History is where you find it, ranging from rare film clips of early Technicolor, silent-era Disney and more, newly posted online, and works of true scholarship, to amazing discoveries hiding in plain sight.
Last week Film Forum in New York City screened Fritz Lang’s Hangmen Also Die (1943), the story of the notorious Nazi “Hangman” Richard Heydrich. The indefatigable Bruce Goldstein, who runs their retrospectives, followed up on a tip that the German DVD had about one minute of footage that was cut from the movie’s U.S. release. Bruce dutifully projected those rare moments for his audience after the movie’s conclusion, and says, “According to Patrick McGilligan it would have been Hollywood’s first depiction of Nazi atrocities.” Fascinating.
One of America’s pioneering film archives, George Eastman House in Rochester, New York, has gone digital by posting 24 rare film clips online. They range from a 1926 promotional short for dental health made by Walt Disney (Clara Cleans Her Teeth) to a World War Two pitch for the American Red Cross by Ingrid Bergman. If you’ve never seen Mary Pickford’s two-color Technicolor test footage, taken on the set of husband Douglas Fairbanks’ film The Black Pirate, it’s beautiful, and there are many—
—other enjoyable odds and ends. Because of copyright restrictions, these are just tidbits—silent shorts, trailers, and snippets that have fallen into the public domain—but they’re fun to watch and offer at least a glimpse of the vast materials held by the Eastman House. To browse through the goodies, click HERE.
John Wayne continues to make history more than thirty years after his death. His daughter-in-law Gretchen Wayne, who has run his Batjac company since the death of her husband Michael, tells me, “Recently, he was voted America's #3 favorite movie star in the 2010 Harris Poll by Harris Interactive. He has the unique distinction of being the only actor on the list since its inception in 1994.” Talk about durability! Other golden age stars still have their fans, but I don’t know of anyone other than Wayne whose presence is still so strong. (Incidentally, while people—and newly licensed products—insist on referring to Wayne as “The Duke,” that wasn’t what his friends called him. His nickname was Duke Wayne.)
An e-mail from a writer who covers the wrestling scene in Canada for Sun Media led to a lively exchange about silent film actor Bull Montana, of all people. He was arguably the first professional boxer to forge a movie career (thanks to Doug Fairbanks). The tribute to this interesting, if largely forgotten, figure appeared on the date of his birth last month, and I learned a lot I didn’t know about a man I’ve seen in an awful lot of movies: canoe.slam.ca.
John Bailey is a premier cinematographer with such films to his credit as The Big Chill, Silverado, The Accidental Tourist, and Groundhog Day, to name just a few. He is also an avid student of film history and writes a blog about all aspects of the arts every Monday for the ASC (American Society of Cinematographers) at ascmag.com/blog.
Discerning film buffs will especially want to check out his past columns about the careers of such legendary cameramen as Karl Struss (www.ascmag.com) and Jack Cardiff (www.ascmag.com). Each installment is illustrated with wonderful photos and video links. It’s heartening to know that John’s scholarly and provocative articles have such a good home online.
Every time I read an issue of the online journal The Silent Treatment I try to spread the good word to other silent-film aficionados. Brandee Cox and Steven Hill do a great job of gathering news and notes from around the world, and send out their online publication free of charge. Sign up at tstnews.net.
Finally, if you’re less interested in formal history than movie trivia, the folks at Mobile Age, who created and maintain the iPhone app for Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, have taken on another challenging project: Chronicle Books’ addictive, and interactive, movie trivia volume Obsessed with Hollywood. I gave out a couple dozen of these books as holiday gifts a few years ago and had great fun playing trivia with friends and family. Now you can do the same using your iPhone. Check it out at mobileage.com.