Saturday, February 28, 2009

Susan Hayward on my Mind

Yikes! It just occurred to me that February is on its way out and I haven't posted any Susan Hayward material! I'll admit that other interests have intruded on my Haywardian pursuits, but I plan to remedy that in future entries. The fact that Susan DVDs aren't as plentiful as a star of her caliber deserves. Plus, I don't have cable, which is another hindrance. Anyway, it would seem that Hayward is buzzin' over at the TCM Movie Morlocks blog. Suzidoll wrote a fine piece on the star's 1958 Oscar triumph in I Want to Live! and discusses the performance in superior fashion.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Never Refuse an Award

John from Twenty-Four Frames and Carrie of Classic Montgomery have honored Hollywood Dreamland with the Premio Dardos award. Which, according to the citation:

The Dardos Award is given for recognition of cultural, ethical, literary, and personal values transmitted in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing affection and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.

I'm self conscious enough as it is, but I can't refuse an honor from my peers, can I? So instead of pulling a Marlon Brando and sending Sacheen Littlefeather to refuse the honor, I say "Thank You!" to those who feel this small corner of the bloggosphere is worthy. I'm touched.

It's rewarding to have someone think what you do for your own amusement is worthwhile, but I enjoy comments on what is written more than anything else. Many of my followers are just content to read, and that's great, really! But for those of you who take the time to post comments, I thank you, because it's what I look forward to the most when I log in.

A Place on the Shelf: Thank you.

The rules state that I have to pass this on to five other blogs I deem worthy...I enjoy many blogs, but these are some of my favorites who deserve your time(even though three of the five don't know I exist).

Chris at Ultra Swank
Jason at Spy Vibe

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jerry Lewis: It's About Time!

Tonight at the 81st Academy Awards, filmmaker extraordinaire Jerry Lewis gets some recognition--The Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award:

"The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized Jerry Lewis with one of its greatest honors, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award.

The award, named after renowned actor, past Academy president and motion picture industry supporter Jean Hersholt, is bestowed by the Academy on an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry."

Jerry Lewis should have received the Academy's Lifetime Achievement Award years ago. Heck, he should have at least gotten a certificate for coming up with the Video Assist in 1960, when making his directorial debut (in Miami!) in The Bellboy.

But let's face it: comedy never gets the recognition that drama does. Comedy is infinitely more difficult to do, if it weren't, they wouldn't need laugh tracks on most every situation comedy ever produced. Dramas don't require a "sobbing track" or a "suspense track" of a faux audience reacting to dramatic action onscreen, do they? Lewis was Paramount's big moneymaker in the 1950s and 1960s and was given full control over his work. Such was the confidence that studio founder Adolph Zukor essentially gave the star anything he wanted because the producer knew that a Lewis film would make a tidy profit at the box office. Lewis was/is a perfectionist and demanding. He had zero tolerance for incompetents, as he states in the DVD featurette for his 1963 masterwork, The Nutty Professor.


...the Hersholt award is an award honoring humanitarians, and it's one Lewis should have received decades ago, because no one in Hollywood is more associated with charitable work than Lewis. His Labor Day Telethons (held annually since 1960) are the stuff of legend, and I can remember watching them in the 1970s, when Lewis had infinitely more screen time than he has in recent years. I even recall Lewis' Sinatra-planned reunion with Dean Martin in 1976; that was my first time watching the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon! I was only vaguely aware of who Dean Martin was, but before I knew of Lewis the auteur, I recognized him as the "Jerry's Kids" sponsor. I'll bet a couple of generations do the same. I mentioned in a previous post that I wouldn't be watching the Oscars this year, however, I'll be tuning in at my usual booth at The Purple Pit--but only for Jerry's long overdue recognition.

A Jerk Supreme: Jerry Lewis as professor Julius Kelp's alter ego, Buddy Love, in 1963's 'The Nutty Professor.'

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Who Was Florine McKinney?

