Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Book Review: "Must-See Musicals: 50 Show-Stopping Movies We Can’t Forget"

Author Richard Barrios has chronicled the movie musical from the beginning of the sound era, starting with the very first one, The Broadway Melody (1929) and ending with La La Land (2016). In between there are 48 other movie musicals profiled for readers to enjoy (and argue about).

Some of the choices are suspect to me, but the author makes a good case for each musical by giving us background information on what made them unique for the time or, in his opinion, timeless. For example, Singin’ in the Rain (1952), considered a classic now, barely made back its investment upon first release, nor was it a big critical success. Today it is considered, by many, to be the greatest movie musical of all time.

The book is lavishly illustrated with many images in full color. Even if you don’t agree with all of Barrios’s choices, you will definitely find many of your favorites between the covers; I surely did.

Like other recent movie books released by Running Press and Turner Classic Movies, the book’s design and layout is superior. Page layouts are just creative enough to be attractive, but not overly cluttered with display fonts that make it unreadable.

The book includes a foreword by Michael Feinstein, the singer, pianist, and musical archivist.

Must-See Musicals: 50 Show-Stopping Movies We Can’t Forget
Paperback: 264 pages
Publisher: Running Press (October 10, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0762463163
ISBN-13: 978-0762463169
Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 1 x 9.2 inches
Price: 23.86

Monday, September 18, 2017

Screening of “Golden Boy” with discussion afterward September 23 at Daystar Center

“Stanwyck on State Street” Series: Golden Boy (1939)
Where: Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street
When: September 23, 2017
Time: 6:45 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald


Golden Boy (1939) is the movie adaptation of the hit play by Clifford Odets, directed on film by Rouben Mamoulian. Barbara Stanwyck plays Lorna Moon, a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who tries to raise her station in life by being the mistress of Tom Moody (Adolphe Menjou), an older boxing promoter. Things get complicated when Joe Bonaparte (William Holden), a new young boxer, signs on with Moody. Joe’s first love is music—he plays the violin—but he gets caught up in the excitement and big money a prize fighter can earn. William Holden became a star, in, this, his film debut, but it almost didn’t happen. The producers didn’t think Holden was right in the role, but Barbara Stanwyck came to Holden’s defense and helped coach him to a successful performance.


William Holden, Adolph Menjou, and Barbara Stanwyck


This is part of the “Stanwyck on State Street” series.

Backstory: William Holden plays the Golden Boy, but the producers weren’t sure they made the right decision. When the rushed came in, many thought Holden’s acting was lacking and were ready to replace him. Barbara Stanwcyk came to Holden’s defense, helping the young actor with his line readings and basically boosting his confidence. Stanwyck basically saved Holden’s movie career, a fact that Holden acknowledged at the 1973 Academy Award ceremony. You can see that clip below.


Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.


Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Screening of “The Snake Pit” at Daystar Center September 12

“Classic Movie Man Favorites” Series: The Snake Pit (1948)
Where: Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street
When: September 12, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald

The Snake Pit (1948) stars two-time Best Actress winner Olivia de Havilland, who turned 101 on July 1st!

De Havilland is Virginia Cunningham, an aspiring writer and newlywed. Early in their marriage, she begins to wonder about her husband’s love for her. She becomes confused and disorientated, necessitating her commitment to a state mental institution. Her experiences in the institution are harrowing. The movie had such an impact on the public that many states reevaluated and changed their treatment of mental patients.

De Havilland heads an impressive cast that also includes Leo Genn as a sympathetic psychiatrist and Mark Stevens as her long-suffering husband. The cast is populated by some of the best-known character actresses of the era, including Beulah Bondi, Ruth Donnelly, and Natalie Schafer. The Snake Pit was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actress (de Havilland), and Best Director (Anatole Litvak).

The movie is based on the semi-autobiographical novel of the same name by Mary Jane Ward. Ward had a nervous breakdown and spent eight months at Rockland State Hospital in Orangeburg, New York. During her care, she was subjected to scalding baths and electroshock therapy, similar to what the Virginia Cunningham character experiences in the film.

Backstory
Director Litvak made sure that all the character actresses in the film were seasoned professionals. He wanted to make sure that they could stand up to a talent like de Havilland. There are dozens of recognizable faces in The Snake Pit, making it a classic movie buff’s delight.

This is part of the “Classic Movie Man Favorites” series.

Celeste Holm and Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit
Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.


Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

2018 #TCMFF dates set: April 26 – April 29

The dates for the 2018 Turner Classic Film Festival (TCMFF) have been announced: April 26 – April 29. The 2018 theme will be Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen.

TCL Chinese Theatre

According the the TCM website, “Writing focuses visions, reflects our feelings and inspires great performances on both sides of the camera. Join us for the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival, celebrating the representation of the written word on the silver screen. From original screenplays to unique adaptations to portrayals of writers real and imagined, we will celebrate the foundation of great film: the written word.”

Passes for the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival will go on sale in November 2017. Passes are limited, especially the top-level (and priced) “Spotlight” passes.

Pass information and pricing:

The “Spotlight” Festival Pass: $2,149 – Includes all privileges available to “Classic” and “Essential” passholders, priority entry to all screening events; plus entry to the Opening Night Gala party; meet-and-greet events with TCM hosts and special guests, and a limited edition TCM Classic Film Festival poster.

The “Essential” Festival Pass: $799 – Includes all privileges available to “Classic” passholders, plus entry to the Opening Night Red Carpet Gala screening at TCL Chinese Theatre and official TCM Classic Film Festival collectibles.

The “Classic” Festival Pass: $649 – Includes four-day access to film programs at all festival venues Thursday, April 26 – Sunday, April 29 (does not include admittance to the Opening Night Red Carpet Gala screening at TCL Chinese Theatre or the opening night party); access to all Club TCM events, panels and poolside screenings at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel; an opening night welcome reception at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel; and the closing night event.

The “Palace” Festival Pass: $299 – Includes three-day access to screenings at three historic venues, Friday, April 27 – Sunday, April 29 :  the TCL Chinese Theatre (excluding the Opening Night Red Carpet Gala), the Egyptian Theatre, and poolside screenings at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Note: This pass does not grant entry to the TCL Chinese 6 Theatres multiplex, Club TCM events or official parties and receptions.


Editor’s note: The “Classic” pass is the one I have gotten the past three years. It gets you into just about everything except the Thursday Opening Night Red Carpet Gala. I think it’s the best value for the money.

For helpful hints for those attending their first TCM Classic Film Festival, check out the link here.


Classic Pass from 2017 TCMFF

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Noir City Chicago Opens with screening of “L.A. Confidential” at Music Box

August 25, 2017
Noir City Chicago returned to the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., tonight with the  screening of Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential (1997). The theme at this year’s Noir City is “The Big Knockover.” Presented by the Film Noir Foundation, “The Big Knockover” features “the history of the heist film from black-and-white Hollywood classics to contemporary masterpieces.”

Music Box calendar and Batman in Noir Alley comic

Author James Ellroy was on hand, whose novel the film L.A. Confidential was based. Ellroy was introduced and interviewed by Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller. Ellroy is a strange character. His conversation was populated with crude language and gestures, which took some getting used to. Here’s his opening monologue to last night’s crowd.

Good evening peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty-sniffers, punks and pimps. I’m James Ellroy, the demon dog with the hog-log, the foul owl with the death growl, the white knight of the far right, and the slick trick with the donkey dick. I’m the author of 16 books, masterpieces all; they precede all my future masterpieces. These books will leave you reamed, steamed and drycleaned, tie-dyed, swept to the side, true-blued, tattooed and bah fongooed. These are books for the whole fuckin’ family, if the name of your family is Manson.

I felt a little sorry of Muller who handled Ellroy’s antics with his usual cool charm, but had a hard time interviewing the author. It was great seeing L.A. Confidential on the big screen; previously, I had only seen it on television. The production, acting, and look of the film was stunningly good. It holds up really well and is a great homage to films noir from the past, the kind that Muller introduces on TCM every Sunday morning (except for August’s “Summer Under the Stars”).

Inside the Music Box Theatre with live organ music before the show

Noir City Chicago continues through August 31. For a complete list of films on the schedule, click here.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Book Review: “Sophia Loren: Movie Star Italian Style”

Like Ava: A Life in Movies by Kendra Bean and Anthony Uzarowski, Sophia Loren: Movie Star Italian Style by Cindy De La Hoz is a pictorial biography. While we learn a lot about the famous international star, it’s the pictures that really take center stage; the biography is filled with gorgeous images on almost every page.

Sophia Loren was born out of wedlock to Romilda Villani, a concert pianist and Riccardo Scicolone, a man with “a distant nobel lineage.” Villani hoped Scicolone would marry her (she had another daughter by him, Maria), but that wasn’t to be. As a teenager, Villani won a Greta Garbo look-alike contest sponsored by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Unfortunately, Villani’s parents wouldn’t allow their daughter to travel to the United States. Villani’s Hollywood dreams may have been dashed, but she invested all her energy into her eldest daughter “Sofia.”

