Movie Quote of the Month Archive:

February-March 2024

For those of us who still retreat to the cinema’s womb, our most joyful agony is not to encounter movies that are foolish or horrible or broken-backed.  It is to imagine, eyes, wide shut, all the movies that we shall never see.

–Anthony Lane in the February 12 & 19 The New Yorker

November-December 2023

Gloria was an amazing power trip.  Taking on the whole mafia in 4-inch heels with a child slung over your shoulder—it was a lot of fun.”

Gena Rowlands quoted in John Cassavetes:  Lifeworks by Tom Charity

October 2023

“I have a special affection for Topkapi. The character is so absurd. I love the idea of a man who aims low and misses.”

Ustinov in Focus by Tony Thomas p. 151

August-September 2023

Joseph Mankiewicz said about All About Eve, “Male behavior is so elementary. All About Adam could be done as a short.”

July 2023

In the end, when they find out Dietrich was the one in control, it is her legendary status that allows them to buy in, “Of course, she fooled us! Of course she fooled Laughton.  She’s Marlene Dietrich.”  (If there was ever a star who could trump any ace, it was Dietrich).  Audiences cannot reach the end of a plot like Witness (for the Prosecution) and say, “Well, Veda Ann Borg fooled us. “Star power is star power.  It overrules acting every time.

The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger p. 176

May-June 2023

“And we had a man, Sydney Guilaroff, whose name is quite famous in hairstyling, supervising their work.  He did the creative side.  He was not the business head of hairdressing.  I represented all the departments in that respect.  But he did the designing of hairstyling, and he’d have two girls working on one head.  One would do one side, one would do the other.  Then he might do the comb out.  But we eliminated a lot of time for the actors and the actresses.  Because everybody hates to get in any earlier than they have to when they have to stay on the set so late.”

William Tuttle in Hollywood: The Oral History by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson, p. 259

March-April 2023

“When I first began in films, they still used to write some of those pictures in what they called “MGM Medieval.”  There’d be Tony Curtis saying ‘Yonder lies the castle of my father.  Gladly will he give us shelter.’  The actor who finally has to say something like that and make it work is faced with a very special problem in projecting a character or situation from a remote time period, and some improvisation or discussion on the set with the director can be a good thing.”

Charlton Heston in Hollywood: The Oral History by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson page 227.

February 2023

“There are times when I wish we still had it (The Production Code) because the fun has gone out of it, the game that you played with them.  We had to be clever.  In order to say, ‘You son of a bitch,’ you had to say, ‘If you had a mother, she’d bark.'”

Billy Wilder in Hollywood: The Oral History by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson page 489

January 2023

“I had a famous composer, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who worked with me very closely.  When I brought Korngold over from Vienna, he wrote beautiful music.  He wrote Anthony Adverse and the Errol Flynn films Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood.  Ten years later I said to him, “Erich, you don’t write as beautiful music as you did in the beginning,” and he said, “I’ll tell you why.  Now I understand the English dialogue on the screen.”

Producer Henry Blanke in Hollywood: The Oral History by Jeanine Basinger and Sam Wasson page 271.

December 2022

“Trauma has become synonymous with backstory, but the tyranny of backstory is itself a relatively recent phenomenon–one that like any successful convention, has a way of skirting our notice.  Personality was not always rendered as a pencil-rubbing of personal history.  Jane Austen’s characters are not pierced by sudden memories; they do not work to fill in the gaps of haunting recollections.”

“The Key to Me” by Parul Sehgal, in which the author bemoans the overuse of personal trauma as motivator in contemporary film and television. In The New Yorker, January 3 & 10 2022.

November 2022

“We wanted so much to have a beautiful man capable of speaking very complicated German, but not being German, to bring a taste of strangeness to the character.”

Maria Schraeder in a You Tube interview, discussing the luck of being able to cast bilingual Dan Stevens as the robot, Tom, in I’m Your Man.

September-October 2022

Margaret Talbot wrote in the December 13, 2021, The New Yorker, reviewing Robert Gottleib’s biography, Greta Garbo:  “The movie role she liked best was the learned seventeenth-century monarch Christina; it allowed her to stride around in tunics, tight-fitting trousers, and tall boots, to kiss one of her ladies-in-waiting full on the lips, to declare that she intended to ‘die a bachelor!’ (as plenty of gender studies scholars will tell you, this is one queer movie.) She expressed a longing to play St. Francis of Assisi, complete with a beard, and Oscar Wilde’s vain hero, Dorian Gray.  In today’s terms, Garbo might have occupied a spot along the nonbinary spectrum.  Gottlieb doesn’t press the point, but remarks, ‘How ironic if The Most Beautiful Woman in the World really would rather have been a man” (Talbot 74).

August 2022

“Keaton did as well (in talkies) as could have been hoped.  But the notion that sound killed off the silent comedians is one of those ideas which, seeming too simple to be true, are simply true.  Chaplin endured because he had money and independence, but even he made only two more comedies in the 1930s.  Harry Langdon was ruined and Harold Lloyd kept his money and withdrew.”

–Adam Gopnik “Silent Treatment:  The Case for Buster Keaton” in the January 31, 2022, The New Yorker

July 2022

“It was a maddening and seductive paradox.  The more I learned about Buster Keaton, the less I understood him.”

–Dana Stevens in her introduction to Camera Man:  Buster Keaton, the Dawn of Cinema, and the Invention of the Twentieth Century.

June 2022

…The fights and skirmishes between Frank and Ava were legendary.  They couldn’t live with or without one another.  Ava hated Frank’s gangster friends and wouldn’t treat them with ‘respect’ as glamorous terrorizers, the way the rest of Frank’s group did—she lived with Frank.  On the other hand, they thought she was a whacko and didn’t act the way a real wife should act.

Since Frank clearly preferred the company of The Boys to a regular home life, there was not real competition between them and Ava.  But Ava satisfied an insatiable need of Frank’s to be bullied by a strong mother figure.  Ava made him grovel.  Ava humiliated him.  Ava kicked him when he was down.  Ava was unattainable, she was beautiful beyond words, and in her honey-dripping voice she mouthed words that could make a longshoreman wince.  Ava was the perfect combination.  And if she was unattainable, how could she become boring?

–From My Lucky Stars:  A Hollywood Memoir by Shirley MacLaine p. 85

May 2022

“Yet, when Cyrano does appear, he takes the divinely proportioned form of James McAvoy, clad in tight black jeans and form-fitting puffer jacket, with nothing but a smattering of beard adorning his famous face.  If that’s agony, sign me up for a world of pain.”

Alexandra Schwartz reviewing the play “Cyrano de Bergerac” in the April 25 & May 2, 2022 The New Yorker

March-April 2022:

“In reality, of course, Coppola has directed more than one of the greatest movies ever made. Anyone who has worked on a film will tell you that luck plays a role, that it’s a collaborative medium, that art and commerce and dead-eyed executives and feckless actors all come together to make something beyond the director’s control, sometimes for better, often for worse. But Coppola, for a time, played by other rules entirely. After winning an Academy Award for the screenplay for 1970’s Patton, Coppola went on to make, consecutively, The Godfather (1972), The Conversation (1974), The Godfather Part II (1974), and Apocalypse Now (1979). To point out that Coppola won five Oscars by the time he was 36 is to understate what was going on at this time; better to just say that for a while he saw something like the face of God and leave it at that.”

Zach Baron in the February 17 2022 GQ

February 2022:

“Petite Maman” directed by Celine Sciamma, was just about my favorite film from last year.

In “Petite Maman,” the dramatic irony is that Nelly is the only one who knows that her new friend is also her mother.  We’re waiting for Marion to find out the truth, too, to refuse to believe it, to make a scene.  Instead, Nelly just tells her, and Marion accepts it without question, and the movie continues.  Perhaps Sciamma is on to a secret that nobody else has guessed: you don’t actually have to shoot Chekhov’s gun.”

From: “Now You See Me” by Elif Batuman in The New Yorker, February 7, 2022

November 2021:

“When my mother was offered the part of Ann Darrow in King Kong, co-director Merian C. Cooper told her only that she woulld be cast opposite ‘the tallest, darkest leading man in Hollywood.’ She thought he meant Cary Grant, which wold have been the fulfillment of a dream; or if not Cary Grant, a very acceptable consolation prize, Clark Gable. She adapted to Kong and in time grew to appreciate and even treasure him. ‘Every time I’m in New York’ she said late in life, ‘I say a little prayer when passng the Empire State Building. A good friend of mine died up there.'”

Fay Wray and Robert Riskin: A Hollywood Memoir by Victoria Riskin p. 123.

October 2021:

Emily W. Leider asserts, “Rudolph Valentino helped deflower postwar America, teaching by his screen example the limits of emotional restraint and erotic innocence.  And, he reconfigured its ideal of the desirable man.  Along with flamboyant male fashion trends, Valentino offered his adopted country a new masculine ideal: sensual, continental, and far more attuned to women than earlier models, darker in both complexion and mood, more willing than any before (or since?) to respond to beauty, show passion, and give his all—even die—for love” (Leider 422).

–Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino by Emily W. Leider, p. 422

August-September 2021:

“When sixteen-year-old Gloria Swanson went to a fancy tea dance on Staten Island in 1914, she was warned to steer clear of the dangerous Argentinean import.  Don’t worry a friend their reassured her.  ‘They never play tangos on Staten Island.’”

–Dark Lover: The Life and Death of Rudolph Valentino by Emily W. Leider, p. 57

June-July 2021:

“Other places feel weirdly reanimated. The ‘Twilight Zone’ quality that many observed in Times Square at the height of the pandemic has shifted into something more like–well, a ‘Twilight Zone’ episode in which everyone, aside from on B-actor, forgets that a pandemic just killed tens of thousands of people and shut down the city for a year. (“Am I the only one who remembers?’ William Shatner would shout, in close-up.)”

–Adam Gopnik in “Sitting with Strangers” in the June 14, 2021 issue of The New Yorker

May 2021:

“A life-changing event occured when Stacey’s older sister, Andrea, got her own TV set and invited Stacey into her bedroom (“the inner sanctum” Stacey called it) to watch a new program: the pilot of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Stacey Abrams, a Kathryn Janeway partisan, has since watched every episode of every “Star Trek” iteration and, if you have a few days, can tell you in exquisite detail which episodes are the best ones, and why.”

–A Star Multitasker’s Latest Chapter in the New York Times, Sunday, May 9, 2021

March 2021:

“She seemed confident, unhesitant, and she wore the experience of having fought off men as if it were a Girl Scout badge…She could play in musicals as well as comedies and dramas, and she was built to wear the insane clothes of the 1940s.  She was one gal who could carry off any crazy getup, no matter what was stuck on her—feathers, chunky jewelry, or portfolio sized purses.  As with Eleanor Powell, no outfit ever wore Ann Sheridan.”

From A Woman’s View by Jeanine Basinger, p.86

February 2021:

–And then your one-line bit in The Crusades.

“Oh, ‘The cross, the cross, let me kiss the cross.’ With a Texas accent.”

–And a great weepy close-up.

“Oh, tears streaming, my wig slipping–I always wanted to look like Dietrich, she was so glamorous, and I thought, ‘Oh, how wonderful to wear a black wig.’ Well, I didn’t know they took ’em out of stock, and they slam ’em on your head and it doesn’t fit and the hair lace comes loose and they come up and glue it on just before the take and it falls off again–I was so horrible looking! Really, it was swful, I didn’t look at all glamorous”

–Ann Sheridan interviewed by Ray Hagen about her early days in the movie busienss in Killer Tomatoes: Fifteen Tough Film Dames

January 2021:

“I’m travelling back through the decades, and I recently watched the 1931 film “Frankenstein.” I enjoyed the famous scene of the monster getting overly excited by social contact and flinging Maria, his little friend, into a lake. The monster has been shunned for so long that he can scarcely believe it when Maria takes his hand and includes him in a game. He is so thrilled to be relieved of his loneliness that he tosses her to her death. I will be just the same way by the end of the pandemic. I will be so happy to see my friends that I’ll mutter and tremble with joy and more than likely, I’ll accidentially drown them. Still, I can’t wait!”

–Maeve Higgens in the December 27, 202 New York Times.

December 2020:

“Everybody loves a story of transformation: about an underdog who triumphs over adversity, a girl who is mocked for her shoes and then becoomes a stylish swan. But, we apparently really love a story of affirmation: a world in which a girl can move freely, in control, and be respected for her strategy and skill, in which a female character succeeds in a man’s world without being harassed, assaulted, abused, ignored, dismissed, sidelined, robbed, or forgotten. This story is so vanishingly rare in the real world that it comes across as utopian in fiction. “The Queen’s Gambit” is a fantasy, and one we rarely see depicted–the fantasy of a functioning meritocracy for women, in which they are free to do as they want.”

–Carina Chocano in the December 6, 2020 New York Times Magazine

October-November 2020:

“Both (David) Byrne and (Spike) Lee pushed back on any notion that after being rocked by the pandemic, the city as a cultural capital is one the wane. ‘New York has lived through 9/11, the recession, Sandy,’ Lee said. ‘You know, New York is never going to be done. We’re built for this. Artists are going to rell the true story of what happened during this crazy time we live in. There is great art that is going to come out of this. I’m convinced the artists once again will lead the way.'”

“Making the Show Go On” by Julie Bloom in the October 18 2020 New York Times.

September 2020:

Dashiell Hammett wrote to Lillian Hellman about Rouben Mamoulian’s City Streets: “ It’s pretty lousy, though Sylvia Sidney makes the whole thing seem fairly good in spots.  She’s good, that ugly little baby, and currently is my favorite screen actress.”

–Have You Seen…? By David Thomson, p.171

August 2020:

On top of that, he has never especially been a believer in prizes. It has always struck him as funny, the way the Academy lavishes acting Oscars on the movies with the best script and the best direction, the ones that are already so good that the actor barely makes any difference. The voters, he feels, are coming at it arse-backwards. Those aren’t the films where the real heavy lifting takes place.

McDowell casts his mind back over his own long list of credits. The gangster flicks and the sci-fi knock-offs. The kids’ animations that few kids ever saw. He says: “I sometimes think: ‘My God, I’ve just acted in a real piece of shit and I managed to produce a credible performance. I managed to turn that piece of shit into something watchable.’ That’s what’s worthy of an acting award.”

Malcolm McDowell looks back on his career:

July 2020:

The Age Limit of a Film: How can photoplays of today be preserved for future generations? Will school pupils in 6922 or even 1000 years from now, be able to study early examples of the cinema art as pupils of 1922 study Virgil and Homer? Or are the film classics such as The Kid doomed to fade from posterity’s page?

Carl Sandburg, Thursday, April 13, 1922, in The Movies Are: Carl Sanberg’s Film Reviews and Essays 1920-1928, edited by Arnie Bernstein, p. 120

April-May-June 2020:

“…In the first weekend of May, with much of the world in shackles, the twelfth most popular film on iTunes, just below Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, was Contagion. Huh? Why do we crave fables of sickness when so many of us are sick, or quailing at the prospect of falling sick,or devising ingenious ways to remain non-sick? Can’t we spend our days safely slumped on the couch, watching “Leslie Nielsen’s Greatest Naked Gun Lines” on YouTube, like responsible grown-ups?”

–Anthony Lane in The New Yorker, May 25, 2020

March 2020:

“I was born, and then I liked movies.” Peter Bogdanovich

Bogdanovich’s Picture Shows by Thomas J. Harris, Page 1

February 2020:

“It’s very simple.  When a pretty girl walks by, all the lights have to be pointed at her breasts, and when someone throws a hat on the floor, you start a fight—it’s a formula like any other.  It’s well constructed:  it starts good, it develops right and it ends well.  What’s most important is that it is well made, and that the actors are good”

Jean Negulesco on the Hollywood Formula in Jean Negulesco: The Life and Films by Michaelangelo Capua, p. 53.

January 2020:

“…though we can’t foretell whether time will be cruel or kind to Gerwig’s Little Women, it may just be the best film yet made by an American woman.”

Anthony Lane in the January 6, 2020 issue of The New Yorker

November 2019:

The New York Times raved (about Mad Love) “With any of our conventional maniacs in the role of the deranged surgeon, the photoplay would frequently be dancing on the edge of burlesque.  Mr. Lorre, with his gift for supplementing a remarkable physical appearance with his acute perception of the mechanics of insanity, cuts deeply into the darkness of the morbid brain.  It is an affirmation of his talent that he always holds his audience to a strict and terrible belief in his madness.  He is one of the few actors in the world, for example, who can scream, “I have conquered science, why can’t I conquer love?” and not seem a trifle silly”

(Quoted in: Screams of Reason: Mad Science and Modern Culture by David J. Skal p.156).

October 2019:

“People associate me with a time when movies were pleasant.  When women wore pretty dresses in films and you heard beautiful music.  I always love it when people write me and say, ‘I was having a rotten time, and I walked into a cinema, and saw one of your movies and it made such a difference’”

–Audrey Hepburn

September 2019:.

“From time to time one hears of incidents involving A Talker versus A Sensitive Soul. James Mason, attending a showing of the motion picture The Red Badge of Courage, once participated in such a drama. ‘This guy ahead of me was talking so loud I couldn’t her the dialogue’ he recalls. ‘This went on for about fifteen minutes. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any more. I got out of my seat and walked down to where he was sitting and said, ‘Damn it, shut up, will you, I can’t hear the movie!’ Then, I slapped him. As it happened Mason’s lid-blowing was especially embarrassing when he suddenly recognized his foe as playwright William Saroyan. But, he stood firmly on principle. ‘Oh, hello, Bill. Shut up, will you?’ Then I went back to my seat.'”

Audience misbehavior as described by Steve Allen in his 1960 autopbiography Mark It and Strike It on p. 185.

August 2019:

“I went and pulled out the drawer of her stuff they had taken. And, I spread the pictures out for her to look at, and she studied them. And, you know something? Those were some stunning photos of her. She was the most beautiful woman on the lot, absolutely, nobody compared to her. But not only that, she couldn’t take a bad picture. And that was rare, y’know, everybody has a bad side. And, she looked at the pictures for a little while, and when she was done, she straightened up and kind of shrugged, and she said, ‘Jeeze,’ she said, ‘From the way people went on so, I thought I was better looking than that…”

Ava Gardner looking at some of her early publicity photos at MGM, in Ava Gardner: Love is Nothing by Lee Server p. 57.

June-July 2019:

” But although I enjoyed the snap of Long Shot, I couldn’t help remembering how Roman Holiday (1953)–another film about a lowly journalist who falls for a higher being–draws to its wrenching close. Audrey Hepburn, as the princess, and Gregory Peck, as the reporter, exchange a handshake and a look, wild with all regret, then return to their separate lives. Love keeps company with reason. Where should we go, these days, for entertainement as adult as that?

–Anthony Lane reviewing Long Shot in the May 13, 2019 The New Yorker.

May 2019:

“The church people clamor for clean pictures, but they all come out to see Mae West”

A Lousiana film exhibitor quoted on page 210 in Forbidden Hollywood: When Sex Ruled the Movies by Mark Viera

“You danced again in the Bois in Paris, the trees like monstrous black pagodas against the night, the stars brilliant as sequins on an archangel’s floating cloak, the magically white faces of women, the lights in the night making love to the black shadows in their hair, their lips as red as lobsters, their arm-pits as clean as ivory, the men talking with facile gestures, the whole tapestry of the Chateau de Madrid like a painted fan against a summer night. They call this rhythm the Blues, which is short for a low state of vitality brought about by the action of life on the liver. O Baby, it’s divine!”

The Green Hat by Michael Arlen, p.110, adapted (confusingly) into A Woman of Affairs starring Greta Garbo and John Gilbert.

April 2019:

What’s your favorite book of all time? This is complicated, because “Gone With the Wind” exists as one of the main pillars of the odious Lost Cause narrative, but it’s also one of the picotal books I read in childhood that helped shape me as a writer. When I came across it in the library, there were not a lot of novels where women were allowed to be confident and commanding without being violently murdered by the end of the story.

Karin Slaughter in The New York Times Book Review July 22, 2018

March 2019:

“The movie screen is a window, and the trick of the medium is to let us feel we can pass through it.”

–David Thomson in Sleeping With Strangers (as quoted in the February 24, 2019 New York Times Book Review).

February 2019:

“What actually occurs on Plymouth, as the climax nears, I haven’t a clue, but to jusde by the dialogue (“Nobody knows anything,” “Do you even know what this is all about”) nor does anyone else. Something fiddly, I’d say, involving love, death, salvation, and digital subterfuge. As Anne Hathaway exclaims, “All those nights on the Internet!” Whatever they pay these movie stars to keep a straight face, it’s not enough.”

–Anthony Lane reviewing Serenity in the February 4, 2019 The New Yorker.

January 2019:

Holly Hunter’s character in Broadcast News was based on CBS News producer Susan Zirinsky. What happened to Hunter’s character, Jane Craig, after the movie was over? The answer was in the January 13, 2019 New York Times, in an editorial by Lesley Stahl memorializing her TV news colleague, Sylvia Chase. “We have never had a female president, but Susan Zirinsky was just named president of CBS News. A first, and a triumph.” Go, Jane Craig!

December 2018:

Newsweek media critic Jonathan Alter is quoted as saying “practically every unmarried woman in her thirties with a decent job and an occasional anxiety attack thinks the movie (Broadcast News) is about her.” (Me, reading that quote 30 years after the fact: “Fuck”). by Haley Mlotek

November 2018:

(The live action Disney) Aladdin will be helmed by British director Guy Ritchie…At least this new version will have a mostly South Asian/Middle Eastern cast, granted Disney reportedly said the casting process took a really long time because they had difficulty finding “a singing, dancing actor who is Middle Eastern or Indian to play the title role.” Really Disney? Have you bothered to look into the many notable performers in Bollywood and Tollywood alone? You do realize that you’ve also used playback singers in your productions, right? Why is this suddenly a problem now?”

–Jennifer Allen in the November 2019 Saathee magazine.

October 2018:


I have often speculated on the nature of heaven, and today is no exception: I am walking into a movie theater. Outside is a beautiful marquee, and there is a gentle breeze. They are showing a movie I love, and this will be the 100th time I have seen it. The popcorn looks delicious and fresh, nay, is delicious, and fresh, and of course I am dead: you have to be dead to get into heaven. Admission is $5, if you go in the afternoons. The floor is sticky; the air smells like butter. I will go again, ninty-nine more times today.

–From Devisive Potatoes by Ricky Garni. Ricky, I’m sorry that my webdesign skills are not strong enough to reproduce your paragraph spacing!

September 2018:

“I grew up on this diet of movies where guys were chasing women through airports, and standing outside their window at night, and conspiring to shut down their independent bookstores, and doing all kinds of crazy, stalker shit. We’re making a point about what it really means that we root for those relationships.”

This is from an interview with Sera Gamble, the showrunner for a tv show called “You.” I’m watching it because Moviediva, Jr. is the on-set tailor for this show! But, as queasy as the whole stalker plot is, I have to agree that Gamble has a point.

August 2018:

“The preeminance, during the past ten years, of the superhero movie has been accompanied by the loss of the actor as hero, or heroic type. “According to Marvel’s philosophy,” Ben Fritz writes, “the character, not the actors were the stars, and pretty much everyone was expendable.” There was no separating (William) Powell from Nick Charles, or Humphrey Bogart from Sam Spade. Is there any connecting Batman to–fill in the blank? The quality of film acting has never been higher, and there is still a craft in scriptwriting and directing that makes one regularly bow with awe. But a minimal standard of human relatability is not being met, on a routine basis, in the medium’s most dominant genre. People who are nothing like us rescuing a world that is nothing like ours is not a recipe for artistic renewal.”

“Clobbering Time: How superheroes killed the movie star” by Stephen Metcalf in the May 28, 2018 The New Yorker

July 2018:

“But then, this alleged unity of moviegoers–of Americans, really–was another of Hollywood’s attempts to create something by pretending to reflect it. The sense of community in the place that is safe was a delusion, a lie, like Clark Gable’s casually swaggering outlaw sweetie or Joan Crawford’s shopgirl princess, presented as exemplars of an American type. Nonsense, There were no such people, except in the movies–or did you really think you lived down the street from someone coached by George Cukor, lit by William Daniels, dressed by Adrian and written by Frances Marion, Joseph Mankiewicz and Anita Loos?”

–fron Medium Cool: The Movies of the 1960s by Ethan Mordden (p.36)

June 2018:

“You get why this is, right? CD’s have total freedom with extras. Once you get to doing the principals, the “is history sexy?” issue raises its ugly head.
The committees assemble, and history loses. Except on the extras. Often it is where we get to do our best work.”

Terry Dresbach (costume designer for Outlander) on why extras are sometimes dressed more historically accurately than lead actors, on one of my favorite websites, Frock Flicks

May 2018:

‘I’m fascinated by the fact that at the moment we don’t seem to make films that are designed to make you happy from the beginning to the end. We actors always seem to have to be on some sort of journey or other. In the olden days we didn’t have to do that. Sometimes actors were required to entertain!’

Emma Thompson quoted on The Love Punch,

March/April 2018:

“Dialogue consists of the bright things you would like to have said, except you didn’t think of them in time”

–Preston Sturges (quoted in Comedy is a Man in Trouble by Alan Dale)

February 2018:

“While we’re on the subject–of both glory and support–now’s probably the time to mention Meryl Streep, again. Not her performance in “The Post” although she’s as good as you might already have heard she is, but the performance of a caftan she wears in a climactic scene. It’s a white tented number with gold trim, and it’s probably best left to a conversation about how the costume designer, Ann Roth, shouldn’t be overlooked. But, come on. How isn’t this dress, for its one big scene, giving the performance of a lifetime, too?

Ms. Streep’s character in the movie, the Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham, wasn’t dressed for work. She’d been doing some entertaining when some of the papaer’s editoral staff and board members invade, so there’s that. But, once her parlor becomes a situation room, her evening wear turns into a power suit, but a reconsidered one. Graham looks royal in it, presidential. And it answers a fundamental question about important wormen. How should they look? That caftan-wearing Meryl Street in this movie has a thrilling answer: Like this.

From the New York Times of January 7, 2018. Note: I think this caftan is created from a sari. Another kind of power dressing.

January 2018:

Twelve movies to see before you turn 13, according to the NY Times kid section, November 19, 2017:

1: The Wiz (1978). 2: The Blues Brothers (1980). 3: Spaceballs (1987). 4: Die Hard (1988). 5: Do the Right Thing (1989). 6: Paris is Burning (1990). 7: A League of Their Own (1992). 8: Princess Mononoke (1997). 9: Catch Me If You Can (2002). 10: Spellbound (2002). 11: Enchanted (2007). 12: Be Kind Rewind (2008).

December 2017:

“I wanted to put Contempt on my list but Godard never put Shemp in a movie, know what I’m saying?”

–Tracy Letts, telling Criterion about his top ten films from their collection, including W. C. Fields in The Bank Dick.

November 2017:

“I find I made things like Actions in Arabia, Lured and The Scarlet Coat.  I can only assume I was paid handsomely for them, but I am at a complete loss as to what action there was in Arabia, or who was lured where and why.  As to the scarlet coat, did I wear it, and if not, who did?”

George Sanders: An Exhausted Life by Richard VanDerBeets, p. 95

October 2017:

“There were days when Joan looked so angry that I was afraid she was going to chuck something at Jack.  She put all this intensity into her performance, instead, thank goodness.  She pretended Gloria didn’t exist, and I just tried to stay out of her way.  I think David Miller found it all a trial, but he stayed on keel in spite of it.  Not the easiest way to make movies, but exhilarating, I guess”

Mike Connors quoted disucssion Sudden Fear in Joan Crawford:  The Essential Biography by Lawrence J. Quirk and William Schoell

September 2017:

“Years ago, as a young publicist, I was asked to chaperone Tom Baker–one of the original Dr. Whos–for the day in Liverpool. He spent the day telling me stories about his youth, then insisted on buying me “A Suitable Boy” by Vikran Seth. Not only is it a wonderful book, I am reminded of our wonderfully eccentric time together every time I glance at the spine.”

–Jane Green, when asked by the NY Times Book Review about the best book she ever received as a gift (July 30, 2017).

August 2017

“Ask me to do anything, ask me to rob a bank with you. But don’t ask me to go to a movie theater and get arrested watching Citizen Kane

Patricia Hearst, American’s most famous fugitive, used to go to the movies when she was on the run. But, she did draw the line one time, according to Jeffrey Toobin in American Heiress (p.243).

June-July 2017:

“The ‘heterosexual’ couple of classical cinema encompassed within them and between them all sorts of shifting alliances: dyads, triangles, quartets, the great stuff of Freudian narrative, concealed and revealed. You don’t have to see the perverse shadings and altrnative readings in the old films, but they are there: to deny all the homosexual, bisexual, and heterosexual possibilities inherent in the coming together of, say Dietrich or Garbo and their lovers, (Cary) Grant and his; or practically all of the screwball couples; or practically all star couples, is to read film literally and to insist on making unequivocal something whose very charm, whose layered inferences, were based on the equivocal.”

–Molly Haskell, presumably from Holding My Own in No Man’s Land, but quoted at the beginning of Marc Eliot’s biography of Cary Grant

May 2017:

“They become their parents.”

Mike Nichols, when asked what became of Benjamin and Elaine after the end of The Graduate (Pictures at a Revolution by Mark Harris, p. 396).

April 2017

“With these films, I became the number one enemy of Mexican family morals…Somehow, I seduced the public, even those who criticize the conduct of my characters in the films. My legend began to take shape without moving a finger. The public imagination did everything for me.”

Maria Felix in her autobiography.

March 2017

“Almost all of the video rental stores are gone now, and it is probably hard for people who did not live throught the late 1980s and early ’90s to imagine how plentiful they once were. It’s like trying to imagine the enormous storms of passenger pigeons that crossed the Midwest in the 19th century, traveling in flocks the size of Manhattan Island, darkening the sky for hours when they passed overhead. In most moderate-sized burgs, you could find a Blockbuster or a Hollywood Video in every strip mall, often parked between a one-hour photo shop (also all gone now) and a Borders bookstore (sob!). The mom-and-pop video rental joints were even better. Imagine a single cinder block room, crowded with aisles of VHS cassettes organized by genre, and a curtained off closet in the back with the tantalizing adult videos hidden on the other side. Even now, I’m not sure sociology has paused to recognize the seismic effect of those video stores on the culture. Suddenly, even farm boys in Podunkville and punk rock girls in the suburbs had access to everything from Truffaut to Troma. Some of those kids went on to make films themselves.”

–Joe Hill, in a review of Universal Harvester by John Darnielle in the February 19, 2017 The New York Times Book Review

February 2017

Re: Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, it’s “so fresh and moved so fast that audiences will forget it’s Shakespeare”

–Richard Corliss in Time Magazine, confirmed by the North Carolina Museum of Art’s enthusiastic response.

January 2017

“Hollywood is a good place to learn to eat a salad without smearing your lipstick.”

-Celeste Holm

October 2016

“Wong’s role in Shanghai Express was, in many ways, a classic person-of-color best-friend role — only this best friend had an amazing resting bitchface and a gaze that could shut a man up with a single glance. Her true feat, of course, was getting people to look at something, anything, that wasn’t Dietrich’s intoxicating face for more than a minute. Plus, under the direction of Josef Sternberg, she got the most awesome German expressionist lighting of her life. Just look at her and Marlene. This is majesty”

September 2016

“The title number, a balletic day in the life of a showgirl, gives rise to one of Berkeley’s greatest visual inventions, a white background festooned with dancing girls’ black-clad legs—which rhythmically open and close to yield up a flying wedge of pubic rapture, ending with a black hole—at the end of which is a dancer dressed in baby clothes.  It suggests nothing less than “The Origin of the World.”

Richard Brody in The New Yorker

August 2016

The second line of the couplet “But square-cut or pear-shape/These rocks don’t lose their shape,” with its pinpoint high note on “their,” from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”? That was Ms. Nixon too. (The film’s star Marilyn Monroe sang the rest of the number, “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.”)

July 26, 2016 Obituary for singer Marnie Nixon in the New York Times, by Margalit Fox

July 2016

“I like to watch a lot of the silent movies,” says Spielberg, who has re-watched all of Keaton’s films in recent years. “They taught me so much about where to put the camera.”

Jake Coyle:

June 2016

“Yes, I come from the Marlene Dietrich school of acting. Orson Welles once told me about the day he called Marlene and asked her to be in Touch of Evil–that afternoon. She jumped out of bed, rushed over to Paramount to consult with her Svengali, Travis Banton (the well-known costumer). Together, they ransacked the wardrobe department for a hat and a shawl and a couple of wigs, and then she drove like a wild thing down to the border and shot in the afternoon. I love this approach.”

Rupert Everett quoted in: “On a First-Name Basis with Oscar Wilde” in the May 8, 20016, New York Times

May 2016

“You know that old lady in Sunset Blvd., trapped in her mansion and past glories? Getting ready for her close-up? I don’t run with that.”

Prince in 2004, quoted in the May 6, 2016 Entertainment Weekly

April 2016

“I should be happier with the description ‘timeless.’ Bach is timeless. So is Masaccio. So is Buster Keaton. So are Indian and Egyptian sculpture, the murlas of Ajanta, Chinese painting, Japanese woodcuts, Etruscan vases, Benin bronzes, the horse of Lascauz and the bison of Altamira…”

–Bengali director Satyajit Ray

March 2016

“For those who long for a pricklier age, the seventies have become something like an escapist fantasyland, and, honestly, I can see the appeal. When I watched Argo, I got obsessed with how fun it looked to be a nineteen-seventies white guy. Tight avocado pants! Before AIDS, after the sexual revolution. Women in charge of the hors d’oeuvres, smoking in the office, and a strong mustache game.”

Emily Nussbaum in the February 22, 2016 The New Yorker, writing about Vinyl on HBO.

February 2016

“Madame Karinska was one of the few who could take one of Mitch’s drawings and figure out how to make it.”

Ray Milland quoted in Edith Head by David Chierichetti, p. 80

The unsung hero/heroines of costuming: the cutter drapers. The costumes in Lady in the Dark were credited to Edith Head and Raoul Pene du Bois, but “executed” by Madame Barbara Karinska

December 2015

“…I find myself lately feeling less like a caricature–a prig in an ascot, a fuddy-duddy with a pipe or any of the other amusing types a Google image search will yield–than like a fossil, the last devotee of an obscure and obsolescent creed, of the only particpant in an argument that has long since been settled. It seems to be an article of modern democratic faith that disputing taste is taboo, at best a lapse in manners, at worst an offense against feelings or social order (which sometimes seem to amount to the smane thing). Our nation is at present riven by social inequality and polarized by ideology, but the last thing anyone wants to be called is an elitist.”

From “Film Snob? Is That So Wrong?” by A.O. Scott in the October 4, 2015 New York Times

November 2015

“Before he heads off, I mention how remarkable the communal experience of watching a movie on a screen with a large and willing audience is–and with an actual print–after seeing so much television alone or renting movies online. Tarantino nods, and uses our last few moments together to rally one more time against the digitizing of the moviegoing experience. ‘If Buzzy, the kid who pops the popcorn, simply hits play on the menu, then we’re just there watching HBO in public’ he says. ‘And, I don’t know about you, but I don’t need to watch HBO with a bunch of strangers.'”

Portrait of Quentin Tarantino by Colin Dodgson in the October 25, 2015 New York Times Style Magazine

Musings on 2015 Summer Blockbusters:

“As studios seeks to attract ticket buyers overseas, event moves are becoming stripped of their nuance. Witty banter? Hard to translate. Nix that, too, and just have a superhero destroy another city.”

–Brooks Barnes in the June 7, 2015 NY Times.

“Mohamad Ali, a carpenter…and his friends agree that Bollywood trumps Hollywood. ‘American films are all shooting without any insults’ says Wael Salaam.”

–Laura Dean in “Forget Bollywood, Egyptians are in love with Bollywood” in the June, 2015 Saathee magazine.

“The allure of San Andreas rests entirely on the calibre of its pandemonium, savored, ideally, with a brawling audience on a Friday night. Indeed, it is the kind of movie that makes we want to campaign for the serving of alcohol in leading cinema chains–mandatory beer, I propose, with shots of Jim Beam to toast the dialogue. Most of this is defiantly monosyllabic, ‘My God,’ ‘Oh, shit,”Go, go, go’ and for Hayes, an undeserved, ‘You did good.’ Film not bad. Star is huge. Day saved.”

–Anthony Lane reviewing San Andreas in the June 8 & 15 New Yorker magazine, a movie already forgotten by September

May 2015

The Nouvelle Vague was—ugh!—terrible, really terrible for French cinema.  I got so bored with all these sad stories, films about couples fighting in their kitchen for two hours.  Please give us a break!”

Amélie writer- director Jean-Pierre Jeunet

April 2015

“Netflix, with its plenitude of options, asks for a decision, for an accounting of tastes; but TCM unburdens you of choice and asks for only curiosity and an appetite for surprise. The freedom to choose is like the freedom to speak: There is never too much of it, but there is sometimes too much of its consequences. Education proceeds by means of other people’s choices. Otherwise, it is just customization of electronically facilitated narcissism. Let Mr. Osborne decide!”

–Letter of recommendatin: Turner Classic Movies by Leon Wieseltier in the 3.1.15 NY Times Magazine

March 2015

“It’s still a great place to go,” said Mr. Osborne, who is host of Turner Classic Movies. “But going to Hollywood today is akin to going to Washington D.C. because Lincoln once lived there.”

Quoted in the New York Times, February 15, 2015 “Hollywood Gets Its Groove Back”

February 2015

“Renoir has a lot of talent, but he is not one of us” said Darryl F. Zanuck, his studio boss.  The director’s reply was that “it has been a pleasure working at 16th Century Fox”

Jean Renoir spent World War II in Hollywood, where he was unappreciated. Quote courtesy of David Thompson in the BFI Film notes for French Cancan, reprinted from Sight and Sound, September 2011.

January 2015

“…a near-perfect motion picture, quite the best evocation of a folk legend every put on the screen…I call it near perfect because I cannot think of any film which realized so well what its makers were trying to do or so satisfied the audience’s expectation.  For this simply IS Robin Hood of the ballads and childhood lore and the world’s imagination.  For once history does not matter.”

The Hollywood History of the World by George MacDonald Fraser praises The Adventures of Robin Hood

November 2014

“She was, at best, a sort of great American floozie, and her appeal to lonely GIs was surely that of every hash house waitress with whom they had ever flirted”

Richard Schickel on Betty Grable, star of I Wake Up Screaming.

October 2014

“Peter Lorre was one of the finest and most subtle actors I have ever worked with,” wrote director John Huston. “Beneath that air of innocence he used to such effect, one sensed a Faustian worldliness.” Huston recalled, “I’d often shoot a scene with Peter, and find it quite satisfactory, nothing more.  But then, I would see it on the screen in rushes, and discover it to be far better than what I had perceived on the set. Some subtlety of expression was seen by the camera and recorded by the microphone that the naked eye and ear did not get”

From: The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre by Stephen D. Youngkin, p. 181

September 2014

“I believe people should be allowed to go the whole hog with their perversions, abnormalities, unhappinesses…Mad people are the only active people, they have built the world”

Novelist Patricia Highsmith, author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train.

June 2014

The uglier we grow with age, the more beautiful our work must become, reflecting us like a child that takes after its parents. –Jean Cocteau

May 2014

“Everyone who admires the film remembers his arrival—one of the great arrivals, indeed in the history of cinema, as he jumps from an open-top Alfa Romero in an Italian piazza, bops towards us, kisses Dickie, pours a slug of wine, and throws it down his gullet in a single draft…Mingella saw the fruitfulness of allowing characters, and the actors who embodied them, to take turns in the spotlight—to strut and fret their time upon the stage, and them make way.  Who owns the movie is never quite decided, and the one thing more full blooded than Hoffman’s swagger in his first appearance, is the elan with which he yields to the blissful air of repertory—a travelling troupe, putting on a show.  There is a modesty in that approach; an unexpected trait, in such a force of nature as Philip Seymour Hoffman, and in so immodest a trade as cinema”

–“The Master: Remembering Phillip Seymour Hoffman” by Anthony Lane in the Feb 17 & 24 The New Yorker.

March 2014

Kevin Spacey, the male lead of “House of Cards” put it this way: “We have demonstrated that we have learned the lesson that the music industry didn’t learn. Give people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in, at a reasonable price–and they’re more likely pay for it rather than steal it.”

–Kevin Spacey in the New York Times discussing Netflix’ success.

February 2014

“I hate it, but men fall for it, so go on and pout.” –Marlene Dietrich

January 2014

“Oh, you can talk about your Howard Hawkses and George Stevenses, your Billy Wilders and Sam Peckinpahs, your auteur theories.  But when I get to dreaming about movies—especially those I’ve seen dozens of times, like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Swing Time and Sabrina—I pause less and less at the directorial achievements, and more and more at the clothes that encourage me to identify with the heroines.  Yeah, yeah, I know Hawks is the genius behind Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, but it isn’t his invisible editing that makes it endlessly watchable.  Rather, it’s Travilla’s idea of playclothes:  that is Jane Russell’s black halter bustier and clinging pedal pushers pulled over spiked ankle strap heels”

— Carrie Rickey quoted in “Growing Up With Audrey Hepburn” by Rachel Moseley.

November-December 2013

“(Alexander) Payne is a serious film nerd, which, perhaps surprisingly, isn’t true of most directors. ‘There are some others,’ Payne said. “Scorsese, of course. Curtis Hanson. But, after all, you don’t have to be a film buff to be a director. How manu films had D.W. Griffith seen?'”

