Friday, December 30, 2005

After the Thin Man

"After the Thin Man" (1936) finds Nick and Nora Charles arriving in San Francisco on the train that they had taken to get away from New York and "The Thin Man" case.
They are immediately besieged by reporters, his disreputable friends and . . . .
Nick asks who the couple is passing them on the street and Nora replies, "Oh, you wouldn't know them. They're respectable!"
Asta, their wire-haired fox terrier, has his own homecoming when he tears around to the Charles' kennel.
There are "Mrs. Asta" with all the little Astas . . . and one little black Scottie puppy.
Turns out that a Scottie-about-town has been digging his way under the fence to Mrs. Asta's . . . heart.
Nick and Nora finally get to their house, planning a New Year's Eve of an early bedtime only to find out a large party of strangers already at home.
What could be worse than that?
Spending an evening with Nora's relatives who remind Nick of a barely antimated wax works.
Not to mention Aunt Katherine (Jessie Ralph) who could have been run the army, navy and coast guard all by herself in another lifetime.
Nick does get a "nifty" when the elderly butler asks him to "walk this way" as he toddles forward.
Nick immediately starts shuffling forward in excellent imitation of the butler.
William Powell and Myra Loy are a joy in Dashiell Hammett's sequel to "The Thin Man" as Nick and Nora.
The plot is fast-paced, suspenseful and full of possibilities concerning Nora's cousin, Selma (Elissa Landi), and her wandering husband, Robert (Alan Marshall).
Nick and Nora are snookered into looking for him in the Lichee Night Club, waiting for his girlfriend, Polly Byrnes (Penny Singleton in a pre-"Blondie" role).
The possible suspects ranges from the owners of the Lichee (Joseph Calleia and William Law) to Selma's weird psychiatrist (George Zucco) to her former boyfriend, David Graham (Jimmy Stewart).
"After the Thin Man" is full of treats and atmosphere with San Fransico with foggy streets on New Year's Eve.
We also get a scene with Nick considering whether to get Nora out of jail or not after her arrest in Graham's apartment!
Powell and Loy have one of the cutest scenes in the whole series when they have to chase Asta around their house in the middle of the night for a clue tied to a rock thrown through the window.
Powell gets great lines like, "Come on, let's get something to eat. I'm thirsty."
He's drinking a martini when Loy asks him if he's packing.
"I'm just putting away this liquor."
He can also "set 'em up."
He's explaining "whodunit" at the end, "You see, when it comes to words like that, an illiterate person . . . ."
Polly Byrnes: "Whaddya mean, illiterate? My father and mother were married right here in the city hall."

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)

"Mystery of the Wax Museum"
Another classic with Lionel Atwill (Ivan Igor) and Fay Wray (Charlotte Duncan) in a classic horror movie made during the same era as Karloff's "Frankenstein" and Lugosi's "Dracula."
But our "Mystery . . ." was different.
It was made in an early version of Technicolor with a two-strip method for red and green.
It was also different because it had Glenda Farrell as a reporter who figures out what's going on in Igor's new wax museum.
This is several years before she became another reporter in the Torchy Blane series.
"Mystery of the Wax Museum" starts out in London in 1921 when Igor's museum is burned down by his partner who'd rather have the insurance money than a business that's losing money.
Igor is so badly burned in the resulting fire that we don't seem him again until New Year's Eve of 1933 in New York.
(My, how time flies! It only took two years for Price to turn up in his movie!)
Igor just "happens" to live in the same apartment building as June Gale, a suspected suicide whose body is stolen from the morgue.
Farrell (Florence Dempsey) comes to the aid of Gavin Gordon (George Winton), Gale's former love.
She figures out that there's something rotten in the new wax museum: They're turning dead bodies like Gale's into wax figures and Igor wants to turn Farrell's friend, Fay Wray, into Marie Antoinette.
"Mystery of the Wax Museum" is well-written with plenty of suspense from a play by Charles Belden.
Farrell ends up with some spiffy lines like,
"OK, brother, then you can go to some nice warm place and I don't mean California."
Even better is,
Gordon: "I've only known you twenty-four hours but I'm in love with you."
Farrell: "Doesn't usually take that long."
When Ivan Igor gets the line, "I offer you immortality, my child. Think of it: in a thousand years you shall be as lovely as you are now!" . . . Miss Maven keeps thinking fine but what will her INSIDES look like?!
The monster makeup is so good that Farrell get to say,
"I don't know what he was but he made Frankenstein look like a lily!"
The excellent supporting cast includes Frank McHugh as Farrell's combative editor.
He gets the best line in the whole movie when Farrell gives him the raspberry over the telephone,
"A cow does that and gives milk besides!"
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Miss Maven can be reached at

Monday, December 26, 2005

Stage Door (1937)

"Stage Door" (1937) is an excellent movie well worth the watching . . . and probably saving to boot!
A lot of men may call it a "chick flick" but the chicks in this movie are top flight, the writing is superb, the humor is beautifully delivered and it'll take you all over the emotional rollercoaster.
What else would you get from a cast as diverse as Katharine Hepburn (Terry) to Margaret Early (Mary Lou)?!
You must forgive Miss Maven since two of the actress are from Texas:
Ginger Rogers (Jean Maitland) got her start in Maven's hometown of Fort Worth and Ann Miller (Annie) was from Houston.
An interesting note about Miller was that she lied about her age to get this job, being only 14 when she played "Annie" in "Stage Door!"
Both ladies made names for themselves as dancers as well as actresses in Hollywood.
Two of the supporting actresses went on to make names for themselves on television in the fifties.
Lucille Ball (Judy Canfield) created a dynasty on TV with her then husband, Desi Arnaz, with "I Love Lucy."
One of the series that was made at Desilu Studios (formerly RKO) was "Our Miss Brooks" with Eve Arden (Eve) in the title role.
One wonderful thing about these actresses is their ability to not only be able to act but bull off some deliciously wicked lines like:
Jean: Hey, you're not gonna catch the opening tonight,hug?
Eve: No, I'm going tomorrow and catch the closing.
And how about:
Terry: I see that, in addition to your other charms, you have that insolence generated by an inferior upbringing.
Jean: Hmm! Fancy clothes, fancy language and everything!
Terry: Unfortunately, I learned to speak English correctly.
Jean: That won't be of much use to you here. We all talk pig Latin.
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Eve: Well, I don't like to gossip, but that new gal seems to have an awful crush on Shakespeare!
Susan (Peggy O'Donnell): I wouldn't be surprised if they get married!
Mary Lou: Oh, you're fooling'! Shakespeare's dead.
Madeline (Jan Wiley): No!
Mary Lou: Well, if he's the same one that wrote "Hamlet," he is.
Eve: Never heard of it.
Mary Lou: Well, certainly you must have heard of "Hamlet."
Eve: Well, I meet so many people.
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Terry: How many doors are there to this place?
Jean: Well, there's the trap door, the humidor, and the cuspidor. How many doors would you like?
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Jean: Do you mind if I ask a personal question?
Terry: Another one?
Jean: Are those trunks full of bodies?
Terry: Just those, but I don't intend to unpack them.
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Linda (Gail Patrick): If you were a little more considerate of your elders, maybe Mr. Powell [Adolphe Menjou] would send his car for you someday. Of course, he would probably take one look at you and send you right back again, but then you have to expect that.
Jean: Is that so?
Linda: Do you know, I think I could fix you up with Mr. Powell's chauffeur. The chauffeur has a very nice car too.
Jean: Yes, but I understand that Mr. Powell's chauffeur doesn't go as far in his car as Mr. Powell does. . . .
Jean: Hey, that's a kind of good-looking' piece of jackrabbit you got there.
Linda: Oh, it's just a little trinket my "Aunt Susan" sent over.
Jean: Say, I think it's very unselfish of those little animals to give up their lives to keep other animals warm.
Linda: You know, they're very smart little animals. They never give up their lives for the wrong people.
Jean: Well you understand the rodent family much better than I do.
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This is also the movie that give Katharine Hepburn one of the best lines in her career (and, yes, she did say it!): The calla lilies are in bloom again.
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Miss Maven will bloom if you would like to get in touch with her at
theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Holiday Inn

What's better than a Fred Astaire or Bing Crosby movie?
How about one with both of them?
Sure, but if you throw Irving Berlin's holiday music . . . .
How could you go wrong?
You can't because what you end up with is "Holiday Inn" (1942).
Yes, Miss Maven knows about "White Christmas" (1954), even to having Bing Crosby.
It's a movie worth watching in it's own right but it's completely separate from ". . . Inn" beyond the fact that they both deal with a dance team.
"Holiday Inn" has Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby in love with the girl they dance with, Virginia Dale.
[She's listed as Rene in "Docks of New Orleans" for you Chan Fans.
Miss Maven is still trying to verify it!]
Astaire ends up with Dale and Crosby ends up with . . . his Inn.
Marjorie Reynolds shows up and they team up to make the inn a going concern.
[Okay, equal time for James Lee Wong fans: Reynolds was Bobby Logan!]
There's great dancing and lots of music by Irving Berlin mixed in as Crosby tries to keep Reynolds under wraps when Astaire shows up after being dumped by Dale for a Texas millionaire.
Virginia Dale does a good job of what singing and dancing she's handed.
Marjorie Reynolds is a surprise, though, being a better singer than you might expect as well as holding her own with Fred Astaire.
She is as long as you don't know that Martha Mears dubbed her voice!
Walter Abel is the manager who has to deal with clients who keep swapping partners or loosing them or . . . .
You're going to start wondering why they don't fire him when he doesn't quite because of their antics!
Louise Beavers is excellent, as always, as Crosby's housekeeper/cook.
The musical numbers are great good fun to watch, celebrating all the holidays that America celebrated in 1942, including two Thanksgivings.
(There were two to make fun of Franklin Delano Roosevelt moving Thanksgiving from the third to fourth Thursday in November.)
There is a segment for Lincoln, complete with Bing Crosby putting "black face" on Marjorie Reynolds.
Miss Maven even remembers it.
Prints now have a blip in the film where they cut it out.
There is also a blip in Astaire's dance in the fourth of July segment, just don't ask Miss Maven why!
Irving Berlin wrote all the music and Crosby's brother, Bob, conducted his own band for the specialty numbers.
One final note: Fred Astaire tossed back two shots of bourbon before filming the "drunk dance" and another one before each take.
They used the seventh take in the movie!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Thin Man

You may not think of "The Thin Man" in terms of Christmas.
You'd be surprised!
This classic movie with William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles starts in New York in late October and picks up just before Christmas!
They spend so much screen time around it that they even have a joke with their dog, Asta, getting . . . shall we say chummy? . . . with the tree while Nora is decorating it!
One of Miss Maven's favorite scenes is Christmas morning when Nick is enjoying his new air rifle as they discuss the mystery of "The Thin Man."
Part of the charm of the scene, of the whole series, lies in the working relationship between Loy and Powell as she describes in her autobiography, "Knowing and Becoming" (with James Kotsilibas-Davis, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1987, pages 88 - 89):
I played differently with Bill. He was so naturally witty and outrageous that I stayed somewhat detached, always a little incredulous. From that very first scene, a curious thing passed between us, a feeling of rhythm, complete understanding, in instinct for how one could bring out the best in the other. In all our work together you can see that strange--I don't know what . . . a kind of rapport. It wasn't conscious. If you heard us talking in a room, you'd hear the same thing. He'd tease me a little and a kind of blending emerged that seemed to please people. Whatever caused it, though, it was magical, and Woody Van Dyke brought it to fruition in our next picture--perhaps the best remembered of my hundred and twenty-four features. . . .
What other director would introduce his leading lady with a perfect three-point landing on a barroom floor--even if it was the Ritz bar? I was supposed to stroll in looking very chic, laded down with packages and leading Asta on a leash. "Can you fall?" Woody asked. "Do you know how to do a fall?" I said, "I've never worked for Mack Sennett, but I'm a dancer. I think I can do it." I would have done anything for Woody, because I was devoted to him. "You just trip yourself," he explained, "and then go right down."
He put a camera on the floor, a mark where he wanted me to land, and we shot it without any rehearsal. I must have been crazy. I could have killed myself, but my dance training paid off. I dashed in with Asta, and all those packages, tripped myself, went down, slid across the floor, and hit the mark with my chin. It was absolutely incredible!
(Courtesy of www.iloveasta.com)
Just as incredible as the talents of Myrna Loy, William Powell, Woody Van Dyke and everybody else involved in "The Thin Man" . . . and that includes Asta, who has his very own website!!
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You can get in touch with Miss Maven at

Monday, December 19, 2005

A Christmas Carol

"A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens is a perfect story for the Christmas holidays!
What more could you ask for?
Okay, Miss Maven knows. . . . She asked Santa for a new DVD player. That's not what she's talking about!
". . . Carol" is a vivid story about a miser who comes acopper on Christmas Eve when he's confronted by ghosts of the season.
Hollywood is still trying to come up with new ways of telling this classic story and frequently with quite a license!
But Miss Maven will concentrate with the 1938 and 1951 versions here.
The 1951 movie with Alistair Sim is what many baby boomers like Maven are most familiar.
Both have an excellent cast, production values and writers but Sim's comes across as much more depressing as his Scrooge is more hard-bitten, his cynicism comes across as deeper-rooted.
Reginald Owen starts off obnoxious in his 1938 ". . . Carol" but his Scrooge is still essentially a more humane person.
He manages to give the part an almost child-like quality as he is taken through his paces by the Christmas spirits.
Miss Maven must admit that the studio could have done better by it's actors.
The costumes may have been historically correct but they prove that some men just weren't built for that period of clothes!
Not to mention that Reginald Owen was given a top fluff of hair that Miss Maven keeps looking at instead of watching the action!
And Barry McKay is always a great addition as his nephew, Fred.
The 1938 ". . . Carol" had a unique distinction:
It was the only movie where Gene Lockhart and his wife, Kathleen Lockhart, appeared together with their daughter, June, in her movie debut!
This version also has Leo G. Carroll as Marley, Scrooge's dead partner.
Carroll ironically went on to play Topper on television with his own set of ghosts.
Ann Rutherford was cast as The Ghost of Christmas Past, and excellently so.
She wasn't always so lucky to get out of the "Polly Benedict" kind of roles from the Andy Hardy Series.
There is a blooper at the end of the 1951 version when Scrooge wakes up on Christmas Morning.
Watch Alistair Sim when he goes over to the mirror and you can see part of the camera crew reflected in it!
Miss Maven recommends both movies as mustsees but thinks that the 1938 "A Christmas Carol" is the one you should add to your collection first, especially if you have children--or managed to keep the child alive in you!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Miss Maven's Christmas Movies

Miss Maven is starting off our Christmas Movies with an entry from the Columbia Series called "Alias Boston Blackie."
Blackie (Chester Morris) is a jewel thief who is retired from business except that the police, in the person of Inspector Farraday (Richard Lane), doesn't believe it.
That's the basis of 14 entries in the series, at any rate!
They are definitely "B" entries but great fun for their kind!
Blackie is confronted with such diverse cases as sabotage to seances to the art world over the course of the movies!
Chester Morris and Richard Lane are marvelous in their recurring roles as sparring partners Blackie and Farraday. They are amply supported by Walter Sande (later Frank Sully) as dim-witted Matthews, Lloyd Corrigan as philanthropist Arthur Manleder and George E. Stone (originally George Wegenheim) as The Runt, Blackie's assistants, as it were.
Who thinks these parts up?!
"Alias Boston Blackie" is an entry centered on a group of entertainers who travel by bus to a prison to entertain the inmates on Christmas Eve.
Blackie goes along as to help out but Farraday tags along to keep him on the up-and-up but neither of them plans on one of the inmates (Larry Parks) masquerades his way out as a clown.
Are you getting the feeling that the writers were already hitting the Eggnog?
Especially when Blackie ends up having to masquerade in the same clown costume to help Parks to see the light.
Not to mention Blackie having to pass as a New York City Policeman!
In the process, he clears him even as Blackie shuffles a corpse while being threatened by one of the bad guys, a bus/taxi driver (Lloyd Bridges).
Adele Mara has a great line when questioned by a hotel clerk about wanting a room on the top floor: "Don't worry. I don't have time to jump today!"
But Blackie triumphs once again and all the good guys are back in his apartment on Christmas Night to toast the holiday.
"Alias Boston Blackie" is a fun movie to watch, especially around Christmas time!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Miss Maven regrets that she and her staff (Aunt Battie and her assisstants: Slo, Mo and Larry) must take a few days off.
They must get ready for Christmas plus work on the back log in the office.
They will be back as soon as possible.
In the meantime . . .
Merry Ho Ho Ho!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Grand Hotel

Irving Thalberg began a whole genre of movie-making when he made Grand Hotel, according to Roland Flamini's "Thalberg: The Last Tycoon and the world M-G-M" (Crown Publishers, Inc.; New York; 1994; pages 137 - 138).
[Spoiler Alert: Details of the ending are contained in this post.]
In "Grand Hotel" Thalberg pioneered a formula that is now familiar (Stagecoach, Airport, California Suite) but was the innovative. the interaction of a number of characters hitherto unknown to each other, brought together in one setting, ran counter to the industry's conventional wisdom. If putting more than two stars in one picture was wasteful, using six stars was sheer folly, and Thalberg had a lot of explaining to do when he began to pile stars into his production.
[Left: Lionel Barrymore; center: Joan Crawford; right: John Barrymore]
. . . The characters [they play] are all failures in one way or another, and in the bustling old central European hotel each confronts a personal crisis, which in the case of two results in death. [Greta] Garbo was the obvious choice for Grusinskaya, the prima ballerina who is past her prime; and Joan Crawford,was immediately announced in the role of Flaemmchen, the stenographer who uses sex to get ahead. . . .
For the Baron von Geigern, the hotel thief with whom Garbo falls in love and who is killed in the picture, Thalberg had initially wanted Clark Gable. John Barrymore got the part when Thalberg decided to cast both brothers in the picture: Lionel played Kringelein, the terminally ill clerk who checks into the "Grand Hotel: for one brief fling at the good life before dying. For a while plans went forward to pair Gable with Crawford. He was to Preysing, the self-made industrialist and in his way also a failure, with whom Crawford has an affair; but in the end Thalberg opted to cast the rough-hewn Wallace Beery.
[Greta Garbo and John Barrymore]
Miss Maven recommends "Grand Hotel" as a mustsee story that is beautifully put together all the way around. It's well-written, beautifully produced and acted as only M-G-M can do with their stable of stars.
Miss Maven hesitates to say it's a musthave for two reasons.
One is that it can be as depressing as all get out with Preysing killing the Baron and we know that Kringelein is dying when he leaves the hotel with Flaemmchen.
Miss Maven's other problem is Thalberg's choice in stars.
Greta Garbo was a great actress in Maven's opinion.
However, Miss Maven's late mother was a ballet dancer.
Miss Maven has pictures of her beloved mother in costume and "en pointe."
Greta Garbo was no ballerina.
However beautiful you may have thought Garbo, she clearly didn't carry herself like a dancer.
Miss Maven loves the use of the Barrymore brothers since they were great actors perfect in their parts and a joy to see working together in scenes in "Grand Hotel."
Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, eat your hearts out!
Clark Gable would have been wasted in this movie.
He's much more fun to watch in movies like "Red Dust" and "Saratoga" with Jean Harlow!
Besides, that poster of "Grand Hotel" makes Joan Crawford look like they forgot her eyeballs!
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Miss Maven can be reached at her tv--er, email address at

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Great Lines of Mae West, Part 2

Only Mae West could get away with a line from "I'm No Angel" (1933) like, "Beulah, peel me a grape"!
Or,
"It's not the men in your live that counts, it's the life in your men."
Miss Maven admits she's heard those but she didn't remember
"Were you at the haircutter or have your ears moved down?"
Maven marvels at any man who can move any of his parts down . . . !
[The quintessential Mae West]
But back to La Belle West as Tira!
Jack Clayton (Cary Grant): You were wonderful tonight.
Tira: Yeah, I'm always wonderful at night.
Jack Clayton: Tonight, you were especially good.
Tira: When I'm good, I'm very good; but when I'm bad, I'm better.
So is Miss Maven!
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Tira: What do you do for a living?
Rich Guy: I'm a politician.
Tira: I don't like to work either.
Miss Maven knows some politicians now that fit this bill!!
Jack Clayton: Oh, I'm crazy about you.
Tira: I did my best to make you that way.
Jack Clayton: Look, darling, you need a rest and so do I. Let me take you away somewhere, we'll--
Tira: Would you call that a rest?
Jack Clayton: What are you thinking about?
Tira: Same thing you are.
Miss Maven was beginning to wonder if he'd EVER get the idea!
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You can reach Miss Maven at

Monday, December 05, 2005

Great Lines of Mae West, Part 1

"Goodness had nothing to do with them!"
That's the line Miss Maven remembers from the earliest movie she saw with Mae West.
It's the great response to a hatcheck girl looking at all her diamonds and saying, "Oh, my goodness!"
(And if you thought she was talking about anything but diamonds, shame on you!)
(Mae West and George Raft in "Night After Night")
One exchange that Miss Maven loves is the exchange between Ms. West (as Lady Lou) and Cary Grant in "She Done Him Wrong" (1933).
Right off, you have to love the name she gave her leading man. What else to call Cary Grant than Captain Cummings in a script by La Belle West?!
She greets him with "Hello there, warm, dark and handsome."
Mae asks the good Captain "Why don't you come up some time and see me?"
He's busy with work at night.
The idea of any man turning down Mae West's sweet, innocent little invitation absolutely flummoxes Miss Maven.
She tries again with "Come up some time and I'll read your fortune."
Maven must confess to laughing so hard at that line that she couldn't tell you WHAT happens next!
Ms. West had other goodies in that movie:
"It was a toss up between whether I go in for diamonds or sing in the choir. The choir lost."
Trust Miss Maven. The choir is harder to carry around with you to show off--They usually can't even agree on what night to practice!
"When Women go wrong, men go right after them."
That's the only time men don't need to stop and ask directions.
Captain Cummings says "Haven't you ever met a man who could make you happy?"
"Sure, lots of times."
Modern pop psychologists would probably say she has a healthy sense of self but that's not what Miss Maven's grandmother would have called it!
Another good source of Westisms are in "I'm No Angel" (1933):
Jim Clayton tells her "You were wonderful tonight."
Ms. West: "Yeah, I'm always wonderful at night!"
Clayton: "Tonight, you were especially good."
Ms. West: "Well . . . When I'm good, I'm very good but, when I'm bad, I'm better!"
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Excuse Miss Maven but she'll continue Mae West's great quotes tomorrow.
She wants to try that last on on Santa Claus!
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You can contact Miss Maven at

Sunday, December 04, 2005

The Making of King Kong, Part 5

George E. Turner and Orville Goldner describe the sequence in the movie where Robert Armstrong tries to be a cameraman in The Making of King Kong, Ballantine Books, New York, 1975, page 109:
[The front of the camera used to film King Kong]
During the screen test sequence, Armstrong was supposed to adjust the lenses of his camera and insert a rectangular filter into the matte box while explaining that he always cranks his own camera because a cameraman he hired for a jungle film fled when a rhinoceros charged the camera. On each take the actor was unable to fit the filter into place--much to the merriment of the camera crew. Schoedsack finally cut from the scene at the crucial moment to a shot of sailors watching the action. Later the remainder of Ann's test was filmed including the famed scene in which the girl, under Denham's direction, covers her eyes and screams at the top of her lungs. This time only one take was necessary--much to Fay Wray's relief.
[The sideview of the camera used to film King Kong]
[The rear of the camera used to film King Kong]
And much to Miss Maven's relief!!
Her lungs haven't been the same since the last time the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl!!
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You can reach Miss Maven without her screaming her lungs out at you at theolcmoviemaven@yahoo.com!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Making of King Kong, Part 4

Orville Goldner and George E. Turner discuss how the leads were hired for "King Kong" in their book, "The Making of King Kong" (Ballantine Books, New York, 1975, page 65 - 71):
[Cooper and Wray on the set]
[Executive Producer] Cooper had approached Fay Wray with the news that he had chosen her to be the leading lady in a film about "a discovery of gigantic proportions" and that she would play opposite "the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood." Her initial enthusiasm changed to panic as he showed her [Mario] Larrinaga's official portrait of her film suitor stalking through the jungle with Miss Wray clutched in one hairy paw. The role called for a blonde (for contrast) . . . . as Kong's "golden woman."
[Wray and her "other" leading man,
Bruce Cabot]
Her other romantic lead, Bruce Cabot, was a young contract player who hadn't yet been in a film. . . . Cabot was given the role in King Kong after a rather unusual screen test: Cooper made him climb down a rope that was suspended from the log bridge on stage .
[Robert] Armstrong, between scenes of The Most Dangerous Game, was instructed to exchange his dress suit for a soiled and tattered safari get-up for his first day's work with Cooper.
[Without a script yet, Cooper gave him directions for the scene of his character leading his men through the woods on Skull Island.]
'I was to hold up my hand and stop my followers. As I looked across the log I was to see, across the chasm at the other end, a fifty-foot ape.
'At this point I said, "Excuse me, Mr. Cooper, but if I understand you correctly you said that I saw a fifty-foot ape." He said, "Yes, that's right, Bob. Why?" I said . . . "Well, I've been in this business a great many years, but you tell me how to take a fifty-foot ape big!" '
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Miss Maven wants to know how you DON'T take a fifty-foot ape big?!
Maven would run like "heck" if she came across one any bigger than a stuffed one from Toys 'R' Us!
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You can reach Miss Maven at

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Making of King Kong, Part 3

" 'King Kong' was made partly out of the genius of Willis Harold O'Brien and what he called 'animation in depth,' a method by which inanimate objects are given an illusion of life and movement on film."
[You'll notice how the "figure" of Fay Wray looks so fake next to the very realistic King Kong and pterydactl?]
This is from "The Making of King Kong" by Orville Goldner and George E. Turner, Ballantine Books, New York, 1975, page 41.
[One of the dinosaur models used in "King Kong"]
They go on to say:
"The basic idea, known as stop-motion, is a simple one that was exploited before 1900 by a pioneer French producer, George Melies. A subject is placed in position and a single frame is shot of that placement. The subject then is moved slightly and another frame is exposed. Further related positions are photographed in this manner, describing the increments of movement of whatever action is to be simulated on the film. The strip of 'still' frames, when projected in the usual way, are blended by the 'persistence of vision' into a semblance of motion. The speed at which the subject appears to movie is determined by the distance between the positions photographed: fast-movie objects require less footage and therefore the placements are farther apart than would be necessary for slow-moving effects. It was by this method that a bed was made to dance and leap all over the room in Edwin S. Porters wonderful trick film of 1906, The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend.
[The model used for the brontosaurus in "King Kong."]
"Although O'Brien was far from being the first film-maker to utilize dimentional animation, his efforts were more ambitious than those of his predecessors or contemporaries and it was he who refined and developed the technique until he attained near-perfection."
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Miss Maven wonders . . . with all the remakes that Hollywood has been putting out lately, why hasn't anyone found THIS title?!
THE DREAM OF A RAREBIT FIEND?!?!
You'll forgive Miss Maven while she swoons from fear at all the blood and gore that that title could produce!!
And please don't bring up all the even bloodier and gorier sequels that they could make!
Smelling salts, where are Maven's smelling salts . . . ?!?!
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When Miss Maven recovers, she will accept all notes, suggestions and smelling salt . . . er, ideas . . . at theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

The Making of King Kong, Part 2

King Kong struck a blow for womankind, according to Orville Goldner and George E. Turner in their "Making Of King Kong" (Ballantine Books, New York, 1975, page 9):
"Ann Darrow, the film's heroine immortalized by Fay Wray's performance, springs as surely from the life of Ruth Rose, co-author of the shooting script. Like Ann, the writer was an unemployed actress who found adventure and romance in far away, primitive lands. Had she not met her future husband [Ernset B. Schoedsack] aboard the expedition ship 'Arcturus' it is likely that the love scenes aboard the 'Venture' would have been played in the Philip Barry story fo dialogue that typified films of the period instead of a clumsily sincere tough-guy style that is touching because it seems real. The crusty Captain Englehorn and his roughneck crew seem lifelike because writer and producers knew well their living counterparts.
Plus Fay Wray was filming "King Kong" during the day while filming "The Most Dangerous Game" at night with Joel McCrea and Leslie Banks.
Miss Maven recommends both as musthaves since Ms. Wray's performance is just a starting point for similarities between the films.
Both have heros worth drooling over--Miss Maven means admiring!: Bruce Cabot and Joel McCrea.
And then there is Robert Armstrong, who gets a little drunk in "Most Dangerous Game."
Hey, watching Ms. Wray set on far away lush green islands that are part rocky mountains and part marshy swaps that she's dunked into with hardly any clothes on and lusted after by monsters, some being two-legged . . . .
Oh, dear, Miss Maven needs to get her bourbon back out . . . I mean smelling salts . . . .
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Please send your sympathies, er, suggestions and all to Miss Maven at theoldmoviemaven@yahoo.com.