Postage Paid: In Defense of Elia Kazan

October 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Elia Kazan 1979
Elia Kazan 1979

Between 1945 and 1957 Elia Kazan directed 10 crit­i­cally acclaimed motion pic­tures. He won Acad­emy Awards as best direc­tor for Gentleman’s Agree­ment (1947), and On the Water­front (1954). He was nom­i­nated for best direc­tor for two other films dur­ing that period, A Street­car Named Desire (1951), and East of Eden (1955). Kazan also directed two of the most pro­found and influ­en­tial dra­mas in Broad­way his­tory, A Street­car Named Desire (1947), and The Death of a Sales­man (1948). His novel The Arrange­ment, pub­lished in 1967, became a best seller.

Kazan came to the fore dur­ing the post-World War II years, arguably the most con­tro­ver­sial period in Hol­ly­wood his­tory. His films of the period con­tributed much to the rep­u­ta­tion of 20th Cen­tury Fox, and aug­mented fur­ther the lus­ter and bril­liance of Dar­ryl F. Zanuck. Kazan, nick­named “Gadge” was one of the great direc­tors of his time. His post-war films remain as pow­er­ful and com­pelling as any pro­duced in Amer­ica. For a period of 12 years Elia Kazan had no peer! Read more

The Best Actor Never To Win The Oscar

October 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Fred MacMurray, EGR, "Double Indemnity" 1944

Fred Mac­Mur­ray, EGR, “Dou­ble Indem­nity” 1944

That Edward G. Robin­son never got the Oscar he so richly deserved, not­ing espe­cially his chill­ing per­for­mance as Wolf Larsen in The Sea Wolf, is a pity! He must be regarded as one America’s finest film actors. In Cae­sar Enrico Ban­dello, he cre­ated the pro­to­type for the mod­ern Amer­i­can movie gang­ster. For the won­der­ful mem­o­ries he gave me, this post if ded­i­cated. Infor­ma­tion about Eddie is extremely dif­fi­cult to obtain. Any addi­tional infor­ma­tion on Edward G. Robin­son is wel­comed here.

Emanuel Gold­en­berg, force­ful, author­i­ta­tive char­ac­ter star of Hol­ly­wood films, mem­o­rable for his tough imper­son­ation of gang­ster boss Rico Ban­dello in Lit­tle Cae­sar (1930) and many other char­ac­ter­i­za­tions of under­world types in Warner’s crime cycle of the 1930s. In the US from age–10, he grew up on New York’s Lower East Side and gave up plans to become a rabbi or a lawyer in favor of act­ing dur­ing stud­ies at City Col­lege, where he was elected to the Eliz­a­bethan Soci­ety. He won a schol­ar­ship to the Amer­i­can Acad­emy of Dra­matic Arts and, chang­ing his name to Edward G. (the G. for Gold­en­berg) Read more

Stanley Kubrick & Marie Windsor

September 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Marie Windsor

I didn’t know I was doing film noir, I thought they were detec­tive sto­ries with low light­ing! Even Kubrick, in 1955 dur­ing film­ing of The Killing, never used the term film noir to my knowledge.

Kubrick had all his shots laid out before he started, all sketched out by his wife, who was quite a good artist. He had them all around his office. I guess that’s why we made it in 21 days, with very few takes. The scene where I took my eye­lashes off we did in two takes.

He didn’t direct in front of any­body else. He’d say, Marie. Come over here a minute. We’d go behind the scenery, and he’d say, In this scene I want you to be really tired and lazy. I’d had some stage train­ing, and he was try­ing to get me not to use my big voice. Read more

Midnight Ramble & Early Black Hollywood

September 1, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation

The motion pic­ture indus­try most likely began in Los Angles in 1902 when Thomas L. Tully opened the first the­ater exclu­sively for mov­ing pic­tures. From its ear­li­est days, when movies were thought of as peep shows, the Negro was pre­sented in an unfa­vor­able light.

The year 1915 is a sig­nif­i­cant date in motion pic­ture his­tory. This is the year of the release of D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, the film ver­sion of Thomas Dixon’s pro South, Ku Klux Klan, novel, The Clans­man. In terms of advance­ment of the medium, it must be regarded as one of the most sig­nif­i­cant films ever made. Sub­se­quent to its release, movies were crude at best, with uneven light­ing and quick jerky move­ments, the act­ing, melo­dra­matic and exag­ger­ated. From an artis­tic and tech­ni­cal out­look, it was a mas­ter­piece of con­cep­tion and struc­ture. Though much has been writ­ten about it’s overt racism, it gave rise to the mod­ern nar­ra­tive film.

The Recon­struc­tion scenes in The Birth of a Nation are espe­cially harsh. The black mem­bers of Con­gress are por­trayed as arro­gant, lust­ful, and are shown drink­ing heav­ily right on the House floor. They are depicted going about the busi­ness of the coun­try coarsely reclin­ing in their con­gres­sional chairs, with bare feet plopped upon their desks. When the film was released small riots broke out in Boston, and other cities. Read more

Two From Siodmak: The Killers & Criss Cross

August 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Robert Siodmak 1948

Robert Siod­mak 1948

While such stu­dios as Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox, RKO, Para­mount, United Artists and even MGM, pro­duced the pro­fu­sion of movies in the Film Noir cycle, it was Uni­ver­sal who dis­pensed two gen­uine pearls of the genre…
The Killers (1946), and Criss Cross (1949).

Here I dis­cuss these two intrigu­ing and well dis­ci­plined films, both pro­duced by Uni­ver­sal and both directed by Robert Siod­mak. Siod­mak like the other Ger­man emi­gre direc­tors Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, and Otto Pre­minger dom­i­nated the field of Film Noir. Robert Siodmak’s Noir cred­its also include Phan­tom Lady (1943), Cry of the City (1948), and The File on Thelma Jor­don (1949), but his sin­gle Oscar® nom­i­na­tion was for The Killers based loosely on the Ernest Hem­ing­way short story of the same name.

The Killers, opens as a pair of hired killers drift into a small New Jer­sey town with the inten­tion of gun­ning down a local gas sta­tion atten­dant named Swede, Burt Lan­caster in his film debut. The Killers await their prey at the local diner. When he fails to appear as sched­uled they locate the board­ing house where he lives, force their way into his room where he sto­ically awaits them. Mak­ing no attempt to escape, he is killed in a blaze of gun­fire. His final words, “I did some­thing wrong—once.” The film unfolds with sim­i­lar dis­con­nected flash­back tech­niques used ear­lier in Cit­i­zen Kane (1941), and mas­ter­fully applied here. Read more

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