Monday, June 30, 2008

Where's that Baby!

Before I kick it and head off to the great screening room in the sky, I have to figure out how a movie like Raising Arizona is made. There are comedy films that induce laughter, and there are fine movies; well acted, well written, good structure... so on and so forth. Raising Arizona is the complete package. To take such a strange story line, so many zany characters and to bottle them within rich dialogue and beautiful imagery... how is it done? 

Film comedies are by and large fairly awful. There are bad dramas and bad romance, but we let those slide by and the majority of these films have some redeeming qualities. But, for whatever reason, many comedic films are not simply bad within there genre, they are poorly made movies (I direct you to the makers of Epic Movie, or say the John Leguizamo vehicle The Pest.) The Coen brothers are not simply great directors of comedy. They are wonderful filmmakers.  

So many little things I love about this film. Here are just a few: 1) Leonard S
malls (the bounty hunter to end all bounty hunters) has the same tattoo as H.I. implying that the two are some how related, perhaps H.I. was Smalls' long lost son! 2) Gale and Evelle are literally born in the film as they appear from the earth when they break out of prison. 3) After H.I. awakens from his dream of the biker of the apocalypse he looks out the window and says, "It's a hard world for little things." a reference to the Robert Mitchum movie "Night of the Hunter." Too much symbolism and weird stuff going on to account for it all.

This film is so much richer and stranger and more inventive than 95% of the standard hollywood fare. It's a wonderful comedy that can be watched over and over. So many interesting things going on. And of course the yodeling.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

F*#k Soup


The movie we viewed in this class that I disliked the most would have to be Duck Soup. I had never really seen a Marx Brothers film before this class. Although, I feel I was well aware of the persona of Groucho Marx because of his influence on Woody Allen and his role as a pop culture icon. I expected to like Duck Soup because it is so respected in the lexicon of American Film comedy and influenced so many comedic artists upon its release.

Surprisingly, I found the film to be one of the most annoying things I had ever seen. Not only did it bore me more than any other film we watched this semester, but it seemed endlessly tedious and irritating. Some of the mayhem made me chuckle, but generally I just thought it was one of the stupidest things I have ever seen.

I enjoy comedians that deliver one liners, but I suppose I am more of a fan of the Rodney Dangerfield's self deprecating style as opposed to the obnoxious behavior of Groucho.

Why in the hell was the movie called Duck Soup in the first place, I guess that is the whole point. The movie makes little to no sense so why would the title be of any importance. I am glad that Woody Allen and others influenced by the Marx Brothers have improved upon the slapstick comedy they displayed in Duck Soup.

3rd Blog Post- Rodney Dangerfield


The 1970's are often considered the birth of the new age of stand up comedians. A time where young edgy comics were more abundant than ever experimenting with new and unorthodox styles of stand up. But, in 1970...Rodney Dangerfield was already 49 and had made a significant impact on the world of comedy. So why mention him as an influential figure of 1970's comedy? 
In 1969 Rodney bought a Manhattan nightclub which would become Dangerfields, a landmark of standup comedy. HBO would go on to make a series of stand up specials at the venue. As seen to the left it was the spotlight that exposed some of comedies most legendary figures like Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Chris Rock, Leno, Robert Townsend, and the list goes on... some really interesting stuff can be found on Dangerfields official site (by the way it also claims to be the longest running comedy club in the world!)... they've got some great clips of Rodney. Also watch Bill Murray and other famous comics talk about Rodney's eye for talent here



It's difficult to understand Rodney's impact throughout the 70's when Dangerfields was new and fresh... but I found a great video in the comedy central archives about the opening night!! Check it out! 

Rodney wouldn't get involved in American Film comedy until the 1980's where he landed several breakout roles in films such as Back to School and CaddyShack... He was recognized by the Smithsonian and won the American Comedy Award for lifetime acheivement. He was unquestionably a large role in the development of American comedy. And for my final website I think it's best to leave you with the first page of the Google Images search of 'Rodney Dangerfield'... His classic face...almost never out of character

Thumbs Down on 'Ridgemont'....


At the risk of alienating the masses of people that absolutely adore this movie, I have chosen to embrace my initial instinct and pick Fast Times at Ridgemont High as one of my least favorite films. Before I start listing the numerous reasons why I've never liked this movie, I'd like to first begin by saying that I appreciate it. I have seen the film many times. I think it is the ultimate teensploitation/ sexploitation comedy. If I recall correctly, 'Fast Times' audiences are previewed to 90 minutes of teenagers engaging in some of the most crude, nasty and unattractive behaviors known to mankind. The movie features two relatively explicit sex scenes, an abortion, a male masturbation scene, high school girls practicing fellatio on innocent carrots, drug use and an infamous slow motion sequence in which a young woman removes her bathing suit top. All of these aspects help define 'Fast Times' as a teensploitation/ sexploitation. The movie is all about showing teenagers having sex and doing drugs (cornerstones of both genres).

I appreciated this film for having helped define the "teen comedy" "teenspoitation" archetype. I also think that, nowadays, the film works as a celluloid time capsule. The movie features countless images, sounds and memories from the 1980's. Folks that actually lived through those years probably find 'Fast Times' to be pleasantly nostalgic.

However, I have always found the heart of this movie to be extremely cynical, pandering and fake. I have always thought the characters were extremely one dimensional and stereotypical. We had Spicoli the stoner, Stacy the virgin, Rat the likable nice guy, Demone the jerk, Brad the disgruntled older brother etc. All of the characters seemed like they were coming straight out of a cheesy sitcom. The content of the film isn't very uplifting either. None of the characters go through a significant change. Stacy's ultimate revelation, after having affairs, becoming pregnant and then having an abortion, is that she wants a "relationship" instead of sex. To me, this acknowledgement from her always seemed a little over simplified and borderline insipid. Furthermore, in the context of the rest of the film, Stacy's abortion subplot seems oddly out of place for a comedy. The whole movie, in my opinion, felt like it was made by adults trying to guess what it would be like to be in high school. And considering 'Fast Times' was based on a book written about the experiences of a grown man posing as a high school student, my assessment doesn't appear to be excessively outrageous. The whole film lacks a lot of innocence and exuberance. When you strip away the cool outfits, music, stars and laughs, you're ultimately left with a really cynical, depressing interpretation of youth.

I understand that "exploitation" films are supposed to be "cheesy" and campy. However, I think it's also possible to make an exploitation film that features original characters who have genuinely inspired experiences and authentic, meaningful revelations. I appreciate the iconography of Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but not the characters, the story or the writing.

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Photobucket

I like funny movies! I mean who doesn’t. Out of all the films we have view in class I have to say that Some Like it Hot was my favorite. Now this might be based on some prejudice because I believe I have seen most off the films we screened prior to taking the class. Even with the added value of enjoying the film for the first time there are a lot of key elements imbedded in the film that make it a worthy candidate for the best film of American Film Comedy Class.

This film is one of the raciest pieces viewed in class (short of the John Waters screenings). Its sexually open in a way that other films of the time were afraid to be. The primary conflict of this film is the seduction of Marylin Manroe. Although I do not openly condone the concept of the picture I revere its direct and sincere approach to sex. It was even marketed under the statement that “you’ve never laughed more about sex” 1:02 in this trailer.



