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

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

The Best American Film Ever Produced?

August 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Eva Marie Saint, Marlon Brando

Eva Marie Saint, Mar­lon Brando

If the 1954 film, On the Water­front is not the best Amer­i­can film ever pro­duced, it is with­out doubt among the ten best post—World War II Amer­i­can films. It was nom­i­nated for 12 Oscars, and won 8 includ­ing Best Pic­ture. It is ranked the 8th Great­est Amer­i­can film of all time by the Amer­i­can Film Insti­tute. The idea for On the Water­front began with an expose series writ­ten for The New York Sun by reporter Mal­colm John­son. The 24 arti­cles won John­son a Pulitzer Prize, and cou­pled by the April 1948 mur­der of a New York dock hir­ing boss, awak­ened Amer­ica to the killings, graft and extor­tion that made up every­day life on the New York water­front. The pro­tag­o­nist Terry Malloy’s fight against cor­rup­tion was in part mod­eled after whistle—blowing long­shore­man Anthony DiVin­cenzo, who tes­ti­fied before a real—life Water­front Com­mis­sion on the facts of life on the Hobo­ken docks and was to a degree ostra­cized for his deeds. DiVin­cenzo sued and set­tled, many years after, with Colum­bia Pic­tures over the appro­pri­a­tion of what he con­sid­ered his story. DiVin­cenzo recounted his story to writer Budd Schul­berg dur­ing a month—long ses­sion of water­front bar­room meetings—which some claim never occurred—even though Shul­berg attended Di Vincenzo’s water­front com­mis­sion tes­ti­mony every day dur­ing the hear­ing. Read more

Film Noir and the Femme Fatale

July 16, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

High Heels on Wet Pavement

Los Ange­les 1948

Femme fatale—is defined as “an irre­sistibly attrac­tive woman, espe­cially one who leads men into dan­ger or dis­as­ter”. To me the most engag­ing sem­blance of a “femme fatale” is the stun­ning image of Lana Turner, as the cam­era pans from her ankles upward in that breath­tak­ing shot from The Post­man Always Rings Twice 1946. Read more

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