Here I am struggling to get an issue of my newsletter finished, after an embarrassing amount of time, and a brand-new fanzine arrives on my desk. Pop Twenty is an exceedingly handsome publication, bound like an oversized paperback and filled with rare and beautiful stills. It’s the brainchild of Bob Birchard and Mike Bifulco, who have pooled their resources to create a home for interviews, articles, and photo features focusing on all aspects of 20th Century pop culture, with an emphasis on the golden age of Hollywood. Bob’s lead article details the making of Footlight Parade, including the revelation that Busby Berkeley didn’t direct all of its musical numbers. Mike recounts the history of Old Tucson, the Western town erected for the 1940 Columbia Picture Arizona, which then served as a location for scores of other films and television shows. There are also illustrated features on the pioneering sitcom I Married Joan, an ode to Charley Chase, an interview with Fred Waring, and much more. You can order the inaugural issue of Pop Twenty HERE.
I seldom have rooting interest for the Grammy Awards, but two of my longtime favorites walked away winners this year: composer and bandleader Gordon Goodwin won the award for Best Instrumental Arrangement for his thrilling adaptation of Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.” You can read more about him and his music HERE. And my pal Vince Giordano’s wonderfully evocative music for the TV series Boardwalk Empire earned a Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack. Read more about it HERE. Is it coincidental that I wrote about both winners on this site, or am I merely prescient?
An entire generation has been brainwashed to believe that you can find everything you want or need online…but some of us still like holding a book or magazine in our hands. That’s why I’m so glad that the folks at Movies Unlimited have continued to publish their massive, 800-page video catalog of films and television shows for sale; the new edition, as thick as some city telephone directories, is just out. As always, the parts of this publication are greater than the whole, somehow, as it is more than merely a listing of DVDs for sale. The selections of stars, filmmakers, and categories make for provocative browsing, and will inspire endless ideas of movies to see (or revisit). Naturally, Movies Unlimited has an active website, which you can visit HERE but you’ll also enjoy owning, and thumbing through, their catalog. Order a copy HERE. You can also order by phone at 1-800-4-MOVIES.
Whenever I go to a movie theater I’m astonished by the repetitive quality of trailers; originality and humor are no longer valued in this age of hard-sell. The same monkey-see, monkey-do mentality applies to movie poster design, which I never thought about until a friend sent me this link to a devastating visual essay that speaks for itself: 9gag.com.
If you want some meatier food for thought, you might want to read what master cinematographer John Bailey has to say about digital cinema in his latest blog post HERE.
Looking backward instead of forward, if you’ve never seen Fletcher Markle’s two-part interview with Alfred Hitchcock, first broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1964, it’s viewable online here, and it’s well worth watching. There’s even some footage devoted to composer Bernard Herrmann.
And, not to end on a downbeat note, I just read this piece about the plight of historic movie palaces and the digital revolution. We haven’t seen the end of this story yet: studios and archives may yet find a way to keep vintage films in circulation, especially if there is a profit motive. But in the short term, the prospects are daunting.