(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘movies

“Horror is the natural reaction to the last 5,000 years of history”*…


50+ examples: “Evolution of Horror Movie Poster Designs: 1922 – 2009.”

* Robert Anton Wilson


As we prepare to shriek, we might recall that it was on this date in 1947 that a secret executive order issued by President Harry Truman established Majestic 12, a secret committee of scientists, military leaders, and government officials empaneled to investigate UFO activity in the aftermath of the Roswell incident— or so many UFO conspiracy theorists believe.  The purported documentary evidence of Majestic 12 has been judged fake by both the FBI and the Air Force (e.g., here)…  but then, they would wouldn’t they…



Written by LW

September 24, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The only difference between me and a madman is I’m not mad”*…


Dali sketching Harpo as he plays a harp with barbed wire for strings and spoons, knives, and forks glued to its frame– a gift from Dali.

Salvador Dali loved the Marx Brothers. He loved their madcap, anarchic comedy. In particular Dali loved Harpo Marx—the blonde corkscrew-haired comic mime whose visual comedy—unlike the quick witty repartee of his brother Groucho—was universal and needed no translation. Dali described Harpo as one of America’s three great Surrealists—the other two being Walt Disney and Cecil B. DeMille.

The pair first met at a party in Paris in 1936. Harpo told Dali how much he liked his paintings. Dali told Harpo how much he loved his films—in particular Animal Crackers, which he described as “the summit of the evolution of comic cinema.” Dali gushed over Harpo’s performance where he pulled fish and cutlery from his pocket and shot the hats of beautiful women—this was true Surrealism!

Understandably, the two men became friends…

Dali brought Harpo a gift—a movie script he wanted the Marx Brothers to make. The script was called Giraffes on Horseback Salads or The Surrealist Woman. It was a series of unconnected scenes typed in blue ribbon over twenty-two pages with various notes written in ink. Dali had already made two infamous films with his friend the director Luis Buñuel—Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age d’Or. Now he wanted to cast Harpo and cinema’s “greatest Surrealist act,” the Marx Brothers, in a film that just might revolutionize Hollywood—or maybe not

More on this extraordinary friendship– and a taste of Dali’s treatment for Giraffes on Horseback Salads— at “When Dali Met Harpo.”

[TotH to friend P.R.]

* Salvador Dali


As we recall that the Marx Brothers had a remarkable range of friends, we might send classy birthday greetings to one of them, Lou Gehrig; he was born Heinrich Ludwig Gehrig on this date in 1903.  A first baseman for the New Your Yankees for 16 years, he was know (for his stamina) as “The Iron Horse.”  A member of six World Series champion teams, he was an All-Star seven consecutive times, a Triple Crown winner once, an American League (AL) Most Valuable Player twice.  He had a career .340 batting average, .632 slugging average, and a .447 on base average; he hit 493 home runs and had 1,995 runs batted in (RBI).  Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1939– the year of his retirement– he was the first Major League player to have his uniform number (4) retired by a team.

He is pictured here with friends:



Written by LW

June 19, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Films are 50 percent visual and 50 percent sound. Sometimes sound even overplays the visual”*…


Though routinely credited, as above, as “Film Editor,” Tregoweth Edmond “Treg” Brown was the genius sound-effects wizard responsible for sound editing the Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons starting in 1936…

His musique concrète artistry worked directly in conjunction with Carl Stalling‘s hyper-active left-field orchestral scores to create the soundtrack to generations of kids lives. So many of these sounds are completely ingrained into our collective pop-culture (un)consciousness. So much so, that reviewing some of the old Looney Tunes cartoons as an adult, you tend to ignore how utterly ridiculous the doinks and twangs are, for they sound totally natural in context—a testament to Brown’s flawless editing of sounds demanded by the images.

In addition to his incredible sound design which won him a Sound Effects Oscar in 1965 for The Great Race, Brown is also credited with giving legendary Warner Brothers’ voice actor Mel Blanc his big break…

More at “The Sound Effects Madman Behind the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies Cartoons.” And much more– with wonderful examples– in this short documentary (part 2 here):

email readers click here for video

* David Lynch


As we perk up our ears, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Jerrald King “Jerry” Goldsmith; he was born on this date in 1929.  One of film and television”s most accomplished composers and conductors, Goldsmith scored such noteworthy films as The Sand Pebbles, Logan’s RunPlanet of the Apes, Patton, Papillon, Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, The Omen, The Boys from Brazil, Alien, Poltergeist, The Secret of NIMH, Gremlins, Hoosiers, Total Recall, Basic Instinct, Rudy, Air Force One, L.A. Confidential, Mulan, The Mummy, three Rambo films, and five Star Trek films– in a career during which he was nominated for six Grammy Awards, five Primetime Emmy Awards, nine Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy Film Awards, and eighteen Academy Awards.  In 1976, he was awarded an Oscar for The Omen.

