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  • feedwordpress 09:01:14 on 2018/11/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , film, , , NBC, , , slide show,   

    “The study of man is the study of his extensions”*… 

     

    magic-lantern_1_md

    The magic lantern was invented in the 1600’s, probably by Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch scientist. It was the earliest form of slide projector and has a long and fascinating history. The first magic lanterns were illuminated by candles, but as technology evolved they were lit by increasingly powerful means.

    The name “magic lantern” comes from the experience of the early audiences who saw devils and angels mysteriously appear on the wall, as if by magic. Even in the earliest period, performances contained images that moved—created with moving pieces of glass.

    By the 18th century the lantern was a common form of entertainment and education in Europe. The earliest known “lanthorn show” in the U. S. was in Salem, Massachusetts, on December 3, 1743, “for the Entertainment of the Curious.” But the source of light for lanterns in this period—usually oil lamps—was still weak, and as a consequence the audiences were small.

    In the mid 19th century, two new forms of illumination were developed which led to an explosion of lantern use. “Limelight” was created by heating a piece of limestone in burning gas until it became incandescent. It was dangerous, but produced a light that was strong enough to project an image before thousands of people, leading to large shows by professional showmen…

    All about the entertainment sensation of its time at the web site of The Magic Lantern Society.  [TotH to friend and colleague RW]

    And for a peek at the transition from the static images of the magic lantern to film-as-we-know-it, see “Putting Magic in the Magic Lantern.”

    [image above: source]

    Edward T. Hall, Beyond Culture

    ###

    We we watch with wonder, we might recall that it was on this date in 1926 that The NBC Radio Network, the first network in the U.S., was launched.  Carl Schlegel of the Metropolitan Opera opened the four-hour inaugural broadcast, which also featured Will Rogers and Mary Garden; it included a remote link from KYW in Chicago and was carried by twenty-two eastern and midwestern stations, located as far west as WDAF in Kansas City, Missouri.

    NBC has been formed from assets already held by its parent, Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and other assets acquired from AT&T (which had been, up to that point, a pioneer in radio technology).  Crucially, as part of the reassignment permissions granted by the government, NBC was allowed to sell advertising.

    NBC’s network grew quickly; two months later, on January 1, 1927, it was split into the Red and Blue networks.  And it quickly attracted competition:  the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in 1927 and the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1934.  In 1942 the government required NBC to divest one of its networks; it sold off NBC Blue, which became The American Broadcasting Company (ABC).

    200px-NBC_Red_Network source

     

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:39 on 2018/11/13 Permalink
    Tags: film, , Herbert E. Ives, , , Romaine Fielding, , ,   

    “I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.”*… 

     

    Romaine Fielding

    Romaine Fielding got famous making a bunch of films in nothing flat—something like 100 films in just four years, from 1912 to 1915. Some of the films were probably awful. Others were showered with critical praise. Film was a fledgling medium still trying to find its voice, still battling to evolve from novelty to art. But Romaine rose above the melodramatic din of the silent film era. He was, by some accounts, America’s first movie star and, by even more accounts, among the medium’s first true visionaries…

    Romaine had already lived a lot of life when he began making films in 1912. There were only a dozen film companies in Hollywood. The magazine that would launch our nation’s rabidity for celebrity culture, Photoplay, had just published its first issue. Romaine was 43 and on his fourth name by then: baby William Grant Blandin became Royal A. Blandin became Romanzo A. Blandin who made the leap finally to Romaine Fielding at the dawn of the 20th century.

    There are lots of reasons for adopting pseudonyms and these include shame or aspiration or fear of legal recourse or extralegal recourse or confusion about identity or certainty about identity or general restlessness and for some it is all of this plus the usual feeling of fraudulence and an overdeveloped flair for the dramatic. In 1867 Romaine was born out of wedlock in an Iowa that wouldn’t stand for it and so his first name change was the projection of others’ shame. For the rest of his life he layered on identities, ever grander, though never entirely disingenuous…

    After the success of The Toll of Fear (one of the first great psychological thrillers, made in 1913) Romaine made the cover of Motion Picture Magazine. He was voted America’s Most Popular Player by the magazine’s readers, snagging over 1.3 million of the 7 million votes cast by film buffs.

    This award was a remarkable accomplishment in the pre-Oscars era. He beat out Mary Pickford, an early cinema powerhouse and eventual cofounder of the famed United Artists studio. He beat out Bronco Billy, who had starred in The Great Train Robbery (1903), arguably the first ever Western film…

    The genuinely remarkable tale of an American original: “The Lost Apocalypse of Romaine Fielding.”

