TOMORROW THE WORLD (1944)

 

STARDUST AND SHADOWS suggests  another off  the  path story in TOMORROW THE WORLD (1944) . The picture was Directed by Leslie Fenton who was married  to Anne Dvorak.   Its a story of a  German Boy Emil (Skip Homeier)who is  sent to America to live to live with  his Uncle  Mike Frame (Fredric March).  Emil has been exposed to the Hitler Youth training even struts around: spouting Nazi idealogy in a uniform complete with dagger.  Fredric March is wonderful as the  upright Mike Frame who is  going to marry Leona Richards (Betty Field) who is Jewish.   Agnes Moorhead has a  good  turn as  Frame’s sister Jessie.  The picture features some not  so typical strong roles  for children particularly Joan Carol in the role of Pat Frame.   The children have the distinction of solving Emils intigration into American society by doing many of the  actions adults had  done in  picture of the  time.  They hunt down Emil at the conclusion and show  him the  error of his ways.

TOMORROW THE WORLD (1944)  is one of  handful of  wartime films that tried to show the plight of the everyday German during, that time.  It was  was also a  successful play under the same title with Homeier in the role of Emil on Broadway.

 

 

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HER AGAIN: Becoming Meryl Streep By Michael Schulman

Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep

by Michael Schulman (Author)

Print Length: 304 pages

Publisher: Harper Collins (April 26 2016)

“Her again “is exactly what I have said when watching the Academy Awards and Meryl Streep is nominated.  Michael Schulman crafts a fast paced look at Meryl Streep –from her childhood to the role that launched her in KRAMER VS KRAMER (1979).

What I found the most entertaining were the people that Streep came in contact with; particularly from her days in theatre.  John Lithgow, Dustin Hoffman (she auditioned for a play he was directing), Al Pacino, and Sigourney Weaver from her Yale acting days.  Schulman weaves a real world of personalities filled with little bits of up and down, with backstage stories to round things out. Streep reads a great deal of books on various subjects, and memorizes whole Shakespearian plays.

Meryl Streep moved in the world with fairy tale quality based on her looks and her ability to present character on stage and later in film.  The story seems to have that Hollywood quality to it. For example, Meryl could arrive an hour late for an important Broadway audition and get the role instantly. Schulman is a Meryl Streep booster and fan which is evident in the tone and depth of the story.

The best parts delved into Steep’s  relationship with unconventional actor John Cazale, who many will know played the machine  gun carrying fellow trying to get the  sex change operation financed by Al Pacino’s character in DOG DAY AFTERNOON (1975).   Those moments become an unconventional love story as the quirky looking Cazale (who apparently did everything at his own pace no matter what) and the blonde, Nordic looking blue eyed, high cheek boned Streep.  The book follows Cazale’s cancer diagnoses and Streep spending months nursing him till he passed away.   Al Pacino said years later as reported by the author that, “No matter what she wins… This will always be his memory of her and how she stood up for John.”

The book ends with a detailed narrative the making of KRAMER VS KRAMER (1979) and a look at the talent of Dustin Hoffman – whom were learn has a very abrasive style of directing and set manner – he locks   horns with Meryl Streep, who plays the wife in the landmark tale of a divorce and child custody battle. This picture is a child of the late eighties with the rise of feminism, with which Meryl seems to have taken on in her life.

It may not be a complete look into the life of Meryl Streep but it doesn’t claim to be as its subtitle of “Becoming Meryl Streep,” suggests.  Still an entertaining look at what some thing is one of greatest female actors of this generation and how she became the Meryl Streep we see on the screen.

YOUNG ORSON By Patrick McGilligan

YOUNG ORSON

The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane

By Patrick McGilligan

832 pages with two 16 page photo inserts

Publisher: Harper Collins

This was my second excursion into the world of Orson Welles and was by far the most comprehensive to date.  My previous experience was with Simon Callow’s first volume THE ROAD TO XANADU, a few years back; I found its tone tedious.

Do not let the size of this tome put you off:  author Patrick McGilligan takes you on a wonderfully detailed trip into Welles’ life.  One gets to follow the lives of Welles’ would- be parents before they meet. The social fabric of the time, the early industrialization of America, the schools, all add up to nostalgic sections of Welles’ parents and their lives in Kenosha Falls.

Interesting accounts of young Orson in school as he tries to and succeeds in avoiding physical education and athletics with guile unbecoming a twelve year old.  One gets to see the opportunities as they come into his life such as the Mercury Theatre and early Shakespeare productions that Welles often played in as a lead, knowing the roles almost by heart from an early age.  His love of magic and magicians became a lifelong obsession.

