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 cecil b. demille (7)

Thursday
Jan212016

January 21

Peggy Lee dies of a heart attack in Los Angeles, 2002. Movie-wise, 1955 was a banner year for the singer/actress. She would receive critical acclaim—and eventually an Oscar nomination—as a boozy, washed-up jazz singer in Pete Kelly’s Blues. A month prior to that film’s release, audiences enjoyed a different side of Peggy Lee in Lady and the Tramp, Walt Disney’s animated romantic adventure about dogs from opposite ends of the social spectrum. With Sonny Burke, Lee wrote six songs for the film, including “He’s a Tramp” and “The Siamese Cat Song.” She also provided the voice of four characters, one of which was named after her. “Mamie Eisenhower was our First Lady at the time, and she always wore bangs,” Lee said. “The little dog has bangs and her name in the script was Mamie, so Walt was afraid someone might think we were being a little less than polite about the First Lady. That's why I have the honor of having the character named after me.” Besides Peg (formerly Mamie), Lee gave voice to Darling, the lady of the house who received Lady as a gift from her husband, and Si and Am, the fiendish Siamese cats. 

Cecil B. DeMille dies of a heart ailment in Hollywood, 1959. As a director, he was king of the biblical epics, such as The Ten Commandments (1923), The King of Kings (1927), The Crusades (1935)  and, again, The Ten Commandments (1956). Throughout his career he fully expected his performers to perform risky stunts, an attitude that ran counter to what actor Victor Mature was willing to do on the set of DeMille’s 1949 potboiler Samson and Delilah. Strong wind gusts during a battle scene saw a spooked Mature fleeing the set and heading for his dressing room. For the lion-killing scene, a tame, toothless beast was brought in to wrestle with the actor, who refused to go anywhere near it. In the finished film, a stuntman grapples with the big cat while close-ups show Mature manufacturing conflict with a lion pelt. "I have met a few men in my time,” DeMille remarked loudly for all cast and crew to hear. “Some have been afraid of heights, some have been afraid of water, some have been afraid of fire, some have been afraid of closed places. Some have even been afraid of open spaces—or themselves. But in all my thirty-five years of picture-making, Mr. Mature, I have not met a man who was 100% yellow."

Tuesday
Oct072014

Dual Yul

Yul Brynner steps out of his Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster to attend the premiere of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, which became the top grossing film of 1956. Another of Brynner’s releases that year, The King and I, would end up in fifth place on that list of top moneymakers and earn the actor the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Thursday
Jun052014

June 5

Natacha Rambova dies of a heart attack in Pasadena, California, 1966. She was defined by beauty, fashion and style, both in her physical appearance and her work in movies. Her first film was Cecil B. DeMille’s The Woman God Forgot (1917), for which she designed the costumes. She went on to design wardrobe for 14 more films and sets for eight of them, a list of movies that includes Aphrodite (1921), A Doll’s House (1923), Salomé (1923) and A Sainted Devil (1924).

Born Winifred Shaughnessy in Salt Lake City, Utah, Rambova is primarily known as the wife of screen heartthrob Rudolph Valentino, who she met on the set of Camille (1921). They eloped in 1922. In 1923, they remarried after it was discovered that Valentino’s divorce from his first wife, Jean Acker, wasn’t finalized. Rambova’s influence over Valentino’s career resulted in their involvement in what was to be his comeback vehicle, Monsieur Beaucaire (1924), an ill-fitting costume drama for the star that proved to be an enormous flop. Rambova and Valentino divorced in January 1926—just seven months before his untimely death from a ruptured stomach ulcer.

Tuesday
Feb252014

Berlinale 2014: The Cheat (1915)

A spoiled stockbroker’s wife (Fannie Ward) invests $10,000 in Red Cross funds in order to earn enough money to feed her insatiable appetite for spiffy gowns. She loses her shirt, of course, and borrows dough from wealthy Japanese ivory trader Tori (Sessue Hayakawa) in order to replace the kitty. Sex slavery, attempted murder and even the branding of human flesh result from these developments, and director Cecil B. DeMille stylishly navigates the script in ways that would allude his later, more pompous efforts. During the movie’s initial run, Hayakawa’s unsavory role aroused objections by the Japanese Association of Southern California and a 1918 re-release saw his character changed from a Japanese man named Tori to a Burmese man named Haka Arakau. For the Berlinale, the Library of Congress restored both the print and the Hayakawa character’s name and ethnicity.

Tuesday
Oct012013

Grauman's Chinese Theater: The Renovation

I first went to Grauman’s Chinese Theater in 1995 solely to see the inside of the place. The movie playing was Batman Forever (1995), a mess of a film by director Joel Schumacher that, sad to say, had me running for the hills an hour into it. Though I walked out of the screening, the theater itself did not disappoint.

Built by the architectural firm Meyer & Holler, the movie palace opened in May 1927 with Cecil B. DeMille’s The King of Kings. Owned by Sid Grauman, the venue came to be known for its Chinese décor as well as its forecourt featuring the hand- and footprints of the movie biz’s greatest players. Though ownership has changed over the years, from Ted Mann in 1973 to current owners TCL, a Chinese corporation, it will forever be Grauman’s in my nostalgic little mind. And although the quality of first-run movies has not always been the best, the showplace—an historic and cultural landmark since 1968—remained an elegant and grand location for special screenings, film festivals and premiers.

Last April at the Chinese, prior to the Turner Classic Movies festival screening of The General (1926), TCM host Robert Osborne announced to those in attendance the temporary closing of the famed venue due to summer construction that would convert the space into an IMAX theater with stadium seating. The auditorium filled with a chorus of boos. It was perhaps a natural response from classic cinema lovers, those history-minded folks who not only adore old movies and support their preservation, but revere the temples in which these pictures were first shown. Grauman’s Chinese Theater is arguably the most famous of these, and it was with great trepidation that I entered the theater on September 20 for the 3-D screening of The Wizard of Oz (1939) at the newly renovated space.

Besides the rake of the floor, I am happy to report that little has changed: The décor has not been touched, the new seating blends in nicely with the existing design, the chairs are comfortable, eyelines are good. They even added to the lobby a nifty little display of costumes and artifacts from classic films. (And I happen to love that the curtained side aisles are still intact. If ever I wanted a long, narrow apartment with sloping floors, one of those aisles would be it.) Overall, it was a alarmingly respectful overlay of the IMAX/stadium-seating gimmick onto one of the most treasured theaters in existence.

Grauman's Chinese Theater auditorium, before renovation.

The auditorium during renovation.

The finished look.

A time-lapse video of construction.