Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Foolproof Filmmaking by Andrew Stevens

Andrew Stevens. Foolproof Filmmaking: Making a Movie That Makes a Profit. Westport, Ct.: Prospecta Press, 2014.

The author, while producing and directing in 1968, “the Terror Within II”, used rubber monster suits. The sun damaged the suits so badly the t-shirts could be seen through the. The Director of Photography (DP) shot so the deterioration could not be seen. The DP also shot a fully nude dance with backlight, crosslight, and diffusion such that no body parts could b seen. The author notes this brilliant DP, Janusz Kaminski, went on to twin two Oscars for “Schiendler’s List” and for “Saving Private Ryan”.

About 65% of independent film revenues are from sales to countries countries outside the U.S. and Canada. The author helped form Sunset Films which made a profit on their first film selling global rights before it was released. The author sold his shares of Sunset Films International and started a new venture, Royal Oaks Entertainment.

The business model changed. The studios moved into independent film distribution. Also, the demand for novelty videos fell.

The author’s Royal Oaks company pre-sold and released an average of 20 films annually. They fell into three genres of action, thrillers, and family films.

Realizing the market was changing, the author and his partner formed Franchise Pictures and Phoenician Entertainment. Royal Oaks ceased. Franchise Pictures worked with Warner Brothers, which handling printing and advertising expenditures as well as loaning money. A film often cost $25 million in production and $35 million in printing and advertising. Franchise Classic Pictures made non-commercial arts films for festivals with star actors who appeared for much less pay than they normally received.

Phoenician Entertainment made direct to DVD videos. Several movies would be sod as a group in a foreign market. Most of these did not require loans to make and were profitable relatively quickly.

Franchise Pictures made about 75 pictures with budgets from $100,000 to $70 million. Almost 20 had theatrical releases, including “The Whole Nine Yards”, “The Pledge”, and City by the Sea”.

The author left Franchise Pictures and in 2033 began financing and producing over 35 films. He closed his foreign sales division in 2004 and was producing mostly for studio home entertainment divisions.

Producers find financing for movies. They get distributors for their films. Producers hire the director and oversee casting actors Producers usually decide what the final cut of a movie will look like, unless they have yielded that right to the director.

Producers often can decide, or they may choose to suggest, script changes. The producer should have good communications skills and knowledge of the entire filmmaking process of creating a film including budgeting, post production, special effects music, etc. Producer  often  must know how to handle crises.

Producers should understand about the various forms of insurance, and their various rates, required in filmmaking.

A true producer confidently leads, provides useful insights, solves creative issues, and understands the entire movie making process. This often require multitasking, making and sticking to knowledgable decisions, handing crises, knowing finances and budgeting constraints, knowing how to negotiate, knowing the crew and talent, and knowing contract requirements.

A good producer has an editorial idea through editing to the final cut what the movie should become. The producer knows the editorial techniques, music, special effects, etc. required to achieve that vision. This requires understanding current special effects and computer generated imagery (CGI) abilities.

One must be “at the Right place, at the Right tie, and Ready.”

An Employee Producer, hired by a studio, risks the studio’s money and not the money of the producer’s company’s money. The financing and creative control rests with the studio, production company, networks, etc. that hired the Employee Producer.

The Executive Producer traditionally is the person in charge of financing and / or distribution. Now it is often a title awarded to line producers, actors, and others. Co-producers are often titles with no clear distinction.

Line Producers have physical production expertise and duties.

There was once a Federal requirement that some portion of movies broadcast on TV be from independent programming That mandate no longer exists.

There are (circa 2014) five conglomerates: Viacom, CBS Corporation, Walt Disney Corporation, 21st Century Fox / News Corporation, Sony, and Time Warner. These companies are moving to control programming to the broadcast networks under their control. Independent filmmaking is endangered.

All independent straight to video distributors and retail stores have closed.

Many independent movies are sold at trade shows, a.k.a. film markets. Buyers from various territories purchase all or some rights.

There are about 170 buying and selling companies participating in film markets, which are held globally.

To sell a movie at a film market, the author recommend a good poster as a sales technique. The author recommends creating posters that resemble a studio poster.

Flyers are recommended. They should contain artwork. Buyers prefer not to have to create their own artwork. In general, comedies traditionally have white backgrounds. Buyers tend to dislike artwork hat is too dark. Having something that might appeal to foreign viewers, such as military planes or ships or wild, fierce animals can help.

Germany and Japan are territories that traditionally pay the most money for long term contracts, which are often for 15 to 25 years. United Kingdom, France, Spain and Italy often have contracts of 10 to 15 years, Eastern Europe, Latin American, Southeast Asia, Turkey, and Greece often have seven year contracts. When the contract expires, the rights revert to the owner who may resell the rights.

Movie profits are affected by marketplace fluctuations.

Independent pictures in North America often get theatrical releases by paying theaters to show the movie plus providing the advertisement, Many do not earn a profit from theatrical showings.

Studio divisions often offer less for movies than what the studio offers.

To enter the film marketplace, once must know current trends, conduct analysis of the global market and create a profitable plan.

There have been certain past trends in movie international markets Japanese markets liked movies with military and technological hardware. The German market liked action films without much violence, as violence would be censored Nudity is allowed in German prime time TV not blood is not. The South Korean market liked hand to hand martial arts films.

A Sales Agent sells films to foreign distributors. The Sales Agent receives a commission of 25% to 30% The author recommends giving a Sales Agent a 15% sales agency fee plus $25,000 for market expenses.

The author recommends selecting a Sales Agent by speaking with others who have hired them.

A sales agency contract should consider accounting requirements. Some sales agents have gone out of business before accounting for their expenses.  The contract should include a collection account where funds go to the account rather than to the sales agent.

Allocation sales, where a sales agent sells a movie as part of a group of movies, should be avoided,  the author suggest, as sales agent could allocate a film a lesser portion of that deal. Also, packaging a film with another could create problems which could lower a price.

Term deals of 10 to 25 years should be avoided for foreign distribution deals, the author advises. The author advises three to seven year contracts or ten years paid in advance. The contract should have a “key man” clause designating a sales person. The contract should have designated how residual payments are paid, often to a collection account. The author recommends insisting a film remain without a cross collaboration as packaged with other movies and that film royalties are sacrosanct. The buyer should be responsible for subtitles and / or foreign language dubbing.

Piracy, especially in Southeast Asia, is widespread. Some distributors have refused to buy films if they have been pirated in their region.

An alternative to hiring a sales agent is selling the film directly. The author notes sales agents usually have contacts and that selling directly can be costly.

Another alternative to a sales agent is to hire a producer’s representative. They often receive a double commission.

When attending the American Film Market, the author advisors researching and targeting 30 to 50 companies.

The Sundance, Toronto, Cannes, Berlin, and Venice Film Festivals are film markets. Most other film festivals are vanity screenings.

The author advises “Don’t be naive enough to think your film is going to be the one movie that proves everyone wrong and makes the entire world think differently. This is not going to happen.”

The author advises agreeing to pre-sells. This usually generates ore money overall.

Agents’s assistants have a strong network. Knowing them can be useful.

The author recommends “The system is full of B.S. Find any way you can to navigate through it. Think outside the box and beat the system at its own game, as long as it is legal.”

When hiring a screenwriter, read some of the writer’s past works. Note that soe writers are appropriate for specific genres.

Writers can be hired. Writers can have a step deal. A non-union writer can be removed from a project at any specified step.

A speaking actor (circa 2014) receives union scale. In addition, there is a 18.77 percent payroll tax and 16.8% pension, health, and welfare cost paid o the Screen Actors Guild.

The author often uses one title, such as “Inheritance of Valor” to attract actors to a movie that will have a cheesy title for foreign market sales.

An Equity Investor invests money into a project. The equity investor is paid from revenues first before others.

A Limited Partnership has multiple partners. It has liability only for debts created by the registered investment.

There are numerous foreign and U.S. sate film subsidies. The rules for qualifying for subsidies and the degree of subsidization varies. There may be requirements of headquartering, local hires, unionization, etc.

Financing can be obtained from bank loans (which require collateral), pre-sales (foreign and / or domestic)m a combination of sources, and crowd-funding (where numerous people contribute in return for incentives).

Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman began shooting. Oliver asked Hoffman “What on earth are you doing?” Hoffman responded “I’m doing a sense memory, Larry, preparing for the scene.: Olivier watched this for awhile and then asked “Why don’t you just try acting, my boy?”

Lee Marvin advised “The two most important moments for an actor in any picture are your entrance and your exit, When you enter, make it count...and when you leave, make it count even more.”

Attorneys should be paid hourly rates instead of fees, often 5%, advises the author.

Business managers pay bills. Many actors can take care of their own financial matters, the author believes.

A manager cannot gain employment for an actor client, yet can negotiate and arrange auditions and have an attorney to negotiate deals.

Film budgets have above the line (ATL) costs, which are the create and administration costs. They also have below the line (BTL) costs which are crews, goods, services, production, and financial costs.

A completion bond fee is often 3%, charged if using bank financing.

The SAG Modified Low Budget Agreement (circa 2014) is for films with budgets under $625,000 and for under $937,000 if casting ethnicity requirements are met.

A payroll company will be needed to maintain time sheets plus deduct and pay taxes and deductions.

A risk manager maintains worker’s compensation files.

A film will require production insurance, cast insurance a.k.a. producer’s indemnity insurance, errors and omissions insurance, and essential element insurance.

Production insurance covers general liability, commercial vehicles, back-up workers‘ compensation, and delay ad reshooting costs due to weather, location damage, and equipment failure.

Cast insurance covers costs due to a death, injury, or illness of a key cast members thus being unable to finish filming.

Essential element insurance covers a key element such as a director or star actor. The element must pass a rigorous physical examination,

Negative insurance covers physical damages or loss of film, hard drives, memory cards, videotapes, or anything that could cause a reshoot. Additional insurance would cover lab damages plus costs from faulty equipment and materials that damages film.

Errors and Omissions Insurance protects against trademark or copyright errors, libel, slander, privacy issues, name use errors, incorrect crediting, plagurism, unfair competition, piracy and copyright infringement.

Some Teamster locals will negotiate with independent film producers with budgets under $1 million. They will likely insist on an 8 hour day minimum and refuse a 12 hour day minimum.

Films save money by reducing the number of speaking roles, filming fewer exterior scenes, reducing location moves, minimize equipment rental periods, lower the number of shooting days, reconsider expensive scenes, educe vehicle and transportation costs. reduce software expenses, etc.
Paid overtime occurs at 8 hours for SAG actors, 10 hours for weekly contract players, and 12 hours for over-scale actors.

Pre-production planning is important. A producer should establish a production entity to protect against personal liability The producer should hire multi-taskers who are motivated. A payroll company should be hired. A production office should be opened.  The Studio Zone should be known, as this affects mileage calculations. Local rules and overtime laws should be known. It should be determined what props can be rented or borrowed. Hair and make-up artists who understand continuity should be hired. Good grip and electrical equipments should be found. Many films have generators. Loss and damage insurance is needed.

Many low budget films use one track for both grip and electrical equipment.

Costs for fuel, security, and meals should be kept in mind.

Correct meal information must be given to a caterer. Some cast and crew may prefer that food use a local restaurant’s food over a caterer. A craft service person is sometimes hired to prepared and serve food.

An editor assembles the day’s footage into linear fashion. This film needs to be fine tuned. The Director need not be part of this unless the Director has creative rights or belongs to the Directors Guild of America signatory.

The author has had to recut movies so make them what studios and distributors want. He has had to overturn what directors wanted.

SAG requires that low budget movies have the first 30 extras each day be from SAG membership These extras require time and a half overtime after eight hours. If more than 30 extras are needed, non-union people may be hired.

