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The Essentials: The Brad Bird Era begins May 2


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Based on a story idea by co-written by Billy Wilder (one year before he began his legendary directing career in America), "Ball of Fire" is a 1940s version of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Directed by Howard Hawks, the 1941 screwball comedy starred Barbara Stanwyck as Katherine "Sugarpuss" O'Shea -- a streetwise nightclub performer forced to flee from police because of a mob connection. She found refuge with an acquaintance -- Professor Potts (Gary Cooper), an erudite man working on a big encyclopedia project with seven colleagues.

Stanwyck received her second of four overall Best Actress Oscar nominations for her performance in the film. Wilder, who would later direct the actress in "Double Indemnity," co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Brackett and Thomas Monroe. Wilder and Monroe received an Oscar nomination for Best Writing, Original Story. The film also received nominations for Alfred Newman's score and Best Sound, Recording (Thomas T. Moulton)

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On 7/30/2020 at 11:16 PM, jakeem said:

 

I just saw this On Demand and loved it 8/10. A first time viewing for me and now I have seen every single one of Brad Bird's choices.

The writing is very witty in it's academia meets street smarts. Gary Cooper gives one of his best performances as the naive English professor who learns about the outside world, Barbara Stanwyck is also a delight as the brassy dame who shows him there is more to life than books. You can't help but be charmed by both of them and you root for them all the way. The eccentric group of professors are all well cast, Richard Haydn being the standout, he sounds like he is doing a Noel Coward imitation. Dana Andrews and Dan Duryea bring some menace to their roles as gangsters. There is also some great suspense toward the end when the professors find a way to outwit the crooks.

Edited by Det Jim McLeod
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 In 1998, the American Film Institute ranked Sir Charles Chaplin's comedy "City Lights" No. 76 on its list of the greatest movies of all time. When AFI updated the list in 2007, the film soared all the way up to No. 11. 

In addition to starring in the picture, the versatile Chaplin also wrote it, produced it, directed it, edited it and composed the musical score.
 
Among its many great moments: The meticulously choreographed boxing match, in which Chaplin's Tramp character tries to earn enough money to pay for a sight-restoring operation for a beloved flower girl (Virginia Cherrill, Cary Grant's first wife).
 
It was one of the highlights of the film clips package aired moments before Chaplin accepted an honorary Academy Award on April 10, 1972.
 
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What Brad Bird said in the opening discussion for CITY LIGHTS about Chaplin believing sound films were a fad and would fade out (I'm paraphrasing) wasn't completely accurate when you take into account Chaplin's entire thought. This is what he said exactly in his autobiography (I wish I had a scanner to help me out!)

While I was in New York, a friend told me that he had witnessed the synchronization of sound in films and predicted that it would shortly revolutionize the whole film industry.

I did not think of it again until months later when the Warner Brothers produced their first talking sequence. It was a costume picture, showing a very lovely actress- who shall be nameless- emoting silently over some great sorrow, her big, soulful eyes imparting anguish beyond the eloquence of Shakespeare. Then suddenly a new element entered the film- the noise that one hears when putting a sea shell to one's ear. Then the lovely princess spoke as if talking through sand: "I shall marry Gregory, even at the cost of giving up the throne." It was a terrible shock, for until then the princess had enthralled us. As the picture progressed the dialogue became funnier, but not as funny as the sound effects. When the handle of the boudoir door turned I thought someone had cranked up a farm tractor, and when the door closed it sounded like the collision of two lumber trucks. At the beginning they knew nothing about controlling sound: a knight-errant in armour clanged like the noise in a steel factory, a simple family dinner sounded like the rush hour in a cheap restaurant, and the pouring of water into a glass made a peculiar tone that ran up the scale to high C. I came away from the theatre believing the days of sound were numbered.

But a month later M.G.M. produced THE BROADWAY MELODY, a full-length sound musical, and a cheap dull affair it was, but a stupendous box-office success. That started it; overnight every theatre began wiring for sound. That was the twilight of silent films. It was a pity, for they were beginning to improve. Murnau, the German director, had used the medium effectively, and some of our American directors were beginning to do the same. A good silent picture had universal appeal both to the intellectual and the rank and file. Now it was all to be lost.

But I was determined to continue making silent films, for I believed there was room for all types of entertainment. Besides, I was a pantomimist and in that medium I was unique and, without false modesty, a master. So I continued with the production of another silent picture, CITY LIGHTS.

 

 

 

 

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On 8/8/2020 at 10:39 PM, sagebrush said:

What Brad Bird said in the opening discussion for CITY LIGHTS about Chaplin believing sound films were a fad and would fade out (I'm paraphrasing) wasn't completely accurate when you take into account Chaplin's entire thought. This is what he said exactly in his autobiography (I wish I had a scanner to help me out!)

