Sunday, August 23, 2015

This Saturday Night at Foothill College: The KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival



Where does one turn, at this point between ennui and activity that always marks the period between summer's end and the official beginning of fall?



Don't stress, distress or stay depressed, even if your favorite MLB team is languishing in last place.



Yes, just like a brain-eating zombie in a cheap horror movie or TV show - and on what would have been the 57th birthday of entertainer, Three Stooges fan and film collector Michael "Thriller" Jackson - the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival returns to Foothill College for that distinctive blend of all 16mm mayhem and merriment this very weekend.



Our overstocked archive is bursting at the seams with new material that demands yet another show!



This includes the "as inevitable as death and taxes" ancient TV commercials, forgotten cartoons, semi-successful educational and advertising films, trailers from bad movies, Soundies, Scopitones and Snader Telescriptions.



And, as fate and the spirits of Michael, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, Tor Johnson and Edward D. Wood Jr. would have it, the Boys Of Psychotronix will be ON THE RADIO on KFJC with Psychotronix Film Festival co-founder, movie music expert and fez-wearing host Robert Emmett from 6PM to 7PM PST tomorrow evening.



Of course, the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival is not just about films. Fabulous door prizes will be given away, like Star Trek - The Wrath Of Kahn figurines, "drinking monkey" shot glasses, a Psychoanalyst comic book and bargain-basement DVDs of bargain-basement movies that will never, EVER make the AFI "Best Of" list.



Back again and it's great to be back, back, back like Mr. Magoo on Broadway: the "fall 2015 classic" KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival



Who: Archivist-curators Sci Fi Bob Ekman, Scott Moon, (yours truly) Psychotronic Paul F. Etcheverry and host Robert Emmett of KFJC's Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show!

What: 16mm films (the vinyl of visuals), formerly unwanted and unloved, now presented for your entertainment!



When: Saturday, August 29, 2015

Where: Room 5015, Foothill College campus
12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills (El Monte exit off 280)

Showtime: 7:00pm to 11:00pm



Why: We like cheesy movies. No, we LOVE cheesy movies.
Admission? $5 Donation Benefits KFJC. Bring $3 for Parking.
Parking: Lot #5.



Public Transit: Cal Train and VTA
Info: Foothill College Transportation & Parking.



Doors open at 6:00 p.m. Arrive early, as the shows often sell out.


With a respectful tip of top hats worn by Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein to Judy Zillen and Scott Moon for these great posters and logos, we say. . . be seeing you. Be there or be oblong!

Friday, August 14, 2015

And This Blog Loves Mr. And Mrs. Sidney Drew by Paul F. Etcheverry



"Sidney Drew could open the heaven of laughter to a burdened soul." Grace Kingsley, Los Angeles Times

"Humorous action does not mean gross horseplay." Sidney Drew

"I believe she’d like to paint the furniture and make the costumes if she could.” Sidney, on his wife and collaborator, Lucille McVey Drew

"Too much credit cannot be given to [McVey], who thought out the ideas, wrote the scenarios, and did nearly all of the directing." Grace Kingsley




Our contribution to the Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon pays tribute to one of the greatest duos in comedy films - dashing, romantic, funny and also related to the Barrymores. They are among the few screen comedy teams that preceded Laurel & Hardy (no, this would not be the Mittenthal Film Company's "Heinie & Louie", Kalem's "Ham & Bud", Vim's "Pokes & Jabbs" or Universal's much more genteel team of Eddie Lyons & Lee Moran): the prolific and hilarious Mr. And Mrs. Sidney Drew, unsurpassed in the "witty and urbane" department until the teaming of William Powell and Myrna Loy two decades later.



The early days of American movies presented quite a different landscape than one might surmise: comedy wasn't dominated by knockabout - far from it. Although the perception remains that early cinema comedy is so rough-and-tumble as to make Moe, Larry & Shemp look like Noël Coward by comparison, most popular among the U.S. produced comedy series in 1910-1912 were the Vitagraph Pictures marital farces starring John Bunny and Flora Finch, known as Bunny-Finches.



The Vitagraph series, soon to be covered in detail by Tony Susnick's documentary on John Bunny, relied on situational humor and were the first popular comedy series in American movies, even preceding Essanay's Alkali Ike.



