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An Open Letter to Netflix

Dear Netflix,

Did you hear something?  If you think you heard some cheering off in the distance, that was the sound of Blockbuster employees and independent video store owners everywhere cheering with delight when you announced your outright stupid new pricing plans today.

But those are probably the only people rejoicing at this news.  By far, the overwhelming consensus I’ve seen from customers has been, “What the *#@! do you think you’re doing?”  I’d say that’s a legitimate question.  Are you trying to help Blockbuster make a comeback?  Did you think you were becoming too successful and thought you would be better off with a few thousand fewer customers?  If any of those were your goals, then congratulations.  Because another common reaction I’ve seen has been, “I got along without Netflix before and I would be willing to do it again.”

But there are a few other pressing questions at hand here.  First of all, what was the line of thought that made you think you could raise the price of an unlimited streaming plus one physical disc at a time package by 60% and not get an overwhelmingly negative response?  And most importantly, where do you get off charging the exact same amount for access to a limited amount of streaming titles as you do for access to a much greater amount of titles on physical DVD?  That’s like going to a restaurant and being told that you can have all the soup you can eat for the same price of a meal that includes soup, salad, an entrée, a side dish, and dessert.  I suppose you might argue that you’re paying for the convenience of being able watch things instantly, but the convenience of being able to watch a limited amount of titles with a degradation in picture quality that comes with streaming video isn’t worth that much.  The only way this idea would be fair would be to make every single title you have on physical DVD also available for streaming.  And I know that won’t be happening.

I’d also really like to know why you think it’s appropriate to charge people who want to keep their unlimited streaming plus one physical disc at a time plan $15.98 per month.  You explain that you arrived at this price by adding $7.99 for an unlimited streaming account and $7.99 for a one disc at a time, unlimited discs per month account.  No.  Just no.  This is outrageous and let me explain why since apparently you don’t get it.  You do realize, don’t you, that there’s overlap between movies that are available for streaming and movies that you have available on DVD.  Are that many people really getting a physical DVD and then watching the exact same movie through Watch Instantly that same month that you can honestly justify charging them twice for access to the same movie?  I doubt it.

Your blatantly idiotic pricing plans particularly hurts the dedicated cinephiles who depend on Netflix for access to classic, foreign, art house, and generally offbeat movies that they just can’t find at their local Blockbuster (if they even have a local Blockbuster anymore) or library.  There’s always Turner Classic Movies, but as wonderful as that is, they can’t possibly show everything.  And what about the people who don’t have cable and therefore aren’t able to watch Turner Classic Movies?  Netflix was by far the best mainstream rental service for those types of movies and now many of them are considering cancelling your service.  Are you trying to encourage people to sign up for Classic Flix or resort to Internet piracy?  Again, if this was your intent, congratulations.

Clearly, all the reports I’ve heard recently about people dropping cable and using only your streaming services have gone to your head and you think you can get away with this.  Which raises one more vital question — just how stupid do you think people are?  If you sincerely thought that there wouldn’t be a lot of outrage over this, you are clearly delusional.  I have a feeling you’re about to realize that you’re not as great as you think you are.

Sincerely,

Angela from The Hollywood Revue

Auction Wrap-Up Post

So, yesterday was a very busy day here.  Now that the auction is over, I just thought I’d post a few things here to wrap things up:

I’ve really got to applaud Debbie Reynolds for all the work she put into maintaining this collection over the years.  Not only did she have a great eye for the really important pieces, she did a wonderful job of keeping them in good condition.  Things that are white can be especially hard to maintain, but Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress from My Fair Lady looked as pristine as the day Audrey first wore it.  She certainly tried to get her museum up and running, but I’m happy she was able to preserve this stuff for as long as she did.

This was actually the first of I believe three auctions of items from Debbie’s collection.  I don’t know whether or not I’ll be live blogging the other auctions yet.  Judging from the traffic I got yesterday, there was definitely a demand for live updates and it was fun knowing I was offering better coverage than mainstream news outlets, but the auction ultimately ran for over twelve hours.  If the other auctions have fewer lots for sale, I’ll definitely consider it.

