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  1. This is the first time I have been able to post in many, many months. I have often thought of you, Bronxie, especially when relishing a particularly awful film or a few classics. Hope the coming year has some joyous moments for you...and, oh, Marcello showed up on the doorstep all dressed up for your birthday...I just had to let him in. Hope you don't mind.
  2. Her face was magnificent--and her acting could be unforgettable. In youth, middle age and as an elderly woman she wore it proudly, radiating intelligence, innocence, pain and joy--along with some acerbic humor and a stubborn feistiness--but Sidney's enduring spirit and professionalism might be even more impressive during her eight decade career. That was Sylvia--a woman whose high cheekbones and magnetic, large eyes who could radiate an exquisite delicacy and toughness with the flick of an eye. Now we have an opportunity to learn more about this somewhat mysterious figure in classic film on Sat., Dec.17 & Sun., Dec.18 we have a chance to learn more about Sidney during an online visit at The Silver Screen Oasis. Scott O'Brien will be discussing his latest book, PAID BY THE TEAR (BearManor), throughout the weekend. Sylvia who? For far too long, many of this Oscar & Emmy-nominated actress' best films remained unavailable until recent years. Some only know her from her very funny turns on the television classic, WKRP in Cincinnati, or in Beetlejuice (1988) or Mars Attacks! (1996)--but fewer know her best Depression-era dramatic work in such films as Street Scene, Fury and You Only Live Once and fewer still had the privilege of seeing Sidney on stage--despite a forty+ years career in live theater. As many know, Scott O'Brien has long made our Oasis a beacon for classic movie fans with his previous visits discussing his previous books on Kay Francis, Ann Harding, Ruth Chatterton and George Brent (linked below). Please consider this your gilt-edged invitation to join us for this celebration this weekend at the link below. Also listed--links to learn more about Scott O'Brien and his biographies: The Upcoming Scott O'Brien Q & A at The Silver Screen Oasis: viewforum.php?f=36 Scott O'Brien's Previous Visits to the SSO: viewforum.php?f=36 Scott O'Brien on Facebook: A Sylvia Sidney Playlist: ... dko6u3ggq5 BearManor Media Publishers of Scott O'Brien's books: ... +o%27brien Scott O'Brien on Amazon:
  3. LYNN ZOOK IS GAMBLING ON A DREAM AT THE SSO ON 11-12 & 11-13 "…But most of all, there was neon--everywhere." - Lynn Zook, Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955  They were all there once. Dreamers, drifters, scoundrels, and sweethearts--whether working the crowd or keeping the back of the house stocked, everyone--from cowboys, innkeepers, movie stars, working stiffs and lucky bums as well as rule-breaking architects and artists who painted the night sky using neon once gathered there and come alive again in the story of the Las Vegas strip during its first 25 years and beyond in a fascinating, very American intersection of show biz & commerce. The Silver Screen Oasis is pleased to announce that one of our own--Lynn Zook (aka lzcutter)--will be joining us for a Q & A about her new book, Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955 on November 12th and 13th. Our guest author was among the people who stood out a dozen years ago when first encountered online at the Turner Classic Movies forum. Gradually getting to know her online--and in person for a lucky few in attendance at the TCM Classic Film Festivals--has been revelatory. As an admin here at the SSO and a contributor to the TCM website, the knowledgeable Lynn has been consistently friendly, observant, and, fortunately for us when life (and technology) goes awry, she is also blessed with a wry humor tempered with a kindness and patience that has never flagged.  Lynn (above) rarely talks about herself, but she is quite an accomplished person as well as a passionate lover of classic film. She is a graduate of the USC School of Cinema and Television Masters of Fine Arts program who is also a digital archivist, and an accomplished award-winning producer and editor. She is also the author of Las Vegas 1905-1965 and the just released e-book, Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955 as well as producer of the documentary, The Story of Classic Las Vegas. One subject Lynn does talk about is her love of her hometown and appreciation for the men and women who wrote this vivid chapter in American cultural life. As she does regularly on the Classic Las Vegas site, Lynn documents an earlier Las Vegas that hummed with neon as well as the work of imaginative pioneers, Americans on the move (and often on the make). Just as the movie industry was growing and changing, so did Las Vegas, affecting her residents and the country as a whole. If you would like to learn more about this topic, please join us for our journey with Lynn through a vivid chapter in American cultural life next weekend, November 12th and 13th. You can be part of the conversation at The Silver Screen Oasis Message Board below: The Q & A with Lynn Zook about Gambling on a Dream Gambling on a Dream: The Classic Las Vegas Strip 1930-1955 is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iTunes.
