30.5.11

The Cameraman - 1928 Film #12

Buster Keaton's The Cameraman, I don't feel like I need to say anything more than that! But I guess a few words are necessary. 
After 11 years of putting his creativity to the screen Buster Keaton was forced to shut up Buster Keaton Productions due to money woes after a few unsuccessful costly films that included Steamboat Bill Jr and The General. He regretfully accepted a position at the MGM lot. He became one of MGM's pampered performers at the assembly line, a position that is hard to associate with Buster Keaton, the daredevil of silent comedy. However his move to MGM produced one film that you could place on a pedestal next to his previous amazing films. That is The Cameraman of course, and it is classic Buster. This film marked the end of his glory years, its fitting to as I haven't seen a Buster Keaton film quite as emotional as this. I suppose just knowing that his career fizzled out after this production makes it an emotional watch for a fan. Although he wasn't given complete control, because the directing duty was passed over to Edward Sedgwick (who would also direct his last silent film Spite Marriage), for the most part he was allowed to do his thing and he did partially direct (although uncredited), if only MGM allowed him to carry on doing it!. 

Buster Keaton plays a tintype portrait photographer who falls hopelessly and hard for Sally (Marceline Day), a lovely young thing who works at MGM's newsreel offices. Enraptured and in typical Buster fashion he plays out the whole film whole heartedly but modestly trying to please her and win her over, its not easy as he finds competition wherever he goes. He wants a job at the newsreels to impress Sally, so he sells his photo camera for a stodgy looking film camera. Sally helps out Buster, he had previously attempted to film a fire, but had trouble getting to it, she gives him a tip off about a job in gangwar Chinatown. He films all this amazing footage, whilst fending off Chinese gangsters trying to kill him. Thanks to Buster's new trustful monkey friend (Josephine the monkey) he comes out alive. Buster leaves us dumbfounded when he returns to the offices to show off his work only to find he had forgotten to put the film in the camera! But never fear he brings us back again. That's what's great about Buster Keaton's movie's he always falls on his butt but he eventually comes back fighting and in the most unimaginable of circumstances. During the crazy Chinatown sequence is where the film moves on a whole other level, this occurs half way through the movie. In the first half Keaton delivers wondrously funny sight gags. In one he travels to a stadium and ends up pantomiming a baseball match on an empty field, when he learns the game he hoped to film is being played elsewhere.
To me The Cameraman is Buster Keaton's most romantic movie, all his films are romantic as hell but this film just has many fleeting romantic moments between Keaton and Day that are truly priceless and beautifully done. Buster scrounges up some money to take Sally on a date, they take an adventurous bus ride (to say the least) to the cities public pool. Poor Buster just can't catch a break, really spectacular gags occur at the pool. Whilst Buster and another man attempt to change into their swimwear in a tiny changing room built for one, Sally is being swarm by a pack of wet males, but just in a knick of time Buster appears in an extremely loose fitting swimsuit looking a sorry sight (but so adorable!). When he retrieves his queen he attempts to show off some high dives only to have his swimsuit fall off!! How he recovers from this hilarious, nightmarish circumstance will be left a mystery....
As a whole the film feels different to his previous achievements, because of the lack of stunts, but it shouldn't be missed, it's still really fun filled and quite touching.  The Cameraman features on TCM quite a bit, so stay tuned. 
"I'll Wait"
Buster Keaton and Marceline Day
(that dreamy gif, is from here, she is like the queen bee of gifs).
Say it ain't so's:
  • This movie was thought to be lost forever until  a print was found in Paris in 1968. And another print of almost the entire film was found in 1991. Both prints can be seen today, the latter is of much higher quality. 
  •  This film was used for many years by MGM as an example of a perfect comedy. The studio would get all its directors and producers to watch it and learn. Only two scenes were improvised on the spot by Buster Keaton: one was the baseball scene, and the other is the piggybank scene.
  • According to Rudi Blesch's biography of Buster Keaton, he came on the set the first day of shooting and, unaware of his reduced status as actor-only, began to "feel" for comedy bits and request props and characters, as he had with his own company. Director Edward Sedgwick took him aside and told Buster that he was undermining his directorial authority. Buster genuinely apologized and faded into the background. Sedgewick couldn't get the set-ups he wanted, couldn't get the actors to understand his direction, and eventually gave up and asked Buster to take over. As quietly as he had left, Buster regained control of the scene. Buster began to call Sedgewick "Junior" and they became fast friends.

Buster Keaton with director Edward Sedgwick 


(Opinions needed:
I would like to know what you think of my new header, I showed it to a few people and they  frankly said they didn't like it as much as my Buster Keaton headings! lol. Should I bring back Buster To my title? you might have noticed I've been changing it quite a bit, I just can't settle on one, help)

15.5.11

Sennett, Roach and The Boys and The Tramps

Producer Mack Sennet's Bathing Beauties, with Carole Lombard on the right (c1927). Mildred Davis and  Harold Lloyd who worked with the other major comedy producer of the time Hal Roach (from 1915 to 1923) 








Hello, I just wanted to mention that historian Kevin Brownlow's 1980 documentary: Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film is available on you tube (whoopee) thanks to one remarkable uploader. So far they have uploaded 8 of the 13 episodes, one is uploaded every few weeks or so.  
The Latest Comedy - A Serious Business is below
It features interviews with Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Hal Roach, Jackie Coogan and Frank Capra and more.   
The Episode mentions Mack Sennett's Keystone Studios otherwise known as "The Fun Factory" and Charlie Chaplin's beginnings there. Mack Sennett wasn't a producer big on scenario, he said the chase was the essence of his comedy, meaning they were big on extreme slapstick. So it wasn't long before Chaplin wanted to spread his wings, and he did in 1915. 
Hal Roach was the other great producer, Harold Lloyd began as a comedian with Roach and started out playing a character known as Lonesome Luke, Lloyd had never done comedy before. Essentially the character was the studios way of cashing in on Chaplin's success with his lovable tramp, Lonesome Luke didn't last. Everyone at the studio decided that Harold needed to stand out, thus the much loved Glasses character began. Buster Keaton of course is a hot topic as well, stunts, directing and he talks about why his character is deadpan. Lastly the episode also touches on the rise and fall of the forgotten comedian Harry Langdon and his innocent man-child like character invented by Mack Sennett and Frank Capra. 
Enjoy, its good stuff.
James Mason Narrates 
Link to the 1st Episode: The Pioneers


uh oh spaghettios. Mabel falls off the wheel and into a puddle in Mabel at the Wheel with Charlie Chaplin who plays the villain (Mack Sennett c1914) first photo found at mythicalmonkey and the other on filmobservations

4.5.11

Southern Discomfort

Victorian Mansion (via Flickr)  and Natchez, Mississippi (Via Shorpy)
There is something really alluring about all things relating to the Southern Gothic sub genre, whether its in the novels or in the films they always bring out a captivating sense of place. The run down but still stately old houses and the big mossy trees orchestrate a great dark atmosphere. The genre can sustain the feeling of a gothic horror story, only instead of the vampires and monsters the characters are people who are outcasts, crooks and alcoholics. The villainous character's are often a representation of what's negatives about the South, a social issue can be raised, like racism in To Kill a Mocking Bird
I've never been to the Southern States of America or anywhere in America for that matter but when I do go, the places I would like to visit include New Orleans, Savannah, Nashville and Charleston. Which explains why I've really only just begun to get into it. I just brought a couple of secondhand William Faulkner books (Sanctuary and The Sound and The Fury) and it would be nice to have a porch and some cold lemonade while I'm at it (its a nice fantasy seeing as though weather here has been terrible, there was a tornado that ripped apart an Auckland suburb yesterday ( it killed 2 people) which was pretty scary, it ended it in a neighboring suburb to us. Never seen anything like it here, Auckland's usually got subdued weather conditions).
William Faulkner and Eudora Welty  in New York in the 60s, this is a pretty great photo!. and his novel Sanctuary (1931)
According to wikipedia (haha doesn't sound to reliable, but its the only source I can go by) "The Story of Temple Drake" based on William Faulkner's Sanctuary (1931) was the first notable film that relates to the Southern Gothic Genre. I had the pleasure of watching The Story of Temple Drake (1933) on Youtube not so long ago, the only place available for public viewing, it will also be screening at the tcm festival, newly restored and all! god I wish i could go. This film is almost the perfect pre-code. It has often been said that this single film caused the Breen office to take over censorship. Which is believable, its quite insane. Though the novel is still considered much more scandalous; the film still holds a strong shock value even though it implies the touchy subjects the novel goes into. Miriam Hopkin's stars in the title role, which fitted her like a glove. Temple is a frivolous and wealthy southern belle, who after a night of dancing and drinking decides to go for a joyride into the dark and stormy night with her really drunk friend "Toddy". They skid off the road and have an accident, which is where the hoods come in. The gang then lead the victims into their run down lair. The intoxicated Toddy is really eager to join them while Temple is quite terrified, but because of the weather she enters into the shelter. The gang of bootleggers is led by the gun toting "Trigger" (Jack LaRue) and he makes the whole situation as unsettling as possible. Temple decides to stay with Trigger and becomes a prostitute. Ruby (the woman below, right) is the other woman staying with the hoods, and even though society might look down on her for staying with a group of bootleggers in squaller, she is staying true and dedicated to her beau, which is in huge contrast to Temple (a judges granddaughter) a notorious tease about town. But because of Miriam's rapid change in life Ruby could be the woman Temple will become or according to the rules of society should become.  
It's a film worth viewing for sure. Miriam Hopkins is the only actress I can think of who would have suited that role, Barbara Stanwyck could have pulled it off also, but Miriam Hopkins has a more snooty way about her I think, which suits Temple, since she is spoiled. The film was so scandalous that it was pulled after only running for two weeks in 1933, never to played on t.v or anything. 
Can anyone recommend to me some other novels or films of the genre?
Great shots courtesy of  Old Hollywood