The two big advantages I had at birth were to have been born wise and to have been born in poverty. –Sophia Loren

Sophia started her career as an extra in Italian films after World War II. She and her mother were among the thousands of extras used for the 1951 epic Quo Vadis starring Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr. Before too long, she was appearing in minor roles in Italian films, slowly developing a reputation in Italy. Sophia appeared in all kinds of movies in Italy, but in 1954 she had the good fortune to work with Vittorio De Sica on the The Gold of Naples. De Sica was a respected actor and director and their collaborations on screen would further both their careers. The Gold of Naples made Sophia a star in Italy and Europe; she was the toast of the 1955 Cannes Film Festival.

Sophia and Cary Grant in
The Pride and the Passion
Sophia’s career really took off when she went to Hollywood in 1957. Americans first got to see Sophia in Boy on a Dolphin, although the first American movie she worked on was The Pride and the Passion co-starring Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra. Boy on a Dolphin, filmed on location in Greece, was released first. Sophia starred alongside Alan Ladd and Clifton Webb in the colorful adventure tale directed by Hollywood veteran Jean Negulesco. Negulesco went on say “[Sophia] has, without a doubt, the most extraordinary talent I have ever met.”

As a film fan, I really like the way the book features all of Sophia’s movies chronologically with movie stills, film posters, as well as on-the-set images. It’s a great way to revisit the film icon’s career and relive some of the great movies she was a part of. My favorite Sophia Loren movie is Houseboat (1958). It made a big impression on me as a child and it has stayed with me every since. Sophia’s charm and personality really come through. Plus it doesn’t hurt that her costar is Cary Grant. As an Italian socialite trying to escape the tight grip of her father, Sophia’s character (Cinzia) gets a job as a nanny to widower Grant’s three young children. Sophia is a natural with the kids and everyone looks like they’re having a ball. As biographer Ms. De La Hoz says, it “is a delight from start to finish.”


If you’re a movie or Sophia Loren fan, you’re sure to enjoy Sophia: Movie Star Italian Style. If you put this book on your coffee table alongside Ava: A Life in Movies, your guests will never leave!

Sophia: Movie Star Italian Style
Hardcover 264 pages
Publisher: Running Press (September 26, 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0762461314
ISBN-13: 978-0762461318
Product Dimensions: 8” x 10”
Price: $35.00

Friday, August 11, 2017

Screening of "Meet John Doe" at Daystar Center August 26

“Stanwyck on State Street” Series: Meet John Doe (1941)
Where: Daystar Center, 1550 S. State Street
When: August 26, 2017
Time: 6:45 p.m.
Hosted by Stephen Reginald

Meet John Doe (1941) is the tale of Ann Mitchell (Barbara Stanwyck) a newspaper journalist. On the eve of her firing by a new owner, she stages a risky publicity stunt in order to negotiate to get her job back. In her last column, she creates a poor, unemployed character named John Doe who plans on jumping to his death from the roof of City Hall on Christmas Eve in order to protest the ills of society. The column catches the imagination of the newspaper’s readers so there is a mad scramble by the new publisher (James Gleason) to find a “real” John Doe to keep the story—and newspaper sales—going. Ann and the newspaper go on a search for someone who can play John Doe. They find a down-on-his luck former baseball pitcher (Gary Cooper) who is all too willing to go along with the game if he will receive medical treatment for his injured pitching arm. Ann’s columns make John Doe so popular that clubs in his name form across the country. All this publicity gets the attention of the newspaper’s corrupt publisher D. B. Norton (Edward Arnold). Norton has political aspirations and tries to use the John Doe clubs to promote his own interests. Will he succeed in manipulating John Doe? Or will John Doe end the movement with a jump from City Hall? Frank Capra directed this classic whose exploration of corruption and redemption still resonate with audiences 76 years after its initial release. The great supporting class also includes Walter Brennan (Sergeant York), Spring Byington (The Devil and Miss Jones), and Gene Lockhart (Miracle on 34th Street).

This is part of the “Stanwyck on State Street” series.



Have some Joe and Enjoy the Show!
You can bring food and beverages into the auditorium; we even have small tables set up next to some of the seats. General Admission: $5 Students and Senior Citizens: $3.

Join the Chicago Film club; join the discussion
Twice a month we screen classic films and have a brief discussion afterward. For more information, including how to join (it’s free), click here. The Venue 1550 is easily accessible by the CTA. Please visit Transit Chicago for more information on transportation options.


Stephen Reginald is a freelance writer and editor. He has worked at various positions within the publishing industry for over 25 years. Most recently he was executive editor for McGraw-Hill’s The Learning Group Division. A long-time amateur student of film, Reginald hosts “Chicago Film Club,” a monthly movie event held in the South Loop, for the past two years. Reginald has also taught several adult education film classes at Facets Film School, Chicago.
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