Film History: James Whale

Photographers Unknown, I Am Rather the Fallen Angel

“Be calm! I entreat you to hear me before you give vent to your hatred on my devoted head. Have I not suffered enough, that you seek to increase my misery? Life, although it may only be an accumulation of anguish, is dear to me, and I will defend it. Remember, thou hast made me more powerful than thyself; my height is superior to thine, my joints more supple. But I will not be tempted to set myself in opposition to thee. I am thy creature, and I will be even mild and docile to my natural lord and king if thou wilt also perform thy part, the which thou owest me. Oh, Frankenstein, be not equitable to every other and trample upon me alone, to whom thy justice, and even thy clemency and affection, is most due. Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam, but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous.” 

― Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, 1818 

Born in Dudley, a town in the county of Worcestershire, in July of 1889, James Whale was an English actor and film and theater director, best remembered by many for his classic horror films. Known for his use of camera movement, he is credited with being the first director to use a 360-degree panning shot in a feature film.

James Whale was the sixth of seven children born to William Whale, a blast-furnace worker, and his wife Sarah, a nurse. He attended public education until his teenage years. Because the cost of his further education was prohibitive and his labor was needed to support his family, Whale took work as a cobbler. He used his early artistic ability to earn extra money by lettering signs for his neighbors; this additional income paid for classes at the Dudley School of Arts and Crafts located in the West Midlands.

In August of 1914, Whale enlisted into the Inns of Court Regiment of the British Army at the outbreak of the first world war; in July of 1916, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Worcestershire Regiment. Taken prisoner of war in August of 1917 at the battle in  Flanders, Whale was held at the Holzminden Officers’ Camp in Germany and later repatriated at the war’s end to England in December of 1918. After an unsuccessful attempt to find work as a cartoonist in Birmingham, he embarked on a professional stage career in 1919. 

James Whale worked as an actor, set designer, stage manager, and director under the tutelage of director and actor Nigel Playfair at the Lyric Theater in Hammersmith. In 1922, he met stage and costume designer Doris Zinkeisen; they were considered a couple for a period of two years despite Whale’s living as an openly gay man. In 1928, Whale was given the opportunity to direct two private performances of writer Robert Cedric Sherriff’s “Journey’s End”, a play that gave a glimpse of British infantry officers’ experiences in the trenches of France during 1918. The two lead roles were given to actors Laurence Olivier and Maurice Evans. 

The initial two performances of “Journey’s End” were well received; and the play opened in January of 1929, with actor Colin Clive now in the lead, at the Savoy Theater in London’s West End. Critically acclaimed, the play after its three-week run was then transferred to the Prince of Wales Theater in Coventry Street, where it ran for the next two years. The rights to a New York production of “Journey’s End” were acquired by Broadway producer Gilbert Miller who chose James Whale, already experienced with the play, for its director. This production of the play premiered at Henry Miller’s Theater at Broadway and West 43rd Street and ran for over a year. 

Brought to the attention of movie producers by the Broadway success of “Journey’s End”, James Whale traveled to Hollywood in 1929 and signed a contract with Paramount Pictures to be the dialogue director for the 1929 film “The Love Doctor”. After the completion of the film, Whale met David Lewis, who became his longtime romantic partner; they lived together until 1952. David Lewis would later become a prominent film producer in the 1940s and 1950s, known for producing such films as the 1939 “Dark Victory” with Bette Davis and Humphrey Bogart and the 1957  “Raintree County” with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor.  

In 1931, James Whale began what is probably the best known part of his career as a producer. He signed a five-year contract with Universal Studios and received his first project, the 1931 drama-war romance film “Waterloo Bridge”, which starred actress Mae Clarke, who is remembered by many for playing Jame Cagney’s girl in “The Public Enemy”. Later in 1931, Carl Laemmie, Jr, the twenty-five year old head of Universal Studios, gave Whale his choice of which studio-owned property he wanted for his next shoot; Whale chose the script for “Frankenstein”. He casted Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Mae Clarke as Elizabeth Frankenstein, Henry’s wife, and chose the little known Boris Karloff for the role of the Monster. Shooting ran from August 24th of 1931 to October 3rd. After premieres on October 29th of 1931, “Frankenstein” had a wide release beginning on November 21st and instantly became a hit with critics and the public.

