Wednesday, April 3, 2024

The Spring 2024 CMBA Blogathon: Screen Debuts & Last Hurrahs


It’s almost here! Time for the CMBA Spring Blogathon! This year’s theme is Screen Debuts & Last Hurrahs. It will run from May 20-24, 2024.

The blogathon, for CMBA members only, will celebrate the first tentative steps onto the screen or behind the lens, as well as the grand finales of artistic voyages. Select any actor/actress, director, cinematographer, editor, fashion designer, etc. and write about their first or last (or both!) experience in front of or behind the camera. (If it is difficult to find their earliest work, you can write about their first accessible feature.)


Because there is such a variety of topics to choose from, we won't be accepting duplicates. Topic selections will be accepted in order of receipt.

To promote the blogathon on your blog, take your pick from any of the banners at the bottom of this post. 

We’re really looking forward to another great blogathon! 

Monday, May 20:
  • Realweegiemidget Reviews Films, TV, Books and More: Michael Caine/Glenda Jackson The Romantic Englishwoman & The Great Escaper
  • 4 Star Films: The Last Hurrah - Stars Spencer Tracy and James Gleason's final film.
  • silverscreenmodes: Gene Tierney
  • Taking Up Room: Robin Williams
  • A Person in the Dark: James Cagney in "One, Two, Three"
  • Shadows and Satin: Barbara Payton
  • Louise Brooks Society: Louise Brooks - debut
Tuesday, May 21: 
  • Box Office Poisons: Grace Kelly
  • Twenty Four Frames: Martin Scorsese - Who's That Knocking At My Door
  • Critica Retro: Clara Bow
  • The Everyday Cinephile: Josef von Sternberg’s - The Salvation Hunters
  • The Wonderful World of CinemaJoseph L. Mankiewicz - Sleuth 
Wednesday, May 22:
  • Silent-ology: Robert Harron
  • The Silver Screen Affair: Cedric Gibbons
  • Film Fanatic: William Wyler 
  • Cinematic Scribblings: Federico Fellini - The White Sheik
Thursday, May 23:
  • Lady Eve’s Reel Life: Ingrid Bergman
  • Another Old Movie Blog: Richard LeGrand - Gildersleeve's Bad Day (1943)
  • I Found it at the Movies: Burt Lancaster in Field of Dreams
  • Whimsically Classic: Robert Montgomery's directorial debut - Lady in the Lake
  • Speakeasy: Laird Cregar
Friday, May 24:
  • Outspoken & Freckled: John Garfield 
  • A Vintage Nerd: Doris Day
  • The Last Drive In: Marlene Dietrich
  • Louise Brooks Society: Louise Brooks in Overland Stage Raiders


















Monday, April 1, 2024

CMBA Profile: The Film Noir Report


Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog written by one of our members. This month, we are featuring Johnny Gumshoe, who writes at THE FILM NOIR REPORT.  

1. Why do you blog?

A small part of me gets sad whenever I talk to a movie lover who's never seen a Robert Mitchum film, never heard of Lizabeth Scott, only knows Humphrey Bogart from Casablanca, or only recognizes Kirk Douglas as Michael Douglas' father.  So my number one reason for blogging is to call attention to the rich treasure trove of classic films, actors, and directors who fade further and further out of the public's consciousness with each passing year and each new generation.

 

I focus on film noir because I find that in the classic period of strict censorship, studio-controlled messaging, and tendency towards stagey and escapist cinematic production values, classic noir films came the closest to reflecting the true, down-to-earth, unvarnished aspects of human nature, and therefore, may be more accessible and relatable to younger audiences. That's not to say other classic films aren't equally accessible and relevant, but film noir simply resonates most with the movie enthusiast and historian in me, and is what I'm most interested in writing about.

