REEFER TRILOGY
Three overwrought cautionary tales from the 1930s examine the perils of smoking marijuana in polite society.

DESIGN IN FILM: THE MODERN HOUSEAn eight-minute video montage of modern homes—real and fake—as seen on the silver screen.

BEHIND THE SCENES
Twenty-five cool photos reveal what goes on outside of movie camera range.

SILENT SURVIVORS
Our list of at least a dozen silent film performers that are happily still with us.

70MMThirty visually stunning films that illustrate the grandeur of large-format filmmaking.

12 GREAT MOVIE SONGSElvis, The Beatles and The Supremes join our list of favorite movie themes of the 1960s.

WILHELM SCREAMWe trace the history of one of the most famous and beloved sound effects in movies.

LOST HORIZONA dud receives its due as we explore the elements that made this 1973 musical so preposterously memorable.

GREAT CLOSING LINES
One hundred films whose final words of dialogue make indelible lasting impressions.

25 GREAT SILENT MOVIE POSTERSOur selection of artwork from the early days of motion pictures that expertly illustrate the tone and tale of the films they represent.

RAVES AND RASPBERRIES We select some choice bits from reviews by the late Roger Ebert.

ERROL FLYNN GETS WHACKEDThe actor recalls an unforgettable moment with Bette Davis on the set of The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex.

CINEMATIC RIDESTen films where carnival attractions add to the plot and give their protagonists a cheap thrill.

20 DIRECTORS / 20 FILMSSome of the world’s best moviemakers from Hollywood’s Golden Era provide a behind-the-scenes look at their creations.

LOS ANGELES IN THE 1920SVintage clips offer a look at famous boulevards, studios, theaters, eateries and more.

BILLY WILDEROur favorite lines of dialogue from the Oscar-winning writer/director.

WOODY ALLENChoice lines of dialogue, from Take the Money and Run to Midnight in Paris.

KATHARINE HEPBURNTen authoritative moments when Kate's movie character speaks her mind.

UFA MOVIE POSTERSA look at the early one sheets from the longest standing film studio in Germany.

THE LANGUAGE OF NOIRWe celebrate tough talk from the best of Hollywood’s gritty crime dramas.

HELICOPTER OVER HOLLYWOOD

Aerial shots of Hollywood in 1958 includes Griffith Observatory, Grauman’s Chinese Theater and major studios.

AMERICAWe celebrate one of the most exuberant dance numbers committed to film, a thrilling showcase for freakishly talented folks with music in their bones.

HOLLYWOOD POSTCARDSTen vintage postcards revealing the glories of Southern California's movie mecca.

MAJOR FILMS, MINOR GAFFESTwenty-five mistakes in some of the greatest movies ever made.

NEBRASKANSA look at some of the memorable talentsfrom Astaire to Zanuck—to come from the Cornhusker State.

GEORGE GERSHWINTen classic songs as seen on the silver screen.

GREAT ENDINGSA memorable tussle in Death Valley caps Erich von Stroheim’s broken classic.

10 GREAT POSTERSOur look at striking works of art that just happen to sell movie tickets.

MUST READMGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot provides a fascinating look at a lost treasure.

IN THE COOL, COOL, COOL OF THE EVENINGJane Wyman and Bing Crosby charm with the Oscar-winning song from Here Comes the Groom (1951).

PLUNDER ROADFilm noir at its best—and most economical. No backstory, a lean look and just 72 minutes long.

W.C. FIELDSTen of his most memorable character names.

MOVIE MOMENTS THAT MAKE LIFE WORTH LIVINGOur collection of ten little moments of breathtaking beauty, expert craftsmanship and happy accidents that rank as our favorites.

CEDRIC GIBBONS
We take a good look at the work of MGM’s legendary art director.

JOHN QUALENFive of our favorite performances from the character actor’s lengthy career.

NOT STARRING DORIS DAY
We select three movie musicals we deeply wish the sunny singer/actress would have made.

MICKEY ROONEY’S BEST
Twelve examples of what made the late actor such an enduring movie star.

SPRING SPRING SPRING”
We take a closer look and listen at Johnny Mercer’s witty ditty about the coming of the season.

PUBLICITY PHOTOS
Ten artful, playful and downright silly shots from some of the most famous movies in existence.

JEFFREY HUNTERWe tip our hat to the underrated (and very pretty) actor best known for going toe-to-toe with John Wayne in The Searchers and hanging on the cross in Nicholas Ray’s King of Kings.

STARS ON STARS: 30 CANDID OPINIONSA collection of favorite quotes from movie folk discussing their peers.

ELVIS PRESLEYFive essential films for the Elvis movie fan.

BILL GOLD’S MOVIE POSTERSOur salute to the legendary graphic artist, including 25 of his posters for some of the most famous movies ever made.

BEAUTIFUL MENFilm giants Cary Grant and his ilk will have to wait. Here we look at ten not-so-obvious choices—actors blessed with incredible good looks, if not legendary status.

