1994: The Year of Jim Carrey

140507b-jim-carrey-1994 (Yahoo Movies)
Credit: Yahoo Movies

Jim Carrey is synonymous with comedy. Over the last three decades, he has emerged as one of the biggest Hollywood stars of all time. His talent is matched by only a few and his unique style makes him standout among his contemporaries. In 1994, he achieved something no other actor had manage to do: Carrey had three films reach number one on the American box office. Not only was this his breakout year, but Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Mask and Dumb and Dumber are now considered classics of 1990s comedy.

Beginnings

Carrey Young (Pinterest)
Credit: Pinterest

Jim Carrey was born on January 17th, 1962, to a middle-class family in Ontario, Canada. He was an extrovert from the start, eager to perform for anyone who would watch. In school, each day teachers granted Carrey five minutes to impress staff and students. The compromise was he had to be quiet the rest of the time. Even at age ten he was confident enough to send a resume to the people at the comedy skit program The Carol Burnet Show (1967-1978) asking for work. He received a gentle rejection letter from the producers but was still very happy they wrote to him. Carrey’s parents supported him where they could. His father drove and picked him up from comedy clubs throughout his teens. Carrey dropped out of high school when he was sixteen years old.

jim-carrey-dangerfield (Celebrity Gossip)
Dangerfield and Carrey Credit: Celebrity Gossip

Carrey honed his craft at a Toronto comedy club called the Yuk Yuk’s. He was noted for having potential but still a lot to learn. Carrey continued to improve his unique style, but his impressions—celebrities such as Clint Eastwood and Elvis Presley—were already gaining attention. Legendary comic Rodney Dangerfield loved Carrey and asked him to come on the road to be his support act. Carry was thrilled with the experience but, after a year, decided to give Hollywood a shot in the early 1980s. The two remained good friends until Dangerfield’s passing in 2004. Carrey got small roles over the next few years, notably in Earth Girls Are Easy (1988) along side Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis and Damon Wayans. From 1990 to 1994, Carrey was a regular on In Living Color, a comedy variety show, and gained considerable exposure.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective

Ace (Weheartit)
Credit: We Heart It

The original character for Ace Ventura was a dopey idiot who was a Sherlock Holmes parody. When Carrey came on board, he rewrote a lot of the script to make Ventura more suited to himself. Some days Carrey spent anywhere from fifteen to sixteen hours on the set of In Living Color and then worked to the early hours of the morning on Ventura material. He received a credit for his screenplay contributions. Ventura’s iconic ‘alrighty then’ catchphrase was a saying Carrey had been using since his stand-up days.

Before Carrey was cast, producers considered Mike Myers, Alan Rickman, Rick Moranis and Johnny Depp for the role. At one point, they even thought about making the character a woman and naming her Alice Ventura. Whoopi Goldberg was their first choice.

Carrey found inspiration for the character’s movements and mannerisms in parakeets and cockatiels. Years later, he had the opportunity of asking Anthony Hopkins about his performance as Hannibal Lector in Silence of the Lambs (1991). Hopkins had used the same technique basing Lector on animals also, a reptile in his case.

Lector 01 (iMDB)
Hopkins as Lector Credit: iMDB

On a budget of $12 million (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation), Ace Ventura made nearly $200 million worldwide.

The Mask

Mask Face (Amazon)
Credit: Amazon

The Mask began its life as a comic in the early 1980s. It followed the adventures of Stanley Ipkiss who, after putting on the mask, becomes an anti-superhero seeking revenge. With Warner Bros.’ success with Batman (1989), New Line Cinema wanted to copy the formula and were looking for comic book material that could be turned into a movie. They bought the rights to The Mask. The project made its way through several director’s hands before ending up with Chuck Russell. The studio was unsure about Russell’s ideas because he wanted to drastically shift tone. The comic was very dark and violent in nature while the film would be a comedy with cartoon elements. Russell told screenwriter Mike Werb to write with Carrey in mind for the part. The Mask would also have to rely heavily on CG effects that hadn’t yet been invented. Production pushed forward with an $18 million budget.

Russell 01 (iMDB)
Chuck Russel Credit: iMDB

It took four hours to apply the green makeup to Carrey. The character’s bright yellow suit was inspired by an outfit Carrey wore in his early stand-up career. He also helped to save money on effects in post-production because he could contort and stretch his face and body so naturally. He performed comedy between takes to keep the cast and crew’s stress levels down.

Other actors considered to play the Mask include Steve Martin, Matthew Broderick and Martin Short.

The film was the most expensive for New Line Cinema to make at the time. It grossed over $350 million worldwide and turned Carrey into a superstar. For a period, it was also the second highest grossing comic book movie of all time. Number one being Batman.

Its sequel, Son of the Mask (2005), which did not involve Carrey or any of the original creatives, is considered one of the worst films of all time.

Dumb and Dumber

Carrey and Daniels (iMDB)
Carrey and Daniels Credit: iMDB

The Farrelly Brothers (Peter and Bobby) had been writing and shopping scripts around Hollywood for near ten years without luck. They decided to rework an idea that would become Dumb and Dumber. The two main characters of the film were named after silent film comedian Harry Lloyd. The Farrelly Brothers had no prior directing experience and winged it most days on set. They kept waiting for producers to send someone to replace them. The two are now some of the biggest comedy directors of modern Hollywood, with films like There’s Something About Mary (1998) and Me, Myself & Irene (2001).

Bobby and Peter (iMDB)
Bobby and Peter Farrelly Credit: iMDB

Carrey was making The Mask when the script was sent to him. He liked it but insisted on Jeff Daniels playing Harry. Daniels had been acting in serious dramas and his agent said the film would destroy his career. Dumb and Dumber is his most successful to date.

Carrey had chipped a tooth when he was young. He removed the cap during filming to make his character, Lloyd, appear more idiotic.

Part of the movie was shot in the Stanley Hotel, made famous by The Shining (1980). Carrey requested to stay in Room 217 that was said to be haunted. A couple of hours after going to bed, Carrey was seen by a tour guide running and screaming from the hotel. To this date, Carrey has never gone into details about the incident.

Dumb and Dumber made $250 million worldwide.

Later Years

Carrey’s career continued to prosper in comedies such as Liar Liar (1997) and Yes Man (2008). He has also appeared in serious roles in The Truman Show (1998) and Man on the Moon (1999). He received a Golden Globe nomination for Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004). He is an avid painter and has a private studio in New York.

Carrey 01 (iMDB)
Credit: iMDB

Sources:

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective – iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109040/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_45)

Dumb and Dumber – iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0109686/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_43)

Exploring The Mask – Video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG2teHAFmKI&list=PLU0Cu1gVmh2ea7rbs3QZPI8S8hbN-kg1y&index=12)

Jim Carrey Biography (https://www.biography.com/people/jim-carrey-9542079)

Jim Carrey – iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000120/)

The Mask – iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110475/?ref_=nm_flmg_act_44)

Undercover Indies: Why ‘Dumb and Dumber’ is Smarter (and More Indie) Than You Think (https://www.filmindependent.org/blog/undercover-indies-dumb-dumber-smarter-indie-think/)

Lights, Camera, Action…

Hello and welcome to Film Niche!

A website dedicated to the history of cinema, both past and present. The articles will focus mainly on movies but will delve into television from time to time.

If you have a topic you’d like explored, please feel free to send me an email.

All the best and have a great day.

Matt.

hollywood-sign-03
Credit: Photo Collection – Los Angeles Public Library

Irene Bedard and Pocahontas

irene-bedard (Rezinate)
Credit: Rezinate

Irene Bedard is one of the most famous and respected Native Americans working in Hollywood today. Her career spans nearly twenty-five years and ranges from acting to producing credits. She is probably best known as the voice behind the title character of Disney’s 1995 animation Pocahontas. The movie broke new ground for the studio but was also not received well for its representation of Native Americans and its historical inaccuracies. Bedard also heads a production company dedicated to “bringing positive, inspirational stories from Indian Country to the world”.

Born in Anchorage, Alaska, on July 22nd, 1967, Bedard had her film acting debut in the mid-1990s. Besides Pocahontas, she has featured in Lakota Woman: Siege at Wounded Knee (1994), Into the West (2005) and small parts in other films and television series. Bedard regularly plays Native American characters. She received a Golden Globe nomination in 1995. She reprised her Disney Princess in its direct-to-video sequel, Pocahontas 2: Journey to the New World (1998), and the character’s mother in The New World (2005). She was also the physical model for Pocahontas. In the early 2010s, she started the company Sleeping Lady Films Waking Giant Productions. It’s based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Grant, Michael Giaimo and Gabriel (Mike Gabriel Art)
Grant, Production Designer Michael Giaimo and Gabriel Credit: Mike Gabriel Art

Coming off The Rescuers Down Under (1990), director Mike Gabriel was looking for something completely different for his next film. He teamed up with legendary Disney story artist and character designer Joe Grant. Grant is responsible for a lot of the work on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940) and many other Disney classics. The duo worked on an outline to adapt Swan Lake for the big screen. It was rejected by Disney executives as they felt it had no story. Gabriel and Grant went looking for inspiration in old cowboy films and American folklore. At the next meeting, they produced a picture of the Peter Pan character Tiger Lily with the title ‘Walt Disney’s Pocahontas’ and the pitch ‘an Indian princess who is torn between her father’s wishes to destroy the English settlers and her wishes to help them—a girl caught between her father and her people, and her love for the enemy’ written on it. Executives were enthusiastic about the concept and Pocahontas was greenlit.