This film also enraptures a social mentality. These two struggling musicians work hard to survive and throw caution to the wind. For there efforts they are rewarded in many different ways. It’s a zany lifestyle but it’s filled with none stop excitement that kept me on the edge of my seat. It is defiantly a false reality as the hard ships these two endure are looked on with playful innocence. However, it is also a trademark of media from that time period. I find the film most successful because of its creation of an environment. I accept that the 1950’s were a time filled with big band jazz music and constant playful conflict. Although this is far from truthful I find myself lost in the beauty of scenes such as this.



Whether it is the sex, the social environment, or sear magnificence of Jack Lemons work Some Like it Hot is the best film viewed in class.

Fourth and final blog post assignment

Okay we're coming down to the wire.

Here is the assignment: Choose your favorite OR least favorite film we have viewed (in whole or in part) in class this semester and discuss why you like or dislike it.

Extra points for addressing some of the definitions and issues that have been raised in lectures or presentations.

This is due on Tuesday July 1st.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it.



“I don’t get no respect…” A single catch phrase that sums up the career and self deprecating humor of a man from Long Island named Jack Roy, better known to us as the fat funny man Rodney Dangerfield. Rodney began his career in comedy at the age of 19 by writing jokes for other stand up comics. This gig did not provide enough scratch for the future comedian and he turned to the lucrative business of vinyl siding; where he stayed for nine years. (It should be noted that in the interim he was a singing waiter, certainly he “got no respect” in that job).
Dangerfield got his first big break on the Ed Sullivan show when they needed a last minute replacement for their stand up act that went MIA. Rodney was a hit and that performance on the Ed Sullivan show marked one of many including countless other late night T.V. appearances and 70 appearances on The Tonight Show.
Rodney’s biggest influence may have come not from his act but from a night club that he bought in Manhattan in 1970 that he dubbed “Dangerfield’s.” Dangerfield’s became the site of an HBO show that kick started the careers of Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Tim Allen, Roseanne Brarr, Jeff Foxworthy, Sam Kinison, Rita Rudner, Andrew “Dice” Clay, and Bob Saget. His career peaked during the early 1980s, when he became a movie star. His appearance in Caddyshack led to starring roles in Easy Money and Back To School. Later his stand up album “No Respect” won a grammy award.
Rodney’s autobiography was supposed to be titled “My Love Affair With Marijuana” but unfortunately the publishers saw fit to give it another title, eventually agreeing on It's Not Easy Bein' Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs. The reasoning behind the original title was that Rodney had habitually smoked cannabis for about 60 years while raising a family, running a night club and doing his own comedy.
His headstone reads; Rodney Dangerfield- There goes the neighborhood. And on a less pessimistic note Joan Child held an event in which the word "Respect" had been emblazoned in the sky, while each guest was given a live Monarch butterfly for a Native American butterfly-release ceremony led by Farrah Fawcett.


http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/r/rodney_dangerfield.html
http://www.rodney.com/rodney/home/home.asp
http://www.joecasaletto.com/jokes/rodney.htm

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hal Ashby


Hal Ashby was a versatile director dabbling in different genres but he proved to be a great comedic director with movies like Harold and Maude, The Landlord, The Last Detail, and Being There, which I have to add, is my favorite of his movies and I highly recommend this to anyone.
His directing career started at age 40 so his body of work is relatively small. He is little remembered today despite being one of the most prolific and successful filmmakers of the 1970s. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he did not have official film training; the editing room was his film school, which he stumbled into almost by accident. According to is career in films came about in a combination of fate, luck, and being in the right place at the right time; ironically these elements of chance often occur to the characters in his films.
At the age of 19, he left his hometown of Ogden, UT to find a job in California. He landed a job at Universal in the mailroom but within a few years he became an apprentice of an editor until he became a full-fledged editor himself. Ashby thought of the editing room as “the perfect place to examine everything. [It] is channeled down into that strip of film, from the writing to how it’s staged, to the director and the actors.” In his collaboration with director Norman Jewison, he received recognition as an editor and won a Best Editing Oscar for In the Heat of the Night (1967). Jewison also recommended him to direct The Landlord, his directorial debut. The film had a modest budget and, despite good critical reviews, went relatively unnoticed on its release in 1970. But The Landlord signaled that a new directorial talent with a flair for black comedy had arrived on the scene.
He proved his flair for black comedy with his second film Harold and Maude, a style that would dominate throughout his films. The film didn’t receive commercial success but it quickly acquired cult status. It’s about a 20 yr-old Harold who learns to love life through his encounter with an eccentric senior citizen whom he eventually falls in love with. One Rotten Tomatoes reviewer said it was “the epitome of a film that you can’t believe you’re laughing at, but you are. A lot. It hurts. In a good way.”
After a series of well-received films, critics didn’t think he had a specific style that was consistent through his filmography, which is to say he was not considered an “auteur”. His final great film, Being There, was a great success but it was a challenge to keep the absurd premise for two hours without allowing it to slip into farce. Unfortunately, after Being There Ashby’s career began a downward spiral from which it never recovered. His abusive use of drugs affected his work. He spent too much time in post-production and was forced from his position to be given to someone else to actually get something done. He died in 1988, according to his obituary, and doesn’t receive the credit as directors like Coppola and Altman get, but he certainly left a legacy.

I will name my firstborn Harvey Korman



I'm not sure if anybody else grew up watching The Carol Burnett Show, but I did and Harvey Korman was always my favorite. Something subtle about him cracks me up. I used to tell my dad that they could broadcast him blinking and I'd still roll off the couch laughing.

personal info:

He was born Harvey Herschel Korman in Chicago, February 15 of 1927.
He was married twice and had four kids.
He died just recently on May 29, 2008 - which totally f*cking sucks because I almost went to see him and Tim Conway at the Wang Center last year and I said "Oh no, I'll catch them the next time" ...I'm an idiot.

professional info:

Harvey had several bit parts and guest roles on television shows in the early 60s- for anyone who used to watch The Flinstones he was the voice of the Great Gazoo. He got his first big break on the Danny Kaye show in 1964. When that was cancelled in 1967 he hopped on board the Carol Burnett show in it's first season and the show was a enormous success. He left the show in 1977 but never found similar success on television again. Korman once said, "It takes a certain type of person to be a television star, I didn't have whatever that is. I came across as kind of snobbish and maybe a little too bright. ...Give me something bizarre to play or put me in a dress and I'm fine."

Apparently Mel Brooks' wife Anne Bancroft singled out Korman on the Burnett show and Brooks "knew he was a natural". Brooks cast him in Blazing Saddles and then History of the World and High Anxiety (which is a Brooks movie that I never hear anyone talk about but it's totally hilarious and Korman and Cloris Leachman almost steal the show)

Later in his career Korman did quite a lot of voicework for cartoons like Hey Arnold! and The Wild Thornberrys. He also worked on several films including Brook's Dracula spoof Dracula: Dead and Loving it! and he was the voice of the dictabird in 1994's live action Flinstones movie. (which on a personal note- I saw in the theater during a thunderstorm, the lights went out and my sister nearly peed her pants)

There's an extended bio here written by someone who seems to share my fanatical adoration of Korman- it's got cool little tidbits and summaries. And because his death is so recent there are about a million obituary-type articles floating around the web.

Harvey Korman truly is hysterically funny, He was a great physical comedian and his comic timing is impeccable. If you've never seen him on the Burnett show, and you like sketch comedy, check some out on youtube.
And because this is a film class blog- most definitely check out something like High Anxiety.

The Dark Comedy of Robert Altman



Robert Altman who died only two years ago had a long and versatile career for nearly forty years of film. He will always be remembered for his quintessential antiwar film MASH which later became one of the most successful television shows ever. In addition to this American classic he made several other comedies during the 1970s, including one of my favorite films Nashville.




This film is a slice of life following nearly 24 characters lives in Nashville, Tennessee for five days leading up to the bicentennial of the United States in 1976. The film perfectly touches on the dissent in America after Vietnam and Watergate and is loosely tied together by the speech of a third party president who is never seen at the films climax.

The film is both sad and funny as it shows the sometimes-tragic sometimes-comic struggles of various classes of people living in America. There is a focus on the American phenomenon of an obsession with fame as various leading ladies vie to become the next country music star.

This film is a precursor to later Altman works, like Shortcuts, which has unquestionably had an affect on modern filmmakers such as P.T. Anderson, whose film Magnolia is structurally similar to the film Nashville.

This film should be required viewing for anyone who wants to get a feel for what life was like in America in the 1970s after the turbulent years of the 1960s. This film along with MASH makes Robert Altman a master of dark comedy.

Here is the trailer!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008



During the Korean war, three young military surgeons constantly fool around the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital they work at. Allergic to any kind of authority, against military operations, and loving alcohol and women before all the rest, they become really rebellious.
M*A*S*H belongs to political cinema and shocked a whole new generation. Extremely dark but also very humourous, the American Film Institute chose to make it the 56th best movie.
Starring Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, David Arkin, Tom Skerritt, and Sally Kellerman, it has been awarded with the Oscar for best scenario adaptation and with the Palm d’Or of the Cannes Festival in 1970.
It is probably seen today as a very interesting movie because it was very different from what Holywood was producing at the time. Indeed, the movie was going against the main stream. It has been shot on a very low budget in order not to attract the producers on set and realize what was about to go out on a nationwide scale.
Surprinsingly, one element that brought so much succes to this movie is the sound. Indeed, the way sound is designed is revolutionary in the movie. The mess tent (http://www.main-vision.com/richard/mash.shtml) in the beginning of the film is a good example of the multi functions of sound in M*A*S*H. The two doctors talk in the same time and this tells a lot about the upcoming story. Indeed, it tells the audience that the doctors are probably not military educated to the extent that they don’t even wait their turn to talk but it has for purpose to save time in the expostion and tell different stories at the same time: this is an innovative way to overlap sound. Also, the opening song “suicide in painless” introducing two doctors is very controversial and unexpected but gives an idea to the viewer of the genre of the movie: satire.
One other original conflict that the movie created happened at the time of its release. It was the authorship controversy (http://www.geocities.com/~cheshyre/mashline.htm). Robert Altman, the director, was used to sing his work with overlapping dialogue. In M*A*S*H, the effect turns out to be brilliant and very succesful. The dialogue sounds very witty and full of repartee. Altman is responsible for the pacing of the movie as he is responsible for the editing. However, most the words did not come from Altman but from the writer, Lardner. This turned out to become a very intense conflict between the two latter, fighting for credit. Altman mentioned that in his opinion, his “main contribution to M*A*S*H was the concept, the philosophy, the style, the casting, and then making all those things work. Plus the jokes, of course.”
In my opinion, M*A*S*H remains one of the most significant satire of the history of cinema. A satire is supposed to make fun of the negative aspects of our societies and all ideas that the author does not support and want to subtly criticize.
Robert Altman does a great job at turning the movie into a satire. Indeed, he takes a sad topic and turns it into a laughter, by joking around blook, terror, death and atrocities of the war.

Bill: Emerging Film Hero of the Late 70's


Bill Murray, seen in the still above as the epic Carl Spackler in Caddyshack, was not exactly a powerhouse in the film comedy world in the 70's, but he was getting there.  Murray wrote for and acted in SNL in the 70's, and his iconic importance in Caddyshack (which also stars Rodney Dangerfield and Chevy Chase) is evidenced by a Caddyshack fansite: CarlSpackler.com, a hilarious (if low-tech by today's standards) homage to the film.  

Interestingly, Murray's role, back in 1980, might not have been entirely far-fetched.  A "Production Information" document from the same fansite reveals that Murray's brother (Brian Doyle-Murray) wrote the screenplay, and was inspired by his own work as a caddy at a golf course as a teen, where Bill Murray also worked as a groundskeeper.  Well I'll be damned if that's not an eerie possibility, that his character may have been close to psychological truth.  

A good, biased synopsis of his career, found here, states that Caddyshack probably was his best film, and still is, but what about Ghostbusters?  His more serious roles are still frequently comedic, and his increasing ability as a more mature actor to combine psychological depth and comedy sets him apart from a lot of other SNL alumni.

GREASE




The movie Grease was released the 16 of June 1978, it was directed by Randal Kleiser and written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey. The genre of the movie is comedy, musical, and romance. The movie Grease was very popular in the 70’s, it is said that it was an unexpected hit. Grease is a story about a summer love that started in a beach, then the love was lost in the middle of the teenage social an peer prejudices of the last year of high school and than it was found again.

The most important actors in the movie are:
John Travolta as Danny Zuko, Olivia Newton as Sandy Olsson, Stockard Channing as Betty Rizzo, Jeff Conaway as Kenickie, Barry Pearl as Doody, Michael Tucci as Sonny Kelly Ward as Putzie, Didi Conn as Frenchy, Jamie Donnelly as Jan, Dinah Manoff as Marty Maraschino, Eve Arden as Principal McGee, Frankie Avalon as The Teen Angel, Joan Blondell as Vi, Edd Byrnes as Vince Fontaine, and Sid Caesar as Coach Calhoun. For more http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077631/

The movie was shot in California. Paramount Pictures released it. It has a great soundtrack including songs like Grease, We go together, Freddy my love, Summer nights and You’re the one that I want. A dance mix of songs form the movie Grease was released in 1997 and the movie was re-released in 1998. The movie was also re=released due to the 20th anniversary of the original one. Grease had a lot of critiques about the acting and the singing but despite that it was still a big hit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grease_(film)

In this link there is a scene where they are singing You’re the one that I like. I think it gives a good overview of the movie.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aHdRdfhGKJs

MASH


MASH
MASH, standing for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, established Robert Altman as a film director, yet he almost never directed it. The studios never chose him as their first choice; in fact he was number eighteen on the list. The studios wanted a director that could attract huge crowds to the box office and had a list of directors that included Arthur Penn, Mike Nichols and Stanley Kubrick.