 

2. Besides classic movie blogging, what are some of your other passions?

I compose music for film and TV, often collaborating with my wife, who is also a composer and jazz singer.  Music has been a part of my life since childhood, when I started taking piano lessons.  In my teen years, I taught myself guitar and played in rock bands for several years. Later, I focused on songwriting, which eventually led me to the composing work I do now.  I actually spent most of my professional life working in the corporate tech world, and music was just something I did on the side, but for the last three years, it's become my full time vocation.

 

3. If you could program a perfect day of classic movies for TCM, what would be the seven films on your schedule?

I'm going to break out of my film noir box and harken back to my college days to pay homage to a local TV station that ran a pair of classic movies every night after midnight (this was before the days of cable TV and hundreds of channels). Even though I had classes the next morning, I made a point of staying up to watch the first movie, and often stuck around for the second one, too. It was these late night viewings that really put me on the path of classic film appreciation. So here are seven films I first saw in the wee hours of the morning, that had a lasting impression on me:

 

AFTER THE THIN MAN (1936)

Discovering Nick and Nora Charles was like finding buried cinematic gold. All of the Thin Man films are great, but my favorite is this, their second outing, in which we have the rare opportunity to see a young Jimmy Stewart play a villain.

 

SUSPICION (1941)

This film had a big impact on me because I didn't realize it was a Hitchcock film when I first watched it (I tuned in after the opening titles), so I was completely unprepared for the ominously dark turn this seemingly light romantic comedy gradually took. It's a perfect example of how not knowing anything about a film ahead of time results in a significantly enhanced viewing experience.

 

THE GAY DIVORCEE (1934)

I always heard about Fred and Ginger in the abstract, but it wasn't until my late night TV viewings that I got a chance to see what all the fuss was about. I instantly fell in love with the music, dancing, and comedic banter. Truly some of the greatest escapist movies of the 1930s. Most folks point to Swing Time or Top Hat as the best Fred and Ginger films, but this is my personal favorite for the great music, wacky plot, thoroughly entertaining supporting cast, and over the top deco set designs.

 

THE BLACK CAT (1934)

Not only do we get to see Lugosi and Karloff together in their prime, but the film itself is a hauntingly beautiful and atmospherically moody work of cinematic art.

 

DETOUR (1945)

One of my all-time favorite noirs. A simple low-budget effort, with a highly effective plot that's elevated to legendary status by an incendiary femme fatale performance from Anne Savage.

 

THEM! (1954)

I absolutely love 1950s science fiction films, the good ones, the bad ones, the cheesy ones, all of them. This is definitely one of the better entries, and probably the best of the giant bug films that permeated the era, featuring a respectable cast, competent production values, and a serviceable attempt at plausibility given its outlandish premise.

 

HIS GIRL FRIDAY (1940)

It was a toss up between this and The Philadelphia Story. Both are superb, but I went with His Girl Friday for the witty rapid-fire dialog and impressive performances by the entire cast. I never tire of this truly entertaining film.

 

4. What is a classic movie that you love, but most people don't know about -- and what do you love about it?

The Gangster (1947) with Barry Sullivan, Belita, Akim Tamiroff, and Joan Lorring. I love this film because it's so unexpectedly different from typical crime noirs of the era. Instead of a guns-and-mayhem gangster film, we get an intimate character study of a brooding and lonely mob boss. It's not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it's a fascinating curiosity that was in many ways, ahead of its time.

 

5. What is something that most people don't know about you?

In addition to classic films, I have a soft spot for old classic radio shows. Just like classic film, it's something I discovered in my youth, thanks to a local radio DJ who played curated episodes one night a week. And now, thanks to the internet, these wonderful radio dramas, mysteries, and comedies can be enjoyed 24/7!

 

Classic film and radio are of course, inextricably linked, since nearly all major movie stars of the era also performed on radio. In addition to making various guest appearances, quite a few film stars had their own radio series, such as Joel McCrea in Tales of the Texas Rangers, Jimmy Stewart in The Six Shooter, Frank Sinatra in Rocky Fortune, Dick Powell in Richard Diamond Private Detective, Brian Donlevy in Dangerous Assignment, Irene Dunne and Fred MacMurray in Bright Star, and Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in Bold Venture. And many stars reprised their film roles in radio adaptations of their latest movies on shows like Academy Award Theater, Lux Radio Theater, Old Gold Comedy Theater, and Screen Director's Playhouse.


