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Monkey got his tail caught up on a street car line, honey. Didn't think about it till I started twistin' mine, honey. Run back to the track, lay his head on the rail, lose his head about a little piece of tail. Oh sail, oh sail away - Funny Papa Smith, Honey Blues

Author Topic: Classic Movies  (Read 5945 times)

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Offline CF

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Classic Movies
« on: September 15, 2007, 12:03:26 PM »
Seeing as though this is a meeting spot for those who enjoy the music of the 1920s to the '40s, '50s & '60'ish days I wonder if any of you are fans of classic movies? My love for movies, particularly from the '10s to the 1950s, began in grade school when I caught the Universal Horror movie bug. There was a late night show called 'Not So Classic Theatre' which I believe was coming out of Boston or Bangor (can't remember) which played all the old classics: Dracula, Frankenstein, The wolf Man . . . & me & my buds would try to stay up late Saturday nights to catch them. There were also a number of books in my grade school libraries about these classic films with great still reproductions . . . It's now relatively easy to see all these old flicks & I've since become a fan of classic cinema in general & i'm lucky enough to have a number of musician friends in my area with the same tastes & some great collections . . . so any of you Weenies share my love for the golden Age of cinema?   
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Bricktown Bob

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2007, 09:50:10 PM »
Hey, Cheapfeet, greetings from another movie buff.

Can't say I go with you all the way from the 10s to the 50s; I have a low tolerance for silents, apart from Buster Keaton and some of the UFA Expressionist stuff (Caligari, Metropolis, Dr Mabuse, etc.).  But when Hollywood simultaneously got the Germans and sound -- wow, things really took off.  Starting with your Universal horrors.  About the only thing I don't like about the Universal horrors is the precipitous decline in quality after the first one or two. When they became programmers, that is.  The first two Frankensteins, the first two Mummies, the first Dracula, the first Wolfman -- all quite good, but then they became series, and went straight to hell (so to speak).  Of course, that sort of thing would never happen today (right).  Don't get me wrong, I like series programmers as a mindlessly entertaining sort of thing (your Charlie Chans, your Thin Mans, your endless string of intrepid girl reporters, and so on).  I like the 30s serials, too, though not so much the late-40s Republic serials (which are still good for a laugh).  And an awful lot of film noir I really like, and John Ford westerns, and Preston Sturges comedies, and especially the Val Lewton horrors of the 40s (superior to even the best Universals, IMHO), and Kurosawa.  And Leone.  And Hong Kong action flicks before John Woo.  And there's a special place in my heart for crappy 50s sci-fi flicks.  Most of them tried soooo hard, but they never ever had a chance, poor things.  Of course a lot of them just didn't give a damn, and that's fun too, in a way.

I used to watch a lot of old movies, back in the days I had cable.  Turner Classic Movies, and American Movie Classics and such.  One of them (forget which) some years ago ran a series of race films (yes, the movie equivalent of the race records we know and love).  I deeply regret that I missed most of it, but I did see one of their ubiquitous fillers: the Bessie Smith short of "St. Louis Blues."  Way over the top campy/weepy storyline, but the music's there, and she's Bessie Smith, forgodsake, and she can do that.

Offline CF

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2007, 10:13:53 PM »
Yeah Bob the original/first universal horror flicks are certainly superior, definately more strange & original with more artistic integrity but I have to say I like the 'serial' aspect of the later incarnations . . . there's something perfectly stupid & typical & fun in the 'House of Dracula/Frankenstein' movies, I quite like all the Mummy sequals . . . 'Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman' is just pure cheap fun (Bela as the Monster is pretty laughable) & so on. There's something very archetypal in all those movies which I find fascinating . . . I recently acquired several that I've been wanting to see/own for years: 'Old Dark House' (superb), 'The Black Cat' (with Bela & Boris, real perverse & great) & 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue', another cheaply violent & dark movie . . .
My main obsession in the last year has been the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies beginning in 1939 & going to the mid-forties or so . . . I have all 14 of em & guiltily admit watching them 5-6 times each, just can't get enough of them, they're perfect in their own way. They should be playing these movies on saturday morning/afternoon TV.
I recently spent time with my father & a brother & a sister that I didn't grow up with & we went through a bunch of the classics. "The Invisible Man' with Claude Rains was the favourite I think . . . now if I can turn them on to Lemon . . .   
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Bricktown Bob

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #3 on: September 16, 2007, 12:31:56 AM »
I absolutely loved the Rathbone/Bruce Holmses when I was a kid.  Some TV station played one just about every Saturday, I think, and I was there for most of them.  Haven't seen one for a long, long time, but I'm sure I'd find them just as fun.  Even though I don't like the idea of Sherlock Holmes fighting Nazis.

For a long time Holmes seriously hampered my appreciation of Rathbone as a great movie villain.  His villainy won out in the end, of course.  And many of the qualities that made him a great villain were also at the heart of his Holmes.  The only man better with a sneer, for instance, was Henry Daniell (best known, perhaps, as Garbitsch in The Great Dictator), but there was always something slightly foppish about Daniell.  Rathbone was just flat-out sinister.  I've always thought it a shame that even though he was (reputedly) the best fencer in Hollywood, he always had to lose the sword fights.

Your original post got me to thinking how I got into old movies in the first place, and I think I started out much the same as you.  With me it was Channel 6 out of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Dr. Mazeppa Pompazoidi's Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting on Saturday nights.  Their very first show was Dracula; I think their second was Bride of Frankenstein.  I remember most, though, their Laurel and Hardy, especially the features, such as Fra Diavolo and Bohemian Girl.  Great stuff.  Good times.

Aside: Gailard Sartain, who played Mazeppa, went on to have a pretty decent acting career, starting with regular work on Hee-Haw and The Sonny and Cher Show; his break-out role was as the Big Bopper in The Buddy Holly Story (Gary Busey apparently appeared a few times on the Uncanny Film Festival and Camp Meeting, though I don't remember seeing him there).

Hey, I just looked up Henry Daniell on IMDB (to get his name spelled right), and guess what -- he was in three of the Rathbone/Bruce Holmses!  The Voice of Terror, Sherlock Holmes in Washington, and The Woman in Green, in which he played Professor Moriarty (perfect!).

Offline CF

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2007, 07:55:09 AM »
Henry Daniell is great . . . considered by many to be the best Prof. Moriarty (Holmes' nemesis). He plays a very cool & collected villain. George Zucco & Lionel Atwill are more familiar to me as villains because of the sheer number of movies they were in, esp. Atwill who seems like he's a bad guy even when he's not playing one! The other actor I've always found made a great villain or all-around seedy character was Cedric Hardwicke. He had a way of moving & staring at people that made him suspect from the get-go.
I haven't really seen Rathbone in many villain roles . . . for me he's the quintessential Holmes. Bruce plays a blustering, goofy Dr. Watson, quite unlike Doyle's literary character, but I find it charmng & entertaining & hey, it's the movies!
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Bricktown Bob

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2007, 08:57:03 AM »
Some Rathbone villain turns (all recommended):  Captain Blood (1935), David Copperfield (1935), The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Tower of London (1939), The Mark of Zorro (1940), We're No Angels (1955), The Court Jester (1955).  I can't exactly recommend it, but his turn as the evil wizard Lodac (or Lordac) in The Magic Sword (1962) is a tour de force of scenery-chewing nastiness.  He also looks like he escaped from a Bea Arthur drag contest.

Agree about Hardwicke, especially the seedy part.  Another of my faves is George Sanders.  He's often not the villain, but a lot of the time you get the feeling he would be if he wasn't so lazy (perfect George Sanders role in Rebecca, as Rebecca's morally ambiguous "cousin").  Sanders, of course, was first the Falcon and then the Saint in the 40s.  I like the Falcon stuff better -- another series I could just sit and watch end to end.

As for Rathbone's Holmes, I actually think Jeremy Brent is the best Holmes ever, but can't fault anyone for going with Rathbone.  I think every Holmes since has been either an extension of or a reaction against Rathbone's portrayal.

Nigel Bruce.  Love the guy.  Oddly, like Sanders, his quintessential part is also in a Hitchcock, as "Beaky" in Suspicion.  I think Watson is a difficult part to play, and only partly because of the way Bruce did him.  One of the better Watsons I've seen was Robert Duvall in The Seven Percent Solution.  Ben Kingsley did a fine job in the revisionist Without a Clue.

Offline CF

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2007, 11:06:41 AM »
Yeah they say Brett is the man but I've never really watched those shows . . . will definately have to now. They're more accurate in portraying Doyle's vision I believe & don't have the innocent, comic elements of the WWII era films which I imagine Doyle would have hated (He died in 1930, didn't get to see them). Besides Doyle's description, I think Holmes' appearance was mostly formed by the illustrated serializations that appeared in the British magazines/papers at the time of their release. Rathbone & Brent would be conforming to that standard.

Sanders was in All About Eve too right?

I remember being very impressed with Duvall's British accent in that Sherlock flick. He's quite possibly my favourite actor.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2007, 09:59:53 PM by Cheapfeet »
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline banjochris

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2007, 04:33:21 PM »
Speaking of Cedric Hardwicke, his son Edward played one of the best Watsons ever in the later series of the Jeremy Brett Holmes TV shows. I love the Rathbone Holmes movies too, but the Brett stuff is much better. Weirdly, Brett himself played Watson on stage with Charlton Heston! as Holmes in a play called "The Crucifer of Blood" that I saw at age 8. Heston wasn't at all bad, as I remember.

I'm not sure Doyle would have hated Holmes fighting Nazis -- he does have Holmes active at the start of World War I dealing with a German spy in "His Last Bow," and he gave William Gillette pretty much carte blanche to do whatever he wanted with Holmes in his stage play (which I believe ended up marrying Holmes off!).

If you like Holmes, by the way, there's a 10-minute clip of Arthur Conan Doyle on YouTube talking to the camera at the very beginning of the sound era. It was great to hear what he sounded like (much more Scottish than I would have thought).
Chris

Offline Bricktown Bob

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2007, 09:22:16 PM »
Brett, right.  I can check the spelling of Daniell, but not Brett?  What a momo.

Edward Hardwicke is Sir Cedric's son?  Too cool.  Thanks for the tidbit.

Yes, that was George Sanders in All About Eve, the personification of cynical, indolent corruption.

My problem with the wartime films isn't really about fighting Nazis, but with the translation of such as thoroughly Victorian character as Holmes to an era where he simply does not fit.  You have that on the one hand, but on the other hand you have the timeless nature of the character: he ought to fit anywhere you put him.  And to a degree he does, partly because Holmes is such an oddball that he doesn't really fit even in his native time.  So I guess I'm really of two minds about it.  And given the requirements of propaganda entertainment in the 40s, I doubt the filmmakers ever gave it a second thought (if they even gave it a first thought). 

But it was definitely nice to see the Brett series -- serious, in period, and based on the stories, especially the stories that had never been filmed before.

On the other other hand, I also enjoyed the silliness of the Peter Cook / Dudley Moore Hound of the Baskervilles.  Cook, naturally, is the same general physical type as Rathbone and Brett, and Peter Cushing, who also made a passable Holmes.

Offline CF

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #9 on: October 17, 2007, 09:32:46 AM »
I recently rewatched the 1933 King Kong . . . what a great flick. The special effects are amazing altho dated, but the whole feel of the movie is otherwordly, especially the scenes on Skull Island. I saw the Peter Jackson remake & didn't like it very much. I have to say I am not a fan of most CGI, I think it often looks worse than the old animation or good old fashioned set designs & props.
I was wondering, King Kong being such a big movie in the '30s, are there any blues tunes from that time that use him as a metaphor or mention him at all? I can't think of any off-hand.
Do yourself a favour & go out & rent this gem. It's even better than you remember.
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Bricktown Bob

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #10 on: October 20, 2007, 10:50:00 AM »
I recently rewatched the 1933 King Kong . . . what a great flick.

Big ditto on that.  Very happy that the remake prompted a cleaned-up DVD reissue with great extras.  I doubt I'll ever see the PJ version again, but the original -- can't imagine ever being tired of that.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2007, 10:31:26 PM »
King Kong (the original) is one of my favorite movies. It generated spectacular archetypal images dredged out of the Jungian common unconscious. The Image of this titanic grimacing Ape head thrusting up through the shattered tracks in the path of an oncoming elevated subway train, against a field of glittering night time highrises, ranks as one of the greatest in film. Our primal unconscious reacting against the imprisonment of civilization. The all powerful super primate throwing down all the artifice of industry and culture. I saw KK the first time when I was five or six and its power has never left me unmoved. Like the greatest folk art or music it unwittingly strikes at the deepest places in the human soul.
My loathings are simple: stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

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Offline CF

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #12 on: December 17, 2007, 09:37:04 AM »
I had a very early age experience with King Kong that has never left me. My parents honeymooned at Niagra Falls when I was about 2 years old or so & upon entering a wax museum or something like that we were faced with a giant reproduction of King Kong . . . it may have been automated, I can't remember. Anyway, did exactly what you said Muck, struck me very deeply & no doubt brought up some kind of primal fear er something . . . scared the bejeezus outta me anyway! But you're exactly right about the images in King Kong striking something unconscious & 'Jungian' if you will. Dracula, Frankenstein & the Wolfman are such lasting & effective archetypes not just because of the strength of the movies but because of the resonance of the characters . . . & I think many of the older flicks were more successful at touching their audience in that way because they weren't overly slick or complicated or self-indulgent. The simplicity of the narrative & even the possible naivety of the production allowed the characters to breathe & come to a deeper life than they do nowadays. Dracula done today would mostly be a vehicle for special effects, shallower purposes.
I think the music of the 20s-40s works on this kind of level too.   
Stand By If You Wanna Hear It Again . . .

Offline Richard

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #13 on: December 18, 2007, 02:49:06 PM »
Jermey Brett is (was) great, I think we all of his on video. I recall being told had a mental breakdown or something and then he died not long after the last BBC series. I don't think I have seen him in anything else on tv.
(That's enough of that. Ed)

Offline banjochris

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Re: Classic Movies
« Reply #14 on: December 18, 2007, 04:39:42 PM »
Brett did die not long after the last Holmes series, in 1995. I believe he had a breakdown after his wife died, but that was earlier -- in the mid '80s. His wife was the American producer of Masterpiece Theatre, if I remember rightly, and died quite young of cancer. Brett had a heart condition and apparently knew he was terminal for some time, but carried on with the show as long as he could; you can tell he's quite ill in some of the last stories, and there's even one where Charles Gray (as brother Mycroft) replaced him because he was too sick to film.

I was lucky enough to see Brett and Hardwicke on stage in 1989 in London as Holmes and Watson in The Secret of Sherlock Holmes; it was more of a psychological exploration of Holmes than a mystery, but of course they were both wonderful.
Chris

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