To remember Carole

No one needs a reason to remember Carole.  Or to dedicate a post in her honor.  But I do so today because it happens to be the anniversary of her death (January 16, 1942).  And because there’s fun to share.

Although Carole Lombard left this world in a tragic way and far sooner that she should have, I can’t be sad thinking about her even on a day like today.  She was such a bright star with an outstanding flair for comedy that she evokes nothing but smiles and fond remembrances.  And so – here are a few…

“She was so alive, modern, frank, and natural that she stands out like a beacon on a lightship in this odd place called Hollywood.” – Barbara Stanwyck

Carole in 1928
Carole in 1928

Now, a few words on a silent film in which Carole appeared in 1928, one of the several slapstick comedies she did for Mack Sennett that year, The Campus Carmen directed by Alf Goulding.  While Carole is top-billed in a few of the copies of the film I saw online and third-billed in others, the latter is actually the role she plays in the movie – a relatively minor one with Daphne Pollard playing the main role.  Still, the movie is a hoot.

The premise is simple – the students of Sunnyside Girls School receive permission to put on a production of “Carmen” and they’re all really excited about it.  “Some of the girls slept in dormitories – but most of ’em wore pajamas.”  (I know!  That makes no sense!)

Carole hears Tillie returning
Carole hears Tillie returning

Anyway – as the movie opens the group is having a massive pillow fight.  Well, except for Fanny, a large girl who’s enjoying some chocolates – “she’s nature’s gift to the candy industry.”  Oh, and Tillie Tooler (Pollard) who’d left the sleeping quarters to take a shower.  “Tillie wanted to sing in “Carmen” and probably would.”  When Carole hears Tillie coming back toward the dormitory she quickly plans for the group to surprise her with a paddling of pillows.  However, instead of Tillie walking into the surprise attack it’s the Dean of the school who walks in.  The Dean, “just a vinegar bottle in the pantry of life,” is good and truly walloped, which results in their “Carmen” being called off.

BUT, when we next see the troupe it’s backstage on opening night!  It turns out that the students are able to hire a hall and put on their production after all.  Then we see the sorriest production of “Carmen” ever.  But I laughed at many parts of this – even when I didn’t want to because the gags are so silly.  There really is nothing special about The Campus Carmen, yet watching it was a well-spent 16+ minutes.

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And now for a special treat – Carole on the radio, starring in two fantastic adaptations alongside a few other greats.

First, the Gulf Screen Guild Theater production, “Tailored By Toni” starring Carole, Spring Byington, Edward Everett Horton, and James Stewart with host, George Murphy from March 12, 1939.

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And also from Gulf Screen Guild Theater, “The Awful Truth” starring Carole alongside Robert Young and Ralph Bellamy: (Click on the following image)

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“I’ve lived by a man’s code designed to fit a man’s world, yet at the same time I never forget that a woman’s first job is to choose the right shade of lipstick.”

The Little Tramp turns 100

“A tramp, a gentleman, a poet, a dreamer, a lonely fellow, always hopeful of romance and adventure.” – Charlie Chaplin

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the first appearance of Charlie Chaplin‘s Little Tramp when the Keystone Comedy, Kid Auto Races at Venice was released.  The day was January 7, 1914 and the character would become Chaplin’s best-known onscreen alter ego.

The Little Tramp makes his debut in Kid Auto Races at Venice
The Little Tramp makes his debut in Kid Auto Races at Venice

Charlie Chaplin had been traveling the country with a pantomime troupe when Mack Sennett signed him to make pictures for his Keystone Studios, which was by that point, in 1913, becoming known for its short slapstick comedy movies.  Chaplin’s first role at Keystone was as a swindler for which he wore a mustache and monocle, but his performance wasn’t received as well as expected.  Still, Sennett gave him another chance by casting him in Kid Auto Races at Venice.

In preparation for filming, Chaplin reportedly combed through the Keystone costume closets to create the now-famous look of the Little Tramp. “Pants baggy, coat tight…hat small, shoes large,” as he later described it in his autobiography. To disguise the character’s age, he added a brush-like mustache over his lip. “I had no idea of the character,” he wrote, “but the clothes and the makeup made me feel the person he was.”

Kid Auto Races at Venice was a big hit and Chaplin as The Little Tramp was a sensation.  100 years later he remains one of the most recognizable figures in film, if not media, history.

I listened to a Mary Pickford interview some time ago during which she discusses Chaplin and The Little Tramp at length.  She said she wished the actor/director would have continued to present the role on film for the rest of his career.  She felt, as I do (imagine that!), that The Little Tramp is as important a character as film has ever seen, representing those who don’t normally have a voice.  Through the images of this wonderfully relatable character, Chaplin was able to make us laugh, break our hearts and make valuable social commentary.

I always say that my love of the classics continually reminds me of how average I am.  Here again is another example of that – I’ve been a fan of Chaplin’s Little Tramp since the first time I saw him, just like the rest of the world.  The image of The Tramp that always comes to mind is that wonderfully bitter sweet sight of him walking away at the end of what seems to me are many of his films.  Walking off into the sunset to encounter other hardships and other joys, like us all in all our lives.  There’s something so wonderfully simple, yet extraordinarily profound in that one image as are his silent words in so many instances.  Like ones he spoke in my all-time favorite of his films, City Lights

“Tomorrow the birds will sing.”

No matter what…they always do as Charlie Chaplin (as himself) once said…“Nothing is permanent in this wicked world – not even our troubles” – The Little Tramp reminds us of that.

Except the Little Tramp himself is permanent.  100 years old and still a wonder.

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FORBIDDEN HOLLYWOOD give-a-way to celebrate 90 years of Warner Bros.

As you know, 2013 marks the 90th anniversary of Warner Bros. (WB), the “working class studio” that gave us the gritty presence of Cagney, the force of Davis and the inimitable style of Bogie.  Although I’ve already dedicated a post to the studio’s history in The Culture at Warner Bros., which I posted in 2012, I couldn’t let this year end without a special celebratory post, which happens to include a great give-a-way.

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So, in tribute to Harry, Albert, Sam and Jack Warner, the studio they built and its grand legacy, I post a pictorial of iconic WB images in appreciation for quality in entertainment – on behalf of the cinephiles they helped create.

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Here is a mere sampling of the iconic images from 90 years of Warner Bros. entertainment:

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In addition, I know you’ll enjoy taking a look at a list of Warner Bros. facts, “90 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About Warner Bros.” published by The American Film Institute to commemorate the WB anniversary.  And, it’s definitely worth reiterating, in case you missed the news, that Warner Bros. kicked off the ANNIVERSARY celebration with the release of several special edition films sets in January.  I was lucky enough to receive a copy of the Best of Warner Bros. 50-film Collection bluray set, which I reviewed earlier this year.  And my friend Laura of Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings reviewed the 100-film DVD collection, which you can read here.  If you want to earn major points this holiday season you may want to consider taking a look at these.  Just sayin’.

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The folks at Warner Bros. continue to produce a hugely popular product – do The Dark Knight Trilogy and Harry Potter Series ring any bells?  However, from a classic film fan’s perspective, the legacy is best served by ensuring we have access to the films that set the standard and that is being done by Warner Archive, the “arm” of WB that not only makes rare and hard to find classics available for purchase, but also offers an ever-growing list through their streaming service, Warner Archive Instant, which was introduced in April of this year.  Through the Archive you can access productions dating back to the 1920s, many of which have been restored.  I must mention, however, that Warner Archive offers much more than “old” films.  It has a vast array of contemporary films too along with decades worth of television series.  To give you an inkling of the variety available for streaming, I have watched all the films that co-starred Joan Crawford and Clark Gable from the pre-code era on through several of the Hammer Horror films starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.  Although the latter are not contemporary, I am well on my way to the 21st Century with Warner Archive Instant.

Anyway – to the business at hand – in honor and in celebration of all that is offered through the Archive, a Warner Archive community was formed on Kumbuya, a forum on which fans can share content, commentary, images and even participate in chats on their favorite subjects.  Take a look at it here.  You’ll note I post to the page regularly and – in order to help celebrate the WB anniversary – I reached out to the Kumbuya team and they agreed to a fantastic give-a-way honoring the legacy of Warner Bros. as perpetuated by Warner Archive.  I chose the give-a-ways myself so I’m really excited about this! 

“Wait a minute, wait a minute. You ain’t heard nothing yet”

One of the most famous lines in movie history was an ad-lib by Al Jolson who starred in Alan Crosland’s historic, The Jazz Singer in 1927.  That film, which was intended to have only synchronized music, not speech, paved the way by pushing the envelope and eventually lead to one of the most interesting and entertaining eras in motion pictures – early talkies or…the pre-code era.  Since WB was at the forefront of “talking pictures,” I thought it appropriate to celebrate the legacy with give-a-ways honoring the pre-code era during which characters often said exactly what they wanted, much to the chagrin of “decent” folks everywhere  Those characters were often indecent.  They had illicit affairs, drank too much, hung out with shady types, went without “appropriate” undergarments.  And those were the women!  And now you too can add debauchery and indecency to your film collection!

Here’s all you have to do:

1.  Choose two of the seven Warner Archive Pre-Code sets you would like to own:  The Forbidden Hollywood Collections (images shown below)

2.  Join the  Warner Archive community on Kumbuya

3.  Post a brief comment in the community indicating your choices with a brief explanation as to why you chose the two you chose.  (Note that comments left on this blog will not count as entries)

4.  Share your comments as often as you like on FaceBook and Twitter tagging @OhKumbuya on each share.  The more you share, the more chances you have to win.  You can enter until December 31, 2013.  The winner will be chosen at random by the Kumbuya team based on the criteria mentioned and announced on the Warner Archive Community on January 7, 2014.

(Please note this give-a-way offer is only available to those with U.S. addresses.)

Here are the seven volumes available – choose any two:  The Forbidden Hollywood Collection:

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I must say “THANKS” to the Kumbuya team for allowing me to spread debauchery and indecency across the land – and Good luck to all!

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Remembering Nigel Bruce on OTR

British character actor, Nigel Bruce who appeared in over 80 films in a career that spanned three decades, died sixty years ago today (October 8, 1953).  Best known for his depiction of Dr. Watson starring opposite Basil Rathbone in several pictures and radio dramas based on the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Bruce is remembered today on Once Upon a Screen via work he did on radio with a special Old Time Radio double feature.

“Brief Moment”

The first feature is a special, star-studded Lux Radio Theater production of “Brief Moment”, hosted by Cecil B. DeMille from February 14, 1938, which stars Bruce accompanied by a fantastic cast including Ginger Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Louis Calhern, Paul Harvey and Grace Kern.

“The Amateur Mendicant Society”

This second feature is an episode of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which teams Rathbone and Bruce as Holmes and Watson from April 2, 1945.

On his depiction of Dr. Watson – “The stories we did were modernised but the characters of the famous detective and his biographer were kept more or less as originally written by Conan Doyle. Watson, however, in the films was made much more of a ‘comic’ character than he ever was in the books. This was with the object of introducing a little light relief. The doctor, as I played him, was a complete stooge for his brilliant friend and one whose intelligence was almost negligible. Many of the lovers of Conan Doyle must have been shocked, not by this caricature of the famous doctor but by seeing the great detective alighting from an aeroplane and the good doctor listening to his radio. To begin with, Basil and I were much opposed to the modernising of these stories but the producer, Howard Benedict, pointed out to us that the majority of youngsters who would see our pictures were accustomed to the fast-moving action of gangster pictures, and that expecting machine guns, police sirens, cars travelling at 80 miles an hour and dialogue such as ‘Put em up bud’, they would be bored with the magnifying glass, the hansom cabs, the cobblestones and the slow tempo of an era they never knew and a way of life with which they were completely unfamiliar.”

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“Le voyage dans la lune” de Georges Méliès

Georges Méliès‘ LE VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (A Trip to the Moon), was released today in 1902.  Special presentation in honor.

A Trip to the Moon is one of the earliest known science fiction films. A segment near the end was animated, making this one of the first animated films, too. (IMDB)

Although no official credits are included, Georges Méliès left a record in a 1930 letter with cast and crew credits. Ballet girls from the Théâtre du Châtelet portrayed the stars while the Selenites were portrayed by acrobats from the Folies Bergère. (IMDB)

D.W. Griffith said about Melies, “I owe him everything.”

Charles Chaplin said he was “the alchemist of light.”

 

Worthy of special note as this landmark film celebrates its 111th anniversary:  Turner Classic Movies (TCM) begins an historic series today, The Story of Film: An Odyssey – a 15-episode documentary directed and narrated by Mark Cousins.  Individual episodes of the documentary will be presented on Mondays each week followed by a line-up of feature films related to each episode.  The entire festival, which runs through December, is dedicated to over 100 years of world film history, as The Story of Film covers, and will include 119 movies from 29 countries, many of them TCM premieres.

Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN (OTR)

Today would have been the birthday of one of the most influential authors who ever lived, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

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In tribute I post a few of the shorter radio adaptations of her perennial classic, FRANKENSTEIN.

“Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.” 

Radio ad for James Whale‘s 1931 classic, FRANKENSTEIN:

“…learn from my miseries, and do not seek to increase your own.”  

A classic radio, “Favorite Story” episode featuring, “Frankenstein” chosen by Fred Allen.

Frankenstein: Old Time Radio Classics starring George Edwards

Suspense radio adaptation of FRANKENSTEIN starring Herbert Marshall

A long version that stays true to Shelley’s masterwork – LibriVox recording of Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.
Read by Caden Vaughn Clegg.

“Listen to me, Frankenstein. You accuse me of murder; and yet you would, with a satisfied conscience, destroy your own creature. Oh, praise the eternal justice of man!” 

 

Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca and Notorious (OTR)

I celebrate what would have been the birthday of one of the most beloved stars of the silver screen with radio performances to be enjoyed for the ages.  It’s Ingrid Bergman day on Once Upon a Screen with special adaptations of CASABLANCA and NOTORIOUS.

“I’ve never sought success in order to get fame and money; it’s the talent and the passion that count in success.”

Lady Esther Presents The Screen Guild Players’ adaptation of “Casablanca” from April 26, 1943 starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid.

 

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From January 26, 1948 Ingrid Bergman stars alongside Joseph Cotten in a Lux Radio Theater adaptation of “Notorious.”

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“I was the shyest human ever invented, but I had a lion inside me that wouldn’t shut up.”

Portraits of a tough Irishwoman – Maureen O’Hara

“Above all else, deep in my soul, I’m a tough Irishwoman.”

“She is a woman who speaks her mind and that impressed me, despite my old-fashion chauvinistic ways! She is feminine and beautiful, but there is something about her that makes her more like a man. It’s her stubbornness and her willingness to stand up to anyone — even John Ford.” – John Wayne

Because of her talent, beauty and yes, because she played with the big boys and gave as good as she got – this is for Maureen O’Hara in celebration of her 95th birthday on August 17.  We love you – Big Red!

“I had always been a tomboy – I still am, at heart.”

“There’s only one woman who has been my friend over the years and by that I mean a real friend, like a man would be. That woman is Maureen O’Hara. She’s big, lusty, and absolutely marvelous definitely my kind of woman. She’s a great guy. I’ve had many friends and I prefer the company of men. Except for Maureen O’Hara.” – John Wayne

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THIS IS YOUR LIFE:  Maureen O’Hara

“How could you have had such a wonderful life as me if there wasn’t a God directing?”