Sweet Smell of Success: Review

“Match me, Sidney…”

Hollywood had become overrun with exposés by the 1950s. Films like Sunset Boulevard (1950), Ace in the Hole (1951), and The Bad and the Beautiful (1952) peeled back the scum of their respective industries, dropping men and women into society’s underbelly with little in the way of sympathy. It was a time of ethical examination, where filmmakers bit the hand that fed them and often dealt with the response of those they critiqued, as a write-up in The Hollywood Reporter so thoroughly exemplified, calling Ace in the Hole “a distorted study of corruption and mob psychology that… is nothing more than a brazen, uncalled-for slap in the face of two respected and frequently effective American institutions… democratic government and free press.” Naturally, with such negative press, these pictures fell by the wayside, unable to outlast their flaccid box office returns and the impending influence of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

Sweet Smell of Success Theatrical Poster

Sweet Smell of Success ignored any such concerns. Released in 1957, amidst political witch hunts and the decline of Hollywood’s Golden Age, the film defied media moguls with brazen enjoyment, going after noted columnist Walter Winchell in particular. Adapted from Ernest Lehman’s 1950 novella Tell Me About It Tomorrow!, the picture predictably found stern opposition from the Production Code, the HUAC, and a still powerful Winchell, who, like William Randolph Hearst before him, didn’t appreciate the onscreen attack. Lehman, unphased by this studio squeeze, actually requested Orson Welles play the part of Winchell doppelganger J.J. Hunsecker, if, for no other reason, to echo his controversial turn in Citizen Kane (1941). But the powers that be at production house HHL (Hecht-Hill-Lancaster) decided otherwise, and chose Burt Lancaster, whose matinee looks were worlds away from Winchell’s stocky exterior. Boston born Alexander Mackendrick was brought in to direct on Lehman’s request (after a failed attempt at directing himself), and the film proceeded under scrutinous outside eyes.

Watching it now, nearly seven decades later, it’s a miracle the film didn’t indict everyone involved. The hatred that drips from Hunsecker’s opening exchange with Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis) confirms all that is lowly about the gossip game, right down to the revolving door of senators, hookers, and personal agents. Seated at his regular 21 Club table, the cruel columnist delights in crushing the aspirations of press agent Falco, whose botched job has earned him  “dead man” status and sneering advice to “get himself buried.” Falco was assigned  to break up a romance between jazz musician Steve Dallas (Martin Milner) and Hunsecker’s little sister Susan (Susan Harrison), but this ruined opportunity has left him groveling for a second chance. “Match me, Sidney–” Hunsecker rattles off, serving as demand and request from a man privileged enough to make both.

Sweet Smell of Success, Tony Curtis, Burt LancasterHunsecker (Lancaster) tells press agent Falco (Curtis) to “get himself buried.”

It’s an emasculating ordeal to witness, and the power shift between these two men drive the picture’s black soul. Falco so desires to inhabit Hunsecker’s designer shoes, to reach his rung on the golden ladder, that subjecting himself to threats and public humiliation seem necessary evils along the way. Various people confront this corrupt elephant in the room throughout the film, taunting Falco outright: “There isn’t a drop of respect in you for anything alive… you’re too immersed in the theology of making a fast buck.” Even sweet Susan, the assigned target of his second chance, refers to the press agent as her brother’s “trained poodle,” a remark that noticeably nicks Falco’s bruised ego. In moments such as these, Curtis’ knack for finding pity in a contemptible role makes his descent far more compelling than it ever should be. Still considered a teen heartthrob by 1957, the Bronx actor has no qualm playing morally questionable, and this commitment goes on to embody the film’s running thesis: that society is overrun by vultures who value celebrity, power, and, of course, success.

The organ grinder behind these tantalizing treasures, J.J. Hunsecker, is meanwhile devoid of any sort of emotional conflict. He is a man who made his moral decisions long ago, and has since cauterized his soul to reflect only the outward illusion of decency. Respectfully referred to as “J.J.” by the New York nightlife (much in the way Winchell was famously dubbed W.W.), Hunsecker lives and breaths by his refined reputation, reveling in his power while wielding its perks like a skilled surgeon.

Sweet Smell of Success, Susan Harrison and Burt LancasterSusan (Harrison) attempts to break free of her brother’s sadistic stranglehold.

Attempts to spoil Susan’s relationship capture the only two traits that make him tick: a perverse stroking of ego, and incestuous undertones that struck close to Winchell’s relationship with his daughter Walda. Such accuracy surely irritated the real life columnist, especially with the character’s fatherly tone and protective attitude furthering the creep factor. Lancaster inhabits this creepiness marvelously, suppressing a large build and shaking off his doomed hero past (The Killers, I Walk Alone) with frightening conviction. Proving that close pal Kirk Douglas wasn’t the only guy who could play bad, the actor reeks so fully of deviance it’s as if he sprayed it on prior to each take. As an antagonist, he generally avoids the empathy that’s afforded peers like Norma Desmond (Sunset Boulevard) and Jonathan Shields (The Bad and the Beautiful), instead harnessing evil as infectious as the dialogue he delivers.

Lehman’s script provides a hotbed of stylistic prose for these two fine gents to snack on. An intentional blend of gutter slang and theatrical density, the writer’s wordplay, right down to the sleazy title, was actually being reworked well into the film’s production. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be long before anxiety concerns forced Lehman off the set, leaving rewrite duties for local penman Clifford Odets to fulfill. Odets, a playwright who named names for the HUAC in 1952, housed a deep-seeded distrust of the establishment that showed in his revisions; which were often times written up between takes. Despite this copy-and-paste process, however, the final draft is a triumphant achievement, ripe with quips and cynical quotes that perfectly blend with Lehman’s original story.

Sweet Smell of Success, Tony Curtis, Burt LancasterHunsecker in action as Falco watches on with admiration.

Odets would go on to provide several of the film’s best lines, ranging from colorful insults (“I’d hate to take a bite out of you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic.”) to caustic warning shots (“Don’t remove the gangplank, Sidney. You may wanna get back onboard.”) that play into the savory after hours atmosphere. Witticisms and indulgent monologues dart this thing at a breakneck pace, and it’s a credit to both Lancaster and Curtis that they keep from becoming slaves to the wryly written word. In the decades since, it’s become easy to spot the screenplay’s influence on playwrights like David Mamet and Aaron Sorkin, whose “Mametspeak” and “Walk-And-Talk” signatures owe their very existence to Hunsecker’s heated exchanges.

Behind the camera, cinematographer James Wong Howe conveys visuals that feed into the story’s predatory nature. Shot on location in New York City, the film’s crisp black-and-white canvas serves as a haunting vision of modern society, where everyone wants to get ahead, and agendas appear more often than bourbons at a bar. Bypassing the shadowed mystery that distinguished 40s noir, Howe instead uses the dark as a truth teller, with overhead table lamps failing to obscure as much as they make Hunsecker look like the grotesque being he truly is. Less flamboyant, but equally effective.

As for Mackendrick, the Scottish filmmaker is able to put his chops to good use though creative blocking and camera placement. In a film mainly driven by dialogue, subtlety is key, and Mackendrick excels in this regard, whether it be head-snapping frame cuts or club rendezvous worthy of a Weegee spread. Each environment lends itself to verbal flamboyance, though even in moments of silence, the director rarely squanders a chance to embellish his subject matter. The film’s final scene, a liberated Susan storming out on her scheming sibling, plays out through haunting imagery and little else. Hunsecker watches from a penthouse window as his desired object refuses to look back, instead greeted by the light that brings his nighttime kingdom to a close. Mackendrick aligns Hunsecker’s perspective with the viewer for the first and only time here, and the results are uncomfortably pitiful. Not only do we feel sorrow, we do so willingly, and with full awareness of his twisted intentions. As such, the film forces a self-examination of right and wrong that lingers long after, leaving Elmer Bernstein’s jazzy score to close things out in style.

Sweet Smell of Success, Burt LancasterHunsecker’s comeuppance: an empty castle and a creeping dawn.

