1930s

EARLY WOMEN FILMMAKERS New Release Contest!

Early Women Filmmakers Cover

Flicker Alley, a boutique distributor of classic and rare films, contacted me about another great contest they’re running. Of course, I said yes to spread the word of their brand new release I thoroughly believe in, and I’m going to give you a chance to win a copy. It’s called EARLY WOMEN FILMMAKERS: AN INTERNATIONAL ANTHOLOGY.

Projects like #52FilmsByWomen and TCM‘s TRAILBLAZING WOMEN have drawn attention to the often forgotten, neglected, underpromoted, and underseen works of women directors. These are contemporary problems. Women were involved in every aspect of the nascent film industry. Early women filmmakers made product intended to be consumed by an audience comprised largely of female peers, and stars of their movies were usually women, who were paid higher salaries than their male acting counterparts.

Despite their achievements, many early women filmmakers have been written out of film history, and their contributions have been undervalued or misattributed. As in the case of Alice Guy-Blaché, their “firsts” may have been given away to now more famous males. Flicker Alley’s new release EARLY WOMEN FILMMAKERS: AN INTERNATIONAL ANTHOLOGY will be a resource for those wanting to learn more about the talented women of world cinema. New audiences, no matter where they live, will have a way to see and experience these movies, which is much better than possessing only academic knowledge of them. Restoring films to the canon requires accessibility.

On May 9, Flicker Alley releases EARLY WOMEN FILMMAKERS: AN INTERNATIONAL ANTHOLOGY on dual-Format edition Blu-ray/DVD. The set showcases fourteen of early cinema’s most innovative and influential women directors, rewriting and celebrating their rightful place in film history. The directors are Alice Guy-Blaché, Lois Weber, Mabel Normand, Madeline Brandeis, Germaine Dulac, Olga Preobrazhenskaia, Marie-Louise Iribe, Lotte Reiniger, Claire Parker, Mrs. Wallace Reid (Dorothy Davenport), Leni Riefenstahl, Mary Ellen Bute, Dorothy Arzner, and Maya Deren.

The directors are represented by ten hours of material restored to high definition. Their twenty-five films span four decades (1902-1943). Many are rare titles not widely available until now. Expect shorts to feature films, live-action to animation, and commercial narratives to experimental works. These women’s technical and stylistic innovations pushed boundaries of subject matter, narrative, aesthetics, and genre. For a complete list of films included on the set, please visit Flicker Alley here.

Bonus Materials include:

  1. New Scores by Sergei Dreznin, Frederick Hodges, Tamar Muskal, Judith Rosenberg, and Rodney Sauer and the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.
  2. Booklet Essay by film scholar and Women Film Pioneers Project Manager Kate Saccone.
  3. Audio Commentary For Lois Weber’s THE BLOT (1921) by author, professor, and expert on women and early film culture Shelley Stamp, courtesy of Milestone Film and Video.

One lucky winner will receive a copy of EARLY WOMEN FILMMAKERS: AN INTERNATIONAL ANTHOLOGY from Flicker Alley! The giveaway is open to residents of US and Canada, and the contest ends on May 22, 2017. To enter, comment on this post and then fill-out the form below. Tell me which early woman filmmaker you admire or want to learn more about!

 

In case you don’t want to gamble on winning the set, note Flicker Alley is offering a prerelease discount. If you order now through May 16, you will receive $20 off the $69.95 set.

Good luck!

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Back in after the JAMAICA INN Premiere Party!

Spellbound by Movies on the Jamaica Inn Red Carpet

I’m back in after the JAMAICA INN (1939) premiere party, winding down and thinking abut what a great night it was. My first red carpet went well. Norman LloydTere Carrubba, and Katie Fiala were generous interviewees. They were eager to talk about and connect over Alfred Hitchcock. I recorded our conversations, so I may release the audio at some point, but look for a write-up of the event and a review of the film soon. First I’ll be co-hosting a Flicker Alley Blu-ray/DVD contest. Details will go live at 9 AM PDT!

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Special Screening Alert: JAMAICA INN (1939)

Maureen O'Hara in JAMAICA INN (1939)

Sharing a black and white picture of Maureen O’Hara after and not on St. Patrick’s day might seem like a mistake. The Irish-born actress’s trademark was her flame red hair crowning her head in glory in technicolor pictures, so sharing a color photo of her to celebrate the holiday would’ve been festive, but that’s not what I’m celebrating today.

Tonight I’m in Los Angeles to watch JAMAICA INN (1939) for the first time. I’ve been invited as press to cover a special screening organized by KCETLink, the Cohen Media Group, and BAFTA LA. It celebrates KCET and Link TV’s broadcast premiere of the movie, the last one Alfred Hitchcock shot in the United Kingdom.

As part of the festivities, there’ll be a red carpet, which I’ve been credentialed for, so that marks a first for this film writer and her blog. Celebrity guests include Norman Lloyd (SABOTUERSPELLBOUND, and ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS) and Fred Willard (BEST IN SHOW and A Mighty Wind). There’ll be an exhibition of behind-the-scenes photographs of Hitchcock organized by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and SciencesMargaret Herrick Library. All three of the director’s granddaughters will be in attendance, and they’ll participate in a panel discussion moderated by host of the COHEN FILM CLASSICS series Charles S. Cohen.

When I heard that last fact, I had to rearrange my schedule to attend. I’m not sure how often his granddaughters (Tere Carrubba, Katie Fiala and Mary Stone) are in one place, and I can’t wait to hear what they share about their grandfather. I’ll be sure to share what live experiences I can on my Instagram and Twitter accounts, and you’ll definitely find more in-depth coverage here at a later date.

For now enjoy this picture of O’Hara as JAMAICA INN’s Mary Yellen. Even after a sub-par screen test, its male lead and producer Charles Laughton insisted she be cast as his co-star. He was bewitched by her eyes, and it’s easy to see why.

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Happy New Year!

In the United States we’ve been lucky to have two New Year’s Days this year–Sunday the actual day and Monday the legally recognized holiday. Before both have been departed too long, I’d like the glamour of the holiday to linger a little longer, at least on the pages of my blog. New Year’s Eve I had fun on Instagram sharing fantasy party outfits worn by actresses of the silver screen. Let’s step into 2017 together by reveling in their fabulous.

Cyd Charisse

Here’s Cyd Charisse in a gorgeous floral print gown that pops in black and white, but leaves me curious to see it in color. Love the unusual decision to place the bold print on opera length gloves to match them exactly to the dress! They elevate the look into something memorable and high impact. Cyd’s glowing. She knows she looks great.

Susan Hayward in I Can Get It for You Wholesale

Susan Hayward looks fiercely glam in a publicity still for I CAN GET IT FOR YOU WHOLESALE (1951). She plays a ruthless fashion designer who claws her way up in the industry, from working for a copyist to her own haute couture label. Of course, her character’s wardrobe becomes more fashionable and breathtaking the higher she climbs.

Kay Francis Column Dress Richee

Model tall, Kay Francis had the frame and poise to wear clothes well and earned a reputation as a clotheshorse because costume designers knew she could wear a variety of styles and looked divine in evening wear. The photo’s photographer, Eugene Robert Richee, plays a visual joke. Francis wears a column dress in front of a literal column.

Evelyn Brent in Interference Butterfly Hostess Gown

The final outfit earns its spot by being a showstopper! Actress Evelyn Brent wears a sapphire blue and silver butterfly hostess gown in INTERFERENCE (1928). The dress’s detailing must have been even more impressive in person. Brilliants and crystals were sewn onto its surface to reflect light back at the camera and make her glow like a goddess.

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Film Fanatic Gear–Wanda Woodward Pin & Carmen Miranda Tee!

Today I’m giving you a peek at two recent acquisitions. As we know, it’s very hard for film fanatics to resist collecting all sorts of memorabilia, and I’m no exception. I tend to amass movie books to build my own reference library, but my latest pieces are both items I can wear. I bought them from Californian repro vintage company Pinup Girl Clothing.