When Robert Altman took the job, he constantly struggled with the studio to make it the film he wanted. As a studio, interested solely in making money, Altman’s determination could only come off as annoying and bizarre.
The major annoyance for the studio was Altman refused to have major stars. Altman wanted an ensemble cast with no particular actor or actress standing out. He said he wanted normal looking people instead of the usual Hollywood people. Indeed, due to the large number of unknown actors, the opening credits begin with “Introducing”. Altman then had most of the actors live twenty miles from the from the Fox studio in tents. This created a sense of community among the actors whom were then encouraged to improvise and rewrite their lines.

Today, we view this as a signature of Altman’s film. He used 40 actors in Nashville, 48 in A Wedding, another 40 in Short Cuts, and over 60 in both Prêt-à-Porter and The Player. His ensemble cast allows Altman to deliver multiple narratives that go on in the same space. These narratives can be viewed as discourse or diverging from the main narration.

While, people have accepted Altman’s unique form of telling a story, many people were concerned on the set of MASH at the time. Elliott Gould and Donald Sutherland, two principal characters of the movie, complained to the studio of Altman’s direction and asked him to be removed. Screenwriter Ring Lardner proclaimed “You have ruined my picture!” after seeing the outcome of Altman’s encouragement of improvisation for actors. And the producers saw the film as unreleasable due to its weak narrative and failure to mention Korea. Altman had purposely wanted the anti war message to be linked to the war in Vietnam, which the studio opposed.

MASH, eventually, does get released under an X rating. It was the third highest grossing film of the year and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Director, and Best Film, and won the Best Screenplay award.

Steve Martin



For me, I'm saying for me now...Steve Martin is the funniest man who ever lived. His comedy appears effortless, and cannot easily be described (I mean, one of his bits involved playing the banjo while wearing one of those fake arrow headbands, and it was hilarious).

In this interview at NPR, he talks about trying to find something different, original, and new in stand-up comedy, and he realized that most comedians rely on jokes and punch lines. "What if I could get real laughter," he asked himself, "like the kind you have at home or with your friends, where your sides are aching."

It seems simple, but a lot of the stuff that makes us laugh in everyday life are really simple gags, not constructed jokes. Martin's stand up routine feels more like performance art - comic performance art, of course - than, well...a stand up routine. He doesn't make witty remarks that offer insight into our culture, but he crafted a specific comic persona that doesn't resemble his real life mannerism, but also isn't a stretch - a little smug, falsely humble, yet at the same time rushing to please the crowd, begging for a laugh. His determined mantra would occasionally be: "This is funny, you just haven't gotten it yet."

In a Newsweek interview in 1978, he noted the vast difference in his onstage persona and the real guy - "The main thing is I don't want this information to distort my onstage character to the point that people don't believe it any more."

One of the things I like best about his routine is that, as the Newsweek reporter put it, he's unthreatening. He was never out to get shock laughs; his act is just silly. "What makes you laugh so hard is the sight of this reasonable man so shamelessly shedding his inhibitions, this boy who should know better gleefully acting naughty - and getting away with it."

In that article, a comedian of the time, David Steinberg, noted, "We are burned out on relevance and anger. He offers a special form of escape and there is no hostility in his act." And he's right. It's just friendly laughs. Even when he injects a bit of sex and drugs talk, it's still silly. Consider the following clip, in which he creates venereal disease with balloons.



It's comedy of the absurd if ever an example was available. But Martin has an oddly philosophical bend to it: "It [art] was the only thing that had real meaning because it had no meaning. In art, truth comes and goes according to fashion. It can't be measured. You don't have to explain why, or justify anything. If it works, it works. As a performer, non sequiturs make sense, nonsense is real."

Cloris Leachman


            This woman just won’t stop.  She’s done it all: comedy, drama, tv, film, beauty pageants, and Adam Sandler movies.  Versatile.   After being a finalist in the 1946 Miss America competition, she took the scholarship money she won and moved to New York to join the Actors studio.  Then she went to Hollywood and the hits started rolling out.  She’s appeared in many classic shows and movies such as Lassie, The Twilight Zone, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Scary Movie 4. 

What’s relevant to this blog post is her work with Mel Brooks.  And the fact that she’s funny.  After all she did have her own hit show, “Phyllis”.  Back to business.  Cloris appeared in several of Brooks’ hit movies including History of the World Part I, High Anxiety and Young Frankenstein.  She created very memorable and hilarious characters in all the movies.

            Despite being born in 1926, Cloris is still kicking…and punching.  According to Steve on Broadway’s Blog, Cloris Leachman challenged Mel Brooks to three rounds in the ring in 2007.   When Young Frankenstein was being brought to the stage, Cloris expressed interest in reviving her character of Frau Blucher.  Mel turned her down, saying that he didn’t want the 81-year-old actress to die on stage.  That was a pretty rude thing to say to an award winning actress.  But it's kind of funny.  Just like Mel Brooks' movies.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Who?

1970s? Let's see---that's somewhere between the psychedelic sixties and the electro-wave eighties. So what happened then in the big wide world of American film and American film comedy and anywhere else really.

We jump first to George Lucas and his 1973 comic achievement "American Graffiti". And how with its success, it puts a pair of big-boy pants on the infantile Lucasfilm Ltd. The next jump is to good old glam-rock and roll and our friend David Bowie. (1970 releases like Hunky Dory and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust... brought the young saxophonist from Brixton into British and International acclaim.) We mention Britain, because at the time, a new comedy was being developed there, after having been rejected by American studios.

"With the 1970’s came change in film comedies. The popularity of such shows as Saturday Night Live and Second City Television led to films that were more manic and crazy. Stars such as Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Cheech and Chong, Chevy Chase, John Belushi and Bill Murray became world famous for their movies." - Associated Content

Saturday Night Live is worthy of notice because, after a successful inauguration of the 1969 startup "Sesame Street", public comedy became prevalently more and more cluttered by fuzzy adorable characters. The first season of SNL itself featured 11 sketches and four additional appearances between 1975 and 1976.

Which brings us to our man of the house---Jim Henson---who, as I said, moved to Britain in 1976 to produce his series "The Muppet Show", after being rejected by American networks. By 1978, the show was being watched by 235 million people worldwide, receiving acclamations like 'genius' and 'almost certainly the most popular television entertainment now being produced on earth.'

In 1979, the work of the 43-year-old Henson culminates in his initial cinematic attempt, "The Muppet Movie", directed by James Frawley, written by Jack Burns and Jerry Juhl, featuring the indelible vocal talents of stars and character actors such as Frank Oz, Mel Brooks, Dom Deluise, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, Bob Hope, and oh yeah---Orson Welles. Released to an eventual $76 million. Elliott Gould, Michael Earl, John Landis.

The film's success transformed the occasional fuzzy TV-appearances, into cinematic sensations, moving on into the production of future cinematic glory and ending the television series by 1981.

In 1979, Henson was also asked by rising star George Lucas, to aid in the creation of "The Empire Strikes Back"'s Jedi Master Yoda. Frank Oz followed along with him.

Finally, the 1980s brought about The Jim Henson Foundation, "The Dark Crystal", and "The Muppets Take Manhattan", rated as one of the top 40 films of the year. Our story concludes in 1986, when the stars Lucasfilm LTD, David Bowie, and Jim Henson all teamed together to create "Labryinth"---the final directorial feature before Henson's death.

The man responsible for Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and Kermit the Frog, and Bear in the Big Blue House, and Big Bird, and Cookie Monster, and Yoda, is succeeded by The Jim Henson Company and Jim Henson's Creature Shop.

But most of all, we can all thank him for the simple sweet moments like this.

John Belushi


The 1970s were sort of a revival in film. The initial popularity of the Television was starting to die down, and the masses began to flock to the cinemas once again. Many great comedians emerged during this decade, including the legendary John Belushi.

John Belushi grew up outside of Chicago. He was first recognized while performing shows in The Second City, a Chicago based comedy troupe. According to The Second City's official website, Belushi debuted in the show No, No, Wilmette in June of 1971. His incredible talent led him to be cast in the play "National Lampoon's Lemmings" in 1972, and National Lampoon's Radio Hour from 1973 to 1975. This half-hour radio show also starred comedy legends such as Bill Murray and Chevy Chase.

In 1975, NBC introduced the show Saturday Night Live (SNL). The show's creator was told to hire Belushi as a cast member, but according to Belushi.com, Lorne felt that Belushi was "too loud, too hard, and too self centered." Belushi auditioned for the show by playing the role of a mute samurai. The test audience loved him, and the rest is history. Belushi's samurai character became one of the most beloved impressions performed in the show. He also became known for his stunning impression of the singer Joe Cocker. He over-exaggerated Joe Cocker's jerky stage presence, which audiences found hilarious.


In 1978 Belushi entered the film business when he starred in National Lampoon's Animal House. He played the role of Bluto, a brother of the Delta fraternity who leads fraternity members in a war against another fraternity and the college administration. I will not reveal much the story in case you have not seen it - so go see it, it is a classic. Belushi proves that being obnoxious, and rather disgusting can be hilarious. The film was a huge success and generated one of the highest box office revenues of any comedy it it's time period (Belushi.com). It has become a true cult classic, and it even has its own Facebook fan page. It was accepted into the Library of Congress' film registry in 2001, and is listed by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 comedies. A great explanation of the film can be found here. Many people regard Animal House as the classic stereotype of college life... though I must say that my experiences at Emerson College are not on par.

Belushi's film career was rather short due to his untimely dead in March of 1982. After starring in Animal House, he went on to play roles in 7 other films while still remaining on the cast of Saturday Night Live until 1979. Although his career was short, he made a huge impact on the comedy genre and his hilarious characters are not forgotton.

Here are some great clips from Animal House. Enjoy!

Diane Keaton Rocks


For folks born after 1980, Diane Keaton is known as an "older" actress. Younger audiences easily recognize her as the lovable mother in the Father of the Bride movies. They would also recognize her from movies like Something's Gotta Give, The First Wives Club and Hanging Up, all in which she plays an older woman. However, most middle aged people (35-45) remember the days when Diane Keaton was the Katie Holmes or Jessica Alba of the movies. Older audiences have watched Keaton change and grow as an actress. They have watched her go from a cute, innocent "it" girl to a matured, respected leading lady.

Diane Keaton was born in Los Angeles in 1946. She first appeared in a production of Hair in the late 1960's. In 1970, Woody Allen cast her in his Broadway play, Play it Again Sam and again in the film version. She went on to make several movies with Allen including Sleeper (1973), Love and Death (1975) and most notably, Annie Hall (1977). Keaton and Allen were romantically tied to each other throughout the 1970's. The relationship did not last. However, the pair remain good friends and continued to work together after they had broken up. Their creative partnership has lasted longer than their romantic one. In 1993, Keaton and Allen teamed up again to make Manhattan Murder Mystery.


Diane Keaton has also gained some notoriety within the fashion world. Lately, she has been known to for her unique, quirky outfits and accessories. She also got some unwanted media attention when she accidentally slipped up and dropped the F-Bomb on national television.

Diane Keaton has played so many roles in so many iconic films, that she has become a large part of American film heritage. Her comedic abilities have ensured her career, which has spanned almost 40 years. Her ability to star alongside comedic geniuses like Steve Martin and Woody Allen is commendable. And it is likely that audiences will be enjoying her for years to come.

Richard Pryor: Live in Concert

A blend of profanity, pure Watt Stax blackness, and keen observation, Rich Pryor is a demi-god of American comedy. Leaving him out of any discussion of 70's comedy is criminal. While his films have not always been criterion worthy (feel free to remove The Toy, from your Netflix queue) his standup concert films are held in high regard by critics and fans alike. 

Live in Concert is his first, and many would agree, his finest. Pryor was at the top of his game, his drug addiction not yet crippling his energy and agility as a performer. Indeed, this was the period in which his addictions were fueling some of his greatest work.

The issue of race was always on Pryor's lips and he is remembered for his racial charged routines as well as his use of profanity and gritty street slang. But Pryor transcends color boundaries for a number of reasons. I watched this concert film when I was around 16 or so and while I could not relate to issues of 70's blackness, I was amazed at Pryor's ability to jump in and out of characters. He was as talented physically as he was verbally and his agility as a performer shines in this film... and he happens to be hilarious. 

Pryor wasn't simply a comedian who broke boundaries of taste. He was a highly skilled actor with unlimited range. He had empathy, an earthy quality. Lily Tomlin describes Pryors skills in this New Yorker article, from the early 70's. While he is remembered for his personal antics (antics is a nice way of saying, "lighting yourself on fire) he should be remembered from this concert film. Playing monkees, heart attacks, cars, God and any manner of person or thing Pryor is amazing. It's one of the greatest comedy films of the 70's, and certainly the greatest standup concert film of all-time. Now there's something to put in your Netflix queue. 



 

Jack Nicholson’s Eyebrows Are Mightier Than Chuck Norris.


This is not just the story of a man who has come out of retirement 18,734 times in the past five years. Nor is this a story about his decades of acting in virtually every film genre currently in existence. It’s not even a story about a comedic figure from the 1970s, as our assignment dictated. No, this is a story about two little pointy tufts of hair.

Jack Nicholson's eyebrows have had an astoundingly broad acting career, especially considering Nicholson has continuously been pigeonholed into the same slickly-maniacal roles over and over again. Back in the ‘70s, however, he was less of an icon (which can half be attributed to his familiar facial feature, THE EYEBROWS!!!!), and really shined on the silver screen as a passionate, versatile actor. Whether in comedies, dramas, horror flicks, or otherwise, Nicholson has consistently been given rather comic parts, uniquely filling roles that could be described as character actors with starring roles. Beyond his sly wit and fanatical mannerisms, it is really the way he uses his face, and primarily those ridiculous eyebrows like pyramids jutting up to the heavens, that sells him as the ideal Crazy Leading Man. No vaudeville luminary could pull off such a twisted mug as this guy.

