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Kid Dabb

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Associated Press April 18, 2014


Gun carried by Wyatt Earp sells for $225G at auction


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. –  A gun thought to have been carried by Wyatt Earp during the famous O.K. Corral shootout in Tombstone has sold for $225,000.


A telephone bidder in New Mexico made the winning bid for the Colt .45 revolver Thursday night.


J. Levine Auction & Appraisal officials say an auction of numerous items related to Earp and his family in Scottsdale, Ariz., brought in more than $445,000.


The auction house initially valued the Colt between $100,000 and $150,000.


The items belonged to the estate of Glenn Boyer, an author of several books on Earp. Boyer died in February 2013.


Some have questioned the items' authenticity while others say Boyer was a credible researcher.


A Chandler man spent $150,000 on a shotgun owned by Earp, a family archive and other items.

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Benshi  were Japanese performers who provided live narration for silent films (not only Japanese films, but also Western films). Benshi are sometimes also called katsudō-benshi or katsuben.

Role of the benshi

During silent films, the benshi stood to the side of the movie screen and introduced and related the story to the audience. In theatrical style, benshi often spoke for the characters on-screen and played multiple roles. Stemming from the traditions of kabuki and Noh theaters, the benshi's narration and general commentary were an important part of the Japanese silent film experience. The benshi would also provide translation for foreign (mostly American) movies.

Much like in the West, Japanese silent films were often accompanied by live music (in addition to the benshi)—however, unlike Western films, which tended to have a theatre organ as accompaniment, Japanese films had a score which supported the traditional Japanese instruments one would find in a kabuki play. Since benshi performed without external amplification, they had to carefully coordinate with the orchestra in order to be heard. At that time theaters typically seated 1000, so a trademark of successful benshi was the ability to project their voices into these vast spaces.

Famous benshi active in the silent era include Musei Tokugawa (at the Aoikan and Musashinokan theaters), Saburō Somei (at the Denkikan), Rakuten Nishimura, Raiyū Ikoma (at the Teikokukan), Mitsugu Ōkura, and Shirō Ōtsuji.

In the 1995 film Picture Bride, Toshirō Mifune portrays one of the benshi who traveled to various sugar cane plantations in Hawaii during the early 20th century.
Influence of benshi on film aesthetic

As the film industry and art form developed in Japan, the presence of a benshi came to be part of the film. Benshi not only read the interstitials on silent films, and voiced all on-screen characters—perhaps most significantly for filmmakers, benshi would also add their own commentary, explaining what was happening in a shot or describing what had happened in confusing edits or sudden transitions. Some benshi were known to interpret and add to a script, for example reciting poetry to accompany a moving visual.

In addition, it was traditional for the benshi to introduce the film beforehand, even giving a brief lecture about the history of the setting. This meant that filmmakers could assume that a live narrator, accustomed to improvisation, would be present at the time of the showing to explain scenes, or even explain missing scenes or unfilmed action.

Perhaps because most early Japanese films were simply kabuki plays adapted to film, the characterization style benshi used to perform various roles was strongly influenced by the narrators in kabuki or a noh chorus—a grave and dramatic, exaggerated style. Also due to the influence of kabuki, audiences were not distracted by a single benshi voicing both male and female roles, regardless of the gender of the benshi.
Influence of benshi on film industry

In 1927, there were 6,818 benshi, including 180 women. Many benshi were quite famous in their own right, and garnered great acclaim. The presence of a benshi was the aspect of the film presentation that drew in the audience, more so than the actors appearing in the film, and promotional posters would frequently include a photo of the benshi announcing the movie.

The silent film era lasted until the mid-1930s in Japan in part due to benshi, despite the introduction of sound in full-length films in the late 1920s. The adoption of this new technology was slowed by the popularity and influence of the benshi (in addition to the high costs to both the cinemas and production companies). Though the tradition has mostly faded, there are still a few remaining active benshi in Japan (e.g., Midori Sawato).






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By BusinessVibes | Business 2 Community – Sun, Apr 20, 2014 1:28 AM EDT


This is number 3 in a list of 5 business types slated to disappear in 2014


#3. Hollywood


Right, so this is a stretch. It might take a little bit longer to eradicate the conventional Hollywood industry from this universe, but it’s happening. When was the last time you went to a movie theater? How many movies have you watched online instead?


The numbers are in and you have to make one hell of a good movie to get people to buy overpriced popcorn and look at the (really) big screen.


Then of course there’s the advancement of CGI. Pretty soon human beings will not be able to tell the difference between a real human flesh and blood actor, and a completely fabricated character. That’s the truth. And because VR headsets are so close now, people are going to be experiencing movies, not just going to watch them from a seat.

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RK, a couple of summers ago, the UM Center for Japanese Studies brought a Benshi from Japan, for their summer film series, which was all silents then. He only spoke in Japanese. but it was an interesting experience none the less. He was quite animated, with lots of expression in his narration. 

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CHRIS EVANS   Wednesday 28 May 2014


We all know the classic First World War films -

but what of flops and political embarrassments?



Movie legends including Charlie Chaplin, Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg have attempted to tackle the First World War, but while some have achieved Oscars and box-office success, others have delayed peace talks and enraged renowned world leaders. One of the most famous films, A Farewell to Arms (1932), directed by Frank Borzage, has been digitally restored and is due for re-release in UK cinemas tomorrow.


Based on a celebrated novel by Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms stars Gary Cooper as a young lieutenant in the ambulance brigade on the Italian front who falls for a British nurse (Helen Hayes). It picked up a Best Cinematography Oscar and is lauded as a classic, but Hemingway didn't approve of the film's overemphasis on the romance.


Indeed, Borzage's passionate scenes between Cooper and Hayes were considered so racy at the time that they fell foul of the Legion of Decency and the Production Code Administration for their "suggestive dialogue", "lustful kissing", "illicit sex" and "lack of moral compensation".


Another First World War film considered to have a faltering moral compass was D W Griffith's propaganda movie Hearts of the World (1918), released shortly before the end of the Great War. The film was heavily criticised for its depiction of German brutality, so much so that it famously delayed the signing of the Treaty of Versailles because the Germans were outraged, considering it an affront by the Americans.


"It is a silly film depicting baby-bayonetting Huns in spiky helmets, even Griffiths himself was ashamed of it," says Bryony Dixon, senior curator of silent film at the British Film Institute (BFI). "There are other American war films released in that period soon after the war that were hugely successful, but equally criticised for their sentimentalised or sensationalised depiction of war, such as King Vidor's The Big Parade (1925) and [William Wellman's] Wings (1927). They're often about the Americans saving the day."


One of the few exceptions is Charlie Chaplin's comedy Shoulder Arms (1918) about a doughboy dreaming of being on the frontline. It was seen as very sympathetic and empathetic to the lot of the soldier, depicting the extremes of trying to sleep in a flooded trench and gags about smelly cheeses being thrown into the German trenches.



The film helped make Chaplin famous, although he himself was criticised for not returning to the UK to enlist. Instead, to compensate, as many stars have done since, he used his fame to help raise money for the war effort, including making short films like The Bond (1918) for the Liberty Loan Committtee.


In terms of sympathetic portrayals of the enemy, the undoubted winner is Lewis Milestone's Oscar-winning classic All Quiet on the Western Front (1930). Based on a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, who was injured fighting for the Germans, the film is about idealist young enemy soldiers crushed by war. It stars real German and Austrian veterans as extras, including future director Fred Zinnemann (High Noon).


However, while the film received praise around the world, back in Germany, where the Nazi party was gaining more power, the reaction was one of anger at the film's portrayal of Germans as weak. At one screening, the German politician and future Reich Minister of Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, disrupted the viewing by letting off a stink bomb and releasing white mice into the theatre out of disgust.


By equal measure, Sir Winston Churchill was so appalled by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) that he tried to have it banned. The film follows the life of a fictitious soldier, Major General Clive Candy, through the Boer war, First World War and Second World War. What most incensed the then prime minister was that there was a sympathetic German in the film and that it challenged the idea of fair play.


Across the Atlantic, another Great War film released during the Second World War happily conformed to jingoism and derring-do. Howard Hawks's Sergeant York (1941) told the tale of a hillbilly sharpshooter who becomes a war hero. It was hugely successful at the box office in America, helped by its release at the same time as the attack on Pearl Harbor. Men watching the film apparently left the cinema and went straight to military enlistment centres. But Geoff Andrew, head of Film Programme at the BFI Southbank, insists "it is not a great Hawks film, especially compared to his previous First World War film The Dawn Patrol in 1930, which is far more insightful".


Twenty years later came one of the most famous films of all time, David Lean's epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Relative unknown Peter O'Toole beat off competition from Marlon Brando and Albert Finney to play the flamboyant and controversial First World War army officer T E Lawrence, who embarks on adventures in the Arabian Peninsula.


The film beautifully dealt with the physical and emotional conflicts of war as Lawrence struggles with the personal violence of battles and his own identity, torn between his allegiance to the British army and his newfound comrades within the Arabian desert tribes.



Since then there have been few Great War films of great note. Richard Attenborough's Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), adapted from a stage musical, had an impressive cast list, including Dirk Bogarde, John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier, but divided the critics.


Attenborough's second attempt, In Love and War (1996), starring Sandra Bullock and Chris O'Donnell as a young Ernest Hemingway, fared a lot worse. It was described by Entertainment Weekly as "a love story in which the sparks don't fly so much as trail limply to the ground".


The most recent high-profile effort was Steven Spielberg's War Horse (2011), based on a play at the National Theatre that was in turn based on a book by Michael Morpurgo, which ultimately failed to set the critics or audience alight. The Independent described it as "woefully misconceived, an object lesson in why certain narratives are suited to one medium and not another".


Next up is Russell Crowe's directorial debut, The Water Diviner, starring Crowe as an Australian man who travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and find his three missing sons. Some footage of the film was shown at the Cannes film festival, and it's likely to be released in cinemas at the end of this year.


In the meantime, it is worth looking out for screenings in select cinemas of Kubrick's Paths of Glory (1957) about a French military court-martial during the First World War. "It is a powerful indictment of war and an acerbic study of establishment corruption," says Andrew.


Then in 2016, the BFI will be marking the centenary of the Battle of the Somme with screenings of battle films, news reels, home front films, propaganda cartoons and land girl films that give a fascinating and accurate insight into life during the Great War.

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Why Superhero Movies Aren’t Like Westerns (and Probably Won’t be the Next Great Chapter in Genre Filmmaking)



The western was a different circumstance. Western fans went to see westerns, regardless of their degree of familiarity with the individual characters in any given film. It was the form that held a special resonance with audiences, more than any particular person that populated it. This distinction may not seem all that important at first, but it’s enormous in its implications for a variety of reasons we’ll get to.

Imagine what the history of the western might have been if the studios only produced films about those few western icons that everyone was already familiar with – Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, Billy The Kid, Wild Bill Hickok, Black Bart, and The Wild Bunch. Already you’d eliminate the vast majority of great westerns ever made – but you’d still have a handful.  Imagine further that each of these famous western heroes is an exclusive copyrighted property that can only be handled by a single, licensed parent studio – that only Fox could have created Wyatt Earp films in the same way that only Warner Brothers can make Batman films.



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Monday, June 9, 2014

Robby Cress: Blog


Welcome, Foolish Mortals: The Life and Voices of Paul Frees




First up as part of my participation in the classic film book summer reading challenge is Welcome, Foolish Mortals: The Life and Voices of Paul Frees by Ben Ohmart. The name Paul Frees may not be immediately recognizable but, as the title suggests, you're more than likely familiar with one of his many voices. Some of my favorites include his voices as the Ghost Host in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion attraction, as John Lennon and George Harrison for The Beatles TV series (1965-1969), the Pillsbury Doughboy, as various characters in those Rankin/Bass stop-motion Christmas specials, as well as various voices on Rocky and Bullwinkle. Prior to reading this book I knew of many of Frees' voice credits but I knew little about the man himself.


Born in Chicago, Frees got his start in entertainment in the 1930s doing impressions. He then got established in radio and developed the reputation as a talent you could count on. He appeared on popular radio programs such as Suspense and Crime Classics. Many times Frees was called in to fill in as the voices of popular celebrities such as Peter Lorre and Humphrey Bogart. According to Frees, Bogart once told him that "you sound more like me than I do." Later in his career, once while seeing Sammy Davis Jr. perform in Vegas, Davis admitted to the audience that he was embarrassed to do impressions for them because there was someone who was sitting in the audience they probably didn't know that was considered the best at doing impressions - referring to Frees.


