The lovely Carol Martinheira of The Old Hollywood Garden has nominated me for a Liebster Award. It’s an award given to bloggers/blogs and when one gets a nomination, they have to answer 11 questions posted by the person who nominated them, then say 11 things about themselves, then nominate 11 blogs and ask them 11 questions and so on. So here they are:
1. What was the first classic film you ever saw?
2. Who do you think is the queen of screwball comedies?
3. And who’s the king?
4. If you could go back in time to a specific year in Hollywood history, what year would that be and why?
Maybe 1917? It was a very fertile year for silent comedy. During that year Chaplin made some of his greatest Mutual shorts, Keaton began making comedies with Fatty Arbuckle, Harold Lloyd introduced his “glasses” character, Stan Laurel made his first film, Larry Semon was coming into his own; Ham and Bud were still together, and Mabel Normand would soon release Mickey. It’s a very interesting time for silent comedy fans.
5. Which two stars do you wish had worked together in a movie?
6. All about Eve (1950) or Sunset Boulevard (1950)?
This is a cruel, cruel question, making me choose between these two towering movies. Ultimately, though I’d have to say there’s no real contest. As much as I love the screenplay and performances in All About Eve, Sunset Boulevard is a formal masterpiece on about twenty different levels. It contains real profundity about cinema, about America, and about life. Every time I see it, I am floored at the new things I discover. I just introduced my teenage son to it a few months ago. And I had the same mysterious reaction I always do to Norma Desmond’s final line and the fade to white. I don’t laugh; I cry. Not because it’s sad, but because I am simply overwhelmed at the complex, horrible beauty of it. My brain can’t contain what I’m seeing, so it spills over into emotion — and then it spills out my eyes.
7. Have you ever been on the TCM cruise? If so, how was it?
Haha, no. I’d be delighted to go some day if I’m lucky enough to be invited as a panelist or presenter though!
8. Does anybody in your family share your love of the classics?
Yeah! I think I especially acquired my love of classic comedy at the knees of my brothers. But they love other old movies too. Good lord, I’ll never understand this fear and terror of silence or the absence of color. I was watching old movies since childhood — just another flavor of movies, that’s all.
9. What is your favorite decade in terms of movies and why?
My kid me asked that the other day! I have to start with an honorable mention for the early 1970s. I think Hollywood films from that period are objectively great. It was an amazingly rich period. On the one hand, there was the old Hollywood system in its decadence, with a sort of faded, charming glamour, with all the original old time stars still around, in their old age. And on the other hand, a new generation of mavericks, who reinvented narrative film in all sorts of interesting ways. Plus for me there’s an added layer of nostalgia: I was a kid in the early ’70s. So that period in cinema will always hold a huge power over me.
But ultimately, I’d have to say the years 1924-1934 (I hope it’s okay to straddle decades). This was the time when silent cinema achieved maturity and produced its great, polished masterpieces, as well as the era of the earliest experiments in sound, the greatest influence of vaudeville, and the greatest freedom of expression in every genre. 1934 is when the Production Code began to be enforced, and right away its influence was felt. In the late 30s, with the occasional exception, Hollywood movies started to become mediocre. But prior to that — just an awesome flood of musicals, melodrama, comedy and horror. I find almost every film from those early years utterly fascinating.
10. What is your favorite book about Hollywood?
Hard to choose, but some favorites include: The Making of the Wizard of Oz: Movie Magic and Star Power in the Prime of MGM (Aljean Harmetz), The Silent Clowns (Walter Kerr), The Comic Mind (Gerald Mast), The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution, 1926-1930 (Scott Eyman), and (though it plays fast and loose with facts) Hollywood Babylon (Kenneth Anger)
11. If you could have witnessed the shooting of any movie, which movie would you choose?
11 Random Things About Me
- My ancestors on both sides have lived in America for almost 400 years; consequently, I am literally related to hundreds of famous characters from American history.
- I won a statewide stand up comedy contest when I was a teenager.
- Peach fuzz gives me the willies and I don’t like beets
- I am a problem cuticle biter
- I underwent abdominal surgery when I was six weeks old for a condition known as pyloric stenosis
- I studied Film & TV (and criticism) at NYU Tisch School of the Arts
- I took my first course in theatre history when I was 13 years old
- I wrote a popular book about vaudeville, and have been producing vaudeville shows and plays in New York for over 20 years
- I play guitar, banjo, ukulele, bass, drums, and (in a very crude sort of way) keyboard
- I have had small Latin and less Greek
- I am an OK visual artist, but I tend to like to be close to people who are much better visual artists. My maternal grandmother and my father were both amateur painters; my best friend in high school was and is a terrific draftsman, cartoonist and storyboard artist; I had one serious relationship with a person who went on to become a successful painter; had another serious relationship with the daughter of a painter who’s quite famous; and I am marrying an artist who is more brilliant and original than any of them. To me, happiness is knowing that while I make art in one room, the person closest to me is making some more art in the next room over. Ideally, we’d also have a third artist making culinary art for us in the kitchen.
11 Blogs I nominate: (apart from a couple of friends, these were chosen almost at random. I rarely read other people’s blogs)