Who is this woman? She's Florine McKinney, that's who. Who? Florine McKinney. I found this MGM picture of her a couple of years ago and never followed up on what this actress ever did. In fact, when I went to retrieve the photo from the Hollywood Dreamland "archives", I failed to even remember her name, typing it as Florence McKinney. She seemed destined for obscurity. She still is, but not entirely. It turns out that McKinney (1909-1975) was a glorified extra in a handful of movies in the 1930s and 1940s, including my beloved The Philadelphia Story. And as many times as I've seen that movie, I cannot recall Miss McKinney's appearance as the "Main Line Society Woman." She also had an uncredited bit in the Marx Brothers' Horse Feathers (1932). Her final film appearance (at age 33) was in a Johnny Mack Brown entry, 1942's Little Joe, the Wrangler, where she even got to play a character with a name, Mary Brewster. And that was the end of Florine McKinney's movie career.

Florine McKinney lived to be 65 and it got me thinking as to what stories she may have had to tell about her small taste of Hollywood. What this girl from the town of Mart, Texas did to leave her hometown to head for the promise of fame in Tinsel Town. I guess I'll never know, but the fact that this photo exists enabled me to become aware of her contribution to one of my favorite movies, however small it may be. I just would have liked to hear her story and know of her experiences in those heady days of Hollywood.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Websites Dedicated to One Film

I like movie buffs who are so dedicated to a specific film that they put the effort into making a web site for that particular movie. Today I’d like to spotlight a few of the excellent web sites that have constructed a page in honor of their favorite movie. I’m sticking to Golden and Silver age movies, as films from the last twenty years have significantly more space on the web. If anyone knows of any more sites dedicated to pre-1975 movies and earlier, please let me know. I realize that there is plenty of space on the web for film series (James Bond, Tarzan, Dirty Harry etc.), but the focus here is on specific movies.

Here are four of the best web pages that focus on one film:

Raintree County- I love the film’s music score more than the film itself, but this site makes this average epic much more interesting. The film’s back story is infinitely more arresting than the finished product, with Montgomery Clift’s disfiguring car accident the most memorable incident. There's also plenty of information about the novel and its author's tragic life.

The Sand Pebbles- This was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. The Sand Pebbles site is chock full of vintage stills, articles, programs, and deleted scenes.

The Swimmer- This 1968 movie has a profound effect on many who see it, and the "Frank Perry’s The Swimmer" site is a modest one, but that’s just perfect.

Where Eagles Dare- The 1969 Richard Burton-Clint Eastwood adventure epic, where 1940s women sport 1960s bouffants and fashions has a dedicated following and message board for fans to discuss their favorite WWII action movie.

I've always wanted to have a website with an emphasis on just one film, though it'd be on something like 1967's Tony Rome , far from being a classic, but still among my favorite movies of all time! Plus, I couldn't include it here, because it's technically a series, as it has a sequel, 1968's Lady in Cement!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Burt Lancaster: Against Type

That’s right, another miserable sod! I’ve been re-reading Against Type: a Biography of Burt Lancaster by Gary Fishgall (1995). It’s the first comprehensive Lancaster biography I’ve seen and the only one I’ve read, though I’ve been meaning to snag a copy of Kate Buford’s Burt Lancaster: an American Life. Against Type's narrative largely consists of behind-the-scenes anecdotes about his movie work, as well as the state of the world and the film industry as it was during Lancaster’s career, which spanned nearly fifty years. I’m glad the coverage of Burt the performer is emphasized over Burt the human being, because the latter was a difficult man to like: cold, ruthless, insensitive, and at times, downright nasty. As a result, Against Type plays like a broken record: Lancaster neglected his wife and children, carried on numerous affairs, bullied his co-stars and directed his directors, which led to a tense set, but when the project wrapped, there was nothing but kind words about Burt’s professionalism and drive for perfection, but never Burt the human being. There was no mistaking him for a nice guy, even if he gave his time and money to the civil rights struggle and championed liberal causes.

