Sunday, January 24, 2021

CMBA Profile: Nur Soliman

Each month the CMBA profiles one of its members. This month our profile is on Nur Soliman of You Have Been Watching.
  1. The tagline of your blog is “Dreaming in Television”. What started your love for classic television programmes?

It’s likely something carried over from family/childhood, but I’ve always just felt more ‘at home’ with classic films as well as television (I’m a little younger than that, but I’ve always thought I’d have made a great 11-year-old a half century back). I guess the exciting ‘newness’ of TV in particular meant there’s an exciting ‘newness’ for the spectator too, like you’re enjoying something designed to make the most of its medium, from the diverse formats of ‘serials’ to things carried over from variety or the stage, acting styles, genres, sets, special effects, music, you name it: ways to create a ‘moment’ to be transported to. Another explanation I have is less serious-sounding but maybe more important, which that classic TV is a great comfort to me – it’s always been just what I need on rainy days. Even my blog name (‘You’ve Just Been Watching’) was inspired by the closing sequences of old Croft and Perry series like Dad’s Army: I feels it captures that collective warmth of inviting you, the audience, in ‘from the cold’ – while ‘Dreaming in Television’ maybe expresses how much I love the imaginative, fictional power of all these on-screen universes created so many years ago.



  1. You’ve written a “love letter” to Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple. What do you love about this classic iteration of the character, besides her “chin wobbling determination”?

I admit I’ve written lots of ‘love letters’ to her! It might be my love of offbeat actresses like Zasu Pitts, Athene Seyler, Irene Handl, Peggy Mount, Jean St. Clair, or Mona Washbourne, but I think I’d like to turn out just like Margaret Rutherford’s Marple when I’m older (just need the right cape-shawl now). And I love Rutherford in her other film appearances and cameos, but there’s something different in her incarnation of Agatha Christie’s pearly-haired lady detective. I feel like I’ve read this too, but when you watch her in Murder Ahoy or her other Marple films, you get the distinct feeling that Rutherford is acting, very seriously, as though she truly were Miss Marple: there’s hardly a hint of ‘the actor’ in her performance (though there’s also the contrary but not-contradictory feeling that she’s also, in part, just being herself). Whether or not this is intentional or even true, there really is an uninhibited, earnest ‘gusto’ to her screen presence, this septuagenarian meteor completely in her mystery-solving element. So maybe when Rutherford’s muddling through the countryside and charming/mystifying those around her, she’s also inspiring this joyful, life-affirming authenticity in those of us who love to watch her.



  1. If you were to recommend five classic films to a first timer, which five would you recommend and why?

Whenever I recommend a classic film I’m always a little apologetic or worried about how it will go over with folks more used to the pace/style of modern cinema, but there are a few I’ve managed to enjoy with others which I’d love a first-timer to try, too – The Magnificent Seven (1960): Kurosawa’s timeless original story turns out superbly as a great Technicolour Western (Yul Brynner looks pretty great in his cowboy hat and boots), and the adventure is as thrilling as it is unexpectedly moving. The Enemy Below (1957): I think it remains one of the most significant, balanced fictional treatments of WWII maritime battle, and its clever cat-and-mouse suspense is spectacularly gripping. The Lavender Hill Mob (1951): it’s one of the gentler Ealing comedies but I think it’s one of those wonderful examples of older comedies boasting more quiet subversive, anarchic sparkle than one might expect. Beware the Automobile (1966) is a uniquely unconventional, sensitively nuanced take on the ‘heist’ sub-genre, alternately character study, classic mystery, and tragic-comedy. And finally, La Grande Vadrouille (1966): starring some of France’s best-loved comics, this fantastic WWII countryside caper topped the country’s box-office for whole decades, and is just as exciting today!



  1. Why should be people care about “old” black and white movies?

Old movies are documents worth preserving and revisiting like great music, literature, and art: not necessarily as accurate frozen images of the times (although they often unintentionally preserve for us times and places, landscapes, even dialects that have since disappeared or changed beyond recognition), but insights into our social history, popular culture, the way narratives were interpreted or chosen, histories understood, peoples perceived, how certain audiences and/or filmmakers felt about the past, the present, and the future. And I think it enriches us as viewers of the screen – and spectators/actors of life as a whole – when we have these histories buoying us up, things that can renew and deepen our understanding of what we see and create today. It could be the vestiges of vaudeville and radio still present in comedy, the global cultural exchange of creative talent and waves of influence across continents that have been shaping our screens since, or simply that we can look back to find/re-discover a treasure trove of stories of achievement, loss, perseverance, exuberance, fantasy, love: things will feel surprisingly familiar but also different, that can also give us new, brilliant ways of seeing and looking at the universe, at people, and even ourselves.



  1. Who are your favourite filmmakers?

I love watching, thinking about, reading about/researching, and writing/talking about films a lot (I mean a lot), but I’ve realised I don’t have the cinephile’s approach to film, it’s just trying to find more of what I like or think I might like. There are so many filmmakers I really love, including: John E. Sturges, king of true ensemble adventures that resist ‘close-ups’ but are filled with the sheer power of the story instead; Richard Lester and Leonid Gaidai, masters of truly brilliant ‘60s Western and Russian slapstick/gag comedy (which I feel deserve renewed appreciation); Muriel Box, Britain’s most prolific woman filmmaker (I sometimes feel this inexplicable, personal responsibility to highlight her wonderful 1953 film Street Corner); Hussein Kamal, whose A Little Fear [Never Hurt Anyone] is a masterpiece of Egyptian cinema both in its direction and its enduring poetic impact; Tatiana Lioznova who so masterfully plumbs the emotional/political depths of longing and belonging in many of her works, every other one a cult classic; Vladimir Motyl, whose Zhenya, Zhenechka, and Katyusha so sensitively depicted wartime through a Walter-Mitty soldier; and the great Powell & Pressburger who so easily travel between mysticism and humanness, in ‘this world and the other.’


  1. What do you think of modern cinema?

It’s hard to answer in a way because I don’t really think about modern (post-90’s) cinema an awful lot; there are handfuls of gems I’ve fallen in love with over the years, but they don’t seem to preoccupy me as much. I don’t know if it’s the realism or commercialism, the approaches to acting or subject matters or direction or storytelling, or if I’m just ‘not with it’ (though that’s probably true) but I often feel slightly out-of-sync when watching newer stuff, nothing like the deeply familiar feeling and absorbed interest I have with my favourite classics. Maybe it’s more a case of what I love about older cinema by contrast: much like classic television, part of the glowing appeal of classic cinema is the fresh-ness of it, the rich pantheon of world film that portrayed – not always perfectly, mind you – people, places, stories, with less of the ‘tricks’ available to filmmakers today, but relying on creativity to take audiences on a journey. This might require un-cynical suspension of disbelief but I think that’s part of the magic and enjoyment: to see the model miniatures and matte/glass-painting scenery and still believe you’re on the moon, or underwater, or in Paris.



  1. If you could recommend a classic television programme to get a newbie interested, what would it be and why?

Oh so many shows! There’s one I’ve tried to recommend often without much success to date, but that hasn’t dampened my almost-evangelical enthusiasm for sharing the exhilarating wonders of The Phil Silvers Show (also known as Sgt. Bilko) with anyone who will listen/watch. The series’ then-stellar success conquered the likes of I Love Lucy and The Milton Berle Show in awards, ratings, everything, but has since faded into comparative obscurity (except amongst older fans in the UK). This will always mystify me because ‘Bilko’ is one of the most lightning-brilliant comedies of all time, thanks to the geniuses on- and off-screen. Silvers’ impeccable comedic timing, delivery, and energy almost spark off the sound-stage in this slightly off-kilter ‘service comedy’ world that show creator Nat Hiken had woven for him: a lovably cunning sergeant who expends incredible amounts of thought and energy into ‘making it rich’ in the army and Kansas of all places. The show established novel conventions of humour, half-hour plots and arcs, script, casting, character, all its own, influencing shows as recent or innovative as Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm, but absolutely nothing makes me laugh as much as ‘The Phil Silvers Show’ for its chaotic, ‘human’ joy.



  1. If you could travel back in time and interview one classic television star, who would it be and why?

Not a day goes by where I don’t wish I could have befriended or at least met some of my favourite classic screen stars, but by now you can see how enamoured I am with Phil Silvers (he’s also the recipient of as many of my ‘love letters,’ haha), so it would be him! Silvers was already a well-known Broadway star before he got his show, and had made his way up in show business as a singer, burlesque comedian, movie actor, and entertainer. When we get to Bilko, we get this larger-than-life legend who is just mesmerizing to watch, a Catherine-Wheel firework around which the entire story, cast, stage softly radiates. His decades of experience gave us a man with an astute sense of timing, an engaging and multi-dimensional persona, an absolutely natural presence in every medium and every format. I’ve always felt deprived of more of Silvers’ brilliant on-screen potential, and would have loved to hear him reflect more on his fascinating life, get to know the gentle, sometimes-anxious, shy, and kind man who absorbed and transformed for us a character that was all mind and all heart – and thank him personally for the joys he’s given me!


Saturday, December 5, 2020

CMBA Profile: Kevin Maher

 Each month the CMBA profiles one of its members. This month our profile is on Kevin Maher of Top 10 films. 



1. Your blog concentrates on making lists pertaining to classic films. What attracts you to this approach to classic film?


I was in a job interview & the interviewer asked me to name a few of my favorite films.  I froze and spit out a few of the first titles that came to mind, kicking myself later for the choices.  After that I carried a list of my 10 favorite films in my wallet for quick reference (very nerdy, I know).  Every once in a while, I would update the list, so I guess that’s where the idea for Top10FilmLists.com came from.  Of course, it took me about 15 years before I started doing anything about it.


2. Which of your lists did you most enjoy compiling and why?


Every list opens up something I hadn’t seen before or something I hadn’t thought of, so that’s a really hard question.  I try to see as many films as possible when creating a list, which obviously involves seeing films I’ve never seen and in some cases never even heard of.  I also try to read at least one book on the subject of the list to add more background on what I’m watching.  I’m going to name 2 lists that gave me particular joy in creating:  the Top 10 Pre-Code list and the Ernst Lubitsch list.  The Pre-Code era is one of my favorites & every film offers something interesting, unique and surprising.  I’m a big fan of the Pre-Code.com blog and I find that the more pre-code films I watch, the more I want to see.  As for Lubitsch, which dovetails with the pre-code era, it was watching his German silents from the late teens that really energized me.  I had never heard of Ossi Oswalda, but was blown away by her performances in The Doll, I Don’t Want to be a Man and The Oyster, as well as early evidence of the “Lubitsch touch.”


3. If you were to recommend five classic films to a first timer, which five would you recommend and why?


Sunset Boulevard:  I love everything about this movie & it opens up so many things to think about & talk about.

Singin’ in the Rain:  the quintessential musical, with a wonderful splash of Hollywood history.  The joy in filmmaking is clearly evident in every scene.

Sunrise:  My favorite film of all time!  I think it’s a wonderful example of everything that the silent era was.  From lyrical camera movement, to limited title cards, beautifully constructed frames, and a wonderfully melodramatic storyline, Sunrise overcomes novices’ fear & concerns about silent films (I know it’s not purely silent, but I think I would be a bridge for a newcomer to enter into silent film from a comfortable place).

My Man Godfrey: William Powell & Carole Lombard, in my favorite screwball comedy, shows the silliness & smartness of the 30’s, as well as showcasing 2 of my favorite actors.

Bonnie & Clyde: I think this film shows the evolution of movies after the Code’s disintegration, as well as the revolution of “new Hollywood” of the late 60’s, in glorious & violent color.  A great example of film as a reflection of the time in which it was made.


4. Why should people care about “old” black and white movies?


Between Jazz & movies, America was the primary driver of the 2 greatest artistic movements of the 20th century, in my opinion.  I like to call vintage movies “classic” & to borrow a common phrase, “it’s not old if you’ve never seen it!”  People should care about classic movies just like they should care about all art, as something to be looked at for how it influenced what they like today.  


5. Who are your favourite filmmakers?


Lubitsch, Wilder, Huston, Sturges, Wellman & Hawks, to name a few.  When I stared my blog I considered myself an auteurist, but have since reconsidered how I feel about movie making as a process.  While certain directors undeniably put their imprint on most of their work, I now give more credence to the collaborative nature of film making & enjoy studying writers, producers, cinematographers, as well as actors & directors.


6. What do you think of modern cinema?


Just as I won’t listen when people disparage “old movies” as bland & outdated, I don’t subscribe to the thought that there are no good movies made today.  Sure, most of the Hollywood studios make all their films for teenage boys, but there are great films being made all the time.  Having just left 20th Century Fox last year, I can attest that Fox Searchlight does wonderful work in both production & acquisition, finding quality filmmakers & giving them a fairly large platform. (hopefully that will continue under new management). Similarly, foreign films are more broadly diverse & better made than ever before.


7. Your top 10 favourite films is quite a mix of genres. Why do you consider these ten films as being your favourite.


The list as it’s currently constituted reflects my auteurist origins & I’m actually working on a refresh.  Whereas the current list reflects my favorite films from 10 of my favorite directors, the new list will likely be more of the “10 films I could take to a desert island & NEVER get sick of watching”. I write a weekly newsletter & I got more feedback on the idea of refreshing my Top 10 All-time favorites than anything else I’ve written about in the last 6 months.   I’ve also seen close to 1,000 films since I made that list, so it’s time for a refresh.  As I note right at the top of my landing page, ALL of my lists are completely subjective & reflect only what I’ve seen & how much I like it.  I always welcome feedback & criticism to help shape any of the evolving lists!


8. If you could compile a top 10 list of films, directors or actors for a major entertainment publication, who or which films would the list focus on and which publication would you write for?


Maybe helping Victoria Wilson complete the second volume of her biography of Barbara Stanwyck!  Seriously, if I was going to be greedy I’d say to write for EW, to have the broadest reach.  If I was being studious, I’d write for Film Comment & if I wanted to be happy, I’d create a Top 10 list for each of the major studios of the classic era.  I figure that would take a lifetime to do a thorough job!

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

New eBook - Politics on Film - Now Available



The latest edition in the Classic Movie Blog Association’s eBook series is now available at Amazon and Smashwords. The eBook features keynote films focusing on politics in the movies. Here you will find seventeen essays covering political films dating back to the 1930s and up thru the 1960s. “Politics on Film” contains a wide range of political points of view from the courageous to corruption to satire. Among the movies included in this collection are well-known works like The Best Man, All the King’s Men, Duck Soup, and Yankee Doodle Dandy, to more obscure films such as Medium Cool, What Every Woman Knows, and Left, Right, and Center.  Contributors: Paul Batters, Annette Bochenek, Marsha Collock, Jocelyn P, Dunphy, Patricia Gallagher, Amanda Garrett, Rick Gould, John Greco, Jess Ilse, Marianne L'Abbate, Kevin Maher, Beth Nevarez and Lora Stocker, Patricia Nolan-Hall, Linda J. Sandahl, Patricia Schneider, Nur Soliman, and J.O. Watts.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

CMBA Politics on Film Blogathon - October 20 - 23




 Hello everyone,


We hope all are safe! The Classic Movie Blog Association’s Fall Blogathon runs from October 20 thru October 23rd. With this being a Presidential election year in the U.S. we are presenting the “Politics on Film Blogathon.” Political intrigue, corruption, elections, politicians, heroic or criminal, and more are all in play. With that in mind, the CMBA presents its annual Fall blogathon - POLITICS ON FILM.


Below are the Contributors (Italicized titles have links)

October 20th

All The King's Men (Siver Screen Classics)

The Great Dictator (A Person in the Dark)

Andy's Stump Speech (Strictly Vintage Hollywood)

A Face in the Crowd (Top 10 Film List)

The Politics in the Films of Henry Fonda (The Best Man and Advise and Consent (Rick's Real Reel)

We'll Live Until Monday (You've Just Been Watching)

Together Again (Cary Grant Won't Eat You)

Medium Cool (Classic Film Observations and Obsessions)

Left, Right and Centre (Cinema Essentials)


October 21st

Yankee Doodle Dandy (The Movie Night Group) 

All the President's Men (Second Sight Cinema)

Advise and Consent (Backstory)

What Every Woman Knows (Caftan Woman)

The Farmer's Daughter (Box Office Poisons)

Alias Nick Beal (Four Star Film Fan)

October 22nd

The (Almost) Great McGinty (The Lady Eve's Reel Life)

The Best Man (Old Hollywood Films)

A Supreme Court of  Classic Movie Characters (Once Upon a Screen)

Duck Soup (Hometowns to Hollywood)

The Turning Point (Another Old Movie Blog)

The Role of Ava Gardner in Seven Days in May - Ava Gardner Museum 

October 23rd

Seven Days in May (Twenty Four Frames) 

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Screen Dreams)

The Candidate (Whimsically Classic)

Flamingo Road (Pale Writer)

The Glass Key (Make Mine Film Noir)

Fail Safe (Musings of a Classic Film Addict)

State of the Union (In The Good Old Days of Hollywood)


Saturday, October 3, 2020

CMBA Profile: Neil Powell





CMBA profiles one member every month. This months interview is with Neil Powell of https://thoughtsfrommusicalman.art.blog  
  1. You say on your blog that you have a large physical media collection.  What are some of your most prized film releases that you own?


