Hollywood set pieces

Critic's Choice: Television

September 03, 2000|By Chris Kaltenbach

Some of the most grandiose movie sets ever filmed will be featured on Turner Classic Movies Tuesday, as it begins a month-long tribute to Hollywood set design.

The series of films, airing on Tuesdays through September, begins at the beginning: the Bible. Many of the earliest films told biblical stories, and for decades set designers have let their imaginations (and sometimes their tastes) run wild setting the stages for these epics.

The fun begins at 8 a.m. with "Noah's Ark." Released in 1928, this mostly silent film was directed by Michael Curtiz, whose later films included "Casablanca." His film interweaves the tale of the Great Flood with a modern story of an American playboy-turned-soldier whose morality is tested by World War I. According to legend, the flood scenes were so realistic that extras actually drowned during filming. Whatever the truth, the results are spectacular.

The Biblical theme picks up again at 8 p.m. with 1959's "Ben-Hur," one of the most honored films in Academy Awards history. Charlton Heston stars as the vengeful Jewish chariot racer whose tale unfolds concurrently with that of Jesus Christ. The chariot race is one of the most exciting sequences ever filmed.

At midnight, there's 1951's "Quo Vadis," starring Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr as star-crossed lovers in the time of Nero, and at 3 a.m., D.W. Griffith's 1916 masterpiece, "Intolerance."

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