Speaking of live coverage, a video stream with audio really would have been nice.  I mean really, they were able to have two cameras for different angles, it really wouldn’t have been difficult to get audio, too.

As for the auction itself, I don’t think there were a lot of huge surprises.  I think everyone expected the costumes worn by Marilyn, Audrey, the Wizard of Oz pieces, Chaplin’s hat and Harpo Marx’s hat to be big draws and they definitely were.  Profiles in History really low-balled their estimates and in a lot of cases, literally, all I had to do was blink and the high end of the estimate would already be blown clear out of the water.  I think I actually laughed out loud when I first looked through the catalog and saw a $200-300 estimate on a lot of three Gloria Swanson lobby cards from the silent era.  I was not at all surprised when the bidding flew to $1,200 within seconds.

There were a couple of surprises, though.  I thought the Barbara Streisand stuff would have gone for a lot more, the dress she wore to sing “My Man” in Funny Girl only went for $16,000 and her famous gold dress from Hello, Dolly (which cost $100,000 to make in 1969) sold for $100,000.  Even though that still exceeded the estimate, consider this: according to Inflation Calculator, $100,000 in 1969 is over half a million in today’s money. So basically, that dress somehow depreciated in value.  I kinda thought the Garbo gown would have sold for more just because not only was she one of the biggest stars of the era, she’s also the most mysterious and stuff she wore on screen really doesn’t turn up very often.  Most surprisingly, I was shocked that a couple of Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. costumes did not sell.  I can’t believe that someone out there paid for something worn in Grease 2, but two Doug Fairbanks costumes didn’t sell.  But on the other end of the spectrum, a few things resulted in bidding frenzies I didn’t expect, specifically the Marion Davies portraits and the furniture from The Good Earth.

Of course, one big question remains: who on earth bought all this stuff?  I’m sure more details will come out in the next few days, especially if there were some high profile bidders. According to this article, a lot of stuff was bought by someone representing a Japanese museum and the test costume from The Wizard of Oz and ruby slippers were bought by someone in Saudi Arabia with lots of money from oil. This article names Oprah as a rumored bidder for Marilyn Monroe’s white dress. It also says a lot of Hollywood stars were phone bidders, it would not be surprising if some of those turned out to include Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, or Hugh Hefner. I will update this post if I find more articles that name buyers, or stay tuned to the Facebook page for updates.

Live Post: The Debbie Reynolds Auction

Even though I’m broke and can’t afford to actually bid on anything in today’s auction, there’s so much amazing stuff up for sale today that I can’t resist trying to follow the auction as best I can.  So I figured I’d try my hand at live blogging and cover the auction the best I can as it happens.  I’m not going to cover every single item up for sale, but I’ll try to keep you updated about some of the more noteworthy items.  So stay tuned, sit back, relax, and live vicariously through other people who can afford to spend insane amounts of money on movie memorabilia.  And I’m just putting it out there right now: I would not be even remotely surprised if Hugh Hefner buys Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from The Seven Year Itch.  A million dollar absentee bid has already been placed on it, so it will definitely be sold for at least that much today.

If you want to follow along with the auction live, just go here, click on “Live Bidding”, then click the option to just watch the auction. There is a live video stream, but no audio.

Updates:

Note – The selling prices I list here don’t include the buyer’s premium.  If you see articles about Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz test costume selling for more than a million, that source factored in the buyer’s premium.

3:12 PM – The first lot, a 1915 35mm Bell and Howell camera just sold for $32,500!

3:16 PM – Rudolph Valentino’s matador suit from Blood and Sand just went for $210,000.

3:19 PM – Mary Pickford’s headpiece from Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall went for $3,250.

3: 21 PM- Francis X. Bushman’s charioteer helmet from 1925’s Ben Hur sold for $30,000!

3:26 PM – Harold Lloyd’s suit and hat went for $4,000!

3:34 PM – Mary Pickford’s gown from The Taming of the Shrew sold for $17,000.

3:36 PM – Lots 17 and 18, both Douglas Fairbanks costumes from The Taming of the Shrew sold for $20,000 and lot 18 didn’t sell.

3:38 PM – One of Charlie Chaplin’s infamous hats went for $110,000!

