While film buffs can - and do - argue endlessly about which films should or not be selected for the National Film Registry, this correspondent is always thrilled to see what the new additions each year are. Big screen favorites represented on this list include Vinnie Price, Will Rogers, Charles Laughton, Zasu Pitts, Spencer Tracy, Charlotte Greenwood, John Wayne, Dean Martin, musical icons Busby Berkeley, Carmen Miranda and Betty Grable, director Howard Hawks, groundbreaking Ziegfeld Follies star Bert Williams and the devastatingly great Nicholas Brothers.
Several titles in the 2014 group, ESPECIALLY the 1913 film starring the legendary comedian, actor, vocalist and stage sensation Bert Williams, supported adeptly by a troupe of African-American actors, are truly historic and represent celluloid finds of the most miraculous kind.
Your correspondent likes just about every film on the list, although some not nearly as much as Charley Chase in Mighty Like A Moose. The mere mention of Mr. Chase, the hilarious and unequalled king of the comedy short (with Laurel & Hardy), reminds the incurable classic comedy buffs here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog that one addition to the registry is an unbeatable classic film directed by Chase cohort, friend and collaborator Leo McCarey.
Ruggles Of Red Gap, one of the most delightful and inspired McCarey comedies, stars Charles Laughton as the very proper British butler in a rootin' tootin' western town - and gets better with each viewing.
The film is teeming with beautiful performances by charter members of the Character Actor Hall Of Fame (Charlie Ruggles, Mary Boland, Roland Young, Zasu Pitts).
Leo McCarey, of course, went on to direct a wide variety of features, from thigh-slappers to "no dry eye in the house" tear-jerkers (Make Way For Tomorrow). Leo also would reprise those "dapper but very funny leading man" concepts he developed with Charley Chase to perfection with the incredible Cary Grant.
Among the new additions of particular interest to animation fans is The Way Of Peace, a stop-motion film produced by Wah Chang and directed by Frank Tashlin, a.k.a. Tish Tash and Frank Tash.
The irony of Tashlin, who slipped the most risque humor imaginable into both his feature films and 1943-1944 Warner Bros. cartoons, writing and directing a film for the American Lutheran Church is not lost upon the writer of this blog!
You gotta love a guy who was part of the WB "dream team" (with, among others, fellow comic geniuses Tex Avery, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng), directed Bob Hope's funniest film, Son Of Paleface, the groundbreaking rock n' roll musical The Girl Can't Help It AND the satiric Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. . . and was also the only person on the earth with the cajones to throw Jerry Lewis off a set for bad behavior.
Also on the list: an epic drama, The Power & The Glory featuring a Preston Sturges script (and co-starring Colleen Moore, winsome light comedienne of The Roaring Twenties), director Lois Weber's 1916 film Socks, the 1933 Fox version of State Fair, featuring the studio's biggest pre-Shirley Temple stars, Janet Gaynor and Will Rogers (a wonderful writer, satirist and social commentator who often proved equally delightful and warmly funny onscreen), "dawn of CGI" animation by Pixar's John Lasseter and more.
Here's the complete list of new National Film Registry additions for 2014:
- Bert Williams Lime Kiln Club Field Day (1913)
- The Big Lebowski (1998)
- Down Argentine Way (1940)
- The Dragon Painter (1919)
- Felicia (1965)
- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
- The Gang’s All Here (1943)
- House Of Wax (1953)
- Into The Arms of Strangers: Stories Of The Kindertransport (2000
- Little Big Man (1970)
- Luxo Jr. (1986)
- Moon Breath Beat (1980)
- Please Don’t Bury Me Alive! (1976)
- The Power and the Glory (1933)
- Rio Bravo (1959)
- Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
- Ruggles Of Red Gap (1935)
- Saving Private Ryan (1998)
- Shoes (1916)
- State Fair (1933)
- Unmasked (1917)
- V-E + 1 (1945)
- The Way Of Peace (1947)
- Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)
And with that, like the "voice of the globe" narrator in a James A. Fitzpatrick Traveltalk, we reluctantly (well, not THAT reluctantly), say adieu to 2014 and wish all of our readers a Happy New Year.
On the heels of the successful fundraiser mentioned here in the December 20th post - which met its goal yesterday, (congrats to Tommy and Andrew) - is this announcement from Ben Model, regarding the first DVD retrospective of the films directed by and starring the pioneering comedian-director-writer Marcel Perez, a.k.a. Robinet, Twede-Dan, Tweedy and Tweedledum. Back tracking a bit, there was a successful Kickstarter fundraiser to get this project, The Marcel Perez Collection, off the starting blocks earlier this year.
Monsieur Blogmeister, an incurable classic comedy aficionado, plugged the original fundraiser for The Marcel Perez Collection in his post on June 20
This fundraiser having met its goal, Ben Model has sent the following update: "Good news, everyone: the DVD of The Marcel Perez Collection and the companion book Marcel Perez: the International Mirth-Maker are finished!"
In short, the imaginative and prolific silent film artist Marcel Perez will, at long last, be represented on DVD in the first quarter of 2015, the official release taking place in February. Stay tuned for more details.
Currently scheduled to be on the DVD: the following 10 comedy shorts made between 1908 and 1921. Perez's Italian films (1911-1914), in which he stars as Robinet, will be seen in new digital scans of archival 35mm materials from the Desmet Collection of the EYE Film Institute (Netherlands).
The American Marcel Perez comedies will be transferred from archival 35mm prints preserved by the Library Of Congress.
Italian films, produced by Ambrosio
L’abito bianco di Robinet / Robinet's White Suit (1911)
Robinet innamorato di una chanteuse / Robinet in Love with a Singer (1911)
Signora Robinet / Mademoiselle Robinet (1912)
Robinet troppo amato da sua moglie / Robinet is Loved Too Much By His Wife (1912)
Robinet è Geloso / Robinet is Jealous (1914)
American films, produced for Eagle, Jester and Reelcraft
A Bathtub Elopement (1916) - USA, Eagle
A Busy Night (1916) - USA, Eagle
Camouflage (1918) - USA, Jester
You're Next (1919) - USA, Jester
Sweet Daddy (1921) - USA, Reelcraft
In a silver screen universe that has, frankly, included, for every Chaplin or Keaton, a veritable brigade of truly terrible comics, the inventive and extremely versatile Perez (who also produced and directed serials, as well as other kinds of films outside the comedy genre) numbers among the all-time cinema greats.
Ben Model, accompanist and contributor to The Silent Clowns Film Series at the New York Public Library, has been presenting vintage comedy events at New York City MoMA and other venues with author Steve Massa, who devoted a chapter to Marcel Perez in his book, Lame Brains And Lunatics: The Good, The Bad And The Forgotten Of Silent Comedy.
Steve and Ben are also responsible for for several vintage film restorations on DVD preceding the Perez compilation, including The Mishaps Of Musty Suffer and two Accidentally Preserved collections of silent comedy rarities, unseen since their original theatrical release.
For more info, there was a detailed discussion of Perez and the difficulties finding details about his birthdate, arrival in the United States, comedienne/co-star Nilde Barrachi (a.k.a. Babette Perez and Nilde Babette), the circumstances behind his death, etc. on Nitrateville
And, for the record, your correspondent's favorite Christmas movie is the following:
This one is a real sleeper, featuring a fine script, and with the exception of some truly wretched overacting by "the kid", excellent performances all around. Robert Mitchum, like Barbara Stanwyck, digs deep for a character's essence, in a way very different from stage thespian technique, but always believable, true and focused - and just right for the big screen.
Thanks, Robert. Thanks, Babs. . . and a Merry Christmas to all from the classic film (and Christmas movie) lovers here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog!