    * “Norma Desmond” (Gloria Swanson) in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard

    ###

    As we see stars, we might spare a thought for Herbert Eugene Ives; he died on this date in 1953.  A scientist and engineer who headed the development of facsimile and television systems at AT&T in the first half of the twentieth century, he is best known for the 1938 Ives–Stilwell experiment, which provided direct confirmation of special relativity’s time dilation (though Ives himself did not accept special relativity, and argued instead for an alternative interpretation of the experimental results).

    But relevantly to this post, Ives also led AT&T’s development of video and television. His 1927 transmission–  of images of then-Commerce Secretary Herbert Hoover, from Washington, DC to New York– was the first successful long distance demonstration of television. Two years later, he achieved the first successful long-distance transmission of color images.

    220px-Ives_3819812229_f084c217d1_o source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:55 on 2018/10/28 Permalink
    Tags: Bride of Frankenstein, Elsa Lanchester, film, ghost, ghost story, , , , M.R. James,   

    “We need ghost stories because we, in fact, are the ghosts”*… 

     

    Cynthia-Zarin-Originial-Master-of-Ghost-Stories

    Lost keys, a snagged button, a wine glass upset—you spilled it, didn’t you, the wine didn’t spill itself? “The Complete Ghost Stories,” by M. R. James, first published between 1904 and 1935—and reprinted [last] year by Macmillan, in a hardbound pocket edition, perfect for reading in a stalled subway car—incorporate what the author, the master of the modern ghost story, called “the malice of inanimate objects.” Might that razor, so benign every other morning, know something? Does ill will ferret out, precisely, where we live? The stories start quietly. A young man inherits a country house from an unknown uncle; a print collector finds himself drawn to an oddly undistinguished engraving; a provincial hotel doesn’t—or does it?—have a room numbered thirteen. The humdrum, muffled tone of these stories transmits an atmosphere of almost superannuated ordinariness—fusty antiquarians, old books, the slightly dampish vistas of university life, train platforms in out-of-the-way stations—places and people that mimic the life of the author himself, until they don’t…

    Montague Rhodes James was an acclaimed intellectual who published a handful of stories (from short quips to long, academic papers) that are widely regarded as the basis upon which modern ghost stories are built. Not entirely for the narratives, but rather the topics: his stories are unpredictable and based on haunted objects, unfamiliar beings and odd circumstances.  Cynthia Zarin, of The New Yorker, writes “Scholarly efforts have been made to unearth the early trauma that would account for James’ succession of wraiths, screeches, hairy faces, and skeletal hands creeping out from under the pillow. He reported his own childhood as happy.”  Just in time for Halloween, more at “The original master of ghost stories.”

    [TotH]

    * Stephen King, Danse Macabre

    ###

    As we muse on the macabre, we might send frightening birthday greetings to Elsa Sullivan Lanchester; she was born on this date in 1902.  An accomplished and acclaimed actress whose career spanned several decades (and many genre), she is surely best remembered for– and as– The Bride of Frankenstein.

    Elsa-Lanchester source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 15:04:50 on 2018/10/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Dumbo, , film, , ,   

    “In the circus, all is possible”*… 

     

    2018_04-Fall_Circus_32_0

    Think, for a moment, of how circuses used to be. Each summer, eye doctors and dentists, and the old farmers at church, would cheerfully distribute tickets to children as the circus drew near. And something in their enthusiasm was contagious. The air seemed charged, the entire town electric, as though set in a kind of time outside of time. Townsfolk would make unnecessary detours to drive by the fairgrounds, watching the circus trucks unload. We could see the tension being cranked into the guy wires, a worker testing the cable with a calloused thumb and sending out a metallic thrum, as though to say: The circus! The circus is here! The circus has come to town!

    And then the tattered, patched tents, faded from years of hard sun. A diesel generator rattling behind the stands. A grim woman selling lipstick-red candy apples, her face like a half-remembered photo on a post office wall. A large fan by an open tent flap to fight the swelter, only adding noise without moving air. The lions panting in a cage near one of the side rings. A clown directing five dogs so old that the audience would wince each time a dog leapt through a hoop.

    The familiar had not gone away, exactly. In the summer heat, people would fan themselves with anything handy: a paper popcorn tub torn open, a folded church bulletin scrounged from a purse, even ticket stubs splayed like playing cards. But the unfamiliar had also taken hold, like the ordinary-looking woman in the side ring who suddenly proved a contortionist, wrapping her legs behind her head. The high-wire act held us rapt as the performers risked their falls. A small protest would escape the crowd as the lion tamer put his head in the mouth of a beast. The clowns didn’t make us laugh, exactly, but they made us smile. A plumed woman posing on the back of a prancing horse. The ringmaster in his top hat and red coat, white jodhpurs and black boots, directing our eyes to each new act with a flick of his baton.

