Elementary

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Here dwell together still two men of note
Who never lived and so can never die:
How very near they seem, yet how remote
That age before the world went all awry.
But still the game’s afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears—
Only those things the heart believes are true.

A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane
As night descends upon this fabled street:
A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,
The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.

Vincent Starrett

 

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Sherlock Holmes is never far away. I think my addiction started in the 1970s. There was always some copy of Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories on my night stand. Frequently a facsimile of the Strand with Sidney Piaget illustrations. For several years I was a member of The Baker Street Irregulars and received their journal. I have dozens of books dating from this period, various editions of the Conan Doyle stories and novels, the largest being “The Annotated Sherlock Holme;” imitations, pastiche style works; the films of; the art of; a cookbook, Victorian crime; the rivals of; the possibility of  new Holmes books seems endless. Some are serious criticism by scholars of the canon; others are best sellers.

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I recently watched “The Seven Percent Solution,” (1976) based on the best selling book by Nicholas Meyer. Holmes, in a solid performance by Nicol Williamson, has not had a case to occupy his racing brain. A seven percent solution of cocaine has filled the void but results in all to real and fearful hallucinations. Loyal Doctor Watson (Robert Duvall) with Mycroft’s help leads Holmes to Vienna and Sigmund Freud (Alan Atkin) for a cure. Hyponosis helps. Holmes then involves Watson and Freud in an international kidnapping case, Lola Devereaux (Vanessa Redgrave); and of course a bit of  Professor Moriarity (Laurence Olivier). It’s a fast paced twist on elements from Doyle’s writing. Still enjoyable after 40 years.

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My most recent Sherlock Holmes read was “The Great Detective: the amazing rise and immortal life of Sherlock Holmes,” by Zach Dundas. As a kid, Dundas read and reread the Holmes stories. He asks, “why has Holmes taken a 125 year grip on popular culture?” Scholarly analysis, pastiche writings, movies, tv, theatre, the arts, comics and advertisements — Holmes’ is everywhere. Dundas even explores more “porn” like blogs on the internet.

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He writes about Gillette, Rathbone, Irons, Cumberbach, Downey — each has left an imprint on Sherlock. Illustrator Sidney Paget, for instance, branded Holmes with a deerstalker and Inverness cape. William Gillette added the curve calabash pipe on the NY stage.

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Visit London and then visit the Holmes rooms — 221b Baker Street — at the Sherlock Holmes Pub on Northumberland Avenue, near London’s Charing Cross Station. On my last trip to London, I wanted to take the Sherlock Holmes tour but didn’t have the time. The appeal of Sherlock Holmes is in part due to this world Doyle created. The Victorian rooms, detailed, eccentric, mysterious. And the city, London, the mist, rain, Hanson cabs, trains, alley ways, and wharves. We are seduced.

Holmes is not himself without Watson. He is a friend, foil, and sidekick, we see Holmes through Watson’s eyes.

Dundas analysis is rich, sometimes new, but often familiar, a place we’ve been, a place we will visit again.

Last night I was looking for a movie to watch on my I-pad. “Mr. Holmes.” (2015) Why not? Holmes (Ian McKellen) has retired, suffers from dementia, raises bees, travels to Japan to get jelly made from the prickly ash, befriends Roger, the son of his housekeeper, is trying to write a final story. It’s an engaging movie.

As Vincent Starrett wrote “two men of note who never lived so can never die.” The Holmes story continues, grows, and twists. I’m hooked.

 

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Movie Critics

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I have a number of collections of movie reviews by classic film critics like James Agee, Pauline Kael, Robert Ebert, Gene Siskel, Andrew Sarris, Richard Schickel, Vincent Canby, Bosley Crowther, Richard Corliss, Rex Reed.  I frequently read their reviews on the website, “Rotten Tomatoes.”  Usually that’s after reviewing the film on  IMDb, (Internet Movie Database).

When I took film courses at Boston College, they were taught by a young New Yorker, Manny Grossman.  He was hired by the English Department to teach several film courses.  Before classes, I would read whatever commentary and reviews available.  It was limited in the 1960s.  Manny was only a few years older than me,  got married my sophomore year, the same year Diane and I walked the aisle.  With our mutual interest in film we double dated rather frequently, a movie and dinner.   A standing joke was “who was better prepared for class” — I watched the film(s) but also read whatever history, commentary or critical reviews were available.

