Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Star Of The Show, Hard Workin', Mr. Dynamite, JAYYYYYYYMMMMMMES BROWN!



Is there anything we in this compound fractured, politically polarized, permanently, irrevocably SNAFU-ed kinda world anyone can agree on? Yes - James Brown A.K.A. "Soul Brother Number One," "The Godfather Of Soul," "The Hardest Working Man In Show Business," "Mr. Dynamite", belongs on the short list of greatest, most influential performers, recording artists and bandleaders of the 20th century.



And here are just a few slices of video from his long career to illustrate:





As Count Basie, Duke Ellington and John Coltrane did, Mr. Brown employed monster musicians - only the best and baddest jazz guys would do - to play and write charts for the JBS: trombonist/arranger Fred Wesley, saxophonists Pee Wee Ellis, Maceo Parker and St. Clair Pinckney: power-packed percussionists Jabo Starks, Clyde Stubblefield and Melvin Parker; the electric bass/electric guitar 1-2 punch of Bootsy and Catfish Collins (A.K.A. the original Funk Bros.) - to name just a few.



Invariably, friends, music fans and pop culture buffs who read this will remind me that James, as Miles Davis, Pablo Picasso and Charlie Chaplin did, had some serious personal problems over the decades, and that his leadership style was more in the Bobby Knight/Woody Hayes taskmaster model than the ultra-cool Phil Jackson approach. However, whatever we armchair quarterback-bandleaders say now, the music stands - holy shit, does it stand!





Had enough? I haven't - here's some more!







This blog extends a propulsive, polyrhythmic, cosmic and utterly funk-drenched tip of the Jimmie Hatlo top hat to Mr. Ike Dyson for posting so many amazing Godfather Of Soul performances on his James Brown/JBS/Famous Flames YouTube channel.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Psychotronic Paul's Quote Of The Day

"I found out some time back that it's idleness breeds all our virtues, our most bearable qualities--contemplation, equableness, laziness, leaving other people alone; good digestion mental and physical: the wisdom to concentrate on fleshy pleasures... but it was only recently I have clearly seen, followed out the logical conclusion, that it is one of what we call that prime virtues--thrift, industry, independence--that breeds all the vices--fanaticism, smugness, meddling, fear and worst of all, respectability." - William Faulkner, The Wild Palms

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Rare Stan & Ollie Footage!

From the archives of photographer George Mann, behind-the-scenes and location home movie footage of Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy and Edgar "Slow Burn" Kennedy.

Here they are, three great comedians, in March 1928 on the set of Should Married Men Come Home.





Now if that name sounds familiar, it's because Mr. Mann's son released the following color Atlantic City footage, featuring the Three Stooges and George's fashion model wife, Barbara Bradford, earlier this year.



SPREAD OUT!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

And This Blog Loves The San Francisco Silent Film Festival



It's back - the 17th Annual San Francisco Silent Film Festival, holding forth at the spectacular Castro Theatre yet again.



Haven't seen most of the films in this year's program, so, alas, any penetrating insights on my part will simply have to wait! Here are just a few highlights from the 2012 lineup:

THURSDAY, JULY 12

  • 7:00 PM Wings William Wellman, Jr. will introduce the WW1 flying ace action-adventure and Oscar winner, directed by Wild Bill Wellman. Accompaniment by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, with Foley sound effects by Ben Burtt.

FRIDAY, JULY 13
  • 1:00 PM The Center For Asian American Media present Sun Yu's Little Toys, starring the expressive (and self-destructive) diva of Shanghai cinema, Ruan Ling-yu.


  • 4:00 PM Emil Jannings stars with a cast of thousands in The Loves Of Pharaoh (a.k.a. DAS WEIB DES PHARAO).



    While one doesn't tend to associate the words Ernst Lubitsch with big screen "sword and sandal" epics, that's exactly the bill of fare here. Accompanied by Dennis James on the Mighty Wurlitzer.

  • 7:00 PM The "It Girl" a.k.a. the eternally sexy and ever-winsome Clara Bow stars and breaks lots of hearts in Victor Fleming's 1926 film Mantrap. Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano

  • 9:15 PM Philip Kaufman presents this year's director's pick, The Wonderful Lie Of Nina Petrovna, directed by Hanns Schwarz and starring Brigitte Helm of Metropolis fame. Accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. English translation read by Frank Buxton.


SATURDAY, JULY 14

  • 10:00AM Author and animation historian Leonard Maltin introduces a selection of imaginative and often surreal Felix The Cat cartoons by pioneering animator Otto Messmer. Accompaniment by Donald Sosin and Toychestra.

  • 12 NOON Historian Rob Byrne will introduce The Spanish Dancer, a vehicle for silent movie mega-stars Pola Negri and Antonio Moreno, directed by Herbert Brenon. Accompanied by Donald Sosin, keyboard, with Jim Washburn and Greg Smith, guitar. Score by Donald Sosin and Martin de Ruiter.

  • 7:00 PM David Ferguson, Angela Holm and Vincent Pirozzi introduce G.W. Pabst's noir-ish Pandora's Box.



    The iconic Louise Brooks stars as Lulu in the the corrosive and despairing Weimar Republic classic and does method acting 20 years before Montgomery Clift, James Dean and Marlon Brando. Accompanied by the Matti Bye Ensemble.

  • 10:00 PM The Fest goes literary with an adaptation of two Nikolai Gogol stories, Shinel (a.k.a. The Overcoat).



    Grigori Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg directed this classic Russian film. Alloy Orchestra will match the 1926 opus with 21st century sound.


SUNDAY, JULY 15

  • 10AM Jeffrey Vance introduces Doug Fairbanks' ultra-swashbuckling swordfighting actioner The Mark Of Zorro. Music historian and accompanist Dennis James lets 'er rip on the Mighty Wurlitzer.

  • 12 NOON Eddie "Noir City" Muller introduces The Docks Of New York, starring Betty Compson and George Bancroft.


    This is just one of several remarkable silent films by the innovative Josef von Sternberg. Accompanied by Donald Sosin on grand piano.

  • 7:30 PM Frank Buxton and Leonard Maltin introduce The Cameraman, arguably the last great feature film painstakingly crafted by director-star-screenwriter Buster Keaton. Accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. The feature will be preceded by Georges Méliès' A TRIP TO THE MOON - with live narration by Paul McGann.


For more info and tickets, check out the San Francisco Silent Film Festival website.

Monday, July 09, 2012

From The "Stupid In Public" File. . .

I thought of a joke about Americans, media and advertising by the great underground comic artist Gilbert Shelton today.



In the joke from The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers comics, not-too-swift Fat Freddy watches a TV commercial - "Drink Tree Frog Beer and you'll be handsome and have lots of girlfriends" - and then rushes out to buy a six-pack. Swallows it hook, line and sinker! The following photos remind me of Fat Freddy, as well as that joke.





Object lesson here: whatever one's political views, do NOT forget spell-check, EVER (and bear in mind, Fat Freddy couldn't even spell the word naked. . . it was always "NEKKID").

Although, come to think of it, there was a "Tomas Jefferson" who played timbales and rhythm logs in Tito Puente's orchestra.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

And This Blog Loves Virginia O' Brien, The Deadpan Diva

"At a 1980 USC seminar featuring Lucille Ball, an audience member asked "whatever happened to Virginia O'Brien?" and before anyone could answer, Virginia shouted from the back of the theatre, "She's back here in the cheap seats!"



Known as "The Deadpan Diva", she was the diametric opposite of the big, brassy, over-the-top comediennes and musical comedy performers popular in 1940's radio and movies (Martha Raye, Cass Daley, Betty Hutton, Judy Canova).



She was wonderfully droll and an excellent singer to boot: the great Virginia O' Brien.



Her unique style enlivened many an otherwise unmemorable MGM movie. Here she is, delivering her trademark deadpan dry wit, beauty, impeccable style and perfect pitch in DuBarry Was A Lady.



Virginia possessed a dark sense of humor more akin to Michael O'Donoghue in the 1970's than anyone in the 1940's. Here are two versions of her black comedy gem "Say We're Sweethearts Again".





And here, from Panama Hattie (following the introduction by an overbearing and unfunny Red Skelton), is "Boy, Did I Get Stinkin' At The Club Savoy", absolutely the best song ever written about what follows the enthusiastic and excessive consumption of highballs.



Don't be fooled by the opening featuring Gloria DeHaven and June Allyson here; Virginia enters this production number from Thousands Cheer at 1:12 - and how!



Arguably, her best known film is The Harvey Girls, the star-studded spectacular featuring musical comedy powerhouses Ray Bolger and Judy Garland.



The Wild Wild West is a particularly funny number that suits Virginia's talents to a T. And the jokes about blacksmiths are only equalled by the Bullwinkle's Corner Village Blacksmith episode.

 

Her witty and highly original presence graced many films throughout the 1940's.



In particular, Virginia's droll presence brightened many films among the spate of WW2 era revue features produced by MGM. For example, the following excellent production numbers from Till The Clouds Roll By and Ziegfeld Follies.





Virginia didn't make many silver screen appearances after her MGM contract expired, but did co-star in Francis In The Navy. Except for the ignominious fate of following Marilyn Monroe in this scene, she's quite good playing off of Donald O' Connor. Now just why Donald's character is so unenthusiastic about kissing Marilyn and Virginia back-to-back I'll never know; too much time spent around a damn mule, I guess!



After she married actor Kirk Allyn and semi-retired, Virginia periodically played nightclubs in the 1950's and later would appear on television on Ed Sullivan, Steve Allen and Merv Griffin's shows.



One thing I am certain of: all those who saw Virginia's nightclub act had an excellent time!