Category Archives: Film

Clarence Brown’s Legacy in Films

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Brown and Jarman Jr. on the set of The Yearling,Courtesy of Claude Jarman Jr.

Though he crafted films that garnered thirty-eight Academy Award nominations, Brown is not as well remembered as many of his contemporaries. Historian Gwenda Young hopes to change that with the publication of Clarence Brown: Hollywood’s Forgotten Master, the first full-length biography of the seminal director. She recounts his upbringing as the son of hardworking Irish immigrants, as well as his work with stars such as Lionel Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, and Mary Pickford, which created his reputation for introducing new discoveries as well as revitalizing fading careers. Throughout his long tenure behind the camera, Brown defied expectations to create a lasting body of work that spanned Hollywood’s silent and golden eras.

Over the course of a five decade–long career, Brown directed numerous films that have stood the test of time—The Last of the Mohicans (1920), Anna Christie (1930), Anna Karenina (1935), The Human Comedy (1943), National Velvet (1944), The Yearling (1946), and Intruder in the Dust (1949), among others. Here, we have given you a look into a selection of Brown’s “starmaker” credits, of which have been remembered for defining Hollywood for decades.


The Great Redeemer, Maurice Tourneur Productions, 1920

The Last of the Mohicans, Maurice Tourneur Productions, 1920

The Foolish Matrons, Maurice Tourneur Productions, 1921

The Light In the Dark (short), Vitagraph Company of America, 1922

Don’t Marry for Money, Weber & North Productions, 1923

The Acquittal, Universal Pictures,1923

The Signal Tower, Universal Pictures, 1924

Butterfly, Universal Pictures, 1924

Anna Christie

Anna Christie, MGM, 1930

Smouldering Fires, Universal Pictures, 1925

The Goose Woman, Universal Pictures, 1925

The Eagle, Art Finance Corporation, 1925

Kiki, Norma Talmadge Film Corporation, 1926

Flesh and the Devil, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), 1926

The Trail of ’98, MGM, 1928

The Cossacks (uncredited), MGM, 1928

A Woman of Affairs, MGM, 1928

Wonder of Women, MGM, 1929

Navy Blues, MGM, 1929

Romance (uncredited), MGM, 1930

Inspiration, MGM, 1931

A Free Soul, MGM, 1931

Possessed (uncredited), MGM, 1931

 

 


National Velvet

National Velvet, MGM, 1944

 

Emma, MGM, 1932

Letty Lynton, MGM, 1932

The Son-Daughter, MGM, 1932

Looking Forward, MGM, 1933

Night Flight, MGM, 1933

Chained, MGM, 1934

Anna Karenina, MGM, 1935

Ah Wilderness!, MGM, 1935

Wife vs. Secretary, MGM, 1936

The Gorgeous Hussy, MGM, 1936

Conquest, MGM, 1937

Of Human Hearts, MGM, 1938

Idiot’s Delight, MGM, 1939

The Rains Came, Twentieth Century Fox, 1939

Edison, the Man, MGM, 1940

Come Live with Me, MGM, 1941

The Met in Bombay, MGM, 1941

Sadie McKee

Sadie McKee, MGM, 1934

The Human Comedy, MGM, 1943

The White Cliffs of Dover,MGM, 1944

The Yearling, MGM, 1946

Song of Love, MGM, 1947

To Please a Lady, MGM, 1950

The Schumann Story (short), MGM, 1950

It’s a Big Country: An American Anthology, MGM, 1951

When in Rome, MGM, 1952

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In Memory of one of the Great “Screen Heavies”

buono2Victor Buono (February 3, 1938 – January 1, 1982), one of the most popular screen “heavies” of the 1960s and 1970s, may have been the heaviest of the “heavies” of his era, weighing in at 280-300 pounds. But Buono was chock full of acting talent and came to Hollywood with a rich background in Shakespearean roles on the stage at the Globe Theater in his native San Diego, California. He was nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for 1962’s What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? for his performance as the weird musical accompanist to Bette Davis’ Baby Jane character. He was also famous for playing the villain King Tut on the television series Batman (1966–1968).

Noted for his ability to mix comedy with villainy, Buono played some of TV’s most notorious bad guys with his tongue in his cheek. Among them, the grand Dr. Schubert of The Man From Atlantis, a Capt. Nemo-style villain who roamed the seas in his super submarine; and colorful Count Manzeppi on The Wild, Wild West.

