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 mildred pierce (4)

Friday
Jan162015

Jack Carson

Jack Carson stood six-feet-two-inches tall, possessed the slick smile of a car salesman and—at a studio that employed such major talents as Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Olivia de Havilland and James Cagney—was arguably one of the best actors on the Warner Bros. lot. Attractive, but not movie-star handsome, Carson found supporting roles early on at RKO in films like Stage Door (1937) and Carefree (1938). He went to Warner Bros. in 1941, honing his craft opposite Cagney in The Strawberry Blonde (1941), de Havilland and Henry Fonda in The Male Animal (1942) and Edward G. Robinson in Larceny, Inc. (1942).

In the forties, Carson teamed with handsome tenor Dennis Morgan for a series of films that were Warner Bros.’s answer to Paramount’s Hope and Crosby Road pictures. If the two didn’t exactly set the world on fire, they nevertheless acquitted themselves well. Later that decade Carson helped usher Doris Day to movie stardom by costarring in her first three films. A body of strong dramatic work in high-profile projects rounded out his career. His first movie was You Only Live Once in 1937; his final film was King of the Roaring 20’s (sic) in 1961, two years before he died at age 52 of stomach and liver cancer. 

Essential Films

The Hard Way (1943) 
The part of struggling song-and-dance man Albert Runkel elevated Carson from comedic bits in lighthearted fare to a supporting role in a serious drama. The plot offered fairly enjoyable histrionics: Ida Lupino plays ambitious Helen Chernen, who schemes to get her and her sister Katie (Joan Leslie) out of their grungy steel-mill hometown by coercing her sister into a loveless marriage with Runkel. As Runkel’s stage act with partner Paul Collins (Dennis Morgan) dips in popularity, Katie’s stage career takes off. And so Runkel, borrowing a page from A Star is Born, decides to kill himself. The Hard Way earned solid reviews, especially for the cast, and propelled Carson to meatier roles.

Mildred Pierce (1945)
Its uncomplicated style, unexpected humor and irresistible mother-daughter conflict made Mildred Pierce a film noir milestone and offered further proof of Jack Carson’s talent. Not merely a secondary character to protagonist Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford), Wally Fay (Carson) was also Mildred’s friend, real estate agent, financial advisor, legal advisor—he even introduced her to her second husband. And, in his relentless romantic pursuit of her, Wally provided Mildred with an abundant and handy source of personal validation, should she ever need it. Wally Fay was a supporting role in every sense, and it gave Carson the best reviews of his career. 

Romance on the High Seas (1948)
Jack Carson was right by Doris Day’s side the moment she became a movie star. Audiences loved her in Romance on the High Seas, a story about jealous spouses, mistaken identity and a South American cruise, but Bosley Crowther of The New York Times was unimpressed. “It is hard to work up enthusiasm for the Warners' new starlet, Doris Day,” the film critic wrote. “Maybe the Warners figured they had a new Betty Hutton in her but, even without other assets, she still lacks Miss Hutton's vital style. Also Miss Day's singing voice, while adequate to such night-club tunes as ‘I'm in Love,’ ‘You or No One’ and ‘It's Magic,’ is nothing to herald.” Somehow Day dodged Crowther’s arrows and survived, making her next two pictures with good luck charm Jack Carson and, by some accounts, enjoying a brief romance with her burly costar.

A Star is Born (1954)
In Judy Garland’s comeback vehicle, Carson played to perfection that singular show biz animal, the studio press agent. In this, George Cukor’s musical remake of the 1937 drama, it is a creature frequently found between a rock—what’s good for business—and a hard place—an unpredictable and self-destructive celebrity. As Matt Libby, Carson is cynical, diplomatic when called for, devoid of sympathy and, when it’s safe, quite cruel. Libby is a man of hard edges, and Carson played it like an actor who didn’t give a damn about audience affection. It was one of his strongest performances.

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
Jack Carson, in his last significant movie role, joined a handful of screen heavyweights and got to speak the words of one of America’s most famous playwrights. As the wonderfully named Gooper Pollitt, the genetically improbable brother of Paul Newman, Carson appeared alongside Elizabeth Taylor, Judith Anderson and Burl Ives in Tennessee Williams’s tale of a southern family grappling their way through a birthday gathering at the family plantation. It’s the kind of sexually heightened, psychological shoutfest at which Williams excels, and the results are fascinating to watch. It would be the actor’s last significant movie role.

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.

Wednesday
Apr102013

April 10

Michael Curtiz dies of cancer in Hollywood, 1962. The Hungarian-born film director (above, with Joan Crawford) was responsible for some of the most acclaimed films of the 1930s and ‘40s—Captain Blood (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), to name a handful. His greatest success was undoubtedly Casablanca (1942), which won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and one for Curtiz as Best Director. A few years later, another plum project came his way when producer Jerry Wald convinced Warner Bros. head Jack L. Warner that Curtiz, not Vincent Sherman, was the man to commit James M. Cain’s noir drama Mildred Pierce to celluloid.

Crawford was cast despite Curtiz’s view that she was yesterday’s news and difficult to work with. “She comes over here with her high-hat airs and her goddamn shoulder pads,” Curtiz remarked. “Why should I waste time directing a has-been?” Early on in the shoot, he suspected Crawford was upping the glamour on her down-to-earth suburban mother role in spite of her insistence that she was buying her character’s clothes off the rack. What Crawford withheld from him was the fact that her dressmaker was altering the waists and adding shoulder pads to her outfits. Eventually, however, Curtiz was impressed by her professionalism and work ethic. The picture turned out to be a solid success, earning six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and receiving one of the golden statuettes for Crawford’s career-reviving performance.

Thursday
Dec202012

Oscars 1945: Drunk with Success

The story of an alcoholic writer with a propensity for hiding liquor in the most unlikely places was a big winner on Oscar night, though the Billy Wilder drama wasn’t the easiest picture to get off the ground. Paramount balked at having the alcoholic played by anything other than a matinée idol, and matinée idol Ray Milland was advised not to touch the role. Preview audiences didn’t care too much for it, the liquor industry was none too thrilled either, and Paramount released it wide only after it received rave reviews during a limited-engagement run. At the awards ceremony, The Lost Weekend received Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay. Milland was presented the Best Actor trophy from Ingrid Bergman, who announced, “Mr. Milland, are you nervous? It’s yours!” Quipped host Bob Hope, “I’m surprised they just handed it to him. I thought they’d hide it in the chandelier.” The next day, co-screenwriter Charles Brackett and Wilder were greeted by a congratulatory gesture from fellow scribes—a series of little booze bottles hanging from strings outside each window of Paramount’s Writers’ Building.

BEST PICTURE
The Lost Weekend

BEST DIRECTOR
Billy Wilder, The Lost Weekend

BEST ACTOR
Ray Milland, The Lost Weekend

BEST ACTRESS
Joan Crawford, Mildred Pierce

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
James Dunn, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Anne Revere, National Velvet