Classics

The Blob (1958)

ISBN: 
715515011129

If the stories I’ve heard are true there is a five-gallon bucket somewhere in the United States that contains a batch of red silicone still moist from the 1958 production of The Blob.   Supposedly it is brought out and displayed at the annual Blobfest in Phoenixville PA where many of the scenes for the movie were shot.   The Blob is one of many science fiction movies of the 1950’s that told of some unknown horror coming from outer space that endangers the world.  A lot of these were extremely low budget and featured extremely bad special effects even taking into account the time they were produced. 

Casablanca

ISBN: 
9780790772301

I would like to play a game of pretend.  Let’s pretend that you are one of the most in-demand actors of your time and your contract with the studio says you have to perform in any film they choose.  The studio you are working for takes an unknown, unproduced and previously refused play and begins adapting the play for the screen.  They are in such a rush to start production and don’t wait for the first draft of the screenplay to be finished before they begin filming. At one point the director calls you on the set and tells you to just stand still and give a short nod of your head towards the camera.  You don’t know why you are nodding or where the nod will occur in the movie, you are just told to nod.   Every day the script changes.  Not just the little daily changes common to movies, but massive story changes take place. No one at the start of filming, not even the director, knows exactly how the movie is going to end. The film is half-way through production before the ending is finally settled upon.  Can you imagine how unhappy you would be and how horrible you believe the final product would turn out?  This is what happened to actors Humphry Bogart and Actress Ingrid Bergman when they starred in a film that when finished won the Best Picture, Best Screen Play, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards.  Since its production in 1942, it has continued to win honors and awards.  The play was called “Everyone Comes to Ricks”, the movie, Casablanca.

Frankenstein – 1931

ISBN: 
025193102126

The story of Frankenstein's monster has long been one of the staples of horror.   The book Frankenstein, written by Mary Shelly, wife of poet Percy Shelly is one of the modern horror stories and is also considered one of the earliest science fiction stories.  The 1931 movie Frankenstein is very loosely based on Mary Shelly’s book.  One of the most striking differences being that of the appearance of the monster.  In the book the monster begins as an almost handsome and well-spoken man and only turns ugly as his skin begins to rot away due to poor blood circulation.  For most of us however Frankenstein’s monster is best remembered as the large, groaning brute with a flat head and bolt shaped electrodes sticking out of his neck.  Frankenstein stars Boris Karloff as the monster and Colin Clive as inventor Henry Frankenstein.

The Wild, Wild, West – Television Series

ISBN: 
097368881648

When I was young, maybe too young as I was only eight at the time, my father introduced me to a series of books by an author named Ian Fleming about an English secret agent known as James Bond.  Prior to this my heroes were all from world of television.  I was enthralled with the “Adventures of Superman,” “Roy Rogers” and “The Lone Ranger.” As you may have noticed two of my favorite heroes were from westerns.  James Bond suddenly took precedence over them all.  I loved the intrigue and the action in the books.  But I still loved my westerns.  Then, in 1964 a television western, The Wild, Wild West, set in the mid 1800’s appeared about two agents of the newly established U.S. Secret Service; James West and Artmus Gordon.  Each episode had the intrigue and mystery of a secret agent like James Bond as well as the special gadgets and gizmos a spy would use and best of all, it was a western.  I was hooked.

Mister Roberts (1955)

ISBN: 
012569736351

Mister Roberts (1955), starring Henry Fonda, is based on the stage play by Frank Nugent. Fonda, who starred in the Broadway play, reprised his role as Lieutenant Douglas Roberts for this film, with an A-list of players supporting him. Jack Lemmon also stars as Ensign Pulver, a role which won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor; James Cagney as Captain Morton and William Powell as "Doc" round out the cast. Sadly, the film also ended the longtime friendship and working relationship between Henry Fonda and director John Ford who, in a fit of anger, reportedly sucker punched Fonda in the mouth.

The Shootist

ISBN: 
097360890440

A while ago I wrote about one of my favorite John Wayne Movies, The Quiet Man.  The Quiet Man was a romance and a departure from the War and Western films that John Wayne was most well known for.   My second favorite John Wayne film, The Shootist is also a departure from his usual role even though it is a western, it is the story of an older gunfighter now battling a greater battle; cancer. Seeking a place to spend his last days, he takes up residence in a boarding house run by a widow who is against everything the gunfighter’s life represents while her teenage son harbors a secret desires to be just like the old shootist .

The cast for The Shootist is among the best.  Besides “The Duke” as the shootist J.B. Books, the film features Lauren Bacall as boarding house owner Bond Rodgers and Ron Howard as her son Gillom.   Despite the film’s title you won’t find a lot of shoot outs in the film.  It’s the story a dying man, who wants to die with dignity and perhaps regain a little taste of the life he could have had if his life had not taken the violent turn it did.  Yes, John Wayne is still the tough guy, but his view is now tempered as he faces his cancer and the knowledge that there is nothing he can do to win his battle against it.  Each character must in the end examine themselves as they are faced with Books’ mortality and eventual death. 

The Quiet Man

ISBN: 
9781555269005

John Wayne is one of the most famous and beloved actors of all time.  He had an acting style that was uniquely his own.  While he is best known for his westerns and war films, my favorite John Wayne film, The Quiet Man, falls in neither category.  John Wayne plays boxer Sean Thornton returning to his Irish boyhood home from America after retiring from the ring and from fighting altogether after one of his opponents dies from the blows he suffered in their fight.  His desire is to return to the simple life he knew as a boy and the town he grew up in.  It doesn’t take long before he finds love with Mary Kate Danaher (Maureen O’hara), but it is this love that is going to make his life far from simple.

Cocoanuts and the Marx Brothers

ISBN: 
025192125027

Cocoanuts was the first feature film starring the four Marx Brothers: Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo.  It may also have the distinction of being the first true movie musical, that is, a movie where the musical numbers were meant to be part of the story telling process rather than a performance for audience within the movie. It wasn’t that the studio didn’t plan to have a band playing with the musical scenes.  A “band” was hired for the first day of shooting.  Apparently they were to follow the actors around ready to play whenever someone was tempted to burst into song, but the director soon realized there was no reason to have them around and that they would distract from the plot of the movie; something that the Marx Brothers were already managing to do pretty well on their own.

Jame Garner

OJames Garnerver the weekend we lost one of my favorite film and television stars, James Garner.  He is perhaps best known for his starring roles in the television series Maverick and The Rockford Files.  His film roles were varied, often funny, but almost always heartwarming.   The link below will provide you with list of movies and books in the MCPL collection featuring this well beloved star.

James Garner – A list of DVDs and Books

Shakespeare - Compressed, twisted and bedazzled

ISBN: 
1569386242

Laurence Olivier's Hamlet runs 157 minutes. The Franco Zeffirelli version of Romeo and Juliet clocks in at around 138 min. The Reduced Shakespeare Company's Complete Works of William Shakespeare - Abridged reduces these two plays and all of the rest of the Shakespeare plays in total down to a mere 90 minutes and they don't miss a single play.

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