“Forgotten Hollywood”- What a Character! Woody Strode…

December 15th, 2017

Manny P. here…

“`In my Forgotten Hollywood Book Series, I contend that Eddie Rochester Anderson was a positive Toe in the Water in his portrait of African American characters. His roles, particularly on The Jack Benny Program, showcased self-effacing humor at the expense of Jack Benny, and this made him quite endearing to radio and television audiences. Benny put forward this comedic directive to his team of writers; a decision he made after personally witnessing how Jews were treated in concentration camps during World War II.

“`Prior to this, African Americans were often used as comic relief, unfortunately in dim-witted, sketchy, or subservient situations during Hollywood’s Golden Age. Though, Rochester was still employed by Benny in his program, it was still a small step in the right direction. Jack Benny’s directive afforded a rare opportunity for Anderson to appear as a witty, confident man of color that rarely was portrayed, particularly on screen. In my previous writings, I contend there is a trajectory from Anderson to the later distinguished performances of Sidney Poitier.

“`That trajectory should also include the body of cinematic work of Woody Strode. A wonderful athlete who played college football at UCLA with Jackie Robinson and Kenny Washington,  he was two of the initial African-Americans to compete in the  National Football League (for the Los Angeles Rams).  WOODY STRODE –>

“`A valued member of John Ford’s stock company of actors, Strode was seldom offered a part for comic relief, or played dim-witted types.  Woody had an athletic dignity, beginning with an uncredited assignment in Stagecoach in 1939. Strode co-starred with Rochester just once in Star Spangled Rhythm.

“`Strode was a go-to actor when an African royal or gladiator was needed. His filmography includes top 1950s productions, including  Androcles and the Lion, Demetrius and the Gladiators, The Ten Commandments, and the modern war drama, Pork Chop Hill. He received a richly-deserved Golden Globes nomination for his noble and vigorous (if brief) performance in Spartacus.

“`With success by Poitier in  The Blackboard Jungle and The Defiant Ones, Ford showed visionary foresight, offering rare top billing to Strode.  Woody was cast as the title character in Sergeant Rutledge in 1960. His stoic stature fit the Western genre to perfection. During the 1960s, Strode was also memorable in Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Two Rode Together. Other sagebrush performances included  Once Upon a Time in the West, The Professionals,  Posse, and his final part in The Quick and the Dead. In fact, the main character, Sheriff Woody in the Toy Story animated films by Pixar, was named in honor of Strode.

               JOHN WAYNE               WOODY STRODE

“`His enduring critical legacy… Woody Strode has become widely regarded (along with Brock Peters and Sidney Poitier) as one of the important black cinematic actors of his generation. I concur. Toes in the Water that forged a positive splash in motion picture history.

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Please visit other 6th Annual What a Character! Blogathon posts that appear on many classic Hollywood sites. For more info, cut-n-paste the following links:

https://kelleepratt.com/2017/11/01/announcement-6th-annual-what-a-character-blogathon/

https://kelleepratt.com/

https://aurorasginjoint.com/

 https://paulascinemaclub.com

Until next time>                               “never forget”

“Forgotten Hollywood”- TCM Fest Opens with The Producers

December 14th, 2017

Manny P. here… 

“` Turner Classic Movies kicks off the 9th annual TCM Classic Film Festival on Thursday, April 26th, with the 50th anniversary premiere restoration screening of the Mel Brooks groundbreaking comedy The Producers. The legendary director, producer, writer and actor is scheduled to be in attendance.

“`Long recognized as one of the funniest movies ever made, The Producers won an Oscar (Best Original Screenplay) for Brooks, and a nomination (Best Supporting Actor) for Gene Wilder. Thirty years after its theatric release, Mel turned it into a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical; a silly subject of the fourth season of HBO’s hit show Curb Your Enthusiasmand another cinematic adaptation in 2005 starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick.

“`Other screenings at the upcoming TCM Classic Film Festival includes BullittHis Girl FridayKramer vs Kramer, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, To Have and Have Not,  HamletPlaces in the Heart,  Woman of the Year, The Black Stallion, and a newly restored version of The Sea Wolf with missing clips not seen since it original release in 1941.

Until next time>                               “never forget”

“Forgotten Hollywood”- LOC National Film Registry 2017…

December 13th, 2017

Manny P. here…

“`Twenty-Five additions have been made to the Library of Congress National Film Registry for 2017.  Recent selections includes La Bamba, Titanic, Die Hard, Field of Dreams, and  Superman. Noted motion pictures from Hollywood’s Golden Age are now represented. They include:

      

~ Only Angels Have Wings – One of the classic movies from the vaunted year of 1939. This boasts a cast that includes  Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Rita Hayworth, Richard Barthelmess, and Thomas Mitchell. It is generally regarded as among Howard Hawks’ finest films, particularly in its portrayal of the professionalism of pilots in the film, the atmosphere, and flying sequences. It bridges themes displayed in the director’s early movies of the 1930s to his later work in the 1940s and 1950s. This is the production that solidified Hayworth as a bankable star.

~ Dumbo – A 1941 animated classic by Walt Disney. Voice actors included Edward Brophy, Cliff Edwards, Verna Felton, and Sterling Holloway. This Oscar-winning production leaves a legacy that includes a popular attraction ride for youngsters at Disney Theme Parks. Walt recouped the loss from the release of Fantasia with this modest work.

~ Ace in the Hole – Created by Billy Wilder, this is one of two productions chosen this year that featured Kirk Douglas, who just recently turned 101.  Though a critical and commercial failure in 1951, today’s critics see the work as a companion piece to  Sunset Boulevard for its scathing rebuke of the media.  This story is a cynical examination in the manner in which news is reported. The movie also shows how gullible the public can be when manipulated by the press.

      

~ Gentleman’s Agreement – Best Picture of 1947,  it starred Gregory Peck, John Garfield, Dorothy McGuire, and Celeste Holm. One of two movies selected by this year’s National Film Registry that explores racism; in this case, antisemitism. A controversial production for their time was directed by Elia Kazan, and captured similar themes from another work released in the same year, Crossfire. Producer Darryl F Zanuck was named Man of the Year for courage in making the piece by B’nai B’rith International.

~ Spartacus – A big-scale production starring Kirk Douglas, Jean Simmons, Tony Curtis and Laurence Olivier.  It is notable for the audacity Douglas displayed in getting blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo on the screen credits for the first time in a decade. President John F. Kennedy lent his support of Trumbo when attending the premiere. It also had gay-themes, considered contentious at the time. This was the first big-screen production directed by Stanley Kubrick. Spartacus won four Oscars in 1960.

~ Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – A discussion over the nature of inter-racial unions, it marked the final performance by Spencer Tracy. He died from heart failure 17 days after the conclusion of production.  Director Stanley Kramer and Katharine Hepburn posted insurance money to complete the film since it was widely believed that Tracy was to ill to complete his assignment. The flick was the ninth Tracy-Hepburn collaboration; plus, one of three popular cinematic efforts conducted by Sidney Poitier in 1967. Hepburn won a second Oscar for her role. Anti-miscegenation laws were struck down by the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia, six months prior to its cinematic release.  This ruling was the subject of an acclaimed movie released last year.

~  ~  ~

“`Congratulations to this year’s additions to the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

Until next time>                               “never forget”

“Forgotten Hollywood”- Saving CBS Television City…

December 12th, 2017

Manny P. here…

“`Los Angeles Conservancy has submitted an application on Monday for historic-cultural monument status for CBS’s Television City, which is being shopped around the real estate market. At least several developers are reportedly interested in the property. It sits across from The Grove and original Farmers Market. Experts believe that it could fetch from $500 million to $900 million.

“`Television City played a major role in media history as the initial large-scale location in the country designed to provide mass-production of television programs.  One studio was where Elvis Presley first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show; and was prominent in the careers of comedians Jack Benny and Carol Burnett, according to the Conservancy. The studio complex remains the home to shows like The Price Is Right and The Late Late Show with James Corden.

“`Television City wouldn’t be the first former CBS facility that has been transformed for new use. CBS’s old headquarters in Hollywood were reborn last year as Kilroy Realty’s Columbia Square. If Television City were awarded landmark designation, any potential redevelopment would have to be vetted by the city’s historic resources office.

“`Bulletins as they break…

Until next time>                              “never forget”

“Forgotten Hollywood”- Remembering Santa Claus Lane…

December 11th, 2017

Manny P. here…

“`Before there were malls and Amazon, holiday shoppers flocked to downtown and suburban retail districts, where shops and department stores lined busy streets. To attract the business, retailers in these districts banded together to transform these public spaces into flashy winter wonderlands.

“`Hollywood boasted one of the most elaborate Yuletide displays. Each November, beginning in 1928, extravagant holiday decorations transformed a mile stretch of Hollywood Blvd., between Vine and La Brea, into Santa Claus Lane.

“`The brainchild of businessman Harry Blaine of the Hollywood Boulevard Association, which promoted the area as the world’s largest department store. Santa Claus Lane attracted folks, luring them from downtown’s retail district with daily processions featuring a reindeer-drawn sleigh, and brightly decorated Christmas trees.

“`The first year, a 100 living firs were dug up from the forest near Big Bear, and placed along Hollywood Blvd. in wooden planters.  The trees lit the path for a nightly parade. Joined on his sleigh by a silver screen star, Santa Claus greeted the crowds with a team of six live reindeer pulling him down the boulevard. After New Year’s Day, the trees were planted on the grounds of the Hollywood Bowl.

“`In later years, metallic decorations replaced the living trees. Drawings of film stars smiled at shoppers from the center of tin wreaths hung from lamp posts. Whimsical, shiny toy Christmas trees blinked with colorful lights. Organizers boasted  Hollywood Blvd. was the most brightly lit street in the nation.

“`To complete the wintertime transformation,  Hollywood Blvd. took on a new name. For one month, signs at intersections read Santa Claus Lane, and merchants updated their addresses to reflect the temporary name change.

