BIOPICS. TCM is featuring biopics all through the month of October. Since I will not be devoting October to biopics here in this blog, I thought I'd list a handful of my favourites here and now. They may not be STRICTLY truthful (in fact, they almost NEVER are) but the typical Hollywood embellishments make the biopic one of the staples of the silver screen -- and here are some I find most enjoyable.
AMADEUS (1984) - Oscar winner for Best Picture with Tom Hulce at equal turns boorish and tormented while F. Murray Abraham seethes with envy.
BECKET (1964) - the story of Thomas a Becket (Richard Burton) who starts off as the carousing chum of King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) only to find himself facing off against him as Archbishop of Canterbury
BRAVEHEART (1995) - Mel Gibson's Oscar-winning film about Scotland's freedom fighter William Wallace knocking heads with the superbly reptilian King Edward Longshanks (Patrick MacGoohan).
CLEOPATRA (1934) - Nothing beats Claudette Colbert as Queen of the Nile with direction by Cecil B. DeMille!
ED WOOD (1994) - Tim Burton's highly fictionalized but "heart-in-the-right-place" account of the "little engine that could" film director played whimsically by Johnny Depp with Martin Landau's Oscar-winning (if inaccurate) portrayal of Bela Lugosi.
EL CID (1961) - The crusading Spanish hero portrayed by Charlton Heston (who ends up in the final reel leading his army dead and strapped upright on his horse) and his bride Sophia Loren (who refused to wear "old age make-up" and doesn't age throughout the decades of the film's story). Pure epic bombast as only Hollywood could dish it up. ELIZABETH (1998) - Cate Blanchett owns Elizabeth I (sorry, Bette) but we'll see how she does in the upcoming sequel.
GANDHI (1982) - Another Oscar winner with Ben Kingsley as the saintly Indian revolutionary and an all-star cast pulling off an epic in the 80's
GOODFELLAS (1990) - some may not consider this a biopic but it is actually the true life story (from childhood on) of mobster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta).
THE MAN WHO SAW TOMORROW (1981) - One of a long line of "not really" documentaries which re-enacts the life of French prophet Nostradamus hosted/narrated with de riguer gravity by Orson Welles.
MARY OF SCOTLAND (1936) - Admittedly minor John Ford film with Katharine Hepburn as a preposterously saintly Mary, Queen of Scots. She looks great, though.
THREE LITTLE WORDS (1950) - the MGM musical life story of the songwriting partnership of Bert Kalmar (Fred Astaire) and Harry Ruby (Red Skelton) is one of my all-time favourite musicals. Packed with great songs (Who's Sorry Now, Nevertheless, Thinking Of You, I Wanna Be Loved By You) and also featuring the beloved Vera-Ellen (as well as one of the first screen appearances of Debbie Reynolds).
TILL THE CLOUDS ROLL BY (1946) - light and fluffy Hollywood version of the life of songwriter Jerome Kern; also PACKED with great songs and musical numbers as only MGM could do them.
TOWER OF LONDON (1939) - actually the life of Richard III (Basil Rathbone) with a little help from Shakespeare and the Universal studios monster factory. Also features Boris Karloff as Morg the executioner and an early role for Vincent Price (who is drowned in a butt of malmsey).
WILSON (1944) - Great biopic of cold fish President Woodrow Wilson starring cold fish Alexander Knox and an all-star cast. The unlikeliest President to base an epic film upon but it works tremendously well for me. Darryl F. Zanuck's labour of love.