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

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

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

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