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Posts Tagged ‘Billy Wilder

“The most beautiful sight in a… theater is to walk down to the front, turn around, and look at the light from the screen reflected on the upturned faces of the members of the audience”*…

 

The magic lantern was basically a seventeenth-century slide projector: a light source (a candle), an image (a piece of painted glass), and a lens. It was an ever-evolving object, and revolutionized the way pictures were seen by an audience. It is often called a precursor to cinema, but it might better be characterized as an enabler that paved the way for film and gave rise to its own powerful visual culture. Many technical devices that explored projected imagery and the persistence of vision are sought, researched, and discussed by lantern aficionados…

The remarkable Ricky Jay [see here and here] remembers two departed friends, and ruminates on the lost art that paved the way for motion pictures even as it created a visual culture all its own: “Farewell to Two Masters of the Magic Lantern.”

* Gene Siskel, quoting Robert Ebert’s report of an observation by François Truffaut

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As we accede to awe, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon was released by United Artists.  Directed by Billy Wilder [see here], the film is widely considered the funniest comedy ever made (e.g., on the AFI’s list of 100 Greatest Films and the BBC’s poll of film critics around the world).

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Oh, and of course, it also featured Marilyn Monroe singing…

 

Written by LW

March 29, 2018 at 1:01 am

“There is so much to do on a film set”*…

 

Legendary director Billy Wilder– Some Like it Hot, Sunset Boulevard, Double IndemnityThe Apartment, et al.– and equally-legendary designers Charles and Ray Eames were long-time friends, from the days when Charles worked as an MGM set designer. The three famously collaborated on “Glimpses of the USA,” a multimedia installation at the 1959 American National Exhibition in Moscow. Moreover, Ray designed the opening credits for Wilder’s Love in the Afternoon.

Wilder (left) with Charles and Ray Eames

The Eames were multimedia masters, frequently—and brilliantly—communicating their philosophy through film and photography.  Over the years, their image archive grew to include over 750,000 snapshots that document everything from travels through India to the circus.  One series in particular—Movie Sets—is the focus of a new exhibition new exhibition at the Art & Design Atomium Museum in Brussels.  Curated by Alexandra Midal, the photographs date from 1951 to 1971 and are all Charles’s snapshots from the sets of Wilder  films

More at “Hollywood’s Golden Age, As Photographed By Charles [and Ray] Eames.”

* Sir Ben Kingsley

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As we take our marks, we might send extravagant birthday greetings to Florenz Edward “Flo” Ziegfeld, Jr.; he was born on this date in 1867.  One of the greatest theatrical showmen in American history, he was a Broadway impresario who produced dozens of shows, mostly (like one of his biggest hits, Showboat) musical spectacles.  But he is best remembered for his 25-year series of elaborate annual theatrical revues, the Ziegfeld Follies (1907–1931), inspired by the Folies Bergère of Paris– a run that introduced such stars as Fanny Brice, Bert Williams, Ed Wynn, W.C. Fields, Marion Davies, Eddie Cantor and Will Rogers.

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Written by LW

March 21, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Puns are the highest form of literature”*…

From tough guys to tramps…

… it’s all about the ink… and a sense of humor…

You can find the most hilarious puns ever as well as some cute pun tattoos all over the Internet.

* Alfred Hitchcock

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As we noodle on the needle, we might send smiley birthday greetings to Joe E. Brown; he was born on this date in 1891.  One of the most popular American stage and screen actors and comedians of the 1930s and 40s, he is perhaps best remembered for his role as Osgood Fielding III in Billy Wilder’s exquisite Some Like It Hot, in which Brown uttered the film’s immortal closing line, “well, nobody’s perfect.”

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Written by LW

July 28, 2015 at 1:01 am

“It’s the pictures that got small”*…

 

What if Michael Bay– the director of the Transformers franchise, Armageddon, and a host of other explosive blockbusters– had directed Up ?

email readers click here for video

* “Norma Desmond” (Gloria Swanson) in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard

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As we shield our eyes from lens flashes, we might recall that it was on this date in 1954 that the iconic sequence of Marilyn Monroe, laughing as her skirt is blown up by the blast from a subway vent, was shot, during the filming of Billy Wilder’s The Seven Year Itch.  One can only imagine how Michael Bay might have handled it…

Tom Ewell and Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch

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Written by LW

September 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

The uses of parchment…

The good folks at Diotima (part of the Stoa Consortium) have published John Quinn’s translation of Philogelos (The Laughter Lover), a collection of 265 jokes, likely made in the fourth or fifth century CE. Some manuscripts give the names of the compilers as the otherwise-unknown Hierocles and Philagrios; others drop the name of one or other or both.

Although The Laugher Lover is the oldest surviving example, joke-books already had a long pedigree. For example, according to Athenaeus, Philip the Great of Macedon had paid handsomely for a social club in Athens to write down its members’ witticisms. And at the dawn of the second century BCE, Plautus twice has a character refer to joke-books.

Still this set of zingers is historically interesting, and contains such rib-ticklers as:

#70. An intellectual came to check in on a friend who was seriously ill. When the man’s wife said that he had ‘departed’, the intellectual replied: “When he arrives back, will you tell him that I stopped by?”

#115. An Abderite saw a eunuch talking with a woman and asked him if she was his wife. When he replied that eunuchs can’t have wives, the Abderite asked: “So is she your daughter?” (Abdera was a city in Thrace, whose inhabitants bore the brunt of dumb-ethnic jokes dating back at least to the days of Cicero in the first century BCE.)

#187. A rude astrologer cast a sick boy’s horoscope. After promising the mother that the child had many years ahead of him, he demanded payment. When she said, “Come tomorrow and I’ll pay you,” he objected: “But what if the boy dies during the night and I lose my fee?”

More here.

As we mourn what’s lost in translation, we might toss some hard-boiled birthday greetings in the direction of Raymond Chandler, novelist (The Big Sleep, Farewell, My Lovely, et al.) and screenwriter (Double Indemnity, with Billy Wilder, e.g.), whose Philip Marlowe was (with Hammett’s Sam Spade) synonymous with “private detective,” whose style (with Hammett’s) defined a genre, and who was (unlike Hammett) born on this date in 1888.

Love interest nearly always weakens a mystery because it introduces a type of suspense that is antagonistic to the detective’s struggle to solve the problem. It stacks the cards, and in nine cases out of ten, it eliminates at least two useful suspects. The only effective love interest is that which creates a personal hazard for the detective – but which, at the same time, you instinctively feel to be a mere episode. A really good detective never gets married.

– Raymond Chandler, “Casual Notes on the Mystery Novel” (essay, 1949)

Raymond Chandler

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