Friday Facts: The Monstrous Movies

The Monstrous MoviesWelcome back to the article The Monstrous Movies by Charles Hanson Towne, which was originally published in Vanity Fair in September, 1921. Today I’m re-publishing Part II of a III part look at this wonderful piece of writing, which gives us a taste of life during the golden silent era of the very early 1920’s. Last week this article looked at the ever-growing popularity of becoming an actor on the silver screen, because it was noticeable as a good path to quick riches and wealth. Of course in reality most actors, or wanna be movie-stars, were left looking on with envy as a select few fellow thespians did make it to the top, if even momentarily. Do enjoy this weeks installment:

 

A Critical Close-up

 

Theatre Gallery“It is the movies themselves which have invented and invited the close-up. They must not complain, then, if we tear down all obstructing barriers, and seek to view them as they are, through a microscope; revealing every wrinkle as a crevasse, every shadow as a mountain, every least gesture as a tempestous orgy of emotion.”

 

“Yet I repeat that this phenomenon of the movies must be taken seriously. When one goes, as I did recently, to a city like Chicago and finds on the South Side, a district equivalent to New York’s Harlem, a two-million-dollar building of a magnificence housing nothing but photoplays, and sees over four thousand people packed in, watching and listening and obviously amused and thrilled, he asks what all this means, and admits, unless he is a Dumbkopf, the coming in of a new order. Particularly is he amazed and bewildered when, in the same city, he witnesses a brilliant spoken farce-comedy, deftly played by distinguished actors, given before half-empty benches – yet in the very heart of the town. What is one to say in the light of such over-whelming evidence? Simply that something has entered the world, suddenly, which grips the people, appeals to them, rivets their attention, and drives them out of the old established theatres. The galleries went long ago. Perhaps the balconies and orchestras will leave next. Then what?”

 

Old Theatre“One explanation comes, of course, instantly to the observer’s rescue. That farce-comedy cost $3.30 to see; the movie house asked only fifty-five cents for the best seat in a gorgeous auditorium. And not only was a good picture revealed, but operatic music was charmingly sung, and an orchestra of over sixty pieces, led by a trained director, rendered excellent music. The seats, I may add, were the last word in comfort, better than those in the ‘legitimate’ house, and the sense of charm and barbaric glory was all about – too much of the latter to suit my taste, but there, nevertheless, for the multitude that drinks in such surroundings and takes home the memory of a palace hitherto undreamed of.”

 

Actress Lillian Gish

Actress Lillian Gish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

“It is disillusioning and sometimes disheartening to see a picture in the process of making; to hear hammers sounding in some great studio while an actress behind a pasteboard set registers all the deeper emotions and permits her beautiful face – yes, beautiful at even eight in the morning! – to be daubed with glycerine tears, and, to the plaintive tune of a cheap violin, falls back on her couch of pain, while the camera inexorably turns, and men from the wings and ceiling pour merciless rays of light on her lovely head. I should think t would be anything but fun to “emote” like this, with no applause at the end of the scene. Wasn’t it Whitman who said that if we are to have great poets, we must have great audiences, too? How much more applies to actors!”

 

And that’s all for this week, but not to worry, I’ll be back next week with the third and final installment of The Monstrous Movies. Okay, so you want to be in the movies!

 

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

 

 

 

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Friday Facts: Hollywood’s Adoloescence

Quotation from Woodrow Wilson's History of the...

Quotation from Woodrow Wilson’s History of the American People as reproduced in the film The Birth of a Nation. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome back to Friday Facts and to the article Hollywood’s Adolescence by Richard E. Hubler. Last week I reproduced the first half of this article and we left it where the author was referring to how filming began to be brought indoors, with an orchestra playing at each shoot, while sets were built practically on top of each other. So here’s the concluding part of this wonderful article:

Cameraman“Even cameramen had temperament. Their stock excuse for quitting was: “The light is getting yellow.” Only cameramen could detect this quality in the sunlight so it always worked. Yellow light invariably spoiled negatives, but more than one director noticed that it set in just in time for his cameraman to get to the races.”

“Since a rival company had just completed a three-reel picture, Universal decided to do the stupendous thing. They issued orders to make a four-reeler, but on the safe subject of the Spanish-American War. The director shot it in eight days – a long schedule. Universal, then in  financial straits, tucked away the negative which represented its rehabilitation.”

D. W. Griffith“That night the studio was razed by a huge fire – and the negative was burned. The director summoned his cast and cameraman and shot the whole affair on a single day – from eight in the morning to five at night.”

