Old Hollywood
Cinema
1900-1979

Nostalgia is a seductive liar - George Wildman Ball
Sergio Leone, Eli Wallach, & Clint Eastwood on the set of The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly (1966, dir. Sergio Leone) (via Once Upon a Time in Italy: The Westerns of Sergio Leone)
"I am bringing back the action Western. The cowboy picture has got  lost in psychology. There have been too many attempts to explain the  motives of both the heroes and the bad men and to make them  understandable and acceptable in modern terms. The West was made by  violent, uncomplicated men and it is this strength and simplicity that I  try to recapture in my pictures."
-Sergio Leone

Sergio Leone, Eli Wallach, & Clint Eastwood on the set of The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly (1966, dir. Sergio Leone) (via Once Upon a Time in Italy: The Westerns of Sergio Leone)

"I am bringing back the action Western. The cowboy picture has got lost in psychology. There have been too many attempts to explain the motives of both the heroes and the bad men and to make them understandable and acceptable in modern terms. The West was made by violent, uncomplicated men and it is this strength and simplicity that I try to recapture in my pictures."

-Sergio Leone

Boots Mallory during the shooting of Hello, Sister! (1933, dir. Alan Crosland & Erich von Stroheim) (via)

Boots Mallory during the shooting of Hello, Sister! (1933, dir. Alan Crosland & Erich von Stroheim) (via)

via The Battle of Algiers (1965, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo)
"Challenged by terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare in Iraq, the  Pentagon recently held a screening of The Battle of Algiers, the film  that in the late 1960’s was required viewing and something of a teaching  tool for radicalized Americans and revolutionary wannabes opposing the  Vietnam War.
Back in those days the young audiences that often sat through  several showings of Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1965 re-enactment of the urban  struggle between French troops and Algerian nationalists, shared the  director’s sympathies for the guerrillas of the F.L.N., Algeria’s  National Liberation Front.
The Pentagon’s showing drew a more professionally detached audience  of about 40 officers and civilian experts who were urged to consider  and discuss the implicit issues at the core of the film — the  problematic but alluring efficacy of brutal and repressive means in  fighting clandestine terrorists in places like Algeria and Iraq. Or more  specifically, the advantages and costs of resorting to torture and  intimidation in seeking vital human intelligence about enemy plans.
As the flier inviting guests to the Pentagon screening declared: ‘How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas.  Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in  cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound  familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails  strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.’”
-“What Does the Pentagon See in Battle of Algiers?”, The New York Times (via) (photo via)

via The Battle of Algiers (1965, dir. Gillo Pontecorvo)

"Challenged by terrorist tactics and guerrilla warfare in Iraq, the Pentagon recently held a screening of The Battle of Algiers, the film that in the late 1960’s was required viewing and something of a teaching tool for radicalized Americans and revolutionary wannabes opposing the Vietnam War.

Back in those days the young audiences that often sat through several showings of Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1965 re-enactment of the urban struggle between French troops and Algerian nationalists, shared the director’s sympathies for the guerrillas of the F.L.N., Algeria’s National Liberation Front.

The Pentagon’s showing drew a more professionally detached audience of about 40 officers and civilian experts who were urged to consider and discuss the implicit issues at the core of the film — the problematic but alluring efficacy of brutal and repressive means in fighting clandestine terrorists in places like Algeria and Iraq. Or more specifically, the advantages and costs of resorting to torture and intimidation in seeking vital human intelligence about enemy plans.

As the flier inviting guests to the Pentagon screening declared: ‘How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.’”

-“What Does the Pentagon See in Battle of Algiers?”, The New York Times (via) (photo via)

Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy in Liberty (1929, dir. Leo McCarey)
(via)

Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy in Liberty (1929, dir. Leo McCarey)

(via)

Excerpted from mid-1960’s letter from Brooks to a friend:
“The BBC interview, which ran  50 minutes, was pretty good, although the  kid who interviewed me was a  screaming pansy. Happily, we did not  discuss [Charlie] Chaplin. That such a  barren little man could have produced such a  monumental collection of  work is beyond belief.
I have been so busy defending him over the last decades that I had  forgotten, until I read his book, how very vulgar and cheap he was…His  character becomes more Dorian Gray-ish—his films becoming more wonderful  as he devolves into something frightful, vapid, and crass. Another fine  example of the missing link between genius and humanity!!”
Regards,
Louise Brooks
(Scan of full letter here/via, photo via)

Excerpted from mid-1960’s letter from Brooks to a friend:

“The BBC interview, which ran 50 minutes, was pretty good, although the kid who interviewed me was a screaming pansy. Happily, we did not discuss [Charlie] Chaplin. That such a barren little man could have produced such a monumental collection of work is beyond belief.

I have been so busy defending him over the last decades that I had forgotten, until I read his book, how very vulgar and cheap he was…His character becomes more Dorian Gray-ish—his films becoming more wonderful as he devolves into something frightful, vapid, and crass. Another fine example of the missing link between genius and humanity!!”

Regards,

Louise Brooks

(Scan of full letter here/via, photo via)

Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box (1929, G.W. Pabst)

Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box (1929, G.W. Pabst)

Shooting diagram for the Williamson photosphere, which was used to film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916, dir. Stuart Paton). The camera & cameraman were placed in the photosphere and lowered into the sea, remaining connected to the surface via a watertight tube (via)

Shooting diagram for the Williamson photosphere, which was used to film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916, dir. Stuart Paton). The camera & cameraman were placed in the photosphere and lowered into the sea, remaining connected to the surface via a watertight tube (via)

The view from inside the photosphere: Actors prepare to shoot 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’s (1916, dir. Stuart Paton) underwater funeral procession scene.
This adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel was the first undersea fiction film, & is now mainly notable for the groundbreaking special effects that made it the sci-fi/action blockbuster of its time.
(via)

The view from inside the photosphere: Actors prepare to shoot 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’s (1916, dir. Stuart Paton) underwater funeral procession scene.

This adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel was the first undersea fiction film, & is now mainly notable for the groundbreaking special effects that made it the sci-fi/action blockbuster of its time.

(via)

Peggy Lee - Big Spender

Badlands (1973, dir. Terrence Malick)
"Kit made me get my books from school, so I wouldn’t fall        behind. We’d be starting a new life, he said. And we’d have to change our        names. His would be James. Mine would be Priscilla. We’d hide out like spies,        somewhere in the North, where people didn’t ask a lot of questions. I could        of snuck out the back or hid in the boiler room, I suppose, but I sensed        that my destiny now lay with Kit, for better or for worse, and it was better        to spend a week with one who loved me for what I was than years of loneliness."

Badlands (1973, dir. Terrence Malick)

"Kit made me get my books from school, so I wouldn’t fall behind. We’d be starting a new life, he said. And we’d have to change our names. His would be James. Mine would be Priscilla. We’d hide out like spies, somewhere in the North, where people didn’t ask a lot of questions. I could of snuck out the back or hid in the boiler room, I suppose, but I sensed that my destiny now lay with Kit, for better or for worse, and it was better to spend a week with one who loved me for what I was than years of loneliness."

Carl Orff - Gassenhauer (Badlands Original Soundtrack; also on Orff-Schulwerk Volume 1: Musica Poetica)

Lillian Gish as “The Eternal Mother” & The Fates in Intolerance (1916, dir. D.W. Griffith) (via Museum of Modern Art Film & Media Collection exhibition catalog)
Her hand on the cradle of humanity—eternally rocking.
"I often heard [D.W. Griffith] say that he would rather have written one page of Leaves of Grass than to have made all the movies for which he received world acclaim.
It is said that some twelve to fifteen years before [filming Intolerance], Griffith was walking with Wilfred Lucas, when they were both working in a road show, when Lucas caught sight of a woman rocking a cradle, and reminded Griffith of Walt Whitman’s poem from Leaves of Grass: ‘Out of the cradle endlessly rocking’ & ‘Endlessly rocks the cradle/ Uniter of Here and Hereafter.’
…We went back to the studio and did some shots of Lillian Gish rocking a cradle, all to the tune of Walt Whitman’s poetry, which Griffith recited with great feeling and surprisingly good delivery, considering how outstandingly lousy he was as an actor. It must have been one of his good days.
Griffith placed the symbolic figures of the Three Fates behind Lillian Gish. Upon hearing the sound of the spinning wheel and the creak of the Fates’ shears as they cut the thread of life, Griffith exclaimed: “Gahhd! If we could only get that sound!”
-excerpted from Karl Brown’s Adventures With D. W. Griffith (1973)

Lillian Gish as “The Eternal Mother” & The Fates in Intolerance (1916, dir. D.W. Griffith) (via Museum of Modern Art Film & Media Collection exhibition catalog)

Her hand on the cradle of humanity—eternally rocking.

"I often heard [D.W. Griffith] say that he would rather have written one page of Leaves of Grass than to have made all the movies for which he received world acclaim.

It is said that some twelve to fifteen years before [filming Intolerance], Griffith was walking with Wilfred Lucas, when they were both working in a road show, when Lucas caught sight of a woman rocking a cradle, and reminded Griffith of Walt Whitman’s poem from Leaves of Grass: ‘Out of the cradle endlessly rocking’ & ‘Endlessly rocks the cradle/ Uniter of Here and Hereafter.’