  4. The Q & A for the discussion of Not Just Batman's Butler: The Autobiography of Alan Napier is now open and can be found here:
  5. "All through my life people have tried to foist the role of leader on me; a role that I can play on stage but have no will to assume in life." ~ Alan Napier The Silver Screen Oasis is pleased to announce an online visit with James Bigwood, the editor and annotator of actor Alan Napier's autobiography, Not Just Batman’s Butler: The Autobiography of Alan Napier (McFarland) on Sat., Dec. 5th and Sun., Dec. 6th at the link below. All are welcome to participate in the Q & A there: Almost 30 years after Napier’s death, writer and producer James Bigwood, who first read the versatile actor's manuscript in 1975 when interviewing him for a Films in Review profile, was allowed by the actor’s daughter to arrange for its publication. A bit facetiously but honestly, Napier described to Mr. Bigwood how, despite the fact that the actor had "written an autobiographical work full of fascinatingstories"..."unfortunately, since I've never committed a major crime and I'm not known to have slept with any famous actresses, it's very difficult to get it published." That gentle, amused perspective on life and his career ups and downs comes across vividly in this charming book, allowing the reader to travel with him from an Edwardian boyhood to Hollywood in the '60s. Supporting player Alan Napier (1903-1988) became a household name late in life thanks to the runaway success of the television series Batman (1966-1968), which spoofed comic books, pop art and the American penchant for heroics. It also allowed the severely myopic Napier to wear his own (much needed) spectacles, and to receive some of the attention he deserved for the droll elegance he brought to each of his scenes. Long before this hit show the actor who became identified with the role of Alfred, the butler to Bruce Wayne/Batman had worked for decades with great actors and directors on stage and screen. Among those long remembered and sometimes sadly forgotten who shared the stage and screen with him during his forty+ years career were Gerard du Maurier, Marlon Brando, Ingrid Bergman, John Wayne, Laurence Olivier, George Bernard Shaw, Paul Muni, Sean Connery, Alfred Hitchcock, James Whale, Orson Welles, Douglas Sirk, Fritz Lang, Edmund Goulding, Otto Preminger, Val Lewtonand Edgar Ulmer, among others! Above: Three Faces from Alan Napier--Left: in Orson Welles' version of MacBeth (1948), Middle: in Hangover Square (1945), & The Invisible Man Returns (1940). Fortunately for those of us who cherish the warmth, style and authority of a skilled, expressive character actor such as Napier in classic films, we will have a chance to explore his life and times of an actor who was an ensemble player for much of his career. This new memoir presented by James Bigwood in this lively, touching and informative first person account with his annotations, is just one of the many projects that our guest has been involved in during his career. Mr. Bigwood has written articles for Films in Review, American Film, American Cinematographer, and Film Fan Monthly on topics as diverse as Salvador Dali's films and a profile of character actress Norma Varden. Our guest previously publishedThe Films of Peter Lorre (Citadel) with Stephen D. Youngkin & Raymond Cabana (prior to Mr. Youngkin's publication of his seminal Lorre biography, The Lost One). The list of Mr. Bigwood's work as a film and television producer and production manager include films and series such as Bob Roberts(1992), A Bright Shining Lie (1998), Iron Jawed Angels (2004), Ugly Betty (2006), The Red Road(2014), & Being Mary Jane (2015). In what is clearly a labor of love, our guest has also compiled several video clips of interviews with Alan Napier and posted them online. The actor discusses his first steps in Hollywood in We Are Not Alone(1939), The Invisible Man Returns (1940), House of Seven Gables (1940), the superb ghost story, The Uninvited (1944), and a few comments on becoming Alfred in Batman. Each of these can be seen on James Bigwood's Youtube Channel, found here: Book Sources:
