Silents are Golden: Just What the Heck Was German Expressionism?

Silents are Golden: Just What the Heck Was German Expressionism?

Many of you have likely seen The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, or at least have seen a few famous stills. The dramatic sets, the stylized costumes, the deliberately artificial look…it’s clearly the quintessential example of the famed German Expressionism genre. But have you ever wondered: what exactly was German Expressionism? How did it start, and why did it evolve the way it did? And why is it still so influential to this day?

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) Set StillSet Still from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).

To find our answers, we have to do a bit of digging through art history, WWI history, theater history, and of course, history from early 20th century Germany.

Now, throughout the 19th century, the world had grown increasingly industrialized. By the time the 20th century came along, factory work was commonplace and communication and transportation were speeding up at an amazing rate. With this faster pace of life came an interest in all things fresh, new, and experimental, and it wasn’t long before the art world took notice.

Les Demoiselles D’Avignon by Picasso.In a rather noticeable way. (Les Demoiselles D’Avignon by Picasso.)

Many cutting-edge painters, sculptors, architects, novelists, and playwrights began experimenting with modernism and avant-garde, creating a number of movements you’re familiar with from art history books: Cubism, Surrealism, Fauvism, Futurism, and so on. These movements were inspired by psychology and emotion instead of the traditional, realistic styles of art (which, ahem, explains a lot of modern artists’ work). This was perhaps part of the growings pains of the era, as artists and intellectuals gingerly tried to wrap their minds around the strange, industrialized new way of life.

Many of these art movements began in Europe, Germany being one of the countries on the forefront. A tiny group of architecture students, called Die Brücke (The Bridge), is credited with creating “Expressionism” in 1905. They were interested in modernism, traditional German woodcuts, and tribal art from Africa and Oceania, and decided to combine these eclectic interests into their own, uniquely emotional style: German Expressionism.

Street, Berlin by Brücke artist Ernst Ludwig KirchnerStreet, Berlin by Brücke artist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.

Other German artists took notice and started experimenting with similar looks. Around the same time, German theater (which was a huge influence on both Europe and the U.S.) was also experimenting with daring new set designs and types of storytelling. In time, the dramatic Expressionist art that was in circulation was being reflected in the theater, too, especially in the productions of theater giant Max Reinhardt. Reinhardt would use nothing less than the very latest in set design and encouraged the use of dramatic lighting (such as using spotlights to illuminate a face onstage, leaving everything else in darkness). Expressionism fit his visions very well.

And with all this Expressionism seeping its way into so many forms of art, it makes sense that it would show up in the newest artform–the cinema. The earliest example was probably the horror film The Student of Prague (1913), often considered the first German art film. The psychological undertones of the story, about a student who gives a sorcerer his reflection in a mirror in exchange for unlimited wealth, fascinated many at the time and paved the way for more stylized cinematic tales with dark themes like The Golem (1915) and Homunculus (1916) (all directed by Paul Wegener).

The Student of Prague (1913) German Expressionism in FilmThe Student of Prague (1913).

In 1914 World War I began, which had an incalculable effect on the shaping of modern history. During the war Germany decided to stop the import of foreign films and closely control its own media, essentially isolating itself for those four long years. The German film industry, having to make up for the lack of films from the U.S. and other top filmmaking countries, had to make do all by itself. And thus, from 1914 to 1918 the specific form of German Expressionism (not merely “Expressionism,” which is a vaguer term) began to evolve.

Set designers and directors essentially took a step back, sized up everything Expressionism stood for – emotion and psychology, stylization instead of realism, symbolism – and decided, “this is all well and good, but is it extreme enough?”

A scene from the 1919 play Transfiguration by Ernst Toller.A scene from the 1919 play Transfiguration by Ernst Toller.

They began paring sets down to the most basic, stylized elements they could. Where once unusual angles would do to create a moody atmosphere, designers began to warp the walls, doors, and furniture of their sets. The overall look became more and more stark and two-dimensional. Finally, the last vestiges of realism were abandoned altogether–shadows and light were painted right onto the scenery in broad, obvious brushstrokes. The sets served to reflect the psychological states of the characters in a way viewer wouldn’t be allowed to forget. (And the paint and flat cardboard props just happened to save a lot of money, too.)

The most famous (and perfect) example of this unhinged German Expressionism is, you guessed it, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). Telling the tale of the somnambulist Cesare who’s used as a sideshow attraction by the nefarious Dr. Caligari, its bizarre, distorted sets have become iconic to generations of viewers. Similarly, stylized films followed, such as a Genuine (1920) and Raskolnikov (1923), although they couldn’t quite match Caligari’s genius.

Genuine (1920) Set Design German ExpressionismThe very odd Genuine.

Films that were less stylistically “out there” but still delved into dark, dramatic themes included Nosferatu (1922), Phantom (1922) and The Last Laugh (1924).

Nosferatu (1922) Still German ExpressionismNosferatu

The most extreme example of German Expressionism by far is Von morgens bis mitternachts, or From Morn to Midnight (1920). Concerning a bank clerk who abandons his family to pursue a reckless life in the city, the film was based on a play produced by the Expressionist-loving Karlheinz Martin. Like the play, it took stylization to its absolute limit. The sets are all matte black, with details in the form of white painted lines and dabs. The dry, wobbly brushstrokes are as noticeable as humanly possible. Even the actors’ clothes and faces are streaked with paint. Not too surprisingly, the grand experiment that was From Morn to Midnight wasn’t repeated.

From Morn to Midnight (1920) Set Design German ExpressionismUnique Set Design in From Morn to Midnight (1920).

