The Concession Stand

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Humphrey Bogart, Hero

In the 1940's, wealthy black celebrities encountered the same discrimination as regular black citizens. Despite their wealth, they were barred from buying or renting houses in certain neighborhoods. Often, they turned to their white agents to rent or buy the property for them in name only. Sadly, the legendary Lena Horne had to resort to this scheme just so she could live in Beverly Hills in a house she could easily afford.

Soon, many of her bigoted neighbors discovered that she dared to move in next to them and they began to circulate a petition to oust her from the neighborhood. Lucky for Ms. Horne, one of her neighbors was the legendary Humphrey Bogart, who soon made it clear that anyone who signed the petition or harassed Ms. Horne would have to answer to him. He welcomed Lena with open arms and told her to notify him if anyone continued to harass her. Since nobody dared to cross the legendary Bogey, Lena was left alone. She adored her protector and made sure that the world would know about his kindness and bravery.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Best Picture #3: "All Quiet on the Western Front"

The third film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture was Universal's All Quiet on the Western Front. Based on the classic German book that sought to portray the horrors of war, the film was Universal's first "prestige" picture.

Initially released as a silent film, with a synchronized soundtrack, Universal also offered a full sound version for theaters with integrated sound systems. Strangely enough, the two versions had different run times. Unfortunately, Universal Studios did a poor job of preserving the film over the years and the only version known to exist is missing 20 minutes.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Hollywood's Test Audiences

Hollywood's dreaded test audiences have given many a director an ulcer. These randomly selected audience showings are often used by the studio as a way to guess how an audience might react to the film. These showings can result in last minute edits or a change in promotional plans. If a film tests poorly enough, the studio might just bury it. The studios continue to use test audiences, despite the fact that they aren't very accurate. Many movies that tested poorly have gone on to great success, like Goodfellas:

Or Babe:

And even Cape Fear:

Despite the poor showings at test screenings, all three films not only did well at the box office, they became modern classics.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Happy Batman Day!

"You're garbage who kills for money."

Happy Batman Day!

"Why is there always someone who brings eggs and tomatoes to a speech?"

Friday, September 25, 2015

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Fox/MGM Almost Merger

MGM Studios was the brainchild of Marcus Loew, who created the great studio by teaming up with Samuel Goldwyn and Louis B. Mayer. After he passed away, however, his family was not as enthused about remaining in showbiz, so they sold their share of the studio to William Fox, who wanted to combine MGM with his Fox Studio in a hostile takeover.

Louis B. Mayer, however, despised William Fox and his studio. He vowed that the two enterprises would never be combined and put every political contact he had to work against the merger. Mr. Fox had an unfortunate car accident that sidelined his efforts. By the time he recovered, his company was in a shambles due to the stock market crash of 1929. After William Fox was caught trying to bribe his bankruptcy judge, he was sentenced to prison and Louis B. Mayer's nightmare was over. Fox had to sell his MGM stake. In a strange twist of fate, MGM's current home entertainment distributor is Fox.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho

In 1959, Alfred Hitchcock was under contract with Paramount Pictures and owed them one more film. He wanted that film to be Psycho, but Paramount found the script to be repulsive and refused to make the film. Sir Hitchcock was adamant that the film be made and made tons of concessions- he would make the film on a shoestring budget, use Paramount's facilities to save money, etc. Paramount was against producing the film at any cost and claimed that its sound stages were all booked. (They weren't) Determined, Alfred found cheap facilities available at Universal Studios and grabbed both Janet Leigh and Anthony Perkins for a fraction of their normal fees. Paramount still balked, so Sir Hitchcock found the money himself, asking Paramount to merely distribute the film for 40% ownership, which they finally agreed to.

The film was a sensation, cementing Sir Alfred Hitchcock's place in film history and making him extremely wealthy. Fed up with Paramount, he moved over to Universal, where he made the remainder of his films. Hitchcock eventually sold his ownership in his films to Universal for millions, whereupon the studio bought out all other studios, including Paramount. Sir Alfred's films would find a permanent home at a studio that would appreciate them- Universal Pictures.

One strange fact- the first American film to depict a toilet flushing on screen was Psycho.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Clue Mansion

The beautiful interiors for the mansion featured in the movie Clue were all just elaborate sets constructed on Hollywood sound stages. They were almost too beautiful to be destroyed after filming was completed.

Luckily for those who admired the mansion's beauty, the ABC drama Dynasty was looking for a set to represent the luxury Carlton Hotel. Though it would have been too expensive for a television show to build such a nice set, it wasn't too expensive for a show to buy an existing set built for a movie. Clue's mysterious mansion became a luxury television hotel.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Movie Quote Weekends

know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!"

Friday, September 18, 2015

Patty Duke Throws Out Hollywood History

Most of the time, when a movie is completed, the props used in its production go back into the prop warehouse. When the props are too recognizable or specific to the film, they often get archived or possibly auctioned off. In the case of The Goonies, the infamous map that starts them off on their adventure was given to Sean Astin as a special remembrance of the film. He carefully put it away for safekeeping.

However, his mother, the actress Patty Duke, happened upon the map while cleaning up Sean's room. Believing it to be trash, she threw it away, literally trashing a bit of movie history. It would be easy to fault Ms. Duke, but as she probably pointed out to her son, if he'd tidied his room himself, she wouldn't have had to do it for him and the map would still be around. In any case, this wouldn't be the first or last prop that would find itself in a Southern California landfill somewhere.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Buddy Ebsen, Former Tin Man

Long before he gained fame as Jed Clampett, Buddy Ebsen was a renowned dancer who was on the verge of great success in the role of a lifetime- the Tin Man in MGM's classic The Wizard of Oz. The role required grueling costume fittings and the application of silver paint every morning, but it would certainly be worth it.

Unfortunately for Buddy, the silver paint made him deathly ill. MGM originally thought that he was just being a difficult actor, but realized the severity of his illness when Louis B. Mayer visited him in the critical care wing at the hospital. Mr. Ebsen's illness was hidden from the rest of the cast and the world by the studio, who told his replacement Jack Haley that he had been fired. Luckily, a different, less toxic paint was sourced and used on Mr. Haley. The studio wouldn't reveal the real reason behind Buddy Ebsen's departure until many years later.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

One Hot Dish...

What is one thing that can guarantee a hit? George Weiss, famed producer of B Movies thought it was a hot dame or "dish" according to the old Hollywood lingo. During the depression, exhibitors could show a movie with the hottest dishes around and still face empty seats. So what did they do? They catered to the practical side of their customers and gave away real dishes. Really.

The dish and silverware sets were practical and popular. Whole sets were given out throughout the year, generating repeat customers eager to collect an entire set. Who said going to the movies was a waste of time?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

An Odd Cake

In which movie was this cake featured?

The cake is from the movie Back to the Future. Sadly, Uncle Joey does not make parole.

Monday, September 14, 2015

One Bad Movie Changes The World

When Lucasfilm's version of Marvel's Howard the Duck failed at the box office, executives at The Walt Disney Company took notice. They had invested millions in the upcoming Who Framed Roger Rabbit and they were afraid that audiences would shun their film. When Who Framed Roger Rabbit became a phenomenon, Disney executives breathed a sigh of relief. Howard the Duck had not affected their film at all and wouldn't affect the company as well. Or would it?

The failure of Howard the Duck hit Lucasfilm hard. To make matters worse, George Lucas was going through a messy divorce and needed cash. He turned to his friend Steve Jobs, who had been forced out at Apple. Would Steve Jobs be interested in buying Lucasfilm's in house software division? At the time, the software group was producing animation software for various studios. George thought it could cheer Steve Jobs up after the messy split at Apple. Steve agreed and purchased the company. It wouldn't set the world on fire, but once they began using their own software to make films, the company's fate would skyrocket. The company's name? Pixar.

Meanwhile, Marvel was looking at the failure of Howard the Duck as a sign that it should try controlling its own destiny in the film world. Unfortunately, by the time it was ready to start making its own films, the rights to its biggest franchises had already been signed away to others. It decided to rely on its lower tier characters to see if maybe there would be some audience interest. Its first film with a "lower tier" character was Iron Man, which took the world by storm. Learning its lesson from Howard the Duck, it created its own mega-franchise from a character that the industry saw as an also-ran.

Nowadays Lucasfilm, Marvel and Pixar are all owned by The Walt Disney Company in a strange twist of fate. The film that Disney Studios had thought might affect the studio negatively would set into motion a series of events that would positively change the studio years later. It's just another strange "only in Hollywood" tale.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Movie Quote Weekends

"They have to paint me red before they chop me. It's a different religion from ours. I think."

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Friday, September 11, 2015

Freaky Fridays: Shakin' at the B-Films

Sometimes a B-Movie producer thinks he's an excellent songwriter or that his son is a great singer. Maybe he desperately needs cash and a rich guy says he'll invest in the film if his daughter is allowed to perform in the film. In any case, that usually leads to a B-Movie music performance!

In I Accuse My Parents, the "action" such as it is, stops twice for treacly ballads, including Are You Happy in Your Work. Maybe this singing actress is, but we're not.

In Eegah, Arch Hall, Junior sings a lovely ballad to "Vicki". Too bad his girlfriend in the film is actually named "Roxy".

In addition to having a ridiculous title,  The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies is also full of annoying songs and random dance sequences. The most annoying song in the film is easily Shook Out of Shape.

An even more annoying song is found in Teenage Strangler. Yipes Stripes. In the world of the film it is apparently the only song that exists.

And finally, The Girl in Gold Boots features a guy who can't sing and a girl who can't dance. Critter may not be certain whether he should Laugh or Cry, but you will definitely want to scream.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Oops! Carmen Miranda's Star

Carmen Miranda was a Brazilian singer and actress who took Hollywood by storm. Despite only being active in Hollywood for just 15 years, she made a huge impact, earning the first star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame awarded to a South American celebrity. Unfortunately, there was a tiny error on her star:

Despite being placed onto the Walk of Fame as a film actress, a television was erroneously placed on her medallion. (It should have been a film camera.) The mistake was never fixed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Best Picture #2: "The Broadway Melody"

The second film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards and the first to feature both sound and a technicolor sequence, The Broadway Melody was the first of many musicals from MGM. A dated musical that many critics believe has not held up as well as its contemporaries, it was the first "let's put on a show!" style film.

The dazzling color sequence, which was primitive compared to films released just a few years later, no longer exists. Only the black and white version of the sequence is intact. The film was a huge success, cementing the idea of MGM being the musical studio in the minds of filmgoers.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Terrified Town...

A small town bar owner brings in a legendary bouncer to help clean up his business. Did he get more than he bargained for?

Newsline presents "The Cooler" 

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Glamorous Universal Studios Tour: Rockslide!

When Carl Laemmle first opened his studio in Hollywood, it was located on a former chicken ranch. During the lean early years, he invited guests onto the lot to watch the films being made, for the cost of a dozen eggs. (He was still operating the egg farm.) The studio didn't need to worry about noise; these were silent pictures. The studio was closed to outside guests when sound arrived, since they needed absolute silence during filming.

With the arrival of DISNEYLAND in nearby Anaheim, tourism flourished and Universal Studios sought to capitalize on the hordes of tourists descending on Southern California. They still needed absolute silence during production and had to restrict access to the backlot itself, so they built a fleet of "glamour trams" to escort guests around the studio's massive lot.

Since filming wasn't always going on, the studio decided to put attractions along the tram route to entertain guests. These attractions were designed to show guests how films were made. One of the first attractions placed alongside the tram route was "Rockslide".

The trams would pull alongside a hill with precarious looking rocks stationed upon it. As the tour guide discussed the impossibility of those rocks rolling down the hill to crush the tram, the hillside began rumbling and the impossible became possible. Of course, the tram would drive off, narrowly escaping sure tragedy.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Movie Quote Weekends

"You're a very nosy fellow, kitty cat. Huh? You know what happens to nosy fellows? Huh? No? Wanna guess? Huh? No? Okay. They lose their noses."

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Best Picture #1: "Wings"

The very first film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards was 1927's Wings which starred screen legend Clara Bow and introduced future legend Gary Cooper. The movie was the first and last silent film to win Best Picture and also was one of the first mainstream films to depict nudity and a same sex kiss.

Wait, what? Yes, it was real nudity, not a bare ankle. Ms. Bow's famed bosom is bared in a fleeting moment on screen. The same sex kiss is between two young soldiers, one of whom is dying on the battlefield. It isn't meant to be a tender moment between homo-sexual lovers, but brotherly affection.

The film was long thought missing, with not even its studio Paramount Pictures owning a copy. An old, decaying print was found in France and extensively restored by Paramount for a DVD and Blu-Ray release.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Movieland Nightmare Museum

Since the early 1800's, people have been attracted to museums featuring dead-eyed wax figures of famous people. While wax figures are a bit creepy on their own, wax museums that let their collections fall into disrepair are even creepier. Though once one of the most successful wax museums in the world, the Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park, CA fell into disrepair in its final years.

The Poseidon Adventure was frightening enough but being thrust into the center of the action while dead-eyed actors stare at you was more than just a bit creepy.

And the nightmarish PT-109 setup was enough to clear any frightening memories of the Zapruder film; this was truly the most frightening thing ever tied to the Kennedy name. This "glamour" shot of the set doesn't reflect the nightmare this setup became in its later years.

And finally, the Wizard of Oz figures were apparently based on the lost scene where Dorothy goes postal and decides to start her murder spree. 

"And you, Mr. Scarecrow- I'll enjoy killing you most of all!"