Tuesday, May 22, 2018

It's the PICTURES that got small

There’s nothing like seeing a classic old movie on the big screen. And it’s getting harder and harder to do that.

There used to be revival houses – theatres that would show double-bills of old movies. I can’t tell you how many classic movies I discovered at the Fox Venice, the Nuart, or the Beverly Cinema. These were grungy LA theatres – Milk Duds wedged under every seat, a popcorn machine from World War II, and prints that were not always “pristine.”

Because there were always double-bills, I’d go because there was one movie I wanted to see – like THE MALTESE FALCON – and its companion would be something I’d never heard of – THE BIG SLEEP. More than half the time I was blown away by the movie I hadn’t come to see. But that was the fun of revival theatres… along with the occasional joint that got passed down the aisle. How else are you going to watch THE BLOB?

There are still some revival houses, but a very few. Museums have film festivals from time to time, and colleges sometimes screen ancient cinema (i.e. before Millennials were born so 1995).

Along came VCR’s and VHS’s and DVD’s. You could see THE BLOB anytime you wanted (I don’t know why you would, but still). And then cable television arrived. Channels like TCM serve up film freak heaven 24/7. And it’s great to have access to these old chestnuts. But there’s something truly missing not seeing them as they were intended – on the big screen with people texting.

TCM has a new project where every month they feature a classic movie that you can see in a theatre. Ben Mankiewicz introduces it just like he does on TV. This month the feature is the Billy Wilder classic, SUNSET BOULEVARD. I’ve seen this movie many times but haven’t seen it in a theatre in a gazillion years.

So I went this weekend.

And it was GLORIOUS. When you see it on TV you really lose the full impact of Gloria Swanson’s huge face on a massive screen staring down at all the “people out there in the dark.” Yes, 60-inch flatscreens are big, but 60-foot silver screens are considerably bigger.

The other advantage is that these classics (especially in black and white) tend to be idiot-teen repellent. So there is less talk and iPhones in operation. I saw the movie in West Los Angeles and it was heartening that a number of college kids were in attendance along with us senior-discount viewers.

If you haven’t seen the films of Billy Wilder or Preston Sturges, John Ford, Howard Hawks, John Huston, David Lean, Alfred Hitchcock, George Stevens, the Marx Brothers, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, and a hundred others – you’re really missing out. Screwball comedies, westerns, noir, WB gangster films, Technicolor musicals – way better time-suck than binge-watching SUPERGIRL.

And if you can, watch them in a theatre. When Norma Desmond says: “I am big – it’s the pictures that got small” – they don’t have to be. The trick is finding them.

55 comments :

Dana King said...

The Beloved Spouse and I saw SUNSET BOULEVARD a couple of weekends ago in a local theater and have the same thoughts you do. As coincidence would have it, we've been to one other of these TCM revivals and it's a film you mentioned here: THE MALTESE FALCON.Great fun.We're both old enough to remember going to see movies in a big theater when double features were in vogue. We watch almost all movies now at home, but I regularly lament the passing of what I call "Second run" theaters, which have been completely obliterated by VOD and DVDs.

brian said...

I've always felt lucky that the first time I ever saw Casablanca was on a dreary Saturday afternoon with about 60 other people at the Rialto in South Pasadena. The group experience of sharing laughs and tears of a great movie is just fantastic. We all laughed at "shocked, shocked", cried a little when Victor lead the room in La Marseillaise, and gasped when Louie paused before saying "round up the usual suspects" at the end.

The best movies are even better in a theater.

Anonymous said...

The themes of Sunset Boulevard are the same as those of today: no great film stars anymore, the cannibalism of youth, philistine executives, excessive ambition, unrequited love.
Timeless.
Wilder and Brackett - geniuses

McAlvie said...

I'm just glad TMC runs them at all. So many great movies and we all know that they just don't make them like that anymore. But I love the idea of watching them on the big screen. My life should slow down a bit in the near future, and one of the things I want to do is enjoy the kind of screenings you are talking about.

So here's a possible Friday question. I hate it when they colorize original b&w movies, because something I can't put my finger on gets lost. I think its because they actually used the "limitations" of b&w film somehow, and that something gets lost in translation; but I don't pretend to understand the technicalities. Not that you were around then, Ken, but you know the industry, and the people. I would enjoy getting an insiders take on this.

VP81955 said...

The lady in my avatar gives a loud and lusty cheer. And why shouldn't she? I caught Carole several months ago at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica as it ran her two teamings with John Barrymore -- the 1934 screwball classic "Twentieth Century" ("I close the iron door on you") and 1937's "True Confession," where Carole insisted the skidding Barrymore not only be cast, but given third billing behind her and Fred MacMurray. Seeing them on a big screen with other film-friendly folk was cinematic nirvana.

When I lived in New Jersey, I'd regularly travel to Film Forum in lower Manhattan for pre-Code films, silents and the like. Old movies should be seen in their proper context, and that is in a theater.

Mr. Hollywood said...

SUNSET BOULEVARD ... a magnificent film. My favorite. So many memorable lines. Superb acting. Exceptional story. And maybe the greatest ending in film history. In fact, if anyone wants to study films, just watch the films of Billy Wilder. Over and over. In my estimation, the finest filmmaker who ever lived!

PatGLex said...

We have a local theater that shows mostly the "artsy" movies (small-budget films and documentaries) but runs a summer "classics" series. This year the movies include Funny Face, North by Northwest, 1776, and All About Eve.

Graham Powell said...

Several of the theater chains around here (Dallas-Fort Worth) have retro shows a couple of times a month. Everything from Casablanca to Wrath of Khan, and cheap, too.

therealshell said...

I remember seeing the Alastair Sim version of "A Christmas Carol" on a big-ish screen at a repertory theatre in Toronto and was gobsmacked by how great the entire production was: the sets, the music, everything.

Markus said...

Back in 2001 (the year), 2001 (the movie) was in theaters here and there, so I went to see it on the big screen. Naturally it was gorgeous. The place was packed with people who knew it, liked it, and actually wanted to see it - as opposed to the usual saturday night clueless movie-goer idiot crowd. Seconds before the end, during the starchild scene, the film broke. I think maybe two or three people left, everyone else stayed until it was fixed and watched the credits roll.

Shawn said...

I never noticed the gun on the bed when she gets up. I did on the big screen.

Pat Reeder said...

Ditto to everything you said. Laura and I saw "Sunset Boulevard" in the TCM presentation here in Dallas last week. She also noted that on the big screen, she picked up on details that she'd never noticed seeing it many times on TV, like the fact that the newsreel truck at the end was from Paramount, the same studio that had been Norma's home then discarded her.

We have little interest in most of the loud, dumb comic books movies of today, so we've started going to see older movies, the kind with obsolete concepts like scripts, on the big screen. Lately, we've seen "Sunset Boulevard," "Roman Holiday," "Gigi," "Casablanca" and several silents like "Nosferatu" and films by Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton, not only on a big screen but with live musical accompaniment. Now, that's entertainment! Much better than anything currently in theaters.

BTW, we also just got Moviepass. $9.95 a month covers one movie admission per day, and the first one we saw was "Sunset," which would have cost $10.80 each, so it more than paid for itself for a month the first time we used it. I can't figure out how they can possibly keep from going broke with that business model, but until they do, I intend to see a lot of old movies cheap.

Craig Gustafson said...

You're right about all of this. The only thing I hate about Turner is the introduction reel, where they show all the high points of the movie you're about to watch. ARRGGHHH!!! It's like giving somebody a gift that has large, color pictures taped to the package, detailing what you're about to open. Just show the movie, please. Maybe they don't do this for all of them, but it really put a damper on "Casablanca." That, and the fact that in discussing the actors, Dooley Wilson apparently didn't exist. No mention.

Donald Benson said...

Most exciting live movie experience in several years was Harold Lloyd's "Safety Last", in a genuine movie palace (since repurposed as an opera house, but still equipped for movies). It's funny on video, but what was amazing that people actually screamed at the "thrill" moments.

Hamid said...

Preach, Ken!

One

CRL said...

Did anyone in the theater ask why they cut the songs?

Peter said...

One of the few things that's still good about living in London is the number of cinemas that regularly show classic movies. The best of them is the National Film Theatre. There's also the Prince Charles Cinema and the Regent Street Cinema. This past weekend, I went to the Regent Street Cinema for a double bill of The Innocents, the Deborah Kerr film, and The Old Dark House, the 1932 spooky house film starring a 22 year old Gloria Stuart. The Old Dark House has had a full restoration and looks stunning. Both terrific films.

Right now in London there are brand new 70mm prints of 2001 and The Sound of Music screening, which I can't wait to see. In the coming weeks I'll also be going to see Gilda, Barry Lyndon, Casablanca and Citizen Kane.

Old films are the closest thing we have to time travel. As you say, it's enjoyable to watch them on TV, but nothing matches the experience of watching a classic film in a cinema to transport you to another time and place.

Rudy Casillas said...

I remember as a young college student seeing Bringing Up Baby on the big screen at a summer classic film festival in my home town. It may have even been the first time I saw a Cary Grant movie. The very next day it was Buster Keaton's The General... a "silent" movie! Changed my life for the better and forever. Buster Keaton, Howard Hawks, Preston Sturges, Billy Wilder. There's our greatest generation(s).

Sean R. said...

Ken,

Not related to today's entry, but yesterday's SI ran an "interesting" piece on Sam Malone, 25 years later today. I'd love your thoughts on it.

https://www.si.com/tech-media/2018/05/22/cheers-25-years-later-sam-malone

iain said...

A few years back, my wife & I had the pleasure of attending a screening of "North By Northwest" which was introduced by Eva Marie Saint & Robert Osborne! Watching it on TCM is always a treat, but nothing will ever beat the big screen experience (or the evening's hosts).

Buttermilk Sky said...

Long before TCM (or cellphones, thankfully) I frequented a revival house in NYC. It was where I first saw TOP HAT (the audience applauded after every number), Dreyer's terrifying VAMPYR in an awful print, DUCK SOUP and lots of others. Your post brought back those Saturday afternoons -- even the day a quiet passage was accompanied by the theme from the original STAR TREK, which the bored projectionist was apparently watching in the booth. All part of the cinema experience.

Matt said...

We saw it too this past weekend. Goosebumps. You also see things you don't notice when watching on a TV. I never pass up these special events.

Dr Loser said...

There's always "picture houses" aimed at the local student population.

I recommend these. The Ultimate Picture Palace in Oxford (UK) is still going, thirty five years after I watched my first Kurosawa film there. And probably the student movie house in Stanford (near the top of University Avenue) is still going, thirty three years after I was dragged in by my girlfriend and ruined the experience by shouting out "there's the fat git in his cameo part!" and "That's the man wot done it!"

I make no excuses for my behavior. But I maintain that it is part of the proper cinematic experience to ... interact. Obviously, in a deep and metacritical way.

Dave Wrighteous said...

Here's a (Friday?) question for Ken and you folks here(a variation on a posted FQ query I asked 2 weeks back): Since Hollywood is always crying poor, and since streaming technology has gotten so good, why don't Hollywood studios offer an "on demand" version of their catalog's? Think of it as a "movie jukebox". The studios would make bank on films they already paid for/made theatrical dough on, and struggling theaters could show say, Raiders of the Lost Ark on a Friday night and pack the house (that'd probably make more $ than the newest crappy, unfunny rom-com). Win/win, am I right?!?

Mark Oliver said...

"Life, which can be strangely merciful, had taken pity on Norma Desmond. The dream she had clung to so desperately had enfolded her."

Love that line. Love the movie. First time I had seen it on a big screen. Gloria Swanson's performance is one of the gutsiest I've ever seen. Very, very big, yet grounded. As outsized as Norma is, she still gains your sympathy.

Here in New Orleans there's a theater that runs a classic every week. This Sunday it's "Stalag 17." Usually there's a Warner Bros. cartoon, most often Bugs Bunny, preceding the feature. Funny, but I always recognize the cartoons from when I was a kid, but seeing them with an audience is a whole different experience than watching them in your living room with your kid brother, who's pestering you to change channels to THE MUNSTERS.

One of the worst theater experiences I ever had was at a 50th anniversary screening of CASABLANCA. That print looked like it had been through a blender and broke twice during the showing. Thank god for digital.

Tom Galloway said...

If in Silicon Valley, I highly recommend The Stanford Theater on Palo Alto's main drag of University Ave. It's a movie house from the 20s, completely restored. Including balcony seating and a Mighty Wurlitzer organ played before the first show and, of course, with silent films. I believe the cutoff date for movies shown there is around 1964, possibly a couple of years earlier. Double bills, of course, and reasonably priced concessions with real butter on the popcorn. Great prints as well.

Unfortunately, probably not duplicatable in many places due to the circumstances behind it. It's owned and run by David Packard (via a foundation), the son of the Packard in Hewlett-Packard. He grew up without having any particular interest in movies and became a college professor at my alma mater of UNC-Chapel Hill, I believe in Classics. Now, when I was there, UNC-CH had what I'd call an above average college film program for the time (not great; in my experience, Yale and Michigan had insanely good ones, mainly because UNC was limited to the Student Union while the other two had many, many, seperate film societies doing films on the weekends). Packard happened to go see some classic movies there (about a year before I got there I think), and fell in love with them and pretty much made it his life's work since, also contributing significantly to film restoration and preservation.

This week's showings are Wed-Thur a double feature of Cape Fear and The Desperate Hours (Bogart), and Fri-Sun To Catch A Thief and Rear Window

VP81955 said...

In the late '80s, I loved Theatre 80 St. Marks in lower Manhattan. Saw many splendid films there, including a pair of Powell-Loy comic classics, "Libeled Lady" (Bill's scene where he attempts to come off as a fisherman is brilliant in his physicality) and "Love Crazy" (with another superb scene where he and old flame Gail Patrick are stuck in an elevator). The owners did an eastern version of Grauman's with footprints in the sidewalk, including Myrna Loy and Joan Blondell.

Tom Galloway said...

And here's a nice article with pictures on The Stanford Theater: https://thesixfifty.com/behind-the-curtain-of-palo-altos-90-year-old-cinematic-treasure-the-stanford-theater-4ae64733954d

Dr Loser said...

@Tom:
"If in Silicon Valley, I highly recommend The Stanford Theater on Palo Alto's main drag of University Ave."

That's the one I was thinking of. It's good to know it's still there, but in a way, depressing. Every university town should have one of these.

And while I'm here, and sort of on subject, a shout out for Birmingham's oldest cinema:

theelectric.co.uk/

It's small, but definitely "an experience."

Mike Bloodworth said...

It has been AT LEAST 30 years since I've been to the Nuart. In "the valley" we had the Reseda Theatre. It had the kind of midnight shows similar to the Nuart. One venue I've never been to, but always wanted to, is The SILENT MOVIE theater in Hollywood. As the name suggests it showed old SILENT films. However, several years ago there was a scandal associated with the theater. Fraud, mismanagement, bogus marriage all combined to cause the S.M.T. to lose it's collection of films. It reopened, eventually. I have no idea of it's current status. I was fortunate enough to see 2001 on a big screen. It was spectacular. Before the rise of VHS tapes and other home viewing media, Disney used to re release it's old movies. I saw FANTASIA in a theater. They say that it didn't make money at the time of it's release. But it is truly an example of Disney at the top of it's game.
M.B.

E. Yarber said...

I ran the film society at my college for a couple of years. We did about 200 shows a year, four during the regular semester week, two in summer, and special outdoor showings at the family residential complexes. There was a large auditorium for 35mm prints and a lecture hall for 16mm. I introduced the movies, went to the bus stop with the projectionist to pick up the film canisters, and got to each showing early to make sure the box office was open. Once we had a bomb scare and I had to go up and down the rows with the cops to check for anything unusual.

The perk of all this was that I got to see just about anything I wanted on the big screen, and all that experience with audiences was more helpful that I realized when I entered the business and began reviewing projects with clients who hadn't paid for a movie in years.

Of course, the moment someone else wanted the job, I was out on my ear. Some fraternity guy thought it would look good on his resume. He couldn't get the crowd to laugh, though, and was removed from the post for sexually harassing the ushers. After he was gone the new team always let me in for free, but I was spending most of my nights editing my own magazine by then.

Charles Jurries said...

Ken,
With all your posts over the years about how difficult pilot season is for everyone -- writers, producers, directors, actors... crew trying to find a steady job... have you seen actor Dave Annable's post about being recast in a show? I'd be interested in your perspective: http://deadline.com/2018/05/dave-annable-the-code-recasting-post-agony-network-recastings-1202395491/ (For the record, I think he comes across as a real good dude here.)

Louis Burklow said...

Ken, Are you on the email list for American Cinematheque? If not, you should fix that right away. Last month I went to the last night of Cinematheque's annual noir festival. Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode introduced a great double feature, ACT OF VIOLENCE and NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES. I'd seen the former on TCM but the latter is not on DVD. What a treat! Best of all, the entire audience obviously felt the same way. After watching DOCTOR ZHIVAGO at the Aero and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (twice) at the Egyptian I've found it's tough to watch a David Lean epic on television.

Mike Doran said...

A curiosity - and possible Friday Question:

How does an audience filled with people who were born well after the making of a movie react to a reference that was timely when it was made, but would now require explanation?

When Bill Holden shows up at Jack Webb's office party in white tie and tails, Webb introduces him to the crowd thusly (emphasis mine):

"You all know Joe Gillis - the well-known screenwriter, diamond smuggler, and former Black Dahlia suspect!"

Comes to that, I wonder how that reference goes over with a crowd that knows what Webb's referring to ...?

Especially nowadays ...

Just askin', is all ...

VP81955 said...

Why not simply finally make good rom-coms? (See the lady in my avatar, or Powell and Loy.)

MikeKPa. said...

Curious how big the theatre was and size of the crowd (full, 2/3 full). I'm a boomer who works with millennials and Gen Xs. The majority of whom have never seen a B&W movie, including IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

Sung said...

God,I love Sunset Boulevard! I always think of Harriet Sansom Harris, the actress playing Bebe Glazer, Frasier's nutty agent, whenever I think of Gloria Swanson. Harris channels Swanson better than anyone.

Anonymous said...

Grew up in Palo Alto, high school thru college (1948 - 58) and saw many a picture at the Stanford Theatre. The original David Packard lived across the street from us, in a very middle class section of Palo Alto, while starting his new company. My farther, a Stanford grad, new him.

James Van Hise said...

For several years, until late 2017, Cinemark Theaters had a weekly feature called Cinemark Classics where they'd have one showing per day on Sunday and Wednesday of classic films (including recent classics from the 1980s) at regular ticket prices. As a senior I could see the film for $7.00 and I saw Doctor No, Psycho, Rear Window, The Maltese Falcon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, North By Northwest, Back To The Future, Ghostbusters, E.T. and even The Tingler (with the special scenes where the blood is tinted red in the otherwise B&W film). But they dropped that and instead it is now just once a month for $12.50 you can see the Fathom Events TCM films.

JonCow said...

Living close to Rochester NY, we had the George Eastman House's Dryden Theater, always showing a themed retrospective show from September thru June, and then a special Summer Series. Got hooked in the early 70s with the Lon Chaney Retrospective (summer series) and the wonderful introductions by James Card. About 15 years later, my wife and I went to see a movie I had never heard of, but it was the first screenplay written by Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett. The audience reaction was truly amazing, wall-to-wall laughs. So much so, that there was one line I never heard until I was able to buy the film on DVD. The film? MIDNIGHT, starring Don Ameche, Claudette Colbert and John Barrymore. (One story Mr Card told us was, back in the studio days, actors were given only the pages of the scenes they were in. Barrymore was so impressed with his scenes, he called the studio and asked them to send him the complete script.)

Kaleberg said...

I miss the old rep houses. The ones in Boston started vanishing in the 1980s just as VHS tapes were becoming more common. The rep houses were an improvement on the limited offerings available on television, but VHS opened a magnificent new window. There were a couple of video stores that had everything. You could suddenly binge watch Keaton or Kurosawa or Sturges or Astaire. This window is still open, though the format is now DVD, but it is closing. Video on demand offers a surprisingly limited selection of movies. It's almost like going back to broadcast television with just whatever the studios had in release, and set your VHS and hope you catch it. I'm guessing the studios like it that way. It was never about the money. It was always about control.

Justin Piatt said...

I've seen Sunset Boulevard so many times. When I went to theater for it last week, I was on the edge of my seat during the final scene. That whole speech is incredible and so much more powerful when you see it on the big screen. She's vulnerable, emotional, you pity her but you're scared to death of her. Just amazing.

Teri M said...

My little corner of Pittsburgh had a fabulous little 1920's single-screen that, for years, was rented and run by a non-profit as a revival/art house, showing everything from silents with live accompaniment on the restored theatre organ to, of course, Rocky Horror and Big Lebowsky on alternating Saturday midnights. I've seen many old and new wonders there, including documentaries and foreign films not playing anywhere else within a day's drive. Their popcorn had real butter, and you could BYOB! A few months ago the building was purchased by a national organization "committed to saving" the old single-screens, and the non-profit was evicted. Now it's a second-run house. Like the world needed that.

ODJennings said...

I miss porn on the big screen. In college my roommates and I went through a phase where we would go to the Chicago Loop and watch porn at the Cinestage. The movies were horrible, usually scratchy imports that involved Scandinavian airline stewardesses more than seems plausible in hindsight, but the comments people would yell at the screen were hysterical (aided by more than a few of those joints Ken mentioned). It was like a XXX version of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, and it was a tough crowd--Siskel and Ebert had nothing on the regulars at the Cinestage.

I pity today's teenagers watching porn alone on a computer screen.

Mike Bloodworth said...

In the late 70's I saw DEEP THROAT at the Hollywood, Pussycat Theatre. The one on Sunset not the one on Hollywood Blvd. Today, however, I wouldn't have the nerve to go into a porno theater even if they still existed.
M.B.

E. Yarber said...

When DEEP THROAT came out, there was a brief period of "Porno Chic," in which all sorts of celebrities were noted going to the picture. Jack Benny decided he needed to see what all the fuss was about, but there was no home video at the time and he felt it would ruin his career to be caught in public attending that sort of smut.

He finally came up with an elaborate scheme to watch the film... he'd buy an advance ticket, wear a disguise, and have a taxi drop him off right in front of the Pussycat Theater so he could rush inside before anyone would notice him.

Everything went according to plan. Benny hit the sidewalk in front of the theater and was almost at the door when Mel Blanc stepped out, gave a big wave, and shouted, "HEY, JACK! HOPE YOU ENJOY THE MOVIE!"

Janet Ybarra said...

@Mike Doran, on your question about how younger audiences handle older/outdated references, I seldom had a problem. It was all part of a well-rounded education.

Of course, I'm a Gen-Xer, the last generation to come along under the "old fashioned" way of education before too much attention to computers and standardized testing began to start skewing basic public education.

I'm not saying all public education is bad today....far from it. I've volunteered at the elementary level. I'm just afraid there's a bit too much using computers as a crutch and too much emphasis teaching what is going to be on the next standardized test.

Our kids, honestly, would do with a bit more exposure to classic cinema these days.

Janet Ybarra said...

It IS possible to get kids to love the classics, by the way. Our 8-year-old daughter just LOVES MASH, and we have all 255 or 256 episodes on our DVR for her (us too ;)). For some reason, she's hooked on the pilot episode and loves watching that one over and over.

She also likes the old ADAM-12 and EMERGENCY. In fact, we poined out to her that Bobby Troup and Julie London from EMERGENCY used to be famous jazz singers from the 1950s and started playing some of their music for her and she really liked that too.

Mike Doran said...

Janet Ybarra's twin-spin above makes a key point:

Exposure to the Stuff of the Past is vital to keeping it alive.

I'm a Fifties Kid, born in 1950.
Demographics hadn't been invented yet; TV, then just taking root, was using anything and everything that was available, no matter when it was made, or who was in it (and whether they were still around).

Sometimes, I kiddingly call this my "classical education": the newer TV shows ran side-by-side with program pictures from the '30s and '40s - and my sibs and I saw many of the same players in all of them.
The old movie comedies - Laurel & Hardy, Wheeler & Woolsey, the Little Rascals, Leon Errol and Edgar Kennedy, Billy Gilbert and Vince Barnett - we saw those in the afternoons, and in prime time, the sitcoms often had the players who will still around, as funny as ever.
Same with Westerns and detective shows - the programmers of the '30s and '40s aired cheek-by-jowl with the TV of the '50s and '60s, often with the same players in front of the cameras, and with much of the same behind-the-camera talent (writers, directors, and suchlike).
I learned to read credit crawls early on (they really crawled back then); seeing many of the same names in old movies and new TV was a lesson I never forgot.

Above, I mentioned Demographics, the Junk Science of our time; if I didn't disparage it sufficiently there, permit me to observe what seems to be a Universal Truth of today:
You can ruin anything, simply by trying to get scientific about it.

A Universal Truth - it might even be Paramount ...

MikeN said...

I'm amazed that they were able to make Sunset Boulevard when they did. Just 11 years after Gone With the Wind, and 21 years after the first Oscars, the idea of fading actresses would have been very new.

VP81955 said...

And Jack Webb, who created both series you speak of, was a jazz buff and had previously been married to Julie London. That he not only would hire his ex, but the man she married, speaks well for all of them.

(BTW, Troup was a superb songwriter, too. His compositions include the westward anthem "Route 66," done by everyone from Nat Cole to Perry Como to the Rolling Stones, and the title song for "The Girl Can't Help It," sung by Little Richard in the film as Jayne Mansfield's mighty curves transfix passers-by. Julie's also in the film, performing her signature song, "Cry Me A River.")

Greg Ehrbar said...

There's a great episode of WKRP in which Johnny hosts a disco dance show, but breaks into the music with a rock and roll song. The teens of the time are put off by the strange music until he convinces them to give it a chance, which they do -- and they find they like it, very much. Enter well-cast Mary Frann as the show producer, who shuts down the fun, cuts off Johnny as he tries to explain and fires him on the spot. Yes, he broke the format of the show, but that was not the point being made. It's not the young people who are keeping great stuff away, it's not true that they all won't watch black and white, it's not true that the date of a work makes it irrelevant (studies show that millenials don't care when things were made as long as they're interesting). The point is that it's important to make sure they see a variety of great entertainment so they can know how much is out there besides the limited choices marketed to them.

That's all about to change because they have so many choices, but with all those choices comes an even more crowded marketplace where the classics can be lost in the maze. It can't be left to schools or TV or peers to gift them with this. We have to do it.

Regarding seeing classic films in theaters, there's a lot of talk on this blog about live audiences for shows. When a theatrical comedy was produced back in the day, there was time for the crowd to laugh between funny lines and gags, so that when the films are played on TV, they seem odd because of the long pauses. When we went to the TCM showing of "Singin' in the Rain," it was a marvel to experience all those pauses filled in with a theater audience's reactions. It really does make a difference.

Anonymous said...

@Mike
Consider that the Gloria Swanson character would have been about 50 in the film.
Seems like she would be 70.

Dana Gabbard said...

There is a website called Kansas Anymore which is a calendar of classic screenings on the big screen in the L.A. area (although they are generous as to what constitutes a classic).

https://www.kansasanymore.com/

In June the Los Angeles Conservancy has its Last Remaining Seats series showing classics in historic venues. Steamboat Bill, Jr. is at the Orpheum which has a Wurlitzer and as as was done in the silent era it will be accompanied, in this case by Mark Herman plus music from the era performed by the divine Janet Klein & Her Parlour Boys.

https://www.laconservancy.org/last-remaining-seats

The Silent Movie theater on Fairfax seemingly is cursed. In the aftermath of the proprietor in the 90s being murdered all sorts of questions were raised of the sort alluded to. It then briefly was run by some trust fund wannabe composer. Then the Cinefamily started using it for mostly indy films plus some classics and a monthly series of silents. A sexual harassment scandal caused it to close. A revamped entity in January called Fairfax Cinema is supposed to be bringing it back but no further details since then. Stay tuned...

http://www.indiewire.com/2018/01/fairfax-theater-silent-movie-theatre-cinefamily-1201915500/

cadavra said...

Ken, if you're in town Labor Day weekend, you really need to come to Cinecon at the Egyptian. Nearly five solid days of vintage features and shorts--most you haven't seen, some you haven't heard of, but all of them entertaining and often illuminating. (Last year they ran Sam Fuller's POWER OF THE PRESS (1943), which is literally about fake news, and the crowd went nuts.) Check out the website: www.cinecon.org