Released on June 26th, Sweet Smell of Success proved to be anything but a hit at the box office. It flopped outright while critics, including a delighted (if slightly irked) Winchell tore its nihilistic tone to shreds. Fans refused to buy Curtis as a corrupted sleazeball, while Lancaster finally lived long enough to see himself become the villain. No hero, no moral, no ticket sales. But time, as it so often does with art, has proven kind to this unkind classic, and retrospective appraisal of the film has been far more just. Joining the ranks of Ace in the Hole and Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd, which arrived a month prior, this “brazen, uncalled-for slap in the face” has stood the test of time as a Hollywood triumph. “Match me, Sidney–” may be media ego talking, but the film’s rich portrayal of degradation for fame’s sake will remain long after the clubs have closed and the careers have curtailed. A+

Hecht-Hill-Lancaster Productions & United Artists
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick
Produced by James Hill
Screenplay by Ernest Lehman and Clifford Odets
Based on the story by Ernest Lehman
Starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Susan Harrison, Martin Milner, and Sam Levene
Cinematography by James Wong Howe, A.S.C.
Music by Elmer Bernstein
96 Minutes

TRIVIA: Robert Vaughn was initially cast in the role of Steve Dallas, though the young actor was drafted into the Army and subsequently replaced with Martin Milner.

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–Danilo Castro for Classic Movie Hub

Danilo Castro is a film noir enthusiast and Contributing Writer for Classic Movie Hub. You can read more of Danilo’s articles and reviews at the Film Noir Archive, or you can follow Danilo on Twitter @DaniloSCastro.

 

Posted in Films, Posts by Danilo Castro | Tagged | Leave a comment

Enter to Win a Basket Full of Goodies! #WillyWonka

Your Golden Ticket to Scrumpdiddlyumptious Fun!

Thanks to our friends at Fathom Events, CMH will be giving away one Basket Full of Scrumdiddlyumptious Sweets and a Copy of Roald Dahl’s beloved book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

In order to qualify to win this Fabulously Sweet Gift Basket via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Thursday, June 30 at midnight EST.

We will pick one lucky winner via a random drawing and announce that winner on Twitter and this Blog on Friday, July 1, at 10PM EST.

And don’t miss Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory when it makes it magical return to the Big Screen on Sunday, June 26 and Wednesday, June 29. Your tickets await: Fathom Events TCM Big Screen Classics

willy wonka candy basket contest fathom events and classic movie hub

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ENTRY TASK to be completed by June 30 at midnight EST…

1) TWEET (not DM) the following message in its entirety*:

Just entered to win a Basket Full of Scrumdiddlyumptious Sweets courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub #WillyWonka #BigScreen 6/26 & 29!

*If you do not have a Twitter account, you can still enter the contest by simply posting the following message in the comment section at the bottom of this blog: I do not have a Twitter account, so I am posting here to enter but cannot tweet the message.

Important Note: Earlier today we posted a different method of entry, which was to retweet a picture we tweeted AND add a message to it. All of those entrants will be honored (over 50 entrants in just 2 hours) — however, since there seemed to be some confusion as to what needed to be retweeted and how, and because of the tracking methods available to us, we have adapted the rules as noted above. Going forward, the method of entry listed above in this blog post is the official method of entry (and again, to clarify, those who entered via the first method of entry are grandfathered in).

Please note that only Continental US Entrants are eligible.

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TCM Big Screen Classics: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a special two-day-only event at select theaters nationwide on Sunday, June 26 and Wednesday, June 29 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time. Click here to buy tickets or to check the movie schedule in your area.

willie wonka poster

About the film: Directed by Mel Stuart and starring Gene Wilder as the legendary Willy Wonka, this movie brings to the screen the endlessly appetizing delights of Roald Dahl’s cherished book. Coated with flavorful tunes and production designs that are a visual treat for the eyes, this effervescent musical never fails to enchant young and old. On a whirlwind tour of Willy’s incredible, edible realm of chocolate waterfalls, elfish Oompa-Loompas and industrial-sized confections, a boy named Charlie (Peter Ostrum) will discover the sweetest secret of all: a generous, loving heart. With this heart-warming fan favorite, audiences will rediscover all the timeless magic as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen.

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CONTEST ELIGIBILITY:
* Limited to Continental United States residents (excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and the territory of Puerto Rico).
* Must be eighteen (18) years old and over as of the date of entry.
* BlogHub Bloggers are eligible to enter.
* Giveaway starts Friday June 24, 2016 and ends on Thursday June 30, 2016 at midnight EST.
* The winner will be notified by email and/or Twitter (dependent on method of entry) and will have 48 hours to respond with their shipping information or a new winner may be chosen. If any Prize or Prize notification is returned as undeliverable, the winner may be disqualified, and an alternate winner may be selected.
* The Prize will ship directly after the contest period is over. Please allow up to 2 to 4 weeks for prize delivery.Classic Movie Hub is not responsible for prizes lost or stolen.
* Family of Classic Movie Hub are not eligible for entry.

Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

“George Sanders: Memoirs of a Professional Cad” Book Giveaway (via Twitter July)

“George Sanders: Memoirs of a Professional Cad” Book Giveaway!
Entry Task for Twitter Contest

“At number 6 Petroffski Ostroff, to Margaret and Henry Sanders, a son of dazzling beauty and infinite charm was being born. It was I.” - George Sanders in Memoirs of a Professional Cad

I am happy to say that it’s time for our next giveaway! CMH will be giving away TEN COPIES of the George Sanders’ autobiography “Memoirs of a Professional Cad” via TWITTER, courtesy of Dean Street Press, now through July 30. (plus TWO more copies via Facebook and this Blog, details to follow on Wednesday).

Before we start the contest, I just want to say that Sanders’ memoirs are well-written and witty, interesting and entertaining – his prose being what we would expect given his sophisticated (and, yes, caddish) onscreen persona. He touches on his early childhood in Tsarist Russia, his school years in England, his jobs (and adventures) in South America, and his return to England where he found his way into acting (and singing). He talks about his film career and his marriage to Zsa Zsa Gabor, and offers insight into his own character and qualities, as well as the ‘ways’ of Hollywood, through a mix of anecdotes and observations. And, now, on to the contest…

In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, July 30 at 9PM 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.

  • July 2: Two Winners
  • July 9: Two Winners
  • July 16: Two Winners
  • July 23: Two Winners
  • July 30: Two Winners

We will announce each week’s winner(s) on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub, the day after each winner is picked at 9PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winners on Sunday July 3 at 9PM EST on Twitter.

If you’re also on Facebook, please feel free to visit us at Classic Movie Hub on Facebook for additional giveaways (or check back on this Blog in a few days) — because we’ll be giving away TWO MORE copies via Facebook/Blog as well!

George Sanders Memoirs of a Professional Cad

The truth of the matter is that while Hollywood admires people who win Oscars, it employs people who make money, and to be able to do one does not necessarily mean you can do the other. -George Sanders

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by July 30 at 9PM 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

THE QUESTION:
What is one of your favorite George Sanders movies and why? 

2) Then TWEET (not DM) the following message in its entirety*:
Just entered to win “George Sanders: Memoirs of a Professional Cad” #BookGiveaway courtesy of @DeanStPress and @ClassicMovieHub

*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.

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About the Book: What might we dare to expect from an actor’s autobiography, even one from a star as personable as George Sanders? In the case of Memoirs of A Professional Cad, we possibly get more than we deserve. George Sanders undoubtedly led a colorful, glamorous and even action-packed life, spanning the peak years of Hollywood’s golden age. But the greatest joy of his memoirs is how funny they are, and how penetrating their author’s wit. Endlessly quotable, every chapter shows that the sardonic charm and intelligence he lent to the silver screen were not merely implied.

George’s early childhood was spent in Tsarist Russia, before he was obliged to flee with his family to England on the eve of the Russian Revolution. He survived two English boarding schools before seeking adventure in Chile and Argentina where he sold cigarettes and kept a pet ostrich in his apartment. We can only be grateful that George was eventually asked to leave South America following a duel of honor (very nearly to the death), and was forced to take up acting for a living instead.

