betty in blunderland

The early days of animation at Paramount, courtesy of the Fleischer brothers.

By 1927, Adolph Zukor, the Hollywood mogul behind the rapidly-expanding Paramount-Famous Lasky Corporation, had built a veritable entertainment empire. The studio had moved into a new, multimillion-dollar twenty-six acre lot off Melrose Avenue. They had amassed a chain of nearly two thousand theaters across the country, called Publix Theatres, in which to screen their many…

the dot and the line

Celebrating 100 Years of Chuck Jones: The Dot and the Line (1965)

After Warner Bros. terminated his long-term contract in 1962, Chuck Jones moved on to MGM, producing a series of cartoons featuring that studio’s famed pair, Tom and Jerry. Jones’ time wasn’t completely consumed by the antics of the cat and mouse, however; the animator/director worked on several other projects for the studio, one of which–The…

Bringing The Scarlet Letter to (silent) life.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter has apparently long stymied filmmakers, because there has yet to be a cinematic version that fully adapts the material without changing the tone or intent of the author’s original novel. Not to be overly sarcastic about it or anything. It’s a damn shame, too, because Letter is truly a masterwork of American…

Sanitizing The Children’s Hour

  By some accounts a champion of female independence, playwright Lillian Hellman (1905-1984), crafted some of the most searingly honest plays ever produced by an American writer, beginning with her debut, the heart-wrenching 1934 drama The Children’s Hour (which was inspired by a true story). The play tells the story of two women who work hard to make their…

Stella Dallas, or: All Your Tears Are Belong to Us

Stella Martin (Barbara Stanwyck), the ambitious daughter of a factory worker, falls for Stephen Dallas (John Boles), an executive at the factory whose former fiance, Helen (Barbara O’Neil) has recently married another man. Stella finagles a meeting with Stephen and the two of them begin dating. Before long, they are married with a young daughter,…

“You even have to murder a man politely!”

Sometimes, a film comes along that seems to think of itself as far cleverer than it may actually be. I find this to be particularly true when considering some of the more popular films to come out of the past decade; ever since 90s hits like The Usual Suspects (1995) and The Sixth Sense (1999) delighted many viewers…