I just finished watching the series The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix, which just might be the best show on TV right now. I highly recommend it. Not only does it showcase the world of chess during the cold war years, it is a fascinating character study of its protagonist Elizabeth Harmon. She is a child prodigy raised in an orphanage, adopted by an eccentric mother and is a brilliant chess player driven to win. She also has a built-in self-destructive streak that she struggles mightily with. The actor who portrays Elizabeth Harmon, Anya Taylor-Joy is remarkable.
As I was watching the credits roll by after the last episode, I happened to notice the author of the novel the series was based on was Walter Tevis. Snap! I realized at that moment that I had actually read that book years ago. 1987 in fact. Tevis is quite a good writer who seems to like to write books about games. Several of his of his other books were turned into movies. Some quite notable and one an American Classic: The Hustler (1961) with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason. The Color of Money (1986) also with Paul Newman. And one of my all-time favorites, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) with David Bowie. Not surprisingly, Tevis was raised in Kentucky and attended the University of Kentucky where he obtained a degree in English Literature. A nice little epiphany for me.
The Maids is a film based on the Gene Genet play of the same name. It is a film about a sad-masochistic relationship between the maids and their employer. It is about role playing, the nature of reality, and class distinctions. It is one of those things that to fully appreciate you had to be there. In other words, to see the live performance of the actors Glenda Jackson and Susanna York, which were electrifying. The whole thing seemed a bit dated and stultifying to me as time has eroded some of its shock value. Still a valuable contribution to the cinema.
Debut film by Nicholas Ray. A film noir that is a cut above the rest. A genuine love story between two innocents that was bound to fail.
Ray did some innovative things with sound and one of the earliest overhead shots shot from a helicopter. He went on to direct such films of note as, Rebel Without a Cause, Johnny Guitar, and King of Kings.
They Live by Night was remade in 1974 by Robert Altman using the title, Thieves Like Us, which is the title of the novel the two movies was based upon. It was a pretty good flick as well.
Don’t confuse these two well made and entertaining movies with the execrable, Live By Night, directed by Ben Afleck in 2016. It is unwatchable.