Universal has released a 60th anniversary 4K UHD Blu-ray edition of To Kill a Mockingbird, Robert Mulligan’s film of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
Nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actress (Mary Badham), Black-and-White Cinematography, and Score, it won three for Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Adapted Screenplay (Horton Foote), and Black-and-White Art Direction.
Peck plays Atticus Finch, a small-town lawyer in the Deep South, who defends a black man (Brock Peters) falsely accused of raping a white woman (Collin Wilcox). The story is told through the eyes of his children played by 9-year-old Badham and 13-year-old Phillip Alford.
The film is narrated by Kim Stanley as the adult version of the girl based on author Lee. The children’s childhood friend, based on Lee’s friend Truman Capote, is played by John Megna, the younger brother of actress Connie Stevens.
Robert Duvall, in his film debut, delivers a stunning performance as the children’s mysterious neighbor and ultimately their savior. Exactly twenty years later, he would win an Oscar for Tender Mercies for which Horton Foote would win his second for his original screenplay.
Alford would have another iconic childhood role as James Stewart’s kidnapped son in 1965’s Shenandoah, though neither he nor Badham would have long film careers. Badham’s older brother John is a working director whose films include Saturday Night Fever and WarGames.
The release is loaded with extras, most of them focusing on Peck’s life and career.
Also receiving new 4K UHD releases are Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Fright Night, and In Bruges. Releasing within the next two weeks are Tropic Thunder, Dressed to Kill, and The Usual Suspects with many more coming soon.
Criterion has released a Blu-ray of Frank Capra’s Arsenic and Old Lace with an informative full-length feature commentary by Charles Dennis, author of There’s a Body in the Window Seat: The History of Arsenic and Old Lace.
The film had an interesting history. Unofficially based on the real-life murders of old men by an old lady in Connecticut, the January 1941 Broadway play, written as a comedy, was about two old ladies who murder old men in their Brooklyn home. Josephine Hull and Jean Adair played the old ladies with Boris Karloff and John Alexander as their nutty nephews and accomplices and Allan Joslyn as their sane nephew.
The Warner Bros. film was made in 1941 with the stipulation that it could not be released until the play finished its run. It was expected to last through 1942, but it kept running until mid-1944.
Hull, Adair, and Alexander were allowed to reprise their roles on screen, but Karloff was contractually bound to stay with the stage version. Raymond Massey replaced him in the film. With Cary Grant cast in the Joslyn role and Priscilla Lane cast as his young bride, the emphasis in the film was on them instead of the sisters. Patricia Collinge and Minnie Dupree took over for the sisters on Broadway. The film was finally released in September 1944.
Although Grant’s performance has many admirers, Grant himself, who was forced to play the part broadly by Capra, considered it one of his worst.
Imprint has released a Blu-ray of Rouben Mamoulian’s 1939 film of Clifford Odets’ 1937 Broadway play, Golden Boy, the film debut of William Holden in the title role of the violinist who becomes a boxer. Barbara Stanwyck and Adolphe Menjou had top billing as the femme fatale and the boxing promotor played by Frances Farmer and Roman Bohnen on Broadway with Luther Adler in the Holden role.
Although John Garfield was brought to Hollywood on the strength of his performance in the play, he did not play the title role. He was the cabbie brother-in-law of the title character played in the film by Sam Levene. Lee J. Cobb, who played a friend of the father in the play, was promoted to the role of the father played on stage by Morris Carnovsky. Joseph Calleia was brought in to play the crooked fight promotor played on stage by Elia Kazan.
The still absorbing film made a star of Holden, whose second film was the equally successful Our Town, although it would be another ten years before the actor became a major player in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard.
Fight films had been a film staple since the silent days and may well be the oldest film genre. Talking films focusing on the sport of boxing have been popular from the outset and have outlasted the popularity of the sport itself.
Major films about the sport have included 1931’s The Champ, 1941’s Here Comes Mr. Jordan, 1949’s Champion and The Set-Up, 1956’s The Harder They Fall, 1962’s Requiem for a Heavyweight, 1970’s The Great White Hope, 1976’s Rocky, 1980’s Raging Bull, and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby, all of which are available on home video.
Kino has released Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema X (Flesh and Fury/The Square Jungle/World in My Corner on Blu-ray, three films about boxing made at the height of the popularity of the sport on television in the 1950s. The first two films star Tony Curtis, and the third stars Audie Murphy in his follow-up to his highly successful autobiographical To Hell and Back.
Also new from Kino Lorber is Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema IX (Lady on a Train/Tangier/Take One False Step. The first is Deanna Durbin’s only noir, the second is Maria Montez’s next to last film for Universal, and the third is one the last films made by William Powell and one of the last made by Marsha Hunt before her blacklisting by HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee).
Coming next week: a very special announcement.