Alfred Hitchcock’s 3D Murder

_____ can't wait for Grace Kelly to put the phone down. Image lsdkfj asd

Anthony Dawson can’t wait for Grace Kelly to hang up. Image: wegotthiscovered.com

We had an almost pure classic movie experience recently.

Well, perhaps not us, exactly, but the woman sitting beside us in the theatre, at the screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder. It was, we might add, SHOWN IN 3D. Whee!

(Note: If you haven’t seen Dial M for Murder, even in 2D, you really ought to ASAP. You can thank us later.)

In the film, Ray Milland plays a former tennis star who discovers his wife (Grace Kelly) is having an affair with an American mystery writer (Robert Cummings). Milland, unwilling to divorce his wife’s money, begins to plan her murder.

The most fascinating element of this film, in our view, is that it takes place on a single set – the couple’s London flat. The one overarching dramatic moment is when the would-be murderer (Anthony Dawson) tries to strangle an unsuspecting Kelly while she struggles furiously, fumbling for a pair of scissors with which to fight back.

(Digression: On the big screen, this moment is riveting. Kelly’s hand desperately gropes behind her for the scissors she knows are within reach; her frantic hand movements reveal a woman who will not let her life be stolen so easily. One can hardly breathe when watching this scene in 3D.)

Even though the action takes place on one set, Hitchcock uses clever camera angles to keep us engaged. For example, when Milland demonstrates to Dawson how the killing should be done, Hitchcock mounts the camera high above the set; it feels as though we’re watching a crime via security camera.

Ray Milland choreographs the perfect murder. Image: lskdjf asdjk

Ray Milland choreographs the perfect murder. Image: leninimports.com

After Dawson has been unexpectedly killed, Milland straightens the room and manipulates bits of evidence before police arrive. Here, Hitchcock places the camera very close to the floor, as though we’re witnessing this as the dead man might.

This film is perfectly cast. Kelly and Cummings are brilliant, and Milland – Great Scott! His lengthy monologue to Dawson, recounting his discovery of Kelly’s affair, is mesmerizing. And when police start to suspect Kelly of cold-blooded murder, the smirky Milland is dazzling as laughs at suggestions that she may be guilty. The police see him as a man defending his wife, but we know he’s delighted that he’s, ahem, getting away with murder.

We (as in, yours truly) have seen this film several times, but it took the big screen and 3-D to make us appreciate it in a new way.

It also took the reactions of the young woman sitting next to us. She had never seen an Alfred Hitchcock film, and – get this – she had never seen a 3-D movie.

One would not have believed it possible in our society.

However. Her reactions would have been similar to someone seeing the film when it was newly released 1954. The woman gasped as Kelly drove the scissors into her attacker’s back. She said, “Oh ho!” at various plot twists, and laughed when, at the end of the film, the inspector (John Williams) combs his moustache while phoning Scotland Yard.

She provided an almost pure classic movie experience because it was like seeing Dial M for Murder for the first time, as Hitchcock intended it to be seen – in a theatre and in 3D. It was a pleasure to be seated next to someone who expressed nothing but admiration for this remarkable film.

Dial M for Murder: Ray Milland, Grace Kelly, Robert Cummings. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Frederick Knott. Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., 1954, Warnercolor, 105 mins.

The Big Sleep: The Head-Scratching Film Noir

Listen, Angel, run and get a scriptwriter who can explain what's going on." Image: lksdjf

“Listen, Angel, go find a scriptwriter who can explain what’s going on.” Image: Doctor Macro

Dear Reader: As part of The Great Movie Debate Blogathon, we are going to argue against The Big Sleep.

Yup, you read that right. Against.

Now, we realize The Big Sleep is on everyone’s Top 10 List, and we respect that. It’s a legendary film noir with engaging characters, beautifully designed sets (from Carl Jules Weyl) and a luscious wardrobe (by Leah Rhodes). Add a cast that includes Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, and hire William Faulkner (yes, that William Faulkner) to help with the script. How can it go wrong?

Well, it does go wrong, in our opinion, because this movie doesn’t make much sense.

We realize, dear Reader, that we may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, and that perhaps the first time you saw the movie you nodded and said, “This is perfectly logical.”

We would not be exaggerating if we told you we’ve seen this movie at least half a dozen times. The last time we viewed it, we had one hand working the Pause + Rewind buttons on the remote, while the other pounded furious notes into a laptop. Even with this approach, we were left with questions starting with “Why did…?” and “How come…?” Et cetera.

You’re likely curious about the plot if you’ve never seen this film. We’re not going to describe it because it’s more complex than filing your income tax. We will say, however, that there’s lots of skulking and double-crossing and shooting. There’s a bit of romance, too, as Bogart starts to fall in love with Bacall even though she may be Trouble.

