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Posts Tagged ‘film

“Oh how Shakespeare would have loved cinema!”*…


Indiewire‘s list of  “The 50 Best Opening Credit Sequences Of All Time“– each with a video of the sequence, and followed by a bonus “starter list” of other candidates that might have made the cut… because after all, the point of lists like these is the arguments they provoke.

* Derek Jarman, Dancing Ledge


As we settle into our seats, we might spare a thought for Archibald Alexander Leach; he died on this date in 1986.  Known by his stage name, Cary Grant, he became one of the greatest stars in Hollywood history, the epitome of the “leading man,” famous for roles both comedic (e.g., Holiday, Bringing Up Baby, The Philadelphia Story) and dramatic (Grant was Hitchcock’s favorite actor, for reasons obvious in Suspicion, North By Northwest, To Catch a Thief, and Notorious).

Living for much of his career “above the title,” Grant was the first actor of note to “go independent”– to refuse to sign a studio contract– which gave him control over roles and collaborators and a bigger piece of the action; he was one of the first actors to earn a percentage of his pictures’ gross revenues.




Written by LW

November 29, 2015 at 1:01 am

“… a waste of desert sand; A shape with lion body and the head of a man”*…


The sphinx before excavation

Thirty-three years ago, Peter Brosnan heard a story that seemed too crazy to be true: buried somewhere along California’s rugged Central Coast, beneath acres of sand dunes, lay the remains of a lost city. According to his friend at New York University’s film school, the remains of a massive Egyptian temple, a dozen plaster sphinxes, eight mammoth lions, and four 40-ton statues of Ramses II were all supposedly entombed in the sands 150 some-odd miles north of Los Angeles.

“It was an absolutely cockamamie story,” Brosnan says. “I thought he was nuts.” The ruins weren’t authentic Egyptian ones, of course. They were the 60-year-old remains of a massive Hollywood set—the biggest, most expensive one ever built at the time. The faux Egyptian scenery had played the role of the City of the Pharaoh in one of Hollywood’s first true epics, Cecil B DeMille’s 1923 film The Ten Commandments. The set had required more than 1,500 carpenters to build and used over 25,000 pounds of nails. The production nearly ruined DeMille and his studio. When the shoot wrapped, the tempestuous director supposedly strapped dynamite to the structures and razed the whole set, burying it in the sands near Guadalupe, California, to ensure no rival director could benefit from his vision.

Bullshit, Brosnan thought. But then his buddy pointed him to a line in DeMille’s posthumously published autobiography. “If 1,000 years from now archaeologists happen to dig beneath the sands of Guadalupe,” the director teased, “I hope they will not rush into print with the amazing news that Egyptian civilization…extended all the way to the Pacific Coast.”…

The City of the Pharaoh during filming

The extraordinary story of “The Cursed, Buried City That May Never See The Light of Day.”

* W.B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”


As we resolve to look more deeply, we might recall that it was on his date in 2001 that Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was released in theaters in the U.S.  It went on to gross nearly $1 billion worldwide, and to launch seven more films based on J.K. Rowling’s novels over the next decade.

At the premiere: stars Daniel Radcliffe (age 12), Rupert Grint (13), and Emma Watson (11)



Written by LW

November 16, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Being perfectly well-dressed gives one a tranquility that no religion can bestow”*…


email readers click here for video

Longtime readers will know of your correspondent’s deep affection for Rube Goldberg (see here and here) and those he inspires (see here).  To wit, the above film– the first of a new series– from Joseph Herscher.

* Ralph Waldo Emerson


As we do it the amusing way, we might spare a thought for Blessed John (Johannes, Ioannes) Duns Scotus, O.F.M.; he died on this date in 1308.  One of the most important philosophers of the High Middle Ages (with his arch-rival, William of Ockham), he was a champion of a form of Scholasticism that came to be known as Scotism.

But he may be better remembered as a result of the slurs of 16th Century philosophers, who considered him a sophist– and coined the insult “dunce” (someone incapable of scholarship) from the name “Dunse” given to his followers in the 1500s.


Written by LW

November 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In the property-maker’s room lives the wizard of the studio”*…


Take the test, then enjoy this tribute to the power of props:

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* Designing for Films, Edward Carrick, 1950


As we wait for the telephone to ring, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that Universal Pictures released Mars Attacks the World, a space opera that prominently featured a classic hand prop, the ray gun.  Originally produced as a 15-episode serial, Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars, the studio had it recut as a feature, planning a 1939 release.  But on October 30, 1938, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater broadcast their infamous adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  Capitalizing on the frenzied attention that Welles created, Universal quickly changed their feature’s title from the originally-intended Rocket Ship, and launched it into theaters.