In 1932, Whale directed two films: the drama “The Impatient Maiden” and a thriller film with Karloff and Charles Laughton entitled “The Old Dark House”, which has been credited with reinventing the “old house” genre of horror films. Whale’s 1933 film, “The Kiss Before the Mirror”, a pre-Code mystery film, received little notice and was a box-office failure. With a script approved by author H. G. Wells, Whale returned to the horror genre and produced the 1933 “The Invisible Man” which the New York Times placed in their list of best films for that year. This adaption of Well’s book, whose special effects were done in utmost secrecy, broke box-office records in cities across America.

James Whale’s next major project was the 1935 “Bride of Frankenstein”, a sequel to the original movie which he was initially reluctant to do for fear of being typecast as a horror director. The film, however, was a critical and commercial success; today it is regarded as the finest of all gothic horror movies and considered Whale’s masterpiece. Whale worked next on a comedy-mystery film entitled “Remember Last Night?” which resulted in divided reviews. After its completion, Whale started immediately on the project that had been in his mind for a long time, a film version of the stage production “Show Boat”. 

For the film version of this long-running romantic musical, Whale gathered as many members of the original show as he could; these included Paul Robeson, Helen Morgan, Sammy White, Irene Dunne, and conductor Victor Baravalle and orchestrator Robert Russell Bennett. Great care was taken by Whale to ensure a feeling of complete authenticity in the set and costume design for this film. Faithfully adapted from the original stage production, the 1936 “Show Boat” is considered the definitive film version of the musical by many critics. This film was the last of Whale’s films produced with the Laemmie family.

Jame Whale eventually retired from the film industry in 1941. Encouraged by his partner David Lewis to resume his artwork, he rediscovered his love of painting and built a studio for himself. In 1942, Whale made training films for the United States Army and created, in collaboration with actress Claire DuBrey, the theater group Brentwood Service Players. He returned to Broadway to direct the 1940 thriller “Hand in Glove” and directed his final film, a short subject entitled “Hello Out There”. Whale’s last professional engagement was the comedy play “Pagan in the Parlour”, which was forced to close early due to contract difficulties that happened during its opening tour in Europe.

While in Europe, Whale met and became infatuated with the twenty-five year old bartender Pierre Foegel. He made the decision to bring Foegel back to the United States as his chauffeur. In November of 1952 when David Lewis heard this, he ended their twenty-three year relationship, separated but still maintained a friendship. Foegel moved in with Whale in early 1953, returned for several months to France, and then in 1954  moved back permanently with Whale. In the spring of 1956, Whale suffered a small stroke, and was hospitalized several months later after suffering a second and more severe stroke. As his mental faculties were diminishing, he began to suffer from mood swings and depression. 

James Whale committed suicide, at the age of sixty-seven, by drowning himself in his Pacific Palisades swimming pool on the 29th of May in 1957. He left a suicide note to David Lewis, who withheld it from the public until his own death. Whale was cremated per his request and his ashes were interred in the Columbarium of Memory at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. When David Lewis died in 1987, James Curtis, as his executor, had Lewis’s  ashes interred in a niche across from Whale’s internment site. James Curtis would later write the definitive biography of Whale, “James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters”, published in 2003.

Note: James Whale lived as an openly gay man throughout his career in the British theater and in Hollywood, which was virtually unheard of in that era. While he did not go out of his way to publicize his homosexuality, he made no effort to conceal it either.

Insert Images:
A— Photographer Unknown, “James Whale” (Profile), circa 1930, Cream-Toned Vintage Print, 23.7 x 18 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC
B—”Frankenstein”, Colin Clive and Boris Karloff, 1931, Universal Pictures
C—”The Invisible Man”, Claude Rains and Gloria Stuart, 1933, Universal Pictures
D—Photographer Unknown, “James Whale”, Date Unknown
E—”Show Boat”, Paul Robeson, Irene Dunne, Hattie McDaniel, and Helen Morgan, 1936, Universal Pictures
F—Photographer Unknown, “James Whale”, circa 1930, Cream-Toned Vintage Print, 23.7 x 18 cm, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC

Ane Brun and Fleshquartet, “The Opening”

Ane Brun and Fleshquartet, “The Opening”, “Wallander”, Season Three Closing Theme, 2012, Vocal Recorded by Conny Wall Gig Studio 

Born Ane Kvien Brunwoll in March of 1976 in Molde, Norway,  Ane Brun is a songwriter, guitarist, and a vocalist of Sami origin, the indigenous Finno-Ugric people inhabiting the northern parts of Finland, Norway, Sweden and the Kola Peninsula of northwest Russia.

The daughter of jazz singer and pianist Johanne Brunwoll and lawyer Knut Brunwoll, Ane Brun studied music and law at the University of Bergen, and, during that time, began writing her own music compositions and lyrics. After playing a few minor shows, she recorded her first demos in Bergen in 1999. After settling in Stockholm in 2001, Brun focused all her energies on her musical career. 

Brun’s debut album, entitled “Spending Time with Morgan”, was recorded in 2002 in both Uppsala and Stockholm, Sweden. It was released in 2003 on the DetErMine label, a company founded by Brun and Ellekari Larsson, the pianist and vocalist of the Swedish band “The Tiny”. Following two years of European concert tours, Brun released her second album, entitled “Temporary Dive”, which was produced by Katherina Nuttall and released worldwide between 2005 and 2007. The album was well received with award nominations from all over Europe; and it was awarded the Spellemannpris, the Norwegian equivalent of the Grammies, for Best Female Artist. 

Ane Brun released her album “Duets” in November of 2005. This album contained duet collaborations with, among others, Canadian singer Ron Sexsmith; French musician and composer Teitur Lassen; Syd Matters, the French band of composer Jonathan Morali; and a collaboration with the band Madrugada on the single “Lift Me”, which earned Brun another Spellemannpris award. As of 2020, Brun has released a total of nine albums, of which two are gold albums, one platinum album, and two albums, “Duets” and “It All Starts with One”, which became platinum twice.

Ane Brun continues to tour and has appeared in  multiple stage arrangements from solo acoustic to a full band with string section. She currently lives in Stockholm, Sweden, where she writes, records and manages her own recording label, Balloon Ranger Recordings.

“The Opening” is a haunting and fitting theme song for the main character in the Swedish television series, “Wallander”, which stars actor Krister Henriksson in the title role. Adapted from author Henning Mankeil’s Kurt Wallander novels. the three-season series is set in Ystad, Skåne, near the southern tip of Sweden, The thirty-two episodes follow the life and cases of Detective Wallander, a man with few close friends and tentative relationships with colleagues, who towards the end of his career suffers memory loss and gradually succumbs to Alzhheimer’s disease. 

“The Opening is a song whose lyrics and melody were written by myself with the music and production handled by the Fleshquartet. I got the script for the very last Wallander film, and wrote these lyrics inspired by the main character. It’s about trying to move forward when you find yourself at a standstill. It’s an encouraging song about daring to take a step in any direction when you feel stuck. Sometimes it’s just a small step or a short conversation – or sometimes just a single word – that can set off the necessary process of change.”  —Ane Brun

British Pathé, RMS Titanic

 

Artist Unknown, Titanic Moored at Dock, Gifs, British Pathé, 1912

These three colorized gifs were taken from the beginning of a film, jointly owned by British Pathé and Gaumont Newsreels, containing known footage of the RMSTitanic. Slightly different versions of this film are held by British Movietone and the National Film and Television Archive.

The three gifs depict the Titanic moored, probably on April 2nd of 1912, at the Thompson Graving Dock on Queen’s Island in Belfast, where the RMS Titanic was fitted out. In these shots, men can be seen walking beside the ship and smoke is seen issuing from the third funnel of the Titanic.

The British Pathé’s newsreel, just over six minutes in length,  covers several episodes in the story of the RMS Titanic’s final days. The captain of the RMS Titanic, Edward J. Smith, who perished when the ship sank, is shown on board the RMS Olympic, before assuming duty on the Titanic. Newsreel footage of icebergs and ice floes are shown to portray the scene of the disaster. Scenes of the rescue ship, Carpathia, nearing New York City with survivors, and scenes of the departing search and rescue vessel, Mackay Bennet, also are included in this Pathé footage.

At the forefront of cinematic journalism, British Pathé was a producer of newsreels and documentaries from 1910 to 1970 in England. The company blended information with entertainment for movie theater attendees who came to watch the news. Over the course of its sixty years, it documented everything from major armed conflicts and international political crises to the curious hobbies and eccentric lives of ordinary people.

British Pathé’s roots lie in 1896 Paris, France, when Société Pathé Frères  was founded by Charles Pathé and his brothers, who pioneered the development of the moving image. In 1908, the company invented the cinema newsreel with its introduction of the Pathé-Journal and opened a newsreel office on Wardour Street, London, in 1910. These early silent  newsreels, issued every two weeks and running about four minutes in length, were shown in local theaters; sound was introduced beginning in 1928. The Pathé newsreels captured events such as suffragette Emily Danison’s fatal injury by a racehorse at the 1913 Epsom Derby and Franz Reichelt’s fatal descent by parachute from the Eiffel Tower in February of 1912.

Considered now to be the finest newsreel archive in the world, British Pathé is a treasure trove of eighty-five thousand films unmatched in their historical and cultural significance. The company also represents the Reuters historical collection, which includes more than one hundred thirty-six thousand items from the following news agencies: Gaumont Graphic, active from 1910 to 1932; Empire News Bulletin, a film library from 1926 to 1930;  British Paramount,  a collection spanning from 1931 to 1957; and Gaumont British’s collection  from 1934 to 1959. Included in Pathés vast library of film is the collected content from the Visnews service active from 1957 until the end of 1984.

The full footage of British Pathé’s Titanic black and white newsreel can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05o7sOAjtXE

All footage can be viewed on the British Pathé website. https://www.britishpathe.com/

James Baldwin: “The Child is Filled with Darkness”

Photographer Unknown, The Child is Filled with Darkness

“In a moment someone will get up and turn on the light. Then the old folks will remember the children and they won’t talk anymore that day. And when light fills the room, the child is filled with darkness. He knows that every time this happens he’s moved just a little closer to that darkness outside. The darkness outside is what the old folks have been talking about. It’s what they’ve come from. It’s what they endure. The child knows that they won’t talk any more because if he knows too much about what’s happened to them, he’ll know too much too soon, about what’s going to happen to him.” 

—-James Baldwin, Sonny’s Blues

“Sonny’s Blues” is a short story written by James Baldwin, originally published in 1957 in the Partisan Review, a small circulation quarterly New York City magazine dealing with politics, literature, and culture. Written in the first-person singular narrative style, the story presents the memories of a 1950s black teacher in Harlem as he reacts to his brother Sonny’s drug addiction, arrest, and recovery. 

Baldwin’s story is set in New York City of the post–World War Two era, when an important political and cultural change was occurring. A diverse array of artists from all over the world, learning and borrowing ideas and techniques from each other,  converged in the city and made New York a new cultural capital. Despite differences in style and subject matter, these artists were responding, through their work, to what they believed was America’s unique cultural and political crisis.

While the art scene in New York was rapidly expanding, thousands of African American soldiers were returning home from the war and heading north toward communities like Harlem.  Instead of finding new job opportunities and equal rights, the returning men found newly constructed housing projects and vast urban slums. Hundreds of homes in Harlem had been leveled to build these housing projects, which would eventually become symbols of urban blight and poverty,. This experience would be faced by thousands of other African-Americans in the years after the war’s conclusion.

Although America in the 1950s was generally more conservative, the groundwork for the 1960s radical political movements was being laid. The civil rights movement, which had begun in the South earluer in the decade, had started to rapidly spread across the country as millions of African Americans began to seek equal rights. Written at this critical juncture in history, James Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” is a testament to the frustration of life in the cities of America and this frustration’s eventual transformation into a political and artistic movement.

Baldwin’s “Sonny’s Blues” was adapted for a short film of the same name by Gregory Scott Williams Jr for his second year project at New York University’s Graduate Film Program. Written and directed by Williams, the short, seventeen-minute film was produced by Seith Mann and starred actor Charles Parnell as the narrator-brother David, and New York-based poet and verbal stylist Saul Williams in the role of Sonny. The cinematography was by Cybel Martin, featuring the music of Gil Scott-Heron and Ray Charles with an original score by composer and pianist John Bickerton. The film can be found in its entirely at YouTube:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Y9CDEfnKvQ

The Tesla World Light

Matthew Rankin, “The Tesla World Light”, 2017

“The Tesla World Light” is a eight-minute 2017 black and white avant-garde film by Montreal director Matthew Rankin which imagines the latter days of inventor Nikola Tesla in New York City in 1905. It is a fanciful mixture of elements from Tesla’s life including his pleas to J. P. Morgan for funding and his love for a “electric” pigeon. The film sources interviews with Tesla and letters by Tesla found in the Library of Congress. 

In the film, Matthew Rankin combined pixilation with a technique called light-animation, which involves moving a light source in the frame to produce light rays. He estimated he used as many as fifteen thousand sparklers to produce the effects, along with flashlights, LEDs, and fluorescent lamps.

Matthew Rankin adopted a visual-music approach to the film. He worked with sound artist Sasha Ratcliffe, who recreated Tesla’s device, the Tesla Spirit Radio, which received and transmitted the sound of light waves with the intensity varying according to its vibrations. Much of the background sound in the film was produced by this machine.

Produced by Julie Roy, an executive producer at the Canadian National Film Board, “The Tesla World Light” stars Robert Vilar as Tesla, with cinematography by Julian Fontaine and music by Christophe Lamarche. The film had its world premiere in official competition in May at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival and was selected for the Annecy International Animated Film Festival.

“The Tesla World Light” received an honorable mention in the Best Canadian Short Film category at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and received a listing on Canada’s Top Ten list of short films. It also won the 2018 Canadian Screen Award for Best Animated Short Films.

Deux Couples au Déjeuner

Artist Unknown, Deux Couples au Déjeuner (Two Couples at Lunch), Computer Graphics, Film Gifs, “El Juego de las Ilaves”, 2019

“The boys were amazed that I could make such a poem as that out of my own head, and so was I, of course, it being as much a surprise to me as it could be to anybody, for I did not know that it was in me. If any had asked me a single day before if it was in me, I should have told them frankly no, it was not.

That is the way with us; we may go on half of our life not knowing such a thing is in us, when in reality it was there all the time, and all we needed was something to turn up that would call for it.” 

—Mark Twain, Joan of Arc

Note: The film gifs are from the Mexican comedic television series “El Juego de las Ilaves ( The Game of Keys)”. The series revolves around the lives of four couples who decide to be swingers among themselves, and addresses the issues of monogamy in long relationships, self-realization and desire. Sebastián Zurita, in the role of Seergio Morales, and Horacio Pancheri, as Valentin Lombardo, are the male actors in the gifs.

Gus Green Van Sant, Jr: “My Own Private Idaho”

Bruce Weber, Promotional Photo Shoot for “My Own Private Idaho”

These two images, showing River Phoenix with Michael Parker and with Rodney Harvey, were taken by Bruce Weber during a promotional photo shoot in 1991 for director Gus Van Sant’s early 1991 masterpiece “My Own Private Idaho”.

Born in July of 1952, Gus Green Van Sant, Jr. is an American screenwriter, film director, photographer, painter and author who has produced acclaimed independent and mainstream films. His films typically contain themes of marginalized subcultures, particularly homosexuality. Van Sant is one of the prominent film artists of the New Queer Cinema movement. 

Van Sant made his feature-length directorial debut with his 1985 film “Mala Noche (Bad Night)”, a drama film based on poet Walt Curtis’s autobiographical novel of the same name.  His second feature, released in 1989, was the highly acclaimed “Drugstore Cowboy”, which earned him Best Director from the National Society of Film Critics. Van Sant followed this success with the a series of similarly praised films: the 1991 “My Private Idaho” and the black comedy “To Die For” in 1995. His next two films,  the 1997 drama “Good Will Hunting”, and the biographical film “Milk” in 2008, were nominated by the Academy Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. 

Note: You will find more information on Van Sant’s film “Malo Noche” at: https://ultrawolvesunderthefullmoon.blog/2015/07/09/mala-noche-directed-by-gus-van-sant-mala-noche/

Sergei Parajanov

Sergei Parajanov, “The Color of Pomegranates”, 1969, Computer Graphics, Film Gifs

The 1969 Soviet art film “The Color of Pomegranates”, written and directed by Sergei Parajanov, is a visual, poetic treatment of the life of the eighteenth-century Armenian musician and poet Sayat-Nova. The film is presented in a series of chapters depicting the poet’s life in active tableaux, presented with little dialogue. Each chapter, framed through Sayat-Nova’s poems, is indicated by a title card: Childhood, Youth, Prince’s Court, The Monastery, The Dream, Old Age, The Angel of Death, and Death. Narration on the film was done by Armenian-born renowned actor Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, known for his role in the 1979 “The Meeting Place Can Not Be Changed”. 

Four actors took the role of Sayat-Nova at different stages in his life, with Soviet Georgian actress Sofiko Chiaureli, notably playing six roles in the film, both female and male. The film was shot at numerous historical sites in northern Armenia, many being medieval churches in the Lori Provence, including the Sarahin Monastery and the St. John church at Ardvi. Filming was also done at the Old City of Baku, Azerbaijani, and in the countryside near the David Gareja Monastary in Eastern Georgia. 

Objections were made by the Communist Party and the Soviet censors  to Parajanov’s poetic, stylized treatment of the poet’s life, citing that it failed to educate the public. As a result, the original title “Sayat-Nova” was changed to “The Color of Pomegranates” and any references to Sayat-Nova’s name was removed from the credits. The Soviet officials also objected to the amount of religious imagery in the film and removed a substantial portion of it. Although the State Committee for Cinematography initially refused to allow the film to be shown outside Armenia, it did allow the film, now with a seventy-seven minute running time, to premiere inside Armenia in October of 1969.

Filmmaker Sergei Yutkevich,  the 1962 People’s Artist of the USSR and a script-reader on the State Committee, recut the film by a few minutes to appease the authorities and created Russian-language chapter titles for easier understanding by the public at large. He also changed the order of some of the sequences in the film. This seventy-three minute version ultimately received only limited distribution in the rest of the Soviet Union. 

The digital restoration of “The Color of Pomegranates” was completed in 2014 by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation with the help of Cineteca di Bologna. It was re-edited as close as possible to the Sergei Parajanov’s original version, with its premier held at the 67th Cannes Film Festival. Parajanov’s film premiered in the US at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in September of 2014 and the 52nd New York Film Festival in October of 2014.

New Power

Artist Unknown, (New Power), Computer Graphics, Anime Film Gifs

“Be not the slave of your own past – plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with new self-respect, with new power, and with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Any information on the artist or film source would be much appreciated. Thanks.

Shannon L. Alder: “The Dark Angel”

Artist Unknown, (The Dark Angel), Computer Graphics, Film Gifs (Film Unknown)

“When you meet a dark angel don’t you ever for one minute believe they are bad because they have faced the worst demons and lived to guide you through yours. It really isn’t an easy job they have been asked to do, but then neither was standing on the front line during the war in heaven.”
Shannon L. Alder

Reblogged with many thanks to https://domus-aurea2.tumblr.com

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 2nd of December,  Solar Year 2018

The Craving of Human Touch in Form

December 2, 1933 was the release date of Fred Astaire’s first film, “Dancing Lady”.

“Dancing lady” is a 1933 pre-Code musical film directed by Robert Z. Leonard and produced by David O Selznick and John W Considine, Jr. It starred Joan Crawford and Clark Gable, and featured Franchot Tone, Fred Astaire, Robert Benchley, and Ted Healy and His Stooges, who later became the Three Stooges. It was also one of Eve Arden’s first uncredited appearances on film.

The film featured the film debut of extraordinary dancer Fred Astaire, who appears as himself, as well as the first credited appearance of actor and singer Nelson Eddy, a classically trained baritone who became the highest paid singer at that time in the world. The film was a box office hit upon its release, receiving many positive reviews from critics.

After appearing in “Dancing Lady” for MGM Studios, Fred Astaire returned to RKO Radio Pictures and received fifth billing In the 1933 Dolores del Rio film “Flying Down to Rio”. It was in this film that Astaire first danced with Ginger Rogers.Astaire was reluctant to become part of a dance team; however, the obvious public appeal of the pairing persuaded him. The Astaire-Rogers partnership, and the choreography of Astaire and collaborator Hermes Pan, helped make dancing an important element of the Hollywood film musical.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers made nine films together at RKO, including the 1934 “Gay Divorcee”, “Top hat” in 1935, the 1936 “ Swing Time, and “Carefree” released in 1938. Six films of the nine became the biggest moneymakers for the RKO studio, bringing the studio the prestige and artistry it coveted. The Astaire-Rogers partnership elevated them both to stardom.

Fed Astaire was given complete autonomy over the dance production. He is credited with two important innovations in early film musicals: Astaire insisted that a closely tracking dolly camera film a dance routine in as few shots as possible, typically with just four to eight cuts,  while holding the dancers in full view at all times. This gave the illusion of an almost stationary camera filming an entire dance in a single shot.

Astaire’s second innovation involved the context of the dance. Astaire was adamant that all song and dance routines be seamlessly integrated into the plot lines of the film. Instead of using the dance as a spectacle such as a Busby Berkeley routine, the dance was used to move the plot along. A typical Astaire film would include three dance routines in the plot: a solo by Astaire, a partnered comedy dance, and a partnered romantic dance routine.

Kôichi Imaizumi, “Berlin Drifters”

Kôichi Imaizumi, “Berlin Drifters”, Trailer, 2017, Habakari Cinema Research, Jurgen Bruning Filmproduction

Pinku eiga star and intense adult director Kôichi Imaizumi teamed with Japan’s prominent adult manga author for the film “Berlin Drifters”. A low-budget, all-hands-on-deck affair, “Berlin Drifters “ unites a who’s who of Asian and European eroticists, from Dutch porn star Michael Selvaggio and German self-described erotic photographer Claude Kolz to Chinese LGBT activist and dramatist Xiaogang Wei. Most notable, however, could be the participation of Japanese gay erotica artist Gengoroh Tagame, most easily described as Japan’s Tom of Finland.

Imaizumi is perhaps best known as a pinku eiga actor — the soft-core Japanese mini-features, celebrated in last year’s Nikkastu Roman Porno Series and which have given some of the country’s most prominent filmmakers their starts. As a director, Imaizumi dabbled with graphic sex in both “The Secret to My Silky Skin”, starring Majima, and the troubling sci-fi rape comedy “The Family Complete”.

Imaizumi’s hallmarks of sexuality and masculinity are present in “Berlin Drifters”,  but also the insights regarding acceptance and the stigmas surrounding homosexuality in Japan. “Berlin Drifters” was shown at the Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. Sales of the film are through Habakari Cinema Research.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 20th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Blue Sky and Two Ravens

November 20, 1890 was the birthdate of American film actor Robert Armstrong.

Robert Armstrong, born in Bay City, Michigan, attended the University of Washington, where he studied law. He gave up his studies to manage his uncle’s touring company. In his spare time, Armstrong wrote plays, appearing in one when it was produced. In 1926, he traveled to London and appeared on the British stage for one season.

Robert Armstrong’s film career began in 1927 when he appeared in Pathé’s romantic silent film drama ”The Main Event”, produced by Cecil DeMille. He had a very prolific film career in the late 1920s and early 1930s, making nine movies just in 1928. Armstrong is best know for his role as film director Carl Denham in the 1933 monster adventure film “King Kong”. He reprised his role as Denham in the sequel “Son of Kong”, released at the end of 1933.

“King Kong” producer Merian C. Cooper used Armstrong in several more movies. Armstrong and Fay Wray starred in “The Most Dangerous Game”, filmed at night on the same sets being used during the day for “King Kong”. He worked throughout the 1930s and 1940s for several film studios, starring in the 1937 musical comedy “The Girl Said No”, released by Grand National Films. In 1940, Armstrong co-starred in the Universal Pictures film “Enemy Agent”, a story about A Nazi spy ring in the country.

In 1942, Armstrong teamed up with actor Richard Cromwell in the notable gangster B-movie “Baby Face Nelson”, playing “Doc” Rogers, the boss of ‘Baby Face’ played by Cromwell. Later he played another leading character role, similar to Carl Denham, as Max O’Hara in “Mighty Joe Young” released in 1949. This film, produced by Merian C. Cooper and directed by Ernst B. Schoedsack, became a stop-motion animation classic, winning the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in 1950.

Armstrong appeared in the 1950s as Sheriff Andy Anderson on the syndicated wester-themed television series “State Trooper”. He also made four guest appearances on the long-running television series “Perry Mason”, playing the both title character and murder victim on one show, a defendant on another, and the murderer in “The Case of the Accosted Accountant”. Robert Armstrong died of cancer in Santa Monica, California, within sixteen hours of the death of the co-producer of “King Kong”, Merian C. Cooper.

Hitchcock’s “The Lodger”

Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Lodger”, 1927

The Lodger, the silent film that Hitchcock directed in 1927, is generally acknowledged to be the one where he properly found his “voice”: that distinctive combination of death and fetishism, trick shots and music-hall humour, intense menace and elegant camerawork that assured his place among cinema’s giants.

The material, drawn from a novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes, is rather obviously inspired by the Jack the Ripper murders; they were still within living memory. Hitchcock himself claimed later that producing studio Gainsborough, including Michael Balcon, ordered him to remove any ambiguity that the central character, the mysterious room-renter of the title, might be guilty of the crimes himself, instead of simply the innocent victim of false suspicion.

Calendar

A Year: Day to Day Men: 10th of November,  Solar Year 2018

The Homestead Fire

November 10, 1889 was the birthdate of British actor Claude Rains.

William Claude Rains was a British film and stage actor known for his smooth, distinguished voice; polished, ironic style; and intelligent portrayal of a variety of roles, ranging from villains to sympathetic gentlemen. He began his acting career at the age of eleven working backstage jobs before making his adult stage debut. He enjoyed a successful stage career in London and taught at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts; two of his students were John Gielgud and Charles Laughton.

Claude Rains toured the United States in the 1926 play “The Constant Nymph” and made a name for himself on Broadway. He came relatively late in his career to film acting and, while working for the Theater Guild in New York City, was given a screen test for a role in the 1932 “A Bill of Divorcement” by RKO. Rains did not get that role but was cast in the title role, partly because of his voice, in James Whale’s 1933 “The Invisible Man”. Although Rains’s face is hidden behind bandages throughout most of the film, his ominous voice effectively reflects the heightening madness of the megalomaniacal scientist he portrays.

Claude Rains went on to play a variety of leading and supporting roles, including criminals, aristocrats, politicians, spies, learned professionals, and family men, all with equal charm and finesse. He displayed great chemistry with Bette Davis as her sympathetic psychiatrist in the 1942 “Now, Voyager” and as her patient, loving husband in the 1944 “Mr. Skeffington”, for which he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.

Rains was also nominated for Oscars as best supporting actor for his work in three much-loved American film classics: as the corrupt senator in the 1939 “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” by Frank Capra; as the charming, opportunistic police chief in the 1942 “Casablanca”, one of his most famous roles; and as the likable, sensitive Nazi agent in love with costar Ingrid Bergman in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1946 “Notorious”.

In 1951 Claude Rains won a Tony Award for his lead role in the play “Darkness at Noon”. He was nominated for four Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actor in his career: “Mr Smith Goes to Washington”, “Casablanca”, “Mr. Skeffington”, and “Notorious”. He was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960.

Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau’s “The Blood of a Poet”, 1930

“The Blood of a Poet” is an avant-garde film directed by Jean Cocteau and which starred Enrique Riveros, a Chilean actor who had a successful career in European films. It is the first part of the Orphic Trilogy, which is continued in the 1950 “Orphee”, and followed by the 1960 “Testament of Orpheus”.

The film was financed by French nobleman Charles de Noailles who gave Cocteau one million francs to make the film. Shortly after the completion of the film, rumors began circulating that it was an anti-Christian message. Combined with the riotous reaction to another film Noailles produced, “L’Age d’Or”, the furor caused the film to be delayed for more than a year. “The Blood of a Poet” was released finally on January 20, 1932.

In this scene from the second section of the film, the artist played by Riveros is transported through the mirror to a hotel, where he peers through several keyholes, witnessing such people as an opium smoker and a hermaphrodite. The artist finally cries out that he has seen enough and returns back through the mirror.

Reblogged with thanks to http://bandit1a.tumblr.com

Kaneto Shindo’s “Onibaba”

 

Kaneto Shindo, “Onibaba”, 1964

“Onibaba” is a 1964 Japanese historical drama horror film written and directed by Kaneto Shindo. The story was inspired by the Shin Buddhist parable of “yome-odoshi-no men”, in which a mother used a mask to scare her daughter from going to the temple. The mother was punished by the mask sticking to her face. After begging to remove it, she was able to take it off, but the flesh of her face came with it.

Kaneto Shindo wanted to film “Onibaba” in a field of suski grass. A location was found at inna-Numa in Chiba. Filming started on June 30, 1964 and continued for three months. Some of the sequences were shot in slow-motion. Background and title music consists of Taiko drumming combined with jazz.