The New Year means an end to my blogging break! I’m very excited to share with you details on Spellbound By Movies’ first event! Even if you live far from me, you’ll have an opportunity to participate virtually.
By msbethg in 20th Century Fox, 21st Century Fox, Fox Film, Fox Film Corporation, Jeffrey Paul Thompson, Michael Troyan, Movie Moguls, Movie Studios, Series, Spellbound Events, Vanda Krefft, William Fox No Comments Tags: 20th Century Fox, 21st Century Fox, biograpy, book, books, California, classic film, discussion, film archivist, film historian, film history, Fox, Fox Film, Fox Film Corporation, history, Jeffrey Paul Thompson, Jeffrey Thompson, Lamorinda, Michael Troyan, movie mogul, new, Orinda, Orinda Books, releases, signing, Silent Film, The Man Who Made the Movies, Vanda Krefft, William Fox
The New Year means an end to my blogging break! I’m very excited to share with you details on Spellbound By Movies’ first event! Even if you live far from me, you’ll have an opportunity to participate virtually.
By msbethg in Actresses, Directors, Feud, Happy Birthday, Jessica Lange, Joan Crawford, John Waters, Series, TV Shows, William Castle Tags: actress, actresses, B, B movies, B-movie, book, cameo, camp, campy, Castle, Crawford, director, directors, Divine, Divine Trash, Dreamlander, Feud, film, filmmaking, films, FX, gimmick, gimmicks, Hagsploitation, Hollywood gothic, horror, I'm Going to Scare the Pants Off America, independent, indie, Joan, Joan Crawford, John Waters, low budget, Massachusetts, master, memoir, miniseries, movie, movie-making, movies, Odorama, Polyester, premiere, Provincetown, Ryan Murphy, shock, shockmeister, show, Step Right Up!, store, Strait-Jacket, stunt, stunts, television, thrift, TV, TV show, vintage, Waters, William Castle
I grew up in a John Waters household, so when I caught up with FEUD (2017), I was delighted to watch his cameo as shockmeister William Castle. My parents went to Waters’ movies, and my mom owns an ODODRAMA card gotten at a first run screening of POLYESTER (1981). Living in Massachusetts close enough to The Cape that Provincetown could be a day jaunt, she thinks she shopped in Dreamlander Divine‘s thrift shop, which he ran in his poor, pre-fame days. It was only a matter of time until we shared some of Waters’ movies together. I’ve now seen most of his films and read most of his books.
Which is how I know it was an honor for him to play Castle. Physically, the two men were very different. Waters has remained trim while Castle was heavier in comparison and thicker haired. FEUD show creator Ryan Murphy didn’t want Waters costumed to resemble Castle. No, fat suit as Waters said. Murphy was aware those in this know would delight in how meta it would be for Castle disciple Waters to appear as himself when portraying the other director.
If you haven’t read Castle’s memoir STEP RIGHT UP! I’M GOING TO SCARE THE PANTS OFF AMERICA, you need to. Waters wrote a loving and nostalgic introduction on how seeing Castle’s gimmicky movies as a kid inspired a love of cinema and the outrageous. There’s a joy in both directors’ works at defying convention to pursue their own visions. Keep on reading after the introduction, and you’ll learn a lot about B-movie making on shoestring budgets, including what it was like to work with Joan Crawford on STRAIT-JACKET (1964).
Happy birthday to John Waters, who doesn’t think he’s ever topped William Castle, but got to be him for a day! That must have been his best early birthday present.
By msbethg in 13 Reasons Why (2017), Anouncements, Screen Appearances, TV Shows Tags: 13 Reasons Why, Background Pedestrian, background performer, book, car, Christian Navarro, Clay Jensen, Crestmont, downtown, Dylan Minnette, extra, filmed, filming, Glorioso Casting, Jay Asher, Joy Division, Love Will Tears Us Apart, Mare Island, miniseries, movie, My Casting File, Netflix, novel, patron, red, redheads on film, scene, scenes, sequence, series, show, song, soundtrack, streaming, television, theatre, ticket, Tony, town, Vallejo, vintage, young adult
Excitement abounds at Spellbound HQ today! I found out I appear in Netflix‘s new miniseries 13 REASONS WHY (2017). It’s an adaptation of author Jay Asher‘s young adult novel by the same name. When Netflix was filming it in Vallejo, I applied to be a background performer, how the entertainment industry refers to extras.
Here’s how it worked. The casting agency for the show, Glorioso Casting, was booking extras through a website called My Casting File. I created a profile, and I applied for listed extra spots I fit the description for on days I was available. I got more than one availability request, including some I hadn’t applied for, but I wasn’t available for all.
It turns out my one day on the set was my lucky day. In the first episode about eight minutes in I appear in a sequence! My character description was “Background Pedestrian,” but I perform a role quite familiar to me. I’ve posted screenshots below for you to see my scenes in context.
So there it is! My first non-credit for appearing in a TV show or movie. I hadn’t read the book, so I didn’t know the importance of the movie theatre to the story’s plot or how I lucked into a likely featured moment.
I’ll be watching more of the series and having fun spotting other locally shot scenes. I’ve already seen a lot of Vallejo and my former neighborhood Mare Island. This is a nice coda to my time living there.
By msbethg in Classic Film, Film Historians, Genres, Remembrances, Robert Osborne, Series 6 Comments Tags: 2007, Beth Ann Gallagher, book, book signing, Camille, Castro, Castro Theatre, classic, classic film, classic films, classic movie, classic movies, classics, exhibition, film festival, film festivals, film historian, film writer, host, In Memoriam, journalist, Karie Bible, mezzanine, movie, movie theater, movie theaters, movie theatre, movie theatres, movies, preservation, remembrance, restoration, Robert Osborne, San Francisco, San Francisco Silent Film Festival, SF Silent Film Fest, SF Silent Film Festival, SFSFF, signing, silent, Silent Film, silent films, silents, TCM, Turner Classic, Turner Classic Movies, writer
Late Monday morning I was crying. A quick look at Twitter let me know something I hoped wouldn’t happen yet had. TCM host and film historian Robert Osborne had died. He’d been on extended medical leave, so I knew he wasn’t well, that he must have been seriously ill to stay away from the network and the job that meant so much to him. He was the rare person who created his own career around what he loved, film. Since he was the even rarer public person who kept his personal life private, fans didn’t know more about his condition than that. I wished like many he’d rebound.
I’m not the sort of person who jumps on the celebrity mourning bandwagon. I don’t write about someone’s passing simply to get blog hits. When I feel the loss of someone like Robert, and I’m going to be presumptuous and call him by his first name since he’s been in my living room many times, I really feel it. Chief among his many gifts was being able to connect and engage with an audience. He made me feel like he was excited to share what he knew and thought about a film because he cared–and he truly did. He wanted to pass on the knowledge and the joy of classic film. Whether you met him in person or watched him on TV, he gave you a personal experience.
I was lucky enough to meet Robert at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival in 2007. He was there to accept an award from the festival for TCM for its contributions “to the preservation, restoration and exhibition of silent film.” He, also, introduced CAMILLE (1921). I didn’t approach him when I saw him in the Castro Theatre‘s auditorium. I don’t think he would’ve minded, but I try to be considerate of famous people’s moments of downtime. My friends and I made sure to go up to the theatre’s mezzanine for his book signing, and that’s the first and last time I met him.
Some of us bought his book, and some didn’t, but that didn’t seem to matter to him. He was friendly and chatted with all of us, and he quickly and happily said yes to a group picture. While we started posing for the picture, I wanted to let him know how much I appreciated him and his work. I don’t remember what I said to him, but whatever I said and how I said it, he paused for a moment and tilted his head, and then he responded with something nice back. I’m sorry to be vague, but I remember the quality of the moment and my emotions more than the words used by either of us.
Robert exemplified generosity. He was a consummate gentleman to all who approached him. He left people feeling good after they interacted with him. He wasn’t only an ambassador for TCM or classic film. He was someone who radiated happiness at his good fortune at being able to live the life he wanted, and he shared that happiness by making himself available until he wasn’t able to anymore.
Thank you, Robert, for giving more than you took, for being an educator and an inspiration, and for being you. You leave behind a rich legacy.
By msbethg in 1920s, Actresses, Anouncements, Chicago (1927), Era, Film Festivals, Genres, Movies, Phyllis Haver, Publication, Silent Film, Toronto Silent Film Festival 2 Comments Tags: #SilentsInTO, 1920s, 1920s fashion, 1927, 2017, 20s, April, Ben Model, book, booklet, Canada, Chicago, film, film festival, film festivals, film writer, films, flapper, girl gunner, girl gunners, Jazz Age, movie blog, movie blogger, movies, murder, murderesses, Phyllis Haver, program, programme, Roxie Hart, Silent Film, silent films, silents, Toronto, Toronto Silent Film Festival, TSFF, TSFF2017, twenties, vintage lingerie, woman film writer
The Toronto Silent Film Festival is selling early bird passes for its 2017 edition. Get yours before they run or time out! While things didn’t work out for me to attend in 2016, I’ll be there at least in published word in April. I’m very excited to be contributing a piece about CHICAGO (1927) and Jazz Age murderesses to their programme book.
By msbethg in Film Community, Film Critics, Film Twitter, Women Film Critics 2 Comments Tags: academic, academics, Alex Heller-Nicholas, aspirational, Bilge Ebiri, blog, blogger, bloggers, blogging, blogs, book, books, classic, contemporary, criteria, critic, criticism, critics, dearth, female, film, film Twitter, films, include, inclusion, journalist, journalistic, lack, list, list-making, lists, magazines, Marilyn Ferdinand, movie, movies, newspaper, newspapers, online magazines, outlet, outlets, paid, perspectives, physical print, podcasts, print, prominence, publication, publications, publish, publisher, publishers, publishing, radio, reviewer, reviewers, reviews, Sabina Stent, spotlight, The Atlantic, tradition, traditions, transgender, transgenderism, Twitter, Vanity Fair, Variety, woman, women, women film critics, women's, writer, writers, YouTube
What else was I up to during my winter blogging hiatus? My most initially time-consuming movie project outside of Spellbound involves Twitter. After articles from Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and Variety bemoaned the lack of women film critics or their lack of prominence in the industry, I decided to do something pro-active. I created a women film critics list on Twitter. Even though I knew there are a lot of women film critics out there, I did not predict how many hours I’d devote to working on the list!
Based on my internet networking and reading, I knew there wasn’t a dearth of women of all ages engaging with and writing about movies. A lot of easily found online film writing from any gender falls into the category of uncritical fandom. There’s nothing wrong with sharing and delighting in what we enjoy. Sometimes a heartfelt personal recollection of what a movie or performer means to a blogger has more impact than an intellectual analysis, and sometimes both are great pieces to read. My goal in creating the list was to help others find true critics. If you know where to look, there are women producing quality film criticism. My list would cut down the search time to find them.
I began adding familiar critics I knew were on Twitter, and once I had a small list, I started crowdsourcing. I began Tweeting about the list and asking for recommendations. Complain about the term Film Twitter or the community if you like, but Film Twitter was wonderful in responding. The majority of responses I received were not self-serving. Many people, not just women, pointed me to women whose work they enjoy and admire. Some sent me multiple tweets as they thought of additional list members. Bilge Ebiri was one of the stand-outs in repeatedly sharing new recommendations with me. He was walking down the street while tweeting to me, and I imagined him having to avoid slapstick scenarios like walking into street lights or against pedestrian signals. All responders linked to critics’ Twitter handles in Tweets and suddenly these women critics were receiving notifications that their work was valued. Twitter was turning into a love fest! In turn, that led to the new list members suggesting others for inclusion.
One issue I had not predicted was the impact of transgenderism on building the list. Maybe you’ve noticed that I’ve not used the term “female film critics” as the word female relates to reproductive capabilities. If a person identified as a woman, and she was a movie critic, then I had no problem in listing her, and I received no negative feedback from those women in being included on the list. I was not about to police chromosomes. I was looking for a range of women’s perspectives to add to the list. In a few situations, people recommended I add individuals who may present visually in their styling as women, but identify as they and them in personal pronouns. One such person was good-humored about it and immediately tweeted a correction, so I asked about adding them to my general film critics Twitter list, and they were happy with that solution. In a couple of other cases, I initiated discussion about which list they were comfortable being added to.
Some self-recommendations proved problematic. On Twitter I shared the list was a work-in-progress and recommendations were welcome. The majority of those asking to be added were understanding about not being included yet. Only one major critic told me I had forgotten to add her. I politely responded in a way that seemed to diffuse the situation. Every once in a rare while someone self-recommended who was more aspirational in applying the term film critic to herself. Maybe her body of work was in a creative writing field with few film reviews published recently. Maybe her blog was mostly a personal one with a rare post on film. Maybe her only work published in an outlet was about TV. I tried to be diplomatic when speaking with these women. I didn’t want to diminish the value of the list for those looking for women writing about film, nor did I want to discourage these future movie critics. I always can reconsider someone for inclusion later as they rack up publication credits.
Obviously I developed criteria for making the list. To be fair, I sought feedback from Film Twitter as I created and revised my criteria. Marilyn Ferdinand, Alex Heller-Nicholas, and Sabina Stent were especially helpful during this process. Here’s what I came up with. To be added to the list, women film critics could come from the journalistic or academic traditions. They would have to publish consistently. That did not mean weekly publication as not all outlets follow that schedule, and many women film critics work as freelancers. Outlets include physical print (e.g. magazines, newspapers, and books), online magazines, radio, TV, prominent film blogs, podcasts, and YouTube. Reviewers did not necessarily have to be financially paid for their work. I’m aware that many writers agree to be paid in publication credits, and there are reviewers who self-publish and have followings. In some cases, there were women I could add to the list due to having publication credits, but their Twitter feeds rarely have anything to do with movies. This was especially true of Millennial writers who focus more on cultural commentary on Twitter while their publication credits sometimes include film commentary. I decided that list subscribers want to find women’s film writing, so I didn’t add anyone who doesn’t at least Tweet periodically about film. Right now the list focuses on women who cover contemporary film, and I’m considering who qualifies as a critic working within only the classic film community. As I said before, this is a list is a work-in-progress!
By msbethg in Birthdays, Edward Gorey, Film Fanatics, Special Occasions Tags: Alexander Theroux, Amphigorey, Amy Benfer, Ascending Peculiarity, biographies, biography, book, Carl Dreyer, Charles Addams, crime, criminals, Dreyer, early talkie, Edward, Edward Gorey, Edward Lear, Feuillade, film, films, Gilded Bat, Gorey, Judex, Les Vampires, Lewis Carroll, Louis Feuillade, Masterpiece, Masterpiece Mystery, memoir, memoirs, movie, movies, mysteries, mystery, PBS, Salon, silent, silent movie, silent movies, silents, sound, talkie, The Strange Case of Edward Gorey, vampire, vampires, Vampyr
I first got my hands on an Edward Gorey anthology as a little girl, and I devoured it. The black and white imagery of other eras, the humor, and the outrageous outcomes appealed to me. Children like their grim tales, and these were beautifully illustrated. Gorey isn’t just for children. He can be appreciated by adults, too. If you’re unfamiliar with him, but like Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear, or Charles Addams, then you’re likely to enjoy Gorey. As you might suspect of someone so visual, Gorey was a film fanatic. For his eighty-eighth birthday, here’s a peek at some of the films that influenced Gorey.
We’ll start off with silent film. Amy Benfer wrote: “Gorey’s work is formatted very much like an incredibly baroque storyboard for a silent film. Each vignette alternates between panels of painstakingly ornate hand-lettered text and black-and-white illustrations. Like silent film, the juxtaposition of image and text allows us time to consider both, as separate but inseparable parts of the same work.” These silent film techniques came from watching silent films at exclusive screenings and archives.
Amongst the films screened were Louis Feuillade‘s. As someone who knew Gorey’s work first and later watched Les Vampires and Judex, I suspected an influence, and his friend Alexander Theroux wrote about it in his book The Strange Case of Edward Gorey. The fashions, the decors, the visual textures, the faces, the black humor, the surrealism, and the not always pleasant outcomes even for the good of those films are all reflected in Gorey’s work. I used to say that Les Vampires was an Edward Gorey story come to life, but it came first. Gorey put on paper the essence of these films with his own twists.
We see grand old houses, detectives, mysterious figures in black, people in peril, ballet dancers, upper crust soirées, bat imagery, secret messages decoded by a mirror, criminals afoot (albeit out of frame), and settings full of visual textures–from how they were drawn to prints and fabric contrasting with other decor.
Many of the above images are found in Les Vampires scenes:
Another Gorey film favorite involves the word vampire, Carl Dreyer‘s Vampyr. Gorey said, “You don’t see a thing and I think it’s the most chilling movie I’ve ever seen. I think your own imagination does a better job.” The film is much less plot driven than Les Vampires. Vampyr is more mood-driven. Instead of criminals inflicting chaos, it is supernatural evil that causes harm. The film was almost a silent, and it has more in common with silent film than sound. Since Dreyer had to reshoot dialogue scenes in different languages for international distribution, the dialogue is minimal. The lack of plot, dialogue, and explanation married with odd imagery and sounds brings unease.
Bringing unease was Gorey’s goal. Gorey’s quoted as saying in Ascending Peculiarity, “My mission in life is to make everybody as uneasy as possible. I think we should all be as uneasy as possible, because that’s what the world is like.” A film like Vampyr freed dialogue and images from meaning except what the viewer read into them. Gorey took that lesson and pushed it with the non sequitur filled The Object Lesson.
Despite the non sequiturs, our brains want to establish a plot and resolve what seems like a mystery of never ending detail that can only end badly. There is no meaning to the story, but it establishes a mood through images and text, much like movies can.
Gorey’s reputed to have consumed thousands of movies and books, he shows his influences, yet his work isn’t derivative. He uses film and literary techniques to create his own rendering of the world to reflect the realities he perceived. It’s a world we can step into opening the pages of his books, and he entertains us and makes us laugh, often out of discomfort. That might be the greatest compliment we can pay him.
By msbethg in Blogathons, Character Actors, Classic Hollywood, Elsa Lanchester 2 Comments Tags: American, Blogathons, book, Bride of Frankenstein, British, cabaret, character, character actors, character actresses, cinema, classic, classic film, Classic Hollywood, Elsa Lanchester, film, films, golden age, Hollywood, horror, memoir, movie, movies, Once Upon a Screen, OP, out-of-print, Outspoken & Freckled, parts, Paula’s Cinema Club, reading, research, roles, scene stealers, scene stealing, supporting, theater, theatre, What A Character!
This month I’m participating in the What A Character! Blogathon. Organized by Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club, Kellee of Outspoken & Freckled, and Aurora of Once Upon a Screen, the blogathon celebrates those character actors and actresses whose impact on classic film warrants as much attention and discussion as any star’s. My subject is Elsa Lanchester, best remembered today as the Bride of Frankenstein, despite a career that spanned over fifty years in film, cabaret, theatre, and television.
I ordered her out-of-print memoir, Elsa Lanchester Herself, to prepare:
I managed to score online a first edition in near fine condition with a dust jacket in similar condition and protected by a Brodart cover for a reasonable price. That was hard to do. There were a lot of ex-library and beat up copies flooding the online marketplace. That helps prove that at one time there was greater general interest in Elsa Lanchester.
I love the art deco design which extends to the decorations bookending each chapter number:
While they appear to be peacock feathers, they manager to evoke the angle of the Bride’s very distinctive hairstyle. That must have been intentional!
And here is a sneak peak of Lanchester and her many characters: