Tuesday, March 14, 2017

CMBA Blog Profile: Century Film Project

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month. Today we're featuring Michael from Century Film Project.

Century Film Project is a terrific example of how a classic (or historical) film blog can be a valuable resource.

Michael's well-organized site celebrates films that are at least 100 years old. In so doing, he's creating an educational and entertaining library for film historians – both amateur and professional.

Century Film Project covers all genres, from comedy to drama, and shows us the unusual or groundbreaking aspects of these films. During his research, Michael has also discovered some forgotten gems, such as Cecil B. DeMille's Joan the Woman (1916). 

"It’s a movie that I bet a lot of people don’t know about," he says. "When we think of Joan of Arc we think of Dreyer in 1928, not Cecil B, DeMille in 1916 – and that deserves more attention."

You can read Michael's review of Joan the Woman HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Century Film Project: My interest began with monster movies. When I was a child, I loved all kinds of monsters. But, by the seventies and eighties, horror movies were starting to focus on stalking and gore more than on monsters. It’s funny, because many horror fans today see the 1980s as some kind of renaissance, but the consensus then was that it had gone to the dogs. Anyway, the kind of movies that were released as horror throughout my childhood were generally R-rated, so I never got to see them. Jaws counts as a monster movie, to me, but I didn’t see it until college. So, there I was, watching old movies on Sunday mornings or weekday afternoons on TV, and once in a while there’d be something that wasn’t – quite – a monster movie, but I’d stick around anyway. For example, Abbott & Costello “met” various monsters and that’s how I got to appreciate their comedy, which is pretty child-friendly anyway. And my father was a Marx Brothers fan, so there was that. I recall watching The Maltese Falcon with him when I was very young – the only thing I remember really is that the closing line sent me off on a fantasy where the Falcon really allowed its possessor to control people’s dreams. He wasn’t what we would really call a “classic movie” fan today – he disliked the studio period in Hollywood and generally stuck to foreign films and independents. But, he did introduce me to older movies, and the idea that you could only watch new releases was never a concept in my house. 

That’s all long in the past. I took film courses in college and tried to learn the production end of things, and even worked in independent film in New York for a few years (you can find me on imdb, although most of the movies I worked in never made it past the festival circuit and don’t have entries there). But, I found that working on “new” movies just made me wish I could work on something more from the era I enjoyed. While I was living in New York, my father and I went to every screening during a Harold Lloyd festival at the Film Forum (I think I’ve seen almost all of his surviving films from 1921 on), and that was really my first big introduction to silent movies. I’d seen a few before, especially the horror titles (Der Golem, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Nosferatu), but I hadn’t really made a point of watching them. I got increasingly interested in early film and the early filmmaking process. In 2012, I made a New Year’s resolution on Facebook to watch as many hundred-year-old movies as I could in a year, and I posted reviews on my feed. I remember telling someone, “We now live in an age in which it’s possible to watch only 100 year old movies for the rest of your life!” Then, I graduated from library school and my life got turned around and I sort of lost track of that after April or so. In 2014, I decided to start up again. I had a job at a library at that point, and one of my co-workers encouraged me to start collecting the reviews on a blog, and the Century Film Project was born!

It’s worth noting that I didn’t start this project because I already considered myself an expert in the field, but because I wanted to learn more. In 2012, I was far more comfortable talking about 1950s sci fi movies or 1930s horror films than about anything from the 1890s-1910s. I’ve learned a lot, and come to appreciate new genres (even Westerns! And that’s saying something), and that’s what makes this whole project fascinating for me. When I started, my reviews ranged from 100-250 words (remember, they were Facebook comments, so that’s actually quite long for that format), but now I routinely write over a thousand for a feature film, and at least 600 for a short. That’s partly because I have so much more context to bring in, and I’m not just giving first impressions of something foreign. 

