Amoeblog

13th Annual Los Angeles Film Noir Festival Final Week!

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, April 16, 2011 03:35pm | Post a Comment

It's hard to believe that we've reached the end of the 2011 festival! I'm so glad I was able to squeeze in as many screenings as I did. Thursday's Robert Ryan double was certainly the high point for me-- Caught has one of the most bizarre endings I've seen in any pre-1970's film.

Tonight features a Glenn Ford double alongside a visit from Mr. Ford's son, Peter. Framed is primo James M. Cain penned paranoid pulp while Mr. Soft Touch is more lighthearted fare.  Sunday looks to be a great crime picture double; Cry Tough features a very young John Saxon while Down Three Dark Streets features beautiful LA locations and Broderick Crawford as an FBI agent. Wednesday closes the festival out with a couple of female led thrillers; Gaslight is an absolute classic and brought Ingrid Bergman an Oscar for her portrayal of a woman haunted by the unsolved murder of her aunt. My Name is Julia Ross ends it all with great B-movie suspense from director Joseph H. Lewis of Big Combo & Gun Crazy fame.



13th Annual Film Noir Festival @ the Egyptian Theater
6712 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028-4605
(323) 466-3456

13th Annual Los Angeles Film Noir Festival Week 2

Posted by Mr. Chadwick, April 9, 2011 04:00pm | Post a Comment

We're now deep in week 2 of the 13th annual Film Noir Festival and have some great pairings to look forward to!

Tonight features a couple of classic tough guy performances from Charles McGraw and James Cagney in Loophole and Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.  Sunday brings a great "women's night" with scarce films featuring Gloria Grahame, Maureen O'Hara, Susan HaywardJane Greer-- how much more beauty could you squeeze into a double feature?!? They Won't Believe Me is a top notch dramatic thriller produced by the trailblazing Joan Harrison, Hitchcock protege & one of only 3 female contract producers working in Hollywood during the classic noir years.  A Woman's Secret is one of Nicholas Ray's most rarely screened films, making this night a must see! Female on the BeachHazard continue the focus on the ladies. Joan Crawford and Paulette Goddard lead with memorable performances by Jeff Chandler, Jan Sterling, Charles McGraw & Percy Hilton.  These films screen on Wednesday.
 

Thursday provides us with a Robert Ryan double feature.  Amongst the most complex players in noir, Ryan's special brand of darkness could liven up even the most hollow of films. The Max Ophuls helmed Caught features Barbara Bel Geddes of VertigoDallas fame while Beware, My Lovely pairs Ryan with Ida Lupino in a taught psycho-sexual thriller. Friday rounds things out with a personal visit from actress Jeanne Cooper and a William Castle double, The Houston Story & New Orleans Uncensored.  If I'm not mistaken, not a damn one of these films is available on DVD!!!
 


Remembering Hazel Scott on her 90th birthday

Posted by Whitmore, June 12, 2010 02:40pm | Post a Comment
hazel scott, jazz, piano. 20th century icon, huac, charles mingus, paris, harlem
This past week would have been Hazel Scott’s 90th birthday. She’s probably not as well known today as she was in her lifetime, which is a shame, because Hazel Scott was not only a brilliant and audacious pianist but a woman who spent most of her life bucking the system.
 
A child prodigy, she was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad, June 11th, 1920, the only child of R. Thomas Scott, a West African scholar from England and Alma Long Scott, a classically-trained pianist and music teacher. Hazel began playing piano at the age of two. In 1924 her parents divorced, and she and her mother moved to the States, settling in Harlem, where her musical guidance continued with support from local jazz greats like Art Tatum, Lester Young and Fats Waller. Two years later Scott made her formal American performing debut at New York’s Town Hall. In 1929 Scott received several scholarships to Julliard School of Music, but still being too young to attend, the school’s director, Walter Damrosch, offered to teach her privately. At sixteen Hazel Scott had her own radio show on WOR, the Mutual Broadcasting System, and at night she’d perform at the Roseland Dance Hall with the legendary Count Basie Orchestra. She was dubbed the hazel scott, jazz, piano. 20th century icon, huac, charles mingus, paris, harlem, Darling of Café Society.”

In the late 1930’s, she appeared on Broadway in the musical Singing Out the News, followed by Priorities of 1942. In 1943 Hollywood came knocking, and she appeared in the several films over the next few years including Something to Shout About, Tropicana, The Heat’s On, Broadway Rhythm and Rhapsody in Blue.
 
With the advent of television she became the first African American woman to have her own TV show. The Hazel Scott Show debuted on the DuMont Television Network in 1950. But Scott’s interests, especially her relentless campaign for civil rights, women's rights, and the rights of artists made her an easy target for the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) during the McCarthy Era. Her television show was canceled after just a few months on the air, due to accusations of her being a communist sympathizer.
 
There is an excellent biography, published in 2008, by Karen Chilton -- Hazel Scott: The Pioneering Journey of a Jazz Pianist from Cafe Society to Hollywood to HUAC. It tells the story of how by the age of twenty-five Hazel Scott was an international star, but before reaching her mid thirties, she considered hazel scott, jazz, piano. 20th century icon, huac, charles mingus, paris, harlem, soul, 1940's, televisionherself a failure, twice attempting suicide. The book also goes into detail about her conflicts with HUAC and Hollywood and her failed marriage to the controversial Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
 
Subsequent to being blacklisted and divorced after eleven years of marriage, Scott left the States. Along with her son, she joined the burgeoning black expatriate community settling in Paris. She wouldn’t return to America until 1967. Her apartment on the Right Bank would become a popular hangout for other Americans including the likes of James Baldwin, Mary Lou Williams, Lester Young, Dizzy Gillespie, and Max Roach.
 
But most significantly, Hazel Scott was an incredible, world class musician. One of her greatest abilities -- she was brilliantly adept at combining jazz improvisations into classical pieces. Few could come close to her imaginative re-interpretations of pieces by Bach or Chopin or Rachmaninoff. Scott’s recording career lasted some four decades, releasing albums on several labels including Decca, Signature, Tioch, and Columbia. She hit her stride in January 1955 when she went into the Debut recording studios with a rhythm section consisting of two of jazz’s greatest icons -- Charles Mingus on bass and Max Roach, drums. In Relaxed Piano Moods, Scott handles her own compositions and standards, especially J.J. Johnson’s ballad “Lament,” with such incredible depth and confidence, her perfectly gem-like touch swings with incredible sophistication and guile; it is a 20th century masterwork of jazz.
 
Hazel Scott continued to perform until her death, passing away from pancreatic cancer on October 2, 1981 at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
 
 
 
 

Lena Horne 1917 - 2010

Posted by Whitmore, May 10, 2010 12:05pm | Post a Comment
Lena Horne
 
Lena Horne, the legendary jazz singer, icon of American popular music and award winning actress -- and as far as I’m concerned, one of the most captivating women ever to walk this planet -- died yesterday, Sunday, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. She was 92. Called "one of the incomparable performers of our time," she was best known for her plaintive signature song "Stormy Weather" from the film of the same name and her starring roles in such pictures as Cabin in the Sky, Panama Hattie, and The Wiz.
 
Horne had an easy, sultry singing voice, insanely beautiful, and her compelling sex appeal may have at first overshadowed her talents, but she wasn’t just another pretty face. When she signed with MGM Pictures, she was among the handful of black actors to have a contract with a major Hollywood studio, though it was never easy. Her life long battle against bigotry took its psychic toll; Horne was perpetually frustrated with the public humiliation of racism. A pivotal moment took place in 1945 as she entertained at an Army base in Europe and saw that German prisoners of war were seated up front while black American lena Hornesoldiers were relegated to the back. She worked with Eleanor Roosevelt to pass anti-lynching laws. Her involvement in various social and political organizations and her friendship with Paul Robeson, who was just as well known as a singer as for his communist leanings, had Horne’s name placed on the era’s blacklists during the red scare witch hunts of the early 1950’s and the age of Joseph McCarthy.
 
Born Lena Mary Calhoun Horne in Brooklyn on June 30, 1917, she dropped out of school at 16 to help support her family. She joined the chorus line at the Cotton Club, the mythical Harlem night spot where the entertainers were black and the clientele white. By the spring of 1934, she had a featured role in the Cotton Club Parade. She left the club in 1935 to tour with Noble Sissle's orchestra, then billed as Helena Horne. Horne was also one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band when she joined Charlie Barnet's orchestra in 1940. She was the first black performer to play the Copacabana nightclub in New York City.
 
In 1943, MGM Studios loaned her to 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Selina Rogers in the all-black movie musical Stormy Weather. Her rendition of the title song became a major hit and put her name center stage for the next several decades.
 Lena Horne
Horne became one of the most visible celebrities in the civil rights movement of the late 50’s and 1960’s. She made headlines for once throwing a lamp, an ashtray and several glasses at a customer who made a racial slur in a Beverly Hills restaurant, bloodying the man's forehead. In 1963 Horne joined with some 250,000 others in the March on Washington, D.C. when Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech. That same year Horne spoke at a NAACP rally with another civil rights leader, Medgar Evers, just the weekend before his assassination.
 
In the early 1970’s Horne went into seclusion. In a period of just over a year, her father, son and husband all died. She became too grief-stricken to perform or even see anyone but her closest friends. Oddly enough, comedian Alan King was the one who convinced her to return to the stage and public life.
 
Horne had her first big Broadway success as the star of  Jamaica in 1957, but in 1981, for her one-woman Broadway show, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, she won a special Tony Award and the 333 performances still hold the record for the longest-running solo performance in Broadway history. In it, she sang two versions -- one straight and the other gut-wrenching -- of "Stormy Weather" to give audiences a glimpse of the spiritual odyssey she had taken in of her five-plus decade long career. In 1984 she was Kennedy Center Honors recipient for extraordinary talent, creativity, and perseverance. And of her four Grammy Awards, the one she received in 1989 was the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.



Happy Birthday Virgina O'Brien

Posted by Whitmore, April 18, 2010 09:23pm | Post a Comment
virginia o'brien
So here is my annual tribute to one of my all time favorite comedic actresses and peculiar lady of song, Virginia O’Brien. Today is her birthday, though she passed away back in 2001. She was also a popular singer in the 1940’s, though never a big star. Often co-starring with Red Skelton in several MGM musicals/comedies, she is best known for her deadpan expression as she sang, a gimmick she stumbled upon by accident at the Los Angeles Assistance League Playhouse's virginai o'brienopening night performance of a musical comedy revue called Meet the People.
 
Some of her films include The Big Store (1941) with the Marx Brothers, Ship Ahoy (1942), Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), and Merton of the Movies (1947), all with Red Skelton. Then there are Thousands Cheer (1943), The Harvey Girls (1946) with Judy Garland, Ziegfeld Follies (1946), Francis in the Navy (1955) and Gus (1976).

After a guest appearance in 1948’s short film Musical Merry-Go-Round, O'Brien was dropped from her MGM contract, a victim of the old Hollywood studio star system fading.

Here are some of Ms O’Brien’s great musical numbers.



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