Welcome to the August Newsletter
I am a lover of all films in all genres but I am not a reviewer or a critic. You will not get some long winded rant about the camera angles, some actor that was miscast or the director did a lousy job. My enjoyment in films is really about how good the story is and what enjoyment I got from the film.
With this in mind I would like to take you back to the Golden Years of the movies when great actors and actresses made those 90 to 120 minutes you sat in a theater and forgot about the world outside. You escaped into a world where “Heroes and Heroins” were real heroes and you were prepared to suspend your sense of reality as they pulled of some incredible acts of courage against impossible odds. You came out feeling uplifted and could not wait to watch the next “Coming Attraction”.
My subject may meander between genres, movies, contain trivia, highlight facts about the actor or actress and in general have no real purpose other than to just immerse ourselves in the wonderful world of films.
To start our journey I think we should talk about genres and the genre that out sells all off them is the good old Western. The Golden period for this genre was the ‘ 40s, ‘50s and ‘60’s and off course the star that dominated was John Wayne followed by Randolph Scott but my favorite Western Actor was Audie Murphy. I have no particular reason why I liked him and his movies but the stories and the way Murphy made them enjoyable is good enough for me.
He was in his first film in 1948 with a minor part as a copy boy in Texas, Brooklyn & Heaven. This followed with a minor part in Beyond Glory then in 1949 his first film where he played a major role, Danny Lester In Bad Boy. His first Western was in 1950 “The Kid From Texas” and in the next 19 years he was the leading star in 41 films plus several T.V productions including “Whispering Smith”. He died tragically in a plane crash in 1969 while doing “A Time For Dying”. The film was finished posthumously after his death. Over 75% of his films were westerns but his most famous film was “To Hell And Back” made in 1956. It was an autobiographical film of his time in the army in World War 2. He was America’s most highly decorated soldier so besides being an actor he was a real hero. Ironically in 1951 he played the character Henry Fleming in “The Red Badge Of Courage” a film about the American Civil War. Fleming was initially a coward and deserts his unit in the heat of battle but redeems himself in the next battle overcoming the fear of death. This off course was the exact opposite to the real Audie Murphy. In his later years Murphy was given some roles outside of the Western genre, “The Quite American” being one were he established himself as a credible actor but due to his overwhelming box office success as the perennial cowboy he was type cast and became one of the most prolific actors in Western themed films. I liked all of his Westerns but “No Name On The Bullet” is one I particularly like. It is a physiological thriller in a western setting. He plays a hired killer and when he rides into town several unsavory characters become paranoid that he maybe after them. They finish up killing one another and did his work for him.
Randolph Scott was definitely not my favorite Western Actor in my younger days. I do not know why I took a dislike to him and therefore did not see many of his films. It is only in the last 15 years that I have rediscovered his films and realized I had misplaced my judgement of him. Randolph Scott was definitely typecast in the western genre because of the great box office success his films enjoyed. His career started in 1928. He appeared in 11 films playing unaccredited parts. His first credited part was in “Women Marry Men” made in 1931, he played the part of Steve Bradley. From this point his film acting career took off and he acted in his first Western “Heritage In The Desert”. In 1932. Zane Gray was the great writer of Western novels many of which were made into films. He followed up “Heritage In The Desert” with “Wild Horse Mesa” then “The Thundering Herd” in 1932 By 1935 he had completed 11 westerns, all adaptations of Zane Grays novels. Pretty much from 1936 Randolph Scott made Westerns except for the war years were he was used to make war films for propaganda purposes but even here from 1939 to 1945 he made 8 films squarely based in the Western genre. From 1945 to 1962 he made a further 39 Westerns. His last film was “Ride The High Country”. In fact he only made two films in this period outside of the western genre. Randolph Scott straddled the period from silent films through the Zane Gray westerns of the ‘30s to that golden period of westerns in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I do not have a favourite Randolph Scott movie. I like them all especially those he made later in his career.
He did not achieve the fame John Wayne enjoyed but his films are equally enjoyable as John Wayne’s. John Wayne’s films generally enjoyed bigger budgets and got better promotion but I would be prepared to argue he films were as entertaining as John Wayne’s especially if you are a fan of the Western Genre.
After Westerns what is the highest selling Genre. LADIES take a bow, because it is Romance. I hope you do not think I am cynical because I say women love Romance. Men and women are different “creatures”. I do not think that this is a new revelation. It is a statement of fact. Women certainly have a softer edge to them. Men get off on riding Shotgun on a Stagecoach and fighting off the baddies, Women like to get swept of their feet by a tall, dark handsome stranger and live happily ever after.
Believe it or not “Love With The Proper Stranger” is one of my best selling films
The romance genre really encompasses everything from Mills & Boon to the great Biblical epics or great lovers of the ancient world like Cleopatra. Because it is so vast a genre it is not as easy to sum up or categorise as other genres. I have some special films in this category that are true sleepers, you most probably have never heard off but are well worth a look at.
The first film is “Finnegan Begin Again”. In some ways it could be called a Romantic Comedy because it does have humor but it is really a story of two loves. Mary Tyler Moore and Robert Preston along with Sam Waterson are the three main actors.
Here is a synopsis of the film:-
“Mike Finnegan is nearing retirement and taking care of his senile wife. He can’t get her to allow him to throw anything out and their house has become unmanageable. He meets Liz De Haan, who is dating a man with whom she is hopelessly mismatched. They become confidants and each allows the other to share their life and experiences with them”.
FINNEGAN BEGIN AGAIN was a delightful made for HBO TV movie about a lonely advice columnist (Robert Preston in a lovely performance), trapped into caring for his senile wife (Sylvia Sidney) who develops a relationship with a woman (Mary Tyler Moore) who is equally trapped in a dead end affair with a married man (Sam Waterson). This movie lovingly tells the story of two desperately lonely people, trapped in lives they don’t know how to get out of and find solace and friendship in each other. The movie is well-written and directed and the stars, particularly Preston, are just wonderful.
To go into the story of the film any further would spoil it. It truly hit a chord for me as Mike Finnegan was facing a huge dilemma in his life but the way he handles his situation and tries to help the hopelessly unhappy Liz De Haan solve her romantic problem is truly uplifting. I really had that “feel good” feeling after seeing this film. It also has some great comedy moments in it as well. I stumbled across it by accident and I now rate it as one of my most watched and most want to watch films in my collection.
The second Romantic film I would like to review is one that has the oddest title I have come across for a Romantic film. “To Dance With The White Dog”. The two main actors are Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. It was a made for T.V movie and unless you caught it there it has faded into the ether.
“As a fan of good made for TV movies, I watched this one with great interest, also being a Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn fan from way back, and having read the book, I wondered if they would be able to translate the depth of feeling that the book conveyed to the screen.
I need not have feared, To Dance With The White Dog is a marvellous movie, as the swansong of this marvellous pair of actors, acting together, it not only lives up to the depth of love and belonging portrayed in the book, it surpasses it.
Hume Cronyn is marvellous in his role, he was such a fine actor that not once did I feel that this was just a movie, it was made real for me, and that is the mark of a great movie.
This is a story about love, about a love so strong that it survives even after death, and about caring and coping with grief, the story of man who when his wife dies feels like he just can’t go on without her, and she returns as a white dog to help him cope with his grief and to learn to live again.
I admit to having a bias towards “weepy” movies like this, but still I think this is a wonderful feel good movie that most people would enjoy”
My last Romantic film I wish to review is “Firelight”. Yes another sleeper. It was recommended to me by one of my fellow film lovers. This is a period or historical Romance film but a highly memorable film. The plot is highly original and the film is totally entertaining from beginning to end.
This is the synopsis of the film: –
In 1838, lovely governess Elisabeth agrees to bear a child of anonymous English landowner, and he will in return pay her father’s debt. At birth she, as agreed, gives up the child. Seven years later she is hired as governess to a girl on a remote Sussex estate. The father of the girl, Charles Godwin, turns out to be that anonymous landowner. So Elisabeth has to be her own daughter’s governess, and she can’t reveal the secret of her tie with little Louisa.
This film review sums up this film beautifully
The title led me to expect “Firelight” would be a “chick flick”, yet the inclusion of the beautiful Sophie Marceau made viewing imperative. The astonishing credibility of the actors’ performances was aided by an impeccable script coupled with masterful direction. Add to that award-winning cinematography and achingly beautiful music reminiscent of gypsy violins and the result is an extremely moving love story. How this film came to be ignored by the US public is one of the great mysteries of our time.
Every word, every sigh, every gesture and every scene appears uncontrived yet at the same time is testament to breathtaking genius. If only director William Nicholson would bring his ensemble together again for more of the same! Just thinking about “Firelight” brings tears to my eyes. No other movie has had such an effect on me.
File this one under “U” for “Unforgettable” in the illustrated dictionary.
NOW FOR SOME TRIVIA.
HOW DID HOLLYWOOD GET IT’S NAME
According to the diary of H. J. Whitley, known as the “Father of Hollywood”, on his honeymoon in 1886 he stood at the top of a hill looking out over the valley. Along came a Chinese man in a wagon carrying wood. The man got out of the wagon and bowed. The Chinese man was asked what he was doing and replied, “I holly-wood”, meaning ‘hauling wood.’ HJ Whitley had an epiphany and decided to name his new town Hollywood.
WHEN DID THE HOLLYWOOD SIGN COME INTO BEING
Built by Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler as an epic $21,000 billboard for his upscale Hollywoodland real estate development, the Sign soon took on the role of giant marquee for a city that was constantly announcing its own gala premiere.
While some sources still cite that the Sign was born in 1924, the correct date is indisputably 1923. The earliest found mention of the Sign appeared on December 14, 1923 in the newspaper Holly Leaves article about the Mulholland Highway soon to be built, which would extend from “…from the western end of the (Griffith Park) road, under the electric sign of Hollywoodland, around Lake Hollywood and across the dam.”
The “billboard” was massive. Each of the original 13 letters was 30 feet wide and approximately 43 feet tall, constructed of 3×9′ metal squares rigged together by an intricate frame of scaffolding, pipes, wires and telephone poles.
Originally intended to last just a year and a half, the Sign has endured more than eight decades – and is still going strong. Since 1995 it has been controlled by a trust to ensure it is properly maintained and is heritage listed.
WHY DID HOLLYWOOD BECOME THE CENTRE OF AMERICA’S FILM INDUSTRY
New Jersey was the centre of film in America before Hollywood. Thomas Edison owned a majority of the patents on motion picture cameras and through these patents, he tightly controlled who could make films. In 1908, he formed the Motion Picture Patents Company, a licensing trust that included other important motion picture patent holders, including Eastman Kodak, who sold the only film stock that film makers could legally purchase.
The patents allowed the group to use law enforcement to prevent unauthorised use of their cameras, film, projectors or any variation of this equipment that included features that infringed on their patents. In some cases they hired thugs to do the enforcement.
Understandably, these tight restrictions stifled innovation and crippled the film industry.
Independent filmmakers fled to Hollywood. The physical distance from the Edison Trust made it easy to work on their films without the tight control and patent enforcement.
The reliable sunshine and temperature also made Hollywood a more suitable place to make films year-round.
The first studio in Hollywood, the Nestor Film Company, was established by the New Jersey-based Centaur Film Company in a roadhouse at 6121 Sunset Boulevard (the corner of Gower), in October 1911.Four major film companies – Paramount, Warner Bros., RKO, and Columbia – had studios in Hollywood, as did several minor companies and rental studios. In the 1920s, Hollywood was the fifth-largest industry in the nation. By the 1930s, Hollywood studios became fully vertically integrated, as production, distribution and exhibition was controlled by these companies, enabling Hollywood to produce 600 films per year.
Hollywood became known as Tinseltown and the “dream factory” because of the glittering image of the movie industry.
Love it or hate it Hollywood has turned out some of the all time great films. For those of us who grew up before Television….”Going to the movies” was the highlight of our week. It was the social centre at the Saturday afternoon matinees and many a romance started with taking your beau to the pictures.
If we are talking about those Golden years of Hollywood 30’s to the 60’s we should look at an actor that most probably encapsulated everything that made Hollywood the outrageous place it was. Their were many great film stars produced by the studio’s of this era but one to my m ind is a stand out. He really lived a life a life style that was “larger than life”. He was what every man wanted to be and every women dreamed of being swept of their feet by him.
This is a concise Biography of his life.
Errol Flynn (1909-1959) was an Australian-born film star who gained fame in Hollywood in the 1930s as the screen’s premier swashbuckler. Tall, athletic and exceptionally handsome, Flynn personified the cavalier adventurer in a string of immensely popular films for Warner Brothers, most often co-starring with Olivia De Havilland in such screen classics as “Captain Blood” and “The Adventures of Robin Hood.”
Flynn was born in Hobart, Tasmania, the son of professor Theodore Thomson Flynn, a world renowned Marine biologist, and Lily Mary Young. After an unhappy childhood that included physical and mental abuse by his mother, Flynn ran away to New Guinea where for several years he lived a life of adventure as a copra plantation overseer, constable, gold miner and guide up the dangerous Sepik River. In 1933, back in Australia, he was cast in a low-budget film, “In the Wake of the Bounty,” which gave him the idea of becoming an actor. He drifted to England where he landed work as a bit player with the Northampton Repertory T heater and, after appearing in one film, “Murder at Monte Carlo,” was discovered by a Warner Brothers talent scout.
Coming to America in 1934, Flynn was cast in two insignificant films before Warner Brothers took a chance on an unknown and starred him in “Captain Blood.” Flynn shot to international stardom overnight, and throughout the 1930s he was arguably the most recognisable movie star in the world. His striking good looks and screen charisma won him mi llions of fans, including legions of women who threw themselves at him.
Flynn also became as famous for his hedonistic lifestyle as for his swashbuckling movie roles. By his own estimate he slept with 10,000 women in his lifetime, and his penchant for alcohol, drugs and brawling aged him prematurely. By 1950 his best days were behind him both professionally and personally. Dropped by Warner Brothers in 1952, Flynn roamed the world in his yacht making substandard films abroad, as well as one short-lived television show, “The Errol Flynn Theater.” Near the end of his life he returned to Hollywood where he was rediscovered; playing drunks and washed out bums, he brought a poignancy to his performances that had not been there during his glamorous heyday. Istanbul is a good example of his later films. It is very rare and hard to find.
Flynn, who was married three times, died in Vancouver, British Columbia, on October 14, 1959, of a heart attack. The coroner who examined the 50-year-old actor said he had the body of an 85-year-old man.