When using two cameras when filming, a camera may shoot from one side directly across he other camera but not across that line. This is known as the “line”, “axis of action”, “continuity line” or “`180 degree line”.

Sometimes, with two cameras, one camera is for a master show and the second for a close-up shot.

There is a SAG penalty if actors are paid more than one week after principle filming is done.

SAG’s Global Rule requires a SAG member living in the U.S. must work under a SAG contract anywhere on Earth. This has reduced the number of American authors hired in foreign films.

Independent producers must calculate residuals on a SAG formula. A theatrical movie would assign 3.6% for pay television, 4.5% for the first million of gross receipts and 5.4% above that first million, and 3.6% for free and basic cable TV. This formula does not consider actual distribution data.

It is hard for many independent film companies to process residuals. Thus, most actors are paid scale only.

The author prepays over-scale actors. This reduces the total for SAG salaries and reduced the financial assurance bond. It often takes six months after a film is completed to get the bond funds returned.

SAG is notorious for losing things and claiming they never received them.

SAG may require a residual bond to guarantee prepayments. The author notes SAG requires this bond in a capricious manner.

A Financial Core member, of Fi-Core, may claim only limited or Guild rights. They have union rights, may work non-union and union jobs, and they may not vote for or hold union office. A decision to become Fi-Core can not be reversed.

The Buyer’s or Distributor’s Assumption Agreement makes the signer responsible for paying residuals to the Guilds. A person with a film that does not pay residuals will be stigmatized in future dealing with SAG.

Many movies use 35 mm, super 35 mm, and Steadicam cameras. These films run 24 frames per second, known as Cinespeed.

Super 35 mm cameras can create digital prints. These can be viewed and fixed before making film prints.

16 mm cameras use two and half less film. This can reduce film processing costs. Using one requires selecting lenses.

16 mm cameras are less expensive than 35 mm cameras.

35 mm cameras use a circular parabola lens called a “flat”. Images are filmed without disstortion. It can also use an elliptical lens called an “anamorphic” This is used for wide angle filming. The result looks disproportioned. The proportions can be electronically corrected by repositioning and stretching 2.35 times wider than tall. A projector lens can achieve this.

A prime lens can range from 6 mm to 400 mm. Most low budet films use 16 mm, 18 mm wide angle, 25 mm, 35 mm, 50 mm, and sometimes a 75 mm, 85 mm, or 100 mm lenses. A 10:1 zoom provides ore options.

The First Assistant Camera Person, or 1st AC, is responsible for the film being in focus. The correct lens at different lens is important. It is important actors hit their marks when this has been calculated.

A Second Camera Assistance, or 2nd AC, carries and puts the camera as directed by the 1st AC.

A Film Loader keeps track of how much film has been bought and how much has been exposed. This person also leads the film into magazines in a dark room. This person fills out reports for film labs..

Motion pictures use a 1:85 aspect ratio Pre-wide screen TVs use a 1:33 aspect ratio. TV broadcasts use 4:3 format. Many new TV sets, using the standard HD aspect ratio, are 1:78 which is also known as 16:9.

Digital camera are often poor at capturing sounds. They capture much ambient noise.

An off-line editing format is required, such as Avid or Final Cut Pro. An edit decision list, or EDL, is used to create the film.

A broadcast scope provides information on luminance and chroma so it is known what film is acceptable and which is distorted and which is fine for broadcast technical standards.

A color grading quality monitor checks for color consistency.

A one light video work print telecine-transfers processed film.

The negative cutter uses key numbers from cut points in the EDL. The negative then undergoes the answer print process. Color adjustments are made while viewing prints on a Hazeltine. The film is screened. More color changes are often decided upon.

Color changes involves removing a primary color or red, green, or blue.

Beach bypass or silver retention processes make a film appear grainy or more desaturated.

The audio is checked as being in sync with the optics.

The first print is a check print. It is produced from an internegative. Changes or tweaks are made on a “light tape”. An internegative is created with the changes.

Note that making too many prints from a camera negative may cause it to break in the printer and thus damage and lose that film section.

The answer print is the lost print from the original negative. Inter-positives and internegatives are made into polyester film Up to 2,000 prints can be made from a polyester film.

After an inter-positive is made, it can be telecrine mastered to HD for a colorist, usually supervised by a cinematographer and / or the director, color corrects the film. A Direct Removal System, or DRSm corrects for dirt on the film. When this is done, the resulting lay back silent video is then synced to sound. There are at least four channels of sound with channels 1 and 3 for Stereo Left and channels 2 and 4 for Stereo Right.

Feature films often use Quicktime Pro Res for creating a mezzanine master digital file.

Music is often added using Quick-times. Source music, which is pre-existing music, is sometimes used, Sometimes music is scored for the movie.

Dialogue tracks from original dailies undergo “cleaning up” or “smoothing out” or building ramps” and fixed.

Foley sounds, which are background noises, are often added. Foley sounds make a film appear more realistic.

Automatic dialogue replacement, or ADR, adds or changes dialogue.

Sound effects are often added.

Sound design uses synthesizers, samplex, and audio plug-ins to enhance or distort sounds to achieve “sonic alchemy”.

A pre-dub, consisting of ADR, Foley, and sound effects, are edited using sound mixers. Pre-dubs are often 70% balanced acceptable.

Dolby reduces over-modulation.

Music and effects tracks (M and E) are added to a print master. Sound effects are provided on sound drives for non-theatrical print masters

Studios campaign for viewers to see their movies. Posters and key art are created for advertising. Confusing artwork can dissuade people from seeing a movie.

Production still photographs can be used for advertising and for guiding key art.

A catchy log line can attract an audience.

Trailers show film highlights to attract an audience. They often target specific demographics.

The Motion Picture Association of America ratings system often allows big studios more latitude in the degree of violence or graphic content than is allowed to independent films.

A title search checks there are no competing films with the same title.

An Electronics Press Kit, or EIPC, shows behinds the scenes information such as interviews. It is often added to a DVD.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

Neil Patrick Harris. Choose Your Own Autobiography: You Are the Star in N.P.H.’s Life Story. New York: Crown Archetype, 2014.

Harris recalls when young meeting Keith Carradine backstage Harris notes “time image will stick with you forever. For two hours he was a conjurer summoning up the spirit of a beloved icon; now, once again, he’s just one of the crowd. Heralded, then anonymous. That’s preforming.”

Harris had an agent who got an audition for Harris with Steven Bocho. After a callback he was cast as Doogie Howser on “Doogie Howser M.D.” The role had challenges, including learning to say a line in fluent Japanese.

Newborn babies, by California law, are limited ot working 20 minutes at a time. Twins or tripes are often used. Harris once asked a mother why she chose this work and she replied “I don’t know, they  just seem to enjoy it.”

California law limits children to nine and half hours per day of work which includes three hours for required school and one for lunch.

Harris learned he could not socialize with his costar Max Casella, when he calls “the secret ingredient behind the show’s success” because people would swarm them.

“Doogie Howser M.D.” ran for four seasons from 1989 to 1993, Typecast as Doogie Howser, Harris had trouble landing another TV series, Yet he did several movies and 13 made for television movie from 1988 and 2001. He appeared on episodes of several TV shows. He also did theater work.

Harris was asked to appear in the TV series “How I Met Your Mother”. He found the pilot script funny and “unusually for a pilot it did not feel derivative of other shows.” The show lasted nine seasons. He credits CBS for not moving it around so it built an audience that could find it. It was always on Monday nights at either 8 pm or 8:30 pm.

“How I Met Your Mother” was filmed with multiple cameras. It did not use a live studio audience. This gave the show more flexibility to reshoot and edit.

During the strike in 2007, Josh Weldon asked Harris, for no pay, to be in an online musical “Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog.” Harris trusted Weldon so much that he accepted without seeing a script. Viewer reaction was overwhelmingly positive. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Watch Me by Angelica Huston

Angelica Huston. Watch Me: A Memoir. New York: Schrber, 2014.

Huston was a noted “high fashion” “exotic” model in New York. She did not find as much success in southern California as she was not the “tanned blonde” that seemed more desirable there. Her father, director John Huston, gave her a role in his movie “A Walk with Love and Death”. Critics were not kind to her.

Huston dated actor Jack Nicholson. She would later marry Robert Graha. She told Nicholson she liked acting. Nicholson stated he “hated actresses” yet thought they could work together in their next movie “The Fortune”. Nicholson asked director Mike Nichols to consider Huston for the female lead. Huston, fearful for her past bad reviews, did not want to risk it.

Sam Spiegel, MGM’s Chief, and director Elia Kazan wanted Jack Nicholson for their movie “The Last Tycoon”. They gave Huston an audition, perhaps in hopes of luring Nicholson. Nicholson agreed to a lessor supporting role. She was cast. While filming, she learned to consider “the other character’s state of mind.”

Huston writes that director Roman Polanski was “restless, opinionated, urban, brilliant, impatient, and mercurial....You had to work to keep up with him. He was staying at Jack Nicholson’s residence while Nicholson was away. The police raided the house and arrested Polanski and Huston for drug possession. Polanski was also arrested for sexually assaulting a 13 year old. Huston writes she did not witness that.

Huston’s father had emphysema. Due to that, his least films he directed were low budget films.

Nicholson found director Stanley Kubrick a “taskmaster” and “all genius.”

Lee Grant asked Huston to be in the movie “Playing With Fire” which Grant director. Grant could not get the project fuded

Sue Menger, a noted agent, turned down Huston’s father’s request that Menger represent her. Menger stated she represented Ali McGraw who Menger thought look similar to Huston. Menger and Huston, though, became “good friends.”

Huston auditioned for a role in the movie “This Is Spinal Tap”. She received a smaller role than for what she auditioned.

John Foreman asked Huston to be in the movie “Prizzi’s Honor.” Foreman then asked if her father would direct it and if Jack Nicholson would act in it.

Huston won an Academy Award for her role in “Prizzi’s Honor”. She was the only person from the film to win an Academy Award for that film.

The Huston family challenged Ted Turner from colorizing movies filmed in black and white. French law prohibited doing this if the original creator objects. In the U.S., the National Film Preservation Act prohibited substantially altering, including colorizing, a film it had labeled without the creators participating int the altering.

Huston played the Supreme Leader in the Disneyland 3D short “Captain EO.”

Huston agreed to be in a Woody Allen movie knowing only about the character she would play. She had never met Woody Allen and offered to meet him for a drink. Allen said he was sick. She suggested another day. Allen asked what if he would be sick then, too. The drink meet never occurred. Yet she did appear in his movie “Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Huston researches her character before filming. She wants to know her character
s health, choices, hopes, dreams, disappointments, and secrets.

Huson most enjoyed her acting in the movie “The Grifters”. She was nominated for Best Actress.

Huston played Mortica in the film “The Addams Family”. Her corset made her look well yet it was painful to wear. She had troubled turning her head, it gave her big headaches, her neck blistered, and she could not sit.

Woody Allen asked Huston back to appear in his movie “Manhattan Murder Mystery”. She agreed. She found the dialogue required a lot of fast talking. She worried about missing cues.

Huston filmed an Addams Family sequel “Addams Family Values”.

Huston filmed the movie “The Perez Family”. She found she and Mina Nair had conflicting styles. Huston “was sensing her impatient and feeling a certain discomfort in performing actions without having found my original impulse.”

While filming “Buffalo Girls”, Huston was diagnosed with a basal cell carcinoma which was on her nose. It had to be removed surgically after radiation did not work. Two years later, her nose was reconstructed using cartilage from her ear.

Huston agreed to direct the film “Bastard OUt of Carolina” for the Turner Network Television. SHe was upset she did not know as much about the technicalities of filmmaking yet she “survived on instinct and by surrounding myself with great people from whom I could learn.” The film took 28 days to film. Ted Turner and Jane Fonda screened the film and were upset over the rape and masturbation scenes. Turner declined to air it. It was shown at the Canes Festival. Showtime aired it. Huston was nominated for an Emmy and  Directors Guild awards.

