TCM has a Robert Riskin festival this evening. Riskin is the screenwriter most-often thought of partnering with Frank Capra on many of the director's best movies. Two of those are being show tonight, It Happened One Night and Mr. Deed's Comes to Town.
He's also the father of one of my dear friends, Vickie Riskin -- former WGA president, Valentine Davies Award Winner for humanitarian work, and member of the international board of Human Rights Watch. And he's the husband of Vicki's mother, the actress from King Kong, Fay Wray.
Riskin is one of the founders of the Writers Guild and also the perhaps source of the great quote about writing. As noted, he was partners for many years with Frank Capra, renowned for -- as his autobiography is called -- The Name Above the Title, and having "the Capra Touch." As the story goes, Robert Riskin once went into Capra's office and dropped a ream of blank paper on his desk, pointed to it and said, "Let's see you give that the Famous Capra Touch." (Vickie has heard the story, but can neither confirm nor deny it.)
But it's for neither of these above two movies I mention this Media Alert, but rather the one that comes between them at 7 PM (Los Angeles time. 10 PM in the East.) It's a little known gem, The Whole Town's Talking. It's not Riskin best film, but it maybe one of the best "unknown" movies ever. Phenomenally underrated.
How underrated? Edward G. Robinson and Jean Arthur star. It's directed by John Ford. And written by both Robert Riskin and Jo Swerling (Guys and Dolls and The Pride of the Yankees). TV Guide.com gives it five stars. iMDB gives it 7.3 out of 10.
That this is one of Edward G. Robinson's lesser-known films speaks volumes. It's a tour-de-force for him. In it, you get to see the full range of Robinson, because he plays a dual role - a gangster and a sweet, shy clerk who gets mistaken for the mobster and is at first arrested, but later kidnapped by the killer to throw off the police. The movie is often hilarious, yet has a dark side as the painfully shy clerk begins to deal with a sense of power for the first time in his life when he's thought to be dangerous. The movie is a little-known treat, but in it you get to see Edward G. Robinson in almost every phase of his talent. Gangster, milquetoast, high comedy and dark psychological drama.
And Jean Arthur has one of the funniest scenes in movies, when she gives a Master Class in what comic acting is all about. All she says is one word -- repeatedly. "Mannion."
That's not this below, but nonetheless, here's a brief clip from The Whole Town's Talking.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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