So, gentle readers, this is my farewell. I started writing for TCM’s website ten years ago; I joined the Movie Morlocks six years ago. Since my debut here in the fall of 2010 I’ve posted over 300 blog posts. Between the Morlocks posts and my work on the website, I’ve contributed significantly more than 500,000 words—the equivalent of something like 6 full-length books.
It has been a phenomenal experience. I’ve been so grateful for the opportunity to share the stage with my fellow Morlocks—an extraordinary collection of worldclass film writers—and speak to such an engaged, knowledgeable audience. It’s been a blast. But I’ve chosen to resign from TCM so I can spend more time yelling at the raccoons in my neighborhood. Raccoons have got to be an atheist’s best argument for evolution—what Intelligent Deisgner worth his salt would deliberately invent hyper-intelligent trash-eating scavengers with thumbs? And really, if after 500,000 words I haven’t totally exhausted everything I could possibly have to say about classic movies, you’ve got to agree I’ve certainly long ago run out of useful or interesting things to say.
In the spirit of going out as I came in, I’m going to take my final post as an excuse to once again bang the drum in favor of an unloved, underappreciated gem by a slapstick clown. My first post was about Charlie Chaplin’s Kid Auto Races, and today I’ll go down swinging in favor of Buster Keaton’s MGM talkie Doughboys. Yes. Seriously. Come on, click the fold to keep reading –this will be our last time together, let’s make it special!
For the benefit of those of you who don’t spend your free time lurking on silent film message boards, there’s a new 5-disc Blu-Ray set of Buster Keaton silent shorts coming from Kino International and Lobster Films on May 24th. This set includes newly restored versions of all of Keaton’s short films—and we’re not just talking his solo shorts (which have been on Blu-Ray before, and from Kino no less) but also the run of Roscoe Arbuckle shorts which co-starred Buster. All that, and the home video debut of the newly discovered alternate cut of The Blacksmith featuring footage never before seen in the U.S.
And this news has been met with… hostility, skepticism, and resistance. And therein lies this week’s story.
DVR alert: there is a fabulous block of Roscoe Arbuckle comedies coming up on Sunday night, way past your bedtime. Roscoe appears onscreen in only a couple of them, but taken together this is an opportunity to see the great Roscoe Arbuckle working and collaborating with a wide variety of comic talents of the teens and twenties: Mack Sennett, Mabel Normand, Ford Sterling, Buster Keaton, Al St. John, Lloyd Hamilton, and Johnny Arthur. (Don’t worry if you didn’t recognize that last name—you’re not missing out on much. But hopefully the other names rang some bells, and if not, just keep reading and I’ll catch you up).
Seeing Arbuckle’s collaborations with some many disparate talents is important, because it can help settle some misunderstandings—but I won’t tell you just why, yet, because I want you to click the dashed line below and keep reading. So, if you can’t already guess why comparing Arbuckle’s work with different comedians might be revealing, or if you’re burning with curiosity to find out why “Lloyd Hamilton” is, then come on, click the fold, and let’s party on!
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on June 4, 2015
Maybe it was the Hollywood homes featured in my last post or the ongoing worldwide celebration of Orson Welles 100th birthday? Whatever the reason, I spent a great deal of time thinking about William Randolph Hearst and his massive estate at San Simeon last week. As any classic film fan worth their salt knows, the newspaper mogul once played host to many Hollywood stars and starlets at Hearst Castle and his life was brilliantly satirized by Welles’ in CITIZEN KANE (1941). For better or worse, the film has forever colored our view of Hearst as well as his mistress, actress Marion Davies, while his home remains a mythical Xanadu currently opened to the public as a state run museum that I once had the pleasure to visit.
I was at the impressionable age of 10 or 11-years old when I got the opportunity to explore Hearst Castle and the experience left an undeniable mark on my young mind. My late grandmother, who lived a short distance away in Goleta, California, planned the trip and I knew nothing about the place until we arrived at the entrance and I was bombarded by guide books and picture postcards that featured familiar faces from the movies I’d grown up watching. Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, Bette Davis and Clark Gable were just a few of the recognizable celebrities that had once graced these hallowed grounds while participating in private sporting events and attending extravagant parties.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on April 23, 2015
Next month marks the grand opening of the John Wayne Birthplace Museum in Winterset, Iowa. During the last 30 years more than one million visitors have reportedly journeyed to Winterset to tour the small house where Wayne was born on May 26, 1907 but now fans of the much beloved movie star will be able to enjoy a brand new 5,000 square facility built alongside Wayne’s original home. The museum features the largest collection of John Wayne memorabilia in existence including original movie posters, film costumes, props, scripts, photos, personal letters, original artwork, sculptures, a customized automobile and a movie theater where visitors can enjoy a documentary about Wayne and watch his films. The grand opening will take place between May 22-24 and includes a ribbon cutting ceremony presented by Scott Eyman (author of John Wayne: The Life and the Legend), a rodeo show and a guest appearance from actor, rodeo competitor and politician Chris Mitchum (Robert Mitchum’s son) who appeared with Wayne in BIG JAKE (1971). Color me impressed! I think it’s encouraging to see small towns like Winterset celebrating their film history. For more information, please visit their official website: John Wayne Birthplace Museum
In light of this news, I started thinking about other smaller museums outside of Hollywood dedicated to preserving the memory of classic movie stars. I follow some of them on Twitter and occasionally try to share information about their fundraising efforts but now that spring’s arrived and many of us are starting to plan summer vacations I thought I’d put together a list of the small hometown museums that have sprung up across the U.S. honoring their local celebrities. It should be of interest to classic film fans who are planning a road trip soon or it just might surprise someone who unknowingly has a museum dedicated to a Hollywood personality in their own backyard.