Huston filmed “Ever After”. She first found costar Drew Barrymore giggling during the filming which upset Huston. Huston yelled at Barrymore “All right, missy, I’ve had it.” Barrymore, the next day, sent Huston a card reading “Thank you for making me a better actor.”

Huston filmed “The Golden Bowl”. She found Jim Ivory was “calm” while Ismail Merchant was “loquacious and outgoing”.

Huston filmed “The LIfe Aquatic”. he stated it “was deceptive in that it looked simple, but a great deal of effort went into the set, the costumes, the location.”

Huston filmed “The Darjeeling Limited” in India.. There were no wardrobe or make up artists. Each actor created his or her own look.

Michael Mayer asked Huston to be in the NBC TV series “Smash”. She agreed. The pilot took three weeks to shoot.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham. Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” New York: Random House, 2014.

Dunham made a web series called “Delusional Downtown Divas”. THere were ten episodes filmed. THey used many of their parents’ friends in small role “who still viewed us as children doing an adorable class project.” In retrospect, she notes the camera was shaky and the images blurry. It was “amateurish, a little vulgar.” It was shown at a SoHo gallery.

In 2009, the Delusional Downtown Divas hosted the Guggenheims First Annual Art Awards.

Dunham observes that filming a sex scene is “weird”. While many actors call it part of their job she sometimes found the experience “humiliating”. She does not think of the audience while filming nude. She notes “getting naked feels better some days”. She is not afraid to do them. She appreciates that showing her body imperfections allows others to more easily accept their body imperfections.

Dunham is Executive Producer, writer, director, and acts on the HBO TV series “Girls”. She has won two Best Actress Golden Glove awards. She has been nominated for eight Emmy Awards. She also wrote and directed tow movies.

Dunham’s grandmother Carol Marguerite Reynolds was her best friend until age 12. She felt her loss deeply when she died. Carol’s sister Doris “Doad” Reynolds Jetwett died on December 10, 2003 at age 100.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

So, Anyway…by John Cleese

John Cleese. So, Anyway....New York:Crown, 2014.

Cleese learned when young that humor was a useful tactic in dealing with bullies.

Cleese was involved in theater in Clifton College. In his first straight acting performance, the sight f him in tights as the supposedly fearsome Satan drew audience laughter instead of the intended fear. Cleese never worked in straight acting again for 37 years.

Cleese met Graham Chapman at Cambridge. They performed in theater together. He learned his strength was comedic timing. He notes comedic timing “depends on confidence; you cannot o great comedy if you are not relaxed...any anxiety, any tension. and the flow goes wrong, you snatch at the joke, you force too hard, you lose the rhythm.” He notes “the greatest cure for anxiety is familiarity. The better you know the sketch...the more effortly it starts to flow.”

Cleese worked at BBC Radio. He wrote for an early evening magazine show. He then wrote comedy sketches.

He then toured New Zealand for six weeks with “Cambridge Circus”. During one performance, a bell tester did his job testing the bell. “Cambridge Circus” played on Broadway. He later appeared on Broadway in “Half a Sixpence”.

David Frost asked Cleese to work on his sketch show “The Frost Report”. Cleese also helped work and perform on a David Frst comedy series “Frost Over Britain”.

David Frost was listed as the lead writer of his shows although some wondered if he wrote any of his shows. It was noted by another writer “how greatly David has always improve our punctuation.”

Cleese worked on “The Frost Programme” that aired three times a week. Terry Gilliam was hired to sketch guest Shirley Bassey. From that show, Cleese learned “ that when you stop concentrating on avoiding mistakes, you relax a bit, and actually make fewer” mistakes.

Frost offered Cleese his own show. He did 13 episodes of “At Last the 1948 Dhow”. He included fellow writer Marty Feldman, who had not acted in awhile, and Graham Chapman.

Cleese notes wen Graham Chapman told Cleese that Chapman was homosexual, Cleese was surprised but it did not affect their writing relationship in any way. hey wrote several movie and numerous TV scripts together.

Cleese appeared in the move “The Magic Christian” with Peter Sellers and Ringo Starr. Cleese states Sellers and director Jimmy Burrows were two geniuses that he worked with.

Chapman liked the TV show “Do Not Adjust Your Set” which starred Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam animation. Chapman ased the, if they wanted to work with him and Chapman. The idea of all these people working together was approved without a pilot.

Graham Chapman died of cancer in 1989 at age 48. Cleese noted Chapman “had a priceless, quite uncanny knack of knowing what the audience was going to laugh at.”

Clleese notes most of Monty Python were primarily writers rather than performers. They never fought over casting seeking instead to put the wrong person with the right role.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pigtails, Presley, and Pepper by Cynthia Pepper

Cynthia Pepper with Victor J. Hangor. Pigtails, Presley, and Pepper: A Holllywood Memoir. Author House, 2014.

Pepper recalls residuals from one of her movies. The first residual check was for $300, the second check was for $13, the third was for $7, and the fourth was for $2.

Pepper’s grandfather worked in vaudeville. Her father was an actor appearing in moves and on an “Our Gang” episode.

Pepper modeled and appeared in theater as a child At the age of 12, she appeared in her first movie with Cary Grant. She was shocked when she heard Cary Grant swear.

When in high school at Hollywood High School, Pepper joined a sorority, Each sorority met under a tree, Stephanie Power was in her sorority, She recalls when some boys were mad at her sorority and they cut down their tree.

Pepper appeared in episodes of “The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis” among other series. She then had steady work appearing on “My Three Sons” The other actors and crew made her fell welcome. Fred MacMurray would quickly film his scenes and leave. The rest of the cast then filmed their scenes. Actors talking to Fred MacMurray’s character would speak to an off-screen mop.

Pepper’s character dated Tom Considine’s character in “My three Sons”. In real life, she was married and he had a girlfriend They were friends and did go on double dates.

Pepper was paid $400 a week for being on “My Three Sons”. SHe was on eight episodes from 1960 to 1961.

Pepper was then cast in the TV series “Margie” as Margie. The studio had unwritten rules of no obscenities and no smoking. The show as shot with one camera on 35 mm black and white film in front of a live audience even though a laugh track was added As “Margie” was successful, Pepper was then hired to sing on reords. She jokes “this record is my Million Seller...that’s right, I’ve got a Million in My Cellar”. Marie merchandise was also produced with her likeness. She has never paid for any of the merchandising. She was pictured on a TV Guide cover which became, for then, the highest selling issue.

“Margie” lased two seasons on ABC, despite its 20 share, The show was costly to produce. ABC was moving towards showing more Westerns. Proctor and Gamble, wich sponsored “Margie” began moving their advertising towards more daytime soap operas.

Pepper next filmed an episode of “The United States Steel Hour”.

MGM called Pepper film “Kissin’ Cousins” with Elvis Presley. Elvis called her Speckled Pup. There is a scene where Pepper throws Elvis to the ground. As a joke, Elvis pretended to be unconscious after falling.

Pepper’s contract work was over after “Kissin’ Cousins”. She worked on some TV episodes She did a guest appearance on “My Three Sons”. She then got the role of the neighbor on “The Addams Family”. She filmed a pilot “Three Coins in the Fountain” which was not selected yet was shown on TV five years later as a TV movie.

Pepper appeared in summer stock theater in “Under the Yum Yum tree” with Edd Byrnes and David Hedison, Tab Hunter later replaced Hediosn. Margaret O’Brien replaced her.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Chuck McCann's Let's Have Fun Scrapbook by Chuck McCann

Chuck McCann. Chuck McCann’s Let’s Have Fun Scrapbook: My Life in the Wacky World of Live Kids’ Television. Tuluca Lake, Ca., 2012.

McCann knew from childhood he wanted to perform. He did impressions as a child for those around him. His grandfather juggled and rode a unicycle in Bill Cody’s West Show His father was a musician who toured with orchestras.

After high school, McCann appeared in the Pasadena Playhouse. He enjoyed being a character actor. He worked as a comedian in New York clubs and on variety shows. He then apprenticed in the “Rootie Kazotte Show” with puppeteer Paul Ashley. Ashley and McCann traveled with thier puppet acts. Their New York TV show was often picked up live in mid-broadcast in other cities in other time zones such as Chicago.

Sandy Becker of WNEW-TV asked McCann to take over his comedy show while he was on vacation. McCann was asked this on a Friday to begin the next Monday McCann wrote a show with Dick Gautier.

Live television for McCann included drinking buttermilk in a commercial that made him sick, animals that bit him and drew blood, and a commercial with a talking doll that broke and wouldn’t stop talking.

McCann and Dick Van Dyke did impressions of Laurel and Hardy on WPIX-TV. They also did impressions of Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton.

WPIX expanded the hours McCann was on TV. In 1960, his “Let’s Have Fun” was a live four hour show.

McCann’s show was profitable for WPIX. Yet the show was not given a budget, McCann had to pay for whatever he needed for the show, Costumes were found from the Salvation Army store. The show was filmed in a small space no intended to be used as a TV studio. The lights were two feet about McCann. His hair once caught fire.

McCann was once fired from a cannon It shot his clothes out yet left him inside.

During a newspaper strike, McCann, a la Fiorello LaGuadia reading comics on the radio during an earlier strike, acted out the comics.

There was no live live audience in most of McCann’s shows. He fed off the crew’s laughter, When a program manager insisted children appear in a Kookie Fortune Cooke Contest, he had a child open and read a fortune cooke from a local fortune cooke company who sent over the wrong batch. The fortune read “Sex will be risky tonight.” The contest was quickly cancelled.

Leon the Lion, the MGM lion, appeared on McCann’s show. The lion escaped, went into an elevator, exited into the lobby and swiped a fur coat off a woman, The station put the woman and a friend up at the Waldorf Astoria and got them show tickets and a fancy dinner.

Bert Draeturrous, an engineer on McCann’s show, invented showing film backwards. McCann invented a character Mr. Backwards. The signal from the backwards film, though, failed to meet FCC broadcast standards so they had to stop using it. McCann showed the technique to Steve Allen. Allen could afford the preamplifier that made the process work according to FCC standards.

McCann and Earl Doud created the CBS show “Far Out Space Nut” which starred Bob Denver.

The first MdDonald’s TV ad in the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut area was on McCann’s show. He had to eat and pretend to enjoy a sandwich which had gone cold.

McCann once ate what he thought was ice cream with chocolate syrup only to discover it was a potato underneath the syrup as ice cream melts He had to talk while being unable to swallow it,

The Federal Communications Commission in 197 required fewer product endorsements by children’s show hosts. In 1968, sensing the changing directions of children’s TV programming, left children’s TV. He was in the movie “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter”. McCann later did comedy tours with Tim Conway. 

Just Between Us by Mario Lopez

Mario Lopez with Steven Santagati. Just Between Us. New York, N.Y.: Celeba, Penguin Group, 2014.

The author has worked in the entertainment business since age 10. He started doing commercials. He was on the TV series “Saved By the Bell”, was a guest judge on “Dancing with the Stars”, and now hosts “Extra”.

Lopez was a chubby baby, claiming to look like a sharpei dog. He grew up in Chula Valley, Ca. near the Mexican border. It was whispered some of relatives were involved in the drug cartel.

Lopez’s mother enrolled him in dance class at age nine, which he questions as “what cool boy ever took a dance class?” He found he liked it and enjoyed being the only boy in class dancing with girls.

