Acting in the Movies, a Journey

I started acting in grade school when I was cast in my first play in the first grade.  I can’t remember the play exactly but I’m pretty sure it was about the billy goats and the troll.   I was a billy goat.   I think.   Anyway, I kept it up because I enjoyed the experience.  Through grade, middle and high school, I participated in the drama clubs, took outside acting classes and even went to a summer long acting/theatre school the year before I went to college where, as you may have guessed by now, I majored in theatre.  Acting is something close to my heart and, as such, I write about it quite a bit and have grown to love all the different styles that acting has to offer.   When I look back on where I started, though, I sometimes can’t believe where I’ve arrived.  The acting that first appealed to me in my youth has long since taken a back seat to a much cleaner and direct approach and when I tell you my favorite actors in the movies of the past now (that is, essentially, anything before the seventies) it’s quite a different list than I initially constructed.

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The Great Ones: On & Off the Set Photographs

The celebrated photographers Ruth Harriet Louise and George Hurrell are partly responsible for creating the mystique and allure that surrounded the first major stars of the studio system. Their spellbinding portraits transformed actors like Greta Garbo, Errol Flynn and Joan Crawford into objects of beauty to be desired and worshipped, a Hollywood version of the greek gods. But the flip side of this were the candid, behind-the-scenes shots and odd publicity stills that showed another side of the stars, one that depicted them at work, relaxing on the set, playing a practical joke on fellow coworkers, or pursuing some favorite ordinary pastime like gardening, barbecuing or spending time with their children or pets.

Enter the behind-the-scenes exhibition.

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Hammer’s Enduring Legacy: An Interview with Marcus Hearn

Last week I included Marcus Hearn’s latest book, The Hammer Vault: Treasures From the Archive of Hammer Films, in my two part list of Favorite Film Related Books of 2011. This week I got the opportunity to ask the author a few questions about his new book as well as discuss Hammer’s enduring legacy. The studio best known for its gothic horror films has continued to gain new fans and produce new movies including THE WOMAN IN BLACK, which is scheduled to be released in February of 2012.

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Dieterle Watch

The previously hazy career of William Dieterle is slowly being brought into focus, as the Warner Archive and repertory screenings grant incrementally wider access to this neglected German-American filmmaker. The Archive has just released Fashions of 1934 (’34) and Juarez (1939), while the 92Y Tribeca recently screened a gorgeous new print of Love Letters (1945, scheduled to air on Jan. 21st at 10PM on TCM). The Warner Archive discs display opposite poles of his career, the dynamic fantasist and the staid historical dramatist, while the hallucinatory Love Letters lies somewhere in between.

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Do You Want to See Something REALLY Scary?

During the month of October I’m often asked to recommend my favorite horror films. But recommending scary movies can be a tricky business. What frightens me might make you merely shrug your shoulders and laugh out loud. And if you’re a serious horror fan there’s a high probability that you’ve seen a lot of well-regarded classic films such as THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925), FRANKENSTEIN (1931), PSYCHO (1960) and Val Lewton’s various movies as well as Halloween standards like THE SHINING (1980), CARRIE (1976), NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968) and HALLOWEEN (1978) so recommending movies can become rather redundant. Instead of simply suggesting some of my favorite horror films for you to watch I thought I’d share some of my favorite scary moments from films that have left a deep impression on me over the years. So pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable while I share something REALLY scary.

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They said WHAT?! Classic Insults from Classic Actors

Humphrey Bogart and William Holden duking it out on the set of SABRINA (1954)

In June actor Harrison Ford made news after publicly calling, Shia LaBeouf, his young costar from INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (Steven Spielberg; 2008) “…a f–king idiot.” Since then I’ve been thinking about insults that actors have hurled at other actors over the years and a recent piece at Flavorwire titled “The 30 Harshest Filmmaker-on-Filmmaker Insults In History” compelled me to compile a list of 30 of the worst actor-on actor insults I’ve come across. Some of them are surprisingly crude so I thought I should worn potential readers before they plunge ahead. Let the war of words begin…

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Knit Flicks


Happy New Year!

