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The Forgotten: Ozploitation

  • MUBI
It's been said of L. Frank Baum, perhaps not quite fairly, that everything he ever did involving the fantasy kingdom of Oz was a huge success, and everything he did without it was a calamitous disaster. Certainly he made a bit of money late in life as the producer of Oz-themed silent movies, before he died and his son bankrupted the company, showing that only one Baum had the magic touch.The first Oz short of 1910, Dorothy and the Scarecrow in Oz is actually the closest, plot-wise, to the familiar 1939 version, and it has a cool cast, including nine-year-old Bebe Daniels as Dorothy and future director Norman Z. McLeod as the Scarecrow. But Baum really hit his stride as a mogul four years later, with the release of three feature films, in the year when features had only just started appearing in America. And His Majesty the Scarecrow of Oz,
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Cortez Part IV: Leading Ladies and Marriage to Tragic Drug-Addicted Wife

Cortez Part IV: Leading Ladies and Marriage to Tragic Drug-Addicted Wife
Ricardo Cortez in 'Ten Cents a Dance,' with Barbara Stanwyck. No matter how unthankful the role, whether hero or heel – or, not infrequently, a combination of both – Cortez left his bedroom-eyed, mellifluous-voiced imprint in his pre-Production Code talkies. Besides Barbara Stanwyck, during the 1920s and 1930s Cortez made love to and/or life difficult for, a whole array of leading ladies of that era, including Bebe Daniels, Gloria Swanson, Betty Compson, Betty Bronson, Greta Garbo, Florence Vidor, Claudette Colbert, Mary Astor, Kay Francis, Joan Crawford, Irene Dunne, Joan Blondell, and Loretta Young*. (See previous post: “Ricardo Cortez Q&A: From Latin Lover to Multiethnic Heel.”) Not long after the coming of sound, Ricardo Cortez was mostly relegated to playing subordinate roles to his leading ladies – e.g., Kay Francis, Irene Dunne, Claudette Colbert – or leads in “bottom half of the double bill” programmers at Warner Bros. or on loan to other studios. Would
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Cortez Part III: From Latin Lover to Multiethnic Heel

Cortez Part III: From Latin Lover to Multiethnic Heel
Ricardo Cortez in 'Mandalay,' making love to Kay Francis – not long before he sells her into the 'white slave trade,' in which Francis reaches the top of her profession as a lavishly garbed Rangoon nightclub hostess known as 'Spot White.' Cortez was featured opposite a whole array of female stars during both the silent and the talkie eras. Earlier on, plots usually revolved around his heroic characters; later on, plots usually revolved around the characters of his victimized-but-heroic leading ladies, with Cortez cast as a heel of varying degrees of egotism. Besides 'Mandalay,' Ricardo Cortez and Kay Francis were featured together in 'Transgression,' 'The House on 56th Street,' and 'Wonder Bar.' (See previous post: “'Latin Lover' Ricardo Cortez: Q&A with Biographer Dan Van Neste.”) I am reminded of a humorous review of the melodramatic film Mandalay (1934), penned by Andre Sennwald in the
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After Valentino and Before Bogart There Was Cortez: 'The Magnificent Heel' and the Movies' Original Sam Spade

After Valentino and Before Bogart There Was Cortez: 'The Magnificent Heel' and the Movies' Original Sam Spade
Ricardo Cortez biography 'The Magnificent Heel: The Life and Films of Ricardo Cortez' – Paramount's 'Latin Lover' threat to a recalcitrant Rudolph Valentino, and a sly, seductive Sam Spade in the original film adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's 'The Maltese Falcon.' 'The Magnificent Heel: The Life and Films of Ricardo Cortez': Author Dan Van Neste remembers the silent era's 'Latin Lover' & the star of the original 'The Maltese Falcon' At odds with Famous Players-Lasky after the release of the 1922 critical and box office misfire The Young Rajah, Rudolph Valentino demands a fatter weekly paycheck and more control over his movie projects. The studio – a few years later to be reorganized under the name of its distribution arm, Paramount – balks. Valentino goes on a “one-man strike.” In 42nd Street-style, unknown 22-year-old Valentino look-alike contest winner Jacob Krantz of Manhattan steps in, shortly afterwards to become known worldwide as Latin Lover Ricardo Cortez of
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42nd Street (1933) Screens Saturday Morning at The Hi-Pointe

“Now go out there and be so swell that you’ll make me hate you!”

42nd Street (1933) is one of Hollywood’s most beloved musicals and you’ll have a chance to see it on the big screen at St. Louis’ fabulous Hi-Pointe Theater this weekend as part of their Classic Film Series. It’s Saturday, June 11th at 10:30am at the Hi-Pointe located at 1005 McCausland Ave., St. Louis, Mo 63117. Admission is only $5.42nd Street will be introduced by Kmox Movie Reviewer Harry Hamm

Pretty legs go a long way in the musical 42nd Street. a lively 1933 Warner Bros film that boasts a great cast and music and served as the prototype plot for scores of subsequent films. Suffering from the Great Depression and a bad ticker, Broadway director Julian Marsh (Warner Baxter) desperately needs “Pretty Lady” to be a hit musical. When leading actress Dorothy Brock (Bebe Daniels
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Cummings' Ten-Year Death Anniversary: From Minor Lloyd Leading Lady to Tony Award Winner (Revised and Expanded)

Constance Cummings: Actress in minor Hollywood movies became major London stage star. Constance Cummings: Actress went from Harold Lloyd and Frank Capra to Noël Coward and Eugene O'Neill Actress Constance Cummings, whose career spanned more than six decades on stage, in films, and on television in both the U.S. and the U.K., died ten years ago on Nov. 23. Unlike other Broadway imports such as Ann Harding, Katharine Hepburn, Miriam Hopkins, and Claudette Colbert, the pretty, elegant Cummings – who could have been turned into a less edgy Constance Bennett had she landed at Rko or Paramount instead of Columbia – never became a Hollywood star. In fact, her most acclaimed work, whether in films or – more frequently – on stage, was almost invariably found in British productions. That's most likely why the name Constance Cummings – despite the DVD availability of several of her best-received performances – is all but forgotten.
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Jackson Returns! Two-Time Oscar Winner and Former Labour MP to Star in Zola Adaptation

Glenda Jackson: Actress and former Labour MP. Two-time Oscar winner and former Labour MP Glenda Jackson returns to acting Two-time Best Actress Academy Award winner Glenda Jackson set aside her acting career after becoming a Labour Party MP in 1992. Four years ago, Jackson, who represented the Greater London constituency of Hampstead and Highgate, announced that she would stand down the 2015 general election – which, somewhat controversially, was won by right-wing prime minister David Cameron's Conservative party.[1] The silver lining: following a two-decade-plus break, Glenda Jackson is returning to acting. Now, Jackson isn't – for the time being – returning to acting in front of the camera. The 79-year-old is to be featured in the Radio 4 series Emile Zola: Blood, Sex and Money, described on their website as a “mash-up” adaptation of 20 Emile Zola novels collectively known as "Les Rougon-Macquart."[2] Part 1 of the three-part Radio 4 series will be broadcast daily during an
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Depression Lessons #8

  • MUBI
To the extent that motion pictures have always glutted us with visions of loveliness, Bebe Daniels was kind of ordinary. I’m not referring of course to her early years, when Daniels ranked with Gloria Swanson and Pola Negri as exalted commodities at Paramount. That was an altogether different incarnation, her silent screen persona based in large measure on “exotic” beauty—milky skin handed down from a Scottish father and a head of raven hair from a Spanish mother.

Daniels had a little age on her when I caught my first happy glimpse.

Well, "age"—a mere 29 in 1930's Alias French Gertie, by which time Hollywood’s corner on the beauty market had already begun mercilessly snapping at her heels. Those immense dark eyes of hers, a lively part of the overall equipment, could still flash. Only now they were being called upon to communicate “Every time I get a
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Network Announces New "British Film Line-up" Titles

  • CinemaRetro
Network Distributing is pleased to announce the next batch of titles within “The British Film” range which will be available in the UK later this year. Each feature once again benefits from a new transfer, an instant play facility and will be presented in special slim-line space-saving packaging. Some of the highlights from October are a documentary about the body narrated by Vanessa Redgrave with music from Roger Waters, more gems from the vaults from Ealing Studios, classic horror, British musicals and a courtroom drama starring Richard Attenborough.

7 October

The Body £9.99

Vanessa Redgrave and Frank Finlay narrate an intimate and innovative documentary from the seventies about the human body cut to music from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. Commentary by poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell.

The Final Programme £9.99

Cult director Robert Fuest’s dystopian sci-fi thriller. Robert Finch stars as Jerry Cornelius, a Nobel Prize winning physicist and playboy who
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Criterion Collection: Safety Last! | Blu-ray Review

The timeless comic genius of Harold Lloyd shines through in Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor’s 1923 classic Safety Last!, one more silent film championed by the Criterion Collection folks. The indelible bookish, horn-rimmed glasses, straw-hat-wearing comedian show wonderfully how he earned the moniker “the King of Daredevil Comedy”. The “third genius” of the silent era (after Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton), stars in this Horatio Alger-style story of a country boy trying to make good in the big city.

