Thursday, October 28, 2010

ROSEMARY'S BABY...Roman Polanski's Horror Classic

A landmark film of the horror genre, Rosemary's Baby (1968) also marked Roman Polanski's directorial debut in the US. The film, a runaway hit on release, was the prototype that inspired the onslaught of big-budget "A" horror films that followed: The Exorcist, The Omen, etc.

In the tradition of Hitchcock, Polanski achieves his effects with little explicit violence but with maximum finesse. Like Hitchcock, Polanski assiduously maneuvers the emotions of his audience. Drawn into Rosemary's point of view and her growing alarm, the viewer becomes ever more aware that something is amiss but, like Rosemary, doesn't grasp exactly what has happened until the final scenes.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The House That Jack Built

John Gilbert
  Estate was Home to Hollywood Notables for 55 Years

In the mid-1920s, when he was a top star at MGM, leading man John Gilbert built a house at 1400 Tower Grove Road in the Benedict Canyon area of Beverly Hills. A two-story Spanish-colonial with tennis court and swimming pool, the estate was on a narrow road that curled up a hill behind the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Gilbert’s daughter, Leatrice, then a young girl, remembered her father greeting her from the top of a long, red-tiled stairway when she arrived for her first visit to his home in the early 1930s. She recalled soft light filtering through high, leaded windowpanes as she climbed the steps.

During one of her visits, he showed her a secret panel in an alcove adjacent to the living room and a button hidden under one of the bookshelves. The button opened a door to a stairway that led to the basement. He told her there had been a bar in the basement before Prohibition was repealed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Light, Shadow and Synergy ~ von Sternberg and Dietrich, Part III

Scroll down for Parts I and II of Light, Shadow and Synergy...

In 1933, during a hiatus between studio contracts and filmmaking, Josef von Sternberg traveled to Germany to explore establishing Marlene Dietrich and himself at UFA, the studio where the two had made The Blue Angel three years earlier. Just as the director was returning to the U.S., recently appointed Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler suspended the German constitution and soon began revoking the citizenship of Jewish artists and scholars; not much later came the burning of books. Back in America, von Sternberg, an Austrian Jew, and his star signed on once more with Paramount where the director's new contract gave him almost complete autonomy over his films.

He later wryly reflected on his next (and last) two productions with Dietrich, “I completely subjugated my bird of paradise to my peculiar tendency to prove that a film might well be an art medium…”

Saturday, October 9, 2010

For a Liddypol Lad...

John Lennon would be turning 70 right about now, a disconcerting thought for some baby-boomers, especially those who took to heart certain lyrics of the Who's "My Generation" - "hope I die before I get old." As fate would have it, John Lennon did die before he got old, he had just turned 40 when he was killed in 1980. But the years he lived were incredible, most of all the last 17, when he, as a Beatle and after, reigned as one the great and beloved icons of popular music and culture.

Most who are reading this are familiar with the story of the Beatles and I'm not going down that well-worn path, nor will I review/critique/analyze them or their astonishing music...this is about what I remember...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Light, Shadow and Synergy ~ von Sternberg and Dietrich, Part II

1931 began spectacularly for director Josef von Sternberg and actress Marlene Dietrich. Their first two films together, Morocco and the English language version of The Blue Angel, had both just opened in the U.S., creating a sensation...and big box office.