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Lubitsch Pt.II: The Magical Touch with MacDonald, Garbo Sorely Missing from Today's Cinema

'The Merry Widow' with Maurice Chevalier, Jeanette MacDonald and Minna Gombell under the direction of Ernst Lubitsch. Ernst Lubitsch movies: 'The Merry Widow,' 'Ninotchka' (See previous post: “Ernst Lubitsch Best Films: Passé Subtle 'Touch' in Age of Sledgehammer Filmmaking.”) Initially a project for Ramon Novarro – who for quite some time aspired to become an opera singer and who had a pleasant singing voice – The Merry Widow ultimately starred Maurice Chevalier, the hammiest film performer this side of Bob Hope, Jim Carrey, Adam Sandler – the list goes on and on. Generally speaking, “hammy” isn't my idea of effective film acting. For that reason, I usually find Chevalier a major handicap to his movies, especially during the early talkie era; he upsets their dramatic (or comedic) balance much like Jack Nicholson in Martin Scorsese's The Departed or Jerry Lewis in anything (excepting Scorsese's The King of Comedy
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Gardner, Crawford Among Academy's Career Achievement Award Non-Winners

Honorary Award: Gloria Swanson, Rita Hayworth among dozens of women bypassed by the Academy (photo: Honorary Award non-winner Gloria Swanson in 'Sunset Blvd.') (See previous post: "Honorary Oscars: Doris Day, Danielle Darrieux Snubbed.") Part three of this four-part article about the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Honorary Award bypassing women basically consists of a long, long — and for the most part quite prestigious — list of deceased women who, some way or other, left their mark on the film world. Some of the names found below are still well known; others were huge in their day, but are now all but forgotten. Yet, just because most people (and the media) suffer from long-term — and even medium-term — memory loss, that doesn't mean these women were any less deserving of an Honorary Oscar. So, among the distinguished female film professionals in Hollywood and elsewhere who have passed away without
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The 'Birth' of American Cinema at the American Cinematheque

D.W. Griffith movies at the American Cinematheque (photo: D.W. Griffith circa 1915) A series of D.W. Griffith movies made at Biograph at the dawn of both the 20th century and the art of moviemaking will be screened at the American Cinematheque next weekend. "Retroformat Presents: D.W. Griffith at Biograph, Part 3 - 1909 – 1910" will take place on Saturday, April 26, 2014, at 7:30 p.m. in the Steven Spielberg auditorium of The Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. The evening will be hosted by Tom Barnes; musical accompaniment will be provided by Cliff Retallick. Among the D.W. Griffith films to be presented by Retroformat are the following: Lines of White on a Sullen Sea The Gibson Goddess The Mountaineer’s Honor Through the Breakers A Corner in Wheat Her Terrible Ordeal The Last Deal Faithful D.W. Griffith and his stars As found in Retroformat’s press release, those early D.W. Griffith efforts feature "innovative cinematography" by frequent Griffith collaborator G.W. Bitzer,
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

Watch: 2-Minute Trailer Celebrates 90 Years Of MGM Movie History From 'The Hobbit' To 'Fargo' To 'Rocky' & More

On April 14, 1924 movie history was made with the release of the silent comedy "Mademoiselle Midnight," starring Mae Murray. While the film itself might not be remembered, it marked the first theatrical release by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer—aka MGM—and for the next 90 years, they would become a permanent presence on the movie landscape. And even if their fortunes in recent years saw them nearly disappear (they filed for bankruptcy in 2010), they bounced back and are ready to celebrate an anniversary. Today, MGM has dropped a 2-minute anniversary trailer highlighting their rich catalogue of films—well, at least those in color. Focusing on the more contemporary hits, with very little of their black-and-white classic films (though "Some Like It Hot" sneaks in there), the spot is a trip down memory lane, focusing on the box office hits, the Oscar winners and more. But this isn't all weepy eyed nostalgia as there is a
See full article at The Playlist »

