Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film - Due out this Fall from UOK Press

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Alan's sporadic takes on Film Noir and other aspects of pop culture

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    CROOKED MOUTHPIECES date back to the era of 1930s porto-noir gangster movies (reaching their apogee with Louis Calhern’s turn in The Asphalt Jungle), but crusading defense attorneys who trod the line between cleverness and corruption proved to be scarce onscreen.      And then came Perry Mason.      His creator, Erle Stanley Gardner, was a self-taught trial attorney who began submitting mystery stories to the pulps in 1923. Over the next decade, under a number of pseudonyms, he turned out an average for 3,200 words per day (1.2 million words per year) describing the adventures of protagonists such as Lester Leith, Speed Dash, and Ken Cornin.  “By the time I’d learned my craft—and that took about ten years—I was ready to use my law background for my stories,” Gardner recalled in a 1965 interview. At the time of his death in 1970, the prolific Gardner had become the...
1 Burr lg

Posted by on in Commentary
    Grandfather lit up a Salem and recalled the young Joan Crawford as we sat around the dining table.  “She would do anything with anybody,” he said with a knowing wink.  Grandmother shushed him with  “Alfonse!” as she and Mom cleared the table.   Mom stamped her foot on the kitchen floor, interrupting the cat licking the butter stick on top of the table. Grandmother Levy laughed and recalled a story involving a cat and her Mother who had been a six-gun toting Texas constable.    A reelection ink blotter for Great-Grandmother Meeks as Constable of Bexar County   My brother David excused himself to play the piano. The Scrabble board made its ritualistic appearance.  Alfonse and Dad were serious players who squared off with a large dictionary staged next to the board to settle word disputes.  David’s rendition of a Cole Porter standard filled the room as I resumed...
Alfonse at work

Posted by on in Reviews
Twilight Time releases a restored Blu-Ray of John Huston’s essential Moby Dick (1956)     In the film, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962), there is a beach scene with an alluring ingénue telling James Stewart that she began reading Moby Dick but gave it up because, “who wants to read a story about a fish.”  Watching Hobbs at a tender age, I didn’t get the joke and asked my father who gave me a quick tutorial about Melville’s novel, whales and whaling. We subsequently visited New Bedford, Mass.—the 19th century whaling hub that opens Melville’s narrative—and visited the Whaling Museum. I was hooked. At the time, dinosaurs mesmerized me, but as none were readily available, whales became a surrogate fixation.   I was further transfixed after reading a schoolboy version of Melville’s tome and repeatedly watching John Huston’s Moby Dick on local television.  Along with the brilliant acting and dialogue, I...

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