Well, I would definitely say that the Blu-ray of the restored My Fair Lady is one of them. My late grandmother (whom I used to enjoy watching some of these classics with on a regular basis) was fond of the movie, but it took me a while to come around to it.  I finally did (although sadly after she had passed away), but it was right around the time that the new restoration was announced.  I was able to see the new restoration first through its brief theatrical run, and then again on Blu-ray a few short weeks later.  And in the time since, it has become one I enjoy watching at least once a year.

Another one would be the restored Seven Brides For Seven Brothers.  This was one of the early classics I was exposed to, when my parents and grandmother started introducing me to them.  I took to this movie more than anything after watching the barn dance, and have enjoyed seeing it many times since.  Of course, being that this movie did not look great due to some mistakes made many years ago with the film elements, it was a real wonder when Warner was able to find a print made before the damage was done, and restore the film from that.  Now, I enjoy it even more, seeing it look so much better!

And there are so many more I could list, from my collection of Fred Astaire musicals, to some of Gene Kelly’s, to the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, and many others!


  1. Your interest in classic film ranges right from the silent era through to the 1960s.  What is your favourite film from each decade (1920s-1960s)?


Before I get into this list, I should mention that the films on it are not necessarily my absolute favorites for these decades.   Considering the real answer for one would BE my absolute favorite movie, I get a little paranoid in this day and age where identity theft would be too easy, especially with an answer to this type of question in a public place.  That being said, these are all still films that I am VERY fond of, and one or two of them are indeed favorites for those decades. 

1920s - The Cocoanuts (1929)

1930s - Carefree (1938)

1940s - Easter  Parade (1948)

1950s - Lovely To Look At (1952)

1960s - My Fair Lady (1964)


  1. If you were to recommend five classic films to a first timer, what five would you recommend and why?


That's Entertainment (1974) - While any of the three films in the series would work, this one is a good start.  It gives us many of the musical moments from many of the classic MGM musicals, without worrying about the plot points in between.  Sure, I could (and would) easily recommend many of the films that have clips represented here, but these are some of the absolute best moments from those movies, and are certainly a good way to introduce somebody to them.

City Lights (1931) - In my opinion, one of Charlie Chaplin’s best movies.  While it was still a silent movie made when talkies had become the rage, he is still able to make use of sound with his scoring.  And, of course, we laugh and we cry at the antics of Chaplin’s Tramp as he tries to help the blind girl that he has fallen in love with.

Top Hat (1935) - In my opinion, one of the best film musicals, with a great supporting cast, great music, and Fred and Ginger dancing their way into our hearts in one of their best-loved films.

The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1939) - It's a well-known story, it's from Hollywood's golden year (1939), it's a well-done story (even with its deviations from the source material), and the sets are just AMAZING. 

My Man Godfrey (1936) - One of the best screwball comedies (another genre I’m particularly fond of).  Obviously, we have the rich, who are mostly crazy here, with William Powell’s Godfrey there to make fun of them, while working for them and helping them learn to be better.  Full of good laughs, but also willing to make us think!



  1. Why should people care about “old” black and white movies?


I very much believe, as others have said, that these movies have historical value.  They are, to a very large degree, indicative of the moods that everyone has gone through over the last hundred years.  Some films work better than others, but there is always something more to discover.  Of course, the special effects in these films still look just as good (or bad) as they did when they were released (versus today's CGI-filled movies that *might* look good when released, but look awful a few years later when technology improves even more).  Do they have their flaws?  Yes (especially with regard to some things that aren't politically correct and really never should have been), but they were made by flawed human beings, and that fact hasn't changed all these years later.


  1. Who are your favorite filmmakers?


For the most part, I tend to focus on the onscreen talent, so that would be the likes of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Bing Crosby, Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, amongst others. There has really been only one behind-the-scenes person that I have actively sought out films they were involved with, and that would be the composer Irving Berlin.  There may be a few other songwriters from that era I’ve enjoyed, but none as much as him.


  1. What do you think of modern cinema?


By and large, I don’t really care for modern cinema.  Growing up, I always veered more towards family fare (a trait that has stayed with me as an adult), so I don’t generally care much at all for R-rated movies.  And, while I still see some of the various comic book movies and Disney/Pixar fare, most of those films that I’ve seen in recent years (ever since I became an adult) are movies that I watch once (and enjoy), but further viewings just don’t excite me as much, and so I generally don’t watch them again (compared to many of the classics, which I generally AM excited to watch multiple times).  That, combined with a "just because we can, we're going to do it" mentality that results in CGI being overused (which ages some films quicker than others), as well as the "inability" (in my opinion) to film dance well in any musicals or dance films (considering I much prefer the way Fred Astaire liked to film dance), just makes them harder to watch for me. 


  1. You watch films for their escapist value.  What films provide you with the most enjoyable escapism?


More than anything else, that would be the film musicals.  In general, the songs written for a lot of the movies from the era I cover speak to me as well as any songs I've ever heard.   Quite frankly, most of them tend to get stuck in my head quite frequently (but you won't hear me complaining), and they also make me want to get up and dance.  Heck, watching these films musicals is what inspired me to take up dancing (mostly tap and ballroom dancing) in the first place!


