, a male-driven genre, The Wind focuses on the experiences of a woman (Lillian Gish) who travels from Virginia to a cousin's farm in Texas only to be driven mad by the harsh environment. Sjöström shot in the Mojave Desert, where temperatures climbed as high as 120 degrees. The film stock had to be stored on ice to keep it from warping, and when Gish touched a metal doorknob, she scalded her hand. The winds created by eight airplane propellers were so lethal the crew had to wear goggles, long sleeves and pants in the blazing heat. Gish's character had no such protection as the winds buffeted the deserted farm house where she kills a former suitor out to rape her. Gish was a major star when she assembled the package for this film, hiring Sjöström and leading man Lars Hanson, both of whom had worked with her before on The Scarlet Letter (1926). With the coming of sound, however, her popularity was waning. MGM let the film sit on the shelf for over a year, then released it with a poorly synchronized sound effects track that undermined the effects Sjöström had achieved with silence. The film failed at the box office, but has been rediscovered over time to rank as one of her best, and one of the screen's most vivid depictions of hardscrabble living on the Texas frontier.
Red River (1948) - Directed by Howard Hawks The story of the American West is very much the story of Texas, and few of its chapters are more important than the opening up of the Chisholm Trail, which allowed Texas ranchers to drive their cattle to the railroad yards in Abilene, Kansas. Borden Chase fictionalized the opening up of the Trail in his novel Blazing Guns Along the Chisholm Trail, which became the basis of this epic Western - the first in this genre for which Howard Hawks was credited. The story's fictional focus, on the rivalry between rancher Thomas Dunson (John Wayne) and his adopted son (Montgomery Clift), gave it a mythic dimension, but the real magic came in the casting. Wayne and Clift were complete opposites off screen, where they had little time for each other. But under Hawks' guidance they turned in towering, legendary performances. In his film debut, Clift worked tirelessly to learn riding and shooting and, at the director's suggestion, underplayed the confrontations with his co-star to match the Duke's minimalist acting style. Realizing the high-quality work of his Broadway veteran co-star, Wayne put more preparation into his performance than ever before, prompting longtime director and friend John Ford to quip, "I didn't know the big son of a bitch could act." With Ford's "Cavalry Trilogy," Red River set the standard for the character-driven Westerns that would rise to prominence in the 1950s. Thanks to Russell Harlan's photography (mostly of locations in Arizona), it also presented a vivid image of Texas rising to a place as the nation's center of cattle ranching.
Giant (1956) - Directed by George Stevens George Stevens used Edna Ferber's sprawling, multi-generational saga about the Benedict family to create the ultimate depiction of the Texas oil business - long before the Ewings ruled Dallas. Clinging to his family's roots, rancher "Bick" Benedict (Rock Hudson) fights to keep his family out of the oil business, despite the success of mongrel ranch hand Jett Rink (James Dean, in his last film), who strikes it rich. When he finally joins forces with Rink, whom he hates on principle even before the man makes a play for Benedict's wife (Elizabeth Taylor), he becomes richer than ever before, even while saddled with a despicable partner. Stevens cuts through the soapy romantic story to focus on the changing face of life in Texas as oilrigs supplant cattle herds, as women like Taylor begin asking for equal rights and Mexican-Americans begin claiming their rightful place in a once-racist society. Ferber had based her story on real-life oilman Glenn McCarthy, an Irish immigrant who struck it rich and built Houston's Shamrock Hotel. The company spent two months shooting locations outside the small town of Marfa, Texas, whose inhabitants worked as extras, dialect coaches, bit players and crewmembers. With Texas born Chill Wills and Pilar Del Rey and former cowboy stars Monte Hale and Sheb Wooley in small roles, the film felt genuine. Its combination of Texas spectacle, romantic drama and social commentary made it a box office winner, becoming Warner Bros.' top-grossing film to that time and winning Stevens his second Best Directing Oscar(R).
Written on the Wind (1956) - Directed by Douglas Sirk Director Douglas Sirk crammed enough complications into this melodrama to fill 14 seasons of a prime-time soap like Dallas. The film combines alcoholism, suicide, impotence, nymphomania, murder and suggestions of incest and homosexuality into 99 minutes that move at a rapid pace, particularly whenever Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone are on screen as the decadent offspring of a powerful Texas oil dynast. The film's style, with overdesigned interiors and costumes, and scenes of illicit passion played with an almost desperate seriousness, anticipated the great TV melodramas like Dallas, Dynasty and Knot's Landing. Despite critical bromides in its day, the film did well at awards time, with Malone capturing a well-deserved supporting Oscar(R). Her Marylee Hadley goes looking for love in all the wrong places to compensate for a heart broken by the inattention of childhood sweetheart Mitch Wayne (Rock Hudson). When he falls for the new wife (Lauren Bacall) of Marylee's alcoholic, impotent and possibly gay brother Kyle Hadley (Robert Stack), Marylee's jealousy leads her to play on her brother's insecurities. It all comes to an explosive climax set against the backdrop of the oil industry and the kind of small town that seems to have been founded to provide a breeding ground for secrets and corruption. Robert Wilder's novel was rumored to have been based on the death of North Carolina tobacco heir Zachary Smith Reynolds, but the movie is pure Texas all the way in its size, glitz and the ever-present oil wells.
The Alamo (1960) - Directed by John Wayne The 13 day siege of the Alamo, a mission in San Antonio, has become the most legendary event in Texas history - a rallying cry in Texas' successful bid for independence from Mexico. To John Wayne, the battle echoed the stand the U.S. took against the Nazis in World War II and, later, the Soviets in the Cold War, and he deemed it so important that he produced, directed and starred in this film. He started working on the project in 1945, eventually signing to release the film through United Artists, though he had to guarantee cost overruns personally. It took two years to build the Alamo set from the original blueprints for the Mexican mission. The three-quarter-scale reproduction, constructed in Bracketville, Texas, would be used in more than 100 other films. Since the set was so far from any city, the crew had to put in ten miles of underground wiring for electricity and telephone, and five miles of sewer lines for modern toilets. The sets were built facing the opposite direction of the original so Wayne could shoot several scenes set at dawn at the end of the day. The crew had to endure record temperatures, infestations of snakes and scorpions and almost daily battles between Wayne and co-star Richard Widmark. But the results were spectacular. Although reviewers complained about the film's talky first half, they couldn't deny the power of Wayne's battle scenes. The film was so expensive that despite its popularity, Wayne did not get his money back until it was sold to television in 1971.
The Last Picture Show (1971) - Directed by Peter Bogdanovich Peter Bogdanovich took an elegiac look at a dying Texas town of the 1950s in the film that put him and half a dozen or more young actors on the map. Anarene has three social centers where the high school kids can hang out: a diner, a pool hall and a movie theater - all owned by Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson). With the coming of graduation and television, all seem headed for extinction. As directed by Bogdanovich, in the style of the legendary John Ford, the passage of time becomes another step in the mythologizing of Texas and the West. Bogdanovich and Larry McMurtry adapted the latter's novel (only the second of his works to reach the screen). They shot the film in McMurtry's hometown, Archer City, and at Orson Welles' urging filmed in black and white to make the locations even more desolate and barren. Bogdanovich also re-created the past by scoring the film entirely to pop music of the era, particularly the songs of Hank Williams - resulting in one of the first vintage sound tracks. The entire film throbs with the passions of its strong cast, including Cybill Shepherd, Randy Quaid and Sam Bottoms in their film debuts, the then-little known Joseph Bottoms and Jeff Bridges, as well as Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman and Ford star Johnson, whose performance revitalized his career. Oscars(R) went to Johnson and Leachman but everybody got a career boost out of this thoughtful remembrance of Texas past.
Lone Star (1996) - Directed by John Sayles John Sayles' Texas-based feature ends with the line "Forget the Alamo," which seems appropriate for a film that depicts contemporary Texas as a state moving beyond the limitations of the past, particularly in its treatment of minorities. The story starts with the discovery of a 40-year-old skeleton in the desert near the fictional border town of Frontera. When it turns out to be Charlie Wade (Kris Kristofferson), a corrupt sheriff of the past thought to have fled the region, current sheriff Sam Deeds (Chris Cooper) investigates, even as evidence points to his own father, played in flashback by Matthew McConaughey. The investigation also unearths racial tensions past and present involving a local Army base with a black commander (Joe Morton) and Sam's teen romance with Pilar (Elizabeth Pe?a), the daughter of a powerful local restaurateur - an interracial love neither family could accept. As in most of his films, Sayles uses a large ensemble cast - including regulars like Cooper, Morton, Cliff Norton (as the mayor) and Ron Canada (as an African-American bar owner) - to create converging plot lines that amplify themes. Deeds' investigation raises a series of moral quandaries as it unveils the differences between the white-ruled Texas of the past and the more diverse state of the present, with scenes that still resonate with current politics; in particular, a school board meeting in which Latino and white parents argue over which version of history should be taught seems still to be playing out today.
Friday Night Lights (2004) - Directed by Peter Berg This hard-hitting drama, based on a true story, digs beyond the conventions of sports film to examine the desperation beneath the Permian High School football team's fight to win the state championship. For the coaches, players and alumni, a championship would validate life in Odessa, TEXAS. The head coach (Billy Bob Thornton) even tells The Players, "You have the responsibility of protecting this team and this school and this town." The beauty of Peter Berg's film, however, lies in the fact that even as it depicts the shortsightedness of people for whom high shool football - the Friday night game - is everything, he still captures the thrill of victory and the integrity of the team's key players. He also fought to maintain a sense of authenticity, incorporating footage of the Permian team's 2003 season (though the story tracks the 1988 team), shooting on location at the Ratliff Stadium in Odessa and the Houston Astrodome and casting the team's real-life assistant coaches to deliver lines during some of the game scenes. He even cast Detroit Lions receiver Roy Williams, a Permian alumnus, as assistant coach to a rival team. Billy Bob Thornton excels as the head coach, while Lucas Black and Garrett Hedlund draw on their small-town roots to capture the insecurities of players dealing with too much responsibility too young. Friday Night Lights not only scored at the box office and with critics, it also inspired the acclaimed NBC series starring Kyle Chandler as the coach and Connie Britten as his wife, who had also co-starred as the coach's wife in the film.
No Country for Old Men (2007) - Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen The desolation of West Texas provides the backdrop for this tall tale about a drug deal gone bad, triggering a state-wide manhunt by Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (Tommy Lee Jones) for Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) and hired killer Anton Chigurh (Oscar(R) winner Javier Bardem). The Texas landscape was not new to Joel and Ethan Coen. They had showcased it to brilliant effect in their debut feature, Blood Simple (1984). While traveling to Austin to shoot that film, they had become fascinated with West Texas. When they were offered the chance to adapt Cormac McCarthy's novel, they immediately responded to his use of environment as a character. To them, the story hinged upon the beautiful yet unforgiving desert lands and the way they shaped the character of those living in them, or even just passing through. Ironically, Texas almost didn't make it into the film. Originally, they had planned to shoot their film entirely in New Mexico. At Texas native Jones' urging, however, they added locations in West Texas, most notably Marfa, where most of Giant had been filmed over 50 years earlier. Although the Coens have resisted calling No Country for Old Men a Western, it's hard not to draw parallels to the earlier tales of gunmen and outlaws. Jones' sheriff is the product of a long line of lawmen fighting to bring civilization to the West. All that has changed is what the law fights against, with international drug cartels replacing the rustlers and bandits of yore.
About TNT's Dallas: The one and only Dallas is back with more great drama. J.R., Bobby and Sue Ellen Ewing return to Southfork with their arsenal of secrets, schemes and betrayals. This time, they're joined by the next generation of Ewings, who take ambition and deception to a new level. The battle for power, love and Southfork erupts in the new Dallas on TNT, beginning with a two-hour series premiere Wednesday, June 13, at 9 p.m. (ET/PT). The exciting drama stars Josh Henderson as John Ross, the son of J.R. and Sue Ellen Ewing; Jesse Metcalfe as Christopher, Bobby's adopted son; Jordana Brewster as Elena Ramos, John Ross' girlfriend; Julie Gonzalo as Rebecca Sutter, Christopher's fiancee; and Brenda Strong as Bobby's wife, Ann. They are joined by the original series' iconic stars: Patrick Duffy as Bobby Ewing, Linda Gray as Sue Ellen Ewing and Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing. Shot on location in the title city, Dallas comes to TNT from Warner Horizon Television, with pilot writer Cynthia Cidre and Michael M. Robin serving as executive producers. TNT's Dallas is based upon the series created by David Jacobs.
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