The Big Sleep also has some of the best lines of any film noir; the dialogue is smart and quick. In one scene, Bogart refers to Bacall’s drink as “lunch out of a bottle”. In another scene, an elderly, dying man tells Bogart, “You’re looking, sir, at a very dull survivor of a very gaudy life.”

Terrific stuff, these lines, lifted directly from the Raymond Chandler novel on which this movie is based. (Chandler’s novel has so many great lines, you almost want to stuff them in your handbag to show off later.)

We recommend the reading the novel because, if you’re perpetually confused like us, you’ll want to know what’s really going on in this movie. And that makes us cry “foul”.

Bogart sneaks around corners in search of Answers. Image: kdjf

Bogart is desperate for Answers – much like the audience. Image: The University of Iowa

In our opinion, a movie’s script should be able to hold itself upright. It may have plot holes, which is forgivable, and we know sometimes novels don’t translate well to film. However, we feel the audience shouldn’t need the original book to get the subtleties of the movie’s plot. The Big Sleep tries to tell the novel’s story but can’t because of, you know, the Motion Pictures Production Code.

The Production Code (c.a. 1930-1967) was Hollywood’s way of keeping films morally neat and tidy. (One aspect of the Code we champion is that the bad guys always Get What’s Coming To Them.) If you’ve read The Big Sleep, the novel, you’re probably wondering how filmmakers in 1946 thought this material could squeeze into a Code-friendly movie. We’re wondering the same thing.

The Big Sleep, the novel, is a study in incongruity. Here is a book about some fairly distasteful crimes, but the writing is so beautiful it almost sings. This is why The Big Sleep, the 1946 movie, can never really reflect Chandler’s work. It can’t get into the specifics of the book and it doesn’t quite capture detective Phillip Marlowe’s haunted loneliness. We’re not saying this film shouldn’t have been made; we just feel the filmmakers had a near-impossible task.

Given all this, would we watch The Big Sleep again? Why yes – now that we know what the heck is going on.

The Big Sleep: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgley. Directed by Howard Hawks. Written by William Faulkner, Leigh Brackett & Jules Furthman. Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc., 1946, B&W, 113 mins.

This post is part of THE GREAT MOVIE DEBATE Blogathon hosted by The Cinematic Packrat and Citizen Screenings. Click HERE to see the other fab entries.

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Lady Smugglers in War-Time

Nurse Edith Cavell ... Image: dfkj ad

Anna Neagle (centre) smuggles escaped POWs in a civilized fashion. Image: The Telegraph

Edna May Oliver is our new hero.

We realized this when we screened Nurse Edith Cavell, a drama based on the true story of a courageous British nurse who helped over 200 Allied POWs flee Belgium during World War I.

This unusual war movie is about four not-so-ordinary women whose friendship propel them to defend their country by treating sick and injured POWs and sneaking them out of the country.

The smuggling ring is headed by the stalwart Cavell (played by popular British actress Anna Neagle), a nurse at the Berkendael Medican Institute in Brussels. (Neagle, incidentally, is almost too beautiful to be convincing in this role; however, she does bear a passing resemblance to the real Cavell.)

Neagle is joined by May Robson, a grandmother often given to hysterics, but is able to shelve the dramatics when necessary. The fabulous Zazu Pitts is the third member of the gang; she plays the amusing wife of a cargo boat owner who flirts with (and fools) German officers every time they unload “cargo” (read: escaped POWs) in Holland.

These characters are remarkable women, portrayed by terrific actors.

But our fave is Oliver, the fourth member of this consortium, a brisk, no-nonsense Countess who has little tolerance for silliness or idiocy. The Countess lives at Chateau Mavon, which seems to be comparable in size to the Pentagon. When her servants begin to panic with the sounds of approaching German cannons, they insist Oliver leave immediately. She may be killed! Oliver shrugs. “It would only be anticipating the inevitable by a few years,” she replies.

Edna May Oliver stares danger in the face and says, "Make mine a double." Image: lkdfj

Edna May Oliver (right) is unfettered by fear. Image: BFI

Whether Oliver is opposed to German occupation in general, or philosophically opposed to people more bossy than herself, it is hard to say. But she takes on the role of smuggler with relish.

In one scene, she visits a shoemaker to pick up forged ID papers. The shoemaker looks like a bit of a greasy character, but Oliver, in her expensive overcoat and sparkly earrings, pays no mind. She’s here on Business, so make it snappy with the forged papers, mac.

In another scene, a young man, claiming to be a POW, has come to ask Oliver for help getting out of Belgium. Oliver is compelling in this scene. She doesn’t speak; she studies the man evenly, asking only what he wants her to do. She then instructs her maid to take him to the kitchen where he can have something to eat. She adds, meaningfully, “And lock the kitchen so he won’t be disturbed while he’s there.” She then telephones police and asks them to arrest their own stool pigeon. She ain’t no fool.

Oliver is a perfect choice for a film with unorthodox gender roles. For instance, the heroes are women while the enemies are men. The women rescue men, instead of the familiar men-rescue-women movie scenario. The film also warns us that the German occupiers do not care if insubordinates are men or women.

Nurse Edith Cavell is a low-budget film, and can be a bit preachy at times, but it is a fascinating look at an incredibly courageous woman. We hope Cavell really did have a no-nonsense Countess as a friend, someone who was just like Edna May Oliver.

The Real Edith Cavell. Source

The real Edith Cavell. Image: quotessays.com

Bonus Trivia Fact #1: Nurse Edith Cavell premiered in New York on September 22, 1939, 18 days after the declaration of World War II.

Bonus Trivia Fact #2: There is a mountain named for Edith Cavell in Canada’s Jasper National Park.

Nurse Edith Cavell: Anna Neagle, Edna May Oliver, George Sanders. Directed by Herbert Wilcox. Written by Michael Hogan. RKO Radio Pictures Inc., 1939, B&W, 94 mins.

This post is part of the WORLD WAR ONE IN CLASSIC FILM Blogathon hosted by the delightful Movies, Silently and Silent-ology. Click HERE to see the other fab entries.

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Proposal: Let’s Reappraise A Soldier’s Story

This post is part of the 1984-a-thon hosted by Forgotten Films.

Howard E. Rollins is the new, unwelcome sheriff in town. Image: lksdjf aioewf

Howard E. Rollins, Jr. is the new, unwelcome sheriff in town. Image: Cinema 1544

We want to know: What’s wrong with the 1984 drama A Soldier’s Story?

The movie met with a cool reception when originally released. Film critic Roger Ebert, for one, was unimpressed. “A Soldier’s Story is one of those movies that’s about less than you might think,” he wrote. “Did this movie have to be so…trapped by its mechanical plot, so limited by a murder mystery?”

Others criticized it for a long-winded script and a perceived lacklustre performance by star Howard E. Rollins, Jr.

Even members of The Academy were conflicted about the film. A Soldier’s Story was nominated for three Oscars but wound up with nothing:

  • Best Picture (lost to Amadeus)
  • Best Supporting Actor, Adolph Caesar (lost to Haing S. Ngor, The Killing Fields)
  • Best Adapted Screenplay (lost to Amadeus)

The scorekeeper of all things pop culture, ranker.com, lists the Best Black Movies of All Time. Out of 512 movies, A Soldier’s Story ranks a respectable 98th, but well behind White Chicks (#87) and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (#70).

A Soldier’s Story, based the Pulitzer Prize-winning play A Soldier’s Playwas almost never made. Warner Bros, Universal, MGM and United Artists rejected the film because, according to director Norman Jewison, the studios felt “a black story…based on World War II, [would not be] popular at the box office.” Columbia eventually signed on with a modest budget of $5 million. (The film earned approximately $22 million in box office sales, but compare that to the top-grossing movie of 1984, Beverly Hills Cop at $234,760,478.)

Armed with all this scholarly research, we (as in, yours truly) were prepared to write this film off. Then we actually watched it.

Twice.

In a row.

Denzel Washington (left) tells Adolph Caesar alksdj fskdj. Image: ksdj f

Denzel Washington (left) tells Adolph Caesar where to go and how to get there. Image: Total Film

A Soldier’s Story is, as Roger Ebert pointed out, a murder mystery. Outside an army training base in Louisiana, an African American sergeant (Adolph Caesar) is murdered. It is 1944, and the sergeant was in charge of an African American platoon that’s being kept behind to play baseball instead of being sent overseas to fight.

The Brass in Washington dispatches a Captain Davenport (Rollins) to investigate the sergeant’s murder. Rollins’ character turns heads when he arrives on the base; he is the first “coloured officer” the men have ever seen. Rollins is told he has three days to find the murderer and is warned against arresting white civilians from the nearby town.

As Rollins investigates Caesar’s death, he discovers the dead sergeant had alienated his platoon and may have contributed to a soldier’s suicide. Not only that, Caesar’s character had strong opinions about race and how African Americans should behave.

This is a superbly acted film. Rollins is a tightly-wound character; he portrays Davenport with the defensive edge of a man who’s constantly being told he doesn’t belong. Caesar, who practically steals the entire movie, is mesmerizing as the twisted army sergeant. Denzel Washington, in an early screen role, is engaging as a smart young man who doesn’t suffer fools – even if they are his superior officers.

(Digression: There is some terrific music in this film, featuring the fabulous Patti Labelle and Larry Riley performing their own compositions. Herbie Hancock provides the film score.)

The film, which has an authentic World War II feel, takes an unflinching look at race and segregation. One character asks: “Who gave you the right to judge who is fit to be a Negro and who is not?” In another scene, Rollins finds a message scrawled on his bathroom mirror: “Welcome Snow Flake.”

A Soldier’s Story may have an oh-so-tidy ending, but that doesn’t take away from its thought-provoking themes or impeccable acting. We think it’s time this film is given another look.

A Soldier’s Story: Howard E. Rollins, Jr., Adolph Caesar, Art Evans. Directed by Norman Jewison. Written by Charles Fuller. Columbia Pictures, 1984, Colour, 140 mins.

This post is part of the 1984-A-THON hosted by the fabulous Forgotten Films. Click HERE to read the other entries.

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Fly Fishing with William Powell

William Powell (right) is confident in his fake-fishing skills. Image: A Certain Cinema

William Powell (right) is confident in his fake fishing skills. Image: A Certain Cinema

Sometimes, knowing what you’re doing is overrated.

Who doesn’t love that adrenaline rush of panic and disbelief when you’re caught, unprepared, in a frantic situation beyond your control? That’s when you know you’re alive.

Many actors have beautifully demonstrated this type of unfortunate circumstance, and one of our favourites is William Powell in the 1936 screwball comedy Libeled Lady.

Libeled Lady is a very funny movie with this cast: Jean Harlow, Spencer Tracy and Myrna Loy. It has a smart script, gorgeous Cedric Gibbons‘ set designs and an enviable wardrobe by Dolly Tree. Here is a movie that cannot go wrong.

Briefly, the plot: Tracy plays the managing editor of a newspaper that prints a story accusing a socialite (Loy) of being a home wrecker. Loy, who is vacationing in Europe, threatens to sue the paper upon her return to the United States. Tracy, fearing the $5 million lawsuit will bankrupt his newspaper, plans a “sting” operation: He will ask his girlfriend (Harlow) to temporarily marry Powell (in name only), then arrange a compromising situation between Powell and Loy. This will make the Loy homewrecking story actually true, the lawsuit will be dropped, and everyone can just move along. Nothing to see here.

As part of his scheme to seduce Loy, Powell decides to go through her father (Walter Connolly), a rich industrialist and an avid trout fisherman. Powell devours fly fishing books, and even arranges for a fly-fishing tutor to visit him at his hotel where he’s staging a fake honeymoon with the agitated Harlow.

(Digression: It’s a treat to see the Powell-and-Harlow scenes, since they were a real-life couple. Powell’s character is polite and courteous towards Harlow, while she becomes increasingly irritated with distracted boyfriend Tracy and starts falling for Powell.)

After he travels to London, Powell immediately finds Loy and Connolly on the ship leaving for America. Powell starts in with the fishing yarns, but Loy is suspicious.

Connolly (to Powell): “So, you’ve fished Gluckman’s Point. Well, you’re an angler all right.”

Loy: “I should say Mr. Chandler’s quite an angler.”

Powell believes in learning while doing. Image: Pinterest

Powell believes in learning while doing. Image: pinterest.com

 

We know the movie is building towards an epic Man-Versus-Trout battle and we are not disappointed. Once they are landed in the U.S., Connolly invites Powell to on a fishing trip with Loy and himself. Powell arrives, decked out in shiny new fishing gear and a copy of The Anglers’ Hand-Book for Beginners tucked in his creel (basket). While Connolly and Loy are expertly casting their lines – and catching fish – Powell ends up in the drink, only to discover his precious Hand-Book cheerfully floating downstream.

This is precisely one of the things that we, the audience, have paid for. The William Powell of the 1930s is a study in scrupulous grooming; he practically gleams with studio polish. As much as we adore him, we want to see him floundering down a stream in a wet, floppy hat, desperately clinging to a fishing rod as though it were useful. It makes the urbane Powell less of a movie star and more like one of us – and we love him all the more for it.

Libeled Lady is a movie that isn’t as popular as it deserves to be. The entire movie is a delight, but the scenes of Powell’s attempts at fly fishing are pure movie magic.

Libeled Lady: starring Jean Harlow, William Powell, Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy. Directed by Jack Conway. Written by Maurine Watkins, Howard Emmett Rogers, George Oppenheimer. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp., 1936, B&W, 98 mins.

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Forgotten Filmcast Episode 34: Eyes in the Night

Silver Screenings:

Woo hoo! Look at us, a guest on the FORGOTTEN FILMCAST. Thanks again for a great conversation, Todd!

Originally posted on Forgotten Films:

ep_34After a few weeks off, the Forgotten Filmcast is back! This time, Todd is joined by Ruth Kerr from Silver Screenings to discuss the 1942 detective flick Eyes in the Night. Be sure to send your questions and comments after you give the show a listen.

