Sunday, September 22, 2013

Cane River - an Ultra-Orphan Film

During my work surveying the films held at DuArt, I came across an intriguing title I'd never heard of (one among many in the DuArt vaults) called CANE RIVER. My initial research turned up nothing, but eventually I found that the film's director, Horace B. Jenkins, died of a heart attack in December 1982 at just 42 years of age, a mere three months shy of the film's scheduled New York release. That release never happened, and the film was only seen briefly in New Orleans in December of 1983 (IMDB lists a release in Germany in October of 1982, but I question the authenticity of this citation). The only other screening I could find was at New Orleans Film Festival in the 90s, which notes that CANE RIVER was critically acclaimed (I guess in New Orleans, anyway.)

Jenkins was a very successful television producer and documentary filmmaker, and had won Emmys for his work in television, as a producer of SESAME STREET and TONY BROWN'S JOURNAL. It's certainly sad that he died so short of the release of his first fiction feature. This was obviously a very independent film, a labor of love, funded by a notable New Orleans mortuary. It's too bad the film never had a chance to find an audience. I wonder what might have happened had Jenkins lived - CANE RIVER would have opened in New York and perhaps around the country, and who knows? If the film succeeded, would Jenkins made other films?

Is CANE RIVER a lost masterpiece, a mediocre curiosity, or a forgettable misfire? Right now, I have no way of knowing. Though we received the original A&B negative rolls and a 35mm blowup internegative and track, we've got no film print or video copy, so I currently have no way of seeing the film. I have read that the film is a romance, filmed in New Orleans, and is one of the first features to deal with color prejudice within the African Americans community (one of the lead characters is  Creole).  We in the Film Archive are going to make a new 35mm print from the internegative, and have a look at what very few have seen.

Richard Brooks' cigarette lighter

Some time in the mid 1990s, the family of director Richard Brooks donated his film collection to the Academy Film Archive. In addition to all his personal film prints, the collection included all kinds of terrific stuff. He had many outtakes and bloopers from many of his films. In one from THE PROFESSIONALS, Burt Lancaster screws up a line and says, "Your mother's [blank]!" (now, now Mr. Lancaster, is that any way to talk?) Peter O'Toole's reaction to blowing a line in LORD JIM is "God f*** the Pope!" (Not sure exactly the point of that demand.)

Brooks also had many fantastic home movies and other special films, as my colleague Lynne Kirste, the Archive's Special Collections Curator, will attest. Brooks had color footage with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, on Bogey's boat Santana. In another fabulous color film, baseball legend Satchel Paige pitches in Wrigley Field in Los Angeles - watch it on YouTube -

In addition to all the films and paper documentation, we also acquired some film handling equipment and many of his personal effects. I wound up with one of his cigarette lighters, from the famous El Morocco nightclub -

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Warner Bros. Cartoons Golden Jubilee at MOMA, 1985-86

The Museum of Modern Art celebrated Warner Bros. cartoons, from September 13, 1985 to January 31st, 1986. The show included not only a full screening series of the cartoons, but a gallery of original cels, and something special - drawings directly on the walls of the exhibit by Chuck Jones. As I believe the Museum did not take photographs of this gallery when it was up, and did not save them after the show closed, these pictures (even with some grainy shots and scratched negatives) may be the only record of these one-of-a-kind drawings by the animation master.

Gallery Entrance

In the gallery

Elmer Fudd

Henery Hawk drags Foghorn Leghorn

Speedy Gonzales scares Sylvester
Daffy in an ungrateful mood


Daffy (as Duck Dodgers), Porky (as Eager Young Space Cadet), and Marvin Martian

Yosemite Sam and Bugs

Sylvester Jr.


Wile E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner

Sylvester and Tweety

Pepe Le Pew

Panel discussion with (left to right) Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng, MOMA curator Adrienne Mancia, and Leonard Maltin

From A BEAR FOR PUNISHMENT (1951), I just know that she's saying, "But Henry..."

From WHAT'S OPERA, DOC? (1957)



Ready for the show's opening night

New York in Black and White in the 1980's, Part 2

Some more photos I took in the 1980s in New York.

TV in the trash. Love those old battered metal trashcans.

Ancient Pepsi Ad

The World Trade Center seen from Queens   

Ditmars Blvd. station, the last stop on the RR line in Astoria, Queens.

I've always wondered about these boards - are they holding the buildings up?

The famous Moondance Diner, on Sixth Avenue near Canal Street.

The FDR Drive

A foggy day in NY town.

USS Maine Memorial, with the Gulf and Western Building (now Trump International Hotel and Tower), Columbus Circle    

Subway light fixture

The RR train at Ditmars Blvd. stop

This is actually a reflection in a window. Note rooftop water tank.

Another reflection shot.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

New York in black in white in the 1980s

Some photos I took in New York in the 1980s.

Union Square Park undergoing renovations, 1985. The S. Klein department store, closed in 1975 and razed in 1987, in the left background.

USS Maine Monument, Columbus Circle, as seen from Central Park

Brooklyn Bridge, looked at Manhattan. Notice World Trade Center on the right.

The Air Line Diner, near La Guardia Airport. Seen in GOODFELLAS.

Queenboro Plaza station of the 7 train. On the left in the distance are the new Silvercup Studios sign and the Citicorp building

Don't know where this is
The FDR Drive, with the famous PepsiCo sign in Long Island City in the background

Mondale - Ferraro rally in Midtown, 1984, on 6th Avenue. "Reagan will raise taxes, too." - no wonder they lost!

The Age of Graffiti. The shadow outline in the back was all over town

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Canyon Crier

This post concerns not a documentary, but a document, dear readers.

I recently helped my friend Fritz clear out the Van Nuys home of his aunt, who had recently died. It seemed she threw nothing away, and there remained the physical evidence of over 50 years of her life in that house. Most of it was not worth saving, but there were gems among the trash. Ironically, the most important papers of the time, the legal documents of her lawyer father (Fritz's grandfather and namesake), were now worthless, but the "disposable" paper - product boxes, magazines, flyers, ads, and newspapers, are now gold to those interested in the history of the middle of the 20th Century.

I found a few copies of a local paper called The Canyon Crier, from late 1959 to early 1960.

The Crier served the communities of Whitley Heights, Outpost, Vine Crest, Beverly Glen, Sunset Plaza, Beverly Hills, Bel Air; Laurel, Benedict, Coldwater, Nichols, Beachwood and Bronson Canyons; Hollywood Knolls, Roscomare, Hollywood Manor, Cahuenga View, Toluca Lake and Briarcliff.

Though the actual articles tend to be of limited interest (zoning hearings, junior league tennis tournaments, rummage sales, etc.), there is plenty to attract the eye of the historically inclined. For example, Alan Watts is giving a lecture.

Notice that even the then he was heard on KPFK. We usual think that the turn toward Eastern spirituality in the U.S. happened much later in the 60s, but it's clear this trend had already begun - there's an ad for the Vedanta Temple in Hollywood on the same page as this announcement.

What's playing at the movies?

The ad gets it right: these are two British classics, playing at the Fox Lido, on Pico at La Cienega (which is long gone.)

Michael Todd's Smell-O-Vision spectacular, SCENT OF MYSTERY, at the Ritz (also long gone.)

At the Monica International Theater (also long gone - I sense a pattern here), the portmanteau ANATOMY OF LOVE and Russ Meyer's THE AMORAL MR. TEAS.

Happy that the Supreme Court saw fit to allow our forebears to watch LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER. Finally, a theater that still exists - the Vista!

Back to defunct theaters, the Oriental and the Pan Pacific. Satyajit's Ray's masterpiece, PATHER PANCHELLI [sic - PANCHALI] on the bottom of a double bill with Jules Dassin's HE WHO MUST DIE.

Reginald Denny, British born silent film star, later had success as a character actor in talkies. He served in the Royal Flying Corps in World War I, and opened a model plane shop in 1934. He and a partner  manufactured drones during World War II!

"Theme" and "ethnic" restaurants were popular. Visit the new Foreign Correspondents Room! (Stroll on over after seeing LOOK BACK IN ANGER - Pico and La Cienega was a happening spot).

Who knew that in 1960 Big Corporations had a sense of humor? Can you imagine an ad like this today?

Real estate prices were a little different then. Of course, so were salaries.