True German Expressionism, with its wild two-dimensional sets, only lasted a few years, although a more toned-down version continued in films like Metropolis (1927) and Sunrise (1928). But everyone who loves movies has, in a way, loved German Expressionism. It would be a big influence on film noir and, of course, would have an incalculable effect on the horror movie genre itself.

–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: Early Talkies in Widescreen? Yup!

Vitaphone View: Early Talkies in Widescreen? Yup!

In previous blogs, I’ve discussed just how massive and fast the transition to sound films was. It was also very expensive. Consider for example the cost of wiring over 12,000 theatres for sound. While some opted to go the disk-only route using cheap knock-off brand turntables, the average cost to properly wire one theatre for sound with Western Electric equipment was about $25,000. That’s $370,000 in 2018 money – Per theatre! Most theatres had to add a second projectionist to handle the hectic process of switching film and disks from one projector to the other. And as the sound came in, studios began extracting payment on every ticket sold, in addition to the daily rental costs.

On the studio side, every stage had to be soundproofed and fully equipped to make talkies. Now sound engineers had to be hired and paid, new cameras, microphones and sound editing equipment purchased. And the loss of foreign market, at least at the transition to talkies, meant less revenue coming in. Filming in Technicolor, whether for individual musical sequences or, like Warner Bros On with the Show and Gold Diggers of Broadway (both 1929) meant drastically higher raw footage and processing costs.

So it is easy to see why William Fox met vigorous resistance when he rolled out the studio’s new 70mm widescreen process – dubbed Grandeur – amid these skyrocketing costs and industry upheaval.

Widescreen motion pictures can trace their roots back to 1897 when a 63mm (vs standard 35mm width) George Eastman stock was used to film the entire 100-minute Corbett-Fitzsimmons fight. In 1926 and 1927 pioneer filmmakers J. Stuart Blackton (a founder of silent studio Vitagraph) teamed with inventors George K. Spoor and John Berggren to produce two films in their Naturalvision process which used 63.5 mm film in a 2 to 1 frame ratio. These failed to spur interest in the industry for widescreen pictures.

35 vs 70mm comparison

A  comparison of standard 35mm film vs 70mm Grandeur widescreen film.

Vanda Krefft ’s superb and comprehensive recent biography on Fox, The Man who Made the Movies (Harper, 2017) details the mogul’s efforts to promote his Grandeur system to the entire industry. But like many inventions, initially, his timing was just horrible. Coming on the heels of massive expenditures by the studios on converting to sound and wiring thousands of theatres, any momentum the system may have had was then killed by the stock market crash in October of 1929.

Advertisement Happy Days (1930) Grandeur PicturesAd for Happy Days (’30).

The previous month, Fox premiered Grandeur with his The William Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 at New York’s Gaiety Theatre. As Krefft notes:

“The only Grandeur projectors in existence [3] installed at a total cost of $150,000 plus $5000 for the special screen, were prototypes… Adolph Zukor [Paramount] and RCA’s David Sarnoff visited Fox to urge him to call off the event. It was too soon for another industry upheaval, they argued.”

Carathy Circle Theatre Program Sample 35mm 70mm Grandeur Film SamplesInside the Carthay Circle Theatre program wee taped sample of both standard 35mm film and the wider 70mm Fox Grandeur film.

Fox plowed ahead with the other studios either ignoring wide screen entirely or attempting token efforts, mainly in shorts as a novelty. After using Grandeur in an edition of his Fox Movietone Newsreel (“It Speaks For Itself”), the studio used the process in his musical Happy Days (’30), the John McCormack feature Song O’ My Heart (’30) (never screened publicly in widescreen) and his all-in western feature The Big Trail (’30), directed by Raoul Walsh and starring John Wayne at the beginning of his long career.

The Big Trail (1930) John Wayne Widescreen Title ScreenThis is the Grandeur widescreen opening title for Fox Film’s The Big Trail (1930), starring John Wayne.

The Big Trail was shot simultaneously in standard 35 mm and in 70 mm Grandeur. Costing $1.8 million, it was the most expensive feature Fox Film had ever made up to that time. But theatres were financially unable to install the equipment needed to show the feature to best advantage in Grandeur. Ultimately, 99 % of patrons saw it in standard 35mm, and the picture lost over $1 million. And while costs were a clear stumbling block to Grandeur’s success, Krefft points out that “resistance to Grandeur arose mainly from concern over a lack of standardization — other companies had been developing rival widescreen technologies and different aspect ratios.”

One of the few Grandeur features to survive completely in that format (The Bat Whispers (UA/’30) and the final reel of Happy Days (Fox/’30) are the others), The Big Trail has since been recognized as a major achievement in filmmaking and in 2006, The Library of Congress added it to its National Film Registry.

The Bat Whispers (1930) Wide Title ComparisonComparison of the opening title cards for The Bat Whispers (UA/’30). Left is 35mm and right is Grandeur widescreen version.
Happy Days Cast Autographed 1930Autographed cast photo from William Fox’s Happy Days (’30), filmed in both standard 35mm and 70mm Grandeur versions.  The final reel survives in Grandeur.

But after it flopped in late 1930, The Big Trail closed the curtain on widescreen motion pictures for 23 years. By 1953, ironically it was the same studio, Fox, that developed and promoted a new widescreen process dubbed Cinemascope. It used an anamorphic lens that “squeezed” the picture onto 35mm film and then the projector lens “unsqueezed” it to create the 2.4/ 2.55 to 1 screen aspect ratio. Launched to fight the erosion in theatre attendance due to television, this time it was a success.

Happy Days (1930) Screen SplitsA visualization of how the wider 70mm Fox Grandeur film could show more on the screen as compared to standard 35mm film.

Widescreen films were not the only technology victims in the early 1930’s. In 1931, RCA Victor launched a new 33 1/3 rpm home phonograph and a line on “long playing” records to be used on them. It flopped, again primarily due to poor timing in the midst of the depression. Television, too, was slowed in its development during the thirties, due not only to the Depression but also because of commercial radio’s tremendous success and the industry not wanting to undermine it.

Grandeur Movietone Film ComparisonGrandeur vs 35mm frame comparisons.

Both long-playing records and television for the home finally had their turn to succeed in the late 1940’s. But today William Fox’s Grandeur is a long-forgotten footnote in film history.


The following list of widescreen shorts and features was kindly provided by Louie Despres:

Grandeur films made
Fox Grandeur News (Sept 17, 1929) short
Niagara Falls (Sept 17, 1929) short
Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 (Sept 17, 1929) – only parts of the film were shown in Grandeur
Happy Days (Feb 13, 1930)
Hudson River Bridge (March 1930) short
Song O’ My Heart (March 1930) – never screened in Grandeur
The Big Trail (Oct 2, 1930)

Grandeur films that exist
MoMA has preserved the following in 35mm anamorphic:
Grandeur Test Shots
Fox Granduer News & outtakes
One reel of Happy Days- the minstrel number, the final reel
Hudson River Bridge
The Big Trail – survives complete

Other Grandeur style films
Magnachrome (35mm 2-perf)
Oui, Oui Marie (Universal, Sept 1930) short – one reel in widescreen found in 2017.

You’re in the Army Now (Paramount, 1929) short

The Bat Whispers (United Artists, 1930) – survives complete

Campus Sweethearts (RKO, 1929) short – never shown in widescreen. Lost.
Danger Lights (RKO, November 1930) – survives in 35 mm only
Niagara Falls (November 1930) Vitaphone short

REAL-LIFE (70mm neg/35mm print)
Billy the Kid (MGM, Oct 1930)
The Great Meadow (MGM, March 1931) – never shown in widescreen

Larry Ceballos Review (Warner Bros, Vitaphone July 1930 short
A Soldier’s Plaything (Warner Bros, July 1930) – not released in widescreen
Kismet (Warner Bros, Oct 1930) – lost
The Lash (Warner Bros, Dec 1930) – survives in 35 mm only

– 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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Celebrating the Fall with a Kino Classics Giveaway (Blog/Facebook)

The Fall Celebration Continues with Kino Lorber!
DVD/Blu-Ray Giveaway, Winner’s Choice of 4 Classic Titles

If you didn’t win our Twitter contest earlier this month, no worries, there’s still two more chances to win our Kino Lorber fall giveaway – this time via the Facebook/Blog version of  the Contest, courtesy of Kino LorberEach of our two winners will be able to choose one prize from the following 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.

In order to qualify to win a prize via this Facebook/Blog contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Oct 27 at 10PM ESTWe will pick our two winners via a random drawing and announce them on this Blog the day after the contest ends (Sunday Oct 28).

TrapezeTrapeze starring Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis and Gina Lollobrigida


Here are the titles you can choose from:

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.

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.

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.

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.

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


ENTRY TASK to be completed by Saturday, Oct 27 at 10PM EST…

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

Why is it that classic movies are special to 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…


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 | 9 Comments

I Am Max: A Max Linder Docudrama Film

I Am Max: A Max Linder Docudrama Film

Silent film fans all over the world have lauded their favorite on-screen comedians, particularly enjoying the works of legendary comedians such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Harold Lloyd. While each of these comedians had a distinct sense of style and impacted the film industry in a number of ways, there is one name that is often overlooked: Max Linder.

max linder

Hailing from France, Linder was an actor, director, screenwriter, producer and top-notch comedian during the silent film era. His “Max” persona onscreen was one of the first recurring characters in film. Moreover, Linder has often been cited as the first international film star.

Rejecting his family’s vineyard business, Linder fell in love with the theater and quickly garnered awards for both tragedy and comedy. He soon became a contract player in the Bordeaux Theatre des Arts, performing in both comedic and dramatic plays. Later, Linder would apply for work at the Pathe Freres in Vincennes, securing bit parts in slapstick comedies.

Between 1905 and 1907, Linder would appear in dozens of short comedy films in supporting roles. His first appearance as “Max” was in The Skater’s Debut (1907), in which he performs a rendition of the “windmill routine” by spinning his cane around, predating Chaplin’s The Rink (1916). Thanks to the universality of silent films, by 1910, he would become one of the most popular film actors in the world and the highest paid entertainer of the day.

Tragically, Linder suffered from mental illness, an inflated ego, and difficulty in coping with the pressures that celebrity brought. He died at age 42, committing suicide with his wife, leaving behind an infant daughter, Maud, and the comedies that audiences all over the world enjoyed. Though Linder was a mentor to Chaplin, his name is seldom remembered when reflecting upon the great silent film comedians.

i am max: max linder documentary

In response, Producer and Director Edward Porembny seeks to tell Linder’s story through I Am Max, a docudrama about the life and career of Linder. Over time, Porembny and his team have established international relationships with Prune Berge of the Max Linder archives, and the Library of Congress in addition to various archives in Moscow, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Cuba, and across all of Europe. According to Porembny, “They are coming from various different countries across the globe and are adapting what they know the best to create something completely new about Max.”

Porembny’s work is also supported by the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, California, which has provided a wealth of archival footage including Linder films and the actuality footage (silent film-era establishing street scenes and behind-the-scenes shots) that is helping to bring the story to life.

Porembny is also employing various creative techniques to depict Linder’s life. To further help audiences feel that they are discovering Linder’s life as it happens, his team is adding dialogue and color to archival footage and to Linder’s movies, re-using this historic footage in a new way. They are staging interviews with actors portraying those closest to Linder to accent the illusion, in an effort to present Linder’s life as artfully and creative as the man himself. The best part? They are even using a Bell & Howell 2709B hand crank camera from 1922 to shoot brand new footage. In short, this project employs an innovative approach to celebrating an innovative man.

max linder douglas fairbanks charlie chaplin les vedettes de cinema

The following institutions are already supporting the project, in addition to Porembny’s active crowdfunding campaign:

  • AMP Polska (Poland)
  • Canal +, Cine +  (France)
  • CNC (French Film Institut) (France)
  • Creative Media Bruxelles and Creative Media TV Broadcasting (Bruxelles)
  • IDA (USA)
  • Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum (USA)
  • PISF (Polish Film Institut) (Poland)
  • Politechnika Warszawska (Poland)
  • Portrait & Campagne (France)
  • RTBF (Belgium)
  • TVP (Poland)
  • University of Jeruzalem
  • Wide House (sales company/distributor) (France)


At this point, Porembny and his team have set up a crowdfunding campaign page with various perks available to contributors in an effort to secure the funds that will help them put the finishing touches on the film. Funds will be used for the film’s production efforts, including filming additional footage, as well as the digitization, colorization, and sonification of the original footage.

While Porembny’s primary goal is to craft a fitting tribute to Linder, his project also has another purpose: “In a time during which social media can make anyone a public figure, we hope our film provokes a larger discussion – especially among young people – on healthy public lifestyles, social values and priorities, the dangers of a self-destructive lifestyle, and alternatives to suicide.”

If you are a Linder fan or new to his work, consider exploring his films and contributing to the I Am Max campaign.

Photos courtesy of I Am Max campaign.


–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. 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.

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Noir Nook: Uncommon Ladies of Noir – Loretta Young

Noir Nook: Uncommon Ladies of Noir – Loretta Young

Some film fans remember Loretta Young from her popular television show, where she’d sweep into the frame each week with an elegant flourish of her floor-length gown. Others think of her in her Oscar-winning title role of The Farmer’s Daughter (1947). Still, others know her best from her pre-Code features.

Loretta Young Headshot“A charming woman is a busy woman” – Loretta Young

As for me, I like to shine the spotlight on Loretta Young’s film noir features, which are seldom discussed but worthy of note. This month’s Noir Nook takes a look at this veteran actress and her contribution to the noir era.

Gretchen Michaela Young was born in Salt Lake City in 1913, the third of four children born to John, a railroad auditor, and Gladys Young. (Her two sisters – Polly Ann and Elizabeth Jane – better known as Sally Blane – would also become actresses.) When Gretchen was three years old, her parents separated and the family moved to Los Angeles. Following her divorce, Gladys Young married a Los Angeles businessman and had a third actress-daughter, Georgiana, who would later wed actor Ricardo Montalban.

When Gretchen wasn’t yet five, she was paid $3.50 a day to play a child crying on an operating table in The Only Way (1917), and she and her sisters played extras in a variety of films, including Rudolph Valentino’s The Sheik (1921), where they played a group of Arab children. She got her big break by accident, several years later, when Mervyn LeRoy, then an assistant director with First National Pictures, called the Young house in an effort to get Polly Ann for a part in a Colleen Moore picture. Polly Ann was already working on a film, and when Gretchen answered the call, she told LeRoy, “I’m an actress, too, and I’m available.” Gretchen wound up getting the part – and a new name. Colleen Moore, deciding that Young’s given name sounded “too dutchy,” insisted on renaming her after “the most beautiful doll I ever had.” And so, Loretta Young was born – and 20 years later, she starred in her first film noir.


The Stranger (1946)

Young dipped her toe in the film noir water with this feature, where she starred as Mary Longstreet, the daughter of a Supreme Court judge who marries a college professor, Franz Kindler (Orson Welles). Turns out, though, that Kindler is a Nazi war criminal, a fact that is first brought to Mary’s awareness by Wilson (Edward G. Robinson), a member of the Allied War Crimes Commission. Unsurprisingly, Mary is initially reluctant to believe Wilson’s claim: “He’s not one of those people!” she insists. But it doesn’t take long for Mary to see the light, and she ultimately winds up single-handedly bringing on her husband’s downfall. Literally.

The Stranger (1946) Noir Loretta Young Movie posterShe said: “Kill me, I want you to. . . but when you kill me, don’t put your hands on me!


The Accused (1948)

Of Young’s three film noir features, The Accused is my favorite – Young plays Wilma Tuttle, a repressed, tightly wound college professor whose carefully crafted façade is pierced by Bill Perry (Douglas Dick), a handsome young student who gets his kicks from making inappropriate remarks. Bill pays for his behavior when he takes things too far and Wilma kills him. It’s an accident, but he’s no less dead, and in a panic, Wilma covers up her role in his death by making it look like an accident. The rest of the film focuses on Wilma’s efforts to quell her terror at being found out – which is heightened by her growing relationship with the attorney who was Bill’s guardian.

The Accused (1948) Noir Loretta Young Movie PosterHe said: “You little firecracker – don’t pretend you don’t like it.”


Young’s final foray into the land of noir has another “panic-stricken woman in peril” theme. Here, she’s a housewife, Ellen Jones, whose husband George (Barry Sullivan) is insanely jealous. While George is bedridden, recuperating from a heart ailment, he spends his idle hours imagining that Ellen is having an affair with his doctor and that the two are plotting his murder. George is so successful at convincing himself of this scenario that he puts his suspicions in a letter to the district attorney, which he gives to his wife to mail. He then reveals the letter’s contents to Ellen and promptly drops dead of a heart attack – and Ellen spends the rest of the film feverishly trying to retrieve the damning letter.

