Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Black Book | John Alton photographs epic Reign of Terror in Film Noir style - Watch Free Online

Cover of "The Black Book"Cover of The Black Book
Reign of Terror (also known as The Black Book) is a 1949 drama film set in the French Revolution. Plotters of François Barras seek to bring down Maximilien Robespierre and end his bloodthirsty regime. Although ostensibly an historical thriller, the film also has the characteristics of film noir in style, and numerous elements of chase films.

"For The Black Book, working to the usual modest budget, cine-photographer John Alton contrived a richly atmospheric evocation of Revolutionary France, turbulent and treacherous, largely from shadows and silhouettes." ~ John Alton - Painting With Light

Reign of Terror available for free download at the Internet Archive

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Scarlet Empress | Josef von Sternberg's expressionist art design

Cover of "The Scarlet Empress - Criterion...Cover via Amazon
The Scarlet Empress is a 1934 historical drama film made by Paramount Pictures about the life of Catherine the Great. It was directed and produced by Josef von Sternberg, with Emanuel Cohen as executive producer, from a screenplay by Eleanor McGeary, based on the diary of Catherine arranged by Manuel Komroff.

Marlene Dietrich as Catherine, with John Davis Lodge, Sam Jaffe (in his film debut), Louise Dresser, and C. Aubrey SmithDietrich's daughter Maria Riva plays Catherine as a child. This is the very last mainstream motion picture to be released before the Hays Code was strictly enforced. ( Hence the sexual overtones in the symbols)

The film is notable for its expressionist art design von Sternberg creates for the Russian palace. In film critic Robin Wood's words:

Rooted in both Expressionism and Surrealism, The Scarlet Empress is essentially “modernist,” far removed from even Hollywood’s notions of realism. Though von Sternberg insisted that the Imperial Palace set was historically authentic, he used it to create and sustain a hyperrealist atmosphere of nightmare with its gargoyles, its grotesque figures twisted into agonized contortions, its enormous doors that require a half-dozen women to close or open, its dark spaces and ominous shadows created by the flickerings of innumerable candles, its skeleton presiding over the royal wedding banquet table. And here, the sense of entrapment that connects most of the director’s personal work reaches its extreme of oppressiveness.

Josef von Sternberg  was an Austrian-American film director. He is particularly noted for his distinctive mise en scène, use of lighting and soft lens, and seven-film collaboration with actress Marlene Dietrich.


Dietrich's daughter Maria Riva plays Catherine as a child.

You can see the director's sense of art expressed by the Von Sternberg House which he had designed by the architect Richard Neutra a philosopher of Modernism in architecture. It was a single bedroom (servant bedrooms excluded) mini-mansion built in 1935 in Northridge, California, in the then-rural San Fernando Valley. It was demolished in 1972 to make way for a housing development.


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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Too Many Husbands & Wives Plots for Screwball Comedy

Too Many Husbands (released in the United Kingdom as My Two Husbands) is a 1940 romantic comedy film about a woman who loses her husband (Cardew) in a boating accident and remarries, only to have her first spouse reappear. The film starred Jean ArthurFred MacMurray and Melvyn Douglas. It is based on the 1919 play "Home and Beauty" by W. Somerset Maugham

My Favorite Wife (released in the U.K. as My Favourite Wifeis a film released less than two months later with a similar plot, but with the sexes reversed, with Cary Grant losing his first wife, Irene Dunne, in a boating accident and remarrying after seven years, only to find his first wife re-appear just as he's getting ready for his honeymoon night. It was produced and co-written by Leo McCarey and directed by Garson Kanin. The story is an adaptation of Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem "Enoch Arden"; in tribute, the main characters' last name is Arden. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best StoryBest Score and Best Art Direction by Van Nest Polglase and Mark-Lee Kirk.

20th Century Fox began filming a 1962 remake of My Favorite Wife starring Marilyn MonroeDean Martin, and Cyd Charisse under the working title of Something's Got to Give, which was to be directed by George Cukor.
It was Monroe's last work; from the beginning its production was disrupted by her personal troubles. Marilyn Monroe was fired for seldom showing up for shooting early in its production cycle, appearing in only about 30 minutes of usable film. 

