Turner Classic Movies’ Summer Under the Stars showcases many renowned actors, and this time, part of it belongs to Eva Marie Saint.
Each August, the channel presents its festival that devotes a full day to the work of a given performer, and the actress who earned an Oscar for her movie debut opposite Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront” gets her turn Sunday, Aug. 19.
Weekend daytime host Ben Mankiewicz — who has appeared with Saint at TCM-sponsored showings of “North by Northwest” in recent months — will comment on the afternoon attractions, while Robert Osborne introduces the evening features.
“I’ve been doing some things for TCM, and it’s been terrific,” Saint tells Zap2it. “All the people involved are so good, and I’m so pleased about this [tribute]. You don’t sit home every day looking at your resume, but even I was a little impressed by this list. All of the films stand on their own, and I worked with incredible directors, and all the characters are quite different.”
Mankiewicz notes “there aren’t that many more” movies Saint made beyond those in the “Summer Under the Stars” marathon, “and they’re all good. I hung out with Eva Marie on the first TCM Classic Cruise, then I immediately saw ‘All Fall Down’ and ‘36 Hours’ — and everybody knows ‘On the Waterfront’ and ‘North by Northwest.’ There’s so much classic stuff to get exposed to through her.”
Here are Saint’s reflections on several of the films being shown during her day in the Summer Under the Stars spotlight.
“On the Waterfront” (1954): “People think I walked into that right off the streets, but I had done lots of television. My first role was applauding off camera, and I remember calling my parents and saying, ‘You won’t see me, but you’ll hear me.’ Then the next week, I was on camera … applauding. I really started from scratch and got to see actors onstage, then I got small roles and gradually got to be the leading lady. And I never was nervous about it, ever.
“I’m not in awe of other actors, and you might think, ‘How could you be with Marlon Brando or Cary Grant and not be?’ Some are so extraordinary, though, I do have great respect for them. And when I won the Oscar, I thought, ‘I’m going be having a baby in about two days. Will it be a boy or a girl?’ My hospital room was filled with so many flowers, you’d have thought I’d passed on. It was very exciting, though.”
“Raintree County” (1957): “Of course, there was Liz [Taylor], but there was also Monty (Montgomery Clift) and how bashful he was. We hardly spoke. I invited him to have lunch one day on the set, and we sat there at the table, and he didn’t say anything. And I didn’t say anything, because I’m shy when I’m around shy people. Then we did one of the longest scenes we had in the movie, and it was a lesson: Just because an actor doesn’t speak doesn’t mean he isn’t a brilliant actor.”
“North by Northwest” (1959): “I found [director Alfred Hitchcock] to be such a dear man. He had an offbeat sense of humor that wasn’t obvious, and I do believe he loved actors. He had faith in them, and he just somehow knew I’d be right as the sexy spy lady. And because he knew it, I thought, ‘Sure. Why not, if he thinks so?’ “
“All Fall Down” (1962): “I went to Bowling Green State University, which was a short distance from Toledo, Ohio … so I just loved playing Echo from Toledo. She goes to visit her mother’s friend and gets so involved with the family, and certainly with Warren Beatty’s character. And I loved working with [director] Johnny Frankenheimer. It didn’t make a lot of money, because MGM was pushing some other film that year, and they thought of this one as kind of arty.”
“The Sandpiper” (1965): “We were in France for much of that, and the reason was for tax purposes for [top-billed stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton]. I got to go to Paris, and that was fun. And I loved the costumes.”
“Grand Prix” (1966): “I remember the very last day, [Yves Montand] was sitting down, and I was standing by him for a scene. And he pulled me down on his lap, and he whispered, ‘Eva Marie! You are my favorite leading lady!’ And I melted.
“My daughter, who was about 7 or 8, just fell in love with him — like mother, like daughter, right? — and they wrote to each other for several years. He was just the sweetest man. He was not that fond of racing, yet with those dark circles around his eyes, it looked like he had worn goggles for years and years.”
Though her most recent movie credit was as Martha Kent in 2006’s “Superman Returns,” Saint isn’t retired. Born on the Fourth of July, she reports, “My husband [producer-director Jeffrey Hayden] and I have been doing the play ‘Love Letters,’ and I just love it. The [movie] roles are not that exciting, because younger writers don’t seem to write for older women. I would love to do something interesting, but I look at what I’ve done, and it’s hard to take less.”