In addition to their nostalgic entertainment value, classic radio shows provide an added dimension of insight that can enhance our appreciation of classic film.

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We thank Johnny for participating in our Q&A profile and encourage you to visit The Film Noir Report! 


Sunday, March 3, 2024

CMBA Profile: CLASSIC FILM and TV CORNER

 


Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog written by one of our members. This month, we are featuring Madeleine (aka "Maddy") Langham, who writes at Classic Film and TV Corner.  

1. Why do you blog?

When I write my articles and reviews I like to think that in the process I am hopefully raising awareness of lesser known/lesser discussed classic era films and series; as well as encouraging people to check out black and white films and non-English language films and TV series.

2. Besides classic movie blogging, what are some of your other passions?

I love reading fiction and non-fiction. I’m also a major history buff, my particular topics of interest include pioneering women; royal history; ancient Egypt and ancient Rome; WW2; the golden age of ocean liners; fashion and female aviators.

3. If you could program a perfect day of classic movies for TCM, what would be the seven films on your schedule?

I wish we had this channel here in the UK. I love their YouTube account where they share their stunning promo trailers and their poignant and beautifully done In Memoriam videos. I would program a day of Japanese films and a day of British films. I do get the impression that the channel overwhelmingly focuses on American films - rather than showing large amounts of films from other countries as well – so it would be nice to introduce American audiences to classic films, directors, actors etc that they’re not familiar with from other countries.  

Japanese Films

Ikiru(1952) Directed by Akira Kurosawa

When A Woman Ascends The Stairs(1960) Directed by Mikio Naruse

Street Of Shame(1956) Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi

Rashomon(1950) Directed by Akira Kurosawa

The Eternal Breasts(1955) The third film from Japan’s second female film director Kinuyo Tanaka. This is a powerful and moving story following a woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer.

Onibaba(1964) Directed by Kaneto Shindo

Late Spring(1949) Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

British Films 

Millions Like Us(1943) Directed by Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder

Pool Of London(1951) Directed by Basil Dearden

The Small Back Room(1949) Directed by Michael Powell

The Passionate Friends(1949) Directed by David Lean

My Beautiful Laundrette(1985) Directed by Stephen Frears

Saturday Night And Sunday Morning(1960)Directed by Karel Reisz

Went The Day Well?(1942) Directed by Alberto Cavalcanti

4. What is a classic movie that you love, but most people don't know about -- and what do you love about it?

Shooting Stars(1928). Anthony Asquith’s British Silent film is one of the best films about filmmaking ever made. It’s become my favourite Silent film. I love the performances, the cinematography, and most of all the way that the story plays with us by massively changing direction and becoming much darker and more surprising in its second half. I try and recommend this one to as many people as I can. I don’t know if it’s streaming anywhere, but it has received a beautiful Blu-ray release from the British Film Institute. 

5. What is something that most people don't know about you?

I have recently been published for the first time. I am a contributing author to the book New Waves: 1980s TV In Britain, which is edited by Rodney Marshall. I have written about the groundbreaking series The Gentle Touch (1980-1984), which was the first British series to feature a female police officer as its lead character. 

I am also Autistic. 

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We thank Maddy for participating in our Q&A profile and encourage you to visit Classic Film and TV Corner !

Thursday, February 1, 2024

CMBA Profile: Jay's Classic Movie Blog

 


Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog written by one of our members. This month, we are featuring Jay Jacobson, who writes at Jay's Classic Movie Blog. 

