Book Review: The First King of Hollywood: The Life of Douglas Fairbanks

King   Except for his best friend, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks was the biggest and best known superstar of silent films. He basically established the swashbuckler sub-genre with films like The Mark of Zorro, The Thief of Bagdad, The Three Musketeers and Robin Hood. Before Errol Flynn, before Tyrone Power ever picked up a sword, Fairbanks and his acrobatic style brought new adventures and thrills to early film audiences. Continue reading

A Hard Day’s Night (1964) Richard Lester

Beatles4   When A Hard Day’s Night was first released everyone was expecting the English pop groups’ version of an Elvis movie, It Happened at the British Open or something as nonsensical as that. Just have John Lennon and Paul McCartney pump out a half a dozen or so new songs, create a soundtrack, release the album and sell millions for United Artists. The studio was just looking to cash in on the music quickly before the fad of Beatlemania would fade from the memory of teenagers around the world. In February 1964, The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show where more than 60 million viewers watched. The time was ripe for a film, but it had to be made quick and cheap, United Artists, not wanting to spring for any extra dollars. What producer, Walter Shenson, got along with the studio, the music critics and the public, instead was a surprisingly energetic, pulsating, witty, frenetic, somewhat fictional day in the life that film critic Andrew Sarris, in his original Village Voice review, called “the Citizen Kane of juke-box musicals.” Continue reading

Island of Doomed Men (1940) Charles Barton

DoomedPeter Lorre was unhappy with his career since coming to work for 20th Century Fox. After working with filmmakers like Fritz Lang (M), Alfred Hitchcock (The Man ho Knew Too Much, Secret Agent) and Josef Von Sternberg (Crime and Punishment), Fox Studio, basically reduced Lorre to B films. Of those low-budget films, most were part of the Mr. Moto series where Lorre played another version of Charlie Chan. Instead of Chinese, Mr. Moto was Japanese. Like Chan, Moto started his life in print (Saturday Evening Post, novels) and would expand to movies, radio, comic books and most recently in a 2003 graphic novel. With the advent of World War II, the Moto films became persona non grata. Mr. Moto Takes a Vacation, released in July of 1939, turned into a permanent vacation for the series. It was the last Moto film released by Fox. Continue reading