Nicholson’s eyebrows furrowed and squiggled their way to success in such humorous and borderline demonic roles in the 1970s including Five Easy Pieces, Chinatown, Tommy, and One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. His eyebrows had been in many films and television spots since the late 50s, but starting with Easy Rider in 1969, the hirsute twins on Nicholson’s face got critical acclaim and were soon off on their way to stardom! By the time The Shining was released in 1980, the eyebrows were already renowned in the cinematic world, and it wouldn’t be long before they began to dominate Nicholson’s movie characters entirely.

His eyebrows have won 3 Oscars, as well as 63 other awards. They continue to work in cinema, recently raising themselves exceptionally high in The Departed; unfortunately, as they are beginning to turn grey, they now mostly appear in old-people movies like The Bucket List. Really a shame that these fuzzy masters are being dragged down with their host Jack Nicholson as he begins to exchange most of his oomph for wrinkles. This analyst thinks it’s about time for the eyebrows to leave Nicholson behind and go solo: RISE AND SHINE, YE SPIKY CATERPILLARS!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gene Wilder & The Chocolate Factory

Gene Wilder the actor who was loved by all kids, women who loved chocolate (including me) for owning a chocolate factory in his movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. He is also know for his role in a Woddy Allen movie being the doctor who falls in love with a sheep; Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex. If you type " Gene Wilder" on Google you will find a lot of information about his life and about the movies he stared in. However, I decided to focus on three topics that attracted my attention.

His Life:
The first website that I came across was a tribute to his life; It talks about his biography, the films he was in, the famous quotes, and the awards he won. it pretty much focuses on his career not about his personal life. But was interesting about the information I adapted about his life from the website is that he loved his 3rd wife a lot. Previous influential actors, had a trend of marrying 5 and never have I read about there love towards their partner. Also, I didn't know he was the voice of the Owl in "Over the Hedge" Also, it talks about his partnerships with Mel Brooks and Richard Pryor.

His Love Life:
The Second is an article from Acadamic Search Premier, Called "Gene Wilder: Twice Blessed," by Janet Cawley. The article talks about how after his third wife, Gilda Rander, died of ovarian cancer he was devistated but yet he knew he had to move on. It talks about how he made Gilda's Club in her memory. He also started to become actilvly involved with giving donations to overian cancer foundations. Moreover, it talks about how happy he was with her. It states that after she was diagnoses he stopped working and stayed by her side and help her get through it. "In her final interview, just months before her death, Radner praised her husband as a man 'who loves and cares about what's inside me...who I am rather than if I have hair.'"(Cawley) When she died he was devistated for a while but then afer 2 years he remarried Karen Webb, a speech pathologist.

Willy Wonka:
Since I grew up watching and reading Willy Wonka I decided to research about the movie and what he thought about the remake of it staring Jonny Depp. Therefore this 3rd website is a one paragraph article from the New York Post that talks about what Gene Wilder thinks about Johnny Depp taking his place as Willy Wonka. It's interesting because I always thought that the actors wouldn't like it if they made a remake, and guess what I was right. However, even though he thinks that the remake is such a bad idea but he thinks that Johnny Depp is a good actor; he implies it. One of his quotes about the remake:"I haven't seen it. I like Depp, but when I heard they were doing a remake, I heard: mistake."


*By clicking on the subtitles it will take you to the website.




Saturday, June 21, 2008

Jack Lemmon and his contributions to comedy in the 1970's



Jack Lemmon is an actor who has influenced film comedy and drama. In my research of the actor I found many sources offering biographical information on the actor as well as academic discussions on the impact of his work.

At http://www.seeing-stars.com/starindexes/JackLemmon.shtml the content of the page is focused around popular Jack Lemmon hang outs in Hollywood. I find this is a unique and interesting site. Not only does it mark important award ceremonies he attended but it outlines memorials, restaurants, and hotels he visited, stayed in, or was spotted at. Although this is nothing more than a glorified star map for one actor, it is easy to see how the site could be used to track his career by looking at how and where Lemmon spent his life in Hollywood.

In this article found on Academic Search Premier, "The art and insight of Jack Lemmon" by Roderick Nordell, an editorial look at the contributions of Lemmon's work after his death illustrates the emotional impact on American audiences. Nordell portrays Lemmon as a comedian that was also capable of strong dramatic roles, "Lemmon was applauded for the conviction he brought to a character's bitter confession of destroying a career by sacrificing artistic attainment for popular acclaim" (1). This information is essential to understanding the complexity and skill of Lemmon's acting ability that is often over looked when viewing his comedic roles only.

The New York Times reports Lemmon's success as he accepts the Film Institute Life Achievement Award. This is a very significant resource in understanding exactly how important Lemmon was to cinema. He received the award at 63 long before he was was finished acting and was the youngest recipient of the award besides Orson Wells. The Institute was successful in acknowledging Lemmon's comedic work as innovative and relatable for all audiences while also capturing Lemmon in his dramatic roles.

Aside from these three sites there is a lot of information on the web about Lemmon. I have selected these resources as they are alternative to the standard filmography and biography found at wikipedia, imdb, and so on. Hopefully these resources will provide lesser know information about this popular actor.

Friday, June 20, 2008

"A wed wose, how womantic!"


Madeline Kahn was without question one of the most talented comedy actresses of her time. Mel Brooks even said, ''She is one of the most talented people that ever lived". The interesting thing, however was confused by her reputation. She never relished the spotlight which lent itself greatly to her Award Winning attitude (People's choice award and a Day Time Emmy). Her constant collaboration with Mel Brooks allowed her to poke fun at her Jewish heritage but she walked her line beautifully and never exploited it for cheap laughs. She was very intelligent and was effortlessly funny. Even in death Ms. Kahn is remembered. The fact that she is still acquiring new fans nearly ten years after her death is an astonishing testament to her talent. Several film blog sites (from Ain't It Cool News, you can ignore the first paragraph...) put up touching obituaries after hearing of her death. She left an indelible mark on the entertainment business as a whole, not just film. Her body of work is far more extensive then one would think including stints on Broadway and television. She was an extraordinary woman with extraordinary talent and will always be remembered for the parts she played.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New Blog topic assignment!

Students: for your third required blog post, please do the following:

Find at least three websites (or web-linked articles) devoted to ONE important figure in American Film Comedy from the 1970s. Discuss how these sources help describe your subject's career, special talents, or a specific role or film. Here is the challenge: do NOT use Woody Allen or Mel Brooks! You may choose a film director, film writer or film actor, including someone involved with these two, just not them specifically. See if you can find web sources that are different from each other, and as specific as possible.

Don't just rely on imdb.com or Wikipedia or YouTube: get creative and do some unique searching. For example, instead of just typing "Tony Randall comedy" into a search engine, try "tony randall sex comedy fish" and see what you find...

This is due by TUESDAY, June 24th.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Since the development of sliced bread, three innovations have been regarded as the greatest inventions of our era: Expo markers, Febreze, and mockumentaries.