Christine Guerrero, a talent agent who specialized in representing children and young people was at a dance recital where Lopez danced. Lopez’s mother approached Guerreo who had liked his dancing. Lopez read for her at her San Diego office and she took him as a client. His first work was in local print ads. He then was cast in 1984 as a regular on the TV series “A.K.A. Pablo”, a Norman Lear production that showcased Hispanic actors. He enjoyed working with guest star Bea Arthur who answered many of his questions. Lopez remained in public school through graduation. “A.K.A. Pablo” filmed 13 episodes yet was canceled after six episodes. “TV Guide” ranks it as the 45th worst TV show of all time although Lopez argues it wasn’t on long enough for it to gain an audience.

Lopez met other child actors. He found Gary Coleman, who had several handlers, spoiled from all the attention. Ricky Schroder, on the other hand, was friendly and nice to Lopez and others.

In the fall of 1984. at age 11, Lopez was cast in the TV series “Kids Incorporated”. His dance and drumming skills were important to his work on the show. He recalls it as “the toughest job I ever worked” with a “tough as nails choreographer”. Off set, he exchanged 11 year kisses with Stacy Ferguson who is now knows as Fergie. He also did guest appearances on other shows such as “The Golden Girls”.

NBC developed a TV show “Good Morning, MIss Bliss” that it then rejected. The Disney Channel ran it but canceled it before its first season was over. NBC reclaimed the show, changed the focus from the teacher to the students, and renamed it “Saved by the Bell”. Mark Paul Gossler was kept as the lead along with Dustin Diamond and Lark Vorhies. New characters were created. Lopez won a role as one of the added characters. He was a permed mullet cut wig. The wardrobe was chosen by staff who attempted to follow current trends.

Lopez was friends with Dustin Diamond. Not everyone liked Diamond. Diamond would leave photographs of his penis around the set.

Mark Paul Gosselaur’s mother did not let him go to parties or hang out with the other kids.

Lopez was close to co-star Elizabeth Berkley as a “brother / sister” type relationship that continues to the present. He dated co-star Tiffani Thiessen off and on.

“Saved by the Bell” laster five seasons. It became more popular afterwards in syndication. There was a season long spin-off “Saved by the Bell: The College Years” which did not connect as well as the network did not want the characters to become too different from their high school characteristics.

Lopez did personal appearances. He was amused seeing how young girls would slip him their phone numbers, and then mothers would also slip him their phone numbers.

Lopez appeared as Greg Louganis in a TV movie “Breaking the Surface”. He was nominated for an ALMA Award.

Lopez hosted the reality TV show “Name Your Adventure:. He later co-hosted the talk show “The Other Half”. Dick Clark gave him lots of useful advice. Lopez then had a recurring role for four years on ?Nip/Tuck”. He was a contestant on “Dancing with the Stars” and won the contest He then hosted “America’s Best Dance Crew” on MTV in Los Angeles and would then fly to New York where he was on Broadway in “A Chorus Line”. He was later hired to host “Extra”.

He notes that, on movie press junkets, a stopwatch is used to time interviews and when the prescribed time is reached, the interview is over and then next interviewer takes over.

Lopez also had a radio show “ON with Mario Lopez’ that is nationally syndicated. It ranks best in its time slot in all major markets including Los Angeles. He also has a NOVO show “Mario Lopez: One on One”.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Dear Cary by Dyan Cannon

Dyan Cannon. Dear Cary: My Life With Cary Grant. New York, N.Y.: It Books, HarperCollins Publishers, 2012.

Dyan Cannon was born Diane Friesea. Jerry Wald of 20th Century stated he wanted to change her name to something that evoked “Explosions! Guns! Cannons! Excitement!” He declared her new name was Diane Cannon, later changed again to Dyan Cannnon.

Cannon tested for a movie role. One of the studio executives declared her nose was oo flat. She went to get a nose job. The doctor refused to perform the surgery, stating she already had kind of nose that people were paying to have.

Cannon did not get the movie role for which she tested. She get a job working on publicity for the movie “Les Girls” for $200 a week.

Cannon dated Cary Grant. Grant believed his mother had died when he was 10 years old. He learned 20 years later from his father that she was still alive yet in a mental institution His father declared he did it for Cary and he could not support both of them. His mother had not had a breakdown. Cary walked out on his father. He father died a year later.

Cary Grant alway wrote Dyan as “Diane” as if not accepting her stage name. Yet Cannon always referred to Grant as “Cary Grant” and not by his real name Archie Leach.

Cannon agreed to take LSK with Grant. Grant called LSK as “the key to ultimate peace of mind” that makes the user “closer to God.” She agreed. After taking it, Grant told her “this is your opportunity to ask the universe anything you want”. She responded with “okay, universe, I want to ask you, what is God?” Cannon then saw giant dancing bears singing nursery songs in German. Cannon reacted badly and a doctor present gave her Seconol which made her sleep for 18 hours. Cannon asked Grant “How in hell can giant bears singing in German bring you closer to God?”

Cannon admits to feeling jealous while watching 30 feet away on a set watching Grant kiss Leslie Caron while filming “Father Goose”. She knew it was acting but felt they were “putting a little too much feeling” into their roles.

Grant and Cannon married. Grant convinced Cannon to take LSD again. She did not want to but finally agreed. Cannon’s father told Grant “She doesn’t need drugs, Cary. She needs love. Your love.” Grant responded “She’s under my jurisdiction now.”

Grant kept taking LSD yet Cannon wouldn’t. They drifted apart as Grant became more dependent on chemicals. They divorced. Cannon had a breakdown that ws attributable to the 10 or 12 times she had taken LSD and other drugs she had taken. She detoxed from her pills and chemicals.                                                                                                                                                                    

Cannon returned to acting. She appeared in the movie “Bob & Ted & Carol & Alice” and several others. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Survivor's Guide to Hollywood by Robin Riker

Robin Riker. A Survivor’s Guide to Hollywood: How to Play the Game Without Losing Your Soul. Studio City, CA.: Callipygian Press, 2013.

Th author warns that the entertainment industry has norms that are different from other industries. Rejection for work is common and often occurs for reasons that are not easily understood. Work is not hired based upon merit.

The author advises actors to remain positive, noting an actor’s “state of mind is the most  important thing” the actor has.

The author advises actors avoid focusing on studying acting rather than applying what has ben learned.

Luck is an element in getting acting jobs, but it isn’t all luck.

The author appeared on TV with Lloyd Bridges. Bridges offered to pay for an apartment for her “no strings attached.” She turned the offer down noting “I also know a little bit about strings. Thus, I left with my integrity.”

The author advises actors be enthusiastic about their work.

Actors are advised to not become derailed by others who wish to attempt to place the focus on themselves or those who are always trying to steal scenes.

Auditions are a necessary part of acting. An actor should not be discouraged if the people giving the audition are not friendly. The author recommends asking those giving the audition a question to allow the actor to show a bit more of the actor’s personality.

An actor should realize those giving auditions are usually looking for a specific type of actor.

The author recommends wearing the same clothing for a callback as worn during an audition.

 An actor may not be called for  table read. This is because the producers want to save money and not pay the actor for that day.

The author recommends Los Angeles film and TV actors also appear in Los Angeles theatre. This exposes the actor to casting directors, agents, and managers. It also gives actors affirmation of their work. The dues for Actors’ Equity (circa 2013) are $1,100 or which $400 may be paid upfront with the balance paid in two years.

An agent is essential for an actor. An agent’s commission cannot be higher than 10%. Managers are not essential but often are helpful. Their percent is negotiatble and often 15% and sometimes between 10% and 15%.

Agents seldom contact their actor clients.

In 1921, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce warned those moving to Hollywood hoping to become actors that “only one in five reach the top.”

Know Small Parts by Laura Cayouette

TLaura Cayouette. Know Small Parts: An Actor’s Guide to Turning Minutes into Moments and Moments into a Career. San Bernardino, CA.: LA to NOLA Press, 2012.

The author notes if one loves acting, one may make a living acting even if one’s career is all small parts. Independent films are more apt to hire unknown actors whereas huge studio films are more apt to seek well known actors. Even big stars will take small roles or “cameos”.

It is often easier to get roles in smaller regional markets than in more competitive Los Angeles.

Cayouette observes her two lines in the movie “Kill Bill” led to more work. She nots Suzanne Somers had a memorable role in “American Graffiti” despite having no lines. She notes “every small part is a big opportunity.”

An actor should always be prepared and do one’s best at an audition. Even if the actor is not chosen, an impressed director may know of another role the actor could portray.

When receiving a script for an audition, the actor should learn what the scene is about including its genre, mood, time period, etc.

The actor should consider what the characteristics of the role are, what are the motivations and objectives of the character, how the character relates to others, what the character wants from others, whether there is someone the actor knows who is similar to the role and could serve as a good substitute to how that character reacts, and consider details from one’s own life that may add to the role.

An actor should consider what obstacles face the actor’s portrayal including nerves and  worries about timing. The actor must learn to face obstacles and find how to overcome them.

An actor must focus on acting while acting. An actor must know lines and must ignore distractions until the director yells “cut”.

It is an actors job to play a role as it is written. An actor should not refuse to act in a role because that is not how the actor would behave in real life.

Auditions are job interviews. An actor should remember that one “gets” to audition and not that one has to audition and that opportunity should be embraced. the author did not get a role in his first over 100 auditions.

One should take a head shot to an audition. One should have an acting reel online.

An actor at an audition is expected to know how to pronounce and understand the words in the dialogue. If there is a pronoun with a questionable pronunciation, the actor should ask how it is pronounced before the audition. If an actor doesn’t have any questions, the actor should demonstrate the actor knows the materials, perhaps with humor.

An actor should listen to and follow instructions and directions. An actor should mentally prepare ahead as to how the actor will perform.

Am actor should be even more prepared for a callback.

An actor should have an updated passport in case the actor is hired to film in another country.

When an actor is called to a callback, this means those evaluating already like what they have seen. It is advised to wear the same outfit as worn at the audition at the callback. This will help the evaluators remember the actor. An actor should keep a record of what is worn to auditions.

Props taken to auditions should be limited to what one normally carries.

Actors hired are advised to arrive early, check in, check that the contract is correct, have proper ID, wear easily removed clothes to quickly change into costume, and check the 
“minis” which state what is being shot. An actor should be prepared to sit around a lot. An actor should be prepared to be called upon earlier than expected. An actor usually signs out at the end of the day. An actor should not leave personal items behind.

An actor is advised not to bring anything personal to the set. Personal items can be moved at will without regard to them. The only exception to this is actors with personalized chairs with pouches may put items in the pouches.

Any item that is brought to a set by an actor should be labeled with the actor’s name. Nothing irreplaceable should be brought onto a set.

An actor who is married should consider the microphone is always on. Conversations can be overheard A mic on a person can be asked to removed for bathroom breaks.

It is good for spirit when actors with spoken lines introduce themselves to stunt actors and background actors.

An actor during filming should learn to reach one’s marks, be on camera, be where lighting requires the actor to be, and to adjust if the actor notices the actor is casting a shadow on another actor

It is common that a shoot will begin early in the morning and lost 12 to 16 hours.

Rehearsals are often to assist camera, sound, and lighting people practice where they need to be. An actor should be prepared for changes.

An actor should roll with problems. The author worked while having laryngitis which she used to make her voice sound sultry.

The author warns against actors who are saboteurs against other actors on sets. She advises remaining professional and “the best defense against a saboteur is to deliver an amazing performance no matter what crap anyone pulls.”

It is illegal to ask an actor’s age except to ask if an actor is over age 25 for liquor commercials.

When an actor is asked to “slate” it means the actor is to state his or her name on camera.

THe suggest profile shots be taken with the hand and shoulders turned to one side and the eyes facing towards the camera.

The author recommends “as a general rule, keep everything positive.”

In commercials where a product is lifted by hand by an actor, the actor should keep the label facing the camera with as little obstruction as possible on that label.

When an actor eats on camera, it is often best to take a small bite and chew as if it is a big bite.

