I first became aware of movies as a young kid watching “B” westerns on TV with my father on Saturday afternoons; Johnny Mack Brown westerns always comes to mind when I think of this. There were plenty of other cowboy films in the 1950s; showing westerns was popular back then with TV stations looking to fill up airtime. I can remember my father reminiscing about his own cowboy hero, silent film star William S. Hart, who apparently at the end of the film would ride off with his horse into the sunset, leaving the girl behind. Whether he actually did this or not, I don’t know, but that’s the story my father handed down. Continue reading
Not everyone is fortunate enough to have someone, like Julia Child, to cook dinner for them.
Elmore Leonard was one of my favorite writers. His crime novels were smart, filled with quirky characters and brilliantly entertaining dialogue. Sadly, Leonard passed away earlier today at the age of 87 after suffering a stroke three weeks ago. Many of his novels were made into films. When done right, they were as unique and as inventive as his books, works like Get Shorty and Jackie Brown, the second based on his novel Rum Punch, was directed by Quentin Tarantino. His characters were a rogueish lot full of brutes and con artists. Unforgettably slick with a dangerous charm; think Chili Palmer, Jack Foley and Raylan Givens, it really didn’t matter what side of the law they were on, they were always memorable. Continue reading
The Shanghai Gesture (***1/2) Such an amazingly lurid, corrupt and wicked film to ever come out of Hollywood during the heyday of the Motion Picture Production Code. Gene Tierney is Poppy a spoiled young woman out for a good time in Shangahi. One night she parties in the biggest gambling house in town owned by Gin Sling (Ona Munson). Meanwhile, entrepreneur Sir Guy Charteris (Walter Huston) is buying up large pieces of land in Shanghai including the property where Gin Sling’s gambling casino is located. When Gin Sling finds out Poppy is Sir Guy’s daughter she gets the slimy looking Doctor Omar (Victor Mature) to seduce wild child Poppy into the dark world of gambling, drugs and alcohol. A climatic Chinese New Year’s dinner reveals secrets and skeletons hidden in the closet that forever change lives. Gene Tierney, barely twenty one at the time, over plays some of her more dramatic scenes but makes up for it in her looks. Overall, this late Von Sternberg is not completely successful, but there is some nice photography and a fantastic crane shot worthy of his best work. Continue reading
Welcome to the third annual Twenty Four Frames Top Ten List of Classic Films Watched… For The First Time. In 2012, more than ever the list turned out to have an international flavor with only three films from the U.S. making the top 10. Three films from Italy also made the list as well as two from Great Britain and one each from Japan and France. The decade of the 1960′s had the most films with three. Both the 1940′s and 1950′s had two films each. The 1980′s was the most recent decade and the 1910′s was the earliest. There are 10 honorable mentions all of which are worthy works in and of themselves and deserve to be seen. For easy access, I have provided a link to all the films watched in 2012. Continue reading
This is the second in a series of posts I am doing of photographs I have taken over the years of classic movie theaters. Since living in the Tampa Bay area I have had the opportunity to attend shows at The Tampa Theater many times. It opened in 1926 and remains today an active movie theater showing current independent, foreign and classic films. Here is a link to the theater’s website and history. Some of the photos are of questionable quality but I hope you enjoy them anyway. Continue reading
As some of you may know I am a photographer of sorts. One of my pet projects is photographing old movie theaters. Whenever I travel I try to find old movie theaters wherever I go. I actually photographed my first theaters back in the 1970′s when I lived in New York City. Of course, back then these theaters were not old classic movie theaters, they were the theaters you visited every week. That all said, I thought I would share some of these photos I have taken over the past few years in a short series, six in all, I will occasionally post. These are no great works of ‘art’ here, just a look at days gone by. I will provide any information on the theater that I am aware, some personal memories and links to the theaters that are still active today in some form.
First up are those New York City theaters.
The Loew’s Oriental was the local theater in the Bensonhurst neighborhood of Brooklyn where I spent most of my youth. Many Saturday afternoons were spent in this grand theater watching films like “Thief of Bagdad,” “Visit to a Small Planet,” “The Wackiest Ship in the Army,” “Exodus” and many more. Jerry Lewis toured the Loew’s movie chain during the release of one of his movies, I think it was “The Nutty Professor” and I got to see him there live. The theater was twinned in 1977, the same year this photo was taken. Today the theater is a Marshalls Department Store.
The Baronet/Coronet Theaters, along with the Cinema I and Cinema II were located on the same block with just a Bookmasters store in between. These four theaters were once the primo theaters for big movie releases during the 1960′s and 70′s. Foreign films like Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” and Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” to domestic works like “The Exorcist” and “The Graduate” had their premiere engagements at one of these fours theaters located on the Upper East Side. One personal experience I had happened one weekday afternoon in September of 1976 . I took a half day off from work to go see Woody Allen’s film “The Front” which opened that day and was playing at the Coronet. The theater was fairly crowded for a weekday afternoon. After the film was over and everyone began filing out I suddenly noticed walking out right in front of me were John Lennon and Yoko Ono! Growing up in the 60′s, and a Beatles fan, I pretty much stood there stunned. I never saw The Beatles in concert but over the years I got to see Paul, George and Ringo separately in concerts and I got to go to the movies, well sorta, with John.
Loew’s State 1 and 2
The Loew’s State opened on Broadway in 1926. Over the years its marquee has gone through several reconstructions and in 1968 the theater was twined. ”Ben-Hur,” had its World Premiere here as a road show engagement and ran for 74 weeks. Other major films to premiere at the Loew’s State include ”Becket,” ”Mutiny on the Bounty,” “Some Like it Hot” and “The Godfather.”
I have just started a Twenty Four Frames Facebook page which will focus exclusively on film, and maybe some TV. Unlike my blog this will be open to discussion on all film, all genres and all types; classic, current Hollywood, art, foreign, independent, documentaries and experimental. I am looking to link not only my own blog articles but will be linking articles from some of my favorite blogs along with other postings from other sources as well as original entries. Feel free to not only leave comments but add your own postings, links or thoughts. They just have to be film related and at a civil and respectful level. You can disagree all you want but there is no need to see comments like “This film was a piece of X%$#! What the @&$#$# are you talking about?” Leave this kind of commentary in your own backyard or it will be deleted.
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Ever since I became seriously interested in film, it was for me, the director who was the driving force behind the film. It was always Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” “Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie and Clyde” or Billy Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot.” This thought or attitude is easily attributable to the influence of Andrew Sarris and the auteur theory he championed. Sarris died today (June 20th) at the age of eighty-three. As the long time critic for The Village Voice and later, The New York Observer, Sarris was a unique voice championing film and filmmakers, ready to do battle and he did, most famously with Pauline Kael.
For years, I read Sarris’ Village Voice reviews each week. As a young cineaste I plowed through my well worn copy of “The American Cinema: Directors and Direction 1929-1968,” Sarris’ assessment and categorizing of some 200 hundred or so filmmakers. For me, he opened up doors and behind them were brilliant filmmakers and their films to be discovered and enjoyed.
Sarris and Kael ushered in the golden age of movie criticism. It was a time when movies meant something more than just how much they cost to make or how much they made at the box office over the weekend. Movies were argued about, discussed over dinner or coffee, film theories were praised and damned. They were art and treated as art.