Memoirs of A Professional Cad has much to say about Hollywood and the stars George Sanders worked with and befriended, not to mention the irrepressible Zsa Zsa Gabor who became his wife. But at heart it is less a conventional autobiography, and more a Machiavellian guide to life, and the art of living, from a man who knew a thing or two on the subject. So we are invited to share George’s thought-provoking views on women, friendship, the pros and cons of therapy, aging, possessions, and the necessity of contrasts (Sanders’ maxim: ‘the more extreme the contrast, the fuller the life’).

Previously out of print for many decades, Memoirs of A Professional Cad stands today as one of the classic Hollywood memoirs, from one of its most original, enduring and inimitable stars.

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Click here for the full contest rules. 

Please note that only Continental United States and Canadian entries are eligible.

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

And if you can’t wait to win the book, you can purchase it on amazon via this link (or click on image):

 


Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Books, Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , | 22 Comments

Kino Lorber “Pioneers of African-American Cinema” DVD and Blu-Ray Giveaway (July)

“Pioneers of African-American Cinema” DVD/Blu-Ray Giveaway!
Qualifying Entry Task

“This very special collection illuminates one of the most fascinating and unjustly neglected corners of American movie history. Every film included in Pioneers of African-American Cinema has been lovingly restored, and every one is essential viewing.”
-Martin Scorcese

CMH is very happy to announce that we’ll be giving away FIVE COPIES of a very special DVD/Blu-Ray Set in July — “Pioneers of African-American Cinema” — courtesy of our friends at Kino Lorber! This 5-Disc historical collection features the vital works of America’s legendary first African-American filmmakers, and will be available in stores on July 27th. But you can win it right here on CMH this month!

Pioneers of African-American Cinema

In order to qualify to win one of these Sets via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, July 30 at 10PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick one winner 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. Please note that each winner will be able to choose their preferred format: DVD or Blu-Ray.

  • July 2: One Winner
  • July 9: One Winner
  • July 16: One Winner
  • July 23: One Winner
  • July 30: One Winner

We will announce each week’s winner on Twitter @ClassicMovieHub and right here on this Blog in the comment section below, the day after each winner is picked at 10PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winner at 10PM EST on Sunday July 3.

Oscar Micheaux, Pioneers of African-American CinemaPioneering Director, Oscar Micheaux

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, July 30 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 “Pioneers of African-American Cinema” courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @KinoLorber #DVDGiveaway

THE QUESTION:
What is it about this historic collection that intrigues you most? 

*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.

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About “Pioneers of African-American Cinema: This collection of the works of America’s legendary first African-American filmmakers is the only one of its kind. Funded in part by a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, the packaged set includes no fewer than a dozen feature-length films and nearly twice as many shorts and rare fragments. Subject matter includes race issues that went unaddressed by Hollywood for decades.

* New digital restorations of over a dozen feature films, plus shorts, fragments, trailers, documentary footage, archival interviews and audio recordings

* Contemporary interviews with historians and film preservationists

* 80-page booklet with essays and detailed film notes

* Musical scores by DJ Spooky, Max Roach, Alloy Orchestra, Samuel Waymon, Makia Matsumura, Donald Sosin and others

Disc One (Total Running Time 282 minutes): Two Knights of Vaudeville Ebony Film Co., 1915. 11 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin Mercy the Mummy Mumbled (BLU-RAY ONLY) Ebony Film Co., 1918. 12 minutes. Music by the Alloy Orchestra. A Reckless Rover Ebony Film Co., 1918. 14 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin. Within Our Gates Oscar Micheaux, 1920. 73 minutes. Music by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky. The Symbol of the Unconquered: A Story of the KKKOscar Micheaux, 1920. 59 minutes. Music by Max Roach. By Right of Birth Lincoln Motion Picture Co., 1921. 4 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin.Body and Soul Oscar Micheaux, 1925. 93 minutes. Music by Paul D. Miller, aka DJ Spooky.Screen Snapshots (Micheaux footage, 1920, 1 minute) Bonus: An Introduction (7 minutes) Bonus: The Films of Oscar Micheaux (8 minutes)

Disc Two (Total Running Time – 259 minutes): RegenerationRichard E. Norman, 1923. 11 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin.The Flying Ace Richard E. Norman, 1928. 65 minutes. Music by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Ten Nights in a Bar RoomCPFC, 1926. 64 minutes. Music by Donald Sosin. Rev. S.S. Jones Home Movies Rev. Solomon Sir Jones, 1924-1926. 16 minutes. Music by Andrew Simpson. The Scar of Shame Frank Peregini, 1929. 86 minutes. Music by Makia Matsumura Bonus: The Color Line (5 minutes) Bonus: Ten Nights in a Bar Room – An Introduction (4 minutes) Bonus: About the Restoration (8 minutes)

Disc Three (Total Running Time – 253 minutes): Eleven P.M.Richard Maurice, 1928. 60 minutes. Music by Rob Gal. Hell-Bound Train James and Eloyce Gist, 1930. 50 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon.Verdict Not Guilty James and Eloyce Gist, 1934. 8 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon.Heaven-Bound Travelers (BLU-RAY ONLY) James and Eloyce Gist, 1935. 15 minutes. Restored by S. Torriano Berry. Music by Samuel D. Waymon. The Darktown Revue Oscar Micheaux, 1931. 18 minutes. The Exile Oscar Micheaux, 1931. 78 minutes.Hot Biskits Spencer Williams, 1931. 10 minutes.

Disc Four (Total Running Time – 272 minutes): The Girl from Chicago Oscar Micheaux, 1932. 70 minutes. Ten Minutes to Live Oscar Micheaux, 1932. 58 minutes. Veiled AristocratsOscar Micheaux, 1932. 48 minutes. Birthright Oscar Micheaux, 1938. 73 minutes. Bonus: Veiled Aristocrats Trailer (4 minutes) Bonus: Birthright Trailer (4 minutes) Bonus: We Work Again(BLU-RAY ONLY) – WPA Documentary (1937, 15 minutes)

Disc Five (Total Running Time – 243 minutes): The Bronze Buckaroo Richard Kahn, 1939. 58 minutes. Zora Neale Hurston Fieldwork Footage (excerpt) Zora Neale Hurtston, 1928. 3 minutes. Commandment Keeper Church, Beaufort South Carolina, May 1940 (excerpt) Zora Neale Hurston, 1940. 15 minutes. The Blood of Jesus Spencer Williams, 1941. 56 minutes. Dirty Gertie from Harlem U.S.A. Spencer Williams, 1946. 60 minutes. Moses Sisters Interview Pearl Bowser, 1978. 32 minutes. Bonus: Texas Tyler Promo Film with Ossie Davis (1985, 6 minutes) Bonus: The Films of Zora Neale Hurston (2 minutes) Bonus: The Films of Spencer Williams (7 minutes) Bonus: The End of an Era (4 minutes)

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Click here for the full contest rules and more details. 

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).

If you don’t want to wait to win, you can purchase the DVD or Blu-Ray by clicking here:

Good Luck!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Classic Movie Travels: The Music Box Steps

Walking in the Steps of Laurel and Hardy!

The Music Box Steps have long been high on my list of must-see classic movie sites. But, even I was surprised by the overwhelming giddiness I felt when my doppelganger film-fan-friends* and I piled into a car and commenced on our quest to find the infamous steps — armed with sheer will, a sense of adventure, and (thankfully) our trusty little GPS! About an hour later, as we tentatively drove around a corner with all eyes peeled, the anticipation was unbearable, and I do not exaggerate when I say that we all let out super-duper squeals of delight, when we realized that, YES indeed, we had actually found the steps!!!

Laurel and Hardy, The Music Box 1932, music box steps

For me, the The Music Box (1932) is an iconic Laurel and Hardy film – and one that is hard to forget. To this day, I still can’t help but gasp and laugh-out-loud as Stan and Ollie meet comical characters and calamities while they attempt to deliver a piano to “1127 Walnut Avenue” – the house “right on top of the stoop” (understatement). Watching Stan and Ollie ‘heave ho’ all the way up to the tippy top of the ‘endless’ stoop, huffing and puffing from exhaustion — and then seeing the piano always somehow manage to roll back down the entire staircase, pinging and panging and plummeting to the ground, never ceases to amuse me.

And, I’m sure I’m not alone in my laughter, because the film won the first Academy Award for Live Action Short Film (Comedy) in 1932, and 65 years later (in 1997), it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

National Film Registry

The steps themselves are located at 923-935 Vendome Street in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles. They connect Vendome Street (at the bottom of the hill) with Descanso Drive (at the top of the hill). There is a commemorative plaque set into the cement of the 3rd step (from the bottom of the staircase).

That said, I am happy to share some pictures from the film itself, as well as from our giddy and glorious adventure…

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From the 1932 film… (sorry for the poor quality)

The Music Box, Charlie Hall tells Laurel and Hardy, That’s the house up there, right on top of the stoop Pardon me Mr. Postman. -Ollie
Yes Sir. -Postman (Charlie Hall)
Could you tell me where 1127 Walnut Ave is? -Ollie
1127 Walnut Ave? -Postman
Yes Sir. -Ollie
That’s the house up there, right on top of the stoop. –Postman

The music box, laurel and hardy, "That's the house right there. Right on top of the stoop.

That’s the house right there. Right on top of the stoop. -Ollie

The Music Box Steps, Laurel and Hardy, from the movie The Music Box 1932

And what a stoop it is!

the music box steps, laurel and hardy, heave ho, piano

Now, Heave Ho! -Ollie

The Music Box, Laurel and Hardy, He kicked you? says the officer Sam Lufkin to nursemaid Lilyan Irene

And not only that, he kicked me. -Nursemaid (Lilyan Irene)
He kicked you? -Officer (Sam Lufkin)
Yes officer, right in the middle of my daily duties. -Nursemaid
Oh, he kicked you, did he? -Officer

The Music Box, Laurel and Hardy, police officer Sam Lufkin, Let that be a lesson to youNow, let that be a lesson to you! – Officer (Sam Lufkin)

The Music Box, Laurel and Hardy, Billy Gilbert as Professor Theodore Von Schwarzenhoffen

Well, when are you two numbskulls going to take this thing out of the way? -Professor von Schwarzenhoffen (Billy Gilbert)
What’s it to you? -Ollie
Well, I should like to pass. -Professor
Why don’t you walk around? -Ollie
What? Walk around? Me? Professor Theodore Von Schwarzenhoffen! M.D., A.D, D.D.S, F.L.D, F.F.F and F should walk around? Get that thing out of my way! Get it out of my way! Come on! Get it out of the way! Out of the way! -Professor

The Music Box Steps, Laurel and Hardy, from the movie The Music Box 1932, view down the stairs

The inevitable long, hard road down…

The Music Box, Laurel and Hardy, piano falling down steps after Oliver

Whatever goes up must come down! :)
…..

And now, fast-forward to 2016…

vendome street, street sign, in los angeles, near the music box steps, photo (c) 2016 Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Oh, soooo incredibly near the famous film site! [photo: (c) 2016 Classic Movie Hub]

The Music Box Steps, Laurel and Hardy,  Los Angeles, top of hill with street sign, photo: (c) 2016 Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie HubThe Music Box Steps street sign at the top of the staircase (Descanso Drive) [photo: (c) 2016 Classic Movie Hub]…

The Music Box Steps, Laurel and Hardy,  Los Angeles, street sign at top of hill, photo: (c) 2016 Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

and a close-up of that street sign [photo: (c) 2016 Classic Movie Hub]…

The Music Box Steps, Laurel and Hardy,  Los Angeles, top of staircase looking down, photo: (c) 2016 Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie HubThe view from the top of the staircase, down, down, down… And it is quite a long walk :) [photo: (c) 2016 Classic Movie Hub]

The Music Box Steps, Laurel and Hardy,  923-925 Vendome Street, Los Angeles, bottom of the staircase, photo: (c) 2016 Annmarie Gatt for Classic Movie Hub

The Music Box Steps street sign at the bottom of the staircase (923-925 Vendome Street), across from Laurel and Hardy Park [photo: (c) 2016 Classic Movie Hub]

The Music Box Steps, Laurel and Hardy,  923-925 Vendome Street, Los Angeles, street sign at bottom of the staircase, photo: (c) 2016 Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

and a close up of that street sign [photo: (c) 2016 Classic Movie Hub]…

The Music Box Steps, Laurel and Hardy,  923-925 Vendome Street, Los Angeles, bottom of the staircase looking up, photo: (c) 2016 Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie HubA view from the bottom of the staircase, looking up… You can see the plaque set in cement on one of the bottom steps (3rd from the bottom to be exact) [photo: (c) 2016 Classic Movie Hub]…

The Music Box Steps, Laurel and Hardy,  923-925 Vendome Street, Los Angeles, bottom of the staircase looking up, alternate view, photo: (c) 2016 Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

An alternate view of the famous staircase [photo: (c) 2016 Classic Movie Hub]…

The Music Box Steps, Laurel and Hardy,  923-925 Vendome Street, Los Angeles, plaque at the bottom of the staircase, photo: (c) 2016 Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

And the plaque which reads:

“Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy “The Music Box” 1932

This plaque marks the site of the making of “The Music Box,” winner of the 1932 Academy Award for Short Subject – Comedy. The film starred comic legends Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, who also employed this location in their 1927 film “Hats Off.” Both films were produced by the Hal Roach Studio.

Presented by:
Hollywood Heritage, Inc.
The Society of Operating Camermen
The Silent Society
The Hollywood Studio Museum
The Silverlake Improvement Association”

…..

Now for a short film of our adventures as we ‘walk the walk’ down the legendary steeps..

A big thank you to my fabulous film-fan-friends for such an incredibly fun day: @CitizenScreen, @IrishJayHawk66, @SantaIsThinking and last but certainly not least @NebraskaNellie!

…..

–Annmarie from Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Classic Movies and More YouTube Show, Posts by Annmarie Gatti, Travel Sites | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Celebrating the Mysterious Birth of Andy Griffith…

Andy Griffith was born in Mount Airy, NC…

Of all the facts in a person’s life, the birthday is supposed to be an easy one.

Yet, to this day, I’m not exactly sure of Andy Griffith’s birthday. I’m not even sure he was.

Andy Samuel Griffith was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, on June 1, 1926. Or perhaps on June 7. He died July 3, 2012, at his estate in Manteo, on the Carolina coast.

Andy Griffith

The University of North Carolina, which houses Andy’s collected papers, gives his birth date as June 1, 1926. So does the Biography network, and the Film Reference website, and Wikipedia. And that would seem to settle it.

Except that it doesn’t. Deep within the birth registry for Surry County, North Carolina, home to Andy’s birthplace of Mount Airy, I found a handwritten entry that neatly records the birth of one Andy Samuel Griffith – - on June 7, 1926. The same birthday, June 7, is clearly typed on Andy’s draft registration card from the 1940s.

Yet, Andy’s death certificate gives his birth date as June 1. So does the New York Times obituary that followed Andy’s death in 2012.

Why all the confusion?

welcome to mount airyMount Airy, North Carolina, the birthplace of Andy Griffith

This much seems certain: Andy journeyed through most of his life with a June 1 birthday. That is the birth date given in The Player, a 1961 survey of star’s lives written by sisters Lillian and Helen Ross that devotes a chapter to Andy. The date appears again in a 1964 article in The Saturday Evening Post, one of the more thorough biographical pieces on Andy. And again in the 1998 interview Andy gave to the Archive of American Television. In fact, I can’t recall a single interview with Andy in which he reported the birth date printed in that Surry County registry.

Andy’s birth certificate, which a friend at the News & Observer in Raleigh was kind enough to share, appears to show his birth date as June 1. Sadly, the document was compiled hurriedly and rather sloppily, and the numeral just might be a seven; it’s hard to tell for sure.

It is possible Andy himself became aware of the discrepancy only in his autumn years. In a 1996 piece for Parade magazine, journalist James Brady wrote that Andy had “only recently learned that his birth date was off by several days.” Andy explained the glitch in his own folksy way: “when ol’ Doc delivered me, Momma wasn’t quite ready with a name.”

Andy Griffith at statue in his home town of mount airyAndy Griffith alongside his commemorative statue in his hometown of Mount Airy (more pictures here)

The writer didn’t elaborate. Andy seemed to be saying he had learned of the conflicting birth dates late in life, perhaps following the death of his mother, Geneva, in 1986.

But that can’t be quite right, either. Andy must have known of the discrepancy all along, as it was an adult Andy who gave the June 7 birth date to the draft board. Maybe what older Andy learned was the reason for the alternating dates. Perhaps Andy’s mother revealed to him, late in her own life, that she and husband Carl Griffith had been delayed in reporting the birth of their only child.

In my book Andy and Don, a portrait of the lifelong friendship between Andy and television sidekick Don Knotts, I give Andy two birthdays. We celebrate the second one today with the release of the paperback edition of the book.

Happy Birthday, Andy.

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–Daniel de Visé for Classic Movie Hub

Daniel de Visé is Don Knotts’ brother-in-law and author of Andy and Don, a lively and revealing biography, and the definitive work on the legacy of The Andy Griffith Show and two of America’s most enduring stars. Scheduled for paperback release on June 7, the book features extensive unpublished interviews with those closest to both men and a wealth of new information about what really went on behind the scenes. Click below to purchase the book on Amazon.

Posted in Posts by Daniel de Vise, TV Roles | Leave a comment

Turner Classic Movie Film Festival: Day One

 

Turner Classic Movie Film Festival
Day One

On Thursday April 28th, I have to admit I woke-up in somewhat of a panic. You see, dear readers, it was at that precise moment that the gravity of my situation sank in. In a mere few hours, I would meander out of my hotel room to start my biggest task of the day: Red Carpet Press. That’s right – this born cinephile from a small-town in upstate New York was headed to the red carpet, armed with my camera and ready to interview some of her childhood heroes.  And like any young professional, I was a walking pile of nerves because of it.

My original plan for the day was to wake up early and explore the heart of Hollywood for a few hours before returning to my hotel room to pick up my camera, tripod and microphone. My exploration time was cut to zero as I spent the early morning in near panic on the internet researching the list of stars set to appear on the red carpet. Finally, at around 3:45, I walked out of hotel room and into the Red Carpet Press holding area, eagerly awaiting my place on the red carpet line up.

Photo 1Waiting to get on that Sweet, Sweet Red Carpet

Red carpet spaceMy tripod acting as my place saver.

After about 45 minutes of check-ins and waiting, I was finally directed to my designated spot on the red carpet line. This was immediately followed by another 45-minute period of waiting, this time waiting for the stars to come out.

At about 5:30, the stars finally began to make their way down the red carpet. During this time I somehow managed to keep a calm, cool and professional front but in reality, on the inside, I was freaking out like a 1940s Sinatra fangirl – sans the riots, of course. How I managed to keep a steady hand and get so many great pictures is still a mystery to me. These pictures are something of a sneak peak for you guys because in the coming weeks CMH will be posting the interviews with these lovely folks on our Youtube page. Until then, enjoy!

Fans st stands RCFans waiting in stand

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Leonard MaltinFilm critic Leonard Maltin

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Ted donaldsonChild star and star of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ted Donaldson.

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Roger Corman

Childhood hero of mine, Director Roger Corman

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Gina

The ever-talented Gina Lollobrigida

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Salvatore Cascio

Salvatore Cascio, showing off that Italian-Cool.

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Chris Lemmon

Jack Lemmon’s son, Chris Lemmon. Notice the resemblance?

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At approximately 6:45pm all the stars had made their way into the movie and my first red carpet bonanza was over. My day, however, was anything but over. So, I immediately dashed back to my hotel, grabbed some fresh batteries and made my way to the Roosevelt Hotel. Every night TCM hosted a special poolside film screening and that night kicked it off with Harold Lloyd’s The Freshman accompanied with a live DJ, providing a modern score to this most classic of comedies. The environment was amazing. I could hear the laughter before I even reached the pool area. Smiling faces were everywhere and when people did talk, they did so quietly as to not disturb other viewers. One thing I found particularly awesome was the traveling trays of food offered by the hotel’s incredibly nice wait staff. I may have had a slider or 2 or 3…They knew who to come to first.

The Freshman

Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the whole movie because I wanted to make sure I got a prime seat for one of my favorite romances of all time, Brief Encounters. So, yet again, I was dashing around the heart of Hollywood, from the Roosevelt Hotel to the Chinese Theater. I arrived, however, to a most curious sight – tons of TCM Film Festival pass-holders crowding around the building. “Surely the line to Brief Encounters can’t be THIS long.” I thought to myself. “The other movies haven’t ended, yet.” I quickly learned that I was correct in my assumptions.

It turns out that a fire alarm had gone off in the building and everyone who was watching A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Dark Victory or One Potato, Two Potato had to immediately evacuate the theater. Although it was probably an annoyance for anyone who went to see those films, it actually worked perfectly for me. The delay meant I was there super early (9th in line to be exact) and got to watch my favorite David Lean flick from the best possible vantage point.

By the time Brief Encounter was over, it was already passed midnight. After a quick meeting with Annmarie, I was off to my hotel already anticipating the next day. So, please, stay tuned to hear more about my Film Festival experience. Tomorrow’s adventures feature a person very near and dear to my heart. The only and one Angela Lansbury…and y’all know how I feel about Lansbury.

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Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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“TCM Big Screen Classics: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” Movie Event Ticket Giveaway (June)

Win Tickets to see “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”
on the Big Screen!
in Select Cinemas Nationwide June 26 & June 29!

CMH is thrilled to announce the next round of our monthly movie ticket giveaways this year, courtesy of Fathom Events! That said, this month, we’ll be giving away SIX PAIRS of tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on the Big Screen!

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday, June 26 and Wednesday, June 29 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. local time. (check theater listings here; please note that there might be slightly different theater listings for each date)

That said, here’s how you can enter to win a pair of tickets:
In order to qualify to win a pair of movie tickets via this contest, you must complete the below task by Saturday, June 18 at 10PM EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, June 19, 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: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

TCM Big Screen Classics: Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory

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ENTRY TASK (2-parts) to be completed by Saturday, June 18 at 10PM EST…

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

THE QUESTION:
Although Willy Wonka isn’t a classic-era classic movie, many people consider it a classic none-the-less, with lots of fond memories about it… That said, what is it about the film that you especially like? Or, if you haven’t seen the film, why would you like to go see it?

2) Then TWEET* (not DM) the following message:
Just entered to win tickets to see “Willie Wonka” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents #TCMBigScreen

*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.

About the film: Directed by Mel Stuart and starring Gene Wilder as the legendary Willy Wonka, this movie brings to the screen the endlessly appetizing delights of Roald Dahl’s cherished book. Coated with flavorful tunes and production designs that are a visual treat for the eyes, this effervescent musical never fails to enchant young and old. On a whirlwind tour of Willy’s incredible, edible realm of chocolate waterfalls, elfish Oompa-Loompas and industrial-sized confections, a boy named Charlie (Peter Ostrum) will discover the sweetest secret of all: a generous, loving heart. With this heart-warming fan favorite, audiences will rediscover all the timeless magic as it was meant to be seen: on the big screen.