Frees was known to antagonize his coworkers on occasion and one of my favorite stories involves a time he worked at NBC in Hollywood with Lionel Barrymore on the Dr. Kildare radio program. Frees explained, "Oh, the terrible things I used to do to Lionel Barrymore. He was in a wheelchair and outside of NBC at the corner of Sunset and Vine across the way there was a place called The Key Club we used to go to. I would wheel the old man behind there, and I would start running and I would wheel his wheelchair so fast down the ramp. I'd be wheeling him at 30, 40, 50 miles an hour and he'd be shouting, 'You ****, if you don't stop this chair...!" I can just picture a perturbed Barrymore yelling at Frees.




Paul Frees with Fred MacMurray in the Shaggy Dog (1959).


Frees did appear in some films, but mostly in minor roles. Some of his film credits include Reverend Morrison in A Place in the Sun (1951),  Corley in His Kind of Woman (1951), and as one of Sinatra's thugs, Benny in the film Suddenly (1954). However, Frees never got beyond minor roles and was more likely to be hired to do voice-over work and provide dubbing for films. For example, in Patton (1970) he provided the voices for a war correspondent, one of Patton's staff members, and the voice of a sheik. He also dubbed for Humphrey Bogart in Bogart's last film role, The Harder They Fall (1956).




Paul Frees in one of his three-piece suits.


I was most interested in learning some of the quirky things about Frees. Like how Frees grew a big, Edwardian looking mustache and how he was always impeccably dressed. Frees often wore three piece suits and had a large collection of pocket watches, along with a large collection of different watch fobs. Frees was short but would talk like he was the biggest person in the room. Because he was short and he dressed flashy, Frees always carried a gun for protection. During the 1960s, he had a side gig working as an undercover narcotics agent for the DEA in Marin County. In addition to voice talents, Frees was also a gifted painter, writer and singer. He got around in a Rolls Royce and frequently had someone else drive him. Frees purchased one of the first VCRs and recorded thousands of tapes worth of TV and movies. He was a homebody who loved watching TV.


After establishing himself in Hollywood Frees moved to Tiburon, California near San Francisco. Frees built his dream house, a multi-story home on the side of a cliff. Frees no longer needed to be in Hollywood to find work. The work came to him. At his peak Frees would make the claim that he earned more per hour than any other star in Hollywood. He could go into his home studio or fly down to a studio in LA, and in less than an hour be finished, earning sometimes as much money in that time as some actors would for working through a whole film. Meanwhile Frees was ready already on to the next gig.




The highlight of Frees career was the work he did for Rankin/Bass such as the animated version of The Hobbit or the stop-motion Christmas classics Frosty the Snowman (1969), Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970), or Rudolph's Shiny New Year (1976) and the work he did for Jay Ward Productions including The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show and Dudley Do-Right.




One of the many advertisement characters Frees voiced - the Pillsbury Doughboy.


Providing his voice to advertisements was another lucrative gig. In addition to the Pillsbury Doughboy, Frees voiced Toucan Sam, the 7-Up bird Fresh Up Freddie, the Little Green Sprout from the Jolly the Giant commercials, and as the announcer for the Mr. Goodwrench advertising campaign just to name a few.


For me, I'm reminded of Paul Frees every time I go to Disneyland. His voice can be heard on the Haunted Mansion ride and the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction and he also lent his voice to numerous other Disney projects.


I really enjoyed reading about the interesting life of Paul Frees. The book was filled with plenty of fun facts, and the author, Ben Ohmart, has also released an updated edition with additional information and photos.
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During the 1960s, he had a side gig working as an undercover narcotics agent for the DEA in Marin County.


Around this time Frees somehow met up with another cop wannabe -- Elvis Presley. Elvis saw the DEA badge Frees had gotten and immediately wanted one for himself. Elvis ended up going all the way to Washington DC to get one... And thus Paul Frees was a catalyst for one of the most (in)famous meetings in show biz history:



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After dropping out of Beverly Hills High, screenwriter Bruce Wagner became a chauffeur to the stars, chasing ambulances with Olivia de Havilland and delivering corpses to hospital. Here he revisits the dark corners of the city that inspired his new film



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Exiled German author Klaus Mann edited the short-lived cultural journal Decision from New York. Among many distinguished contributors was Erich von Stroheim who offered this review of Citizen Kane:




As noted in the intro, Stroheim wrote another article for the same periodical, titled "Movies and Morals". Anyone who can whip up a copy of that one wins extra karma points.

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