The SAG-AFTRA initiation fee (circa 2012) is $3,000 with semiannual dues of $99. One has one day to pay the dues. To become eligible to join the union, one needs to work in a union job or work at least three days as a background actor on a union job. A principle in ACTRA, CAEA, AGMa or AGUA may also join SAG-AFTRA.

A credit for work done may be claimed regardless of the final product. One may list a credit for a part that is cut from a film.

IMDA Pro costs $124.95 annually (circa 2012). It allows credentials on IMDb to be updated. An actor should make certain there is at least one photo available on the actor’s IMDb page.

An actor should have a reel of work available online.It should be at least three minutes long up to 10 minutes long.

Websites such as Actor’s Access and LA Talent allow any actor with a headshot and resume to register with them.

Agent and manager contracts are usually for one to three years. The best time for an actor to get an agent is when the actor is working. The author recommends a commercial agent is a necessity for getting commercial work. An actor should never pay an agent upfront.

The most publicity excitement occurs before a movie is released or before a new TV series starts.

A publicity usually is hired for at least three months. A publicist is best used in the months prior to a film’’s release.

It is possible for red carpet events to allow an actor to find a new clothing company that wishes the actor to promote their clothes while on the red carpet. These clothes can be borrowed from such a company.It is considered as wrong for an actor to ask for photographs or autographs at red carpet events. These events should be considered as work for promoting films. An actor should not drink to excess or cause embarrassment.

It is good for actors to keep good company and make good industry contacts.

95% of actors (circa 2012) make under $5,000 annually, 4% make a bit more but can’t live on it, and 1% made enough to live. The author advises “know what you can control and what you cannot and focus your energy only on the things you can change.”

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Unified Field by David Lynch

David Lynch. The Unified Field. Oakland, Ca.: University of California Press, 2014.

David Lynch studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. While he concentrated on painting, on his own he tried filmmaking. Neither film nor animation were taught at this school. Still, in 1967, he made a six minute animated film “Six Men Getting Sick”.

Lynch chose film over painting He next made a four minute animation and live action film “The Alphabet” in 1968 followed in 1970  by a 34 minute animation and live action film “The Grandmother”. These films helped him become a fellow at the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film Studies. He then created a move “Eraserhead” from 1972 to 1976. This led him to directing successful internationally known films such as “Elephant Man”, “Blue Velvet”, “Wild at Heart”, “Mulholland Drive” and to also create the TV series “Twin Peaks” in 1990-1991.

Robert Cozzolino states “Lynch is an artist who happens to make film as part of his expression”.

The social turmoils Lynch saw while living in Philadelphia helped inspire him. He also found great inspiraitons from his fellow art students.

Some themes that often appear in Lynch’s films are home, childhood, and nostalgia. His films are often voilent, to which he explains home “is a place where things go wrong.” Lynch notes his own childhood was happy. He also notes his paintings are “violent comedies”.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Famous Enough by Diane McBain

Diane McBain and Michael Gregg Michaud. Famous Enough: A Hollywood Memoir.Duncan, Ok.: BearManor Publishing, 2014.

At age 16, McBain auditionaed for and won a role in a play at the Glendale Center Theatre. She then modeled, appearing in several national magazines. Then she was going to work exclusively for Revlon yet was badly sunburned when appearing at her first shoot.

McBain appeared in the TV show “Father Knows Best”. Her few lines earned her $200.

A Warner Brothers talent scout, Sally Bianco, asked McBain to audition. She did and then did an episode of “Maverick” followed by an episode of “77 Sunset Strip”. She found Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. “mannered, stylish, and sophisticated” while she found E Bynes “insufferably egotistical”.

At age 18, McBain signed a seven year contract with Warner Brothers Studios at $250 a week. She writes men began at $275 a week and women began at $250 a week.

Her first movie, “Ice Palace”, was filmed in 1959. She later learned Richard Burton saved her from being fired. Burton knew the director wanted to replace McBain for struggling with memorizing her lines. Burton deliberately flubbed his lines so the blame on delays would be on him and not McBain.

McBain lost her virginity to Richard Burton yet writes his penis was too large to complete intercourse.

“Ice Palace” received poor reviews and lost the studio millions of dollars.

McBain observes movies are “profoundly infused with homosexual aestheticism. I think their cultural influence was so powerful, it’s mystifying to me that so many people---people who loved the movies---harbored homophobic prejudices.”

McBain continued with memorization difficulties while filming “Parrish”. She appeared with Troy Donahue who explained “method-style” acting. The movie ran 138 minutes which she writes was too long. The length hurt its audience appeal.

McBain was cast in the TV series “Surfside Six”. She was in most of the 74 episodes that appeared over two years.

The studio arranged for celebrity dates for her for publicity purposes. She writes “rather than making me sound interesting, I thought it made me a slut.”

McBain starrted in the movie “Claudelle Inglish”. The movie earned several million dollars. McGain was nominated for a Golden Laurel Award for Top Female New Personality.

McBain was date raped and blackmailed by her assailant who threatened to cliam she was a “whore”. Such an accusation could have ended her career a studio contracts insisted on public morality. She fell into depression.

McBain appeared in the movie “Black Gold”. The director was Leslie Martinson, who McBain writes was “arguable the most neurotically dramatic director I ever worked with” who would “fly off the handle over the silliest things.”

McBain was “rented out” to Paramount Studios to appear in the movie “The Caretakers”. When an actor was “rented out” to another studio, the actor received the same pay while the studio received an “inflated” amount. She found the other female actors “all behaved as if they had something to protect” which “degenerated into ugly bitch fights.” Joan Crawford had a vendetta against McBain and had most of McBain’s scenes removed from the film.

“The Caretakers” did poorly at the box office. President Kennedy asked for the movie to be shown on the Senate floor, which may have been the first time a movie was shown on the Senate floor. The movie is credited with helping the Senate unanimously pass Kennedy’s mental health bill.

McBain worked with Ty Hardin. whom she found a “strange actor” whose real name was Orson Whipple Hungerford, Jr. He was nicked “Ty Hard-on” for his attempts at picking up women while holding a Bible and telling them God wanted them to sleep together.

McBain was in the movie “A Distant Trumpet”. She found Suzanne Pleshette had “the foulest mouth I’d ever heard on anyone in my life---man or woman” although she grew fond of Pleshette.

McBain in 1963 turned down appearing in “Sex and the Single Girl”. Warner Brothers thus terminated her contract.

McBain dated a few men, including producer Aaron Spelling. She found him “very sweet” but “ust too nice. There was no chemistry.”

McBain appeared on the TV show “Batman”. Adam West believed the show was “a comic farce”” and not “campy” as some observed it. To McBain, “the experience was like being in a funhouse on acid.”

McBain appeared in “Spinout” with Elvis Presley, who “behaved like a complete gentleman:.

Johnny Grant, a talk show host, asked McBain to entertain troops in Vietnam on the 29th tour there. Tippi Hedren went with them. At one point, Viet Cong personnel took control of their parked jeepp. Tippi Hedren yelled at them to leave the jeep, and they did so, yet with sinister looks.

While in Vietnam, McBain and Hedren befriended Vietnamese actress Kieu Chinh. Chinh was on the last Pan Am flight out of Vietnam before it fell to the Communists. Hedren helped arrange for Chinch to enter the United States, where Chinch then revived her acting career.

McBain appeared in, which she describe as “a piece of celluloid trash” a movie “I sailed to Tahiti with An All Girl Crew”. At one point Edy Williams was in the water when all ten of her falsies popped out.

McBain appeared in the movie “Maryjane” which Fabian. It was written by Peter Marshall and Dick gaither. It appeared on a double bill in drive in theaters.

McBain performed in another tour of Vietnam in 1968. She saw lots more injured soldiers then. SH felt “an emotional dam burst” and began crying uncontrollably. She deiced “war means one thing---failure to communicate---and no one wins.”

After returning to the U.S., McBain visited many Veterans’ Administration hospitals.

Tippi Hedren’s husband, Noel Marshall, an agent, advised McBain to pose for Playboy magazine. McBain initially did not wish to yet realized it had helped Carol Lynley’s career. She agreed yet regretted it the next day.

McBain appeared in “the Mini-Skirt Mob” and then “Savage Season” which was Ron Harper’s first film.

McBain writes that agent Kurt Frings considered adding her a a client when “he literally chased me around his office and then threw me out when I refused to have sex with him.”

McBain filmed an episode in “ABC’s Wide World of Mystery”. She breast fed her baby at work. This prompted a national debate.

In 1977, McBain was cast in “The Silent Scream”. The film was “un-releasable” and in 1978 Barbara Steele and others were brought in for re-shots. Only 15% of the first filmings appeared in the final produce. McBain was totally cut from the film. This upset her as she “had delivered a good, balanced performance.”

Michael Druxman handled her publicity. One “story sounded amusing in paper, and it was a complete fabrication.”

McBain appeared int he TV movie “Donner Pass”. She writes “Druxman didd the best he could with the press, but the reviews were lukewarm”.

McBain next appeared in “The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams” with Dan Haggerty.

Christopher Reeve confided to McBain that Reeve’s father appreciated Reeve’s theatrical performances but did not like his “Superman” film performance.

McBain filmed an episode of “Hawaii 5 O”. She found hat actor Jack Lord “proved to be another one of those egotistical males whose manners on the set needed some polish. Everyone handled him with kid gloves.” Lord had it written into his conract that he would not work past 6 pm. At 6 pm he suddenly walked off the set without saying any goodbyes.

As McBain found it harder to find roles, she took an acting class and dieted. She got a role on the TV show “Dallas”, Ten in 1982 she was cast in the NBC soap opera “Days of Our Lives”. While she worked steadily, she was hired only on days when called. Some other soap opera stars had three year contracts. On that set, she found her wardrobe was from “leftovers”.

On December 20, 1982, McBain was raped and beaten by two strangers. She later did interviews on how women may survive such trauma. “The Days of Our Lives”, though, dropped her.

McBain filmed an episode of “Airwolf”, She worked with actor Ernest Borgnine, who she found as “one of the sweetest actors I ever met.”

In 1988, McBain was on the soap opera “General Hospital” for several months.

McBain visited filmmakers in China. She found they did not know about American movies. She found, of their films, “the technical quality was very good. The subject matter was a bit old-fashioned and very melodramatic.”

McBain got a new agent and was cast on the movie “Puppet Master V: The Final Post”. She had to put on her own makeup and wear her own clothes.

McBain appeared as Granny in an episode of “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”. She was told the part would be a recurring character yet she was never called back.

McBain was elected to the National Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). Richard Masur was a pro-union President. She supported him even though she was elected opposing him. McBain supported merging SAG with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. She “reluctantly” supported the 2000 strike which successfully kept the Pay Per Play residuals and increased cable residuals by 140%.

Actors such as Peter Mark Richman, whom she had liked yet described them as “union busters, attacked McBain’s union activities “with malice, blatantly lying about my political activities and the activities of others in my coalition.” She was falsely accused of distributing pro-union pamphlets on Guild property. She was exonerated of the charges and SAG paid for her legal bills. She notes “I cannot say for sure whether the overt mudslinging or the negative chatters behind the scenes did me in, but the fact remains that after my acrimonious stint on the SAG Board, I never worked as an actress again.”

McBain advises people to give love instead of ego.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

From Hollywood to Michael Dante Way by Michael Dante

Michael Dante. From  Hollywood to Micael Dante Way. Albany, Ga: BearManor Press, 2013.

Dante as a child worked as an assistant to a barker at the circus for $2 a day. He discovered he enjoyed performing.