Tiger Lily (Disney Wiki)
Tiger Lily from Peter Pan (1953) Credit: Disney Wiki

Beauty and the Beast was nominated for Best Picture at the 1992 Academy Awards but lost to The Silence of the Lambs. Disney decided to take another shot for the award. Aladdin (1992) and The Lion King (1994) were too close to completion, but Pocahontas had everything they needed: an epic romance story. To make it Oscar worthy and more serious, the secondary animal characters were changed to non-speaking roles. Tom Sito was the film’s story supervisor. He decided to loosely base the story on past events and embrace myth. He felt this approach wouldn’t hinder creativity. Though this was the direction Pocahontas headed in, Disney wanted to keep everything as authentic as possible and hired Native American voice actors and elders. Once learning the film wasn’t following true history, Shirley “Little Dove” Custalow-McGowan—a decedent from the real Pocahontas’s tribe—left the project. She had served as a consultant.

Bedard learnt she was cast as Pocahontas while on the set of Lakota Woman.

irene_bedard_pochahontas (Sac-Con)
Pocahontas and Bedard Credit: Sac-Con

Pocahontas was in production for five years. It was the first Disney film to have an interracial relationship and the only Disney Princess, to date, based on a historical figure. It had a budget of $55 million (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation) and was released on the real Pocahontas’s 400th birthday. It debuted in Central Park, New York, on four 80-foot high screens to 100,000 people, making it the biggest premiere turnout of all time. It was also the first Disney movie censored. Its racial slurs were removed in post-production. The film wasn’t nominated for Best Picture but won the Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song, for ‘Colors of the Wind’.

Pocahontas and Tattoo (CinemaBlend)
Pocahontas singing ‘Colors of the Wind’ Credit: CinemaBlend

It had an average box office run and is noted as the beginning of the Disney Renaissance decline. The studio’s popularity wouldn’t return until the Revival era with Tangled (2010) and Frozen (2013). Pocahontas was heavily criticised by activists and scholars for its Native American representation and stereotyping.

The real Pocahontas shared similarities with her Disney counterpart but lived a vastly different life in other areas. She was born Amonute and her nickname was Pocahontas, meaning ‘Little Mischief’, ‘Playful One’ and ‘Ill-Behaved Child’. She was a member of the Pamunkey tribe and was really twelve years old—not in her early twenties as depicted in the film. Pocahontas and John Smith didn’t have a romantic relationship. She befriended him while he was being held captive. The two taught each other the basics of their languages. Pocahontas was pivotal in freeing Smith. Her story has been told from one generation to the next becoming the myth it is today. In her own strong, smart and independent way she became an ambassador and translator for both nations. While in England, she became very sick and died in 1617.

To this day, Pocahontas remains the only Disney Princess to have a visible tattoo and—besides Tiana from The Princess and the Frog (2009)—is the only one to be born in America. People still have mixed feelings about the film; some see it as groundbreaking for its time whilst many others, particularly among the Native American community, see it as deeply problematic. As for Bedard, she and her production company recently bought the rights to the classic Alaskan novel Two Old Women, by Velma Wallis, and are adapting it into a film. She currently resides in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

12th Annual NAMIC Vision Awards - Show
Credit: iMDB

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on June 20th, 2018. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

15 Things You Might Not Know About Pocahontas (http://mentalfloss.com/article/64841/15-things-you-might-not-know-about-pocahontas)

Irene Bedard – iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0065942/)

Native Actress Irene Bedard’s Film Company to Bring Classic Novel, “Two Old Women” to Big Screen (https://nativenewsonline.net/currents/native-actress-irene-bedards-film-company-to-bring-classic-novel-two-old-women-to-big-screen/)

Pocahontas – iMDB (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0114148/?ref_=nmbio_trv_4)

Pocahontas – The Disney Wiki (http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Pocahontas_(character))

Pocahontas (film) – The Disney Wiki (http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Pocahontas_(film))

The True Story of Pocahontas (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/true-story-pocahontas-180962649/)
Sleeping Lady Films, Waking Giant Productions  – Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/SleepingLadyFilms/about/?ref=page_internal)

The Story of Mad Max’s Interceptor

Max 01 (iMBD)
Credit: iMDB

Mad Max’s iconic black-on-black car has many in universe names: ‘Interceptor’, ‘the last of the V8s’ and ‘pursuit special’. It has appeared in some way in all four films, but the original car was only used in the first two. In the story line of the first movie, Mad Max (1979), the car was created to entice Max Rockatansky to stay with the police force. But after his wife and child are horrifically murdered by the Toecutter and his gang, Max steals the car to seek vengeance. The film Mad Max was part of the Australian New Wave cinema movement—a resurgence in popularity of Aussie movies across the world in the late 1970s—and was the brainchild of director George Miller and producer Byron Kennedy. These days the car is regarded as a famous and integral piece of Australian cinema history.

Kennedy Miller and Roger Savage (Mad Max Movies)
From Right: Kennedy, Miller and composer Roger Savage Credit: Mad Max Movies

Miller and Kennedy met during a short film course and the two became inseparable almost right away. They complimented each other perfectly: Miller the quiet, creative-type director and Kennedy as the opinionated, financially-minded producer. They collaborated on a short film, Violence in the Cinema, Part 1 (1971), together that was met with acclaim and controversy. After a couple of other small projects, the duo become more ambitious and wanted to tackle a feature film. Inspired by his years as an emergency room doctor, Miller came up with the rough idea that would become Mad Max. Miller, Kennedy and a handful of close others worked on a few drafts of the script before they shopped it around. In the end, the story decided on was set in a dystopian future, after a nuclear war, and featured a highway patrolman trying to survive. While the world and society were breaking down, fuel (‘guzzolene’) had become a rare commodity and road gangs were doing whatever it took to control it. The film entered pre-production in 1976.

Mad Max Poster
Original Mad Max (1979) Poster Credit: iMDB

Mad Max had a $350,000 budget, most of it raised by Miller and Kennedy (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation). It was the highest grossing film with the lowest budget of all time until it was surpassed by The Blair Witch Project (1999). $20,000 of the budget went to purchasing vehicles for the movie and an additional $5,000 to modifying them. The production crew attended a car auction in Frankston, Victoria, where they bought two ex-Police Ford Falcons and a repossessed 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT hardtop coupe. Destined to become the all-black Interceptor, the GT coupe’s original colour was polar white. Only six cars in the colour were produced in Australia. Originally a Ford Mustang was proposed for Max’s car. But when Murray Smith (the film’s mechanic) pointed out that parts wouldn’t be easy to come by, Miller and Kennedy decided to go with a locally manufactured car instead.

The GT coupe was sent to Graf-X to be spray painted and modified. Based on concepts by art director Jon Dowding, the company was told to make the car look evil. Some of the modifications included a custom-made front end, cut-down flares from a Holden A9X Torana and a fitted super charger. Miller wanted the super charger seen, so it was mounted a foot higher than usual. The modification work took three months to complete.

Max 02 (iMBD)
Mel Gibson played Mad Max Credit: iMDB

Mad Max opened on April 12 and was an instant success. It did surprisingly well all over the world and talk of a sequel began. As a token of good faith and acknowledgement of his hard work, Smith was given the Interceptor. He drove it around as his every day car until realising how expensive it was to run. Smith decided to sell it but no one was interested. When Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) was officially greenlit, Smith sold the Interceptor back to Miller and Kennedy for $7,500.

The car was again modified for the second film. Two large fuel tanks were installed in the boot, the lower section of the front was removed and the suspension was raised, making it easier to drive in an outback environment. The Interceptor was also made to look more weathered—the last couple of years in the Wasteland had been hell for Max. The producers bought a 1974 Ford Fairmont and made it into a duplicate. The Fairmont was used for wide shots while the original was used in close up and interior shots. The Fairmont was the car crashed and blown up in the film.

With the production of Mad Max 2 complete, the Interceptor was destined to be destroyed. Noting the significance of the car, the scrapper kept it. It changed owners a couple of times before ending up in the front of an Adelaide scrap yard. The Interceptor sat for three years, and was in bad shape, when Mad Max super fan Bob Fursenko discovered it. He bought the car and restored it for $25,000. He contacted Murray Smith to verify the car was genuine. Smith had engraved his initials under the interior door trim. It was the real thing.

