Wednesday, August 15, 2018

New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (11)

It’s time for some more classic film books! Because you can never have enough of those. Right? I’m way over due on my latest new books round-up. For those who have been waiting, thanks for your patience.

Whether you need a last minute option for your summer reading or you’re shopping early for the holidays, I have a robust list of new books that you’ll want to snap up.

Are you new to my list? Here are the details. Links lead to Goodreads and to buy pages on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Powells. Shopping through my buy links helps support my site. Thanks!

Books include biographies, memoirs, scholary texts, coffee table books and more from a variety of publishers. Publication dates range from July to December 2018 and these are subject to change.

Happy reading!

The Girl in the Balcony
Olivia Hussey Finds Life after Romeo and Juliet
by Olivia Hussey
Foreword by Franco Zeffirelli
Kensington Publishing Corporation
320 pages –July 2018

Discoveries from a Lifetime of Film Fandom
by Leonard Maltin
Paladin Communications
400 pages – July 2018

Edmond O'Brien
Everyman of Film Noir
by Derek Sculthorpe
167 pages –  July 2018

Bare Knees Flapper
The Life and Films of Virginia Lee Corbin
by Tim Lussier
119 pages –  August 2018

The Inside Story of Hollywood’s Notorious Scandal Magazine
by Samantha Barbas
Chicago Review Press
304 pages – September 2018
AmazonBarnes and Noble Powells

The Essential Films of Ingrid Bergman
by Constantine Santas and James M. Wilson
Rowman and Littlefield
224 pages –  September 2018

From Battlefield to the Big Screen
Famous Actors in the Second World War
by Melody Foreman
Naval Institute Press
256 pages –  2018
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

The Hero and the Grave
The Theme of Death in the Films of John Ford, Akira Kurosawa and Serio Leone
by Alirez Vahdani
175 pages –  2018

The Life and Crimes of Billy Wilkerson
by W.R. Wilkerson, III
Chicago Review Press
352 pages – September 2018

My Life in Song
by Jarmila Novotna, edited by Willian V. Madison
University Press of Kentucky
290 pages – September 2018

by Sally Field
Grand Central Publishing
512 pages – September 2018

by Jean-Luc Godard
558 pages – September 2018

by Luis I. Reyes
Applause Theatre & Cinema Books
299 pages – September 2018

Me and Mr. Welles
Travelling Europe with a Hollywood Legend
by Dorian Bond
The History Press
224 pages – September 2018

The Music of Charlie Chaplin
by Jim Lochner
256  pages –  September 2018
AmazonBarnes and Noble

Olivia de Havilland and the Golden Age of Hollywood
by Ellis Amburn
Lyons Press
440 pages –  September 2018

A Star is Born
Judy Garland and the Film that Got Away
by Lorna Luft and Jeffrey Vance
Running Press/TCM
248 pages – September 2018
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

Thrills Untapped
Neglected Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy Films, 1928-1936
by Michael R. Pitts
250 pages –  September 2018

edited by Christina Gerhardt
Wayne State University Press
384 pages – October 2018

Bing Crosby
Swinging on a Star
The War Years, 1940-1946
by Gary Giddins
Little, Brown and Company
736 pages – October 2018

Blowing the Bloody Doors Off
And Other Lessons in Life
by Michael Caine
Hachette Books
368 pages – October 2018

Christmas in the Movies
30 Classics to Celebrate the Season
by Jeremy Arnold
Running Press/TCM
208 pages – October 2018

How Penniless Dropout Kirk Kerkorian Became the Greatest Deal Maker in Capiatltist History
by William C. Rempel
Dey Street Books
432 Pages – October 2018

An Illustrated History of Filmmaking
by Adam Allsuch Boardman
88 pages – October 2018

by Jonathan Rinzler
Foreword by Fraser Heston
Harper Design
304 pages – October 2018
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

Lost Images from the Hollywood Photo Archive
by Colin Slater
Lyons Press
160 pages –  October 2018

by Carol Bolt
Hachette Books
704 pages – October 2018

The Road to Oz
The Evolution, Creation, and Legacy of a Motion Picture Masterpiece
Julius Scarfone and William Stillman
Lyons Press
392 pages –  October 2018

The Extraordinary Partnerships Behind Cinema’s Greatest Scores
Elliott & Thompson
256 pages – October 2018

The Art of the Film Poster
by Ian Hayden Smith
University of Texas Press
288 pages – October 2018
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

Cinematic Encounters
Interviews and Dialogues
by Jonathan Rosenbaum
University of Illinois Press
296 pages –  November 2018

Hollywood’s Forgotten Master
by Gwenda Young
Foreword by Kevin Brownlow
University Press of Kentucky
448 pages – November 2018
Amazon Barnes and Noble

Classic Egyptian Movies
101 Must-See Films
by Sameh Fathy
The American University in Cairo Press
320 pages –  November 2018

by Robert Nott
250 pages – November 2018
AmazonBarnes and Noble Powells

Hedy Lamarr
An Incredible Life
The Most Beautiful Woman in the World
by Willian Roy and illustrated by Sylvaine Dorange
176 pages –  November 2018
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowells

Hollywood by Hollywood
The Backstudio Picture and the Mystique of Making Movies
by Steven Cohan
Oxford University Press
304 pages –  November 2018

Hollywood's Lost Backlot
40 Acres of Glamour and Mystery
by Steven Bingen
Lyons Press
288 pages –  November 2018

Le Cinema Francais
An Illustrated Guide to the Best of French Films
by Anne Keenan Higgins
Running Press
136 pages –  November 2018

Sex, Lies, and Stardom in Howard Hughes’s Hollywood
by Karina Longworth
Custom House/Harper Collins
416 pages – November 2018

Studying Horror Cinema
by Bryan Turnock
256 pages – November 2018

Alfred Hitchcock: The Complete Films
by Paul Duncan
680 pages –  December 2018

All That Heaven Allows
A Biography of Rock Hudson
by Mark Griffin
272 pages – December 2018

by James L. Neibaur
277 pages –  December 2018
AmazonBarnes and NoblePowells

Jean Gabin: The Actor Who Was France
by Joseph Harriss
277 pages –  December 2018
Amazon – Barnes and Noble

In Theaters Everywhere
A History of the Hollywood Wide Release, 1913-2017
by Brian Hannan
237 pages –  December 2018

The Seminal Horror Film, Its Predecessors and Its Enduring Legacy
by Rolf Giesen
153 pages –  December 2018
Amazon Barnes and NoblePowells

Spaghetti Westerns: A Viewer's Guide
by Aliza S. Wong
Rowman and Littlefield
304 pages –  December 2018

Previous round-ups
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (1)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (2)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (3)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (4)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (5)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (6)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (7)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (8) 
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (9)
New & Upcoming Classic Film Books (10)

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Kinetophone: A Fact! A Reality!: Talking Pictures from 1913!

Jack's Joke (1913)
Photo Credit: courtesy Undercrank Productions/Library of Congress

Before there was the Vitaphone there was Thomas Edison's Kinetophone. Over a decade before Al Jolson proclaimed "you ain't heard nothing yet" in The Jazz Singer (1927), Kinetophone brought talking pictures to audiences. The technology was a marriage between the Kinetoscope and the Phonograph. According to silent film accompanist Ben Model,

"Showing the films in theaters involved a complex system involving a hand-cranked projector connected by a system of pulleys to a modified Edison cylinder player at the front of the theatre, operated at both ends by technicians connected by head-sets. The Kinetophone films, like the early Vitaphone shorts, were of theatrical or vaudeville acts, dramatic scenes and musical performances."
Over two hundred Kinetophone shorts featuring vaudeville acts, musical numbers, short dramas and other theatrical productions were released. The first ones premiered in New York on February 17, 1913. Only 8 of these shorts survived and 105 years later those 8, plus a 3 minute Kinetophone lecture, are available to the general public for the first time.

Model's distribution company Undercrank Productions has recently released The Kinetophone: A Fact! A Reality!: Talking Pictures from 1913, on DVD. It includes:

The Edison Kinetophone
The Musical Blacksmiths
The Deaf Mute: A Military Drama
The Five Bachelors
The Politician

As a bonus the set also includes the 24 minute documentary: So Amazingly Perfect They are Really Weird: The History and Restoration of Edison Kinetophone Films. The doc is hosted by George Willeman, Nitrate Film Vault Manager for the Library of Congress. Willeman discusses at length the history behind the Kinetophone technology and provides background on the players featured in the various shorts.

Each short is roughly six minutes long and features synchronized sound. The only exception to this is The Politician which is still missing its sound cylinder. Preceding each short is a brief introduction presented in the form of title cards. These include information about the source materials, restoration and synchronization of the short film. Any syncing issues are flagged up.

I've watched a few of these Kinetophone films before at Capitolfest in 2016. It was great to see all the surviving Kinetophones in one collection. With the exception of Nursery Favorites, these have not been released to the general public since their premiere in 1913!

These Kinetophone shorts are more than just curios from the past. They're an important piece of film history. This treasure trove from a forgotten era of filmmaking is one classic film enthusiasts will want to get their hands on.

The Kinetophone: A Fact! A Reality!: Talking Pictures from 1913! DVD is available from Undercrank Productions. Many thanks to Ben for sending me a screener to review.

Check out my red carpet interview with Ben Model at the 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival. He discusses at length about some of the upcoming releases from Undercrank Productions.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tender Comrade (1943)

"Teacher, Tender Comrade, Wife. A fellow farer true through life. Heart-whole and soul-free. The August Father gave to me." – Robert Louis Stevenson

Tender Comrade (1943) is a sentimental WWII drama much in the style of Since You Went Away (1944). It follows the story of Jo Jones (Ginger Rogers) a fiesty and strong-willed woman married to mild-mannered soldier Chris (Robert Ryan). After Chris’ 24 hour leave, the two say their goodbyes at a train station as he travels overseas for battle. Doing her part for the war effort, Jo works at a local aircraft factory as a welder. She becomes friendly with a trio of women who've also been left behind. There’s Barbara (Ruth Hussey), an embittered woman who harbors bad feelings for her sailor husband. She openly dates other men and is the voice of discontent among the group. Then there is Doris (Kim Hunter), a sweet and starry-eyed newlywed. A proposal and quickie marriage left her in a suspended virginal state. Then there's Helen (Patricia Collinge), the matriarch and most level-headed of the bunch. Both her husband and son are away at war. All the women struggle to make ends meet and Jo comes up with an idea: they’ll all move in together and share the expenses equally. They add a fifth, Manya (Mady Christians), a German refugee whose husband is fighting the good fight against the Nazis. She takes on a job as a housekeeper. We follow their stories as they adjust to this new arrangement. The film is broken up with flashbacks of scenes from Jo and Chris’ courtship and marriage. It’s equal parts touching and tragic, just as you’d expect a WWII movie to be.

Written by Dalton Trumbo and directed by Edward Dmytryk, Tender Comrade was produced by RKO. Several endings were filmed in order to get just the right tone for the end product. According to Robert Ryan biographer Frank Jarlett, “the picture did well financially, earning $843,00 in profits for RKO, mainly because its tone of patriotic righteous indignation registered in the public’s mind at a peak emotional time.”

Ginger Rogers was on a high point in her career. She had won an Academy Award for her performance in Kitty Foyle (which was also written by Dalton Trumbo). That film did well for RKO and Tender Comrade was a psuedo follow-up to that success. For Tender Comrade, Rogers was billed as the “chin-up girl”, a role model for women embodying the ideal of strength and resilience during wartime. The film premiered in Los Angeles on December 29, 1943, just under the wire to have Rogers’ performance qualify for Academy Award submission. In the end, she didn’t receive a nomination and the film was released to the general public in June 1944. I’ve always been partial to Ginger Rogers and her performances but I felt her role as Jo was overbearing. Perhaps it was the long speeches and the constant bickering, but I found her character not as sympathetic as I wanted her to be.

On the other hand, Chris Jones was an exceptionally good part for Robert Ryan, who was still in the early days of his long acting career. Playing a leading romantic part with a major movie star helped put him on the map. Ryan is incredibly charming in this film. It’s a shame Hollywood relegated him to roles as heavies and villains because there was a “tender” side to him that really shone through.

A few years after its release, Tender Comrade developed a reputation for its perceived Communist agenda. During the HUAC investigations, the film singled out for subversive propaganda and for the term “Comrade” and its connection to Communist Russia. Although the phrase "tender comrade" is a reference to Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem The Wife and is quoted at the very start of the film, its reasonable to consider an intended dual meaning.

Trumbo is one of my favorite writers and a huge influence in my life. Reading his novel Johnny Got His Gun completely altered my perspective on the world and I tend to gravitate towards his works. I enjoyed the social commentary and the political subtext of the film even though I thought it to be overly sentimental.

Trumbo was singled out by Lela Rogers, Ginger Rogers mother, during a HUAC hearing. During the filming of Tender Comrade, Rogers started to take issue with some of the dialogue and this was a very dialogue-driven film. In one scene, the German housekeeper receives her husband medal of honor in the mail. Its decided that the medal belongs to all of them and not just Manya. Rogers was supposed to deliver the line “share and share alike, that’s democracy” but instead it was given to Kim Hunter. The film has a bit of a socialist agenda: the give women split their profits evenly, Manya becomes upset at perceived excess and Doris confesses hoarding lipsticks. However I felt the movie as had some strong patriotic messaging. There is Ginger Rogers’ grand speech about the sacrifice needed to live in a better world. And there are various references to being patriotic through rationing and also anti-German and Japanese sentiment. But in the end Dmytryk and Trumbo were both blacklisted by the HUAC and Hollywood. Dmytryk went into exile only to return to the US and give testimony which eventually cleared him from the blacklist. Trumbo was more defiant. After being jailed, he continued to work in Hollywood under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until both Otto Preminger (Exodus) and Kirk Douglas (Spartacus) publicly listed Trumbo as screenwriter in their respective films that the blacklist officially ended.

Tender Comrade holds an important place in the history of WWII films and the Hollywood Blacklist. This film makes its DVD debut thanks to the good folks at the Warner Archive Collection.

Tender Comrade (1943) is available on DVD-MOD from the Warner Archive Collection.When you use my buy links you help support this site. Thanks!

The Warner Archive trio George, D.W. and Matt discuss the film (about 25 minutes in) on the A Colossal Collection episode of their podcast.

 Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. Thank you to Warner Archive for sending me Tender Comrade (1943) to review!

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