Mini Tribute: Delmer Daves at Work

 

Born July 24, 1904 Director Delmer Daves!

Delmer Daves was a successful screenwriter in Hollywood, having co-penned Dames, The Petrified Forest, Love Affair and You Were Never Lovelier (among others), before making his directorial debut in 1943 with Destination Tokyo, for which he also co-wrote the screenplay.  Over the course of his career, Daves directed and wrote (or co-wrote) the screenplays/stories for Hollywood Canteen, Dark Passage, Rome Adventure, A Summer Place and Spencer’s Mountain (which incidentally served as the basis for TV’s The Waltons). Daves also directed 3:10 to YumaDemetrius and the Gladiators and Broken Arrow

So, let’s celebrate Delmer Daves work by taking a sneak peek at some behind-the-scenes photos…

Director Delmer Daves, Cary Grant and John Garfield on the set of Destination Tokyo, behind the scenes

Delmer Daves, Cary Grant and John Garfield examine scale models of warships on the set of Destination Tokyo

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Director Delmer Daves and Glenn Ford on the set of  3:10 to Yuma, behind the scenes

Delmer Daves and Glenn Ford on the set of  3:10 to Yuma

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Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Director Delmer Daves behind the scenes Dark Passage

Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Delmer Daves looking at negatives of Dark Passage

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Director Delmer Daves talks with Susan Hayward between takes of Demetrius and the GladiatorsDelmer Daves and Susan Hayward on the set of Demetrius and the Gladiators

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

 

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Mini Tribute: James Whale at Work

 

Born July 22, 1889 Director James Whale!

James Whale directed over 20 feature films from 1930 through 1941, most notably three iconic horror classics: Frankenstein (1931), The Invisible Man (1933) and The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). He also directed the 1932 Boris Karloff horror flick The Old Dark House (also starring Melvyn Douglas and Charles Laughton) and, believe it or not, the 1936 version of Show Boat starring Irene Dunne and Allan Jones, as well as 1939′s The Man in the Iron Mask starring Louis Hayward.  Not too shabby for an 11-year span of work!

So, to pay tribute to James Whale, I am sharing some behind-the-scenes photos from his three iconic horror films…

James Whale offering a light to Boris Karloff  on the set of FrankensteinJames Whale giving Boris Karloff a light on the set of Frankenstein :)

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James Whale directing Claude Rains in The Invisible ManJames Whale directing Claude Rains in The Invisible Man

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Boris Karloff and James Whale on the of The Bride of FrankensteinBoris Karloff and James Whale on the of The Bride of Frankenstein

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And now here’s one more for good measure — from The Old Dark House:

James Whale and Gloria Stuart behind the scenes --the old dark houseJames Whale and Gloria Stuart behind the scenes on The Old Dark House

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

Visit CMH’s BlogHub for more posts about James Whale by Veteran and Emerging Classic Movie Bloggers.

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Mini Tribute: Verna Felton

 

Born July 20, 1890 Verna Felton!

Verna Felton was a veteran character actress on stage, radio, film and TV!

On the big screen, Felton is probably best remembered for her voiceover work on some of Walt Disney’s most beloved animated feature films: Dumbo (as Dumbo’s mother, Mrs. Jumbo), Cinderella (as the Fairy Godmother who sings “Bibbidy Bobbidy Boo”), Alice in Wonderland (as the Queen of Hearts who insists “off with their heads”), Sleeping Beauty (as both the good fairy Flora and Queen Leah who is the mother of Princess Aurora), Lady and the Tramp (as Aunt Sarah), and The Jungle Book (as Winifred the Elephant).

Verna Felton Montage: Alice in Wonderland's The Queen of Hearts, Sleeping Beauty's Flora, Dumbo's Mrs. Jumbo, The Jungle Book's Winifred the Elephant, Lady and the Tramp's Aunt Sarah, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother

Verna Felton as (clockwise from right upper corner): The Queen of Hearts, Flora, Mrs. Jumbo, Winifred the Elephant, Aunt Sarah, Fairy Godmother

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Verna Felton as Fred Flintstone's mother-in-law Pearl Slaghoople

TV cartoon fans however will remember her best as Fred Flintstone’s nagging mother-in-law, Pearl Slaghoople (1962-1963)!

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December Bride TV sitcom

Felton also had quite a successful run on TV sitcoms, most notably as ‘Hilda Crocker’ (reprising her radio role) on December Bride (1954-1959) and its spin-off Pete and Gladys (1960-1961). She again reprised a radio role appearing as Dennis Day’s domineering mother on TV’s The Jack Benny Program (1955-1962).