Dante played on a baseball team that won the Connecticut high school championship in 1949 as well as a team that won the New England Newspaper League championship. The Boston Braves signed him for a $6,000 bonus, which was then the maximum bonus that could be offered without requiring the player be on the major league roster for two years. He hurt his arm playing. The doctor suggested he move to a warmer climate to heal. He moved to California. There, a scout signed him to play for Hermosillo in the Mexican Coast Winter League. This was followed with reporting for spring training for the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. Yet his injury prevented him from playing for the team. He kept in shape playing semi-pro baseball in Connecticut.

Dante could play baseball yet had troubles throwing overhand. An operation attempted to correct this. While healing, he started class at the University of Miami as an Acting major. He got a scholarship to be Assistant Manager of their baseball team.

Dante attended spring training with the Washington Senators. He was designated to go to their Chattanooga team when he was also offered a screen test. He chose the screen test.

Dante writes “the 1950s was perhaps the most exciting and creative time in the history of the business because television was just coming into its own.” Lots of new opportunities arose for cast and crew.

Dante’s screen test resulted in a standard several year studio contract. The studio, MGM, could cancel the contract every six months. He was offered to meet with an acting coach, even if just to say hello. He made a point ot do that at least twice a week. He wored on improving his diction.

Dante also learned that there was much “envy and jealousy” among other actors.

His first role was in “Shorty the Greek”. He shared a dressing room with Steve McQueen.

During filming, a truck’s brakes failed. The driver managed to avoid hitting people on ground. Dante pulled Steve McQueen away from getting hurt. The truck ran into a plank with a dolly which tossed the camera operator into the air. Neither was seriously injured.

Steve McQueen considered Dante to be with him in the movie “Bullit”. Dante had observed tht McQueen had a complex about his height. When Dante rose at their meeting before McQueen rose, McQueen asked him “Whoa, hey, man. What did you do? Get taller since I saw you last?” Dante correctly knew that he had lost the part.

MGM had one of the first large scale dumping of actors. Dante’s contract was among those MGM did not renew.

Warner Brothers, which was investing in tV shows, hired Dante for $250 a week with increases over the following six years. We has cast before getting the contact. Dante insisted of $275 a week, which he received as he was needed for the movie. He did earn the displeasure of the head of casting.

Dante’s first Warner Brothers role was in “Westbound” where he portrayed a one armed soldier returning from war.

Jack Warner wanted to change Dante’s name fro his actual name that he was using, Ralph Vitti. Warner said of the first and second names that one had to be long and the other short. He picked a relative’s name, Dante, to keep his Italian heritage.

Dante had guest roles in 13 TV shows in addition to three movies in his first year at Warner Brothers. He was getting his name in publicity magazines which helped create interest in his appearances.

Dante was in the movie “Seven Thieves”. Joan Collins was often missing from the set. She was then often found with her boyfriend Warren Beatty. Collins and the director got into heated arguments. Edward G. Robinson advised regarding Collin’s actions “Michael, don’t behave that way, it’s so unprofessional.” Dante followed that advice.

Actors went on strike for six months. This ended all studio contracts. Dante was among the last of the contract actors.

After the strike ended, Dante did several more TV episodes. He then appeared in the movie “Kid Galahad”. He filmed a boxing scene with Elvis Presley as no stunt doubles were used. Elvis accidentally cut Dante’s mouth with a late blow.

Dante’s next movie was a low budget “Operation Bikini” about the Bikini Atoll and not bathing suits. It took two weeks to shoot and made International Pictures a lot of money for their investment, The actors received little pay.

Dante next appeared in the film “The Naked Kiss”. The movie receive rave reviews.

Dante filmed “Apache Rifles” with Audie Murphy Much of the filming was in the 117 degree Mojave desert.

Dante filmed “Harlow” with Carol Lynley. He improvised a line with her on a polar bear fug stating “do you like fff..fireplaces?”, elongating the “f”. The director Alex Segal stated it was one of the greatest improvised lines ever.

Dante made an appeared on “Bonanza”. While filming it, the Executive Producer, David Dortort, offered Dante a role in a TV series he was creating, “High Chapparel”. Dante turned it down and the show ran for five years. Dante writes he has no regrets turning it down.

Dante appeared in “Get Smart” . He writes that experience was the most fun as laughter reigned on the set.

Dante was cast in the TV series “The Legend of Custer”. He portrayed Crazy Horse. Critics did not like the series. It lasted 17 episodes. Four episodes were later edited into a movie “Crazy Horse and Custer---The Untold Story.”

Gene Roddenberry offered Dante to be in “Star Trek” Dante did not have to audition as Roddenberry already appreciated his work. Dante accepted. Most who appeared on “Star Trek” earned more money at fan conventions and autograph shows than what they received for being on the show. Dante and seven others who were “Star Trek”, including a brief appearance by William Shatner, filmed a comedic homage in 2013, “Unbelievable!!!”

Dante filmed an episode of “Daniel Boone”. He performed a scene in water with Darby Hinton. The crew did not realize the water was cold and Hinton was shocked by the coldness. Dante swam 40 yards, holding onto Hinton. Hinton credits Dante with saving his life.

Dante appeared in “Willard”. He notes that the scene were rats appear to kiss Willard’s ear were shot by placing peanut butter on Willard’s ears, thus making their eating look like they were kissing him.

Dante continued appearing in TV episodes.

Dante had the title role in the movie “Winterhawk”. He suffered torn ligaments when the horse he was riding for the film caught his foot between some logs and then reared up. This caused Dante to slide off as the horse bolted. They had to shoot around him during his ten day recovery.

In 1977, Rep. Chris Dodd invited Dante to the National Prayer Breakfast. Dodd was a fan of “Winterhawk”.

Dante’s next movie role was in “The Farmer”, followed by “Cruise Missile”. He then filmed “Beyond Evil”, his only horror film.

While Dante had turned down appearing in a soap opera in 1963, he agreed to appear in “Days of OUr Lives” in 1984.

Dante filmed two movie with Fred Williamson. Dante believes Williamson was “ahead of his time” and that his movies would be more commercially successful today.

Dante got a radio show. After 13 weeks of the show, the manager offered him another 13 week contract. Dante insisted in creating his own show. He paid for airtime and obtained his own sponsors. The “Michael Dante Classic Celebrity Talk Show” lasted 12 years.

In 2011, a road in Stamford, Ct. was named Michael Dante Way.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Merv by Michael Druxman

Michael Druxman. Merv. New York: Leisure Books, 1980.

Every guest on “The Merv Griffin Show”, a 90 minute talk show hosted by Merv Griffin, received the same scale salary as determined by the American Federation of Television / Radio Artists which (in the last 1970s) wa $337.50. Many large stars appeared for exposure, to increased demands for booking their performances, or to publication a work product.

Miss Miller was a fan who was in the audiences of the show as well as in the audience of other shows. Merv often recognized her. She was asked to give a review of a Broadway show for Merv’s show.

Merv Griffin was the late night talk show host on CBS-TV in 1969-72 against NBC’s Johnny Carson and ABC’s Joey Bishop and then Dick Cavett. Merv usually came in second in the ratings with Carson first.

Johnny Carson’s style was his quick wit and taking command of his show. Merv was better at letting guests have their say and Merv was better at making guests feel more comfortable.

Merv’s uncle Peter Griffin was a three time U.S. tennis doubles champion and Marv’’s father Mervyn Griffin was a California and Pacific Coast singles tennis champion.

Merv learned playing classical piano as a child and performed in backyard shows.

Merv spent some time with his Uncle Elmer who was rooming with actor Errol Flynn. Merv was stunned that Flynn was totally naked when he arrived. As Merv related, “but what really threw me is wen these beautiful ladies would come over and he still wouldn’t put any clothes on.” Merv enjoyed that he was constantly being sent to go see movies.

On Merv’s 18th birthday, he felt on inner voice that made him feel that the entertainment  business was his future. At 19, he went into radio station KFRC while driving by and asked for a staff musician job. There were no job available. A friend mentioned that Merv could sing. He was asked to sign and he was hired. Merv had a 25 minute daily “San Francisco Sketchbook” slot on a Thursday for $100. The next Monday, the show’s name was changed to “The Merv

Merv created Panda Records to release an album. His income was $1,100 a week and then $1,500 a week. Merv would make local San Francisco appearance with the orchestra on weekends.

As Merv was overweight with acne, no photos were sent to fans. Nor were there any studio audiences at his radio show.

Merv dieted and lost 80 pounds in four months.

Art Hickman in 1913 was among the first to have a band with an organized dance group.

Orchestra leader Freddy Martin needed a new lead singer when Stuart Wade left his band to try acting. Martin’s secretary listened to records of two singers and chose Merv. Martin auditioned Merv and offered him $175 per week with $25 raises ever 13 weeks. Martin wanted Merv to his vocalist and second piano player. Merv realized this was less than his $1,5000 weekly radio salary yet decided that touring would bring more exposure.

Merv recorded several hit records with Freddy Martin. Merv was paid a flat fee of $50

RCA Victor gave Merv a solo recording contract.

Merv appeared on a 1950 Universal 15 minute short film “Music by Martin” which was a Freddy Marti concert film. It took a day to film.

Merv did live commercials. He once did a commercial for a non-smear lipstick where a women kissed him. He wiped his lips with a handkerchief to show there was no smear, only to have his facial makeup appear.

Merv roomed in New York with Robert Clary. Clary would later appear in “Hogan’s Heroes”.

After four years of singing with Freddy Martin, Merv took a screen test that got him hired at Warner Brothers. He was requested to change his name to Mark yet refused.

Merv had a bit part in his first movie. Gossip columnists claimed that Merv feuded with Gordon MacRae. Merv states that was not true and was based on a Sammy Cahn joke that Merv was seeking to replace MacRae. Merc had one line in his second movie which starred MacRae. Merv was not in the billing.

Merv received second billing in his third film “So This is Love”.

Merv used to appear at premiers with a studio arranged fake date, Delores Dorn-Heft. They would speak to the press, go into the theater, separate, and leave. They wouldn’t stay to watch the film yet went only for publicity’s sake.

Merv and his date Marily Erskine went on a double date with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. They all cross dressed as movie characters for a Jerry Lewis party. They were pulled over by a motorcycle police officer leading to much explanations.

Merv did voiceover work in a couple of films. He also re-dubbed an actor’s voice. He did background work while standing behind Jack E. Leonard. As Merv put it, “all through the movie it looked like Jack had a wart on his head-me!” He also recalled that Leonard was so heavy he had it written into his contract that a limo would drive him 50 feet to the commissary.

Merv’s personal manager then was George “Bullets” Durgom, who also represented Jackie Gleason. Durgom helped get Merv appearances on “The Jackie Gleason Show”.

Merv was in “The Boy from Oklahoma”. His character rode a horse, something Merv had never done. Merv was promised to be given two weeks of horse riding lessons. Yet he was called to ride a horse on his first day. He constantly fell off the horse. Merv ad-libbed Jackie Gleason’s expression “away we go” which was kept in the movie that was set in the 19th century,

Merv drove cross country when his engine block cracked in Harrisburg, Pa. The Ford dealer was not helpful until Merv called his friend Edsel Ford who told the dealer to give Merv a new motor.

Merv was dropped from appearing in a Kate Smith TV show which was sponsored by Esquire Boot Polish because of his name Griffin. A competitor to Esquire Boot Polish was Griffin Shoe Polish.

In 1955, Merv hosted the CBS Sunday morning program “Look Up and Live”. He was paid $119 per week. He would introduce singers and Protestant pastors plus provide background before drama skits. Merv lasted 13 weeks, The next 13 weeks had Catholics on. Merv was replaced rven though Merv was Catholic,

Merv hosted the CBS “The Morning Show” for six months until he was replaced by Will Rogers, Jr.

Merv was offered to replace Bob Smith, who had a heart attack, and appear as Hoody Doody. Merv declined.