The 'Jeanette MacDonald' of Central European Cinema Dead at 101

Marta Eggerth: Operetta and film star — a sort of Jeanette MacDonald of Central European cinema — dead at 101 Marta Eggerth, an international star in film and stage operettas who frequently performed opposite husband Jan Kiepura, died on December 26, 2013, at her home in Rye, New York. The Budapest-born Eggerth had turned 101 last April 17. (Photo: Marta Eggerth ca. 1935.) Although best known for her roles in stage musicals such as the Max Reinhardt-directed 1927 Hamburg production of Die Fledermaus, and various incarnations of Franz Lehár’s The Merry Widow, Marta Eggerth was featured in nearly 40 films. The vast majority of those were produced in Austria and Germany in the 1930s, as the Nazis ascended to power. Marta Eggerth films Marta Eggerth films, which frequently made use of her coloratura soprano voice, include Max Neufeld’s drama Eine Nacht im Grandhotel ("A Night at the Grand Hotel," 1931); the Victor Janson-directed musicals Once There Was a Waltz
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

A 'Hollywood Hero' Remembered

‘Hollywood Hero’ John Dewar remembered (photo: Anthony Slide wearing Tom Mix’s hat in 1976) Perhaps I have been around too long, but as I grow older I grow despondent that those who contributed so much to film history in the past are forgotten, with others often coming along and taking claim for their achievements. One such Hollywood hero is John Dewar, whom I met when I first came to Los Angeles in 1971. He was a curator in the history department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History and introduced me to the museum’s treasures relating to film history, acquired before the creation of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — at a time when both institutions were housed together simply as the Los Angeles County Museum. Back in the mid-1930s, it was Ransom Matthews, head of industrial technology at the Museum, who had started collecting such materials.
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

Two Must-See Disasters as Parker Series Continues (She Turns 91 in Two Days)

Eleanor Parker 2013 movie series continues today (photo: Eleanor Parker in Detective Story) Palm Springs resident Eleanor Parker is Turner Classic Movies’ Star of the Month of June 2013. Thus, eight more Eleanor Parker movies will be shown this evening on TCM. Parker turns 91 on Wednesday, June 26. (See also: “Eleanor Parker Today.”) Eleanor Parker received her second Best Actress Academy Award nomination for William Wyler’s crime drama Detective Story (1951). The movie itself feels dated, partly because of several melodramatic plot developments, and partly because of Kirk Douglas’ excessive theatricality as the detective whose story is told. Parker, however, is excellent as Douglas’ wife, though her role is subordinate to his. Just about as good is Best Supporting Actress Oscar nominee Lee Grant, whose career would be derailed by the anti-Red hysteria of the ’50s. Grant would make her comeback in the ’70s, eventually winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

The National Film Registry Adds The Matrix, A Christmas Story, Dirty Harry and More

The National Film Registry has added 25 more films that will be preserved in the Library of Congress. To be included in the registry the film needs to be “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” They have to be at least ten years old and are chosen from a list of films nominated by the public.

There's some great films that have been added this year. We've got the original 3:10 to Yuma, The Matrix, A Christmas Story, A League of Their Own, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Dirty Harry, Uncle Tom's Cabin, and several more.

Check out the full list of films that were added this year below, and you can head over to the Registry website to nominate films that you think should be added in 2013!

3:10 to Yuma (1957)

Considered to be one of the best westerns of the 1950s, “3:10 to Yuma” has gained in stature since its original release as
See full article at GeekTyrant »

Movie Poster of the Week: William Desmond Taylor’s “The Green Temptation”

  • MUBI
There are two stories I want to tell with this glorious 1922 poster: one is about the film itself—a forgotten silent melodrama—and the sad fates of its main protagonists, and the other is about the artist Henry Clive.