    Through it all, the strange compound scent of a circus would waft, reminding us of something not quite present— superimposing on this circus all the circuses that have ever been…

    More at “The American circus in all its glory.”  And see The Circus, an American Experience documentary on PBS.

    * Fernando Botero

    ###

    As we watch in wonder, we might recall that it was on this date in 1941 that Walt Disney’s story of a young circus elephant who discovers that he can fly– Dumbo— premiered.  Produced simply and to a short (64 minute) length, it was a calculated effort by Disney to recoup losses he’d suffered on Fantasia; his gamble paid off: despite the advent of World War II, Dumbo was Disney’s highest-grossing film of the 1940s.

    220px-Dumbo-1941-poster source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:38 on 2018/09/05 Permalink
    Tags: , cruise ships, cruising, , film, , Iwerks, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, show business, ,   

    “There’s no business like show business”*… 

     

    entertainers

    I’m on my first-ever cruise because I wanted to see how the entertainment world’s 99 percent, as Bernie Sanders might say, work for a living. The comedians who don’t film HBO specials; the magicians who aren’t David Blaine; the variety acts who don’t just disappear after their fifteen seconds on America’s Got Talent. These entertainers are struggling to compete with everything from YouTube phenoms to Netflix and Spotify. In Vegas and Times Square, small clubs and homegrown acts are getting squeezed out by arenas, superstars, and global brands, like mom-and-pop shops bulldozed by Walmarts.

    But maybe smaller acts aren’t dying. Maybe they’ve just gone on vacation, since cruises need entertainers now more than ever. The $38 billion cruise industry has boomed with Boomers, growing from 17.8 million passengers in 2010 to 25.8 million passengers in 2017. The Regal Princess is one of more than four hundred fifty active cruise ships, and each is a floating entertainment district. It typically employs a six-piece party band; a seven-piece house band; a jazz quintet; a DJ; a piano-bar lounge singer; and seventeen singer-dancers who rotate through stage shows, including two created exclusively for Princess by Wicked’s Stephen Schwartz. (Other lines feature partnerships with outfits like Cirque du Soleil, Second City, and Blue Note Records.) Last year, Kaler and his team booked four hundred sixty-eight different headliners, from “a cappella” to “xylophonist.”…

    Welcome to the new vaudeville circuit, where live entertainment hasn’t died—it’s just gone to sea: “Inside the delightfully quirky, absolutely fabulous, and utterly exhausting world of cruise performers.”

    * Irving Berlin

    ###

    As we enjoy the show, we might recall that it was on this date that Universal released “Trolley Trouble” from Walt Disney Studios.  The first Disney cartoon to spawn a series, it featured Oswald the Lucky Rabbit (the creation of Walt’s long-time collaborator Ub Iwerks).  Oswald featured in 27 successful animated shorts– but Disney lost the rights to Universal.  So, he and Iwerks created a new featured character, Mickey Mouse.

     

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:12 on 2018/09/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , film, , , stop motion, Švankmajer,   

    “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it”*… 

     

     

    Keat urn

    A tracing of an engraving of the Sosibios vase by John Keats

     

    At least as far back as the ancient Greeks, poets and philosophers have struggled to define the nature of beauty. More recently—that is, for the past 150 years—psychologists have joined the effort to discover why we find certain sounds and images aesthetically appealing.

    Answers remain elusive, and a new analysis in the journal Current Biology helps explain why. It finds some preferences—including our inclination to favor curves over angles—appear to be universal.

    However, New York University psychologists Aenne Brielmann and Denis Pelli report that individual differences “outweigh general tendencies in most aesthetic judgments. Even for faces, which are popularly supposed to be consistently judged, individual taste accounts for about half the variance in attractiveness ratings.”

    To a large extent, beauty really does seem to be in the eye—and brain—of the beholder…

    A new analysis finds a few widely shared aesthetic preferences, and a whole lot of individual and cultural variation: “Beauty is, mostly, in the eye of the beholder.”

    * Confucius

    ###

    As we examine the exquisite, we might send intricately beautiful birthday greetings to Jan Švankmajer; he was born on this date in 1934.  A self-proclaimed surrealist artist who has worked in many media, he is best known as a filmmaker, more specifically, as a stop-motion animator whose works have influenced Terry Gilliam, the Brothers Quay, and many others.

    Here, his first film:

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:49 on 2018/08/15 Permalink
    Tags: film, , , , music festivals, , , Woostock   

    “Interpretation reached such proportions that the real vanished”*… 

     

    Acid in movies

    Just one of the wonderful GIF’s and YouTube clips collected by author Dennis Cooper at “Some films (1966 – 1974) that either faked ingesting LSD or did.”