Do you recognize the woman portrayed by the pin? She’s Wanda Woodward, the desperate to be bad suburban girl from a loving and supportive home in John WatersCry-Baby (1990). Waters has written of how he admired the tough girls at school, and Wanda is a fifties embodiment of them–big hair, bright red lips, winged eyeliner, tight clothes, and fierce attitude. Twenty-six years from the movie’s release, she’s having a pop culture resurgence. There are t-shirt lines featuring at least her famous line, “Beat it, Creep!” One of the tops is even by her portrayer Traci Lords, so of course her visage is on those tees. I like this pin from bobbypinsco. It’s pretty and subtle. You’re either in the know about who the woman is or simply assume the wearer has vintage tastes.

I’ve written about Luso-Brazilian entertainer Carmen Miranda before, and now I get to sport a shirt showing my fondness for her and my love of retro design. This tee is by Miss Ladybug California. I suspect they use found graphics. Doesn’t Carmen look like she was drawn in the late thirties to early forties? The fabric is a slightly yellowish off-white, and like a lot of pinup lines the top runs small. It has a straight up and down slim cut. Anyone interested in getting her own, I’d advise the shirt has some stretch, but not a lot, and the fabric is thin. Buy by your chest size, and size up if you’re in between sizes. I’m going to be hand-washing and line drying my shirt to make it last!

 

Disclosure: I bought these items, and I am not receiving affiliate program compensation for my post.

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Black Friday Treat: The Bargain of the Century (1933)

Thelma Todd Still from The Bargain of the Century (1933) sharpenned

Feeling Black Friday fatigue? Here’s a delightful Thelma Todd and ZaSu Pitts comedy teaming, The Bargain of the Century (1933), that pokes fun at battling for bargains for you! The duo’s slapstick antics bring humor to scenes best experienced secondhand. In their quest for a good deal, the women give and get bruises in a rough shopping crowd. Each lady does so in her own inherently idiosyncratic style. Thelma’s character is a scrapper, not afraid to get into the mêlée, and ZaSu’s character eventually gets a grabbing with her formerly timid, fluttering hands. Their shopping excursion ends up costing them more than they saved when they accidentally get a policeman (James P. Burtis) fired, whom they have to house and feed until they find him a new job. Of course, that task turns out not to be so easy! Watch the videos below to see how it all plays out.

 

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For the Love of Film Blogathon: The Tin Man (1935)

The Tin Man Lobby Card

Photo sourced from Benny Drinnon’s movie blog.

I’ve been planning a post on The Tin Man for a while, and the For Love of Film: The Film Preservation Blogathon has provided the perfect push to write about this odd comedy short. Every year the blogathon has a theme, and this year’s theme is science fiction.

The Tin Man fits the theme like Frankenstein would. Both movies contain a mad scientist and a being he’s created in his laboratory, and both have elements from the horror genre. Instead of a castle, our film’s heroines find themselves in an dark, creepy house full of frights. There’s no weird sidekick to the scientist, but an escaped criminal fills the spot of added danger. What makes this short so memorable is the failure and abuse of technology is portrayed as the lesser horror than modern dating.

The Tin Man Title Card

It’s a nice touch that the credits tie into the robot man theme by looking like panels of tin with bolts. When the last panel slides away, we see that Thelma Todd and Patsy Kelly are driving through the fog. They’re dressed up for a party or a date, but they can’t find the house. It turns out Patsy wrote down its address in the dark, so she never noticed the fountain pen she used was out of ink. Patsy only has a blank piece of paper. A radio bulletin warning motorists and pedestrians about an escaped convict keeps them driving until they’re lured to stop at a house by its lights.

The Tin Man Girls Enter House

The duo don’t know it, but they’re about to enter a house designed to be a trap! When they ring the doorbell, the house’s doors open by themselves as the chimes ring. The women cautiously enter what looks like an uninhabited home. There are sheets of cloth over its furniture. When the camera cuts to a ceramic face on the wall, movie conventions make us guess someone will be staring through the eye holes. He is!

The Tin Man Mad Scientist Intro

We’ve found our mad scientist. Another cut shows his spying location. He’s in his lab, where he’s laughing in a crazed manner. Actor Clarence Wilson is clearly having fun playing his part. Do not expect subtly in performance or costuming. He’s an older, hunched over, balding, little man. His crown of remaining hair makes two points going upward like horns. He’s surrounded by generic mad scientist lab equipment.

We quickly find out why he’s so delighted to have Patsy and Thelma in his home: “At last! At last, the Gods have been good to me. Not only one, but two, two females have walked into my clutches. (Laughs maniacally.) I’ll make them and all their sex pay for ignoring, slighting, and insulting me! Revenge is sweet!” The rest of the film revolves around his acts of revenge and how they spiral out of control.

The Tin Man's Control Panel

He’s invented a surrogate to take his place in interacting with women. On the wall, we spy the first part of it. We see an image of a man. It looks like an idealized version of the scientist. It’s taller, stands straighter, and has limbs that are thicker and look stronger. Like its creator, the man on the wall has a mustache. Surrounding him are lights, wires, knobs, and levers. He is the robot’s control panel.

Before the scientist flips a lever to bring his creation to life, he has another evildoer monologue: “Ah, my robot! My machine man. As your first step you shall lay siege to this beautiful female’s heart. A caveman assault. What sweet revenge will be mine if you succeed in winning this fool’s love. I have seen women fall for worse, and now let them suffer!” The nebbish does not want to become a superman through his creation; he wants to become a super lothario.

The Tin Man Meets Patsy and Thelma

I don’t want to spoil too many of the gags that make up the robot seduction scenes, but I have to talk about how he looks and acts. The mad scientist’s idea of a desirable man is tall, suited with an ascot around his neck, with a full head of hair, big, straight teeth in more of a perpetual grimace than a smile, and a booming, deep voice. He’s flat-headed like Frankenstein’s monster and moves in a jerky way reminiscent of that creature.

The Tin Man's Mad Scientist Speaks

The robot doesn’t have any artificial intelligence. Our crazed scientist makes him move, act, and speak using those previously mentioned wires, knobs, and levers along with a microphone. The robot’s audio equipment takes whatever the scientist says in his high-pitched voice and transforms it into a much deeper, more traditionally masculine voice.

The Tin Man Drinks

We get to see how cracked the scientist’s idea of seduction is. While he makes the robot act friendlier and politer to Thelma, obviously the beautiful one referred to earlier, the man pays more attention to Patsy. He makes his robot target her and pull stupid pranks on her again and again. The scientist never learned the dating rules that if you’re interested in a woman, you pay attention to her and not her friends, and you don’t alienate that woman by being mean to her friends.

The Tin Man Picking on Patsy

It’s not delving too deeply into a slapstick short to say this man’s harassment of Patsy reveals his own self-loathing. He picks the less conventionally attractive, less trim, klutzier, and more socially awkward of the friends to humiliate. Perhaps she could have been someone who would have sympathized with his dating troubles. Superficially and personality-wise, Patsy is out of his league, and that may be what irritates him the most.

The Tin Man Patsy Confronts the Scientist

By the time Patsy finds the man behind the wall, she’s ready to tell off the self-proclaimed “Poppa” to the robot. She wants him to “listen to Momma” and get her revenge on him to “just see how you like it.” When the battle of the sexes heats up, that’s when things in the house get even crazier. Patsy’s attempt to control the robot releases him to act out on his own. You’ll want to see what he does.  Here’s a hint. The mad scientist will scream, “Run, run for you lives! My robot is out of control.”

Pasty and Thelma Try to Stop the Tin Man

If you’ve enjoyed this post, please consider donating to the blogathon’s charity of choice, The National Film Preservation Foundation! You can use the button below to help the foundation raise funds to restore, score, and stream silent film Cupid in Quarantine (1918). The movie is a quirky, romantic comedy “that tells the story of a young couple conspiring to stay together by staging a smallpox outbreak.” If you’d like to donate, but can’t, please help spread the word about the blogathon. Everyone is welcome to check out its host blogs–Ferdy on Films, This Island Rod, and Wonders in the Dark–where you can find links to other bloggers’ entries and get fundraising updates.

For the Love of Film Preservation Blogathon 2015 Donate Button

 

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