Other film appearances include The Fuller Brush Man (1948), Belles on Their Toes (1952), Don’t Bother to Knock (1952) and Picnic (1955).

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 –Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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Mini Tribute: Sam Wood at Work

 

Born July 10, 1883 Director Sam Wood!

Sam Wood directed over 80 films in his 30-year film career (1920-1950) including Goodbye Mr. Chips, Kitty Foyle, Kings Row, A Night at the Opera, A Day at the Races, For Whom the Bell Tolls, The Pride of the Yankees, The Devil and Miss Jones and Saratoga Trunk. He was nominated for three Best Director Academy Awards (Goodbye Mr. Chips, Kitty Foyle, King’s Row) and directed three actors in their Oscar-winning performances: Robert Donat for Goodbye Mr. Chips, Ginger Rogers for Kitty Foyle, and Katina Paxinou (Supporting Actress) in For Whom the Bell Tolls.

So, to pay tribute to Mr. Wood, some behind-the-scenes photos from some of his memorable films…

Sam Wood and Gary Cooper during the filming of The Pride of the YankeesSam Wood and Gary Cooper during the filming of The Pride of the Yankees

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ingrid bergman, sam wood, katina paxinou, gary cooper, on the set of for whom the bell tolls

Ingrid Bergman, Sam Wood, Katina Paxinou and Gary Cooper on the set of For Whom the Bell Tolls

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mickey rooney and sam wood on the set of stablemates

Mickey Rooney and Sam Wood discussing the script on the set of Stablemates

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charles coburn, jean arthur, sam wood on the set of The Devil and Miss JonesSam Wood (standing by the camera wearing a hat) directing Charles Coburn and Jean Arthur in The Devil and Miss Jones

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Groucho Marx, writer Al Boasberg, Kitty Carlisle and Sam Wood on the set of A Night at the Opera

Groucho Marx, writer Al Boasberg, Kitty Carlisle and Sam Wood on the set of A Night at the Opera

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Little Jackie Coogan and Sam Wood on the set of Peck's Bad Boy

Little Jackie Coogan and Sam Wood on the set of Peck’s Bad Boy

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Ingrid Bergman and Sam Wood during the filming of Saratoga Trunk

Ingrid Bergman and Sam Wood during the filming of Saratoga Trunk

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Robert Donat and Sam Wood on the set of Goodbye Mr. Chips

Robert Donat and Sam Wood on the set of Goodbye Mr. Chips

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–Annmarie Gatti for Classic Movie Hub

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Murder in the Windy City: The Story Behind “Chicago”: The Chicago Silent Era (Part 8)

 

Murder in the Windy City: The Story Behind “Chicago”

The story of Roxie Hart and Velma Kelly has been told time and time again in the form of musicals, Broadway shows and films, but it began as a play written by a Chicago Tribune writer who spent part of her career chronicling the cases of the real life Roxie and Velma.

trade paper

 ”The name on everybody’s lips is gonna be Roxie”

Maurine Dallas Watkins moved to Chicago in 1924 and landed a job with the Chicago Tribune as a cub reporter. During her 7-month stay with the paper, she covered the stories of women she dubbed the Merry Murderesses — 14 women who were imprisoned at the Cook County Penitentiary on charges of murder. The prettiest, and most notorious, of these murderesses was a 24-year-old named Beulah Annan. Beulah made headlines when she shot her lover Harry Kolstedt and then sat listening to the song “Hula Lou” for hours afterward. Her story changed over time, from drunken murder to self-defense, but her husband Albert famously stood by her side during the trial. Once she was acquitted, however, she divorced him.

Beulah AnnanThe real “Roxie Hart”

Just a month before Beulah had murdered her lover, 40-year-old Belva Gaertner was arrested under similar charges. Dubbed the most stylish of the spouse slayers, Belva was accused of shooting her lover Walter Law while the pair were driving around the city. When the dead body of Walter was found in her car, she admitted they had been driving drunk, but she claimed she couldn’t remember what had happened. Although she, like Beulah, was married at the time of her affair, Belva and her husband were separated at the time. Despite that, the pair stayed married until his death some years later. Belva, like Beulah, was acquitted of all charges.

the real Belva Gaertner

The real “Velma Kelly”

Although Maurine left her position as cub reporter after just 7 months, the stories of these modern day Salomes stuck with her. While taking a writing class at Yale University, she penned the first iteration of the story of “Chicago.” The story was based on the trials of Beulah and Belva in particular, with Beulah providing the inspiration for Roxie Hart and Belva inspiring the character of Velma. She turned the story into a play called “Chicago, Or Play Ball” and it opened on Broadway on December 30, 1926.

By this time, the film industry had moved out of the midwest and settled in and around Los Angeles. Despite this, Hollywood was quick to take notice of the sensational story and its successful Broadway run, and Cecil B. DeMille quickly snapped up rights to the story. He took a bit of a risk casting former Sennett Bathing Beauty Phyllis Haver in the role of Roxie, but it was a risk that paid off. Following the film’s release on December 27, 1927, Photoplay magazine sung Phyllis’s praises, saying, “The picture belongs to Phyllis Haver who gives a marvelous characterization. We agree with Mr. DeMille that she is his greatest ‘find’ since Gloria Swanson.”

 chicAGO+FIGHT

Hey, that isn’t Queen Latifah.

For years, this first film adaptation was difficult for audiences to view, causing it to become largely overshadowed by later adaptations. Recently, though, the team at Flicker Alley acquired and released a fantastic restored print on DVD. Fandor has also acquired the film and now streams it on its site. Take the time to seek out this forgotten gem and experience the story of “Chicago” from a time when it was still fresh in the minds of those living in the Windy City.

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Janelle Vreeland for Classic Movie Hub

Here’s a link to the restored DVD available on amazon: CHICAGO The Original 1927 Film Restored

Thank you to Janelle for this wonderful Silent Film Series.  You can read more of Janelle’s articles about Silent Film and Chicago history-related topics at Chicago Nitrate or Curtains, or you can follow Janelle on Twitter at @SpookyJanelle .

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TCM Star of The Month: Maureen O’Hara

Maureen O’Hara: Technicolor’s Queen

July: what a beautiful month. With the summer season finally in full swing, everything seems extra vibrant, extra lively, and full of color. It makes sense, then, that Turner Classic Movie would choose the vibrant and lovely Technicolor Queen, Maureen O’Hara, as their Star of The Month.

maureen-o'haraMaureen O’Hara

Maureen O’Hara always had a personality as colorful as her hair. As a child she would round up the neighborhood kids, organizing her very own backyard staged productions to show off her potential as an actress. As she grew older her dreams of performing never stopped despite her father’s urgings otherwise, and before the age of 20, O’Hara found herself starring in the major Hollywood picture, 1939’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The film, of course, was a hit and audiences soon fell in love with the young Irishwoman’s take on the gypsy, Esmeralda. However, it would not be until three years later that the woman would gain her title “The Queen of Technicolor.”

In 1942 O’Hara starred in her first Technicolor film To the Shores of Tripoli. Although her pearly complexion and green eyes photographed beautifully in three-stripe technology, one thing was still missing: her fiery red hair! Yes, for some reason some higher-up on the production line decided to dye her hair brunette for the film. For her next Technicolor film, this mistake would be corrected, and with it a film legacy would begin. Over the next two decades, O’Hara would be featured in an impressive 34 Technicolor films, more than almost any other actress of her time.  With her natural hair color revived, O’Hara’s reign as the Queen of Technicolor began. Her fire-red hair, milky complexion and emerald eyes perfectly complimented the Technicolor-process so well that Herbert T. Kalmus, inventor of the process, often used her image to promote and sell his product. So, let us celebrate this champion of the Technicolor world by tuning into some her classics. Below are just a few I would suggest.

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The Black Swan

Maureen O’Hara and Tyrone Powers in The Black Swan (1942, Henry King) airing Tuesday, July 15 at 8:00PM on TCM

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buffalo-bill-1944Maureen O’Hara and Joel McCrea in Buffalo Bill (1944, William A. Wellman director) airing Tuesday, July 22 at 9:45PM on TCM

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mclintock

Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne in McLintock (1963, Andrew McLaglen director) airing Tuesday July 22 at 11:30 on TCM

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Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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Five Facts about Cinematographer Gregg Toland

 

Five Facts about Cinematographer Gregg Toland

Hello, dear readers. I thank you for joining me on this most joyous of days. No, I am not just talking about this lovely lazy Sunday. I am talking about June 29th: National Camera Day! Today we celebrate any and all things camera-related, including pictures, films, and the people who make them. And to contribute to that celebration we here at CMH want to focus on one of classic Hollywood’s, nay, one of Hollywood’s most influential cameramen in general: Greg Toland. So without further ado, here are 5 fun facts about Cinematographer Gregg Toland.

