Gallery of Mastheads

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Mike Gebert
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Mike Gebert » Thu Jun 30, 2016 9:46 pm

Happy 100th birthday, Olivia De Havilland...

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She's actually been on the masthead before, when she was a mere stripling of 92, and I didn't realize I should conserve big stars for special occasions. Anyway, even though it's not the greatest picture, I think this one still captures something of her darkly catty sense of humor. posing deadpan with an Errol Flynn fan magazine as if she hadn't tempted and teased him back in the day. Her first great place in film history is as his impossibly perfect girlfriend, the feminine ideal of 12-year-old boys, in Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood and others. Then it was Melanie in Gone With the Wind; and finally, after the war, showing that she could take her persona darker in films like The Snake Pit and, for me, her greatest acting role if not her most iconic one, as the unfortunately plain girl of Washington Square in The Heiress (the role that won her Oscar #2; the first was for a maternal sacrifice drama, rather late in the day for such things, To Each His Own in 1946).

Lots of press coverage lately as she is our last adult star survivor of the 1930s (ironically Kirk Douglas is barely any younger, he'll be 100 in December, but because he didn't enter movies until the postwar noir cycle in 1946, he seems a generation after her). I especially liked this piece in Vanity Fair (though I don't believe her story that Flynn was unrecognizable ever, no matter how dissipated he got), and this interview from some months back in Garden & Gun.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Brooksie » Fri Jul 01, 2016 1:25 pm

It could be nobody else! Many happy returns, Ms de Havilland!

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by rudyfan » Sat Jul 02, 2016 11:52 am

On to 110 Olivia! Thanks for the masthead!
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Mike Gebert » Sun Jul 31, 2016 10:07 pm

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Paul Robeson takes the masthead this month, the best-known serious black actor of his time marking the arrival of a truly important set from Kino, "Pioneers of African-American Cinema." The five disc set amounts to an encyclopedic survey of early African-American film, which displays a great deal of vitality and ingenuity in the silent and early sound era when you consider how marginalized it was the entire time. No African-American performer broke through to mainstream (aka white) audiences during this time; Robeson, a towering stage and concert hall talent, came closest, but movies weren't really ready for him or knew what to do with him, he was a generation too early for the kinds of roles that Sidney Poitier would ultimately get, and his debut (included in this set), 1925's Body and Soul, is one of relatively few movies he made in America.

The other films were made by and star even less familiar figures, including the most prolific African-American filmmaker, Oscar Micheaux, but they showcase a wide diversity of work—which has been rescued from obscurity and PD copy perdition and presented in the best copies possible, with music accompaniment ranging from Donald Sosin and The Mont Alto Orchestra to the legendary jazz drummer Max Roach. There's only been a little discussion of this so far, here:

Kino Kickstarter for Pioneers of African-American Cinema
Kino Lorber Releases "Pioneers of African-American Cinema"
Win "Pioneers of African-American Cinema" and watch here
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by missdupont » Mon Aug 01, 2016 7:26 pm

Thanks for the masthead, Mike. A supremely talented man, far too little appreciated then or now.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Rufus T Dowd » Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:10 am

Is it me or does Paul Robeson look like basketball star Lebron James ?

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Mike Gebert » Tue Aug 02, 2016 6:49 pm

I had to look him up (but then I get thrown when people tweet about LBJ, too) but yes, James does look a little like Robeson.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by greta de groat » Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:32 pm

The one and only. My husband saw him many times in concert.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Brooksie » Wed Aug 03, 2016 12:20 am

I know someone who was there when Robeson sang to the workers on the site of the Sydney Opera House during the 1960s. He said it was one of the most electrifying performances he ever saw. You could hear a pin drop:


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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Mike Gebert » Sat Aug 20, 2016 2:56 pm

By the way, saw this at a farmer's market recently:

Image

Some irony in that text, possibly intentional, possibly not.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Mike Gebert » Wed Aug 31, 2016 11:56 pm

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Screwball comedy is a tough genre to pin down—because it's a mood, really, a 1930s romantic (or sexual) comedy in which at least one of the characters acts something like an irresponsible dingbat. It was easier to make a tiresome one, I suspect, than a really good one—especially if you had second-tier stars; and some of the greatest ones are more terrifying than funny (Twentieth Century, a titanic battle between two monstrous egos, comes to mind), while the zaniest ones can easily curdle (I used to love Bringing Up Baby, now it's unbearable—really, Baby, it's not you, it's me). Basically it was a hard souffle to make rise (unless you were Preston Sturges, who made half a dozen in a row when everyone else had stopped), but a few of them managed to pull it off just right—and 80 years ago this month saw the release of my personal favorite, My Man Godfrey.

It stars Carole Lombard, perhaps the quintessential screwball star, though one who went over the edge more than a few times; what makes her work so well here is that her loose screwball is paired with William Powell's sane, wise hobo Godfrey, and the comedy is grounded in Depression era realities. Here's to the genre, here's to the script by Morrie Ryskind and Eric Hatch (with help from director LaCava and the playwright Zoe Akins, apparently), here's to Lombard and Powell, another MGM star doing his best work on loan (to Universal; he got an Oscar nomination for it the same year another movie of his, The Great Ziegfeld, won Best Picture), to the supporting cast (Mischa Auer! Eugene Pallette! Alice Brady!), here's to the art deco look... here's to a near-perfect movie.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by boblipton » Thu Sep 01, 2016 4:03 am

Lombard really dances on the line of Too Much in this one. Usually it's the guys in comedies like Little Shop Around the Corner who get stalkerish, but here it's Lombard. I think it's Gail Patrick who offers us the contrast to make Miss Lombard bearable. All of which goes to show that this is a movie with many moving parts, all of which work.

I find screwball to be largely about two things: Sex (with the Hays Office closing down sex comedy, the subject had to go somewhere) and class. Class in America has always been an iffy thing, with the illusion that money is more than money. My Man Godfrey tackles this at extremes, turns the situation at the beginning topsy-turvy (like all great comedy does) and ends up being normative, as Powell turns out to be one of those people who usually speak only to Lowells and G*d.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by drednm » Thu Sep 01, 2016 6:51 am

boblipton wrote:Lombard really dances on the line of Too Much in this one. Usually it's the guys in comedies like Little Shop Around the Corner who get stalkerish, but here it's Lombard. I think it's Gail Patrick who offers us the contrast to make Miss Lombard bearable. All of which goes to show that this is a movie with many moving parts, all of which work.

I find screwball to be largely about two things: Sex (with the Hays Office closing down sex comedy, the subject had to go somewhere) and class. Class in America has always been an iffy thing, with the illusion that money is more than money. My Man Godfrey tackles this at extremes, turns the situation at the beginning topsy-turvy (like all great comedy does) and ends up being normative, as Powell turns out to be one of those people who usually speak only to Lowells and G*d.

Bob
Class..... and usually showing the upper classes to be populated with dingbats and loons and snobs who get their comeuppance... all of which movies audiences must have delighted in during the Depression.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by silentfilm » Thu Sep 01, 2016 11:08 am

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My Man Godfrey is probably my favorite screwball comedy. And the scene where they are washing the dishes is a good one... :lol:

(What were they thinking when they remade this in 1957???)

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by bobfells » Thu Sep 01, 2016 11:55 am

Good discussion here on what exactly is a screwball comedy. I might add the barometer of cynical (TWENTIETH CENTURY) or sentimental (IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT). Possibly refined by Shrill and Mellow. I agree that it was a delicate brew that more often than not missed the mark. That said, I suspect the secret to really putting one over is to pretend that you're performing Hamlet. Is there anything funnier than watching funny things happen to people who are trying to be serious? William Powell was the master at this and was soon joined by Cary Grant after Leo McCarey gave him a makeover in THE AWFUL TRUTH. Show me a screwball comedy where the stars are trying to be funny and I'll show you a dud.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Jim Roots » Thu Sep 01, 2016 12:05 pm

bobfells wrote:Good discussion here on what exactly is a screwball comedy. I might add the barometer of cynical (TWENTIETH CENTURY) or sentimental (IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT). Possibly refined by Shrill and Mellow. I agree that it was a delicate brew that more often than not missed the mark. That said, I suspect the secret to really putting one over is to pretend that you're performing Hamlet. Is there anything funnier than watching funny things happen to people who are trying to be serious? William Powell was the master at this and was soon joined by Cary Grant after Leo McCarey gave him a makeover in THE AWFUL TRUTH. Show me a screwball comedy where the stars are trying to be funny and I'll show you a dud.
Oh gosh, Powell is one actor who never gave the impression of being serious in any comedic situation. He always had that little half-smile on his face. He had it on throughout the Thin Man series, he had it on in Godfrey, he had it on in the Ziegfeld films... I love the guy, but once the talkies arrived (he was more serious in the silent era), he larked through everything. Endearingly so, but still ... he let us know he knew it was a comedy.

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My God D*mnfrey

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by bobfells » Thu Sep 01, 2016 1:48 pm

Jim Roots wrote:
bobfells wrote:Good discussion here on what exactly is a screwball comedy. I might add the barometer of cynical (TWENTIETH CENTURY) or sentimental (IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT). Possibly refined by Shrill and Mellow. I agree that it was a delicate brew that more often than not missed the mark. That said, I suspect the secret to really putting one over is to pretend that you're performing Hamlet. Is there anything funnier than watching funny things happen to people who are trying to be serious? William Powell was the master at this and was soon joined by Cary Grant after Leo McCarey gave him a makeover in THE AWFUL TRUTH. Show me a screwball comedy where the stars are trying to be funny and I'll show you a dud.
Oh gosh, Powell is one actor who never gave the impression of being serious in any comedic situation. He always had that little half-smile on his face. He had it on throughout the Thin Man series, he had it on in Godfrey, he had it on in the Ziegfeld films... I love the guy, but once the talkies arrived (he was more serious in the silent era), he larked through everything. Endearingly so, but still ... he let us know he knew it was a comedy.

Jim
Compare WP's dramas (Manhattan Melodrama) and his comedies and I find him pretty much the same in both genres.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Wm. Charles Morrow » Fri Sep 02, 2016 6:07 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:(I used to love Bringing Up Baby, now it's unbearable—really, Baby, it's not you, it's me).

Somehow I had the opposite reaction: the first time I saw it, it left me cold. Maybe I'd heard too much about how wonderful it is. A couple of years ago it was on TCM, and I decided to give it another chance. This time, I rather enjoyed it. This probably all comes down to the expectations game.

But My Man Godfrey I've always loved, every time. Beautiful to look at, terrific dialog, great cast, and Lombard at her best.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by greta de groat » Fri Sep 02, 2016 6:24 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:
Mike Gebert wrote:(I used to love Bringing Up Baby, now it's unbearable—really, Baby, it's not you, it's me).

Somehow I had the opposite reaction: the first time I saw it, it left me cold. Maybe I'd heard too much about how wonderful it is. A couple of years ago it was on TCM, and I decided to give it another chance. This time, I rather enjoyed it. This probably all comes down to the expectations game.

But My Man Godfrey I've always loved, every time. Beautiful to look at, terrific dialog, great cast, and Lombard at her best.

I have the same reaction as Mike. I thought it was just me.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Brooksie » Tue Sep 06, 2016 6:21 pm

greta de groat wrote:
Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:
Mike Gebert wrote:(I used to love Bringing Up Baby, now it's unbearable—really, Baby, it's not you, it's me).

Somehow I had the opposite reaction: the first time I saw it, it left me cold. Maybe I'd heard too much about how wonderful it is. A couple of years ago it was on TCM, and I decided to give it another chance. This time, I rather enjoyed it. This probably all comes down to the expectations game.

But My Man Godfrey I've always loved, every time. Beautiful to look at, terrific dialog, great cast, and Lombard at her best.

I have the same reaction as Mike. I thought it was just me.

Greta
Bringing Up Baby was one of the first films I ever studied, as a 19 year old university student. Our teacher particularly mentioned her discussions with an older lady who not only remembered seeing it herself in the late 1930s, but also her reaction - and the general consensus - that there was something about it that fundamentally didn't work.

I'm hot and cold on it myself. I feel the same way about His Girl Friday. Some days I'm in the mood for a wisecracking, superficial kind of a movie, but when I'm not, I'm really not.

But yes, I will happily sit down and watch My Man Godfrey any day of the week.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Mike Gebert » Fri Sep 30, 2016 10:35 pm

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As one of the most important women behind the camera of the silent era, Lois Weber is someone I've meant to honor for a long time, but the hook for doing so didn't present itself until quite recently, when Milestone announced that they would be distributing restorations of two of her teens films, Shoes with Mary Maclaren, and The Dumb Girl of Portici with the dancer Anna Pavlova— that's Pavlova on the left in the masthead.

Weber, who made many of her films in collaboration with her actor-director husband Phillips Smalley, was acclaimed throughout the mid teens to mid twenties as a sensitive and forthright director of films, often on women's issues—most famously the issue of birth control in Where Are My Children?, and the privations of underpaid teachers and their wives in The Blot. Her career declined in the late silent era and her only sound film, with the familiar title of White Heat (1934), is lost. As for Anna Pavlova, this is her only film, but she was famous enough as a ballerina that, like Luisa Tetrazzini or Nellie Melba, she was immortalized in a dish.

Extant Lois Weber
Billie Dove on YT (Sensation Seekers)
Lois Weber: The Director Who Lost Her Way in History
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Brooksie » Tue Oct 04, 2016 9:13 pm

Very well deserved. I look forward to the restoration of The Dumb Girl of Portici. Apparently a very young Lina Basquette also makes a cameo.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by milefilms » Fri Oct 14, 2016 8:03 am

Brooksie wrote:Very well deserved. I look forward to the restoration of The Dumb Girl of Portici. Apparently a very young Lina Basquette also makes a cameo.
Thanks! We're having a lot of fun with DGoP and I get to put all those Dance History classes at Ohio University to use. (Thank you Shirley Wimmer! who's also the person who got me into film.) One cool thing -- Anna Pavlova loved cameras and even had her own 9.5mm for home movies. Yes, we're getting them. :-)

I know Lina plays a sister in SHOES, but is she also supposed to be in DGoP?
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Brooksie » Fri Oct 14, 2016 3:45 pm

milefilms wrote:One cool thing -- Anna Pavlova loved cameras and even had her own 9.5mm for home movies. Yes, we're getting them. :-)
Wow, even better! :)

Basquette certainly claimed to have been in The Dumb Girl of Portici - and to be a protege of Pavlova's - and though she claimed a lot of outlandish things, she was at Universal at the right time and was a dancer, so it's not out of the question. Whether she is able to be recognised in the film is another matter.

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Unread post by milefilms » Sun Oct 16, 2016 4:09 pm

Thanks! As soon as it comes back from our restorationist, I'll start looking for her. :-)
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Jim Roots » Tue Nov 01, 2016 6:12 am

I like Geraldine Farrar as Joan of Arc more than almost any other actress who essayed the part, including Falconetti. It's not necessarily the quality of her performance that appeals to me. It's the fact that she physically looks the part.

All the other Joans are frail, saintly little waifs. Farrar is a beefy farm gal ... which is what Joan was. She had to have been husky and muscular to survive farmwork in that era. Plus, Joan was able to wear a man's full suit of armor, which weighed a tonne. She couldn't have done that if she were built like Mary Martin.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by boblipton » Tue Nov 01, 2016 6:16 am

It surprises me that in the silent era an opera singer could become one of the biggest stars of the movies, while dancers did not.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by Mike Gebert » Tue Nov 01, 2016 6:28 am

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On Christmas Day 1916 Cecil B. DeMille went into new territory, the religious-historical epic, with Joan the Woman. I have somebody else planned for next month, so I guess we're marking when the Joan the Woman Happy Meals hit Fred Harvey lunchrooms or something. Anyway, it starred Geraldine Farrar, an actual opera singer, who needless to say did not sing in it but, celebrated as an operatic actress, was successful in this and a number of other roles around this time calling for someone who wasn't afraid to hold an entire Metropolitan Opera audience in her thrall; Wikipedia tells us "She had a large following among young women, who were nicknamed 'Gerry-flappers'."

Honestly, I'm going to admit that I found the film kind of hard going as DeMille goes. Partly because I know the story and partly because Joan isn't a very relatable character—give me DeMille's social comedies, which delight a century later. Nevertheless, with its framing story set in WWI— officer in the trenches Wallace Reid has a flashback to his ancestor who dallied with Joan back in the 15th century— it found a new genre, the historical parallels with modern sin movie, for DeMille to piously exploit, and to make more money than Griffith, who somehow failed to have the same romance stretching through his four historical epochs that year. So for the third time, we honor the canniest showman of the era, Cecil B.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

Unread post by bobfells » Tue Nov 01, 2016 10:30 am

Excellent choice for November, Mike. I prefer Gerry in DeMille's CARMEN and JOAN is a bit sluggish at times but it's importance in the religious/historical genre is profound. I understand that this film was not a big commercial success but DeMille evidently figured out the parts that worked and the parts that didn't for later reference. Regarding dancers, DeMille did get plenty of use out of Theodore Kosloff who was a ballet dancer and who choreographed C.B.'s films from this time that had dance numbers.
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