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Century Film Project: I should start by pointing out that I regard mine as a “historical” film blog, not a “classic” film blog. The difference is one of quantity versus quality. “Historical” is a measurement of age: a film becomes “historical” as soon as it is no longer part of the current pop cultural landscape. An older movie is more “historical” than a newer one. “Classic” is a measurement of quality. A film can be “classic” the day it is released, although that’s very hard to ascertain. Generally, if a movie is still being talked about by ordinary folks, say 30 to 50 years after release, it can be judged as “classic;” if the only people who know about it are "old movie weirdos" like me, then it’s just “historical.” The Wizard of Oz is a “classic” film, while Tower of London is a “historical” film from the same year.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old moves?
Century Film Project: I suspect that most of the movies on my blog are not ideal for this purpose – usually things like The Wizard of Oz or Gone with the Wind are more immediately accessible. That said, I do find that people, even children, who aren’t used to watching old moves will respond well to Charlie Chaplin. I took my nephew to a series of Essanay Chaplins that were running at the Castro in San Francisco last year, and he bounced up and down through the whole screening! Most people can sit through a few shorts, and I think the fantasies of Méliès are fun enough for a good intro to the period. Of course, it also depends what you are interested in.  For my fellow horror fans, proto-Expressionist movies like Homunculus or The Student of Prague are probably of interest. Since the Surrealists and Edward Gorey both praised Feuillade, the “Fantômas” serial is a good starting point for artists.

CMBA: Why should people care about classic films?
Century Film Project: Well, this takes us back to my definition of “classic.” People who care about any art form should be interested in identifying and appreciating the very best or most appreciated examples of that art form. People who want to paint, or who like modern painting, can learn by going back and look at Michelangelo, Van Gogh, and Picasso. They don’t have to like all the masters of the past, but it’s good to know why they became the representatives of their respective eras, and what they did that worked that we can learn from now. Only a true art historian needs to zoom in on an era and look at everything from that period, but anyone with an interest in art should be familiar with the classics. 

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Century Film Project: I’ve written reviews for years, mostly for the purpose of jogging my own memory, but it’s great to get the feedback and social interaction that comes from blogging. When I first started this project, I would look around the Internet and find “important” people commenting on the same films I did. That’s exciting and rewarding. I even like it when people disagree (respectfully) in comments, because it’s a chance for me to learn something new.

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog and how do you overcome them?
Century Film Project: I’ve looked at the responses everyone else has been writing to this question, and it always seems to come down to finding time to do unpaid labor. I don’t want to get political here, but I do think that this is a function of an economic shift that has come in recent years. I was just reading about the history of French film criticism, and the reason it got so good so fast was because in the early 1920s, every single newspaper in France (and there were a lot of them!) had its own paid professional writing movie reviews. It was the exchange between all of these people who had nothing else to do besides watch movies and read, write, talk, and think about movies that made them such a force.  Today, most of us who are passionate enough about movies to write about them have to do it as amateurs, and there’s very little realistic opportunity for monetizing that. We need to find a new model for paying intellectuals to do intellectual work in the 21st century.

CMBA: What advice would you give a new blogger?
Century Film Project: You know, I once thought that there was a “right” way to blog and had lots of advice for new people, but now I’m more skeptical of my own advice, because I’ve seen a lot of different things that work for different people. Mainly, I would say make sure you’re having fun, whatever you’re doing, and when it stops being fun, just stop it. Don’t feel that you “owe” the world or your readers or yourself another blog entry when you don’t feel like it. You’re actually more likely to come back to it and pick up again if you’re not beating yourself up because you missed a scheduled post. A lot of blogs come and go within 3-5 years, and, this being a hobby, bloggers shouldn’t feel like they’ve “failed” when that happens. If you’re in it for the long haul, be sure you’re committed to keeping the time open, but if not, be forgiving with yourself when you need your time back. 

Thank you for joining us, Michael! You can visit Century Film Project HERE.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

CMBA Blog Profile: Hometowns to Hollywood

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month. Today we're featuring Annette from Hometowns to Hollywood.

In many ways, Annette of Hometowns to Hollywood is a classic film archaeologist.

