Silents are Golden: World War I – The Gamechanger of Film History

Silents are Golden: World War I – The Gamechanger of Film History

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the final year of World War I, I decided to write a piece concentrating on the war’s impact on cinema. I hope you find this area of 20th-century history as fascinating as I do!

In the summer of 1914, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary was assassinated in Sarajevo, Bosnia by a Serbian radical. At a time when various tensions had long been simmering under the surface of Europe, that single event proved to be the start of a violent chain reaction. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, which lead to country after European country declaring war on each other. The end result was the largest and bloodiest conflict the world had ever experienced. Its effects on society, culture, and art are evident even today – including its impact on that very influential art form, the cinema.

Scene From Battle of The Somme (1916) World War I in FilmScene from The Battle of the Somme (1916).

Prior to WWI, cinema had been evolving very rapidly. Ever since the nickelodeon and kinetoscope days of the 1890s and early 1900s, filmmakers had been discovering new styles of editing and new types of trick shots. They began to let go of staginess and let motion pictures develop a language of their own. By the mid-1910s film was very sophisticated, and an endless stream of shorts, serials, newsreels, documentaries, and features rolled into hundreds of theaters every week.

In Europe, France and Italy were considered leaders of the film industry and made up a bulk of the product being sent to places like South America (England’s studios were also going strong). The U.S. industry was also huge–in 1914, about half of the movies in the world were from the U.S.

Comet Theatre (1917) New York CityNew York City’s Comet Theatre in 1917.

But all that changed when WWI began. Many European studios had to close and were turned into hospitals, factories, and the like. Others had to scale back their releases, or employees turned their attention to supporting the war effort (or were sent to the trenches). One such filmmaker who was affected was Georges Méliès, whose famous glass studio Montreuil was turned into a military hospital in 1917. Famously, or infamously, hundreds of his whimsical films were confiscated by the army and melted down to make boot heels.

As a result, the then-neutral U.S. found it was now the king of filmmaking, producing over 90% of films in the world by 1918. As they adapted to the new, massive market, U.S. filmmakers had to figure what would appeal to various foreign audiences–e.g., ”vamp” pictures with fiery acting were especially appreciated in South America, while serials were popular in Asian countries. Perhaps the greatest strength of U.S. cinema was its one-of-a-kind stars. Douglas Fairbanks, William S. Hart, and Pearl White had global appeal, as did the versatile Mary Pickford (although she was perhaps the most popular in northern countries). Charlie Chaplin, of course, was far and away the most popular actor in the world, his brand of comedy has instant appeal to people of all races and cultures.

Charlie Chaplin Easy Street (1917) Swedish PosterA Swedish poster for Easy Street (1917).

In the meantime, some countries found themselves more or less on their own when it came to filmmaking. Sweden developed a style of subtle, character-driven dramas. Germany banned imported films altogether (partly to counter all that anti-Hun propaganda). As a result, its film industry became wildly prolific, even forging the unique style of German Expressionism.

As far as audiences went, moving pictures were a chief form of entertainment during the duration of the war. Some people wanted an escape from the war; others wanted to see newsreels and features about the conflict. And, as Picture-Play Magazine noted back in 1914:

From the workman of the Fiji Islands, who toils the better part of a week braiding grass mats or baskets to earn a few pisa to attend a single picture show, to the American laborer, who considers the evening movie almost a daily essential…the movie in general and in particular has become the most universal form of amusement in the wide world.

Cinema was indeed so popular by the mid-1910s that governments were taking notice of its potential, too. As a result, they wasted no time in creating propaganda films. While film had certainly been used for propaganda purposes in the past–by labor unions, for instance–it had never been used on such a vast scale for such a specific purpose before.

US Official War Pictures Poster 1900's1900′s U.S. Official War Pictures Poster.

Each country put out its own propaganda. Britain’s official department was called Wellington House, and once it had entered the war in 1917 the U.S. created the Committee on Public Information, which worked closely with the higher-ups of the film industry. Aside from churning out its own newsreels, shorts, and features, the CPI encouraged movie stars to donate films urging the public to buy Liberty Loan war bonds. Everyone from Lillian Gish to Roscoe Arbuckle to Sessue Hayakawa contributed Liberty Loan films to the cause, and Chaplin, Fairbanks, and Pickford even toured the country in much-publicized loan drives that attracted thousands of people.

Charlie Chaplin stands on Douglas Fairbanks shoulders at Liberty Loan rallyChaplin stands on Fairbanks’s shoulders at a Liberty Loan rally.

Filmmakers also put out war-themed pictures at a dizzying rate, which usually depicted Germans as cruel, bloodthirsty brutes. Famous examples include The Heart of Humanity (1918), where Eric von Stroheim’s Prussian lieutenant actually throws a baby out a window, and The Kaiser, the Beast of Berlin (1918), which paints the said Kaiser as an irredeemable villain lusting for power. When D.W. Griffith made his famous feature Hearts of the World (1918), its scathing portrayal of Germans troubled him enough in later years that he tried to make amends with Isn’t Life Wonderful? (1924), a thoughtful story set in post-WWI Germany.

 DW Griffith's Hearts of the World (1918) PosterD.W. Griffith’s Hearts of the World (1918) Poster.

Once the Great War ended, war pictures were no longer in demand as the public wearily tried to move on from that tragic period. Europe never quite recovered its former status as a film industry titan–Hollywood was now the undisputed world leader in motion pictures, as it still is to this day. By the 1920s, the strong emotions of wartime were calming down, German directors and actors were beginning to move to Hollywood, and the film industry in Germany was garnering wide respect.

No matter how we look at it, World War I was the gamechanger of the 20th century. In a sense, the globe lost a kind of collective innocence during those fateful years of 1914-1918. Yet there’s some significance to the fact that despite all the horrors of wartime, cinema still had the ability to provide some escape for grateful audiences. And even back then, it provided a shared cultural experience for people from every background imaginable – as it continues to do today.

–Lea Stans for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Lea’s Silents are Golden articles here.

Lea Stans is a born-and-raised Minnesotan with a degree in English and an obsessive interest in the silent film era (which she largely blames on Buster Keaton). In addition to blogging about her passion at her site Silent-ology, she is a columnist for the Silent Film Quarterly and has also written for The Keaton Chronicle.

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Vitaphone View: How Vitaphone Discs are Found

Vitaphone View: How Vitaphone Discs are Found

When The Vitaphone Project began in 1991, the goal was to seek out early talkie soundtrack discs that were in private hands and otherwise unknown to exist. Once located, each disc was checked against potentially surviving mute picture elements (usually at The Library of Congress) and if a match was found, then a restoration was possible. In the beginning, collectors were alerted to the Project via Joslin’s Jazz Journal and other record collector publications. This was pre-internet.

In order to calm collector concerns about a studio or the FBI confiscating their discs, The Project worked with then-Turner Entertainment film vault manager Dick May. Dick wrote a letter that we could share with collectors. In essence, it said that should a disc be needed for a restoration, it would be temporarily borrowed and transferred, then returned. In addition, the collector would get on-screen thank-you credit as well as a copy (then VHS) of the completed restoration. While this sounds like an obvious position for Turner/Warner Bros to take, at the time it was the first of its kind. Other studios avoided collectors regardless of the help that they might provide. Most have since ‘seen the light’. But at the time, Dick’s letter was revolutionary and opened up the doors to many previously unknown collections.

THE DISC-OVERIES BEGIN

In 1991, we had no clue that so many soundtrack discs would be found in private hands. At first, the holdings trickled in via snail mail, phone calls, and at record collector conventions. Most collectors had acquired their soundtrack discs accidentally or as part of buying similarly sized radio transcription discs.

Once the Internet began to explode, the rate of disc-overies escalated rapidly. Our Project website, www.vitaphoneproject.com came up as a top “hit” if anyone Googled “Vitaphone”. Visibility further improved in 2013 when we added our Facebook page.

Fast forward to 2018: We have now located over 6,200 soundtrack discs in private hands worldwide. These are in addition to those held by archives like UCLA, The Library of Congress, and the British Film Institute.

As discs are found, the list of shorts and features, which survive with the picture, only are crosschecked to determine if the disc is needed for a restoration. Currently, there are approximately 335 1926-30 Vitaphone short subjects for which The Library of Congress holds mute 35mm picture elements but no sound portion is known.

