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.
The Cameraman is an ode to the world of filmmaking. Like Sherlock Jr. this is a film about an artist looking inward at himself and his art. It was Keaton’s first film for MGM and not directed by him. However, while officially directed by Edward Sedgwick, Keaton’s foot prints are all over the film. Buster, who liked to improvise, was forced by the MGM honchos to have a completed script along with all the jokes and pratfalls worked out in advance. Still, there is a feeling that Keaton managed to work in some inspiring improvisational moments during the making of the film. This despite all the corporate overseeing and demands. The Cameraman ranks up there with Keaton’s best work. The corporate interference was sadly a sign of things to come. Continue reading →
Released earlier this month, The Real James Dean: Intimate Memories from Those Who Knew Him Best is a collection of previously published articles written by Dean’s family, friends, co-workers and professional contemporaries, in other words, by those who really knew the rebel icon. Many of the articles have been unavailable since they were first published, some as far back as more than sixty years ago. They cover his entire short life from his childhood days in Indiana until his untimely death on September 30, 1955 at the age of twenty-four. Edited by Peter. L. Winkler (Dennis Hopper: The Wild Ride of a Hollywood Rebel) the book reveals an individual of complexity, admired by some and despised by others, but always fascinating. Continue reading →
The Coconuts began its life as a Broadway musical comedy. Written by George S. Kaufman with music by Irving Berlin, it was the Marx Brothers second appearance on Broadway, the first being a musical revue called, I’ll Say She Is. According to the IBDB, The Coconuts opened in late December 1925 and closed in August of the following year. A revival opened in May 1927 and ran for a successful one year. Before being cemented forever on celluloid, Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo would do one more play, Animal Crackers, which would become their second film. Continue reading →
The Seminole Indian tribe were the original Floridians. They most likely have been there since long before Jesus Christ walked on this earth. The tribe controlled Florida long after the first European settlers arrived in the New World. By the 1700’s both British and Spanish settlers began to move into what would become known as the Sunshine State. Pretty soon the natives were being tortured and murdered. The Seminoles were losing their lives and their land. In 1821, The U.S. acquired Florida from the Spanish. In an 1823 treaty the U.S. gave the Seminoles about 100,000 acres of land in the Everglades. Continue reading →
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 →