Classic Film Reading Wrap-Up

This week I wrapped up my reviews on five Old Hollywood books. Because I’m a creature of comfort (and I wanted to read up on subjects I knew I already loved) my books ranged from Chaplin to Hepburn, Welles to Fitzgerald. Familiar ground, but solid too.

While we’re on the subject of Orson Welles, as I read through the conversations between the director and Henry Jaglom, I remembered watching a late-70s talk show pilot he filmed during that era and the interview he did with Jim Henson and Frank Oz. I asked director Frank Oz via Twitter about working with Welles on that pilot and The Muppet Movie. To my great pleasure, Mr. Oz shared a nice remembrance of the maestro.

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“The Pat Hobby Stories” Book Review

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It would be easy to dismiss The Pat Hobby Stories as mere fodder for magazines – cheap laughs to sell issues. Even Fitzgerald himself might’ve dismissed them as such. They were loose, quick, and always ended in a punchline. The author might have even considered himself a punchline at that point in his life. But despite everything, The Pat Hobby Stories might have concluded the fizzle of life in F. Scott Fitzgerald more accurately than any of his other writings.

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“Footlights” Book Review

“In the dusk of twilight, as the light of London’s street lamps became bolder against the saffron sky, Thereza Ambrose, a girl of nineteen, was sinking out of life…”
— Footlights

Footlights-Charlie-Chaplin

Remembrances of an old world never fell far back for Chaplin. As an artist on the search for inspiration, it was the past he mined for his films, never the present, nor the future unless to pointedly critique it. That Dickensian childhood of his haunted him time and again, and in his old age, would come to define his definition of ‘beauty’. In his later years, Chaplin was known to prowl the streets of South London in anonymity. Once in the ’70s, actor Michael Caine did the very same thing – and he ran into Chaplin, both reminiscing about the places and cobblestones that defined their childhoods. Footlights is the story of that world.

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“Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M.” Book Review

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What we learn in this deceptive hint of film history by author Sam Wasson isn’t the factual making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s – though that does hold in and of itself many cultural themes, but the culmination of a character’s transformation. That character is Audrey Hepburn, and no other word can possibly describe her better than “character”.

By recounting the midcentury lives of Hepburn, author Truman Capote, director Blake Edwards, and all others players associated with Breakfast at Tiffany’sFifth Avenue 5 A.M. disseminates the cultural impact of the feminine image and how it affected the ultimate tone of the film.

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“My Autobiography” Book Review

“But the truth is so boring!”
— Chaplin (1992)

My-Autobiography-Charlie-Chaplin

In Richard Attenborough’s 1992 biopic Chaplin, the shroud of mystique that permeated Chaplin’s imagination was lifted to reveal a fragile, sensitive soul. All his life, the man struggled to be more than that. More than a comic, more than an actor, more than a human being. He wanted ephemera in his fiber – to be an artist, a magician, immortalized in film.

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Citizen Slapstick and the Debut of Joseph Cotten

It was to be the first of many cinematic collaborations together, but at the time, Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten had already worked together for three years in the theatre. With three successful plays that catapulted the young Welles into superstardom as the 22-year-old “boy wonder” of Broadway, Welles was thirsting to play with different modes of storytelling.

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“The Love of the Last Tycoon” Book Review

“It is a tragedy it is unfinished…. It has a kind of wisdom in it, and nobody ever penetrated beneath the surface of the movie world to any such degree. It was to have been a very remarkable book.”
— Maxwell Perkins

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What might’ve been had its great author lived to complete this novel, we’ll never know. F. Scott Fitzgerald was many things, but a Hollywood hack, he was not. His friend Billy Wilder once claimed asking Fitzgerald to write a script was akin to “a great sculptor who is hired to do a plumbing job.” An apt comparison can be made to a line of dialogue in the novelist’s magnum opus where Nick Carraway says to Jay Gatsby, “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.”

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“My Lunches with Orson” Book Review

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To be privy to the friendship of Orson Welles must have been a strange thing. For a figure whose reputation was so towering, his celebrity so at-large, his rejection of the Hollywood machine inevitably came at a price – for as famous as he was, Welles never ceased being the outsider. And in Peter Biskind’s transcriptions of Welles’s conversations with filmmaker Henry Jaglom, that frustration is revealed to be marrow deep.

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Acquiring Little Lord Fauntleroy Memorabilia

My former professor recently acquired this vintage French poster of the 1936 film Little Lord Fauntleroy signed by star Freddie Bartholomew. He was kind enough to gift it to me, knowing my love of classic films.

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A fun little story after I got it: I went over to Larry Edmunds Bookshop on Hollywood Blvd. to pick up a copy of Chaplin’s novella Footlights. I asked the owner – the very lovely Jeffrey Mantor – if he knew how much it was worth or if anyone would be interested in it. He told me that Michael Jackson used to come into the shop all the time (usually in disguises), and he was a massive fan of Freddie Bartholomew – and if he was still around, he’d drop big bucks on my poster!

In any case, this very nice one-sheet will find a good home in my classic film collection!

 

Tarantino’s Hollywood Blvd

On any ordinary day, I wouldn’t even humor my blog with talks of modern movies. When I created this site three months ago, I made a solemn oath to focus only on motion pictures pre-1970. However, my Hollywood adventure this week was cute enough to bleed into movie history and deserves a little mention.

This week, facades went up on Hollywood Blvd. that time-travelled Los Angeles back to 1969. There were background actors walking around the streets in ’60s attire, and I assumed pretty well what movie was being filmed: Quentin Tarantino’s upcoming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

The picture takes place in 1969 Los Angeles around the time when the Golden Age transitioned into New Hollywood, and the movie business completely changed. The studio system collapsed and hippies prowled the streets. Of course, the most interesting aspect of the picture will be how it tackles the Manson murders.

While it’s a star-studded film, it’s the throwback location that really interests me. I love places like Musso & Frank’s, Dan Tana’s, Larry Edmund’s, and Tower Records – places that really defined L.A. culture. Los Angeles notoriously never preserves its own history so being able to travel back in time like this really tickles me pink.

Check out these Elaine Hanelock illustrations behind Musso & Frank’s Grill, where a majority of the filming took place. I sure hope they stay up!

A shop was converted into an old TV repair shop, full of Kodak film and Zenith TV sets. Now that’s vintage.

Finally when I had my fill of ’60s Hollywood., I made a beeline off the boulevard . Off to a side-street, I actually ran into director Quentin Tarantino, escaping the heat wave back into his trailer! Ain’t that something?