WHERE DISCS ARE FOUND

Record collectors aren’t the only source of soundtrack discs. They’ve been found in unusual places, often by people who do not have a clue what they are. By tracking us down on the Internet, we can then help determine what they have (often not a soundtrack), and if it’s an important disc that can make a restoration happen.

About 50% of the finds come from collectors as would be expected. But the remainder of sources truly runs the gamut. Most unusual was how the soundtrack disc for the since restored and wonderfully bizarre Vitaphone short, Trixie Friganza in My Bag o’ Trix  (’29) was located. A friend and 3D restoration guru Bob Furmanek was working for Jerry Lewis in the mid-1990’s, archiving his massive collection of films, paper, and recordings. He came across a tall stack of 16-inch recordings and, knowing the Project, and I immediately checked for Vitaphone discs. The stack landed in Lewis’s collection because, in the 1950’s, Paramount would record audience reactions to Martin & Lewis features at previews. These would then be used to more tightly edit the film before the official release. These recordings were done in the theatre —- on 16-inch discs. Within the stack, Bob found both the Friganza disc as well as a second, Jack Haley and Flo McFadden in Haleyisms (’28), for which no picture element is currently known. Lewis generously donated both of the Vitaphone discs to UCLA and a restoration, now on DVD was done in the late 1990’s.

Flo McFadden and Jack Haley in Haleyisms (1927)Jack Haley in Haleyisms (1928).
Trixie Friganza in My Bag o' Trix (1929)Trixie Friganza in My Bag o’ Trix (1929).

Other non-traditional places soundtrack discs have been found include, in 2015, a person in the Chicago area who bought an old home and found one disc in the attic. Again, the Internet facilitated their finding the Project. The disc was for an otherwise lost but super MGM hot band short, Irving Aaronson and His Commanders (’29). As for others unfamiliar with records, we arranged to get them a special shipping box and paid return costs to ensure safe arrival to the Project. An excerpt from this disc can be heard here:

1928 Irving Aaronson Vitaphone Label MGMLabel for the 1928 lost Irving Aaronson hot band short found in a Chicago home attic.

The largest single find of soundtrack discs came in 2011 when we heard from the executor of an estate in New Haven, CT. The recently deceased grandfather had run three movie theatres in the New Haven area in the twenties and thirties, and for unknown reasons would occasionally take home soundtrack discs. The size of the collection warranted a trip there to go through what the executor said were over 75 discs.

A collection of Vitaphone discs in New Haven, Connecticut 2011The table in New Haven, CT in 2011 loaded with over 75 soundtrack discs. These were all subsequently acquired by The Vitaphone Project and have facilitated the restoration of nearly two dozen shorts and features restorations.

I was not disappointed. Covering the entire dining room table in the old frame home were nearly a dozen stacks of discs. I contained my excitement and slowly went through each disc, notating title, studio sand reel on a checklist we’ve developed. When the smoke cleared, discs for 23 Vitaphone shorts for which picture survived were identified. Also in the cache were discs for many late twenties features from other studios including Redskin (Par/’29), The Mysterious Island (MGM/’29), D.W. Griffith’s Lady of the Pavements (UA/’28), The Bridge of San Luis Rey (MGM/’29), The Viking (’28) and many others. For Redskin and Pavements which had until then been missing most of its soundtrack discs, all were now available for a new restoration.

After getting approval from other family members, arrangements were made for the acquisition of the entire group of discs. Subsequently, over a dozen of the Vitaphone shorts were restored by Warner Bros and most are now on Warner Archive’s Vitaphone Varieties Volume 3 DVD set.

In a typical year, the Project learns of over 100 more soundtrack discs in private hands and adds it to its Excel database. This is viewable on www.vitaphoneproject.com .

King of Jazz (1930) French Vitaphone Disc LabelThe label for the French version of the King of Jazz (1930) trailer.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Virtually all movie soundtrack discs from the 1926-30 periods are heavy shellac and 16 inches in diameter. They may be single or double-sided. After 1930, some studios shrunk the groove width to the point that discs could still contain a full reel of sound on a 12-inch diameter disc. Regardless of size, all soundtrack discs DO have the following elements:

• An arrow etched into the shellac just outside of the label. This is where the projectionist was to put the needle for a precise starting spot for the sound.

• The title and reel number of the film. This can be on the label and/or in the shellac around the label

• A studio name. With rare exceptions, this will be on the label, often with the studio logo. Most frequently encountered studios are Vitaphone, Warner Bros, Fox, MGM, Pathe, Universal, and Paramount, but there were also many others including small “B” studios” which issued discs into the 1930’s.

A vitaphone disc etched Ben Pollock and His Park Central Orchestra (1929)What to look for… includes usually the film title etched into the shellac around the disc label.  This is from the recently found disc for Ben Pollock & His Park Central Orchestra (’29) which features a 20 year old Benny Goodman and has just been restored by UCLA.
Standard Vitaphone Disc LabelsTypical Vitaphone soundtrack disc labels.

IF YOU FIND A DISC…

Let us know! We can verify if it is indeed a soundtrack disc and if so, discuss options. You can contact us several ways:

ron@vitaphoneproject.com

(732) 463-8521

Via our Vitaphone Project Facebook page

Photos of the label, the title, studio and any numbers are helpful.

Fingers crossed!!

– Ron Hutchinson, Founder of The Vitaphone Project, for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Ron’s Vitaphone View articles here.

Ron is widely recognized as one of the country’s foremost film historians, with special emphasis on the period covering the transition to sound (1925-30) and early attempts to add sound to film. As the founder of The Vitaphone Project, he has worked with Warner Brothers, UCLA, LOC and private collectors worldwide to find previously lost soundtrack discs and restore early sound shorts. Ron’s unique knowledge has  been sourced in over 25 books as well as documentaries for PBS and TCM, and commentary for “The Jazz Singer” DVD boxed set. He was awarded the National Society of Film Critics “Film Heritage Honor” for his work in film preservation and discoveries, and was the presenter of rare Vitaphone shorts at the 2016 TCM Film Festival. For more information you can visit the Vitaphone Project website or Facebook Group.

And, if you’re interested in exploring some of these newly discovered shorts and rarities, you can pick them up on DVD via amazon:

               

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Emmy’s Greatest Sit-Com Sidekicks: The Legacy of Barney Fife (Exclusive Guest post by Author Daniel de Vise)

Emmy’s Greatest Sit-Com Sidekicks: The Legacy of Barney Fife

In the five years that he portrayed Deputy Barney Fife, Don Knotts set the standard against which all future television sit-com sidekicks would be judged.

Knotts won five Emmy awards for his work as Deputy Fife on The Andy Griffith Show. It’s a testament to the character’s enduring appeal that the last two Emmys were awarded after Knotts had left the show, recognizing his work as a returning guest star.

don knotts as barney fifeDon Knott’s Emmy Award Winning Role as Barney Fife, the consummate TV Sidekick

Barney Fife may be a pushover. But Knotts’s achievement at the Emmys — five nominations, five statues, all for the same character on the same show — casts a long and imposing shadow over the Television Academy, which will host the 2018 awards on September 17.

In fairness to the many great comedic actors who have tried to surpass the great Fife, I should point out that Knotts came into the annual Emmy race with an unfair advantage. He competed in the category of supporting actor, which he was… sort of.

As I explain in my book Andy and Don: The Making of a Friendship and a Classic TV Show, Knotts was cast on Griffith as a secondary character but quickly broke out as the comedic lead, every bit the equal of his “straight man” and artistic partner, Andy Griffith.

And so, nearly six decades later, Deputy Fife remains the consummate TV sidekick. In the spirit of the Emmys, I spent some time poring over records of other winners and nominees in the categories of supporting actor and actress in television comedy, and I came up with four true heirs to the Fife legacy, profiled below. Some great comedic actors didn’t make the cut because they weren’t really sidekicks, others because they came from forgettable shows. I’ve included a few of them in an honorable mention section at the bottom.

And now, the envelope, please…

…..