–From the profile of Alexander Payne “Home Movies” by Margaret Talbot in The New Yorker, October 28, 2013.

October 2013

“We both knew what “camp” was. We had a sense of humor; we needed it too, to play some of the roles we were given. We’d been doing the same sort of films for so long that we used to change our lines around or add to them, ad-lib during filming, and nobody would be any the wiser.”

Joan Blondell on working at Warner Brothers in the early 1930s

September 2013

In New York, people tend to party-hop. If they’re in a costume, they’re stuck there. It loosens them up.”

Claire Danes on her enthusiasm for costume parties in The New Yorker September 9, 2013. Yes, it’s Claire Danes quotes two months in a row! I guess she’s giving the best interviews these days.

August 2013

“I’ve had conversations with (older actresses) Meryl, Susan Sarandon, Jodie Foster,” she says…”You have to pick your battles on set. You have to come to work from a place of love. You have to stay hydrated when you have crying scenes. You have to go to college. And you have to ask for money, because there’s always more money and they won’t give it to you because you’re a girl!”

–Claire Danes in August, 2013 Vogue (p. 226)

July 2013

“It’s the idea that one goes into a movie house to seek a sense of security. One looks for something that is better organized than the world in which we live, and if one goes back to see the same film over and over, it’s because one wants to live in a world where everything is predictable.”

François Truffaut, quoted in The Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation, edited by George Stevens, Jr. p. 681

June 2013:

“There are people that I didn’t invite to early screenings of Sleepless (in Seattle) because I knew they don’t like movies like this and I didn’t want to hear a note from somebody who would go: ‘Oh, god, this is too schmaltzy for words.’ You have to hear from someone who’s going to want to see a romantic movie. You can’t invite your cold hearted friends to see romantic movies.”

–Nora Ephron in The Great Moviemakers: The Next Generation edited by George Stevens, Jr. p. 170

May 2013:

“I felt like a character in a trashy novel; I even knew which trashy novel I felt like a character in, which made it worse; The Best of Everything. At least I wasn’t going through the garbage, but that was only because it hadn’t turned out to be necessary.”

–Nora Ephron Heartburn p. 153

April 2013:

It is often said that successful Bollywood flms contain a perfect ‘Masala Mix’, in other words a recipe for success which includes certain types of characters, a certain number of songs and certain features: romantic dream sequence, fight scene, comedy moments, a happy ending. In actuality, it is difficult to apply this formula to even a small number of films. All Bollywood films have specific placements, subjects and histrionics. The Masala Mix theory also fails to consider the discriminatory power of the audience, which is highly discerning, evidenced by the fact that out of the hundred of films released every year, only a tiny number achieve box office success. As we will see, some of the most successful movies from both past and present have controversial plots. This proves that there is a willingness on the part of audiences to witness and negotiate differing desires that may challenge culturally embedded moralities and ideals. These range from the traditional to the radical.

–Kush Varia in Bollywood: Gods, Glamour and Gossip (p.33).

March 2013:

“In the first decades of the twentieth century, people elected to see projected movies in large groups. A hundred years later we are watching images nearly too small to see, in an isolation bordering on secrecy. The question hanging over these changes is whether we ever had a choice, or are we just helpless victims of the light?…do not underestimate the primitive light worshop that is involved and that has always been part of film and television. We love the light, even when it is artificial, and we cannot help the irrational assumption that insight and enlightenment may come from it. One thrill gone from theatrical movie going now is the beam of the projector, a seeminly solid wedge alive with the writhing smoke that came up from the crowd. As kids, we sometime watched the flickering of the movie in that swirl, if the stuff on the screen seemed tame. A theater was cavern-like, with spells working in the air.”

-David Thomson in The Big Screen pp256-6

February 2013:

Weren’t movies his generation’s faith anyway–its true religion? Wasn’t the theater our temple, the one place we enter separately but emerge from two hours later together, with the same experience, same guided emotions, same moral? A million schools taught ten million curricula, a million churches featured ten thousand texts with a billion sermons–but the same movie showed in every mall in the country. And we all saw it! That summer, the one you’ll never forget, every movie house beamed the same set of thematic and narrative images–the same Avatar, same Harry Potter, same Fast and the Furious, flickering pictures stitched in our minds that replaced our own memories, archetypal stories that became our shared history, that taught us what to expect from life, that defined our values. What was that but a religion?”

–Jess Walters in Beautiful Ruins (p.21)

January 2013:

“The rest of us will be reminded of high-definition television–better known in my household, as a reason to avoid viewing films on TV, unless they contain characters named Woody and Buzz. HD has the unfortunate effect of turning every film into what appears to be a documentary about a film set, not just warts-and-all, but carefully supplying extra warts where a wart has no right to be.”

Anthony Lane reviewing The Hobbit in the December 17, 2012 The New Yorker.

December 2012:

“It’s a staggering amount of material, and the great majority of it is inaccessible to those without instant access to major film archives. If today’s film culture seems so impoverished, it’s in part because we have lost contact with the great tradition of the American cinema, as more and more movies drop out of distribution and down the memory hole.

But, enough whining. In the spirit of the season, let us be grateful for the gifts that Fox Cinema Archives has brought us so far, in the hope that many more are to come.”

Dave Kehr in “Treasures from the Fox Vault” in the NY Times, December 2, 2012

November 2012

“Hollywood had made gangsters look glamorous, and they were grateful for it. When G-Men gunned down John Dillinger, aka Public Enemy No. 1, in the summer of 1934, he was coming out of a movie theater where he’d been watching Clark Gable in the gangster film, Manhattan Melodrama. There was, in the words of the Hollywood historians Christopher French and Linda Rosenkrantz, something of a ‘cultural exchange program between the studios and the underworld.’ Actors imitated gangsters who imitated them right back. Screenwriters incorporated street argot and made it snappier–and then it filtered back to the street, new and improved.”

From The Entertainer: Movies, Magic and My Father’s Twentieth Century by Margaret Talbot, p.378

October 2012

Molly Haskell says, Gilda is “playing a man’s game in a man’s world of crime and carnal innuendo, where her long hair is the equivalent of a gun, where sex was the equivalent of evil.  And where her power to destroy was a projection of man’s feelings of impotence”

–in Gilda: A BFI Film Classic by Melvyn Stokes

August-September 2012

“For instance he (Producer Hal Wallis) did the last line–‘Louis, I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.’ Today, that shameless get-off line speaks to the lasting bonds of affection between golden age Hollywood and ourselves–the tarnished coinage of the movies…Like ‘Play it again, Sam.’ Everybody remembers that line, though it isn’t in the picture.

And, lines like that are Casablanca–and in great films of its era. If you could prove beyond a doubt that you wrote five great lines from Casablanca–hill of beans, the waters, the last line, here’s looking at you, kid and play it, you’re home, you’re in the pantheon.”

–David Thomson in Humphrey Bogart page 62-3

July 2012

“This is what I understood about art. It’s very existence was credential enough. If it had posters and tv ads and contained within its frames beings who posed before cameras and mouthed words, it satisfied the definition of a movie, and that was enough for me.”

–A Psychotronic Childhood by Colson Whitehead i the June 4 & 11, 2012 New Yorker.

June 2012

They were going to shoot two endings because they couldn’t work out whether I should fly off by airplane with my husband, or stay with Humphrey Bogart. So the first ending we shot was that I say good-bye to Humphrey Bogart and fly off with Paul Henreid. Then, if you remember, Claude Rains and Bogie walk off into the fog, saying that famous phrase, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” And everybody said, “Hold it! That’s it! We don’t have to shoot the other ending. That’s just perfect, a wonderful closing line.”

But, they hadn’t known it was the closing line until they heard it. And they certainly didn’t know it was going to turn out to be a classic and win an Oscar.

They were a wonderful group of actors, but because of the difficulties of the script, we’d all been a bit on edge and I’d hardly got to know Humphrey Bogart at all. Oh, I’d kissed him, but I didn’t know him.

He was polite naturally, but I always felt there was a distance; he was behind a wall. I was intimidated by him. The Maltese Falcon was playing in Hollywood at the tim, and I used to go and see it quite often during the shooting of Casablanca, becuase I felt I got to know him a little better through that picture.

–From Ingrid Bergman: My Story by Ingrid Bergman and Alan Burgess.

May 2012

“Give the party in a small space and pack the people in.  Never be afraid that you’ve asked too many.  Play Rumanian gypsy music (interspersed with a little Perez Prado) to brighten the intimacy and drama.  Serve gobs of weak martinis which you have made up beforehand and stored in the icebox.  A constantly circulating martini pitcher creates a feeling of well being and good fellowship in guests.  Let any two friends bring hors d’oeuvres—deviled eggs, clam dip, guacamole, or whatever they wish.  Praise them lavishly. Never let anyone contribute liquor.  Don’t ask any but charming and attractive people.  Lump the lugubrious and hostile together on another occasion and pack them all off to the movies.  Invite plenty of single people.”

Yes, yes!  I want to go! From “Sex and the Single Girl” by Helen Gurley Brown

April 2012

“The cracks Miss Taylor has taken at my novel gave me some bruises, which were healed by the MGM accounting department with their tender, loving royalty checks.”

John O’Hara on Elizabeth Taylor’s remarks about the screen adaptation of his novel, BUtterfield 8 from Elizabeth Taylor: A Celebration by Sheridan Morley, p. 108.

March 2012

The prints of classic foreign and Hollywood films in those pre-DVD days were legendarily scuffed like locker room floors, with washed-out colors, bleached black and white, frames missing, vertical lines slicing the frames, strange blotches appearing like fungus, fuzzy sound, the screen going blank as a reel came unsnapped and the audience groaned, what little audience there was in the dead of afternoon. But the inperfections in the prints made the experience more dreamlike, closer to an unfinished rough draft from the unconscious, the subtitles a ghostly reduction of dialogue that sounded so much more expressive and layered than the plain words at the bottom of the screen. Needing no translation, the serious Hollywood heavyweights —On the Waterfront, High Noon–carried their own echo of the hereafter, a sense that you were watching glorious figments reenacting a heroic rite that now belonged to immortality, where self-importance savors its just reward.

From Lucking Out by James Wolcott p. 51

February 2012

“Woman’s picture!” said Jaffee.  They said to me, ‘Do you mind that you’re known for writing women’s books?’ I said, ‘Why because women write about stupid things like relationships, and men write about really important things like killing?’ You know, that was their attitude.”

“The Lipstick Jungle” by Laura Jacobs p 105-126 from Vanity Fair March 2004, in Vanity Fair’s Tales of Hollywood edited by Graydon Carter.

January 2012

There is only one problem with home cinema: it doesn’t exist. The very phrase is an oxymoron. As you pause your film to answer the door, or fetch a Coke, the experience ceases to be cinema. Even the act of choosing when to watch means you are no longer at the movies. Choice–preferably an exhaustive menu of it–pretty much defines our status as consumers, and has long been an unquestioned tenent of the capitalist feast, but in fact, carte blanche is not the way to run a cultural life (or any kind of life, for that matter), and one thing that has nourished the theatrical experience, from the Athens of Aeschylus to the multipliex, is the element of compulsion. Someone else decides when the show will start; we may decide whether to attend, but once, we take our seats, we join the ride and surrender our will. The same goes for the folks around us, whom we do not know,. and whom we resemble only in our private desire to know more of what will unfold in public, on the stage or screen. We are strangers in communion, and, once that pact of the intimate and the populous is snapped, the charm is gone. Our revels now are ended.

–Anthony Lane in The New Yorker, November 7, 2011

December 2011

Speaking as someone chained to the past–or to an imaginary version, if the real one proves unavailable–I tend to inquire, when grading the current fortunes of an actress, not “How good are her movies?” but “How bright would the gleam have been in George Cukor’s gaze, behind his spectacles, if he had seen this woman’s screen test, in 1940?”

–Anthony Lane in the August 29, 2011 New Yorker

November 2011

“The cinematic experience has been undervalued since the Fifties when movies started showing up on TV. Grand movie palaces, multiplexes, neighborhood theaters, drive-ins, church basements, etc.,–any one of these places is a part of the cinematic experience. For decades, archives had to battle only TV, and it was easy to exert superiority over those twenty-inch black boxes. But once bad projection and obnoxious audiences became the rule, the moviegoing experience became a chore. Then the only thing that mattered was content. Archives have fought this battle for a while, but they are the only ones fighting it. That battle was lost ten or fifteen years ago and archives have just denied the reality. It’s fine to have standards, but the teachable moment is no longer how we see movies, but in fact what kind of movies we “could” see. Maybe with this approach in mind, archives can transition into the digital world with less hangwringing and nervousness.”

–Daniel Wagner of George Eastman House in the Fall, 2011 Cineaste.

At the NC Museum of Art, we’ll continue showing 35mm as long as we can! It just looks better.

September 2011 and October, too. Because it’s my letter!

Modern romantic comedies evolved from 1930s screwball comedies, famously described by critic Andrew Sarris as “sex comedies without the sex.” Today, it takes an awfully clever screenwriter to devise a reason to keep an attractive couple out of bed. Hence the weary reliance on the Big Misunderstanding.

–My letter!!! In the Feedback column of the September 2, 2011 Entertainment Weekly

August 2011:

“Marlon Brando came from the Actor’s Studio. We were roommates for four months in a little house on Barham Boulevard. I’d heard about Method acting from him. I respected him. But, I wasn’t interested in the Method. He was great because he was Marlon, not because of the Method. I thought it was phony. Why complicate the job of acting? Memorize your lines. Learn the part. Find out what the director wants. Then show up on time and act. This idea of trying to remember when your sister stole your peanut butter sandwich so you can give an angry performance is bullshit. If you can’t turn it on by yourself, you don’t belong in front of a camera.”

–Tony Curtis in “The Making of Some Like It Hot” (with Mark Viera, p. 39).

June-July 2011:

Four Movies in One Day! Years ago on a miserably rainy day in Manhattan, my wife, Rita, and I planned out a perfect quartet of films to take in, all playing at theaters within walking distance. We started at 10:30 with Hello Again and ended 12 hours later with The Princess Bride. This included lunch, Less Than Zero, Baby Boom and dinner. If you have a day to call your own and/or the weather is lousy, take in a fantastic four of your own.

#2 on My Summer Must List by Tom Hanks in the June 3/10 2011 Entertainment Weekly

May 2011:

“I hated being on that movie so much I was glad when it bombed. These roles are destroying a generation of boys, who think we’ll forgive any kind of assholey behavior.”

-Anna Faris on her role in My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006) and by implication, any number of other recent comedy films. “Funny Like a Guy” by Tad Friend in the April 11, 2011 New Yorker.

April 2011:

I also had a great interation with Harrison , who was almost my age. I liked his style of working, too, as his approach was like that of a stage actor. I found him to be such an approachable man with whom I could talk about my theatre experiences. That is how we gelled and struck a great rapport. He was so methodical and amenable. I had not seen any of his films earlier than that. The way he used to prepare himself, there was no nakhra (airs) and he would be ready for the take. This seems to be a general trait amongst all world-class actors. All great people do not behave like that, but all such people who behave like that are great…Once Harrison asked me about my other films that I was doing simultaneously in Hindi. On being told that I was working in as many different films in India, he literally fell from his chair and acted as if he was fainting, “How the hell are you doing that?” I told him, “Being a theatre artiste, and if time is at disposal, acting is no problem. I know I have to do away with my leisure and forego other hobbies.” He countered, “But what about the quality?” I said, “If your heart is into it, the quality remains intact. It may vary by one or two per cent, but then that is negligent.” He agreed with me, appreciated my involvement and said that there are certain things that they as actors had to learn from us, too. He did not have any idea about Indian cinema, but it seemed he liked Indians, as he was very affable. I was quite impressed by his gentle behavior.

–Amrish Puri, the great Indian character actor, speaks of his experience working on Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in his autobiography, The Act of Life pp 204-5.

March 2011:

“Alverna” said Joe.

He seemed to Ralph strangely noncommittal.

Ralph looked at her anxiously. As the motor was shut off and they floated through the placid shallow water, dark, yet clear in the shadow of the wharf, he saw that Alverna was surprisingly all that Joe had painted her. She was young; she was slim and radiant. There was no perozide to that honey-colored fluff of hair, bobbed and curly. Her white skirt and low linen sailor blouse were crisp. Her eyes were babyish, childish her straight little nose–very face of a child–and her cheeks were unpainted; her voice was caressing as she hailed them:

“Joe, I’ve been terribly lonely for you!”

Mantrap by Sinclair Lewis (p114-115) Soon to star Clara Bow.

February 2011:

“As much as any part I played, Ellen has meaning for me as a woman…She believed herself to be normal and worked at convincing her friends she was. Most emotionally disturbed people go through such a stage, the equivalent of the alcoholic hiding the bottle.”

–Gene Tierney quoted in Dark City by Eddie Muller, p. 91, discussing her role in Leave Her to Heaven.

January 2011:

“My son and his 10 year old sister can now intelligently debate the relative merits of the three modern Doctors of “Dr. Who” but they do not (choked sob and how did I fail them?) know who Abbot and Costello are.

Mary McNamara in a syndicated Los Angeles Times article bemoaning the fact that old movies are no longer regular fare on television. (In the Raleigh News & Observer 12/12/2010)

December 2010:

“Firth draped an arm over the banquette and suggested that the idea of the repressed Englishman is an outdated cultural stereotype. ‘It’s not as common in England as is perceived,’ he said, ‘Certainly not in my generation. We grew up wanting to be Jimi Hendriz or Keith Richards–we didn’t grow up wanting to be a Conservative Member of Parliament.'”

–Lizzie Widdicombe’s profile of Colin Firth in the December 6, 2010 The New Yorker.

November 2010:

“A similar phenomenon is at work in an experiment run by a group including the economist George Loewenstein, in which people were asked to pick one movie to watch that night, and one to watch at a later date. Not surprisingly, for the movie they wanted to watch immediately, people tended to pick lowbrow comedies and blockbusters, but when asked what movie they wanted to watch later, they were more likely to pick serious, important films. The problem , of course, is that when the time comes to watch the serious movie, another frothy one will often seem more appealing. That is why Netflix queues are filled with movies that never get watched: our responsible selves put Hotel Rwanda and The Seventh Seal in our queue, but when the time comes we end up in front of a rerun of The Hangover.”

James Surowiecki in “Later: What does procrastination tell us about ourselves” in the October 11, 2010 New Yorker.

October 2010:

“Gunslingers are not samurai.”

–Akira Kurosawa, when asked if he had seen The Magnificent Seven the remake of Seven Samurai, quoted in The Emperor and the Wolf by Stuart Galbraith III p. 196.

September 2010:

If someone would rather watch The Night of the Hunter on Hulu or YouTube instead of a restored 35mm print on a big screen, then I’d argue that they’re not really interested in seeing the movie (and probably mentally deranged).

–Jim Healy, Assistant Curator at George Eastman House in the Spring 2010 Cineaste

August 2010:

Q: Do have any advice for younger actresses?

A: I’ll use what Bette Davis used to say when she was asked by younger actresses how to get to Hollywood. She said, “Take Fountain.” If you don’t live in Hollywood, it’s helpful to know that Fountain is the direct street that you should take because it has the least traffic on it. So young actresses, take Fountain.

–Betty White, quoted in an interview in (I think) the Chicago Sun-Times, July 17, 2010

July 2010:

“The first film that made the difference in my mind between a movie and film, if you can use those terms, was Brief Encounter. This was after I got out, after the war. I remember going to the Fairfax in L.A., going over by myself for some reason. I remember thinking, “What is this about?” This girl, Celia Johnson, was not pretty. She wore those sensible shoes. And suddenly, I’m in love with her. I walked out of that movie and I went for a long walk. I realized the difference, and from that point on I started looking for those kinds of experiences in films.”

–Robert Altman in Robert Altman: The Oral Biography by Mitchell Zuckoff (p.55).

June 2010:

“But few scientists have a burning desire to rule the world, typically, they don’t even enjoy managing people and research budgets.”

Hollywood Science: Movies, Science and the End of the World (p. 171) by Sidney Perkowitz

May 2010:

“As many of us attempt to nurture, defend, and promote the traditional modes of exhibiting and viewing cinema, we also participate in a faux film culture, bu pretending that we have ‘seen’ (and heard) a film when we have merely consumed a degraded version of it, in the delivery systems you identify in your question (NB: DVD, download, streaming, etc.)…Is cinema art or is it information?”

–James Quandt, Senior Programmer at the TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto,Canada, quoted in the Spring 2010 Cineaste, in the “Repertory Film Programming” symposium article (p. 51).

This is now my constant refrain when folks ask me why the NC Museum of Art does not show on DVD. The museum would not hang a reproduction of a painting in the place of an original, no matter how excellent the copy.

March -April 2010:

“Love scenes are also difficult from married actors’ point of view. When your wife sees a film—and you can be playing anything from a serial killer to an SS officer—she will complement you on a wonderful performance. If you put the same realism into a love scene, she will say, “You’re not that good an actor, you must have fancied her!” In my own defense, I’ve learned to be slightly bad at love scenes.”

–Michael Caine, What’s It All About, p.481

February , 2010:

Fortified by a Tom Collins or two, Mother decided that this would be the night that Jack Barrymore would get to see her little son’s Hamlet act.

She grabbed me by my tiny shoulders and thrust me forward at the feet of the legendary star. “Go ahead, Robert,” she prodded. The circle around Barrymore grew still; the great man himself leaned towards me, an indulgent smile on his face. All eyes were on me. It was a feeling I was already learning to recognize…and to like.

Leaning against a bar stool, I struck a dramatic pose and launched into the great speech with all the dignity and pathos a six-year-old could muster:

To be, or not to be: that is the question…

When I concluded with the words “And lost the name of action,” my small audience burst into applause, and Barrymore himself rose to his feet, and, at the top of his mighty lungs, roared, “More, lad, more!”

–From Robert Vaughn’s autobiography, A Fortunate Life (4-5).

January , 2010

“Holmes, in this interpretation, is an intellectual with a vast knowledge of arcane matters, but he’s also a brawler and a prankster, and he’s formidably street-smart. (Robert) Downey, like Johnny Depp, has found a way of remaining hip in the most grossly frivolous and commercial projects–a quick wiggle of the eyes, a half smile, a beat or two of silence, and he conveys that he realizes it’s all nonsense. His attitude is: Yes, I know, but why not come along for the ride?”

–David Denby on Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes

December , 2009

“Like the spy film, which provided a release valve for the pressures of the cold war with its update of the knight-hero as playboy, so the caper film glamorizes crime as a stylish adventure, complete with fashion, romance and sex, to function as vicarious escape from the hypocritical structures of consumerist capitalism and the institutionalized heterosexual relationship”

–“A Caper of One’s Own: Fantasy Female Liberation in 1960s Crime Comedy Caper Film” by Robert von Dassanowsky Journal of Popular Film and Television Fall 2007.

November , 2009

“The old Star Trek may have pondered the immediate future, but the movies always reminded me what the future meant on a personal level: hair loss, weight gain, sagging flesh and the grave. (Our 80-year mission: to boldly go where everyone has gone before.)”

from J. R Jones’ review, “Star Trek Babies” from the May 7, 2009 Chicago Reader.

October , 2009

In his biography, Gary Cooper: American Hero, Jeffrey Meyers writes of Akim Tamiroff’s performance as General Yang in The General Died at Dawn (p. 122):

“Yang was played by Akim Tamiroff…although he laid it on rather thick, he was nominated for an Academy Award. Like many others who worked with him, Tamiroff assumed that Cooper’s minimalist performance would not register on the screen and was astonished by the effect he produced: ‘For three days I’ve acted rings around him. I’ve got him stopped. Against my acting, he can do nawthing (sic). I have every scene. So I look at the rushes. On the screen I am there. Everybody else is there. But what do I see? Nawthing! Nawthing that is but Gary Cooper.'”

September , 2009

As a live star, (Jean) Harlow’s worth was unlimited. As a dead star, she was still worth a bundle. Dead? What movie star was ever really dead? Harlow could be faked; she herself didn’t matter all that much. (This issue is compounded today, with digital imagining. As Isabella Rossellini said about a filmed image of her mother, Ingrid Bergman, being marketed in television ads: “Poor mother. Dead nearly twenty-five years and still working.”)

Jeanine Basinger in The Star Machine, a wonderful look at the Hollywood studio era (p. 135).

August , 2009

“We made the coat with real (meaning bound?) buttonholes. He had some gold buttons he gave us with his initials on them, four on each sleeve. After the second fitting, he said, ‘This is nice,” which was rare because Cary Grant took eight fittings. All of a sudden, he tore a button off one of the sleeves and we all said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘Now, it looks like its used a bit. People will get a kick out of saying, ‘Mr. Astaire, you are missing a button, and we will have a little conversation.’ So, one sleeve had three buttons instead of four. It worked remarkably. If he was gonna look casual, he was gonna look very casual. I loved the idea.”

One of Fred Astaire’s tailors, Bernie Schwarz, remembers his client in the most interesting chapter of Peter J. Levinson’s new Astaire biography, Puttin’ On the Ritz (p. 245).

July , 2009

“If Rose (Kennedy) felt isolated as an Irish Catholic in Brookline, she had to admit that, relatively speaking, Los Angeles was an open society. Almost everyone came from somewhere else and many had experienced some kind of prejudice. As the writer Anita Loos pointed out, it was a town where the wealthiest and most prestigious social leaders were the ‘peers (of their hired help) in everything but sex appeal.'”

–Cari Beauchamp in Joseph P. Kennedy Presents: His Hollywood Years (p.103)

June , 2009

A flash forward: In 1974, twenty four years after Sunset Boulevard, Gloria Swanson returned to Paramount once more to narrate a television documentary about the studio’s greatest movies. For the film, she asked to wear a remake of the black velvet and white ermine suit that Edith Head had designed for Norma Desmond when she returns to Paramount to visit DeMille. Not only had the ensemble vanished, but no one could locate a peacock feather to decorate the new ermine toque made for her. Swanson was aghast. “Imagine,” she said. “not one single white peacock feather in all Hollywood!”

–from Close-Up on Sunset Boulevard by Sam Stagg (p. 130).

May, 2009

“What you wear when you are in your own house is like a costume for the role of yourself.”

–New York fashion designer Valentina, subject of a fab exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York.

April, 2009

“(Director John M) Stahl takes the trouble to feel his way into the implications of three-strip Technicolor, and thus into the more vivid hues of the heart…the new technology reached its astounding apogee in the lips of Gene Tierney, as red as a witch’s apple. Each frame of her seems hand-tinted, as if she had ordered it. Her soft voice dies to a low whisper at the close of every phrase. “I don’t want anybody else to do anything for you,” she tells her husband. And with that, the great conservative promise of postwar domesticity–the man, newly arrived or returned, waited upon by his woman–tightens into a threat.”

Anthony Lane in the March 9, 2009 New Yorker, reviewing the gorgeous new print of 20th Century Fox’s Leave Her To Heaven. I was lucky enough to see this at Film Forum in NYC, a film both stunningly gorgeous and extremely creepy.

March, 2009

“Comedy is more difficult than tragedy. Good comedy techniques are harder to acquire. The shadings of meaning and character are subtler, the timing is everything. A flick of a finger can be important—if it’s flicked in the right way, and the whole gesture is small. Once learned, comedy techniques can be used for drama merely by slowing them down. An actress who can do comedy can do drama, the the vice versa isn’t necessarily true. Big emotional scenes are much easier to play than comedy. An onion can bring tears to your eyes, but what vegetable can make you laugh?”

Irene Dunne quoted in “Irene Dunne” by James C. Madden in the December, 1969 Films in Review

February, 2009

“Particularly once they reach 30, these women are the most “review sensitive.” A chorus of critical praise for a movie aimed at older women can increase an opening weekend’s gross by $5 million. In other words, older women are discriminating, which is why so few films are made for them.”

