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.

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.

Our look at the Texas actor’s 43-year film career, including an ill-advised Oscar campaign. 

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.

Twenty-five cool photos reveal what goes on outside of movie camera range.

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.

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.

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.


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.

Aliens and mutants take center stage in twenty-five spectacular movie posters from the 1950s.

Our list of ten must-see films—ten artful depictions of the human condition—by one of the world’s most influential directors.

Accomplished directors from the past 50 years talk about their triumphs and challenges in bringing a story to the big screen.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

We select three movie musicals we deeply wish the sunny singer/actress would have made.

Twelve examples of what made the late actor such an enduring movie star.

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.

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 giant (7)


Chill Wills

His voice was his fortune, an unusually resonant instrument compounded with a Texas drawl that made him a natural for westerns. He was discovered by an RKO executive, who saw him perform with his musical group, Chill Wills and His Avalon Boys, at the Trocadero in Hollywood. His first movie, It’s a Gift (1934), came soon afterwards and kicked off a 43-year film career defined by numerous cowboy roles, a recurring, high profile voice-over gig and an ill-advised campaign for an Academy Award. 

Essential Films

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Though an ensemble piece, the Vincente Minnelli-directed family sage can be seen as having two central characters: Esther Smith (Judy Garland) and her little sister Tootie (Margaret O’Brien). Esther’s journey is to eventually get engaged in the last reel to the fellow she pines for in the first. Tootie’s is more geographic than emotional: she is first seen riding the neighborhood ice wagon and ends up in a carriage heading for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. To usher Tootie into the movie and—by way of a brief, casual conversation—establish her rather ghoulish nature, Chill Wills is on hand as Mr. Neely the Ice Man, discussing with Tootie, among other things, the various fatal diseases afflicting her dolls.

Francis (1950)
Second Lieutenant Peter Stirling (Donald O’Connor) is saved from a series of tough spots by his buddy, a talking army mule named Francis, and continually sent to the looney bin because he insists his four-legged friend can talk. Francis is the first of six Francis the Talking Mule movies starring O’Connor and Chill Wills, who gives the jackass an engagingly sarcastic, cynical personality.

Giant (1956)
Edna Ferber’s ambitious tale of a Texas ranching family came to the big screen in 1956 with A-list talent that included director George Stevens and actors Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean, Dennis Hopper, Mercedes McCambridge, Jane Withers, Sal Mineo and Carroll Baker. In the midst of all of this is Chill Wills playing Uncle Bawley. He doesn’t have much to do but look concerned as the main characters go through their power struggles and emotional setbacks. But he looks mighty authentic doing it.

The Alamo (1960)
Chill Wills gave one of the best-received performances of his career in director/star John Wayne’s epic about Davy Crockett and the historic Texas battle against Mexican troops. Playing Beekeeper, one of Crockett’s fellow Tennesseans, Wills received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He then proceeded to ruin any chance in hell of winning when he became the subject of a rather overblown campaign for the golden statuette. An ad that appeared in Variety stated that the cast of The Alamo was praying harder for Chill Wills to win than the defenders of the Alamo prayed for their lives before the actual battle. Wayne was so turned off by the ad’s poor taste that he felt compelled to issue a public apology. Another ad that quoted Wills as saying “Win, lose or draw, you're all my cousins and I love you” elicited the following response from Academy member Groucho Marx: “Dear Mr. Chill Wills, I am delighted to be your cousin but I voted for Sal Mineo." In the end, Peter Ustinov took home the Oscar for his performance in Spartacus (1960).

McClintock! (1963)
John Wayne stars as G.W. McLintock in this likeable western comedy about a cattle baron with a host of problems, including pesky land grabbers and the return of his estranged wife Katherine Gilhooley McLintock (Maureen O’Hara). Wills plays Drago, G.W.’s right-hand man, whose remembrances of things past soften the heretofore cantankerous Katherine. In the end, Katherine and G.W. reach a truce, and any resemblance to The Taming of the Shrew is purely intentional.


March 22

Mike Todd is killed in a plane crash near Grants, New Mexico, 1958. Though he was a producer of 17 Broadway shows, husband to Joan Blondell and lover of Gypsy Rose Lee, he is primarily known for three things. One is Todd-AO, a widescreen 70mm format for motion pictures born from his frustration with the three-panel Cinerama he was helping develop. Todd-AO made its debut with Oklahoma! (1955) and was used throughout the 1960s. In 1956, Todd produced the epic Around the World in 80 Days (filmed in Todd-AO, naturally), a box office hit that eclipsed Friendly Persuasion, Giant, The King and I and The Ten Commandments to receive the Oscar for Best Picture. And, in 1957, Todd became Elizabeth Taylor’s third husband, and the only one not to divorce her. On the day of the crash, Taylor intended to board The Liz, as Todd’s plane was known, but she was talked out of it by her husband and otherwise grounded by a bad cold. A combination of blizzard conditions, engine failure and a too-heavy load caused the plane to lose control and crash, killing Todd, the pilot, the co-pilot and Art Cohn, Todd’s biographer.


May 17

Dennis Hopper is born in Dodge City, Kansas, 1936. He emerged on the silver screen in 1954 in Johnny Guitar and soon thereafter made a number of films that became classics: Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Giant (1956) and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). Hopper, never a shrinking violet, had this to say about his early days in Hollywood: “In the ‘50s, when me and Natalie Wood and James Dean and Nick Adams and Tony Perkins suddenly arrived…God, it was a whole group of us that sort of felt like that earlier group—the John Barrymores, Errol Flynns, Sinatras, Clifts—were a little farther out than we were. So we tried to emulate that lifestyle. For instance, once Natalie and I decided we'd have an orgy. And Natalie says, "Okay, but we have to have a champagne bath." So we filled the bathtub full of champagne. Natalie takes off her clothes, sits down in the champagne, and starts screaming. We take her to the emergency hospital. That was our orgy, you understand?”


George Stevens on Giant (1956)

The original script of Giant was by Ivan Moffat, myself and Fred Guiol. It was based on Edna Ferber’s novel and was 370 pages. I talked with Edna and she liked the script very much, saying “You know, I wrote this book twice already, and wanted to write it a third time and fill it out. But I think you’ve done it with the screenplay.” This was a surprise assessment from a lady whose novel we were massacring, After finishing the script I made a deal with Warner Bros. to make the film there. Then Freddie and I sat down and worked on cutting the script. We cut it from 370 pages to 250 pages. I think we got it down to 240 pages.

The film runs three hours and nineteen minutes and was made to be screened with an intermission. We had worked on the cut to move it along as fast as possible, but I didn’t see how we could keep an audience sitting there for that amount of time without an intermission. The end of the first act is when Jett Rink’s oil well comes in, and he arrives in his old rickety truck and confronts his rich friends on the porch, salutes Bick Benedict’s wife and gets punched on the chin for his trouble and then hits Bick. It was a good act ending: strong and with promise because things were difficult. The next act started with the oil wells coming in. When we first screened it, we found that somehow or other the pace of the picture meant we could get away without an intermission, and we knew we had to run the picture that way. I would have predicted disaster for Giant, because when you have an intermission, people go out and talk about it; then they’re anxious to go back in and see the rest of it, and it’s not much of a burden on them. But the picture went straight through, and it’s always been run that way. The picture did extremely well; it had far more audience than any Warner Bros. picture ever had.

The structural development, I believe, is what saves it. It has an excellent structure design, which has to do with the audience anticipating and looking some distance ahead all the way to the finish, which is a reversal on how this kind of story would normally end—in which the hero is heroic. Here the hero is beaten, but his gal likes him. It’s the first time she’s ever really respected him because he’s developed a kind of humility—not instinctive, but beaten into him.


March 8

George Stevens dies of a heart attack in Lancaster, California, 1975. The director of Gunga Din (1939), The More the Merrier (1943) and Giant (1956) made one of his most lauded films in 1949, the drama A Place in the Sun, based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy. Released in 1951, the movie starred Montgomery Clift as George Eastman, a blue collar joe with a pregnant wife (Shelley Winters), who becomes part of an upscale world that includes the beautiful Angela Vickers (Elizabeth Taylor). “In A Place in the Sun, I was interested in the mood and emotional effect of the story,” Stevens (above, on the set) explained in a 1973 interview. “I wanted the audience to relate to a character whose behavior it might not subscribe to. To bring that about, one must let the audience see his desire. They have to know his need for that thing that, even accidentally, traps him. So how do you do those things? Cinema, at its most effective, is one scene effectively superseded by the next. Isn’t that it? The hatchet on the rope and the guillotine falls in the next cut. We have our electricity that creates a current that blows through a film. When I cut the film, I became more and more conscious of the value of one scene against another, and how this spelled something out. I wanted to edit the film in a way that meant more than the addition of one scene to another, I wanted a kind of energy to flow through. What really interested me was the relationship of images, from this one to that. Shelley Winters busting at the seams with sloppy melted ice cream in a brass bed, as against Elizabeth Taylor in a white gown with blue balloons floating from the sky. Automatically that’s an imbalance, and by imbalance you create drama. I’m interested in knowing—as visually as it can be stated—what’s on this boy’s mind.”