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Hollywood


  • Originally published 08/13/2013

    In ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler,’ history told through a black lens

    NEW YORK — History in the movies has often been seen through white eyes: civil rights-era tales with white protagonists reacting to a changing world.“I’ve been in some of those movies,” says David Oyelowo, a star in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” ‘’I was in the ‘The Help.’”The viewpoint of “The Butler,” though, is refreshingly colorful. In it, Forest Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, a man born to sharecroppers who’s turned into a domestic servant. After fleeing north, he rises to serve as a butler in the White House for seven successive presidents, spanning from Eisenhower to Reagan, from Jim Crow to Barack Obama....

  • Originally published 08/08/2013

    Early film by Orson Welles is rediscovered

    In 1941, Orson Welles made his debut as a feature film director with “Citizen Kane,” a fact well known to everyone who has ever taken Film 101.Less well known is that “Kane” wasn’t Welles’s debut as a filmmaker. That distinction belongs to “Hearts of Age,” an eight-minute parody of an avant-garde allegory that Welles, as the world’s most precocious teenager, codirected with a friend, William Vance, at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock, Ill. Amazingly, that 1934 effort, in which Welles wears old-age makeup that anticipates the elderly Kane, has survived, and can even be seen on YouTube.But neither was “Kane” Welles’s first professional encounter with the cinema. That happened three years before his Hollywood debut, in the form of about 40 minutes of footage intended to be shown with “Too Much Johnson,” a revival of an 1894 farce that Welles intended to bring to Broadway for the 1938 season of his Mercury Theater.

  • Originally published 08/07/2013

    More coverage for Ben Urwand's Hollywood & Hitler book

    Ben Urwand has apparently done what no historian has previously been able to do: Draw not just one but many substantial links between 1930s Hollywood and the Nazi Germany regime of Adolf Hitler.Urwand's revelations were first revealed in a June issue of online monthly Tablet. According to The New York Times, "that the German government meddled in the film industry during Hollywood's so-called golden age has long been known to film historians ... But Mr. Urwand, 35, offers the most stinging take by far, drawing on material from German and American archives to argue that the relationship between Hollywood and the Third Reich ran much deeper — and went on much longer — than any scholar has so far suggested."...

  • Originally published 07/18/2013

    Alexander C. Kafka: When Hollywood Held Hands With Hitler

    Alexander C. Kafka is deputy managing editor of The Chronicle Review.A debate is raging over Hollywood's alleged collusion with the Nazis. At stake: the moral culpability of Jewish studio heads during cinema's golden age.The catalyst is a forthcoming book from Harvard University Press, The Collaboration: Hollywood's Pact With Hitler, by the 35-year-old historian Ben Urwand. The book is still several months from publication, but emotions are running high after an early review in the online magazine Tablet, followed by an exchange of rhetorical fire in The New York Times between Urwand and Thomas Doherty, a professor of American studies at Brandeis University who this spring published his own account of the era, Hollywood and Hitler: 1933-1939 (Columbia University Press). The clash comes during a period of heightened scholarly attention to Nazi infiltration and counterinfiltration in Depression-era Los Angeles, complicating the story of Hollywood's stance toward fascism.

  • Originally published 06/24/2013

    The "Man of Steel" Rusts

    Credit: Flickr.Superman is back in Man of Steel, the latest version of the story about the powerful hero from the planet Krypton who came to Earth to uphold truth, justice and the American way.The movie, starring unknown Henry Cavill as the man who can leap tall buildings with a single bound, opened last week and earned an amazing $113 million in its first weekend, to the astonishment of show business experts.Lord knows why.This latest Superman saga sinks faster than a ton of steel. It is dreary, tedious and lacks any humor, heroism or camaraderie. Superman should fly back to his galaxy and leave crime fighting and planet saving to Batman.

  • Originally published 06/18/2013

    Bruce Lee statue unveiled in L.A.'s Chinatown

    Bruce Lee has been memorialized with a seven-foot bronze statue in L.A.'s Chinatown.The statue of the late actor and martial arts expert was unveiled Saturday to a crowd of several hundred people in historic Central Plaza, according to the Los Angeles Times....

  • Originally published 06/13/2013

    Ben Urwand, Harvard Junior Fellow, reveals Hollywood moguls' creepy love affair with Hitler

    Adolf Hitler loved American movies. Every night at about 9:00, after the Führer had tired out his listeners with his hours-long monologues, he would lead his dinner guests to his private screening room. The lights would go down, and Hitler would fall silent, probably for the first time that day. He laughed heartily at his favorites Laurel and Hardy and Mickey Mouse, and he adored Greta Garbo: Camille brought tears to the Führer’s eyes. Tarzan, on the other hand, he thought was silly.As it turns out, Hitler’s love for American movies was reciprocated by Hollywood. A forthcoming book by the young historian Ben Urwand, to be published by Harvard University Press in October, presents explosive new evidence about the shocking extent of the partnership between the Nazis and major Hollywood producers. Urwand, a former indie rock musician and currently a member of Harvard’s prestigious Society of Fellows, takes the subject personally: His parents were Jewish refugees from Egypt and Hungary. Digging through archives in Berlin and Washington, D.C., he has unearthed proof that Hollywood worked together with the Nazis much more closely than we ever imagined.

  • Originally published 05/29/2013

    How to Do Research on the Movies

    The Thatcher Library in Citizen Kane (1941).The most famous depiction of an archive in Hollywood cinema is the Thatcher Library in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941), a foreboding and noirishly lit mausoleum presided over by a prissy custodian who resents the intrusion of an actual researcher. The drudge work of scholarly investigation may yield rose buds of precious information, but the task of acquisition will be dust-ridden and tedious, and the stewards of the stacks will be cranky spinsters who eye you with suspicion as they hand over white gloves and caution you to use only the pencils and papers provided for note taking.

  • Originally published 04/25/2013

    Historian Frank Couvares on the Hollywood-China connection

    [Hollywood studios are increasingly editing their movies to cater to the Chinese market.]...Frank Couvares, a professor of history and American Studies at Massachusetts’ Amherst College, said that rather than something new, Hollywood’s readiness to cater to Chinese demands on content reflects business practices the American film industry has had in place for more than seven decades.“If back in the 1930s or ‘40s the French objected to portraying the Foreign Legion as being overly harsh on Africans, or the British were unhappy that they were being shown as too colonialistic, then Hollywood would make the edits it needed to market its product,” he said.Still, the scope of this latest iteration seems to dwarf that of its predecessors, not only because China’s economic and political clout is so immense — successive years of GDP growth rates around 8- 10 percent have made its economy the second largest in the world — but also because the country’s communist masters seem obsessed by the way Beijing is perceived abroad.

  • Originally published 03/07/2013

    'Emperor' stirs deep emotions in Japan and U.S.

    Emotions have been running high at screenings of the historical drama "Emperor."The Japanese American coproduction, which opens Friday, revolves around the dilemma Gen. Douglas MacArthur faced as he tried to restore order in post-World War II Japan: Should the country's divine leader, Emperor Hirohito, stand trial and face certain death on war crimes charges?When the producers screened "Emperor" recently in Japan, producer Gary Foster said, many men were in tears as they left the theater."It was almost a cathartic moment," he said....

  • Originally published 02/11/2013

    The 10 Best Lincoln Moments in Film History

    "Lincoln does not have the phallus; he is the phallus," proclaimed the editors of Cahiers du Cinéma in 1970, in a group-written polemic on the ideological superstructure of Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), John Ford's moody paean to the salad days of the Great Emancipator. The piece is a doozy of a performance, a high-wire act exemplifying the airy delights of the high renaissance of French-accented film theory. Alternately enlightening and maddening, the essay ends on a declaration that few Americans could ever abide: that in Ford's film, Lincoln emerges finally as a figure of “monstrous dimensions.” A monster? Not Abe, never Abe -- he is our guardian angel, secular saint, and -- virtually since the birth of American cinema -- celluloid hero.

  • Originally published 01/18/2013

    Detective says Robert Wagner not interviewed in new Natalie Wood investigation

    LOS ANGELES — Robert Wagner has declined to be interviewed by detectives in a renewed inquiry into the drowning death of his wife Natalie Wood three decades ago, an investigator said Thursday.Wagner was interviewed by authorities soon after Wood’s drowning in 1981, but the actor is the only person who was on the yacht the night Wood died who has not spoken to detectives as part of the latest inquiry, despite repeated requests and attempts, sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said.Blair Berk, an attorney for Wagner and his family, said the actor had cooperated with authorities since his wife died....

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