–an analysis of movie goers’ habits in “The Cobra” by Tad Friend, in the January 19, 2009 New Yorker.

January, 2009

“William Shatner is, forty years after the end of the original ‘Star Trek’ a ham that has only got more delicious with time. As much of him as there is out there–Priceline ads, the ABC series ‘Boston Legal’ (which just finished its run last week) the public squawking about whether or not he was invited to George Takei’s wedding, or how he felt about being left out of the new ‘Star Trek’ movie–is there ever enough? I think not.”

–Nancy Franklin in the December 22 & 29, 2008 New Yorker. Who could have believed ‘Star Trek’ would have boldly gone on for so long? Not these actors, as the original series ended.

December, 2008

“While the Mouseketeers are undoubtedly talented, they are not particularly ambitious, says director (Sidney) Miller. Only a few have dreams of becoming great entertainment stars…How does one become a Mouseketeer? ‘Only by auditioning for us,’ says Miller, ‘and we’ve auditioned thousands of children all over the country. Actually, we ran across many kids who have as much or even more talent than our present Mouseketeers. But, we were looking for something more than talent–personality. You can’t learn that in dancing school…No single one of them has star starus; thus the pressure has never become heavier than the kids can carry.'”

–“No Mothers Allowed,” an article without a byline in the December 1-7, 1956 TV Guide. Corporate policy for over fifty years! Words to contemplate by the present day High School Musical Mouseketeers, as they are replaced at the end of HSM3 by the next generation.

October-November, 2008

Never to have sailed the Spanish Main with Errol Flynn, never to have ridden the King’s Highway with Louis Hayward, never to have fought the Cardinal’s Guard with Douglas Fairbanks is never to have dreamed, never to have lived, never to have been young. For at their best, the swashbuckling films brought to life the heroic dreams and romantic fancies that are the heart of the folk tradition of the English speaking world. To see them today, their power undimmed by years, is to recapture not just the golden, carefree days of childhood, but also lost ideals and vanished virtures, swamped by the cynical rat-race reality of the modern, white-hot, technological world–chivalry, gallantry, patriotism, duty and honor.

–Jeffrey Richards in Swashbucklers of the Screen

September, 2008

“Little repressed fears and anxieties grow into monstrous terrors in our dreams and our true selves become so uninhibited. I use the word ‘uninhibited’ pointedly because melodrama is always aligned as something sort of grotesque or a tasteless exaggeration of real life. If that’s all melodrama were, it would deserve that slag; but, I think a melodrama isn’t a true life exaggerated—that would be bogus—it’s true life uninhibited, just like our dreams.”

–Director Guy Maddin’s introduction to Lon Chaney and Tod Browning’s The Unknown at the 2008 San Francisco Silent Film Festival

July , 2008

“Thanks to the imminent arrival of Star Wars, science fiction–at least as represented by film and television–was changing in 1977. K9 (NB: in Dr. Who) made his debut too early to be considered an imitation of R2D2, but he is one of a horde of allegedly cute robots–Twiki of Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-81), Metal Mickey (1980-3), Muffit (another robodog) in Battlestar Galactica (1978-9), Bubo in Clash of the Titans (1981)–soon to become as obligatory as black precinct captains on American cop shows or camp gay best friends in films about neurotic single women looking for Mr. Right.”

–Kim Newman in BFI TV Classics: Dr Who

June , 2008

“By today’s standards, the old stars weren’t paid very much–three, four or five thousand dollars a week, and they almost never got a share of a movie’s profits. But these wage slaves were well looked after. The studio functioned for them as business manager, publicist, doctor; as excercise room, sexual playpen, and probably a lot else. There’s little reason to think that the stars picked up many checks. The smart ones invested in land or art and became rich. Yet, the system of paternalistic domination was enraging to many…However unhappy, the stars who put up with the indignities and stayed in harness accomplished a lot, and gave moviegoers enormous pleasure, and who’s to say that our pleasure doesn’t matter as much as their independence?”

–David Denby, “Fallen Idols” in the October 22, 2007 The New Yorker

May, 2008

“When you sit down in a dark theater, it is always with the hope that whay you see will be that unknown movie that you carry in your heart, that movie you want to see more than anything in life, a movie that will speak to you.”

–Director Randa Haines (Children of a Lesser God) in Private Screenings: Insiders Share a Century of Great Movie Moments, published by the American Film Institute in 1995.

April, 2008

“Are you much of a film buff?”

“Oh, I love film. D.W.Griffith. Hitchcock. William Wellman. I mean, should I go on? I know my movies.”

–Keith Richards, interviewed by Clark Collis in the April 11, 2008 Entertainment Weekly

March, 2008

“The silent era has never ceased to surprise me. Just when I felt I have seen everything, a film comes from left field that upsets all my assumptions. Sometimes, the Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy will act like an alcoholic’s cure, and after a couple of days, you may see so many boring films you feel you never want to look at another frame. But, persevere, and you will inevitably see something so extraordinary that you faith will be renewed and your enthusiasm increased.”

–Kevin Brownlow, in his introduction to the superb new book Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture by Peter Kobel and the Library of Congress.

February, 2008

The most prominent woman (in this 2007’s films) was Katherine Heigel, round bellied from her drunken rumpus in Knocked Up, a film that under the cover of its filthy patter marked a dismal retreat, cranking back the cause of women–not so much thier social or sexual status as their raison d’être–to a stage so primitive that Hollywood sought to outgrow it decades ago. Carole Lombard would have taken one sip of a film like that and tipped it down the sink.

–Anthony Lane in the January 14, 2008, New Yorker

January, 2008

“There are more Zampanos in the world than bicycle thieves, and the story of man who discovers his neighbor is just as important and as real as the story of a strike.”

Federico Fellini defending his desertion of Neo-Realistic subjects and Marxist reform philosophies in La Strada, his tale of a circus strongman, quoted in La Strada by Peter Bonadanella and Manuela Gieri.

November, 2007

. ..And no doubt the cutting can cover up what mistakes I’ve made in continuity (which worry Lucienne, my script girl, to death). Too much care, no door left open to chance, and poetry, which is difficult enough to trap, will certainly be frightened away. Whereas a little improvisation makes it come a bit nearer. To find trees where there are none, or something where it shouldn’t be, such as a hat off a head in one shot but on again in the next, are, as it were, cracks in the wall through which poetry can penetrate. Those who notice such spelling mistakes are the real illiterates and cannot be moved by fantasy, anyhow. Such details have no importance.

–Jean Cocteau in The Diary of a Film (La Belle et La Bête).

October, 2007

“My goal was to make the Beast so human, so likeable, so superior to man that his transformation into Prince Charming would be for Belle, a terrible disappointment, and would oblige her to accept a marriage of reason.”

–Jean Cocteau on La Belle et La Bête (Beauty and the Beast)

September, 2007

“It is almost impossible to get anything over to the producers when the issues already raised (as if they were the main issues) have dealt with a phrase or triviality. How, for example, can you raise the question of a seduction scene that colors a whole drama even though it is not shown in actuality while the censor is thinking only about the elimination of the word, ‘lousy.’ and is not in the least sensitive to the fact that the audience is compelled to do its own dirty thinking on inferences that if cannot escape.”

–Censor Alice Ames Winter complains (accurately) that the Hays Office censors are missing the big picture during the Pre-Code era, quoted in Lea Jacobs The Wages of Sin: Censorship and the Fallen Woman Film, 1928-1942.

August, 2007

All over the city projectors are rolling and screens are flickering into life. In cinemas across Chicago, couples fall in and out of love, kids see their first murder, their first sex scene, insomniacs stare at 2 am features with glazed eyes, cowboys chase dreams, kings still reign; portals to other world gape wide. Each cinema is a world unto itself; from movie palaces to parks, every venue is an experience as unique as the film shown. This is a city of home away from homes, places of respite or horror where, for a few hours time, you can be someone else and live another life. This is Chicago–the city that never closes its eyes for fear of missing the next big scene.

–Brenna Ehrlich in the Fall Winter 06/07 Northwestern University Day for Night program guide.

July, 2007

“Sure, DVDs have changed things, but I believe in my heart that repertory programming will never die…At the end of the day, regardless of how great your flat screen tv is, or how great your Blue-ray discs are, you want to see movies with a community of people, to go out and make a night of it.”

IFC Center Programmer Harris Dew, quoted in the June 15, 2007 New York Sun

June, 2007:

Last month, we outlined a new benevolent organization that we are sponsoring, to be known as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Movie Audiences. Since then, the following additional film atrocities have been brought to our attention, and requests that the Society take appropriate and drastic action:

Comedy drams in which the neglected wife, by the simple expedient of donning a blonde wig and a adopting a French accent, so thoroughly disguises herself that her own husband fails to recognize her and tries to engage in a new affaire d’amour to his subsequent chagrin; Ugly duckling themes in which the homely little heroine after one lone trip to a beauty parlor emerges looking like a delirious combination of Cleopatra, Helen of Troy and Miss America; Comedy scenes in which the ultimate height of subtle wit is attained by dropping half a quart of ice cream down the back of a lady’s evening gown; and long winded subtitles whose linguistic mazes would make even a cross-word puzzle addict take it to the tall timber in utter defeat.

Pictures Magazine, June 1926 (Well, audiences no longer have to read title cards…)

May, 2007:

“Who wants to see realism? People in the West! There’s always some bright aspect, even to a poor man’ s life. I’m saying that there should be humour in a film. These art filmmakers think humor is a sin, it’s a cardinal sin for a person to laugh in an auditorium, according to them. What’s wrong with a person having a bit of enjoyment in the theatre?”

–Manmohan Desai (director Amar Akbar Anthony and Parvarish) quoted in Manmohan Desai Films: Enchantment of the Mind by Connie Hahan.

April, 2007:

“By a Waterfall” in Footlight Parade is “the most staggering water ballet in the history of liquid…neither taste nor logic was a factor by any means in this interminable series of simpering half-naked women, wearing silly rubber bathing caps meant to represent hair, gamboling through an astounding variety of aquacade formations, all in a sequence ostensibly taking place on the stage of a movie theater.”

–Richard Barrios in A Song in the Dark

March, 2007:

I once asked Akira Kurosawa why he had chose to frame a shot in Ran in a particular way. His answer was that if he’d panned the camera one inch to the left, the Sony factory would be sitting there exposed. If he’d panned an inch to the right, we would see the airport–neither of which belongs in a period movie.

–Sidney Lumet in Making Movies

February, 2007:

“Whenever Westerners don’t understand something, they simply think it’s Zen.” —Yasujiro Ozu

January, 2007:

“ Maybe our own time is too informal for great comedy; (Jacques) Tati was one of the last, lucky artists to operate on the Wildean principle that anarchy is best practiced within the confines of codified behavior.”—Anthony Lane.

December, 2006:

“If you give an actor a long rope, he can take you to town. Because we just love the camera, and we love the audience and we love watching ourselves and we love going into all sorts of drama, and unless somebody actually stops us, we just carry on.”

–Hindi film superstar Amitabh Bachchan in the January, 2006 Filmfare Magazine.

November, 2006:

“Sometimes I saw the same film four or five times within a month and could still not recount the story line correctly because, at one moment or another, the swelling of the music, a chase through the night, the actress’s tears, would intoxicate me, make me lose track of what was going on, carry me away from the rest of the movie.”

–François Truffaut quoted in French Cinema From Its Beginnings to the Present by Rémi Fournier Lanzoni

October, 2006:

“I began to note differences of style in the films made by different directors. It was a new stage in my development. I followed the work of Griffith with intense interest. The marvel of marvels was the close up. I have never changed my opinion about this. Certain close-ups of Lillian Gish, of Mary Pickford, and of Greta Garbo are imprinted on my memory for life. The enlargement enables us to delight in the texture of the skin, and a slight quivering of the lips tells us something about the inward life of the idealized woman. I am ready to bear with the most tedious film if it gives me a close up of an actress I like. And in my passion for the close up I have sometimes inserted perfectly irrelevant sequences in my films simply because they allowed me scope for a really good one.”

–Jean Renoir in My Life and My Films

September, 2006:

Janet Leigh’s autobiography, There Really Was a Hollywood, is a highly entertaining account, particularly of her early moviemaking years. In this passage, she discovers that 19 year old Jeanette Morrison (she refers to herself in the 3rd person before she becomes Janet Leigh) who has never really thought about being an actress until asked to audition for MGM because Norma Shearer saw her photo, and nobody could say no to Norma Shearer, finds out she is going to co-star with her childhood idol Van Johnson in The Romance of Rosy Ridge:

“Then level heads (not hers) took command. She had to get to wardrobe immediately, if not sooner. All of her costumes had to be made and be ready to ship in two weeks. The company would locate in Santa Cruz for three months of exterior shooting and then return to the studio and complete the interiors. Hairpieces had to–

“Jeanette had sunk back down in the chair and had started to sob again.

” ‘For Pete’s sake, now what’s the matter?’

” ‘I c-can’t go. I can’t d-d-do the picture.’

” ‘In heaven’s name, why?’

” I can’t afford to stay in a hotel or pay tr-train fare.’

“She wailed even more violentsly. They gazed at her in utter disbelief, completely dumbfounded. How could she be this innocent, this naive? Her reaction on the onset about the test should have given them a clue. She really was Lissy Anne MacBean.

“Soothingly, lovingly, they all tried to explain at once. The studio paid for transportation for location trips. The studio paid for housing when on location. She would even receive a daily allowance for food, a per diem, it was called. And the studio would provide a round trip ticket for Stan (her husband) as well. Now did she think she could get her fanny over to wardrobe?”

August, 2006:

“He (James Dean) was more than a friend, I think of him as a teacher. We did two films together that took about a year of our lives. He only made three movies in all. We did Rebel Without a Cause and Giant. I was 19. He was 24. It wasn’t like we went out and drank beers together or got high or raced cars. We talked about acting. When he died, it destroyed me, because I totally had this belief that people fulfill their destiny. I couldn’t understand why James Dean had died so young. He had only been in three movies. He wanted to direct movies. It destroyed my whole concept of destiny and life for years. It still bothers me. I miss him.”

–Dennis Hopper interviewed by Terry Gross, from her book, All I Did Was Ask.

July, 2006:

“When I first visited George Eastman House as the guest of George Pratt, I timorously asked if I might be allowed to view a few films. George was too scared of his boss to make the request on my behalf, but when I plucked up the courage to face the infamous James Card, he looked at the screening schedule and summarily cancelled all promised screenings for that week, and allowed me free access to any silent films I might wish to see. That is the way it used to be with many archives. If the curator liked you, there was nothing he or she would not do. If your personality was unappealing, you might just as well look for a new calling in life.”

–Anthony Slide in Silent Players, his dishy biographical memoir of selected of silent film actors, most of whom he knew personally.

June, 2006:

“Mabel Normand belonged to the first generation of film actors, the very young men and women who felt their way throught the craft of screena acting helped by the tutelage of directors like Griffith, Ince or Sennett. Frustrated by the anonymity of Biograph and other companies’ presentations, they had no compass to orient themselves in the storms of moviegoers curiosity and adulation. They had no predecessors from whose experience they could benefit. This was more difficult for the women, in an age not far past the Victorian. There were, of course, stars of the theater, like Sarah Bernhardt or Eva Tanguay, but they still subsisted at ‘ground level,’ their greasepaint and sweat palpable to the audience. The idea of screen gods or goddesses existing in the world of shadows and specters…was totally new–giant luminescent faces beaming down upon the great unwashed. Were these people real? In days long before television, at the dawn of radio, only the newspapers could feed the rapacious appetite of fans for the ‘true facts’ behind the idols of the screen. And the newspapers, then as now, were cannibals.”

–Simon Louvish, musing on why so many early movie stars were touched by scandal, in his book about the Sennett studio, Keystone.

May, 2006:

“Not bad for a kid from Brooklyn Heights whose psychologist parents raised him in a house full of live-in patients. ‘I grew up in an environment where nearly everybody around me was clinically insane,’ says (Akiva) Goldsman, 43, of his childhood. ‘It was a lot like Hollywood, except back then the insane people couldn’t fire me.'”

–Benjamin Svetkey quoting Oscar-winning scriptwriter Akiva Goldsman in the April 28/May 5 Entertainment Weekly

April, 2006:

“I think I disappointed Hitchcock. I didn’t fit his image of the ideal blonde. In my opinion, he was well aware that he’d made a mistake in choosing me, and he decided to go along with that mistake. It’s as if he had wanted to put himself in the skin of the James Stewart character, who discovers Judy when he’s hoping to find Madeleine and doesn’t…Hitchcock was hoping to find in me a Grace Kelly-like blonde, which wasn’t the case, all along hoping he could change my nature. As a result there’s this resistance on the screen.”

–Kim Novak, discussing Vertigo in 1997 as quoted in Le Monde, from Jean Pierre Dufreigne’s Hitchcock Style

March, 2006:

“Storytelling is the purpose of costume design. As Adrian, MGM’s head of costume design from 1928 to 1942, whose design innovations made fashion history and propelled him to become cinema’s first commercially successful costume designer, so declared in 1930 when he said, ‘One could line up all the gowns and tell the screen story.'”

–Drake Stutesman in the essay “Storytelling: Marlene Dietrich’s face and John Fredericks’ Hats” in Fashioning Film Stars, edited by Rachel Moseley.

February, 2006:

One remembers a handbag, a key in the palm of the hand, a crime reflected in a pair of glasses, a windmill with the sails turning the wrong way. One no longer remembers why Janet Leigh stopped at the Bates Motel, nor does one remember the story of Notorious. Neither Ingrid Bergman nor Cary Grant, but only a bottle of wine. This does not happen with Griffith or Welles or me. Hitchcock was really the master of the universe. He had a control over the audience that nobody else has ever had. Through objects.

–Jean-Luc Godard (Histoires du Cinema) quoted in Jean Pierre Dufreigne’s Hitchcock Style

January, 2006:

“In an interview that accompanies the Koyaanisqatsi DVD, (Philip) Glass provides his own eloquent definition of the film-music art: he calls it ‘observing accurately the distance between the image and the music.’ In other words, instead of trying to make image and music serve the same ends, you play one against the other, letting the disparity become an emotional experience in itself.”

–from “Sound and Vision” by Alex Ross in the June 27, 2005 New Yorker.

December, 2005:

“I think that if you don’t like the films of Sam Fuller, then you just don’t like cinema. Or, at least you don’t understand it. Sure, Sam’s movies are blunt, pulpy, occasionally crude, lacking any sense of delicacy or subtlety. But those aren’t shortcomings. They’re simply reflections of his temperament, his journalistic training and his sense of urgency…There’s a great deal of sophistication in Sam’s movies, but it’s all at the service of rendering emotion. When you appreciate a Fuller film, what you’re responding to is cinema at its very essence. Motion as emotion. Sam’s pictures move convulsively, violently. Just like life when it’s being lived with real passion”

–Martin Scorsese’s introduction to Sam Fuller’s autobiography Film is a Battleground.

November, 2005:

“Of course there must be subtleties in filmmaking. Just make sure you make them obvious.”

–Billy Wilder, quoted in Rosemarie Jarski’s Hollywood Wit.

October, 2005:

“At one point, Hepburn–whom some wags in town had by then dubbed ‘Katharine of Arrogance’–suggested that she play both roles. (Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots) ‘ But, if you played both queens,’ asked John Carradine, a favorite Ford player who had a supporting role in the film, ‘how would you know which one to upstage?’ Hepburn found nothing amusing about the comment at the time. Years later, she roared with laughter telling it.”

–A. Scott Berg on John Ford’s casting of Mary of Scotland (1936) in his memoir Kate Remembered

September, 2005:

“In spite of the cosmopolitan veneer, it’s the kind of movie where Arlene Dahl, looking out her hotel window at New York, says, ‘This is where I belong,’ and you know right away she is unredeemable; where June Allyson, given money by her husband to buy an evening gown, buys an outdoor barbeque instead, complete with chef’s hats for the whole family; and Lauren Bacall, looking misty-eyed at her says, ‘What an idiotic, wonderful thing to do!’ Though Bacall, you’re sure, wouldn’t be found dead in a chef’s hat, she has certainly learned how to deliver this sort of line: with an appropriately wistful inflection.”

–James Harvey, discussing Woman’s World (1954) in his book Movie Love in the Fifties.

August, 2005:

In his review of The Birds, François Truffaut bemoaned the praise heaped on films like Bridge on the River Kwai “scenes set inside offices alternating with discussions between old fogies and some action scenes usually filmed by another crew. Rubbish , traps for fools, Oscar machines….what an injustice there is in the generally bad reception. I am so disappointed that no critic admired the basic premise of the film ‘Birds attack people.’”

July, 2005:

“Taking up a Hobby: Ideally, of course, this should be something evil, such as drug taking (Gary Oldman in Leon) lair-building (various) and torture (everyone). Alternatively, it is good to try to incorporate a harmless hobby into one’s work. Bad guys are keen pet lovers, for instance, with snakes, sharks and piranhas always a popular choice. The Batman series, in particular, would never have been possible without the contribution of demented cat, penguin, riddle and coin-tossing hobbyists, among others.”

–Leo Benedictus muses on the qualities of the perfect cinematic supervillain in the 06.24.05 edition of The Guardian. Which brings up another unanswered question. Where do megalomaniacs recruit their henchmen, and what do the underlings get out of these doomed, one-sided relationships?

June, 2005:

Giants like these (Independence Day, Godzilla, Pearl Harbor, the 2nd and 3rd Matrix movies) continue to stalk through the multiplexes, shaking gold from the heavens with their thunderous, THX Certified footsteps; but inside their high-definition, digitized craniums their tiny brains are dead.

–Louis Menand on the state of the cinema blockbuster in the February 7, 2005 New Yorker.

May, 2005:

“A star is someone you don’t mind spending two hours in the cinema with, even if the film is bad.”

Director Claude Lelouch, quoted in Hollywood Wit by Rosemarie Jarski.

April, 2005:

“Of all the things written about (Orson) Welles over the years, I lean toward the view of Gore Vidal, who wrote that Welles, ‘was a miracle of empathy and he knew all the gradations of despair that the oyster experienced as it slid down his gullet. But the romantic genius aims not for perfection in his art but for poignant glamour in his ruin.'”

–Scott Eyman in his review of Despite the System: Orson Welles Versus the Hollywood Studios by Clinton Heylin

March, 2005:

The very breadth and longevity of (John) Wayne’s career has become impossible to achieve ever since the original star system died forty years ago. Fewer and fewer movies are made, the audience therefore unable to attain the familiarity of repeated exposure that personality stars used to have (which explains why so many of today’s stars began with the weekly intimacy of the TV series, from Clint Eastwood to Tom Hanks). While a contemporary star is lucky to have two pictures released in a year, audiences of the thirties or forties could see Cagney, Bogart, Gable or Tracy on giant screens four, five or even six times a year.”

–Peter Bogdanovich in Who the Hell’s in It. Who the Devil Made It? Bogdanovich’s previous book, had detailed, thoughtful interviews with studio era directors. His recent “movie stars I have known” essay collection is considerably more self-serving and not nearly as interesting as his previous one.

February, 2005:

“But from the very first film Keaton released as a star, once his association with Arbuckle was ended, was breath-takingly, an explosion of style. To sit through dozens and dozens of short comedies of the period and then to come upon “One Week” is to see the one thing no man ever sees: a garden at the moment of blooming.”

–Walter Kerr in The Silent Clowns

January, 2005:

American films used to be an advertisement for life in the states–there was a sophistication, depth, the allure of a cool, complex manner. Now, most big studio films aren’t interested in America, preferring to depict an invented, imagined world, or one filled with easily recognizable plot devices. “Our movies no longer reflect our culture,” said a top studio executive who did not wish to be identified. “They have become gross, distorted exaggertions. And I think America is growing into those exaggerated images. My fear is that it’s the tail wagging the dog–we write the part and then we play the part.”

Lynn Hirschberg in the November 14, 2004 New York Times Magazine, an issue on globalization and the movies.

December, 2004:

Entertainment is not, as we often think, a full-scale flight from our problems, not a means of forgetting them completely, but rather a rearrangement of our problems into shapes which tame them, which disperse them to the margins of our attention.

–Michael Wood, America in the Movies

November, 2004:

“Writing for films is just like doing crossword puzzles, except that to do crossword puzzles you have to have a certain knowledge of words.”

–Dorothy Parker, quoted in Jeanette MacDonald, Hollywood Diva by Edward Baron Turk

October, 2004:

“If my books had been any worse I should not have been invited to Hollywood; if they had been any better I should not have come.”

–Raymond Chandler, quoted in Rosemarie Jarski’s Hollywood Wit.

September, 2004:

“I do get offers. But they’re nothing to run for…It would be a strictly professional decision. If someone comes to me with an agreeable subject, I’ll take it up as just another assignment. What’s the big deal? What would an Indian be doing in a Hollywood film? We’re the wrong color. I’m not interested in playing a stereotype. They visualize Indians as newspaper vendors, taxi drivers, Patel motel owners or ananchronistic Maharajas indulging in lascivious pleasures with spears in their hands. Sorry, not interested.”

–Amitabh Bachchan, India’s greatest movie star and living legend, on going Hollywood, quoted on

August, 2004:

In 1991 I was on a month-long solo tour of the U.K. and spent my off days in the seaside town of Whitstable. One wintry afternoon I was out walking on the beach with my tour manager, when we spotted a lone spectral figure with a dog coming towards us out of the mist. “That’s Peter Cushing,” whispered my companion. “He lives in a house down the beach.” As a longtime horror film aficionado, I could scarcely contain my delight, and walked up and introduced myself. “Mr. Cushing, I’m a huge fan of your work.” He graciously shook my hand, then fixed his penetrating gaze on me: “And where do you hail from, young man?” “I live in New York City,” I replied. “Ahhh, New York! Dr. Frankenstein smiled diabolically. “They have marvelous electricity there!”

–A letter from Gary Lucas, published in the March 10 (I think!) Village Voice

July, 2004:

“It is depressing to read a list of movies and realize that you missed all of them, but it is just as disappointing to discover that you have seen every one. You want to know that there are still a few truffles left in the box.”

–Louis Menand on year-end “ten best” lists in the January 12, 2004 New Yorker

June, 2004:

“Ensconced in a doll’s house, Scott becomes even more irrational, claiming that he is becoming ‘more monstrous in my domination of Louise.’ Although distressed about her husband, Louise’s reaction is as much about frustration as pity…Whilst feeling powerless to alter Scott’s fate, Louise is empowered to pursue her own existence, knowing that she cannot be challenged. She leaves the house one day, and the cat terrorises Scott in his tiny living room. Following a struggle of lounge dimensions, the cat is instrumental in making Scott run towards the cellar, whereupon Louise returns, the door opens and the draught blows Scott to a prison below stairs. Louise assumes that Scott has been eaten by the cat. The cat purrs contentedly, perhaps even conspiratorially. The man of the house is gone.”

–Paul Wells, describing a plot turn in The Incredible Shrinking Man in his essay “The Invisible Man: Shrinking Masculinity in the 1950s Science Fiction B Movie”, reprinted in You Tarzan: Masculinity, Movies and Men edited by Pat Kirkham and Janet Thumim.

May, 2004:

Metropolis is the ur-text of the technological urban machine, complete with compartmentalized social structures, layers of transportation, surveillance and communications and an organic flow of energy linking its various sectors. The eroticized chaos of the narrative and the destructive force of the femme fatale are likewise emblematic of a modern mythology conjoining power, politics, sexuality and technology.

Catherine Russell in a review of Metropolis in the Winter 2003 Cineaste.

April, 2004:

“To my mind, Jimmy was just as talented as Marlon (Brando) with the critical difference that he was also a lot more self-disciplined. He was a pro from the bottom up. Brando was selfish, he never thought of anyone but Numero Uno. It wasn’t that way with Jimmy at all. When you’d do a scene with him, he knew he needed you in that scene with him, or else he was going to look a little crazy talking to himself. Marlon, on the other hand, always wanted to talk to himself. When you think about it, he’s the one who really should have done Harvey.