    * Erich Auerbach

    ###

    As we mind the drop, we might recall that it was on this date in 1969 that “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music” opened in the Catskills in New York State.  The organizers of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair– or Woodstock, as it is remembered– had hoped to sell 50,000 tickets; but by the week before the event, had moved 186,000.  A last-minute change of venue presented them with a hard choice: hastily erect more/stronger fences and install additional security on the new site (the now-famous Yasgur’s Farm) or offer the event for free.  The night before the event, with attendees already arriving in huge numbers, the promoters cut the fence.  Ultimately an estimated 400,000 people enjoyed a (somewhat rainy) weekend of performances from 32 acts.  It was, as Rolling Stone opined, a defining moment in Rock and Roll… and one at which scores and scores of trips were taken.

    source

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:14 on 2018/07/15 Permalink
    Tags: , cinema verite, , direct cinema, , film, , , Pennebaker,   

    “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”*… 

     

    dance

    Someone went through a great deal of effort to stitch together a montage of dance scenes from some 300 feature films…

     

    More (including a list of all of the films featured) at: Dancing in Movies: A Montage of Dance Moments from Almost 300 Feature Films.

    * Friedrich Nietzsche

    ###

    As we tap our toes, we might send closely-observed birthday greetings to Donn Alan “D. A.” Pennebaker (or “Penny” to his friends); he was born on this date in 1925.  A documentarian, he was a pioneer of direct cinema and cinema verite.  While his dozens of films have touched on a wide variety of subjects, he has a long– and very influential– suit in music: starting with his portrait of the young Bob Dylan, Don’t Look Back, and continuing through Monterrey Pop, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and Woodstock Diary, he was instrumental in creating the modern “rock doc.”

    220px-D_A_Pennebaker_2_by_David_Shankbone source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:36 on 2018/03/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , film, , , , , , ,   

    “The most beautiful sight in a… theater is to walk down to the front, turn around, and look at the light from the screen reflected on the upturned faces of the members of the audience”*… 

     

    The magic lantern was basically a seventeenth-century slide projector: a light source (a candle), an image (a piece of painted glass), and a lens. It was an ever-evolving object, and revolutionized the way pictures were seen by an audience. It is often called a precursor to cinema, but it might better be characterized as an enabler that paved the way for film and gave rise to its own powerful visual culture. Many technical devices that explored projected imagery and the persistence of vision are sought, researched, and discussed by lantern aficionados…

    The remarkable Ricky Jay [see here and here] remembers two departed friends, and ruminates on the lost art that paved the way for motion pictures even as it created a visual culture all its own: “Farewell to Two Masters of the Magic Lantern.”

    * Gene Siskel, quoting Robert Ebert’s report of an observation by François Truffaut

    ###

    As we accede to awe, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon was released by United Artists.  Directed by Billy Wilder [see here], the film is widely considered the funniest comedy ever made (e.g., on the AFI’s list of 100 Greatest Films and the BBC’s poll of film critics around the world).

     source

    Oh, and of course, it also featured Marilyn Monroe singing…

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:25 on 2018/03/23 Permalink
    Tags: Boston Morning Post, film, , , , , OK, trailer, , Wes Anderson   

    “Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others”*… 

     

    Before you see the latest animated feature from your barista’s favorite director, relive his meticulous works from the past that made you kind of happy, kind of sad, and kind of unsure – It’s Every Wes Anderson Movie!

    * Orson Welles

    ###

    As we celebrate symmetry, we might recall that it was on this date in 1839 the “OK” entered the English language when it was printed in The Boston Morning Post….

    Meant as an abbreviation for “oll korrect,” a popular slang misspelling of “all correct” at the time, OK steadily made its way into the everyday speech of Americans.

    During the late 1830s, it was a favorite practice among younger, educated circles to misspell words intentionally, then abbreviate them and use them as slang when talking to one another. Just as teenagers today have their own slang based on distortions of common words, such as “kewl” for “cool” or “DZ” for “these,” the “in crowd” of the 1830s had a whole host of slang terms they abbreviated. Popular abbreviations included “KY” for “No use” (“know yuse”), “KG” for “No go” (“Know go”), and “OW” for all right (“oll wright”). [Think LOLZ, OMG or NBD today…]

    Of all the abbreviations used during that time, OK was propelled into the limelight when it was printed in the Boston Morning Post as part of a joke. Its popularity exploded when it was picked up by contemporary politicians. When the incumbent president Martin Van Buren was up for reelection, his Democratic supporters organized a band of thugs to influence voters. This group was formally called the “O.K. Club,” which referred both to Van Buren’s nickname “Old Kinderhook” (based on his hometown of Kinderhook, New York), and to the term recently made popular in the papers. At the same time, the opposing Whig Party made use of “OK” to denigrate Van Buren’s political mentor Andrew Jackson. According to the Whigs, Jackson invented the abbreviation “OK” to cover up his own misspelling of “all correct.”  [source]

     source

     

     
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