Mockumentaries are satirical “mock documentaries” that play off stylistic elements of documentaries in a fictional context. Sources credit a short April Fool’s piece called “Swiss Spaghetti Harvest” as the first mockumentary. Woody Allen was a pioneer as well, exploring the form with such features as “Take the Money and Run” and “Sweet and Lowdown.” Of course, Christopher Guest is renowned as the master of mockumentaries. Interestingly enough, the mockumentary is one of the types of cinema that has been perfected and defined by both American and British filmmakers.

One popular route filmmakers have taken is combining rockumentaries with mockumentaries. This subgenre began with such films as “The Rutles” and “This Is Spinal Tap.” Much of the dialogue is improvised, a key reason for the characteristically quick and natural charm of these movies; yet the dialogue in musical mockumentaries only functions to build up to the climactic point and most anticipated parts of the movies, which are the songs. Musical mockumentaries typically have a repertoire of whole or partial parody songs that mimic (usually in a deadpan or otherwise serious manner) typical conventions of the musical genre they are spoofing. In Christopher Guest’s “A Mighty Wind,” three groups of folk singers pull from all the classic ingredients of folk music to create over a dozen fake folk songs. What makes these songs humorous is not usually the lyrics but the mannerisms of the performers and the perfection with which they have written carbon copies of so many familiar old folk songs. The more little tics the song has that echo the real songs of the genre the better. The lyrics are funny in how over-the-top they are, but they are not so outrageous as to take away from the deadpan feel of the film, so audiences are in a certain respect able to take them seriously as legit pieces of music.

This is not the case with all rock mockumentaries though. In films such as “CB4” and semi-mockumentary “Walk Hard,” the lyrics have an equally important function as the style of the songs. The result is that the humor is more obvious (though there is still much subtlety in form as well), making the film more laugh-out-loud funny. These films rely a little more on jokes than satire, though satire still drives each film as a whole.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

YouTube it-Gene Kelly


Wow... struggling to find a blogworthy topic I decided to hop onto youtube and just throw some of my favorite topics we've covered so far into the mix. Gene Kelly being at the top of my list for his stellar dance moves was searched first. I was surprised that the singing in the rain dance sequence did not come up first, but actually third, with Gene Kelly actually only being featured in  4 of the top 20 videos with the tag "gene kelly". Weird, i thought at first, but than i realized how idolized and influential Kelly's Dance moves had become.  Just a few videos I thought everyone would enjoy.
American Idol? Close, but Britain's Got Talent star doubled Kelly's singin in the Rain views with his on stage performance, that I wasn't expecting much from....until i watched it. This young British boy (after being turned away last year of course) does a dance remix to Singin' in the Rain, in which during one part he actually has fake rain pouring on him on the stage!!! So crazy, check it out here: George Sampson
A bit further down, is the song that this kid George Sampson danced to, which is actually called Singin' in the Rain, it is a remix by Mint Royale. There really is not much to say about it, other than it's kind of a mockery of the Gene Kelly original, the dance moves are weak and really don't fit the classic Gene Kelly style, and he is also battling dancing robots...enough said about that. Poor re-make of the classic, but seems to be quite popular overseas. Check it out here: Mint Royale
The next most viewed, is an Usher interview and dance remake of the classic. Usher who is pretty well regarded in today's music world, re-does both the voice and dance moves of Kelly. I was a bit skeptical at first, but Usher seems to get more comfortable as it goes on and it actually turns out to be not too bad. But in reality, it's just not the same, watch it below and let me know what you guys think!

Ace in the Hole

Having seen the Billy Wilder classic Some Like it Hot, I thought I’d direct your attention to another of his great comedies: Ace in the Hole. Though not as acclaimed or well known as other classic Wilder comedies like Some Like it Hot or The Apartment, Ace in the Hole is nevertheless a brilliant, entertaining comedy, and for those who like satire, you won’t find it more biting that this.



The plot concerns a reporter, Chuck Tatum (Kirk Douglas), who is stuck in the dead town of Albequerque when he happens upon a fantastic story – a man trapped in a cave. Knowing he can exploit this for his own personal gain, Tatum arranges the rescue to prolong the amount of time the man is trapped, and all the while he’s the only man he allows into the cave to talk to the man, allowing for over a week of exclusives from inside the cave, while the story starts to draw more and more attention.

As with Network, which was still twenty-five years away, Ace in the Hole anticipates much of what we’ve come to accept as common practice in American media journalism, and it’s a frightening insight, but thanks to Wilder’s deft touch, it never ceases to be hilarious.

Ace in the Hole is available in a lovely Criterion Collection disc.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

wait, who are you talking about?



So I was looking around for something to blog about concerning musicals and I came across this guy Harry Warren and the link looked totally boring so I almost didn't click it. But it turns out that this guy is one of the most prolific and celebrated composers ever- but no one seems to know who he is...

TCM estimates that he wrote 500 songs for more than 100 movies. And the official Harry Warren site says that at this point his songs are in over 270 films, but imdb's got something like 889 credits under his name.

He had 42 songs place in the top ten on the radio program Your Hit Parade. Which I thought was funny because I've got a crapload of Your Hit Parade songs on my ipod and I think half of them are actually his.
He was nominated for 11 oscars, he won three.
He worked with tons of famous songwriters like Ira Gershwin, Billy Rose, Al Dublin and my personal favorite Johnny Mercer.
TANGENT:
if you're not familiar with Johnny Mercer, he's got a great voice, his songs are classic and he's totally cool- I'm sure you guys all know the accentuate the positive song- that was him. anyway, mercer rocks.
BACK ON TOPIC:
Warren's real name is actually Salvatore Guaragna- he's italian (yeah, i didn't see that coming either) On italianpride.com they list Harry Warren's accomplishments as reason number 76 of 101 to be proud of being italian. And I don't even have to tell you guys that italianpride.com is the foremost authority on exactly why italians are the sh*t.

This website has a giant listing of movies and TV shows that feature one or more songs by Warren, and it was totally overwhelming choosing any to list here. Just as an example 42nd street is on this list and I'm sure all of you have seen the 1976 TV special on Olivia Newton-John- that's on the list too.

I also found this really cool quote from Warren...
"I've always written music the way I felt it.  I write for the public because I feel like the public, the way they would write if they could.  You don't have to know anything about music to understand what I write.  Mine are simple melodies.  In music there are certain chords that are tender and poignant – it's the universal language."  HARRY WARREN (December 24, 1893 - September 22, 1981)
pretty sweet, right?

Friday, June 13, 2008

When life gives you lemons... watch Jack Lemmon

I think we can all agree on one point: Ving Rhames knows everything. He knows how to wear hats... He knows how to make a cool imposing side kick in every single movie he's in... He knows to give props to Jack Lemmon. 

Though mercifully teased as a child due to his name, Jack U. Lemmon became an icon of cinema through collaborations with Billy Wilder and Walter Matthau. As an impetuous youth my Father was constantly telling me about the great films that Lemmon was a part of. Being young, and uninterested in anything that wasn't shiny and moving, I didn't give Lemmon much credit. Even watching him in class it makes me wonder if a seemingly simple guy like Lemmon could be a star today.

