Monday, September 13, 2021

A New Edition of the Seminal Noir Classic, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir

Eddie Muller's Original Noir Bible in an Updated and Expanded Edition

Eddie Muller
Before he was film noir's czar and long before he was a TCM host, Eddie Muller made a decision to take a leap and, as mythologist Joseph Campbell would've put it, follow his bliss. Muller had been a writer with a 16-year run as a print journalist. Now he would become a "wordslinger," peppering the page with gritty prose on a subject about which he was passionate, film noir. The first edition of Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir was published in softcover on May 15, 1998, and quickly sparked interest. The American Cinematheque invited Muller to program a noir festival based on the book at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre. He did, in March 1999, and the festival went on to become an annual event. In 2003, at the invitation of San Francisco's Castro Theatre, Muller presented the first Noir City film festival in his hometown. This, too, was a huge success that became an annual fĂȘte. In 2005, realizing that "a non-profit could get access to [film] archives that were off-limits to most for-profit theaters," Muller founded the Film Noir Foundation. The foundation flourished, finding, preserving and restoring more than thirty films noir over the years. The FNF's annual Noir City festival circuit grew to include several more major US cities, towns like Austin, Boston, Chicago, DC, Detroit and Seattle. Muller became widely hailed as "the czar of noir," an authority on the genre, or sub-genre, or style that is film noir. He would also continue to write fiction and non-fiction as well as write and direct a short film, The Grand Inquisitor (2008). In March 2017, he began hosting a weekly film noir screening, Noir Alley, on TCM; the program was soon established as a Saturday night/Sunday morning staple. Today Eddie Muller continues as one of TCM's regular hosts and film noir is more popular than ever. What a perfect time to update and upgrade the book that started it all, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir, with a newly revised, expanded and beautifully turned out hardcover edition.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Old Hollywood Haunts: The Hollywood Canteen, 1942 - 1945

Clockwise from top: Bette Davis and John Garfield; Rita Hayworth; Hedy Lamarr and Bob Hope; GIs at the Canteen

 A Very Special "Old Hollywood Haunt"

In her 1987 memoir, This 'n That, Bette Davis remembered a day not long after World War II began when fellow Warner Bros. star John Garfield sat down next to her in the studio commissary. He told her he'd been thinking about all the GIs who were then streaming through the area and said he thought Hollywood ought to do something about welcoming and entertaining them while they were in town. "I agreed," she wrote, "and then and there the idea for the Hollywood Canteen was born."  Bette approached her friend and agent, Jules Stein, president and co-founder of MCA, with their plan to create a nightclub for servicemen and women and invited him to head its financial committee.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Summer's Here and the Time is Right for ... SUMMER MOVIES

Just in time for summer, TCM and Running Press offer John Malahy's delectably readable Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics. Featuring summertime-set films dating from the '20s (Lonesome/1928) to the present day (Call Me by Your Name/2017), it's a wide-ranging collection, detailed, photo-packed and filled with tantalizing backstory.

Friday, May 21, 2021

I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), a Black & White Jewel from Powell & Pressburger

Rich, vivid Technicolor is one of the hallmarks of the most well-known and celebrated of the gorgeous, masterful films from the production team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Archers. From the mid-1940s into the early '50s, almost all of their films were shot in striking 3-strip Technicolor, often by cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Cardiff had been a camera operator for Denham Studios when the American Technicolor Company recruited him as their first technician in Great Britain. He would shoot England's first color film and initially work with Powell and Pressburger as a second unit camera operator on their first Technicolor film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). He would graduate to cinematographer on their second color outing, A Matter of Life and Death/Stairway to Heaven (1946). But there would be a lengthy delay in the production of the second film because of a limited availability of Technicolor cameras and film stock in England at that time. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

For National Classic Movie Day: 6 Films - 6 Decades

May 16 is here and it's National Classic Movie Day. Hooray! Happily, Rick over at the Classic Film & TV Cafe is once more hosting his annual blogathon in honor of this special day. The theme this year is "6 films - 6 decades," with each participant focusing on a favorite classic from each of six decades. Selecting just a few films from hundreds of favorites is never easy so I came up with a secondary theme of my own to simplify the task. I'll be spotlighting a film of each decade from the '20s through the '70s that also features a favorite pairing of lead actors. 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Old Hollywood Haunts: Charlie Farrell's Racquet Club in Palm Springs

Charlie Farrell, top center; Ava Gardner, bottom left; on the right, Marilyn Monroe and Spencer Tracy

Many years ago, Charlie Farrell was a movie star. He first gained fame as a leading man in the late 1920s when he was in his late 20s. He'd started out in Hollywood as an extra, appearing momentarily in films like the Lon Chaney classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and Ernst Lubitsch's first Hollywood film, Rosita (1923), starring Mary Pickford. After a minor role in DeMille's The Ten Commandments (1923) his career began to build. In 1927 he was cast opposite Janet Gaynor in 7th Heaven. A smash hit, the movie was nominated for the very first Best Picture Academy Award and brought Oscars to director Frank Borzage, screenwriter Benjamin Glazer and to Janet Gaynor, who won Best Actress for this and two other film performances. Charlie would always joke that he was the only one connected with the movie who wasn't nominated for an Oscar. The two luminous, newly minted young stars were then teamed in 11 more pictures between 1928 and 1934 and, as the most popular couple in movies, were known as "America's Favorite Lovebirds."

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Old Hollywood Haunts: A Birthday Remembrance for the Brown Derby on Vine...

I lived in Hollywood, once upon a time, on Poinsettia between Fountain and Santa Monica Blvd., not far from Melrose.  It was the early '80s and I was working at a radio station on Sunset at North Genesee, across from the Screen Actors Guild. Ed Asner was the president of the guild then and I met him one afternoon, along with most of my co-workers, when SAG hosted an open house in the space it had just leased on the second floor of our building. This was around the time I was getting to know the Brown Derby at the intersection of Vine St. and Hollywood Blvd. Known locally as the Hollywood Derby, it was the radio station's go-to spot for good-bye and birthday and bon voyage lunches. The place always seemed to be bustling and I would never have guessed then that it would be gone forever within two or three years.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

WILSON (1944), Darryl F. Zanuck's Forgotten Campaign for World Peace

It was August 1944 and World War II was advancing toward its cataclysmic end when 20th Century Fox launched a heavily promoted biographical spectacular, Darryl F. Zanuck’s production of Wilson. A tribute to Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the United States, and his vision for world peace, Wilson was the most lavishly mounted film since David O. Selznick’s Gone with the Wind (1939) and would go on to be nominated for 10 Oscars, including Best Picture. The film debuted with great fanfare and was received with acclaim and enthusiasm. The Washington Post raved, citing Wilson as “one of the most distinguished films in the whole history of cinema.” Yet Wilson would also earn a reputation as “Zanuck’s folly” and disappear into the dustbin of movie history.