Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Ann Sheridan gets ready to carve the turkey. Save a leg for me!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Book Review: And the Winner Really Is by Ken Grout

Available at Amazon
And the Winner Really Is: The Definitive Ranking of the Greatest Actors and Actresses in Oscar History by Ken Grout. Mixing statistics, motion picture history, and some common sense, Grout has come up with an interesting formula to determine who is the real Oscar champ.

Grout’s book considers all Academy Award winning actors and actresses as well as those nominees who never actually won the award (you see, using Grout’s system, you earn points for each nomination). That’s why Irene Dunne (nominated five times, but never a winner) ranks higher on the list than Clark Gable (nominated 3 times with one win).

To deal with ties, Grout came up with some steps. Here are four that helped crown the champions: Number of Career Wins, Number of Career Nominations, Career Performances in Best Picture Winners, and Career Performances in Best Picture Nominees.

Fan favorites like Cary Grant (two nominations and no wins—honorary Oscars don’t count) and Maureen O’Hara (no nominations, one honorary Oscar) don’t make the list at all. The book also includes the top “Never-Won’s.” According to Grout’s research, “There are twenty-four individuals in Oscar history who have been nominated for at least four competitive acting Oscars,” but haven’t won. Who do you think tops this list? Hint: It’s a man. In fact number two is also a man and a good friend and professional rival of number one.

Sisters Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland have three Best Actress Oscars between them.

Grout charts the dominance of Bette Davis from the late 1940s to the late 1960s. He also adds some fun stats like who are the greatest families in Academy Award history. Spoiler alert: It’s the Fondas: Jane, Henry, and Peter. What Oscar winner is also a champion at the box office?

If you love the Oscars and the movies, you’ll have a ton of fun with And the Winner Really Is. It’s already found a place in my group of movie reference books. I know I’ll be referring to it for years to come.

And the Winner Really Is is available for purchase from Lemonyyellow Books and Amazon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

“Tyrone Power: Man, Myth & Movie Idol” Centennial Celebration

The Hollywood Museum in the Historic Max Factor Building Celebrates  “Tyrone Power: Man, Myth & Movie Idol” Centennial Celebration 

The Nation’s Largest Exhibit Of Authentic Memorabilia Honors His Life

Hollywood, CA, November 5, 2014 - The Hollywood Museum debuts “Tyrone Power: Man, Myth & Movie Idol,” celebrating Tyrone Power, sexy stage and screen idol of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, and his centennial birthday year with an intimate retrospective curated in collaboration with his son, Tyrone Power, Jr. This special exhibition will take an ‘inside’ look at the life, passions and career of the handsome star of more than 50 films, best known for his swashbuckler roles, romantic leads and striking good looks. The exhibit is on display November 14 through January 11, 2015, at The Hollywood Museum in the Historic Max Factor Building located at 1660 N. Highland Ave. at Hollywood Blvd.

Tyrone Power in Jesse James
Power was one of the top male sex symbols of Hollywood’s golden era, from 1936 to 1958. He became an overnight sensation at just 22 years old and made more than 50 films during his career. Six months after his breakout role in Lloyd’s of London (1936), his hand and footprints were memorialized in cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. Power was nicknamed “King of the Movies” by his fans and was also recognized as “King of the Fox Lot” (20th Century Fox Studios).

“We are delighted to spotlight one of Hollywood’s greatest legends and heartthrobs whose star talents transcended motion pictures, radio, live theater and television,” said Donelle Dadigan, Founder and President of The Hollywood Museum.

The “Tyrone Power: Man, Myth & Movie Idol” exhibition explores Power’s personal life including many illustrious romances, three marriages and three children. The comprehensive collection includes never before displayed items gathered from family, friends, private collectors and The Hollywood Museum archives.

Highlights of the Exhibition includes: 

•Costumes worn by Power include the iconic matador “suit of lights” from Blood and Sand (1941); embroidered pants from The Mark of Zorro (1940); black tailcoat with silver buttons from Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942); black hat with red feathers from Captain from Castile (1947); navy suit from The Luck of the Irish (1948) and much more.

•Costumes worn by Power’s co-stars include a black gown worn by Maureen O’Hara in The Long Gray Line (1955), a pink brocade gown worn by Wanda Hendrix in Prince of Foxes (1949), a crème silk with fur trim jacket and gown worn by Gene Tierney in That Wonderful Urge (1948), a red sequin costume worn by Coleen Gray in Nightmare Alley (1947), a chartreuse ball gown from Marie Antoinette (1938) starring Norma Shearer; a vest worn by Don Ameche in In Old Chicago (1937) among many others.

•Behind the Scenes in Hollywood include Power’s silk brocade dressing gown; personal mementos and photos provide a private look at Power’s many romances, three marriages, cars, friends and family.

•Hollywood History - Power kept a copy of scripts from all of his movies. The exhibit includes scripts from The Razor’s Edge (1946), Blood and Sand (1941) and three 1937 films: Thin Ice, Love Is News and In Old Chicago. This collection also includes lobby cards, posters, press kits, press books and sheet music from songs in his many films.

Collectors includeTyrone Power, Jr., Taryn Power, Romina Power, Maria Ciaccia, Debbie Beno, Cindra Reaume Webber and The Hollywood Museum Archives.

For Exhibit Photos: Click here

About Tyrone Power:
Power appeared in a wide variety of film genres, from musicals to comedies, from westerns and swashbucklers, to dramas, showing a remarkable acting range. Before he made it in Hollywood, Power began his career on Broadway, mentored by stage actress Katharine Cornell. Scouts spotted him in a play and he was signed by 20th Century-Fox, becoming their top leading man for many years. He worked with most of the famous actors and directors of his time, including directors such as King Vidor, and actors Humphrey Bogart, Raymond Massey, Jeanne Crain, Alice Faye, Al Jolson, Cesar Romero, George Sanders, Loretta Young and Lana Turner, with whom he had a well-publicized romance in 1946. He also had liaisons with Judy Garland and Mai Zetterling.

Gene Tierney with Power in Son of Fury:
The Story of Benjamin Blake
Power took time out of his career to serve his country as a U.S. Marine Corps pilot in World War II, flying wounded soldiers out of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. His father, actor Tyrone Power, Sr., died in the arms of his son while on a film set. Power Jr.’s own life was cut short at the age of 44 when he had a heart attack on the movie set of Solomon and Sheba (1959). Actor Yul Brynner replaced him in the film. During his career, Power turned down a number of powerful roles including Burt Lancaster’s role in From Here to Eternity (1953) and Richard Burton’s lead role in The Robe (1953).

About The Hollywood Museum In The Historic Max Factor Building:
The Hollywood Museum in the Historic Max Factor Building houses over 10,000 real showbiz treasures and the most extensive collection of Hollywood costumes, star cars, props, posters, photographs and memorabilia in the world showcasing more than 100 years of Hollywood history. Discover the glamour of old Hollywood from Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks to Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio and Elvis Presley. Experience the excitement of today’s Hollywood stars from Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, to Leonardo DiCaprio, J. Lo, Miley Cyrus, George Clooney among many others. The Hollywood Museum is also home to Max Factor's world-famous makeup rooms where Marilyn Monroe became a blonde and Lucille Ball first donned her signature red hair. Exhibitions spotlight Marilyn Monroe: The Exhibit, Hannibal Lecter’s jail cell movie set from The Silence of the Lambs The historic photo gallery and the official walk of fame exhibit. The Hollywood Museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

Location: 1660 N. Highland Ave. (at Hollywood Blvd). Hollywood, CA 90028
Hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 10am - 5pm
Tickets: General admissions $15, $12 for students and seniors; and $5 for children five and under.
Museum information: (323) 464-7776 | The Hollywood Museum
Follow the museum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Maureen O’Hara (Finally) Gets Her Oscar

Maureen O’Hara, the star of such classic films as The Hunchback of Notre Dame, How Green Was My Valley, Sentimental Journey, The Miracle on 34th Street, The Quiet Man, and The Parent Trap, received a special honorary Academy Award. Incredibly, O’Hara, 94, was never nominated for a competitive Oscar in a career that spanned 75 years.

From left to right: John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood, and O’Hara In Miracle on 34th Street
In her acceptance speech, O’Hara paid tribute to the three men who helped her career: Charles Laughton, John Wayne, and John Ford. Laughton signed O’Hara to her first film contract and costarred with her in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Jamaica Inn, and This Land Is Mine. O’Hara costarred with Wayne in five films, including Rio Grande, The Quiet Man, McClintock!, and Big Jake. Ford directed O’Hara in How Green Was My Valley, The Quiet Man, and The Long Gray Line.

If you were to award O’Hara for one of her film performances, what would it be?

Monday, October 27, 2014

Hitchcock’s “Lifeboat” to screen November 11, 2014 at Daystar Center

When: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 6:30 p.m.
Where: The Venue 1550 at the Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street

A director’s challenge
Alfred Hitchcock loved challenges. He embraced new cinematic techniques (and probably invented or at least perfected a few) and was intrigued with the idea of filming a story in a limited setting. Lifeboat, as the title might suggest, takes place entirely in a lifeboat. In the hands of a lesser director, Lifeboat would be unbearable, but in the hands of the master, it’s compelling cinema.

Will they survive
After their ship is sunk by a German U-boat during WWII, a group of British and American citizens struggle to survive in a cramped lifeboat. When a German survivor is pulled aboard, against the wishes of some of the survivors, the tension begins. Is he a German officer? Is he helping them survive or does he have ulterior motives? Can the nine people band together until help comes?

Tallulah Bankhead heads a great ensemble cast that includes, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak, and Canada Lee.

Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
Before the movie, grab a cup of coffee from Overflow Coffee Bar, located within the Daystar Center. You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
fans. Once a month we screen a classic film and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. To purchase your ticket in advance, click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.

Backstory: As the film’s star, Bankhead received a salary of $75,000 ($1,013,513 today). She reportedly refused to wear undergarments, which caused quite a sensation on the set. Both Bankhead and Anderson became ill during filming. Bankhead came down with pneumonia twice. Other than during the opening and closing credits, there is no music during the movie. This was Hitchcock’s only film made at Twentieth Century-Fox. He was supposed to make another film at Fox after Lifeboat, but that never happened.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Classic Films in Context: Gone With The Wind

I decided to write this post about Gone With The Wind after I read “When It Comes To ‘Gone With The Wind,’ Do Kids Today Give A Damn?” at the NPR Web site. The article suggests that the 1939 Best Picture Winner hasn’t aged well. The author of the piece, Neda Ulaby interviewed 13 students studying film at Georgetown University. Ulaby assures us these students are “serious about movies” to support her thesis.

Not so critical analysis
Apparently the fact that the story took place during a time when it was legal to own slaves makes the film unworthy of any respect or a full viewing according to Georgetown film student Mike Minahan. This is what Minahan has to say about Gone With The Wind: “Everything I’ve seen about it says it, like, glorifies the slave era ... and I dunno, what’s the point of that? I don’t see that as a good time in history. ... like, oh, sweet, a love story of people who own slaves.” Notice the “Everything I’ve seen about it” portion of the quote. Did Minahan watch the film in its entirety? Is he basing his opinion, one that Ulaby says most of his fellow Georgetown film students agree with, on the opinions of others? Shouldn’t a film student be more critical in his analysis? Films are like history; they need to be put into context.

It’s Scarlett's point of view
We see Gone With The Wind through Scarlett O’Hara’s (Vivian Leigh) point of view. If the film were told through Mammy’s (Hattie McDaniel) point of view, for example, we’d have an entirely different film. But it’s Scarlett’s movie and it’s her story warts and all. Is plantation life romanticized in the film? Yes, but then again, it’s pretty typical for the past to be thought of fondly in the face of some pretty stark reality (like the American Civil War); it’s human nature. What Gone With The Wind makes clear is that war is always tragic and that personal relationships (and land if you’re Gerald O’Hara) are all that really matter in life. Unfortunately for Scarlett, she learns that lesson too late.

A well-worn epic
From a technical aspect, I was amazed at how well Gone With The Wind has aged. The fact that a film released in 1939 can hold its own against contemporary epics is in itself remarkable. Ernest “Ernie” Haller’s Oscar-winning cinematography is quite compelling. Who can forget the shot of Scarlett at the Atlanta train station as she walks among the wounded and the dead. At first the camera is close on Scarlett and you only see a few men on the ground. But then the camera pulls back and the number of the wounded and dead on screen is staggering. It’s one of the greatest visuals in all of cinema. And what about the scene of people fleeing Atlanta? How they were able to choreograph the action with star Leigh, not a double, moving against the crowds and running in front of horses and carriages we’ll never know. But on the screen it’s terrific.

Life is troubling
One of the other aspects that the film students find troubling is the scene of marital rape. It is a troubling scene, but put in context it’s true to the marital conventions of the time. The relationship between Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and Scarlett is indeed a complicated one. I wonder if the same students would refuse to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Marnie or Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter?

Award-winning performances
The performances in Gone With The Wind are solid. Leigh’s portrayal of Scarlett is fresh, lively, and contemporary. The same can be said for Gable’s portrayal of Rhett. In the hands of Olivia de Havilland (still with us at 97!), Melanie Hamilton is not quite the “mealy mouth ninny” that Scarlett accuses her of being. And who can forget Hattie McDaniel as Mammy? She goes toe-to-toe with Scarlett, always speaks her mind, and is nobody’s fool. When did a black actress get as much screen time as McDaniel did prior to 1939?

Don’t know much about history
My background in educational publishing makes me suspect that today’s film students may be the product of political correctness gone amok. When I worked in school library publishing, we routinely airbrushed cigarettes, cigars, and pipes out of the hands and mouths of historical figures like FDR and pop culture icons like James Dean. We were told that school librarians wouldn’t buy our books if we left these photos intact. This is also the case in contemporary textbook publishing. Instead of explaining that in the not so distant past people didn’t think smoking was a serious health issue and open up a dialogue on the subject, it’s ignored entirely. For many, the history they’ve been taught has been sanitized to the point where it’s not history at all, but instead someone’s fantasy of what history should be. It’s also disturbing the way we in the 21st century look down on people in the past with a superior attitude. As if we would have been any different in our thinking than Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley, and Melanie had we been born during the 19th century.

They’ve got a lot of living to do
What the NPR piece revealed is a group of film students who are unwilling to look at what might be disturbing or upsetting to their worldview. This seems contrary to the whole point of studying film, which is in many ways, studying our history. Perhaps those 13 Georgetown film students need to experience a little more of life to have an appreciation for a classic like Gone With The Wind. And frankly, I do give a damn.

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