Download the Show:
iTunes
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Your Listen

Show Notes:
Silver Screenings
Ruth at Twitter
Music Alley

Movies Discussed:
Eyes in the Night
Wait Until Dark
Taxi

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The Infatuation Drug

Note: This post is part of the Build-Your-Own Blogathon, hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe. Today’s movie connects to Speakeasy’s My Darling Clementine via producer/writer Samuel G. Engel.

Pat Boone (left) counsels Dick Sargent on the ways of l'amour. Image: ebay

Pat Boone (left) counsels Dick Sargent on How to Romance Women. Image: eBay

Maybe young Pat Boone didn’t realize how brave he was.

In the 1957 musical comedy Bernardine, the young singer plays a slick-talking but misguided lothario who dispenses advice like he’s dispensing medicine.

“Misguided” could be too soft a word. In one scene, Boone’s character refers to a friend’s girlfriend by saying, “It belongs to Wilson.” In another scene, he sings about “technique” and how women love it when men are deceitful and neglectful.

Pretty offensive stuff – and would be to women in the 1950s – except for one thing: Boone plays the character with such over-the-top sliminess that you become fascinated by his outrageously stupid worldview.

Bernardine, based on the play by Mary Chase, stars Boone and Dick Sargent as high school seniors who are three weeks away from graduating. But Sargent’s grades are so poor, he may not graduate if he doesn’t pass his final exams. Added to this turmoil is Sargent’s inability to romance girls, despite Boone’s prescriptions.

Sargent and Boone have fantasized about the ultimate dream woman whom they’ve named Bernardine Mudd (of all things). Things get complicated when Sargent meets the beautiful Terry Moore, with whom he becomes instantly smitten. Here’s his real-life Bernardine!

However, final exams loom large, and Sargent is forced to put his romantic life on hold. He must remain sequestered in his house for two weeks to cram. He panics: What if Moore meets someone else in the meantime?!!!!!

During his “captivity”, Sargent is jittery, unfocused, irritable – much like someone going through withdrawal. Love/infatuation is a drug, they say, and Sargent’s character is a first-rate addict.

Terry Moore has her pick of men. Image: ebay

Terry Moore is the object of Dick Sargent’s obsessive affections. Image: eBay

Bernardine is a deceptively clever film. Here we have Boone, a smooth talker who employs a $50-dollar vocabulary and good-naturedly teases his chums. But while Boone winks at his friends, the movie winks at us. Can you believe these morons? the filmmakers seem to say.

Yet this movie is not so light-hearted as it first appears. Janet Gaynor, who plays Sargent’s mother, has a rather preachy lecture about parenting, but offers some thoughtful insights. The ending, too, is surprisingly philosophical, and it’s here Boone and Sargent prove they can really act.

In many ways, producer Samuel G. Engel has created a cliché 1950s teen film, with a handsome pop star singing about love and teenagers clad in wide skirts and sweater vests. But its strong characters and witty script give it a timeless feel, along with the obvious infatuation/pharmaceutical symbolism.

Producer Engel was no dummy. Besides producing and screenwriting, he was President of the Producer’s Guild of America (1955-1958), and lobbied to include short films in the Academy Awards. Before he came to Hollywood, he was a successful businessman who owned a chain of retail outlets in Manhattan.

These retail outlets were drugstores.

Samuel Engel was a pharmacologist by trade, who earned his degree at the Albany College of Pharmacy.

Now, we ask you: Who better to show us that infatuation is a drug? Engel has shrewdly done so with the little-known musical Bernardine.

Bernardine: Pat Boone, Terry Moore, Janet Gaynor. Directed by Henry Levin. Written by Theodore Reeves. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp., 1957, Colour (by DeLuxe), 95 mins.

This post is part of the Build-Your-Own Blogathon hosted by the über chic Classic Film & TV Café. Click HERE to see the other fab entries.

BYOB

Announcing the “O Canada” Blogathon!

 

fay

I admit it! I. Am. Canadian.

This announcement is courtesy of our friend – and fellow Canuck – at Speakeasy.

Sorry to break it to you, but the Hollywood movies you love owe a lot to Canada. And so, with glowing hearts as warm as a bowl of piping hot poutine, we announce the O Canada Blogathon, to occur over the week of OCTOBER 4 – 9, 2014. This is your chance to celebrate (or even educate yourself and others) on just how much Canadians have shaped the cinema. Your co-hosts in this tour of cinematic Canada are:

Ruth of Silver Screenings  925screenings [at] gmail.com

Kristina of Speakeasy  HQ.Kristina [at] gmail.com

You obviously don’t need to be Canadian to participate – just be a movie lover – because no matter where you come from, you know these people and films, even if you weren’t aware of their heritage. Let’s help you with some suggestions.

Just who are my fellow Canadians?

Just who are my fellow Canadians?

A lot of your favourite stars came from the Land of the Loonie, people like…

  • Norma Shearer
  • Mary Pickford
  • Raymond Burr
  • Rod Cameron
  • Jack Carson
  • Hume Cronyn
  • Glenn Ford
  • Yvonne de Carlo
  • Marie Dressler
  • Douglas Dumbrille
  • Deanna Durbin
  • Michael J. Fox
  • Jonathan Frid
  • Lorne Greene
  • June Havoc
  • Walter Huston
  • John Ireland
  • Ruby Keeler
  • Margot Kidder
  • Gene Lockhart
  • Raymond Massey
  • Leslie Nielsen
  • Walter Pidgeon
  • Christopher Plummer
  • John Qualen
  • Ann Rutherford
  • Alexis Smith
  • Jay Silverheels
  • William Shatner
  • Ned Sparks
  • Donald Sutherland
  • Fay Wray

…and many more you can click here to discover, or see a list of silent stars here: male, female. You could write a bio or choose a movie (or more than one) that features their talent. Note: if someone is doing a bio, you are still welcome to focus on a specific movie by that same person.

How about the many moviemakers and behind the scenes high achievers like…

  • Douglas Shearer
  • Mack Sennett
  • Louis B. Mayer
  • Jack Warner
  • Sidney Olcott
  • David Cronenberg
  • Norman Jewison
  • Arthur Hiller
  • Atom Egoyan

…and more like the ones listed here.

A good ol' New Brunswick boy.

A good ol’ New Brunswick boy.

Canadian films/productions, any movie with a story/topic relating to Canada, movies prominently set or even shot here are all fair game for this blogathon, including…

  • I Confess
  • Canadian Pacific
  • River of no Return
  • Canadians
  • Niagara
  • Hudson’s Bay
  • The Devil’s Brigade
  • The Immortal Battalion
  • 49th Parallel
  • Corvette K225 (and many other war movies involving Canadian military)
  • Island in the Sky
  • Rose Marie
  • Face-Off
  • A Bullet for Joey
  • Black Christmas
  • The Brood
  • The Fly
  • The Changeling
  • The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
  • Atlantic City
  • Scanners
  • Northwest Trail
  • Zero Hour
  • Saskatchewan
  • Northwest Mounted Police (plus any of the myriad of Mountie movies)

…and that’s just for starters.

You may want to write about some aspect of Canada’s impact on the movies, or something unique to the Canadian movie fan’s experience (Elwy Yost, anyone?). If it has to do with Canada & movies, we’d love to have you join in.

Have a browse through these helpful pages to see more..

notable Canadians in Early Hollywood

films set in Canada

sutherland

We Canadians are EVERYWHERE!

We ask that you remember these few rules:

  • No duplicates please, so that we can cover as many eras and products of this vast land as possible.
  • We encourage focusing on classics but certainly won’t exclude picks from the 80’s and 90’s, a great time for Canadian film.
  • You don’t need to choose a specific date to post, just please do so starting on the 4th through the 9th.

Now put on your thinking toques and let us know what you wish to write about so we can add you to the list.

Once again, this event will unfold over the week of OCTOBER 4 – 9, 2014.

Here’s some text to paste into your post: This post is part of the O Canada Blogathon hosted by Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina of Speakeasy.

That’s right Edna, here are your banners. Now take off, eh! ;)

 

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PARTICIPANTS:

Blog Subject Website URL
Silver Screenings Buster Keaton in The Rail Rodders http://silverscreenings.org
Speakeasy Yvonne De Carlo’s best http://hqofk.wordpress.com/
A Small Press Life Fay Wray http://onetrackmuse.com
Shadows & Satin Norma Shearer in Riptide & Strangers May Kiss shadowsandsatin.wordpress.com
Laura’s Misc Musings Pony Soldier http://laurasmiscmusings.blogspot.ca/
Mike’s Take on the Movies Captains of the Clouds http://mikestakeonthemovies.com/
Phantom Empires Dick Powell’s Mrs. Mike & Fort Vengeance http://phantomempires.weebly.com
Hitchcock’s World Cronenberg: Naked Lunch, eXistenZ, Videodrome /poss Wilby Wonderful http://hitchcocksworld.blogspot.ca/
Stardust Norma Shearer: bio & significance http://bwallover.blogspot.ca/
Rosebud Cinema Dead Ringers http://therosebudcinema.wordpress.com/
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear Niagara http://thrillingdaysofyesteryear.blogspot.ca/
Midnight Palace Michael Sarrazin, Margot Kidder in The Reincarnation of Peter Proud http://www.midnightpalace.com/
Movies Silently Mary Pickford in The Dream http://moviessilently.com/
Noirish Whispering City http://noirencyclopedia.wordpress.com/
A Shroud of Thoughts Rock & Rule http://mercurie.blogspot.ca/
The Stop Button I Confess /2nd poss Scanners or Black Christmas http://thestopbutton.com/
Portraits by Jenni The 49th Parallel http://portraitsbyjenni.wordpress.com
Wide Screen World William Shatner http://widescreenworld.blogspot.com
Forgotten Films The Changeling http://forgottenfilmcast.wordpress.com/
Tales of the Easily Distracted Two O’Clock Courage + Strange Brew http://doriantb.blogspot.ca/
Mildred’s fatburgers Ned Sparks in 42nd Street, Gold Diggers of 1933, and Lady for a Day http://www.mildredsfatburgers.com/
Caftan Woman Alexander Knox / also poss: Elwy Yost http://www.caftanwoman.com/
Vienna’s Classic Hollywood actor John Qualen http://dancinglady39.wordpress.com
Movie Rob HBO movie on Terry Fox’s life (1983) http://movierob.wordpress.com
Riding the High Country Northern Pursuit http://livius1.wordpress.com/
A Person in the Dark Dudley Do Right OR Norma Shearer in “The Women” http://www.flickchick1953.blogspot.ca/
Cinematic Catharsis Terror Train http://cinematiccatharsis.blogspot.ca/
Loud Green Bird Atom Egoyan: Exotica http://williammeeker.com/
Girls do Film Florence Lawrence http://girlsdofilm.wordpress.com/
Moon in Gemini Good Riddance (Les Bons Debarras) http://debravega.wordpress.com/
Barry Bradford John Candy http://barrybradford.com/
The Joy & Agony of Movies Donald Sutherland http://lipranzer.wordpress.com/
Pamela, Guest Blogger New Brunswick’s connection to Hollywood http://silverscreenings.org
Old Movies Nostalgia Jack Carson in Romance on the High Seas http://oldmoviesnostalgia.com
Critica Retro Marie Dressler http://criticaretro.blogspot.ca/
Once Upon a Screen Glenn Ford in 3:10 to Yuma http://aurorasginjoint.com
Canadian Cinephile Leslie Nielsen http://canadiancinephile.com/
We Always Have Classic Movies Mary Pickford Bio http://wealwayshaveclassicmovies.blogspot.com/
Creme de la Creme Alexis Smith Bio http://ingegregusch.blogspot.ca/
le Mot du Cinephiliaque films of Claude Jutra: The Devil’s Toy, Mon Oncle Antoine, more http://www.lmdc.co.nr/
Dell on Movies American Mary, directed by the very Canadian Soska sisters http://dellonmovies.blogspot.ca/
History on Film Passchendaele http://historyonfilm.com/
Margaret Perry Louis B. Mayer http://margaretperry.org/
The Movie Rat Leolo http://themovierat.com/

 

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Sci-Fi/Horror Movie Making

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White Pongo wreaks Terror wherever he goes! Image: viajesconmitia.com

Good news! If you’re looking to make your own Sci-Fi/Horror film (and who isn’t?), we found the perfect film as your template.

White Pongo (1945) is budget-friendly fare about a white gorilla living near Africa’s Congo River who may be “the missing link between man and monkey.” Obviously there would be a lot of fame and money available to anyone making such a discovery, and a scientific team dispatches itself to trap the elusive gorilla.

The expedition is headed by an esteemed scientist (Gordon Richards), who has brought his daughter (Maris Wrixon) along, just because. There is also an anthropologist, a German translator/guide, several canoe paddlers, and a rifleman (Richard Fraser) who has his own reasons for being on the expedition.

White Pongo (pongo meaning “gorilla”) shows us what is necessary in making a Sci-Fi/Horror film, and what we can get away with. Our film features a gorilla, but many of these principles could apply to any costumed monster.

DO:

  • start the film in the middle of a dire situation, so the audience will be Very Fearful of what will Happen Next.
  • include a female character who appears plucky and adventurous. Make her as liberated as you like – we all know she’ll need saving from the gorilla before this business is finished.
  • have characters introduce each other with adjectives such as “noted”, as in, “Allow me to introduce my friend, the noted anthropologist.”
  • create an eccentric character who is waiting to give valuable information to the scientists. This character must be thoroughly altruistic and have absolutely no interest in cashing in on his own discoveries.
  • ensure the gorilla is always skulking about and is never in a good mood. Growling is essential.
  • give scientists a British accent. They’ll sound smarter.
  • give the bad guy a German accent. (Oops – spoiler! Sorry about that.)