Patrick Gilligan gets us close to Welles’ friends, such as actor Norman Lloyd, Joseph Cotton, and John Houseman, who was instrumental in Orson’s theatre and radio work, culminating in the famous or infamous THE WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast of 1938.

The reader gets to be a fly on the wall in meetings as the genesis of CITIZEN KANE takes place with co- writer Herman Mankieweiz and Orson, plus others as they give birth in various script versions often fueled by excess and madness of creativity.

One also learns of the other side of genius, as Orson was called at a young age.  The divorce, the estranged children, the money fights, the creative fights, the battles with studios, later years of neglect and perhaps the truth of what Rosebud really meant in the film.   The barriers of belligerence Orson set up in later years to protect himself from people that hid a lonely man who wondered, “People would hire me to talk about film but no one will let me make one.”

YOUNG ORSON: The Years of Luck and Genius on the Path to Citizen Kane is an excellent addition to any film lover’s or biography reader’s bookshelf as it draws from previous and new sources.  It is a glimpse of a Renaissance man at work and at play – warts and all.

A is for ALDO RAY

 

I recently facinated viewed gruff speaking Aldo Ray in  pseudo noir picture NIGHTFALL (1957) Directed by Jacques Tourneur . The way this fellow moved with economy of motion, stood tall, and what was so important in pictures of that day is that he wore his clothes well. Ray never actually played football but he was a Navy frogman during World War two seeing action at Okinawa.  He went along to an audition with his brother Guido for a 1951 football film  SATURDAYS HERO.  Turned out that Director  David Miller was more interested in  him than his brother because of his raspy voice.  Ray got the role of a cynical college football player opposite  John Derek and Donna Reed in the Columbia Pictures production plus a exclusive contract inspite of having no acting experience. He was to appear in several films under his birth name of  Aldo DaRe.

 

 

Aldo Ray’s career was launched as he was cast in 1952 opposite Judy holiday in the George Cukor  film THE MARRYING KIND and PAT AND MIKE  with Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.  His thick neck and large frame aided his a tough, sexy roles for that time became his trademark.  Cukor once told him that he moved like a ‘football player’ and suggested  that he take ballet lessons.  He was nominated for a “Best Newcomer” award for the Golden Globe awards  that year along with Robert Wagner only to lose out to someone called Richard Burton.  Ray  made a picture with Rita Hayworth called MISS SADIE THOMPSON in 1953.  Columbia pictures boss Harry Cohen wanted Ray in the role of  Private Robert Prewitt in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY(1953) but Director Fred Zinnemann insisted on Montgomery Clift.

In 1955, Ray featured in starring roles in BATTLE CRY, THREE STRIPES IN A  SUN,  MEN IN WAR and one of his best-loved films, WE’RE NO ANGELS (1955), in which he starred with Humphrey Bogart Peter Ustinov, Basil Rathbone and Joan Bennett.  He tried his hand or rather voice as a radio personality on the hit music station WNDR New York.

 

 

In personal life Aldo Ray settled in Crockett California after military discharge  with his wife Shirley Green where he was elected as  Town Constable.They had one child, a daughter named Claire The marriage ended in divorce in 1953 as  did  second union to actress Jeff Donnell which also ended in divorce in 1956

By the dawn of the 1960s, Aldo was most often typecast as the tough guy, capitalizing on his husky good looks and gravelly voice. Another iconic role came Ray’s way as he played SGT. Muldoon along side John Wayne in THE GREEN BERETS.(1968) plus appearance in various televsion shows  such as BONANZA.  He married Johanna Bennet, who continues to work today under the name Johanna  Ray, as a respected Casting Director. They were divorced in 1967.   Aldo grew tired of the ‘macho redneck’ roles plus the quality of the stories in 60’s yet he still worked in some less then notable films as character  attitudes  changed.

In the  1980s as Ray was diagnosed with throat cancer and would take any job including non sexual roles in porngraphic films to pay for his costly health insurance. His SCREEN ACTOR GUILD card was revoked when it was found out he was working on non union productions. However ex wife Johanna Ray, a longtime collaborator with David Lynch, cast her son Eric with Aldo in Lynch’s 1990 TWIN PEEKS television series, as well as the movie FIREWALK WITH ME  released in 1992.  Ray also appeared in  1991  horror picture SHOCK’EM DEAD with Tracie Lords and Troy Donohue.

Aldo Ray retured to Crockett California with his mother, family and friends where he passed away in 1991.

