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

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    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 08:01:49 on 2018/08/15 Permalink
    Tags: , , , movies, 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

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    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.

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

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    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 09:01:06 on 2018/02/09 Permalink
    Tags: , Ed Sullivan Show, , , , movies, smell-o-vision,   

    “First they moved, then they talked– now they smell”*… 

     

    In 1959, influenced by [Aldous] Huxley, two American films were made… introducing smell to cinema. The poster for one proclaimed: “FIRST They moved (1893) THEN They talked (1927) NOW They smell (1959).” The films premiered in December 1959 and January 1960, and the press dubbed their rivalry “The Battle of the Smellies.”

    The redolent story of Smell-O-Vision: “Cinematic Airs.”

    * Smell-O-Vision tagline

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    As we hold our noses, we might recall that on this date in 1964, the Beatles made their U.S. TV debut on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing “I Want To Hold Your Hand” (#1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 at the time) for an estimated 73 million Americans.

     

     
  • feedwordpress 09:01:49 on 2017/02/16 Permalink
    Tags: , found footage, , , movies, Selznick, Thalberg,   

    “A lot of it just has to do with luck, serendipity”*… 

     

    The Found Footage Festival is a one-of-a-kind event that showcases footage from videos that were found at garage sales and thrift stores and in warehouses and dumpsters across the country.

    Curators Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher take audiences on a guided tour of their latest and greatest VHS finds, providing live commentary and where-are-they-now updates on the people in these videotaped obscurities. From the curiously-produced industrial training video to the forsaken home movie donated to Goodwill, the Found Footage Festival resurrects these forgotten treasures and serves them up in a lively celebration of all things found…

     

    Explore the wonders at the Found Footage Festival.

    [TotH to my friends at the always-illuminating Recommendo]

    * Emmanuel Ax

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    As we watch, wide-eyed, we might recall that it was on this date in 1933 that David O. Selznick accepted a job offer from his father-in-law, Lewis B. Mayer, and joined MGM as a Vice-President of Production.

    Selznick has worked worked briefly at MGM earlier in his career, but had gotten momentum working at RKO (where he oversaw such hits as A Bill of Divorcement and King Kong).  At MGM, he created a second “prestige production” unit, parallel to that of the powerful Irving Thalberg (Fitzgerald’s model for The Last Tycoon), who was in poor health.  Selznick’s unit prodcued Dinner at Eight (1933), David Copperfield (1935), Anna Karenina (1935), and A Tale of Two Cities (1935).

    In 1936, Selznick left to create his own production company.  His successes continued with classics such as The Garden of Allah (1936), The Prisoner of Zenda (1937), A Star Is Born (1937), Nothing Sacred (1937), The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1938), The Young in Heart (1938), Made for Each Other (1939), Intermezzo (1939) and Gone with the Wind (1939), which remains the highest-grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation). Gone with the Wind won eight Oscars and two special awards– and Selznick won the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award that same year.  In 1940 he produced his second Best Picture Oscar winner in a row, Rebecca, the first Hollywood production for British director Alfred Hitchcock.

    While the rest of his career contained a number of successes (Spellbound, Since You Went Away, Duel in the Sun), it never again reached the heights he attained in 1939-40.

    Selznick was himself an inspiration for an Academy Award-winning film: the “Jonathan Shields” character in The Bad and the Beautiful is partially based on him.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:15 on 2016/11/21 Permalink
    Tags: , Candide, , , Francois-Marie Arouet, movies, , ,   

    “Truth at 24 frames per second”*… 

     

    Freedocumentaries.org streams full-length documentary films free of charge, with no registration needed. For several films, we even offer the ability to watch trailers or to download the actual film.

    The films are gathered by our researchers as we scour the web for well-produced videos and present them to our viewers. We adhere to all copyright laws and honor the wishes of the producers.

    We created Freedocumentaries.org because we wanted to find an easy way to bring thought-provoking, educational, and entertaining documentaries to anyone with a high-speed internet connection. We believe that the mainstream media increasingly practices self-censorship, and that it ignores many opinions and historical events. With the media distorting or ignoring information, it’s often very hard to get an accurate picture of a problem, even while watching the news. Sites like Freedocumentaries.org are a much-needed counterbalance to corporate media: an industry dominated by special interests. Even though every dollar we make via advertising or donations is critical, we do not let any advertisers have any influence over which films we play. We would rather lose that money than lose our independence. And the fact that we won’t shy away from controversial films is one of the things that makes us unique.

    While some of the films on our site have widespread distribution, others are created by independent filmmakers who depend on sites like ours to get their information to the public. The amount of work that these producers have put into making a 90-minute film is astounding. Different films create different reactions among different people.

    There will be aspects of the films in which you may disagree or agree. After watching you may cry, become inspired, or you may get angry; in any case the films will get you thinking. We are proud that in the last two years, we have helped share these films with countless people that would not have seen the movies otherwise. We believe that we have made the world just a little better by doing so.

    We are proud to help these independent filmmakers. We encourage you to visit their website and donate so that they can continue creating great films. If you haven’t done so yet, please watch a film. And if you enjoy the experience, tell your friends!

    Over 450 choices, across an extraordinary range of topics, at Freedocumentaries.org.

    * “The cinema is truth 24 frames-per-second” – Jon-Luc Godard

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    As we lean in to learn, we might send philosophical birthday greetings to Francois-Marie Arouet, better known as Voltaire; he was born in Paris on this date in 1694.  The Father of the Age of Reason, he produced works in almost every literary form: plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works– more than 2,000 books and pamphlets (and more than 20,000 letters).  A social reformer, Voltaire used satire to criticize the intolerance, religious dogma, and oligopolistic privilege of his day, perhaps nowhere more sardonically than in Candide.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:15 on 2016/11/10 Permalink
    Tags: Abel Gance, , , Essanay, , , , montage, movies, rejection letter,   

    “I think all great innovations are built on rejections”*… 

     

    Screenwriters sending scripts to Essanay Studios, a Chicago company that produced silent films between 1907 and 1917, received this form rejection letter in response to their submissions. Here Essanay identified several common problems with scripts; some (“Too difficult to produce”) were probably more helpful to aspiring writers than others (“Not interesting”).

    Essanay, named after the initials of its founders George Spoor and Gilbert Anderson, made Westerns and comedies from its Uptown Chicago headquarters and in California. (Its specialty in the Western explains the use of a stereotyped “Indian chief” head as logo.) Charlie Chaplin was a contract player for the company between 1915–1916 and made The Tramp while he was there. Chicago Tribune reporter Michael Wilmington suggests that Chaplin’s departure for a more lucrative contract in 1916 “hastened Essanay’s demise,” causing “a fatal rupture” between the two founders struggling with a sudden loss in income…

    * Louis-Ferdinand Celine

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    As we inoculate our egos, we might spare a thought for Abel Gance; he died on this date in 1981.  While Essanay was developing the comedic form, Gance– a French film director, writer, producer, actor, and theorist– was working across the Atlantic to lay the foundation for cinema as we’ve come to know it.  One of the first to employ close-ups and dolly shots, he was instrumental in developing both the theory and the practice of montage as it came to be employed in film editing.  He is probably best remembered for three major silent films: J’accuse (1919), La Roue (1923), and the monumental Napoléon (1927).

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:48 on 2016/09/24 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Majestic 12, MJ-12, movies, one sheets, , Truman, ,   

    “Horror is the natural reaction to the last 5,000 years of history”*… 

     

    50+ examples: “Evolution of Horror Movie Poster Designs: 1922 – 2009.”

    * Robert Anton Wilson

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    As we prepare to shriek, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that a secret executive order issued by President Harry Truman established Majestic 12, a secret committee of scientists, military leaders, and government officials empaneled to investigate UFO activity in the aftermath of the Roswell incident— or so many UFO conspiracy theorists believe.  The purported documentary evidence of Majestic 12 has been judged fake by both the FBI and the Air Force (e.g., here)…  but then, they would wouldn’t they…

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:49 on 2016/06/19 Permalink
    Tags: , Dali, , , , Lou Gehrig, , movies, screenplay,   

    “The only difference between me and a madman is I’m not mad”*… 

     

    Dali sketching Harpo as he plays a harp with barbed wire for strings and spoons, knives, and forks glued to its frame– a gift from Dali.