Unable to complete the movie, and having already sunk a considerable amount of money into the production and sets, 20th Century Fox went ahead with the project, under a new title, new director, and recast stars. At first, they tried to continue with Lee Remick in Monroe's place, but Martin balked at working with anyone else and that version was never completed. Monroe was re-hired but died before she could resume filming. Doris Day and James Garner were eventually cast in the roles originated by Irene Dunne and Cary Grant in My Favorite WifeChuck Connors played the Randolph Scott role, replacing Tom Tryon, who'd been cast in the Monroe version. Following Monroe's death in August 1962, the new version was released by Fox as Move Over, Darling (1963).

In a scene from Move Over, Darling, the movie that Ellen ( Doris Day ) describes to Bianca while giving her a massage is My Favorite Wife.

Nine hours of largely unseen footage from the film remained in the vaults at 20th Century Fox until 1999, when it was digitally restored by Prometheus Entertainment and assembled into a 37-minute segment for the two-hour documentary, Marilyn: The Final Days. It first aired on American Movie Classics on June 1, 2001, which would have been Monroe's 75th birthday. It is available on DVD.

The Tom Hanks film Cast Away has a plot similarity: the lead character is marooned on an island for several years; on his return he finds that his girlfriend has given him up for dead and has married someone else.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Shop Around the Corner Inspires 2 Movie Remakes

 The Shop Around the Corner is a 1940 American romantic comedy film directed by Ernst Lubitsch, and starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. This film was ranked #28 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Passions. In 1999, The Shop Around the Corner was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". Set in and around a Budapest store, co-workers Klara Novak (Margaret Sullavan) and Alfred Kralik (James Stewart) hold an intense dislike for each other, while maintaining a secret letter-writing relationship, neither realizing who their pen-pal is.

The film spawned a 1949 musical remake, In the Good Old Summertime, which starred Judy Garland and Van Johnson in the title roles.

The plot element of two people who detest each other while having a romance by anonymous mail is used in the film You've Got Mail (1998) with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, in which one of the protagonists owns a bookstore named "The Shop Around The Corner."

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Charles Laughton & Elsa Lanchester Couple in Marriage and on Film

Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester

Elsa Lanchester met the actor Charles Laughton in 1927, and they were married two years later. Laughton's success in American films resulted in the couple moving to Hollywood, where Lanchester played small film roles. They appeared together in several films, including Rembrandt (1936), Tales of Manhattan (1942) and The Big Clock(1948). She wittily portrayed Anne of Cleves, Henry VIII's fourth wife, as a dumb-as-a-fox gamine opposite Laughton in The Private Life of Henry VIII. They both received Academy Award nominations for their performances in Witness for the Prosecution (1957)—Laughton for Best Actor, and Lanchester for Best Supporting Actress—but neither won.
In 1950, the couple became American citizens.

The Private Life of Henry VIII


Witness for the Prosecution

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Lucille Ball Queen of the Bs

Lucille Ball attended the John Murray Anderson School for the Dramatic Arts in New York City with fellow actress Bette Davis. Ball went home a few weeks later when drama coaches told her that she "had no future at all as a performer." Ball was determined to prove her teachers wrong, and returned to New York City in 1929, where she landed work as a model and later began her performing career on Broadway using the stage name Dianne Belmont. She had some success as the Chesterfield cigarette girl. After an uncredited stint as one of the Goldwyn Girls in Roman Scandals (1933) she permanently moved to Hollywood to appear in films. 

She appeared in many small movie roles in the 1930s as a contract player for RKO Radio PicturesShe was known in many Hollywood circles as "Queen of the B's"—a title previously held by Fay Wray—starring in a number of B-movies, such as 1939's Five Came BackBall was signed to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1940s, but she never achieved major stardom from her appearance in those films.

