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Posts Tagged ‘movie history

In Praise of “Other”: The Librarian as Film Star…

 

Is it any wonder that older friends and relatives abroad still ask, when learning that one is from the Western U.S.: do you know any cowboys?  Anyone with a sense of America formed from the movies that have been this nation’s leading cultural ambassador for most of the last century might well assume that we are a nation of wranglers, gangsters, reporters, and lawyers.

The invaluable Moira Finnie, blogger for TCM, moderator of the online forum Silver Screen Oasis and proprietor of the blog Skeins of Thought, strikes a blow for the unsung, singling out the librarian:

This rumination on work in the movies began while I was reading the new memoir, Quiet Please, (Da Capo Press). The author offers a look at the experiences of a young, male, very contemporary librarian named Scott Douglas from the other side of the reference desk…  One amusing section of the book concerned the fact that Douglas felt that there was a serious dearth of librarians as role models in the movies. Sure, to the average person, “Marian the Librarian” in The Music Man (1964) may be the quintessential movie librarian. You know the type, frosty on the outside, potentially a molten hottie and closet romantic on the inside, all the while that “Prof. Harold Hill” is hoping she’s really that “sadder but wiser girl” he’s hoping to find in the hinterlands of Iowa during his travels…

Except for Noah Wyle’s three made-for-tv excursions as…(dramatic pause)…the nebbishy but dashing “Flynn Carsen” in The Librarian movies, there do seem to be paltry few positive images of librarians in the movies, especially for males…

So begins a delightful survey of librarians on screen:  “One of the Invisible Professions.”

Library Science teacher Ann Robinson pausing for a reflective smoke with Gene Barry before the destruction of the human race proceeds in The War of the Worlds (1953).

 

As we refrain from unnecessary noises, we might recall that it was on this date in 1271 that Kublai Khan renamed his empire “Yuan,” officially marking the end of the Song Dynasty (though Southern Song wasn’t fully conquered until 1276) and the start of the Yuan Dynasty of (Mongolia and) China.  The Yuan Dynasty was a period of consolidation and centralization, and encouragement of science, technology, and trade, creating the China that Marco Polo found at the end of the Silk Road.  It was also the period during which China developed drama and the novel, and saw a marked increased in the use of the written vernacular.

Kublai Khan (source)

 

Written by LW

December 18, 2011 at 1:01 am

A good scare…

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HW:  Do you find that audiences are frightened by different things now from the things that frightened them when you started, what, 30 years ago… 35 years ago, making films?

AH:  No, I wouldn’t say so, because after all they were frightened as children. You have to remember this is all based on “Red Riding Hood,” you see? Nothing has changed since “Red Riding Hood.”

In 1964, Huw Weldon (later, Director General of the BBC) interviewed Alfred Hitchcock for the BBC series Monitor

Part Two here

HW:  Have you ever been tempted to make what is nowadays called a horror film, which is different from a Hitchcock film?

AH:  No, because it’s too easy… I believe in putting the horror in the mind of the audience and not necessarily on the screen.

[TotH to Brain Pickings]

As we reach for our security blankets, we might recall that, though accounts of an unusual aquatic beast living in Scotland’s Loch Ness date back 1,500 years, the modern legend of the Loch Ness Monster was born when a sighting made local news on this date in 1933.  The Inverness Courier ran the account of a local couple who claimed to have seen “an enormous animal rolling and plunging on the surface.”  The story of the “monster” (a label chosen by the Courier editor) became a media sensation: London papers sent correspondents to Scotland and a circus offered a 20,000 pound reward for capture of the beast.

Photo “taken” in 1934, later proved a hoax (source)

Getting in touch with one’s inner auteur…

 

Harboring creative impulses that struggle for release?  Ready for your close-up?  French television channel and film production company Canal+ rides to the rescue with flowcharts (well, advertisements made by Gregory Ferembach for Euro RSCG)…

larger version here

One can also find guidance on how to make an animated movie, a horror flick, an action epic, even…  well, an “erotic” film.

Roll ‘em!

[TotH to Flavorwire]

 

As we Just Do It, we might that it was on this date in 1914 that the first of the “Dream Palaces,” the Mark Strand Theater– or “The Strand, as it was known– opened in New York.  Hitherto, “movies” had been shown in storefront “nickelodeons”; by contrast the Strand was large (3,000 seats) and luxurious.   Designed by Thomas Lamb and built at a cost of over $1 million, it became the model for Picture Palaces nationwide.  Indeed, by 1916, over 21,000 large movie theaters across the U.S. were showing feature-length films (instead of programs of shorts) in order to justify premium prices. The movie-palace boom (and the corresponding demise of the nickelodeons) laid the foundation for the rise of the studio system, which dominated Hollywood from the 1920s into the 1950s.