Written by LW

November 7, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Don’t you know what’s goin’ on out there? This is no Sunday School picnic!”*…


zoomable version here

There are 28– 28— follow-up films to Night of the Living Dead… and that’s not counting homages, parodies, or the myriad “of the dead” and “of the living dead” titles that have nothing to do with George A. Romero’s genre-defining original.  Our friends at Den of Geek have the full rundown: “Night of the Living Dead and its 28 Follow-Ups.”


* “Ben,” Night of the Living Dead


As we head for the basement, we might recall that it was on this date in 1988 that Donnie Darko flooded his school… one of the fascinating facts one can glean at The Movie Timeline, a copious compendium that operates on the premise that “everything you see in the movies is true”; real, fictional– if it’s reported to have happened on a given date in a movie, it’s in the list.



Written by LW

October 6, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Celebrity is the chastisement of merit and the punishment of talent”*…


It’s easy to imagine that the fever pitch of celebrity consciousness in which we’re awash is a modern phenomenon, a function of reality TV, social media, and other trappings of our times.  But consider the case of Lillie Langtry…

Known in the later 19th century as “the most beautiful woman in the world,” Langtry had her portrait painted by both John Everett Millais and James McNeil Whistler; and Oscar Wilde once said of her, “I would rather have discovered Mrs. Langtry than to have discovered America.”  Married to a wealthy Irishman, she was mistress of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.  Through her society connections she befriended Sarah Bernhardt, who convinced her to try acting; she made her debut at London’s Haymarket Theatre in 1881.

From her autobiography, an anecdote from 1874– before her turn on the stage:

One morning I twisted a piece of black velvet into a toque, stuck a quill through it, and went to Sandown Park. A few days later this turban appeared in every milliner’s window labeled “The Langtry Hat.” “Langtry” shoes, which are still worn, were launched, and so on and so on. It was very embarrassing, and it had all come about so suddenly that I was bewildered. If I went for a stroll in the park and stopped a moment to admire the flowers, people ran after me in droves, staring me out of countenance, and even lifting my sunshade to satisfy fully their curiosity. To venture out for a little shopping was positively hazardous, for the instant I entered an establishment to make a purchase, the news that I was within spread with the proverbial rapidity of wildfire, and the crowd about the door grew so dense that departure by the legitimate exit was rendered impossible, the obliging proprietors being forced, with many apologies, to escort me around to the back door.

Instead of the excitement abating, it increased to such an extent that it became risky for me to indulge in a walk, on account of the crushing that would follow my appearance. To better illustrate my predicament I may state as a fact that, one Sunday afternoon, a young girl, with an aureole of fair hair and wearing a black gown, was seated in the park near the Achilles statue. Someone raised the cry that it was I, people rushed toward her, and before the police could interfere, she was mobbed to such an extent that an ambulance finally conveyed her, suffocating and unconscious, to St. George’s Hospital.

Via Lapham’s Quarterly

* Emily Dickinson


As we slake ourselves on selfies, we might spare a thought for Clara Bow; she died on this date in 1965.  Bow appeared in 46 silent films and 11 talkies, including Wings (1927; the winner of the first Academy Award for Best Picture).  But it was her appearance as a plucky shopgirl in the film It (also in 1927) that brought her global fame and the nickname “The It Girl.” Bow came to personify the Roaring Twenties and to become its leading sex symbol.  At the height of her stardom, she received more than 45,000 fan letters in a single month (January, 1929).

After marrying actor Rex Bell in 1931, Bow retired from acting and became a rancher in Nevada, where she lived, relatively quietly, for another 34 years.




Written by LW

September 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

“It’s the movies that have really been running things in America ever since they were invented”*…


From Network and The Magic Christian to Bergman’s Autumn Sonata and Star Wars (which he screened with Anwar Sadat while preparing for the Camp David peace talks)– Every Single Movie That Jimmy Carter Watched at the White House.

* Andy Warhol


As we settle into our seats, we might recall that it was on this date in 1875 that Henry McCarty was arrested for the first time (for stealing a basket of laundry) and jailed.  He promptly escaped and went on to a career in crime– for which he’s better known by his assumed names, William H. Bonney and Billy the Kid.

Billy the Kid posing for a ferrotype photograph



Written by LW

September 23, 2015 at 1:01 am


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