30.4.11

The Good Fairy (1935)




I recently watched this delightful film. Since I only just got wind of it, I thought it's possible others interested in classic films hadn't seen it either, so I just had to hit the keyboard. It features a stellar cast, with Frank MorganMargaret Sullavan, Herbert Marshall and Reginald Owen, and with small roles by Caesar Romero and a comedic favourite Eric Blore. Not to mention it was written by Preston Sturges and directed by William Wyler. But it is nice to be surprised with a "new" gem every so often. Preston Sturges really funny one liners are good for chuckles and the entire script is pretty zany. But instead of it being as screwy as lets say Palm Beach Story its toned down by William Wyler in a way by emphasizing on the brilliant actors and using scarce amount of music. It's technically simplistic but cozy 'n' sweet at the same time. Sullavan plays Luisa Ginglebusher a life long orphan who enters the real world for the first time after being randomly plucked out of her asylum to work as a movie usherette. Ginglebusher loves fairy tales and doing good deeds but she learns that being a Good Fairy to benefit total strangers can have it's downside. 
Ginglebusher now alone in the world she befriends a kooky and kindly waiter named Detloff (Reginald Owen) who becomes the closest thing she has to a paternal guardian. He does his best to protect her from the cities shifty characters. Detloff introduces her to the fancy life at a hotel party he is working at. But while Detloff is working the tables, a meat packing millionaire named Konrad (Frank Morgan) begins to make a bee line towards Ginglebusher's table, he relentlessly tries to pursue her. So he lures her up to a private dining room and starts talking about what kind of fur he should buy her. Ginglebusher pretends she is married to a poor lawyer and randomly picks a name out of the directory. Her plan is to help out a struggling man by using Konrad who will give him a high paying job at his meat packers. By doing this Konrad will be able to send the hubby away on trips, which means he'll be able to be with Gingle. The chosen lawyer is Dr Max Sporum (Herbert Marshall), poor: yes but he's also quite stuffy. His unsuccessful career as a lawyer has led him to grow a funny parted beard (which he hastily combs now and then) because he thinks it makes him look like a professional. When he hears of his future wealth, he becomes obsessed with getting a new desk pencil sharpener, like that's the most exciting thing. 
Later on when he describes the story of his surprising fortune to Ginglebusher, Sporum points to his pencil sharpener and says  "Hence the Magnificence" (! How can you not Love this movie :)
Ginglebusher's plan later unravels when the inevitable occurs and Konrad finds out. Other than that I found the movie pretty unpredictable. Loved it, wouldn't call it a "masterpiece" but it's defiantly one I'll come back to, yay (:  
The Good Fairy is very good, largely because of the charismatic performances and quirky characters. Margaret Sullavan is splendid and believable as the young naive orphan, Luisa Ginglebusher, the role had been tailored by Preston to suit the actress.
Frank Morgan is superb of course. He and Margaret would soon work together again in Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around The Corner (1940). And I have to say that it was kind of  strange watching the "Wizard of Oz" getting drunk and coming on to younger girls. But Morgan really played him vigorously, and I felt sorry for him in a part where Reginald knocks him over, but never fear, in the end we learn he's a pretty good guy. But I just couldn't get his roles in Oz out of my mind! 
Another bonus is the magnificent distinct voices that come from all the actors! Margaret, Frank, Herbert and Reginald, maybe that's why there's little to no musical score. They all make Preston Sturges script something really memorable.
If you love Preston Sturges and screwball comedy and haven't yet come across this film I defiantly recommend it. It's nice to see where the creator of Sullivans Travels and The Lady Eve started out ( Easy Living and Remember the Night are also worth a watch or two). This film feels different to his own directed masterpieces, but you can tell from the script its Preston, even though it's not an original Preston Sturges story (it was based on a 1930s play by Ferenc Molnar). In the thirties Sturges did only script work for Hollywood until he got fed up with with the way Hollywood directors were treating his material. Which makes me wonder if he was happy with this one? So he started directing as well, his directorial debut was with a script he had written in around 1933 called The Great Mcginty (1940), he was so eager to direct that he asked paramount to pay him only a dollar in return. 
Sounds silly doesn't it? A little boy Without a Beard  (lol)
This film's  star Margaret Sullavan and director William Wyler had just been married the year the production of The Good Fairy began in 1934. The two were constantly feuding and she'd walk off the set, until Wyler realised that she worked better when they didn't fight (genius). None of that shows in her performance at all. I have only seen her in this film and The Shop Around the Corner and I'm eager to see her act dramatically. Before The Good Fairy She had played two roles in dramatic films, "Little Man, What Now?" (Frank Borzage) and "Only Yesterday" which was her first film in 1933 (John M. Stahl). So The Good Fairy was her first attempt at comedy and I thought she was a pro, timing was excellent. It's unfortunate for us that she only played comedienne twice in her career, but its fortunate that Sullavan's roles were in The Good Fairy and The Shop around the corner.
As the unassuming love interest is Herbert Marshall (Trouble in Paradise) who looked so handsome (I thought) couldn't believe he was around 45 when he took this role, the same age as Frank Morgan!. The suave Brit acted the part like I never seen him act before! honestly its difficult not to enjoy this guys performances. He is also fantastic in the comedy Trouble In Paradise but that's a whole other character. So yeah I think that sums it up, Watch The Good Fairy and you can here.
Herbert Marshall admiring her furs face.
H.M: "Who Is this Nobleman?"
M.S: "oh isn't it beautiful?"
H.M: "Yes but what is it?", 
M.S "A Genuine Foxine"
H.M: "uh huh, probably related to a Fox or something"
(wish it magically had an audio button , its not the same just reading the joke.)

26.4.11

Songs of The Week #9


The Doors  - Queen of the Highway the smooth as Jazz Version, I love this!, came across it on Tumblr about a month ago and I'm glad I did, since then I've just been playing it everywhere I go, Downloaded it onto my ipod, put it on a new mix cd I made for work, never get tired of it. It comes from the Morrison Hotel 40th Anniversary edition. I have the original version but I'm tempted to go out and buy this new one. I made this slide show video for youtube because I thought the only one on there wouldn't let me embed it but it turns out that youtube just changed their settings and I just couldn't find the embed button. pretty ridiculous of me haha
Hope you enjoy it as much I do! 



And Heatmiser I've been Listening to a lot of them lately. Elliott Smith joined this group before heading out as a solo artist.  I'm a real mega huge gigantic fan of Elliott Smith so he makes me enjoy the head banging rock songs featured on heatmisers first two albums. Their last Album was their most successful, Mic City Sons (1996) which  is much lighter, quite different to their earlier music. This song "Antonio Carlos Jobim" (named after the Brazilian Bossa Nova musician) is my favourite song featured on Cop and Speeder released in 1994. Elliott and Neil Gust made some awesome music! Smith left the group because he wasn't comfortable being in a loud rock band.