Cause for Alarm (1951) Noir Loretta Young Movie PosterShe said: “I did everything wrong. They’ll all think I’m guilty.”


If you’ve never seen Loretta Young in film noir, you’re in for a treat. Track these down and see what I mean!

– 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:


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Trick or Treat: A CMH Halloween “Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters Collection” DVD Giveaway (Oct 8 – Oct 27)

A Special Halloween Treat for CMH Fans!
The Abbott and Costello Monsters Collection DVD Giveaway!

“I know there’s no such person as Dracula. You know there’s no such person as Dracula…”
“But does Dracula know it?”

We’re so excited to be running a very special giveaway over the next few weeks, just in time to celebrate Halloween… so prepare to be scared…NOT!

We are happy to say that we have THREE copies of the Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters Collection on DVD to giveaway this month. I don’t know about you, but I just love these movies…they’re the perfect mix of fright and funny for a scaredy cat like me :)

The collection includes Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (my fave), Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy, plus trailers and more special features.

abbott and costello meet the monsters dvd collection



In order to qualify to win one of these prizes via this contest giveaway, you must complete the below entry task by Saturday, Oct 27 at 9PM EST. However, the sooner you enter, the better chance you have of winning, because we will pick a winner on three 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.

  • Oct 13: One Winner
  • Oct 20: One Winner
  • Oct 27: One Winner

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 9PM EST — for example, we will announce our first week’s winners on Sunday Oct 14 around 9PM EST.


abbott and costello meet frankenstein, costello and draculaWhat can I say, this scene always makes me laugh…


ENTRY TASK (2-parts see below) to be completed by Saturday, October 27 at 9PM EST…

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 CMH Halloween “Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters Collection” #DVDGiveaway courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub contest link here:

Who is your favorite Classic Movie Monster (or actor that portrays the monster) and why? 

*If you do not have a Twitter account, you can 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 and we will be happy to create the entry for you.


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

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

abbott and costello meet the mummy pixOkay, I know the Mummy walks as slow as molasses, but he still always scared the you-know-what out of me when I was a kid :)


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…


And if you can’t wait to win the DVD Set, you can purchase it on amazon via the below link (click on image):

Good Luck!


You may also want to check out:

The Chaney Blogathon: Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet Frankenstein

Who Did Abbott and Costello Meet?

–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Posted in Contests & Giveaways, Posts by Annmarie Gatti | Tagged , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Pre-Code Corner: Man Wanted – Experience Necessary

Pre-Code Corner: Man Wanted – Experience Necessary

“Can’t you get it through your fat head that today there’s just as many serious-minded women in business as men. When you meet them you don’t have to treat them as if you were out on a party.”

That’s right, Tom (David Manners). But as promising as this quote about Tom’s new boss Lois (Kay Francis) sounds, within the next 20 seconds, his conversation with roommate Andy (Andy Devine) inevitably dovetails into the subject of Lois’s physical beauty. What can I say? It was the 1930s.

Man Wanted (1932) Kay Francis as Lois Ames in Magazine“Does the magazine field offer a career to women?” Lois (Kay Francis) would answer in the affirmative.

In Man Wanted (1932), Lois reigns as editor of the successful 400 Magazine. She does well enough that her husband, Freddie (Kenneth Thomson) doesn’t have to work, which is excellent, because that’s just the way he prefers it: a life of polo, partying, and philandering. When Lois fires her secretary, sports salesman Tom just happens to be there — and lands the job. Though she’s married and he’s engaged to Ruthie (Una Merkel), feelings start to bud that threaten to complicate their working relationship.

Man Wanted (1932) Kay Francis as Lois Ames and David Manners as Tom Sherman putting on ShoeWas this in the job description, Lois? Tom (David Manners) doesn’t seem to mind either way.

When I re-watched Man Wanted recently, I was struck by how certain elements dealing with the workplace and relationships felt markedly modern. While women weren’t treated equally then — nor, unfortunately, now — the way Man Wanted portrays a female boss reflected some surprising and refreshing attitudes, even for a period that was awash with strong women. (Speaking of powerful ladies, Francis portrayed a notable number of professional women during the pre-Code era, from a perfume company owner in 1932’s Trouble in Paradise to doctors in 1933’s Mary Stevens, M.D. and 1934’s Dr. Monica, all roles that came after this film.)

Of all the dominating male bosses that appeared in pre-Codes (looking at you, Warren William), their lady counterparts were much scarcer. Female (1933) stands as one of the most renowned movies of this kind, emphasized more so, in my opinion, because Ruth Chatterton damn near rivals the likes of William in the sexual harassment department, wielding her power to bed a string of her male employees. While Francis participates in her fair share of flirting with her male secretary, her overall conduct and manner are much more restrained than Chatterton’s, though she still retains a firm grasp on her sexuality.

Man Wanted (1932) Kay Francis as Lois Ames in Stylish Fashionable Clothes, Warner BrothersWarner Brothers did a wonderful job outfitting Kay Francis in attire suitable to a stylish society and boss lady in her first movie for the studio. In fact, press kits declared that Francis had a hand in choosing the fashion ensembles.

What’s encouraging about this picture is that Lois relishes her position and being in control — and she’s not punished for that ambition, nor is she painted as a sexless, staunch executive. Francis imbues the character with a genuine humanity, sensuality, sophistication, and intelligence. When Freddie asks how she stands being an editor, she replies that the whole “racket” is “all part of the game. And I love it.” A passion for the challenge and stimulation motivates her; even when Lois and Tom end up together, we know he wouldn’t force Lois to quit her job because it means so much to her. That said, while a female head of the house is undoubtedly more acceptable today, there’s still a slight social stigma that comes with it, and I can’t imagine what that must have been like in the 1930s.

Despite the strength of the central female character, Man Wanted still conveys the typical period sexism; for instance, Lois proclaims to Tom after she hires him: “You see, I’ve been having trouble with secretaries. The work is so uncertain. It needs a man.” If that line spins the narrative expectation on its head, so did the reviews, in their negligible discussion of the story twist. I was astonished that none of the period’s writers triumphed Lois’s illustrious business position, aside to say — in only one of five critiques I perused — that this picture flipped the typical storyline. But when I actually thought about it, I realized that reaction is my modern sensibility celebrating the portrayal. While I didn’t perceive any animosity in the analyses, in reality, Man Wanted could have been observed by some patrons as incendiary, considering the hostility aimed at working women during the Depression when the female employment rate almost matched the male unemployment rate, and more than half of the country passed laws barring married women from working. I assume Warners skirted that potential issue by mentioning that Lois inherited the publication from her family; it also appears that Lois and Freddie would somehow successfully maintain their lavish lifestyle even without her paycheck.

Man Wanted (1932) AdvertisementMost press adverts took the melodramatic or overtly racy road in publicizing Man Wanted. This was one of the few to not only touch upon the gender twist but center the entire message around it.

Man + Wife
Man Wanted paints Freddie as a (lovable) cad for cheating on Lois, and the film makes it painfully obvious that their mentalities and priorities do not align. That said, the affection these two characters share earned my admiration. Their friskiness and the portrayal of their semi-open marriage came across as surprisingly contemporary, from their canoodling when Lois is “in conference” during the movie’s opening scene to their split in the third act.

We quickly learn that Lois isn’t embarrassed about her power and prestige in the business world, and neither is her husband. Sure, Freddie asks Lois why she works, but he doesn’t nag her about it (that we hear of, anyway), and he even acknowledges their swapped societal roles:

Freddie: You see, Lois. It’s all wrong. You work all day when you should be playing; I play all day when I should be working.
Lois: Well I love my work! You love your polo.
Freddie: But the office is no place for a woman like you. Why don’t you chuck it? I seem to remember having asked that question at least three million times.
Lois: I don’t think I could get along without the silly old magazine. It’s in my blood. I love it the way all my people did. Carrying on for them is like some sort of a trust. You don’t really mind, do you?
Freddie: Not if it makes you happy.
Lois: You make me happy.

Man Wanted (1932) Kay Francis and Kenneth Thompson KissingFrom necking during office hours…
Man Wanted (1932) Kay Francis and Kenneth Thompson Flirting Cigarette… to flirting after dinner…
Man Wanted (1932) Kay Francis and Kenneth Thompson hug… to calling it quits before bedtime.

Even though Freddie takes other lovers, Lois still fancies his companionship and values their marriage. We get the sense that his wandering eyes have nothing to do with her position, as he’s still readily attracted to her and acts upon that allure.

I also found Lois and Freddie’s thoughtfully-handled breakup scene surprisingly poignant, something I wasn’t expecting. Despite the fact that they are parting ways, both parties remain relatively mature in those moments; although Freddie brings upon the proceedings, assumingly so he can more openly pursue ladies, his gestures to soften the blow are commendable, as he tells Lois: “We can’t change ourselves, can we? And trying won’t make us any happier.” As one press piece declared of Man Wanted: “No More Pussyfooting About Modern Marriage and Divorce! At last a motion picture faces the facts about today’s morals!” The delivery there was overdramatic and a bit overreaching, but the point did recognize the picture’s contemporary ideas.

Getting Schooled
I found the circa 1932 sarcasm regarding college very relatable, and, as such, also a tad troubling. Two humorous jabs at education caught my attention in Man Wanted, the first of which occurs when Tom discusses their sports equipment sales job with roommate/co-worker Andy:

Tom: We only got the job because you’re an all-American.
Andy: Mmm hmm. That proves the value of a college education.

Man Wanted David Manners and Andy Devine Pogo StickThese two sure landed on their feet after college. Well, at least Andy did. Tom should be there any minute now.

… Sure, in securing Tom a gig he’s not satisfied with. When he visits Lois to demonstrate a rowing machine and she impulsively hires him (he does know shorthand), she inquires about his education — turns out he’s a Harvard man, just like her husband. Freddie basically threw that degree in the trash and most likely boasts of it as more of a status piece, but Tom works as a secretary with a Harvard diploma. I think nowadays the weight of that degree and the perceived modesty of the position would raise some eyebrows, but in 1932, it seems the Depression probably trumped that sentiment, though The Los Angeles Times did point out how “reduced” Tom’s circumstances were for a Harvard grad.

Man Wanted (1932) Kay Francis and David Manners Row Back

Tom: How’s your back?
Lois: I’ll show you in just a moment.
Tom: (laughs) No, I mean how strong do you want me to make this thing pull?

Fight for Your Rights
The great character actress Elizabeth Patterson makes a brief appearance in Man Wanted as Lois’s secretary, Miss Harper, in the beginning. The reason why Tom replaces her? Miss Harper stood her ground, arguing that even though Lois provides her with overtime pay, she’s stayed late every night, and this is the last straw: “I’m afraid I can’t…I’m sorry to inconvenience you, but I simply cannot break another appointment.” What now?! I was sincerely surprised that a middle-aged character would so easily let her job go during such a dire economic downturn, but at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel proud that she upheld her personal standards. That’s called work-life balance — sound familiar to anyone?

Man Wanted (1932) Elizabeth Patterson as Miss HarperMiss Harper (Elizabeth Patterson) standing firm. Is a social life too much to ask for?