3:40 PM – A Model T used by Laurel and Hardy sold for $32,500 and a pair of their suits went for $16,000.

3:42 PM – Carole Lombard’s gown from No Man of Her Own sold for $11,000.

3:47 PM – Claudette Colbert’s Cleopatra gown went for $40,000.

3:52 PM – Greta Garbo’s gown from Anna Karenina also sold for $40,000!

3:53 PM – Harpo Marx’s hat and wig went for $45,000!

4:10 PM – Lots 42, 43, and 44 are the paintings commissioned by Marion Davies and respectively went for $10,000, $11,000, and $17,000.  These really got the bidders going.

4:17  PM – W.C. Fields’ joke box sold for $35,000.

4:39 PM – Norma Shearer’s purple gown from Romeo and Juliet went for $20,000.

5:04 PM – Now we’re into stuff from The Good Earth and people went nuts for some of the furniture!  The pair of chairs went for $20,000, the opium bed for $20,000, two Paul Muni robes for $4,000 each, Luise Rainer’s shirt for $2,000, the lot of stands and other furniture for $3,500, and Luise Rainer’s jacket for $3,000.

5:13  PM – A gown worn by Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette and Lucille Ball in Du Barry was a Lady sold for $11,000.

5:44 PM – Oh, now we’re into a busy bunch of lots!  First up was Marlene Dietrich’s outfit from “The Boys in the Backroom” number in Destry Rides Again, which went for $8,000, one of Judy Garland’s test costumes from The Wizard of Oz went for $910,000, a test pair of the ruby slippers sold for $510,000, an extra’s jacket from the Emerald City scenes of the Wizard of Oz sold for $22,500, Clark Gable’s dressing robe from the production of Gone With the Wind went for $10,000, and Basil Rathbone’s famous Sherlock Holmes caped overcoat sold for $50,000!

5:54 PM – Vivien Leigh’s suit from Waterloo Bridge sold for $16,000.

6:09 PM – Gary Cooper’s military uniform from Sergeant York went for $55,000.

6:16 PM – A couple of costumes worn by James Cagney in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the satin jockey shirt went for $27,500 and the clown outfit sold for $15,000.

6:19 PM – Not so fast, Louis!  A suit worn by Claude Rains in Casablanca sold for $55,000!

6:53 PM – Took a dinner break and missed another busy bunch of lots!  Elizabeth Taylor’s riding outfit from National Velvet went for $60,000, Judy Garland’s “Under the Bamboo Tree” dress from Meet Me in St. Louis sold for $16,000, Judy’s dress from the snowman building scene in Meet Me in St. Louis went for $10,000, Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra’s sailor suits from Anchors Aweigh went for $27,500 and $15,000 respectively.

7:00 PM – $22,500 for Joan Crawford’s waitress uniform from Mildred Pierce and $5,000 for Ann Blyth’s Mildred Pierce suit.

7:05 PM – Edmund Gwenn’s Santa suit from Miracle on 34th Street just sold for $22,500.

8:12 PM – The gold lame dress worn by Ginger Rogers in The Barkleys of Broadway went for $8,000.

8:51 PM – The chiffon robe worn by Vivien Leigh in A Streetcar Named Desire sold for $18,000.  Then it went into a bunch of items from An American in Paris with Leslie Caron’s peacock dress from the fantasy ballet number for $15,000, Nina Foch’s white halter gown from a party scene for $3,000, and a showgirl costume from the Stairway to Paradise number for $1,100.

9:05 PM – We have reached the Singin’ in the Rain part of the auction.  First were the green and white checked suits worn by Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly, $8,000 and $14,000 respectively.  Jean Hagen’s Marie Antoinette-esque dress sold for $5,500 and Gene Kelly’s period costume went for $9,000.  Debbie’s green and white leaf print dress went for $15,000, Gene Kelly’s jacket from the Broadway Melody Ballet number went for $6,500, Jean Hagen’s black and white fur coat went for $6,000, Donald O’Connor’s “Good Morning” suit didn’t sell, Cyd Charisse’s white Broadway Melody Ballet outfit for $7,000, and Debbie’s “Good Morning” dress went for $27,500.  A pink dress worn by Gwen Carter sold for $3,750, and a bunch of costumes from the “Beautiful Girl” montage brought $5,500.

9:22 PM – Now we’re getting into some of the Marilyn Monroe and Marilyn-related items.  First up is Marilyn’s red “Two Little Girls from Little Rock” dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, which brought $1.2 million!  Then came the feathered hat worn by Jane Russell when she impersonates Loreli Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, that sold for $4,250.  Lauren Bacall’s wedding dress from How to Marry a Millionaire went for $8,000 and the car used by Marilyn and Cary Grant in Monkey Business sold for $210,000.

9:48 PM – A lot of two safari outfits worn by Grace Kelly in Mogambo sold for $47,500.  A Winchester rifle used by Clark Gable in Mogambo brought in $15,000.

10:00 PM – A couple more from Marilyn Monroe.  The gold dress from River of No Return went for $510,000 and her costume from the “Heat Wave” number in There’s No Business Like Show Business brought in $500,000!

10:52 PM – After a little break, we’re back with the dress everyone’s been waiting for — the infamous Marilyn Monroe white subway dress from The Seven Year Itch.  I fully expected bidding to be out of control for this one and I wasn’t disappointed.  It brought in an astonishing $4.6 million!

11:03 PM – Now we’ve got a couple from To Catch a Thief.  A coat worn by Cary Grant brought in $15,000 and an outfit worn by Grace Kelly earned a jaw dropping $450,000!

11:41 PM – A couple of dresses worn by Deborah Kerr in An Affair to Remember brought in $6,000 and $11,000.

12:17 AM – One of Lana Turner’s dresses from Peyton Place sold for $4,250.

12:22 AM – Lot number 407 is rather unique because it includes things worn by both Kim Novak and Rita Hayworth in Pal Joey.  It went for $6,500.

12:29 AM – Leslie Caron’s iconic plaid schoolgirl outfit from Gigi went for $65,000.

12:40 AM – Charlton Heston’s tunic and cape from Ben Hur could have been yours for the low, low price of $320,000!

1:32 AM – Marlon Brando’s naval outfit from Mutiny on the Bounty just brought in $90,000!

2:12 AM – Elizabeth Taylor’s famous headdress from Cleopatra went for $100,000 and Richard Burton’s tunic, cape, and sword brought in $85,000.

Oh, who cares what time it is anymore?  Yes, I’m still going!  Aren’t these people tired and broke yet?!  Janet Leigh’s yellow fringed dress from Bye Bye Birdie fetched $3,750 and Bette Davis’ blood stained dress from Hush, Hush…Sweet Charlotte sold for $11,000.

Another big item to watch tonight was Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress from My Fair Lady.  I fully expected it to exceed the $200,000-$300,000 and it sure did.  It went up to $3.7 million!

I would say that the hills are alive with the sound of music, but at this time of night, I’m pretty sure that’s a noise ordinance violation.  Julie Andrews’ guitar went for $140,000, her jumper from the “Do Re Mi” number for $550,000, her turquoise and green dress for $45,000, the peasant dress went for $42,500, and a pair of the Trapp children’s outfits sold for $35,000.

And at long last we have reached the Barbara Streisand part of the auction.  First from Funny Girl is her costume from “I’d Rather Be Blue” for $65,000, a lot of the other roller skating costumes for $2,500, the black velvet dress from “My Man” for $16,000, a bunch of stuff worn by the Ziegfeld girls in the “His Love Makes Me Beautiful” number for $7,500, Anne Francis’ silk dress for $1,800, and Kay Medford’s beaded shawl for $1,400.

A jacket worn by Robert Redford in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid brought $8,500 and a dress worn by Katharine Ross went for $16,000.

And back to Streisand.  The purple Hello, Dolly dress went for $55,000 and the gold dress for $100,000.  Surprised the gold dress went for that little, that’s how much it cost to make that dress back in the day.

You’ll be fascinated to know that a shirt worn in the cinematic masterpiece known as Grease 2 sold for $475.