 DON’T:

  • place the gorilla in an ordinary location – the more fictionalized, the better. People will believe anything about a place they’ve never visited.
  • allow characters to perspire. Also, wrinkled clothing – even when trudging through the sticky jungle – is a no-no.
  • worry if the camera flops around. Who says you have to hold the camera steady all the time?
  • get hung up about about focusing the camera on the actor who’s talking. Let it drift aside to another actor, who may or may not be listening to the dialogue.
  • worry about filming in different locations. If you shoot the same scenery from different directions, the audience will never know the difference.

The #1 rule that can never, ever be compromised: DO NOT, under any circumstances, skimp on the gorilla costume. If the costume is the most expensive item in your budget, it is money well spent. Look at the gorilla suit in White Pongo – it looks like it weighs 120 lbs and has an internal temperature of 200º. It probably cost a fortune!

Now, people who have been to film school probably get all bent out of shape about research and technical stuff, but who cares about that? You wanna make a Sci-Fi/Horror flick? Go make it! The producers of White Pongo have shown us how it’s done.

White Pongo: Richard Fraser, Maris Wrixon, Lionel Royce. Directed by Sam Newfield. Written by Raymond L. Schrock. PRC Pictures, Inc., 1945, B&W, 72 mins.

This post is part of the UNINTENTIONALLY HILARIOUS blogathon hosted by the lovely & talented Movies, Silently. Click HERE to see the other fab entries.

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John Ford’s Theatre of Faux Piety

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Charles Winninger won’t talk politics today, gentlemen. *Wink!*  Image: Alt Screen

Guess which of John Ford‘s films was his favourite. Come on, take a wild guess.

The Sun Shines Bright is not a typical John Ford movie. There isn’t a single A-list actor, nor does it appear to have an expensive budget. Despite this (or because of it?) the director labeled it as his favourite.

The Sun Shines Bright is about a small southern town at the turn of the twentieth century. It is based on three short stories written by American humourist Irvin S. Cobb (1876-1944).

The town’s circuit judge, played by Charles Winninger, is facing re-election. Winninger’s character is a down-to-earth man who refers to his drink as “corn squeezin’s”, and scurries about helping his fellow townspeople. However, he is always in election mode and often mockingly protests, “No politics today, gentlemen.” It’s a rather disingenuous campaign strategy when you think about it.

While the campaigning is afoot, an African American teenager (Elzie Emanuel) is arrested for raping a white girl. Winninger works to calm the town’s anger, especially when a lynch mob marches toward the jail where Emanuel is held.

In the midst of all this, a young woman who was adopted as a child (Arleen Whelan) tries to find the truth about her birth family.

There is a lot to admire about The Sun Shines Bright. It’s beautifully filmed, like all of Ford’s movies, with each shot artfully framed. It doesn’t easily slide easily into one genre, so it is more reflective of actual life. It is a drama and a comedy and a philosophical history.

It’s the kind of movie that should make us think Ford-as-storyteller is a fine humanitarian.

But it doesn’t.

It can’t, because we are watching John Ford’s Theatre of Faux Piety. This is where words do not match actions, and the discrepancy between the two is so jarring we can hardly concentrate on the plot.

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Stepin Fetchit as Winninger’s “assistant” (read: Servant). Image: blu-ray.com

The themes of this film are hypocrisy and redemption, as illustrated by these scenarios:

  • a young woman is ostracized by her fellow townsfolk because she was born out of wedlock.
  • when a sick woman with a dubious reputation arrives in town, she shunned by “decent” folk and is forced to take refuge at a brothel.
  • when a white girl is assaulted, police immediately arrest an African American teenager without proof.

These are thought-provoking themes that should be explored in film. Yet it’s strange that in a movie preaching Equality For All, the director presents African Americans as weak, one-dimensional characters who are completely dependent upon white townsfolk. Subtext: everyone deserves to be equal but them.

These characters have neither original thought nor ambition nor bravery. Really? People who survived slavery – and all that went with it – are now simpering fools?

It’s Faux Piety. Because Ford presents African Americans as ludicrous caricatures, the movie becomes hollow. When Emanuel is found innocent of rape charges, the film celebrates Winninger the Hero instead of examining the actions that imprisoned an innocent teenager to begin with.

We are left wondering: Redemption for some, but not all?

The Sun Shines Bright could have been one of the great films of Ford’s career. Instead, it leaves us feeling like a great premise has been squandered.

The Sun Shines Bright: starring Charles Winninger, Arleen Whelan, John Russell. Directed by John Ford. Written by Laurence Stallings. Republic Pictures Corp., 1953, B&W, 100 mins.

This post is part of the JOHN FORD BLOGATHON hosted by Krell Laboratories and Bemused and Nonplussed. Click HERE to see the other posts.

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