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.


Entries in a star is born (8)

Monday
Mar142016

The Wilhelm Scream

A simple sound effect—a man's brief, agonizing cry while being attacked by an alligator—has become a Hollywood in-joke, a stock piece of audio for science fiction and western movies, a good luck charm for various filmmakers and has even inspired the name of a Massachusetts-based rock band.

The Wilhelm Scream, as the sound effect is known, was first used in the film Distant Drums (1951), which featured the aforementioned alligator attack (above). It is actually one of a series of six screams the movie’s sound department recorded with singer and actor Sheb Wooley at Warner Bros. Wooley’s distinctive “ah-AYE!-uh” was subsequently used for—and got its name from—The Charge at Feather River (1953), in which a character named Private Wilhelm is shot with an arrow.

The scream was used throughout the 1950s in westerns like The Command (1954), science fiction tales like Them! (1954), war movies like The Sea Chase (1955) and even a big-budget musical. In A Star is Born (1954), the scream is heard twice—in a screening room where studio head Oliver Niles (Charles Bickford) is watching a western and in “the production number to end all production numbers,” Judy Garland’s around-the-world song “Somewhere There’s a Someone.”

In later years, the audio effect was revived by sound designer Ben Burtt and used in Star Wars (1977), every Star Wars sequel and every Indiana Jones film. To date, the Wilhelm Scream has been heard in more than 200 movies and television shows.

Here’s a sampling of its use over the years.

Wednesday
Jan202016

January 20

Audrey Hepburn dies of cancer in Tolochenaz, Switzerland, 1993. “Playing the extroverted girl in Breakfast at Tiffany's was the hardest thing I ever did,” said the introverted actress about one of her most identifiable roles. The 1961 film, an adaptation of Truman Capote’s 1958 novella, is a portrait of a young Texas girl named Lula Mae Barnes who remakes herself as quirky Manhattan gadabout Holly Golightly, no stranger to café society, wealthy men and expensive presents. Jean Seberg, Kim Novak and Shirley MacLaine were considered for the role. When Novak and MacLaine turned it down, Marilyn Monroe (Capote’s choice) was cast with John Frankenheimer directing. Monroe left the project after her acting coach, Lee Strasberg, advised her not to do the film. Hepburn was then brought on board and Frankenheimer was replaced with Blake Edwards. Though the actress received a Golden Globe and Academy Award nomination for her performance, she considered herself miscast and felt insecure and self-conscious in the part, no more so than when Capote would pay a visit to the set.

Barbara Stanwyck dies of heart failure, lung disease and emphysema in Santa Monica, 1990. Among the names bandied about as the real-life inspiration for A Star is Born—the oft-told cinematic tale of an actress on the rise and her alcoholic, star-on-the-skids husband—you will find Colleen Moore and her alcoholic producer husband John McCormick. You might also hear that silent film star John Bowers, who committed suicide by drowning himself in the Pacific Ocean, or director Tom Forman, who shot himself through the heart, could have been the model for the Norman Maine character. To these names add Barbara Stanwyck and Frank Fay. In 1928, Stanwyck was a fresh face and a big hit in Burlesque, a Broadway production that costarred Fay, who she married on August 26 of that year. In short, she became a star in films while he flopped and drank to excess. They divorced in 1935 soon after an angry, inebriated Fay threw their adopted son in their swimming pool. Robert Taylor (above, with Stanwyck) was the next man in the actress’s life, a movie star in his own right who lived with Stanwyck for three years before they married on May 14, 1939. “The boy’s got a lot to learn, and I’ve got a lot to teach,” she remarked when asked about the four-year age difference between her and the younger Taylor. Though their marriage lasted for the twelve years, it got off to a questionable start when Taylor’s smothering mom insisted he spend his wedding night with her and not his wife.

Friday
Jan162015

Jack Carson

Jack Carson stood six-feet-two-inches tall, possessed the slick smile of a car salesman and—at a studio that employed such major talents as Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Olivia de Havilland and James Cagney—was arguably one of the best actors on the Warner Bros. lot. Attractive, but not movie-star handsome, Carson found supporting roles early on at RKO in films like Stage Door (1937) and Carefree (1938). He went to Warner Bros. in 1941, honing his craft opposite Cagney in The Strawberry Blonde (1941), de Havilland and Henry Fonda in The Male Animal (1942) and Edward G. Robinson in Larceny, Inc. (1942).

In the forties, Carson teamed with handsome tenor Dennis Morgan for a series of films that were Warner Bros.’s answer to Paramount’s Hope and Crosby Road pictures. If the two didn’t exactly set the world on fire, they nevertheless acquitted themselves well. Later that decade Carson helped usher Doris Day to movie stardom by costarring in her first three films. A body of strong dramatic work in high-profile projects rounded out his career. His first movie was You Only Live Once in 1937; his final film was King of the Roaring 20’s (sic) in 1961, two years before he died at age 52 of stomach and liver cancer. 

Essential Films

The Hard Way (1943) 
The part of struggling song-and-dance man Albert Runkel elevated Carson from comedic bits in lighthearted fare to a supporting role in a serious drama. The plot offered fairly enjoyable histrionics: Ida Lupino plays ambitious Helen Chernen, who schemes to get her and her sister Katie (Joan Leslie) out of their grungy steel-mill hometown by coercing her sister into a loveless marriage with Runkel. As Runkel’s stage act with partner Paul Collins (Dennis Morgan) dips in popularity, Katie’s stage career takes off. And so Runkel, borrowing a page from A Star is Born, decides to kill himself. The Hard Way earned solid reviews, especially for the cast, and propelled Carson to meatier roles.