While I was in New York, a friend told me that he had witnessed the synchronization of sound in films and predicted that it would shortly revolutionize the whole film industry.

I did not think of it again until months later when the Warner Brothers produced their first talking sequence. It was a costume picture, showing a very lovely actress- who shall be nameless- emoting silently over some great sorrow, her big, soulful eyes imparting anguish beyond the eloquence of Shakespeare. Then suddenly a new element entered the film- the noise that one hears when putting a sea shell to one's ear. Then the lovely princess spoke as if talking through sand: "I shall marry Gregory, even at the cost of giving up the throne." It was a terrible shock, for until then the princess had enthralled us. As the picture progressed the dialogue became funnier, but not as funny as the sound effects. When the handle of the boudoir door turned I thought someone had cranked up a farm tractor, and when the door closed it sounded like the collision of two lumber trucks. At the beginning they knew nothing about controlling sound: a knight-errant in armour clanged like the noise in a steel factory, a simple family dinner sounded like the rush hour in a cheap restaurant, and the pouring of water into a glass made a peculiar tone that ran up the scale to high C. I came away from the theatre believing the days of sound were numbered.

But a month later M.G.M. produced THE BROADWAY MELODY, a full-length sound musical, and a cheap dull affair it was, but a stupendous box-office success. That started it; overnight every theatre began wiring for sound. That was the twilight of silent films. It was a pity, for they were beginning to improve. Murnau, the German director, had used the medium effectively, and some of our American directors were beginning to do the same. A good silent picture had universal appeal both to the intellectual and the rank and file. Now it was all to be lost.

But I was determined to continue making silent films, for I believed there was room for all types of entertainment. Besides, I was a pantomimist and in that medium I was unique and, without false modesty, a master. So I continued with the production of another silent picture, CITY LIGHTS.

Chaplin was a lot like Sir Alfred Hitchcock, whose filmmaking career also began during the silent era. Both of them continued to create movie scenes that didn't require sound or could have been done without it.  Consider some of these moments from Chaplin's 1957 comedy "A King in New York":

 

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Gene Kelly was an accomplished actor, director, dancer and choreographer. He also was one heckuva talent scout.

It was he who discovered Leslie Caron, his French-born co-star in the 1951 classic musical "An American in Paris." She drew Kelly's attention when she was a teen ballerina in Roland Petit's Ballets des Champs-Elysees.

Caron reportedly was so shy while shooting her debut film -- directed by Vincente Minnelli -- that she did scenes with her back to the camera. Kelly finally told her: "Honey, if you want your mother to see you in this film, turn your face to the camera." 

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Caron went on to become an estimable screen presence. She was nominated for Best Actress for her performances in the 1953 musical "Lili" and the 1962 drama "The L-Shaped Room." She won a 2007 Primetime Emmy Award as Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series for an appearance in the NBC series "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." 

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20 hours ago, jakeem said:

Gene Kelly was an accomplished actor, director, dancer and choreographer. He also was one heckuva talent scout.

It was he who discovered Leslie Caron, his French-born co-star in the 1951 classic musical "An American in Paris." She drew Kelly's attention when she was a teen ballerina in Roland Petit's Ballets des Champs-Elysees.

It's easy to see what Kelly saw in the young Caron.

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4 minutes ago, sagebrush said:

It's easy to see what Kelly saw in the young Caron.

But who could have guessed she'd become such an outstanding dramatic actress? It's too bad the honorary Academy Awards have been canceled for 2020. Now she'll have to wait another year for consideration.

Leslie Caron danced into Hollywood

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John Wayne wasn't known for singing, but he certainly had an impact on the music industry (anybody remember the 1984 song "Rappin' Duke"?). Ethan Edwards, his character in the 1956 Western "The Searchers," inspired a budding  rock 'n' roll star from Texas.

In June 1956, the 20-year-old Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holly saw "The Searchers" with two members of his band The Crickets. They liked Edwards' catch phrase from the movie so much that Holly and bandmate Jerry Allison wrote the song "That'll Be the Day." In 1957, the song went to No. 1 on Billboard's pop chart and No. 2 on its R&B chart. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked it No. 39 on its list of "The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time."

 

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Another music group influenced by the John Ford film: The British band The Searchers, which had a 1964 hit with a cover of "Needles and Pins." Their version of the  song, written by Jack Nitzsche and Sonny Bono, reached No. 13 on Billboard's pop chart.

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 Ethan Edwards was John Wayne's favorite character. In fact, he even named his youngest son John Ethan Wayne. 

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The younger Wayne co-starred with his father in the 1971 Western "Big Jake," in which the preteen boy played the grandson of the title character -- New Mexico rancher Jake McCandles. Set in 1909, the film revolved around the boy's kidnapping by a gang for a $1 million ransom.

Ethan Wayne in Big Jake (1971)

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