Experience Universal Horror – The Golden Age of Movie Monsters!

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For a comprehensive and what I consider a definitive history of one of the original Hollywood Studios – Universal, check out the Documentary – “Universal Horror.”  Universal was founded in 1912 by Carl Laemmle and is the world’s fourth oldest major film studio.

Originally airing on Turner Classic Movies in 1998, “Universal Horror” showcases the golden age of 1930’s movie monsters. The film also highlights Carl Laemmle’s family and Carl Laemmle, Jr’s game-changing vision of producing films based on classic horror tales.

 

 

The studio is known for such horror classics as Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1931), the Universal monster franchise. Dracula is a 1931 American Pre-Code vampire-horror film directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. The film was produced by Universal and was loosely based on the novel by Bram Stoker.

Casting for the film became problematic initially since Laemmle was not at all interested in Lugosi, in spite of good reviews for his stage portrayal. Laemmle instead considered other popular actors of the day, including Paul Muni and Chester Morris.

 

Frankenstein is a 1931 American Pre-Code horror monster film from Universal Pictures directed by James Whale. The film stars Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles and Boris Karloff and features Dwight Frye and Edward van Sloan. Trivia: Bela Lugosi turned down the role saying the monster was just a hulking beast.

In 1991, the Library of Congress selected Frankenstein for preservation in the United States National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

Throughout the documentary, we hear personal accounts and behind-the-scene stories from early stars such as Rose Hobart – co-star in the original film version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931), Gloria Stuart – The Invisible Man (1933) and Lupita Tovar – Dracula (1931) Spanish Version.

 

 

Forrest Ackerman, (November 24, 1916 – December 4, 2008) was editor and principal writer of the science fiction magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland and recalls his experiences in the documentary of seeing these films first hand. Ackerman’s magazine would provide inspiration to many who would later become successful artists, including Joe DantePeter Jackson, Steven Spielberg, Tim Burton, Stephen King, George LucasDanny ElfmanJohn Landis and countless other writers, directors, artists, and craftsmen.

Also affectionately called “Forry,” Ackerman was central to the formation, and spread of science fiction fandom, and a key figure in the wider awareness of science fiction as a literary, art and film genre. Famous for his wordplay he coined the genre nickname “sci-fi”.

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Universal Monsters Tribute

 

The end of Universal’s first run of horror films came in 1936 as the Laemmles were forced out of the studio after financial difficulties and a series of box office flops due partly to censorship and a temporary ban on American horror films in Britain. The release of MGM’s Mad Love and The Raven (both 1935) were the final nail in the coffin for monster movies, being too strong for 1935 tastes, with its themes of torture, disfigurement, and grisly revenge.

 

The monster movies were dropped from the production schedule altogether and would not re-emerge for another three years. In the meantime, a theater owner revived Dracula and Frankenstein as a double feature, resulting in an immediate smash hit and leading to the original movies being re-released by the studio to surprising success.

Be sure to checkout these films and experience the original horror classics from the original horror classics studio – Universal!

 

The Greatest Scandal in American History…Until Now

All The Presidents Men (1976) – A Look Back 🗓

 

 

The Academy Award winning film, “All the President’s Men” is the 1976 American political thriller directed by Alan J. Pakula and starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman. I believe it’s the best film on the Watergate scandal and the incredible journalism of Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward.  The gold standard of journalists, their hard work ultimately uncovered the truth of the events that changed the course of American history; the first time ever that an American President resigned from office.

The Plot: On June 17, 1972, a security guard (Frank Wills) at the Watergate complex finds a door kept unlocked with tape. He calls the police, who find and arrest five burglars in the Democratic National Committee headquarters within the complex. The next morning, The Washington Post assigns new reporter Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) to the local courthouse to cover the story, which is thought to be of minor importance.

Woodward learns that the five men, four Cuban-Americans from Miami and James W. McCord, Jr., had bugging equipment and have their own “country club” attorney. At the arraignment, McCord identifies himself in court as having recently left the Central Intelligence Agency and the others also have CIA ties. Woodward connects the burglars to E. Howard Hunt, a former employee of the CIA, and President Richard Nixon‘s Special Counsel Charles Colson. (Wikipedia)

 

Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman), another Post reporter, is assigned to cover the Watergate story with Woodward. The two are reluctant partners but work well together. Executive editor Benjamin Bradlee (Jason Robards) believes their work is incomplete, however, and not worthy of the Post’s front page. He encourages them to continue to gather information.

Woodward contacts “Deep Throat” (Hal Holbrook), a senior government official, an anonymous source he has used in the past. Communicating through copies of The New York Times and a balcony flowerpot, they meet in a parking garage in the middle of the night. Deep Throat speaks in riddles and metaphors about the Watergate break-in, but advises Woodward to “follow the money.” (Wikipedia)

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Theatrical Release Poster

 

Yes, “follow the money” indeed.

I was in high school when the Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward uncovered the historic Watergate scandal and I have never forgotten the outrage and for some disbelief that the President of the United States was guilty of a cover-up; it shook American politics to its core.

Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward

Carl Bernstein, Bob Woodward

 

However, it was true and instead of being impeached Nixon resigned his office. That is why the overwhelming evidence against the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave is so very shocking; Richard Nixon did far less and with a bi-partisan agreement, Articles of Impeachment were drawn.

“All the President’s Men” is the 1974 non-fiction book by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, that was subsequently made into the motion picture starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford. The book chronicles the investigative reporting of Woodward and Bernstein from Woodward’s initial report on the Watergate break-in through the resignations of H. R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman, and the revelation of the Nixon tapes by Alexander Butterfield in 1973. (Wikipedia)

 

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The cover of the 1974 first edition.

It relates the events behind the major stories the duo wrote for the Post, naming some sources who had previously refused to be identified for their initial articles, notably Hugh Sloan. It also gives detailed accounts of Woodward’s secret meetings with his source Deep Throat whose identity was kept hidden for over 30 years. Gene Roberts, the former executive editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer and former managing editor of The New York Times, has called the work of Woodward and Bernstein “maybe the single greatest reporting effort of all time.” (Wikipedia)

To hear more about the history of Watergate from the words of the reporters themselves: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.

 

 

Happy Father’s Day!

 

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To celebrate Father’s Day I’m sharing 3 of my favorite father and child scenes in a film. These movies demonstrate that there’s nothing like that sense of protection and endearing love from your dad. 💞

 

Gru’s Dad Skills Tested

Gru discovers that it’s hard to be both a super villain and a dad! This scene from “Despicable Me” is awesome and sometimes true. Even when you’re crazy about your kids, sometimes a trip to “Super Silly Funland” is the last thing you want to do. Poor Gru, a new, reluctant dad who thinks he’s stumbled upon the “perfect” way to get rid of these kids learns that hangin’ with the “rugrats” doesn’t have to be a day at the dentist but actually a lot of fun! Good for you Poppa Gru!

 

Unconditional Love!

Holy crap! Who knew that Olive’s grampa taught her to “super freak” for her “Little Miss Sunshine” Competition dance routine. However, dad isn’t havin’ it when they try to drag his little girl off the stage and even better, he joins in her act; how you like me now?!  This scene from “Little Miss Sunshine” is one of my favorites, ever! Unconditional love and support. That’s what I call a super dad!

 

Atticus Comforts Scout

The character of Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird” has become the icon of the ultimate father and human being. His strength of character and tender heart makes every scene with his children so very precious. He loves them with all he is and all he has and they admire, respect, and treasure his love and affection.  Fiercely loyal love!

 

The Children Save Atticus

I love how innocently and tenderly Scout shows that it’s hard to hate someone when you talk to them and realize that we are a community.

 

 

Dad’s are so important and it always warms my heart when I see the truth in that forever bond. So, for all the dads with us and watching over us.

Happy Father’s Day!

 

 

 

How Understanding Film History Impacts Your Film Appreciation

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Hollywood’s Golden Age

 

While watching Marlene Dietrich’s sultry performance of “The Laziest Gal in Town” in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950 thriller,”Stage Fright”, I asked my husband if the song and performance seemed familiar. Because I’ve raised him right (on film history that is😎), he remarked, “of course, Madeline Kahn’s performance of “I’m Tired” in the Mel Brooks satirical Western comedy classic, “Blazing Saddles” (1974).

