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TCM enlists Reiner for pic series

Filmmaker to give auds 'road map' for classic films

NEW YORK — When the 1960 theatrical hit “Elmer Gantry” first ran on network TV, the entire subplot featuring Shirley Jones in her Academy Award-winning performance as a prostitute was chopped because it clashed so violently with her role as the wholesome mom on “The Partridge Family.”

That’s one of the little-known facts unearthed by the staff of Turner Classic Movies for Rob Reiner to present as host of 26-week movie series “The Essentials,” scheduled to run Sundays at 6 p.m. beginning April 1.

Reiner will introduce each movie — the first four are “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca,” “The Producers” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” — with a two- to three-minute spiel that will explain why the movie is important. Reiner will come back at the end with an “outro,” offering an anecdote like the one about “Elmer Gantry.”

Tom Karsch, exec VP and general manager of TCM, said the deal with Reiner to “provide a road map” to the movies will help to “attract a broader and younger group of people” to watch the network.

“Doing these intros and outros meant a lot to me because I got to hold forth on movies that I love,” said Reiner.

Karsch says TCM plans to splurge on promotion to make sure TCM’s 45 million subscribers become aware of “The Essentials.” If the first 26 Reiner-hosted movies increase viewership and visibility, Karsch says TCM will pitch Reiner to host 26 more.

“If people like the series,” Reiner said, “I’d be happy to do another batch.”

The remaining titles are “North by Northwest,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “White Heat,” “From Here to Eternity,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “Inherit the Wind,” “A Night at the Opera,” “The Birdman of Alcatraz,” “Gaslight,” “Dial M for Murder,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “The Bank Dick,” “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “Top Hat,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Witness for the Prosecution” and “Some Like It Hot.”

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