How could anyone forget this short but sweet and poignant moment from It's a Wonderful Life?
In this series I'd like to present some exceptional scenes inspired by cinema's most gifted artists of yesteryear.
A Night at the Opera (1935)
Director: Sam Wood
Scene: "The Stateroom"
(Many writers contributed to this epic farce, including its two principals: George S. Kaufman and Morrie Ryskind. Even an uncredited Buster Keaton worked on developing this famous scene, however it was nearly scrapped because it wasn't getting any laughs. Once the Marx Brothers ignored the script and started ad-libbing the whole thing, it was transformed into one of the all-time comedy classics.)
A Night at the Opera is available on DVD here:
It is also available in the box set along with 6 other Marx Brothers comedies here:
Just some thoughts on current happenings:
The movie world, already shaken over the loss of one iconic actor, now loses another. This time it's from the tiniest number of her generation's survivors: Lauren Bacall, who passed away at age 89. Anyone who's ever seen her in anything, recognizes not only her supreme talent, but that it was presented in the classiest possible way. She couldn't have asked for a brighter spotlight for her first smoldering on screen appearance, as Marie 'Slim' Browning in 1944's To Have and Have Not. Even her soon to be husband and co-star Humphrey Bogart seems visibly awed by her dominating, stylish presence. A star had arrived and everyone on both sides of the screen knew it. Her loss for classical film lovers is uniquely painful, because of the luminosity emanating from her finest roles and the films they appeared in. We may have lost another ambassador of a "once upon a time" style of legendary film making but, thank God, we still have the many treasures she gave us to cherish and I urge all of us to do so. I don't know about you but I'm going to go watch her and Bogie lovingly dance off into the sunset in Dark Passage. Sincerest condolences to her family and friends. Lauren Bacall (September 16, 1924 - August 12, 2014). R.I.P.
Proving once again that nothing in life is certain, the news of the day, and deeply felt for a long time to come, is the loss of actor and comedian Robin Williams. Suicide is suspected at this time. Nothing more needs to be said. Anyone reading this knows who he was. Now, in so unfortunate a way, we know a little more. A very real tragedy. The sad clown. Robin Williams (July 21, 1951 - August 11, 2014) R.I.P.
Noel Black (June 30, 1937 - July 5, 2014), a distinguished television and movie director has died at age 77. In 1966 Black was nominated for an Academy Award for the 18-minute short subject Skaterdater, and drew critical acclaim for his feature length film debut Pretty Poison (1968) which later became a cult favourite. Pretty Poison is a remarkably engaging film that best showcased this director's sensational talent. He went on to work mostly for television and to occasionally direct films such as Mirrors (1978) and Private School (1983).
Another big name is gone and it "hurts so bad." I think of all of the charismatic characters he played in terrific films like The Great Escape and 36 Hours and despite the devastating loss of the man who portrayed them, the characters live on through the magic of Cinema. Still, I can hardly bring myself to type his name: James Garner (April 7, 1928 - July 19, 2014) R.I.P.
Dick Smith ( June26, 1922 - July 31, 2014), the masterful Oscar winning make-up artist whose instantly recognizable talent gave some famous films their most memorable characters, has died at age 92. He provided the distinctively aged look for Marlon Brando's Don Corleone in The Godfather, David Bowie's John Blaylock in The Hunger, F. Murray Abraham's Antonio Salieri in Amadeus and Dustin Hoffman's 121 year old Jack Crabb in Little Big Man. In addition he transformed Hal Holbrook into Mark Twain in the 1960's and Linda Blair into a horrid, vomit-spewing, head swiveling demonic possessed child in 1973's The Exorcist.
More of Cinema's 2014 lost treasures can be seen on this site's Pinterest Board.
There are two recommended video releases this month. Both have been recently released on Blu-ray.
The first is 1966's espionage thriller The Ipcress File. Michael Caine seems very comfortable in one of his first prominent roles as author Len Deighton's Harry Palmer: A far less flamboyant and heroic British secret service agent compared to Ian Fleming's James Bond. Palmer's lifestyle couldn't be any different either. Unlike the rich and sophisticated surroundings of Bond, Palmer's environment is confined and dreary. Produced by Harry Saltzman, who also helped bring Bond to the screen, this was made to be a more realistic alternative to Bond's extravagance of lavish surrounds, gorgeous women and outrageous gadgets. Palmer's meagre wage, small East End flat, grocery shopping and constant paperwork suggest a rather routine spy's routine, however this aspect of story is offset by the film's engaging characters, wry humour and an increasingly enthralling plot. Its producers have wisely brought in some of their Bond cohorts, namely Peter Hunt with his distinctively dynamic style of editing, Ken Adams' inventive production design (which most resembles the Bond franchise during Palmer's fantastic "brain washing" sequence) and John Barry's silky-smooth and moody musical score featuring a most creative and appropriate use of the cimbalom. Director Sidney J. Furie livens the proceedings with some bizarre camera angles and the drama comes to a powerfully exciting and suspenseful climax. Like the Bond films, The Ipcress File requires a substantial amount of 'suspension of disbelief', but will earn it in spades. And the title of this post, as some film buffs might have recognized, refers to some prominent dialogue in this highly enjoyable thriller. The new and somewhat improved Region B Blu-Ray from Network can be ordered from Amazon.co.uk by clicking on the image above.