In 1957, Merv hosted the ABC-TV weekend show “Going Places”. It began as a 45 minute program. Two months later it was increased to 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Merv parted company amicably with his manager Bullets Durgom. He hired Marty Kummer of MCA who would pay more attention to Merv’s career.

Merv had a CBS game show “Play Your Hunch”. ABC picked it up after CBS canceled it. After eight months it move to NBC/

In 1959, Merv had two records in the top 20.

Merv replaced Carl Reiner as a moderator on ABC-TV’s “Keep Talking” for $1,500 per show. He was also appearing regularly on “The Arthur Murray Party”. Merv substitued for Bud Collyer when vacationing as the host of “To Tell the Truth”. He also was a singer on the TV series “Music for a Summer Night”.

Merv in 1960 hosted NBCs “Saturday Prom” with a live orchestra led by Bobby Vinton and 500 teenagers dancing. A friend told Merv the show “looked like an auto accident”.

Merv hosted a game show “Play Your Hunch”. Jack Parr used to make a short cut through the studio where “Play Your Hunch” aired. Paar made an unscheduled appeared on “Play Your Hunch” while taking his short cut unaware the studio was in use. Paar was impressed with how Merv ad libbed. Paar used Merv to substitute for him in his interview show. Paar then left the show. Merv lasted for two weeks while a new host was sought. Merv enjoyed chatting with guest Arthur Treacher. Merv offered to make Treacher his side kick if Merv ever got his own show. Johnny Carson was selected as the new host.

Merv was replaced by Gene Rayburn in “Play That Hunch” in July 1962 as Merv begin his own 45 minute daytime chat show.

Merv had his show appeal to men and women. He also hired Bob Shanks to produce the show for $1,000 a week. Merv admits he could have hired Shanks for less yet he wanted to pay his producer more than Johnny Carson paid his.

Merv’s show lost to “Password” which had four times the number of viewers. Merv’s show was canceled April 1, 1963. Hundreds of letters were sent to NBC upset by the cancellation. It was the os tletters then ever received regarding a cancellation.

CBS hired Merv to host the summer show “Talent Scouts”.

Merv created his own TV company. He created the game show “Word for Word”. Merv then developed the idea for a game show “Jeopardy”. NBC bought the idea in 1964. “Jeopardy” was hosted by Art Fleming. It ran until 1974. In 1968, Merv’s company had four more game shows aired, although most did not last long.

Merv was approached to do an evening CBS talk show to compete against Johnny Carson Merv asked for double what Carson was paid, creative control, and he wanted to keep his same team of producer Bob Shaksn, band leader Mort Lindsey, director Kirk Alexander, and chief writer Bob Howard. There was a quick 20 negotiation and the deal was made. CBS then spent $2 million to make the Cort Theatre in New York City into a TV studio.

Merv’s first week ratings were close to Carson’s. Merv then lost about 30% of his audience as he slid into second place. Merv’s show was on CBS for 30 months.

CBS censored Abbie Hoffman, refusing to show him wearing his American flag shirt during his 40 minute interview. Ironically, a Ford commercial with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans that aired during the interview showed Rogers and Evans wearing the exact same shirt.

Merv’s show appeared on 150 CBS stations compared to Carson being on 210 NBC stations. Some CBS stations began showing Merv’s show in the afternoon instead.

Merv decided to move the show to Hollywood. Arthur Treacher ad Bob Shanks opted not to move with him The others did. The show was taped. Two tapes flew in two different airplanes to the east coast. The show aired two days after it was taped.

CBS network programmer Fred Silverman began suggesting a different type of show replace Merv. Merv asked to be released form his contract.

Merv left CBS knowing Metromedia would offer to take him.

CBS erased all their tapes of Merv’s shows.

Merv’s new show was directed by Dick Carso, brother of Johnny Carson. The show had guests centered around a theme.

I 1973, Carson moved his show from New York to Burbank.

Merv’s show, which was syndicated, had its highest ratings during its last half hour. THis was the opposite of late nights that lost viewers from 11:30 pm to 1 am.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Five Came Back by Mark Harris

Mark Harris. Five Came Back: A History of Hollywood and the Second World War. ew York: The Penguin Press, 2014.

During World War II, the Federal government had filmmakers filming in combat zones They were given great creative freedom even though the government’s goal was to create propaganda to inspire Americans to support the war well. In addition, the films informed people about the war. Five legendary directors were among those involved, including John Ford, Frank Capra, William Wyler, John Huston, and George Stevens. Of them, John Ford was involved first.

Ford was a Navy Lieutenant Commander when Pearl Harbor was bombed. He had already begun creating the Naval Volunteer Photographic Unit involving professional camera operators, sound technicians, and film editors. They rehearsed working in simulated ship conditions.

Rod, at age 46, and Wyler at 39, were too old for the draft. Huston was 4F.

Wyler had directed “Mrs. Miniver” which was designed to give audiences respect for the British spirit.

Stevens watched Leni Riefenstan’s pro-Nazi “Triumph of the Will” movie and decided he needed to act, stating “All film is propaganda.”

Capra wrote that his decision to become involved was mostly out of boredom and somewhat out of patriotism.

The War Department had a long history with filmmaking. The Signal Corps first made soldier training films in 1929.

The movie industry feared government censorship and regulation.

The government’s decision to involve film professionals into a world war was made with little forethought or planning on what they were going to do.

In 1938, the major film companies all avoided films that touched on the politics of Hitler. Exception were allowed in dialogue comments. There was a Production Coe that covered movies that demanded movies avoid controversial topics.

Ford became active in the Anti-Nazi League in 1938. He lated helped found the Motion Picture Artists’ Committee to Aid Spain, which reached 15,000 members.

In 1935, Capra declared he admired Benito Mussolini. Mussolini was a fan of Capra’s films. Mussolini offered Capra $1 million o produce a movie biography of Mussolini. Harry Cohn, Columbia Pictures President, stopped the idea stating “I’m a Jew. Hes mised up with Hitler and I don’t want no part of it.”

Capra supported Franco in the Spanish Civil War. Capra hated unions and declined, for the first 18 months of its existence, to join the Screen Directors Guild. Capra later switched from being anti-Roosevelt and a pacifist to being pro-Roosevelt and an interventionist. He did so after meeting Roosevelt and be awed by Roosevelt. Capra later became President of the Screen Directors Guild.

In 1939, the movie “Confessions of a Nazi Spy” was released. The German-American Bund objected. A Paramount censor warned Warner Brothers that films like that would mean “the Warners will have on their hands the blood of a great many Jews in Germany. Some feared the film would incite accusations that the film industry favored “a Jewish interventionist agenda.”

Capra’s films “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” had “quasi-populist anger: yet their “politics are completely non-specific.” Capra insisted his goal was to entertain When questioned if his films had a political theme, Capra declared “Go get fucked with your theme! Are you a Communist?”

Over half of American adults in 1940 went to the movies weekly.

The leaders of all eight major studios formed the pro-war Motion Pictures Co-operating for the Defense.

Ford, a Catholic loyal to his wife, produced for the military the six “Sex Hygiene”. It showed close-ups of penile sores and informed personnel that anyone wishing to have sex with a solider “probably has a disease.”

Ford’s proposed budget for the Field Photo Unit was $5 million for the first year, $3 million for the second year, and $2 million for the third.

Sen. Gerard Nye, Republican from North Dakota, berated the film industry as a group of “foreigners” with “non’Nordic” surnames who produced over 20 movie such as “Sergeant York” and “The Great Dictator” in order to make the public “fear that Hitler will come over here and capture them.” The Senate held hearings on the film industry’s propaganda and monopoly status.

The film industry decided to avoid the monopoly issue and fight back on the propaganda charges. The Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of American paid Wendell Willkie to appear with them at the hearings. Willkie was a pro-interventionist Republican who had been the Republican nominee for President, The strategy was not to appeae the Senators yet to refuse to apologize for informing the public about the international problems. Willkie spoke of the filmmakers’ patriotism.

The Senate committee on the film industry had four isolationists and one interventionist, Sen. Ernest McFarland. Willkie spoke first, proclaiming the studios “abhor everything that Hitler represents.” The committee refused to allow Willkie to ask questions during the hearing with McFarland objecting to that. Nye, who was not a member of the committee, testified first, calling the film industry “the most potent and dangerous fifth column of our country.” Nye declared “the people of Germany and of Italy...are also suffering.” He accused the studios with supporting England for profit reasons with their films shows in England.

Willkie ignored the prohibition on his questioning a witness and asked if Nye had seen the movies he questioned. Nye replied he hadn’t seen all of them. Willkie offered to show to the movies to committee members.

The second day’s witness with Sen Bennett Clark. Clark testified the film industry was controlled by six people and implied they sought to go to war to help the Soviet Union.
He warned if they did not halt their propaganda he would destroy their monopoly.

McFarland later wondered how the film industry could be taking orders from the Federal government, as some Senators accused, when it produced movies such as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” which ridiculed the Federal government.

Sen. Sheridan Downey, Democrat from California, testified supporting the film industry, arguing “should be expect Hollywood to turn its back upon the reality of the world?”

Harry Warner of Warner Brothers testified the movies were “accurately recording on the screen the world as it is or as it had been.”

Warner testified disputing charges the movies were being greeted by public indifference. He correctly predicted that “Sergeant York” would be his most profitable film.

Darryl Zanuck noted that Hitler and Mussolini had banned U.S. films for “they wanted no part of the American way of life.”

The Senate committee realized it had litle support to bring its’ issues before the full Senate. It disbanded on December 8, 1941, the day after Pearl Harbor.

After Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt named Lowell Mellett to operate the Office for Emergency Management in collaboration with the film industry. Darryl Zanuck, an active duty Lieutenant Colonel, met weekly with the War Departnet.

Mellett met with the film industry both to produce films both for government use, such as military training films, and for commenting on films to get the general public to support the war. Roosevelt was aware how public support decreased for World War I. Roosevelt declared he was against censorship, yet wanted public safety to be a priority. Some movie executives were not pleased that Merritt was not from the film industry and was advising them.

In 1942, Ford was ordered to overall the War Department’s first important propaganda film. I was designed to reassure the American public that the Navy remained strong despite in losses at Pearl Harbor.

The film Ford produced was “December 7th”. Ford filmed the Navy in Hawaii. He also did filming in California without informing the government of his California footage.

When an admiral was recommending shots, Ford yelled at the admiral that Ford knew what he was doing. This actually increased the confidence that Navy brass had in Ford. Ford was allowed to fly with airplane raids over Japan led by General James Dolittle. These shots were used in newsreels.

Capra received an Army Captain’s salary that reached $4,000. General George Marshall had Capra transferred from the Signal Corps, which was traditionally in charge of filmmaking, to the Morale Branch. Capra’s first film was “Why We Fight.”

Bette Davis, elected weeks earlier as the Academy Award’s President, proposed turning the 1942 Academy Awards into a war relief fund raiser selling tickets to the public. The Academy Board strongly objected and continued with a lavish Academy Awards. Davis resigned as the Academy’s President. Formal wear was rejected with the recommendation that the money for formal wear be donated to the Red Cross.

Carole Lombard died in a plane crash from Indiana to Los Angeles. She was returning from selling war bonds, She was seen as the first movie star casualty of the war effort.

Louis B. Mayer had led MGM away from making propaganda films. Mayer was upset at the Nye Committee for including MGM’s “The Mortal Storm” and “Escape” in their claims of films that were propaganda. Yet, in 1941, MGM released “Mrs. Miniver” which depicted British civilian strength during the war. Director William Wyler stated he deliberately made a propaganda film because it was something one wasn’t supposed to do. Mayer approved it as it was pro-British without being anti-German. Mayer wanted the movie toned yet after Pearl Harbor, Maybe told Wyler “You do it the way you want.”

