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 the 400 blows (4)

Friday
Feb062015

February 6

François Truffaut is born in Paris, 1932. The director began his motion picture career in 1953 as a film critic for Cahiers du Cinéma, penning sometimes brutal assessments of the current releases. In 1957, he made what he considered his “first real film,” a short called Les Mistons. It would be a warm-up for The 400 Blows (1959), a landmark movie about troubled, misunderstood adolescent Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud). It would ignite the French New Wave movement, a genre characterized by a loose documentary feel, a fragmented narrative, unconventional editing, nihilistic youth and an often ambiguous endings. Truffaut’s subsequent films included Shoot the Piano Player (1960), Jules and Jim (1961), The Bride Wore Black (1968), Stolen Kisses (1968), Day for Night (1973) and The Last Metro (1980).

Ever the critic, Truffaut was not shy about expressing his opinions of other films and filmmakers. Among his observations:

“[Michelangelo] Antonioni is the only important director I have nothing good to say about. He bores me; he's so solemn and humorless.”

“The talent of [Jean-Luc] Godard goes toward a destructive object. Like Picasso, to whom he's compared very often, he destroys what he does; the act of creation is destructive. I like to work in tradition, in the constructive tradition.”

“[Eric] Rohmer is the best French director now. He became famous very late compared to the rest of us, but for 15 years he's been behind us all the time. He's influenced us from behind for a long time.”

“Originally, I didn't like [John Ford] because of his material—for example, the comic secondary characters, the brutality, the male-female relationships typified by the man's slapping the woman on the backside. But eventually I came to understand that he had achieved an absolute uniformity of technical expertise. And his technique is the more admirable for being unobtrusive: His camera is invisible; his staging is perfect; he maintains a smoothness of surface in which no one scene is allowed to become more important than any other. Such mastery is possible only after one has made an enormous number of films. Questions of quality aside, John Ford is the Georges Simenon of directors.”

“One looks at films differently when one is a director or a critic. For example, though I have always loved Citizen Kane (1941), I loved it in different ways at different stages of my career. When I saw it as a critic, I particularly admired the way the story is told: the fact that one is rarely permitted to see the person who interviews all the characters, the fact that chronology is not respected, things like that. As a director I cared more about technique: all the scenes are shot in a single take and do not use reverse cutting. In most scenes you hear the soundtrack before you see the corresponding images—that reflects Orson Welles's radio training, etc. Behaving like the ordinary spectator, one uses a film as if it were a drug—he is dazed by the motion and doesn't try to analyze. A critic, on the other hand, is forced to write summaries of films in 15 lines. That forces one to apprehend the structure of a film and to rationalize his liking for it.”

“I think that the ‘noble’ film is the trap of traps, the sneakiest swindle in the industry. For a real filmmaker, nothing could be more boring to make than a Bridge On The River Kwai (1957)—scenes set inside office alternating with discussions between old fogies and some action scenes usually filmed by another crew. Rubbish. Traps for fools. Oscar machines.”

Ronald Reagan is born in Tampico, Illinois, 1911. If—politics aside—there is a central joke in all of Reagan’s achievements, it is a silly little movie with a goofy title that the actor made in 1951 (and claims to have never seen until 1984). Bedtime for Bonzo concerns a college professor trying to prove to his bride to be that he did not inherit his father’s propensity for crime. In order to prove his point, he conducts a secret experiment using a lab chimp to prove that nurture can indeed beat the crap out of nature. The film was no great shakes when it came out and enjoyed its greatest popularity in the early 1980s during Reagan’s run for President of the United States and subsequent eight years in the Oval Office. Fred De Cordova served as director for both Bedtime For Bonzo and The Tonight Show, ensuring the former’s frequent mention by the latter’s host, Johnny Carson.

Monday
Sep102012

Cinematic Rides

A recent showing of Strangers on a Train (1951) on TCM got us to thinking about carnivals in movies—in particular certain rides that figured into the plot and even gave its main characters a thrill or two. From the midways of Paper Moon (1973) and Some Came Running (1958) to cheap horror flicks set in abandoned parks to the attractions in Amélie (2001) and Hairspray (1988), there was no shortage of rides from which to choose. We’ve narrowed our focus to a handful of majors films, favorite movies where fun rides add to the story.

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Dec112011

December 10

Edward D. Wood, Jr. dies of heart failure in North Hollywood, 1978. Released the same year as The 400 Blows and Black Orpheus, 1959’s Plan 9 from Outer Space is often regarded as the worst film ever made and has become the wonderfully untalented director’s main contribution to cinema. We know the director from other stinkeroos he’s made, such as Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955) and Night of the Ghouls (1959). Many of his cult followers also know that he was an avid crossdresser whose first wife kicked him out of the house on their wedding night when it was revealed he was wearing women’s underwear. And, thanks in part to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the hack director in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994), we know that he was eternally optimistic, hired equally no-talent actors from Hollywood's fringe, employed Bela Lugosi at his career’s end and had a propensity for wearing angora sweaters.

But what many people may not know about Wood is his military service. A Marine in World War II, Wood was a fierce combat soldier in the Pacific Theater and lost most of his front teeth in hand-to-hand combat with a Japanese soldier. He earned a Silver Star, a Bronze Star, two Purple Hearts and a Sharpshooter’s Medal. And, true to his nature, he claimed to have worn women’s underwear under his uniform.

Friday
Oct212011

October 21

François Truffaut dies of a brain tumor in Neuilly-sur-Seine, Hauts-de-Seine, France, 1984. “I make films that I would like to have seen when I was a young man,” the director—and former film critic—once remarked. “One looks at films differently when one is a director or a critic,” said Truffaut. “For example, though I have always loved Citizen Kane (1941), I loved it in different ways at different stages of my career. When I saw it as a critic, I particularly admired the way the story is told, the fact that one is rarely permitted to see the person who interviews all the characters, the fact that chronology is not respected—things like that. As a director, I cared more about technique. All the scenes are shot in a single take and do not use reverse cutting. In most scenes, you hear the soundtrack before you see the corresponding images. That reflects Orson Welles’s radio training, etc. Behaving like the ordinary spectator, one uses a film as if it were a drug; he is dazed by the motion and doesn't try to analyze. A critic, on the other hand, is forced to write summaries of films in 15 lines. That forces one to apprehend the structure of a film and to rationalize his liking for it.” 

In 1959, Truffaut the director caused a sensation with The 400 Blows, an early classic of the French New Wave movement. Career highlights included Shoot the Piano Player (1960), Jules and Jim (1962), Stolen Kisses (1968) and Day for Night (1974). 

He was forthcoming with his opinions of other directors—who he loved (Alfred Hitchcock, with whom he conducted a series of interviews chronicled in the book Hitchcock by Truffaut) and who he did not (“[Michelangelo] Antonioni is the only important director I have nothing good to say about. He bores me. He's so solemn and humorless.”). Regarding John Ford, he said, “Originally, I didn't like him because of his material—for example, the comic secondary characters, the brutality, the male-female relationships typified by the man's slapping the woman on the backside. But eventually I came to understand that he had achieved an absolute uniformity of technical expertise. And his technique is the more admirable for being unobtrusive: His camera is invisible, his staging is perfect, he maintains a smoothness of surface in which no one scene is allowed to become more important than any other.”