We have finally made it to the final segment of posters/portraits!  The title cards for Blind Husbands fetched $2,000, the lot of three Gloria Swanson title/lobby cards sold for $1,200, the portrait of Gloria Swanson went for $8,500, the lot of two Mabel Normand lobby cards for $800, the pair of silent title/lobby cards for $1,600, the lobby card for Lon Chaney’s The Penalty for $1,700, and the lobby card for Chaplin’s The Idle Class for $1,600.  The portrait of Jean Harlow went for $11,000!

Now it’s high time I called it a night!  Good night everybody!

Why a Thin Man Remake is Doomed to Fail

Oh, how I was hoping talk of this remake would just go away.  But nope, it looks like they’re serious about remaking The Thin Man with Johnny Depp. *sigh*  When I first heard about this, I think I yelled, “NO!” the exact same way Myrna Loy did in that scene from the first Thin Man movie where Nora is very hung over and Nick offers her a pick-me-up.

To me, The Thin Man is a movie that simply can’t be remade in a way that would do justice to the original.  There are a lot of reasons that the original movie is so perfect.  You’ve got Myrna Loy and William Powell, who are both simply divine in their respective roles.  But Johnny Depp is a good actor, right?  I do like Johnny Depp, but when you’re best known for playing a Keith Richards-inspired pirate and being a muse to Tim Burton, I have a very hard time picturing you in any role originated by William Powell.  Then there’s W.S. Van Dyke’s direction.  But Rob Marshall is an Oscar nominee, so he must be good, right?  OK, so I don’t really have a problem with Marshall directing.  And I can’t forget the razor-sharp writing of the original movie!  Considering the article I linked to names Jerry Stahl as the writer for the remake, then cites him as being a writer for CSI and Bad Boys II, I’m rather concerned about just how genuinely witty and sophisticated this will be.

But the acting, direction, and writing aren’t the only reasons why The Thin Man was excellent.  The real glue that brought the movie together was that spectacular chemistry between Myrna Loy and William Powell.  Their chemistry is always a joy to watch in any movie, but when you put that spark together with that director and that ultra witty script, you get cinematic perfection.  Even if Johnny Depp surprises me and does a great job as Nick Charles and the screenplay is truly delightful, they will never be able to recreate that infamous Loy/Powell chemistry.

I believe that remakes, in theory, can work.  But when a huge part of the appeal of the original hinges on an intangible quality, I really don’t have much hope for the success of a remake.  The part of Nora Charles has yet to be cast, but whoever it ends up being could have fabulous chemistry with Johnny Depp, but it could be the wrong type of chemistry for something like this.  Just try to imagine The Thin Man with some other classic film duos as Nick and Nora.  It just wouldn’t have worked as well starring Bogie and Bacall, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, or Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.  Even though I don’t think a Tracy/Hepburn version would be so bad, it just wouldn’t be the same without Loy and Powell.  They were made for movies like The Thin Man and trying to recapture that is like trying to make lightning strike the same place twice.

Tura Satana (1935-2011)

The name Tura Satana may not ring many bells to mainstream film aficionados, but to those who appreciate the cult classics, Tura Satana was a true legend.  Best known for starring as Varla in Russ Meyer’s Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, she also made appearances in Our Man Flint, The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,  and played a streetwalker alongside Shirley MacLaine in Irma La Douce.  A lot of people don’t realize what a fascinating life she led.  Her life story sounds like it could be the plot of one of her movies.

Born in Japan, she spent some of her childhood in the Manzanar internment camp in California before moving to Chicago with her family after World War II.  But once she got to Chicago, she had to deal with a lot of the anti-Asian attitudes prevalent in America at the time.  When she was nine years old, she was walking home from school one day when five men raped her.  The men who attacked her went unpunished and the judge actually sent Tura to reform school instead, but Tura took the old adage of “that what does not kill us, makes us stronger” to heart.  She took up martial arts and made it her goal to hunt down each of her attackers and make them pay — which she did.  While in reform school, she became the leader of a gang before getting married at the age of thirteen in an arranged marriage.  She then moved to Los Angeles and became a model.  When she posed for Harold Lloyd, he told her she was beautiful and encouraged her to get into movies, words that meant a lot to someone who still felt like an awkward teenager.  When she returned to Chicago, she became a queen of burlesque and worked with other burlesque icons such as Tempest Storm and even attracted the attention of Elvis Presley, who once proposed to her.

In 1963, she made her film debut with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine in Billy Wilder’s Irma La Douce.  She made a few other appearances here and there before her career-defining role as Varla in  Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! in 1965.  Tura didn’t just play Varla, she was Varla.  Of course, her figure made her the perfect star for a Russ Meyer movie, but with her martial arts skills and no-nonsense attitude, nobody could have ever played that part better.  Watching that movie, it’s no surprise at all that she spent some of her youth as a gang leader!  After FPKK, she made a few more movies before taking a job working in a hospital and later as a police dispatcher.  In recent years, she spent a lot of time traveling and making appearances to meet fans of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and shortly before her death had been working on a documentary of her remarkable life.

Faster, Pussycat is one of my favorite movies, so I truly was sad to hear Tura had died on February 4th.  Even though she was one woman you’d never want to cross, she was always exceptionally gracious to her fans.  After I saw FPKK for the first time a few years ago, I went to her website and saw that she had an official MySpace page so I sent her a friend request, assuming I’d just get accepted automatically and that’d be it.  Imagine my surprise when I got a personal message from Tura asking why I requested her because she noticed I hadn’t mentioned any of her movies on my page.  So I explained that I had just recently seen FPKK and loved it and loved her in it, and she replied saying she was glad to hear I liked it so much and welcomed me as part of her Pussycat Gang.  I was quite impressed that she actually took the time to look at her fans’ pages and only wanted to accept people who really were fans.  I admire how she was able to rise above so much and come out so strong, I love how much she embraced her legacy as Varla, and I always like a person who is good to their fans.  She was a truly amazing woman who will be greatly missed.

Celebrating 100 Years of Jean Harlow

Whether you’ve been a fan of Jean Harlow’s for a while or you’re just getting acquainted with her work, this is a very exciting time to be a Harlow fan.  March 3, 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Jean Harlow’s birth and there are lots of exciting things going on to celebrate.  First, TCM just released a collection of four of her most memorable movies: Dinner at Eight, Libeled Lady, China Seas and Wife Vs. Secretary.  TCM will also be featuring Jean as their star of the month in March, so lots of her movies will be coming up soon on there.  But what I’m most excited for is a new book, “Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937” by Darrell Rooney and Mark Viera.  I have a big weakness for books chock full of beautiful pictures and “Harlow in Hollywood” boasts tons of previously unpublished pictures of the original blonde bombshell.  My pal Carley from The Kitty Packard Pictorial recently sat down with Rooney and Viera to discuss the new book and an upcoming Jean Harlow exhibit in Los Angeles and she has kindly let me re-print some of that interview here:

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On the Subject of Remakes

There are few topics that get movie fans riled up quite the way the subject of remakes does.  Some people don’t mind them and are glad that they get people talking about the original versions again.  But then there are others who hate remakes because they could never live up to the original, because they show a lack of creativity, etc.

Personally, I’m not inherently against remakes because sometimes they can be done well.  After all, The Maltese Falcon, A Star is Born, The Letter, Waterloo Bridge, The Man Who Knew Too Much are all classics that are best known in their remade forms.  Or sometimes the remake offers a twist on the original that helps it to stand on its own.  A more modern example of that would be the 2007 version of Hairspray.  I really enjoy both versions of Hairspray, but the 2007 version is so different from the original that I tend to think of it independently from the 1988 version.

Even though I’m not totally anti-remake, I can’t help but roll my eyes when I hear that yet another remake is in the works.  Most of the time, they just seem so completely and totally unnecessary.  King Kong was fine the way it was, we really didn’t need Peter Jackson to come and turn it into a three hour movie.  Other times, I think the casting is atrocious.  Not too long ago, there was some talk of a remake of The Thin Man starring Johnny Depp as Nick Charles.  I do like Johnny Depp, I just think he’s all wrong for the part.  The recent news of a remake of A Star is Born starring Beyoncé and directed by Clint Eastwood definitely falls into the “atrocious casting” category for me.