 

In honor of this talented actor, who passed away 32 years ago today, we’re sharing an excerpt from Ron Miller’s interview from the release You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet! Interviews with Stars from Hollywood’s Golden Era.


Setting the Scene

I met Victor Buono when he was appearing in a 1965 stage production of Moliere’s Tartuffe at the Comedia Repertory Theater in Palo Alto, California. He was absolutely fabulous in this stage role, literally commanding the stage whenever he set foot upon it. He was such a powerful stage performer that I don’t believe his movie and TV fans ever experienced the real Buono if they hadn’t seen him live on a theater stage.

He was the most charming and self-effacing of men and if he was haunted by the limitations of his great bulk, it certainly didn’t show. He struck me as a very happy soul who was quite content in his own skin and really enjoying the great variety of comic and villainous roles that kept coming his way.

Bawden2_Image085The Interview

MILLER: Like Sydney Greenstreet before you, you seem destined to be typecast as a villainous character on screen. Your reaction?

BUONO: If you weigh more than 280 pounds, you better get out the black hat and forget about getting the girl at the end of the picture. I’ve been shot, stabbed, run over, and been pushed off of, out of, under and over more things than you can imagine. I never get the girl. In fact, I’m not even allowed to have a friend.

MILLER: Given that, what do you consider the ideal role for you?

BUONO: Oh, no doubt, Shakespeare’s Sir John Falstaff. But ever since I played the sinister mama’s boy in Baby Jane, nobody wants to hire me to play Falstaff.

MILLER: Did you ever think about losing weight and slimming yourself into another category?

BUONO: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to lose weight in order to change the direction of my career. But I always give up and shoot back up to 350 pounds or so.

MILLER: I’ve seen you on the TV talk shows and you always seem to have a pretty amused attitude about your weight.

BUONO: What else can I do but joke about it all the time? I mean, people ask me when I eat breakfast and I usually tell them I sit down to breakfast about 8 a.m. and that usually lasts until 2 or 3 p.m.

MILLER: Does being a big guy present any problems for you doing your parts in movies or TV?

BUONO: Well, let me tell you about one incident. I was playing a bad guy on The Untouchables and they had to show me in a close-up, driving a car. Well, I don’t drive, so they had to tie a rope to the car and have a gang of grips tow me across the set. You can imagine how much they loved doing that.

MILLER: What about your visits to wardrobe? Do they have trouble fitting you with clothes?

BUONO: Trouble? My tailors don’t measure me; they survey me.

MILLER: So, you don’t expect to ever slim yourself down?

BUONO: Well, there’s about as much chance of me losing weight as there is of the Pope being named chairman of the Communist Party.

MILLER: Your villains certainly don’t fit the normal dimensions of movie bad guys.

BUONO: No, I’ve developed my own style. I don’t just torture the hero. I torture him while reciting poetry or enjoying an epicurean feast.

Afterword

Buono never married and often gave whimsical answers when asked about it. Some sources say he was openly gay, but others say he liked women. Let’s just say that he didn’t seem bothered by the fact that he never “got the girl” on screen and draw our own conclusions about why. Buono died from a heart attack on New Year’s Day in 1982 at his home in Apple Valley, California. He was just 43.

Weird and Wonderful Tales from the Editorial Department: Meet Joe Martin

9780813174259Senior Editing Supervisor Ila McEntire loves a good story, and she’s in the right job to read some great ones. She delighted our staff recently by sharing the tale of an editorial mystery that arose while she was working on Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood by Sherri Snyder. Ila’s story was so much fun, we wanted to share it with you.

It all started with a photo caption . . .

and Joe Martin

Barbara La Marr with Ramon Novarro and Joe Martin in TRIFLING WOMEN (formerly BLACK ORCHIDS). From the collections of the Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

While editing our forthcoming biography of silent film star Barbara La Marr, I came across this photo and this (slightly edited) caption: “Barbara La Marr with Ramon Novarro and Joe Martin in TRIFLING WOMEN (1922).” It’s my job to make sure the photos match the captions, and I only see two people in this photo—Barbara and Ramon. “Where the heck is Joe Martin?” I thought.