IMPORTANT NOTE for all prizing: This is a special two-day-only event at select theaters nationwide on Sunday, June 26 and Wednesday, June 29 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 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

Can’t wait to win? You can buy tickets here:

Fandango - Movie Tickets Online

 

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Fathom Events, Posts by Annmarie Gatti, TCM, TCM Big Screen Classics | Tagged , | 24 Comments

Max Fleischer Universe: Master Illustrators at Work

The Breathtaking Backgrounds of Max Fleischer… 

I never fail to find something new and breathtaking in the backgrounds of Max Fleischer’s delightfully surrealistic and highly askew cartoon worldview. From the rubbery, curvilinear city scene backgrounds that inspired the likes of underground comix masters R. Crumb and Kim Deitch, to more naturalistic renderings based on the way Manhattan and environs more or less appeared in the early 30′s, to the fantastical fairytale and mythological landscapes that emanated directly from the fecund ids of the talented artisans who toiled at 1600 Broadway, it is almost as if the backgrounds themselves are the stars of the show, not Betty Boop or Popeye and Olive Oyl in all their antic glory. There is a beautiful high-art tradition at play here, lovingly rendered in sharp to near-soft focus by master illustrators at work, often uncredited (what a shame!).

Popeye the Sailor “Shoein’ Hosses”

Take for example the incredibly detailed background of this scene from the 1934 Popeye classic “Shoein’ Hosses” directed by Dave Fleischer and animated by Willard Bowsky and Dave Tendlar, where the camera pans from right to left, from a shot of Popeye preening in front of the village smithy to Bluto in a bar across the street. Note how the background illustrator has actually blurred the center of the elaborate background street-scape to provide an accelerated transition effect during the camera’s rapid pan.

 detailed background of this scene from the 1934 Popeye classic "Shoein' Hosses" directed by Dave Fleischer

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Here’s another Popeye classic background — this time a lovely 3D composite using real photos of miniature sets and foreground animated 2-dimensional figures (Max was way ahead of Walt Disney in the 3D department,) from Max Fleischer’s 1935 gem “King of the Mardi Gras” (which amongst other things is the first cartoon wherein Popeye is voiced by Jack Mercer, substituting for Billy Costello). This opening sequence’s constructed miniature sets are most probably based on Coney Island’s famous Luna Park, including their infamous Steeplechase roller coaster, the “War of the Worlds” flying spaceship ride, and other Coney fairground attractions:

MARDIGRAS

This opening sequence uses Max’s patented STEREOPTICAL PROCESS, whereby footage of actual miniature 3D constructed sets rendered in forced perspective are integrated with two-dimensional cell animation to provide a 3D effect. In 1933, Max Fleischer, ever the inventive genius (he patented the rotoscoping process in 1915, whereby live action footage was literally traced over and replaced with animated drawings to create extremely lifelike articulation of movement of the cartoon characters ) came up with this innovative STEREOPTICAL technique, which actually pre-dates Walt Disney’s own celebrated “planar animation” 3D process by a few years. The secret to Max’s process was his unique  ”setback camera” to photograph miniature sets–trees and buildings, with a blue sky hanging behind them– on a rotating turntable while simultaneously hanging and filming two-dimensional cell drawings in the foreground. The turntable would rotate the sets slowly to create a realistic feeling of 3 dimensions when combined with the 2 dimensional foreground animation.

Here is a 1936 Popular Science article detailing this elaborate process:

STEREOPTICAL techniqueSTEREOPTICAL technique

And a basic breakdown of Max’s ingeniuous technique:

fleischer set back camera

And here is a photo of  Max hard at work with his celebrated “setback camera” shooting a detailed scene:

Max Fleischer hard at work with his celebrated "setback camera" shooting a detailed scene:

Finally, here is a vintage clip of Popeye walking baby Swee’Pea which showcases the Fleischer Stereoptical Process superbly:

In closing,  I return once again to my favorite all-time Betty Boop cartoon, the 1933 surrealist masterpiece “Snow White”, animated by Roland Crandall:

Feast your eyes on the rich and macabre detail of this sumptuous background drawing below, featuring the dissolute and depraved denizens of a hellish subterranean watering hole cum milk bar.

In the foreground to the left the rotoscoped ghost of Cab Calloway (transfigured from Koko the Klown by the evil queen of the tale) capers and pirouettes, all the while singing “St. James Infirmary”.

In an alternate Fleischer universe, would that one could view an entire cartoon spin-off utilizing this haunted eldritch background and its shadowy background characters only :-)

background for 1933 Max Fleischer surrealist masterpiece "Snow White", animated by Roland Crandall

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– Gary Lucas for Classic Movie Hub

Dubbed “one of the best and most original guitarists in America” (Rolling Stone), Gary Lucas is a Grammy-nominated songwriter and composer, and an international recording artist with over 25 solo albums to date. As a fan of classic cinema, Gary tours extensively, playing live accompaniments to legendary horror films including Dracula, Frankenstein, and Vampyr among others. He has also recently released two classic-related albums: “Gary Lucas’ FLEISCHEREI: Music from Max Fleischer Cartoons” featuring 2015 Tony nominee Sarah Stiles as Betty Boop, and “Cinefantastique,” a collection of themes and incidental music from classic films, ranging from South Pacific to Psycho! You can learn more about Gary at GaryLucas.com or by following him on twitter @lucasgary.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Cartoons, Posts by Gary Lucas | Leave a comment

TCM Classic Film Festival 2016: Films, Friends and Lots of Fun…

Recovering and Recapping the 2016 TCMFF…

Well, another TCM Classic Film Festival has come and gone, and I’ve just about ‘recovered’ from my post-film-fest-blues (albeit not completely)… And, although I’m already counting the days until next year’s Festival (yes, it’s that good), I thought I’d take the time to share some highlights with you…

tcm-film-festival-2016

For the 2nd year in a row, I served as a Social Producer for TCM, along with about 20 other film fan comrades. I was also able to bookend my trip with some classic movie sightseeing thanks to some very special ‘twitter’ friends (who I now count among my ‘real’ friends); from cemeteries and celebrity houses to film sites and more, we traversed the LA area in a state of classic movie bliss. I will be posting about these adventures separately, as they deserve their own coverage (and I have lots of pictures to share), but let me at least offer my Special Thanks here to my travel companions Aurora @CitizenScreen, Kellee @IrishJayhawk66 and Jeanelle @NebraskaNellie, and our ‘travel guides’ Laura @LauraMiscMovie and her husband Doug, Elise @EliseCD and Danny @Cinephiled.

Before I start my recap, I just want to mention here that, for me, the TCM Classic Film Festival is more than ‘just’ a classic film festival… For me, it’s a classic movie ‘nirvana’… There’s always an incredible selection of movies and special events to see at any given moment (and, yes, some delightfully difficult choices to make). We get to experience classic films on the Big Screen (with like-minded fans who actually appreciate them too), we get to attend interesting panels that give us insight into the classic era (from home movies and book signings to expert discussions and celebrity conversations), plus we get to see exclusive interviews with iconic classic film stars (where else could you see Eva Marie Saint or Angela Lansbury talk about their careers?). But, what also makes this Festival so ‘especially’ special, is that it allows us classic movie fans to meet fellow fans from all around the world and build some solid friendships — and that is something extra wonderful…

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Pre-Fest Fun, April 27

Old Friends and New!

The classic movie merriment kicked off with some pre-fest events, including a ‘Going to TCM Classic Film Festival’ Facebook Page Meet-Up. It was terrific to re-unite with old friends — and meet lots of new ones. The event was hosted by Kelly Kitchens Wickersham, and featured a presentation by Meredith Ponedel, niece of legendary make-up artist Dottie Ponedel.

Dottie Ponedel makeup artist with Judy GarlandDottie Ponedel with Judy Garland

Meredith was a treasure trove of information and anecdotes about her pioneering aunt and famous clients. I had the privilege of sitting down and talking with her, and as it turns out, we had quite a bit in common — although I can’t boast growing up around Judy Garland, Joan Blondell, Gail Patrick, and a cast of other classic movie stars! A Big Thank you to Meredith, Kelly Kitchens, and Woolsey Ackerman for making this event possible!