Her travels to conferences across the United States allow Annette to discover the hometowns of classic movie stars. "I feel that studying the lives of eventual celebrities and walking the same streets that they had graced in days gone by ultimately makes these figures more accessible, relatable, and overall human," she says.

Hometowns that Annette has explored include Wallace, Idaho (Lana Turner), Cincinnati, Ohio (Tyrone Power), Helena, Montana (Myra Loy), and Indiana, Pennsylvania (Jimmy Stewart).

"We all have our favorites," writes Annette, "and Jimmy Stewart is mine. I admire the life he lived, the roles he played, and the optimistic, reflective attitude that guided him through his memorable life. He never forgot where he came from."

You can read more about Annette's visit to Jimmy Stewart's hometown HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Hometowns to Hollywood: I became interested in classic film at a young age. When I was little, my father would go to Blockbuster and rent Our Gang shorts for me as well as Laurel and Hardy films. I enjoyed these so much and would look forward to every time he brought something black and white because I knew it would be good. I also loved watching the annual broadcast of The Wizard of Oz and became a huge fan of Judy Garland. When my family eventually subscribed to cable television, I flipped through some channels and was stunned to see Judy in a film that was not my usual Wizard of Oz. This was my first encounter with Turner Classic Movies and they happened to be showing Strike Up the Band, starring Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. I found the film entertaining, and I plowed through Judy’s filmography when I was nine and was exposed to many terrific film stars along the way. 

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Hometowns to Hollywood: A classic film is a film that has withstood the test of time and still possesses the power to evoke intended emotions and reactions in its viewers. Essentially, a classic film has captured a piece of magic that other films have not, preserving a moment of delight to be enjoyed for as long as the medium exists. Even if a film were released decades ago, the story depicted in a classic film is still fresh because it is fundamentally timeless and meaningful to any viewer. One can return to a classic film time and again and gain a new understanding of the film with each viewing. Best of all, viewing the film is just as delightful as sharing it with someone else.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Hometowns to Hollywood: I usually ask people, “What’s the oldest film you’ve ever seen?” Most of the time, they do not realize the age of some of their most beloved films. Moreover, I usually find that the oldest film some people have seen is The Wizard of Oz, without even realizing its age. Because many people tend to have positive memories of The Wizard of Oz, they warm up to the idea of older films because they realize that they have enjoyed them before. However, I tend to focus on recommending comedies, since everyone likes a good laugh. I find that Singin’ in the Rain is a great film to suggest. I also love to suggest silent comedies from Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin, as well as a long list of screwball comedies and musicals! 

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Hometowns to Hollywood: Classic films are extra special for a number of reasons. I think that people should care especially about classic films because of how groundbreaking these early films can be. Since we are used to modern-day filmmaking, it is often too easy for people to dismiss or overlook classic films. However, it is so important to realize that what is commonplace today was innovative for classic films. Without caring about and enjoying classic films, we do not have a context to understand how films have transitioned to the modern day and how important and long-lasting the efforts of early film pioneers truly are.

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Hometowns to Hollywood: The best thing about blogging is that you never know where it will take you. To paraphrase Buddy Ebsen, my passion is preserving what is good about what is now old—over the years, we’ve been taught a fallacy that everything big and new is good, and everything small and old is bad, which is simply not true. As a result, I’ve been able to meet many like-minded people, contributed content to a wide variety of magazines and websites, and am eagerly planning more trips to profile more of my favorite stars. I’ve also started a “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series in the Chicago area, and have also begun doing lecture tours about my blog for various organizations. It’s also pretty enthralling when Turner Classic Movies shares my posts! Maybe you’ll see me hosting a film or two with Robert Osborne one evening. Who knows? My travels have also led me to come into contact with various descendants of classic film stars. It is always a delight to include their input and have that extra personal touch of the start’s family made evident in my posts.

Blogging has also led me to becoming an archivist, as objects are also a great source of history and glee to me. In Waukegan, Illinois, I was able to see comedian Jack Benny’s trunk from his Vaudeville days. The same museum houses a bed in which Abraham Lincoln slept (sitting up—he was too tall!). One is allowed to get into the bed, but are not advised to touch the stage trunk. I love those priorities. Finally, in the not-so-exotic town of Peru, Indiana, I got to play composer Cole Porter’s piano. If I were to focus upon his life when he was already famous, that would take me to his later piano in New York, which has a big “Do Not Touch” sign on it. The same can’t be said for the piano in his hometown! Since my blog focuses on the hometowns of classic film stars, it has afforded me the opportunity to engage in the often overlooked early years of various film stars.

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Hometowns to Hollywood: My biggest challenge is to keep up my travels and continue producing new and engaging content for both myself and my readers. I feel like my blog is a scrapbook of sorts and it is so much fun to revisit these trips and see how the legacies of all these classic film stars continue too live on. My goal is to travel to all 50 U.S. states and cover classic film star hometowns in each. I have also been considering producing video content to transition from just writing to possibly creating a series of entertaining video segments. This way, I can “show” in addition to just “telling.” I also think that going international with my trips would be terrific! In short, my excitement for sharing these travels is a major source of motivation—especially when I hear back from my readers or when my articles are shared among them.

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Hometowns to Hollywood: Theme your blog to something about which you are tirelessly passionate. Write in your own voice and as genuinely as possible, and your enthusiasm for your topic will be infectious. I think that audiences enjoy writing that clearly shows how much joy your interest gives you. This will surely draw others to your writing. Additionally, even though it can be a challenge, try to update your blog as often as you can so that readers will know your blog is current and well maintained. Most importantly, enjoy yourself! 

Thank you for joining us, Annette! You can visit Hometowns to Hollywood HERE.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

CMBA Blog Profile: Mildred's Fatburgers

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month. Today we're featuring Beth from Mildred’s Fatburgers.

Mildred's Fatburgers has the wise-cracking, fast-talking personality of a smart, 1930s kind of dame – one who doesn't miss a beat and is very, very witty.

For example, here's a introduction to the film Scaramouche: "The Marquis is the kind of guy who kills poor people for poaching, gets girls in trouble, and makes duel-able mountains out of molehills with other gentry. In other words, just your average late 18th-century French aristocrat."

Beth's site covers multiple genres, such as drama, musicals and animation. One could argue her particular area of expertise is comedy, as evidenced by her review of the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup (1933).

"See Duck Soup again if you haven't in a long while," writes Beth. "It's only about an hour and 15 minutes, so your kids can watch it, too. Come for the spies, stay for the crazy."

You can read Beth's post on Duck Soup HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Mildred’s Fatburgers: Classic movies were a staple in our household for as long as I can remember. When I was growing up, it was possible to catch movies on the weekends on TV, either through local UHF or early cable options like WGN or NY Channel 11. My mother and grandmother were always good for filling in Hollywood backstories or to come up with suggestions for further viewing for me and my sister. 

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Mildred’s Fatburgers: That's a tough one. I think it's a combination of having a Studio sensibility and rewatchability factor. There are "new" classics that have that quality of being deeply rewarding and rewatchable, but the studios really define Golden Age classics for me. I separate silents from this period for that reason. Silent classics, for me, are international and not necessarily studio-oriented.
CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Mildred’s Fatburgers: Gosh. It depends on who's asking! For Rom-Com fans, I recommend The Philadelphia Story, because, obviously. For people who think they're too anachronistic or too stylized, I'd go for Baby Face, because Barbara Stanwyck will change their lives. For the indy or art film lover, maybe Black Narcissus. 

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Mildred’s Fatburgers: I think feminists should care about classic film, particularly. The parts for women were more complicated, meatier, and more multidimensional than most of the pictures out there now. They used to write women as having human motivations for doing whatever the script said they did, even if the roles themselves tended to be rigidly prescribed by gender. 

Generally, classic movies can be a snapshot of our society from the time in which they were made attitudes, social expectations, entertainment tropes, celebrity, and style – that should be interesting to anyone with an interest in our own history as Americans. Especially the egregious stereotypes and racism; it's important to experience the creepy things along with the entertainment value.
CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging? 
Mildred’s Fatburgers: I enjoy the process of trying to explain why I like or dislike a picture; it helps me organize my thoughts and even change my mind. I especially like getting feedback from other bloggers and general readers (who turn out mostly to be my sister).
CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Mildred’s Fatburgers: These days, I've had to put the blog on hold to handle issues with my autistic son and other family stuff. When I'm on my game, I found it extremely helpful to hammer out a schedule in advance. For a while there I was doing a "birthday of the week" and weekly profile of a child star. That way, I could write posts in advance of whatever birthday or mood I was in (for the child star) and post pre-written pieces to fit the time frame set by the schedule. Sometimes, though, I just dreaded having to write. The best thing I found to do was to power through, write SOMEthing, and push past the feeling. You have to not care about the quality in those situations and just be gratified you stayed on schedule. Not every post is going to be a gem.

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Mildred’s Fatburgers: Make a realistic posting schedule and stick to it, even if you feel blocked. You'll feel better for having written something, even if it isn't as good as you'd like.
Thank you for joining us, Beth! You can visit Mildred’s Fatburgers by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

CMBA Blog Profile: Immortal Ephemera

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month. Today we're featuring Cliff from Immortal Ephemera.

Visiting Immortal Ephemera is like wandering through a hip urban market filled with rare vintage finds.

Like any good market, Cliff's site offers a striking assortment of treasures. There are eBooks, collectibles and monthly publications, along with probing articles on lesser-known films and actors from the 1930s.

"It took some time for me to work up the nerve to start posting my own classic film-related writing," says Cliff, "but I've both written about and enjoyed classic movies for a long time now, so it was mostly a matter of combining those passions."

Cliff likes to include history, research and opinion in each film review. One example is Wild Boys of the Road (1933).

Another example of Cliff's classic movie passion – along with his zeal for research – was a post on the actress Helen Twelvetrees. "I spent a lot of time on it," he says, "and I decided I needed to know more." His ensuing research resulted in his book, Helen Twelvetrees, Perfect Ingenue.

You can read Cliff's original post on Helen Twelvetrees HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Immortal Ephemera: The limited TV options of youth: kind of a lousy answer when you realize how little it applies today. There’s so many different ways to watch TV now that you have to proactively seek out the classics. I just bumped into them. My family didn’t pony up for cable until I was eleven or twelve years old (of course, I felt like my family was the last to get it!), so my preteen years were spent with just the basic handful of channels. A lot of (most of?) the movies that played—especially on WOR-9, WPIX-11, and PBS—were old black and white movies. Holiday programming stands out in memory, especially Universal horror at Halloween, King Kong (1933) at Thanksgiving, and Jimmy Stewart at Christmas. By the time that Turner brought all of those oldies to his channels in the late ‘80s, my late teen years had naturally prescribed an unhealthy dose of television: suddenly, there were all of these new-to-me movies playing on TBS and then TNT. Old AMC was great as well.

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Immortal Ephemera: Well, that’s the toughest nut for our crowd, isn’t it? By strictest definition, anything of lasting importance crafted in the highest quality. It may sound funny, but I only have a passing interest in classic film, at least by that definition. What I love are old movies, especially movies released between the wars, most especially movies of the 1930s, a decade whose movies often celebrated the Roaring Twenties from first-hand experience, while also presenting juicy contemporary slices of life from the Great Depression. People my age often cite the more recent classics that they grew up with, titles like Jaws (1975) or Star Wars (1977) as classics, and that’s great—they fit my own definition. But I find myself more pulled to the background history of the films and the actual stories they tell, rather than any personal nostalgia for them (with many exceptions, of course—hey, I like Jaws and Star Wars too!). And the stars. Even the extras had an aura about them back then.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Immortal Ephemera: Most often I try to shock them out of the gates with some pre-Code. Hey, I want them to like what I like! Baby Face (1933) is a favorite in that regard, and the more salacious Warren William titles are usually front and center as well. Cagney of any era usually goes over, and if the earlier movies don’t work, a faster paced crime/noir title, something like The Narrow Margin (1952) or The Asphalt Jungle (1950) may come in handy. I definitely try to match the selection to the personality, so if an old title comes up too often in conversation with a friend (like twice!), then they’d better be prepared to witness it if they dare sit on my couch!

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Immortal Ephemera: Old movies offer good, simple stories, usually told without any further pretense than moving from point A to point B, maybe a little further. They’re often populated by stars who grab you with their personality, their talent, and sometimes both. Even the messiest old movie often offers something worth enjoying, if not remembering—whether it be a performance, a story, a style, the lighting, costumes or design, a jaw-dropping moment, or a thirty-second bit performance that you walk away remembering more than anything else about the film. They often manage this is just 60-70 minutes, and if they dare keep you entangled for 90-120 minutes, then you can bet they needed to do so, and you’re probably not going to mind. Sometimes they age badly, but hold camp value that give you your own MST3K moments. Old movies are entertaining, often on multiple levels. 

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Immortal Ephemera: The obvious, interaction with readers, but I definitely have a favorite type of interaction. Nothing is more exciting than happening upon some discarded old title that I haven’t heard about before, watch for the first time, and LOVE. I’ll often watch such new-to-me discoveries a half dozen times over a couple of weeks, which inevitably leads to a blog post about the movie. For that kind of movie, I’m trying to make the sale—I love it when somebody tells me they watched the movie because of my article. Of course, this is followed by the inevitable proprietary jealousy felt when others take up the cause and start selling “my babies.”

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Immortal Ephemera: Posting enough, especially when I’m working on writing that isn’t intended for the blog. It’s amazing how fast a week or two can pass, and suddenly you realize you haven’t posted. Will subscribers remember me? Am I butting in on them now, or are they waiting for me? If you’d asked me a few years ago, I’d probably mention tech issues, but even a self-hosted Wordpress site is pretty much a breeze these days. I’m also notoriously lousy with deadlines, which keeps me away from most Blogathons now, but I do like to think I’m improving on this. My new monthly eBook is part of my self-imposed effort to make deadlines, and so far, three issues in, I’ve made it every time. Knock wood.

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Immortal Ephemera: Post quality material often. Stress on quality, but the only hard and fast rule on this is being proud of what you’ve put out there. Knowing you’ve done your best. I’d recommended posting at least 2-3 times per week starting out. Get to know the classic blogger community by reading and commenting upon other blogs (recommended: the CMBA blogroll). Admittedly, I don’t comment nearly as much as I would like, but it’s a case of do as I say, not as I do! Anyway, if you’re taking the time to comment, the best comments show that you’ve read the post, and are continuing the conversation. Also, you’ll want to take advantage of those social media links leading to your favorite bloggers’ profiles. Share their stuff, they’ll notice you. I know I will!

Thank you for joining us, Cliff! You can visit Immortal Ephemera by clicking HERE.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

CMBA Blog Profile: Cary Grant Won't Eat You

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month, on the 1st and 15th. Today we're featuring Leah from Cary Grant Won’t Eat You.

Cary Grant Won't Eat You has a Mission: To introduce classic movies to "phobics". 

In many ways, it is the perfect site to "convert" newbies to classic film. Leah's site is witty, original and has lots of personality. It makes classic film feel accessible.

"My two sisters, both movie enthusiasts, have yet to give classic films a chance in spite of years of pleading," says Leah. "They consider classic movie stars inadmissible in the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game and resent when I win Scene It? at Christmas. My failure to convert them is a main reason I wanted to blog."

Leah is a big fan of Mae West – and you will be, too, after perusing her website – but she says her favourite film is Ball of Fire. "In trying to get friends to give old movies a chance, I often start with Ball of Fire," writes Leah, "mainly because I know many English majors/graduate students, few of whom predict what delights are waiting for them in this 1941 classic."

You can read Leah's post on Ball of Fire HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You: I was dismissive of classic movies as a kid, partially due to my mother’s love for schmaltzy Hayley Mills flicks. I caught part of Ball of Fire and Bob Dorian’s commentary on it in high school, then searched AMC till I saw it again. How could I believe black-and-white film inferior while viewing those eyes in the dark, or that riveting matches scene? How could I believe all classic film actresses were stagey while witnessing Stanwyck’s naturalism? That was the beginning.

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You: If a film is within my era, I can’t know whether it’s a classic. That’s why best-of lists are so aggravating. I recently saw Step Brothers listed as one of the best comedies of all time. I enjoyed the movie. But all time? We can’t trust ourselves to predict masterpieces when nostalgia is involved. (I always imagine the 80s films I’d shove into the canon, given the chance.) Distance and perspective, even a generation or two, are essential.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You: Ace in the Hole for political/news junkies. Scarface (1932) for black-and-white skeptics or crime film buffs. The Awful Truth for comedy fans. I’m No Angel for anyone who considers classic films old-fashioned. If Mae West can’t shock and delight you, I give up.

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You: I’ve been thinking a lot this fall about A Face in the Crowd and Ace in the Hole, films that have predicted where we’ve come politically and culturally. Would we be where we are, had more people watched them? Great films build empathy, understanding, and humor, and classic movies have been vetted for those qualities over time. Plus, on a slim pickings movie night, we can always find a good classic. A good Ashton Kutcher vehicle? Not so much.

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You: The community. I’ve spent much of my life as a solitary classic film viewer, with few family members and friends who love them, and fewer still who know much about them. What a pleasure to discover so many classic film buffs who can introduce me to so much joy.

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You: Time. And focus. Blogathons are a lifeline. And when a veteran blogger I admire comments on my post, what a motivator it can be! I’ve had several lulls during this past summer and fall, which was a challenging time for me. When I posted again after a long break, there were a few bloggers ready to encourage me. What a gift.

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Cary Grant Won’t Eat You: Stick it out for the first three months. Only your mom is reading, it’s true. But keep with it, and start commenting on similar blogs. You’ll be part of the conversation right away, which helps combat the initial solitude.

Thank you for joining us, Leah! You can visit Cary Grant Won’t Eat You by clicking HERE.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

CMBA Blog Profile: Strictly Vintage Hollywood

The CMBA profiles two classic movie blogs per month. Today we're featuring Donna from Strictly Vintage Hollywood.

Strictly Vintage Hollywood is a prime example of what makes the CMBA an exceptional organization.

Donna's lively and well-researched site reviews films and books, details festival experiences and shines a spotlight on classic Hollywood filmmakers.

One classic Hollywood celebrity has a special place in Donna's heart: Rudolph Valentino. (And who doesn't have a special affection for Mr. V.?) She's published one book on Valentino, and is working on a second, tentatively entitled The Films of Rudolph Valentino - A Chronological History.

"I have studied Valentino for decades," says Donna, "and I am still researching, learning, and enjoying the process."

Donna has also researched Valentino's mentor, June Mathis. “It began with a tango – June Mathis and her unique friendship with Rudolph Valentino," she says. "One of my earliest researched pieces is a subject I love, Valentino and June Mathis as well as roping in my favorite silent film The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The collection was represented in my book Rudolph Valentino The Silent Idol: His Life in Photographs."

You can read Donna's post on June Mathis HERE.

CMBA: What sparked your interest in classic film?
Strictly Vintage Hollywood: I like to say I was born loving movies. My parents instilled in me the love of what are now referred to as classic films because we shared going to movies when I was a child; both at the Drive-In (how I miss that, Disney films in my jammies) and going to see first run films at Century 21 Dome (dressing up in our Sunday best the process). We also shared time watching classics such as The Wizard of Oz and Portrait of Jennie on television. For my parents, these were the films of their generation and they became mine. 

This is probably too much information, I also learned to love classic films seeing them on television, late night television such as TV 36 in San Jose and KBHK where classics from 20th Century Fox, MGM, RKO, Paramount and Warner Brothers were on regular rotation. Once I got my library card and discovered the film history section, a whole new world opened up for me, film bios and film history.

Once I could drive, I became a loyal patron twice weekly at my local revival movie house (The Vitaphone). There I experienced familiar favorites, except, they were Three Strip Technicolor prints newly struck from the camera negative, on the big screen, it changed my life. Films on television never looked like this! Gob smacked is a good word to describe the feeling. For a film geek, it’s like a drug.

Getting to know the owners, working at the theater over a summer and learning how to run the large 35mm projectors; that was a thrill. It was also a thrill to stand in the back of the theater and watch the chariot race from the 1959 Ben-Hur six nights in a row. To see Random Harvest, a pristine new print, so clear you felt you could walk into it. The Garden of Allah, Dietrich and Boyer, impossible silly romance, in glorious Technicolor.

CMBA: What makes a film a "classic" in your opinion?
Strictly Vintage Hollywood: Literally, to me a classic film is anything from 1900 to about 1965, the dawn of film to the end of the studio era in Hollywood. This would include foreign films, too. A classic, does not even really have to have the best script, or acting, to me. It is a film that stands the test of time and repeated viewings.

CMBA: What classic film(s) do you recommend to people who say they hate old movies?
Strictly Vintage Hollywood: John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon, Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain, just about any Laurel & Hardy film and the same for Buster Keaton, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Now Voyager, The Heiress, The Mark of Zorro (silent and talkie versions), The Son of the Sheik, North by Northwest, Rear Window, and Sunrise. (I could name a dozen more!) It is inconceivable to me that someone could actually say they “hate” old films. For those that do, I can only imagine that they have not really seen any. So many genres, gangster, musicals, comedies, drama, women’s pictures, adventure films, romance, sci-fi, you name it, there really is something for everyone if they could be introduced to seeing a film as it was meant to be seen, i.e. on the big screen. At the very least, on television without commercials, like TCM.

CMBA: Why should people care about classic film?
Strictly Vintage Hollywood: In today’s world of instant news, the 24 hour news cycle and endless tweets and Facebook posts, sometimes I think people need to care about classic films as a way to let go, lose themselves and enjoy 90 minutes (or two hours) of solid entertainment. Any classic film is a reflection of the era in which it was produced, but, the bottom line is all are human stories. They can touch you, empower you and make you feel great just when the real world has got you down. In other words because they are so very entertaining.

Why should they care about preserving them? Cinema is the most American of art forms. Film can be a snapshot of the period. Once lost, they likely remain so and a part of our history is gone forever, except stills and lobby art. Imagine a world without Gone with the Wind or The Wizard of Oz?

CMBA: What is the most rewarding thing about blogging?
Strictly Vintage Hollywood: The best thing I have found in blogging and writing about film is the people I have met. I mean, I follow several blogs and I love to read other viewpoints and learn about films I have not yet seen. I enjoy writing, and blogging is a tool for me to improve my writing and to share about films I love. If I get one comment telling me they’ve loved a film I’ve written about, that’s the best icing on any cake, metaphorically speaking. This takes me back to seeing films with my parents, blogging and classic film is a shared experience, and it’s wonderful. I’ve met some of my best friends this way.

CMBA: What challenges do you face with your blog, and how do you overcome them?
Strictly Vintage Hollywood: The biggest challenge is finding time, and trying to be regular in posting. A challenge especially now as I am researching and writing a manuscript. I am trying to be proactive this year, bet in the habit of a weekly post, even a small one. For the manuscript, taking inspiration from my friend over at Backlots, Lara, to write something every day on the manuscript no matter how small.

CMBA: What advice would you give to a new blogger?
Strictly Vintage Hollywood: Write about what you love. That, to me, is the biggest motivation. Be receptive to constructive criticism and ignore the trolls. 

Thank you for joining us, Donna! You can visit Strictly Vintage Hollywood by clicking HERE.