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 an american in paris (7)

Sunday
Jun142015

June 14

Alan Jay Lerner dies of lung cancer in New York City, 1986. The lyricist/librettist was often professionally tethered to Austrian-born composter Frederick Loewe (foreground, with Lerner), with whom he composed some of Broadway’s biggest hits—many which made it to the big screen. Success on Broadway earned him three Tony Awards—two for 1956’s My Fair Lady and one for the 1973 production of Gigi. Success in Hollywood earned him three Oscars—one for An American in Paris (1951) and two for Gigi (1958). And, in his personal life, his eight marriages put him in the same company as Hollywood heavyweights Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor and Lana Turner. One of his longest pairings was with Sunset Blvd. (1950) actress Nancy Olson, who he wed in 1950 and divorced in 1957. “All I can say,” wrote Lerner in his autobiography, “is that if I had no flair for marriage, I also had no flair for bachelorhood.” 

Wednesday
May272015

Oscar Levant

“A musical is a series of catastrophes ending with a floor show.”
— Oscar Levant,
composer, pianist and movie musical sidekick featured in such toe-tappers as Rhapsody in Blue (1945), An American in Paris (1951) and The Band Wagon (1953)

Friday
Apr122013

April 12

Arthur Freed dies of a heart attack in Los Angeles, 1973. The musicals he produced at MGM became the gold standard for the genre: Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), On the Town (1949), An American in Paris (1951), The Band Wagon (1953). In the early 1950s, he commissioned screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green to build a story around a collection of songs lyricist Freed had written with frequent collaborator and composer, Nacio Herb Brown. Operating on the thin guidance that, at some point in the story, someone would be singing and it would be raining, Comden and Green slowly and agonizingly crafted a plot about the movie business—the advent of talking pictures and how it affected the studios and its players. What resulted is often cited as the cream of the crop of Arthur Freed musicals in particular and movies in general, and, on April 11, 1952, Singin’ in the Rain debuted…to not bad reviews and fairly okay box office.

Wednesday
Jan092013

Oscars 1951: Bogey's Drink of Choice

By the time The African Queen was released in 1951, star Humphrey Bogart had been making movies for 23 years and had been Oscar nominated just once, for Casablanca (1942). “He had never felt people in the town liked him much,” wife Lauren Bacall wrote years later. That was not the case with his characterization of scrappy, hard-drinking riverboat captain Charlie Allnut, which earned Bogart great reviews, healthy box office and enthusiastic acclaim from the Academy. During filming in the Congo, Bogart and director John Huston famously chose liquor over drinking water, thus avoiding the dysentery that plagued costar Katharine Hepburn. "All I ate was baked beans, canned asparagus, and Scotch whisky,” Bogart said of his time in Africa. “Whenever a fly bit Huston or me, it dropped dead." On the night of the awards, Greer Garson called Bogart up to the podium to accept his Best Actor trophy. “My wife let out a scream when my name was called,” the actor said. “She jumped four feet and almost had a miscarriage.”

BEST PICTURE
An American in Paris

BEST DIRECTOR
George Stevens, A Place in the Sun

BEST ACTOR
Humphrey Bogart, The African Queen

BEST ACTRESS
Vivien Leigh, A Streetcar Named Desire

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Karl Malden, A Streetcar Named Desire

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Kim Hunter, A Streetcar Named Desire

Friday
Jan042013

"The Girl Hunt Ballet"

Ballet sequences seem to pop up with certain regularity in musicals of the ‘40s and ‘50s. They are not a formal ballet to speak of. Typically, they represent an amalgam of ballet, jazz, modern dance and various other styles, usually taking place inside the head of one of the characters. Oklahoma! is a famous example, with Agnes de Mille’s original stage choreography for “Laurey’s Dream Ballet” transferred intact from Broadway to Fred Zinnemann’s 1955 film version. Many of the best ones have Gene Kelly’s name is attached them: “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” from Word and Music (1948), “A Day in New York” from On the Town (1949), “An American in Paris” from An American in Paris (1951) and “Broadway Rhythm Ballet” from Singin’ in the Rain (1952).

Fred Astaire, Kelly’s friendly rival at MGM, had a plum ballet sequence of his own in The Band Wagon (1953), a film showcasing the music of Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz about a group of performers involved with a troubled stage musical. The piece is called “The Girl Hunt Ballet,” the finale of the film and a triumphant indicator that the show-within-the-movie is now a hit.

Originally, Betty Comden and Adolph Green had written a song for the ending called “The Private Eye,” an attempt at a murder-mystery ballet that, in spite of being a non-Schwartz-and-Dietz composition, was proving unworkable in terms of staging and orchestration.

“The Girl Hunt Ballet” took as its inspiration a Life magazine article on Mickey Spillane, the prolific author of pulp fiction crime novels. The creative team got to work, crafting a tale set in the Spillane-like urban underworld of tough-guy criminals, duplicitous dames and hard-boiled private dicks.

Schwartz sent MGM’s music arranger Roger Edens some themes for him to work with, while Mary Ann Nyberg set about creating the stylized costumes: dapper suits for guys; slinky gowns for dolls. Preston Ames and Oliver Smith, working under Cedric Gibbon’s authority, created the minimal, expressionist sets, which included a city street, a dress salon, a subway platform, a fire escape, a woman’s bathroom and a jazzy nightspot.

Choreographer Michael Kidd was a little nervous about how Fred Astaire would react to Kidd’s more avant-garde movements and thus worked out the routines after Fred had left for the day, but ultimately Astaire grew keen on the idea of doing something new. Kidd’s daring is most evident in the Dem Bones segment of “The Girl Hunt Ballet”—each patron entering the bebop joint with their own unique gait, which Astaire assimilates, and Astaire’s unconventional, sexually charged dance duet with Cyd Charisse.

Finally, director Vincente Minnelli felt the ballet needed narration and called upon lyricist Alan Jay Lerner to write it. No wanting to step on the toes of the film’s official writers, Comden and Greene, Lerner agreed to it on the conditions that he not be paid and that Minnelli claim to have written it himself.

Here's a look at the entire 12-minute number.