Meredith Ponedel, niece of legendary makeup artist dottie ponedelMeredith Ponedel (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub) speaks about her legendary aunt

Meredith had lots of stories to tell, from Judy Garland singing “Over the Rainbow” to her over the phone, to Gail Patrick buying her clothes, to visits from Frances Dee and her ‘cowboy husband’ (that would be Joel McCrea :). You can hear more from Meredith in our Classic Movies and More YouTube interview series with her. To see the first interview of the series, click here.

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Let the Movies Begin!

TCMFF Day One, April 28

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945, director Elia Kazan)

Peggy Ann Garner, Dorothy McGuire and Ted Donaldson in A Tree Grows in BrooklynPeggy Ann Garner, Dorothy McGuire and Ted Donaldson in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn was my first movie of the Festival, and needless to say, it was a heart-wrencher. I had seen it a number of times before, but nothing can beat seeing it on the Big Screen. This is a must-see classic — a coming of age story about a young girl set against a backdrop of tenement life in Brooklyn.

Ted Donaldson (who played son Neeley Nolan) introduced the movie, which was a real treat for me, especially since he talked about working with Elia Kazan (on this film), as well as his debut movie role at 10 years old in Once Upon a Time opposite Cary Grant (a personal favorite of mine). He also had something very sweet to say about Joan Blondell (see below)…

Ted Donaldson introduces A Tree Grows in Brooklyn at the TCMFF 2016; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubTed Donaldson introduces A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)

Donaldson told us that, while filming A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, he asked Joan Blondell to marry him… At the end of filming, Ted asked her for a photo, which she signed “From Joan ‘I’m waiting for you’ Blondell” :)

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TCMFF Day Two, April 29

Francis Ford Coppola Handprint and Footprint Ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre (aka Grauman’s Chinese Theater)

Francis Ford Coppola at TCL Chinese Theater Graumans Handprint Ceremony 2016 TCMFF; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubFrancis Ford Coppola speaks at the TCL Chinese Theatre Imprint Ceremony (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)

After a 50+ year career that earned him five Oscars, Francis Ford Coppola was honored with an Imprint Ceremony at the famous TCL Chinese Theatre, marking the 6th consecutive year that TCM hosted this type of event during the Film Festival (previous honorees were Peter O’Toole in 2011, Kim Novak in 2012, Jane Fonda in 2013, Jerry Lewis in 2014 and Christopher Plummer in 2015).

I have to say that it was a thrill for me to be able to cover this event. I’ve always been mesmerized (yes, I’m a tourist to the umpteeth degree) by the Grauman’s forecourt and could easily spend hours wandering around, gaping at the imprints and inscriptions from the iconic stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age. I can only image the glamour of days-gone-by when a Douglas Fairbanks or a Bette Davis would be so honored. But, I digress, so let’s fast-forward to 2016 again…

Roman Coppola introduces his father Francis Ford Coppola at the TCL Chinese Theatre Graumans Handprint and Footprint Ceremony 2016 TCMFF; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub (c) 2016 Classic Movie Hub Roman Coppola warmly introduces his father (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)

Roman Coppola introduced his father and talked about his dad’s film-making and love of actors, as well as what it was like growing up in his famous family including some lessons learned — not the least of which was — “when you’re making a pasta sauce, unless it has meat, there’s no garlic” :) (to read my full article about the Handprint/Footprint Ceremony click here)

francis-ford-coppolo-graumans-handprint-ceremony-2016-classic-movie-hub; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubFrancis Ford Coppola Handprint Ceremony (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)
francis-ford-copploa-footprint-graumans-ceremony-2016-classic-movie-hub; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubFrancis Ford Coppola Footprint Ceremony (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)

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When You’re In Love (1937, director Robert Riskin)

Grace Moore and Cary Grant in When You're In LoveGrace Moore and Cary Grant in When You’re In Love

When You’re In Love was a must-see for me for two simple reasons 1) it is the only film that Robert Riskin directed (aka Frank Capra’s favorite screenwriter) and 2) the film was introduced by Jennifer Grant (yes, that would be Cary Grant’s daughter). The movie starred Cary Grant as a penniless artist, and Grace Moore as an opera singer who is forced to marry Grant when her visa runs out.

Jennifer Grant (Cary Grant's daughter) introduces When You're in Love at the TCMFF 2016; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubCary Grant’s daughter, Jennifer, introduces When You’re In Love (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)

Jennifer Grant shared stories about watching Silver Streak with her dad on a Princess Cruise (laughing and eating popcorn, and then watching it again when they returned home), how her dad told her never to smoke because “no-one will ever want to kiss you” (and how she couldn’t believe it when she saw him smoke on-screen) — and, when she was a little girl in the Hamptons, how she walked up to the television screen and slapped the woman who kissed her dad (Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember)…

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The Manchurian Candidate (1962, director John Frankenheimer)

Angela Lansbury and Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate 1962Angela Lansbury and Laurence Harvey in The Manchurian Candidate 1962

The Manchurian Candidate was non-negotiable for me. What a treat to see Angela Lansbury being interviewed by Alec Baldwin, not to mention seeing her on the Big Screen as the manipulative and amoral (understatement) Mrs. Eleanor Shaw Iselin! Lansbury was a Class Act, and incredibly articulate and poised as she discussed the film, as well as her overall career.

Angela Lansbury talks with Alec Baldwin during introduction at screening of The Manchurian Candidate at the 2016 TCMFF; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubAlec Baldwin interviews Angela Lansbury at The Manchurian Candidate screening (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)

While discussing The Manchurian Candidate, Lansbury told us “I could honestly say that John [Frankenheimer] maintained a mood on that set that was really all business, and had everything to do with the story and the scenes at hand. He was a very serious director in his own way and he really got terribly excited with the drama that was inherent in a scene.”

Angela Lansbury introduces The Manchurian Candidate at the 2016 TCMFF; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubAngela Lansbury introduces The Manchurian Candidate (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)

When Baldwin asked about how she prepares for a role, Lansbury explained that “as far as I’m concerned, what the writer gives the character to say is immediately a clue for me, the actress, as to what my attitudes or my looks or my everything else” will be. And, “I always say to everybody – leave yourself at home, don’t bring yourself to the set, bring that woman and get on with it. And that seems to work on various levels in various roles.”

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TCMFF Day Three, April 30

90th Anniversary of Vitaphone with Writer/Producer Ron Hutchinson

vitaphone logoVitaphone logo

The early Vitaphone shorts are some of the only surviving records that show what vaudeville was really like. Many of these shorts however were lost ‘to time’ because the silver nitrate film either faded or decomposed, and/or because the sound discs were lost or missing. Lucky for us however, The Vitaphone Project has been locating and restoring original elements and transferring them to 35mm for over 20 years. And, today, we were treated to seven fabulous restored shorts including ones starring George Burns and Gracie Allen, Baby Rose Marie, Shaw and Lee (my ‘new’ favorites), and Molly Picon.

I have to admit that this presentation threw me for a loop! I suspected I’d enjoy it, but I was thoroughly astonished by what I saw (the talent!), what I learned (‘vaudeville in a can’)  – and how hard I laughed!

The Vitaphone Project's Ron Hutchinson speaks at TCMFF 2016 90th Anniversary of Vitaphone presentation; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) Classic Movie HubRon Hutchinson from The Vitaphone Project

This presentation was hosted by writer/producer Ron Hutchinson, who informed us that The Vitaphone Project has restored about 130 shorts and 10 features so far including Why Be Good?

vitaphone ad from 1929A 1929 Vitaphone ad featuring some of the many acts on their roster

Hutchinson explained that a theater could order any short they wanted. Vitaphone was essentially delivering the biggest stars in show business as ‘canned vaudeville’ to theaters who couldn’t afford the actual stars; rentals were about $5-10 a day.

shaw and lee, vaudeville, vitaphoneShaw and Lee vaudeville act

During 1926-1930 almost 1500 Vitaphone shorts were produced both on the East and West Coasts.