What I found to be the most fascinating thing about Burt Lancaster was that just like another Hollywood Dreamland hero, Cary Grant, he had his share of fears and insecurities. Lancaster covered his with an air of superiority and arrogance. Lancaster was not formally trained but had the charisma, natural ability, and keen intelligence to learn his craft and use his natural talents to blast most other performers off the screen. Still, when faced with formally-trained actors like Montgomery Clift, Lancaster’s knees literally shook with fear. He never got over that insecurity, even after establishing himself as one of the best actors of the 1960s. When making 1977’s The Island of Dr. Moreau*, Lancaster had the same fear of classically-trained Michael York, who was also twenty-eight years younger than the aging Lancaster, a former acrobat used to doing many of his own stunts, and who felt the onset of age acutely. When Lancaster was cast as Ned Merrill in the film adaptation of John Cheever’s short story, The Swimmer, Burt was throwing up off camera before filming when it struck him how tough it would be to play the film's affluent WASP protaganist, a background so different from his own. Director Frank Perry, who fought with Burt throughout the filming of The Swimmer, got a sense of satisfaction at seeing the big star afraid to screw up a most challenging role, as Burt was throwing up on the set before shooting began. Lancaster also was deeply depressed about growing older. A professional acrobat who did many of his own stunts, Lancaster nonetheless saw the proverbial writing on the wall and made the move to playing character parts in the late 1960s, rather than the traditional leading man roles which were appropriate for actors half his age.

It is the anecdotes about Lancaster overcoming his personal insecurities on a professional level that make for a fascinating look into Lancaster the man, because it was his fiery determination and ability to get the best possible performance out of himself from a part that may not have been ideally suited to his range that makes Lancaster an interesting actor to watch. Against Type is aptly titled. Just read it with an interest in Burt Lancaster, the artist; the man himself will only disappoint you.

*Yours truly saw The Island of Dr. Moreau in a drive-in theater (still extant!) at age five and was duly traumatized by the mutated humans and had nightmares about it for days afterwards---okay, years afterwards--in fact, I recently watched the film's trailer and couldn't believe how some of that imagery still disturbed me, particularly when the real animals are attacking the Hum-animals. I think the concept itself is what creeps me out, not the obviously-latex masks worn by the actors. Just don't tell anyone that I was disturbed by a Samuel Z. Arkoff production, okay?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Gail Patrick: Deco Dame, Part V

Wow! Someone must've been rummaging through my wildest dreams! They had to in order to have produced this fantastic photo of Gail Patrick in full Valentine’s Day regalia! There couldn't be a better occasion to go gah-gah over my biggest Golden Age crush. I found this picture several months ago, and have been waiting (seemingly forever) for this day to post it. C. Parker over at Starlet Showcase did so earlier this month, but I told him that I’m still using it here...So let Hollwood Dreamland's monthly Gail Patrick Showcase continue. Fifth in the series--Collect 'em All...

Stunning Gail: Excellent shot; looks to be late 1930s.

Ravishing, as Always: Another photo shoot with Gail all dolled up...

That's Definitely Not Rochester: A radiant Gail Patrick with a perpetually 39 year-old tightwad in a publicity pic for 1937's "Artists and Models."

Friday, February 13, 2009

Bob Hope: Oscar's Gold Standard

I won't be watching the Oscars this year, but if you do, please wish host Hugh Jackman luck. He has some big shoes to fill. But that’s not fair to Jackman, or any other Academy Awards host, because Bob Hope (1903-2003) is the Gold Standard of Oscar hosts. “Ski Nose” helmed the awards eighteen times:

1939, 1940, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1952, 1954, 1957, 1961, 1964, 1956, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1974, and 1977.

The funny thing is, when I went down the list of notable Academy Awards emcees (Jerry Lewis, Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal) I laughed to myself that I was even comparing these accomplished performers to He That Was Hope. I was embarrassed for having even thought of putting someone else up against him!

One of Hope’s main gags was bemoaning his failure to be nominated, but he was entirely too modest and self deprecating to show off his countless humanitarian awards, which included Lifetime Achievement Oscars in 1941, 1945, 1953, and 1966. You can add the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, too. Growing up I never knew this, because young me fell for his schtick hook, line, and sinker.

But Hope was more than an awards-collecting machine, he was a comic master. It’s become fashionable to bash Hope for his latter-career NBC specials, when he merely read off the cue cards, but anyone putting him down for those last few years doesn’t know the extent of his power during his prime. Hope had impeccable comic timing, with his great ability to do double takes, skewer the topics of the day (something that gives me, a history buff, insight into those times) and be a most generous performer, letting his leading lady make a fool out of him to get the laughs (his Nov 13, 1943 Command Performance radio sketch about the steak with Lana Turner is a classic). Smart man, that Bob Hope. Having seen (and heard) a lot of Hope in action, he was definitely a man in command, with the charisma, presence, and quick wit to get a show moving. And during his heyday, he was great for an improvisational line and that often got the bigger laugh. The quintessential emcee. Next year marks the seventieth anniversary of Hope’s first crack at the hosting duties; I hope they give him a warm tribute. Then I'll be watching.

Clash of the Titans: Emcee Bob Hope and Best Actor nominee Marlon Brando grapple for the Oscar at the 26th Academy Awards (1954).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Eleanor Parker

Actress Eleanor Parker (b. 1922) is largely forgotten nowadays, though she was a well-respected actress, especially during her 1950s prime. Often cast as the loyal but suffering wife (Detective Story; Above and Beyond), her most (in)famous role may be as a prisoner in 1950’s Caged, better known today for its camp value than for the Oscar nominations that Parker and co-star Hope Emerson received. I find it to be well photographed and with riveting performances by a well-known cast, which runs the gamut from Jane Darwell and Agnes Moorehead (ah-ha! That's why it's campy!!!) to Ellen Corby and Jan Sterling. Perhaps the female convict concept just lends itself to such sniggering and derision. Parker also received a Best Actress Oscar nod for 1951’s Detective Story, where she played Kirk Douglas’ loyal wife who nevertheless has a dark secret. 1955’s Interrupted Melody (a film I’ve yet to see) scored Parker her third and final Oscar nomination. Here she’s opera singer Marjorie Lawrence, who was stricken with polio at the prime of her career and fought gamely to return to the stage. 1955 would prove to be Parker's stellar year, as she appeared in The Man with the Golden Arm, Interrupted Melody, and a little gem called Many Rivers to Cross.

Parker is an actress I'm interested in because she wasn't the sex vamp or villainess, and not the "good girl" in the same vein as June Allyson or Doris Day. Her career is largely based on serving the thankless role of the loyal, supportive wife, a characterization that was emphasized in the 1950s. It hasn't aged well, as that type of woman doesn't exist anymore, and if it did, it would be frowned upon in this post-Feminist era. But I can imagine that time period more clearly because of Parker's place in it. Perhaps I find myself wishing that certain aspects of that era would make a comeback. Whatever the case may be, Eleanor Parker was always an entertaining, reliable and-- most of all-- sympathetic performer; and well worth discovering.

Selected Filmography:

Pride of the Marines (1945)
Of Human Bondage (1946)
Caged (1950)
Detective Story (1951)
Scaramouche (1952)
Above and Beyond (1952)
Valley of the Kings (1954)
Interrupted Melody (1955)
The Man with the Golden Arm (1955)
The Seventh Sin (1957)
Home from the Hill (1960)
The Sound of Music (1965)

Thanks to Millie at Classic Forever for inspiring this post…

By His Side: Eleanor Parker and John Garfield in 1945's "Pride of the Marines."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ginger Rogers and THE Dress

