Gallery of Mastheads

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Mike Gebert

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Feb 01, 2014 8:57 am

I'll have to watch The Avenging Conscience this month, then, since I have it (and considered it for Watch That Movie Night).
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Feb 01, 2014 5:02 pm

Nice choice. There was an amusing interview of Dustin Hoffman I head on Fresh Air this year (don't remember if it was new or a repeat). He said he was named after Dustin Farnum, but not because his parents were fans -- they just hadn't come up with a name, and found Dustin Farnum's name in a magazine at the hospital, and it seemed as good as any. Hoffman admitted that he'd never seen a Dustin Farnum movie, so maybe someone should send him a copy of The Squaw Man...
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Feb 01, 2014 5:48 pm

A fine choice, Mike. It made me wonder about Oscar Apfel. There's remarkably little about him on the Internet and my reading on Demille certainly downplayed Apfel's importance; he is portrayed as being a sort of translator of Demille's vision, some one who knew the technical issues of camerawork and blocking for the camera, which Demille needed a couple of weeks to pick up. Yet they worked as co-directors on five movies and Apfel was also co-director on a William Demille movie.

Given that Cecil spent most of his career playing the Great Director, picking up the role from David Belasco, it still leaves the conundrum of who Apfel was. He had a good career as a director. He was professional enough and well-liked enough to make the transition to the talkies as an actor. So, he worked as a businessman until about 1900, went on the stage that year and became a director of stage shows and operas, started working at Edison in 1911, and was somehow at liberty in 1914. How?

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Sat Mar 01, 2014 11:09 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostFri Feb 28, 2014 10:32 pm

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The death of Shirley Temple was undeniably the passing of one of the very biggest of all Hollywood stars, even if we rarely thought of her in the same grouping as Davis or Gable, and we rightly commemorated her in several threads here, here and here. I didn't know if it would seem like old news by masthead-time, but there was one thing I wanted to say something about.

There's a blackface number in The Littlest Rebel, and that earned some negative commentary (surely, at age seven Mrs. Black ought to have been more progressive!) And yet I think her numbers with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, starting the year before in The Little Colonel, are not only among the glories of 30s musicals but one of the 1930s' great examples of the best thing Hollywood could do for racial progress— which was allow fine black performers the chance to show their talents, and in the process their humanity, on screen. It's true that in The Little Colonel Robinson plays the mythical carefree black servant (the movie takes place after the Civil War, but it's a safe bet what Robinson's and Hattie McDaniel's characters' status was prior to then), and it's no 12 Years a Slave; yet I would argue that just letting black performers shine on screen, even in a sentimentalized setting, won over more hearts than all the message movies on race ever made. So: a tip of the hat and a tap of the shoes to Ambassador to Ghana Shirley Temple Black and her dancing partner in four movies and real-life friend, Bill Robinson, who is also the first African-American on our masthead.

“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Mar 01, 2014 6:06 am

I don't often click on well-remembered clips here, but I clicked this time, Mike, to see Bill Robinson dance again on the stairs.

I was reading yesterday about an autographed copy of Mein Kampf that went for a lot of money. The article mentioned that the copyright in Germany is held by the state of Bavaria, which has forbidden its publication. However, I don't think that the best way to destroy attitudes is to forbid their public display. I think that sunlight is the best disinfectant. Also, I think you're right, Mike, about changes. Besides, it's always great fun to watch Bill Robinson dance.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Thu May 01, 2014 5:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Mar 01, 2014 7:59 am

Great choice Mike. In my thought on Temple after she passed, I also used a clip from this film, the street dance. The mutual respect this pair had for one another in each of their dances always stayed with me.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Mar 01, 2014 9:04 am

who is also the first African-American on our masthead.


I skimmed my file of the masthead art to make sure I hadn't forgotten someone, though I couldn't think who it would be. But eagle-eyed JFK points out that Allen "Farina" Hoskins of Our Gang/The Little Rascals was among the group up there in January 2012.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Mar 01, 2014 9:09 am

Any chance of Ernie Morrison showing up?

Bob
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Mar 01, 2014 9:19 am

I admit I had to look him up, but... maybe!
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Mar 01, 2014 1:14 pm

A great masthead, as usual. A great screen pairing and you've honored them both.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing the clip and had to look up his age. He was over 55, wow.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Mar 01, 2014 9:18 pm

Rick Lanham wrote:A great masthead, as usual. A great screen pairing and you've honored them both.

I thoroughly enjoyed playing the clip and had to look up his age. He was over 55, wow.

