Friday, November 14, 2014

Louise Brooks' Anniversary, Flappers & Philosophers (F. Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald)

Happy Anniversary, Louise Brooks!

Louise Brooks — The stunning tastemaker of the ’20s & ’30s, who made women everywhere chop their hair, and created the bold and wildly popular “flapper girl” movement. Louise Brooks’ dark and exotic looks drew a throng of faithful followers that continues to this day. Early on her onscreen talent was often criticized for being somewhat lackluster– but all that changed with a trip to Berlin. Director G.W. Pabst cast her in two films– Pandora’s Box (1928), and Diary of a lost Girl (1929), that not only cast all doubts about her talent, it also rose her following to cult status. Source:

The flapper era was the time of the worship of youth. Flappers were women of the Jazz Age. Flappers had short hair worn no longer than chin length, called bobs. Their hair was often dyed and waved into flat, head-hugging curls and accessorized with wide, soft headbands. It was a new and most original style for women. A lot of make-up was worn by flappers that they even put on in public which was once unheard of and considered something done only by actresses and whores. Flappers wore short, straight dresses often covered with beads and fringes, usually without pantyhose. Young flappers were known to be very rebellious against their parents, and society blamed their waywardness partially on the media, movies, and film stars like Louise Brooks.

Louise Brooks was a big part of the Jazz Age and had a lot of influence on the women of the 1920 s. Being a film star with a great, original personality she is known for being one of the most extraordinary women to set forth the Flapper era. Her sleek and smooth looks with her signature bob helped define the flapper look. On November 14, 1906, in Cherryvale, Kansas, Mary Louise Brooks was born. In 1910, Brooks performed in her first stage role as Tom Thumb s bride in a Cherryvale church benefit. Over the next few years she danced at men s and women s clubs, fairs, and various other gatherings in southeastern Kansas. At ten years old she was already a serious dancer and very much interested in it. In 1920, Brook s family moved to Wichita, Kansas, and at 13 years old she began studying dance.

Louise Brooks had a typical education and family life. She was very interested in reading and the arts, so in 1922 she traveled to New York City and joined the Denishawn Dance Company. This was the leading modern dance company in America at the time. In 1923, Brooks toured the United States and Canada with Denishawn by train and played a different town nearly every night, but one year later she leaves Denishawn and moves back to New York City. Not too long after her return, she gets a job as a chorus girl in the George White Scandals. Following this she and a good friend of hers sailed to Europe. At 17 years old she gained employment at a leading London nightclub. She became famous in Europe as the first person to dance the Charleston in London, and her performances were great successes.

In 1925, Louise Brooks returned to New York and joins Ziegfeld Follier, and performed in the Ziegfeld production, Louie the 14th. That summer she had an affair with Charlie Chaplin. At the same time, Brooks also appeared in her first film, The Streets of Forgotten Men, and signed a five year contract with Paramount. This same year, she had her first appearance on a magazine cover.

In 1926, she featured as a flapper in A Social Celebrity which launched her film career and introduced the flapper era. Brooks considered F. Scott Fitzgerald had created the flapper figure, and she actually existed in "Scott Fitzgerald's mind and the antics he planted in his mad wife Zelda's mind." -“Flapper Culture and Style: Louise Brooks and the Jazz Age” (The Louise Brooks Society)

"Thrilling scandals by an anxious uncle," yawned Ardita. "Have it filmed. Wicked clubman making eyes at virtuous flapper. Virtuous flapper conclusively vamped by his lurid past. Plans to meet him at Palm Beach. Foiled by anxious uncle." "Will you tell me why the devil you want to marry him?" "I'm sure I couldn't say," said Audits shortly. "Maybe because he's the only man I know, good or bad, who has an imagination and the courage of his convictions. Maybe it's to get away from the young fools that spend their vacuous hours pursuing me around the country. But as for the famous Russian bracelet, you can set your mind at rest on that score. He's going to give it to me at Palm Beach... if you'll show a little intelligence." She put her chin in the air like the statue of France Aroused, and then spoiled the pose somewhat by raising the lemon for action. "Lucky girl," he sighed "I've always wanted to be rich and buy all this beauty." Ardita yawned. "I'd rather be you," she said frankly. "You would... for about a day. But you do seem to possess a lot of nerve for a flapper." -"Flappers and Philosophers" (1920) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