1. David Hyde Pierce, “Niles Crane,” Frasier. Four Emmy wins, eleven nominations.

Frasier might be the most successful spin-off in television history. It took shape as a vehicle for Kelsey Grammer, a supporting actor on the legendary Cheers who portrayed a Harvard-educated psychiatrist slumming among working stiffs in the namesake Boston pub. By the end of its run, Frasier had logged eleven seasons and snagged a record-breaking thirty-seven Emmys. The show and its cast regularly beat out Seinfeld.

avid hyde pierce as niles on frasier

Apparently, David Hyde Pierce was first considered to play Frasier Crane’s brother on the strength of his headshot; with their strong jaws and similar coloring, the actors indeed looked like they could be related. Pierce revealed a genius for comedic acting and proved the standout actor in a very strong ensemble.

Having watched most of the classic Frasier episodes, I can attest that Niles Crane is vital to virtually every great scene in that program, just as Barney Fife was central to most of the best Griffith stories. Pierce and Grammer played off each other beautifully – - whether fussing over dinner reservations, commiserating about their dismal romantic lives, or reeling at some fresh affront to good taste perpetrated by their determinedly blue-collar father, played by actor John Mahoney.

Fussy, hyperactive, and stricken with endless phobias, Niles Crane took his brother’s neurotic compulsions and his insufferable elitism to comedic extremes. He was more Frasier than Frasier.

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2. Jason Alexander, “George Costanza,” Seinfeld. Zero Emmy wins, seven nominations.

Of all the characters on this list, Jason Alexander’s George Costanza probably comes closest to a true, Deputy Fife-styled sidekick. Alexander was cast by Seinfeld creators Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David to portray a lightly fictionalized version of David himself. Seinfeld, which ran from 1989 through 1998, was a sit-com vehicle for Seinfeld, a rising star of observational comedy. He and David, longtime friends and fellow comedians, conceived the show as a showcase for stories from their real lives.

jason alexander as george costanza on seinfeld

When I watched Seinfeld on its initial run, I assumed most of the writing reflected Seinfeld’s own worldview. Now, after having watched Curb Your Enthusiasm, I see that Seinfeld – especially the early seasons – is essentially a Larry David manifesto. I also know, after reading Jennifer Keishin Armstrong’s excellent Seinfeldia, that David wrote entire seasons of Seinfeld almost single-handed. Surely no one else could have come up with “The Deal,” in which George’s mother catches him doing you-know-what and ends up in traction, or “The Puffy Shirt.”

Alexander was hardly the lone standout in Seinfeld. Michael Richards, cast as the larger-than-life neighbor Kramer, won three Emmys for his work as supporting actor, and his electric physical comedy and priceless mannerisms could steal the show. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, as Seinfeld’s ex-girlfriend Elaine, earned one Emmy and seven nominations for her own inimitable work. But they aren’t really sidekicks, and the relationship between Jerry and George clearly sits at the heart of the Seinfeld enterprise. You’d have no Seinfeld without Larry David, and no Jerry without George.

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3. Valerie Harper, “Rhoda Morgenstern,” The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Three Emmy wins, four nominations.

As a sidekick to Mary Richards, Rhoda Morgenstern represents many things her best friend is not. Mary is a WASP from the upper Midwest; Rhoda is a Jew from the Bronx. Mary is formal, polite, proper, and a tad uptight; Rhoda is plainspoken, earthy, bohemian, and occasionally course. Mary is the straight woman in this classic situation comedy; Rhoda is one of four or five inspired comedic characters created to orbit around her. All were good enough to carry entire productions on their backs: Rhoda eventually departed to the spin-off Rhoda, landlady Phyllis (Cloris Leachman) to Phyllis, and gruff boss Lou Grant to Lou Grant, while co-star Gavin MacLeod would later pilot the successful-but-silly Love Boat and the riotous Ted Knight would resurface in the unfortunate Too Close for Comfort.

valerie harper on mary tyler moore show as rhoda

But Rhoda is Mary’s BFF, and their relationship lies at the center of this great proto-feminist ensemble. The characters are most memorable for what they have in common: Both are unapologetically single women, somehow managing to survive without either husband or children, a state of existence almost unimaginable in the television universe a decade or two earlier.

(In Andy & Don, I argue that the actress Aneta Corsaut’s Helen Crump character on the Griffith Show was effectively Mary Richards a decade before Mary Richards, a single, professional woman living apart from her parents and daring to date a man – - Sheriff Andy Taylor – - without marrying him.)

One of the great things about Mary Tyler Moore is how many of its characters are rendered as complex, three-dimensional beings, rather than simplistic comedy caricatures. No doubt millions of viewers identified with Mary Richards; I bet many others saw shades of themselves in the gritty Lou, the affable Murray or the brash, beloved Rhoda.

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4. Rainn Wilson, “Dwight Schrute,” The Office. Zero Emmy wins, three nominations.

I was surprised to see how seldom Rainn Wilson was honored by the academy for his work as Dwight Schrute, the hyperkinetic beet farmer of The Office, over its nine-season run.

Many great performers came and went from the American adaptation of the U.K. mockumentary series about a paper company in a gloomy London suburb. Yet, to my mind, two characters owned every scene in which they appeared. One was Dwight – like Barney Fife, a child trapped in a man’s body, whose every movement, mannerism and utterance seemed better-suited to an eleven-year-old boy. The other was Steve Carell’s Michael Scott, the program’s nominal lead and also the nominal manager of the namesake office, although he, too, seemed frozen in unresolved adolescence.

rainn wilson the office

The Office risked veering off into sit-com chaos by positing wild, physical comedic actors as both lead and sidekick. The program’s straight man, its Andy Taylor, is clearly Jim, played by a pre-buff John Krasinski. Jim is the surrogate for the Office viewing audience, along with Pam, his love interest: They are very nearly the only “normal,” well-adjusted characters in the room, and much of the comedy derives from their raised-eyebrow reactions to the comedic chaos around them. (The pranks Jim and Pam play on the hapless Dwight often verge on elitist bullying: The Office is a surprisingly cruel show.)

Wilson’s work in The Office was tireless and brilliant. He wielded his tall, gawkish, Bill-Moyers-meets-Garrison-Keillor frame as a comedic weapon, his herky-jerky movements reminiscent of the great Basil Fawlty. And his energy never slacked: Watch the season-five skit in which Dwight works over a CPR dummy, a scene as fresh as the actor’s work in season one. Perhaps no one else in recent memory has come closer to channeling the manic genius of Barney Fife.

…..

Honorable mention:

1. Gary Burghoff, “Radar,” M*A*S*H. One Emmy, seven nominations. Not really a sidekick, Radar was the only M*A*S*H mainstay as downright lovable as Alan Alda.

2. Christopher Lloyd, “Rev. Jim,” Taxi. Two Emmys, two nominations. I think Christopher Lloyd was as much a prototype for Seinfeld’s Kramer as the real-life Kramer.

3. Laurie Metcalf, “Jackie,” Roseanne. Three Emmys, five nominations. The most likeable character on Roseanne, a welcome foil to the brash lead. And, like Barney, an officer of the law!

4. Rhea Perlman, “Carla,” Cheers. Four Emmys, ten nominations. A real standout in an amazing ensemble. Is Carla the most “Boston” character on Cheers?

5. Eric Stonestreet, “Cam,” and Ty Burrell, “Phil,” Modern Family. Four Emmys between them. These two whirlwinds made Modern Family television’s funniest show for a few years.

6. Megan Mullaly, “Karen,” Will & Grace. Two Emmys, eight nominations. My favorite character on a groundbreaking sit-com.

7. Lisa Kudrow, “Phoebe,” Friends. One Emmy, six nominations. I used to consider “Phoebes” one of two or three truly funny characters on Friends. Two decades on, she seems to have aged better than the others.

8. Bryan Cranston, “Hal,” Malcolm in the Middle. Zero Emmys, three nominations. Bryan Cranston’s second-best role. And that’s saying something.

…..

-Daniel de Vise for Classic Movie Hub

Daniel de Visé is Don Knott’s brother-in-law and author of Andy and Dona lively and revealing biography, and the definitive work on the legacy of The Andy Griffith Show and two of America’s most enduring stars.  The book features extensive unpublished interviews with those closest to both men. De Visé’s latest book is The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France,  published in June by Atlantic Monthly Press.

     

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Grace Kelly, Model (Exclusive Post by Author Mary Mallory)

Grace Kelly, Model
Exclusive Post by Mary Mallory, Author of Living with Grace

Born November 12, 1929, Grace Kelly grew up in the affluent East Falls neighborhood of Philadelphia as the third of four children of John B. “Jack” Kelly and Margaret Kelly, successful in their own right. Jack won 3 gold medals in the 1920 and 1924 Olympics as a rower before becoming a wealthy brick company owner, while Margaret possessed a great track record in swimming before becoming coach and instructor for the University of Pennsylvania’s Physical Education Department’s women’s teams.

