Thursday, October 27, 2011

Does Hollywood Mirror Society?

For all intensive purposes in this blog I look at cinema and pop culture as a window into what was going on around the country in the years between WW1 and the Vietnam War.  While I understand the movies were dramatized, actors' images were completely fabricated and then protected by the studios, and that especially after censorship things were released to the public a little differently, I wonder if it's any kind of mirror at all.  I look at today's media and see it as all out of touch and virtually uninterested in anything happening around the US, or the world. But reading the history of the a-listers from that era, I really can't find a modern day version for most of them.  Who is the Charlie Chaplin of today?  The Cecil B Demille?  Not to say there aren't any creative forces, serious philanthropists, or risk takers,  but who is going to be this generation's legacy 50 or 100 years from now? What masterpieces will they be showing from my generation?

The difference that strikes me most is the way they spoke.  Scripts from then were eloquently worded, historically aware, and to me the subtlety of innuendo and low brow humor was more effective than coming right out with sex, drugs, and cheap shots like we do now.  I wonder if it's because we're too stupid to get the joke now?  Are we better off now that we can show nudity, cuss, and show couples sleeping in the same bed, or has it stifled us to the point where that's all we know how to do anymore to get an audience reaction?
Another difference is the things they pulled off with what they had. Are we also better off that the whole process in film making is so much easier on the creators?  Like special effects, they couldnt just click a button or search youtube for a sound effect in the 40's. They had to be creative.  They couldnt go in and CGI the background later if something wasnt lit properly or looked out of focus or needed an impressive background.  Are the people making movies today equal in talent and creativity?  Or have they lost a little of the wonder by having so many things done for them by computers?

While I believe the studio/mogul system was as dirty as any major corporation today, I can't decide which system was better.  We've had some independent  masterpieces that wouldn't have ever been made in the old system, but the lengths the studios went to preserve the reputations and quality of their stars seemed to make them more worthy of being role models than the stars today.  When society isn't being constantly fed filth, it seems we are less filthy..  I realize it was all built up, hey, thats Hollywood. But would any major star from today have had a snowball's chance in hell to make it big then?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

RIP Norman Corwin, Godfather of Theatrical Radio

Norman Corwin died yesterday at the age of 101.

Corwin was the godfather of radio dramas, and essentially soap operas, during radio's golden age in the 30s and 40s.  Born in 1910 in Boston, Corwin got his start as a journalist and then as a news anchor for WBZA in Boston.

Having worked with everyone in radio from Orson Welles to William Robson, and often cited as the inspiration for Rod Serling and Ray Bradbury, among others, Corwin wrote, directed, and produced numerous radio dramas for CBS and other major networks in a career that spanned over 50 years.  Even in his 90's, his plays could be heard on NPR through 2001 and in 1993 he was inducted into the radio hall of fame.

Best known for productions such as The Plot to Overthrow Christmas, On a note of Triumph, and numerous wartime dramas, Corwin was a centerpiece in millions of family rooms every week from 1938 into the early 50's.  He wrote screenplays, books, poetry, plays and was one of the last remaining legends still with us from the greatest period in history for radio.  He was one of the first to use entertainment as a window into political and social issues and was the first person to receive the One World award for his contribution in mass communication during world war 2.

Corwin died in his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday of natural causes.  

Monday, October 3, 2011

Seeing Classics on the Big Screen

Im not up on copyrights so didnt try to get a screen shot - Cast, Bringing up Baby

There's something special about seeing classics on the big screen.  I love TCM but somehow being in a room full of other fans laughing and reacting to a film just makes it so much better.  Ive only seen a few in my lifetime, but I have to say the Billy Wilder Theater is my favorite so far.

Billy Wilder Theater

As soon as you walk in you hear big band music in the background.  People of all ages from 5 years old to 80  stroll in, have a seat, and then total strangers start discussing what they've been lucky enough to have seen, their favorite classic movies, stories about the stars, everyone's happy, pleasant, it's like a parallel universe almost.  Large groups, people by themselves, all for the love of a great film.

On the wall

The UCLA Film and Telivision Archive and the Hammer Museum have paid a great tribute to one of my favorite directors.  I think Wilder would be happy with what goes on here and the joy it brings. I wish I couldve gotten a pic of the Sunset Blvd. mural but it was painted in angles so I couldnt get a shot where you could tell what it was. This opened in 2006, the year he would've been 100, and was made possible by a donation from his wife, Audry.

I think the greatest kick was watching the little kids fall in love with the movie.  "Baby" is a great introduction for young people because it has two of the biggest stars of the time and is so screwball it has everyone chuckling. I thought the kid in front of me was going to fall over laughing in the scene where they are throwing rocks trying to wake up Peabody and then Hepburn belts him in the head. :)  Ive seen this movie a hundred times but have never laughed harder as I did seeing it here.  Thanks Fox, Hammer, and UCLA for a great time.