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 gone with the wind (18)

Sunday
Jan242016

January 24

Gordon MacRae dies of oral cancer in Lincoln, Nebraska, 1986. The star of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! (1955) got a chance to headline another of their film musicals when Frank Sinatra walked off the set of Carousel (1956). The picture was to be shot in two different formats, CinemaScope and CinemaScope 55, requiring each scene to be shot twice. When Sinatra arrived on the set and learned of the situation, the actor left immediately, opening the door for MacRae to assume the part. "Some of my friends have jokingly accused me of sticking pins into an image of Frank Sinatra or exercising some other kind of voodoo charm to get him out of the role of Billy in Carousel so that I could inherit the role…His decision on this matter, however, was reached without assistance—mystic, telepathic or otherwise—from me.”

Raintree County has its first preview at Santa Barbara’s Granada Theater, 1957. As sometimes is the nature of these things, it was a bumpy night for the 187-minute Civil War saga, which afterwards underwent judicious editing to bring the running time down to 168 minutes and retakes to smooth out the story. To appease some exhibitors, a trim, 151-minute version was offered to allow for more showings during the day. In the end, the movie proved to be no Gone With the Wind, and audiences and critics failed to embrace the Elizabeth Taylor-Montgomery Clift vehicle. Location footage was shot in Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee and Louisiana, but a gussied-up western set on MGM’s Backlot #3 served as the town of Freehaven in the film. In the early 1970s, the backlot was demolished and replaced with a series of condominiums known as Raintree Estates.

Sunday
Feb012015

February 1

Hedda Hopper dies of double pneumonia in Hollywood, 1966. She began her show business career as an actress, first in bit parts, then more bit parts, then in teensy supporting roles before making cameo appearances as her Hollywood columnist self in Breakfast in Hollywood (1946), Sunset Blvd. (1950), Pepe (1960) and The Patsy (1964). Extravagant hats became her signature style as gossip became her driving force. “Nobody’s interested in sweetness and light,” Hopper once remarked, honing her acerbic style for two years on radio before landing a newspaper columnist gig in 1938. Like rival Louella Parsons, Hopper set out to report industry goings on with seemingly little concern about making friends. Among her enemies: Joan Bennett, who sent Hopper a skunk for Valentine’s Day; Spencer Tracy, who kicked her rump after she printed a blind item about him and Katharine Hepburn; Joseph Cotten, who pulled a chair out from under her after she wrote that the actor and Deanna Durbin were having an extramarital affair; and Michael Wilding, who successfully sued Hopper for libel after she insinuated a sexual relationship between Wilding and Stewart Granger.

Clark Gable is born in Cadiz, Ohio, 1901. “I discovered that Rhett was even harder to play than I had anticipated,” the Gone With the Wind actor said about his most famous role. “With so much of Scarlett preceding his entrance, Rhett’s scenes were all climaxes. There was a chance to build up to Scarlett, but Rhett represented drama and action every time he appeared. He didn’t figure in any of the battle scenes…he wasn’t in the toughest of the siege-of-Atlanta shots. What I was fighting for was to hold my own in the first half of the picture—which is all Viviens’s—because I felt that after the scene with the baby, Bonnie, Rhett could control the end of the film. That scene where Bonnie dies, and the scene where I strike Scarlett and she accidentally tumbles down stairs, thus losing her unborn child, were the two that worried me most.”

Thursday
Aug072014

Butterfly McQueen


On screen, she was sweet, daffy and slightly incompetent with a high-pitched, little-girl voice that set her apart—what a lamb might sound like if lambs could talk instead of bleat. Born Thelma McQueen, she was dubbed “Butterfly” after dancing the butterfly ballet in a 1935 stage production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The moniker stuck, and Thelma, who had always disliked her first name, eventually had it legally changed. She appeared in movies primarily from 1939 to 1947, at which point she retired, weary of playing stereotypes. A series of maids, servants and other small roles defined the career. A memorable turn in a monumental film immortalized the actress.

Essential Films
The Women (1939)
Movie audiences saw McQueen for the first time as Lulu, a department store sales assistant, in George Cukor’s opus about the modern female. She has little to do besides trade a few lines with Joan Crawford and Virginia Grey, and Grey’s character mouths a rather unfortunate remark based on Lulu’s race.

Gone With the Wind (1939)
Of all the secondary characters in this Civil War epic, the silly, thoughtless Prissy (McQueen) might be the most often quoted, simply for the line, “I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies.” Said McQueen decades after the film was released, “Now I am happy I did Gone With the Wind. I wasn't when I was 28, but it's part of black history. You have no idea how hard it is for black actors, but things change, things blossom in time.” 

Flame of Barbary Coast (1945)
Montana cowboy Duke Fergus (John Wayne) uses his poker winnings to buy a San Francisco casino and woo entertainer Ann “Flaxen” Tarry (Ann Dvorak). McQueen plays Beulah, Flaxen’s maid, in the first of two such roles she performed in 1945.

Mildred Pierce (1945)
Michael Curtiz’s meaty, irresistible film noir sees the title character (Joan Crawford) climbing the ladder from waitress to restaurant owner while dealing with her spectacularly spoiled daughter Veda (Ann Blythe). As Mildred’s success grows, she hires a maid named Lottie (McQueen), a role that was nothing new to McQueen or her fans. Nevertheless, it was a class production all the way and the actress brought her usual charm to the proceedings. Outside of Gone With the Wind, this is McQueen’s most critically acclaimed picture.

The Mosquito Coast (1986)
Peter Weir directed the film version of Paul Theroux’s novel about an obsessed inventor named Allie Fox (Harrison Ford) determined to build a new life in the Central American rainforest with his wife (Helen Mirren) and son (River Phoenix). McQueen plays Ma Kennywick, an eccentric lady living on Fox’s property. It would be her final screen appearance.

Tuesday
Apr222014

TCM Classic Film Festival 2014 Recap

The fifth annual Turner Classic Movies Classic Film Festival took place in Hollywood this month, with ever reliable hosts Robert Osborne and Ben Mankiewicz overseeing a program that included some 79 pictures, more than a dozen special talks and events, a fine array of celebrities and film scholars and thousands of fans willingly surrendering to the seductive power of a dark cinema.

Here, in brief, are our thoughts.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct082013

50 Unforgettable Movie Images: Part Two

Some artfully convey the scope of the plot’s spectacle. A few are intimate close-ups, revealing a surprise or two in gracefully conceived compositions. And some of the most striking images have simply emerged over time as distilled representations of the movies they are from. Here’s Part Two of our list of 50 favorites images from the movies. Most are famous. All are memorable.

Read Part One.

A giant ape battles fighter planes from atop the Empire State Building in King Kong (1933)
The genesis of Merian C. Cooper’s classic beauty-and-the-beast love story was a dream the producer/writer/director had about an attack on Manhattan by an oversized gorilla. The idea was developed further to include a skyscraper and fighter planes, and, from there, Cooper worked backwards to flesh out the story. In brief, a prickly, three-stories-tall simian dubbed King Kong meets a nice girl on a remote island and is corralled by explorers and shipped to the States, where he is presented as a moneymaking attraction. After breaking free and running amuck in the Big Apple, Kong takes his main squeeze to the top of the tallest building in town, where he is gunned down by none other than Merian C. Cooper playing a fighter pilot.

Ellie Andrews (Claudette Colbert) flashes her gam to hitch a ride in It Happened One Night (1934)
At first, Claudette Colbert refused to show her leg for the famous hitchhiking scene, prompting director Frank Capra to proceed using the shapely appendage of a body double. “That is not my leg!” Colbert remarked after seeing the shot, prompting a change of mind and more authentic exposure. The role, which Colbert reluctantly accepted for double the salary after five other actresses turned it down, won the actress her only Oscar.

Waltzing couples—men in black, women in white—provide stark contrast in motion in The Merry Widow (1934)
When viewing the extravagant dance sequence at the center of the film—and if one must traffic in twenty-dollar words—the term “terpsichorean chiaroscuro” comes to mind. It is a pulsating bit of kinetics, made up of more than 500 extras and in keeping with the opulence running throughout the Ernst Lubitsch-directed operetta. The sets included one thousand gas chandeliers that took two hours to light, and, for star Jeanette MacDonald’s gowns alone, costume designer Adrian had a dozen seamstresses toil for four months.

A Factory Worker (Charlie Chaplin) and A Gamin (Paulette Goddard) walk off down a lonesome road at the end of Modern Times (1936)
Though silent films were pretty much a thing of the past when Modern Times began filming in 1935, director Charlie Chaplin was none too keen on having his Little Tramp character speak. The film thus became the last major silent film of that period to come out of Hollywood. (Mel Brook’s Silent Movie and the Oscar-winning The Artist would emerge decades later—in 1976 and 2011, respectively—as throwbacks to the genre.) The Depression-era comedy, a commentary on the industrial age and its dire effects on the working class, saw the Chaplin character befriending Paulette Goddard’s down-on-her-luck orphan girl and generally struggling with modern life. The famous shot that ends the picture was filmed 44 miles north of Los Angeles on the Sierra Highway just outside of Agua Dulce, California.

Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) walks across a train yard filled with wounded and dying soldiers in Gone With the Wind (1939)
According to Val Lewton, what started out as a joke became an indelible image. Lewton—future producer of such B-movies as Cat People (1942), I Walked with a Zombie (1943) and The Body Snatcher (1945)—served as producer David O. Selznick’s story editor on Gone With the Wind and ended up writing a number of scenes for the film. One sequence in particular involved Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) going to look for Dr. Meade (Harry Davenport) at the Atlanta depot. For fun, Lewton added an elaborate, costly elevator shot that would follow Scarlett as she makes her way through hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers. To Lewton's surprise, Selznick loved it and called for it to be filmed, though, ever cost-conscious, the producer changed the 1,600 extras required for the scene to 800 extras and 800 dummies.

Monument Valley, featured in a number of John Ford-directed western, makes its auspicious debut in Stagecoach (1939)
Stagecoach was a movie of firsts for director John Ford. It was his first sound Western. It would mark the first of 14 occasions he worked with actor John Wayne. And it was the first time Monument Valley, located on the Arizona/Utah state line, was used for a filming location. It is the tale of a group of strangers on a stagecoach threatened by Geronimo and his Apache warriors. The choice of Monument Valley was the result of a campaign by one Harry Goulding, who had a trading post there. When he caught wind of a big-budget Western being planned, he headed to Hollywood armed with photos and pitched the site to Ford. The director liked it immediately and was further convinced to shoot at the remote location when he realized that the studio would be less likely to interfere. Once there, Ford was so enamored with the rugged scenery that he had the stagecoach travel across it three times in the course of the movie. Later, Ford would use it as a setting for My Darling Clementine (1946), Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Wagon Master (1950), Rio Grande (1950), The Searchers (1956), Sergeant Rutledge (1960) and Cheyenne Autumn (1964).

The enormous warehouse full of Charles Foster Kane’s items in Citizen Kane (1941)
The story begins with newspaper magnate Kane (Orson Welles) kicking the bucket, cuing his newsreel biography to unspool, with the narrator describing the man’s private palace. Included therein are “paintings, pictures, statues, the very stones of many another palace—a collection of everything so big it can never be catalogued or appraised, enough for ten museums—the loot of the world.” At movie’s end, after the man’s various personal and professional triumphs and setbacks, we get an idea of just what Kane has amassed over time as the camera pans over a seemingly endless collection of stuff, some of which headed straight for the incinerator.

Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and Captain Louis Renault (Claude Rains) take a walk across a wet tarmac at the end of Casablanca (1942)
The closing shot of two lone figures, officially at cross purposes but allied in spirit, was filmed without dialogue, yet it is the line added in post-production that makes their relationship a perfect marriage of two cynics, and the scene a potent union of sight and sound. “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” Rick (Humphrey Bogart) utters to Renault (Claude Rains). Producer Hal B. Wallis came up with it and, like so much of the dialogue that precedes it, the line has grown into an enduring part of our pop-culture lexicon. Though runway and airplane scenes were shot at Van Nuys (nee Metropolitan) Airport, the scenes involving the actors were filmed on soundstage Number 1 on the Warner Bros. lot.

Pina (Anna Magnani) is gunned down while chasing after a truck carrying her fiancé in Rome, Open City (1945)
Director Roberto Rossellini’s gritty World War II drama about occupied Rome is set in the world of resistance fighters and the Nazi forces set to quash their efforts. It proves a tragic backdrop for Pina (Anna Magnani), a widowed mother, Francesco (Francesco Grandjacquet), her neighbor and fiancé, and Giorgio (Marcello Pagliero), Francesco’s resistance-fighter friend. Rossellini employed German POWS to lend verisimilitude to the film, which is universally regarded as an early landmark of Italian neorealist cinema.

A shoot-out at an amusement park’s hall of mirrors involving Michael O’Hara (Orson Welles), Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) and Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloan) provides the climax of The Lady from Shanghai (1947).
Everett Sloan’s crutches were the idea of director Orson Welles as a way of disguising Sloan’s naturally awkward movements on camera. Regarding the final sequence—later referenced in Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)—Welles wished for it to be scoreless to ratchet up the tension, a preference overruled by the film’s studio, Columbia Pictures. The scene was among several trimmed by studio executives who balked at the movie’s 155-minute-long rough-cut.