BUTTERFLY MCQUEEN
Her roles were largely stereotypical, yet her charm and goofiness made her memorable. Here’s a look at her work beyond Gone With the Wind.

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

KEYE LUKE
An examination of the lengthy career of the Chinese-American character actor, from Charlie Chan to Woody Allen.

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

CHILL WILLS
Our look at the Texas actor’s 43-year film career, including an ill-advised Oscar campaign. 

MARGARET HAMILTON
A look at the professional life of an actress who proved to be much more than just the Wicked Witch of the West.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

OUTER SPACE HORROR
Aliens and mutants take center stage in twenty-five spectacular movie posters from the 1950s.

INGMAR BERGMAN
Our list of ten must-see films—ten artful depictions of the human condition—by one of the world’s most influential directors.

10 DIRECTORS / 10 FILMS 
Accomplished directors from the past 50 years talk about their triumphs and challenges in bringing a story to the big screen.

JACK CARSON
We single out five films that display the talent and range of the Warner Bros. character actor.

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

BILLIE BURKE
Five films that best represent the fluttery voiced character actress’s charms.

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

BESTSELLERS

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


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

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.

EDNA MAY OLIVER
A tribute to a character actress who’s made aunts and spinsters her specialty.

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

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.

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.

ELVIS PRESLEYFive essential films for the Elvis movie fan.

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

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.

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.

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).

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.

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

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


Wednesday
Jan272016

January 27

Sabu is born in Karapur, Mysore, India, 1924. At age 12, the elephant stable boy attracted the attention of director Robert J. Flaherty, who cast him in the title role in Elephant Boy (1937). A natural in front of the camera, Sabu was quickly awarded a contract with Alexander Korda and grew popular in the forties with the films The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and Jungle Book (1942). His acting influence even stretched to a movie he wasn’t actually in. For Gunga Din, director George Stevens wanted Sabu for the pivotal title role, an idea quashed when Korda refused to loan him out for the 1939 RKO release. The part instead went to Sam Jaffe (an actor 33 years older than Sabu), who was well aware of Stevens’s first choice. Jaffe’s audition was an exercise in channeling the Indian youngster, with Jaffe’s mantra during the shoot becoming, “Think Sabu.”

Donna Reed is born in Denison, Iowa, 1921. She projected wholesomeness and Midwestern good sense in film after film until she was cast against type in From Here to Eternity (1953), playing a prostitute who romances Montgomery Clift (above, with Reed). If her character was a little too refined, blame the Hays Office, who kept a sharp eye on screenwriter Daniel Taradash’s adaptation of James Jones’s racy, robust novel. Like many spicy tomes of the times, the book was considered unfilmable, and Taradash, assigned to scrub up the story for polite audiences, reached a creative impasse. The breakthrough came while he was under the influence of a local anesthetic for a sore tooth he experienced during a drive through the southern United States. In the end, Taradash delivered a script that simultaneously retained the power of the book and appeased the censors. On Oscar night, From Here to Eternity won eight awards, including Best Picture, Fred Zinnemann for Best Director, Frank Sinatra for Best Supporting Actor, Taradash for Best Writing and—as one of the loveliest whores on the silver screen—Donna Reed for Best Supporting Actress.

Tuesday
Jan262016

January 26

Edward G. Robinson dies of cancer in Los Angeles, 1973. The actor was done a serious disservice in Trumbo (2015), a biopic of famed blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, which depicted Robinson (Michael Stuhbarg) naming names before the House Un-American Activities Committee. It all began when California State Senator Jack Tenney, Chairman of that state’s Fact Finding Committee on Un-American Activities, claimed that Robinson was “frequently involved in Communist fronts and causes” and had him investigated. In reality, the actor ended up testifying four times in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee, but, unlike what happens in Trumbo, Robinson never singled out any colleague as belonging to the Communist party.

Paul Newman is born in Shaker Heights, Ohio, 1925. His big acting break came in 1953 in the Broadway play Picnic, first as a minor player and understudy before taking over the lead role of Hal Carter, the drifter who arrives in a small Kansas town to look up his old college buddy. Newman’s first movie came a year later, an inauspicious beginning that the actor spent the rest of his life making fun of. “After the success of Picnic, I had a lot of offers from Hollywood and I never accepted any of them,” Newman said. “Finally, my agent said, ‘You know, they're going to keep knocking on your door and knocking on your door and at some point they're going to stop. So you better make sure you say 'Yes' before that stop occurs.’ That was when somebody sent me a copy of The Silver Chalice and I got talked into it. I knew that was going to be a bomb.” So embarrassed was the actor by the film, a costume epic about a Greek artisan selected to create the holy grail, that before it was broadcast on television in 1966, Newman took out an ad in Variety and apologized to the world for his performance.

“That I survived the first film I did was extraordinarily good fortune,” the actor said. “I mean, I had dogs chasing me down the street. I was wearing this tiny little Greek cocktail dress—with my legs! Good Lord, it was really bad. In fact, it was the worst film made in the 1950s. My first review said that ‘Mr. Newman delivers his lines with the emotional fervor of a Putnam stop conductor announcing local stop.’” During a home screening with friends, Newman handed out wooden spoons, pots, whistles and other noisemakers for his guests to audibly register their critical reactions. “I started my career giving a clinic in bad acting in the film The Silver Chalice and now I'm playing a crusty old man who's an animated automobile [In Cars (2006],” Newman remarked about the release of his final feature film. “That's a creative arc for you, isn't it?”

Monday
Jan252016

January 25

The Shop Around the Corner premiers at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, 1940. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, the film centers on two incompatible employees of Budapest’s Matuschek & Company unknowingly carrying on a pen pal romance with each other. Margaret Sullavan plays the female lead, with Lubitsch casting James Stewart opposite her, considering him "the antithesis of the old-time matinee idol; he holds his public by his very lack of a handsome face or suave manner." At the premier, Lubitsch said, "I have known just such a little shop in Budapest...The feeling between the boss and those who work for him is pretty much the same the world over, it seems to me. Everyone is afraid of losing his job and everyone knows how little human worries can affect his job. If the boss has a touch of dyspepsia, better be careful not to step on his toes; when things have gone well with him, the whole staff reflects his good humor."

Polly Moran dies of a heart ailment in Los Angeles, 1952. The former vaudevillian and Mack Sennett bathing beauty struck gold in 1927 when she teamed up with Marie Dressler (above right, with Moran) for a series of MGM comedies, beginning with The Callahans and the Murphys. That picture was followed by Bringing Up Father (1928), Chasing Rainbows (1930), Caught Short (1930), Reducing (1931), Politics (1931) and Prosperity (1932), with Dressler’s death in 1934 slowing down Moran’s career considerably. She worked sporadically in her later years, most memorably as a successful businesswoman on the witness stand in Adam’s Rib (1949). "I worked in the picture two days before I got a look at myself,” she remarked at the time. “I never went back."

Sunday
Jan242016

January 24

Gordon MacRae dies of oral cancer in Lincoln, Nebraska, 1986. The star of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (1955) got a chance to headline another of their film musicals when Frank Sinatra walked off the set of Carousel (1956). The picture was to be shot in two different formats, CinemaScope and CinemaScope 55, requiring each scene to be shot twice. When Sinatra arrived on the set and learned of the situation, the actor left immediately, opening the door for MacRae to assume the part. "Some of my friends have jokingly accused me of sticking pins into an image of Frank Sinatra or exercising some other kind of voodoo charm to get him out of the role of Billy in Carousel so that I could inherit the role…His decision on this matter, however, was reached without assistance—mystic, telepathic or otherwise—from me.”

Raintree County has its first preview at Santa Barbara’s Granada Theater, 1957. As sometimes is the nature of these things, it was a bumpy night for the 187-minute Civil War saga, which afterwards underwent judicious editing to bring the running time down to 168 minutes and retakes to smooth out the story. To appease some exhibitors, a trim, 151-minute version was offered to allow for more showings during the day. In the end, the movie proved to be no Gone With the Wind, and audiences and critics failed to embrace the Elizabeth Taylor-Montgomery Clift vehicle. Location footage was shot in Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana, but a gussied-up western set on MGM’s Backlot #3 served as the town of Freehaven in the film. In the early 1970s, the backlot was demolished and replaced with a series of condominiums known as Raintree Estates.

Saturday
Jan232016

January 23

Randolph Scott is born in Orange County, Virginia, 1898. He and Cary Grant became close friends on the set of Hot Saturday (1932) and remained so until Grant’s death in 1986. Early in their careers, they shared a beach house in Santa Monica dubbed “Bachelor Hall,” giving rise to rumors—neither verified nor fully debunked—of a romantic attraction between the two. They were slated to appear together again in Spawn of the North (1938), an adventure about salmon fishing, but were replaced by Henry Fonda and George Raft when speculation about the men’s relationship made Paramount executives nervous. Scott would make one more film with Grant, My Favorite Wife (1940), which saw the men playing rivals for Irene Dunne’s affections.

Paul Robeson dies of complications from a stroke in Philadelphia, 1976. He was a star Rutgers football player, a singer, a stage actor, a civil rights activist and—though he made only a dozen feature films—a movie star. His first picture, Body and Soul (1925), was a middling effort, but two movies are noteworthy for capturing his most successful stage performances on film. The first was The Emperor Jones (1933), a reprise of his role in the 1924 Provincetown Players production of the Eugene O’Neill play. To Robeson’s disappointment, the play was radically reworked for the screen, with 30 minutes of additional material and a mere 45 minutes left from the original work. Show Boat (1936) fared much better, with a faithful screen version of the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein musical that neatly spotlighted Robeson’s performance of Joe, the deckhand, and his signature song “Ol’ Man River.” The song “Ah Still Suits Me,” performed by Robeson and costar Hattie McDaniel, was added to give the actor more screen time.

Here’s a look at both numbers:

 

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