Interceptor Scrap Yard 1-2 (The Mad Max Wiki)
The Interceptor rotting in a scrap yard Credit: The Mad Max Wiki

While at a German car expo in 1992, Cars of the Stars Motor Museum owner Peter Nelson heard that the Interceptor was for sale. It had been available for a while but had no buyers. Nelson purchased the car from Fursenko and it was shipped to him in the UK. In 2011, the Interceptor moved to the Miami Auto Museum in Florida. As of 2018, the car still resides there.

mad-max-v8-dezer-miami-1 (Deano in America)
The Interceptor on display at the Miami Auto Museum Credit: Deano in America

Miller spent many years contemplating a fourth Mad Max film. He wasn’t sure if it was right to continue the franchise after Kennedy was tragically killed in a helicopter accident in 1983. In the late 1990s, Miller came up with a premise that would eventually become Mad Max: Fury Road. The film was in ‘development hell’ for near fifteen years. Production was halted in 2004 after Broken Hill, NSW, experienced an abundance of rain. The location was too green to be used for the film’s desert setting. Miller moved between jobs—directing two Happy Feet films, among other projects—before Fury Road production began again in 2012. It was released in cinemas to critical acclaim in 2015.

Razor Cola (Fury Road Vehicles)
The Razor Cola Credit: iMDB

In the early 2000s, another Interceptor was built for Fury Road but stayed in storage for over a decade until it was needed. Miller always planned to have the car in the film, but never intended for it to be the same car. There are subtle differences between it and the original. The Fury Road Interceptor was destroyed early on in the story before being rebuilt, and stripped back to bare metal, by the film’s antagonists. It was rechristened as the Razor Cola. Four cars were made and used in the movie. A popular fan theory suggests that Max’s camel wagon, seen at the start of Beyond Thunderdome (1985), the franchise’s third film, is the Interceptor’s chassis reused after it was blown up. Miller is planning additional sequels, the first with the working title Mad Max: The Wasteland.

Max 04 (iMBD)
Interceptor and Max with the You Yangs granite ridges near Werribee, VIC Credit: iMDB

Sources:

Luke Buckmaster – Miller and Max (Book)

Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe 1973 “V8 Interceptor” (http://madmax.wikia.com/wiki/Ford_Falcon_XB_GT_Coupe_1973_%22V8_Interceptor%22)

Mad Max Interceptor, 30 years on… (https://www.motormag.com.au/features/0804/mad-max-interceptor-30-years-on)

The Real Story of the Mad Max XB GT Falcon (https://www.streetmachine.com.au/features/1505/the-real-story-of-the-mad-max-xb-gt)

There’s only one original Mad Max Interceptor and it’s not in Australia (https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2015/05/15/theres-only-one-original-mad-max-interceptor-and-its-not-in-australia/)

Louise Lovely: The First Australian to Make it in Hollywood

Lovely (Women Film Pioneers Project)
Credit: Women Film Pioneers Project

In the early 1900s, Australia had a well-established film industry while Hollywood was still in its infancy. Most early American silent films were made in New York by companies such as Biograph and Edison Productions. Hollywood began to be a popular production location in the early 1910s. It didn’t take long for it to become the world’s leading film capital. Australia had made the first feature-length film, The Story of the Kelly Gang, in 1906 but was soon lagging behind. Early Australian actors and actresses made the move across the ocean to try their luck in American movies. Louise Lovely was among the first to have a successful career. She appeared in a handful of films at home before gracing the silver screen alongside other big names of the silent era. She was frequently compared to Mary Pickford, the most famous and highest paid actress at the time. She was even considered a rival.

Lovely was born on the 28th February, 1895, in Paddington, a suburb close to Sydney’s CBD. Her parents were of Italian and Swiss descent. She was named Nellie Louise Carbasse. Lovely’s father is unknown; she was raised by her mother. Lovely was more fluent in French than English as a child. This helped her to get her first part, as Little Eva, in the stage play Uncle Tom’s Cabin at age nine. She was noticed by Nellie Stewart, a popular stage actress and singer of the era. In her teens, Lovely joined Stewart’s theatre company and travelled around Australia and New Zealand. The two became close and Stewart took Lovely under her wing. This is where she learnt about acting properly and honed her skills.

Lovely made her first films with the Australian Life Biograph Company. Between 1911 and 1912, she made a handful including One Hundred Years Ago, A Tale of the Australian Bush, A Daughter of Australia and The Ticket of Leave Man. By mid-1912, the Australian Life Biograph Company was bought by Universal Pictures Ltd. Universal was a local company and had no affiliation with the American production entity. Lovely made one film with them, The Wreck of the Dunbar. She was credited as Louise Carbasse on all her Australian movies.

Radio (National Portrait Gallery)
Lovely during a radio interview Credit: National Portrait Gallery

She moved to Hollywood with her husband, William Welch, in 1914. Welch was a comedian, writer and actor. Lovely was noticed by Carl Laemmle and he invited her to make a screen test. Laemmle was an influential producer during the silent era. On the strength of her screen test alone, Lovely was offered a contract with Universal Studios and she accepted. Laemmle was the one who coined her Hollywood screen name: Louise Lovely.

Lovely had a very successful career. She was one of Universal’s most popular stars. She appeared in films such as Father and the Boys (1915), Dolly’s Scoop (1916), Bobbie of the Ballet (1916), The Diamonds of Destiny (1917) and The Girl Who Wouldn’t Quit (1918).

Bobbie of the Ballet (iMDB)
Bobbie of the Ballet (1916) Poster Credit: iMDB

As her contract was coming to an end, Lovely received an offer to work in France by the production company Pathé Frères. She was excited by the idea and its increased pay. Universal wouldn’t match the price with Lovely’s new contract and threatened legal action if she used the name ‘Lovely’ in other productions. Apparently, they held the copyright. Lovely refused to sign the contract and was blacklisted. Over the next year, she acted in a handful of independent films until being picked up by Fox Film Corporation. She appeared in some well received movies—such as The Last of the Duanes and Wings of the Morning—but her career never recovered. Lovely and Welch returned to Australia in 1924.

Johnny-on-the-Spot (1919) (iMDB)
Lovely in Jonny-on-the-Spot (1919) Credit: iMDB

Lovely and her husband toured the country with their A Day at the Studio show. They travelled to small country towns and set up a make-shift film studio in the local theatre. The show included a real motion picture camera and professional lighting. They filmed people and then screened the footage the following week. In an entertaining way, the show explained to an audience how a film set operated. It relied heavily on the ‘magic of the movies’ craze and also doubled as a talent search.

While touring Hobart, Lovely was visited by author Marie Bjelke Petersen. She hoped Lovely would adapt her novel Jewelled Nights into a movie. Lovely was intrigued by the idea and bought the rights. She formed Louise Lovely Productions with Welch and raised most of the budget herself. Filming began six days before the company was legally allowed to operate. All outside locations for Jewelled Nights were filmed near Waratah, Tasmania. The area was hot and dangerous. Lovely killed five snakes during the four week schedule. The rest of the filming took place on sound stages in Melbourne. The production was supposed to last four months but took nine. It also ran over budget. Lovely was responsible for producing, acting, editing, co-directing and co-writing. Besides her star billing, she received no other credits.

Jewelled Nights debuted in Hobart. The event included the then Tasmanian Premier, Attorney General and Petersen as special guests. Audience reaction for the film was positive but the opposite with critics. It faded from Australian cinemas and didn’t recoup its budget. Rumours have it that Jewelled Nights was shown as far as New Zealand but never made it to America. In 1927, Lovely stressed to the Royal Commission that Australia needed a better distribution system for local content or the market would be dominated by import films. She blamed this as part of her film’s failure at the box office. They rejected Lovely’s suggestion.

Lovely and Dog in Jewlled Nights (National Portrait Gallery)
Lovely in Jewelled Nights (1925) Credit: National Portrait Gallery

Lovely left the film industry disillusioned by the experience. She had made near 50 films during her career. Her marriage with Welch also broke down and ended in divorce. She remarried and stayed in Tasmania. In 1946, Lovely and her second husband bought the Prince of Wales theatre in Hobart. She was manager until her death on the March 18th, 1980. Locals affectionately remember her as the little old lady who ran the theatre’s lolly shop. No footage exists of Jewelled Nights except two minutes of footage, which is believed to be out takes. In 2000, The Australian Film Institute named their equivalent of the Academy Awards after her.

Louise Lovely Autograph (Star Struck)
Lovely publicity photo with autograph Credit: Star Struck

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on April 12th, 2018. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

Lovely, Louise Nellie (1895–1980) (http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lovely-louise-nellie-7248)

Louise Lovely: The silent film star who tried to bring Hollywood to Tasmania (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-09-10/remembering-louise-lovely-silent-film-star/8875284)

Louise Lovely – Women Film Pioneers Project (https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-louise-lovely/)

Louise Lovely – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0522593/)

The remarkable life and times, house and garden of Hollywood silent screen star, Louise Lovely. (http://www.abc.net.au/radio/hobart/programs/statewideweekends/lovely-final/8867522)

Jewelled Nights: ‘Can Good Movies Be Made in Australia?’ (http://sensesofcinema.com/2012/tasmania-and-the-cinema/jewelled-nights-can-good-movies-be-made-in-australia-1/)

Louise Lovely – Australian Silent Film Festival (http://www.ozsilentfilmfestival.com.au/fame/indexfda0.html?IntCatId=35&IntContId=58)

The First Openly Gay Character in an American Drama Series

cruz_wilson_my_so_called_life_43689l (Stade Side Stiles)
Credit: statesidestills

In the mid-1990s, the TV drama series My So-Called Life lasted one season. During the shows run, it was critically acclaimed and praised for its social commentary. It not only launched the careers of Claire Danes (Romeo + Juliet and Homeland) and Jared Leto (The Joker in Suicide Squad and the lead singer of the band 30 Second to Mars), the series featured a quiet, out of place individual named Enrique Vasquez. Enrique, or Rickie as he is preferred to be called, was played by Wilson Cruz and was the first openly gay character on an American network program.

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Angela (Danes) and Catalano (Leto) Credit: Scroll In

My-So Called Life was created by Winnie Holzman. She is best known as a writer and producer for Thirtysomething (1987–1991), Once and Again (1999–2002) and Roadies (2016). Holzman also wrote the book that inspired the hit Broadway musical Wicked. She was nominated for a Tony Award in 2004 for the novel. She wanted My So-Called Life to standout from other teenage dramas of the time. She was not afraid to have real and flawed characters in situations the audience could relate to. When pitching Rickie to ABC Productions, she was surprised they had no issues with him being gay but questioned his feminine traits. Rickie shied away from violence and was happier hanging out with his close friends Angela Chase (Danes) and Rayanne Graff (A. J. Langer). The network worried about the amount of makeup the character applied and his fashion sense. Rickie’s look was inspired by Prince, Michael Jackson and Lenny Kravitz. Cruz related to the character so much that he auditioned with colourful hair, a rainbow-striped shirt and red jeans on. Holzman stood her ground and the network reluctantly allowed Rickie to remain the way he was envisioned.

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Holzman and Danes Credit: Dig Boston

Wilson Cruz was born on December 27, 1973, in Brooklyn, New York. He had been acting since plays in school, but My So-Called Life was the first pilot he auditioned for. Like Rickie, Cruz is also gay and he was naturally drawn to the character. In his audition, he said to casting director Mary Goldman that the character was very important and wished he had such a role model on television when he grew up in the 1980s. Cruz’s performance made an impression. In his second and third auditions, Cruz’s audience grew to include Holzman, producers and network executives. He felt the pressure. Cruz made a pack with himself that he would come out to his family if he got the part. He was cast and told his mother first. She quickly warmed up to the notion of her son being gay, but his father was another story. Cruz was kicked out of the house and the two stopped talking. He slept on friend’s couches until filming began. After My So-Called Life, Cruz has been a strong activist for LGBT rights and equality. He has worked extensively with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

Rayanne and Rickie (Pinterest)
Rayanne (Langer) and Rickie (Cruz) Credit: Pinterest

The episode ‘So-Called Angels’ opens with Rickie crying, coughing up blood with a bruised face in a dark, cold and ominous street. It’s close to Christmas and Rickie stumbles along with nowhere to go. The next day at school he meets with friends Angela and Rayanne, pretends nothing is wrong and heads to class. The two talk—subconsciously knowing Rickie is a victim of domestic violence—Rayanne prefers to leave the issue alone but Angela wants to help. Rayanne has witnessed this happen to Rickie before and knows he doesn’t want to acknowledge the problem. Later that night, Rickie shows up at Angela’s house desperate. He is hungrily eating left over food when Angela’s parents arrive home. They talk to her in private about Rickie and he slips out into the night. He doesn’t want to be a burden. Rickie eventually finds himself in an abandoned warehouse with other runaway youths. It takes Angela along time to find him. In later episodes, he briefly lives with Angela and her family before staying with close friend, mentor and teacher Mr. Katimski (Jeff Perry). Katimski too is gay and knows how hard it can be growing up.

Jeff Perry (IMDb)
Mr. Katimski (Perry) Credit: IMDb

The storyline paralleled Cruz’s own life. Like Rickie, when he told his father that he was gay, he was thrown out of the house and had nowhere to go. The two stopped talking and this affected Cruz greatly. Little did he know, when My So-Called Life started airing, Cruz’s father secretly watched the show. Within an hour of the ‘So-Called Angels’ broadcast, he had called his son and they were having a deep heart-to-heart conversation. Cruz thanks the show for strengthening their relationship. Cruz and Holzman are not sure how Rickie’s storyline came about. She doesn’t remember where the inspiration came from and he doesn’t remember talking about his private life at the time.