To their own surprise and delight, Scott and Zelda discovered that they were being heralded as models in the cult of youth. Scott was asked to lecture before audiences that were ready to adore him as their spokesman. A literary gossip column reported, “We watched him wave his cigarette at an audience one night not long ago, and capture them by nervous young ramblings, until he had the room (mostly ‘flappers’) swaying with delight. This admiration embarrassed him much —but after we had escaped into the outer darkness he acknowledged, with a grin, that he rather liked it.” Still he and Zelda were safe, Scott thought, “apart from all that,” and if the city bewitched them by offering fresh roles for them, they played them because “We felt like small children in a great bright unexplored barn.”

Zelda was asked by McCall’s magazine for a 2,500-word article on the modern flapper, and they offered her ten cents a word. In June the Metropolitan Magazine did publish her “Eulogy on the Flapper.” Above the article was a sketch of Zelda done by Gordon Bryant. Zelda wrote that the flapper was dead and that she grieved the passing of so original a model, for she saw in the flapper a code for living well: 'Perceiving these things, the Flapper awoke from her lethargy of sub-debism, bobbed her hair, put on her choicest pair of earrings and a great deal of audacity and rouge and went into the battle. She flirted because it was fun to flirt and wore a one-piece bathing suit because she had a good figure, she covered her face with powder and paint because she didn’t need it and she refused to be bored chiefly because she wasn’t boring. She was conscious that the things she did were the things she had always wanted to do. Mothers disapproved of their sons taking the Flapper to dances, to teas, to swim and most of all to heart. She had mostly masculine friends, but youth does not need friends—it needs only crowds.'  -"Zelda: A Biography" (2011) by Nancy Milford

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

French Film Noir at Roxie Theater

The Roxie Theater is launching a remarkable festival on Friday, Nov. 14, of films you’ve never heard of. The festival is called 'The French Had a Name For It: French Film Noir 1946-1964.' French noirs have a special freedom in that they aren’t censored. The subject matter and situations are adult, the language can be strong, and there are flashes of nudity. Things that had to be hinted at in American noirs could be stated. Scenes don’t end outside the bedroom door.

The festivities start Friday night with “La Verité” (1960), starring Brigitte Bardot, who might be the revelation of this festival. Wow. Just see her. She’s terrific as a free-love beatnik on trial for murder. It’s paired with “Manon” (1949), a modern retelling of the novel “Manon Lescaux,” starring Cecile Aubry, a kind of perverse pixie. There are two double features on Saturday. In the afternoon, there’s “The Damned” (1947), about defeated Nazis trying to escape to South America. It’s paired with “A Kiss for a Killer” (1957), a festival highlight, with Henri Vidal as a shady operator who marries a rich woman but finds himself drawn to her secretary (Mylène Demongeot).

At night, there’s “Blonde in a White Car” (1958), another demented entry, this one about a guy living with two sisters and trying to figure out which one he had sex with in a dark car; and “Witness in the City” (1959), with Lino Ventura as a man desperate to kill a cabdriver, the sole witness to murder. What makes the movie typically French is that the audience is on everybody’s side. We like the murderer (he had his reasons), and we like the cabdriver. We like everybody. It’s just an unfortunate situation.

Sunday morning is devoted to prostitution, with a young and lovely Simone Signoret as “Dédée d’Anvers” (1948), a hooker with a violent streak; and Bardot in “Love Is My Profession” (1958), pitch-perfect as a flighty young woman who can’t stay out of trouble. She stars opposite Jean Gabin, one of the most instantly lovable actors in film history. Don’t miss “Highway Pickup” (1963), my favorite film in the festival, a kind of “Postman Always Rings Twice,” but from a completely different angle. It’s playing with “Deadlier Than the Male” (1956), with Gabin as a guileless chef targeted by an evil vixen. The festival closes on Monday night with the two films on race, “The Respectful Prostitute” and “I Spit on Your Graves.” As portraits of America — dealing with subjects Hollywood didn’t dare touch at the time — they’re unforgettable. Source:

"There's an odd quirk inside that didn't change with 'success' (after Dedee d'Anvers) and still hasn't. I think: It worked this time. I put it over on them. I made them believe I could do it. But one of these days they're going to discover the fakery. They're going to find out I'm only an amateur." -Simone Signoret

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mabel Normand's Anniversary, F. Scott Fitzgerald's Hollywood Almanac

Mack Sennett Productions 6000 ft., released Nov. 14, 1914 (Dressler No. 1) dir. Mack Sennett cast: Marie Dressler (Tillie Banks), Charlie Chaplin (Charlie, a City Slicker), Mabel Normand (Mabel, his girl friend), Mack Swain (John Banks, Tillie's Father), Charles Bennett (Douglas Banks, Tillie's Uncle), Charles Murray (Detective), Charley Chase (Detective), Edgar Kennedy (Restaurant Proprietor), Harry McCoy (Pianist), Minta Durfee (Maid), Phyllis Allen (Wardress), Alice Davenport (Guest), Slim Summerville (Policeman), Al St. John (Policeman), Wallace MacDonald (Policeman), Joe Bordeaux (Policeman), G. G. Ligon (Policeman), Gordon Griffith (Newsboy), Billie Bennett (Girl), Rev. D. Simpson (Himself), William Hauber (Policeman) Location: Keystone studio, Los Angeles, CA finished: 7/25/1914

Happy Anniversary, Mabel Normand!

Mabel Normand (1892-1930) was the brief queen of the silent era. Her first picture, Over the Garden Wall, was filmed in 1910 for Vitagraph. From there she joined Keystone Studios, and played a large part in their success. She worked with Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle.

Unique for the time, she wrote, directed and starred in several films. Her most memorable being “Mickey” (1918). In 1918 she moved to Goldwyn Studios, where her taste for alcohol and cocaine started taking its toll. She was released from her contract with Goldwyn and went back to Keystone Studios. The 1920s were fraught with scandal – she was associated with two murders. The first, William Desmond Taylor in 1922, and Courtland Dines in 1924. After a long bout with tuberculosis, she died in 1930.

Mabel Normand was once asked by a reporter about her hobbies, to which she replied, “I don’t know. Say anything you like, but don’t say I love to work. That sounds like Mary Pickford, that prissy bitch. Just say I like to pinch babies and twist their legs. And get drunk.”

Pat Hobby’s apartment lay athwart a delicatessen shop on Wilshire Boulevard. And there lay Pat himself, surrounded by his books—the Motion Picture Almanac of 1928 and Barton’s Track Guide, 1939—by his pictures, authentically signed photographs of Mabel Normand and Barbara LaMarr (who, being deceased, had no value in the pawn-shops)—and by his dogs in their cracked leather oxfords, perched on the arm of a slanting settee.

Pat was at “the end of his resources”—though this term is too ominous to describe a fairly usual condition in his life. He was an old-timer in pictures; he had once known sumptuous living, but for the past ten years jobs had been hard to hold—harder to hold than glasses. “Think of it,” he often mourned. “Only a writer—at forty-nine.” All this afternoon he had turned the pages of The Times and The Examiner for an idea. Though he did not intend to compose a motion picture from this idea, he needed it to get him inside a studio. If you had nothing to submit it was increasingly difficult to pass the gate. But though these two newspapers, together with Life, were the sources most commonly combed for “originals,” they yielded him nothing this afternoon. There were wars, a fire in Topanga Canyon, press releases from the studios, municipal corruptions, and always the redeeming deeds of “The Trojuns,” but Pat found nothing that competed in human interest with the betting page. -"No Harm Trying" from "The Pat Hobby Stories" (1940) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

During Fitzgerald’s second year in Hollywood his hopeful ambition turned to discontent. For someone who came there as he had, out of need, there was depression in the flat, drugstore sprawl of Los Angeles with its unnatural glaring sun. Around the studio the older writers treated him with respect, though some of the brash younger ones, who had mastered a technique comparable to making Panama hats under water, made him feel his unimportance. Hollywood was such an industrial town that not to be a power in the movies was to be unknown. “I thought it would be so easy, but it’s been a disappointment. It’s so barren out here. I don’t feel anything out here,” said Fitzgerald.

After working several weeks on A Yank at Oxford, he had been switched to a Remarque war novel, Three Comrades. He liked the material but disliked the interminable story conferences where, as he once said, “personality was worn down to the inevitable low gear of collaboration.” His co-writer, Ted Paramore, was another frustration. According to Fitzgerald Paramore was still turning out “Owen Wister dialogue”—putting such expressions as “Consarn it!” in the mouth of a German sergeant.

The future looked even brighter when Metro took up his option for a year’s renewal of contract at $1250 a week, but in January producer Joe Manckiewicz rewrote the script of Three Comrades so that very few of Fitzgerald’s words remained. Though Manckiewicz liked the way Fitzgerald had brought the characters to life against their background, he found Fitzgerald’s dialogue too flowery—the work of a novelist rather than a scenarist. Fitzgerald’s touches of magic also seemed irrelevant. For example, when one of the three comrades phoned his sweetheart, an angel was supposed to plug in the connection at the hotel switchboard. “How do you film that?” someone asked drily.

Fitzgerald was crushed by what he considered the mutilation of an honest and delicate script, for it wasn’t his nature to write tongue in cheek. “37 pages mine,” he scrawled on Manckiewicz’ version, “about 1/3, but all shadows and rhythm removed.” “To say I’m disillusioned,” he wrote Manckiewicz, “is putting it mildly. For nineteen years I’ve written best selling entertainment, and my dialogue is supposedly right up at the top…. You had something and you have arbitrarily and carelessly torn it to pieces. … I am utterly miserable at seeing months of work and thought negated in one hasty week. I hope you’re big enough to take this letter as it’s meant—a desperate plea to put back the flower cart, the piano-moving, the balcony, the manicure girl—all those touches that were both natural and new. I thought you were going to play fair.” -"Scott Fitzgerald" (2001) by Andrew Turnbull

Friday, November 07, 2014

Orson Welles's final film, Hemingway & Fitzgerald

Great news for movie lovers generally and Orson Welles fans in particular: The director’s storied but unfinished final film, The Other Side of the Wind, may finally be completed and shown next year. As the New York Times reports, the production company Royal Road Entertainment has managed to strike a deal to buy the rights to the movie, with the aim of screening it in California by May 6, 2015, which would have been Welles’ 100th birthday.

According to the Times, the script has its origins in “a tense encounter in 1937 between Ernest Hemingway and a young Welles.” Welles said that a “whiskey-drinking Hemingway” mocked him as one of the “effeminate boys of the theater,” and, when he “mocked him back, Hemingway threw a chair and they scuffled—settling it with a toast that led to an on-again, off-again friendship.” Hemingway apparently “serves as the primary model for Huston’s character.” Source:

A historic hospital where Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald, died in a fire is for sale. Several historic buildings on the site of the famous Highland Hospital in the northern Montford neighborhood are currently on the market, said Debbie Lane, a realtor with NAI Beverly-Hanks. They include one of the first buildings constructed in Montford and structures used as Highland Hospital, established by Dr. Robert S. Carroll, a distinguished psychiatrist who treated addictions as well as nervous and mental disorders. Carroll moved the hospital from downtown to the Montford location in 1909. In 1948 a fire broke out in the main building, killing nine women including Zelda Fitzgerald, according to the National Park Service, which lists the hospital site as on the National Register of Historic Places. Source:

Zelda had hawk's eyes and a thin mouth and deep-south manners and accent. Watching her face you could see her mind leave the table and go to the night's party and return with her eyes blank as a cat's and then pleased, and the pleasure would show along the thin line of her lips and then be gone. Zelda was jealous of Scott's work and as we got to know them, this fell into a regular pattern. Scott would resolve not to go on all-night drinking parties and to get some exercise each day and work regularly. He would start to work and as soon as he was working well Zelda would begin complaining about how bored she was and get him off on another drunken party. Scott was very much in love with Zelda and he was very jealous of her. He told me many times on our walks of how she had fallen in love with the French navy pilot. But she had never made him really jealous with another man since. This spring she was making him jealous with other women and on the Montmartre parties he was afraid to pass out. This continued for years but, for years too, I had no more loyal friend than Scott when he was sober.

Scott was a man then who looked like a boy with a face between handsome and pretty. He had very fair wavy hair, a high forehead, excited and friendly eyes and a delicate long-lipped Irish mouth. His chin was well built and he had good ears and a handsome, almost beautiful, unmarked nose. This should not have added up to a pretty face, but that came from the colouring, the very fair hair and the mouth. His talent was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly's wings. At one time he understood it no more than the butterfly did and he did not know when it was brushed or marred. Later he became conscious of his damaged wings and of their construction and he learned to think and could not fly any more because the love of flight was gone and he could only remember when it had been effortless. -"A Moveable Feast" (1964) by Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, November 02, 2014

"Nothing Sacred" (Fredric March), F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Women"

Carole Lombard and Fredric March in "Nothing Sacred" (1937) directed by William A. Wellman

Hazel Flagg (Carole Lombard) of Warsaw, Vermont, receives the news that her terminal case of radium poisoning from a workplace incident was a complete misdiagnosis with mixed emotions. She is happy not to be dying, but she, who has never traveled the world, was going to use the money paid to her by her factory to go to New York in style. She believes her dreams can still be realized when Wally Cook (Fredric March) arrives in town. He is a New York reporter with the Morning Star newspaper. He believes that Hazel's valiant struggle concerning her impending death is just the type of story he needs to resurrect his name within reporting circles after a recent story he wrote led to scandal and a major demotion at the newspaper. He proposes to take Hazel to New York both to report on her story but also to provide her with a grand farewell to life. She accepts. Wally's story results in Hazel becoming the toast of New York. In spending time together, Wally and Hazel fall in love.

The physical altercations between March and Lombard where they push, kick, and slug one another brought out the ire of the ever vigilante Breen Office, which thought that it was excessively violent. Breen was especially aghast by a man socking and kicking a woman — even if it was for comedic effect. Breen also had the usual complaints about excessive drinking and sexual innuendo. In the midst of shooting Nothing Sacred, the Marches held a dinner party and special screening of the documentary The Spanish Earth written and produced by Ernest Hemingway.

The documentary was in support of the loyalist cause in the Spanish Civil War — strongly anti-fascist and Anti-General Francisco Franco. Hemingway came to Hollywood to give the documentary exposure and to raise money for the loyalist cause. The special screening at the Marches home was just one of several events, and the dinner/ screening guests included John Ford, Joan Crawford, Franchot Tone, Myrna Loy, Samuel Goldwyn, and the writers Lillian Hellman and F. Scott Fitzgerald. -"Fredric March: A Consummate Actor" (2013) by Charles Tranberg

Ernest Hemingway, who, Fitzgerald had written, “talked with the authority of success,” had come to Scott, who “talked with the authority of failure,” for a place to stay and some spending money. Fitzgerald had written that he and Ernest could “never sit across the same table again”; he said that they had “walked over one another with cleats.” In “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” Hemingway had written that the very rich had ruined Scott Fitzgerald, and since then he had more than once hinted that movie money had taken up the job where the Eastern rich had left off. But now Ernest, who said that he was waiting for a check from one of the national magazines, needed some of that Hollywood wealth. Scott gave him twenty-five dollars a week allowance.

Fredric March and Joan Crawford in "Susan and God" (1940) directed by George Cukor

Being assigned to The Women was a double disappointment for Fitzgerald. Not only had Infidelity been stopped, but he had been transferred onto, then off of, a story which promised to become a classic film memorial to Irving Thalberg. In a sense the picture Marie Antoinette was Thalberg’s own The Last Tycoon— it was to have been his masterpiece, but his death left it unfinished. Fitzgerald wrote another note to Stromberg: 'Let us change Mary from a passive, simple, easily influenced character, to the exact opposite—an active, intelligent, and courageous character, and see what effect this would have upon the plot of The Women.' To echo the author, a new kind of heroine, in some ways more like Sheilah Graham, who took care of Scott, than the Zelda who required so much care herself. But this new Mary did not intrigue Stromberg or the front office. Fitzgerald was back to the old, familiar heroine he began with. Fitzgerald’s adaptation of The Women is more a step backwards in the direction of the talkative Three Comrades than a step forward into the quiet world of Infidelity. But most of all, Fitzgerald’s screenplay was a step into the classic Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer mold.

To be sure that Fitzgerald understood what type of script was expected of him, Stromberg sent him off to one of the studio projection rooms to see Metro’s Grand Hotel. Ever since the early thirties when Thalberg produced the movie, an all-star extravaganza which paraded many of the company’s most dazzling beauties, including Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford, Metro had been known as “the Grand Hotel of the studios.” Besides the mystical Garbo and the voracious Crawford, this distinctly feminine studio also boarded Jean Harlow, the goddess-whore; Myrna Loy, the unlikely wife; Joan Fontaine, the governess who married well; coy Paulette Goddard; musical Jeanette MacDonald; tragic Luise Rainer; and Rosalind Russell, the heavyweight bust.

Once again one of Fitzgerald’s pictures had gotten good notices, but he failed to share in the glory. By the time the movie was released, he was looking for another job. While The Women was making money all across the country, Fitzgerald wrote his agent Leland Hayward that it would be futile to ask Stromberg for employment. “I reached a dead end on The Women,” he said. -"Crazy Sundays: F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood" (1972) by Aaron Latham

Fredric March in "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1931) directed by Rouben Mamoulian

If ever there was a Jekyll and Hyde character, it was F. Scott Fitzgerald, a man of two completely different personalities. One Scott was kind; the other cruel. One was completely mature; the other never grew up. One wanted to be loved and admired; the other wanted to be despised. One tried to make people better than they were; the other tore them down. One was careful to the point of hypochondria; the other reckless of his health and safety. There was Scott the considerate husband and Scott his wife's oppressor; the proud father and the father who embarrassed his daughter. The Scott Fitzgerald I knew best was the mature man, although Jekyll sometimes turned into Hyde. It was, of course, his drinking which brought on the transformation, when even his usually wan and self-contained expression changed into flushed anger. “Which is the real you?” I once asked him. And he replied, “The sober man.”  -"The Real F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thirty-Five Years Later" (1976) by Sheilah Graham

Friday, October 31, 2014

"An Alcoholic Case" for Halloween, Jazz Age

Ray Milland as Don Birnam in "The Lost Weekend" (1945) directed by Billy Wilder

"Had the day really gone, had it really managed to pass, he was still sane, still alive? The room was cool, the sunlight had long since left the carpet, though he hadn’t realized it till now. He turned to look out the window. The sun had withdrawn also from the apartment building across the way, it was getting dark. Now what? What about the night, how was he going to survive it?— for he knew that sleep, in this keyed-up state, was beyond possibility. Or was Helen going to arrive and attempt again to rescue him from that night? Never! He would face a nightmare night of devils and creeping horror and shrieking empty bottles twenty times more dreadful than the dreadful day, rather than face Helen, rather than open the door to her. Let her ring the bell, let her ring her head off, he was beyond reach now. He clutched the arms of the chair, fixed his eye on the door, and waited for the bell to ring." -"The Lost Weekend" (1944) by Charles R. Jackson

"Some Halloween jokester had split the side windows of the bus and she shifted back to the Negro section in the rear for fear the glass might fall out. Two nurses she knew were waiting in the hall of Mrs Hixson's Agency. 'What kind of case have you been on?' 'Alcoholic,' she said. 'Gretta Hawks told me about it--you were on with that cartoonist who lives at the Forest Park Inn.' The phone rang in a continuous chime. [...] He was looking at the corner where he had thrown the bottle the night before. She stared at his handsome face, weak and defiant--afraid to turn even half-way because she knew that death was in that corner where he was looking. She knew death--she had heard it, smelt its unmistakable odour, but she had never seen it before it entered into anyone, and she knew this man saw it in the corner of his bathroom; that it was standing there looking at him while he spat from a feeble cough and rubbed the result into the braid of his trousers. It shone there crackling for a moment as evidence of the last gesture he ever made." -"An Alcoholic Case" (1937) by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Artist Archibald J. Motley Jr.'s Jazz Age imagery on display at LACMA: Achibald J. Motley Jr. was an artist intrigued by the night. It is there in a large number of his paintings, which tap into the joys and dramas of life after dark, onstage and backstage, in the streets of Chicago or during a feverish nighttime church service. His neon-lighted scenes emerged from the Midwestern wing of the Harlem Renaissance, as the African American community asserted itself nearly a century ago as a major creative force in art, literature and music. "Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist," on exhibition through Feb. 1 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, is the first wide-ranging survey of his vivid work since a 1991show at the Chicago History Museum.

With about 45 paintings, the LACMA show (which opened at Duke's Nasher Museum of Art) is not a full retrospective but represents "the highlights of an amazing career," says Powell. While the early portraits, Powell says, "deal with family and friends, 'Tongues (Holy Rollers)' is the extended family: The family of the community. The family of black folks at church, at the park, in clubs. It's all a big reflection on Jazz Age Chicago." The exhibition is organized into sections focused on his early portraits, commentary on race, his year in Paris, and Chicago street and night scenes. The later section includes the sound of vintage jazz recordings pumped into the room. While Motley's initial renown in art circles began to fade in the 1940s as interest grew in abstraction and attention focused even more on New York City, his work was rediscovered during the black arts movement of the '60s and '70s, Powell says. Source:

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Man with X-Ray Eyes: a cautionary tale for Halloween, "Premature Burial" (1962)

Halloween is a special time. It is the one time of year when everyone gives of themselves. What they give can be anything from candy to a scare. We thought this October, we here at Mania would give you 31 Days of Horror films. Get ready for 31 films that will run gauntlet from scary to campy.

From the opening score by Les Baxter to director Roger Corman’s final shock the Man with X-Ray Eyes (formerly known as X) is a time capsule of the Sixties B horror genre worth every penny Corman put on screen. Ray Milland portrays Dr. James Xavier, a man obsessed with discovering the secrets to better and clearer vision. His experiments are not to benefit mankind with better eyesight but to see past all that is hidden from the world and what lies beyond. Xavier believes that his visionary experiment will bring the medical field to a new level where doctors have the capabilities to be living x-ray machines.

It is this obsession that is his downfall and his own shortsightedness that will cause his self-experimentation to go horribly wrong. Really there isn’t anything new here in the realm of mad scientist plots. They go all the way back to Mary Shelly’s Doctor Victor Frankenstein. Man wants answers and will ignore the laws of both man and nature to find them, ending with one horrific conclusion. The Sixties were uncertain times. The United States was rediscovering itself in terms of what was acceptable or not for race, sex and freedom. Corman walks a tightrope by showing his perception of the era and how men and women saw each other instead of focusing on his original intent, a horror film. One example of how he accomplished this is at a swinging dance party after Xavier has the ability to see them without their clothes. Another example deals with how the poor and destitute see Xavier as their savior. He is reduced to performing parlor tricks with his eyes to make ends meet.

The ending is a bigger than expected finale given the budget and the era of the film. Corman doesn’t waste a single penny on screen and gives the audience a ride on a plot that has been done to death. The final moments are a brilliant conclusion and will leave no fan of the genre disappointed. The Man with X-Ray Eyes is a great cautionary tale and the perils of science and man’s quest for knowledge.

"Premature Burial" (1962) directed by Roger Corman, starring Ray Milland, Hazel Court and Heather Angel, based on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe (published in 1844 in The Philadelphia Dollar Newspaper).

Set in the early dark Victorian-era 1830s or '40s (also similar to Charles Dickens' fiction of rain-soaked London streets), we follow Guy Carrell (Ray Milland), who is obsessed with the fear of death. He is most obsessed with the fear of being buried alive. Though his fiancee Emily (Hazel Court) says he has nothing to be afraid of, he still thinks he will be buried alive (a common fear and in reality an occasional occurrence). So deluded, he seeks help from a few people, including his sister Kate (Heather Angel), but he still is haunted by the fear of death and the sense that someone close wants him dead.