Friday, August 17, 2018

Mae West's Birthday and 2018 West Fest



August 17th is the birthday of comedienne, playwright, you-know-what disturber and showbiz icon Mae West. The author/playwright/historian Trav S.D. is doing a tribute to Mae West in NYC for the rest of this month and it's happening now. That is fitting, since the Mae West section of his Travalanche website features 20 posts about the illustrious stage and screen career of America’s naughtiest comedienne.



We're both a tad late with this post and encouraging those readers of this blog in New York to attend the 2018 version of West Fest.



It began earlier today, includes presentations all weekend and runs through August 29.



Many insist that Mae West's entrance to the world transpired in 1893 and thus, today would be the 125th anniversary of her birth.




This writer conjectures that maybe that's true, but it is also likely Mae was born a few years earlier; while a most striking, ultra-stylish and attractive woman, Mae doesn't look under 40 even in her first silver screen appearance in Night After Night.





Moot point! Paramount's first two starring Mae West vehicles, She Done Him Wrong and I'm No Angel, may well have brought on iron-fisted enforcement of the Production Code and the emergence of uber-bluenose Joseph Breen in 1934 by making SO much money. The films were considered to have singlehandedly brought Paramount Pictures out of bankruptcy!

Here are some highlights from the 2018 West Fest schedule.

August 18 (Saturday)
At New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Let’s Talk About Mae!
2:00 pm
Mae and Race, introduced by Chicava Honeychild, scholar, actress, proprietress of Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater.

3:00 pm: Mae and Spiritualism - presentation by Kathy Biehl, scholar, actress, freelance writer, and certified, award-winning psychic and astrologer.

4:00 pm: Rebel Mae West - a panel discussion moderated by Grady Turner, curator of “Bare! True Stories of Sex Desire and Romance” and author of blog One Life, Take Two; featuring international burlesque sensation Dirty Martini; Elyse Singer, CUNY teaching fellow, artistic director of Hourglass Group, and director of two critically-acclaimed revivals of Mae West plays: Sex (1999) and Pleasure Man (2003); as well as participants Trav S.D., John Calhoun, Chicava Honeychild, and Kathy Biehl.

August 19 (Sunday):
Mae West Double Feature
Screenings: She Done Him Wrong and Belle of the Nineties. Films introduced by Michele Gouveia, West Fest chair, writer, and producer. Time: 2:00 pm

Location: Jefferson Market Library, 425 Sixth Ave
Cost: Free

August 25 (Saturday)
Screening of My Little Chickadee hosted by Dr. Harriet Fields, the granddaughter of Metrograph, 7 Ludlow St
Cost: $15
To purchase tickets in advance, go here. 

August 27 (Monday)
Staged reading of the musical Come Up ‘n’ See Me, an original musical about the life of Mae West. Book by Bianca Leigh, Bonnie Lee Sanders and Ellen Schwartz. Music and Lyrics by Bonnie Lee Sanders and Ellen Schwartz. Directed by Crystal Chapman. Musical Direction by Thomas Spahn
Time: 8:00 pm
Location: Friars Club, 55 W 57th St
Cost: $15.
Proper attire is expected Tickets must be purchased in advance. To buy tickets and read more about the show, visit the Come Up ‘n’ See Me: The Musical website.




August 29 (Wednesday) Screening: I’m No Angel (1933), introduced by Trav S.D.
Time: 7pm
Location: Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave, Huntington, Long Island
Cost: $11 members/ $16 public




Hopefully, the West Fest programs will help many of us who are feeling sad about the passing of vocalist, songwriter, pianist, recording artist (and stalwart contributor to the cause of civil rights) Aretha Franklin yesterday at 76. Both Aretha and Mae demanded R-E-S-P-E-C-T - and got it!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

New DVDs and Books on 20th Century Stuff We Like



There are many bad things about the 21st century so far, but one great thing is that all kinds of interesting stuff from the 20th century can no be seen on DVD and Blu-ray - and formerly lost films (and books about them) seem to be turning up all the time.

First, in videos, there's Sid Caesar. . .Yes, indeed, this blogger has already ordered the comprehensive collection, Sid Caesar -The Works, which represents quite the compendium of incredibly funny sketches from The Admiral Broadway Review, Your Show Of Shows and Caesar's Hour. Interviews and extras include the 2014 Paley Center For Media Tribute with Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner and Billy Crystal, the feature film Ten From Your Show Of Shows and the 1967 Reunion Special.

Much of this set's content I laughed loudly at during a wonderful Sid Caesar tribute program I saw in 1984, when the Museum Of Broadcasting, during a stay in Los Angeles, presented a Sid Caesar tribute. It will be FANTASTIC to see these classic shows again! Arguably only the cast of SCTV equals the blazing ensemble brilliance of Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Howard Morris, Carl Reiner and Nanette Fabray!



The set includes:
• Excerpts From Caesar's Writers
• The Chevy Show, Featuring Sid Caesar
• Mel Brooks: In The Beginning – The Caesar Years
• The Paley Center For Media 2014 Tribute, Featuring Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner And Billy Crystal
• The 1983 Episode Of Nightcap, With Sid Caesar, Mel Brooks And Carl Reiner

The first 1,500 who order Sid Caesar -The Works from ShoutFactory.com will receive an exclusive bonus disc, Sid Caesar: Extra Portion, which contains 13 more sketches from Your Show Of Shows and Caesar's Hour:


Shifting gears from the Golden Age of Live TV to early cinema, we ask the question, when was the first sound film? This writer is not sure of when the first was produced - pioneering filmmaker Alice Guy Blache experimented with sound technology very early - but the earliest ones to be released on DVD are the Thomas Edison films made using his invention, the Kinetophone, back in 1913. And they're on DVD, thanks to the incredible and painstaking work done by the Library of Congress, spearheaded by Geo. Willeman and working with Jerry Fabris of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park as well as technicians in the Library of Congress - Audio Visual Conservation's video and audio labs.



This includes eight complete Edison talking films from 1913, one for which the sound element does not survive, and a 25 minute documentary about their production, hosted by Geo. Willeman. Ben Model produced this with Greenbriar Picture Shows and has released it on Undercrank Productions. We hear the first run of copies sold out at this weekend's Cinefest at the Rome Theatre in NY, but The Kinetophone: A Fact! A Reality! can be ordered via the Undercrank Productions page, as well as Amazon and/or other online vendors. By all means, get a copy of The Kinetophone: A Fact! A Reality!, quite the eye-opener and of great interest to anyone fascinated by the histories of filmmaking, technology and audio recording.


There are so many books out on aspects of classic movies it's tough to know where to start. A flurry of 'em, quite a few available on TCM's web page, are out or soon to be out.

The Laurel & Hardy Movie Scripts, annotated by Hal Roach Studios and Laurel & Hardy expert Randy Skredvedt is an outstanding collection of screenplays from the great comedy team's short films. They are hilarious on film and also very funny on the printed page.



And, speaking of Laurel & Hardy, there's a new book all about the character actor who, at the age of 21, under lots of makeup, portrayed the uber-evil and dastardly Barnaby with undeniable relish in The Hal Roach Studio's 1934 feature film version of Babes In Toyland, starring Stan & Babe.



Henry Brandon, King Of The Bogeymen is penned by Bill Cassara and Richard S. Greene, two friends of the chameleonic actor, who was nothing if not prolific and frequently totally unrecognizable from one part to the next. Henry Brandon, King Of The Bogeymen is another labor of love which has paid off.

Two fun new books represent opposite poles in showbiz. . . the raucous comedy team of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis and the Philadelphia socialite turned movie star turned Princess of Monaco Grace Kelly.

Michael Hayde, co-author with Chuck Harter of a superb book on comedian Harry Langdon, has done it again with his latest, Side By Side, on the phenomenon that was Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis. As a fan of Martin & Lewis' hilarious appearances on The Colgate Comedy Hour, I am delighted that this book focuses on their television work, as well as their appearances on radio. Martin & Lewis were toned down for feature films!



The latest from Mary Mallory of LA Daily Mirror and the Hollywood Heritage Museum, Living with Grace: Life Lessons from America's Princess, gives the ever-upbeat Princess Grace Kelly her due.



Rare photos are illustrated by quotes from interviews with Princess Grace and remembrances from her friends and colleagues, in Monaco and movies.



One of our favorites on this blog, Leonard Maltin has a new book, Hooked on Hollywood: Discoveries from a Lifetime of Film Fandom. Some of the first film history books read cover-to-cover by many of us were penned by Leonard, so we, big fans of his Classic Movie Guide, are always happy to hear from him.

Wrapping up today's post, shall note the splendid book we're deeply in the midst of at this writing - not a new release but most noteworthy - Tracey Goessel's 2015 biography, The First King Of Hollywood The Life Of Douglas Fairbanks. Thus far, find this nothing short of a fantastic read about the restless, ambitious, charismatic and athletic young man who started on stage and then made his name in a series of wildly popular light comedies for Triangle before starring as the swashbuckler of swashbucklers, in such action pictures as Robin Hood, The Thief Of Bagdad and The Black Pirate. . . Highly recommended!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Tonight: Max Linder kicks off the 2018 Broncho Billy Silent Film Fest at Niles



This is a stellar weekend for movie buffs on both coasts, with Rome, New York's Capitolfest in full swing and the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum starting tonight.



The Friday night program will pay tribute to the one, the only Max Linder, the first bonafide comedy star of the silver screen.



The always dapper Max, star of 238 films, was one of the greatest movie comedians who ever lived and among the very few who preceded Chaplin as a star of his own series, beginning in 1905. Before John Bunny and Mack Sennett, there was Max Linder.




Tonight's program, with accompaniment by pianist David Drazin, shall include the following Max Linder comedies. TROUBLES OF A GRASSWIDOWER will be presented in a 35mm print.

Max Juggler Par Amour
Max Victime Du Quinquina
Le Soulier Trop Petit
Max Pintre Par Amour
Max & The Statue
Troubles Of A Grasswidower (1912, Pathe, 35mm)
Au Secours! (1924) Directed by Abel Gance



One of these days, this writer and silent comedy buff would love to see a restoration and screening of Max Linder's hilarious sendup of The 3 Musketeers, Douglas Fairbanks and swashbucklers in general, The Three Must-Get-There's.



San Francisco Silent Film Festival? Pordenone? TCM Classic Film Fest? MoMA NY? Throwing down the gauntlet!




The Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival is in the Niles Historic District (of Fremont) where the early cowboy star Broncho Billy Anderson and comic Charlie Chaplin made movies for the Essanay Studios. There will be very rare screenings of drama, comedy, action, silent serial stars and travelogues to exotic lands, as well as the recently discovered A TRIP DOWN MARKET STREET filmed shortly after the 1906 earthquake.

In addition to tonight's Max Linder program, Robert Bloomberg and Eric Kurland will be presenting early 3D films on Saturday, including Bob's 3-D doc on the 1906 and 1989 bay area earthquakes. A Sunday panel discussion, "Heroes and Villains- Film Collectors and Movie Pirates" will feature a panel of collectors/film detectives/archivists/restoration experts Jon Mirsalis, Peter Conheim and Kathy Rose O'Regan. The program concludes with screenings the spoof CAPTAIN CELLULOID VS. THE FILM PIRATES and THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY in a unique surprise presentation, both with musical accompaniment by Jon Mirsalis.

Go here to check out the Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival schedule, as well as buy advance tickets and festival passes.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

How I Spent My Summer Vacation - And Check Out These Events


Heard the outstanding news that there was not an empty seat in the house at Nelson Hughes' program of Slapstick Comedy Treasures from the Library of Congress in NYC last night!



That means this blogger feels at peace with the world, unlike Alice Howell in the following mayhem-filled frame grab.



This Blogmeister is happily Way Out West, visiting his home of six decades, Northern California and enjoying many terrific events along the way. For classic movie fans, Charlie Chaplin Days at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum is not to be missed. The 2018 Niles Charlie Chaplin Days were fantastic and featured such special guests as David Totheroh, the grandson of Chaplin's cameraman, movie locations expert John Bengston and The Chaplin Guy, Jason Allin, whose impersonations of Charlie and Martin Short are dead-on.





Also saw Budapest Noir, a rare current movie I liked a great deal, starring the charismatic and Gerard Depardieu-like Kolovratnik Krisztián.



Even given the both geriatric and surprisingly rude audience that elbowed us every step to our balcony seats at San Francisco's Castro Theatre that night, this was a great time at the movies, capped by Eddie "The Czar Of Noir" Muller's interview with the film's ace director, Éva Gárdos. Will waive the "I don't like current films" rule whenever one of Gárdos' top-notch 21st century movies gets a theatrical run or a revival, whether in San Francisco, CA or Woodstock, NY.



Much classic movie-related goodness is forthcoming on both coasts (in New York, at Film Forum) and more epic events are happening this month. It says something about the spirit of Northern California that Niles' Broncho Billy Silent Film Festival, the horror movie memorabilia-filled Creatures Con and science fiction dom's Worldcon in San Jose all transpire in the same few days. Is there a possibility that friends and colleagues will be presenting tres cool 16mm movie fun at the last two events? Maybe.

While missing our humble abode and not humble mascots (A.K.A. los tres gatos), it has been rejuvenating to see old friends, family and explore former haunts. Escaping the Northeast's sweltering temps and bizarre summer thunderstorms has been not too shabby as well. . .


Thursday, August 02, 2018

Tomorrow Night in NYC: That Slapstick Show


Classic movie buffs in NYC get a treat on Friday evening: a program of silent comedies, curated by Nelson Hughes and rescued from decades in the cinematic Twilight Zone by painstaking restoration work from The Library of Congress.



On the program: a 1916 Plump & Runt 2-reeler co-starring a youthful yet rotund Oliver Hardy with Billy Ruge, more than a decade before Hardy teamed with Stan Laurel at the Hal Roach Studio. This was just one of dozens of films Hardy appeared in during his years working in Jacksonville, FLA for the Vim Comedy Company.



There will also be films starring the amazingly unsympathetic rapscallion Billie Ritchie and the World War I era and 1920's Queen of Slapstick, the hilarious Alice Howell.





Having been lost films until recently, these have not seen by a theatrical audience in over 100 years. Special guest Steve Massa, author of Slapstick Divas and Lame Brains And Lunatics: The Good, The Bad And The Forgotten Of Silent Comedy, will tell the audience more about the films, as well as ongoing efforts by The Library of Congress to preserve them.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Way Too Under The Weather To Write A Blog



Not well.



Not enjoying it.



Hope to get well soon and return sometime - and hopefully without the following.


Monday, July 16, 2018

Who Took These Photos?




It's not just classic movies, animation and music that represents what we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog was good about the 20th century, but also history and vintage photography. We assume the incredible shot of blogmeister favorite New York City seen above was snapped in 1949, as The Barkleys Of Broadway was released in the fall of that year.



Here's another cool photo, adeptly capturing the lights fantastic at the RKO Palace! Now I want to see Sailors Beware starring Martin & Lewis AND the live comedy revue hosted by Helzapoppin' stars Ole Olsen & Chic Johnson! Standup comic Jackie Miles opens!



At the Brooklyn Fox Theatre, a rockin' Alan Freed show, headlined by master guitar slinger Bo Diddley.







We do know who took these great shots at the 52nd Street jazz club The Three Deuces: these offer just a taste of the work by the brilliant photographer William Gottlieb.






If any photography buffs have read this post, by all means contact us here with more info on those incredible shots of New York City; we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog love 'em.