  1. If you could see one classic film that isn’t available on physical media get a blu ray release, which one would it be?


Well, I've been lucky, as most of what I like has made it out to Blu-ray and DVD.  At this point, there are only a handful that I've seen that haven't made the jump to Blu-ray or DVD (and I haven't had a working VHS player for a little over a decade, so I would otherwise be unable to watch anything in that format), as well as some that I can at least claim to have heard of (but obviously haven't seen) that remain unavailable.  But, when it comes down to ONE film I would like to see on Blu-ray, I would have to go with the 1950 Fred Astaire musical Let’s Dance, especially since it remains the only Fred Astaire musical that hasn’t made it to DVD or Blu-ray yet.  I know it’s not his best film, but, like any other musical with Fred Astaire, I could easily sit back and watch it, no matter what mood I am in!


Monday, September 14, 2020

CMBA Fall Blogathon is Coming

 




 CMBA Members,

I hope everyone is staying safe! The Classic Movie Blog Association’s Fall Blogathon runs from October 20 thru October 23rd. With this being a Presidential election year in the U.S. we are presenting the “Politics on Film Blogathon.” Political intrigue, corruption, elections, politicians, heroic or criminal, and more are all in play. 

Down below are some banners to help spread the news.

Only a few rules apply.

Sign up by commenting on this blog post or by email. Preferably email.

No duplicate posts on any film.

Please provide me with your film, the name of your blog, and your preferred date.


CMBA Contributors So Far


October 20th

All The King's Men (Siver Screen Classics)

The Great Dictator (A Person in the Dark)

Andy's Stump Speech (Strictly Vintage Hollywood)

A Face in the Crowd (Top 10 Film List)

The Politics in the Films of Henry Fonda (The Best Man and Advise and Consent (Rick's Real Reel)

We'll Live Until Monday (You've Just Been Watching)

Together Again (Cary Grant Won't Eat You)

Medium Cool (Classic Film Observations and Obsessions)

Left, Right and Centre (Cinema Essentials)


October 21st

Yankee Doodle Dandy (The Movie Night Group) 

All the President's Men (Second Sight Cinema)

Advise and Consent (Backstory)

What Every Woman Knows (Caftan Woman)

The Farmer's Daughter (Box Office Poisons

State of the Union (In The Good Old Days of Hollywood)

Alias Nick Beal (Four Star Film Fan)

October 22nd

The Great McGinty (The Lady Eve's Reel Life)

The Best Man (Old Hollywood Films)

A Supreme Court of  Classic Movie Characters (Once Upon a Screen)

Duck Soup (Hometowns to Hollywood)

The Turning Point (Another Old Movie Blog)

The Role of Ava Gardner in Seven Days in May - Ava Gardner Museum 

October 23rd

Seven Days in May (Twenty Four Frames) 

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Screen Dreams)

The Candidate (Whimsically Classic)

Flamingo Road (Pale Writer)

The Glass Key (Make Mine Film Noir)

Fail Safe (Musings of a Classic Film Addict)













Wednesday, September 2, 2020

CMBA Profile: Jess Ilse


CMBA profiles one member every month. This month's interview is with Jesse Ilse of https://boxofficepoisons.blogspot.com 

You say on your blog that you began watching classic movies in high school and your first exposure was through Breakfast At Tiffany’s. What do you love most about the film?

 

I think at this point, I’ve seen it so much that it’s comfort at this point to pop it in and watch it (whether I’m feeling the blues or the mean reds). It’s far from a perfect film and has its share of problematic moments (or a problematic character, to be more exact), but I enjoy how it all comes together in the end: Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard are great together; Patricia Neal and Buddy Ebsen in supporting roles also add importance to the storyline; the setting of early ‘60s New York City; Henry Mancini’s iconic music; the Givenchy wardrobe… I could go on and on!

 

You begin your blog with the opening lines from Sabrina (1954), and Audrey Hepburn is one of your favourite actresses. What is it about her acting style and body of work that you most enjoy?

 

I love how instinctual her acting style was. She wasn’t someone who spent years training at a dramatic academy to hone her craft; she relied on herself and her emotions. Plus, she had grit. In the course of three years she went from a chorus girl in London who appeared in bit parts in European films to the toast of Hollywood and Broadway, winning an Oscar and a Tony in the same week. And she never rested on her laurels, she continued to push herself. 

 

She tried just about every genre of film: drama, comedy, romance, western, epic, musical, mystery, thriller. Some movies were more successful than others, but she left an indelible mark on Hollywood that we still talk about to this day. 

 

If you were to recommend five classic films to a first timer, which five would you recommend and why?

 

It Happened One Night: This is the screwball comedy to me, and it basically created the romantic comedy genre to the point that you can trace a lot of the films that have followed it back to the essentials laid out by It Happened One Night

 

The Sound of Music: There are a lot of important musicals from the mid-century era, but I think The Sound of Music has made such a cultural impact that it can’t be ignored. 

 

It’s a Wonderful Life: It has a wonderful message behind it (that no man is a failure who has friends regardless of how rich or poor they are) and it’s the quintessential Christmas movie in my house. 

 

The Women: There’s not a man to be found in this film, which I think goes to show the sheer talent of the actresses who were cast in the movie. Plus, George Cukor was a master at directing actresses and you can see that on full display. 

 

Pillow Talk: It’s fun. Pure, unadulterated fun, and it basically invented the mid-century ‘sex comedy’ genre; plus, you can’t go wrong with Doris Day and Rock Hudson paired up. 

 

Why should people care about “old” black and white movies?

 

I think that movies are snapshots of their time periods and in some cases reflect society. You can trace our progress from the wild pre-code era through to the dismantling of the studio system and into more independent producing that we currently have. These old black and white movies speak to who we were at any given moment. 

 

Who are your favourite filmmakers?

 

Billy Wilder, Frank Capra, Douglas Sirk, Bob Fosse, Howard Hawks. 

 

In the modern era, Greta Gerwig tops the list for me. I’ll watch every single movie she makes. 

 

What do you think of modern cinema?

 

It’s funny, because a lot of my favourite modern films are set in the past, so I guess I can’t escape it. But I love how diverse storytellers are coming to the forefront, and new actors and actresses are being given chances whereas they probably never would’ve gotten a shot in the older days of Hollywood. 

 

I’m not a fan of how a lot of movies nowadays are sequels or part of a series or cinematic universes, but I’m also a bit of a hypocrite on that front because I love the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I’ll probably see Wonder Woman 84 a few times in theatres. 

 

If you could recommend one film from each of your favourite actors that you’ve listed on your blog, which film each would it be?

 

Oh boy, this was a hard one! I failed choosing one for Ginger Rogers, if only because I wanted to highlight how she was more than just Fred Astaire’s dance partner. 

 

Audrey Hepburn – Roman Holiday

Doris Day – Pillow Talk 

Ginger Rogers – Kitty Foyle will show you why Ginger was so much more than the song-and-dance partner of Fred Astaire (she won an Oscar for this film); but Vivacious Lady, Bachelor Mother or The Major and the Minor will show you her comedic chops. 

Esther Williams – Bathing Beauty

Grace Kelly – The Country Girl (I’m probably alone in my opinion that she was right to win the Oscar over Judy Garland that year)

 

You’ve seen every film on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Movies list, and are working your way through the 100 Years… 100 Passions list. Which other list of theirs would you like to tackle next?

 

I’d like to do the 100 Years… 100 Laughs list next. It’s been a long and sad year; it’d be nice to have more reasons to laugh. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

CMBA Priofile: Rudy Vitkauskas






CMBA profiles one member every month. This month's interview is with  Rudy Vitkauskas whose blogs about movies at   Rudolph Vitkaukas. You will also find plenty of posts on Old Time Radio programs and more.



How did you become interested in film and silent film in particular?

I BELIEVE LIKE MOST PEOPLE, FROM A FAMILY MEMBER. MY FATHER WATCHED LOTS OF OLD 1950S CLASSICS, I WOULD WALK PAST THE TV SET, CURIOUS ABOUT THE BLACK AND WHITE WORLD I WAS VIEWING. BY THE AGE OF EIGHT I WAS ROUTINELY VIEWING THESE PICTURES, SPENDING HOURS BECOMING MORE AND MORE INTERESTED IN NOT THE PICTURES BUT THE TIME PERIOD ITSELF. AND ONCE I TURNED TEN, THE QUESTIONS TO MY GREAT-GRANDMOTHER WHO WAS BORN IN 1926 NEVER STOPPED, I WANTED A FIRST-HAND RECOLLECTION OF SOMEONE WHO SAW THESE FILMS WHEN THEY FIRST PREMIERED, WHO WORE THE HAIRSTYLES AND DROVE IN THE CARS THAT I SAW IN THE BOGART PICTURES.
SILENT FILM WAS A SELF-DISCOVERY. NO ONE IN MY FAMILY WATCHED THEM. I BECAME INTERESTED IN THE SILENT PERIOD AFTER DISCOVERING THAT LOTS OF ACTORS AND ACTRESSES IN TALKING PICTURES HAD ONCE BEEN IN SILENTS. I KNEW OF CHAPLIN OF COURSE, BUT IT WASN'T UNTIL DOING MY OWN RESEARCH AROUND FOURTEEN THAT I STARTED TO DISCOVER A WHOLE NEW WORLD OF FILMS. THEY ALSO HELD THE SAME MAGIC AS THE FILMS FROM the 30S, 40S, AND 50S, BUT WITH AN ADDED TOUCH THAT DREW ME IN, I SUSPECT IT'S THE CREATIVITY AND KNOWING THAT THIS WAS THE START OF IT ALL.

I noticed you have a section on your website dedicated to John Gilbert. What is it about John Gilbert that attracted you?

AH, JOHN GILBERT. I DISCOVERED GILBERT DURING SOME RESEARCH ABOUT GARBO SOME YEARS AGO. I HAD READ HIS NAME AT THIS POINT A DOZEN OR SO TIMES, THOUGH NEVER THOUGHT MUCH OF IT. IT WASN'T UNTIL I HAD WATCHED QUEEN CHRISTINA, THAT I STARTED TO LOOK MORE INTO HIS ROLES. AFTER I WATCHED HIM IN THE 1924 SILENT HE WHO GETS SLAPPED I BEGAN TO DIG EVEN DEEPER. I ALSO WAS INTERESTED IN THE IDEA OF HIM BEING THE RIVAL OF RUDOLPH VALENTINO, WHO I HAD ALREADY SPENT MONTHS RESEARCHING AT THAT POINT.
THOGH I CANNOT REALLY TELL YOU HOW I CHOOSE A PERSON TO DEDICATE MORE TIME TO, IT'S AN ODD INTUITION I SUPPOSE, THE SAME HAPPENED WITH HUMPHREY BOGART, JAMES CAGNEY, AND BUSTER KEATON. THOUGH I CAN SAY THAT ALL OF THESE ACTORS HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON, THEY ALL BROUGHT SOMETHING NEW TO THE ART OF FILM, NO MATTER IF THAT BE WITH ACTING, DIRECTING, OR THE START OF A NEW FILM PERSONA. AND I AM SURE THAT THERE WILL BE MORE IN THE FUTURE.
ONE MORE POINT ABOUT GILBERT THOUGH. I WAS DETERMINED TO DEBUNK THAT OF WHICH HE HAS BECOME, THE POSTER BOY OF THE FORGOTTEN STAR, WITH A SWIFT OVERNIGHT FALL AT THE HANDS OF THE TALKING PICTURES.
RUBBISH IF YOU ASK ME.