I didn’t have access to this film’s Production Code Administration (PCA) file, so any censorship related items remain a mystery, though I can’t imagine many infractions, save for perhaps the laissez-faire attitude towards marriage and adultery. I’d guess that none of the above episodes that I perceived as relatively modern warranted discussion amongst the censors; it seems that Man Wanted strictly served as an amusement for 1932 audiences, though the inclusion of these elements merits extra appreciation from a modern standpoint.

–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.

Posted in Posts by Kim Luperi, Pre-Code Corner | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Win Tickets to see “TCM Big Screen Classics: Die Hard” (30th Anniversary) (Giveaway runs through October 27)

Win tickets to see “Die Hard” on the big screen!
In Select Cinemas Nationwide Sun Nov 11 and Wed Nov 14!

“I promise I will never even *think* about going up in a tall building again.”

CMH continues into our 3rd year of our partnership with Fathom Events - with the 12th 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: Die Hard – starring Bruce Willis — 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, October 27 at 6 PM EST.

We will announce the winner(s) on Twitter on Sunday, October 28, 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 Die Hard

The film will be playing in select cinemas nationwide for a special two-day-only event on Sunday, November 11 and Wednesday, November 14 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, October 27 at 6PM EST…

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

Although not officially a classic-era film, what in your opinion makes “Die Hard” 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: Die Hard” on the Big Screen courtesy of @ClassicMovieHub & @FathomEvents #EnterToWin #CMHContest link here:

*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 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…

Bruce Willis in Die Hard

About the film: New York City Detective John McClane becomes the only hope for a small group of hostages, trapped in a Los Angeles high-rise office building when it is seized by terrorists on Christmas Eve. This 30th Anniversary 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 , , , , | 19 Comments

What’s Happening in Classics: October 2018

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

Welcome to our monthly ‘CMH Guide’ for Classics! And welcome October! 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


rita hayworth star of the month


  • Star of the Month: RITA HAYWORTH! From dancing to dramas, from musicals to noirs, Rita was much more than a stunning beauty- she could do it all. Celebrate her 100th birthday with a collection of her films every Tuesday in October. Full schedule here.

illeana douglas and carol burnette

  • Funny Ladies- Thursdays in October! Hosted by TCM fave Ileana Douglas as she chats with legendary Carol Burnett. From silents to contemporaries, the two will highlight the funniest ladies ever to grace the screen. Full schedule here. 

the mummy

  • THE MUMMY on Sundays. Get wrapped up in some horrifically good flicks for this month’s Monster of the Month, from the silent to the 70s. How to ‘get your gauze on’.

classic horror stars

  • On Wednesdays, TCM salutes HORROR STARS by honoring 5 reigning kings of the genre. In order: Lon Chaney, Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, and Vincent Price will each have their own night of creepy classics. For a full list click here.
  • On Monday, Oct. 15th, Leonard Maltin once again brings us Treasures From the Disney Vault with a showcase of a variety of Disney classics.

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


debbie reynolds star of the month

FilmStruck… subscription needed…

  • Contests: Check in for a new contest coming soon!
  • Films and Featured Collections: Fresh content added in this month’s library including Stars Of The Week like Debbie Reynolds, Cinematography by Gregg Toland, Directors such as HC Potter, and so much 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 coupon code


cmh classic movie hub logo


The Neil Simon Blogathon (Oct 13 – 14)

100 Years Of Rita Hayworth Blogathon (Oct 17 – 19)

From The Stars To A Star: Celebrating Dolores Hart (Oct 18 – 20)

The 2nd Disability In Film Blogathon (Oct 24 – 26)

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

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

Check out the complete list and times here.

Get To Know the Classic Columns! CMH is host to some of the savviest niche writers in Classic Film today- from Film Noir, Musicals, Westerns, Pre-Code, Silents and more! You can explore all the fabulous monthly columns and special contributors here.

This month, we feature Annette of Classic Movie Travels. (You may recognize her from current TCM Backlots tv commercials.) 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 Society MagazineSee all of Annette’s CMH Articles Here


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


movies tv network logo Movies TV Network…



GetTV… Classic Movies and Retro TV…





Antenna_TV_logo Antenna TV…


Decades_TV_Logo Decades TV… 


Fathom-events logo

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


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,

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!


And of course our Monthly Contests! Including:

  • Win Tickets to see “Die Hard” Fathom “TCM Big Screen Classics”  – we have 8 pairs of tix to giveaway (contest ends Oct 27) 
  • Kino Lorber DVDs and Blu-Rays (contest ends Oct 13) — 12 prizes in all, winner’s choice of four titles – Trapeze, The Farmer’s Daughter, A Strange Adventure, and I Walk Alone. Check back on this Blog on Sept 10 for details.
  • Abbott and Costello Meet the Monsters Collection on DVD — we’ll be giving away three copies of this frightfully funny DVD collection – check back on this blog on Oct 8!

For a listing of all of our CMH contests, click here.


–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub


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Classic Movie Travels: Ray Bolger – Boston, NY and LA

Classic Movie Travels: Ray Bolger

Ray Bolger Headshot Black and WhiteActor, vaudevillian, TV presenter, singer, and dancer, Ray Bolger.

For nearly a century, audiences all over the world have fallen in love with Ray Bolger’s portrayal of the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Beyond this iconic role, Bolger had a strong career in films and onstage, excelling as a dancer. With the ability to effortlessly glide about the room, it’s no wonder he perfectly captured the spirit of an amusing Scarecrow.

Raymond Wallace Bolger was born on January 10, 1904, in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to James and Anne Bolger. His father and grandfather were painters. Bolger also had a sister named Regina.

Young Ray BolgerA young Ray Bolger.

As a child, Bolger would frequent vaudeville shows, quickly developing an interest in live performance. He began his entertainment career as part of a vaudeville tap show, acting as one-half of the “Sanford and Bolger” dance team. By 1926, he performed at New York City’s Palace Theater, which was the top vaudeville theater in the U.S. His ability to improvise dances allowed him to execute many lead roles on Broadway throughout the 1930s, such as roles in Life Begins at 8:40 (1934) and On Your Toes (1936). As his popularity grew, he married Gwendolyn Rickard and the couple spent their honeymoon in Europe. Following the trip, he expanded his career to film, television, and nightclub work.

In 1932, Bolger was among the group of entertainers who opened Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall. In the same year, he was elected to The Lambs theater club.

When Bolger signed his first film contract with MGM, it was to appear as himself in The Great Ziegfeld (1936). He also appeared in Rosalie (1937), an Eleanor Powell vehicle, and Sweethearts (1938), the first MGM film in Technicolor, alongside Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald.

Ray Bolger in The Great Ziegfeld (1936)Ray Bolger as himself in The Great Ziegfeld (1936).

Bolger’s contract stipulated that he would play any part assigned to him by the studio. Originally, he was cast as the Tin Woodman in The Wizard of Oz, while Buddy Ebsen was given the part of the Scarecrow. As production continued, the roles were shuffled around, leading Bolger to fulfill the role of the Scarecrow. Due to the heavy Scarecrow makeup and glued rubber mask, Bolger’s face became lined. In addition, the heat of the lights that made filming uncomfortably hot, requiring Bolger to take frequent breaks.

After his work in The Wizard of Oz, his contract with MGM ended, prompting him to move to RKO Pictures. In 1941, he was a featured act at the Paramount Theatre in New York, executing tap dance routine as part of a mock-challenge against the Harry James Band’s pianist, Al Lerner. When the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Bolger’s performance was interrupted by President Roosevelt’s announcement regarding the attack. In response, Bolger toured with many USO shows alongside Joe E. Lewis throughout the Pacific Theater during World War II and was also featured in the wartime film, Stage Door Canteen (1943).

Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (1939)Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz (1939).

In 1943, Bolger returned to MGM to fulfill a featured role in The Harvey Girls (1946), which had him reunited with Oz co-star Judy Garland. In the same year, he recorded a children’s album called The Churkendoose, which told the story of a misfit fowl that was part chicken, turkey, duck, and goose. He continued his stage career with All American (1962) and Where’s Charley? (1948), the latter of which won him the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. He also introduced the song “Once in Love with Amy” in the musical, reprising his stage role in the 1952 film version.

Bolger’s television career included a television sitcom called Where’s Raymond?, which was later renamed The Ray Bolger Show. In addition to working on his own show, he would make many guest appearances on other television shows, including The Jean Arthur Show, Fantasy Island, Little House on the Prairie, and with a recurring role as Shirley Partridge’s father on The Partridge Family, among additional appearances. He also acted in several television commercials.

Ray Bolger as Charley Wykeham in Where's Charley (1952)Ray Bolger as Charley Wykeham in Where’s Charley (1952).

In 1985, he and Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli, both appeared in That’s Dancing! (1985), written by Jack Haley, Jr., son of Jack Haley, who ultimately portrayed the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz.

Bolger died from bladder cancer on January 15, 1987, and is interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City. He was the last surviving main credited cast member of The Wizard of Oz. When co-star Garland passed away, he was the only one of her Oz co-stars to be present. Bolger joined Harold Arlen, composed of “Over the Rainbow”, for the service and they were one of the last remaining guests at its conclusion. Whenever asked whether he received any residuals from telecasts of the 1939 classic, Bolger would reply, “No, just immortality. I’ll settle for that.”

On the East coast, there are quite a few locations in existence that would have been of relevance to Bolger.

In 1910, the Bolger family resided at 8 Willowwood Street in Boston. This is the property today.

Ray Bolger Residence at 8 Willowwood Street, Boston, MassachusettsThe Bolger Residence at 8 Willowwood Street, Boston, Massachusetts.

By 1920, the family moved East to 46 Wethington Street in Boston. This is the home at present.

Ray Bolger Residence at 46 Wethington Street, Boston Massachusetts46 Wethington Street, Boston Massachusetts, today.

On his return trip from his honeymoon in Europe, Bolger listed his address as 1560 Broadway in New York. This is what the location looks like today.

Ray Bolger Residence at 1560 Broadway New York, NYBolger’s New York City residence today… quite a change in scenery!

In 1930, Bolger and his wife were living in Manhattan at 41-47 W. 72 Street. This is the property today.

Ray Bolger Residence 4147 W72nd Street, New York, NYToday, this address has a pricetag over 1.2 million dollars!

In 1940, Bolger resided at the Hampshire House, which opened in 1937 as a rental building, located at 150 Central Park South. It currently stands today as a residential co-op.

Ray Bolger Residence The Hampshire House New York, NYBolger knew how to pick a room with a view – today, the penthouse at The Hampshire House goes for 25 million!

Bolger and his wife also resided in Los Angeles at 513 N Martel Avenue. This is the location today.

Ray Bolger Residence 513 Martel, Los Angeles, CaliforniaA present day view of Bolger’s residence at 513 N Martel, Los Angeles, California.

In addition, Bolger donated his papers to UCLA’s archive. The collection is comprised of script material, contracts, clippings, correspondence, photographs, music, and other ephemera relating to his career.

Moreover, the Oz fans will be glad to know that Bolger’s Scarecrow costume lives on at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, along with one pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers.

Despite Bolger’s passing, his legacy lives on in so many ways as he continues to delight audiences through his most memorable portrayal.

–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 , | 2 Comments