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 van heflin (3)


Oscars 1942: World at War

Thoughts about World War II colored the evening, as attendees were told to eschew formal garb for the second year in a row. Privates Tyrone Power and Alan Ladd opened with show by unfurling the American flag while Jeanette MacDonald sang the national anthem. Mrs. Miniver, a William Wyler-directed drama about a British family during the early years of the war, took many of the top honors, including Best Picture, Director, Actress and Supporting Actress. And the Academy saw fit to recognize all the allied countries, military branches and studios that produced a documentary about the war, resulting in a record 25 nominees for Best Documentary. In an equally unusual move, there were four winners: The Battle of Midway (above), directed by John Ford for the United States Navy, Kokoda Front Line! from the Australian News and Information Bureau, Moscow Strikes Back from Artkino and Prelude to War from the United States Army Special Services.

Mrs. Miniver

William Wyler, Mrs. Miniver

James Cagney, Yankee Doodle Dandy

Greer Garson, Mrs. Miniver

Van Heflin, Johnny Eager

Teresa Wright, Mrs. Miniver


Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

The 12th Annual Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival unfolded this past weekend in the dry heat of Palm Springs, California, and the cool atmosphere of the Camelot Theater on Baristo Road. Though I had to miss the first two days of the four-day event, I managed to get seven films of various quality under my belt by the time the lights came up Sunday evening. Here’s what I saw. 

The Big Heat (1953)
From where I sat, this Fritz Lang-directed film was the best of the festival. It starred Glenn Ford as a tough cop on the trail of a crime syndicate. Along the way, wife Jocelyn Brando gets blown up in a car, gangster’s moll Gloria Grahame gets a pot of hot coffee in the kisser and Lee Marvin menaces everything in his path. Ford is magnificent, and Grahame gives the proceedings a hell of a lot of zip. Peter Ford, son of Glenn Ford and Eleanor Powell, was on hand to discuss his father’s career and sign copies of his recent book, Glenn Ford: A Life. 

The Face Behind the Mask (1941)
This performance deserves to be on the short list of Peter Lorre’s best. Here he plays a Hungarian immigrant in New York City with dreams of being a successful watchmaker. The course of his life is changed by an apartment fire that disfigures him and makes him an outcast to all except the criminal underground, where, little by little, he begins to find his niche. A mask to hide his facial burns and a pretty girlfriend (Evelyn Keyes)—who conveniently happens to be blind—softens his outlook for a while, until she gets blown up in a car (again with the car bombs!) and so begins his tragic slide. Written by blacklisted writer Paul Jarrico, the film has a running time of a mere 69 minutes. 

The Great Gatsby (1949)
It was to be Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney as Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan. When producers thought Tierney too beautiful for the role, in stepped Betty Field, who was definitely not as beautiful as Tierney (few women are) but a crack actress nonetheless. With no Tierney, Power dropped out and so Alan Ladd became the title character in this dark, loose version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s jazz-age tale. The feel is decidedly 1940s, however, and for those of you wondering if this qualifies as noir, in director Elliott Nugent’s version, it most certainly does. Macdonald Carey, Ruth Hussey, Barry Sullivan, Elisha Cook Jr. and Howard de Silva (who appeared in both this version and the 1974 one with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow) round out the cast. And in this picture, as in many of her movies, Shelley Winters dies a particularly gruesome death. 

Hell's Island (1955)
What kind of movie runs its climactic scene under the opening credits? This odd duck does, then embarks on a long flashback leading up to the moment when John Payne gets popped a 22-calibur in the shoulder. Payne is a former cop hired by a wheelchair-bound ne’er-do-well to find a ruby that disappeared in a plane crash in the Caribbean. The actor is his usual reliable self, but his romantic sparring partner, unfortunately, is played by Mary Murphy—a femme about as fatale as a prom queen, going from bland to shrill with no shadings in between. This the third pairing of Payne and director Phil Karlson, having previously collaborated on Kansas City Confidential (1952) and 99 River Street (1953). This is also the rare noir that was filmed in Technicolor as well as in Paramount’s then-new wide-screen format VistaVision. Alternately titled South Sea Fury, the picture has yet to be released on DVD. The grainy, faded print was provided by the UCLA Film Archive. 

Possessed (1947)
The grand dame mannerisms that seep into many a Joan Crawford performance are nowhere to be found in this psychological drama. Crawford impresses as a woman obsessed with Van Heflin, a man who’s a real pal but doesn’t love her. She enters a marriage of convenience with Raymond Massey while continuing to pine for Heflin in a most unhealthy way. Madness and an act of violence propel her to roam the streets of downtown Los Angeles, where she is picked up and examined by a doctor and his very cute assistant. Crawford was nominated for her second of three Oscars for this role; her first was for Mildred Pierce (1945) and her last was for Sudden Fear (1952). She won for Mildred Pierce. 

The Prowler (1951)
Originally called The Cost of Living, the film was produced by Sam Speigel (under the name S. P. Eagle) and John Huston, who wanted to showcase his wife, actress Evelyn Keyes. This was reportedly Keyes’s favorite role, but, even in the stylized world of film noir, I found her to be inauthentic and actressy. Directed by Joseph Losey and written by blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, it’s a tale of corrupt cop Van Heflin having an affair with Keyes, whose husband has a radio show. While he is on the air, Heflin and Keyes embark on a romance that leads to a killing and an unwanted pregnancy. Heflin gives a strong performance, and the arid environs of the Mojave Desert are shown to great effect in the last third of the picture.

Road House (1948)
Whenever a movie shows the front page of a newspaper to indicate what happened to one of the lead characters, see if you can catch the smaller headlines. I did it a lot this festival and “Farm Bill Approved by Legislature” shows up more frequently than not. Such an opportunity presents itself in Road House, about a love triangle gone wrong with a sublime Ida Lupino as a lounge singer, a slimy Richard Widmark as her boss, hunky Cornel Wilde as Widmark’s right-hand man and Celeste Holm as his faithful right-hand woman. My first impression of the movie was that the projection was all wrong, as when people watch old movies on their new wide-screen television without adjusting the aspect ratio. Road House had that look—stretched so Lupino’s face and Wilde’s rump looked wide and fat. In spite of this distraction (and some rather implausible plot developments), the story is well performed and suitably tense. And for those who’ve never heard Lupino sing, her three numbers may prove to be your bonanza. “She’s something, ain’t she?” the bartender remarks, to which Holms replies, “If you like the sound of gravel.” The more discriminating ears among us may side with the latter sentiment.


August 21

Shane, starring (left to right) Brandon De Wilde, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin and Alan Ladd, premiers at Radio City Music Hall in 1953. Shot during the summer and fall of 1951, the movie underwent extensive editing before director George Stevens was satisfied with it. It would be the last movie Jean Arthur made before she retired.