1997's The Game is a wild and fantastic concoction but the superbly integrated background of the Michael Douglas character not only makes his reactions to the escalating nightmarish events fascinating it adds poignancy to his final astonishment at the end when all is revealed. The highly dedicated, first-rate performances by Douglas, Sean Penn and the rest of the cast help immeasurably. This is a film, perhaps unlike many of David Fincher's others, that seems to have improved with age, and become more estimable than its title would have suggested. Unique, challenging and compelling, it really stays with you. The Blu-Ray is from Criterion (Region A) and is available from Amazon by clicking on the image.
For August, the recommended CD Soundtrack is Ennio Morricone's sensational score to the film The Untouchables. This 2 CD set is currently available on the La La Land label from Screen Archives Entertainment. It can be ordered by clicking on the image. Screen Archives ships worldwide.
There are two recommendations for those enjoying Turner Classic Movies in the U.S. this August:
The first is a somewhat rare foreign film showing of Louis Malle's penetrating psychological study of a recovering alcoholic's severe depression, Le Fue Follet a.k.a. The Fire Within. It is Hidden Gem #33 and contains a deeply moving performance by Maurice Ronet (who also starred in Malle's Elevator to the Gallows). TCM has scheduled this important film to air on Friday August 8 at 7 am PST.
On Monday August 25 at 12 am PST, TCM will show Anthony Mann's terrific period noir The Tall Target about a conspiratorial effort to assassinate President Lincoln that takes place mostly on a moving train. This story is based on a very similar historical event. As well as having Dick Powell (as John Kennedy no less) the film has a great part for the late Ruby Dee as a slave who tries to assist Powell in thwarting the plot.
Both showings on TCM can be confirmed by clicking on the images.
I'll continue with some of Cinema's most treasured images bound to invoke a strong emotional response. Like the previous selections, these will be listed in ascending order with #31 as the most iconic. The narratives' indelible moments are the primary reason these captures were selected.Read More
U.S. / MGM / 1950 / B+W / 84 minutes / Aspect Ratio: 1.37:1Read More
Some of Cinema's 2013 Lost Treasures. The music by Stanley Myers is from the film Cold Heaven.
I'll continue with some of Cinema's most treasured images bound to invoke a strong emotional response. Like the previous selections, these will be listed in ascending order with #21 as the most iconic. The narratives' indelible moments are the primary reason these captures were selected.Read More
Drama is conflict.
Nowhere is that better exemplified than in a less technologically advanced, austere Western setting. Practically since the dawn of Cinema itself, Westerns appeared on the scene with their comparatively short and simple narratives, befitting both the West's preceding closure and this amazing, new storytelling discovery.Read More
In this series I'd like to present some exceptional scenes inspired by cinema's most gifted artists of yesteryear.
North by Northwest (1959)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Scene: "The Auction"
(Cary Grant cleverly gets himself out a jam in one of the master's best exercises in suspense courtesy of Ernest Lehman's ingenious, original sceenplay and the casts' perfect performances.)
North by Northwest is available on Blu-ray and DVD from Amazon below:
The original recording of Bernard Herrmann's fabulous score can currently be ordered by clicking on the image below. (Intrada ships worldwide).
Gordon Willis (May 28, 1931 – May 18, 2014) an inspired and influential American cinematographer has died age 82.
Guest contributor Bob DiMucci has provided this tribute to his motion picture accomplishments:
The Films of Gordon Willis:
Sterling Silver Dialogue From The Movies:
Do you know where they're from? Answers coming soon.
(After arriving at a secret hiding place for stolen money) "My uncle's grave. He was always good at keeping money so I thought I'd let him keep mine safe."
(A beautiful woman upon accidentally bumping into a man) "Oh, I'm sorry."
(the man looking her over) "I'm not."
Pool Attendant: "They kept it all incognito. They're gonna collect the body in an ice cream van."
(response) "There's a lot of dignity in that, isn't there? Going out like a raspberry ripple."
Casino Manager: "It was a good night. Nothing unusual."
(response) "'Nothing unusual', he says! Eric's been blown to smithereens, Colin's been carved up, and I've got a bomb in me casino, and you say nothing unusual."
"Move to the car, Billy, or I'll blow your spine off."
(response) "That's not a shooter, is it, Harold?"
(reply) "Oh don't be silly, Billy. Would I come hunting for you with me fingers?"
"I'd look good in a mink coat, honey."
(response) "You'd look good in a shower curtain."
"You wouldn't kill me in cold blood, would ya?"
(response) "No, I'll let ya warm up a little."
"Diamond, the only trouble with you is, you'd like to be me. You'd like to have my organization, my influence, my fix. You can't, it's impossible. You think it's money. It's not. It's personality. You haven't got it. You're a cop. Slow. Steady. Intelligent. With a bad temper and a gun under your arm. With a big yen for a girl you can't have. First is first and second is nobody."
(Nathan, to board members at an advertising agency) "Gentlemen I'd like you to meet Dr. Alvin Weasely. Dr. Weasely is one of the most respected motivational researchers in the country. Harvey's beer has dropped 84 percent. So Dr. Weasely will tell us how the American public really feels about beer. Dr. Weasely."
(Dr. Weasely) "Beer is for men who doubt their masculinity. That's why it's so popular at sporting events and poker games. On a superficial level a glass of beer is a cool, soothing beverage. But in reality... a glass of beer is: peepee dickie! That's it."
(Nathan) Beautiful!... Beautiful!
"You know you don't have to act with me, Steve. You don't have to say anything, and you don't have to do anything. Not a thing. Oh, maybe just whistle. You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow."
"Well, you're about as romantic as a pair of handcuffs."
(looking over an undistinguished hotel room) "Hey, I like this. Early nothing."
"The main thing is to have the money. I've been rich and I've been poor. Believe me, rich is better."
(after an assassination) "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli."
"Hope's a funny thing. You can have it even when there ain't no reason for it."
"I do think I oughta' kiss you just once, though, for all the times I won't."
Sterling Silver Dialogue #13: (Answers)Read More
I'll continue with some of Cinema's most treasured images bound to invoke a strong emotional response. Like the first 10 selections, these will be listed in ascending order with #11 as the most iconic. The narratives' indelible moments are the primary reason these captures were selected.Read More
U.K. / MGM - Seven Arts Productions / 1965 / B+W / 123 minutes / Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1Read More
Hidden Gem #60: The Steel Trap (1952, U.S.A.)
Director: Andrew L. Stone
This 'man on the run' caper packs an additional wallop of suspense by focusing on our main protagonist's fascinating and unpredictable psychological reactions: One will surprise us with an even riskier "second job" for him to complete.
Hidden Gem #59: The Hill (1965, U.K.)
Director: Sydney Lumet
Far less known than Lumet's earlier play adaptation of 12 Angry Men, this pressure cooker of a story by Ray Rigby is expertly handled by its accomplished director, delivering intense characterizations and performances that burn right through us, including a career best by Sean Connery. (See: Inspecting a Hidden Gem)
Hidden Gem #58: Death Note a.k.a. Desu nôto (2006, Japan)
Director: Shusuke Kaneko
A live action translation of a very popular, ingenious Manga/Anime series that's packed with creative characters, wild story elements, sly humour and a dramatically charged battle of strategies, taking us on one hell of a genre-crossing ride.
Hidden Gem #57: Death Note II The Last Name a.k.a. Desu nôto: The last name (2006, Japan)
Director: Shusuke Kaneko
This bold sequel picks up right where the first Death Note left off, introducing additional captivating story twists and exciting conflict resolutions.
Hidden Gem #56: Diamonds of the Night a.k.a. Démanty noci (1964, Czechoslovakia)
Director: Jan Nemec
Hallucinatory fantasy, brutal reality and Bunuelian imagery are perfectly blended together in this groundbreaking nightmare of two young Jewish concentration camp escapees; from an under appreciated director who importantly formed part of the Czech "new wave" (including Ivan Passer and Milos Forman).
Hidden Gem #55: Your Three Minutes Are Up! (1973, U.S.A.)
Director: Douglas Schwartz
A highly enjoyable mixture of irreverent comedy with a serious examination of developing maturity, this gem contains a wealth of pleasantly engaging interactions between our two diverse lead performers.
Hidden Gem #54: Patterns (1956, U.S.A.)
Director: Fielder Cook
Personal ambition conflicts with the human values of a newly hired executive thrust into a world of ruthless big business practices, with Rod Serling's acidic dialogue being the fuse that ignites the explosive dramatic fireworks in this emotionally devastating cinematic gem.
Hidden Gem #53: The Holy Mountain (1973, Mexico/U.S.A.)
Director: Alexandro Jodorowsky
If you enjoy getting high, do so when seeing this expert satirist's abstract mosaic of absurd, grotesque imagery and sacrilegious symbolism which pokes fun at the idea that there is something meaningful to be made out of life or for that matter, this motion picture.
Hidden Gem #52: Dark Hazard (1934, U.S.A.)
Director: Alfred E. Green
One wouldn't expect to find a compulsive gambler so endearing, but this character continuously exhibits such a distinctively warm human kindness, with the added bonus of being portrayed by the great Edward G. Robinson, that's precisely what happens in this little gem guaranteed to put a big grin on your face.
Hidden Gem #51: Straight Time (1978, U.S.A.)
Director: Ulu Grosbard
Just as Jose Giovanni (an ex-con turned screenwriter) introduced a sensational new perspective of gritty realism into the French crime genre, so did Edward Bunker for its American counterpart, not only writing Straight Time's source novel No Beast So Fierce while in prison, but also co-writing the screenplay and working as a consultant on this supremely acted project.