More than two decades of oblivion are coming to an end for Don Murray. The 84-year-old actor/filmmaker is the subject of a forthcoming documentary, UNSUNG HERO (scheduled for release in November), and he will be the subject of an ambitious retrospective at San Francisco’s Roxie Theater over the weekend of July 11-13.
'Don Murray was as big a star in the late 50s as Paul Newman,' said Roxie programmer Elliot Lavine, who is coordinating the retrospective in association with Midcentury Productions, Don Malcolm, who is producing and directing UNSUNG HERO. 'What happened to him is one of the truly baffling events in Hollywood history, and it’s a story that’s just begging to be told.'
The Roxie will screen fourteen of Murray’s works over the July 11-13 weekend, and the still-fit-as-a-fiddle Murray will be on hand for interviews during the course of the festival. Additionally, Midcentury Productions has annoucned a new, restored 35mm print of Murray’s long-lost interracial love triangle CALL ME BY MY RIGHTFUL NAME (1972) will be 're-premiered' as part of the upcoming event.
'Don Murray took off like a rocket after his appearance opposite Marilyn Monroe in BUS STOP (1956),' noted Malcolm. 'But he wasn’t interested in movie stardom as practiced in 1950s Hollywood. His stage training and his personal convictions—pacifism and altruistic service—set him apart from the way things worked in Tinseltown. He did things his own way, and he paid a price for it.'
The Roxie series will take a close look at Murray’s ongoing interest in the issue of race relations, which first surfaced prior to BUS STOP on a live television drama entitled 'A Man Is Ten Feet Tall,' where he starred opposite Sidney Poitier in a searing tale of two dockworkers of different races and backgrounds who become friends in the maelstrom of the New York waterfront.
One of the most significant revivals in the series will be a little-known landmark film, SWEET LOVE, BITTER (1966), where Murray starred with notorious 60s comedian Dick Gregory in a tale of a Charlie Parker-style jazz performer who befriends a naïve college professor who’s fallen on hard times. Robert Hooks and Diane Varsi portray a troubled interracial couple who are also involved with Gregory’s character.
'It’s a powerful film that, like many works that cut too close to the bone, was chopped up by its producers and virtually left by the side of the road after it was completed,' Malcolm explained, with a note of sadness in his voice.
Gregory and Hooks are scheduled to join Murray (Hooks in person, Gregory via Skype on the Roxie screen) after the screening of SWEET LOVE, BITTER on Saturday, July 12.
'Don Murray had a fabulous string of performances in the late 50s and early 60s.' Lavine noted, 'but they rarely, if ever, get screened. It’s both vexing and perplexing, and this festival will rectify that situation. Films such as A HATFUL OF RAIN (1957), where he plays a heroin junkie hiding his addiction from his wife, or ADVISE & CONSENT (1962), where he’s a closeted gay Senator, show his commitment to cutting-edge roles that dealt with controversial social issues.'
'What happened to Don Murray’s career in the 1960s is a metaphor for what happened to the United States in those years,' offered Malcolm. 'UNSUNG HERO will explore all that, but the first place to get a feel for Don Murray is on the big screen. People have forgotten that he was on the cutting edge of independent filmmaking in the early 1960s with THE HOODLUM PRIEST (1961). To come to the Roxie and see the promise and the achievement in that film will provide the audience with a sense of how sixties filmmaking lost something when Don Murray had so many doors slammed shut on him.'
Two of Murray’s most obscure works, THE CONFESSIONS OF TOM HARRIS (1968) and CALL ME BY MY RIGHTFUL NAME (1972), will be included in the retrospective. 'These films show a different side of Don Murray,' Malcolm explained, 'where he was breaking out of the mold of ‘the earnest young man’ and adding a darker side to his characters.' That trend is also represented in the 1976 neo-noir DEADLY HERO, where Murray plays a trigger-happy cop whose career is imperiled by a less-than-'righteous kill', and in the still-controversial 1981 film ENDLESS LOVE.
Not playing the conventional leading man clearly dampened Murray’s career, but according to Malcolm, the 84-year-old actor professes few regrets. 'He has stayed true to himself, and he’s one of the most genuine and most thoroughly decent human beings I’ve ever had the privilege to meet. Those qualities are palpable, and the Roxie audience will experience that when they’ll have the chance to be with him in person.'
FRIDAY, JULY 11
From Unsung Hero 'No Fix from the Past': A conversation between Don Murray and Foster Hirsch about A Hatful of Rain (8 min)
A HATFUL OF RAIN (1957, 111 min.) 7:30
Eva Marie Saint, Don Murray, Anthony Franciosa, Lloyd Nolan, Henry Silva, William Hickey, Gerald O’Laughlin; directed by Fred Zinnemann
From Unsung Hero 'The Perfect Actors’ Mini-Studio': The Bachelor Party (7 min.)
THE BACHELOR PARTY (1957, 86 min) 9:45
Don Murray, Patricia Smith, Jack Warden, E.G. Marshall, Carolyn Jones, Larry Blyden, Nancy Marchand; directed by Delbert Mann
Special late screening
SHAKE HANDS WITH THE DEVIL (1959, 111 min.) 11:30
James Cagney, Don Murray, Dana Wynter, Michael Redgrave, Glynis Johns, Cyril Cusack; directed by Michael Anderson
SATURDAY, JULY 12 (two separate shows)
Episode of THE OUTCASTS 'The Long Ride' (1969, 50 min.) 12:00
Don Murray, Otis Young, William Bassett, J. Pat O’Malley; directed by Robert Butler.
From Unsung Hero 'Don Murray on Otis Young' (digital, 5 min.)
CALL ME BY MY RIGHTFUL NAME (1972, 90 min.) 1:00
Don Murray, Otis Young, Catherine Crosby, Kent Smith, Edith Atwater; directed by Michael Shurtleff.
Don Murray in person interviewed by his sons Christopher and Michael
A MAN IS TEN FEET TALL (1955, 50 minutes) 3:30
Sidney Poitier, Don Murray, Martin Balsam, Hilda Simms, Michael Strong; directed by Robert Mulligan.
SWEET LOVE, BITTER (1967, 92 minutes) 4:30
Don Murray, Dick Gregory, Diane Varsi, Robert Hooks; directed by Herbert Danska.
Interview with Don Murray, Dick Gregory and Robert Hooks (schedules permitting) to follow
From Unsung Hero 'The Kid Burned His House Down!' (5 min.)
ENDLESS LOVE (1981, 120 min) 7:15
Don Murray, Shirley Knight, Brooke Shields, Martin Hewett, James Spader; directed by Franco Zefferelli
Interview with Don Murray
From Unsung Hero 'The Pacifist as Pugllist': Reflections and memories from Don Murray and his family (3 min.)
THE CONFESSIONS OF TOM HARRIS (1968-72, 94 min.) 10:15
Don Murray, Linda Evans, David Brian; dir. by John Derek and David Nelson
SUNDAY, JULY 13
POLICE STORY 'The Big Walk' (1973, 51 min.) 12:00
Don Murray, Dorothy Provine, Lynda Day George, Noah Beery Jr., Larry Wilcox, Jeff Corey, John Kerr, Regis Toomey, Tom Hayden; directed by Robert Day
From Unsung Hero 'The Making of a Deadly Hero' Conversations with Don Murray, Diahn Williams and Tom McGrath (3 min)
DEADLY HERO (1976, 100 min.) 1:00
Don Murray, Diahn Williams, James Earl Jones, Treat Williams, Conchata Ferrell; directed by Ivan Nagy.
From Unsung Hero 'Song and Dance Man' Don Murray’s 1970s return to New York City (8 min)
Interview with Don Murray by Foster Hirsch
THE HOODLUM PRIEST (1961, 109 min.) 3:00
Don Murray, Keir Dullea, Larry Gates, Cindi Wood; directed by Irvin Kershner.
From Unsung Hero 'The Power of Positive Confusion' (digital, 6 min.)
ADVISE AND CONSENT (1962, 126 min) 6:30
Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Don Murray, Walter Pidgeon, Gene Tierney, Franchot Tone, Lew Ayres, Peter Lawford, George Grizzard, Inga Swenson, Burgess Meredith; dir. by Otto Preminger
Interview with Don Murray by Foster Hirsch
From Unsung Hero 'Don Murray on Marilyn Monroe' (digital, 6 min.)
BUS STOP (1956, 96 min.) 9:15
Marilyn Monroe, Don Murray, Arthur O’Connell, Hope Lange; directed by Joshua Logan
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