–Alex Nicol, who was in the Actor’s Studio with Brando and in two 1950s films with James Stewart, quoted in James Stewart by Donald Dewey.

March, 2004:

“The spectacle was grotesque. Jolson minces, rolls his eyes, claps his hands, swivels his knees and does bird whistles until you scream for Mammy. He is unbearable. He beats you with a stick until you like him, and then the unspeakable moment comes when you have to admit that you do, sort of.”

–Mick LaSalle on Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer in his book Dangerous Men.

February, 2004:

Joan Crawford brought her Schiaparellis back to Hollywood and threw them like a gauntlet at Adrian, who made their linebacker shoulders and lavish embellishment his own trademarks, and those of nearly every sinewy, flat-hipped, chain-smoking, man-eating, social-climbing, scarlet-clawed screen temptress of the thirties.

–“Mother of Invention” an essay about Elsa Schiaparelli in the October 23, 2003 New Yorker.

January, 2004:

I recently watched (A Dog’s Life) for the first time in fifteen years and was stunned that so much of what I remembered as “Chaplin,” the scenes I think of as the essence of his work as the Tramp spread throughout his short films, were all in this one movie. There he is stealing a hot dog through a hole in a fence; rolling back and forth under the fence to escape the cop who’s seen him; devouring muffins from a plate whenever the food stand owner turns his back, even for a millisecond; always eating dust in the race from the bench to the employment office windows as openings are posted first at one and then the other. I saw A Dog’s Life when I was about ten, and this last sequence, with its exasperating dreamlike inevitability, spoke to a basic anxiety in me. I think of the sequence whenever I stand in lines, at the grocery store, the airport, wherever, because it enables me to nurse my low expectations with better grace.

–from Comedy is a Man in Trouble by Alan Dale

December, 2003:

“Fame may be fleeting, but worldwide recognition for that pleated skirt once prompted Travilla to wisecrack, ‘When I die, don’t have me cremated, have me pleated.'”

–The designer of the white halter neck dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch reflects on his most famous creation, quoted in Hollywood Costume Design by Travilla by Maureen Reilly.

November, 2003:

“Zeta-Jones is merely ravishing, but Clooney owns the film. Ordinarily best at sardonic, man’s man confidence, he strides through Intolerable Cruelty with fantastic screwball zest. To see Clooney tenderize, season, grill and serve this ham hock of a role is to see an old-fashioned virtuoso in perpetual motion. His restless artillery of double-takes, baffled winces, fake smiles, stunned glares, tongue-on-teeth inspections, and zealous line readings might make up the ripest lead perf in a Hollywood film since Cary Grant’s in Arsenic and Old Lace.”

–Michael Atkinson in the October 8 Village Voice

October, 2003:

I think that Bringing Up Baby‘s failure upon its initial release (it lost $365,000 for RKO) indicates that it isn’t just …older members of the audience who find the aggressive heroine subversive. The younger popular audience did as well, and it is one of the few examples of a fluffy comedy achieving the kind of controlled unease that we usually only get from more ambitious works of art.”

–Alan Dale in Comedy is a Man in Trouble

August (and September!) 2003:

All in all, Pirates of the Caribbean is the best spectacle of the summer: the absence of pomp is a relief, the warmth of the comedy is a pleasure. The screenwriter Terry Rossio can perhaps be forgiven for saying (in the press notes), “We wanted it to be a very classic, Jane Austen-style, bodice ripping romance.” (Rossio is probably thinking of Austen’s most famous work, Pride and Pimpernel.)

–David Denby in the July 28, 2003, New Yorker

July, 2003:

Watching Gallardo triumph as a matador, Dona Sol tosses him a ring in the shape of a serpent that had belonged to Cleopatra, then lures him to her home so they can be alone when she writhes like a boa constrictor. Just as success and the crowd’s worship deceived him about what really has value, so now does a conniving vixen. He succumbs to Dona Sol, devouring her with a long, cannibalistic, and very hot kiss. Hovering close to Dona Sol’s bare shoulders as she strums a harp, we see him struggling to quell desire, then yielding to it, becoming as powerless to restrain himself as a provoked bull in the ring. He’s all animal, deliciously savage. As Jeanine Basinger writes in Silent Stars, Valentino “conveys a passion that is slightly kinky, with a touch of rape and sadism.” Turn on the air conditioning.

–Emily W. Lieder in her spellbinding new biography of Rudolph Valentino, Dark Lover. In her meticulously researched and lively, if somewhat purple prose, Valentino comes alive as in no other book.

June, 2003:

In short, this is a study of friendship–the most widespread of human transactions, far more common than love, but treated by the movies with comparative disdain. We get heaps of children and teen-agers becoming friends on film, but adults tend to be shovelled, with indecent haste, into enmity and lust. Is that why we are so heartened, even as love is snapped off at the root, by the final companionable line of Casablanca?

–Anthony Lane reviewing Man on the Train in the May 12, 2003 New Yorker

May, 2003:

Silent comedies can appeal to even the youngest viewers, he (John Flowers, who teaches psychology and film at Chapman University in Orange County) says, “because they’re far more physical. You either laugh or you don’t. You don’t have to explain much. They are literally seeing it for what it is. As soon as a kid develops a sense of what’s contemporary, it knocks out the middle ground of older films, because those are too much like what they watch now, but not as good. Silents work because they are totally different from what they watch now.”

As one of my son’s classmates put it after watching Keaton’s One Week: “All the jokes in movies we see now are kind of the same. These were all different.”

–Randy Lewis, “Can’t Beat Buster, Can’t Top the Tramp” in the April 17, 2003 Los Angeles Times.

April, 2003:

The reformed or redeemed prostitute is a sentimental idea, but one need only compare Red Dust to Pretty Woman (1990) or Mighty Aphrodite (1995) to see how much more intelligent and gritty is the social Darwinism of the thirties than that of the nineties. In Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts’ character, for all her working girl credentials, is a creature of a fairy tale, not the streets, and she has no real competition for the hero’s affection. Harlow’s Vantine, hanging around the rubber plantation as if she were still loitering in a brothel off-hours, reminds us where a lot of our wisetalk originates. She also reminds us how hard working girls work, at one point sloughing off the inconveniences of the accomodations with, “Guess I’m not used to sleeping nights anyway.” Her stamina (so poignant given how fragile a hold on real life hers proved to be) is a point in her favor.”

–Maria DiBattista in Fast-Talking Dames

March, 2003

“…we treasure the offcuts of Bond, and not the whole, the gems prized free from their settings; when it comes to Goldfinger, I like Oddjob’s killer frisbee of a hat, I like the laser beam that eats it way towards Connery’s crotch, and some of us can even stomach his golfing gear, but I can catch that film on TV, go out to make a sandwich, and walk back in for my favorite sequence without feeling a spasm of loss. When North by Northwest comes on, however, I have to stay with it, and to hell with lunch.”

–Anthony Lane, “Mondo Bond” in the November 4, 2002 New Yorker

February, 2003

“I was totally immersed in the Italian films. For me, it was these Latin women, their smoldering power–Sophia Loren , Gina Lollobrigida, Anna Magnani. There’s something so extraordinary about their intense eyes, their hair, the way they moved. When I saw Loren in Boy on a Dolphin, she sang this little song in Greek, Sagapo… I can remember every word. I was in my element. The movies were my church.” –Manolo Blahnik in the February 2003 Vogue.


“Mournful was the girl not invited to lurch around the gymnasium–renamed the Spring Serenade or the Apple Blossom Romp, decorated with Kleenex flowers, lit with blue spotlights. Round you would go, to the strains of an eight-piece band in a faint odor of running shoes and sweat, clutching and being clutched by a clammy-handed youth reeking of Old Spice.You’d be wearing, of course, the dress, and along with your accessory The Date, you’d get photographed in it by the dour snapster laid on for the occasion. Why did you never look like Audrey Hepburn in such pictures, but instead like some juvenile delinquent out of Police Gazette? –Margaret Atwood in the December 2002 Vogue.

January 2003:

“His greatest ambition was ‘to get out’ (of Ft. Wayne, Indiana). The movies of the nineteen-thirties taught him about penthouse life and the quainter locutions of the gentry. He fanned the flames of his escapist fantasies with his mother’s back issues of Vogue. Ethyl Blass was a dressmaker and the widow of a travelling hardware salesman. The mother who sews seems to be a folk archetype, particularly in stories of rags to riches. (Wallis Simpson had one. So did Eva Peron.) Her selfless needlework provides her child’s–her changeling’s–first noble disguise.”

–“Noblesse de Robe” a profile of Bill Blass by Judity Thurman in the September 9, 2002 New Yorker.

December 2002:

“Deitch speaks of his love of silent film–‘a fascinating form of literature with words and pictures, just like comics!'”

–Underground graphic artist Kim Deitch, quoted in the October 16, 2002 Village Voice review (by R. C. Baker) of his fantasia on the early days of motion picture animation, Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

November 2002:

“Let me tell you about Florida politicians. I make them, I make them out of whole cloth, just like a tailor makes a suit. I get their name in the newspaper. I get them some publicity and I get their name on the ballot. Then, after the election, we count the votes, and if they don’t turn out right, we recount them again until they do”

–Edward G. Robinson to Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo

September 2002:

“The whole history of the big studios is a graveyard of stars who got out of control. And the stars had to be completely destroyed with bad pictures so that the exhibitors and the public would accept their obliteration and so that no other studios could reconstitute them. (Joe Schenck) started on Keaton with The General–lousy publicity. I was in Hollywood in 1927–nobody heard of it. Talkies coming in…Why don’t these slobs (people like Anita Loos) write the truly tragic fact that talkies killed Keaton? I don’t think that father love, wifely support, complete sobriety, the backing of the Schenck and MGM could have reconciled the public to the shock of Buster’s pure, austere face combined with the growl of an angry giant.”

Louise Brooks in a letter to Keaton biographer Tom Dardis, reprinted in the April 1998 issue of Vanity Fair magazine.

September 2002:

One of the questions most frequently asked is: What does a director consider to be of first importance? I too, before I learned not to ask too many questions, asked Marshall Neilan, one of the most prominent in his day, what he considered the most important part of directing. Without a moment’s hesitation he answered, “Getting someone to let you direct.”


One who praises as great art only that which has become popular and about which there can no longer be any dispute is qualified to discuss art only with a child.

–Josef von Sternberg in his autobiography, Fun in a Chinese Laundry

August 2002:

“It’s time to become a myth.”

–Designer Diane Von Furstenberg on the subject of turning 40

June/July 2002

Few experiences were as thrilling as that of holding in my hands not prints, but original drawings–sheet after sheet of tracing paper, thick with easily smudged charcoal or graphite–used to build Rear Window‘s courtyard, or 42nd Street‘s backdrops, or Holly Golightly‘s town house apartment. At one level it allowed me to enter the minds of the men and women who created these enviroments, to study their choices, to glimpse them at work, as it were. But there was something else about these exquisite drawings, each dated a few weeks before the start of shooting, and signed-off by the art department head–a haunting feeling that one had entered the time and space in which those classic films were still yet to be made, when no one could know that the places they had just drawn up in detail would turn out to live forever in the imagination.

–James Sanders in the Afterward and Acknowledgements to Celluloid Skyline

May 2002

CC: What goes through your mind when you see this picture (of you dancing with Sabrina)?

BW: Well, I forgot that I was showing her how to do it, because she did it very well herself. She was guiding ME, I wasn’t guiding her. And, I thought that I was at the ball, I was in a restaurant dancing with her…I was completely forgetful, and then I thought,”Oh my God, the camera! Where would the camera be?”

CC: So, it’s like what we talked about earlier in these interviews. You wrote these movies, really, to live all these different lives, to experience the things you weren’t able to in real life. And here you are, dancing with your own character, played by Audrey Hepburn. Until, of course, Bogart steps in and actually does the scene.

BW: He does the scene…and I say, “Oh, that’s not as good as mine.”

from Cameron Crowe’s Conversations with Wilder

April 2002

“These cartoons were never made for children, nor were they made for adults. They were made for me.” –Chuck Jones, quoted posthumously in the March 8, 2002 Entertainment Weekly

March 2002

What, finally, are movie stars for? Maybe to prove that Desire, writ large up there, is probably the best we’ll ever get of Wisdom. To show us how, happier, we might’ve looked. To make us pay such major money for mere Junior Mints. Stars are meant to keep us from going to bed at 8 p.m., sobbing. Movie stars “stand for us” when we know we were born kneeling and will die crawling on our bellies like reptiles. Movie stars are what we tithe to, wank to, dress like, wish for, doubt would really like us. They are what we would all die for, given the slightest chance…”

–Alan Gurganus in “When I Was Engaged to Ava Gardner” in the Winter 2002 Oxford American “Southern Movie Issue” (which I recommend highly).

February 2002

“(Designer Yves) St. Laurent was nowhere near as radical as the first woman who bought an old rayon dress in a thrift shop and wore it out on the town.”– Lynn Yaeger in the January 22, 2002 Village Voice

(And I bet she did it because she wanted to look like Joan Crawford–moviediva)

January 2002

“You have to be open to the idea of getting drunk on movies. (Being able to talk about movies with someone–to share the giddy high excitement you feel–is enough for a friendship.) Our emotions rise to meet the force coming from the screen, and they go on rising throughout our movie-going lives. When this happens in a popular art form–when it’s an art experience that we discover for ourselves–it is sometimes disparaged as fannishness. But there’s something there that goes deeper than connoisseurship or taste. It’s a fusion of art and love.”–Pauline Kael in Movie Love, quoted in the September 17, 2001 New Yorker article by David Denby.

December, 2001

“I was nineteen. I had walked into the office to meet Lucas for Star Wars. I read the scene with Harrison. I bought the ticket to ride and rode it to the end. Had I known the film was going to make that loud a noise, I would have dressed better and refused to wear that insane hair.”–Carrie Fisher in the December, 2001 Vogue