“You Can’t Take it With You” 1938

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I enjoy classic television just like classic films so I’m hooked on a tv station called METV. Perry Mason with Raymond Burr is one of my favorites so I usually catch an episode daily. I love the convoluted storylines and the less than plausible show ending of the murderer jumping up in court and hysterically coping to the charge; a full confession no less.

I say all this because an episode the other day featured the scenario of the rich father trying to eliminate his son’s less than a suitable new bride; “There’s $50,000 in the safe for you to fly to Paris and get a divorce.” That’s quite the offer.

Anyhoo, that got me thinking about the brilliant, “You Can’t Take it With You” the 1938 American romantic comedy film directed by Frank Capra, and starring Jean ArthurLionel BarrymoreJames Stewart and Edward Arnold.

 

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Cast with Director Frank Capra

 

Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hartthe film is about a man (Jimmy Stewart) from a family of rich snobs who becomes engaged to a woman (Jean Arthur) who speaks her mind and is from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family.

The film received two Academy Awards from seven nominations: Best Picture and Best Director for Frank Capra. An iconic director, this was Capra’s third Oscar for Best Director in just five years, following It Happened One Night (1934) and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). It was also the highest-grossing picture of the year.

I love Jean Arthur’s character (Alice) because she is a strong woman who knows who she is and isn’t afraid to tell Jimmy Stewart (Tony) that his family can go to the blazes because they aren’t better than hers; as a matter of fact, her family understands what Jimmy’s doesn’t, that money isn’t everything and you can’t take it with you. Friends and family are what gives your life worth.

 

Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur

 

Alice, sensing that her engagement to Tony will not be well received by his parents informs Tony that if their engagement is to go forward, he must invite his parents to the house to meet her family. I’m not sure what Tony was trying to prove but, he gives his parents the wrong date so the house is in disarray with the usual family “madness” in full view. (I said they were eccentric.)

 

Just another Tuesday night at the Sycamore house.

For me, the lesson of the movie is to live life to the fullest and cherish your family and friends. Don’t worry about being judged by others, they’re probably just jealous of how happy you are and how miserable they feel.

 

In the words of “Auntie Mame” from the 1958 movie.

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The City in the Sky 🎆 Metropolis (1927)

 

Metropolis

 

As a film student at The University of Michigan, I was exposed to the masters of cinema – Chaplin, Murnau, Kubrick, Lang, etc. There, we were challenged to critique and look beyond the surface to the underlying themes. “Metropolis” is supreme in incorporating intriguing layers of sub-texture and sub-plots.

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Moloch Machine

Austrian director Fritz Lang’s German Expressionistic masterpiece helped to develop the science-fiction genre, with innovative imagery from cinematographer Karl Freund, art design by Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, and Karl Vollbrecht and set design by Edgar Ulmer.(set designer for The Phantom of the Opera) It was the last of Lang’s silent films. (Filmsite Movie Review)

 

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Friedrich Christian AntonFritzLang (December 5, 1890 – August 2, 1976)

“Metropolis” was not just some sci-fi flick from the silent era, it’s a visually-compelling allegory set in the dystopic, 21st-century city of Metropolis and represents a brilliant critique of the repercussions of man vs. machine and the brutality of the never-ending class struggle.

Establishing the tone of the film, this statement is presented following the opening credits.

THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART!

 

“Metropolis” took over 2 years to complete at ten times the budget for the usual Hollywood production of the time and influenced visuals associated with classic films such as; Chaplin’s war against the machines in Modern Times (1936), the mechanical hand of Dr. Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, (1964), or the resemblance between the Maria robot and the droid C-3PO in George Lucas’ Star Wars (1977) trilogy of films, and scenes of Los Angeles in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) to name just a few.

This symbolic tale was written by Lang’s wife Thea Von Harbou (from her own novel). Her vision detailed a self-indulgent, futuristic, industrial world built of skyscrapers and bridges incorporating the Art Deco style of the 20s for the 2026 city of Metropolis.

An ultra elite, 1% privileged class of powerful industrialists is juxtaposed with a subterranean environment of the nameless, oppressed and exploited drone-like slave labor class.

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City of Metropolis

Made in Germany during the Weimar Period, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and follows the attempts of Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), the wealthy son of the city’s ruler, and Maria (Brigitte Helm), a poor worker, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classes of their city.

Filming took place in 1925 at a cost of approximately five million Reichsmarks. The art direction draws influence from Bauhaus, Cubist, and Futurist design. (Wikipedia)

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Fritz Lang directing the workers

As with all great films, “Metropolis” was influenced by the historical events occurring during its time. Centered around the developing Industrial Revolution and depressed economic times, the film also incorporates the rise of fascism in a pre-Hitler Weimar Republic Germany following World War I.

Another influence of the movie’s themes was the rise of the American labor movement and unions during the 1920s due to oppressive working conditions. “Metropolis”, like the Progressive, investigative journalists of the day, took on corrupt politicians and the establishment in an effort to make people aware of the contrast of poverty with the upper-crust classes of the opulent Roaring 20s.

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I’m a steadfast believer that understanding history is empowering. “Metropolis” tackles the rise of immigration into the US and exploitation of workers at the beginning of the 20th century along with Capitalists exploiting labor. It deals with the conversation of doing what’s right versus greed and the power of modern science.

The creation of the evil android Maria (Bridgitte Helm) was an abuse of science but that same knowledge powered the city in the sky and could have been used to enrich the lives of the subterranean slaves.

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Describing these themes and comparisons in “Metropolis” is like writing a piece for The Nation magazine today. The similarities are frightening like George Orwell’s “1984” or H.G. Well’s “The Time Machine”. It’s dismaying to revisit a film I critiqued back in the ’70s, that was made in the ’20s continues to unfold in the year 2019; only 7 years away from the time of the 2026 Art Deco Metropolis city in the sky.

 

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Does art imitate life or life imitate art? I’m not sure, but in our “reality” tv driven news programming, a low information population, and the “I don’t believe in science” facts, kinda feels like we’re living in the dystopian world of “Metropolis”.

Lest we forget.

THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART!

This is a restored version of “Metropolis”

If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend this viewing experience. But, lasting 2 1/2 hours, prepare to settle in with an extra large bag of popcorn.

 

Forrest Gump Gratitude 🏃

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“Forrest Gump” (1994)

“Run Forrest, Run!”

Every time I think of the movie “Forrest Gump”, that’s the first quote I hear. Then, “Life’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

 

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Quotes galore plus Lieutenant Dan (Gary Sinise) and Bubba (Mykelti Williamson). Love this movie!

Forrest Gump’s (Tom Hanks) life is a testimony to gratitude. He understands his challenges but is not hesitant to live his life to the fullest, including telling his childhood love, Jenny (Robin Wright) how he feels about her.

He gets it. Life gives you what you get, so don’t whine, go for it and make the most of your journey. Thank God for his mother, (Sally Field), she didn’t listen to what the”experts” had to say. She did whatever she had to do to provide Forrest with the foundation that he could do anything. With his braces, he had “magic” legs. Turn every so-called obstacle into an advantage. Once again, attitude is everything!

 

 

Forrest is a true inspiration and proof that with support and love we can overcome adversity. Love and compassion make the difference.

Mama, Jenny, Bubba, and Lieutenant Dan. Forrest loved and was deeply loved by those whose lives he touched.

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Trading Places in Gratitude 😎

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“Trading Places” (1983)

“Trading Places” (1983) is a tour de force example of Gratitude meets “walk a mile in my shoes!” Dan Aykroyd is (Louis Winthorpe III) the typical “privileged” ivy leaguer with a twist. He’s not as “top drawer” as he thinks and his life is truly in the hands of the callous Duke brothers – Mortimer ((Don Ameche) and Randolph (Ralph Bellamy).

 

His perfect world is turned upside down by the $1 bet by the brothers to settle the debate of nature vs nurture. Because we’ve got nothing better to do, let’s strip Louis of everything he knows and see if he’ll sink or float.

 

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Randolph and Mortimer Duke

 

What better “brother” switch than with (Billy Ray Valentine) Eddie Murphy, the wily con man who sees the brothers straight up for what they are – numbers runners.

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“Billy Ray”

The parable wouldn’t be complete without the lovely damsel in distress (but in this case with a plan for her own escape). One of my favorite actresses, Jamie Lee Curtis plays “Ophelia”, the classy hooker with a heart of gold.

 

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Jamie Lee Curtis – “Ophelia”

 

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Denholm Elliott – “Coleman”

Louis’s butler/valet, “Coleman” (Denholm Elliott) is hilarious trying to juggle the Duke brothers’ sick plan.

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Dan Aykroyd – “Louis”

Louis’s abrupt experiment in poverty forces him to get his nose out of the air and think twice about judging people based solely on their socio/economic situation.

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After a stint in jail, being reduced to stuffing a whole salmon into his Santa suit (don’t ask, you have to see) and attempting to take his own life, he realizes how shallow his life has been. By coming together with Billy Ray, Coleman and Ophelia he finds out that it’s friends and the love of a good woman that really counts.

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An incredibly important life and Gratitude lesson!

 

However, if you can get rich with your friends and give payback to those who’ve done you wrong (Dukes) go for it! 😎

 

“Looking good Billy Ray!”

 

 

Die Hard 30th Anniversary

 

Die Hard

IN THEATERS NOV 11th, NOV 14th

New York City Detective John McClane becomes the only hope for a small group of hostages, trapped in a Los Angeles high-rise office building when it is seized by terrorists on Christmas Eve. This 30th Anniversary event includes exclusive insight from Turner Classic Movies.

I have fond memories of the energy and excitement in the theater upon Die Hard’s release and it has remained one of my favorite movies of all time. Although premiering on July 12th,1988, it’s the perfect Christmas themed movie which our family always ends up watching during the Holidays.

The plot of the story takes place on Christmas Eve with NYPD detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) arriving in Los Angeles, intending to reconcile with his estranged wife, Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), at the Christmas party of her employer, the Nakatomi Corporation.

While McClane changes clothes at the festivities, the party is disrupted by the arrival of a German terrorist, Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman), and his heavily armed team: Karl, Tony, Franco, Theo, Alexander, Marco, Kristoff, Eddie, Uli, Heinrich, Fritz, and James. The group seizes the tower and secures those inside as hostages except for McClane, who slips away, and Argyle, (his limo driver) who gets trapped in the garage. (Wikipedia)

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Let the games begin because McClane is a tough New York cop to his very core and is bound and determined to foil the terrorist takeover as captioned on the movie poster.

“Twelve terrorists. One cop. The odds are against John McClane…That’s just the way he likes it.”

This highly successful American action thriller was directed by John McTiernan and written by Steven E. de Souza and Jeb Stuart. It was produced by the Gordon Company and Silver Pictures and distributed by 20th Century Fox.

Made for $28 million, Die Hard grossed over $140 million theatrically worldwide, with the film turning Willis into an action star, and became a metonym for an action film in which a lone hero fights overwhelming odds. The film’s success created the Die Hard franchise, which includes four sequels, a number of video games, and a comic book, and later in 2017 was selected for preservation in the United States National Film RegistryDie Hard has been named one of the best action and Christmas-themed films ever made. The film also ranks No. 20 on Empires 2017 list of the 100 greatest movies of all time. (Wikipedia)

I didn’t really care for the sequels, but I highly recommend checking out the original on the big screen at this 30th Anniversary screening. Find out where it’s showing in your area here.

iheart Halloween!👻

Halloween is my favorite holiday! It’s a day for self-expression. A day for fun and fantasy. A day for taking control of phobias and fears and turning your back on Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). Where’s your power now Fred? Way to shut that mess down.

It’s also a day to indulge in all your favorite classic, creepy, monster, sci-fi horror films.

Therefore, in the spirit of Halloween, let’s pay homage to the original man of horror. The “Man of a Thousand Faces”- Lon Chaney.

 Man of a Thousand Faces – Lon Chaney

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Lon Chaney (April 1, 1883 – August 26, 1930), born Leonidas Frank Chaney

Born to deaf parents, Lon learned to express himself and communicate visually. He took his desire to become an actor and created an art form and space for himself that was revolutionary to the motion picture industry. His makeup artistry allowed him to transform and become grotesque characters in films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925). He’s regarded as one of the most important character actors of the silent film era.

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The original “monster maker”, he would scout out the daily call sheets for a studio finding out what types of extras were needed for that day’s shoot. He created a make-up toolbox of possibilities for him to achieve the look and characterizations needed to be chosen for a role. This talent was the impetus for his unparalleled reputation in the burgeoning film industry.

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This flick is by far my favorite Lon Chaney! 

Chaney’s alliance with Director Tod Browning was inspired! Browning was into the macabre and best known for his films Dracula (1931) and the cult classic Freaks (1932) and Lon Chaney had the acting and makeup skills to realize any twisted character the director could come up with.

My favorite movie line is from their 1927 silent film The Unknown – “crack of your ass”. (okay, I can’t swear that’s what he said) But, seriously, as Alonzo the Armless, he threatened his co-star Joan Crawford with bodily harm if she did not bend to his will. Remember Grandma Klump from Eddie Murphy’s The Nutty Professor(1996)? “You might walk over, but you limpin’ back! “Chaney totally went there. Check it out:

Let’s talk about the level of twisted in this movie:

A word of advice, if you’ve got a thing about someone that’s all consuming and you’d do anything to get with that person, forget about it!

Plot: This crazy man, Alonzo the Armless (Lon Chaney) has a knife throwing act using only his feet and is in love with Nanon (Joan Crawford) who”can’t bear to be touched.” He has arms but pretends not to for his act and so Nanon will talk to him. When it’s discovered that he indeed has arms, he blackmails a low-rent surgeon to amputate them. Sick!

Nanon and Alonzo

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After his surgery, Alonzo returns to the circus and his knife throwing act. Hoping to rekindle his relationship, he strolls over to Nanon’s circus wagon to see his rival Malabar, the circus strongman, (Norman Kerry) with his hands all over his love. Holy crap, it’s on! Alonzo schemes to get his girl back by rigging the speed of Malabar’s horses in his act which will dislocate and sever his arms during the live circus performance.

Alonzo

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Alonzo’s sick plan is working until Nanon realizes what is happening and tries to stop the performance. And then boom! The”crack of your ass” line. As you saw in the clip, things didn’t really work out the way he saw it play out in his mind.

Malabar

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This documentary, Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces is a great biography for more in-depth background information and presents a great opportunity to discover your own Lon Chaney gem.

Here it is, Lon Chaney: A Thousand Faces

Lon Chaney is also the father of Lon Chaney, Jr best known for his role in Universal’s The Wolfman (1941).

The Black Prince of Darkness – Blacula 1972 💀🎃

Original 1972 theatrical poster

Way to turn the classic “Dracula” on its’ head! I think the idea to present Blacula as an 18th Century African prince during the slave trade was historical and topical. Although considered a Blaxploitation horror film, it was taken with a serious approach and hits the mark on the classic Universal horror flick.

This trailer is so typical of an American International Picture, high on exploitation and drama. Formed on April 2, 1954, from American Releasing Corporation (ARC) by James H. Nicholson, former Sales Manager of Realart Pictures, and Samuel Z. Arkoff, an entertainment lawyer. It was dedicated to releasing independently produced, low-budget films.

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Samuel Zachary Arkoff (June 12,1918 – September 16, 2001)

The ARKOFF formula:

  • Action (exciting, entertaining drama)

  • Revolution (novel or controversial themes and ideas)

  • Killing (a modicum of violence)

  • Oratory (notable dialogue and speeches)

  • Fantasy (acted-out fantasies common to the audience)

  • Fornication (sex appeal, for young adults)

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The plot of Blacula is the story of Manuwalde (William Marshall), an African Prince. It’s a modern twist on the classic Dracula legend and is told in a very compelling and chilling way.

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William Marshall “Blacula”

In the year 1780, while on a goodwill visit to ask Count Dracula (Charles Macaulay) to help him suppress the slave trade, (which existed in parts of Africa, like the rest of the world, and was a part of the economic structure of some societies for many centuries), he is refused by the Count. Instead, Manuwalde is turned into a vampire by Count Dracula and wife, Luva (Vonetta McGee) is killed.

Quote – Dracula: You shall pay, black prince. I shall place a curse of suffering on you that will doom you to a living hell. I curse you with my name. You shall be… Blacula!

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The scene then shifts to the year 1972 with two interior decorators from modern-day Los Angeles California traveling to Castle Dracula in Transylvania and unknowingly purchasing the now-undead Mamuwalde’s coffin, which they ship to Los Angeles.

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One of the interior decorators – Could he be Richard Simmons’ twin or what?😄

Later unlocking the coffin, the decorators release Mamuwalde, becoming his first two victims, turning them and the others he encounters into vampires like himself in his bloodthirsty reign of terror. (Wikipedia)

Blacula was released on August 25, 1972, to mixed reviews.  American International Pictures’ marketing department in an effort to ensure that black audiences would be interested in Blacula; created posters for the film including references to slavery, hence, blaxploitation.

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Noted for creating the Blaxploitation horror genre, Blacula debuted at #24 on Variety’s list of top films. It eventually grossed over a million dollars, making it one of the highest-grossing films of 1972. A sequel to the film titled Scream Blacula Scream was released in 1973 by American International. The film also stars William Marshall in the title role along with actress and star of (“Foxy Brown” 1974) Pam Grier.

 

Trivia:

Blacula was in production between late January and late March 1972. While Blacula was in its production stages, William Marshall worked with the film producers to make sure his character had some dignity.

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His character name was changed from Andrew Brown to Mamuwalde and his character received a background story about being an African prince who had succumbed to vampirism.

Blacula was shot on location in Los Angeles, with some scenes shot in the Watts neighborhood and the final scenes taken at the Hyperion Outfall Treatment Plant in the beachside, west Los Angeles Playa del Rey.

The Hues Corporation - Blacula 1972

The Hues Corporation 1972

The music for Blacula is unlike that of most horror films as it uses rhythm and blues as opposed to haunting classical music. The film’s soundtrack features a score by Gene Page, who was one of the most prolific arrangers/conductors of popular music during his time and worked on more than 200 gold and platinum records.

A variety of the artists Gene Page worked with:

The Supremes, The Four Tops, Buffalo Springfield, Barbra Streisand, Donna Loren, Martha and the Vandellas, Cher, Barry White, The Love Unlimited Orchestra, Whitney Houston, George Benson, The Jackson Five, Roberta Flack,Elton John, José Feliciano, Leo Sayer, Seals & Croft, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Frankie Valli, Dobie Gray, Peabo Bryson, Lionel Richie, Jeffrey Osborne

Music on the soundtrack also included contributions by The Hues Corporation. They are best known for their 1974 single “Rock the Boat”, which sold over 2 million copies. (Wikipedia)

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In the spirit of Halloween and Throwback ’70’s, check it out. I think you’ll “Dig it”!