BEAUTIFUL WOMENTen of the most physically stunning females to grace the silver screen.

FOOTBALLFive classic films where gridiron shenanigans drive the plot. 

THE 43 FACES OF JOHNNY DEPPWe review the wide variety of characters the actor has played, from early teenager roles to larger-than-life eccentrics.

FRED ASTAIREFive lively numbers from the peerless hoofer.

THE ROAD TO HELEN LAWSONJudy Garland, Susan Hayward and the bumpy road Valley of the Dolls producers experienced in casting an important role in a truly lousy film.

 AMERICAN LANDMARKS ON FILM From the Empire State Building to the Golden Gate Bridge, we take a look at ten famous sights that added drama to the movies.

THE GIRL HUNT BALLETWe revisit the stylish Fred Astaire dream ballet from The Band Wagon (1953).

IOWA FILMS & STARSTen contributions the Hawkeye State has made to motion picture history.

SCREEN TESTSAudition footage from Monroe, Dean, Brando and others.

FOX THEATEROur fond look back at one of San Francisco’s grandest movie palaces.

AUTOBIOGRAPHIESTen great titles penned by industry legends.

THE BAND WAGONNanette Fabray recalls a glaring mistake in the 1953 classic musical.

TRIGGERWe celebrate the life and somewhat creepy afterlife of Roy Rogers's favorite mount.

CHARACTERS: AGNES GOOCHPeggy Cass's memorable turn as a plain Jane coaxed into living a little in Auntie Mame (1958).

DESIGNS ON FILMA handsome volume by author and designer Cathy Whitlock chronicles the history of Hollywood set design.

REBECCAFive screen tests for Hitchock’s 1940 classic, with comments by David O. Selznick.

AL HIRSCHFELDWe select our ten favorite movie posters by the famed caricaturist.

CHARACTERS: BABY ROSALIEIn a daffy send-up of Shirley Temple, June Preisser plays an aging child star in MGM's let's-put-on-a-show musical, Babes in Arms (1939).

OSCARS RECAP
Twelve observations about the event that was, from a diva’s pipes to how Ellen mastered the ceremonies.

PRESTON STURGESSnippets of dialogue from six of the writer/director’s best films.

ANSELMO BALLESTEROur gallery of ten striking one sheets from the Italian poster artist.

GREAT MOVIESCelebrating the cool jazz short, Jammin’ the Blues (1944).

BETTY HUTTONTwelve films that exemplify the charms of this freakishly energetic performer.

JOSEPH L. MANKIEWICZSmart dialogue from the Oscar-winning screenwriter.

BESTSELLERS

A dozen books that became publishing phenomena and, at times, well-made and popular films.


DESERT NOIROur report from this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs.

DIAMOND SETTINGSWe take a look at five of our favorite baseball movies of the ‘40s and ‘50s.

RED DREAM FACTORYWe profile eight films from a unique Russian-German film studio of the twenties and thirties.


Wednesday
Oct292014

Sydney Pollack on Tootsie (1982)

You can sometimes use improvisation to solve a writing problem, and sometimes an acting problem. The party scene near the start was scripted, but it never worked and eventually everyone gave up trying to fix it. Elaine May said, “You’ll just have to throw a party.” You can’t make it real on paper. So I called an ex-student of mine to bring his acting class to the set for the party scene. The only person who literally improvised was Bill Murray. You can’t write that stuff. What I did was make a list of what had to happen in the scene. To Dustin and Bill I said, “What are your obligations here?” What do I, as a director, want the audience to know by the end of the scene?

One of the things, for example, is that Michael’s roommate is a playwright who is so esoteric that his work is essentially unsalable, and that Michael is going to try to raise eight thousand dollars and produce his play. Another is that Michael has to be established as a chauvinist. This is a guy in his mid-forties; he’s unmarried and lives with a roommate. He is incapable of treating women with any respect. This was important because it works against the change that happens by the end of the story. I went back to the spine of a man who becomes a better man for having been a woman. I wanted to set that up at the party and show how that character was not entirely wholesome. By the end of the film, we see how he’s changed. We wanted to start him out as far away as possible from where we wanted him to end up. One of the ways was to show him dealing ineptly and caringly with a baby, and then we had him make passes at three different women using the same line with each of them.

I began to visualize the scene in two sets of three beats. Dustin and Bill have three beats each. The whole structure of the party is a series of intercuts between the two of them. For Bill I needed a table of people that slowly deserts him. I asked him, “Can you make up something that sounds dangerously close to being profound but is actually nonsense?” He said, “Sure, I can do that.” I didn’t know what he was going to say. With Bill Murray what you see in the film is the first take every time. The extras in the scene didn’t know it was meant to be nonsense. I didn’t tell them. Take one he says, “I wish I had a theater that was only opens when it rains.” As soon as take one was over, I told some of the extras to step out of the shot. I added some more empty beer bottles, messed up his hair, unbuttoned his shirt, and he was ready for the next take with “I don’t like it when people come up to me and say they liked my play.” The third is, “I did a thing about suicides of American Indians.” With Dustin it was as simple as telling him to say the same thing to each girl: “You’re an actress?”

Excerpt from The Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation, compiled and edited by George Stevens, Jr. 

Monday
Oct272014

Hal Roach

“I've seen Cary Grant sit and watch those kids for half an hour at a time and marvel at their ability to convey an idea. They were natural little actors. Farina (Allen Hoskins) could cry big tears in twenty seconds. You'd think his heart was breaking. And one moment later he'd be back playing again. They were a special kind of child. Today you'd have to have a contest to find one like them. They talked and acted exactly like children really do. And that's what made Our Gang so popular.”
— Producer Hal Roach on the success of his Our Gang short films

Monday
Oct272014

It's a Witch, It's a Clown, It's...Joan Crawford!

If you ignore the paper holiday cutouts, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Joan Crawford, with her polka dotted hat and ridiculously oversized bow, is all dressed up and ready for the circus. And frankly, even with the Halloween visuals in this photo, taken for the October 1933 issue of The Rexall Magazine, we’re still not sure what she’s supposed to be. But we are reasonably frightened.

Saturday
Oct252014

Robert Altman on Gosford Park (2001)

Bob Balaban has been a friend of mine for many years. He’s sort of a Renaissance man. He’s an actor, a director, a producer. He does everything, and he and I were talking one day. He said, “I wish we could do something together. Could my company develop something for you?” And I said, “Well, I’ve never done a whodunit.” I’m not very original. I mean, I’ll take a genre that’s comfortable and then go in a just kind of tilt it a bit. Bob said, “What do you mean?” I said, “You know, the big house and the people coming to shoot pheasants, and there’s a murder and the like.” We started describing the film as Ten Little Indians meets Rules of the Game, and then got Julian Fellowes to write a script. The next thing I know we’re shooting it.

I used two cameras almost all the time except when the room was so small we couldn’t get two cameras in. I arbitrarily had them moving with no particular purpose. That wasn’t new. I lifted it from myself, from The Long Goodbye where the camera was always moving without purpose. I did it in Gosford Park because these wonderful English period films like Brideshead Revisited or the Merchant-Ivory films are so formal and their speech is so precise. I thought, “You know, I don’t believe that’s the way people really behaved.” I just wanted to make it sloppy. I didn’t want to have nice formal two-shots and singles and that sort of thing, so we just kept the camera moving.

The standard thing with a film like this is a guy sitting watching television who gets up to go open a beer, and then comes back and he says, “Did she kill him yet?” He knows he’ll be shown the important stuff in close-up three times. But I wanted to put the audience on notice, right off the bat, that they have to pay attention or they’re going to miss something. Some of the punch lines are done on the backs of people when they’re leaving the room, like Maggie Smith when she says, “I haven’t got a snobbish bone in my body.”

The more people I had in the scene, the easier it was for me to orchestrate, because all those actors could take care of themselves. We’d say, “Everybody just get in the room and go where you think you would be,” and they’d just start moving. The more of that kind of thing I had to do, the more of it was done for me by the actors and the easier it was.

We have created this film in a way that if you like it, you really have to go back and see it again and you’ll see a different film. Once you know all of the mandatory things about who did it or who didn’t do it, it becomes not so much a whodunit as a why-didn’t-they-do-it-earlier. Or who-cares-who-did-it. I just really wanted the audience to have to turn their necks and work rather than serving it all up for you.

Excerpt from The Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation, compiled and edited by George Stevens, Jr. 

Wednesday
Oct222014

Arthur Penn on The Miracle Worker (1962)

United Artists was very anxious that Elizabeth Taylor play the lead in The Miracle Worker because she’d expressed considerable interest in the role. Fred Coe, Anne Bancroft, Bill Gibson and I had all worked together on Broadway on Two for the Seesaw, which had then been purchased from under us and made into a very bad film, so we decided we weren’t going to let that happen again. We wanted Anne to do the film of The Miracle Worker. We greeted United Artists with this fact after they’d purchase the rights to the play and they were deeply chagrined.

After months of negotiation we hadn’t given in, but consequently the project was regarded as a risky film by the studio and the cash given to us very tight. When indeed we did exceed this modest budget—$1,300,000, with $200,000 of that to purchase the play in the first place—by even a slight margin, the excess came out of our salaries. We ended up with half a salary. Now, the salaries weren’t bad to begin with, but we ended up with $37,500 each. This is a film that one would think has been a successful and moneymaking picture. But it’s only in the past few months that we’ve gotten back the remainder of our salaries. So I would say these are clearly rather stringent conditions under which to work.

The man is hanging over your shoulder, and if you want to get this or that shot then you’re going to pay for it yourself. It gets to hurt when you realize you can get a better shot but you’re going to have to lay out all the bread for it yourself.

Excerpt from The Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation, compiled and edited by George Stevens, Jr.