“A not uncommon bonus for meritorious actions was a white enamel Simplex car, capable of 120 miles an hour. It was the custom to surround this monster with a solid bumper of railroad iron. A pastime acceptable to the motion picture colony, but looked upon with disfavor by the police and citizenry, was driving this creation into streetcars.”

“The motion picture writer began to come into his own – as the ‘titler’. Griffith invented his famous Came The Dawn“. Ralph Spence was possibly the most famous of these terse word artists. He was able to change the whole meaning of a picture, insert comedy or tragedy, simply by adroit one-line titles.”

The Birth of a Nation

The Birth of a Nation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“In 1915, D. W. Griffith issued his epochal The Birth of a Nation. It marked the end of motion picture puberty. It introduced the screen as an art. It demonstrated that long pictures were feasible, high box-office prices obtainable, and that the camera was a medium that owed nothing to any other source. In a word, ‘class’ had come to Hollywood. The motion picture industry was never to be the carefree jerry-producing business it had been.” -END

Well that completes another wonderful article filled with plenty of facts from the glorious early days of Hollywood. I hope you’ve enjoyed this and will join me again next week, when I’ll come up with another fact-filled article based around the great silent-era.

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Thursday Quotes: 1940s Cinema – Part 1

This screenshot shows Sydney Greenstreet and H...

This screenshot shows Sydney Greenstreet and Humphrey Bogart in a discussion about whether Sam (Dooley Wilson) will come to work for Greenstreet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome back to our weekly look at quotations connected to the world of cinema. In recent weeks I have looked at quotations taken from films of the 1920s and 1930s, but this week I’m going to take my first look at quotations taken from films which were released in the 1940s. So how many of these pictures do you remember, or even better, can you recall these famous cinematic quotes?

Trailer for the 1940 black and white film The ...

Trailer for the 1940 black and white film The Grapes of Wrath. John Carradine as Jim Casy, former preacher. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940):
Well, maybe it’s like Casy says. A fella ain’t got a soul of his own – just a little piece of a big soul. The one big soul that belongs to everybody…Then it don’t matter. I’ll be all around in the dark. I’ll be everywhere – wherever you can look. Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready. And when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise, and livin’ in the houses they build, I’ll be there, too.”

 

Trailer for the 1940 black and white film The ...

Trailer for the 1940 black and white film The Grapes of Wrath. John Qualen as Muley Graves, neighbor in Oklahoma. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Grapes of Wrath (1940):
That’s what makes us tough. Rich fellas come up and die and their kids ain’t no good, and they die out. But we keep a-comin’. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out. They can’t lick us. And we’ll go on forever, Pa… ’cause… we’re the people.”

 

Scene from His Girl Friday

Scene from His Girl Friday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His Girl Friday (1940):
He’s got a lot of charm.”
He comes by it naturally. His grandfather was a snake.

 

My Little Chickadee

My Little Chickadee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Little Chickadee (1940):
Any time you’ve got nothing to do and lots of time to do it, come up.”

 

A screenshot of Judith Anderson and Joan Fonta...

A screenshot of Judith Anderson and Joan Fontaine in Rebecca (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rebecca (1940):
You’re overwrought, madam. I’ve opened a window for you. A little air will do you good. Why don’t you go? Why don’t you leave Manderley? He doesn’t need you. He’s got his memories. He doesn’t love you, he wants to be alone again with her. You’ve nothing to stay for. You’ve nothing to live for really, have you? Look down there. It’s easy, isn’t it? Why don’t you? Why don’t you? Go on. Go on. Don’t be afraid!”

 

The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

The Thief of Bagdad (1940) (Photo credit: mikemennonno)

The Thief of Bagdad:
This is the Land of Legend, where everything is possible when seen through the eyes of youth!”

 

A deep focus shot: everything, including the h...

A deep focus shot: everything, including the hat in the foreground and the boy (young Kane) in the distance, is in sharp focus. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Citizen Kane (1941):
I think it would be fun to run a newspaper.”

 

Sara Allgood as Beth Morgan and Roddy McDowall...

Sara Allgood as Beth Morgan and Roddy McDowall as Huw Morgan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How Green Was My Valley (1941):
Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still – real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever.”

 

Main title frame from the 1941 public domain t...

Main title frame from the 1941 public domain trailer for the Warner Bros. film The Maltese Falcon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Maltese Falcon (1941):
You, you imbecile! You bloated idiot! You stupid fathead!”

 

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941)Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941)

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941):
I was in love with a beautiful blonde once, dear. She drove me to drink. That’s the one thing I’m indebted to her for.”

 

Screenshot of the title screen of the trailer.

Screenshot of the title screen of the trailer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Casablanca (1942):
Play it once, Sam, for old times’ sake…Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.'”

 

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a romant...

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a romantic scene. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Casablanca (1942):
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”

 

Screenshot of Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman, Cl...

Screenshot of Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Humphrey Bogart from the trailer for the film Casablanca. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Casablanca (1942):
If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it.”
No.”
– “Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.”

 

Cover of "The Major and the Minor (Univer...

Cover via Amazon

The Major and the Minor (1942):
Why don’t you get out of that wet coat and into a dry martini?”

 

screenshot of James Cagney from the trailer fo...

screenshot of James Cagney from the trailer for the film Yankee Doodle Dandy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942):
Ladies and gentlemen. My mother thanks you. My father thanks you. My sister thanks you. And I thank you.”

 

Cropped screenshot of Edward G. Robinson from ...

Cropped screenshot of Edward G. Robinson from the trailer for the film Double Indemnity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Double Indemnity (1944):
It was a hot afternoon, and I can still remember the smell of honeysuckle all along that street. How could I have known that murder can sometimes smell like honeysuckle?”

 

Cover of "Going My Way (Universal Cinema ...

Cover via Amazon

Going My Way (1944):
Y’know, at one time I had quite a decision to make: whether to write the nation’s songs or go my way.

 

The added gas chamber ending was unneeded, Wil...

The added gas chamber ending was unneeded, Wilder realized, so he shelved it (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And so that’s it for this week’s Thursday Quotes, but if you’re enjoying reminising these quotes from some of your most favourite films, don’t despair, sure I’ll be back next week with another bunch just for you. Now after all these quotations from the world of classic film, don’t ya have that longing to throw on your favourite classics … and play them one more time!

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

Midweek Matinee

SilentFilmLost

Here’s a strange fact about cinema. More than half the films every made no longer exist.

 Buster Keaton 1

Studios churned out product in the early days, with little thought of preservation. Most films had no future before television. Every few years a previous hit would go on general re-release, but these were always monster hits like Gone With The Wind. Other films just took up room.

English: Buster Keaton wearing his trademark p...

English: Buster Keaton wearing his trademark porkpie hat in the 1922 film The Blacksmith Available at http://us.imdb.com/gallery/mptv/1301/Mptv/1301/20676_0002.jpg?path=gallery&path_key=0012945 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The highly combustible celluloid was a fire hazard too, so the prudent producer would strip the film for re-usable minerals and destroy the waste. The fact that some of that waste contained the life work of a Buster Keaton or a Rex Ingram didn’t really register. How many people archive their newspapers, or their Facebook page?

Every so often, happily, something is plucked from the maw of time. The latest rediscovery is five new minutes of Keaton’s 1922 comedy The Blacksmith. You can read about the rediscovery, and catch a glimpse of the footage, in this excellent article from the (other) Guardian: Here

Posted by Kevin McGee

Friday Facts

New York Times (1914)New York Times (1914)

And Friday Facts is upon us once again. This week I’m going to reproduce an article I have found in The New York Times from May 26th 1914. The article may amuse you as it was written to introduce the readers to a new verb – The Verb – ‘To Film’:

Ye Olde DictionaryYe Olde Dictionary

“The verb ‘to film‘ having gained currency, it must be graciously admitted to the language. It will soon be in the ‘advanced‘ dictionaries and it must be recognized. The old idea of protecting the English language from invasion is extinct. To ‘film‘ means to make a picture for a ‘movie‘ show. ‘Movie‘ is a tolerably new word, too, but all the élite use it. The moving pictures are doing much more than revolutionize the language. They are broadening the public knowledge, making globe trotters of the stay-at-homes, showing us the wonders of the growth of plants and the development of animal life. As for their influence on the drama, they have none in any true sense. Moving pictures, even when they are accompanied by talking machines of the best quality, must always  be a feeble substitute for histrionism. The actor’s art is not to suffer. Whenever it is manifested it will get its reward.”

Shakespeare's Anthony and CleopatraShakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra

“But the theatrical stage has long survived without much real histrionism to brag of and the moving pictures outdo its best shows. They give you real ocean with towering waves instead of painted canvas, they present the story in motion, and sometimes in color, with such a variety of a changing scene as to satisfy the eye. Dr. Johnson would doubtless have found that moving pictures interested him more than Shakespeare’s Anthony and Cleopatra on account of their frequent changes of scene. When the villain throws the heroine off a cliff into a boiling torrent there is a real cliff and the torrent is authentic. No doubt, the present enormous popularity of the moving picture will abate in time, but some of the current picture shows are really marvels of selection, patience, and skill, and they will always survive as illustrations of travel, as aids to the understanding of natural history. As a substitute for the theatre they will do well enough until there is a revival of real histrionism, until great actors come again to exercise their ‘sway o’er hearts’. Meanwhile, whether 16,000,000 persons daily attend the moving pictures in this country, according to the evidence placed before the House Committee on Education at Washington, or only 6,000,000, which seems a more reasonable number, the vogue of the moving picture is surely at its height.”