This coming Wednesday at 6 am Eastern, TCM is running What, No Beer? It is just about as unloved as a movie can be. If all the hatred and invective thrown at this 65 minute-long 1933 comedy were somehow bottled up and concentrated, it could power a small city. (And ladies and gentlemen, that’s my modest proposal to solve the energy crisis—wean us off foreign oil and start using movie criticism as an alternative fuel source).
In the past I have used this forum to defend Buster Keaton’s MGM talkies—but even I sniffed at What, No Beer? 2014 is a new year, though, and with the new year comes the possibility of redemption and renewal for all things. I mean, if we can find détente with Iran, then certainly we can find a way to rehabilitate What, No Beer?
Posted by Richard Harland Smith on November 22, 2013
In July of 1963, acclaimed Irish playwright/poet/novelist/weirdo Samuel Beckett traveled to New York City to oversee the filming of his first and only screenplay, a silent two-reeler starring Buster Keaton. Would you like to know how that all came about? Me, too. So let’s get our checkbooks out…
Posted by David Kalat on August 24, 2013
On Sunday night, TCM will be screening a lesser-known romantic comedy from 1938 called Too Hot to Handle. Regular readers of this blog with encyclopedic memories may recall that I wrote about this a while back, but it’s a story that bears repeating, and embellishing upon, so indulge me.
The thing you have to know going in, though, is that while Too Hot to Handle is a solidly entertaining action-comedy from Hollywood’s Golden Age, in which two top movie stars (Clark Gable and Myrna Loy) frolic their way through some expensive stunt-addled set pieces, I’m not necessarily calling your attention to this film purely for its own modest merits. Now, Arsene Lupin, Next Time I Marry, Modern Love, The Window—those are movies to climb mountains for. If you miss those films when they come along, that’s when you have to seriously question whether watching movies is really your forte. But if you miss Too Hot to Handle, what you’re really missing is a chance to wrestle with the curious legacy of Buster Keaton. But that’s going to take a while to explain.
Posted by David Kalat on April 13, 2013
Every week my blog postings here are riddled with errors. Most of them are spelling glitches that I would like to blame on Apple, and my habit of writing these on my iPad with the aggressive spell-check feature turned on. But in amidst all my spelling mistakes are more serious errors–like my apparent inability to distinguish Jude Law from Rufus Sewell, or the fact that I thought Joel McCrea’s name was Joel McCrae. Not to mention all my grievous errors of thought (did I actually argue here that Star Trek The Motion Picture was a good movie? Why, yes, yes I did apparently)
So this week I pay tribute to all the errors that great filmmakers I admire left in great movies I love.
Posted by David Kalat on August 25, 2012
F.W. Murnau’s Sunrise is one of those reliable standbys certain to show up in most critics’ Best Of lists. Thanks, Greg, for noting that Sight and Sound placed it 5th in their latest silly list. It was the very first selection chosen to inaugurate Eureka’s Masters of Cinema DVD collection. It won (for all intents and purposes) the first ever Oscar, has been placed on the National Registry, and was the first silent film put out on Blu-Ray. I could keep going—you get the point. This is one of those “safe” choices, beloved by the pointy heads but not a crowd-pleaser (I mean, c’mon, with a pretentious title like Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, are you kidding me?). Right?
A few weeks ago I played around with viewing Last Year at Marienbad through the lens of science fiction, by way of making its more obtuse aspects less alienating. But Marienbad is a deliberately off-putting exercise. Sunrise is, by contrast, a picture whose artistry is intended to be accessible to mass audiences. It is conventionally beautiful, conventionally narrative, conventionally stirring. It needs no apologies or excuses, it’s just excellent in every way.
But that won’t stop me from approaching it from an oblique angle, just to be ornery. The fact is, Sunrise can actually be enjoyed as a comedy. Yeah, you heard me. Now click that “more” button below the fold and let’s have some fun!
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