The Bunny-Finches represented an early gold standard in silver screen comedies, arguably only surpassed at the time by Parisian man-about-town Max Linder. The craggy and corpulent comedian played a cigar-smoking, card-playing Dickensian sort who was perpetually trying to put one over on his wife, for the most part unsuccessfully.



One of Drew's first appearances at Vitagraph was in a Bunny-Finch also featuring renowned Broadway star Josie Sadler (soon to be spun off into her own series) titled The Fuedists.

The death of John Bunny of Bright's Disease in 1915 corresponded with the rise of two styles of film humor: wild, anarchic slapstick (Mack Sennett at Keystone, Marshall "Mickey" Neilan at Kalem and especially Henry "Suicide" Lehrman at L-Ko) and a new breed of sophisticated domestic comedies, led by Sidney Drew.



Sidney Drew, uncle to John, Lionel and Ethel Barrymore (their mom's brother), toured the Broadway stage as a successful light comedian for 20+ years, teamed with his first wife, Gladys Rankin. The duo wrote and performed in plays together, billed as Mr and Mrs. Sidney Drew, starting in 1887.

They began their transition to movies in 1911 at Kalem. Gladys Rankin wrote scenarios for the series under the name of George Cameron, but did not appear as Mrs. Sidney Drew onscreen at Kalem and Vitagraph - Rose Tapley, Anita Stewart and briefly Clara Kimball Young did - when they began making films there in 1913. By the time the first Mrs. Sidney Drew passed away at 40 on January 9, 1914, Vitagraph had specialized in farce and domestic comedies for quite some time.

Sidney Drew began collaborating with a scriptwriter at the studio, Lucille McVey, who had been performing under the name Jane Morrow.



Lucille McVey would eventually become the second Mrs. Drew and co-star with Sidney in over 150 films: first for Vitagraph, then as an independent producer releasing their Drew Comedies through Metro Pictures in 1916 and later the V.B.K. Film Corp. with distribution through Paramount Pictures. Though she did not receive screen credit at the time, Lucille McVey is now recognized as the co-director, producer and scenarist on the series and has her own page on the Women Film Pioneers Project website.



Sidney Drew did make the transition to five-reel featurettes and actually got his first one, A Florida Enchantment, starring Edith Storey, out in movie theatres four months before the December 1914 release of Mack Sennett's Tillie's Punctured Romance. Film historians David Kalat and Bruce Calvert have reviewed A Florida Enchantment at length; this writer has, unfortunately, not seen it, but gets the general impression that film buffs who don their 1914 glasses and situate them properly will find a howlingly funny and truly gender-bending role reversal comedy. The Drews followed this in 1915 at Vitagraph with a more dramatic feature, Playing Dead, as well as the 5-reel film they wrote and produced in 1918, Pay Day, in which they play screenwriters.



The Drews' smashing successes in filmmaking and comedy notwithstanding, the ending of this story, unfortunately, would not be a happy one; as the Van Dyke Parks lyric goes, "movies is magic, real life is tragic." Sidney's son, S. Rankin Drew, an actor and director in his own right, was killed in World War I. Sidney was crushed by this emotionally and spiritually. He passed away on April 9, 1919 at 55 years of age.

After Sidney's death, Mrs. Drew finished their contract by appearing in several short subjects, with Canadian actor John Cumberland playing the Mr. Drew parts - Bunkered, The Unconventional Maida Greenwood, The Charming Mrs. Chase, The Stimulating Mrs. Barton and The Emotional Mrs. Vaughan - for release by Pathé Exchange. She continued producing, directing and writing movies, with Vitagraph's 1921 Alice Joyce vehicle Cousin Kate remaining her best known film made after Sidney Drew's death. Lucille McVey passed away at 35 on November 3, 1925.



So the second Mrs. Sidney Drew joins the list of wonderful silent film comediennes - Madcap Mabel Normand, Alice Howell, Fay Tincher and Nilde Barrachi (the frequent co-star of "international mirth maker" Marcel Perez) - who did not appear in any talkies.



While the Drews did not continue their series into the 1920's, the influence of the Mr. And Mrs. Sidney Drew comedies lasted long after the premature passings of the two stars. Carrying on in their footsteps would be former dancer (and future assistant director to Charlie Chaplin) Carter DeHaven and his wife, Flora, starring in domestic comedies and farces. One of this series' directors was Charles Parrott a.k.a. Charley Chase. Another was former Denver fireman Robert McGowan. Both would be up to their eyelids in the next wave of great comedy at the Hal Roach Studio in the 1920's and 1930's.

While Leo McCarey never mentioned the Drews or the DeHavens specifically as an influence, his key collaborator at Roach was nothing other than Mr. Chase, and their specialty a more sophisticated approach to silent "sight gag" comedy. Thus, it is possible to draw a line from the Drews to Chase's situational and often farce-based "comedy of embarrassment" and then to McCarey's later work directing such features as Ruggles Of Red Gap and The Awful Truth - and also note a very likely influence upon Leo's fellow innovator in screwball comedy, Gregory LaCava.

In closing, there will be at least an attempt to answer the question, "where can we SEE any films starring Mr. And Mrs. Sidney Drew?" Here are two of their Vitagraph comedies, still clever, creative and funny after 100 years.





The next question, of course, is "where can we see MORE witty and charming films starring The Drews?" Well, due to the "nitrate won't wait" phenomenon, the answer would be not too many. . . the Mr. and Mrs Sidney Drew series, like a substantial percentage of silent movies that Charlie Chaplin did not star in, have a rather low survival rate.



The 1915 Vitagraph short By Might Of His Right is available for viewing on the National Film Preservation Foundation website. By Might Of His Right was preserved under the direction of George Eastman House from a tinted 35mm nitrate print found in 2010 at the New Zealand Film Archive.



Fox Trot Finesse is on the 5 DVD Slapstick Encyclopedia set. While one can find used copies of this on Amazon and from other online sellers, new copies tend to be on the pricey side.

The 1915 Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew comedy Wanted: A Nurse will be on the Accidentally Preserved volume 3 DVD of silent film rarities, to be released by Undercrank Productions on September 29, 2015.



POSTSCRIPT:
After this posted on the night of August 14 (PST), I learned that A Florida Enchantment is actually up on YouTube in its entirety. Don't know who the print source was. While it's great to see it, the poster does not appear to be a film buff and the upload is accompanied by so little actual information that one wonders if the poster knew anything at all about the careers of Mr. And Mrs. Sidney Drew or silent movies in general.


Acknowledgements



Article about Mr. And Mrs. Sidney Drew and the aforementioned Vitagraph film By Might Of His Right by Dimitrious Pavlounis on the National Film Preservation Foundation website

Ben Model and Undercrank Productions

Domestic Comedy Of A Century Ago, from Greenbriar Picture Shows by John McElwee

Early Women Filmmakers by Anthony Slide

Internet Movie Database bios on Sidney Drew and Lucille McVey Drew penned by Arlene K. Witt

Library of Congress historian, silent film expert and author of Laurel Or Hardy: The Solo Films of Stan Laurel and Oliver "Babe" Hardy Rob Stone, whose Al Joy Fan Club blog is the only place among a gazillion classic movie websites featuring Mr and Mrs. Sidney Drew AND Mr. And Mrs. Carter DeHaven lobby cards.





Movie Morlocks by David Kalat

Program notes by Steve Massa on the 1917 Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew comedy, A Professional Patient, which was screened at New York City MoMA in the Unsocialized Medicine: Health Care Comedies program on October 4, 2010 - as part of the Cruel and Unusual Comedy series there.

The New York Times review by Bruce Calvert

Stars Of Slapstick: Mr. And Mrs. Sidney Drew by Trav S.D.

Wikipedia entry on Mr. And Mrs. Sidney Drew by anonymous author

Women Film Pioneers Project at Columbia University



And, last but not least, kudos, bravos and huzzahs to Crystal of In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood for hosting the blogathon. As Ronald Colman would have said to Lionel, John or Ethel in dulcet tones, "good show!"


Friday, August 07, 2015

Starting August 12: The Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon



This blogger is thrilled, delighted and tickled to be among the many contributors to the Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon. Will be writing about those fabulous purveyors of sublimely goofy marital farces, Mr. and Mrs Sidney Drew and - if it is possible to actually find a DVD of this before August 15 - the 1934 film This Side Of Heaven, directed by William K. Howard and co-starring Lionel Barrymore with a pretty darn wonderful supporting cast: Fay Bainter, Mae Clarke and Una Merkel.



Crystal Kalyana, who has penned terrific essays for her In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood blog, is hosting; her announcement of the Barrymore Trilogy Blogathon posted on June 30. She has many splendid and remarkably prolific writers who know their classic films offering their two cents about the Barrymores' showbiz legacy.



Here's the lineup of contributors thus far - and apologies in advance to anyone I have overlooked.

4 Star Films
100 Films In A Year
24 Frames
All Good Things
Another Old Movie Blog
Bare Bones E-Zine
The Blonde At The Film
BNoir Detour
Carole & Co.
Caftan Woman
Cary Grant Wont Eat You
Cinematic Catharsis
Cinematic Frontier
Cinemaven Essays From The Couch
Classic Movie Hub
Criterion Blues
Critica Retro
Cult Movie Vault
Dark Lane Creative
Everything Noir
Four Star Film Fan
Girls Do Film
Goose Pimply All Over
Grand Old Movies
The Great Katherine Hepburn
Hear Me Talk Of Sin
Hitless Wonder Movie Blog
Home2Hollywood
In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood
Le Cinema Dreams
Love Letters To Old Hollywood
Make Mine Criterion
MIB’S Instant Headache
Mike's Take On The Movies
Mildred's Fatburgers
Moon In Gemini
Movie Classics
Movie Fan Fare
Movie Movie Blog Blog
Nitrate Glow
Now Voyaging
Old Hollywood Films
Once Upon A Screen
Outspoken And Freckled
A Person In The Dark
Phyllis Loves Classic Movies
Pop Culture Reverie
Portraits By Jenni
Pre-Code.com
Pure Golden Classics
Sacred Celluloid
Scenes From The Morgue: The Lost Art Of Pulp Ads
Serendipitous Anachronisms
She Blogged By Night
A Shroud Of Thoughts
Silver Screenings
Sister Celluloid
Smitten Kitten Vintage
Speakeasy
The Stop Button
That Classic Movie Life
That Other Critic
Voyages Extraordinaires
Wide Screen World
Wolffian Classic Movies
The Wonderful World Of Cinema
Wonders In The Dark

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

This Month: Noir Thursdays At The Castro



We are darn fortunate and lucky ducks to have not one but TWO film noir fests in the San Francisco Bay Area. There's Eddie Muller's epic two week Noir City festival, running at the end of January and beginning of February, and I Wake Up Dreaming, a 12-film program curated by Elliot Lavine, which runs Thursdays from August 6 to September 3 at San Francisco's Castro Theatre.



The hard-boiled festival, which has held forth at the Roxie Theatre previously, is now at the Castro. All prints screened will be in glorious 35mm. The 2015 I Wake Up Dreaming lineup includes:



August 6: Noir Esoterica
So Dark The Night, directed by Joseph H. Lewis
Ride the Pink Horse, directed by Robert Montgomery

August 13: Columbia Noir Triple-Decker
Chinatown at Midnight, directed by Seymour Friedman
Dangerous Blondes, directed by Leigh Jason
Mysterious Intruder, directed by William Castle.

August 20: Sex And Violence
Guns, Girls & Gangsters, directed by Edward Cahn

August 27: Deep Noir Triple Threat!
Killer’s Kiss, written, directed, and photographed by Stanley Kubrick
Witness To Murder, directed by Roy Rowland
Dementia, directed by John Parker

September 3: From The Poison Pen Of David Goodis
Nightfall, directed by Jacques Tourneur
The Burglar, directed by Paul Wendkos.



For more info, check out the article by Pam Grady on the series, Noir Nightmares: ‘I Wake Up Dreaming’ comes to the Castro, in issue 67 of EatDrinkFilms, as well as the I Wake Up Dreaming blog and the Castro Theatre website.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Happy Birthday To The Urbane, Sophisticated, Ever-Suave William Powell




July 29, the birthday of "The It Girl" Clara Bow and winsome comedienne Thelma Todd is also the natal anniversary of yet another all-time movie great: William Powell (1892-1984).



The versatile actor was the embodiment of S.S. Van Dyne's Philo Vance, as well as Dashiell Hammett's sophisticate-sleuth Nick Charles.



The unsophisticated, the not-very-bright, the functionally illiterate, the reality-TV addicts and the signature 21st century "attention span of a gnat on crystal meth" crowd do not know what they are missing. . . nor will they, ever.



Remarkably, in all the years of this blog, there has not been an "And This Blog Loves William Powell & Myrna Loy" post.



Well, we do love them and that is quite an oversight!