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The Perils of Early Adoption…

On November 26, 1936, three weeks after television transmissions began in England, Mr G.B. Davis of Dulwich (south–east London) paid 99 pounds. 15 shillings– over half the average annual wage of the day, equivalent to almost 4,000 pounds today– for the seventh television set manufactured in the UK, a Marconi “Type 702, number 1-007.”  The receiver had a 12-inch screen contained in a walnut and mahogany case, with a mirror in the lid onto which the picture was reflected.

But poor Mr. Davis (presumably along with his fellow early enthusiasts) was able to enjoy his pioneering purchase for only a few hours: three days after he took the plunge, the nearby Crystal Palace and its transmitter burned down.  The area could not receive television pictures again until 1946.

But Mr. Davis’ loss is his grandchildren’s gain.  Bonham’s is set to auction the set later this month. There are more Stradivarius violins in existence that pre-war TVs, so the auction house expects the set to fetch much more than it’s pre-sale estimate of 5,000 pounds.

Read the full story in The Telegraph.

As we summon memories of Sid Caesar and Soupy Sales, we might recall that it was on this date in 1953 that the first color 3-D feature film premiered– House of Wax.  Shot with a two-camera process, and viewed through “stereo” glasses with differently tinted lens, the film grossed a then-impressive $4.3 million.  It launched its star, Vincent Price, on a career in the horror genre, and goosed the careers of his supporting players, Phyllis Kirk and Charles Buchinsky (who shortly thereafter changed his name to Charles Bronson).  House of Wax kicked off the first period of enthusiasm for 3-D films (the second, a year-long period in the 70s); we are, of course, currently in the third.

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Putting magic in the Magic Lantern…

In 1896, a young reporter for the New York Evening World was sent to interview Thomas Edison.  Ever on the make, Edison was concerned to impress the young man, Stuart Blackton, who before turning to journalism, had performed as “The Komical Kartoonist” in vaudeville shows, drawing “lightning sketches.”  Blackton accompanied Edison to his cabin studio, “Black Maria,” for a demonstration of Edison’s new motion picture technology.  Edison used the occasion to make a quick film of Blackton sketching.

The inventor did such a good job selling the new technology that he talked Blackton and a partner into buying a print of the new film, along with nine others, plus a Vitascope to show them to paying audiences.  The new act was a smash, so Blackton started making films of his own own– and the American Vitagraph Company (see also here) was born.

As Vitagraph did well, Blackton began to feel adventurous. And thank goodness he did: in the next few years, Blackton developed and instantiated the basic concepts of animation.

“The Enchanted Drawing” (copyrighted in 1900, but probably made at least a year earlier) depicts Blackton doing his lightning artist act, sketching a face, cigars, and a bottle of wine. He appears to remove the drawings as real objects, and the face appears to react.  The animation here is stop-action (the camera is stopped, a single change is made, and the camera is then started again),  first used by Méliès (who had a different kind of run-in with Edison) and others.

“Humorous Phases of Funny Faces,” completed in 1906, was the first “true” animated film– in that an appreciable part of the action was accomplished with single exposures of drawings, simulating motion (though the film also employed live action, stop motion, and stick puppetry).

Having paved the way for Looney Toons, Merrie Melodies, and the rest of the cartoon cavalcade, Blackton and his partner sold Vitagraph to Warner Bros. in 1925.  (See here for a reminder of Vitagraph’s historical importance to live action films as well.)

(Thanks, Brain Pickings, for the prod.)

As we revel in fond memories of Saturday mornings past, we might recall, in anticipation of this weekend’s Final Four action, that it was on this date in 1906, as Blackton released “Faces,” that the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (subsequently known as the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA) was established.  When then-president Theodore Roosevelt’s own son, Ted, broke his nose playing football at Harvard, Roosevelt became aware of the growing number of serious injuries and deaths occurring in collegiate football (18 deaths in 05 alone).  He brought the presidents of five major institutions, Army (West Point), Navy (Annapolis), Harvard, Princeton, and Yale to several meetings at the White House in October, 1905 to discuss steps to make college athletics safer; the IAA was the result.

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