You may wish to begin the year by vowing to lose weight, (how original!…and welcome to the club), mastering the arcane intricacies of Farmville, (is it a game or a cult?), spending more quality time with your pet iguana, or finishing War and Peace–or at least cracking open the first, mischievous volume of The Autobiography of Mark Twain that Santa left behind for you. My personal mountain to climb in 2011 will be the nagging desire to finally conquer my mental block when it comes to knitting. Yes, “knit one, purl two” is a phrase that conjures up feelings of frustration, self-contempt and the urge to fling the needles and gnarled yarn across the room. Persistence, of course usually pays off. Unfortunately, for this chronically challenged crafter, the glamorous world of interweaving lamb’s wool into something useful and colorful has been a bust…so far.

My decision to follow the stony, humbling path of learning to knit began again at a recent trip to the movies when I spied a fellow theater goer knitting merrily away–in the dark! Impressive, especially since the movie was the rather loud (at times) and visually amusing Gulliver’s Travels (2010), though the intricate work of this knitting fiend in the next row never seemed to falter. After this, I decided to make a greater effort to psyche myself up, gird my loins and bite the bullet while admitting my many shortcomings face-to-face with the accomplished instructors at a local yarn shop. I’ve also begun to notice that some of the glamourpusses of the silver screen were demon knitters, and they don’t get more dazzling than Cary Grant in Mr. Lucky , do they?
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Bette Davis is THE NANNY

Hammer Studios were always experts at following cinema fads and providing their own particular spin on a popular genre quickly to satify fans and take advantage of moviegoing trends. Besides the steady stream of horror films that made their reputation in the late fifties, they also had mini-franchises that ran from costume adventures (Sword of Sherwood Forest, The Pirates of Blood River) to grisly war dramas (Yesterday’s Enemies, The Camp on Blood Island) to crime thrillers (Hell is a City, Cash on Demand). And when What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? became a smash hit in 1962 they didn’t waste any time creating their own line of Grand Guignol shockers featuring famous veteran actresses such as Tallulah Bankhead (Die! Die! My Darling!) and Joan Fontaine (The Witches), which Morlock Kimberly will cover later in the week. While THE NANNY (1965), starring Bette Davis, definitely falls into the latter category, its intelligent and understated approach to the genre is a refreshing change of pace from the over-the-top hysteria of Baby Jane and Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte. It’s also safe enough for family viewing while still providing a taut, absorbing storyline that will engage children and their parents on entirely different levels.     [...MORE]

Remembering Tom Mankiewicz (Part I.)

On July 31, 2010 screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz passed away at his home in Los Angeles due to complications from cancer. The Mankiewicz family is the stuff of Hollywood legend and consists of Tom Mankiewicz’s father, the Academy Award winning director and writer Joseph L. Mankiewicz, as well as celebrated screenwriters Herman J. Mankiewicz and Don Mankiewicz; and Turner Classic Movie’s very own Ben Mankiewicz. Before Tom Mankiewicz died he spent some time talking to writer David Konow (SCHLOCK-O-RAMA: The Films of Al Adamson, Bang Your Head: The Rise and Fall of Heavy Metal, etc.) about his family and what it was like trying to find work as a writer in Hollywood when the shadow of your ancestors is weighing heavily on your shoulders. Below is the first half of David Konow’s insightful piece on Tom Mankiewicz. I’m sharing it here in an effort to shine a light on Mankiewicz and honor his memory. The second half will be posted later today.

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The Glamorous World of Paul Hesse

During the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s glamor photography was all the rage in Hollywood. A good portrait could do wonders for an actor’s reputation and make them desirable to fans as well as directors and studio executives. Hundreds of talented photographers made a name for themselves by shooting beautiful portraits of Hollywood stars that fueled the imagination of the general public and helped sell lots of movie tickets.

One of the most interesting and prominent photographers from this period was the handsome and talented Paul Hesse. Hesse was born in New York in 1896 and experimented with photography while attending the Pratt Institute. After WWI Hesse became a professional poster illustrator and created covers for Collier’s Weekly. By 1918 he began to grow restless. Hesse was tired of the time-consuming aspects of illustration but he still wanted to pursue commercial art. He decided to purchase a secondhand camera and began focusing all of his attention on photography. Hesse immersed himself in the photographic process and read every photography book that he could get his hands on. By the mid-1920s he had opened up his own photography studio in New York City.

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