She appeared as Daisie Simms in a two-reel comedy short with the Three Stooges (Three Little Pigskins, 1934) and a movie with the Marx Brothers (Room Service, 1938). According to IMDb she appears as an uncredited "girl" at least twenty times in early 1930 films.
She can also be seen as one of the featured models in the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film Roberta (1935) and briefly as the flower girl in Top Hat (1935), as well as a brief supporting role at the beginning of Follow the Fleet (1936), another Astaire-Rogers film.
 Ginger Rogers was a distant maternal cousin of Ball's. She and Rogers played aspiring actresses in the hit film Stage Door (1937) co-starring Katharine Hepburn.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Goldwyn Girls

Early Goldwyn Girls
The Goldwyn Girls were a musical stock company of female dancers employed by Samuel Goldwyn
Famous actresses whose career included a stint in the Goldwyn Girls include Lucille BallPaulette GoddardBetty GrableAnn SothernJane WymanVirginia Bruce,Virginia GreyMary Meade, and Virginia Mayo.
Paulette Goddard
Lucille Ball

Jane Wyman
IMDb lists of actresses who were at one point in their careers Goldwyn Girls: Betty Alexander,Jean AllenGale AmberGloria AndersonLoretta AndrewsMary AshcraftConsuelo BakerLucille BallShirley BallardBonnie BannonJoan BarclayBetty BassettAmelia BatchelorVirginia BelmontIrene BentleyLynne BerkeleyDeannie BestDudone BlumierKarin BoothBarbara BrentMary BrewerLynn BrowningVirginia BruceJan BryantRuth CaldwellEdna CallahanMaxine CantwayMary Jane CareyBetty Cargyle,Alma CarrollJoyzelle CartierLynne CarverSue CaseyJoan ChaffeeShirley Chambers,Linda ChristianMary CoyleHazel CravenJean CroninVirginia CruzonHelen Darling,Jann DarlynMadelyn DarrowDoris DavenportLoretta DayeLorraine DeRomeMarjorie DeanneMyrna DellGloria DelsonMary Lou DixClaire DoddNadine DoreBetty DouglasDorothy DuganRuth EddingsJinx FalkenburgPatsy FarnumHelen Ferguson,Muriel FinleyPhyllis ForbesJudith FordKaren X. GaylordInna GestMary Ellen GleasonPaulette GoddardRenee GodfreyGail GoodsonBetty GrableAnne Graham,Jeanne GrayVirginia GreyMary GwynneRuth HaleEllen HallDonna HamiltonJane HamiltonCarol HaneyPatricia HarperJune HarrisEloise HartAlthea HenleyBetty-Joy HowardJean HowardKay HughesEleanor HuntleyMary Ann HydeAmo Ingraham,Janice JarrattElaine JohnsonJackie JordanVivian KeeferJane KeithleyHelen KimballJune KirbyDorothy KnappMargaret La MarrAdele LacyJune LangGeorgia LangeMary LangeRosalyn LeeJean LenivichGeorgia LerchVonne LesterCaryl LincolnShirley LloydBernice LorimerBetty LorraineFlorence LundeenNeva LynnNancy LyonJoyce MackenzieMae MadisonMickey MalloyChristine MapleVivian MathisonMichael MaureeVirginia MayoMary MeadeDorothy MerrittLorraine MillerLillian MolieriMartha MontgomeryRuth MoodyMary MooreJean MorganKay MorleyDiana MumbyNancy NashLee NugentDorothy PatrickPatricia PatrickShelby PayneBarbara Pepper,Wanda PerryFaye PierreNita PikeEdith RoarkeDonna Mae RobertsCharlotte RussellMarion SayersGail SheridanMary Simpson,Betty SlocumHyca SlocumAnn SothernKismi StefanMargie StewartBetty StocktonMarcia SweetHelen TalbotAnya TarandaEvelyn TerryLarri ThomasVirginia ThorpeBetty ThurstonRuth ValmyRicki Van DusenVicki VannTyra VaughnIrene VernonBlanca Vischer,Lynn WalkerAlice WallaceSandra WarnerSonia WarnerDorothy Coonan WellmanRenee WhitneyVirginia WicksChili WilliamsToby WingDiana WinslowHazel WitterHelen WoodMary Jane WoodsJane WymanAudrey YoungGloria Youngblood.

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