Long before video became the standard home format for movies taken by family of loved ones, friends, and maybe even of some gory accidents you happen to come across that may make it on the local news, there were 8mm home movies. One of my uncles was the first in the family to have an 8mm camera which he purchased around the time of the birth of their first child and my cousin. We lived near each other and subsequently I made it on to the grainy screen in quite a few of the 50 foot reels. While most of the movies were dedicated to family there were a couple of minutes of celluloid my uncle shot that had nothing to do with family. This was way back in the 1950’s and they were dismantling the 3rd Avenue El, the last of the above ground subways to run in Manhattan. My uncle shot some footage and its amazing footage to watch of a New York City now long gone. Continue reading
Tab Hunter Confidential is an insightful and personal look at a man who despite the Hollywood system managed to find a path to inner peace and happiness. His honestly and sense of self come clearly through. The film is also an excellent look at the Hollywood system’s inner workings into the making of a star and the secrets that are buried. We learn how he was groomed for stardom as the clean cut, boy next door type. His face appeared on the cover of hundreds and hundreds of fan magazines. He dated beautiful starlets including Natalie Wood. He appeared in hit films and recorded number one charting records. Yet, Tab Hunter was not real. Continue reading
The pounding beat of Billy Haley’s Rock Around the Clock as the screen darkens got teens of the day up and dancing in the aisles. Theater owners in various cities throughout the country were nervous. Some theaters shut off the sound system during those opening credits fearing teens would quickly get out of control. Censors, parents groups, religious groups and law enforcement all had their say in speaking out against the film. One censor in Memphis, called the film, “the vilest picture I have ever seen in twenty six years as a censor.” Rock Around the Clock was original released in mid-1954 by Haley as a B-side to the song Thirteen Women (And the Only Man in Town). It was not until director Richard Brooks wanted the song for the film’s opening and closing credits that it rocked to the top of the charts selling more than two million copies. Rock Around the Clock was not the first rock and roll record, nor was it the first hit. It was the first to hit number one on the record charts. Its social impact was massive, helping pave the way for another southern boy, a sexy, better looking boy than the chubby, curly twirled haired Haley, to explode on to the national scene. Despite the film’s opening and closing credits filled with the early rock classic most of the soundtrack is jazz. Continue reading
Twenty Four Frames was started eight years ago this month. It wasn’t much and as I looked back at some of the post I wrote back then they came across as pretty bad. I’ve grown, me thinks, as has the blog. As sort of a small celebration, for lack of a better term, I have come up with a list of films I am calling 8 by 8 by 8. Eight years, eight lists and eight films on each lists. The films are not in any particular order, but they do represent some of my favorites in each group. Some of the films selected could have easily fell into two categories. For example, A Face in the Crowd which I included in my Journalism/Media category could easily fit into the politics group. The same could be said for All the President’s Men. I wanted to listed a different film in each category, so I resisted the temptation of repeating.
Frank Sinatra was never shy about expressing his political beliefs. As far back as 1945, he made The House I Live, an eleven minute short film with a plea for tolerance. By 1960, Frank was back on top of the entertainment world. He was one of the most powerful figures in Hollywood. Still a political liberal, Sinatra wanted to produce and direct a serious film. He chose William Bradford Huie’s non-fiction book, The Execution of Private Slovik (1954), the story of the only American soldier executed since the Civil War. Sinatra hired Albert Maltz, who coincidently happened to have written the The House I Live In script to do the adaptation. Maltz was one of the original Hollywood Ten blacklisted in Hollywood. By 1960, HUAC and the witch hunts were over, though remnants of the stink it created remained. Many writers still could not get a job, at least under their own name. Continue reading
Elvis Presley made three films set in Florida. Of the three, only one, Follow That Dream, was actually shot in the Sunshine State. Girl Happy and Clambake, except for some second unit work, were shot in California with west coast beaches substituting for the pristine Florida beaches. You know how the thinking goes, put a couple of strategically placed Palm trees around and who can tell the difference? Well, maybe some will not, but some folks will recognize in Clambake that Florida has no mountain ranges that we clearly see in some shots. Continue reading
Back in 1968, Wild in the Streets was AIP’s low budget youth generation attempt at political satire. Directed by long time TV director Barry Shear (The Todd Killings) it stars James Dean clone Christopher Jones as twenty-four year old rock star Max Frost. Max is charismatic, and he rallies the American youth with songs like “We’re 52%” and with plans to take over the political process making the rock singer himself President. Not trusting anyone over 30 is their mantra. It’s time for the youth generation to take over country. After all, it was all these “old timers” who got us into every mess since the beginning: war, famine, racial hatred, poverty, etc. Max’s plan is collect all the “old” people and put them into concentration type camps feeding them LSD so they will trip out and not harm anyone or their pitiful older shelves. This even includes Max’s own parents from his trouble childhood. With the “old” folks in storage, Max sees no need for war. It’s all sex, drugs and rock and roll. He disbands the military as well as the FBI and The CIA. If your under 30 the world will be peachy. The unanswered question is what happens to Max and all the others once they reach the despicable age of 30? Continue reading