Showing posts with label Alan K. Rode. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alan K. Rode. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Blood on the Moon by Alan K. Rode

Reel West: Blood on the Moon
by Alan K. Rode
University of New Mexico Press
Paperback ISBN: 9780826364692
March 2023
136 pages

“The film transplanted the dark urban environs of the city into the West’s iconography.... Akin to Chandleresque private detective or a returning WWII veteran trudging through the brick alleys and gilded neighborhoods of the apocryphal urban noir environment, Mitchum travels through a similarly alienating domain, where loyalties shift and things are assuredly not what they initially seem.” — Alan K. Rode

Robert Wise's Blood on the Moon (1948) has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years. It's come to be appreciated as a notable film of its era—one that strikes a perfect balance between its two genres: the Western and the Film Noir. Based on the novel by Luke Short, the film stars Robert Mitchum as Jim Garry, a gunslinger who is hired by his old buddy Tate (Robert Preston) to settle a dispute between Tate and a cattle rancher. Jim falls for the rancher's headstrong daughter Amy (Barbara Bel Geddes) and comes to realize that Tate is actually scheming to steal the rancher's cattle from under him. The story unfolds like a Film Noir detective story with a notable Western backdrop, a thrilling bar brawl and a climactic shoot-out.

In 2020 the Warner Archive Collection released a Blu-Ray edition of Blood on the Moon that garnered much excitement from the classic film community. In 2023 the film was screened at the TCM Classic Film Festival to a packed theater. Blood on the Moon was introduced by film historian Alan K. Rode who recently published a book solely about the movie.

Blood on the Moon by Alan K. Rode is part of the University of New Mexico Press' Reel West series in which each book focuses on one particular film from the Western genre. This slim volume on Blood on the Moon offers readers an opportunity to learn about the background of the film, the key players involved and its place in film history.

The book manages to be comprehensive without bogging down the text with superfluous information. The introduction examines the context and importance of the film. The following chapters details the pre-production, in-production and post-production life of Blood on the Moon while giving the reader background on the notable individuals involved. We learn about the author of the original novel, Luke Short, screenwriter Lillie Hayward, home studio RKO, director Robert Wise, cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca, actors Robert Mitchum, Barbara Bel Geddes, Phyllis Thaxter, Robert Preston, Walter Brennan and more.

Some interesting facts from the book:

  • The title Blood on the Moon is a reference to a “hunter’s moon” which appears red or to a total lunar eclipse. It “has been considered a foreboding signal or a portent of doom.”
  • One of the last movies green-lighted for RKO by Dore Schary before Howard Hughes took over.
  • The movie rights to Luke Short's novel Gunman's Chance were bought by RKO. It wasn't developed until director Robert Wise and Theron Wrath came across several versions of the script in the story department and realized that it " a viable film property that had been mishandled by RKO.”
  • "Preston and Mitchum were a simpatico team who worked well together and enjoyed playing practical jokes on Barbara Bel Geddes and Phyllis Thaxter.”
  • “The leading actors were selected by Dore Schary, but Wise cast all the supporting players…”
  • The film had a bigger budget than other Westerns produced by RKO. It still went over budget due to inhospitable weather.

Author Alan K. Rode's Reel West: Blood on the Moon is an informative and engaging read. This concise book gives the reader plenty to chew on without overloading them with too much research. I recommend this book only to readers who are familiar with the movie as you'll need knowledge of the plot and the key players in order to appreciate the information presented to you.

This is my second book review for this year's Classic Film Reading Challenge.

I purchased Blood on the Moon from Larry Edmund's Bookshop this past April. My copy is autographed by the author.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

TCM Classic Film Festival: Doctor X (1932)


This year's virtual TCM Classic Film Festival kicks off with some special presentations including the late night premiere of Doctor X (1932), recently restored by UCLA Film and Television Archive and The Film Foundation in association with Warner Bros. Entertainment. Doctor X was the first of three horror films, including Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) and The Walking Dead (1936), that director Michael Curtiz made for Warner Bros.

The film stars Lionel Atwill as Doctor Xavier, one of several scientists who are being probed for their possible involvement in a string of murders. A killer is on the loose, searching for his victims during the full moon, brutally murdering them and mutilating their bodies afterwards. Doctor X theorizes that the murderer is triggered by a past trauma and that this will help them solve the mystery. Newspaper reporter Lee Taylor (Lee Tracy) is desperate to get the scoop and infiltrates the home of Doctor X to get insider information. There he meets the doctor's daughter Joanne (Fay Wray) who is protective of her father yet concerned about his involvement in the matter. Doctor X rounds up all the scientists including Wells (Preston Foster) Haines (John Wray), Duke, (Harry Beresford) and Rowitz (Arthur Edmund Carewe) for an unusual experiment to uncover the identity of the Moon Killer.

Doctor X is a wonderful mad scientist mystery with plenty spooks, a few laughs and some sex thrown in for good measure (it is a pre-code film after all). The film was shot in black-and-white by Richard Tower and in two-strip Technicolor by Ray Rennahan. The color version was considered lost for years until a print was recovered in Warner Bros.' executive Jack L. Warner's belongings after he died in 1978.

The restoration of Doctor X (1932) in its original two-strip Technicolor premieres tonight on TCM as part of their late-night line-up for the TCM Classic Film Festival. Film historian and Michael Curtiz biographer Alan K. Rode will be presenting the film. Rode will explain how Doctor X fits into Curtiz' filmography, the history of Warner Bros., its importance as an early horror film and a side-by-side comparison of the old and new print. The restored Technicolor version of the film looks incredible. This is a real treat and one you won't want to miss.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

A Morning with Marsha Hunt

Larry Edmund's Bookshop Display

Every year Jeff and his team at Larry Edmund's Bookshop host a special Sunday morning book event during the TCM Classic Film Festival. Previous special guests included Carl Reiner, Tippi Hedren, Illeana Douglas and more. I've always wanted to go to these but had never been able to work them into my schedule. This year on their Instagram (it's private so you'll have to follow to see) Jeff from Larry Edmund's did a retrospective leading up to the announcement of this year's mystery guest. I waited with bated breath to find out who it would be. When it was announced I cried for a good twenty minutes. It was Marsha Hunt, THE Marsha Hunt. I had already made plans to see her at the TCMFF None Shall Escape (1944) screening but I opted to skip that so I can see The Set-Up (1949) on the big screen and attend this Sunday morning event instead. I called ahead to the bookshop, put my name down for a coveted spot and counted down the days, hours and minutes until the event. My dream of seeing Marsha Hunt in person was about to come true.

As I was walking down Hollywood Boulevard towards the bookstore I stopped by Marsha Hunt's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her television work. It seemed very apropos.

When I arrived at the bookstore I purchased my copy of The Way We Wore: Styles of the 1930s and '40s and Our World Since Then by Marsha Hunt. Copies were autographed in advance and the event was not a book signing but more of a tribute to Marsha Hunt. I've had my eye on this book for a while and considered purchasing a used copy a few months before learning about this event. I'm glad I held out because I got my hands on a brand new signed copy instead.

Left to right: Me, Kim, Angela, Nora and "Fussy"

Czar of Noir Eddie Muller with Noir Girl Casey

Once I got in line for the event I saw lots of friendly faces. Angela from The Hollywood Revue, Kim from I See a Dark Theater, Casey from Noir Girl, Nora from Nitrate Diva and her mom "Fussy" plus more friends from Twitter. I even spotted Monika Henreid, daughter of actor Paul Henreid, in attendance.

The guest of honor: Marsha Hunt

Marsha Hunt with Eddie Muller

Marsha Hunt, Alan K. Rode and Eddie Muller

The presentation was co-hosted by film historian Alan K. Rode and Eddie Muller. I briefly chatted with Alan on the TCMFF red carpet about his long-time friendship with Marsha Hunt and the importance of her work and activism. You can watch my interview with him here. Both Alan and Eddie spoke at length about Marsha Hunt and took turns interviewing her. Even at 100 years of age, Marsha was eloquent, thoughtful and as smart as a whip. That spark has never diminished. She's still the actress, activist and glamour queen she's always been.

Here are some excerpts of what she had to say.

On fashion and her start in Hollywood:

[Muller described a moment from TCMFF when Marsha Hunt wouldn't let the make-up artist put lipstick on her because she wanted to do it herself] "I haven't been made up within memory. I've always done my own make-up. I was a Powers model in New York when I was 16.... If Powers doesn't mean anything, John Robert Powers was a former model who started his own model agency. The best New York models were Powers clients. He managed a great wonderful salon of models."

"I'm long-waisted. It's a small waist. I guess that qualifies me as a fashion model. I did some fashion work in New York. I graduated high school at 16. Meant to be actress my whole life and oddly enough I was never stage struck. It had to be movies. I knew that was going to take some managing but in the meantime what can I do to help prepare for that. Well let's see, I ought to learn how to dress, and make up and be groomed. For all of the visuals. I went to dramatic school. There was no training for movies. You learn how to make movies then by making movies. But you could train for the theater. I auditioned at NBC as a radio actress and passed muster. Though I left for California before they ever called me to do radio. I was trying to set the scene and train in every aspect I could to be prepared for film acting. It all fell into place very blessedly. At 17, a year out of high school, Paramount signed me to a contract at $250 a week. Now that may not impress you today. Then it did. My first film work was the feminine romantic lead in a Paramount feature film with two leading men. What a way to break in. Bob Cummings was one of my leading men. Darling man. And Johnny Downs who had been part of the Our Gang comedies. Those are my two leading men on my first movie. Break in on the top. Only way to do it."

On the home she's lived in since 1946:

"I lived in a house on a hill that I had helped design. But it was time for a different kind of house architecturally. For what it provided. So we [her and her husband Robert Presnell Jr.] looked and found our place on Magnolia. An acre and a third it is. With a guest house, two bedrooms, living room. Complete house. Always fully occupied. A barn for stowing all sorts of colorful things. It's nice to have an acreage. Where square feet are charged. Well this is an old place. We were able to get it. So I've lived there for many years. It has a pool and a tennis court. I grew up in Manhattan, New York City. And you had an apartment. And your window looked out upon somebody else's window. You didn't have sports and space and all these wonderful privileges that we do get around here. So no wonder we came and no wonder we've stayed. Good place to be."

On politics

"I spoke very freely about whatever I cared about. Those were dangerous days. There was the left and there was the right. People made lists that had nothing to do with their talent. How they wrote or directed or acted or composed. Any of that. But it was a day when politics kind of ruled the local scene. It was unpleasant. I remember at my house we had several friends over. Just listening late one afternoon. Another friend arrived and one of the people in the room got up and left. He was not going to be in the same room with that new arrival. I think that's a shame. To carry your beliefs, unless you're talking murder or some real sins, then I think how you believe politically is your own business. I think it's rather healthy for people who disagree to have some chats and conversations."

I recorded a short video about Marsha Hunt speaking on the topic of being labeled a Communist during the HUAC era:

Roger C. Memos, director of the documentary Marsha Hunt's Sweet Adversity, was also at the event and he treated us to a few excerpts from his film. If you want to learn more about the doc you can follow his Facebook page. I've been wanting to watch this doc for a long time. I hope a screening in Boston happens in the near future. 

Eddie Muller, Marsha Hunt, and Alan K. Rode

Even though Marsha Hunt turned 100 in October of last year, that milestone is something to continue celebrating. The event ended with a birthday celebration complete with a magnificent cake. Marsha's favorite flavor is lemon so we were all treated to a lemon cake with chocolate frosting. All the attendees sang happy birthday to her. My friend Casey filmed this portion which you can see below:

Selfie with Marsha Hunt (sort of)

After the birthday celebration everyone was clamoring for a bit of time with Marsha. I was wearing my Marsha Hunt pin created by Kate Gabrielle as part of her TCMFF button pack. I showed it to Marsha but I think the pin was too small and she was too far away to see it. So I handed it to her so she could take a look and I let her keep it. I think she was surprised to see her face on a button. It was a sweet moment I'll treasure!

Marsha Hunt admiring the button I just gave her 

A big thanks to Marsha Hunt, Alan K. Rode, Eddie Muller and Roger C. Memos for a great event. And a special thanks to Jeff and his team at Larry Edmund's Bookshop. They opened the shop early and closed it off just for us. I watched Jeff working hard to make sure we had the best view, the best audio and the best set up for watching the documentary. And the cake, well that was the cherry on top. Thanks to them for making this a memorable event.

Monday, May 14, 2018

TCMFF Red Carpet Interviews

As promised in my original TCMFF red carpet post, here are the video interviews. I embedded each one individually including a quick intro from me.

This year I approached my videos differently. I invested in a microphone which helped immensely. Thanks to my friend Jonas and my husband Carlos who helped me get the right one for the project. The audio quality of my TCMFF red carpet footage is leagues better. Instead of doing compilation videos (like I did in 2016 and 2017), I decided to separate the interviews into their own videos. Now viewers can easily pick and chose which interviews they want to see. If you want to view them all in one go, complete with my intro, you can watch the TCMFF Red Carpet playlist here. Unfortunately my Dennis Miller video didn't pan out and I had one glaring issue with my Leonard Maltin one that corrected itself mid-interview. However, I was pleased as punch that my short interviews ranging from 2-4 minutes all came out really well. Enjoy!

If you enjoyed these interviews, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel!

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