“`Though the elaborate decorations are no more,  Santa Claus Lane gave birth to a Tinseltown tradition. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce turned the Santa Claus procession into an annual extravaganza; renamed the Hollywood Christmas Parade in 1931. Grand marshal Gene Autry memorably rode on horseback just paces in front of the parade’s main star, singing Here Comes Santa Claus. It became a major hit.

“`Happy Holidays!!

Until next time>                               “never forget”

“Forgotten Hollywood”- Breaking the Silence…

December 6th, 2017

Manny P. here…

“`A mega-producer engages with a beautiful blonde actress for an afternoon meeting. It turns out to be a ruse, which includes the executive to unzip his pants and force the budding star on the couch.  She will not cooperate with any of this encounter and storms out of the office. The year was 1943. The parties involved… Producer Darryl F. Zanuck and Judy Holliday (below).

“`Holliday helped pave the way to this current moment by standing up to sexist, entitled bullies. She was not the first. However, Judy’s story will be told in a new production entitled Smart Blonde; a reference to Holliday’s IQ of 172.  The project screenwriter Willy Holtzman acquired the rights to share her personal life from her son Jonathan Oppenheim. He optioned it to producer Gene Kirkwood. Holtzman is an executive producer of the film and Kirkwood will finance and shop it.

“`No director is attached. Yet, given the subject matter, it seems fitting for a woman to helm the project. It wouldn’t feel right if only men collaborated on a tale about a woman standing up for herself and fighting sexual harassment, no matter the professional cost.

“`Holliday won an Oscar in 1951 for Born Yesterday, an adaptation of the Broadway play. She also appeared in  Adam’s Rib, Bells are Ringing, and It Should Happen to You. An early champion was Katharine Hepburn. She spoke before the House Un-American Activities Committee, testifying about her communist connections in 1952. Judy died of breast cancer, two weeks before her 44th birthday in 1965.

“`I was inspired to write this blog by today’s reveal by Time Magazine that the 2017 Person of the Year are The Silence Breakers; people who have globally shared collective experiences of sexual harassment and assault. TIME got this selection right in my humble estimation.

Until next time>                               “never forget”

“Forgotten Hollywood”- Unearthing Film History…

December 3rd, 2017

Manny P. here…

“`Archaeologists working in sand dunes on the central California coast have just unearthed an intact plaster sphinx part of an Egyptian movie set built over 90 years ago for Cecil B DeMille’s epic film The Ten Commandments. The 300-pound sphinx is the second recovered from the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes.

“`Dunes Center Executive Director Doug Jenzen told a Santa Barbara television news station it’s unlike other items found in previous discoveries because most of it is preserved with the original paint intact. The set of the 1923 movie included 20-plus sphinxes. After filming, DeMille ordered everything buried in the dunes, about 175 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

“`They lay undisturbed for decades before recovery efforts began. The newly recovered sphinx is expected to go on display at the dunes-area museum next summer.

Until next time>                               “never forget”

“Forgotten Hollywood”- A Visit to Hollywood Heritage Museum

December 2nd, 2017

Manny P. here…

“`On December 2nd, I am making my annual pilgrimage to Hollywood Heritage Museum  for an Afternoon with the Authors. There will be plenty of opportunities to pick up gifts, and avoid the holiday crowds between 12p-4p. Here are the details:

“`Stop by and pick up autographed copies of my Forgotten Hollywood Book Series. The Hollywood Heritage Museum is right across the street from the Hollywood Bowl.

Until next time>                               “never forget”

“Forgotten Hollywood”- Orange County News…

December 1st, 2017

Manny P. here…

“`As an Orange County, California resident, I am always delighted to be part of the fabric of neighboring locales. Here are some recent inclusions:

   

~ My Forgotten Hollywood Book Series are available for purchase at The Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton. This is one of those wonderfully upscale locations that can be visited by any Southern California resident. On a small scale, it resembles what the Hearst Castle represents in Northern California.

“`Commissioned at an original cost of $35,000, the Muckenthaler home was built by Walter and Adella Muckenthaler in 1924 on a hill in Fullerton. The 18-room, 8.5-acre mansion was donated to the city in 1965 by Harold Muckenthaler, who wished to see his childhood home used as a cultural center for the public.

“`In 1999, the Muckenthaler was offered a designation by the National Register  of Historic Places. In its 52nd season, the Muck offers over sixty performances, gallery exhibits, fests, and additional special events; and art education classes, serving more than 41,000 people every year.

~   ~   ~ 

~ If you reside in O.C., let me invite you to the 23rd Annual Tamale Festival in Placentia on December 6th from 4p-9p.  I will be manning a booth with my Forgotten Hollywood Book Series to autograph; plus, other cinema-related goodies that would make wonderful holiday gifts for loved ones.

“`The street fest is located along the 100-200 block of Santa Fe Ave.  It’s a family-friendly event, which includes food booths, neighborhood shops, and live entertainment. Stop on by!!

Until next time>                               “never forget”