Capra asked brothers Julius Epstein and Joseph Epstein as well as other screenwriters to join his war efforts. The screenwriters were all left wingers, the opposite of what Capra himself was politically before Pearl Harbor.

The screenwriters all agreed despite Capra’s reputation of being difficult to work with. Capra admitted he has trouble telling others what he wanted but he knew it when he saw it. He did ask that “to turn words into pictures.”

Capra claims the initial outlines the screenwriters produced “were larded with Communist propaganda.” The author notes the surviving copies of these outlines are not as Capra remembered them.

Capra’s request for office space was delayed by the War Department due to War Department bureaucracy. Capra on his own got the Interior Department to allow him to use some empty space they had in a cooling tower.

Lowell Mellett urged for showing more Blacks in the war effort movies. He wanted white viewers to see Blacks working at jobs not traditionally done by Blacs. It was also hoped ot get more Blacks to support the war. One survey in Harlem found half of Blacks thought there would be little difference in their lives if Japan won the war. There was talk among Southern Blacks of creating a Japanese-Black alliance.

The U.S. Army’s War College in 1937 studied Black soldiers and found them “careless, shiftless, irresponsible and secretive, immoral, un-truthful, and his sense of right is relatively inferior.”

400 movies with war themes were produced by move studies in 1942 and 1943.

Studios loaned screenwriters to Capra. Yet the studios insisted that their time left on their contracts should be extended by the amount of time they were with Capra.

The Museum of Modern Art collected pro-Nazi propaganda films. Some had been shown in U.S. communities with large German-American populations. The films argued that the Treaty of Versailles was “the rape of Germany” and that Germany was defending itself. Goebbels supervised the production of such films as “Campaign for Poland” and “Victory in the West.” Capra studied the films. Capra observed the films encourage the youth to fight for Hitler and that surrender meant death.

Capra developed the “Why We Fight” series.

Eric Knight was an advisor to Capra. He advised that the films required a cohesive theme that would motivate the troops. He found the early screenplays consisted of too many boring facts and contained too much dry information. Capra placed Knight to supervise the screenwriters.

Ford  was wounded with shrapnel with filming the Battle of Midway. Ford was filming from a roof as a Japanese plane attacked. He had picked a power station roof as it had telephones. A bomb hit the station, knocked Ford unconscious, and shrapnel hit his arm. The camera operator, Jack MacKenzie, Jr., stated “I got a swell short of a Jap formation coming in straight toward me.” MacKenzie continued filming elsewhere. Ford needed medical attention. MacKenzie continued filming the devastation of the battles for days afterwards.

Ford would later elaborate the story, claiming he did the filming. MacKenzie later clarified that he and Kenneth Pier had done the cinematography.

Ford was upset when men of Torpedo Squadron 8, whom he had met, died in action. He had a film made of the men and had a copy delivered to eery deceased man’s family. The film was never show to anyone else for about half a century.

Capra was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. “Prelude to War” became the film film of the “Why We Fight” series, telling about Italy invading North Africa and Japan invading Manchuria. This was followed by “The Nazi Strikes” about Germany invading Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. Next was “Divide and Conquer” about France falling to Germany. The next two were about Germany’s war with England and Russia. The sixth was about Japan invading China. The several was about Pearl Harbor.

In 1942, the Academy changed rules allowing 25 nominees for Beat Documentary with four winners.

Huston had a cameraman who loved being shot at who flew nine missions in six days. They filmed in the Aleutian territory where the bright light required a rare type of film that was hard to find.

Stevens observed that soldiers seeing films experienced a “catharsis” of being reminded of things from home.

Wyler was sent to England with no written directive, officer assistance, or funds. He didn’t have a typewriter or a car. Wyler did not know Army protocols. Wyler was informed by a “Stars and Stripes” writer he won an Academy Award for directing “Mrs. Miniver.”

Ford’s film “December 7” included descriptions of Japanese race-baiting. Tug Gallagher, a film historian, believe the strong anti-Japanese narrative of the film may have been served to gain support for the internment of Japanese nationals. Ford’s film included dialogue that most Japanese Americans supported the U.S. Mellett stopped general release of “December 7th” yet it was show to military and munitions personnel.

A U.S. Senate Committee investigating waste questioned whether Zanuck was using his war post for stir training film contracts to 20th Century Fox. Zanuck denied doing anything improper. He was cleared of malfeasance.

The Army Inspector General conducted its own investigation on Zanuck. Zanuck stopped bragging about being in dangerous combat. It was determined no director had a full time salary from studios in addition to their military pay. The matter was dropped.

Wyler took dangerous shots. He shot from a hole in a plane’s belly to film a landing. He could have been killed had there been a rough landing.

Zanuck with Anatole Litwak filmed much footage of the Casablanca battle. The film was lost when the ship carrying the film was sunk by German torpedoes.

The film “Desert Victory” used some reenactments. Reviews liked the film and were not concerned with the reenactments. Variety’s review wrote “It’s the overall effect that counts.”

Capra produced cartoon shorts of Private SNAFU who would learn the importance of rules. Private SNAFU often wound up blown up.

Capra hired Theodor S. Geisel for the Private SNAFU project. Geisel would later be known as Dr. Seuss. Geisel partnered with Chuck Jones of Elmer Fudd fame. Mel Blanc did the voices. Friz Freling, Frank Tashlin, and Bob Clampett, experienced cartoon makers, joined the process. 26 cartoons were produced in a year and a half. The cartoons got lines past censors such as showing nuts falling off a jeep with the line “it’s so cold it would freeze the nuts off a jeep.”

Capra produced “Tunisian Victory” with reenactments.

Sam Goldwyn wanted Wyler to return to MGM. Wyler stated he would stay until the war was over. Goldwyn asked Wyler to sign that he would return within 60 days of discharge and that Toldwyn could end his contract if the war didn’t end by the end of 1945.

Capra’s film “The Battle of Russia” helped convince viewers that the U.S. was part of an Allied effort. This was not just a U.S. war. This was the first film of the “Why We Fight” series that was released to the general public. It ran for 80 minutes. This film was later used by pro-Joseph McCarthy supports during the 1950s in their claims Capra that Capra had Communist sympathies.

Capra was promoted to Coloneo had yet no additional duties.

Huston claimed he serve as a nurse to the camera crew in San Pietro. He did not. In fact, the footage used in the later scripted movie “The Battle of San Pietro” was taken by Jules Buck. Huston did film there.

Movie audiences were tiring of the documentary movies. THey were increasingly attending musicals, comedies, and biographies.

The Best Documentary Award went to the British production “Desert Victory.”

Ford was promoted to Captain, He produced the film “They Were Expendable.”

For the D Day invasion, Capra was sent to D.C. to handle quickly the arriving film footage and coordinating it for use.

Capra insisted on making “The Negro Soldier.” He was met with government hypocrisy as they wanted a movie that would win Black support yet would not upset whites. Military units were segregated. Black military units did not have this important jobs that would appear as exciting to Blacks they hoped to recruit. Capra kept stereotypes out of the fim. It was well received when released to Black audiences. It was released to general audiences in hopes of changing white people’s attitudes towards Blacks.

The filming of D Day was shot by the Field Photo Unit, SEPCOU (Special Coverage Unit) team, Coast Guard, Canadian Army, and British military. Film ws in London 76 hours afterwards. Color film was converted to black and white for newsreels.Some of the film was so graphically violent it was not shown for over a half century. Churchill watched a 1 hour, 40 minute synopsis.

Stevens filmed bombing results, including the dead and survivors.

Junius Stout, one of Capra’s camera operators, filmed the Omaha Beach invasion from the top of a boat. He died when his returning plane was shot down.

Ford gave his MGM salary to create the Field Photo Memorial Home for rehabilitating studio technicians who served in war. Year later, a critic declared it was a low cost veterans’ housing, which Ford denied.

Ford returned to make “They Were Expendable” for MGM. Zanuck, Ford’s former 20th Century Fox employer, was upset yet it was his patriotic duty to let Ford make the movie where he wanted. Ford told Zanuck he was recovering from shock and war wounds. Zanuck knew Ford like to overly boast and replied “I do not choose to believe all the facts as related by Ford, including the wounds.”

Capra’s family was financially hurting from the lower royalties his films earned. Capra tried to leave military service yet was denied.

Huston wrote scripts under pseudonyms which allowed him to get around Army regulations prohibiting him from having a civilian salary. He wrote “The Killers” and “The Stranger”.

Huston’s first cut of the film “San Pietro” was rejected by the War Department. They believe it was anti-war. Huston stated to the War Department representative that he “pompously replied that if I ever make a picture that was pro-war, I hoped someone would take me out and shoot me. The guy looked at me as if he was considering just that.” Huston recut the film.

It was decided that film propaganda should blame the people of the countries at war with the U.S. In the film “Know Your Enemy”, the Japanese were described as “pigeon-toed and perhaps bowlegged. He is near-sighted and has buck teeth.” 20th Century Fox’s “The Purple Heart” recommended that the was to handle the Japanese was to “wipe them off the face of the Earth.”

Capra, observing Stevens had not taken a break in seven months, ordered Stevens to temporarily report to London to supervise “The True Glory”. Paddy Chayefsky was writing the script. Stevens found there was little for him to do.

Wyler filmed “Thunderbolt” about P 47 fighter planes. Wyler also filmed the devastation of Italy. Wyler’s driver for awhile was Leicester Hemingway, Ernest’s brother, who was known for agreeing to drive into dangerous places.They filmed a ragtag group of local armed resisters. Wyler discovered that the Jews were missing from towns and no one knew where they were.

Ford filmed John Wayne in “They Were Expendable”. Ford yelled at Wayne “Duke! Can’t you manage a salute that looks like you’ve been in he service?” Wayne walked off the shoot. Robert Montgomery walked to Ford declaring “Don’t you ever speak like that to anyone again.” Ford apologized and gave Wayne an additional scene in the film.

During filming, Ford fell off a soundstage several feet and broke a leg. Ford was told he would be in traction for three weeks. Montgomery shot the scheduled close ups and inserts for the next two weeks. Ford returned after two weeks against his doctor’s roders to finish filming.

Wyler lost his hearing from loud plane engines while filming in Italy. Wyler was discharged due to his deafness.

Eisenhower ordered Stevens to film the 16,000 American and British paratroopers attacking Germany. Stevens arrived at a concentration camp in Nordhausen. He discovered piles of bones from mass murder. His film was the first confirmation of Nazi concentration camp atrocities.

Stevens filmed more atrocities at Dachau Concentration Camp. Many dead were there with 30,000 still alive. Those alive were starving and ill.

Theodore Geisel’s script for “Your Job in Germany”, a film for those occupying Germany included the dialogue that the Germans stating “they’re not sorry they caused the war. Someday the German people may be cured of their disease---the super race disease, their world conquest disease.” Ronald Reagan auditioned to read the narrative yet Geisel noted Reagan “didn’t see to have the understanding, the meaning, of the vital issue.” Eisenhower approved the film be shown to all U.S. solders encamped in Germany.

“San Pietro” showed the realism of war to the public.

Huston wanted to remove the stigma that psycho-neurotic veterans experienced. He filmed Let There Be Light”. Military police seized the film before it was to be shown at the Museum of Modern Art. It was not shown for 35 years

After the war, Capra directed “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Stevens commented on the elaborateness of the production, stating “He’s putting in snow scenes. WHy the hell can’t ti be springtime?”

Wyler wanted realism in films. He hired a non-actor Harold Russell, who lost both hands in a military training accident, to appear in “The Best Years of Our Lives.”

Ford tried to use veterans in his first postwar film.

Wyler was nearly fully deaf and worried about hearing actors the nuisances in their voices. He hesitated about returning to directing. Wyler regained his confidence and returned to directing.

The initial poor public reaction to “It’s a Wonderful Life” made Capra feel he has lost his directing skills.