1. Why do you blog?

That’s simple.To share, enlighten, and hopefully excite people about classic films. I grew up loving movies and eventually earned a university degree in film directing. In addition to production, I studied film theory and history, and worked and studied as an actor for decades. Over the years, people who know me would often ask me to suggest a classic film for them to watch. With the coming of COVID I thought it would be great to make a website suggesting a film a week to introduce people to classic cinema. My first posts were a bit more basic, but they quickly became more detailed, and now, in addition to introducing people to actors, directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and such, I also add pertinent historical information about the movie industry and possibly the world if it affected the film. My biggest joy is hearing that someone discovered a new favorite actor or film, or a new found love of “old movies” from my blog.

2. Besides classic movie blogging, what are some of your other passions?

In addition to movies and acting, I also love music and am a singer-songwriter and have released five CDs thus far. I also love travel and have visited nearly forty countries so far.

3. If you could program a perfect day of classic movies for TCM, what would be the seven films on your schedule?

That’s a tough one because I love and want to share so many movies. But here goes…

“All About Eve” 1950
You can’t beat this film’s sensational script or its performances making it a great introduction to classic movies. When I’ve shown it to people who resist “black and white” movies, they are always shocked at how good it is, and can’t wait to see more. It is the first film on my blog.

“Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans” 1927
Not simply because it is one of the greatest films ever made, I’d pick this because so many people are automatically opposed to seeing silent films (which is a shame), and this one gloriously shows the visual poetry, emotion, and how enthrallingly entertaining great silent films are. This film is bound to blow anyone away. It is extraordinary.

“Bringing Up Baby” 1938
Who doesn’t love a comedy?! And screwball comedies like this can only be found during the studio era. It's got Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, May Robson, Barry Fitzgerald, and even Asta (the dog from "The Thin Man" movies). And event though I’ve seen it countless times, I still laugh with the same gusto every time I watch it. How can you beat that?!

“Bicycle Thieves” 1948
Great movies make us feel and few are as emotionally impactful as this one. A watershed film that influenced every film that came after it and it still remains among the greatest films ever made even from an entertainment point of view, its raw realism and heart continue to pack one heck of a wallop.

"Gone with the Wind” 1939
Though there are definite issues regarding its depiction of Blacks and the antebellum South (which I’d address in the intro and/or after the film), this is a certified landmark in sophisticated storytelling that remains topnotch entertainment. The artistry of its performances, direction, cinematography, music, costumes, etc., create a monumentally vibrant and alive movie. It’s a must see film and remains a favorite.

“Singin’ in the Rain” 1950
A perfect film if there ever was one. The colors, songs, humor, Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, and a comical but somewhat true depiction of the coming of sound to movies all make this one of the most enjoyable films ever made. I showed it to someone once who’d never seen a classic movie musical. He loved it and exclaimed, “I’ve never seen anything like that”.

“Hud” 1963
A profound character study that is gorgeously filmed, skillfully acted, and deceptively complex. Not your typical choice perhaps, but an all around fantastic film. It’s also a great example of how adult themes, movie star power, and cinematic artistry can create art that is also great moviegoing entertainment.

Very hard to make this list, and by doing so I reluctantly left out noir, Hitchcock, sci-fi, and so many great, great films….

4. What is a classic movie that you love, but most people don't know about -- and what do you love about it?

A film I love that doesn’t quite get the recognition I feel it deserves is “The Misfits”, 1961. People know it because of Marilyn Monroe, but it’s rarely talked about as a “great” film or a true classic. That might be because of its enigmatic style, but that’s what I love about it. The gritty, mesmerizing performances by Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Clark Gable, Thelma Ritter, and Eli Wallach, the way the story bleeds into reality, and the film's insightful dialogue by Arthur Miller make this haunting movie continually captivating. It is a film I can watch over and over and over and still discover new things.

5. What is something that most people don't know about you?

While starting out as an actor, I fell into a very successful career as a graphic designer. I worked for ad agencies, direct mail, movie studios, pharmaceutical companies, and many other places. One of my jobs was creating all the exhibit boards used by the prosecution for the O.J. Simpson trial.

