Although home isolation maybe getting to some, this is the perfect time to catch up on some classic films and the network synonymous with those is Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Last month, I had the great pleasure of speaking with host, author and film historian Eddie Muller. I am happy to now bring Alicia Malone into the conversation. Malone has been engrossed in film from her early beginnings in Australia and has the knowledge to prove it. In addition to hosting all genres of cinema on TCM, she is also an entertainment reporter and author. Her books “Backwards & in Heels” and “The Female Gaze” offer great insight into the history of female filmmakers and the challenges they still face. Screen Comment being fertile grounds for these kinds of topics, Malone seemed like the perfect interview for it.
Normally, this would have been a Tribeca Festival month but, if any good has come from its cancellation due to the pandemic, it was this chance to speak with Malone. Of course, she did her part for stay-at-home TCM viewers by creating a list of comfort movies including “Casablanca,” “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Some Like it Hot.” She also carried on hosting duties for the recent TCM Film Festival via her computer screen, proving both her commitment and mettle.
As TCM host, Malone researches and writes her own introductions. I asked if the powers-that-be ever influence what she says. “There are fact checkers and producers that review things but they’re pretty good at not suppressing what we say.” She added that as a host she can also make suggestions as to what films to air. “The head of programming is very open.” Malone hosts all kinds of movies, but she is TCM’s resident foreign film expert and hosts their TCM Imports segment. When asked why she loves that area she mused, “growing up in Australia, all films were foreign to me.”
Like the aforementioned Muller, Malone also loves a good film noir. “I’ve always been drawn to the mood of dark shadows and mystery.” In speaking about noir’s femme fatales Malone claimed, “there’s something freeing about seeing a woman in power, even for a little while.” She cites Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity,” Lana Turner from “The Postman Always Rings Twice” and Rita Hayworth from “Gilda” as being among her favorites.
However, at the end of the day, Malone believes her interest in noir probably stems more from her father’s love of the dark side of cinema. No doubt, Malone recently made him proud by co-hosting “Noir Alley” with Muller. The film they introduced was “Ascenseur pour l’échafaud” (“Elevator to the Gallows”) by Louis Malle, which also gave Malone a chance to dish out on foreign films. In keeping with the subject matter, I asked Malone if she had to be stuck in an elevator with any actor, who would it be, to which she quickly answered “Jack Lemmon!” Not surprisingly her favorite film is Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment,” starring Lemmon.
INTERVIEW: Eddie Muller, Czar of Noir
Malone’s interest in film extends to what happens behind the camera where she advocates the work of female filmmakers in books and also in TEDx talks. Her favorite female-directed film is 1979’s “My Brilliant Career” which was helmed by her fellow Australian and AFI award-winner Gillian Armstrong. “It’s a powerful film that loomed large over me.”
Malone believes that, “women add a wider perspective to the way they tell stories. Their ideas are seen through a different lens.” When asked if she were to watch a film without knowing the director, would she know if it were directed by a man or a woman, Malone responded, “The great thing is if you can’t tell,” although she does let on that one giveaway is how love scenes are shot. “Female directors focus on the internal emotion of women rather than the external look.”
According to Malone, the biggest challenge for female directors today is the lack of opportunity. “They could get independent films made but when it comes to bigger budgeted movies, they need support.” Unfortunately, some still believe it’s a risk to give a woman an expensive film, which according to Malone, adds to the pressure put on them, if and when it happens. No doubt Patty Jenkins may have experienced this while filming the 2017 blockbuster “Wonder Woman.”
Thankfully, Jenkins proved herself, the way Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow did with 2008’s “The Hurt Locker.” However, as their films are almost a decade apart the problem seems to be keeping the trend going. “It’s frustrating the way things tail off, there isn’t a sustained line.” Female filmmakers have definitely proven themselves to audiences and have the awards and box office to back it up. Perhaps they just need to prove it to Hollywood’s men’s club, too.
For Malone’s part, she will no doubt continue to champion the cause. In fact, every Tuesday in May she’ll be hosting a new programming series for TCM appropriately titled “Wonder Women” which will feature films about strong females. Themes include “Ruling Women,” “Activists & Humanitarians,” “Literary Ladies” and “Trailblazers.”
A complete list of films can be seen on the TCM website. You can also catch Malone every Sunday night for TCM Imports.
FIND OUT MORE about Alicia Malone (https://aliciamalone.com)
Rudy Cecera is an Emmy-winning TV writer and regular contributor to Screen Comment (@RComwrit22)