THE HUMAN COMEDY

 

 

Summers are wonderful times to enjoy pictures – some of which I enjoyed during the TCM SUMMER OF DARKNESS festival on Film Noir.  The rain felt warm, the dark was comforting, and dialogue was so sharp you could shave with it. There is morning even in a noir picture -however desolate.

I recently took a spin through the Michael Curtiz 1958 directed picture THE PROUD REBEL with Alan Ladd and Olivia de Havilland, who were ably supported by Dean Jagger, Cecil Kellaway, Henry Hull and a young Harry Dean Stanton among others.  I missed seeing it at the 2015 TCM festival. If you wait, the film you want to see will come around to the network. It has been called an unremarkable film, also “Saturday afternoon light fare,” which really doesn’t bother me. The formula driven story of a former Confederate soldier (Alan Ladd), who is searching for a doctor to cure his son David (David Ladd), who in the course of this meets a woman farmer Linnett Moore (de Havilland). She takes them in as a result of brushes with the law and aggressive neighbors.  What struck me after the end credits had rolled by was the simplicity of the story.  The warm feeling that it evoked came through its use of that tried and true ‘boy and his dog’ motif.

One does not need gritty drama, creatures rising from the dead, or gangsters shooting it out for a roll of money to enjoy classic film. A steady diet of the same style is like eating the same meal every day, and can leave you desensitized; inattentive to nuances of your favorite style of picture as it all blends into one.  Variety is a brilliant way to appreciate what you enjoy even more.

I am not employed by TCM so I get  nothing in boosting their network.  TCM On air host Robert Osbourne articulated some reasons why people watch classic film at a press conference I attended that never occurred to me. Amazingly these experiences were  part of me which I did not take into account. It was mentioned that the TCM network could be classed as a caregiver of sorts. Countless letters are received saying that the network gets people through periods of personal loneliness, periods of unemployment, loss of a loved one, or any number of life transitions.I for one have gone through a medical convalescence a few years ago of six weeks. I would watch one film, sometimes two, beginning very early in the morning as it was my habit to get up at that time. It was pretty cool to be able to catchup on many of the pictures I had stored on PVR. My medical troubles were short as l was fortunate to heal quickly. It is insular of me to not think of this for a person with a long term predicament.

Robert Osbourne spoke to this when he said that with our current world situation, why would people not want to see something uplifting?  The network has a tremendous loyal following that is like a family that no other network can boast. You don’t see conventions, festivals or cruises for other networks.  Some would say that networks such as this are selling your past back to you which is fine since that was what the studio system did. Movies eased people though the Depression, wars, societial transitions with larger then life faces. Momentary escape from what was going on was pretty good for a dime.

Today  some people want realism or the opposite through effects.  There will always be two ‘ camps’ for this debate which is quite alright.  A strong example of new film making with an interesting, if not violant theme is the current  MAD MAX… FURY ROAD which should still be in theatres. It would be tough to  tell this story without the mayhem that goes with it  yet is  handled very well in terms of “implied” action.  One does not need to see the the carnage to know that it is there.

Movies have always been a product of their time as audience change. Sometimes  ‘simple’ is good.

 

 

THE DREAM MACHINE RETURNS

 

Digital power has brought motion pictures to a new audience.  The discs (or the next format) gives us all an opportunity to hold motion picture history.  The recent TCM CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL in Los Angeles may have looked at first glance like it was going backward from that. THE RETURN OF THE DREAM MACHINE, HAND CRANKED FILMS  FROM 1902-1913., brought history home.

This event was hosted by Randy HaberKamp, Managing Director of Preservation and Foundation Programs for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Beautiful prints of a hand color tinted version of A TRIP TO THE MOON (1909) by George Melies, Thomas Edison’s THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY (1903), and D.W. Griffith early short film, THOSE AWFUL HATS (1909) from Biograph studios were just three of the eight gems that played.   The difference is that these prints were projected through a genuine 1909 hand cranked Model 6 Cameragraph Motion Picture machine operated by Joe Rinaudo and Gary Gibson. Pre-show music was played by Galen Wilkes on a 1908 Edison Phonograph featuring cylinders of popular music that one would have heard then. There was live musical accompaniment by Michael Mortilla on keyboard during the showings and between features. Each of these people were dressed in period costume that their occupations wore. The concession made to modern times is that the pre-show music was amplified by a microphone. Slides such as, “No spitting in aisles,” and “Ladies, remove your hats,” punctuated the experience between reel changes.

The prints were hand cranked, much the same as the cameras were during the filming of scenes in early motion pictures. The smallest deviation of speed by the projectionist could change to look of a film and subsequent audience feeling. These showings would take place in small towns and cities, sometimes outdoors in the evening, weather permitting, or in halls.  The wonder of the images, which seem very tame to today’s people, of trains going by, people dancing, and the first hand drawn animation such as the work of 1911  N.Y Herald cartoonist brought to life in his ‘ moving comics’ left the audiences awestruck.

This was the beginning of narrative film as the new medium of motion pictures was being developed.  Hollywood was in its infancy as the real power rested back east in New York were the money was and creator Thomas Edison. Ironically, the money has always been back East, even in the Golden Years of Hollywood.  Producers found the California climate, the lushness of the orange and walnut groves, the wide open unspoiled spaces, conducive to film making.  Lighting techniques were not fully developed so even when studios were built in California they had open glass roofs and windows to allow natural light in or they shot outside. What a perfect climate to do this in with year round sun. Hence, the studio migration.

This presentation was something you could only see at a festival or revival of this nature so we were lucky to take advantage of the opportunity. To actually see these pictures in the mode they were originally presented was a treat. One could say it’s similar to the resurgence of vinyl records now as music lovers re-discover or find their roots. There is a level of purity as well as one can respect how far the medium of film has come and wonder where it can go. It is a shame that basically less than ten percent of all the silent film produced by early Hollywood has survived. Great features by many names both big and small are lost though neglect as film was simply tossed away or by numerous fires due to volatile nitrate stock.  I also find even today with history that people simply do not realize what they have sitting in front of them and basically let the ravages of time take its course due to lack of funding. Will future people look at the pictures and technical prowess today with the same nostalgia?  The rest they say is history. One hopes that this history itself is still around for all to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE SEA HAWK SAILS AGAIN

Film festival attending can be a mixture of working the crowd, finding what you want to see, and having to make decisions when items are crossed booked.  There are no bad decisions if you attend an event such is what is happening with us at the 2015 TURNER CLASSIC FILM FESTIVAL in Hollywood. Hence, I would like to pass on some bits and pieces of what is happening.

I was fortunate to get into the 10 p.m. screening of the Mike Curtiz directed 1940 picture THE SEA HAWK. Why is that worth mentioning? Because it was on the big screen; a 35 mm print complete with reel changes.   Organizers have respect for film of this nature and for me it was cool to see the curtains of today’s larger screens close to the smaller aspect ratio of the 1940s.  This was not a print that was blown up to fill the huge surface but the wonderfully non- claustrophobic look at what the film makers intended.  The image was clear with some obvious time worn troubles that affect us all. The sound on the print was crisp with Korngold’s magnificent score coming through.  Dialogue could be understood without the pops and crackles that show up.

This screening of THE SEA HAWK featured a talk by Errol Flynn’s daughter Rory Flynn, who imparted some insights into her late father, such as “You see the swashbuckling hero, I see my father.” She also took the opportunity to introduce her son Sean Flynn with a good deal of Mother’s pride.

It was pointed out that the print was listed in the program as running time of two hours and seven minutes, yet actually the running time was be one hour forty nine minutes.  Now for some people that is an abomination, some don’t care, and I admit I was slightly irked as I had thoughts of those ‘Real Art’ reissues of Universal Studios Horror pictures.  Real Art cut the films often to sixty to sixty five minutes to get them on television. THE SEA HAWK print was cut to fit onto a 1947 double bill format along with THE SEA WOLF (1941) with Edward G. Robinson as the ship’s tyrannical captain.  The scenes with actor Donald Crisp as the Queen’s advisor, Sir John Burleson, also were victim of editorial decisions.

The audience applauded when Flynn’s and Korngold’s name appeared on the screen. Clapping exploded when Flynn makes his entrance on the deck of his ship about ten minutes in. I found it particularly interesting that there was clapping for Una O’ Conner, who made a career of playing hand maidens, ladies in waiting, and other character types.  Her Irish accent and facial expressions have been in countless pictures so it was good to see the grand person of theatre get noticed.

The SEA HAWK rollicked, swords clashed, ships fired cannons, the evil Spanish were somewhat vanquished, urbane dialogue was exchanged and unrequited love was returned all in glorious black and white.

It has been a while since I had watched the picture of the style which made the experience full of enjoyment.   The current PIRATES OF THE CARRIBEAN franchise is the closest audiences have today to this style while it has its merits. It is effects dependent, which is what much of today’s audiences want.   Not a bad time on the old high seas.