    Salvador Dali loved the Marx Brothers. He loved their madcap, anarchic comedy. In particular Dali loved Harpo Marx—the blonde corkscrew-haired comic mime whose visual comedy—unlike the quick witty repartee of his brother Groucho—was universal and needed no translation. Dali described Harpo as one of America’s three great Surrealists—the other two being Walt Disney and Cecil B. DeMille.

    The pair first met at a party in Paris in 1936. Harpo told Dali how much he liked his paintings. Dali told Harpo how much he loved his films—in particular Animal Crackers, which he described as “the summit of the evolution of comic cinema.” Dali gushed over Harpo’s performance where he pulled fish and cutlery from his pocket and shot the hats of beautiful women—this was true Surrealism!

    Understandably, the two men became friends…

    Dali brought Harpo a gift—a movie script he wanted the Marx Brothers to make. The script was called Giraffes on Horseback Salads or The Surrealist Woman. It was a series of unconnected scenes typed in blue ribbon over twenty-two pages with various notes written in ink. Dali had already made two infamous films with his friend the director Luis Buñuel—Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age d’Or. Now he wanted to cast Harpo and cinema’s “greatest Surrealist act,” the Marx Brothers, in a film that just might revolutionize Hollywood—or maybe not

    More on this extraordinary friendship– and a taste of Dali’s treatment for Giraffes on Horseback Salads— at “When Dali Met Harpo.”

    [TotH to friend P.R.]

    * Salvador Dali

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    As we recall that the Marx Brothers had a remarkable range of friends, we might send classy birthday greetings to one of them, Lou Gehrig; he was born Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig on this date in 1903.  A first baseman for the New Your Yankees for 16 years, he was know (for his stamina) as “The Iron Horse.”  A member of six World Series champion teams, he was an All-Star seven consecutive times, a Triple Crown winner once, an American League (AL) Most Valuable Player twice.  He had a career .340 batting average, .632 slugging average, and a .447 on base average; he hit 493 home runs and had 1,995 runs batted in (RBI).  Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939– the year of his retirement– he was the first Major League player to have his uniform number (4) retired by a team.

    He is pictured here with friends:

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:05 on 2016/02/10 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Jerry Goldsmith, movies, , , , Treg Brown, , Warner Brothers   

    “Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual”*… 

     

    Though routinely credited, as above, as “Film Editor,” Tregoweth Edmond “Treg” Brown was the genius sound-effects wizard responsible for sound editing the Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons starting in 1936…

    His musique concrète artistry worked directly in conjunction with Carl Stalling‘s hyper-active left-field orchestral scores to create the soundtrack to generations of kids lives. So many of these sounds are completely ingrained into our collective pop-culture (un)consciousness. So much so, that reviewing some of the old Looney Tunes cartoons as an adult, you tend to ignore how utterly ridiculous the doinks and twangs are, for they sound totally natural in context—a testament to Brown’s flawless editing of sounds demanded by the images.

    In addition to his incredible sound design which won him a Sound Effects Oscar in 1965 for The Great Race, Brown is also credited with giving legendary Warner Brothers’ voice actor Mel Blanc his big break…

    More at “The Sound Effects Madman Behind the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Cartoons.” And much more– with wonderful examples– in this short documentary (part 2 here):

    email readers click here for video

    * David Lynch

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    As we perk up our ears, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Jerrald King “Jerry” Goldsmith; he was born on this date in 1929.  One of film and television”s most accomplished composers and conductors, Goldsmith scored such noteworthy films as The Sand Pebbles, Logan’s RunPlanet of the Apes, Patton, Papillon, Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, The Omen, The Boys from Brazil, Alien, Poltergeist, The Secret of NIMH, Gremlins, Hoosiers, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Rudy, Air Force One, L.A. Confidential, Mulan, The Mummy, three Rambo films, and five Star Trek films– in a career during which he was nominated for six Grammy Awards, five Primetime Emmy Awards, nine Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy Film Awards, and eighteen Academy Awards.  In 1976, he was awarded an Oscar for The Omen.

    While presenting Goldsmith with a Career Achievement Award from the Society for the Preservation of Film Music in 1993, fellow composer Henry Mancini (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther) said of Goldsmith, “… he has instilled two things in his colleagues in this town. One thing he does, he keeps us honest. And the second one is he scares the hell out of us.”

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