JoeMEET JOE MARTIN. An orangutan who happened to be a silent film star. During this particular film’s production he attacked a (human) costar who antagonized him after fifteen grueling hours onset. It took six men to rescue the victim, who came away from the altercation with some broken bones and a nasty bite on his hand; he never worked with Joe Martin again. Joe was usually gentle, and he adored the film’s leading lady (Barbara La Marr).

Our Director of Editing, Design, and Production, David Cobb, had never heard of Joe Marin either, and we discovered (by Googling) that there’s a controversy as to his species —some folks say chimp, some say orangutan. (Our author says orangutan, so I’m obliged to agree.)

But the IMBD page identifies him as a chimp. I don’t know whose flag to follow, but he looks like an orangutan in the photo to me!


Barbara La Marr: The Girl Who Was Too Beautiful for Hollywood will be available in November, 2017.

The Softer Side of Michael Curtiz

9780813173917In a few months, we’ll publish Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film by Alan K. Rode. As the first comprehensive biography in English of the director of classic films such as Casablanca (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), and White Christmas (1954), this book highlights some fantastic stories about one of the film industry’s most complex figures.

Since it’s high summer and a number of us here at the press are devotedly tending home gardens, the following anecdote from the book really struck a chord. Curtiz was famously known for having a temper on set, but it seems that the legendary director did have great compassion for a garden’s most adorable scourge: bunnies.

The following is excerpted from the book:


Victory Garden

The war years sped by for Curtiz. Long days at the studio were interspersed with leisure time on Saturday nights and Sundays at the Canoga Ranch. Though his dedication to polo began to taper off, Curtiz’s passion for shooting skeet remained constant. He wore a jacket around the ranch adorned with a sleeve patch that bore a “50” insignia, indicating that he’d successfully hit fifty consecutive targets without a miss.

World War II motivated everyone to support the Allied cause. John Meredyth Lucas [Curtiz’s adopted son] remembered “the war had gotten Mother out of bed.” Bess [Curtiz’s wife] became involved with the British War Relief Society during the early years of the war. She joined Virginia Zanuck and many other friends in supporting “Bundles for Britain.” Started in a New York City storefront, the wartime charity ultimately delivered $1,500,000 in clothing to a belt-tightened United Kingdom along with another million in cash.

Then there were the ubiquitous victory gardens championed by the government to support the war effort. Bess seeded a large plot adjacent to the main house to raise vegetables for the family table. Although she diligently tended the garden, it wasn’t productive; the local rabbit population became nighttime saboteurs. After an unsuccessful attempt to fence off the garden from the pests, Curtiz initiated an evening stakeout with his shotgun. After spotting a rabbit, Curtiz shot it in the leg, then experienced an epiphany as the injured creature piteously attempted to drag itself to safety. According to John Meredyth Lucas, the episode brought forth a compassionate side from Curtiz that was rarely witnessed on a film set:

Mike watched, horror-stricken. Then, calling for help, he carefully captured the wounded rabbit. We had a veterinarian we used for all our dogs. Mike had Mother get the vet out of bed and took the rabbit to the animal hospital. The rabbit made a slow but satisfactory recovery and was ultimately turned loose on the ranch again. “Why hell we need garden?” Mike asked Mother. “We doesn’t eat much vegetable.” Henceforth we bought our greens at the market. Mike had always loved rabbit cooked the French provincial way, but as far as I know, he never again ordered this dish.


Excerpted from Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film by Alan K. Rode, forthcoming from the University Press of Kentucky in October 2017.

Happy 80th Birthday, Jack Nicholson!

Happy 80th birthday to Jack Nicholson! A prolific actor and filmmaker who has brought to life some of the most iconic characters in American film, Jack is also the most nominated male actor in the history of the Academy Awards.

In this special excerpt from Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder, author Robert Crane steps away from the stories surrounding his father and recounts the time he and coauthor Chris Fryer interviewed then up-and-coming actor Jack Nicholson for their film class at USC:


During the early 1970s the two of us had become great observers of the ascendant star of Jack Nicholson. Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, and Carnal Knowledge were big, important films, at least to us. Jack represented an honesty, an abandon that I had seen elsewhere only in old Marlon Brando films. Nicholson crying in front of his paralyzed father in Five Easy Pieces was a landmark moment for me. It was a shocking and spellbinding scene. How could you be a man and allow yourself to show emotion like that in front of millions of people? I was stunned by it, but I felt nothing but admiration. Ultimately I wanted to be like that character. I wanted to be that honest and open with other people. That particular scene spoke to me about my relationship with my dad, because except when I was a really young kid I could never cry in front of him. I wouldn’t allow myself to be that exposed. Seeing Nicholson do that was a revelation.