Rick


Have you seen Bill Robinson in the 1943 musical Stormy Weather? He was in his mid-60s by then, and still incredibly spry. In that film, oddly, he’s paired off romantically with Lena Horne, who was forty years younger. Robinson looked younger than his age, but it’s still kind of weird, and I always wondered how the performers felt about it.

Getting back to Shirley: this evening I watched Little Miss Marker, which I hadn’t seen in a long, long while. It’s a highly entertaining movie, full of great character actors, somewhat darker than I remembered, but with plenty of humor. Shirley is adorable, of course: this is where she sings “Laugh, You Son of a Gun.” The sad part is seeing poor Dorothy Dell, who had such a vivid presence, but died in a car accident not long after the film came out.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat Mar 01, 2014 10:37 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:Have you seen Bill Robinson in the 1943 musical Stormy Weather? He was in his mid-60s by then, and still incredibly spry. In that film, oddly, he’s paired off romantically with Lena Horne, who was forty years younger. Robinson looked younger than his age, but it’s still kind of weird, and I always wondered how the performers felt about it.


I don't think that I've even seen the film, only clips. I'll have to remedy that. Thanks for the tip.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostMon Mar 03, 2014 6:07 pm

Through the wonders of streaming, I've now watched Stormy Weather. Bill is still dancing great, especially when he is showing how he can jump from one huge drum to another, tapping/drumming out the tune. The only time his age is referenced is when Cab Calloway is explaining the latest jive/slang to his character. I'm sure they were all thrilled to be making this film which is a great record of their talents. It's weak on plot, but so were many other musicals.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostMon Mar 03, 2014 7:48 pm

Here is an interesting guide to Los Angeles locations associated with Shirley, including various houses and studios where she worked: http://la.curbed.com/archives/2014/03/shirley_temples_la.php.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostMon Mar 10, 2014 8:52 pm

Wm. Charles Morrow wrote:Getting back to Shirley: this evening I watched Little Miss Marker, which I hadn’t seen in a long, long while. It’s a highly entertaining movie, full of great character actors, somewhat darker than I remembered, but with plenty of humor. Shirley is adorable, of course: this is where she sings “Laugh, You Son of a Gun.” The sad part is seeing poor Dorothy Dell, who had such a vivid presence, but died in a car accident not long after the film came out.


The other night I revisited Shirley’s second Paramount loan-out feature from 1934, Now and Forever. As with its predecessor I hadn’t seen this one in a long, long time, and it turned out to be one of those movies that plays out very differently from the way one remembers it. I vaguely recalled that Gary Cooper and Carole Lombard were a pair of charming con artists, not unlike Herbert Marshall and Miriam Hopkins in Trouble in Paradise, and that the tone was lightweight and comic.

Nope, not at all. The biggest shock was Cooper. I can’t think of another film where he plays a character so morally compromised; not a total heel, but pretty close. He’s Shirley’s dad but hasn’t seen the kid since she was an infant; her mother’s dead, and she’s been raised by snooty relatives. When Cooper reclaims the girl Lombard reforms immediately, but, thanks to his involvement with a genuine scoundrel Cooper gets sucked into an ugly scheme, stealing jewelry from a kindly old lady who cares about the little girl. I kept thinking Coop would reform, but he doesn’t, really. He lies to Shirley and Carole about his involvement in the theft, and they’re both devastated when they find out. Finally he “redeems” himself in the most heart-breaking way: [Warning: spoiler alert!] by shooting the cohort who coerced him into participating in the jewelry caper. He kills the guy and gets badly wounded in the process, but manages to return the loot. In the end he sends Shirley away to school, and we don’t know if he’s going to die or go to prison, but either way she’s not going to see him again. The ending is surprisingly heavy.

Frothy, this is not. Once I realized that Now and Forever is a helluva lot more serious than I remembered I appreciated it for what it is, but Cooper’s role was still a shocker. He’s quite good, however, and of course Shirley’s great. She has one musical number, “The World Owes Me a Living,” which most of us associate with Disney’s Silly Symphonies. You can tell this is early Shirley because the song is modestly staged: none of the bells-n-whistles Fox would provide their little box office champ, a year or two later.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostMon Mar 31, 2014 9:18 pm

Image

Carl Dreyer is surely NitrateVille's love him or hate him champ, and The Passion of Joan of Arc in particular is most likely to turn up both on people's best and worst lists. Myself, I don't care for it or Vampyr much, but I would say Day of Wrath and Ordet are capital-M masterpieces. Yet I understand where the naysayers are coming from, he's not exactly an easy guy to get into or feel glad you did. (I lent Day of Wrath to a friend who is a serious reader, and it was returned silently with a look that said, Why me?)