In the early 1970s, Manny was teaching at a community college in New York.  We may have been in mail contact a few times but what a surprise, we met in Soho, lower Manhattan, on I several weekends.  Wonder where he is today?

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I just finished another film book.  Peter Biskind’s “Gods and Monsters: thirty years of writing on film and culture from one of America’s most incisive writers .” (2004)   I love his introduction, “My name is Peter Biskind, and I am a recovering celebrity journalist. Which is to say, I started my career during the anti-Vietnam War movement of the sixties as a political activist with a general interest in culture and a particular interest in films, and more or less ended it — or at least a lengthy phase of it — in the late nineties, writing about movie stars for Premier magazine.”

Biskind came of age as a film and culture writer in the same period I became a film fan.  He writes about the “movie brats” — George Lucas and  Steven Spielberg — and other directors of the period — Stanley Kubrick, Arthur Penn, Sam Peckinpah, Sidney Lumet, Robert Altman and Woody Allen who challenged the Hollywood model and created a new American cinema.

The essays explore specific films, trends, personalities, including producers and agents.  What amazes me is how these critics have a detailed recall of scenes, dialogue, and other cinemagraphic elements.  And their ability to compare film to film.  As I reread these film books, my Netflix list keeps growing.

Biskind’s first essay explores Eli Kazan’s “On the Waterfront.”  In 1950s,  Kazan was a “friendly witness” before the House Un-American Activities Committee.  He gave names.  As I’ve previously written, Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando)  “squeals” on the waterfront hoods.  Politics, anti-communism and film.

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I was intrigued that Biskind reviewed science fiction movies in his “War of the Worlds” chapter.  I never thought of them as  leftist, conservative, or centrist.  Do we place our trust in the federal government or the military?   I’ll watch “The Thing,” “Them,” “Forbidden Planet,” and “The Day the Earth stood Still” through a different lens.

I’ll watch ” Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, if only to listen to the Bob Dylan music track

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I was surprised to find articles on the TV series, the “Holocaust”  and Stanley Karnow’s “Vietnam: a television history.” I believe “Vietnam” going to be rebroadcast.    Although it’s usually considered balanced, Biskind finds it “a great many facts, little analysis and much waffling. . . Karnow has a surprisingly rudimentary grasp of politics.” I’d like to rewatch.

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Biskind writes about the theoretical unpinnings of some critics. Andrew Sarris was in the forefront of the “auteur” movement, the director was the “artist,” the auteur who created a body of film.  These critics discovered Hollywood directors like Ford, Wilder, Wyler, Cukor, Hawks, Houston.  No longer Hollywood hacks, these directors were artists.  Articles were written; books were published.  Pauline Kael was in a different camp.  Biskind labels her approach “eclecticism.”  She had no specific theory, but would draw on many; she had no formal standards, her reviews were personal.

Biskind writes about George Lucas’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and the  “Star Wars” empire — an anniversary this year.   Children’s movie lands were back; but there were political overlays.  At the same time Steven Spielberg was creating the Indiana Jones films — “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Temple of Doom.”  Hollywood would never be the same.

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Biskind also wrote, “Easy Rider, Raging Bulls: how the sex-drugs–and rock ‘n roll generation saved Hollywood.”  I have the book and a video based on the book, so I’ll continue with Biskind later.

 

 

 

 

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Loving: movie and history

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I taught American history for many years.  I enjoy  traveling to historic sites.  We recently went to Deerfield MA and Roanoke Island and have been considering trips to Plymouth and Williamsburg.  I enjoy reading history and watching historical documentaries or historical fiction.  It’s particularly rewarding when the experience introduces me to some “new,” for me at least, history.

This week Netflix shipped “Loving” (2016) written and directed by Jeff Nichols.  The story sounded promising.  An inter-racial marriage in Virginia in the 1950s leads to a Supreme Court case that bans laws against miscegenation.  I watched about 30 minutes but wasn’t impressed; it seemed too slow, not much happening.  Richard Loving, a crew cut, laconic, brick layer, didn’t excite.  Mildred, his girlfriend, wife was pretty, and pretty quiet.

How wrong I was.  For director Nichols, this was the point.  Here was an ordinary couple who crossed the black white divide and only wanted to marry, make a home and raise a family.  Since VA law did not allow them to marry, they went to Washington, D.C., it was 1958.  There was no crusade; just a “loving” couple wanting a life together.  Laws in VA and 24 other states made it illegal.

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They are arrested one night by a local sheriff.  The D.C. marriage certificate meant nothing nothing in the Commonwealth.  “To jail” said the judge or leave the state for 25 years.  They reluctantly chose the latter.  Mildred is particularly upset. She is a country, family girl; DC doesn’t work for her.  In 1963 she writes Attorney General, Robert Kennedy about her situation.  He refers her case the to ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).

The Civil Rights campaign begins but Richard and Mildred are just looking to live at home (Central Point, VA), together, and to raise their family (now 3 children).  Into the film,  I’ve begun to understand director Nichols dynamic.  Richard (Joel Edgerton) is a pretty basic guy, a mason, likes a beer, working on cars, drag racing, hanging out with friends (many black), and “loving his family.”  Mildred (Ruth Negga) is devoted to family and Richard but sees that publicity (Life magazine, local media, national news) may eventually help them and yes, others (her performance was nominated for an academy award).   These are simple folk, not interested it changing the law, or making history.

 

The ACLU leading the charge moves the Loving case to the Supreme Court.  Mildred and Richard have no interest in gong to the court.  Richard tells the lawyers, “Tell the Judge I love my life.”  In 1967, Loving v. The Commonwealth of Virginia, the court said the VA law against inter-racial marriage, “had no purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination.” The VA law and others were unconstitutional.

I am so glad I didn’t quick judge “Loving.”  It’s a very good movie, subtle, honest, true to history.  I always enjoy learning about new (for me) pages, maybe chapters in American history.  I’d never heard of the “Loving” family contribution.  Since I don’t teach anymore, I share the story with you.

 

 

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Film books

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For years, I taught a film course at Holy Ghost Prep.  Of course I bought film books.  It’s amazing but when I took several film courses at Boston College in the 1960s, there were few film books available.  A decade later, film was art, taught in colleges, scholarship and film books proliferated.  But now it’s time to sell my film book collection.  But as I did with my photography collection, I will reread before I sell.

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“American Cinema: 1950s; themes and variations,” edited by Murray Pomerance was the the first book I reread.  There is a chapter for each decade, with a historical overview, and a short review of major films, followed by analysis of films that represent the decade.

As I read, I list films on Netflix — some I’ve never seen; some I think I should see again.  Films of the 50s bridge the traditional Hollywood studio films of the 1940s with the more open 1960s. Male roles were changing — Montgomery Cliff, Marlon Brando, and James Dean were not your typical Hollywood male star.  They were hard but also soft; they were nonconformists.   Women ranged from Doris Day to Marilyn Monroe. Movies competed with television, so widescreen processes like CinemaScope and VistaVision were developed.  There was more location shootings; and rear projection brought locations into the studio. The films and the industry were poised for change.

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Films then as now were influenced by current events like the growing black-white tensions of the Civil Rights movement and the Cold War with the Soviet Union, Senator Joe McCarthy’s anti-communism crusade, HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee) hearings that blacklisted movie people — all found a way into the movies. As mentioned above, there was no film scholarship and criticism — university programs, film journals, film as art would come in the 1960s.  Filmmakers, like  Alfred Hitchcock, John Ford, Howard Hawkes, Douglas Sirk or Nicholas Ray were not lionized as film auteurs. Not yet.  The Hollywood Studio star system was still cranking out “movies.”  The Production Code continued to put limits on what could be shown.

“American Cinema of the 1950s” is a collection of essays.  Representative of film scholarship some of the writing is overly academic, too pedantic for me.  But it’s interesting to review the films made during the decade. From 1950, “All About Eve,” “Harvey'” and “King Soloman’s Mines” caught my attention. “Sunset Blvd” a Hollywood story demands attention.

In 1951 there was “An American in Paris” (Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron dancing and searching for love in post-war Paris.    We recently saw the play produced at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.  The DVD is currently in the mail from Netflix.   “A Place in the Sun” (Montgomery Cliff and Elizabeth Taylor)  and “A Streetcar Names Desire” (Brando, masculine issues, Production Code) are both on my list to view again.  The year also had Bogart and Hepburn in “African Queen.” The only semester I lived in a campus dorm room at Boston College, I shared it with a Bogart fan.  We watched all Bogart’s through the night.

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The classic Gary Cooper western, “High Noon” was made in 1952.  Who can forget the shoot out. The big movie in 1953  was “From Here to Eternity.”  WWII, Hawaii, Pearl Harbor, intrigue, love and passio, the classic Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster beach scene.  Also in ’53 was “Roman Holiday.”  It was written by Dalton Trumbo (on the blacklist) so an Oscar was given to Ian McLellan Hunter.  Trumbo was finally awarded an Oscar in 1993.  “Trumbo” (2015) tells the story.

The ground breaking movie in 1954 was Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan’s “On the Waterfront.” Dockworker Terry Malloy (Brando) was an up and coming boxer. But Mob-union Dock boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb) has Terry throw a fight, and then tries to get him to not testify about Friendly’s control of the waterfront and his responsibility for the death of a longshoreman. The dead man’s sister Edie (Eva Marie Saint) and a local priest, Father Barry (Karl Malden), convince Terry to testify against the Mob. Terry squeals, he is a “stool pigeon.” This is the 1950s, Kazan had testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). And Kazan had named names. Critics have written many pages about “On the Waterfront,” Terry, Kazan, and HUAC — you can decide, front page news and how it influenced a film story.

“Marty” (1955) was a romantic drama I remember liking. Marty (Ernest Borgnine) was a mother’s boy, socially awkward, Bronx butcher who falls for Clara (Betsy Blair) at the Stardust ballroom. Marty is forced to chose between Clara and a family that wants to keep him for themselves. It’s Hollywood, Marty chooses Clara. I remember being touched by this movie which won several academy awards. Probably saw it on television.

I did see “Around the World in 80 Days”(1956) in the Bristol Theatre on Radcliffe street. Around the same time, as a 9 years old, I would have been reading Jules Verne novels. Here was one on the big screen — Technicolor, Todd-AO 70 mm cinematography. Hollywood was fighting TV for an audience.

Another feel good film in 1956 was “The King and I.” An adaptation of a Rogers and Hammerstein musical, but also a real story. Anna Loenowens (Deborah Kerr) travels to Siam (Thailand) to teach the children (dozens of them) of King Mongkut (Yul Brynner). The King was determined to westernize his country, but Anna was a bit too liberated, too much. They frequently clashed but of course developed a loving relationship. In real life and in the film it was a love not to be fulfilled. The King would die and Anna would return to England. Last month we saw, “The King and I” at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. It was a great production but I knew the strutting, majestic, arrogance, of Yul Brynner as the King could not be matched.  So I watched the movie.  Somewhere we have a vinyl recording of the original cast — I need to find it. The music has been swirling in my mind — “You Whistle a Happy Tune,” “My Lord, My Master,” ” Hello, Young Lovers,” “Getting to Know You,” “I have Dreamed,” “Shall We Dance, “and “Something Wonderful,”

1956 also brought us George Stevens’s “Giant.” Nick Benedict (Rock Hudson) — the past — tangles with Jett Rink (James Dean) — the future — over Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) and the Benedict family fortune and legacy. This is not typical Hollywood like “The King and I.”

They are whistling. It’s a prisioner of war camp. 1957. It’s “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” It’s British and American pride, a spirit to win. Another film of the period that I saw in the theatre; another academy best picture. A tune and film you can’t forget.

 

1958 saw “Gigi” and “The Defiant Ones.” I have a good memory of “Gigi” directed by Vincent Minnelli. Paris, love, a bit of intrigue, Lerner & Loewe music, “Thank Heaven for Little Girls” — and then Louis Jourdan, Leslie Caron and the hard to forget Maurice Chevalier. It was another Academy winner for best picture and considered by some to be MGMs last great musical. You can read the plot summary on line.

The same year brought us Stanley Kubrick’s “The Defiant Ones.” It’s the 1950s, in the South. Members of a chain gang escape when their truck crashes. John “Joker” Jackson (Tony Curtis) and Noah Cullen (Sidney Poitier) are chained together; Jackson is white, Cullen is black. Their distrust and hate turns to friendship as they flee across the country. Ten years later Kramer would direct Poitier and Katherine Hepburn in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” Black-White friendship, interracial marriage, films were exploring new territory.

William Wyler’s “Ben Hur” with Carlton Heston was MGMs block buster for the year. I only saw it once in the theatre but scenes are etched in my memory. Who could forget the chariot races?  Smaller scale but an important story was George Steven’s “The Diary of Anne Frank.” This may have been my first introduction to the Holocaust. I would see the movie and read the book. And then in contrast there was “Pillow Talk,” a cute romantic comedy with Rock Hudson (didn’t know he was gay then) and Doris Day. I didn’t like either Hudson or Day, would have thought the film silly which it was. But I can enjoy it today in its historical context.

I added about 15 movies from the decade to my Netflix account. Some I’ve seen; others will be a new experience. The first to arrive was “King Solomon’s Mines.” I thought I saw it but had no memory as I watched.  It was adapted from a book by Henry Rider Haggard. At times it looked like a National Geographic special — amazing photography of the African landscape, safari wildlife, tribal villages and native dances. Elizabeth Curtis (Deborah Kerr) hires an experienced, maybe legendary hunter and guide,  Allan Quatermain (Stewart Granger) to find her brother lost in the African interior while searching fot a diamond mine.

Skeptical of a journey with a woman into unfamiliar territory, inhabitated by a savage tribe, Allan agrees because of a huge salary that will help him send his son to school in England. They endure all the hardships Africa can offer, wild animals, snakes, deserts and mountains, and of course, unfriendly natives. Conrad’s Heart of Darkness?”  Their bearers desert them; they fall in love. They met a wandering Watusi who turns out to be a King traveling to reclaim his homeland. Close to the mines they meet a renegade Englishman, living with a canabalistic tribe. Shades of Brando’s Kurtz in the jungles of Vietnam, check out  “Apocalypse Now (1979). They escape and find the tribe, diamonds, the mine, and skeleton of Curtis, but briefly they are trapped in the mine. Think Indiana Jones and ” Raiders of the Lost Ark”(1981). I’m pretty certain Spielberg was familiar with “King Solomon’s Mines.” King Umbopa regains control of the tribe and helps our explorers on the road home. But did they get to take some diamonds, get married, settle down, or keep exploring?

Lot of great films from the 1950s; lots of film books to reread.  It’s a good thing I’m retired.

 

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“From Here to Eternity,” 1953

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Cinema, film, “the movies”

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Several nights ago, Diane and I watched “The Young Sherlock Holmes.”  We immediately saw traces of Harry Potter — boarding school, precocious kid, male and female sidekicks, a bad teacher, magic and mystery.  It’s a 1985 movie, pre-Harry, but most reviewers don’t believe that Rowling borrowed; just archetypal elements.  There are scenes of an Egyptian death cult obviously owing a debt to Indiana Jones. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” came out in 1981 and Steven Spielberg was an advisor to “Young Sherlock.” Film history can be interesting.

“Young Sherlock” is one of about 500 DVDs I have been bringing upstairs from the many boxes I brought home from Holy Ghost Prep and stored in the basement.  My collection developed when I committed to watching the AFIs (American Film Institute) best 100 American films.  In about two years I watched all of them except for the Jazz Singer which wasn’t available on VHS or DVD.  Anyone who reviews the list may want to do some additions and subtractions (actually I think the AFI has updated the list) but they are all good films worth watching more than once. As I worked my way through the list, I decided to teach a film course at HGP.  So I burned most of the films on the list — the beginnings of my DVD collection.

My serious interest in cinema (as an art form) began while I was a student at Boston College.  I was not alone.   The 1960s witnessed Americans interest in film,  foreign films, art theatres and film schools in CA and NYC.   I regularly went to films at the Brattle (one of Boston’s art theatres — Bergman, Fillini, Antonioni.  You didn’t need to hear the Swedish, French, or Italian to know these weren’t American, Hollywood movies.

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At the end of my Freshman year, driving home with my father,  I shared an idea that I might leave BC and apply to NYU.  “Why” my father asked, “your already in a college.”  He didn’t get the idea of majoring in film making.  Lucas, Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg and many others from my generation were the first to attend college to learn film making. But I returned to BC and was satisfied to take several courses in film offered by the English Department (my major).

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The instructor was Mannie Grossman, a new young addition to the department who was interested in film.  The courses offered were history and critique not production.  Mannie and I became good friends (both recently married), went out to dinner and the movies. A standing joke between us was who read (prepared more for class).  The courses introduced me to early cinema — French, German and Russian films.  I carried my interest into other courses, writing screenplays, reviewing Shakespearean films, comparing novels to filmed versions.  Most professors were quite open to these alternatives to traditional English papers. Books about film history, film as art, directors, genres flooded the market.  Few existed before the 1960s.

Minor production experience came outside of class.  At BC student activity funds became available to make films.  I applied and got money to shoot a documentary film  about the Harcourt Bindery  — a shop where I worked with machinery and employees straight out of the 19th century.  My film was shot with super 8mm; sound was on a separate reel to reel tape that had to be synced when shown.  There was only one public showing during a campus wide film festival.  But it’s basically impossible to blow up Super 8 to a theatre size.  Despite that, the film was well recieved (probably due to subject matter) and I thought I may have gotten an “A” in my seventeenth century prose course because the professor liked the film.

About 2 years ago, I sent “The Bindery” to a company to have it digitized.  Scan Digital lost the film.  I was shocked.  It’s worth mentioning, the retired teacher who bought Harcourt Bindery from my boss, Fred Young, made two documentary films with National Endowment money.  They are much more sophisticated than mine. But loss of “The Bindery” was unfortunate.

In Boston and the years right out of college, I continued to shoot film, instead of taking 35 mm photographs.  Most of it was just raw footage.  I few times I tried to tell a story.  When Diane and I were in the Peace Corps, I asked for funding and was given money to rent equipment and document our training program. PC made several copies.  Scan Digital didn’t lose this one and so I have a DVD but haven’t watched it yet.  Some time soon I need to go through my Super 8 footage and get more converted.

In the 1970s, I put down my movie camera (I’d bought a Bolieu) and started taking 35 mm photographs.  First with my father’s Argus; then with Canons purchased by HGP, finally with my own Nikon equipment.  For about 10 years I sent slides to stock companies and did a few yearbooks and weddings.  I still get an ocassional royalty check from images stock companies accepted over 40 years ago.  Unfortunately I stopped when administration and school work took up more of my time. Film was watching movies.

I never got very involved with a VHS camera.  I used one in class and gave students film making assignments, but I only brought the camera home one Christmas.  While Diane cooked dinner, Jenny and I made a PBS style home show.  I probably should get that on a DVD and also transfer several 16 mm films that Diane’s father made. One is of a car trip out west he made with a friend in the 1930s; another are clips of Diane growing up. More retirement projects.

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I taught the film course at HGP for about 8 years.  The textbook by John Belton was used in many college classes was the basis of my course title,  “American Cinema/American Culture.”  For  the first month, we reviewed the early history of film, Edison, through “Birth of a Nation.”  Most students had never seen a silent film nor a black and white film.  On the first day of class I gave them a list of about 20 important American films.  Most had seen one or two — i.e. “The Godfather,” maybe “The Graduate.”

 

imageAfter Chaplin’s “The Kid'” we turned to comedy as a genre.  “Some Like it Hot” was always a big hit.  To my surprise “Doctor Strangelove” and “Mash” would get mixed reviews.  I enjoyed comparing Astaire-Rogers in “Swing Time” with “West Side Story” and Travalta in “Saturday Night Fever.” Students were also required to watch some films at home, keep a journal and write some formal reviews. For instance, “Tootsie” might be assigned after “Some Like it Hot.”

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Although I changed films annually there were other regulars including “Mr Smith Goes to Washington,” “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Fargo,” and of course “Casablanca.”  One year I had time for one last film.  “Milk” was getting a lot of press.  Quiet and hesitant in the beginning, particularly with the open homosexual scenes, almost every kid in the class was cheering for Harvey Milk by the end of the film.  I kept “Milk” on the list as the last film shown in the course.  It was a fun course to teach and I never minded rewatching classic films.

Recently I’ve been watching quite a few movies.  That term “movies,” by the way,  came about because the early film makers from NYC and NJ “moved around a lot when they moved to Hollywood.  Locals took to calling them “the movies.”  It wasn’t complimentary.  Just a bit of trivia from the film course.

I currently watch streaming on Amazon and our Comcast account.  Unfortunately there is an awful lot of junk.   Streaming Turner Classics  usually offers an older film that is new to me or some classic favorite. I watch a lot of PBS streaming — the American Experience and Masterpiece.  Diane borrows CDs from the Library.  Usually I can buy into her choices which run heavy into series like “Foyle’s War'” or “Call the Midwives.”  We get one Nexflix at a time — trying to see some current hits.  And every few weeks we go to the County Theatre in Doylestown or the Ritz in Society Hill — versions of the old art cinemas.  And now I have my 500 DVDS.

Maybe I need to find a pattern or purpose in my watching or maybe watching a good film enough.  Tonight I’m going to watch “Mr.Holmes.”  I just finished the book.  Holmes has retired, is raising bees, trying to understand life and old age.  Unfortunately I can’t have popcorn anymore.

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