Grace Kelly as a BabyGrace Kelly as a child

Overprotected and coddled, Grace was considered “the least likely to succeed in the family” by her father due to her klutzy and unimpressive athletic skills. She tried to follow along, though her heart wasn’t in it, drawn instead to the arts and theatre. While she failed to become a world class athlete, Grace learned valuable lessons from her father that later served her well in her modeling and acting career, such as discipline, dedication, focus, and never giving up. As her mother would say, “The Kelly family has been rich mainly in industriousness, ingenuity, and talent.”

George Kelly, father of Grace KellyGeorge Kelly

Grace instead focused her time in acting and the arts, a love she came by naturally. Her uncle Walter played a judge in vaudeville/stage skits for years while her uncle George worked his way up from actor/director to successful playwright of such plays as The Torch-Bearers (1922) and The Show-off (1924). He won the Pulitzer Prize for Best Play in 1926 for Craig’s Wife.

George and Grace both shared a love of arts and culture, which he nurtured and developed, expanding her interest in theatre. After taking ballet and actinng lessons, and appearing in such plays as Don’t Eat the Animals in 1942, Grace set her sights on becoming a great stage star. Grace decided to enter the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York to study acting after failing to get into Bennington, her first choice. Pulling some strings by dropping her uncle’s name when she auditioned with a scene from The Torch-Bearers, Grace won a spot in 1947, though her father hoped “it was only a whim” and she would eventually return home to Philadelphia.

Instead, Grace felt right at home, independent for the first time. She threw herself wholeheartedly into her classes, fencing, drilling, and improving her voice by losing her twang and changing her accent to the more mid-Atlantic/British one she grew famous for. Grace impressed friends with her drive, with one later declaring, “Knows where she’s going. Driving herself like a streamlined racing car.”

Grace Kelly as model, McCall's AdGrace Kelly as model in McCall’s Ad

Grace took jobs such as modeling to support herself while in school, determined to show her independence and her love of acting to her parents, who viewed it as only a hobby.  Following her lifelong traits of focus, drive, and determination, Grace never stopped hustling, making the rounds of commercial and production houses, dropping off head shots and auditioning for jobs. Once started, she never seemed to let up, seeking out high class products and national advertising campaigns in which to take part. Grace later remarked, “Thanks to some lucky breaks in landing choice assignments in modeling jobs, I’ve been able to support myself fairly well.”

Grace Kelly as model, Hammermill SEP, Saturday Evening Post, November 1948Grace Kelly in Hammermill ad, Saturday Evening Post, November 1948
Grace Kelly as model, SEP, Saturday Evening Post,  January 1950 Ivory SoapGrace Kelly as model for Ivory Soap ad, Saturday Evening Post,  January 1950

Her perky, fresh-faced look quickly landed her jobs promoting beauty products. Grace appeared in well known magazines like Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s, Ladies Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping for such products as face cream, soap, shampoo, and toothpaste. Grace’s perfect white teeth “graced” ads for such companies as Pepsodent and Ipana, while her natural complexion helped sell Ivory and Cashmere soap. Her golden locks promoted such companies as Halo and Prell.

Grace Kelly as model, Sanka Half Page Ad LHJ, Ladies Home Journal, 1950Grace Kelly in Sanka Half Page Ad, Ladies Home Journal, 1950

At the same time, Grace posed for ads promoting typewriters, underarm pads, stationery, and even coffee. She even posed for stories in magazines like “How to Fold a Sweater” in a 1948 Good Housekeeping issue, Butterick patterns, and appeared on three covers for Redbook magazine in 1950, one as an American Airlines flight attendant. At one point, Grace earned $15,000 a year from all her modeling assignments, providing a nice income while she pursued acting jobs on Broadway.

Grace Kelly as model Wash Sweater Good Housekeeping Fall 1948Grace Kelly washing sweater in Good Housekeeping ad, Fall 1948
Grace Kelly as model, IpanaGrace Kelly in ad for Ipana toothpaste

As Grace began landing parts in television shows in 1950, she moved away from modeling to concentrate on succeeding in TV, displaying the same intensity in seeking out roles as she did in landing magazine jobs. Just like her father, life was a giant competition for Grace, exceeding her previous success while also conquering new fields and competitors. In the early 1950s, Grace quickly rose to the top in television, working with major stars and creators before becoming a film icon in the middle of the decade.

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–Mary Mallory for Classic Movie Hub

Mary Mallory is a film historian, photograph archivist, and researcher, focusing on Los Angeles and early film history. She is the author of Living with Grace: Life Lessons from America’s Princess. She also co-authored Hollywood at Play: The Lives of the Stars Between Takes (with Stephen X. Sylvester and Donovan Brandt) and writes theatre reviews for The Tolucan Times and blogs for the LA Daily Mirror. Mallory served on Hollywood Heritage, Inc.’s Board of Directors, and acts as a docent for the Hollywood Heritage Museum. You can follow her on twitter at @mallory_mary.

You can click here to order Mary’s latest book on amazon:

More Books by Mary Mallory:

               

 

 

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Noir Nook: Noirs I Watch Over and Over

Noir Nook: Noirs I Watch Over and Over

I was talking to a co-worker the other day, and she remarked that she didn’t understand how people can read the same books or watch the same movies and television shows over and over again. I was astonished – I don’t re-read books as much as I used to, but I have a rotation of much-loved TV shows that I watch daily (Good Times, The Brady Bunch, Girlfriends, News Radio, Wings, and The New Adventures of Old Christine among them). And as for movies – sometimes it seems like the only movies I watch are the ones I’ve seen before.

For this month’s Noir Nook, I’ve compiled my top 5 films noir that I can (and do!) watch over and over again. In reviewing my list, I noticed one common thread – each of them has at least one juicy, memorable female character. And I’m not surprised. There’s just something about those noir dames.

So here’s my list – and for a bonus, I’ve included some favorite quotes and some tidbits of trivia thrown in for good measure. Enjoy!

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Double Indemnity (1944)
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times – Double Indemnity is my all-time, hands-down, without-question favorite noir. It offers a simple story – an insurance salesman (Fred MacMurray) falls hard for the sexy wife (Barbara Stanwyck) of an oil company executive and together, they plot and carry out said oilman’s murder – and, of course, there’s the insurance payout of the film’s title, just to make things good and juicy.

Double Indemnity (1944) Fred MacMurray and Barbara StanwyckFred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity (1944).

Favorite quote: “I think you’re swell – so long as I’m not your husband.” – Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray)

Trivia tidbit: Neither of the film’s stars – Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray – initially was very keen on accepting the roles they played. Stanwyck said she was “a little afraid” to portray an “out-and-out killer.” And MacMurray, who had strategically fostered a good guy screen image up to that point, was similarly reticent, but he later said it was “the best picture I ever made.”

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Mildred Pierce (1945)
I think I’ve probably seen Mildred Pierce more often than any other noir. It’s the tale of a stay-at-home-mom turned single working mother turned successful businesswoman whose blind love for her self-absorbed daughter ultimately leads down the path to murder. And I cannot get enough of it. The picture, of course, belongs to Joan Crawford in the title role (for which she deservedly earned an Academy Award), but she’s more than ably backed up by such luminaries as Eve Arden as her best pal, Zachary Scott as her shady second husband, and Jack Carson, as her first husband’s ex-business partner and one of the most opportunistic gents you’d ever care to meet. I have it on VHS and DVD, and I still get excited when it comes on TV.

Mildred Pierce (1945) Ann Blyth, Zachary Scott, Joan CrawfordAnn Blyth, Zachary Scott and Joan Crawford in Mildred Pierce (1945).

Favorite quote: “Personally, Veda’s convinced me that alligators have the right idea. They eat their young.” – Ida Corwin (Eve Arden)

Trivia tidbit: The beach house used in several scenes was owned by the film’s director, Michael Curtiz. It was built in Malibu in 1929 but collapsed into the ocean in 1983 after a week of heavy storms.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
My fondness for The Postman Always Rings Twice started when I was a little girl — I can remember feeling so mature when I realized that I understood the meaning of the title. The film stars Lana Turner as one of my favorite noir dames, Cora Smith, who teams with her lover, Frank Smith (John Garfield), to knock off her husband. It’s got so much to recommend it – from Turner’s all-white wardrobe to George Bassman’s oh-so-dramatic musical score. It just never gets old.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) John Garfield and Lana TurnerJohn Garfield and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946).