The semester after the release of Five Easy Pieces Chris and I took a class at USC called The Film Heroes of the ’30s and ’60s taught by screenwriter Steven Karpf, and we had the idea of teaming up to interview Jack Nicholson as the “antihero” for the ages. It never occurred to us that a couple of tyros from Tarzana and USC film school might not be able to talk to Jack Nicholson for their class project. We just didn’t know any better. Hell, we’d been told no by curmudgeonly gift shop buyers in college bookstores all over this great land, but we still managed to sell them license frames. So even though we’d heard the word no umpteen times, it just hadn’t made that much of an impression. We weren’t deterred by the word. We weren’t put off by the word. We just stepped around it, coming at the target from a different direction.

I had seen Jack once on a film panel at USC, and at that point in his career he was a great supporter of film, foreign cinema, and up-and coming filmmakers. He’d been to the Cannes Film Festival with his directorial debut, Drive, He Said, but he was still accessible enough that he could be persuaded to make an appearance at a college. This was well before the curtain of opportunity closed for nobodies to get near Jack Nicholson.

Talking to Jack Nicholson was remarkably easy. Through a family connection of Chris’s we got what turned out to be Jack’s home phone number, though we didn’t know it at the time. I dialed it, and damned if the guy himself didn’t answer the phone on the second ring. I knew who it was, but I still asked for Mr. Nicholson just to be polite. He asked, “Who’s calling?” and I introduced myself and launched into my pitch for an interview. To our incredible surprise and elation, Jack Nicholson agreed to sit down with us and talk film. It was absolutely unreal. Chris and I were bouncing off the walls.

Jack invited us up to his house on Mulholland Drive. To illustrate how different the world was in 1972, there was no gate on the driveway— the same driveway Jack shared with his next-door neighbor, Marlon Brando. We rolled up to the open front door and were escorted into the two-story ranch house as Michelle Phillips, Jack’s girlfriend at the time, passed us in the foyer. Chris and I exchanged looks, trying to be cool, as we stepped down into the living room. We were in a different world. There was a large, plush, brown suede couch opposite the wall of windows that overlooked Franklin Canyon and Los Angeles. The house was comfortable, lived-in. I felt pretty much at ease even though I was about to meet one of my film heroes. Jack came down the stairs wearing a navy blue bathrobe with a bat pin on the lapel. He might have just gotten out of bed, although it was well past lunchtime. As I discovered over the next several hours spent talking about film, Jack’s upcoming projects, his past experiences, and the future of cinema, Jack wasn’t wearing anything under that robe as he inadvertently flashed me several times.

After finally switching off the tape recorder, we took a few commemorative photos—for our benefit, not Jack’s—and left the house on cloud 99. We were so juiced that Chris almost killed us, spinning out his Porsche on a Mulholland curve and doing a 360 into a cloud of dust. We came to a stop between a telephone pole and the edge of a cliff. As the dust settled we could hear our pounding hearts, and then laughed like lunatics. Needless to say, we got As in that class.

Serendipitously, after that first interview, Chris and I, separately and together, began bumping into Jack around L.A. I saw him at a Rolling Stones concert, and we exchanged pleasantries. My date, Barbara Stephens, who had been my government teacher at Taft High School, was suitably impressed. Chris ran into Jack at an antiwar/pro-McGovern rally at UCLA. Jack was always where the action was.

Because these chance meetings made us think we were becoming pals, we did the only logical thing—we decided to write a book about our new best friend. There had never been a book about Jack Nicholson, and we felt it was high time and that we were just the guys to do it. Frankly, in 1972 the name Jack Nicholson wasn’t yet on the American public’s radar screen. On more than one occasion when I mentioned the idea I was told, “Gee, Bobby, I didn’t know you were that interested in golf…”


crane.final.indd

For more interviews and stories, check out Crane: Sex, Celebrity, and My Father’s Unsolved Murder by Robert Crane, now in a new paperback edition.