While presenting Goldsmith with a Career Achievement Award from the Society for the Preservation of Film Music in 1993, fellow composer Henry Mancini (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, The Pink Panther) said of Goldsmith, “… he has instilled two things in his colleagues in this town. One thing he does, he keeps us honest. And the second one is he scares the hell out of us.”



Written by LW

February 10, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Movies are a fad. Audiences really want to see live actors on a stage.”*…


The lights begin to dim, ambient noises fade away, suddenly there is a burst of light overhead and you are transported… this is the premise of [photographer and one-time trial attorney Rick] Finkelstein‘s newest body of work: Sitting in the Dark with Strangers. In this latest series Finkelstein uses miniature figurines and meticulously fabricated sets to compose his images and explore the experience of the movies…

Sitting in the Dark with Strangers is on display at Robert Mann Gallery in New York City through the end of this month.

More images (and background) at “Artist Spotlight: Richard Finkelstein” (from whence these images), The Mann Gallery’s site, and “Photos of the Cinema-Going Experience Capture the Magic of Movies in Miniature.”

* Charles Chaplin (before he became famous as Charlie)


As we salt our popcorn, we might that it was on this date in 1941 that Paramount Picture’s released Preston Sturges’  Sullivan’s Travels.  A picaresque satire that celebrates that movies, it has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, named one of the “Greatest Movies of All Time” by the American Film Institute.

The filmmaker was already on a roll. Not only had he been granted the honor of being one of Hollywood’s first writer/directors, but his last two films,The Great McGinty and The Lady Eve, were critical and commercial hits. Given as much creative freedom as a studio like Paramount could offer in 1941, Sturges crafted a smart, original fable about a comedy film director (Joel McCrea) who takes off to suffer in order to gain the experience necessary to make an “important” serious drama, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? (a title later appropriated by the Coen brothers). Along the way, he teams up with “the Girl” (Veronica Lake), an aspiring actress who brings a dose of reality to the director’s noble aim. But just as soon as he learns his lesson, he’s robbed, thrown on a train, then arrested and put in prison in the Deep South. Sturges, who’d wanted to satirize contemporary high-toned depression dramas, was inspired by the tales of John Garfield living as a hobo in the 1930s. Towards the end of the film, Sullivan, who is taken with his prison chain gang to an African-American church, learns the real power of comedy when a Disney carton comes on the screen. This scene, often cited in reviews as demonstration of Sturges’ deft mix of social realism and mad comedy, in many ways accomplishes what Sullivan set off to do by paradoxically dismissing the importance of such social realistic filmmaking. What people in poverty and injustice need is a good laugh. But the scene has resonated for others in far different ways. The secretary of the NAACP wrote Sturges a letter praising his “dignified and decent treatment of Negroes in this scene.” On the other hand, the U.S. government’s Office of Censorship refused to approve the film for export, claiming that its portrayal of a chain gang, showing “the brutality and inhumanity with which the prisoners are treated” might serve as enemy propaganda. Most Americans, however, just found it hilarious, making the film Sturges’ next big hit.




Written by LW

January 28, 2016 at 1:01 am

“It’s kind of pretty”*…


Fans of Quentin Tarantino might have noticed that items branded “Red Apple” have appeared in every one of his films since Pulp Fiction.  For The Hateful Eight, he turned to designer Ross MacDonald

Much of the action in Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie The Hateful Eight takes place in an 1870 Wyoming trading post called Minnie’s Haberdashery.  While you’re viewing it – either in glorious 70mm or regular format – look past the cracking dialog, flying bullets and spraying blood.  There – in the background, on the shelves, and occasionally in the character’s hands – you may glimpse a few cans and packages and other general store stuff.  For a few months last winter, I was lucky enough to help create a few of those things…

The story– and beautiful examples of the work– at “Hateful Eight & Red Apple.”

[TotH to J.J. Sedelmaier]

* John ‘The Hangman’ Ruth (Kurt Russell), The Hateful Eight


As we roll our own, we might recall that it was on this date in 1940 that MGM released The Shop Around the Corner, the romantic comedy by Ernst Lubitsch.  While it did reasonably good business in it run, it has become classic, landing on most “100 Best” lists, scoring a rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, and earning a berth in the National Film Registry.  But perhaps its highest accolade came from Lubitsch himself: the creator of Trouble in Paradise, Ninotchka, and To Be Or Not To Be called The Shop Around the Corner “the best picture I ever made in my life.”



Written by LW

January 12, 2016 at 1:01 am

“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

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


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

email readers click here for video

* 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

%d bloggers like this: