The Ultimate New Years Eve Movie! Repeat Performance, 1947

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I guess it is never too early to prepare for the end of the year, yet, oddly enough, this film which finds its plot entangled with and dare I say integral with New Years Eve was released on May 22nd, 1947. Repeat Performance was directed by Alfred Werker, Cinematography by Lew William O’Connell; starring: Joan Leslie, Louis Hayward, Richard Basehart and Tom Conway.  This is Fantasy-Film-Noir and maybe the strangest of the Noir-genre, with the exception of “Christmas Eve”, 1947. Repeat Performance has solid characterizations by Conway, Leslie, Basehart and Hayward and director Werker shows a steady hand in his pacing and story development. If you like your mysteries with an abnormal bent then as you organize your December 31st evening festivities, include Repeat Performance in your inventory of must-dos; no Bucket-List would be complete without this little sparkling concoction. Enjoy, be safe and Happy New Year!

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One Froggy Evening, Happy Anniversary! Opened December 31st, 1955

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Lobby Card

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Lobby Card

A Chuck Jones masterpiece, a one of kind hilarious comment on human nature, the search for our hopes, the quest for our dreams and the pursuit of the happiness that we find in them; all told in just 7 minutes. I don’t know about you but every time I have a tech look at my PC (or for that matter a mechanic at my car, repairman at my washer or dryer, and so on, and so forth) I just can’t seem to reproduce the issue, which is now a called a “Dancing Frog”, a terminology for a computer problem that will not appear when anyone else is watching, due to our Froggy friend. By the way, lest we forget, the song “The Michigan Rag” was written (by One Froggy Evening writer Michael Maltese) solely for this short-film. And further, (I understand that cartoons take on a life of their own, but they are not real, at least that is what my mom told me) Hollywood nightclub singer Bill Roberts (popular in Hollywoodland during the 1950’s) provided the singing voice of the frog.

For  everybody  that loves the “Michigan Rag” here are the words for your perusal:

Everybody do the Michigan Rag
Everybody likes the Michigan Rag
Every Mame and Jane and Ruth
From Weehawken to Duluth
Slide, ride, glide the Michigan
Stomp, romp, pomp the Michigan
Jump, clump, pump the Michigan Rag
That lovin’ rag!

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By C. S. Williams

Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, Happy Anniversary! Premiered in New York City, December 30th, 1925

As we can see from the posters, lobby cards, programs and ads for Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, every means and all tools were used to promote this film, yet, because of its budget (most expensive of the silent era at 3.9 million) it lost money on its initial run, finally making a little profit in the re-release in 1931 when a score and sound-effects were added. (See our post about another Easter favorite, from 1935: Golgotha)

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Stills from Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ:

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Forty-eight cameras were used to film the sea battle, a record for a single scene.

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The Guinness Book of World Records (2002 edition), relates that Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ, contains the most edited scene in cinema history. Editor Lloyd Nosler compressed 200,000 feet (60,960 meters) of film into a mere 750 feet (228.6 meters) for the chariot race scene – a ratio of 267:1 (film shot to film shown).

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The religious scenes were all shot in Technicolor along with Ben Hur’s entrance into Rome and some of the interiors.

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Behind the scenes stills:

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F. W. Murnau, Happy Birthday! Born December 28th; 1888-1931

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F. W. Murnau

Storyteller supreme is an apt title for Friedrich Wilhelm Plumpe, better known as F. W. Murnau; 21 movies in 12 years, his career stopped short by an automobile accident, just prior to the premier of his last film, Tabu: A Story of the South Seas, in 1931.

What a genius for moving-pictures he had and we are all the more blessed to have what little record we do have.  The space (and time) needed to explain the gifts of Murnau, well, time and space fail me and maybe my words as well; for I seem so awed by his talent that the terminology that comes to me seems weak, feeble before his brilliance that is so clearly seen in his work.

Drama, legends, horror, romance and complicated comedies were part and parcel with Murnau. Nosferatu, still what I consider to be the creepiest of all vampire films; Sunrise a poignant gut wrenching, tear-jerker filled with lust, deception, love and as the subtitle implies full of the music of life. I will cease my chatter here and let you be reminded of his work by looking over some of the posters that I have provided from his films. I implore you to buy, rent, stream, whatever you have to do, watch and pay especially close attention to the movies, the art and the language of F. W. Murnau.

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F. W. Murnau film list:

1931 Tabu: A Story of the South Seas

1930 City Girl

1928 4 Devils

1927 Sunrise

1926 Faust

1925 Tartuffe

1924 The Last Laugh

1924 Finances of the Grand Duke

1923 Die Austreibung (Short)

1922 Phantom

1922 Der brennende Acker

1922 Nosferatu

1922 Marizza, genannt die Schmuggler-Madonna

1921 The Haunted Castle

1921 Desire

1921 The Dark Road

1920 Abend – Nacht – Morgen

1920 Der Januskopf

1920 Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin

1920 Satanas

1919 Emerald of Death

 

By C. S. Williams

The Ultimate New Years Eve Movie! Repeat Performance, 1947

rp2(2) rp rp1z

I guess it is never too early to prepare for the end of the year, yet, oddly enough, this film which finds its plot entangled with and dare I say integral with New Years Eve was released on May 22nd, 1947. Repeat Performance was directed by Alfred Werker, Cinematography by Lew William O’Connell; starring: Joan Leslie, Louis Hayward, Richard Basehart and Tom Conway.  This is Fantasy-Film-Noir and maybe the strangest of the Noir-genre, with the exception of “Christmas Eve”, 1947. Repeat Performance has solid characterizations by Conway, Leslie, Basehart and Hayward and director Werker shows a steady hand in his pacing and story development. If you like your mysteries with an abnormal bent then as you organize your December 31st evening festivities, include Repeat Performance in your inventory of must-dos; no Bucket-List would be complete without this little sparkling concoction. Enjoy, be safe and Happy New Year!

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Elisha Cook Jr., Happy Birthday! Born December 26th; 1903-1995

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Elisha Cook Jr.

 

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Leo DiCaprio from The Great Gatsby

An initial observation: it is remarkable how much DiCaprio looks like Elisha Cook Jr.! But those smooth good looks for Cook Jr. would soon fade into the wrinkled, gnarled features which we now associate with his particularly suited voice for evil and mania.

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Today, I am afforded the opportunity to write about one of the finest of the quirky supporting actors to ever grace the silver-screens of Hollywoodland, Elisha Cook Jr. In 1941 Cook gave us his portrayal of Wilmer Cook, the gunsel with the squirmy facial expressions, in the Maltese Falcon. This role by itself was enough to brand Elisha Cook Jr. forever in the memory of film, but he continued compiling to his list, unique, possessed, obsessive characters as in the following movies: Ball of Fire, 1941, The Big Sleep, 1946, The Great Gatsby, 1949 and Don’t Bother to Knock, 1952. Some have went as far as to say that Cook is the king of character actors, I will say that Cook Jr. is in the “Sweet Sixteen” of character actors.

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Humphrey Bogart, Happy Birthday! Born Christmas Day; 1899-1957

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Born Christmas Day of 1899, Humphrey DeForest Bogart made 8 appearances on Broadway before his first role in film came in 1928 in short film called “The Dancing Town”; it would be two years more before Bogart would make his first feature film.  His was a stalwart career, full of envious roles, with many Oscar worthy performances. His one Academy Award for Best Actor, of course, was in the African Queen, 1951, a brilliant interpretation as the drunkard, Charlie Allnut. But, he was just as dynamic as café owner Rick Blaine, in Casablanca, 1942 or one could choose, his turn as Lt. Cmdr. Philip Francis Queeg, in The Caine Mutiny, 1954. These few films I have mentioned but scratch the surface of his weighty, admirable resume, and what should have been an award-strewn path to film glory.

Bogart’s lack of multiple Oscars does not detract from his appearance in so many of what we the modern film-watchers consider to be true classics: The Maltese Falcon, 1941, To Have and Have Not, 1944, The Big Sleep, 1946, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Key Largo, 1948 and Sabrina, 1954. Other movies which Humphrey Bogart made might not come to mind immediately as a classic, but on further review we see that in their own way they rank at least as a minor classic as well; I am thinking of The Harder They Fall, 1956 (Bogart’s last film), The Barefoot Contessa, 1954 and High Sierra 1941. I could go on listing his plaudit laudable works but shall end by saying that since I was a boy I have been fascinated by Bogart, his tough-guy persona, he being my first anti-hero-hero and found so much more in his acting arsenal as I watched amazed at what this little guy with a slight lisp and too much saliva could do with a choice part.

Whether the lead or in support Humphrey Bogart seemed always to grab the camera’s attention, thereby our attention, and make the movie his own. What a great Christmas present we the movie-loving public received on Christmas Day, 1899. I don’t know about you but any and all of my differing Best-Film-Lists contain Bogart films galore, which if we take the second syllable of galore we find that the work of Bogart has taken on Hollywood lore status. Relax, if you can while taking in a Bogie movie of your choice.

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By C. S. Williams