  6. “Go ahead and learn how to act, but don't get caught at it.” ~ Walter Brennan The Silver Screen Oasis is pleased to welcome Carl Rollyson, the author of A Real American Character: The Life of Walter Brennan (Univ. Press of Mississippi) for an online Q & A with us on Saturday, November 7th & Sunday, November 8th. The conversation will take place here this weekend: Walter Brennan, a consummate character actor of the studio era who stole scenes from the iconic likes of Gary Cooper, John Wayne, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart and Humphrey Bogart, was sought out by masterful directors such as Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Fritz Lang for the versatility and credibility he brought to each film. So, as one reviewer of Mr. Rollyson’s book asked, “How could an actor win three Oscars in five years yet be all but forgotten?” The possible answer to this lies in his the actor's career, in our cultural memory, and in the human being examined in the pages of our guest author's book. In the first, full length biography of this now overlooked character actor, the author drew from archival material and with the full cooperation of the Brennan family to create a portrait of an authoritative actor as he journeyed from a Massachusetts town to the harrowing battlefields of World War One to journeyman actor and ultimately to a remarkable career spanning six decades. Able to play endearing bums, brutal fathers, veteran military men, struggling con artists, gentle musicians or courageous college professors believably, Rollyson presents the reader with Brennan as a human being whose talent, work ethic and foibles make him a worthy subject for this engrossing life story. Our guest, who has visited the Oasis previously to discuss one of his many biographies, (the remarkably moving biography Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews ) is a noted biographer of everyone from Amy Lowell to Marilyn Monroe, limns Brennan’s development as a consummate actor who often hid his artistry, a fixture in a constantly shifting industry, and, in intriguing sidelights, his conservatism as he grew older and wealthier (the actor reportedly even wondered if John Wayne might be a communist). In reading this biography, the the actor’s skill at playing both sympathetic and negative characters takes on even more compelling complexity in light of his beliefs and long life, while the author avoids drawing easy answers about the mystery of an individual and his lasting impact on his family and film. Please join us for this opportunity to discuss a giant among character actors this Nov. 7th & 8th! Carl Rollyson's video about Walter Brennan: “Unsung character actors finally get a long-overdue close-up in A Real American Character, Carl Rollyson’s authoritative portrait of Walter Brennan. A real Hollywood success story, Brennan and his extraordinary career, which included winning three Oscars, are presented with great sympathy, sensitivity, and admiration.” —Marion Meade, author of The Unruly Life of Woody Allen and Buster Keaton: Cut to the Chase Reviews: Turner Classic Movies Book Spotlight The Wall Street Journal Classic Movieman The Author’s Website: The University Press of Mississippi:
  7. TopBilled, please forgive my tardy reply, but I hope you and anyone else interested in reading past Q & A s with our visiting authors and filmmakers know that we leave all our discussions up after they have closed. We like reading them later too! Hope you will be able to visit during our forthcoming series of guests. All are welcome to participate in the conversations during these events. All past discussions, from 2007-2015, can be read here in our Archives:
  8. The Silver Screen Oasis is pleased to welcome Scott Nollen this weekend on Saturday, Sept. 26th and Sunday, Sept. 27th to participate in an online Q & A about his latest book, Glenda Farrell: Hollywood's Hard-Boiled Dame (Midnight Marquee Press). The Q and A thread where questions can be posted is now open here: In the hectic '30s this character actress broke all the rules--she tempted Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. away from a life of crime with Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar (1931), she thought motherhood might cramp her style in Life Begins (1932), she jockeyed with Ruth Donnelly over unlikely boy-toy, Frank McHugh in Heat Lightning (1934), and she got the story first (and the marital commitment later) in several Torchy Blane films. In the '40s, Glenda could be found as a world weary gal in Johnny Eager (1941), sharing the screen for a few choice moments with Ronald Colman in Talk of the Town (1943), and stole the movie from several marquee names in I Love Trouble (1948) with her snappy way with a line and a raised eyebrow. In her five decade career, Glenda Farrell worked on film with every director from Mervyn Le Roy to George Stevens and actors as varied as Spencer Tracy (Man's Castle in 1933) and Elvis Presley (Kissin' Cousins in 1964), making her mark in every type of role and every medium. As many of our members know who delighted in his 2014 visit to discuss Three Bad Men: John Ford, John Wayne, and Ward Bond (McFarland), Scott is a research historian with a gift for blending hard facts with humanizing detail and an abiding love for the studio era and the too-often neglected figures who gave it such zest and the lasting qualities we cherish in classic cinema. In his well-written and carefully researched books on varied topics such as Paul Robeson, Boris Karloff, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robin Hood and The Cinema of Frank Sinatra, our guest has regularly illuminated the abiding influence of people and authors who shaped popular imagination. One such individual is Glenda Farrell, an actress of considerable range and warmth, whether cast as one of a series of fast-talking dames, a hard-working reporters, brassy mob dolls or--as she proved on stage in in several memorable dramatic roles on screen--a singular actress. In her five decade career, Glenda Farrell worked on film with everyone from Spencer Tracy (Man's Castle in 1933) to Elvis Presley (Kissin' Cousins in 1964), making her mark in every type of role and every medium. Off-screen, as the author describes, the polished performer Farrell was an intelligent, independent woman who eluded the fatal traps of the Hollywood system and managed to find monetary and artistic rewards in her career, while consistently seeking a balanced home life. Please consider this your invitation to visit the world of Glenda Farrell with Scott Nollen this weekend! Links to More about Glenda Farrell and Scott Nollen: Scott Nollen Facebook Page for this book: Scott Nollen on Amazon: Midnight Marquee Press: Glenda Farrell on Youtube: Glenda Farrell In-Depth Quotes & Timeline from SSO Member Hardwicke Benthow:
  9. The Q & A thread with guest author Jeff Spivak (Buzz: The Life & Art of Busby Berkeley) at the SSO is now open at the link below and awaiting your questions & comments:
  10. "In an era of breadlines, depression and wars, I tried to help people get away from all the turn their minds to something else. I wanted to make people happy, if only for an hour." - Busby Berkeley Jeffrey Spivak, the author of "Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley," will be our guest for an online Q & A at The Silver Screen Oasis on Aug. 22nd and 23rd. Drawing on personal letters, interviews, studio memoranda, and Berkeley’s private memoirs, our visiting author created a nuanced portrait of this natural talent, whose development of the kinetic aspects of film continues to influence filmmakers to this day. This thoughtful book reveals Busby Berkeley as a person without formal dance training but exceptional drive and ability who could never describe exactly how his creativity worked. Without whitewashing or indulging in unnecessary speculation, the author touches on Berkeley's intense closeness to his mother, Gertrude Berkeley, his six marriages, and the tumult in his personal life that nearly cost him everything. After reading his book, the reader can see the real life sources that inspired "The Lullaby of Broadway" in all its variations over the decades of his career at various studios. Please join us here to post your own questions about Busby Berkeley and his films or to enjoy reading the exchanges. All are welcome. For detailed information on this book and our visitor, please visit the following links: Jeffrey Spivak's publisher, The University Press of Kentucky: Jeffrey Spivak at Amazon: Facebook Page for Buzz: The Life and Art of Busby Berkeley: The Hollywood Reporter on Ryan Gosling's purchase of the rights to our guest's book for a biopic:
  11. The Silver Screen Oasis welcomes David Meuel, the author of the new book, The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range 1943-1962 (McFarland, 2015) for a discussion of this intriguing development in film during the mid-20th Century on Friday, July 24 and Saturday, July 25. (This Saturday is also, incidentally, the 11th Annual Day of the Cowboy). I am particularly pleased to see David making this guest appearance, since, as a former guest blogger in 2012 on The Skeins blog, he celebrated and analyzed the power of Shirley Temple, this month's Star of the Month at TCM, drawing on his insights into John Ford's women in his previous book,Women in the Films of John Ford (McFarland, 2014). You can post your own questions and read the Q & A with our Guest Author at the Silver Screen Oasis at this link this weekend: Beginning in the mid-1940s, the bleak, brooding mood of film noir began seeping into that most optimistic of film genres, the western. Story lines took on a darker tone and western films adopted classic noir elements of moral ambiguity, complex anti-heroes and explicit violence. This “noir western” helped set the standard for the darker science fiction, action and superhero films of today, as well as for acclaimed TV series such as HBO'sDeadwood and AMC's Breaking Bad. Since TCM's Summer of Darkness project screens films noir every Friday in June and July this summer, 12,000 students have signed up for the online film noir course taught by Richard Edwards from Ball State University on Canvas, and the free course has sparked much renewed interest in the genre. Perhaps a series on Meuel's The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range 1943-1962 might be the next logical step in further focusing on film noir. Blending scholarship with an abiding love for both genres, Meuel was a featured speaker at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco for its film series, Dark Horse: Film Noir Westerns, a program that was well-received as a popular and critical contribution to definitions of noir. A lifelong student of films, David Meuel lives in Menlo Park, California, and has also published two volumes of poetry among other works. Links: David Meuel Online: David Meuel's Books Online: David Meuel on Youtube: Immortal Ephemera: Review of Women in the Films of John Ford: Review of The Noir Western: Darkness on the Range, 1943-1962: The Evening Class Blogspot has an excerpt from The Noir Western: The National Day of the Cowboy: Christy Putnam's review of Women in the Films of John Ford: TCM and Ball State's Online Film Noir Course: David Meuel at Amazon:
  12. He's on his way! The thread for the Q & A with Robert Ryan's biographer, J.R. Jones is now open at the link below, awaiting your inquiries about the actor's life and career:
  13. ROBERT RYAN BIOGRAPHER J.R. JONES TO VISIT THE SSO ON 7/10 & 7/11 On Friday, July 10, and Saturday, July 11, The Silver Screen Oasis is looking forward to talking with J.R. Jones, author of THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN (Wesleyan). Notice the plural in the title: This new biography deals with both the public and private lives of the great film actor Robert Ryan. Robert Ryan never became a star of the magnitude of Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart, but most lovers of classic film come to admire his work, whether he's playing the hero or the villain, the leading man or a supporting actor. Some of his best films, like ACT OF VIOLENCE and ON DANGEROUS GROUND, let him play aspects of both the villain and the hero in the same role. Ryan excelled in a variety of genres. Film noir was a great fit for him, but westerns like THE NAKED SPUR and THE PROFESSIONALS also showcased his talent well. And then there's Ryan in domestic melodrama (CLASH BY NIGHT), Ryan in romantic drama (ABOUT MRS. LESLIE), Ryan in serious drama (THE ICEMAN COMETH). On stage he played Shakespeare's Coriolanus. J.R. Jones is an award-winning film critic and editor for the Chicago Review, and his writing has appeared in many publications, from New York Press to Kenyon Review to Noir City. He did an outstanding job of introducing ON DANGEROUS GROUND at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs this May, and as TCM Forum and SSO member kingrat can attest, he enjoys chatting with fans about our classic films. What would you like to know about Robert Ryan? How he got interested in acting, what his favorite films were, how his politics affected his career? Unlike most Hollywood stars, he was only married once, and the marriage lasted until his wife Jessica died of cancer. J.R. Jones has written an informative, easy-to-read biography which I strongly recommend. It should be a lot of fun to talk with him about Robert Ryan. Please note: In 2008 we had the pleasure of hosting Robert Ryan's daughter, Lisa as our guest at the SSO as well. That Q & A is now available in our Archive here: Below are links to explore this essential biography: A Link to The Silver Screen Oasis Guest Forum for the Q & A this Weekend: J.R. Jones published interview: J.R. Jones video interview: J.R. Jones publisher's site:
  14. Ann Blyth Biographer Jacqueline T. Lynch to Visit The Silver Screen Oasis on 6/19 & 6/20 The thread for the Q & A with Ann Blyth's biographer is now open at the link below. All are welcome to participate: Ann Blyth has had a long career and noteworthy life off-screen. She played on Broadway and became a movie star and an Oscar nominee before she was eighteen. She developed into a remarkably versatile performer in dramas, comedies, fantasies and musicals. She worked with actors as storied as Gregory Peck, Joan Crawford, Tyrone Power, Donald O'Connor, Claudette Colbert, Robert Mitchum, Charles Boyer and Paul Newman, as well as directors from Michael Curtiz to Douglas Sirk. Despite her many accomplishments, (or because of them?) the actress remains an elusive figure in some ways. She managed to maintain a public reserve and private life that includes many friends, a marriage of over fifty years, and five children. Jacqueline T. Lynch, the author of Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star (CreateSpace Pub.), is visiting The Silver Screen Oasis on June 19th and 20th to explore the life and career of this vibrant lady who still participates in occasional public events celebrating classic movies. Jacqueline, who has maintained Another Old Movie Blog about classic film for several years has written and published fiction, history, plays and insightful film reviews for several years, gathering many of her devoted readers to her on a weekly basis. In the last year, as she embarked on a project to review each of Ann Blyth's films, Ms. Lynch received repeated requests from readers asking her to put her analysis of Blyth's versatility and singular path through Hollywood into print as a biography. Heeding that request, the author has produced this first full length biography of the actress. Please consider this your invitation to attend and participate in the online Q & A with Jacqueline T. Lynch on Friday, June 19th and Saturday June 20th at The Silver Screen Oasis. All are welcome. As Jacqueline put it in Ann Blyth: Actress. Singer. Star: Below are links to The Silver Screen Oasis Guest Forum, Another Old Movie Blog, a playlist of Ann Blyth links on youtube, and places to purchase this book (and others by our guest): The Silver Screen Oasis Guest Author Forum: Another Old Movie Blog: Jacqueline T. Lynch Author Page at Amazon: An Ann Blyth Playlist from Youtube:
  15. "In Name Only" (1939)

    I actually like the uneasy mixture of romance, comic lightness with the darkness and discord found In Name Only (1939). Much like life, no? Kay Francis may have been attracted to the role of the vindictive wife because as a freelancer at RKO she was appearing in an A picture after far too many Bs at her former studio. The part was also more lucrative than her contract pay had been recently at Warner Bros. According to an interview with the actress at the time, she said that ""When I played the heavy 'In Name Only,' my friends told me I was crazy. I said I had to be seen in some other type of part than the mush I had been playing." According to most Francis bios, Carole Lombard was responsible for getting Kay the role. *SPOILER* I think Kay Francis manages to convey a degree of complexity in her scheming wife. She is crestfallen when Cary reveals that he knows about her former love's suicide and seems to be trying to fill the void within her with the wealth--emotional support and social acceptance--that Grant's family offers her. I also wondered if Kay's character understood herself so little that she believed she could "make" herself love Grant and make him love her. Her plight seems to me to be underlined by the parallel character of Helen Vinson, who is frustrated in her efforts to snag Cary's attention. Vinson's viciousness is far sharper than anything displayed by Francis, but she seems to be the kind of woman that Kay Francis socializes with, which must have deepened her loneliness and increased her paranoia about her husband. BTW, Barranca, Carole Lombard's sister returned to Carole's house at Christmas in the movie and announced that she had rediscovered the joy of love with some off-camera nice joe--all after throwing a monkey wrench into the middle of her sister's life. Sis was played by a fine actress of the period, Katharine Alexander--who was always playing secondary parts, though I'm not sure why! I also treasure this film for the presence of Grady Sutton, who is Helen Vinson's poor, benighted boy toy in one sequence on a train.

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