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Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982, director Carl Reiner)

steve martin in dead men don't wear plaidSteve Martin in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

Okay, so I swore I wouldn’t go see any post-1970 films at the Festival, but I just couldn’t resist seeing Carl Reiner introduce this film. And, I’m actually very happy I broke my ‘rule’ because Carl Reiner was wonderful and warm (and of course funny) — plus seeing this film with people who actually ‘get’ Film Noir, changed the entire film experience for me. For those of you who haven’t seen it, the film parodies film noir weaving ‘real’ noir characters into the plot including Barbara Stanwyck (from Sorry Wrong Number), Ava Gardner (from The Killers), Humphrey Bogart (from The Big Sleep) and lots more…

Illeana Douglas interviews Carl Reiner at TCMFF 2016 at screening of Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubIlleana Douglas interviews Carl Reiner at the screening of Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (photo:  2016 Classic Movie Hub)

Illeana Douglas (actress, and paternal granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas) had the privilege of conducting the interview, and kicked off with remarks about how Reiner’s comedy remains current. Reiner explained that “The only things you can make fun of are the things you know about, and the things you know about are the things you live. So, comedy hasn’t changed at all.”

Carl Reiner talks at the TCMFF 2016 Classic Film Festival; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubCarl Reiner talks about The Dick Van Dyke Show at the Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid screening (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)

While talking about The Dick Van Dyke Show, Reiner described how difficult it was to cast the part of Mary Richards. “I literally saw 23 different actresses.  And I said to Sheldon (Leonard), I don’t know what I’m looking for, and he said ‘you’ll know when you see it’.” When Mary Tyler Moore showed up for the audition, Reiner had her read one line and heard ‘a ping in her voice.’ He told us “my hand became the claw that you see in the arcades that pick up candy…I clasped the top of her head, and I said ‘young lady come with me.’ And I lifted her out of the chair and I walked her down the hall and I said Sheldon ‘I found her’.”

When asked about the inspiration for boss Alan Brady, he said that, although many people think that the character was based on Sid Caesar, in fact, “Sid Caesar was a pussy cat” and that Brady was a combination of Milton Berle and a Phil Silvers’ character from Top Banana.

Reiner also talked highly about his wife and family, and made me chuckle when he said “I give credit to my wife…She raised three great kids and one great husband.”

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Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell (1968, director Melvin Frank)

Gina Lollobrigida and Telly Savalas in Buona Sera Mrs CampbellGina Lollobrigida and Telly Savalas in Buona Sera Mrs Campbell

I have to say that Buona Sera Mrs. Campbell was another pleasant surprise for me! Yes, I knew that I had to see Gina Lollobrigida somehow during the Festival, but little did I know how much I would enjoy this film — which is essentially about a ’20-year old lie’ that causes a little mayhem in a small town in Italy (to say the least) :)

And I just want to add a little known fact here… In 2013 Lollobrigida sold her diamonds for $4.9 million and donated the money to stem cell research.

Gina Lollobrigida and Ben Mankiewicz at the screening of Buona Sera Mrs Campbell TCMFF 2016; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubBen Mankiewicz interviews Gina Lollobrigida at the screening of Buona Sera Mrs Campbell (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)

Lollobrigida shared with us that she studied painting and sculpting as a young girl with dreams of becoming a sculptor. However, one day on the way to school, she was stopped and asked to do movies. She said no, but when they told her that they would pay her $1000 lire, she agreed. She explained that it was a lot of money back then (during the war), and she felt that she needed to help her family.

A bit later, when she was asked to star in her first film, she again said no, and this time, in order to close the matter quickly, she went to the office and told them “I want a million,” thinking that they would say ‘No!” but, she told us “instead they said yes, so I was stuck with the movies.”

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Home Movies (at Club TCM)

nicholas brothersThe Nicholas Brothers: Fayard (L) and Harold (R)

This was a nice break for me between movies, and although I only caught part of the presentation, I was lucky enough to see some home movies of Ginger Rogers swimming, some behind-the-scenes footage from On the Waterfront and The More the Merrier, and footage of The Nicholas Brothers in performance and with their family. Special guests included Tony Nicholas (son of Fayard) and his family. This was a real treat, and I’m looking forward to another batch next year (fingers crossed)!

Ginger Rogers swimming home movies TCMFF 2016Ginger Rogers swimming home movies TCMFF 2016

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Midnight (1939, director Mitchell Leisen)

Mary Astor, John Barrymore, Don Ameche, Claudette Colbert in MidnightMary Astor, John Barrymore, Don Ameche, Claudette Colbert in Midnight

Midnight is a screwball comedy about an out-of-work showgirl stranded in Paris who is hired by a millionaire to pose as a Baroness and break up his wife’s affair. But when her ‘true love’ shows up, oh boy…

I had seen this one before, but again, it’s always fun to see movies on the Big Screen with like-minded fans.

Bonnie Hunt introduces Midnight at the TCMFF 2016; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie Hub

Bonnie Hunt introduces Midnight

Bonnie Hunt introduced the film and it was clear to me that she had a genuine passion for it — but I was struck most by the fact that she worked for many years as an oncology nurse and shared classic movies with her patients. I can’t even begin to tell you how incredibly moved I was by this little-known but very-telling fact about Hunt.

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TCMFF Day Four, May 1

The Kid (1921, director Charlie Chaplin)  

The Kid 1921 starring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan

The Kid 1921 starring Charlie Chaplin and Jackie Coogan

It’s no secret that I adore Charlie Chaplin, so needless to say, The Kid was another non-negotiable pick for me. In my humble opinion, it’s a classic among classics… a heartwarming story of a kind-hearted tramp who adopts an abandoned child. This was Chaplin’s first feature as star, director, writer and producer. The film was introduced by film archivist Serge Bromberg who explained that there was no specific score for the original 1921 release. It was, in fact, scored 50 years later for a re-release when Chaplin was 82 years old, with the help of musician Eric James. Today’s screening was the North American premiere restoration.

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Horse Feathers  (1931, director Norman Z. McLeod)

Horse Feathers speakeasy scene, Groucho and ChicoGroucho and Chico in Horse Feathers; ‘Whats the password?”

Okay, no secret here either… I simply adore The Marx Brothers, so Horse Feathers was another ‘slam dunk’ for me. And, if the Marx Brothers aren’t funny enough ‘on their own,’ they are absolutely hilarious when you’re in a crowded theater filled with laughing fans! This was their 4th feature film together, a zany pre-code comedy that ‘tackles’ academia and college football among other things! The film was introduced by comedian David Steinberg.

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Cinema Paradiso (1988, director Giuseppe Tornatore)

Philippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio in Cinema ParadisoPhilippe Noiret and Salvatore Cascio (little boy) in Cinema Paradiso

Okay, this time I had another good excuse to break my ‘pre-1970-only’ Festival rule. Cinema Paradiso is an emotional tribute to the beauty and magic of classic movies, as seen through the eyes of a young boy growing up in a small town in Italy. Mere words cannot express the exquisite nature of this film. But, suffice it to say, I could hear people sniffling and choking back tears in the audience (when I wasn’t sobbing myself)…

Ben Mankiewicz interviews actor Salvatore Cascio at the Cinema Paradiso screening; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubBen Mankiewicz interviews actor Salvatore Cascio at the Cinema Paradiso screening (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub) 

Mankiewicz conducted the pre-screening interview with Salvatore Cascio (who played the young boy, Toto, in the film). Upon asking Cascio if he had any experience acting at such a young age, Cascio replied “No, I was born an actor.”

Salvatore Cascio at the Cinema Paradiso screening tcmff 2016; photo credit: Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub; (c) 2016 Classic Movie HubSalvatore Cascio at the Cinema Paradiso screening (photo: 2016 Classic Movie Hub)

Cascio summed up his experience working on the film as “Cinema Paradiso is my life and it will be in my heart forever.”

What a perfect film to end the Festival!

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

#TCMFF #TCMFFSP #MovingPictures

 

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