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Posts Tagged ‘Stanley Donen

“Dying is easy, comedy is hard”*…

 

neighbors-keaton

Neighbors. Dir. Edward F. Cline/Buster Keaton. Perf. Buster Keaton, Virginia Fox, Joe Keaton. Metro Pictures, 1920.

 

As he migrated from vaudeville stage to movie set, [Buster] Keaton realised the comedy itself did not need changing, though the opportunities afforded by the camera could extend the world in which the spatial interplay he had developed since childhood took place.

“…the greatest thing to me about picturemaking was the way it automatically did away with the physical limitations of the theatre. On the stage, even one as immense as the New York Hippodrome stage, one could only show so much. The camera had no such limitations. The whole world was its stage. If you wanted cities, deserts, the Atlantic Ocean, Persia, or the Rocky Mountains for your scenery and background, you merely took your camera to them.”

Keaton’s comedy derives largely from the positioning —and constant, unexpected repositioning— of his body in space, and in architectural space particularly. Unlike other slapstick performers who relished in the close-up and detailed attention to the protagonist, Keaton frequently directed the camera to film with a wide far-shot that could contain the whole of a building’s facade or urban span within the frame. Proud of always carrying out his own (often extremely dangerous) stunts, this enabled him to show the audience that his actions were performed in real-time —and real-place— rather than simply being tricks of the camera or editing process. It also allowed him to visually explore the many ways in which his body could engage with the urban form…

An appreciation of that greatest of all silent comedians: “Buster Keaton: Anarchitect.”

* variously attributed to actors Edmund Keane, Edmund Gwynn, and Peter O’Toole

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As we take the fall, we might send delighted birthday greetings to Stanley Donen; he was born on this date in 1924.  A Broadway dancer (who befriended a young Gene Kelly), Donen followed Kelly to Hollywood as choreographer, then a director– of such classics as On the Town (1949) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952), both of which starred Kelly who co-directed.  Donen’s other films include Royal Wedding (1951), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954),  Funny Face (1957), Indiscreet (1958), and Charade (1963).  Credited (with his rival, Vincent Minelli) with having transitioned Hollywood musical films from realistic backstage dramas (a la Busby Berkeley) to a more integrated art form in which the songs were a natural continuation of the story, Donen is highly regarded by film historians.

One might note a kinship between Keeton’s astounding physical relationship to his surroundings and that of Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Fred Astaire in Donen’s films…

Stanley_Donen_(cropped) source

 

Written by LW

April 13, 2019 at 1:01 am

For your viewing pleasure…

Your correspondent is amazed at how quickly so many of his friends have exhausted attractive film-going options in this release-packed holiday and Oscar-promotion period.  What’s a hungry viewer to do?  Well, of course, there’s always television and cable; as Jim Emerson notes, many believe that they are eclipsing cinema.

But for those who crave the authentic big screen deal, there’s also the treasure trove of the past.  For example, if one can’t muster the enthusiasm to head out this weekend to see The Guilt Trip or Texas Chainsaw 3D, one might enjoy…

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Stanley Donen’s 1956 spellbinder was written by Peter Stone and Marc Behm, and featured Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, James Coburn, George Kennedy, Dominique Minot, Ned Glass, and Jacques Marin.  Its score, by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini, was nominated for an Academy Award…

Witty, smart, and altogether satisfying, it’s here in its entirety:

(Email readers, click here)

And it’s available as a free download at The Internet Archive— as are many, many other worthies.

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As we salt our popcorn, we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that the two greatest creators of hard-boiled private eyes, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, met for the first (and as far as anyone can tell, the only) time– at a dinner hosted by Black Mask, a magazine to which both Nabobs of Noir contributed stories.

Raymond Chandler (with his customary pipe) and Dashiell Hammett

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This extremely rare photo of the first west coast Black Mask get-together on January 11, 1936 captures possibly the only meeting of several of these authors.
Pictured in the back row, from left to right, are Raymond J. Moffatt, Raymond Chandler, Herbert Stinson, Dwight Babcock, Eric Taylor and Dashiell Hammett. In the front row, again from left to right, are Arthur Barnes (?), John K. Butler, W. T. Ballard, Horace McCoy and Norbert Davis.

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Written by LW

January 11, 2013 at 1:01 am

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