When You Get Really Close to a Movie Screen, Film Emulsion Looks like…
Boiling Sand

Hollywood studios in the 1950s — when its underpinnings of entrenched success eroded — yielded a number of fascinating films.  Their culture of work, aesthetics and storytelling was looking down an abyss inconceivable a decade before as some of the best and brightest descended in free fall.  To keep a foothold, the dream factories introduced […]

BOILING SAND participates in the FOR THE LOVE OF FILM (NOIR) film preservation blogathon this week with its post on Edgar G. Ulmer’s CLUB HAVANA.  You can DONATE here to the Film Noir Foundation to contribute for the restoration of Cy Endfield’s 1950 sleeper THE SOUND OF FURY, and have your name put in a […]

The center was not holding.  It was a country of bankruptcy notices and public-auction announcements and commonplace reports of casual killings and misplaced children and abandoned homes and vandals who misspelled even the four-letter words they scrawled.  It was a country in which families routinely disappeared, trailing bad checks and repossession papers.  Adolescents drifted from […]

There were a lot of Hollywood talents from the studio era whose names were associated with the “factory” aspects of that time:  making one film after another of varying quality, jumping from genre to genre, producing “good Hollywood fare.”  The output of these industry creatives tended to be lumped together, the good with the bad, […]

I have a single, personal mathematical equation that applies to the entire History of Film:  Cecil B. DeMille = Butt-Aches. Moribund and overblown movies such as THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH set me fidgeting after the first quarter-hour.  A movie-loving friend summed up the director’s tastes by pointing out DeMille’s movies […]

Remember at the end of 1946’s THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES when the characters played by Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright, despite their challenges of underemployment, post-war stress, and scant time knowing each other, decided to get married?  Did you ever wonder what sorts of lives and marriage that couple would be sustaining a […]

Most Film Noir has some sort of philosophical / existential aspect woven into it:  the private dick’s jaundiced look at love and morals, an old drunk’s musings on life slipping through his hands, etc.  But REPEAT PERFORMANCE is entirely built on a fatalist / defeatist foundation, and although it has elements of fantasy, it’s also […]

Director Gregory LaCava left a far greater imprint on Hollywood history than just his chef d’ouevre MY MAN GODFREY.  A graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago, LaCava broke into the industry as an animator.  Soon he was recruited for William Randolph Hearst’s new animation studios where he adapted the Hearst Syndicate’s comic strip Katzenjammer […]

Under the leadership of Edward Muhl, the 1950s witnessed Universal Studios’ ascendancy from A-Notch-Above-Poverty Row grindhouse to Top Dawg moneymaker in the movie industry.  While other studios had a restrictive agenda to their films [M-G-M had its family values; Warner Brothers its social conscience; Paramount provided sophistication to the masses], Universal cut and pasted whatever […]

I was an adolescent — and the day was cold and sunny — when I went to a Saturday matinee of Richard Brooks’ THE HAPPY ENDING. That day and that movie came back to me as I read that Jean Simmons died. I haven’t seen it since (the film might not have aged well) but […]

Centuries ago a Hindu poet wrote that humans are “…a bit of sky reflected in a jar destined to shatter.” It’s a challenging image for the mortal and immortal elements in mankind — and it also works as a symbol for our psychological engagement with movies:  after a film takes us to new, foreign levels […]

I was sitting in Shanghai’s domestic air terminal this week, flipping through a Chinese fashion magazine.  While looking at photos of clothes (an art form that pingpongs between decorative and functional elements, overload and restraint) I decided to grapple with the merits of a lame / fascinating / bizarre / ho-hum movie from 1963. Perhaps […]

I’M NOT A FILM ARCHIVIST but the three-headed monster known as my career (making media, writing and assessing media, managing media) has always kept me one or two degrees away from the field.  So I’m happy to report that I’ll be blogging from the conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists, held this year […]

If you love Baz Lurhmann’s AUSTRALIA and want to see an earlier, similar film — OR — if you hate AUSTRALIA and want to see a calmer, more naturalistic version of the movie, Lewis Milestone’s 1952 Technicolor action/romance/drama KANGAROO can satisfy both desires. KANGAROO (which has nothing to do with the D. H. Lawrence novel […]

This post is part of the Double Billathon hosted this week at the Broken Projector film blog. In 1939, while Nathanael West was submitting the final manuscript of his Hollywood Apocalypse novel Day of the Locust to Random House, he was also pounding the keyboard for $350 a week as a scriptwriter for RKO Studios. […]

I set the DVR for this morning’s cablecast of Frank Borzage’s MAN’S CASTLE, a lyrical pre-Code film that represents the American version of Jean Vigo’s L’ATALANTE in its feathered duality of lusty reality and ethereal transcendence. Early in the film, after Tracy takes in a starving and homeless Loretta Young, he brings her back to […]

1946’s international intrigue thriller TANGIER produced at Universal — the best of the second-tier Hollywood studios — is a juicy mash-up of Warner Brothers’ CASABLANCA, with a little of 1938’s ALGIERS thrown into the mix.   There’s a chic nightclub populated with gents in white dinner jackets and uniforms of various loyalties, shady deals with […]

I once went on record as saying that Frank Borzage’s Deanna Durbin vehicle HIS BUTLER’S SISTER can give you a headache.  During this Borzage-rich year (the release of the Borzage/Murnau boxed DVD set, good Borzage programming on TCM, and even finding a legitimate copy of I’VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU on VHS), I’ve decided to re-evaluate […]

The story of short-lived, A-List wannabe studio, Eagle-Lion Films (1946-1951), can be charted by the quirkiness of its output.  OUT OF THE BLUE was one of its first offerings:  a film proving that (just like great improv) a scramble to keep keep the ball rolling can result in flashes of brilliance. Eagle-Lion’s genesis sprang from […]

During my misspent youth, I played piano in a bar.   A great friend of mine was also a piano player.   Our styles and tastes were nowhere compatible, but we truly respected each other’s artistic choices and temperament when we’d sit down and play. Several years after becoming friends, Jane Campion’s film THE PIANO […]

The Turner Classic Movie website has a page where movie lovers can vote for the film they’d most like to see issued on DVD. For a while, the Number One title has been THE AFRICAN QUEEN, to be sure an egregiously overlooked title.  Yet this week, I was totally flabbergasted to see that the one […]

I suppose there will always be discussion and debate over which movie was the ‘original’ screwball comedy: TWENTIETH CENTURY? THEODORA GOES WILD? perhaps one of the late silent-era vehicles for Marion Davies?? The debate will probably never be settled, especially as esoteric older films are forgotten, never released on home video. (To quote filmmaker Chris […]

Recently, my friend David was excitedly looking forward to the DVD release of M-G-M’s 1945 THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, directed by Albert Lewin.  That got me thinking of the next collaboration by the DORIAN GRAY creative team: an independent film called THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI (1947). Lewin startled THE PICTURE OF DORIAN […]

[Posted as part of the EARLY HAWKS BLOG-A-THON.] It says it right up there at the beginning: A Howard Hawks Production. So, not only did Hawks direct TODAY WE LIVE (1933), but he ‘produced’ it also. But I put the word produced in quotes because the film is a 1933 product of M-G-M, so above […]



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