Mildred Pierce (1945)
Its uncomplicated style, unexpected humor and irresistible mother-daughter conflict made Mildred Pierce a film noir milestone and offered further proof of Jack Carson’s talent. Not merely a secondary character to protagonist Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford), Wally Fay (Carson) was also Mildred’s friend, real estate agent, financial advisor, legal advisor—he even introduced her to her second husband. And, in his relentless romantic pursuit of her, Wally provided Mildred with an abundant and handy source of personal validation, should she ever need it. Wally Fay was a supporting role in every sense, and it gave Carson the best reviews of his career. 

Romance on the High Seas (1948)
Jack Carson was right by Doris Day’s side the moment she became a movie star. Audiences loved her in Romance on the High Seas, a story about jealous spouses, mistaken identity and a South American cruise, but Bosley Crowther of The New York Times was unimpressed. “It is hard to work up enthusiasm for the Warners' new starlet, Doris Day,” the film critic wrote. “Maybe the Warners figured they had a new Betty Hutton in her but, even without other assets, she still lacks Miss Hutton's vital style. Also Miss Day's singing voice, while adequate to such night-club tunes as ‘I'm in Love,’ ‘You or No One’ and ‘It's Magic,’ is nothing to herald.” Somehow Day dodged Crowther’s arrows and survived, making her next two pictures with good luck charm Jack Carson and, by some accounts, enjoying a brief romance with her burly costar.

A Star is Born (1954)
In Judy Garland’s comeback vehicle, Carson played to perfection that singular show biz animal, the studio press agent. In this, George Cukor’s musical remake of the 1937 drama, it is a creature frequently found between a rock—what’s good for business—and a hard place—an unpredictable and self-destructive celebrity. As Matt Libby, Carson is cynical, diplomatic when called for, devoid of sympathy and, when it’s safe, quite cruel. Libby is a man of hard edges, and Carson played it like an actor who didn’t give a damn about audience affection. It was one of his strongest performances.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Jack Carson, in his last significant movie role, joined a handful of screen heavyweights and got to speak the words of one of America’s most famous playwrights. As the wonderfully named Gooper Pollitt, the genetically improbable brother of Paul Newman, Carson appeared alongside Elizabeth Taylor, Judith Anderson and Burl Ives in Tennessee Williams’s tale of a southern family grappling their way through a birthday gathering at the family plantation. It’s the kind of sexually heightened, psychological shoutfest at which Williams excels, and the results are fascinating to watch. It would be the actor’s last significant movie role.

Tuesday
Aug132013

Design in Film: The Modern House

It is not rare for movie characters to inspire profound envy. Impeccable dress, a smart job, a monied existence in an exciting locale—all are fodder for audience members' covetous feelings. Not the least among such film elements are where a character lives, be it the sprawling Xanadu of Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) in Citizen Kane (1941) or the cramped-but-charming Parisian garret of painter Jerry Mulligan (Gene Kelly) in An American in Paris (1951). Here are some of our favorite cinematic abodes. For reasons of brevity—and sanity—we narrowed our focus to modern homes of the 20th century (and a few from the 21st). Most of them actually exist; a few are fake constructs. But all are domiciles many of us would like to call home, or at least pay a visit to. Here, in eight short minutes, are 37 stylish houses as seen in 39 movies.

 

 
Monday
Dec032012

100 Great Closing Lines

Last lines of movies can be prose or poetry—neat little wrap-ups, baffling enigmas, witty punch lines, weighty morals, desperate pleas and wicked surprises. And they can be a tricky, delicate thing to pull off. The lasting impression of a movie that is merely very good can be greatly elevated by a killer coda; conversely, a stinker exit can sour an otherwise satisfying night at the theater. Here are a hundred of the better ones—final sentiments that rank as our favorites, from the intertitle of a 1927 silent science fiction film to a rare spoken line from 2011’s (mostly) silent Oscar winner.

“Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.”
Walsh (Joe Mantell)
Chinatown (1974)

“I’m not even gonna swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They’ll see. They’ll see and they’ll know and they’ll say ‘Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly.’”
Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)
Psycho (1960)

“I now pronounce you men and wives.”
Reverand Elcott (Ian Wolfe)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

“Happy the man and happy he alone, he who can call today his own, he who is secure within can say: Tomorrow do thy worst! For I have lived today.”
Narrator (Micheál Mac Liammóir)
Tom Jones (1963)

“How’d you like to make yourself a thousand dollars a day, Mr. Boot? I’m a thousand-dollar-a-day newspaperman. You can have me for nothing.”
Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas)
Ace in the Hole (1951)

“Where ya headed, cowboy?”
“Nowhere special.”
“Nowhere special…I always wanted to go there.”
“Come on.”
Jim (Gene Wilder) and Bart (Cleavon Little)
Blazing Saddles (1974)

“What do we do now?”
Bill McKay (Robert Redford)
The Candidate (1972)

“How shall I make out the report on him, Captain?”
“Better make it ‘dead on arrival.’”
D.O.A. (1950)

“Goodbye, Mary Poppins. Don’t stay away too long.”
Bert (Dick Van Dyke)
Mary Poppins (1964)

“There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”
Narrator (Mark Hellinger)
The Naked City (1948)

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