(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Orson Welles

“A good bookshop is just a genteel Black Hole that knows how to read”*…

Blackwell’s on Broad Street in Oxford

FT writers nominate awe-inspiring places to get your literary fix, from Mumbai to Buenos Aires…

El Ateneo is housed in a former theater in Buenos Aires
Pianist Duro Ikujeno in the Jazzhole in Lagos

And so many more: “The most brilliant bookshops in the world.”

* Terry Pratchett

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As we browse, we might recall that it was on this date in 1938 that the Mercury Theater broadcast the Halloween episode of their weekly series on the WABC Radio Network, Orson Welle’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds.  The first two-thirds of the show (which was uninterrupted by ads) was composed of simulated news bulletins… which suggested to many listeners that a real Martian invasion was underway.  (While headlines like the one below suggest that there was widespread panic, research reveals that the fright was more subdued.  Still there was an out-cry against the “phoney-news” format…  and Welles was launched into the notoriety that would characterize his career ever after.)

Coverage of the broadcast

Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 30, 2021 at 1:00 am

“I want people to walk into a movie theater and be transported to a different world”*…

In the fall of 1997, a blurb appeared in the Atlanta Business Chronicle. AMC Theaters was launching a “brand new concept… a fancy interior that transforms the otherwise plain theater into a science-fiction, high-tech experience,” replete with decorative planets, the colors teal, purple, and yellow, and a “generally upbeat design.” Its name: the Odyssey…

If you went to the movies around this time anywhere in the United States, you might’ve registered a similar aesthetic. Like cartoon corporatism and hypermodernism getting smashed through a cultural particle collider. It was ambient and nearly universal, and yet absolutely the opposite of timeless. One year into life without movie theaters and you might begin to wonder: What was that?

You might start thinking first about the carpets. Those frenzied, high-octane, blacklight carpets that took over movie theaters for a small, fixed period of time and then mostly just… went away. Like an obscure one-hit-wonder earworm, the carpets might keep bugging you, prompting you to wonder: How is it that we, as a society, spent that much free time in these bizarre wall-to-wall settings without ever wondering what acid-doused party monster’s fever dreamt them up? Who decided this is what movie theaters should look like? What was this “style” even called?

Do you think what you’re about to read is simply, like, an etymology of carpet? If only. If those carpets could talk, they’d tell you a story about late-90s economics, showbiz, multiplexes, and an era of world-building that changed moviegoing as we know it—maybe more than any other… 

If Y2K-Era Movie Theater Carpets Could Talk“: behind the ecstatic aesthetic of squiggles, stars, and confetti.

Genndy Tartakovsky

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As we settle on the extra-large tub of popcorn, we might might recall that it was on this date in 1941 that Orson Welles’ first feature film, Citizen Kane, premiered at the Palace Theater in New York. A quasi-biography (based on the life of William Randolph Hearst, with elements of those of Joseph Pulitzer and Chicago tycoons Samuel Insull and Harold McCormick), it was nominated for Academy Awards in nine categories, winning Best Writing (Original Screenplay) for Herman Mankiewicz and Welles.

Considered by many critics and filmmakers to be the greatest film ever made, Citizen Kane was voted number 1 in five consecutive British Film Institute Sight & Sound polls of critics, and it topped the American Film Institute’s 100 Years … 100 Movies list in 1998, as well as its 2007 update.

Citizen Kane is particularly praised for Gregg Toland‘s cinematography, Robert Wise‘s editing, Bernard Herrmann‘s music, and its narrative structure, all of which were innovative and have been precedent-setting.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 1, 2021 at 1:01 am

“What goes around, comes around”*…

 

postcards

 

Much as internet surfers — i.e. everyone in 2018 — enjoy sharing silly and picturesque JPEGs with one another that feature clever quips or inspirational sayings, Americans of a century ago passed around similar memes. They were called postcards, or souvenir cards, and mailing them to friends and relatives was immensely popular for sharing a gilded, snowy holiday scene or even a lolcat.

One hundred years before e-mail inboxes crowded with pictures of cats adorned with text like “I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?” and “CEILING CAT IS WATCHING YOU,” lolcats (and loldogs and lolrabbits) were already at the height of fancy. The rise of postcards at the turn of the century enabled Pennsylvanian Harry Whittier Frees to build a career out of photographing cute animals donning hats and britches…

More of Frees’ story– and work– and a reminder that there’s very little truly new under the sun: “The Cat Meme Photographer from a Century Ago.”

* Paul Crump

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As we pass it along, we might spare a thought for Edgar John Berggren– better known by his stage name, Edgar Bergen– he died on this date in 1978.  Perhaps best known today as the father of Candice Bergen, he was a huge star in his own time, performing as an actor, comedian, and radio performer, most famously as a ventriloquist working with his side-kicks Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd.

Indeed, some attribute Bergen’s massive popularity with “saving the world”: on the night of October 30, 1938, when Orson Welles performed his War of the Worlds radio play, panicking many listeners, most of the American public had tuned instead to Bergen and McCarthy on another station.   (Dissenters note that Bergen may inadvertently have contributed to the hysteria: when the musical portion of Bergen’s show [The Chase and Sanborn Hour] aired about twelve minutes into the show, many listeners switched stations– to discover War of the Worlds in progress, with an all-too-authentic-sounding reporter detailing a horrific alien invasion.)

EdgarBergenandCharlieMcCarthyStageDoorCanteen1 source

Written by (Roughly) Daily

September 30, 2018 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

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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.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 7, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You got to be worried when they’re agreeing about anything… Prophets. That’s the last bloody thing you want prophets to do”*…

 

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We may define future shock as the distress, both physical and psychological, that arises from an overload of the human organism’s physical adaptive systems and it’s decision-making processes… Put more simply, future shock is the human response to over-stimulation…

– Alvin Toffler

The film above is a documentary based on Future Shock, the book written in 1970 by sociologist and futurist Alvin Toffler…

Released in 1972, with a cigar-chomping Orson Welles as on-screen narrator, this piece of futurism
is darkly dystopian and oozing techno-paranoia… A great opening features a montage of car crashes and civil unrest intercut with two figures walking in a green field (while creepy synthesizers play in the background) who are soon revealed to be automatons with creepy robot faces — a nice metaphor for the fear of the unrecognizable, cold, and chaotic future society that Toffler thought we were all headed for…

More background in the notes accompanying the film.

(After watching the film, take a whack at being a futurist yourself; try the card game, “The Thing From the Future“…)

* China Miéville, Kraken

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As we brace for change, we might recall that it was on this date in 1797 that André-Jacques Garnerin accomplished the first successful parachute jump.  He ascended to 2,230 ft. above the Parc Monceau, Paris, with a balloon, then released it and unfurled a silk parachute.  Lacking any vent in the top of the parachute, Garnerin descended with violent oscillations– as a result of which, he suffered the first case of airsickness.

Garnerin releases the balloon and descends with the help of a parachute, 1797. (Illustration from the late 19th century.)

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 22, 2015 at 1:01 am

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