Monday, July 24, 2017

Fay Wray Makes a Comeback

I have a personal sweet tooth for actress Fay Wray, best known for playing the lead in the 1933 RKO classic, King Kong. An exceptional talent for being able to emit various emotions with facial features, whether she be the pouty girl next door or the excited voodoo princess, Fay Wray had that rare ability to perform for the camera. Her screen legacy, however, has faded into the shadows because the majority of her movies have never been released to DVD and/or screened on television. The good folks at Capitolfest, an annual film festival held in Rome, New York, hopes to rectify that oversight.

On August 11, 12 and 13, 2017, Capitolfest will screen seven sessions of rare motion-pictures, including silents with live organ accompaniment, and film shorts. Six movies will be screened during the weekend, featuring Fay Wray in the cast.

The Coast Patrol (Barsky, 1925)

The Sea God (Paramount, 1930)

Four Feathers (Paramount, 1929)

Wild Horse Stampede (Universal, 1926)

Cheating Cheaters (Universal, 1934)

White Lies (Columbia, 1934)

Stowaway (Universal, 1932)

The first one and the last three are more difficult to find on the gray market among collectors, providing fan boys like myself a rare chance to view these vintage classics.

Fay Wray's legacy will also be highlighted over the weekend with a personal visit from her daughter, who will be discussing her mother's screen career. Few know that a small park near Lee's Creek on Main Street in Cardston, Alberta, her birthplace, was named Fay Wray Park in her honor. Fewer know that a small sign at the edge of the park has a silhouette of King Kong and his beauty.

Rick McKay has been working on a documentary about the life and screen career of Fay Wray. A trailer promoting the documentary can be found on YouTube.

And for trivial pursuit fans... Fay Wray was a huge fan of a cerebral radio comedy, The Halls of Ivy, starring Ronald Colman and Benita Hume. So much of a fan that Wray herself wrote two radio scripts that were used on the weekly radio comedy. If you hear an episode and the announcer closes the broadcast referencing Fay Wray as the script writer, yes, that is the same Fay Wray. She spent a lot of time writing and her second husband was script writer Robert Riskin. 

Reportedly King Kong saved the studio, RKO, from bankruptcy. The actress and the movie was referenced twice in the cult classic, The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). But her screen career should be explored deeper than just one movie.

If you want to visit a small town movie palace and watch classic movies for a day or two (or three), make plans to attend Capitolfest this year.

A link to the convention website can be found below.



Wednesday, July 19, 2017

HOPALONG CASSIDY is Disintegrating

Leonard Maltin, respected film historian, wrote a piece on his blog that warrants everyone's attention. The potential decay of 66 Hopalong Cassidy archival negatives and photos of decomposing nitrates of Hopalong Cassidy film footage never seen before. My two favorite cowboys are The Lone Ranger and Hopalong Cassidy, which is why this strikes a personal chord with me. 

Decomposing nitrate stock footage of unseen Hopalong Cassidy films.

I would like to add, before you read this piece, that film preservation for many movie franchises faces the same problem. Even though all Hopalong Cassidy 66 motion-pictures are available commercially on DVD, the print transfers were never spectacular. Today many film studios continue to transfer film stock to digital and while many are quick to use the words "remastered," many times the studio did no such thing. Today's technology and equipment is advanced compared to equipment 30 years ago, giving fans the appearance that the new transfer was cleaned up or restored. As a result, a new print transfer today with the best equipment money could buy would ensure better quality for a future DVD release.

More importantly, most of the films were shot on location at Lone Pine, under the production of Harry Sherman. Unlike most B-Westerns of the time, the Hopalong Cassidy pictures were above average both in story and cinematography. They looked like A-class productions. Russell Harlan, who won six nominations for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, including two in 1962 for Hatari! and To Kill a Mockingbird, was responsible for the beautiful scenery in most of the Hopalong Cassidy movies. 

Are there other cowboy western series that need restorations from original film elements? Sure there are. But the cinematography alone warrants new print transfers for Hopalong Cassidy. After reading Leonard Maltin's recent piece, I suggested in the comments section that they start a GoFundMe account. Thinking outside of the box succeeded for many projects like these. And if they do start a fund raiser, I will be a major advocate at film festivals to encourage people to donate to this cause.

Visit here:

Friday, July 7, 2017

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Documentary

Christmas is less than six months away but it does not hurt to order your copy of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Rick Goldschmidt, a 216 page hardcover documenting the making of the 1964 television special. This book is chock full of archival documents, reprints of storyboards, the 1963 draft of the script, how the puppet-motion effects were accomplished, behind-the-scenes photographs... literally every aspect of the holiday special is documented. This is the kind of book you read from the first page to the last and then sit back and watch the special to gain a different perspective -- in-jokes, censorship and alterations... a treasure trove of material.

Housed in an old building formerly used by test fighter plane engines, the Tokyo "Animagic" artists took Romeo Muller's script and Antony Peters' storyboards and turned them into a stop-motion animated holiday TV classic. That television special airs annually over CBS, sometimes twice in December, and I don't know a kid at heart that did not memorize every line to the holiday classic. With Johnny Marks title song and several classic tunes for the show, Bernard Cowan directed a talented cast of Canadian vote actors, Burl Ives gave a memorable performance, and Maury Laws oversaw the musical soundtrack. Produced by Rankin and Bass, the television special remains the highest-rated in history.

Special thanks to Rick Goldschmidt who took thousands of hours to assemble the production files, contracts, sheet music, recording sessions, photographs and tons of materials to create this book. If you are a fan of the annual Christmas special, this is the book you want to have. Makes a perfect Christmas gift this holiday for your friends!

You can buy your copy direct here:

Free postage and be sure to click the box that asks for something personal -- you'll get your copy autographed at no charge but you need to check that box! 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July, Hollywood Style

Celebrating the 4th of July, Hollywood Style!

Ava Gardner

Ann Sheridan

Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford