Ford, Cooper, Wayne, Monroe

A roundup of new releases, essentials, alternates and hidden gems.

Glenn Ford: A Life. Ford was always a welcome, understated and compelling presence in films, but a criminally neglected one when it came to awards. He was in great noirs (Gilda, The Big Heat), westerns (3:10 to Yuma) and dramas (The Blackboard Jungle), and is finally given well-deserved and more importantly accurate coverage in a book written by Peter Ford, his son with dancer extraordinaire Eleanor Powell. Peter distilled hundreds of hours of tapes, reams of correspondence, and thousands of pages of diaries Glenn kept from 1934 into the 80s, to produce this volume of recollections and  revelations. Peter relates the difficulties of being a celebrity child, sets the record straight about Glenn’s background, relationships and military service, and shares some choice nuggets, such as Glenn being the fastest gun in Hollywood. Glenn Ford was one of the greats, and merits not only having his story told, but having it told so well.

Two new Marilyn Monroe Blu-ray releases mark her best (though very different) performances and milestones in her life. If any movie deserves the labels “masterpiece” and “essential,” it’sSome Like it Hot one of the greatest comedies ever made. Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon witness a gangland massacre and hide out in drag with a women’s band which includes Marilyn Monroe. That director Billy Wilder put up with a lot of behind the scenes drama is legendary; the final product is flawless.

While Marilyn did Some Like It Hot, her husband Arthur Miller was in the middle of writing the screenplay for The Misfits, also out this week. When Miller started adapting the story about cowboys rounding up wild mustangs, he and Marilyn were recently and happily married, but their relationship came apart by the time shooting began. Miller’s inclusion of highly personal detail and autobiographical scenes embarrassed Marilyn, but made The Misfits raw, sometimes painful to watch, but riveting. It was career-defining work by Marilyn, arguably the best role for her idol Clark Gable (it was to be the final finished film for both), and powerful work by Montgomery Clift, Thelma Ritter and Eli Wallach.

The Horse Soldiers on Blu-ray. Doctor-hating Cavalry Colonel John Wayne leads a Union raid into Confederate territory on a mission to disrupt a supply line, while clashing with philosophical war-weary surgeon Major William Holden. John Ford directed from a book written by a professor and optioned for a dollar; the story’s based on a true event, but filled out with the addition of a fictional Confederate sympathizer played by Constance Towers, and a memorable episode lifted from another real event where baby-faced cadets face the Union troops. A good western with many of Ford’s regular stock players, stunning scenery, creative battle scenes and a gripping rivalry between the leading men.

RIP Jackie Cooper

One of Hollywood’s biggest child stars, Cooper built on his early success, working in different roles in the entertainment industry. From starting as a tot in silent films, to making over a dozen Our Gang comedies, Cooper was nominated for an Oscar at age 8 for Skippy, and teamed up four times with Wallace Beery. The best known of their movies was The Champ, where Cooper was the teary, faithful son to Beery’s defeated boxer. Cooper was a captain in the U.S. Navy in WW2 and a Lt. Commander in the Naval Reserve in the 60’s, a TV executive for Columbia who put together series like Bewitched, Days of Our Lives and I Dream of Jeannie, and also directed lots of TV shows, winning two Emmys. To a new generation he was known as Daily Planet editor and Clark’s boss Perry White in four Superman movies with Christopher Reeve. Read more obits from Hollywood Reporter,  Guardian UK,  and LA Times and watch TCM’s May 13 9-film tribute to Cooper.

this article originally appeared at Landmark Report — LINK