But as with certain other name directors— from DeMille to Ozu— his was a whole different story in the silent era. If you only know the later works, certainly at least the modern availability of more domestic and realistic tales such as The Parson's Widow, Michael and Master of the House rounds out his picture. Anyway, love him or hate him we regularly talk about him, so here, marking Criterion's release of Master of the House on April 22 on DVD and blu-ray, are the primary combatants of the film, Johannes Meyer and Clara Schønfeld as his mother-in-law, with Astrid Holm as his long-suffering wife reflected on the poster in the back. Some Dreyer threads:

Master of the House
Der Var Engang
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Overrated Silents
Silents you need a good stiff drink to watch a second time
Vampyr vs. White Zombie
Dreyer's Ordet
Ordet
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostTue Apr 01, 2014 2:25 pm

If someone kisses the bird in the cage, we can add it to the other thread...

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostTue Apr 01, 2014 2:47 pm

Master of the House is certainly a comedy when compared to Vampyr.

Bob
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostTue Apr 01, 2014 2:48 pm

He gets a lifetime pass for Joan, in my opinion, and I know it's not a universal one. Not an easy viewing experience, not an 'enjoyable' one as such - but unforgettable. I once sat down to write everything I thought about the film, only to find that Roger Ebert had already done it for me: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-the-passion-of-joan-of-arc-1928.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSun Apr 13, 2014 8:05 am

Image

We interrupt Carl Dreyer to note the 20th anniversary Monday of one of the best friends of everyone here: Turner Classic Movies, represented by the logo design of Charles S. Anderson/Duffy & Partners and the genial lead host, Robert Osborne. Originally founded to make TV use of the libraries acquired by Ted Turner during his studio buying spree back in the 80s and 90s (the first movie shown was, you will not be surprised to find, Gone With the Wind), it has had impact on all of us, including NitrateVillains outside the U.S., as a major supporter of restoration and home video release efforts by so many in the silent and classic movie world. Terry Teachout wrote a good piece on its impact here in the Wall Street Journal:

By 1994 the VCR had made it possible for most Americans to view movies in their living rooms, but few video stores carried a wide-ranging inventory of older films, nor were they shown other than sporadically on television. If you wanted to see or study the great films of the past, you usually had to buy your own copies. Then TCM came along and changed everything, quickly becoming indispensable to movie lovers everywhere.


I'll leave this up for a couple of days before returning to Dreyer's Master of the House (fitting in that TCM has played other Dreyer silents in what was surely their first-ever American TV exposure).
“Sentimentality is when it doesn't come off—when it does, you get a true expression of life's sorrows.” —Alain-Fournier
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSun Apr 13, 2014 11:55 am

There are a lot of complaints about TCM here. Some of them are deserved. A lot of them come down to the classic punchline "Yes, and such small portions."

I just came home from seeing Dom Hemingway, turned on TCM and caught the last fifteen minutes of Captains Courageous. Like my Ipod, TCM is riches the Tsar couldn't buy.

Bob
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostTue Apr 15, 2014 1:41 pm

Nice one, Mike. TCM began with a mission to do something I think we can all agree is a good thing: to bring obscure films out of the vaults and on to the screens of people who had never seen a classic film before. It has accomplished its mission very well. The more people who come to see and love classic film, the larger the market, and the greater the appetite for preservation, restoration, and presentation, which benefits us all.
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostWed Apr 30, 2014 8:15 pm

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This is shaping up to be one of the best summers silent comedy has had since Keaton and Lloyd were regularly releasing movies, and for the next three months I'm planning to call attention to these releases on the masthead. First up, it's past time to honor NitrateVillain Ben Model's work to bring attention to Harry Watson Jr. aka "Musty Suffer," who like Charley Bowers a few years ago brings a surreal outlook to silent comedy that stands apart from the pack. Which is one reason I liked the sort of Porky In Wackyland way that this image, from a short called Outs and Ins, came out on the masthead. The short incidentally is on Ben's DVD set, and the image came via this excellent article by Anthony Balducci.

Image

Apropos of a recent discussion, Ben's string of terrific DVD releases have been great examples of how the line between enthusiast and content provider (to use the bloodless term of the day) is blurring and, just as festivals grew out of collectors' desires to put on the show themselves, now so do home video releases. (I should also credit Steve Massa, whose booklet designed to go with the DVD is also a significant contribution.) And it's equally great that NitrateVille was a significant, though by no means the only, source of support for the release via Kickstarter. Not to spend this talking about Ben rather than Watson/Musty, but everything I know about Watson and the series is in these threads:

The Mishaps of Musty Suffer (1916-17) - DVD release
The Mishaps of Musty Suffer
The Mishaps of Musty Suffer— on DVD?
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostThu May 01, 2014 4:51 am

All worthy of being applauded, Mike. I am just going to take take you to task for one word: surreal. This word has become a hobby horse for me recently. It is a word that was originally used to offer some tone to the ridiculous goings-on in silent film and cartoons (like Porky in Wackyland, which you mention and Harry Bailey's earlier A Dizzy Day, which you don't). Although many of the surrealists had a sense of humor and I sometimes think they were kidding their audience, the impulse that supposedly prompts surrealism is to show the audience a different or higher reality that will reveal truth -- turning around to look at the objects that cast shadows on Plato's Cave, instead of the shadows.

