Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film

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Read the reviews for MICHAEL CURTIZ—A LIFE IN FILM

 

 

A Few Thoughts on NAPOLEON

Napoleon Program Cover Blog

The presentation of Abel Gance’s NAPOLEON this Saturday at the Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California, dwarfs any previous experience that I’ve ever had in a movie theatre.  I have never seen a film of such epic scale with the most amazing attention to authentic historical detail within a beautifully characterized story of a man destined to change the world.  NAPOLEON is truly a masterpiece in every sense of the word.

Words are inadequate to describe my pure joy of taking in five and half hours of a restored classic that the great Kevin Brownlow spent much of his professional life restoring.  Kevin is an incredibly gifted, humble man whose lifework is to share his appreciation of silent films with the rest of the world.

On a personal note, Kevin Brownlow graciously shared some of his archival information with me some time ago for my ongoing bio of Michael Curtiz after I met him when he was in Los Angeles to receive his Honorary Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010.  Kevin is simply a prince of a fellow.

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Rose & Joan: Rest in Peace

joan taylor

I was deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of Rose Freeman aka Joan Taylor who was a featured actress in movies and television from 1949 until her retirement in 1963. Rose was a special lady and we had a rather unusual relationship that began over five years ago.

I was wrapping up my Charles McGraw biography manuscript but wanted to learn more about one of his movies, Warpaint, an interesting Western that he appeared in 1952 after leaving the contractual confines of RKO studios.

Rose, or I should say Joan, played an Indian woman who helped make life extremely difficult for a thirst-crazed Army cavalry detachment led by Robert Stack and a pipe-smoking McGraw with Peter Graves, Robert J. Wilke, Walter Reed, Douglas Kennedy, and Paul Richards lending able support.

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Back on the Street with THE BIG COMBO and PITFALL

Million Dollar Theatre

To inaugurate my new and improved ONE WAY STREET blog and web site, I am posting my introduction to THE BIG COMBO and PITFALL double feature when I presented on Wednesday night at the Million Dollar Theatre in downtown L.A. While I was crossing the street at the corner of 3rd, I gazed across Broadway at the Bradbury building and realized that this was where Edmond O'Brien, wracked with pain from luminous poisoning, staggered to his rendezvous with destiny in D.O.A. This was also where Lon Chaney Jr., recently revived from the San Quentin gas chamber, murderously prowled for "Squeemy Ellis" in Indestructible Man and where Jack Lemmon parked his T-Bird filled with ladders, paint, and Romy Schneider to deface a billboard in Good Neighbor Sam. This was also the same real estate where Harrison Ford was assigned to hunt replicants in Blade Runner (1982). I was treading on cinematic hallowed ground. And when I arrived under the marquee of Sid Grauman's 1918 movie palace and was greeted by 83-year old actor Clu Gulager who actually walked from West Hollywood to attend this screening, I knew at that moment, there was no other place I would rather be.

"It is always a distinct privilege to participate in an event involving the UCLA Film and Television Archive. The Archive's mutually beneficial partnership with The Film Noir Foundation has resulted in the complete restoration of The Prowler and Cry Danger along with the archiving of new 35 mm prints of such classic noir titles as High Wall, Loophole, Cry Tough, Down Three Dark Streets and more recently Three Strangers.

Tonight is an auspicious event at the Million Dollar, Sid Grauman's first Los Angeles movie palace. I hosted the 2008 reopening during the L.A. Conservancy's Last Remaining Seats festival to introduce Mildred Pierce and last year with special guest Patrice Wymore for Captain Blood. Although the two movies being screened tonight may not be as famous, both are equally terrific films and personal favorites. Quantifying exactly what film noir is has proven to be well-nigh impossible and the perpetual discussion to determine what is or isn't film noir certainly adds to its cachet. It might be that noir is best defined by the cliché "I Know it when I see it" Simply put, The Big Combo and Pitfall epitomize what the film noir style is all about.

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