In this poignant memoir, Crane discusses the terrible day that his father Bob Crane, known to Hogan’s Heroes fans as Colonel Hogan, was discovered brutally murdered and how he has lived with the unsolved murder of his father. But this storyline is just one thread in his tale of growing up in Los Angeles, his struggles to reconcile the good and sordid sides of his celebrity father, and his own fascinating life. Through disappointment, loss, and heartbreak, Crane’s humor and perseverance shine. Beyond the big stars and behind-the-scenes revelations, this riveting account of death, survival, and renewal in the shadow of the Hollywood sign makes a profound statement about the desire for love and permanence in a life where those things continually slip away. By turns shocking and uplifting, Crane is an unforgettable and deeply human story.

Robert Crane is coauthor of My Life as a Mankiewicz: An Insider’s Journey through Hollywood, Jack Nicholson: The Early Years, and Bruce Dern: A Memoir, and a contributor to Hal Ashby: Interviews.

Christopher Fryer is coauthor of Jack Nicholson: The Early Years and Bruce Dern: A Memoir, and a contributor to Hal Ashby: Interviews.

5 Unforgettable Gene Kelly Dance Numbers

Suffering from the rainy day blues? We’ve got you covered!

As told by Cynthia and Sara Brideson in the new biography, He’s Got Rhythm, Gene Kelly was one of the brightest stars in the world of Hollywood dance musicals. From tap dancing on roller-skates, to creating rhythms with a squeaky floorboard, to collaborating with dance legend Fred Astaire, Gene was a creative genius and a master of his craft.

These iconic song and dance numbers are guaranteed to put a “smile on your face” and have you “laughing at the clouds”:


1. “I Like Myself” from It’s Always Fair Weather (1955)

In this unforgettable number, Gene provides one of his most energetic and entertaining performances, and proves that he can hoof it even when wearing roller-skates!

2. “The Babbitt And The Bromide” from Ziegfeld Follies (1946)

Two legends of American dance go head-to-head in this Gershwin brothers number from Ziegfeld Follies. In a classic sketch of friendly one-upmanship, the technical perfection of Fred Astaire meets the easy grace of Gene Kelly. This was the only time Astaire and Kelly appeared together on film in the prime of their careers.

3. “I Got Rhythm” from An American in Paris (1951)

Gene oozes charm in this clip from the Academy Award winning An American in Paris, as he taps and sings a classic jazz tune while teaching French children a few words of English.

4. “Squeaky Floor Routine” from Summer Stock (1950)

In what Kelly himself would later call his favorite solo routine, he creates a dance inspired by the environment in which it takes place. Employing a squeaky floorboard and an old newspaper as the basis for his rhythm, Gene displays his remarkable ability to explore a space through dance.

5. “Singin’ In The Rain” from Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

“From where I stand the sun is shining all over the place.”

In perhaps the most iconic number in any Hollywood musical, Gene taps and splashes his way through a California downpour and right into film history.


UKY06 He's Got Rhythm Selected.inddTo read the stories behind these and many other iconic Gene Kelly films, check out the newly released He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly. In the first comprehensive biography written since the legendary star’s death, authors Cynthia Brideson and Sara Brideson disclose new details of Kelly’s complex life. Not only do they examine his contributions to the world of entertainment in depth, but they also consider his political activities—including his opposition to the Hollywood blacklist. Drawing on previously untapped articles and interviews with Kelly’s wives, friends, and colleagues, Brideson and Brideson illuminate new and unexpected aspects of the actor’s life and work. He’s Got Rhythm is a balanced and compelling view of one of the screen’s enduring legends.

Get Crafted at The Market this Weekend

 

Where can you find some of your favorite Kentucky/Regional books, fine arts and crafts, live music, specialty food, and much, much more? The 35th annual Kentucky Crafted: The Market 2017 will be held April 22-23 at the Lexington Convention Center. Stop Mommy Goose final front coverREV.inddby our booth #102 to check out some of our new titles, and meet Mike Norris, who’ll be signing copies of Mommy Goose, from 12 – 2 pm on Saturday, April 22.

More than 200 exhibitors will be on hand at the event, which was chosen as the No. 1 Fair & Festival by readers of AmericanStyle Magazine four years in a row, and also named a top 10 event by the Kentucky Tourism Council and a top 20 event by the Southeast Tourism Society.

Here’s a sampling of some of our new releases that will be available at our booth during Kentucky Crafted: