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

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

1946: Hollywood & the Great Directors

August 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Lana Turner John Garfield The Postman Always Rings Twice Director Tay Garnett

Lana Turner, John Garfield, “The Post­man Always Rings Twice”, direc­tor Tay Garnett

The year 1939 is regarded by most film his­to­ri­ans as the pin­na­cle of suc­cess and legit­i­macy in the short his­tory of Hollywood’s Golden era. That year gave us the likes of Gone With the Wind, The Wiz­ard of Oz, Stage­coach, Mr. Smith Goes to Wash­ing­ton and many more.

The man­i­fest qual­ity of these great clas­sics is evi­dent and needs no fur­ther elab­o­ra­tion here. There are a num­ber of rea­sons for the achieve­ments of 1939, chief of which was the great Hol­ly­wood stu­dio sys­tem. If 1939 was a water­shed year for Hol­ly­wood, then the next great shift came in 1946, Hollywood’s most suc­cess­ful year ever, in terms of atten­dance. The motion pic­ture had grown up in the seven years since the release of Gone With the Wind. The great change of course came about with World War II, and it’s after­math. Read more

Blacklist: A Look at the 1947 HUAC Hearings

May 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

blak’ list n., v., list– ed, – list– ing
a list of per­sons who are under sus­pi­cion, disfavor,or censure,
or who are not to be hired, served, or oth­er­wise accepted.
—Ran­dom House Webster’s Dictionary—

Accord­ing to the experts, the start of the cold war with the Soviet Union began in July 1947 when Stalin refused to accept the Mar­shall Plan for the Soviet Union. Although Soviet—American ten­sions had been mount­ing ever since the Bol­she­vik Rev­o­lu­tion, they were briefly relaxed dur­ing the alliance to defeat Nazi Ger­many. By the spring of 1947 the eupho­ria cre­ated by the allied vic­to­ries was wan­ing. Mean­while the Soviet Union con­tin­ued its free and unabated dom­i­na­tion of a tat­tered Europe. Marx­ist prin­ci­ples appeared to be gain­ing a foothold in much of the world. It appeared to some Amer­i­cans that the ter­ri­ble sac­ri­fices by so many dur­ing the war years had been in vain. Read more

After The Apex: The End of the Studio System

February 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House

Mr. Bland­ings Builds His Dream House

The year is 1948. The Amer­i­can econ­omy is boom­ing. The farm­ers are pros­per­ing. Abun­dance over­all is greater than at any­time in the nation’s his­tory. The net work­ing cap­i­tal of Amer­i­can cor­po­ra­tions is at a new high of nearly $64 bil­lion. For the steel, oil, and auto­mo­bile indus­tries, 1948 is a ban­ner year. Unem­ploy­ment is below 4 per­cent. Nearly every­one who wants a job has one, and though infla­tion con­tin­ues, peo­ple are earn­ing more actual buy­ing power than ever before, and all of this fol­low­ing the record year of 1947, which, For­tune mag­a­zine reported had been the great­est pro­duc­tive record in the peace­time his­tory of this or any other nation”. In the sum­mer of 1948 Lon­don played host to the first Olympic Games since those held in Berlin in 1936. Amer­i­can ath­letes, Bob Math­ais, Har­ri­son Dil­lard, Melvin Patton-swept the track and field events, win­ning thirty-eight medals. Amer­i­can pros­per­ity, it seemed was end­less. It was a time of extra­or­di­nary tech­ni­cal and sci­en­tific achieve­ment. A 200-inch tele­scope, the world’s largest, was unveiled at Mount Palo­mar, Cal­i­for­nia. Test pilot Chuck Yea­ger, fly­ing a rev­o­lu­tion­ary rocket-plane, the Bell X-1, broke the sound bar­rier. In 1948 the tran­sis­tor was devel­oped. A new antibi­otic, Aure­omycin and Cor­ti­sone to treat rheuma­toid arthri­tis, were devel­oped. A new kind of fuel, liq­uid hydro­gen, promised, its inven­tor claimed, to “send men to the moon.” Read more