Here's another worthy Kickstarter fundraiser, for a documentary-in-progress by filmmaker Andrew T. Smith and animation historian Tommy José Stathes. Here's Andrew, to tell more about the project.
Animation fans who read this blog know Andrew from his contributions writing the excellent documentary about Gerry & Sylvia Anderson and their career producing stop-motion television, Filmed in Supermarionation.
Here are a few words direct from Mr. Smith:
"Hi, everybody! Andrew T. Smith, here. I just wanted to write you all a quick note to say how thrilled I am to be working with Tommy on this project. I've admired his Cartoon Carnivals from afar and now, with your help, I'd really like to bring these films to an even wider audience.
Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog has been a big fan of the research Tommy, curator of the Cartoon Carnival programs at various New York venues, has been doing on early animation by pioneering producer J.R. Bray via The Bray Animation Project.
Also enjoyed his presentation on vintage silent animation, Back To The Drawing Board, that aired awhile back on Turner Classic Movies.
To quote Tommy, "it's with great pride that I wish to inform you about a project in which I'm thrilled to be taking part. It's a documentary called Cartoon Carnival, conceptualized by Andrew T. Smith, a fine young gent and filmmaker in England."
"Cartoon Carnival aims to be a fresh new primer on the early history of animation, particularly the silent era." The film will include interviews and commentary supported by complete cartoon shorts from the archive of Tommy José Stathes. More animation from the silent era is available in Tommy's just released Blu-ray/DVD combo, My Cartoon Roots.
"Cartoon Carnival aims to raise enough funding to produce a feature length documentary film which will tell the unique story of the development of early American animation chronicling the journey of the talented artists and technicians who strove to advance the art form."
East Coast readers may have attended silent era animation expert Tommy's Cartoon Carnival programs at the City Reliquary and other venues.
Tommy adds, "My colleagues and I still need your assistance with our Cartoon Carnival: The Documentary Kickstarter. The campaign ends on December 28th and we’ve still a long way to go. Thanks again for your support, Cartoon Researchers."
Check out the film's Kickstarter page, as well as Tommy's website and the Cartoon Carnival on Facebook and Twitter. Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog supports the fundraiser with flying colors. . . make that glorious Gasparcolor!
Vintage movie fun kicks Santa to the curb with The Film Noir Foundation's 5th annual holiday show. Tonight's double bill pairs the classic anthology feature O. Henry's Full House with producer Val Lewton's masterpiece, The Curse Of The Cat People, released by RKO in 1944.
While neither feature resides in the dark-darker-darkest-HOO-BOY is this freakin' dark "everybody dies" noir netherworld category, they are wonderful movies nonetheless. The Curse Of The Cat People was RKO producer Val Lewton's non-sequel to Cat People
RKO Radio Pictures wouldn't release The Curse Of The Cat People unless there was "Cat People" in the title. The two films are not related and (spoiler) there are no cat people or curses in the latter.
Robert Wise directed The Curse Of The Cat People, which delves deeply into the seldom charted territories of childhood fears, isolation, loneliness, family dysfunction, delusions and the use of imagination to survive all of the above.
Author John Steinbeck personally and very uncomfortably introduces O. Henry's Full House, a 20th Century-Fox compendium of tales by the "plot twist king", O. Henry.
Among the cast: Anne Baxter, Farley Granger, Charles Laughton, Marilyn Monroe, Jean Peters, Gregory Ratoff, Richard Widmark (very much in his KISS OF DEATH mad dog psycho-killer form here) - and Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog favorite Oscar Levant.
The studio's top directors - Henry Hathaway, Howard Hawks, Henry King, Henry Koster and Jean Negulesco - each contribute a cinematic interpretation of an O. Henry story. And again, Mr. Steinbeck may be the single most reluctant on-camera host in the history of movies.
Author, historian and "Czar Of Noir" Eddie Muller will be revealing the complete schedule for Noir City 13 (January 16-25, 2015) and premiere the trailer to a new documentary on the festival.
For more info, check out the Noir City and Castro Theatre websites.