He's not great looking, his voice is strangely distinct. Wilder says that Lemmon was a ham. Jack Warner of the Warner Brothers wanted him to change his name. Lemmon kept his name and went on to star in numerous succesful comedies as well as dramas, picking up awards and accolades along the way. 

He also inspired one of the greatest Simpson's characters of all time: the constantly struggling, sweating, tie-pulling Gil Gunderson. It seems that Lemmon was blessed. The comedy gods smiled upon him, bestowing Wilder and Matthau upon him. He had an ice cream at Baskin Robbins named after him... and after all there's only 31 flavors.

So how did he do it? What was the Jack Lemmon secret? In my humble estimation it has something to do not only with wit and comic timing, but the gentle ease that Lemmon brings to his performances. There is something uninhibited and effortless about Lemmon's comedy. I read, while completing my paper on Harold Lloyd, that Lloyd and Lemmon had been friends. Lemmon asked Lloyd for the secret of film comedy, and Lloyd replied, "Whatever you think you have to do... do less." It seems like Lemmon took that note to heart. His performances, while riveting, are easy going. He doesn't force it, he lets it come to him and he keeps it simple. There is a link between Lloyd and Lemmon. They are both very normal. But they both spin their seeming normalcy into hilarity.

Jack Lemmon has since left us, but like the man who directed him in so many films (Wilder) he managed to leave us with one final joke... on his tombstone. 

 

Oklahoma! The movie not the play





Before Cinderella The musical, Roger and Hammerstine created a revolutionary musical play in 1943 called Oklahoma! It was known for its integration of song and storyline and its simplicitty in its set design. Also, It was the first Broadway musical in which every song had a direct relation to the plot. In 1955, the play was then made into a movie directed by Fred Zinnemann. The songs and the storyline stayed the same however the simplicity is sacrificed by the use of Technicolor, Todd-AO, and Stereophonic Sound. The movie was "the first Todd-AO production and the first be shot twice. Once to produce the normal version 24 fsp. The other one in 30 fps to be able to have a roadshow version. (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0048445/trivia)

The movie, like all romantic comdeys, talks about a a young girl, who is actually a farm girl who has to decide which suiters she want to be her escort to an event. The is Laury Willams played by Shirley Jones, and the men fighting for her are Curly Mclain, who she likes, played by Gordan MacRea, and Jud Fry, played by Rod Steiger. The story is set against the backdrop of the land rush days in Oklahoma, and begins with a song Oh, What a Beautiful Morning. Whats makes this movie a classic and yet amazing is the music and the da9nce sequences. It was one of the notable movies that has amazing chirography and songwriting. http://movies.nytimes.com/movie/36109/Oklahoma-/overview

Here are some interesting facts I found on IMDB that I thought were interesting:
  • This was Fred Zinnemann's first musical and yet it was an outstanding success.
  • The musical that this film is based on was originally entitled "Away We Go!" The title was changed to "Oklahoma!" after the popularity of that song with the plays initial audience.
  • I found this point to be very interesting. It had been said that Frank Sinatra was offered the role but when he found out that every scene of the movie was to be shot twice he declined; he is known to film his scenes in a any motion picture only once.
  • James Mitchell and Bambi Linn were dubs for the dancing parts of Curly and Laury in the Dream Baller. However, Rod Steiger did his own dancing, because they couldn't find him a double that looked like him from the back.
If you guys want to see the opening scene of Oklahoma here it is: OH What a a wonderful Morning.
http://youtube.com/watch?v=RwiFqjyBJ2o&feature=related



Fourty years after it was produced, it is still obvious that Some Like It Hot depicts the theme of ambiguous sexuality, but this is not all. The original title already sounds ambiguous because of the undefined “It” eventhough it can be related to Shell Jr. telling Sugar when she says she plays “hot” Jazz that “some like it - the music - hot, but I prefer classical music.” Still, anyone can see through the sexual connotation of “hot”. Let’s not forget about the etymology of “Jazz” that reminds of sexual exitation, and that, as the movie tells itself, sexuality (sometimes prostitution) and alcohol are linked in the image.

All this leads to an urge to hide: costumes, transvestites and dissumulation become the theme of the film. Only the first scene of the movie tells the audience a lot about the rest: the funeral car is followed by the police; we already can see the lie appearing, which also reaveals after the firing the liquid pouring out of the coffin, and then the alcohol. Shortly after, the funeral house which the police officer enters turns out to be a cabaret which is the exact opposite as far as the sound is concerned (silence/music) as well as the image (loneliness/crowd, calm/movement, etc.). The dissimulation somehow reveal a certain chain: death (the coffin, ...) hides the alcohol, which leads to death again (the firing sequences) and so on for the rest of the film.

This is the reason why when dissimulation takes place, a conflict happens: the fake pallbearers disguise themselves to hide from the police, the policemen act as clients against the gangsters... But this fight also takes place under the shape of seduction: the second significant costume, Joe being Shell Jr. enables him to seduct Sugar. Everyone gets the truth of the dissimulation: becoming a tranvestite is breaking a code to achieve something more easily. Joe disguised as a millionaire acts as Spats Colombo who covers up his cabaret as if it was a funeral house: he only shows the socially acceptable facade. Trafficing and seducting are only two different faces of changing the course of implicit social codes, which assumes a knowledges of these codes: this is Joe’s case as he gathered Sugar secrets.



For a long time, moral censorship forbid every kind of homosexuality references in movies during American classical cinema. Transvestites are never really serious yet and this is comfirmed in Some Like It Hot. However, it does not prevent B. Wilder from creating very special and troubling effects introducing men acting as women: for instance, Laurel and Hardy remind us of the same situation, and according to B. Wilder, Joséphine and Daphnée are only perpetuating this example. The effect the create does not lie on a parody, but on an ambiguous sexuality. Indeed, these characters are starting love relationships with the characters of the same sex.

Let's play dress up


As demonstrated so well by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot, men in drag will always be a great source of comedy in American film. The tradition of men dressing as woman goes back to the plays of Shakespeare being used as a comic device as early as the 16th century. The sexual confusion that comes from the characters in these films has been revisited several times in other American comedies with varying levels of success.

Here are two of my personal favorites.





Tootsie, starring Dustin Hoffman and directed by the recently departed Sydney Pollack, came out in 1982 and became a massive critical and financial success. The multilayered love triangles that are explored in this film are very reminiscent to the plot of Some Like It Hot. In the film Hoffman plays an out of work actor who can only get work if he auditions for a female role on a hit soap opera. This plot device is very similar to the situation of Curtis and Lemmon in Some Like It Hot minus the gangster violence.




Another great example of cross-dressing explored in comedy is The Bird Cage. A remake of an earlier French film called La Cage Aux Folles. Here Robin Williams and Nathan Lane a committed gay couple who own a drag bar must play it straight when their sons fiancés family comes to meet their new in-laws. Obviously the fiancés father is an extremely conservative politician running for reelection. The snappy dialogue and situational comedy is hilarious every time I see it.

If you haven’t seen these movies you should because they stand the test of time as classics just like Some Like It Hot.

Here is a list of Cross Dressing on Film