Show these movies to an appreciative child and he will supply the correct world: they're silly. If you prefer a word with a higher tone, I offer the Latinate "absurd". Silly and absurd things are not intended to elevate us or offer a fuller view of reality. They're meant to make us laugh. That's more than good enough for me and you and I hope you will cease to use the wrong word.

Bob
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostThu May 01, 2014 7:18 am

I felt elevated by Musty Suffer!
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Mike Gebert

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostThu May 01, 2014 8:20 am

I suppose you're right to insist on a more rigorous use of the term, Bob, but there was a real affinity between Surrealists and silent comedy— as in Garcia Lorca's play Buster Keaton Goes For a Ride:

(Pause. Buster Keaton ineffably crosses the rushes and little fields of rye. The landscape shortens itself beneath the wheels of his machine. The bicycle has a single dimension. It is able to enter books and to expand itself even into operas and coalmines. The bicycle of Buster Keaton does not have a riding seat of caramel or sugar pedals like the bicycles that bad men ride. It is a bicycle like all bicycles except for a unique drenching of innocence. Adam and Eve run by, frightened as if they were carrying a vase full of water and, in passing, pet the bicycle of Buster Keaton.)

BUSTER KEATON: Ah, love, love!

(Buster Keaton falls to the ground. The bicycle escapes him. It runs behind two enormous gray butterflies. It skims madly half an inch from the ground.)
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostThu May 01, 2014 12:30 pm

Mike Gebert wrote:I suppose you're right to insist on a more rigorous use of the term, Bob, but there was a real affinity between Surrealists and silent comedy— as in Garcia Lorca's play Buster Keaton Goes For a Ride:

(Pause. Buster Keaton ineffably crosses the rushes and little fields of rye. The landscape shortens itself beneath the wheels of his machine. The bicycle has a single dimension. It is able to enter books and to expand itself even into operas and coalmines. The bicycle of Buster Keaton does not have a riding seat of caramel or sugar pedals like the bicycles that bad men ride. It is a bicycle like all bicycles except for a unique drenching of innocence. Adam and Eve run by, frightened as if they were carrying a vase full of water and, in passing, pet the bicycle of Buster Keaton.)

BUSTER KEATON: Ah, love, love!

(Buster Keaton falls to the ground. The bicycle escapes him. It runs behind two enormous gray butterflies. It skims madly half an inch from the ground.)


I may quote from Shakespeare. Or misquote, too. That doesn't mean that he owes me anything.

Bob
The matter is complicated, and I shall proceed to complicate it still more.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostThu May 01, 2014 2:25 pm

FYI, that image actually comes from the George Kleine Collection at the Library of Congress. It may have been used in trade magazines in 1916, but the sharp original is something I scanned on a visit to Packard Campus and I included it and a couple others) in my Kickstarter video. LoC has a folder of 35 vintage stills from the Musty Suffer films.

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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSat May 31, 2014 9:14 pm

Image

In the second of three months of mastheads honoring silent comedy personalities, we honor Max Linder, several of whose films are contained in The Max Linder Collection just released on Tuesday by Kino (there's still time through Sunday night to enter the drawing for a copy here). I've seen some of Linder's films but I have to admit I still don't have a firm sense of his persona, so this release should make it easier to get up to speed (even though I have some of the same films on laserdisc; I expect they look better now though!)

Christopher Jacobs reviews the set in detail here, John Bengtson pointed us to his exploration of Linder locations at his blog, and there are others, though never really a detailed thread as yet. He was, famously, much admired by Chaplin who pointed to him as an important forebear... though in the picture our masthead comes from, it was Linder who was pointing at him:

Image
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Re: Gallery of Mastheads

PostSun Jun 01, 2014 3:56 am

Who was Max Linder's screen persona? It varied all over the shop, as did Chaplin's, who played tramps in rags and rich drunkards in tuxedos. However, if Chevalier had not been around and Linder had, he would have made a fine Honoré Lachaille in 1958's Gigi.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Sat Nov 22, 2014 1:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The matter is complicated, and I shall proceed to complicate it still more.

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