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Record Breaker

Gregg Tolland

Pictured: Gregg Toland. Not pictured: Gregg Toland at 27. The internet has let me down for the first time.

In 1931, Toland was given his first assignment as lead cinematographer. At the age of 27, he became the youngest first Cameraman in Hollywood history. So yes, you can pretty much call him a boy genius…or at least one hard-working young man.

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Inventor

The camera blimp

Yes, the camera blimp was just about as big as real blimp.

In the days of silent cinema, motion-picture cameras were incredibly loud, making whirly, clicking noises. This did not matter, of course, when movies were silent but posed a big problem once sound was introduced. Toland then invented a soundproof housing blimp that enclosed the camera; this silenced the whirling and clicking noises thus allowing more movement and artistic freedom to the directors.

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Innovator

Deep Focus

Notice how the foregrounded Fredric March and Harold Russell are just as crisp and in-focus as the backgrounded Dana Andrews in The Best Years of Our Lives. (1946, William Wyler director)

Toland championed the use of deep focus cinematography, which means that all the planes of the image, from the foreground to the background, are all in sharp, crisp focus. He achieved this by helping to develop his own lenses, film stock and lighting techniques.

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william-wyler and gregg toland

Gregg Toland at his favorite place: on set with William Wyler.

According to many of those he worked with, Toland was happiest when on set and was prone to depression when not working on a project.

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The Other Boy Genius.

Tolland and Welles

Gregg Toland with Director Orson Welles on the set of Citizen Kane.

Toland is as responsible for Citizen Kane as Orson Welles…kinda. Because Kane was Welles’ first film, he knew he needed a strong cinematographer to help him create his vision. With free reign to experiment as he pleased, Toland used deep focus-photography, ceilinged sets, low-angle lighting, and extreme POV shots that the film is now famous for. All of these techniques then allowed for Welles to stage entire scenes in one shot, thanks to the freedom of movement that the deep-focus lens allowed. Welles was so impressed and thankful for Toland’s contribution to the film that he did something rare in the World of Hollywood: he gave Toland equal screen credit to himself, placing both the cinematographer and the director on the same title card.

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Minoo Allen for Classic Move Hub

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The MGM Blogathon – All Aboard The Band Wagon

 

The MGM Blogathon

 All Aboard The Band Wagon

Nothing in this world fills me with more unadulterated joy than a well made musical. Every since I was a wee-little lady I wanted nothing more than to live in a Technicolor world – where everyone’s problems could be confronted and resolved with a concise song and dance number. I mean, wouldn’t that be perfect? Imagine, instead of having an awkward, drawn out conversation about how you may or may not feel, you simply begin to tap your feet and let the world of music and dance glide you through your troubles. Musicals take the best that real life has to offer and spin it into a whole new perspective outside of the bounds of reality. Whether demonstrating serious emotional engagements between characters or telling a story about a private detective chasing a femme fatale, musicals take the everyday aspects of life and transform it into magical fantasy; a feast for the eyes and the ears. And, in my opinion, few musicals accomplish his better than MGM’s 1953 musical The Band Wagon.

The Band Wagon Poster

Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in The Band Wagon (1953, Vincente Minnelli director)

The Band Wagon is one of those cheeky, art-imitating-life situations everyone in Hollywood loves so much. In the film, Fred Astaire plays former-Broadway-hotshot-turned-Hollywood-leading-man, Tony Hunter, who now finds his star is diminishing after his many years in Tinsel Town. Sound familiar? Well, it should because in 1953 that was the basic summary of Astaire’s real-life career. But, rather than become angry at the thought of lampooning his own image, as screen writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green feared he would be, Astaire found the part excellently written and was happy to play a good-natured caricature of himself. Reality kept creeping into the script with Comden and Green even inserting parodied versions of themselves in the film as the squabbling playwrights Lester and Lily Marton, excellently played by Oscar Levant and Nanette Fabray. Now, despite the film’s ‘art-imitating-life’ writing and casting decisions, the film is still a musical and the best part of musicals is the fact that they aren’t realistic. As I mentioned earlier, they are fantasy: Technicolor, sequin-laced, sparking gems of fantasy. And with that in mind I want to talk about my two favorite fantastical elements of the film, the song and dance numbers Dancing in the Dark and Girl Hunt.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Arthur Freed produced musical on the MGM lot was how perfectly they blended the emotional realism of the integrated musical with disconnected spectacle of the backstage musical. From Easter Parade to Singin’ in the Rain and beyond, the Freed unit had a talent for seamlessly mixing ‘inner-world’ emotional content with the ‘outer-world’ of the staged production. In The Band Wagon, the most emotional, integrated number is the famed Dancing in the Dark.  

dancing_in_the_darkFor being called Dancing in the Dark, it really doesn’t look all that dark.

The scene itself is simple: The two leads that have been butting heads the entire time decide to take a walk in Central Park and get to know one another. They talk, of course, and seem to settle their differences. But as the old saying goes, talk is cheap and their real understanding comes when the talking is over and the dancing begins. Dancing in the Dark, in my opinion, is one of the most elegant dances in all of cinematic history. Although Fred Astaire is his usual graceful self, the real star of this number is Cyd Charisse.

With a background in Russian Ballet, Charisse’s grace and skill as a dancer were almost unmatched in Hollywood. At the start of number, it is not Astaire’s face we see, but hers. We, as the audience, are put in the position of Astaire, watching her, almost passively, as they swoon and sway around one another. When he approaches her, attempting to get closer, his hands remain clasped neatly behind his back, indicating that she is the one in control. Even when he breaks form, going for the embrace, he never does so without permission. Their initial touches are gentle and light. Astaire may hold her hand but he is not holding her, acting merely as an accessory to her own dance moves more than anything else. The only truly embrace when Charisse extends her hand, offering Astaire friendship, courtship, and perhaps something a little more. As the dance continues, she falls deeper in his arms, accepting not only his dancing support but his emotional support as well. By the end of the song, an understanding has occurred and Astaire no longer fears touching her, in fact, it is quite the opposite as he envelops her waist, allowing her to willfully sink into his arms. And for the rest of number, as Charisse twists, turns and plies her way through Central Park, Astaire remains her pillar of support. When the dance is done and the two are holding hands in a New York City horse-drawn carriage, it is clear that the pair have fallen in love. While Dancing in the Dark provides us with the seamless integration of love and dance, The Girl Hunt gives the audiences some good old fashion cinema of attractions.

the girl huntI want to go to there.

The Girl Hunt is quite possibly my favorite musical number ever filmed. I mean, how could it not be when it features three of my favorite things: Technicolor, film-noir, and musicals. In the film the sequence acts as a choreographed musical number within the film itself, performed on stage before a live studio audience: the backstage musical at its best. And because the number exists only on a stage within the world and not in the reality of the world itself, the number is basically in its own isolated world where anything is possible.

The Girl Hunt parodies the great film noir pictures of the day, particularly those of the Mickey Spillane variety, with Astaire playing the rough and tumble private detective, Rod Riley. The number opens like any respectful film noir, with a voice-over, a cityscape and a damsel in distress all dressed in white. While said damsel (played by Charisse) is twirling herself into Astaire’s arms, an unknown assailant is blown to pieces in a mysterious explosion, leaving nothing behind but a hank of hair, a rag and a bone. Like any private dick worth his dollar, Astaire immediately knows that the cheetah print rag is from a high price, high fashion boutique. Here he finds more thugs, more danger and a femme fatale, all dressed in black who just also happens to be played by Cyd Charisse. This is where the power of the backstage musical truly arises.

GIRL HUNT 1For love of your preferred deity, some one please buy me one of those antlered mannequins.

The set, which would never truly fit on a theatre stage, is a sight to behold. Walls of royal purple fill the screen while marble mannequins adorned in sequin antlers hang from the walls. Is it realistic looking? No, but that’s the point. This number is a spectacle and meant to be looked at, not analyzed through a realist lens. And when you think about it, nothing in this number really makes that much sense at all. Are the two Charisse’s the same woman? What’s going on with that emerald ring? Where do the thugs keep coming from? None of these question are ever really answered, but you know what? It doesn’t matter because everything on the screen is so beautiful, so entertaining and such a spectacle that all of the plot holes and inconsistencies pale in comparison to the well decorated, well choreographed, and well directed piece of art.  From the first glimpse of the abstracted New York City skyline to the Technicolor delight of the club scene, everything is the A-plus, non-stop spectacle that Minnelli and MGM studios aimed to show their audiences. To put it simply and to quote the The Band Wagon itself “That’s entertainment.”

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A big Thank You to Silver Scenes for hosting this fun MGM Blogathon event! There are so many more wonderful Classic Bloggers participating in this event so please be sure to check out the other entries.

Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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In Celebration of Summer — and the Stars!

 

Just for Fun: Summer and The Stars

It’s finally here! Yes, June 21st has arrived and with it the first official day of summer. So get out your bathing suits, fishing poles and get ready to run for the ice-cream truck because the season of long, lazy days has arrived. So, to celebrate this most glorious of seasons, let us sit back, relax and take some notes from these stars of summer.

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audrey-hepburn-summer-nap

Audrey Hepburn lounging around, seemingly very riveted by whatever book she is reading.

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bette_davis_ice_cream

Bette Davis eating ice cream dressed as a sailor while wearing what appears to be the hippest sunglasses in Hollywood.

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carole lombard umbrella

Carole Lombard in the very practical clothing combination of a bathing suit and heels.

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cary-grant-summer-white

Cary Grant, what a sight. Lounging in his summer white.

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Errol Flynn

Errol Flynn enjoy a calm summer afternoon on his boat.

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Gregory Peck Beach

Gregory Peck enjoying some beach time.

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henry-fonda surfing

Henry Fonda surfing the waves like he was born on the board.

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James Stewart fishing

James Stewart, enjoying a beer and fishing with an old friend. Clearly he’s catching winners.

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Sophia Loren beach

And on that day, every man wishes to be Sophia Loren’s beach ball.

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tony-curtis-fishing

Tony Curtis on the beach while enjoying the sea-life by ripping it from the water with his fishing pole.

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William Holden on Boat

William Holden enjoying summer, being what I like to call a “babe.”

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–Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub

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The Diamond from the Sky: American’s Crown Jewel: The Chicago Silent Era (Part 7)

 

The Diamond from the Sky: American’s Crown Jewel

diamond 1

The serial film was nothing new when the American Film Manufacturing Company released “The Diamond from the Sky” in 1915. In fact, just months before, the Thanhouser Film Corporation had wrapped up their hugely successful 23-part serial “The Million Dollar Mystery.” With a $10,000 reward offered to the movie fan who could offer up the best solution to the serial, “Mystery” left large shoes for “Diamond” to fill. But by the time the final installment in the 30-chapter serial aired, “Diamond” had out-earned “Mystery” at the box office, and a sequel was in the works.

Built off of a story suggestion submitted by an experienced newspaper man, Roy McCardell, “The Diamond from the Sky” represented a huge risk for American. The company, which was known for its promotions, ran a contest looking for scenarios. They promised that the winning storyline would not only be made into a film, it would net the writer a check for $10,000. Taking such suggestions from regular moviegoers would be enough to make any studio nervous, but McCardell’s suggestion for the “Diamond” storyline convinced the company that they had made a safe bet.

diamond cast 2

Meet the cast.

The story was a “picturized romantic novel” that followed the exploits of the feuding Stanley family, and starred Charlotte Burton, Irving Cummings and William Russell. The star of the serial, and the major selling point for American’s publicity department, however, was Charlotte Smith aka Lottie Pickford, the younger sister of America’s sweetheart, Mary Pickford. With a budget of $800,000, with veteran characters actors, romance, thrills, suspense and a Pickford in tow, “Diamond” couldn’t miss.

lottie pickfordLittle Lottie Pickford

When it was released on May 3, 1915, American was confident it would perform well, and it didn’t disappoint. Critics cheered and audiences flocked to the theater. During its initial day of release, it surpassed the money “The Million Dollar Mystery” had earned in its first day of release, and as the weeks and the story progressed, it continued to outearn its predecessor. It was American’s biggest success of 1915, and remains one of the highest earning serials of the silent era.

The success of “Diamond” was so great that it inspired American to run a $10,000 promotion for a storyline for a “Diamond” sequel. It even helped push studios who had previously shied away from the serial, namely American’s Chicago rival Essanay, to try their hand at the genre. It also helped usher in a new age of scenario writing. Previously, scenario writers could expect $10 to $50 for their storyline suggestions. With $10,000 prizes up for grabs, though, not only was the art of scenario writing elevated, so, too, was the position of the scenario writer.

 diamond still 5

Although the film had a great impact on contemporary film, and holds a special place in silent film history, it’s a lost film. If only audiences today could see Roy McCardell’s $10,000 idea in action.

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Janelle Vreeland for Classic Movie Hub

Thank you to Janelle for this wonderful Silent Film Series.  You can read more of Janelle’s articles about Silent Film and Chicago history-related topics at Chicago Nitrate or Curtains, or you can follow Janelle on Twitter at @SpookyJanelle .

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