Chaplin, Keaton or Lloyd? Why?

KEATON. THOUGH ALL OF THEM ARE ABSOLUTE GENIUSES.
I PICK KEATON BECAUSE I WAS DRAWN TO HIM FROM AN HISTORIAN POINT OF VIEW MORE THAN THE OTHERS. PLUS, I ADORE HIS PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT WISE OVER THE OTHERS, BUT ONLY SLIGHTLY, ONE CAN SIMPLY NOT HAVE A BAD TIME WATCHING CHAPLIN OR LLYOD. I DO ALSO ADORE KEATON'S PERSONA MORE, THE DEADPAN STYLE OF COMEDY AND THE PORK PIE HAT ALWAYS STAYED WITH ME MORE THAN CHAPLIN'S MUSHTASCHE OR LLOYDS GLASSES.
PLUS TWO OF HIS FILMS ARE IN MY TOP TEN, SHERLOCK JR,. AND THE GENERAL, THE TECHNIQUES IN THESE PICTURES OUTSTAND ANYTHING MADE TODAY. PLUS, I AM STILL AMAZED THAT HE MADE SUCH A LIVELY, COMIC PICTURE ABOUT THE CIVIL WAR.

Why should people care about silent film?

A SIMPLE REASON. HISTORY AND ENTERTAINMENT. FROM A HISTORICAL POINT OF VIEW IT IS INTERESTING, ESPECIALLY FOR AMERICA WHO SPENDS BILLIONS ON ENTERTAINMENT A YEAR, TO LOOK BACK AND SEE WHERE IT ALL BEGAN.
ENTERTAINMENT WISE, I THINK THESE FILMS HAVE BEEN PROJECTED FOR LOTS OF PEOPLE TO BE BORING AND OR OUTDATED. WHILE OF COURSE SOCIETY CHANGES AND SO DOES OUR ENTERTAINMENT, LOTS OF SILENT FILMS ARE JOYS TO WATCH.
PLUS, THESE FILMS HAVE BECOME ARTIFACTS OF HISTORY. THE JAZZ AGE, THE GREAT DEPRESSION, WORLD WAR II. THEY SHOW HOW WE CAME TOGETHER, WHAT KEPT US FIGHTING, OR HOW WE SIMPLY RELAXED AND ESCAPED FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD, EVEN JUST FOR A FEW HOURS A WEEK.
ALL OF THESE REASONS ARE WHY WE NEED TO KEEP SEARCHING FOR LOST FILMS AND RESTORING THE ONES WE HAVE, AS WELL AS MAKING THEM MORE ACCESSIBLE FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS TO ENJOY.

Name three films Silent Films you would recommend to the uninitiated.

SHERLOCK JR,. 1924 - A CLASSIC AND INNOVATIVE PICTURE AS WELL.
METROPOLIS 1927 - ONE OF MY ALL TIME FAVORITES. A MARVEL OF THE ART OF FILM.
SAFETY LAST! 1923 - A WONDERFULLY TIMED COMEDY.
ALL THESE THREE ARE RECOMMEND OFTEN, BUT FOR GOOD REASON. I ALSO BELIEVE ONE SHOULD START WITH "CLASSICS" WHEN STARTING TO WATCH ANY DECADE OF FILM. IT'S EASIER TO GET AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE TIME AND THE KIND OF PICTURES THAT WERE MADE.

I don’t want readers to get the impression your website is strictly for silent film lovers. I see plenty of posts on the early days of sound. Can you tell us what genres you favor? 

EVEN THOUGH I DO WRITE ALOT ABOUT SILENT FILMS, MY ALL TIME FAVORITE GENRE OF PICTURES ARE THE GANGSTER AND NOIR PICTURES OF THE 1930S AND 1940S. THE 1930S IS ACTUALLY MY FAVORITE DECADE FOR FILM, EVEN AFTER THE CODE WAS ENFORCED.
THE CAGNEY AND BOGART PICTURES OF COURSE. LIKE THAT OF THE MALTESE FALCON, 1941 - THE ROARING TWENTIES, 1939 - SCARFACE, 1932.
OTHER FILMS FROM THE "SOPHISTICATED 30S" AS WELL. LIKE THAT OF ERNST LUBITSCH PICTURES: TROUBLE IN PARADISE, 1931, AND DESIGN FOR LIVING, 1933 ARE THE MOST WICKED AND GENTEMANLY ELEGANT FILMS I HAVE EVER SEEN.
REALLY TO MANY TO COUNT WHEN IT COMES TO THE 1930S.

You have a section on Old Radio programs. How did you get interested in it?

WHEN WATCHING OLD FILMS AS A CHILD I REMEMBER HEARING THE OLD RADIO ANNOUNCER VOICE, WHICH I ALWAYS LOVED AND STILL WISHED WE USED.
I WAS ALWAYS READING ABOUT STARS DOING RADIO PROGRAMS OR READING ABOUT WEEKLY RADIO SHOWS. BUT IT NEVER DAWNED ON ME UNTIL I WAS ABOUT SIXTEEN THAT YOU COULD STILL LISTEN TO THEM. AFTER STUMBLING UPON OLD RADIO WEBSITES, THAT INTEREST TOOK OFF, I NOW LISTEN TO OLD RADIO PROGRAMS ON A DAILY BASES, AND WHERE OTHERS PUT ON PODCASTS, I HAVE THESE 60+ YEAR OLD RADIO SHOWS TO KEEP ME COMPANY. ANYTHING FROM WEEKLY COMEDY SHOWS OR HOUR-LONG NOIR ADAPTATIONS WITH BOGART AND LAUREN BACALL. 