The naive Boy (Harold Lloyd) travels on a train to the big city from the small town Great Bend, promising to send for his Girl (Mildred Davis, Lloyd’s real-life wife) after he has ‘made good’ with fame and fortune. In the opening sequence, he appears behind vertical bars – presumably imprisoning jail bars, but they are actually the train station’s gate. He becomes a low-paid, bookish-looking salesman in the
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One of the Most Breathtaking Silent Movies (or Movies, Period) Ever Made: The Best of '21

One of the Most Amazing Silent Movies (or Movies of Any Era, Period) Ever Made Tops the List of Best of Movies Released in 1921 Rex Ingram’s The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Metro Pictures' film version of Vicente Blasco Ibáñez’s epic novel -- from a scenario by the immensely powerful writer-producer June Mathis -- catapulted Mathis’ protégé, the until then little known Rudolph Valentino (photo, left), to worldwide superstardom, as The Four Horsemen became one of the biggest box-office hits of the silent era. Ingram’s wife, the invariably excellent Alice Terry (right, dark-haired in real life; a light-haired in her many movies), played Valentino's love interest. Ninety-two years after its initial launch, the Four Horsemen remains a monumental achievement. Released by MGM, Vincente Minnelli's 1962 remake of this Metro Pictures production featured an all-star cast: Glenn Ford, Ingrid Thulin (dubbed by Angela Lansbury), Charles Boyer, Lee J. Cobb,
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The Best Movies of Everybody's (Second) Favorite Year: From Caligari to Pollyanna

In Robert Wiene’s 1920 dreamlike horror classic, veteran German actor Werner Krauss plays the mysterious Dr. Caligari, the apparent force behind a creepy somnambulist named Cesare and played by Conrad Veidt, who abducts beautiful Lil Dagover. The finale in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari has inspired tons of movies and television shows, from Fritz Lang's 1944 film noir The Woman in the Window to the last episode of the TV series St. Elsewhere. In addition, the film shares some key elements in common (suppposedly as a result of a mere coincidence) with Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio's 2011 thriller Shutter Island. The 1920 crime melodrama Outside the Law is not in any way related to Rachid Bouchareb's 2010 political drama. Instead, the Tod Browning-directed movie is a well-made entry in the gangster genre (long before the explosion a decade later). Browning, best known for his early '30s efforts Dracula and Freaks,
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'70s Porn Star Who Became Free Speech Cause Celebre Has Died

Adult Film Star Reems has died at the age of 65 Harry Reems, the male lead in the epoch-making early '70s X-rated entry Deep Throat, died yesterday, March 19, at a Salt Lake City veterans hospital. The actor had been suffering from various serious ailments, among them pancreatic cancer. He was 65 years old. (Pictured above: Harry Reems in the '70s.) Born Herbert Streicher in New York City in 1947, he began working in the entertainment industry after serving in the U.S. Marines. His is a classical show business tale, sort of similar to the Ruby Keeler / Bebe Daniels switch found in the classic musical 42nd Street: when Deep Throat's original male lead didn't show up on the set, filmmaker Gerard Damiano had lighting director Reems to step in as an unknown (and later come back a star). The film's plot revolved around a doctor (played by Reems) who discovers that
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Oz Cast and Previous Movie Versions of Baum's Novel: 1939 Classic Initially a 'Box Office Disappointment'

Oz 2013 cast (Pictured above: Michelle Williams as the kind fairy Glinda.) In addition to James Franco (who was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award for 127 Hours), Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful stars Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, recently seen with Jeremy Renner in the thriller The Bourne Legacy), three-time Academy Award nominee Michelle Williams (Blue Valentine, Brokeback Mountain, My Week with Marilyn), in addition to Bill Cobbs, Zach Braff, and Joey King. Screenwriters David Lindsay-Abaire (Rise of the Guardians, Rabbit Hole) and Mitchell Kapner (Days of Wrath, The Whole Nine Yards) received credit for the Oz script. Joe Roth is one of the film's producers; his credits include Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, starring Johnny Depp, and Rupert Sanders' Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart (both movies are mentioned in relation to Oz
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Oz: Debut Weekend to Beat the Cumulative Gross of All But One 2013 Release

Early, rough box-office estimates: Oz to have best debut of 2013 by a wide margin Oz the Great and Powerful is about to have the strongest (by far) opening weekend of the year at the Us / Canada box office. Directed by Spider-Man's Sam Raimi, and starring James Franco as Oz, Oz scored an estimated $2 million at Thursday evening and midnight screenings and the film is expected to bring in about $23 million-25 million today (apparently that figure includes the Thursday screenings). Now, a key reason for the Oz "record" box office feat is the current year's highly disappointing attendance numbers to date. (Please see below comparisons to a couple of other successful fantasy films of recent years.) Raimi's 3D fantasy is expected to collect circa $80 million from 3,912 venues by Sunday evening. If Oz does succeed in reaching that mark, after only three days out it'll be well ahead of the total take of every 2013 domestic release,
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TCM Classic Film Festival Continues To Expand In Final Weeks Before April 12 Opening

Latest Additions Include Star-Studded Appearances, Noted Film Historians,

An Opening-Night Poolside Screening of High Society (1956)

And a Vanity Fair Showcase of Architecture in Film

Complete Schedule for 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival

Now Available at http://www.tcm.com/festival

With just over two weeks left before opening day, the 2012 TCM Classic Film Festival continues to expand its already-packed slate with new events and live appearances:

On opening night of the festival, the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel will be the site of a poolside screening of the lavish Cole Porter musical High Society (1956), starring Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby. Actresses Maud Adams and Eunice Gayson will attend a 50th Anniversary screening of the James Bond classic Dr. No (1962) and participate in a conversation about being “Bond Girls.” Filmmaker Mel Brooks will be on hand to introduce his brilliant parody Young Frankenstein (1974). Filmmaker John Carpenter will introduce his favorite film, the
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Rare Movie Posters Discovered, Expected To Fetch $250,000

Philadelphia — A rowdy band of bloodsuckers, gunslingers, wily wise guys, jaded private eyes, hardboiled reporters and good girls gone bad, stuck in an attic together for 80 years, is going its separate ways.

Nearly three dozen movie theater posters from the Golden Age of Hollywood found in a Pennsylvania attic are expected to fetch $250,000 at auction in Texas this month. They were stuck together with wallpaper glue when they were purchased for around $30,000 at a country auction last fall in Berwick, near Wilkes-Barre in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The buyer, who chose to remain anonymous, consigned them to Heritage Auctions in Dallas, where the stack of 33 Depression-era posters were painstakingly steamed and gingerly separated over the course of several weeks.

"As we started to peel them apart, it was one of the greatest treasure troves from a beautiful period of poster printing," said Grey Smith of Heritage Auctions, where the posters go on
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William Wyler: Oscar Actors Director

William Wyler was one of the greatest film directors Hollywood — or any other film industry — has ever produced. Today, Wyler lacks the following of Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Frank Capra, or even Howard Hawks most likely because, unlike Hitchcock, Ford, or Capra (and to a lesser extent Hawks), Wyler never focused on a particular genre, while his films were hardly as male-centered as those of the aforementioned four directors. Dumb but true: Films about women and their issues tend to be perceived as inferior to those about men — especially tough men — and their issues. The German-born Wyler (1902, in Alsace, now part of France) immigrated to the United States in his late teens. Following a stint at Universal's New York office, he moved to Hollywood and by the mid-'20s was directing Western shorts. His ascent was quick; by 1929 Wyler was directing Universal's top female star, Laura La Plante in the
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Provocative, Controversial Director Ken Russell Dead at 84: The Devils, Women In Love, Tommy

Director Ken Russell, best known for his movies featuring sex-starved nuns, nude male wrestling, "offensive" religious symbolism, and kaleidoscopic musical numbers, died Sunday, Nov. 27, in the United Kingdom. Russell had suffered a series of strokes. He was 84. Now hardly as remembered or admired as, say, '70s Hollywood icons Steven Spielberg, Robert Altman, or Martin Scorsese, Russell not only was — more than — their equal in terms of vision and talent, but he was also infinitely more daring both thematically and esthetically. In fact, Russell was so innovatively controversial that he was referred to as the enfant terrible of British cinema while already in his 40s and 50s. But if middle age brings out complacency and apathy in most people, its effect on Russell (born July 3, 1927, in Southampton) seems to have been the opposite. Following years of work on British television, Russell's 1969 film adaptation of D. H. Lawrence's Women in Love
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Humphrey Bogart on TCM: The Caine Mutiny, The Maltese Falcon, Sahara

Humphrey Bogart, the most revered Old Hollywood tough guy, is Turner Classic Movies' Star of the Day this Wednesday as TCM continues its "Summer Under the Stars" film series.[Humphrey Bogart Movie Schedule.] My favorite tough guy — by far — is Edward G. Robinson. The star of Little Caesar, The Sea Wolf, House of Strangers, Key Largo, etc. is followed by James Cagney — when in psycho mode — and a whole bunch of tough dames, among them Barbara Stanwyck, Jane Greer, Ann Sheridan, and Ida Lupino. Bogart isn't on my list. In the aforementioned Key Largo, for instance, he is all but eviscerated by Robinson's charisma. TCM is currently showing John Huston's The Maltese Falcon (1941), officially Hollywood's first film noir and one of the most widely admired classics of the studio era. Needless to say, I'm at odds with the general consensus. I much prefer Roy Del Ruth's less atmospheric but more entertaining 1931 version
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