I'm spellbound whenever I watch Swing Time (1936) and see an absolutely stunning, peak-of-her-beauty-and-popularity Ginger Rogers in that marvelous Never Gonna Dance opus, and wearing that dress--the white one--you know the one I mean. Maybe it's the beauty of the song (Fred's brilliant vocal), the way Ginger moves--she had quite a figure, didn't she? Oh, the beauty! Perhaps it's the way she gave herself to that performance--Rogers was involved in an affair with Swing Time director George Stevens-- but for me, this dress symbolizes the elegance, class, sophistication, and everything else Hollywood had on the ball in the 1930s.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Jerry Goldsmith's 80th Birthday

Legendary film composer Jerry Goldsmith would have been 80 years old today. Goldsmith (1929-2004) is one of the most prolific film composers (second only to Ennio Morricone) ever. His best-known work includes: (*Oscar Nomination; #Won)

Lillies of the Field (1963)
A Patch of Blue (1965)*
Our Man Flint (1966)
The Sand Pebbles (1966)*
In Like Flint (1967)
Planet of the Apes (1968)*
Patton (1970)*
Papillon (1973)*
Chinatown (1974)*
The Omen (1976)#
Alien (1979)
Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)*
First Blood (1982)
Poltergeist (1982)*
Gremlins (1984)
Basic Instinct (1992)*
Rudy (1993)
L.A. Confidential (1997)*
The Waltons (theme)
Barnaby Jones (theme)

Goldsmith (or "Jerry", as we devotees call him) was the consumate professional, best at scoring "emotions", though his action cues were (and are still) second to none. He was nominated for the Oscar 17 times, but won only once, for 1976's The Omen. It's arguably the greatest horror score ever composed. Goldsmith was also renonwned for not composing a scene when it would work better without music. A great example of this is the ending of the original The Planet of the Apes. Most composers would try and milk the moment with bombast but Jerry knew when not to score and as a result, the film's denouement is all the more devastating. However, such was Goldsmith's ability that his most frequent director and colaborator, Franklin J. Schaffner, allowed Jerry to score a seven-minute scene from Papillon (which happens to be my favorite score of his) with nothing but musical underscore! No dialogue, sound effects, or even the sound of the ocean. The scene has Henri Charriere (Steve McQueen) making his way off Devil's Island and while he is at sea Goldsmith's music comes forth and the composer provides his most beautiful musical acomplishment. It's hard to imagine any directors today trusting their composer and giving them that kind of... freedom.

Most people, including movie buffs, don't pay attention to film music, unless it's over-the-top and annoying, or a song that happens to be memorable in a positive way. Goldsmith wasn't known for his songs and catchy themes like his contemporaries Henry Mancini and John Williams, but Goldsmith's marches to Patton and Star Trek: The Motion Picture are his most recognizable and enduring compositions. Star Trek: The Next Generation used Jerry's theme because Trek creator Gene Roddenberry loved it so. It's Goldsmith's lasting musical legacy.

Reinventing Himself: Composer Jerry Goldsmith through the years.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Burt and Kirk: Crazy Cut-Ups

These photos were taken during rehearsals for the 30th Academy Awards, held on March 26, 1958. Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas performed a silly musical comedy number written by Frank Sinatra’s favored songwriters, Sammy Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, “It’s Great Not to Be Nominated.” The bit was performed just before the Best Actor award was presented. The song’s cringe worthy lyrics poked fun at the five nominees:

“There’s Marlon Brando, Hi ya’ll/That corny southern drawl.”

“Anthony Franciosa, you’ve got our vote/If he wins I’ll cut my throat.”

“Charles Laughton, he’s great/Yeah, if you’re voting for weight.”

“Anthony Quinn, isn’t he uncanny/Your *father* would look great in a scene with Magnani.”

“Alec flew all the way from Britain/Bully, Burt that’s why my teeth are grittin’”

The three nominees present reacted in different ways; Marlon Brando smiled and waved to the pair, Anthony Franciosa nervously chomped gum, though wife Shelley Winters roared with laughter at his expense, Anthony Quinn was also amused--no nerves from a two-time Oscar winner.

The number ended with Douglas doing a handstand over Lancaster, who proceeded to carry the dimple-chinned tough guy off the stage. The two reprised the number on film the following year, which kicked off the 31st Academy Awards, with Burt and Kirk doing somersaults. I wonder if George Clooney and Matt Damon will do a number like that at this year’s show…

At the Peak of Their Powers: Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas howling at rehearsals, March 1958.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Random Raves: Burt Lancaster

But as long as I got a foot, I'll kick booze!

As long as I got a fist, I'll punch it!

And as long as I've got a tooth, I'll bite it!

And when I'm old and grey
and toothless and bootless,

I'll gum it, till I go to heaven,
and booze goes to hell!

~Burt Lancaster in Elmer Gantry

Burt Lancaster’s Oscar-winning performance as unholy con man Elmer Gantry (1960) is quite simply the most enjoyable performance I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. From the moment he’s onscreen, Lancaster charms and amuses as he’s sliding across the floor on his knees, railing against sinners, or telling his rapt audience what they want to hear. Burt would appear to have sixty-four teeth instead of the traditional thirty-two, as his zillion megawatt star power shines brighter than any other performance ever. The fact that Lancaster doesn’t get swallowed up by the sometimes lumbering film is testament to his charisma. Witness his rousing singing of the spiritual I’m on My Way, the way he chows down on a simple plate of black-eyed peas and acts as though it were manna from heaven. Lancaster is always “on." Elmer Gantry was his crowning achievement as an actor and anyone who’s seen the movie will never forget his performance. He's commanding on the screen; preaching, shouting, and spellbinding. The movie is eminently quotable, with every confident line delivered in Lancaster’s singular voice (which I've been known to impersonate for unwilling friends, hated enemies, and complete strangers).

In 1997 I was fairly new to classic film (outside of westerns, war, and the Three Stooges) and Lancaster was among the first movie stars I took an interest in watching. He had made a lasting impression on me years before after I saw him in Gunfight at O.K. Corral, but it wasn’t until 1957’s Sweet Smell of Success that I became fascinated with the actor. I had originally sought out the movie because I wanted to soak up the film’s 1950s NYC atmosphere; the nightclubs, the dirty cops, sleazy performers, and down-and-out losers. A friend and I had a weekly ritual of watching two movies every Friday night. The first film of the evening varied, but the finale was always Sweet Smell of Success, which we watched for fifteen consecutive Fridays. The movie itself is brilliant, capturing the New York City in that time and place, and Burt Lancaster’s JJ Hunsecker mesmerized me with his reptilian chill and icy reserve. A character surrounded by expensive art yet asking the slimy Sidney Falco how many S’s there were in “Picasso.” Everything about the character was cold. Then along came 1960 and Elmer Gantry, and a completely hot-blooded character. With these two performances I saw Lancaster in two very different roles at the peak of his powers.

Lancaster was my introduction to the Hollywood I’ve since come to love so much. He wasn’t strictly an action hero like John Wayne and he lacked the polish and sophistication of Cary Grant. But he was so much more adaptable to various roles. Lancaster was always one to choose interesting and challenging parts, ones that sometimes forced him into awkwardness onscreen, Come Back, Little Sheba is the first example of Lancaster “stretching out.” It did nothing for him awards wise, but it enhanced his reputation at a time when leading men stayed well within their limitations. Lancaster was too young for the role, but executes his part admirably. Watch Lancaster with fellow tough guys Robert Ryan and Lee Marvin in 1966's The Professionals. This was the film that made me realize that Burt could hang with the toughest of hombres and still come out on top. His character is by far the most engaging of the group. Lancaster must have learned from his experience with Gary Cooper in 1954’s Vera Cruz, when Lancaster mugs, chews scenery, and carries on while Cooper ends up looking all the better for it! Ten years later, Lancaster underplays Marvin’s tough S.O.B. persona because no one was nastier than Lee Marvin. No one. So Burt goes in another direction and remains the most memorable character in the movie. There’s also The Swimmer (1968), a film based on a haunting John Cheever story about a middle-aged man in crisis—aren’t they always—and having quite a time in dealing with it. I won’t reveal the plot, but I couldn’t imagine any other actor from Lancaster’s generation taking on such a role and being so vulnerable. Burt’s brilliant in it and The Swimmer is one of the great forgotten movies of the 1960s.