The Green Temptation, a film which I’m not even sure is extant (the silent film database silentera.com says “survival status: unknown”), starred Betty Compson as Genelle, a member of the Parisian underworld who, along with her partner Gaspard, runs a travelling theatre as a ruse to pickpocket their patrons and burgle their homes while they’re watching the show. When the First World War starts, Genelle joins the Red Cross as a nurse to evade the police and after the War emigrates to America to start a new life. But her attempt to turn over a new leaf is foiled by the reappearance of Gaspard who forces her to
See full article at MUBI »

Frederica Sagor Maas, 1900 - 2012

  • MUBI
"Frederica Sagor Maas, a pioneering female screenwriter who scored her first big success with The Plastic Age, a smash hit for 'It Girl' Clara Bow in 1925, died Jan 5." She was 111. Mike Barnes in the Hollywood Reporter: "Because she was a woman, Maas was typically assigned work on flapper comedies and light dramas. Her efforts includes such other Bow films as Dance Madness (1926), Hula (1927) and Red Hair (1928); two films featuring Norma Shearer, His Secretary (1925) and The Waning Sex (1926); the Greta Garbo drama Flesh and the Devil (1926); and the Louise Brooks film Rolled Stockings (1927)…. In 1927, she married Ernest Maas, a producer at Fox, and they wrote as a team but struggled to sell scripts…. The pair, interrogated by the FBI for allegedly Communist activities, were out of the business by the early 1950s. Ernest Mass died in 1986 at age 94. In 1999, at the urging of film historian Kevin Brownlow, Maas published her autobiography,
See full article at MUBI »

Frederica Sagor Pt.2: Women Screenwriters in 1920s Hollywood

Screenwriter Frederica Sagor Dead at 111: Wrote Movies for Norma Shearer (photo), Clara Bow, Louise Brooks Now, whether Frederica Sagor's Hollywood Babylon-like tales bear any resemblance to what actually happened at studio parties and private soirees, I can't tell. But on the professional side, one problem with the information found in The Shocking Miss Pilgrim is that studios invariably used numerous writers, whether male or female, in their projects. Usually, in those pre-Writers Guild days, only two or three contributors received final credit, not because of the uncredited writer's gender but in large part because the final product oftentimes had little — if anything — in common with the original source. While doing research for my Ramon Novarro biography, I went through various drafts, written by various hands, of his movies. A Certain Young Man, for instance, went through so many changes (including director, cast, and title), that the final film
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

Reviews Of Silent Era Gems From The Warner Archives: "The Merry Widow", "Don Juan" And "Noah's Ark"

  • CinemaRetro
By Doug Gerbino

Warner Archive has just released three classic silent (or part-silent) films. The Merry Widow (1925), Don Juan (1926) and Noah's Ark (1929). These three films are among the best-remembered hits of the late silent, early sound era. First, let's start with The Merry Widow (1925, MGM). This film stars Mae Murray and John Gilbert and was directed by Erich von Stroheim. Much has been documented about von Stroheim's excesses as a director. This was his first film after the infamous debacle known as Greed. Hollywood legend has it that while going through the daily rushes of this film with MGM chief Irving Thalberg, von Stroheim showed a single 10-minute take of one the character's shoe closet. When Thalberg questioned the 10 minute shot of shoes, von Stroheim said, "This is to establish that the character has a foot fetish." Thalberg supposedly replied, "And you have a footage fetish!" Loosely based on the
See full article at CinemaRetro »

The Death Of Film

Any talk today, December 30, 2010, about the “death of film” is more than just idle speculation. Back in 2009, Kodak stopped manufacturing Kodachrome, their legendary still and motion picture film. Since then, Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas, has been able to keep processing the Kodachrome film that photographers and cinematographers had hoarded before the discontinuation. But, today is the last day ever they will continue to do that. To honor this sad occasion, embedded above is one of the first ever Kodachrome motion picture tests, made in 1922.

To be absolutely clear, though, Dwayne’s Photo will continue to be in operation past today, developing other types of film! They are not going out of business. It’s just that they will finally run out of the special chemicals it takes for Kodachrome to be developed properly. When those chemicals are gone, the film can no longer be processed. So, if you
See full article at Underground Film Journal »

Watch This: Kodak Tests Color Film Footage in 1922

Watch This: Kodak Tests Color Film Footage in 1922
The Internet gets a lot of grief for being a repository for porn, incorrect information, and pointless memes designed solely to waste the time of people who should be working -- but it's not all bad. Occasionally, something turns up online that's both historical and educational. Take, for instance, this YouTube clip featuring Kodak testing color film way back in 1922. If you're a film geek/historian, this is very cool.

