Drama · Thriller

Marlene Dietrich, Queen of Light(ing)

“We’re in China now, sir, where time and life have no value.” These few words define the parameters of Shanghai Express (1932), a film about a Dangerous Time And Place where characters have little control over anything, namely rail travel from Peking to Shanghai. The word express in the film title is a bit of sneering irony;… Continue reading Marlene Dietrich, Queen of Light(ing)


The Visual Poetry of Director John Ford

Director John Ford was famous, in part, for his westerns. Indeed, he made John Wayne a superstar in 1939’s Stagecoach, and his filmography includes The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Fort Apache and My Darling Clementine. He won four Oscars for directing (a record, last time we checked), and was the first director to win two… Continue reading The Visual Poetry of Director John Ford

Comedy · Drama

Fred MacMurray’s Study in Ego

When it started making talking pictures, Hollywood intensified its plundering of Broadway. No, really. Hollywood, pressed for dialogue and actors that studios felt were trained to deliver it, began luring Talent to California with promises of sunshine, opportunity and Money. Although Broadway has long been a place where Hollywood shops for ideas, the advent of… Continue reading Fred MacMurray’s Study in Ego

Comedy · Drama

Mary Pickford, Hollywood Tycoon

This is Mary Pickford. She’s 25 years old in the above photo, taken on the set of the comedy-drama Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917). She plays a poor teenage girl from the country, sent to the City to live with two sour aunts. Yes, we know – she doesn’t look like a teenager. She’s also… Continue reading Mary Pickford, Hollywood Tycoon

Comedy · Drama

The Seditious Rules of the Game

The most uncomfortable films are those that denounce Society’s questionable choices. These films say I know what you’re doing, and they’re not intended to make audiences feel good about themselves. One such film is La Règle du Jeu (The Rules of the Game), released in France in the summer of 1939. Director Jean Renoir shows us the world… Continue reading The Seditious Rules of the Game

Drama · Thriller

Alfred Hitchcock’s Experimental Movie-as-StagePlay

There are two things that fascinate us about the lesser-known Alfred Hitchcock film, Rope (1948). The film, based on a stage play by Patrick Hamilton, was inspired by the infamous Leopold and Loeb murder case. (In 1923, two wealthy young men from Chicago kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy “solely for the thrill of the experience.”¹) So.… Continue reading Alfred Hitchcock’s Experimental Movie-as-StagePlay

Drama · War

Planning a Great, Gutsy Escape

We inherited several traits from our paternal grandmother, among them a love of calorie-rich food and an admiration for the actor James Garner. Our grandmother would Drop Everything if Garner made an appearance on television. Who could blame her? He was handsome, charming and easy-going. He was also a fine dramatic actor, as evidenced in The Great… Continue reading Planning a Great, Gutsy Escape

Drama · Western

The Last Film of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable

American playwright Arthur Miller once wrote a screenplay for his wife, Marilyn Monroe, called The Misfits (1961). It’s a somber, take-no-prisoners story, set in the bleak landscape surrounding Reno, Nevada. “Nevada is the Leave-It State,” explains Thelma Ritter in the film, meaning it’s the place to leave your spouse, your money and your nuclear fall-out. (Nevada… Continue reading The Last Film of Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable


Charlie Chaplin Says Goodbye

At the time, Limelight (1952) was intended to be Charlie Chaplin‘s last film. Although he did make two more films* after relocating to Europe, Limelight was his final Hollywood production. It is a last testament of sorts; a farewell to his Little Tramp character. Limelight was made during a difficult period in Chaplin’s life. The FBI… Continue reading Charlie Chaplin Says Goodbye