We dig Nick & Nora Charles the most - they know how to live!



The Powell and Loy magic extends to all their non-Thin Man movies as well. Class + willingness to make oneself look ridiculous = comedy gold.



William Powell could ace drama, mysteries or comedy, no problem - all with aplomb.



Here he is, taking a pratfall worthy of Roscoe Arbuckle in Libeled Lady.



This calls for a few more trailers and clips from great movies featuring memorable William Powell performances - and, bear in mind, I did not even get to One Way Passage, My Man Godfrey, I Love You Again, Love Crazy and The Senator Was Indiscreet!









Thanks to actor and showman William "Philo" Powell for making our lives a better place, in your heydey and now. Cheers!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Wooden Acting? What Do You Mean - Wooden Acting?



Not unlike "Canadian Corner" hosers Bob & Doug McKenzie, we seem stuck for a topic today.



Since a recent post closed with a spoof of Gerry Anderson's "Supermarionation" by the stalwart comedy team of Peter Cook & Dudley Moore, let's talk marionettes, starting with gonzo glam-rockers Mott The Hoople. . . of course, performing "Marionette".



But seriously folks, today's topic de jour is the Supermarionation of Gerry & Sylvia Anderson, as well as a host of their puppetry predecessors and descendants. Andrew T. Smith's Filmed In Supermarionation documentary is a great place to start.






The studio led by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson brought puppet animation into the swingin' 60's with flair. The high flying high-tech hardware, the color (beginning with Stingray), not to mention the pacing, action hero protagonists Troy Tempest, Mike Mercury, etc. and hairdos, along with the great soundtracks by Barry Gray. This blogger finds the shows immensely entertaining and even better when seen with an enthusiastic audience.







Thunderbirds could be considered the studio's greatest hit and eventually spawned two popular feature films.









Unfortunately, it does say something about Your Correspondent that he yearned, just once, to see one of the intrepid pilots in the series drinking Thunderbird, unquestionably a First Ballot selection for the Bargain Basement Alchoholic Beverage Hall Of Shame.



One fascinating thing of many about Gerry Anderson's TV shows and movies is how the later live-action series, especially UFO, look SO MUCH like the Supermarionation shows.



Never mind that Space 1999 show - or was it the movie - in which Barbara Bain was chased around a spaceship by something resembling a giant dessert, reminiscent of the tennis-playing blancmange from Monty Python's Flying Circus.



Of course, puppet films go back to the very beginnings of cinema and such innovative artists as Emile Cohl, Ladislaw Starewicz, Willis O' Brien and (later) Charley Bowers. Some of the more amazing examples of early puppet animation are on the Stop-Motion Marvels DVD. O'Brien and Starewicz were by no means alone in the field.






Today's post begins to, thankfully, wind down by stepping ahead 7+ decades, outside this blog's stated 20th Century Pop Culture theme and into 21st century "take no prisoners" humor. This example of more recent Psychotronic Cinema comes from the guys responsible for both the Broadway show The Book Of Mormon, the long running TV series South Park and a host of lesser-known "bad taste" or "that's not funny, that's sick" projects (Cannibal The Musical) - nose-thumbing animators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.



With their film Team America: World Police, the duo paid a perverse homage to Supermarionation 35 years after the last animated Gerry Anderson show went off the air.



It's a vicious and hilarious take on many elements of 20th century pop culture (and in this writer's opinion, ESPECIALLY various movies starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone). The sendup has the Gerry Anderson shows - which I'd wager Parker and Stone are fans of - in the crosshairs but also delivers one brutal skewering of Hollywood movies: bad action flicks, any and all genre movie cliches, plus such "low hanging fruit" as movie fan dictator Kim Jung Il.



The production values allow Stone and Parker's ultra-macho actioner to be both funny and grotesque - the puppets actually have brains, blood, bones and bodily fluids. In that respect, it recalls the "Grand Guignol meets Moe, Larry, Curly AND Shemp" dynamic of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead horror flicks. That said, Team America: World Police also could be described as Thunderbirds Are Go meets Celebrity Death Match.

With that, we doff our Troy Tempest hats to Supermarionators Gerry & Sylvia Anderson, as well as Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation, and ALL those who created "Stop-Motion Marvels" - and finish this post at long last with the 1966 hit song by James and Bobby Purify. . . I'm Your Puppet.