We thank Jay for participating in our Q&A profile and encourage you to visit Jay's Classic Movie Blog. 

Monday, January 1, 2024

CMBA Profile: OUTSPOKEN & FRECKLED

 

Each month, the CMBA profiles a classic movie blog written by one of our members. This month, we are featuring Kellee Pratt, who writes at Outspoken & Freckled. 

1. Why do you blog?

Likely like everyone else in the CMBA, I love classic film and I truly enjoy enjoy writing, as well. I love where researching a film, its cast and crew, and the background history leads me. A fascinating pursuit each time and I hope that my enthusiasm comes through in my writing. As a result, I've become part of a wonderful community of fellow classic film bloggers of whom many are dear friends. 

2. Besides classic movie blogging, what are some of your other passions?

My passion for old movies has lead me to a career in teaching others. Many years ago, I began teaching through a city program where I live (... in the small college town of Lawrence, Kansas, the home of a few universities including my alma mater, the University of Kansas). My educational background is in public speaking so in addition to my series of classes, I have other speaking and teaching engagements- at community lunch-and-learns, at the local history museum, and this spring I will be teaching a series on Censorship in Early Hollywood through the Osher Institute at the University of Kansas.  

One of my other passions is gardening. There's so much to learn in the vast topic of gardening. So I decided to expand my knowledge by becoming a Master Gardener through my county's extension office. I completed my basic training this month and I will continue my education and volunteer hours every year going forward. I have a special interest in native plants, especially pollinator plants, and in supporting wildlife and biodiversity. I am registered nationally as a Monarch Waystation and I am certified as a Wildlife Habitat through the National Wildlife Federation. Additionally, I'm an amateur birder. I love to watch a variety of birds flock to my feeders and trees in my yard- including hummingbirds, woodpeckers, owls, hawks and so many more. 

Otherwise, I am drawn to architecture, history, politics, social causes, interior design/home improvement projects, tennis, cooking/baking, and college basketball (Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!) I am fiercely loyal to my friends and family. My immediate family includes my husband, our 4 grown kids, and our 2 dogs and kitty.   

3. If you could program a perfect day of classic movies for TCM, what would be the seven films on your schedule?

This question is difficult because I have very eclectic taste in film. It depends upon the day and my mood. It's also like asking which is my favorite child. (My husband would whisper, "oh just admit that it's Murphy.") I do have a special fondness for Film Noirs, Pre-Codes, and Comedies. But really, I love every genre and subgenre. Here are some long-standing favorites, in no particular order.

THE AWFUL TRUTH (1937)

Cary Grant is my favorite actor and, in my personal opinion, Irene Dunne was his ideal co-lead actress of his comedy films. This was their best film together and I wish they had made even more than only three.

GOLD DIGGERS OF 1933 (1933)

Every time I watch this, I escape into another world of song, dance, humor, and fantastic spectacle. The creativity of costumes and choreography is breathtaking. Incredible cast, and what a pulse on the Great Depression. You feel your worries melt away entranced by each musical number; undoubtedly that was true for movie goers of this time, too. If only until reality hits after the closing credits.    

METROPOLIS (1927)

Talk about a mind-blowing feast for the eyes. The visual effects and story-telling are outstanding. Not just for a silent film, but for any film. I'm so lucky to live in an area where there are great opportunities for silent film with live music (yes, right here in Kansas), as such I've screened my share of some silent film gems. There's good reason that this film is likely in the top three of silent films that most people who are less experienced with silents. It's not just mainstream, it's a masterpiece.   

THE GREAT RACE (1965)

This film is a nod to classic comedy in every way. The opening credits tell us it's Blake Edwards' tribute to Laurel and Hardy. No, this is not a biopic of their lives. But you'll find a lot of slapstick- by a hilarious duo of Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk. In addition to humor, you'll find adventure, swashbuckling, romance (with yummy Tony Curtis and drop-dead gorgeous Natalie Wood), and even a pie fight so grand in scale that it does bear tribute to a particular Laurel and Hardy gag- yet in technicolor.  

MURDER, MY SWEET (1944)

I know what you're thinking. Why not OUT OF THE PAST, DOUBLE INDEMNITY, or some grittier Warner Brothers B noir? From high-brow to low-brow, I love so many. MMS has all the right ingredients for a memorable noir. But there's also something so cheeky about it, too. It's those unforgettable "Philip Marlowe" lines, delivered by Dick Powell. He dives right into those bottomless black pools. 

BABY FACE (1933)

A Pre-Code essential. There's no subtlety in Barbara Stanwyck as Lily Powers' intentions. Just like there's no subtlety in the bleak world she must navigate. She is a rags-to-riches survivor. A feminist powerhouse. 

HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941)

But Kellee, you always rattle on and on about how THE QUIET MAN is a Maureen O'Hara favorite for you and served as your Irish family's unofficial manual growing up to describe your heritage and ancestral homeland. What gives? True, true. But like I said, depends upon the day and mood. Today, I'm thinking of this beautiful film. From the performances, to the cinematography, to the storytelling itself, this is indeed a uniquely beautiful film. Did it 'rob' great films like CITIZEN KANE, SERGEANT YORK, and THE MALTESE FALCON for Best Picture Oscar? I love those incredible films, but the Academy got this right.  

4. What is a classic movie that you love, but most people don't know about -- and what do you love about it? 

If you're discussing most people within our community of classic film bloggers and fans, I find it difficult to name one that most are not already well aware. We have some incredibly astute fans in our community! But if I expand that 'most people' to mainstream film viewers, I can think of several Noirs and Pre-Codes that are off the beaten path. One that comes to mind is FINISHING SCHOOL (1934). On the surface, it's a coming-of-age story about boarding school girls trying to fit in, break rules, and explore their blooming sexuality. Frances Dee couldn't be more adorable. But WOWZA, there are some Pre-Code moments that literally pack a punch. I love it because the jaw-dropping scenes are so unexpected, especially from angelic-faced Dee. I saw it first at TCM Film Festival years ago, so I love the memories of that initial screening experience, too. 

5. What is something most people don't know about you? 

Another tough question. I'm such a broadcaster, an over-sharer, that I'm straining to think of anything someone wouldn't already know about me (that isn't too personal, or private). Here's a couple of tidbits about me, anyway. 1) I love decorating the house for the holidays, but especially for Christmas. I have 4 Christmas trees that I leave up year-round, including a retro pink one in our bathroom that matches the original 1956 pink tub. The real tree is up from Thanksgiving to almost the 2nd week of January. 2) I grew up in a very colorful childhood in Taos, NM. My beautiful, hippie mother befriended many celebrities and artists that would visit or lived in Taos during that time, including - Dennis Hopper, Dean Stockwell, Michael Martin Murphey, and Neil Young. For a time, we lived with another family - another mom with 2 kids, similar ages as us. They had a big house and were British. They had recently moved to Taos from London and later moved to LA, where they had big dreams for the daughter's acting career. The daughter, who was a couple years younger than me, her name- Olivia d'Abo. You may know her from "The Wonder Years" and other films/TV. Her mom- Maggie London, was a hugely successful model for Vidal Sassoon in the swinging sixties London. She had uncredited acting roles in A HARD DAY'S NIGHT (dancing with Ringo Starr), and in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (she speaks the first line in the film, in the elevator of the space station.) Maggie's husband at the time, composer/singer Mike d'Abo, was busy during the 60s and 70s as a popular British rock singer in bands like Manfred Mann. Mike's first cousin is Maryam d'Abo, a 'Bond girl' in THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS. Olivia's brother Ben, who also lived with us and was slightly older than Olivia, was very sweet and loved to dance around pretending to be Rod Stewart. 

We thank Kellee for participating in our Q&A profile and encourage you to visit OUTSPOKEN & FRECKLED.