How Understanding Film History Impacts Your Film Appreciation

film history

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 isūüėé), 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”

Madeline Khan

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.

 

film-history-the-history-of-cinema-

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.

 

Related image

 

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”

 

 

Hair poster.jpg

 

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.ūüėä

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”.

 

turner classic movies

 

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

 

Related image

 

 

Without Lying Down – Women of the Golden Age!ūüé¨

The Early Visionaries of American Film

star wars galaxy

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…Women were the driving force behind Hollywood and the movies. Today we pay homage to the women who broke the glass ceiling and wrote and directed the films that gave birth to the “Golden Age” of cinema and the¬†motion picture industry. ¬†Unfortunately, when the men realized the gold mine films were becoming, the women faded away thanks to the Hollywood studio system. Well, as the saying goes, “that’s the way they do you.”

 

Frances Marion 1918

Frances Marion 1918

 

Frances Marion was a trailblazer. becoming one of the most powerful screenwriters of the 20th century. With a career that spanned decades, she became the first female to win an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1930 for the prison life film The Big House, starring Robert Montgomery, Wallace Beery and Chester Morris.

Marion’s research included visiting San Quentin to experience¬†the atmosphere and lingo of the inmates.¬†The movie gave audiences their first taste¬†of hearing prison doors slam shut, tin cups clanking on mess-hall tables and prisoners’ feet shuffling down corridors.

 

 

Adding to her accolades, Frances received the Academy Award for Best Story for The Champ in 1932. The tearjerker chronicled the relationship between a washed out boxer (Wallace Beery) and his young son (Jackie Cooper). Marion was credited with writing 300 scripts and producing over 130 films.

 

 

Born Marion Benson Owens¬†(November 18, 1888) in San Francisco, California, she worked as a journalist and served overseas as a combat correspondent during World War I.¬†On her return home in 1910, she moved to Los Angeles and was hired as a writing assistant and actress by “Lois Weber Productions”, a film company owned and operated by another pioneer female film director Lois Weber.

 

Lois Weber

Lois Weber – Film Director

Frances was quite beautiful and could have continued as an actress but preferred to work behind the camera. She learned screenwriting from Lois Weber and went on to become the highest paid screenwriter, woman or man. Hollywood moguls competed for her stories and stars of the day Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Greta Garbo and Rudolph Valentino brought her characters to life on the screen.

From 1919 Р1939 her star was ascendant, born at the right place and the right time, honing her craft during one of the most liberating eras for women in film.

 

 

When Marion met¬†Mary Pickford¬†(actress, producer, screenwriter) they became best friends with Marion writing screen adaptations of¬†Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and The Poor Little Rich Girl for Pickford. As a result of the commercial success of “The Poor Little Rich Girl” in 1917 Marion was signed as Pickford’s “exclusive writer” at the salary of $50,000 a year, an unprecedented arrangement for that time.

Pickford was the celebrated “America’s Sweetheart” and in 1919 together with her swashbuckler actor husband Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., director D.W. Griffith (Birth of a Nation) and “The Tramp” Charlie Chaplin established “United Artists” pictures.

These four were the leading figures in early Hollywood and this was their stand for independence against the powerful studio system. Mary Pickford was also  one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

In 1921, Frances Marion directed a film for the first time with Just Around the Corner. That same year, she directed her friend Mary Pickford in one of her own scripts entitled The Love Light. Their relationship was more than just writer and star, they were collaborators and the friendship between Pickford and Marion lasted more than 50 years.

Married four times, Frances Marion had two children with third husband, actor Fred Thomson. This was her longest marriage, lasting from 1919 until Thomson’s sudden and tragic death from a Tetanus infection in 1928. Frances’ great friend Mary Pickford had introduced them. Frances said it was love at first sight.

 

Fred Thomson and Frances Marion

Fred Thomson and Frances Marion

For many years she was under contract to MGM Studios, but, independently wealthy, left Hollywood in 1946 to devote more time to writing stage plays and novels. Frances Marion published a memoir Off With Their Heads: A Serio-Comic Tale of Hollywood in 1972.

Frances died on May 12, 1973 leaving a legacy of innovation, independence and inspiration for future aspiring female writers. The documentary, Frances Marion: Without Lying Down,” is an insightful profile of her life and achievements in Hollywood.

 

Without Lying Down

Mary Pickford and Frances Marion

 

Narrated by “Pulp Fiction” actress Uma Thurman and Oscar-winner Kathy Bates, who gives voice to the screenwriter’s own words taken from her letters, diaries. and memoirs. The documentary also features footage from more than twenty of Marion’s movies, with commentary by silent film historian Kevin Brownlow, and film critic Leonard Maltin.

Available for purchase at Amazon.com, I highly recommend checking it out!

  frances marion lying

“I’ve spent my life searching for a man to look up to without lying down.” Frances Marion

 

It would take more than 60 years before women were once again present in meaningful numbers at every level of film production.

 

 

 

 

 

How Understanding Film History Impacts Your Film Appreciation

film history

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 isūüėé), 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”

Madeline Khan

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.

 

film-history-the-history-of-cinema-

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.

 

Related image

 

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”

 

 

Hair poster.jpg

 

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.ūüėä

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”.

 

turner classic movies

 

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

 

Related image

 

 

Pioneering Women Filmmakers – Lois Weber

The Early Visionaries of American Film: A Series – Part 2

star wars galaxy

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…Women were the driving force behind Hollywood and the movies. This is the second part of a series paying homage to the women who broke the glass ceiling and wrote and directed the films that gave birth to the “Golden Age” of cinema and the¬†motion picture industry. ¬†Unfortunately, when the men realized the gold mine films were becoming, the women faded away thanks to the Hollywood studio system. Well, as the saying goes, “that’s the way they do you.”

Lois Weber (June 13, 1879 – November 13, 1939)

Florence Lois Weber was an American silent film actress, screenwriter, producer, and director, who is considered the most important female director the American film industry has known¬†and¬†is one of the most important and prolific film directors in the era of silent films. Along with D.W. Griffith, Lois Weber was the American cinema’s first genuine auteur, “a filmmaker whose personal influence and artistic control over a movie are so great that the filmmaker is regarded as the author of the movie”. In that spirit, Lois Weber utilized the motion picture to put across her own ideas and philosophies.

Weber¬†brought to the screen her concerns for humanity and social justice in an estimated 200 to 400 films,¬†of which as few as twenty have been preserved,¬†and she has been credited by IMDb with directing 135 films, writing 114, and acting in 100.¬†Weber was also one of the first directors to come to the attention of the censors in Hollywood’s early years.

During the war years, Weber achieved tremendous success by combining commercially successful¬†scripts with a rare vision of cinema as a moral tool.¬†At her zenith, few men, before or since, have retained such absolute control over the films they have directed ‚Äď and certainly no women directors have achieved the powerful status once held by Lois Weber. By 1920, Weber was considered the premier woman director of the screen and author and producer of the biggest money-making features in the history of the film business.

Among Weber’s notable films are the controversial “Hypocrites”, which featured the first full-frontal female nude scene in 1915; the 1916 film “Where Are My Children?”, which discussed abortion and birth control, and was added to the National Film Registry in 1993; and what is often considered her masterpiece, “The Blot” in 1921.

In 1913, Weber and husband Smalley collaborated in directing a ten-minute thriller, “Suspense”, based on the play Au Telephone by Andr√© de Lorde, which had been filmed in 1908 as “Heard over the ‘Phone” by Edwin S. Porter.¬†Adapted by Weber, it used multiple images and mirror shots to tell the story of a woman (Weber) threatened by a burglar (Douglas Gerrard).¬†Weber has been credited with pioneering the use of the split-screen technique to show simultaneous action in this film, According to film historian Tom Gunning, “No film made before WWI shows a stronger command of film style than “Suspense” which outdoes even Griffith for emotionally involved filmmaking”. “Suspense” was released on July 6, 1913.

loisweberSuspense_(1913_film)

Suspense” – Split Screen

In 1913 Weber was one of the first directors to experiment with sound, making the first sound films in the United States,¬†and was also the first American woman to direct a full-length feature film when she and husband Phillips Smalley directed “The Merchant of Venice” in 1914,¬†and in 1917 the first woman director to own her own film studio.

Lois_Weber_Productions

In Part 1 of this series we talked about the accomplishments of director Frances Marion. Lois Weber discovered and inspired director and screenwriter Frances Marion.

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, on February 8, 1960, Lois Weber was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In Part 3 of this series, we’ll discuss contemporary female filmmakers and their viewpoint on Hollywood and the world in which we live.

Pioneering Women Filmmakers

The Early Visionaries of American Film: A Series – Part 1

star wars galaxy

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…Women were the driving force behind Hollywood and the movies. This is the first part in a series paying homage to the women who broke the glass ceiling and wrote and directed the films that gave birth to the “Golden Age” of cinema and the¬†motion picture industry. ¬†Unfortunately, when the men realized the gold mine films were becoming, the women faded away thanks to the Hollywood studio system. Well, as the saying goes, “that’s the way they do you.”

 

Frances Marion 1918

Frances Marion 1918

 

Frances Marion was a trailblazer. becoming one of the most powerful¬†screenwriters of the 20th century. With a career that spanned decades, she became the first female to win an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay¬†in 1930 for the prison life film The Big House, starring Robert Montgomery, Wallace Beery, and Chester Morris. Her research included visiting San Quentin for the atmosphere and lingo of the inmates.¬†The movie gave audiences their first experience of hearing prison doors slam shut, tin cups clanking on mess-hall tables and prisoners’ feet shuffling down corridors.

 

 

Frances also received the Academy Award for Best Story for The Champ in 1932. The tearjerker chronicled the relationship between a washed out boxer (Wallace Beery) and his young son (Jackie Cooper). Marion was credited with writing 300 scripts and producing over 130 films.

 

 

Born Marion Benson Owens¬†(November 18, 1888) in San Francisco, California, she worked as a journalist and served overseas as a combat correspondent during World War I.¬†On her return home in 1910, she moved to Los Angeles and was hired as a writing assistant, and actress by “Lois Weber Productions”, a film company owned and operated by pioneer female film director Lois Weber. (more on Lois Weber in Part 2 of the series)

 

Lois Weber

Lois Weber – Film Director

Frances was quite beautiful and could have been an actress but preferred to work behind the camera. She learned screenwriting from Lois Weber and went on to become the highest paid screenwriter, woman or man. Hollywood moguls competed for her stories and stars of the day Mary Pickford, Lilian Gish, Greta Garbo and Rudolph Valentino brought her characters to life on the screen. From 1919 Р1939 her star was ascendant, born at the right place and the right time, honing her craft during one of the most liberating eras for women in film.

 

 

When Marion met¬†Mary Pickford¬†(actress, producer, screenwriter) they became best friends with Marion writing screen adaptations of¬†Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and The Poor Little Rich Girl for Pickford. As a result of the commercial success of “The Poor Little Rich Girl” in 1917 Marion was signed as Pickford’s “exclusive writer” at the salary of $50,000 a year, an unprecedented arrangement for that time.

Pickford was the celebrated “America’s Sweetheart” and in 1919 together with her swashbuckler actor husband Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., director D.W. Griffith (Birth of a Nation) and “The Tramp” Charlie Chaplin established “United Artists” pictures. These four were the leading figures in early Hollywood and this was their stand for independence against the powerful studio system. Mary was also¬† one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

In 1921, Frances Marion directed a film for the first time with Just Around the Corner. That same year, she directed her friend Mary Pickford in one of her own scripts entitled The Love Light. Their relationship was more than just writer and star, they were collaborators and the friendship between Pickford and Marion lasted more than 50 years.

Married four times, Frances Marion had two children with third husband, actor Fred Thomson. This was her longest marriage, lasting from 1919 until Thomson’s sudden and tragic death from a Tetanus infection in 1928. Frances’ great friend Mary Pickford had introduced them. Frances said it was love at first sight.

 

Fred Thomson and Frances Marion

Fred Thomson and Frances Marion

For many years she was under contract to MGM Studios, but, independently wealthy, she left Hollywood in 1946 to devote more time to writing stage plays and novels. Frances Marion published a memoir Off With Their Heads: A Serio-Comic Tale of Hollywood in 1972.

Frances died on May 12, 1973 leaving a legacy of innovation, independence and inspiration for future aspiring female writers. The documentary, Frances Marion: Without Lying Down,” is an insightful profile of her life and achievements in Hollywood.

 

Without Lying Down

Mary Pickford and Frances Marion

 

Narrated by “Pulp Fiction” actress Uma Thurman and Oscar-winner Kathy Bates, who gives voice to the screenwriter’s own words taken from her letters, diaries. and memoirs. The documentary also features footage from more than twenty of Marion’s movies, with commentary by silent film historian Kevin Brownlow, and film critic Leonard Maltin.

I was fortunate enough to catch it on Turner Classic Movies and it was very enlightening on women’s roles in Hollywood. It’s also available for purchase at Amazon.com. I highly recommend checking it out!

  frances marion lying

“I’ve spent my life searching for a man to look up to without lying down.” Frances Marion

 

It took more than 60 years before women were once again present in meaningful numbers at every level of film production.

 

 

 

 

 

Pioneering Women Filmmakers

The Early Visionaries of American Film: A Series – Part 1

star wars galaxy

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…Women were the driving force behind Hollywood and the movies. This is the first part in a series paying homage to the women who broke the glass ceiling and wrote and directed the films that gave birth to the “Golden Age” of cinema and the¬†motion picture industry. ¬†Unfortunately, when the men realized the gold mine films were becoming, the women faded away thanks to the Hollywood studio system. Well, as the saying goes, “that’s the way they do you.”

 

Frances Marion 1918

Frances Marion 1918

 

Frances Marion was a trailblazer. becoming one of the most powerful¬†screenwriters of the 20th century. With a career that spanned decades, she became the first female to win an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay¬†in 1930 for the prison life film The Big House, starring Robert Montgomery, Wallace Beery and Chester Morris. Her research included visiting San Quentin for the atmosphere and lingo of the inmates.¬†The movie gave audiences their first experience of hearing prison doors slam shut, tin cups clanking on mess-hall tables and prisoners’ feet shuffling down corridors.

 

 

Frances also received the Academy Award for Best Story for The Champ in 1932. The tearjerker chronicled the relationship between a washed out boxer (Wallace Beery) and his young son (Jackie Cooper). Marion was credited with writing 300 scripts and producing over 130 films.

 

 

Born Marion Benson Owens¬†(November 18, 1888) in San Francisco, California, she worked as a journalist and served overseas as a combat correspondent during World War I.¬†On her return home in 1910, she moved to Los Angeles and was hired as a writing assistant, an actress by “Lois Weber Productions”, a film company owned and operated by pioneer female film director Lois Weber. (more on Lois Weber in Part 2 of the series)

 

Lois Weber

Lois Weber – Film Director

Frances was quite beautiful and could have been an actress but preferred to work behind the camera. She learned screenwriting from Lois Weber and went on to become the highest paid screenwriter, woman or man. Hollywood moguls competed for her stories and stars of the day Mary Pickford, Lilian Gish, Greta Garbo and Rudolph Valentino brought her characters to life on the screen. From 1919 Р1939 her star was ascendant, born at the right place and the right time, honing her craft during one of the most liberating eras for women in film.

 

 

When Marion met¬†Mary Pickford¬†(actress, producer, screenwriter) they became best friends with Marion writing screen adaptations of¬†Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and The Poor Little Rich Girl for Pickford. As a result of the commercial success of “The Poor Little Rich Girl” in 1917 Marion was signed as Pickford’s “exclusive writer” at the salary of $50,000 a year, an unprecedented arrangement for that time.

Pickford was the celebrated “America’s Sweetheart” and in 1919 together with her swashbuckler actor husband Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., director D.W. Griffith (Birth of a Nation) and “The Tramp” Charlie Chaplin established “United Artists” pictures. These four were the leading figures in early Hollywood and this was their stand for independence against the powerful studio system. Mary was also¬† one of the original 36 founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

 

In 1921, Frances Marion directed a film for the first time with Just Around the Corner. That same year, she directed her friend Mary Pickford in one of her own scripts entitled The Love Light. Their relationship was more than just writer and star, they were collaborators and the friendship between Pickford and Marion lasted more than 50 years.

Married four times, Frances Marion had two children with third husband, actor Fred Thomson. This was her longest marriage, lasting from 1919 until Thomson’s sudden and tragic death from a Tetanus infection in 1928. Frances’ great friend Mary Pickford had introduced them. Frances said it was love at first sight.

 

Fred Thomson and Frances Marion

Fred Thomson and Frances Marion

For many years she was under contract to MGM Studios, but, independently wealthy, she left Hollywood in 1946 to devote more time to writing stage plays and novels. Frances Marion published a memoir Off With Their Heads: A Serio-Comic Tale of Hollywood in 1972.

Frances died on May 12, 1973 leaving a legacy of innovation, independence and inspiration for future aspiring female writers. The documentary, Frances Marion: Without Lying Down,” is an insightful profile of her life and achievements in Hollywood.

 

Without Lying Down

Mary Pickford and Frances Marion

 

Narrated by “Pulp Fiction” actress Uma Thurman and Oscar-winner Kathy Bates, who gives voice to the screenwriter’s own words taken from her letters, diaries. and memoirs. The documentary also features footage from more than twenty of Marion’s movies, with commentary by silent film historian Kevin Brownlow, and film critic Leonard Maltin.

I was fortunate enough to catch it on Turner Classic Movies recently and great news, it will be replayed on June 10th at 6:00 am (est). It’s also available for purchase at Amazon.com. I highly recommend checking it out!

  frances marion lying

“I’ve spent my life searching for a man to look up to without lying down.” Frances Marion

 

It’ll take more than 60 years before women are once again present in meaningful numbers at every level of film production.