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 david o. selznick (6)

Thursday
Jan072016

January 7

David O. Selznick writes a letter to Greta Garbo criticizing her decision to make Anna Karenina, 1935. At this point in her career, the actress could refuse to make any movie if the script was not to her liking, as was the case with the film Selznick wanted her to make instead—Dark Victory, written by Casey Robinson and slated to be directed by George Cukor, Garbo’s future director for Camille (1936) and Two-Faced Woman (1941). To bolster his argument, Selznick cited the lukewarm box office returns of two of Garbo’s recent features, Queen Christina (1933) and The Painted Veil (1934), along with a reluctance from proposed costar Fredric March to do any more costume pictures unless his studio ordered him to. In the end, Garbo got her way, and she and March made Anna Karenina (1935) while Bette Davis, four years later, headlined Dark Victory for director Edmund Goulding.

Trevor Howard dies of influenza and bronchitis in Bushey, England, 1988. The actor worked for director David Lean three times, the first in 1945 for Brief Encounter, his breakthrough. Based on Still Life, a one-act play by Noël Coward, the film delicately details the growing romance between a housewife and a doctor who meet by chance at a railway station. Of his costar, Howard remarked, “Celia Johnson was the best actress I've ever worked with. Beneath Celia's Women's Institute gentility there was a most lovable woman and a real trooper.” Howard went on to perform in Lean’s One Woman’s Story (1949), an underwhelming film that failed to find an audience. The actor’s last collaboration with the legendary director was Ryan’s Daughter (1970) playing Father Collins, a deeply influential figure throughout the Irish village that provides the setting for the story’s doomed romance. “Three hours was rather long for a trifling love story,” Howard said about the epic scale of the picture. Lean reportedly regretted that the actor was not young enough to portray Fielding in the director’s 1984 release, A Passage to India. James Fox ended up with the role.

Tuesday
Jul152014

Edna May Oliver

“With a horse face like mine, what else can I do but play comedy?” said Edna May Oliver about her unique looks, which were often parodied in Warner Bros. cartoons of the time. In feature films (not all of them comedies), she played a series of aunts, spinsters and spinster aunts, always infused with loving spirit and sharp wit. Though she made four-dozen pictures in her time, it is often the handful of literary adaptations in which she performed—originating from the inkwells of Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, Louisa May Alcott, Lewis Carroll and Charles Dickens—that audiences remember.

Essential Films

Laugh and Get Rich (1931)
Edna May Oliver elevates a mediocre film about a man named Joe Austin (Hugh Herbert) whose get-rich-quick schemes remarkably do not get him rich, to the consternation of his beleaguered-but-devoted wife Sarah (Oliver). A scene taking place at a society dance is the high point of this Gregory La Cava-directed comedy, which sees Joe and a somewhat tipsy Sarah dance a mad Virginia Reel.

The Penguin Pool Murder (1932)
Mystery writer Stuart Palmer created the character of Hildegarde Withers, an unmarried schoolteacher and amateur sleuth who helps solve the murder of a stockbroker whose body shows up in the penguin tank at the local aquarium. This would be the first outing for Oliver as Withers—she would go on to reprise her popular role in Murder on the Blackboard (1934) and Murder on a Honeymoon (1935).

David Copperfield (1935)
The actress plays Aunt Betsey, great aunt to the title character and none too keen on the male of the species, a sentiment she makes quite clear upon David’s birth. Eventually, she comes around and sends him down the road to a brighter future. 

A Tale of Two Cities (1935)
After David Copperfield, producer David O. Selznick released his second Dickens adaptation that same year, again featuring Edna May Oliver. This time, the actress plays Miss Pross, stern governess and friend to Lucie Manette (Elizabeth Allen), the female at the center of Dickens’s multi-layered tale of redemption and social justice set against the French Revolution.

Romeo and Juliet (1936)
For James Whale’s all-star film version of Show Boat (1936), the role of Parthy Ann Hawks was Oliver’s to lose. But instead of repeating her stage role in the Jerome Kern/ Oscar Hammerstein musical, she opted for the part of the Nurse opposite Norma Shearer’s Juliet in the only Shakespearean role Oliver performed.

Drums Along the Mohawk (1939)
Oscar recognized Oliver with a nomination for Best Supporting Actress when she played Widow McKlennar alongside Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert in director John Ford’s Revolutionary War drama. The actress would go on to make only two more pictures before her death in 1942 of an intestinal disorder.

Monday
Dec242012

Oscars 1946: Selznick's Folly

With Duel in the Sun, producer David O. Selznick aimed to equal or exceed the artistic and commercial achievement of Gone With the Wind seven years earlier. He spent more than $1 million to advertise the $7 million production and ran teaser ads 18 months prior to the film’s release. He missed the mark by a mile. The turgid tale concerns one Pearl Chaves (Jennifer Jones)—charmingly referred to as a “half-breed”—who shakes up a Texas family, including younger brother Jesse (Joseph Cotten) and older brother Lewton (Gregory Peck). The men battle over Pearl in a lengthy gunfight that climaxes the film, which also sees an overheated Peck and Jones shoot each other and expire together in a ridiculously erotic clinch. The epic, dubbed Lust in the Dust by industry wags, received Oscar nominations only for Jennifer Jones as Best Actress and Lillian Gish as Best Supporting Actress.

BEST PICTURE
The Best Years of Our Lives

BEST DIRECTOR
William Wyler, The Best Years of Our Lives

BEST ACTOR
Fredric March, The Best Years of Our Lives

BEST ACTRESS
Olivia de Havilland, To Each His Own

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Harold Russell, The Best Years of Our Lives

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Anne Baxter, The Razor’s Edge

Saturday
Dec172011

December 17

Jennifer Jones dies in Malibu, California, 2009. Born Phylis Isley, she married Robert Walker in 1939 while they were both struggling actors. Discovered that same year by David O. Selznick (who she would later marry), she was renamed Jennifer Jones and, in her third film, won the Best Actress Oscar for The Song of Bernadette (1943). She stayed in the spotlight with Since You Went Away (1944), Love Letters (1945), Cluny Brown (1946), Duel in the Sun (1946), Portrait of Jennie (1948) and Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955). After a dip in popularity, she made a comeback of sorts in The Towering Inferno (1974) and, in the early 1980s, bought the rights to Larry McMurtry’s Terms of Endearment with the intention to star in it. Considered too old by director James L. Brooks, the part instead went to Shirley MacLaine, who took home the Best Actress Oscar for the 1983 comedy/drama.

Saturday
Sep102011

Rebecca Screen Tests

"I want to make sure we have exhausted every possible means of getting Olivia de Havilland," David O. Selznick wrote on August 1, 1939, about casting the role of Mrs. de Winter in Rebecca (1940). In a letter to Daniel O'Shea, his chief aide, Selznick elaborated on the complexities of bringing about such a result: 1) Warner Bros. might not allow de Havilland to do it, 2) de Havilland was committed to film Raffles (1939) for Sam Goldwyn, and 3) Leland Hayward was de Havilland's agent at the time his wife, Margaret Sullavan, was being considered for Mrs. de Winter. Writes Selznick, "I don't think [Hayward] will do much about de Havilland while Sullavan is in the running, and if we spoke to him now about de Havilland he might think we were kidding about Sullavan." Another complication was de Havilland's hesitation about going after a role that her sister, Joan Fontaine, was up for. In all, more than 20 actress were tested for Mrs. de Winter. Laurence Olivier was selected as Maxim de Winter and pushed hard for Selznick to cast then-girlfriend Viven Leigh in the part.

Here are screen tests of Fontaine—who eventually won the role—and four of the actresses she was competing against. Comments are by David O. Selznick and taken from Rudy Behlmer's book, Memo from David O. Selznick.

"Most of the people in the studio who haven't studied the picture on its casting...were more enthusiastic about Margaret Sullavan than anyone else...Apparently, her voice and her personality are so appealing that they don't stop to think that there is practically not one scene in the picture the qualities of which would not be affected by casting Sullavan. Imagine Margaret Sullavan being pushed around by Mrs. Danvers, right up to the point of suicide! Imagine Margaret Sullavan wishing she were a woman of thirty in a long black dress!!"

"I feel Loretta Young is a very good bet, and that with a few good pictures, she is the logical successor to Joan Crawford—but we don't think she is right for Rebecca."

"[Vivien Leigh] doesn't seem at all right as to sincerety or age or innocence or any of the other factors which are essential to the story coming off at all...I am convinced that we would be better off making this picture with a girl who had no personality whatsoever and who was a bad actress but was right in type than we would be to cast it with Vivien."

"I had pretty well decided to forget [Joan Fontaine] for the role since I could't get anybody on the studio staff, excepting only Hal Kern, or anybody in the New York office, to agree with me that she was physically an ideal choice for the role and that, from a perfomance standpoint, she obviously (or, at least, so I thought) was the only one who seemed to know completely what the part was all about."

"I think [Anne Baxter] has more sincerety than Fontaine, and that she is much more touching, in the words of Cukor, in the scenes. I think she is a shade young, although it is entirely possible that this would turn into an advantage. She is ten times more difficult to photograph than Fontaine, and I think it is a little harder to understand Max de Winter marrying her than it would be for Fontaine."