The ArtistThe Artist

And so there you have it. The New York Times were convinced that the idea of motion pictures was just a passing fad, which in 1914 (99 years ago), was at its height. Who knew – eh? The verb ‘to film‘ has certainly entered the dictionary and there it will remain for a long time to come. Hope you enjoyed today’s edition of Friday Facts. I’ll be back next week with some more. And that’s a wrap!

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

A Quote on Thursday

Some more quotes for you this week from the world of, well, the world of anything. All quotes are connected in someway to cinema, and especially to silent film. There is also what has become a regular quote that is taken from the movies of Laurel and Hardy. So please enjoy:

BloodlinesNovel: Bloodlines

From the novel Bloodlines:

Do you know anything about silent films?”
Sure,” I said. “The first ones were developed in the late nineteenth century and sometimes had live musical accompaniment, though it wasn’t until the 1920s that sound became truly incorporated into films, eventually making silent ones obsolete in cinema.”

 

Laurel & Hardy in Their Big Mistake (1933) Laurel & Hardy in Their First Mistake (1933)

Laurel & Hardy from Their First Mistake (1933):

Stan (To Ollie): “Did you ask her about going out tonight?”

Ollie (To Stan): Nods his head

Stan (To Ollie): “What did she say?”

Ollie (To Stan): “You heard what she said.”

Stan (To Ollie): “Well what’s the matter with her anyway?”

Ollie (To Stan): “I don’t know. She says I think more of you than I do of her.”

Stan (To Ollie): “Well you do, don’t you?”

Ollie (To Stan): “We won’t go into that.”​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Bettie DavisBettie Davis

Bettie Davis:

I was thought to be ‘stuck up’. I wasn’t. I was just sure of myself. This is and always has been an unforgivable quality to the unsure.”

 

Pablo BergerPablo Berger

Pablo Berger:

Silent cinema can become like an hypnotic experience. I think you can get entranced. It’s almost like a voodoo experience. At least it has happened to me, and I really believe that some of film viewers, they have to give a chance to silent cinema because they have to be brave, because I have a feeling that some people that they say, ‘Oh, no silent film!’ If they taste it, I think it can become an addiction.”

 

Martin ScorseseMartin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese:

Cinema is a matter of what’s in the frame and what’s out
Barbara CartlandBarbara Cartland

Barbara Cartland:

We didn’t need sex. We had Tyrone Power.”
Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee

A Quote on Thursday

Singing in the Rain

Quote from Singing in the Rain:

Talkies will never last…..”

That’s what they said about the automobile….”

Sunset Boulevard

Quote from Sunset Boulevard:

You’re Norma Desmond. You used to be in silent pictures. You used to be big.”
I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.

W. C. Fields

W. C. Fields:

The movie people would have nothing to do with me until they heard me speak in a Broadway play, then they all wanted to sign me for the silent movies.

Sunrise

James D’Arc:

Sunrise was one of the last silent films. And as much is proof of why so many filmmakers lamented the coming of sound. It is a lovely and very powerful picture and the power of fidelity in marriage.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert:
“The wonderment is that we still have the silent clowns, many now available in restored versions. Almost all of Keaton, of Lloyd, of Chaplin. They were artists who depended on silence, and sound was powerless to add a thing. They live in their time, and we must be willing to visit it. An inability to admire silent films, like a dislike of black and white, is a sad inadequacy. Those who dismiss such pleasures must have deficient imaginations.”

Gerald Mast

Gerald Mast:

The great silent movies revolve around the body and the personality of its owner; the great sound comedies revolve about structure and style–what happens, how it happens, and the way those happenings are depicted. Film comedy, as well as film art in general, was born from delight in physical movement. The essence of early filmmaking was to take some object (animate or inanimate) and simply watch it move…. The sound comedy is far more literary. Given the opportunity to use the essential tool of literature, words, as an intrinsic part of the film’s conception, the filmmaker did not hesitate to do so. In silent films, the use of words in titles was intrusive, a deliberate interruption of the cinematic medium and a substitution of the literary one. We stop looking and start reading. But the sound film provided the means to watch the action and listen to the words at the same time. Whereas the silent performer was a physical being,… the sound performer was both physical and intellectual at once.”

Posted by Michael ‘Charlie’ McGee