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More 4th of July Escapism: Small-Town Iowa and Declaration of Independence Musicals

More 4th of July Escapism: Small-Town Iowa and Declaration of Independence Musicals
(See previous post: Fourth of July Movies: Escapism During a Weird Year.) On the evening of the Fourth of July, besides fireworks, fire hazards, and Yankee Doodle Dandy, if you're watching TCM in the U.S. and Canada, there's the following: Peter H. Hunt's 1776 (1972), a largely forgotten film musical based on the Broadway hit with music by Sherman Edwards. William Daniels, who was recently on TCM talking about 1776 and a couple of other movies (A Thousand Clowns, Dodsworth), has one of the key roles as John Adams. Howard Da Silva, blacklisted for over a decade after being named a communist during the House Un-American Committee hearings of the early 1950s (Robert Taylor was one who mentioned him in his testimony), plays Benjamin Franklin. Ken Howard is Thomas Jefferson, a role he would reprise in John Huston's 1976 short Independence. (In the short, Pat Hingle was cast as John Adams; Eli Wallach was Benjamin Franklin.) Warner
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

Acteurism: Joel McCrea, An American Life

  • MUBI
Continuing the tradition of brisk pre-Code films, Joel McCrea’s occasional appearances in Gregory La Cava’s 1933 Bed of Roses serve as strange moral medium between the wanton hedonism of the lead Constance Bennett and the upcoming censorship of the era. Screenwriter Wanda Tuchock’s story of jail-hopping prostitutes-on-the-side seems like a victory lap for vice-ridden cinematic world of the early 30s, including flippant talk of suicide, heavily implied sex, liberal boozing, and poking fun at previous attempts of government sponsored moral judgment (“The Eighteenth Amendment is a law, and as a law should be enforced until it stops being a law”). The film begins in a prison as Bennett’s Lorry Evans and partner-in-crime Minnie (Pert Kelton) walk out of their cells, trash-talking life outside in radio-ready cadence and street-ready slang. They have short hair, hats tipped on the side of their head (I assume gravity worked differently in
See full article at MUBI »

Three 1930s Capra Classics Tonight: TCM's Jean Arthur Mini-Festival

Jean Arthur films on TCM include three Frank Capra classics Five Jean Arthur films will be shown this evening, Monday, January 5, 2015, on Turner Classic Movies, including three directed by Frank Capra, the man who helped to turn Arthur into a major Hollywood star. They are the following: Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, You Can't Take It with You, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington; George Stevens' The More the Merrier; and Frank Borzage's History Is Made at Night. One the most effective performers of the studio era, Jean Arthur -- whose film career began inauspiciously in 1923 -- was Columbia Pictures' biggest female star from the mid-'30s to the mid-'40s, when Rita Hayworth came to prominence and, coincidentally, Arthur's Columbia contract expired. Today, she's best known for her trio of films directed by Frank Capra, Columbia's top director of the 1930s. Jean Arthur-Frank Capra
See full article at Alt Film Guide »

Sheila MacRae, Who Played Alice on ‘The Honeymooners,’ Dies at 93

Sheila MacRae, Who Played Alice on ‘The Honeymooners,’ Dies at 93
Sheila MacRae, a film, TV and stage actress who played Alice Kramden, wife of bus driver Ralph Kramden, on musical-comedy episodes of “The Honeymooners” featured as part of “The Jackie Gleason Show” in the late 1960s, died on March 6 at the Lillian Booth Actor’s Home in Englewood, New Jersey. She was 93.

The sassy Alice Kramden was played by a series of actresses: first Pert Kelton in 1955, then Audrey Meadows and later Sue Ane Langdon before MacRae took over the role opposite Gleason.

On TV, MacRae also played herself in a famous episode of “I Love Lucy,” “The Fashion Show”; briefly had her own series in 1971; appeared on soap “General Hospital” as Madelyn Richmond in 1991; was a series regular on the single-season “Parenthood” in 1990-91; and guested on series including “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “The Love Boat” and “Murder, She Wrote.”

Born in London, Sheila Margaret Stephens married actor-singer Gordon MacRae
See full article at Variety - Film News »

‘Honeymooners’ Star Sheila MacRae Dead

  • The Wrap
‘Honeymooners’ Star Sheila MacRae Dead
Sheila MacRae, who played Alice Kramden in the later years of the pioneering television comedy “The Honeymooners,” has died. She was believed to be 93. An employee at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in New Jersey confirmed MacRae's death. See photos: Hollywood's Notable Deaths of 2014 (Photos) The London-born actress played Ralph Kramden's long-suffering wife on the “Honeymooners” episodes of “The Jackie Gleason Show” from 1966 to 1970. She was one of multiple actresses to play the role, including Audrey Meadows, Pert Kelton and Sue Ane Langdon. MacRae's other television roles included Madelyn Richmond on the soap opera “General Hospital.” Also read: Mary Grace Canfield,
See full article at The Wrap »

The Forgotten: It's a Barnum & Bailey World

  • MUBI
Cinema Circus is clearly a product of the great, yet under-reported MGM peyote-poisoning of 1937—how else to explain its baffling, surreal, Technicolor, grotesque yet undeniable existence? It is a chilling documentary record of some things that were performed in front of a camera, once upon a time.

A man in a gruesome Joe E. Brown mask is helped from his leering false-face, revealing another leering false face, that of Lee Tracy, who attempts to justify what we are about to see as the realisation of a long-cherished dream, although the exorcism of a recurring nightmare would be at least as plausible.

Big top performers will trot out their tricks in brief visual bits, watched by earnestly faking-it movie "stars," few now recalled in the contemporary pantheon: Olsen & Johnson, the Ritz Brothers, Leo Carillo...

Meanwhile, more hideous outsized masks are sported, embodying movie stars too authentically famous to be roped into
See full article at MUBI »

Forgotten Pre-Codes: "Sing and Like It" (1934)

  • MUBI
Part of a series by David Cairns on forgotten pre-Code films.

"Crime must not pay" is one of the most debilitating rules the Hays Code imposed on Hollywood. It's relatively easy for a filmmaker to work around crazy bans on words ("pregnant"), body parts (gone, all those extreme-longshot buttocks) or gestures (Frank McHugh raises a finger in Parachute Jumper), but when a philosophical ideal is given the weight of narrative law, cinema is forced back into the nursery. The filmmakers operating under this draconian blue pencil developed devious skills to bypass rulings and imply rather than say the unsayable, and it arguably helped their craft, but at the same time, certain kinds of stories just become impossible to tell honestly.

And certain kinds of fun were ruled out too, like much of what happens in Sing and Like It, directed by the lightly likable William A. Seiter, who clocked up well over a hundred films,
See full article at MUBI »

Blu-Ray Review: ‘The Music Man’ Looks Sharper, Thunders Louder Than Before

Chicago – “The Music Man” is alive in a way few Hollywood musicals ever are. Its big numbers often grow organically, allowing melodies to emerge from the rhythm of speech, overlapping action or the seemingly mundane movement of characters across the frame. In the exuberant world of this ageless classic, music is less of a self-conscious construct than an irresistible life force infiltrating the cadence of everyday life.

Much of the film’s success must be attributed to the work of director Morton DaCosta and star Robert Preston. DaCosta directed Preston in the musical’s 1957 Tony-winning Broadway production, and insisted that his lead actor be cast in the 1962 cinematic adaptation, rather than the studio’s preferred star, Frank Sinatra. It’s impossible to imagine anyone but Preston in the role of “Prof. Harold Hill,” a charismatic con artist who seduces the simple citizens of River City, Iowa into financially supporting his
See full article at HollywoodChicago.com »

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