Edith Head – Dresser to the Stars ✨

edithheaddesigns

As a classic movie lover, it seems every important film from the 1940’s until the 1970’s was dressed by Academy Award Winning Costume Designer Edith Head. The look of a film sets the tone which Ms. Head artfully conveyed with her iconic fashions, making her our next accomplished artist in “The Faces Behind the Camera” theme.

Edith Head in 1976

Edith Head in 1976

Born Edith Claire Posener in San Bernardino, California, Edith Head (October 28, 1897 – October 24, 1981) was an American costume designer who won a record eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, starting with The Heiress (1949) and ending with The Sting (1973).

Head’s designs were integral to the look and feel of a picture and she was considered exceptional for her close working relationships with her subjects, with whom she consulted extensively, and these included virtually every top female star in Hollywood.

Dorothy Lamour, Veronica Lake, Barbara Stanwyck, Ingrid Bergman, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Kim Novack and Tippi Hendren to name a few.

Head received eight Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, more than any other person, from a total of 35 nominations. (Wikipedia)

Born and raised in California, Head managed to get a job as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures, without any relevant training. She first acquired notability for Dorothy Lamour’s trademark sarong dress in Paramount’s, The Jungle Princess (1936) and then became a household name after the Academy Awards created a new category of Costume Designer in 1948.

In 1967, at the age of 70, she left Paramount Pictures and joined Universal Pictures to work with Alfred Hitchcock on such films as –Rear Window, 1954, To Catch a Thief, 1955, The Man Who Knew Too Much, 1956, Vertigo, 1958, The Birds, 1963, and Marnie, 1964, where she remained until her death in 1981.

hitchcock_collage

An Edith Head costume collection from the Paramount Pictures Archive left Hollywood—for just the second time—to be shown exclusively at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster in “Designing Woman: Edith Head at Paramount 1924-1967” as presented by the Fox Foundation from June 7 through August 17, 2014. (Wikipedia)

Trivia: The costume designer Edna Mode in the 2004 Pixar movie The Incredibles was largely based on Edith Head, according to director Brad Bird, who voiced the character.

Edna Mode - "The Incredibles"

Edna Mode – “The Incredibles”

Head died on October 24, 1981, four days before her 84th birthday, from myelofibrosis, an incurable bone marrow disease. She is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Edith Head’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located at 6504 Hollywood Boulevard.

 

 

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Movie Music Magic – Danny Elfman 🎼

Danny Elfman

Danny Elfman

Music is essential to a film production. It sets the tone and mood and helps tell the movie’s story. A great musician “behind the camera” is Danny Elfman, who’s scored such film’s as “Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure”, “Batman”  and “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.

Daniel Robert Elfman (born May 29, 1953) is an American composer, singer, songwriter, and record producer. From 1976 to 1995 he was the lead singer and songwriter for the rock band Oingo Boingo.

In 1976, Elfman entered the film industry as an actor. In 1982, he scored his first film, Forbidden Zone, directed by his older brother Richard Elfman. Among his honors are four Academy Award nominations, a Grammy for Batman, an Emmy for Desperate Housewives, the 2002 Richard Kirk Award, and the Disney Legend Award.

I first became aware of Danny Elfman from his band, Oingo Boingo. Their ska driven music was freeing and fun.  Ska-influenced the new wave band in 1979, and then changed again towards a more guitar-oriented rock sound, in the late 1980s. The band’s appearance in Back to School energized the soundtrack with “Dead Man’s Party”.

Oingo Boingo Deadman's Party

“Back to School” (1986)

Some of Elfman’s music influences were Bernard Hermann, Franz Waxman, and Philip Glass. In 1985, Tim Burton and Paul Reubens invited Elfman to write the score for their first feature film, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure”. Elfman was apprehensive at first, because of his lack of formal training, but with orchestration assistance from Oingo Boingo guitarist and arranger Steve Bartek, he achieved his goal of emulating the mood of such composers as Nino Rota and Bernard Herrmann.

Elfman immediately developed a rapport with Burton and has gone on to score all but three of Burton’s major studio releases. Elfman also provided the singing voice for Jack Skellington in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and the voices of both Barrel and the “Clown with the Tear-Away Face”. Years later he provided the voice for Bonejangles the skeleton in Corpse Bride.

Trivia: Elfman also composed the theme to “The Simpsons”.

Burton has said of his relationship with Elfman: “We don’t even have to talk about the music. We don’t even have to intellectualize – which is good for both of us, we’re both similar that way. We’re very lucky to connect”. (Wikipedia)

Danny Elfman’s score of “Batman” (directed by Tim Burton) won him a Grammy Award.

Elfman admits his favorite movie to score was “Edward Scissorhands” (Tim Burton director).

edward scissor hands

Tim Burton, Winona Ryder, Johnny Depp and Danny Elfman in 1990.

Danny Elfman has three children: Lola (born 1979), Mali (born 1984), and Oliver (born 2005). On November 29, 2003, he married actress Bridget Fonda.

In October 2013, Elfman returned to the stage to sing his vocal parts to a handful of Nightmare Before Christmas songs as part of a concert titled Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton. He composed the film score for Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), and composed additional music for Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) together with Brian Tyler.

 

Academy Award Cinematographer – Ernest Laszlo 🎥

Ernest Laszlo

(April 23, 1898 – January 6, 1984)

Ernest Laszlo is our next artist for “The Faces Behind the Camera” theme. Best-known for his striking black-and-white cinematography, Laszlo was a painstaking technician and a true artist who rejected Hollywood glamour to bring a refreshing naturalism to his films.

Description: A cinematographer or director of photography (sometimes shortened to DP or DOP) is the chief over the camera crews working on a film, television production or other live action pieces and is responsible for achieving artistic and technical decisions related to the image. (Wikipedia)

Ernest Laszlo, A.S.C. was a Hungarian-American cinematographer for over 60 films and was known for his frequent collaborations with directors Robert Aldrich and Stanley Kramer. He was a member of the American Society of Cinematographers, and was its president from 1972 to 1974.

Laszlo emigrated to the United States and began working as a camera operator on such silent films as Wings (1927). Between 1927 and 1977, he served as cinematographer on sixty-nine films. Between 1961 and 1976 Laszlo was nominated for eight Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, and won the award in 1966 for Ship of Fools. He died in Los Angeles, California in 1984.

Some of my favorite films he shot are:

Directed by Stanley Kramer, “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (1963) was a scream! Every comic in the business appeared in this film. I’ve always said if you were a comedian during the filming and weren’t asked to participate, you just didn’t rate. 😟

There’s nothing more intriguing and hilarious than a bunch of strangers going on a treasure hunt and the lengths they will go through to retrieve the big prize. Dick Shawn stole the show with his portrayal of “Sylvester”, the not so bright hunk that’s determined to “save his mama”.

Filmed in Ultra Panavision 70 and presented in Cinerama (becoming one of the first single-camera Cinerama features produced), Mad World also had an all-star cast, with dozens of major comedy stars from all eras of cinema appearing in the film. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World rated #40 in the American Film Institute’s list – 100 Years…100 Laughs.

Spencer TracyEdie Adams, Milton Berle, Dick ShawnSid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Ethel Merman, Mickey Rooney, Phil Silvers, Terry-Thomas, and Jonathan Winters.

A Little Cinematographer History

In the infancy of motion pictures, the cinematographer was usually also the director and the person physically handling the camera. Cinematography was key during the silent movie era; with no sound apart from background music and no dialogue, the films depended on lighting, acting, and set.

In 1919 Hollywood, the then-new motion picture capital of the world, one of the first (and still existing) trade societies was formed: the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), which stood to recognize the cinematographer’s contribution to the art and science of motion picture making. (Wikipedia)

Some of Ernest Lazlo’s celebrated films

Ernest Laszlo, the trailblazing cinematographer whose body of work spans over 5 decades starting in the silent era with the first Academy Award winning film, Wings (1927) to his last film, The Domino Principle (1977). His visual style crossed all genres and he earned the accolade of being one of the best cinematographers in Hollywood.

 

 

Nora Ephron – “I’ll Have What She’s Having”

Nora Ephron

May 19, 1941 – June 26, 2012

Our next artist for “The Faces Behind the Camera” theme is Nora Ephron – writer,  journalist, essayist, playwright, screenwriter, novelist, producer, and director. Probably best known for her romantic comedies – “When Harry Met Sally”, “Sleepless in Seattle” and drama “Silkwood”. She was nominated three times for the Academy Award for Best Writing: for Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, and Sleepless in Seattle. She won a BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay for “When Harry Met Sally”. Ephron received a posthumous Tony Award nomination for Best Play for her play “Lucky Guy” which starred Tom Hanks.

 

I love “Sleepless in Seattle” because of Nora Ephron’s smart writing, directing and the entire ensemble cast. This is one of the best scenes, comparing the tear-jerker “An Affair to Remember” versus “The Dirty Dozen” – Hilarious! Don’t get me wrong, both “You’ve Got Mail” and “Silkwood” are brilliant films. Right now “Sleepless” just resonates with me.

Ephron hails from a writing family starting with her stage and screenwriter parents – Henry and Phoebe Ephron. Her parents used her infancy as the subject of their play “Three’s a Family” and based their comedy Take Her, She’s Mine (1963) starring Jimmy Stewart and Sandra Dee on letters their 22-year-old daughter wrote them from college. Their screenplays include There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), Carousel (1956) and Desk Set (1957). Nora is also eldest of four daughters – all writers.

Miss Ephron had a distinctive voice and didn’t shy away from controversy. She took on a satire lampooning the New York Post which actually resulted in a job offer as Reporter from The Post, a gig which lasted 5 years.

 

Nora Ephron 1972

Nora Ephron 1972

 

As a writer for Esquire magazine she took on her former boss – Dorothy Schiff, owner of the Post and also Betty Friedan for starting a feud with Gloria Steinem and her alma mater Wellesley, which Friedan said had turned out “a generation of docile and unadventurous women”.

Fun Fact: Nora Ephron was married to journalist Carl Bernstein (1976-1980) of Watergate fame and she correctly guessed the identity of “Deep Throat” (the source for news articles written by her ex-husband Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward during the Watergate scandal) before his name was revealed in 2005.

On June 26, 2012, Ephron died from pneumonia, a complication resulting from acute myeloid leukemia, a condition with which she was diagnosed in 2006. In her final book, I Remember Nothing (2010), Ephron left clues that something was wrong with her or that she was ill, particularly in a list at the end of the book citing “things I won’t miss/things I’ll miss.”

 

nora ephron quote

 

The Tribeca film festival established The Nora Ephron Prize which is a $25,000 award for a female writer or filmmaker “with a distinctive voice”. The first Nora Ephron Prize was awarded in 2013 to Meera Menon for her film Farah Goes Bang.

Her death was a shock to many as she didn’t reveal her illness. Her brilliant writing and filmmaking talents are a definite loss to the industry.

 

Filmography

Feature films

Year Title Credited as
Director Screenwriter Producer
1983 Silkwood Yes
1986 Heartburn Yes
1989 When Harry Met Sally… Yes Yes
Cookie Yes Yes
1990 My Blue Heaven Yes Yes
1991 The Super (uncredited)[20] Yes
1992 This Is My Life Yes Yes
1993 Sleepless in Seattle Yes Yes
1994 Mixed Nuts Yes Yes
1996 Michael Yes Yes Yes
1998 All I Wanna Do Yes
You’ve Got Mail Yes Yes Yes
2000 Hanging Up Yes Yes
Lucky Numbers Yes Yes
2005 Bewitched Yes Yes Yes
2009 Julie & Julia Yes Yes Yes

 

 

The Man with the “Touch” – Ernst Lubitsch 🎬🙌🎥

Ernst Lubitsch

Ernst Lubitsch (January 29, 1892 – November 30, 1947)

Keeping with the “Faces Behind the Camera” theme I’m spotlighting the saucy, bedroom comedies director Ernst Lubitsch and his famous “Lubitsch Touch”. This moniker was bestowed on him by other legendary filmmakers including Billy Wilder who was featured in the previous “Faces Behind the Camera” post. The phrase is used to describe the unique style and cinematic trademarks of director Ernst Lubitsch.

Hailed by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock (my other favorite director), Francois Truffaut and Orson Welles as a giant among filmmakers, Ernst Lubitsch was a preeminent figure in the history of cinema who directed some of Hollywood’s most sophisticated and enduring comedies.

Hollywood Sign

More than a great director of actors and action, he added his own personal signature – the “Lubitsch touch” – to all his work creating a sense of style and grace that was rarely duplicated on the screen.

After making a name as a director in his native Germany, Lubitsch was brought over at the behest of silent film star Mary Pickford to direct her in “Rosita” (1923). From there, he made comedies like “The Marriage Circle” (1924) and “Kiss Me Again” (1925), as well as dramas like “The Patriot” (1925). But with the advent of sound, the cigar-chomping director’s career took off with his fascination with a new genre, the musical comedy, and he began displaying his famed Lubitsch touch with classics like “Monte Carlo” (1930) and “One Hour with You” (1932).

He directed his first bona fide masterpiece, “Trouble in Paradise” (1932) later described as “truly amoral” by critic David Thomson (a British film critic and historian). The cynical comedy was popular both with critics and with audiences. But it was a project that could only have been made before the enforcement of the Production Code. After 1935, “Trouble in Paradise” was withdrawn from circulation. It was not seen again until 1968. The film was never available on videocassette and only became available on DVD in 2003.

Lubitsch later hit his stride full force with “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife” (1938), “Ninotchka” (1939) co-written by Billy Wilder and “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940). Lubitsch reached great artistic heights with “To Be or Not to Be” (1942) and “Heaven Can Wait” (1943) before dying mid-career in 1947, leaving behind a legacy virtually unmatched by a filmmaker before or since.

In 1946, he received an Honorary Academy Award for his distinguished contributions to the art of the motion picture. He was also nominated three times for Best Director.

Lubitsch died of a heart attack on November 30, 1947, in Hollywood, and was buried at Glendale Forest Lawn in Glendale, CA. Leaving Lubitsch’s funeral, Billy Wilder ruefully said, “No more Lubitsch.” Lubitsch has a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7040 Hollywood Blvd.

 

 

The Faces Behind the Camera 📽


TCM movie lovers

If you’re a movie junkie like me you probably not only know the stars of the film but the Director, The Cinematographer, the Editor, Writers and possibly the Key Grip. The faces behind the camera.

If you attend a movie with me, be prepared to stay through the end credits. I feel it’s imperative to acknowledge those artists who are responsible for the project. Staying for the credits also gives you a foundation to critique a film based on the direction, writing, and editing. Whether or not to see a movie based on a Director’s previous track record or the Cinematographer’s eye for the visuals.

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This month is dedicated to educating and paying homage to the artists who help put it all together. Let’s begin with one of the top 2 of my favorite Directors, Billy Wilder.

Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder (June 22, 1906 – March 27, 2002) was an Austrian-born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist and journalist, whose career spanned more than fifty years and sixty films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood’s golden age.

Billy Wilder with Oscars

With The Apartment, (starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray) Wilder became the first person to win Academy Awards as the producer, director, and screenwriter for the same film. “The Apartment” was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won five, including Best Picture.

The Apartment (1960)

I love Billy Wilder because of his versatility in films and his testing the boundaries of societal norms. The first movie that comes to mind with his pushing the boundaries is “Some Like it Hot” 1959 starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis.

The plot revolves around two musicians who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. These are the final lines of the film delivered by (Daphne/Jerry) Lemmon and Joe E. Brown (Osgood) in regards to their pending marriage: Daphne/Jerry: But you don’t understand, Osgood! [Whips off his wig, exasperated, and changes to a manly voice] Uh, I’m a man! Osgood: [Looks at him then turns back, unperturbed] Well, nobody’s perfect!Wow! for 1959 that was pretty radical.

Some_Like_It_Hot_poster

“Some Like It Hot” is considered to be one of the greatest film comedies of all time. It was voted as the top comedy film by the American Film Institute on their list on AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Laughs poll in 2000. The film is also notable for featuring cross-dressing and homosexuality, which led to it being produced without approval from the Motion Picture Production Code. The Code was the set of industry moral guidelines that was applied to most American motion pictures released by major studios from 1930 to 1968. The Production Code had been gradually weakening in its scope during the early 1950s due to increasing societal tolerance for previously taboo topics in film, but it was still officially enforced. The overwhelming success of “Some Like It Hot” was a final nail in the coffin for the Hays Code.

Wilder became a screenwriter in the late 1920s while living in Berlin. After the rise of the Nazi Party, Wilder, who was Jewish, left for Paris, where he made his directorial debut. He moved to Hollywood in 1933, and in 1939, he had a hit when he co-wrote the screenplay for the screwball comedy Ninotchka. Wilder established his directorial reputation with Double Indemnity (1944), a film noir he co-wrote with crime novelist Raymond Chandler. Wilder earned the Best Director and Best Screenplay Academy Awards for the adaptation of a Charles R. Jackson story The Lost Weekend (1945), about alcoholism. In 1950, Wilder co-wrote and directed the critically acclaimed Sunset Boulevard.

Wilder was recognized with the American Film Institute (AFI) Life Achievement Award in 1986. In 1988, Wilder was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award. In 1993, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Billy Wilder’s films:

Year Film Involvement
1934 Mauvaise Graine (also known as Bad Seed) Director/Writer
1942 The Major and the Minor Director/Writer
1943 Five Graves to Cairo Director/Writer
1944 Double Indemnity Director/Writer
1945 The Lost Weekend Director/Writer
1945 Death Mills Director
1948 The Emperor Waltz Director/Writer
1948 A Foreign Affair Director/Writer
1950 Sunset Boulevard Director/Writer
1951 Ace in the Hole Director/Writer/Producer
1953 Stalag 17 Director/Writer/Producer
1954 Sabrina Director/Writer/Producer
1955 The Seven Year Itch Director/Writer/Producer
1957 The Spirit of St. Louis Director/Writer
1957 Love in the Afternoon Director/Writer/Producer
1957 Witness for the Prosecution Director/Writer
1959 Some Like It Hot Director/Writer/Producer
1960 The Apartment Director/Writer/Producer
1961 One, Two, Three Director/Writer/Producer
1963 Irma la Douce Director/Writer/Producer
1964 Kiss Me, Stupid Director/Writer/Producer
1966 The Fortune Cookie Director/Writer/Producer
1970 The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes Director/Writer/Producer
1972 Avanti! Director/Writer/Producer
1974 The Front Page Director/Writer
1978 Fedora Director/Writer/Producer
1981 Buddy Buddy Director/Writer

Wilder received a total of twenty-one Academy Award nominations; eight for Best Director, twelve for writing, and one as the producer of Best Picture. With eight nominations for Academy Award for Best Director, Wilder is, together with Martin Scorsese, the second most nominated director in the history of the Academy Awards, behind William Wyler, and the second most nominated screenwriter behind Woody Allen.

Wilder won a total of six Oscars: Best Director for The Lost Weekend and The Apartment, Best Screenplay for The Lost Weekend, Sunset Blvd, The Apartment, and Best Picture for The Apartment. In addition, he received the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1988.

Billy Wilder"s grave

Wilder died in 2002 of pneumonia at the age of 95 after battling health problems, including cancer, in Los Angeles and was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, Los Angeles near Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. Marilyn Monroe’s crypt is located in the same cemetery. Wilder died the same day as two other comedy legends: Milton Berle and Dudley Moore. The next day, French newspaper Le Monde titled its first-page obituary, “Billy Wilder dies. Nobody’s perfect”, quoting the final gag line in “Some Like It Hot”.