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 sunset boulevard (5)

Friday
May232014

Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival 2014: Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Sunset Boulevard is a beautiful example of why I love motion pictures, the most freakishly collaborative popular art form going. At the front end of the moviemaking beast there are writers, producers, agents, casting directors, costumers and set designers. Then cast and crew show up to shoot the darn thing. And bringing up the rear are editors, musicians, marketers, distributors, exhibitors and, of course, audiences. If any one of the creative components falls short, the results are often less than thrilling and sometimes downright horrible. When it all comes together, with everyone involved at the top of their game and every element expertly crafted, you get Sunset Boulevard.

Actress Nancy Olson, who plays script reader Betty Shaefer opposite William Holden’s out-of-work writer Joe Gillis, talked to moviegoers after the screening about the making of the film and, in the process, showed the audience that it is possible for a woman in her eighties to look at least 20 years younger than she is. Age is a theme of the movie, certainly, as 50-year-old silent screen star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) hitches her star to the much-younger Gillis in a deluded effort at a big screen comeback in a vehicle better suited for an actress in her late teens or early twenties. The character of Norma Desmond has been reinterpreted often, parodied by Carol Burnett on her 1970s TV show and, in the 1990s, portrayed by the likes of Glenn Close, Patti LuPone, Betty Buckley, Elaine Paige, Petula Clark, Diahann Carroll and others in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s stage musical version. But it’s tough to improve on the towering performance by Swanson, who strikes a fragile balance of theatricality, humanity, desperation and grit. She’s simply breathtaking.

Thursday
Jan302014

Publicity Photos

Of all the tools used to hawk a movie—contests, celebrity appearances, lunch boxes, fashion shows, paper dolls—the publicity photo has to be one of the simplest and most straightforward. Many are movie stills or candid shots of stars relaxing on the set or cheesecake poses from starlets in minor roles. All are dished up to various media by major studios trying to put butts in the seats. Represented in the list below, however, is a different, more ambitious kind of publicity photo, carefully contrived shots clearly set in a studio, removed from the physical context of the film yet vaguely representative of plot, setting and character. Some are artful, some are playful, and some are very silly indeed. Here are ten of our favorites.

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Wednesday
Jan092013

Oscars 1950: Upset Victory

“[T]his marvelously clever young actress so richly conveys the attitudes and the vocal intonations of a native of the sidewalks of New York that it is art,” New York Times critic Bosley Crowther wrote about Judy Holliday’s performance in Born Yesterday. “More than that,” he added, “she illuminates so brightly the elemental wit and honesty of her blankly unlettered young lady that she puts pathos and respect into the role.”

The casting for the part of Billie Dawn, the dumb blonde ex-showgirl who gradually wakes up to the corrupt doings of her boorish junk dealer boyfriend, was full of false starts and happenstance. Garson Kanin wrote the play with Jean Arthur in mind. When Arthur dropped out just prior to its Broadway opening, Holliday took over and became the darling of both critics and audiences. But Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn had other ideas and bought the property for Rita Hayworth. Hayworth had ideas of her own, preferring the real-life role of Prince Aly Kahn’s new wife over the role of Billie Dawn.

Cohn was finally convinced to put Holliday in the picture after Katharine Hepburn planted gossip column items that early footage of Adam’s Rib revealed that Holliday was stealing scenes from Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. On Oscar night, many camps were wondering which acting behemoth—All About Eve’s Bette Davis or Sunset Boulevard’s Gloria Swanson—would take home the Best Actress prize. When Broderick Crawford announced Holliday as the winner, Swanson (above, with José Ferrer and Holliday) reportedly gave her a hug and said to her, “Darling, why couldn’t you have waited until next year?” In her memoirs, Swanson reflected, “Judy Holliday, when she dared to look at me, seemed to be pleading forgiveness.”

BEST PICTURE
All About Eve

BEST DIRECTOR
Joseph L. Mankiewicz, All About Eve

BEST ACTOR
José Ferrer, Cyrano de Bergerac

BEST ACTRESS
Judy Holliday, Born Yesterday

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
George Sanders, All About Eve

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Josephine Hull, Harvey

Monday
Dec032012

100 Great Closing Lines

Last lines of movies can be prose or poetry—neat little wrap-ups, baffling enigmas, witty punch lines, weighty morals, desperate pleas and wicked surprises. And they can be a tricky, delicate thing to pull off. The lasting impression of a movie that is merely very good can be greatly elevated by a killer coda; conversely, a stinker exit can sour an otherwise satisfying night at the theater. Here are a hundred of the better ones—final sentiments that rank as our favorites, from the intertitle of a 1927 silent science fiction film to a rare spoken line from 2011’s (mostly) silent Oscar winner.

“Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.”
Walsh (Joe Mantell)
Chinatown (1974)

“I’m not even gonna swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They’ll see. They’ll see and they’ll know and they’ll say ‘Why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly.’”
Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins)
Psycho (1960)

“I now pronounce you men and wives.”
Reverand Elcott (Ian Wolfe)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)

“Happy the man and happy he alone, he who can call today his own, he who is secure within can say: Tomorrow do thy worst! For I have lived today.”
Narrator (Micheál Mac Liammóir)
Tom Jones (1963)

“How’d you like to make yourself a thousand dollars a day, Mr. Boot? I’m a thousand-dollar-a-day newspaperman. You can have me for nothing.”
Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas)
Ace in the Hole (1951)

“Where ya headed, cowboy?”
“Nowhere special.”
“Nowhere special…I always wanted to go there.”
“Come on.”
Jim (Gene Wilder) and Bart (Cleavon Little)
Blazing Saddles (1974)

“What do we do now?”
Bill McKay (Robert Redford)
The Candidate (1972)

“How shall I make out the report on him, Captain?”
“Better make it ‘dead on arrival.’”
D.O.A. (1950)

“Goodbye, Mary Poppins. Don’t stay away too long.”
Bert (Dick Van Dyke)
Mary Poppins (1964)

“There are eight million stories in the naked city. This has been one of them.”
Narrator (Mark Hellinger)
The Naked City (1948)

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Friday
Apr272012

Billy Wilder on Sunset Boulevard (1950)

It was an idea that Charles Brackett and I had long before we tackled it. We wanted to do it, believe it for not, five years before we actually got around to it. We wanted to make a picture with a kind of a passé star. We wanted to do it with Mae West. That’s all I can tell you. But it didn’t come out this way.

There is no such thing as somebody sitting down and saying, “Now, all right, I’m going to make a new picture.” Not at all. You have ideas stashed away, dozens of them—good, bad or indifferent. Then you pull them out of your memory, out of your drawer, you combine them. An actor is available, and that’s the way it starts. People think when it comes to a screenplay you start with absolutely nothing. But the trouble is that you have a million ideas and you have to condense them into a thousand ideas, and you have to condense those into three hundred ideas to get it under one hat, as it were. In other words, you start with too much, not with nothing, and it can go in every kind of direction. Every possible avenue is open. Then you have to dramatize it—it is as simple as that—by omitting, by simplifying, by finding a clean theme that leads someplace.

Sunset Boulevard was a picture where everything sort of fell into my lap. I needed the Paramount studio, and we got permission to shoot at Paramount. I needed Cecil B. DeMille to play DeMille, and he played it. I needed somebody to play the part Stroheim played. Stroheim at one time had been a director and had, indeed, directed Gloria Swanson in Queen Kelly. We needed old faces and got Buster Keaton. Everything was just right.

When we made that picture with Gloria Swanson people forget that she herself was considered sort of an old bag from silent picture times. At the time when we shot the picture she was actually fifty years old, that was all. She was then three or four years younger than Audrey Hepburn is today. But it was the split, you know, the divide between sound pictures and silent pictures that made such a difference. She was actually very young for that thing. She was just forgotten because she had stopped making pictures when she was about thirty, when sound came in. But what would she be doing today? As you heard in the picture, she had those oil wells, pumping, pumping, pumping. I guess she would have four or five gigolos. She would now be living somewhere in Santa Barbara with George Hamilton.