Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is given the Ken Russell treatment in The Music Lovers, which means that there is plenty of music, plenty of passion, plenty of debauchery, and plenty of excess. Tame by Russell’s later standards (Lisztomania), The Music Lovers nevertheless thrives on creative and sexual anguish. Richard Chamberlain plays Tchaikovsky with a bug-eyed intensity as a composer consumed by his art – so consumed that his romantic attachments become bisexual and irrational. He falls in love with Nina (Glenda Jackson), the hysterical trollop he marries with dire consequences. As he explodes emotionally, his public performance of Piano Concerto in B flat minor becomes a cue for flashbacks to a series of discomforting childhood events that suggest incestuous relations with his sister. Back in real time, Tchaikovsky has to deal with Nina’s outbursts while juggling his homosexual urges and his almost hidden desire for Count Anton Chiluvsky (Christopher Gable). The film also details the curious relationship between Tchaikovsky and his rich patroness, the middle-aged widow Madame Nadedja von Meck (Isabella Telezynska), who loves Tchaikovsky deeply, but refuses to meet him – their only communication being through letters, even though he lives on her estate. Andre Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra perform Tchaikovsky’s music.
Richard III (1955) Laurence Olivier, Cedric Hardwicke, Nicholas Hannen, Biography, Drama, History, War
Richard’s military skills have helped to put his older brother Edward on the throne of England. But jealousy and resentment cause Richard to seek the crown for himself, and he conceives a lengthy and carefully calculated plan using deception, manipulation, and outright murder to achieve his goal. His plotting soon has tumultuous consequences, both for himself and for England.
The story of the rise and fall of the infamous Chicago gangster Al Capone and the control he exhibited over the city during the prohibition years. Unusually, briefly covering the years after Capone was imprisoned.
Compulsion (1959) Richard Fleischer, Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell, Diane Varsi, Biography, Crime, Drama
In 1924 Chicago, two rich college students, Judd Steiner and Arthur Strauss, decide they can commit the perfect murder and get away with. They kill a young teenager, Paulie Kessler, but through the efforts of part-time reporter and fellow student Sid Brooks, a pair of glasses left at the scene is traced to the murderers. For their trial, the families hire renowned defense attorney Jonathan Wilk known for his passionate arguments against the death penalty. Both men confessed to the crime but Wilk pleads them not guilty. At the trial, they change the plea to guilty and Wilk argues passionately in favor of a life sentence rather than execution.
Tony Bennett: The Music Never Ends (1985) Bruce Ricker, Tony Bennett, Anthony Hopkins, Christina Aguilera, Documentary, Biography, Music
The Eternal Sea (1955) John H. Auer, Sterling Hayden, Alexis Smith, Ben Cooper, Biography, Drama, War
RKO 281: The Battle Over Citizen Kane (1999) Benjamin Ross, Liev Schreiber, James Cromwell, Melanie Griffith, Biography, Drama
Coming to Hollywood as a celebrated boy genius featuring a spectacular career arc in New York including his radio hoax War of the Worlds, Orson Welles is stymied on the subject for his first film. After a dinner party at Hearst Castle, during which he has a verbal altercation with William Randolph Hearst, Welles decides to do a movie about Hearst. It takes him some time to convince co-writer Herman J. Mankiewicz and the studio, but Welles eventually gets the script and the green light, keeping the subject very hush-hush with the press. The movie is about an aging newspaper publisher who controlled his enemies as ruthlessly as he controlled his friends; and whose mistress was destined for fame. When a rough cut is screened, Hearst gets wind of the movie’s theme and begins a campaign to see that it is not only never publicly screened, but destroyed.
Music for the Movies: Bernard Herrmann (1992) Joshua Waletzky, Philip Bosco, Elmer Bernstein, Claudine Bouché, Documentary, Biography, Music
Topsy-Turvy (1999) Mike Leigh, Jim Broadbent, Allan Corduner, Dexter Fletcher, Biography, Comedy, Drama, Musical
After their production “Princess Ida” meets with less-than-stunning reviews, the relationship between Gilbert and Sullivan is strained to breaking. Their friends and associates attempt to get the two to work together again, which opens the way to “The Mikado,” one of the duo’s greatest successes.
Nell Gwyn (1926) Herbert Wilcox, Dorothy Gish, Randle Ayrton, Juliette Compton, Biography, Drama, Romance
While Lillian Gish achieved stardom with her dramatic emoting, her sister Dorothy made a name for herself as a saucy comedienne. Nell Gwyn was one of several felicitous collaborations between Dorothy Gish and British producer-director Herbert Wilcox. The star is of course cast as the title character, the infamous 17th-century orange vendor who became a star on the London stage – and the mistress of “merry monarch” King Charles III (Randle Ayrton). Though her fortunes take a downswing towards the end of her life, Nell remains ever faithful to her beloved Charles. Nell Gwyn was based on a novel by Marjorie Bowen, which was also the source for the 1934 remake, which starred Herbert Wilcox’s talented protégé (and later wife) Anna Neagle.