Good for the Ladies: Here are Lancaster's female co-stars who were nominated or won Oscars in their films with him: (*won)

Barbara Stanwyck- Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

Shirley Booth*- Come Back, Little Sheba (1952)

Deborah Kerr- From Here to Eternity (1953)

Anna Magnani*- The Rose Tattoo (1955)

Katharine Hepburn- The Rainmaker (1956)

Shirley Jones*- Elmer Gantry (1960)

Susan Sarandon- Atlantic City (1981)

I admire actors whose performances improve as they age (Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Clint Eastwood, John Wayne) and I’ll add Lancaster to that list, too. It would seem that Lancaster was the best possible actor for a novice film buff to follow because his career remained interesting for its entire run, whether it was in a late 1940s Noir (The Killers; I’ll Walk Alone; Criss Cross) the mega star period of the fifties (The Crimson Pirate; From Here to Eternity; Gunfight at the O.K. Corral), his career peak of the early 1960s (Elmer Gantry; The Birdman of Alcatraz), the studied character roles of the late sixties-early seventies (a trio of gritty westerns; Go Tell the Spartans) or his status as elder statesman in the 1980s (Atlantic City; Field of Dreams). Burt Lancaster was my introduction to “grown up” classic films and I couldn’t be happier, or more entertained.

A Man and a Woman: 1960 Best Actor Burt Lancaster with Best Actress winner Elizabeth Taylor. April 17, 1961.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

TIME Will Tell

I'm surprised at how many movie stars graced TIME magazine's cover during the 1930s-50s. Considering that many who appeared on it over the years were supposed to be important yet are totally forgotten today (men of industry, government, business, etc.) makes me wonder just how "important" people in those fields actually are. They may have been essential folk back in their day, but we're still talking about the movie stars. Sorry, Clarence K. should have preserved your life's work on film.

Ginger Rogers April 10, 1939

Bette Davis March 28, 1938

Audrey Hepburn Sep 7, 1953

Elizabeth Taylor August 22, 1949

Katharine Hepburn September 1, 1952

Ava Gardner September 3, 1951
The timing of these cover shots is interesting. Ginger and Bette were at their career peak when they made the cover. Audrey, Ava, and Liz were at the beginning of theirs; Audrey had just made her film debut in Roman Holiday and Taylor was just beginning her career as an adult after a successful run as a child actress. Kate Hepburn was still going strong-- and yes, her cover sketch is far from the most flattering I've seen of her, (it's during her Pat and Mike period, a film I've never liked all that much--considering the director, George Cukor, is revered here at Hollywood Dreamland as are the movie's stars, Spencer Tracy and Kate Hepburn).

I haven't read these issues to determine the substance of the articles, but I'll guess that they were "state of the cinema" pieces, reviews, or personal profiles. In the case of the Ginger Rogers cover, it's about Astaire & Rogers' final 1930s film, The Story of Vernon & Irene Castle and includes a Ginger profile. If a performer made the cover because of their onscreen work rather than any charitable or offscreen accomplishments, but it has gotten me interested enough in TIME's journalistic history to take a closer look at how movie stars were covered in the national, non-movie mag press.

I guess appearing on TIME isn't the immortalization they'd like us to think it is. Maybe popularity is the pocket change of history, I don't know. At least not as far as these movie stars are concerned. Anyway, take a look through TIME's cover archive and see how many people you recognize-- and how many you don't.