Marlene Dietrich “Laziest Gal in Town”

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Madeline Kahn “I’m So Tired”

I loved hearing his response because it’s the main reason I pen this post; for the history and appreciation of films. Understanding a writer or director’s references to past movies in theirs adds to the richness of the production. It helps young people comprehend that few things in life are original and imitation can be the sincerest form of flattery.

 

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History of Film

 

Sometimes the homage in a movie isn’t to a particular scene in a film but the music. I love Minions period but I especially enjoyed the “Minions” movie’s 1960’s soundtrack that made the perfect nod to James Bond type villains (“Minions” Scarlet Overkill) and the time period of the setting.

 

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As a child of the ’60’s I remember turning to my husband in the theater saying, 99% of the people in here weren’t even born yet and I wonder if any of them appreciate the inclusion of the classic songs of this era.

 

The song is “Hair” from the iconic 1968 counter-culture and controversial stage and film production “Hair”

 

 

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I’ve spent my lifetime watching and loving the cinema and have educated my children with a more sophisticated palette for black and white films and how they just don’t make them like that anymore.😊

Hundreds of full-length films were produced during the decade of the 1940s; during Hollywood’s Golden Age. The great actor Humphrey Bogart made his most memorable films in this decade. Frank Capra’s masterpiece It’s a Wonderful Life and Orson Welles’s cinema genius production of Citizen Kane were released. The film noir genre was at its height. Alfred Hitchcock made his American debut with the film Rebecca and made many classics throughout the 1940s. (Wikipedia)

 

1940's/ 1950's Movie Stars

(Top) Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Brando (Middle) Lauren Bacall, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly (Bottom) Humphrey Bogart, Marlene Dietrich, Clark Gable

Movie Stars of the 1940’s & 1950’s

 

Of course, I want you to visit my website as a source of reference material, but if you want to see these full-length gems for free, I recommend tuning into the Turner Classic Movies channel. They show everything from the great silent films, Chaplin, Buster Keaton, etc. through Hollywood’s “Golden Age”.

 

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These classic films bring me great joy and I hope you’ll find a special place in your heart for them, too!

 

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Jazz, Booze, and Drag – Some Like it Hot!

 

The Comedy Classic Some Like It Hot (1959)

BACK IN THEATERS JUNE 11th and 14th

 

Experience one of Marilyn Monroe’s most iconic roles as it was always meant to be seen.

Special commentary from TCM host Tiffany Vazquez.

 

Some Like It Hot

 

TCM Big Screen Classics Presents

Some Like It Hot (1959)

With no money and nowhere to hide, two down on their luck jazz musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) masquerade as members of an all-girl band, leading to a number of romantic complications when one falls for the band’s lead singer (Sugar Cane) played by Marilyn Monroe.

 

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Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe

 

Some Like It Hot is a 1959 American romantic comedy film set in 1929, directed and produced by Billy Wilder, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon. The supporting cast includes George Raft, Pat O’Brien, Joe E. Brown, Joan Shawlee, and Nehemiah Persoff.

 

 

The plot is based on a screenplay by Billy Wilder and Michael Logan from the French film Fanfare of Love. The film is about two musicians who dress in drag in order to escape from mafia gangsters whom they witnessed commit a crime inspired by the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. The film was produced in black and white, even though color films were increasing in popularity. (Wikipedia)

 

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Some Like It Hot opened to largely positive reviews and is today 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 for playing with the idea of homosexuality, which led to it being produced without approval from the Motion Picture Production Code.

The code had been gradually weakening in its scope during the early 1950s, due to increasing social 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. (Wikipedia)

 

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I love Billy Wilder because of his versatility in films and his testing the boundaries of societal norms. To that end, the first movie that always comes to mind is “Some Like it Hot”. To find out more about Billy Wilder and his films, check out my post – The Faces Behind the Camera.

 

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Billy Wilder

 

I highly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity to see “Some Like it Hot” on the big screen!

Get tickets here.

 

The Legend of Dracula

 

“Listen to them, children of the night; what music they make.” Count Dracula

 

 

Dracula is the immortal 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced the famous character Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy.

 

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The first edition cover of Dracula

Of all the film adaptations of the classic novel, the 1931 Dracula directed by Tod Browning and starring Bela Lugosi is most synonymous with Stoker’s legendary character, Count Dracula of Transylvania.

The film was produced by Universal and is based on the 1924 stage play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston, which in turn is loosely based on the novel Dracula by Bram Stoker. The 1924 stage play was substantially revised in 1927 and was the first authorized adaptation of Bram Stoker‘s novel Dracula, and has influenced many subsequent adaptations.

The 1927 Broadway production starred Bela Lugosi in his first major English-speaking role, which he reprised in the 1931 film adaptation of the play. A 1977 Broadway revival designed by Edward Gorey, starring Frank Langella, won the Tony Award for Best Revival.

 

 

Bram Stoker’s novel had already been filmed without permission as Nosferatu in 1922 by German expressionist filmmaker F. W. Murnau. Bram Stoker’s widow sued for plagiarism and copyright infringement, and the courts decided in her favor, essentially ordering that all prints of Nosferatu be destroyed.

 

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Nosferatu

Enthusiastic young Hollywood producer Carl Laemmle, Jr. also saw the box office potential in Stoker’s gothic chiller, and he legally acquired the novel’s film rights. Initially, he wanted Dracula to be a spectacle on a scale with the lavish silent films The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) and The Phantom of the Opera (1925). (Wikipedia)

 

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The decision on casting the title role proved problematic. Initially, Laemmle was not at all interested in Lugosi, in spite of good reviews for his stage portrayal. Laemmle instead considered other actors, including Paul Muni, Chester Morris, and Ian Keith.

Today, Dracula is widely regarded as a classic of the era and of its genre. In 2000, it was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

 

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To many film lovers and critics alike, Lugosi’s portrayal is widely regarded as the definitive Dracula. Lugosi had a powerful presence and authority on-screen. The slow, deliberate pacing of his performance (“I bid you… welcome!” and “I never drink… wine!”) gave his Dracula the air of a walking, talking corpse, which terrified 1931 movie audiences.

He was just as compelling with no dialogue, and the many close-ups of Lugosi’s face in icy silence jumped off the screen. With this mesmerizing performance, Dracula became Bela Lugosi’s signature role, his Dracula a cultural icon, and he himself a legend in the classic Universal Horror film series.

 

Where it all started 😱

 

Abraham “Bram” Stoker (8 November 1847 – 20 April 1912)

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Bram Stoker

 

Stoker’s visit to the English coastal town of Whitby in 1890 is said to be part of the inspiration for Dracula. He began writing novels while a manager for Henry Irving, as well as, director of London’s Lyceum Theatre, beginning with The Snake’s Pass in 1890 and Dracula in 1897.

During this period, Stoker was part of the literary staff of the The Daily Telegraph in London, and he wrote other fiction, including the horror novels The Lady of the Shroud (1909) and The Lair of the White Worm (1911). (Wikipedia)

 

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Stoker was bedridden with an unknown illness until he started school at the age of seven when he made a complete recovery. Of this time, Stoker wrote, “I was naturally thoughtful, and the leisure of long illness gave the opportunity for many thoughts which were fruitful according to their kind in later years.”

 

 

Before writing Dracula, Stoker met Ármin Vámbéry, a Hungarian writer, and traveler. Dracula likely emerged from Vámbéry’s dark stories of the Carpathian mountains. Stoker then spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires.

 

 

Dracula is an epistolary novel, written as a collection of realistic but completely fictional diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship’s logs, and newspaper clippings, all of which added a level of detailed realism to the story, a skill which Stoker had developed as a newspaper writer.

At the time of its publication, Dracula was considered a “straightforward horror novel” based on imaginary creations of supernatural life.”It gave form to a universal fantasy . . and became a part of popular culture.” (Wikipedia)

 

 

After suffering a number of strokes, Stoker died at No. 26 St George’s Square, London on 20 April 1912. He was cremated, and his ashes were placed in a display urn at Golders Green Crematorium in north London.