We went back to the studio and did some shots of Lillian Gish rocking a cradle, all to the tune of Walt Whitman’s poetry, which Griffith recited with great feeling and surprisingly good delivery, considering how outstandingly lousy he was as an actor. It must have been one of his good days.

Griffith placed the symbolic figures of the Three Fates behind Lillian Gish. Upon hearing the sound of the spinning wheel and the creak of the Fates’ shears as they cut the thread of life, Griffith exclaimed: “Gahhd! If we could only get that sound!”

-excerpted from Karl Brown’s Adventures With D. W. Griffith (1973)

Chico & Harpo Marx in production still from Duck Soup (1933, dir. Leo McCarey)

Chico & Harpo Marx in production still from Duck Soup (1933, dir. Leo McCarey)

Harpo Marx, with his bewigged children Alec, Jimmy, & Minnie (1954)
“In the house in Beverly Hills where our  four children grew  up, living conditions were a few thousand times  improved over the old  tenement on New York’s East 93rd Street we Marx  Brothers called home.  But my mother and father would have approved of  the way my wife, Susan,  and I ran the place in California.  Like the  East Side tenement, our  house was seldom without the sound of music or  laughter or questions  being asked or stories being told. One of our  kids’ favorite stories  was about how they came to be adopted.  
They used  to sit around Susan and me on the bedroom floor in  their bunny-type  pajamas while we told ‘The Story’, as we came to call  it.  We played it  for suspense, like an old-fashioned cliff-hanger, and  how they loved it!
Susan, an only child who never  had any roots, & I, a lone wolf who  got married 20 years too late,  were adopted by the kids as much as they  were by us. We decided we  would tell them they were adopted as soon as  they could understand speech. We’d seen some pretty sad cases where  parents kept putting off  telling their adopted children the truth; &  the kids, told too late,  were full of resentment and a feeling of being  unwanted.  In our case,  since we were all an adopted family, we had  equal amounts of gratitude  and respect mixed in with our love for one  another.
 We started telling the kids where they  had come from in the  form of a true-adventure bedtime story when Alex  was two, and Jimmy and  Minnie were scarcely a year old.  By the time  they were four and three  they couldn’t go to bed without hearing ‘The  Story’.”
-excerpted from Harpo Tells a Story, Reader’s Digest, 1962    

Harpo Marx, with his bewigged children Alec, Jimmy, & Minnie (1954)

In the house in Beverly Hills where our four children grew up, living conditions were a few thousand times improved over the old tenement on New York’s East 93rd Street we Marx Brothers called home. But my mother and father would have approved of the way my wife, Susan, and I ran the place in California.  Like the East Side tenement, our house was seldom without the sound of music or laughter or questions being asked or stories being told. One of our kids’ favorite stories was about how they came to be adopted. 

They used to sit around Susan and me on the bedroom floor in their bunny-type pajamas while we told ‘The Story’, as we came to call it.  We played it for suspense, like an old-fashioned cliff-hanger, and how they loved it!

Susan, an only child who never had any roots, & I, a lone wolf who got married 20 years too late, were adopted by the kids as much as they were by us. We decided we would tell them they were adopted as soon as they could understand speech. We’d seen some pretty sad cases where parents kept putting off telling their adopted children the truth; & the kids, told too late, were full of resentment and a feeling of being unwanted.  In our case, since we were all an adopted family, we had equal amounts of gratitude and respect mixed in with our love for one another.

We started telling the kids where they had come from in the form of a true-adventure bedtime story when Alex was two, and Jimmy and Minnie were scarcely a year old.  By the time they were four and three they couldn’t go to bed without hearing ‘The Story’.”

-excerpted from Harpo Tells a Story, Reader’s Digest, 1962    

Anita O’Day - Sing Sing Sing

"Singers have an unusual relationship with the rest of the music scene. They’re often stereotyped as knowing less about music than anybody else in the band. (The old joke goes: How do you know when a singer is ringing your doorbell? When she doesn’t know when to come in.) Anita O’Day challenged this kind of thinking.

[In the early 1940s], “chirps,” as they were affectionately if condescendingly named, were essentially a kind of window dressing for a big band. O’Day was one of the first band singers to declare emphatically that she was, in fact, a genuine musician, a real soloist…In O’Day’s music the emphasis isn’t on voice or melody, it’s about taking a song and styling it: swinging it, improvising on it.”

-Will Friedwald, “A Singing Affair”, The Wall Street Journal

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