The four minutes of footage is historical because it was a test of Kodachrome color motion picture film from way back in 1922 -- and the first color feature was still 13 years away at that point. Thomas Hoehn saw the footage at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film and set about having the film scanned and digitized so we could all see it. Hoehn definitely deserves kudos for that. You can read more about the process at his blog.
See full article at Cinematical »

When Being in Color Was a Big Deal

  • IFC
When Being in Color Was a Big Deal
With movies going digital, IMAX and 3D, it's nice to be reminded that once upon a time, just being able to see color on screen was the cutting edge of cinematic technology. Via BoingBoing, this lovely clip of filmed portraits from 1922 is a test of the Two-Color Kodachrome Process.

From Kodak's blog:

In these newly preserved tests, made in 1922 at the Paragon Studios in Fort Lee, New Jersey, actress Mae Murray appears almost translucent, her flesh a pale white that is reminiscent of perfectly sculpted marble, enhanced with touches of color to her lips, eyes, and hair. She is joined by actress Hope Hampton modeling costumes from The Light in the Dark (1922), which contained the first commercial use of Two-Color Kodachrome in a feature film. Ziegfeld Follies actress Mary Eaton and an unidentified woman and child also appear.
See full article at IFC »

John Gilbert TCM Schedule: Bardelys The Magnificent, The Phantom Of Paris

Eleanor Boardman, John Gilbert in King Vidor‘s Bardelys the Magnificent John Gilbert on TCM: The Big Parade, Flesh And The Devil Schedule (Pt) and synopses from the TCM website: 3:00 Am Busher, The (1919) In this silent film, a minor-league baseball player gets his shot at the big leagues. Cast: Charles Ray, Colleen Moore, John Gilbert. Dir: Jerome Storm. Bw-55 mins. 4:00 Am He Who Gets Slapped (1924) In this silent film, a scientist flees his tragic past to become a circus clown. Cast: Lon Chaney, Norma Shearer, John Gilbert. Dir: Victor Seastrom. Bw-72 mins. 5:30 Am Merry Widow, The (1925) In this silent film, a European nobleman courts the wealthy American widow he once loved to save his bankrupt homeland, Cast: Mae Murray, John Gilbert, Tully Marshall. Dir: Erich von Stroheim. Bw-137 mins. 8:00 Am Show, The (1927) In this silent film, a sideshow dancer secretly loves the show’s amoral barker.
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

John Gilbert on TCM: The Big Parade, Flesh And The Devil

Renée Adorée, John Gilbert in King Vidor‘s The Big Parade (top); John Gilbert, Greta Garbo in Clarence Brown‘s Flesh and the Devil (bottom) John Gilbert on TCM: Queen Christina, Downstairs Here are my top recommendations for John Gilbert Day (in addition to Queen Christina, mentioned in the previous post): Victor Sjöström‘s touching, poetic He Who Gets Slapped (1924), which features my favorite Lon Chaney performance as a clown with a past — no, Chaney doesn’t play a politician; he’s a real circus clown. Both Gilbert and Norma Shearer are flawless in less demanding but just as memorable roles. Erich von Stroheim‘s The Merry Widow (1925), a megablockbuster that solidified Gilbert’s superstardom along with King Vidor‘s The Big Parade, released that same year. Mae Murray shines in the title role, while von Stroheim adds some welcome kinky touches. (C’mon, TCM, I know you have
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

Pordenone 2009: The Merry Widow

Mae Murray shows her legs in The Merry Widow At The Bioscope: Pordenone Film Festival Day I "The main event, though, is the Erich Von Stroheim version of The Merry Widow (USA 1925), introduced by Leatrice Joy Fountain and featuring a new orchestral score by Maud Nelissen. The film itself is almost a checklist of Von’s obsessions; militaria, aristocrats at play, wedding processions, grotesques, fetishes and matters of honour; how close it all is to the source material I’m not qualified to say, but it’s a superior piece of froth; the score, using Lehar lightly but effectively matched it to perfection. And every new film I see John Gilbert in, my perception of him changes; [...]
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

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