I don’t really have an issue with A Star is Born being remade since, after all, my favorite version of that movie isn’t the original Janet Gaynor version.  I’m not even particularly bothered by the idea of Clint Eastwood taking on a musical.  Hey, he’s Clint Eastwood, I figure by now he’s earned the right to try directing whatever genre he wants.  I just really wish they would  have gone with an actual actress to remake it with.  What I’ve seen of Beyoncé’s acting has been, at best, pretty mediocre.  The other big issue I have with it is that it has all the makings of painfully obvious Oscar bait.  All of Eastwood’s recent work has been pretty major Oscar bait and Beyoncé so very desperately wants to be a triple threat, Beyoncé teaming up with Eastwood is the most incredibly desperate ploy to try to win a Best Actress nomination I have ever heard of.  It’s like she never got over being upstaged by Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls, which was really supposed to be a vehicle for Beyoncé, so now she’s trying to work with someone the Academy has an awfully hard time saying “no” to.  It all just comes off as ridiculously lame to me.  And I really hate to use the word “lame” to describe a Clint Eastwood project.

Time Traveler in Chaplin’s The Circus?

It seems like I can’t go anywhere these days without hearing about something related to time travel.  First it was the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future, now I keep hearing about a guy who claims to have found a person talking on a cell phone in footage from the 1928 premiere of Charlie Chaplin’s The Circus.  If you haven’t already seen the footage, here you go:

Or if you’d like to see it along with the comments of the guy who discovered it, you can see that here. Feel free to make your own conclusions.

As for my opinion on it, I don’t think its anything noteworthy.  It could be a lot of things.  Personally, if I were to go through all the trouble of mastering time travel to go back to the 1920s and crash a silent movie set or premiere, I’d want to make it nice and obvious that I came from the future.  I’d show up wearing my Ramones shirt, I’d bring a current copy of People Magazine, or I’d be holding up a copy of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon album.  If you’re going to go and succeed at doing something widely considered to be impossible, what’s the point in announcing it by doing something so very ambiguous like talking on a cell phone?  Why invest all that time and energy just to have people say, “Meh, I’m sure he or she is probably just blocking their face.”

Films Rediscovered

I don’t think there is any news that thrills classic film fans more than news that a movie that was thought to be lost has been found.  With the news that an astounding 75 lost silent films have been found in New Zealand, I’m sure many fans of silents are feeling like they just won the lottery.  It’s exciting enough when just one lost film is rediscovered, but to find 75 of them is truly incredible.  Among the most noteworthy finds are: Upstream, directed by John Ford; The Woman Hater, starring Pearl White; Won in a Cupboard, directed by legendary Mack Sennett star Mabel Normand; Mary of the Movies, which is now the oldest known surviving movie produced by Columbia; and Maytime, starring the ‘it’ girl herself, Clara Bow.

It is believed that about 80% of films from the 1890s-early 1930s are now lost for good.  In some cases, virtually nothing exists anymore from some of the biggest stars of the time.  Theda Bara starred in 40 films during her career, but only three and a half currently exist.  But luckily, the films of other major stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, Mary Pickford, and Douglas Fairbanks fared much better and very little of their careers have been lost to the ages.

There are many reasons for how films wind up being lost.  In many cases, the films just weren’t well cared for.  In the early days of film, nobody was thinking that anybody would be interested in this stuff a century later so they thought nothing of throwing away unused footage or entire movies that no longer had any commercial value.  Sometimes films would be destroyed in order to recycle the silver in the film stock.  Nitrate film stock is extremely volatile and can easily catch on fire if it is improperly stored.  Fox lost all of their pre-1935 negatives due to a vault fire.  If they didn’t burst into flames, they’d often just decay and disintegrate into a pile of dust.  A lot of times, scenes would be cut after initial screenings to make it more marketable or due to censorship.  Most famously, much of the original cut of Metropolis was lost for decades before a complete print was discovered in Argentina in 2008.  And then there’s the Judy Garland version of A Star is Born.  That one had to be drastically cut down after its premiere and is currently available in a nearly complete restored version, but a complete print is believed to exist.  And then there’s the case of 1933’s Convention City.  The entire film was intentionally destroyed because it was way too pre-code to even be censored and re-released while the Production Code Administration was in charge.

Since I love the stories about how lost films (or lost scenes) surface, here are some of my favorite rediscovery stories:

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