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 debbie reynolds (6)

Wednesday
Apr012015

April 1

Lionel Barrymore signs for the role of Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946. Vincent Price, Raymond Massey, Thomas Mitchell, Charles Bickford, Victor Jory, Edward Arnold, Edgar Buchanan, Dan Duryea and Louis Calhern were reportedly among the actors considered for the role of the unscrupulous banker in director Frank Capra’s much-revered and now-inescapable holiday classic. But Barrymore became an easy choice for two reasons: a vivid performance as Ebenezer Scrooge in a recent radio broadcast of A Christmas Carol plus prior experience working with Capra on You Can’t Take It With You (1938). Barrymore was able to convince James Stewart, who hadn’t made a movie since he had returned from World War II, that it was time to get back in front of the cameras to play George Bailey, the film’s central character. Thomas Mitchell was eventually cast as Uncle Billy.

Debbie Reynolds is born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas, 1932. “Daddy had got us rooms in a motel until he could find us a house,” the actress recalled about the family’s move to the California coast. “There were not a lot of places available for a young family on our budget. Daddy went around to dozens of places. Nobody wanted kids. Finally, he found one in the hills south of Glendale. As usual, the landlady asked if he had kids. ‘Yep,’ he replied. 'A boy and a girl.' 'Well, what are you going to do about them?' she wanted to know, implying that she didn't allow children. 'I'm going to take 'em out and drown them in the Los Angeles River and come back tomorrow.' That was my father—ask a silly question and just wait. She must have had the same sense of humor; we moved in the next day.”

Reynolds’s entry in the 1948 Miss Burbank contest has oft been told—she entered mainly to receive the silk scarf, blouse and free lunch every contestant received. She went on to win the damn thing and was noticed by a Warner Bros. talent scout: A screen test, studio contract and new first name ensued. Though their family church opposed it, both Reynolds's parents supported Debbie’s foray into show business. Her father thought a job in entertainment would pay for college tuition, while her mother made sure that her movie projects were completely wholesome endeavors.

Thursday
Feb262015

February 26

Rear Window completes filming, 1954. In a deviation from the original script, director Alfred Hitchcock decided to confine all the movie’s scenes to the apartment of L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries and its back courtyard. It was a move that relegated costar Gig Young’s face to the cutting room floor. At the time, Young had made 32 feature films and made strong impressions in a number of supporting roles, most notably in 1951’s Come Fill the Cup, for which he received an Oscar nomination. In Rear Window, James Stewart was cast as Jeff, a photojournalist with a broken leg, and Young was cast as Jeff’s editor. In the beginning of the film, a conversation between the two establishes Jeff’s success at his job as well as his boredom and frustration at being confined to his apartment for six weeks. Originally, the scene was scripted to take place in the editor’s office. When it came time to shoot, Hitchcock moved it to the exterior of Jeff’s apartment. In the finished film, it becomes a phone conversation in Jeff’s apartment using Young’s audio from the filmed scene. 

Tony Randall is born Ira Leonard Rosenberg in Tulsa, Oklahoma, 1920. His film roles were mostly comic, starring opposite Jayne Mansfield in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1957) and Debbie Reynolds in The Mating Game (1959). Then came the film roles for which he is perhaps best remembered, providing crack support to Doris Day and Rock Hudson in the three movies they made together: Pillow Talk (1959), Lover Come Back (1961) and Send Me No Flowers (1964). “Comedy's a serious business,” the actor once remarked. “You've got to be true and funny and not look as though you're trying.”

Thursday
Feb052015

February 5

Thelma Ritter dies of a heart attack in New York, 1969. She had a small but memorable role as a beleaguered Christmas shopper in Miracle on 34th Street (1947), her film debut. From there, she became regularly employed and oft-nominated, receiving six Oscar nods (and no wins) for Best Supporting Actress for the films All About Eve (1950), The Mating Season (1951), With a Song in My Heart (1953), Pickup on South Street (1953), Pillow Talk (1959) and Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).

In the early 1960s, Ritter appeared in two features that strangely echoed each other. The Second Time Around, a comedy-western about a New York widow having to work as an Arizona farmhand, was released to theaters on December 22, 1961. A year later, How the West Was Won, a Cinerama production about the settling of the American West as seen through the eyes of two families, premiered (oddly enough) in London. In both films, Ritter played almost identical types and acted opposite Debbie Reynolds. And, in both films, her character was named Aggie.

Charlotte Rampling is born in Sturmer, England, 1946. From her first film, The Knack…and How to Get It (1965), to later successes like Swimming Pool (2003), she has never been less than terrific. She was Lynn Redgrave’s sharp-edged flatmate in Georgy Girl (1966), a sadomasochistic concentration camp survivor in The Night Porter (1974) and a treacherous mate for Paul Newman in The Verdict (1982). But it is her performance as the emotionally complex Dorrie in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories that is my favorite.

The movie, about filmmaker Sandy Bates (Allen) who rather begrudgingly endures a film festival of his work and the fans it attracts, is to Federico Fellini what Allen’s Interiors (1978) was to Ingmar Bergman—direct beneficiaries of the legendary directors’ themes and visual styles. "She was just right for that part.” Allen once said. “I mean, she is so beautiful and so sexy and so interesting. She has an interesting neurotic quality." The actress was similarly laudatory towards her director, calling him “brilliant at creating entertaining reality, opening up closed doors and exposing monsters."

One scene involving Rampling stands apart: Dorrie, in a psychiatric hospital, gets a visit from Bates and talks directly to the camera in a series of jump cuts shot in extreme close-up. It is a Jean-Luc Godard moment in a sea of Fellini, a nod to Breathless (1960) in Woody’s own private 8 1/2 (1963).

Here's the scene:

Sunday
May112014

Happy Mother's Day!

It’s been 100 years since President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation that made Mother’s Day, an American celebration developed by one Anna Jarvis in 1908, a national holiday. In honor of dear old mom—and for the sheer heck of it—we thought we would corral a handful of films with “mother” in the title. Though one of the mothers is actually a male ambulance driver, the rest fall safely under the category of Family Matriarch. Here’s our list.

Bachelor Mother (1939)
Ginger Rogers stars as Polly Parrish, a department store clerk who finds a baby on a doorstep and tries to convince friends and coworkers that it isn’t hers. New York Times critic Frank S. Nugent called it “one of the season’s gayest shows…[O]ut of nowhere, like Polly’s’ baby, a merry comedy has come tripping, all new and brightly shining and full of the most unexpected nonsense.”

Mother Wore Tights (1947)
Betty Grable and Dan Dailey made four movies together, and Mother Wore Tights, a musical tale of a vaudeville family, was one of their best received. Peppered with such tunes as “M-O-T-H-E-R,” “Burlington Bertie from Bow” and “Daddy, You’ve Been a Mother to Me,” the picture was reported to be Grable’s favorite of all of her films.

Mother, Jugs and Speed (1976)
Bill Cosby plays Mother, an ambulance driver who doesn’t play by the rules. Harvey Keitel plays Speed, a police officer who also doesn’t play by the rules, as a suspension from the force for possible drug dealing would suggest. And, after a worldwide search for an actress to play Jugs, a buxom secretary, the producers decided to make do with mousy little Raquel Welch. Peter Yates directed the uneven black comedy, which couldn’t have less to do with motherhood.

‘night, Mother (1986)
The mother-daughter tug of war begins when Jessie Cates (Sissy Spacek) bids her mother Thelma (Anne Bancroft) goodnight and casually mentions her intent to kill herself before dawn. Marsha Norman’s Broadway play starred Kathy Bates and Anne Pitoniak, earned a slew of Tony Award nominations, ran for the better part of a year and nabbed the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The film, though generally well reviewed, made considerably less of a splash, opening in a mere 35 theaters at its widest release and receiving no Oscar nominations.

Mother (1996)
Albert Brooks wrote, directed and starred in this comedy about an adult son moving back in with his mom in order to gain insight into his personal relationships. To play the mother, some very famous names were bandied about, including Doris Day, Kathryn Grayson and Esther Williams. Nancy Reagan allegedly entertained the notion, but did not want to leave her ailing husband’s side. And so it was offered to the mother of Brooks’s good friend Carrie Fisher, Debbie Reynolds, who happily accepted. Many Oscar predictors had her pegged for a Best Actress nomination for her funny, subtle performance. It was, however, the year of three perceived snubs, and Reynolds was left out in the cold with Courtney Love (for The People vs. Larry Flynt) and Madonna (for Evita).

All About My Mother (1999)
Cecilia Roth plays a single mother whose son dies while trying to get an actress’s autograph, which in turn leads her to Barcelona to find the boy’s biological father. And that’s just the beginning of a complex, multi-character comedy-drama that explores love, death, friendship, accidental pregnancy, transvestites and the theater. The Pedro Almodovar picture—his 14th feature-length movie—went on to receive the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

Wednesday
Aug282013

"Would You" from Singin' in the Rain

Singin’ in the Rain, that 1952 bundle of joy and color and music, is often hailed as one of the greatest films ever made, and is so littered with terrific song and dance routines that selecting a favorite can be a daunting task. Donald O’Connor’s athletic “Make ‘Em Laugh” number is indeed comic gold. “Fit as a Fiddle” and “Moses Supposes” showcase the hoofing brilliance of O’Connor and the film’s male lead, Gene Kelly. “All I Do is Dream of You” is deliriously happy, marked by vibrant pink-and-gold chorine outfits, colored streamers and a nifty Charleston dance. “Good Morning” is so catchy it can turn average citizens into singers. And, of course, the title number is a monument to great movie moments, the celluloid equivalent of a bronze statue in the town square.

And yet the musical interlude I always marvel at is a demure little waltz called “Would You,” sung by Betty Noyes (dubbing for Debbie Reynolds, above) and, briefly, Jean Hagen. As a stand-alone, the song—with music by Nacio Herb Brown and lyrics by Arthur Freed—is nice, but unremarkable. What the filmmakers have done with it, however, is use it to deftly move the plot along, touching briefly upon the growing romance between the two leads and sweeping us through the process of moviemaking.

It begins with Kathy Selden (Reynolds) singing “Would You” in a recording studio, with Cosmo Brown (O’Connor) directing the orchestra. The camera pans to reveal Don Lockwood (Kelly) gazing lovingly upon Selden, his discovery. The scene dissolves to a close-up of a record player and the musically challenged Lina Lamont (Hagen) learning the song, with her vocal coach and sound technicians looking on. From there, the sequence takes us to the filming of a period picture with Lamont lip-synching the tune to Lockwood. Gradually, the color is drained from the scene and we are in the studio screening room, watching a black-and-white version of it projected for Lockwood, Brown and studio head R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell). It is one minute and 46 seconds of total cinema, gracefully nestled in a film that is all about the motion picture industry.

Here’s a look at the song as it appears in the film.