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

As it is with the aesthetic concerns of postmodern performance art, the persona of Joan Crawford is also a time-based collage of constructed moments which could not exist without the engagement of its audience.

Back in high school, did you ever take a test for which you hadn’t studied and had absolutely no preparation?  Let’s say for example a history teacher gave you a fifty-point question asking to explain the effects of the Hundred Years’ War.  You open up your response with a generic cover-your-ass statement such as, “First […]

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 […]

“Who was Frank Ryan??” I’ve been asking that question for a decade and haven’t come up with an acceptable answer. Ryan co-directed a comedy at RKO, then helmed four features at Universal.  One of the few verified facts I’ve found on him only increases the Ryan Enigma:  he died a few weeks after his 40th […]

On a snowy, slushy day in Chicago, gazing out the plate glass window of a Starbucks, I’m thinking of the New Jersey native who embodied all things sunny and casual:  Sandra Dee. “Ms. Dee defined a new kind of natural, sun-soaked innocence that America, and much of the rest of the world, quickly embraced as […]

I don’t do Top Ten lists. I think they’re ridiculous.  As a frequent film festival juror, I’ve seen films that never got a commercial release (or sometimes even a festival screening timeslot) that were much better than anything distributed during the year.  A similar scenario:  about a decade ago, J. Hoberman listed Lawrence Brose’s DE […]

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. […]

This post is part of the Robert Wise Blog-a-Thon that Josh at the Octopus Cinema blogsite is hosting during the first week of September. I’ve had a long time to think about how to articulate my admiration for Robert Wise:  I worked in the same building as Wise when I got my first temp job […]

On a British site, I read that the mid-sixties surf film RIDE THE WILD SURF had a Gay following. That was news to me, so I gave it a look. The film is more naturalistic (if you can call a movie that is 50% rear-projection ‘realistic’) than the cartoony Frankie-and-Annette beach party films cranked out […]

The Malaysian films of actor / singer / songwriter / orchestrator / screenwriter / director P. Ramlee are gems:  enchanting, disarming, humorous, tuneful treasures waiting to be discovered by Western cinephiles.  On first look Ramlee’s Cinema may look like Bollywood-on-a-Budget, but as the viewing unfolds what emerges is a picaresque slapstick world with a common […]

With constant revelations of Republican politicians’ sex scandals coming at us like loads of spermatazoa in hot pursuit of an ovum, I thought it would be appropriate to write an appreciation of the best comedy ever created on American Hypocrisy and false puritanism: Richard Boleslavski’s THEODORA GOES WILD. Barely remembered today, director Boleslavski’s career managed […]

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 […]

This Sunday, Turner Classic Movies will be screening George Cukor’s MY FAIR LADY. To enhance the experience, you might want to take a look at a think-piece I published on the movie at this blog’s parent site, PostModern Joan. The piece can be found here.

That neglected low-budget 1950s horror movie BLOOD OF DRACULA has been rearing its head periodically on late-nite cable. It’s a primo example of an early Herman Cohen production.  And a fascinating look at how screenwriter Aben Kandel loads a film with the fears of the Zeitgeist.  Many screenwriters have succeeded at crystalizing the fears of […]

It’s May:  a time when degrees are bestowed.  It’s the season of commencement ceremonies. Which reminds me of the first words I uttered as I graduated from film school in Los Angeles in 1980.  As it sank in that I finally had a bachelors of cinema in my hands, I — in true film lover […]

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 […]

At the Internet Archive I downloaded a 1948 public domain feature called WOMEN IN THE NIGHT, an independent quickie filmed at a hotel in Ensenada (substituting for Shanghai in WW2) about women captured by the Japanese to be their “Comfort Women.” On the Web there are various discussions about how “good” or “bad” the movie […]

How can it be?? BELLS ARE RINGING:  a butt-ugly, proscenium-bound, stand-and-deliver musical film directed by that most polished, chic, and painterly of all studio-era filmmakers, Vincente Minnelli??? In this delish-ly digital DVD, the glaringly phony sets and the consciously theatrical performances almost kill the pleasure of viewing this film.  I say almost because despite its […]

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 […]

I recently viewed a mid-century curiosity called MANFISH starring gorgeously sculpted B-Movie leading man John Bromfield, featuring a haggard Lon Chaney Jr., and “introducing Barbara Nichols.” Miss Nichols had previously had experience in early TV and a non-speaking role in the Otto Preminger / Robert Mitchum / Marilyn Monroe movie RIVER OF NO RETURN, but […]

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