Favorite quote: “Stealing a man’s wife, that’s nothing, but stealing a man’s car – that’s larceny!” – Frank Chambers (John Garfield)

Trivia tidbit: Lana Turner wasn’t impressed with the 1981 remake of the film, which starred Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson. “They are such fools to play around with something that’s still a classic,” she said. “I’m a little heartsick. Jack Nicholson just isn’t John Garfield. The chemistry we had just crackled. Every facet [was] so perfect.”

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Sunset Boulevard (1950)
The last time I saw Sunset Boulevard was at the TCM Film Festival in April – and it was just as mesmerizing as it was at my first viewing more than 30 years ago. I don’t care how many times I see this tale of an aging film star and her web of delusion that ensnares a young screenwriter, I’m always left breathless at the end. It’s simply riveting from start to finish.

Sunset Boulevard (1950) William Holden and Gloria Swanson in TheatreWilliam Holden and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard (1950).

Favorite quote: “Audiences don’t know somebody sits down and writes a picture; they think the actors make it up as they go along.” – Joe Gillis (William Holden)

Trivia tidbit: Sunset Boulevard was the 17th and final screenplay collaboration between Billy Wilder and co-writer Charles Brackett. After an especially nasty argument over a sequence in the film, they vowed to never work together again.

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Detour (1945)
It’s low-budget with a running time of 68 and a cast of performers you probably never heard of before this film. But Detour is AWESOME, and every time I see it, I can hardly believe my eyes and ears. It’s the story of an ill-fated piano player who gets way more than he bargained for when he decides to hitchhike across the country to join his girlfriend in L.A. Starring Tom Neal (whose real-life story is even more doomed than his character’s!) and Ann Savage, who spits out her lines like they taste bad, Detour keeps me on the edge of my seat with every viewing.

Detour (1945) Tom Neal and Ann SavageTom Neal and Ann Savage in Detour (1945).

Favorite quote: “Money. You know what that is, the stuff you never have enough of. Little green things with George Washington’s picture that men slave for, commit crimes for, die for. It’s the stuff that has caused more trouble in the world than anything else we ever invented, simply because there’s too little of it.” – Al Roberts (Tom Neal)

Trivia tidbit: The budget PRC gave director Edgar G. Ulmer for this film was so small that the 1941 Lincoln Continental V-12 convertible driven by Charles Haskell was actually Ulmer’s personal car.

That’s my top 5 noirs that I watch over and over. How about you? What noirs can’t you get enough of?

– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Karen’s Noir Nook articles here.

Karen Burroughs Hannsberry is the author of the Shadows and Satin blog, which focuses on movies and performers from the film noir and pre-Code eras, and the editor-in-chief of The Dark Pages, a bimonthly newsletter devoted to all things film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @TheDarkPages.
If you’re interested in learning more about Karen’s books, you can read more about them on amazon here:

 

Posted in Noir Nook, Posts by Karen Burroughs Hannsberry | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

September Celebration Kino Classics Giveaway (Twitter)

Celebrating the Fall with a Classic Kino Lorber Giveaway!
Winner’s Choice of 4 Classic Titles

Time for our next contest! This time we kick off the fall with another cool Kino Classics giveaway… We are happy to say that we have TEN classic DVD or Blu-Rays to giveaway on Twitter this month, winners’ choice of four titles - Trapeze starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida, The Farmer’s Daughter starring Loretta Young, Joseph Cotten and Ethel Barrymore, A Strange Adventure starring Ben Cooper and Joan Evans, and I Walk Alone starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas  and Lizabeth Scott. And don’t forget to stay tuned because we’ll also be giving away TWO more DVDs/Blu-Rays via a separate Facebook/Blog giveaway this month too. That said, here we go…

TrapezeTrapeze starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Oct 13 at 10PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick two winners on five different days within the contest period, via random drawings, as listed below… So if you don’t win the first week that you enter, you will still be eligible to win during the following weeks until the contest is over.

  • Sept 15: Two Winners
  • Sept 22: Two Winners
  • Sept 29: Two Winners
  • Oct 6: Two Winners
  • Oct 13: Two Winners

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub (or this blog, depending how you entered), the day after each winner is picked at 10PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winners on Sunday Sept 16 around 10PM EST.

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Here are the titles up for grabs:

Trapeze: Blu-Ray or DVD available. Screen icons Burt Lancaster (Elmer Gantry), Tony Curtis (The Vikings) and Gina Lollobrigida (Woman of Straw) form a troubled love triangle in the realistic, suspenseful film shot in the actual Cirque d’Hiver in Paris. Young American acrobat Tino Orsini (Curtis) is an aspiring trapeze artist who comes to Paris in search of Mike Ribble (Lancaster), a former aerialist who has retired after injuring himself attempting a triple somersault. Mike agrees to teach Tino the triple after circus performer Rosa O’Flynn (Katy Jurado, One-Eyed Jacks) convinces him to stop feeling sorry for himself and try to recapture some of the fame that eluded him. But when two men both fall in love with the beautiful Lola (Lollobrigida) – who uses them both to further her own ambitions – the triangle threatens the dreams of them all. Trapeze, directed by the great Carol Reed (The Third Man, The Fallen Idol) is highlighted by great performances and high drama, and all the actors performed most of their own stunts (Lancaster had previously been an acrobat in real life). Two of the film’s best features are the terrific Scope photography by Robert Krasker (El Cid, Brief Encounter) and the hauntingly beautiful score by Malcolm Arnold (The Bridge on the River Kwai). The wonderful Thomas Gomez (Key Largo) co-stars in this classic romantic drama.

The Farmer’s Daughter:  Blu-Ray or DVD available. Loretta Young (The Stranger) is The Farmer’s Daughter – blonde, brash and so hilariously heartwarming that she won the 1948 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. As Katrin, she romps through one uproarious romantic adventure after another, an independent farm girl who becomes a politician and captures the heart of a Congressman along the way. The outrageous antics begin when Katrin, fresh from the farm, arrives in Capitol City ready to take on the metropolis. She takes the very first job she can find: housemaid in the wealthy home of urbane Congressman Glenn Morley, charmingly played by Joseph Cotten (Portrait of Jennie). But she’s no sooner tied the apron strings around her waist than she’s running for Congress. To complicate matters further, Morley is developing a case of infatuation for Katrin – and it’s looking like love that knows no political bounds. Directed by H. C. Potter (Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House) and co-starring Ethel Barrymore (The Spiral Staircase), Charles Bickford (The Big Country) and Harry Davenport (The Ox-Bow Incident). Bickford was nominated for the Best Actor in a Supporting Role Academy Award.

A Strange Adventure:  Blu-Ray or DVD available. Brand New HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Negative by Paramount Pictures Archive! Legendary serial and western director William Witney (Sunset in the West, Daredevils of the Red Circle) directed this film noir about a trio of armored-car robbers who make their getaway by forcing a young hot-rodder (Ben Cooper, The Last Command) to be their driver. The vicious criminals take over a mountain cabin for a hideout after overpowering its occupants. The suspenseful crime drama co-stars Joan Evans (No Name on the Bullet), Marla English (Voodoo Woman), Jan Merlin (Cole Younger, Gunfighter) and Nick Adams (Invasion of Astro-Monster). Beautifully shot in black-and-white by Bud Thackery (Coogan’s Bluff).

I Walk Alone:  Blu-Ray or DVD available. Brand New HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Safety Dupe Negative by Paramount Pictures Archive! Byron Haskin (The War of the Worlds, Too Late for Tears) directed this classic film noir about two bootleggers on the lam. Partners Frankie (Burt Lancaster, Elmer Gantry) and Noll (Kirk Douglas, The Devil’s Disciple) split up to evade capture by the police. Frankie is caught and jailed, but Noll manages to escape and open a posh New York City nightclub. Years later Frankie is released from the clink and visits Noll with the intention of collecting his half of the nightclub’s profits. But Noll, who has no intention of being so equitable, uses his ex-girlfriend Kay (Lizabeth Scott, Pitfall) to divert Frankie from his intended goal. Co-starring Wendell Corey (Desert Fury) and legendary noir baddies Marc Lawrence (The Asphalt Jungle) and Mike Mazurki (Murder, My Sweet).

the farmers daughter movie posterThe Farmer’s Daughter starring Loretta Young, Joseph Cotten and Ethel Barrymore

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, Oct 13 at 10PM EST— BUT remember, the sooner you enter, the more chances you have to win…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

2) Then TWEET (not DM) the following message:
Just entered to win the September Celebration #DVDGiveaway courtesy of @KinoLorber and @ClassicMovieHub #CMHContest link: http://ow.ly/s5c030lMAaw

THE QUESTION:
Which of the above films would you like to win and why? 

*If you do not have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…

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You can visit Kino Lorber on their website, on Twitter at @KinoLorber or on Facebook.

Please note that only Continental United States (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico) entrants are eligible.

And — BlogHub members ARE eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

For complete rules, click here.

And if you can’t wait to win any of these titles, you can click on the images below to purchase on amazon :)
           

Good Luck!

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments

Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (Giveaway runs through September 29)

Win tickets to see “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” on the big screen!
In Select Cinemas Nationwide Sun Oct 14 and Wed Oct 17!

I always get a great kick out of that part of the Declaration of Independence.”

CMH continues into our 3rd year of our partnership with Fathom Events - with the 11th of our 13 movie ticket giveaways for 2018, courtesy of Fathom Events!

That said, we’ll be giving away EIGHT PAIRS of tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington – the screen at its most inspired — the way it was meant to be seen – on the Big Screen!

In order to qualify to win a pair of movie tickets via this contest, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, September 29 at 6 PM EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, September 30, between 6PM EST and 7PM EST. If a winner(s) does not have a Twitter account, we will announce that winner(s) via this blog in the comment section below.

TCM BIG Screen Classics Present Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday, October 14 and Wednesday, October 17 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time. Winners will be responsible for their own transportation to the Event. Only United States entries are eligible. Please click here before you enter to ensure that the Event is scheduled at a theater near you and that you are able to attend. (please note that there might be slightly different theater listings for each date)

ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, September 29 at 6PM EST…

1) Answer the below question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog post

THE QUESTION:
What is it about “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” that makes it a classic? And, if you haven’t seen it, why do you want to see it on the Big Screen?

2) Then TWEET* (not DM) the following message:
I just entered to win tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics Presents: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents #EnterToWin #CMHContest link here: http://ow.ly/WLFn30lJDjm 

*If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply answering the above question via the comment section at the bottom of this blog — BUT PLEASE ENSURE THAT YOU ADD THIS VERBIAGE TO YOUR ANSWER: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

NOTE: if for any reason you encounter a problem commenting here on this blog, please feel free to tweet or DM us, or send an email to clas@gmail.com and we will be happy to create the entry for you.

ALSO: Please allow us 48 hours to approve your comments. Sorry about that, but we are being overwhelmed with spam, and must sort through 100s of comments…

James Stewart and Jean Arthur in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

About the film: The naïve Jeff Smith (James Stewart) is appointed as a U.S. Senator by a corrupt political party machine headed by the Governor, a publisher and Senator Paine (Claude Rains). Paine, hoping to keep Senator Smith from prying into a pending bill for an unnecessary but profitable dam, suggests to Smith that he sponsor a bill for his own pet project, a boys’ camp. Meanwhile, Smith’s disillusioned secretary, Saunders (Jean Arthur), who is on Paine’s payroll, has fallen in love with Mr. Smith. She informs him that the dam and camp share the same land site! Shocked, Mr. Smith threatens Paine with exposure, but Paine tells the senate that Smith owns the land. Mr. Smith fights back with a heroic one-man filibuster. This two-day event includes exclusive insight from Turner Classic Movies.

Please note that only United States residents are eligible to enter this giveaway contest. (see contest rules for further information)

BlogHub members ARE also eligible to win if they live within the Continental United States (as noted above).

You can follow Fathom Events on Twitter at @fathomevents

Good Luck!

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Fathom Events | Tagged , , , , , | 10 Comments

Classic Movie Travels: Vivian Blaine

Classic Movie Travels: Vivian Blaine – New Jersey, New York

Vivian Blaine Headshot Black and WhiteThe beautiful, talented Vivian Blaine.

Whether in her days as a glamorous cherry redhead or a zany blonde, Vivian Blaine was an enthusiastic delight in many films. Harboring musical talents and excellent timing, Blaine could easily steal the show with her knack for comedy.

Vivian Stapleton was born in Newark, New Jersey, on November 21, 1921, to Leo Stapleton, an insurance agent and baritone singer for an orchestra, and Wilhelmina Tepley, who was a phone solicitor.

It did not take long for Blaine to develop an interest in performing. She attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts at age 12. Shortly afterward, she would appear on local stages, priming her for a career as a big band singer in nightclubs throughout New Jersey and New York. Blaine toured regularly with various dance bands with Art Kassel and his “Kassels in the Air”.

By the 1940s, Blaine was already a top-billed act at the Copacabana nightclub in New York, billed above the likes of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Around the same time, she met Manny Franks, who was 20 years her senior. Franks would be her agent, husband, and the reason why she decided to sign a contract with 20th Century Fox. Blaine and Franks relocated to Hollywood, where Blaine began to appear in a succession of films.

At 20th Century Fox, Blaine shared top billing with Laurel and Hardy in Jitterbugs (1943). She also appeared in Greenwich Village (1944), Something for the Boys (1944), Nob Hill (1945), and State Fair (1945), among many other film roles. She became a prime musical performer during the wartime and post-wartime years, just behind Alice Faye and Betty Grable in popularity.

Vivian Blaine in State Fair (1945)Vivian Blaine as Emily Edwards in State Fair (1945).

Blaine grew tired of the studio having her play second lead all too often, so she decided to buy up her contract from Fox. Afterward, she returned to New York to pursue singing and theater engagements.

Upon making her mark in films, Blaine returned to the stage and made her Broadway debut in 1950’s Guys and Dolls. Here, she originated the role of Adelaide, the longtime fiancée of gambler Nathan Detroit. The show enjoyed 1,200 performances, with Blaine reprising the role in London’s West End in 1953 and in the 1955 feature film. She also participated in a command performance for Queen Elizabeth II.

Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine in Guys and Dolls (1955)Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine in the film Guys and Dolls (1955).

Blaine continued her Broadway career with shows like A Hatful of Rain; Say, Darling; Enter Laughing; Company; and Zorba, in addition to appearing in the touring company of Gypsy. During this period in her life, she married Milton Rackmill, President of Universal Studios and Decca Records, who wanted a stay-at-home wife. This marriage did not last long, as Blaine was eager to continue in the business. She recorded several albums prior to their divorce in 1961.

In her 50s, Blaine turned her attention to television, where she carried out may guest appearances. She could be spotted on shows like Fantasy Island; Murder, She Wrote; and The Love Boat, in addition to a recurring role on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. In 1971, she appeared on the 25th annual Tony Awards as a guest performer and sang “Adelaide’s Lament” from Guys and Dolls, leaving behind a filmed performance for posterity. She was also asked to perform at the White House for the likes of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Vivian Blaine Performs Guys and Dolls' Adelaide's Lament at the 1971 Tony AwardsVivian Blaine Performs “Adelaide’s Lament” at the 1971 Tony Awards.

Blaine’s final marriage would be to Stuart Clark, an executive in the ferment industry who started to supervise her career and helped revive it through 1970s television. Her manager, Rob Cipriano, developed many projects for Blaine in the 1980s, mostly leading to additional television roles. In addition to her work on television, she frequently appeared on many “Best Dressed Women in America” lists, clad in the latest styles from 1973-1983. She also became one of the first celebrities to make public service announcements for AIDS-related causes, in addition to supporting AIDS-Project Los Angeles (APLA). She also recorded her cabaret act, which donated its royalties to APLA.

Blaine passed away on December 9, 1995, from congestive heart failure at age 74.

Today, there are few physical locations in relation to Blaine’s life and career. In the 1930s, her family lived at 109 38th St. in Irvington, New Jersey. In the early 1940s, she was associated with an address on Mt. Pleasant Ave. in Newark, New Jersey. While the address of her 1930s home no longer exists, this is the property today.

Vivian Blaine's 1930's Home at 109 38th Street in Irvington, New JerseyVivian Blaine’s 1930′s Home at 109 38th Street in Irvington, New Jersey.

Perhaps the most effective tributes to Blaine are her rendition of “Adelaide’s Lament” for the Tony Awards as well as her donation of the Vivian Blaine Papers. The Vivian Blaine Papers reside in the archives of the New York Public Library, boasting personal correspondences between Blaine and her friends and colleagues, in addition to personal items such as album covers, Fan Club materials, contracts, hand-written recipes, and professional files relating to her career in film and on the stage. Her collection also includes awards, photographs, press and publicity materials, programs, scripts, and scores.

Should you be in an archive in New York or enjoying one of Blaine’s many performances elsewhere, take a moment to celebrate the enthusiastic contributions Blaine made to the world of entertainment.

–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.

 

 

Posted in Classic Movie Travels, Posts by Annette Bochenek | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

What’s Happening in Classics: September 2018

The CMH Guide for September 2018:
Movie Screenings, TV Schedules, Contests and More!

Welcome to our monthly ‘CMH Guide’ for Classics! And welcome September! We’re hoping this classic movie and TV guide will help you plan some classic viewing fun… If we’re missing a classic channel, just let us know and we’ll be happy to add it!

What's happening in classic movies and tv classic movie hub guide

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dean martin star of the month on tcm

TCM…

  • Star of the Month: DEAN MARTIN! From the early comedies, dramas, westerns, the Rat Pack years and more, “Dino” proved he was the enviable King of Cool who could do it all. Watch his selected filmography every Wednesday in September.
  • AAFCA Presents, The Black Experience On Film (This month’s TCM Spotlight) every Tuesday and Thursday in September. From silents to the 70s, this collection explores a variety of films depicting the black experience in chronological order. Full schedule here. 
  • AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, airing Sept. 3rd Primetime: George Clooney.
  • Sept. 10th Guest Programmer: Keith Carradine. Hollywood legacy and self admitted TCM addict, he sits down with Ben Mankiewicz to present an evening of his favorite classics.
  • Saturday Evening Post Stories features The Big Heat, Friday Sept 7th at 8pm ET.

saturday evening post stories on tcm

  • The Ritz Brothers tribute on September 16th. A trio of 1930s films, 2 are TCM premieres, showcase this popular comedy team.
  • Birthday Tribute: Roddy McDowall Sept. 17th (Daytime).
  • 9/17 and 9/24: “Directed By Martin Scorsese” … For 2 nights, TCM will tribute the Director and regular TCM contributor with 7 of his films from the decade that made him a star.

For more info about what’s playing on TCM this month, visit the TCM Movie Schedule at CMH here.

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paul newman star of the week on filmstruck

FilmStruck… subscription needed…

  • Contest: Our initial contest is over, but check back because we’ll be launching a new contest soon!
  • Films: Fresh content added in this month’s library including Cartoon Roots, Movies For Math Lovers, Based on Ira Levin, Early Hitchcock and more
  • Featured Collections: The films of Paul Newman, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra, Lana Turner, Max von Sydow and more!
  • Podcast: Alicia Malone hosts a lively podcast with fascinating guests…
  • FilmStruck Forum: CMH just launched our monthly FilmStruck Column - join the conversation!

Especially for CMH Fans:) a 30-Day Free Filmstruck Trial

filmstruck exclusive 30-day trial subscription

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cmh classic movie hub

Blogathons…

For a full listing of Blogathons, click here. Or add your own and we will help promote it.

TCM Parties for September… Follow along and live tweet using the #TCMParty hashtag

  • The Big Heat (1953) Sept 7 at 8pm ET
  • Captains Courageous (1937) Sept 10 at 8pm ET 
  • Theodora Goes Wild (1936) Sept 14 at 8pm ET 
  • Oceans Eleven (1960) Sept 19 at 8pm ET 

Check out the complete list and times here.

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pluto tv logo

Pluto TV… Would love to know what you think of this free streaming movie service… There’s a reason :) 

  • Pluto TV is like an old-school TV set — you flip through the channels to see what’s on. The good news is that the service is FREE, and they have a Classic Movie Channel and a Classic TV Channel – among other fun channels.  Would love to know what you think…
  • Classic Movie Channel
  • Classic TV Channel

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movies tv network logo Movies TV Network…

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 GetTV-logo

GetTV… Classic Movies and Retro TV…

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MeTV_logo MeTV…

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Antenna_TV_logo Antenna TV…

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Decades_TV_Logo Decades TV… 

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Fathom-events logo

Fathom Events “TCM Big Screen Classics”… movies on the Big Screen at select theaters nationwide…

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buster keaton film festival

Go Local! Discover Movie Screenings and Events in your Neighborhood and across the US…

Classic Films on the big screen, Film Festivals and more can be found across the country. For example, Enjoy the 25th annual Buster Keaton special event in Kansas City: The Legacy of Buster Keaton and WC Fields, taking place September 15th~ All-day Silent Screenings with Live Music and FREE ADMISSION!

Check out the CMH Event Calendar to see what’s playing at Theaters across the US including:

If we’re missing a ‘classic movie’ theater or event in your neighborhood, please let us know!

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Pre-Code Corner: Outward Bound – High Class on the High Seas

Pre-Code Corner: Outward Bound: High Class on the High Seas

“A helluva good picture about heaven!” a September 1930 Variety ad boisterously proclaimed of Outward Bound. Leave it to Warner Brothers to make a surpassingly ethereal, sophisticated picture… and then endorse the hell out of it in a vulgar way.

After watching and researching so many pre-Code titles, I find myself a bit jaded by the era’s antics at times. But every so often, there’s an entry that knocks me for a loop. Outward Bound was one of those pictures.

Outward Bound Movie Poster Leslie Howard, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Helen ChandlerOutward Bound was released in New York on 17 September 1930.

This pre-Code’s content surprised me, but the reasons weren’t any of the usual suspects—sexual innuendo, violence, or nudity; rather, it was Outward Bound’s allegorical yet grounded manifestation of the afterlife and its unusual consideration and rendering of fraught topics such as suicide and religion that initially piqued my interest. When I dove into research, it was interesting to discover how the picture’s outstanding reception and metaphoric morality altered how those subjects were received—and how the aforementioned acclamation didn’t necessarily equate to a box office hit.

Though the picture is as stilted as its stage origins (it was produced in 1930, after all) and lands a tad too on the nose with its symbolism, Outward Bound’s unique story and powerful performances still captivate. Right after an epic foreword that certainly sets the bar high for this screen adaptation, Henry (Douglas Fairbanks Jr.) and Ann (Helen Chandler) apprehensively make a pact; they cannot be together in this life (we find out later that he is married), so it is implied that suicide is the way to ensure they’ll be united in the afterlife.

Outward Bound (1930) Prelude Card OpeningThis is the least grandiose of the opening prelude cards.
Outward Bound (1930) Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Helen Chandler and Laddy the DogHenry (Fairbanks Jr.) and Ann (Chandler) make a tough decision with their beloved pup, Laddy.

The next we see the couple, they’re passengers on a ship, but this isn’t just any ocean liner: There’s no crew save for a steward and only a handful of fellow travelers, all of whom have no idea where they’re headed. With the oddities piling up, it isn’t long before drunken Tom (Leslie Howard) realizes they’re all dead. Just as the others—a society woman, a businessman, a lower class “chairwoman,” and Reverend Duke (Lyonel Watts)—start to believe him and become anxious that their true selves will be revealed, the Examiner (Dudley Digges) boards to dole out their fates: namely, heaven or hell. As “half ways,” Henry and Ann are excluded from judgment, but only by happenstance, it turns out; at the end, they seemingly find the courage to return to the real world and receive another chance at life.

Outward Bound (1930) Ship at sea in the fogDestination: unknown. Almost all outdoor shots in the movie—on land and at sea—are shrouded in an otherworldly fog and haze.

Playwright Sutton Vane penned Outward Bound in 1923, and since the fantastical subject matter scared producers, Vane presented it himself in true DIY fashion, and it worked: The play became a hit, quickly found a larger home on London’s West End, and ran on the Great White Way in 1924… and 1926… and 1928. But that was the 1920s. Though I admittedly have the benefit of hindsight, I believe Outward Bound feels uniquely suited to the Great Depression, showing the entitled, haughty upper class (a rich businessman and a society snob) going to hell for their various indiscretions and chiding those who turn to suicide for being cowardly.

Outward Bound (1930) Montagu Love and Mr.Lingley

Outward Bound (1930) Alison Skipworth as Mrs.Cliveden-banksCan you guess where these two, Mr. Lingley (Montagu Love) and Mrs. Cliveden-Banks (Alison Skipworth), are headed?

Even more relatable to the era, Vane claimed in a 1931 Picturegoer article that all the passengers on the ship have one shared thought: They’ve lost their jobs, and they grapple with the question of whether they will be able to continue with their occupations in the afterlife. As Vane summed up: “…My task has been to try to explain, by means of a theatrical allegory, that having taken on a job, willingly or unwillingly, we are not meant to quit it in the middle, provided it is a good job, and life is a good job. Get on with it! Don’t let it beat you! Don’t quit!” That encouragement sounds tailored frankly for early 1930s patrons, doesn’t it?

In most of the Production Code Administration (PCA) files I’ve perused, suicide was frowned upon and religion (and religious figures) were held in the highest esteem. In regards to the former, while we’re led to believe Henry and Ann have committed suicide, the twist is that they survive, and in their “halfway” state they are chastised for lacking courage before they decided to end it all. An early Studio Relations Committee (SRC) script reviewer emphasized the ethical significance the motif provides: “…the entire thing is a strong preachment against suicide. It also is a preachment for living kinder, more generous lives on Earth.” With such a highly moralistic resolution to the suicide storyline—and one that dealt with it delicately, at that—it’s easy to see why the film skirted this potential criticism.

Outward Bound (1930) Alec B. Francis as Scrubby and Helen Chandler as AnneThe steward, Scrubby (Alec B. Francis), also a “halfway,” begged Ann to watch over Henry… who is off on his way back to the real world in the background.

However, Outward Bound’s portrayal of a clergyman who is less than perfect and a lighthearted take on Judgement Day would raise red flags, right? Yes, at first. Initial comments on the script from the SRC in June 1930 warned that Reverend Duke may offend audiences, especially as he indulges in cards, smokes, drinks, and engages in some potentially blasphemous talk, the latter referring to a moment when someone brings up a Bible passage and he retorts: “Does it really matter what either of them said? Isn’t it more to the point what you’ve got to say?” Further, the script reader noted that select churches could deem the picture as propaganda, particularly when Scrubby reveals their destination to Tom: “Heaven, sir. And Hell, too. It’s the same place, you see.” If that piece of the dialogue sounds potentially perilous in terms of censorship, how’s this incendiary tirade by Mrs. Cliveden-Banks: “Clergymen at sea are dreadfully unlucky. We shall probably all go to the bottom. If we do, I shall blame the clergyman entirely…”? Unsurprisingly, her quote does not appear in the finished picture.

Outward Bound (1930) Beryl Mercer, Leslie Howard, Lyonel Watts PrayerOn the insistence of Mrs. Midget (Beryl Mercer) and Tom (Howard) after he asserts “I’m not fit to pray for others,” Reverend Duke (Watts, far left) recites a prayer—the earliest he ever learned, which he attests is probably the finest he knows.

It seemed Warner Brothers was aware of 1: Just how big the shoes were that this adaptation was trying to fill and 2: The liberties taken with the subject of religion would be… a little difficult to get around. As Andrew Sarris noted in his 1979 piece “The Afterlife, Hollywood-style,” Outward Bound’s lengthy foreword not only set the scene for the epic picture that was to come, it also served to renounce “any intent to offend religious convictions.” But perhaps they needn’t have worried, as the picture’s overall excellence and moral tone ostensibly trumped most potential censorship concerns at the end of the day. (This propensity to excuse certain content due to superior quality or particular tonal approach was not terribly uncommon. One example is the SRC’s defense of MGM’s farcical treatment of 1932’s Red-Headed Woman.) In June 1930, the SRC’s Jason Joy wrote to Warners’ Darryl F. Zanuck to report that nothing in the picture ran afoul of the Code. However, he did caution that some religious groups could object to the “nature of the story,” though he assumed that negative reaction would be limited because the subject was handled so deftly.

Outward Bound (1930) Leslie HowardOf all the cast, Howard received the most glowing reviews in this, his American film debut. Ironically, he portrayed Fairbanks Jr.’s character Henry in the original Broadway run.

Upon watching a finished cut of the picture, the SRC’s Lamar Trotti gushed to Joy: “Outward Bound is a stunning piece of work of the highest intellectual order, with perfect performances. There is nothing remotely objectionable in my opinion.” Someone signing off as “K.R.” echoed Trotti’s sentiment, writing Joy that the movie “profoundly impressed me” as it did most of the “mature” patrons he viewed it with. “Here is something for the ‘left-wing’ to be gratified over unless some of them feel hurt over portraying a clergyman as a human being,” he wrote. Wow, a religious figure being referred to as a regular person? I think it’s safe to say the film’s glowing assessments blinded them on that otherwise potentially touchy religious point.

But how did those possibly sensitive topics fare with censor boards? Remarkably well, at least in the States; the film got off easy, with only one or two lines facing the chopping block in most areas, one being Tom’s utterance: “You dirty clergyman!” However, in England, where the play debuted, the British Censor Board initially denied the picture a seal of approval. Though the subject of suicide was known to be a tricky one when it came to the British authorities, London’s Film Weekly reported in October 1930 that the objection was most likely taken with the Judgement scenes; the SRC’s James Wingate also presumed the characterization of God and religion was what obstructed approval. “A little broadmindedness on the Censor’s part would do no harm,” Film Weekly scolded on the decision. That’s certainly true, but would it help this profound yet moralizing picture when it came time for public consumption?

Outward Bound (1930) The Examiner Dudley DiggesThe Examiner (Digges, in white), rocking laidback Western gear and an affable attitude (at first), probably appears contrary to what 99.9% of religious groups pictured when it comes to Judgement Day.

Near unanimous critical reviews for Outward Bound mirrored the zeal the SRC held for the movie. In fact, The New York Times’ usually exacting Mordaunt Hall enthused: “Few pictures have held the rapt attention of an audience during a screening… The result is one of those rare pictorial offerings that virtually defy adverse criticism.” But while the whole film was praised and several reviews extolled the courage required to mount the production, select reviewers lamented how Outward Bound’s unusual theme would most likely limit its appeal. For instance, The Billboard celebrated the tale as “magnificently written, perfectly played,” but declared that most small-town audiences would find the movie’s psychology and sentiment too “highbrow,” as the film “stands alone on a spiritual plane of its own.” Indeed, Outward Bound seemed a hit in the largest cities—in September 1930, The Los Angeles Times reported the picture ran multiple screenings and attracted “excellent” attendance since its opening—but even an urban area like Newark, NJ struggled to attract audiences; a December 1930 Billboard article tracking picture performance rated Outward Bound’s business in Newark as a rare “poor” (all other films showing there were rated “fair”), with the comment: “Fans went homeward bound very disgusted.” As someone who was born and raised in New Jersey (and worked in Newark), I’d certainly be curious to see what disgusted those crowds!

Outward Bound (1930) Leslie Howard as Tom, Montagu Love as Mr. LingleyTom calls out Mr. Lingley for failing to give him another chance when he worked for the businessman. “No one ever gave me a second chance! I shouldn’t ask for one,” the haughty man takes pride in declaring. That came back to haunt Lingley when he begged the Examiner for a second chance…

To me, Outward Bound stands out for its allegorical implications and a hearty sense of morals during a period that is known, well, for pushing the latter by the wayside. In reading the PCA files, in particular, it seems that this was the type of high quality, honorable “better” entertainment the Production Code and SRC was so desperately trying to press. But in this case, a picture such as Outward Bound may have been a bit too lofty for typical 1930s audiences who weren’t as concerned with fantasies of the afterlife when they were just trying to get by in this life.

–Kim Luperi for Classic Movie Hub

You can read all of Kim’s Pre-Code Corner articles here.

Kim Luperi is a New Jersey transplant living in sunny Los Angeles. She counts her weekly research in the Academy’s Production Code Administration files as a hobby and has written for TCM, AFI Fest, the Pre-Code Companion, MovieMaker Magazine and the American Cinematheque. You can read more of Kim’s articles at I See A Dark Theater or by following her on twitter at @Kimbo3200.

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