Do you have an interest in any other arts that you can share?

YES, PAINTINGS AND STATUES.
I LOVE STUDYING ART FROM ALL DIFFERENT TIME PERIODS.
AND I AM NOT SURE IF ARCHITECTURE COUNTS AS AN ART, I THINK IT DOES, BUT I HAVE A REAL KEEN INTEREST ON OLD BUILDINGS AND HOMES. VICTORIAN PROPERTIES TO THE ALL FAVORITE ART DECO.



Saturday, June 27, 2020

CMBA Profile: Pale Writer


 

CMBA profiles one member every month. This month's interview is with  Gabriela Masson whose blogs about movies at Pale Writer. The blog's subtitle says it all: Classic and Horror Unite.  Gabriela is currently hosting "The Queen of Sass: The Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon" running from July 17h thru July 19th. here is still time to participate.



The sub-title of your blogs reads “classic and horror films unite.” Which came first classic or horror?

Classic films came first. I was three years old when I first watched Gone With the Wind, which surprises quite a few people, although I’m not really sure why, as many people are introduced to classic films, and film in general, at a fairly young age. I watched my first horror movie when I was fourteen or so with my older brother, Damien, who thought it was hilarious how I was so petrified of Freddy Krueger’s long arms in A Nightmare on Elm Street. But like most horror fans, I was immediately hooked probably because of how terrified I had been.

Besides horror films, what other genres do you favor?

I adore film noir (which I know is under constant debate concerning whether or not it’s actually a genre), musicals, romantic comedies and dramas. For me, film noir is one of the most magnificent stylistic achievements in film with its use of chiaroscuro shadow, and often very innovative camera work and direction.

Why should people care about “old” black and white movies?

Because we should care about the history of the film industry. It’s not coincidence that some of the finest directors, actors and screenwriters today say that they were and are influenced by classic cinema. I think we still have so much to learn from silent film, which is erroneously called boring when it has so many fabulous creative elements to it. I recently saw that wonderful tracking shot from Wings (1927) circulating the twitterverse again, and as the person who posted the shot said, silent film is still so fresh and exciting, and it shows us the roots of so much of what we see in cinema today. Classic films also often lack the retention of new films. People go mad about how auteurist and original modern film makers are, but guys like Hawks, Hitchcock and Hathaway were doing it decades ago already.

Who are your favorite filmmakers?

Oh gosh, I could list so many people, but I’ll say my five favourites:
1. Alfred Hitchcock, who some people have begun to feel is overrated, but I strongly disagree with that because he was such a brilliant innovator and we cannot appreciate the enough
2. Billy Wilder, who made such a wide scope of films. He’s best remembered for the incredible Double Indemnity today, but he made so many wonderful films like Midnight, Witness for the Prosecution, Love in the Afternoon and Avanti!
3. Dorothy Arzner, who was one of the female directors who really proved that women were as good or even better than their male contemporaries. She made a film called Dance, Girl, Dance starring Lucille Ball and Maureen O’ Hara, and O’ Hara gives this incredible speech about the double standards men put onto women
4. Michael Curtiz, who made so many of my favourite films, chief among them Mildred Pierce, which really showcased what an incredible adaptive talent, Joan Crawford, my favourite actress, was
5. Kathryn Bigelow, who made one of the finest action films ever in Point Break, and smashed the assumption that women couldn’t direct action films

You have hosted and participated in many blogathons. What is the attraction?

I LOVE writing about classic film, but sometimes I lack the motivation or focus to really do it justice, and blogathons provide me with both of those things. Through blogathons I learnt how to write about classic films better, and I met some of my closest online friends that way, people who have taken a chance on a South African kid and treated me as one of the gang. Blogathons have allowed me to connect with so many amazing people, who have time and time again reinforced how wonderful the classic film community really is.

Name three films Obscure Horror films you would recommend to the uninitiated.

Well, that is a tough question, but I think:

1. Murders at the Zoo (1933), because a lot of people outside of the classic film community don’t know about it and really deflates assumptions about the “tameness” of classic films
2. Burnt Offerings (1976), which I was convinced so many people knew about, but it seems to really only be people who saw it on TV or who love Bette Davis’ later horror films who know about it. My mom first introduced me to it, and I can tell you, that ending is a zinger!
3. Society (1989), even one of my friends who hosts a horror podcast hadn’t heard of this one. It’s a film that really does defy expectations, especially because the lead actor was and is best known as a soap opera star. So you’re in for a real treat!

What do you think of modern cinema?

Just because I like classic films, doesn’t mean I dislike modern cinema. I feel that there are a lot of talented people who are producing great films. I just wish that there was more room for smaller films and also shorter films. Hollywood seems to currently be obsessed with making their films as long as possible, and it just makes me want to go and watch a Warner Bros quickie when these new films are so long. But I’m incredible excited about watching the new James Bond film, because I’m also a huge fan of those films, and I loved Call Me By Your Name and the new adaptation of Little Women.

Do you have interest in any other arts that you can share?

I really love reading. Like films, books made me feel accepted and understood by something as a rather awkward, misfit of a child. My favourite novel is Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, but I love so many different kinds of books. I also love music, and I took part in operettas and the choir when I was in school. And I also really enjoy podcasting, and currently have three podcasts: You Won’t Forget Me: The All About Joan Crawford Podcast, The By Projection Light Podcast (which is about films made between the 1930s and 1970s, with classic radio thrown in), and Here Lies Amicus, which I do with my good friend, Cev, and we chat all about the films made by Amicus Productions.