Comedians, politicians and rock stars all graced The Dick Cavett Show stage, but the audience favorites were often the movie stars. And when the guests were greats like Fred Astaire, Bette Davis, Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Orson Welles, Cavett often devoted the full 90 minutes to them. In the case of Katharine Hepburn, the interview went so well that it required two full 90 minute shows.
This 4-DVD set contains 12 episodes featuring:
Katharine Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Bette Davis, Groucho Marx, Debbie Reynolds, Kirk Douglas, Alfred Hitchcock, Marlon Brando, Mel Brooks, Frank Capra, Robert Altman, Peter Bogdanovich, Robert Mitchum, John Huston and Orson Welles.
Also contains a new Cavett interview conducted by Turner Classic Movies host Robert Osborne.
Additional bonus material includes:
• Outtakes featuring Katharine Hepburn
• New episode introductions by Dick Cavett
• Original promos for The Dick Cavett Show
In an era that makes celebrities out of talent-free narcissists like Paris Hilton, it’s nice to be reminded of a time when stars were bigger-than-life characters who were famous and beloved because they had actually accomplished something, and whose off-screen shenanigans were the stuff of legend rather than some glib report on Entertainment Tonight. The reminder comes in the form of Hollywood Greats, the latest offering from the vaults of Dick Cavett’s 1970s TV talk show. This is a really impressive lineup: Katharine Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Fred Astaire, Robert Mitchum, Orson Welles, Groucho Marx, Kirk Douglas, Bette Davis, and others. And if some of them prove less than scintillating, on balance there’s still more than enough on these four discs to satisfy even the most ardent star-gazers.
Of principal interest to many will be Cavett’s interviews with people like Hepburn and Brando, who rarely ventured into TV land. The notoriously press-shy Hepburn, 66 at the time (1973), is seen checking out the studio and making picky remarks about the rug and furniture before agreeing to do the do right then and there, with no audience; she ends up holding forth for two entire shows (plus bonus material), revealing herself to be witty and sophisticated, as well outspoken, practical, and entirely in charge (“You keep interrupting,” she chastens Cavett, “Just shut up…”). Brando, a year removed from The Godfather and Last Tango in Paris, agreed to appear only if he could discuss the plight of American Indians (several of whom are also on hand). Cavett, a sharp, self-effacing, well-prepared host, went along, little suspecting that the whole interview would be an exercise in teeth-pulling, with Brando refusing to discuss his career at all; his dismissal of his stage and screen work as “irrelevant” is laughably disingenuous, considering that were it not for his acting, he wouldn’t have been invited on the show in the first place. On the other hand, Davis is grand, saucy, full of stories about Hollywood’s Golden Age–everything one wants in a movie star. Astaire is charming, showing that even at age 71 he was a great dancer and good singer. Welles, the man who married Rita Hayworth, had dinner with the pre-Fuhrer Adolf Hitler, and made Citizen Kane, is worldly, erudite, expansive (in every sense–he’s twice Cavett’s size), and probably the most entertaining of the lot. And Hitchcock is marvelous, showing off his dry, peculiar wit and revealing several tricks of the trade (it took 78 edits to make the 45-second shower scene in Psycho). Bonus material includes several Cavett show promos and a new featurette with him and film historian Robert Osbourne. Scattered throughout the various interviews are clips from some great films, including Night of the Hunter, The Birds, Holiday Inn, a variety of Douglas’ movies, and even an obscure Bette Davis item called Watch on the Rhine. –Sam Graham