Behind the Scenes (Pinterest)
Behind the scenes: Danes, Cruz and Langer
Credit: Pinterest

Cruz is also especially fond of the fan feedback he has experienced over the years. Many have told him how much Rickie helped them to tell family and friends they were gay. In one special case, Cruz received a letter from a fan who lived in the Midwest of America. He considered hurting himself but seeing Rickie on television showed him that he was not alone. The handwritten letter was tear–stained and Cruz still has it today.

My So-Called Life was cancelled after nineteen episodes, three further episodes never being made. Rumours were that Claire Danes had to leave the show because of her budding film career. Cruz continued to act and has had parts in Ally McBeal, Party of Five, The West Wing, NCIS and Grey’s Anatomy. He recently gained a recurring role on Star Trek: Discovery as Dr. Hugh Culber. His character is in a relationship with Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) and they are the first gay couple in the franchise’s history.

Culber and Stamets (Out Magazine)
Culber (Cruz) and Stamets (Rapp) Credit: Out Magazine

Sources:

Actor and Activist Wilson Cruz Joins GLAAD Staff (https://www.glaad.org/blog/actor-and-activist-wilson-cruz-joins-glaad-staff)

Claire Danes – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000132/?ref_=nv_sr_3)

Finding My So-Called Queer Identity in My So-Called Life

(http://time.com/3160995/my-so-called-life-20th-anniversary/)

How Wilson Cruz’s Coming Out Story Mirrored His My So-Called Life Character’s — and His Advice for Gay Youth (http://people.com/tv/wilson-cruz-national-coming-out-day/)

Jared Leto – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001467/?ref_=nv_sr_1)

‘My So-Called Life’ Creator Winnie Holzman on Boys Wearing Eyeliner (http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/my-so-called-life-creator-winnie-holzman-rickie-vasquez-1201570756/)

My So-Called Life – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108872/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1)

My So-Called Life’s Wilson Cruz on Rickie Fans, LBGT Awareness, and ’90s Fashion (http://www.vulture.com/2014/09/wilson-cruz-my-so-called-life-1994-1995.html)

My So-Called Life Wiki (http://mysocalledlife.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page)

Wilson Cruz – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0190497/?ref_=tt_cl_t2)

Winnie Holzman – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0392848/?ref_=tt_ov_wr)

My So-Called Life (1994-1995): ‘So-Called Angels’ (Episode)

Hattie McDaniel and Gone with the Wind

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Credit: Famous People

1939 is regarded as one of the greatest years in Hollywood’s history. Some classic films released include The Wizard of Oz, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Of Mice and Men, Wuthering Heights and Gone with the Wind. Based on the novel by Margret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind follows the relationship of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) and Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) during the American Civil War. The film would go on to break many box office records and win countless awards, including the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Hattie McDaniel. This is special because it was the first Oscar won by a black American.

Hattie McDaniel was born on June 10, 1895. She was the thirteenth child born to Henry McDaniel and Susan Holbert. Her father fought in the Civil War and had major psychological issues later in life, while McDaniel’s mother was a domestic worker. McDaniel was born in Wichita, Kansas, before moving with her family to Denver, Colorado, when she was five. In school she was naturally drawn to music and performance. Even in a school of only two black students, McDaniel’s natural talent gained her classmates’ admiration. Close to the end of her studies, she dropped out of school in favour of pursuing a performance career.

McDaniel travelled with vaudeville acts on the road for a number of years. She gained a reputation for her singing and dancing and was nicknamed “Hi-Hat-Hattie.” She wrote and performed her own Blues songs. In 1930, McDaniel’s siblings, Sam and Etta, invited her to come to Hollywood. They had had minor success getting small parts in films. McDaniel packed her bags and followed suit. By the late 1920s, McDaniel also had a string of successful radio work, most notably The Optimistic Donuts.

Arriving in California, McDaniel took up residence in a middle-class black American area of Los Angeles affectionately known as “Sugar Hill”. She appeared in popular movies, such as Judge Priest (1934) and Show Boat (1936), but still had to keep a second job in order to support herself and her family. Auditioning alongside fellow black American actresses Louise Beavers, Etta McDaniel, Ruby Dandridge and Hattie Noel, McDaniel was cast in the biggest role of her career as Mammy in Gone with the Wind.

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Vivien Leigh and McDaniel in Gone with the Wind Credit: Tribute.Ca

McDaniel was so determined to get the part that she dressed in full costume when meeting with producer David O. Selznick for the first time. McDaniel made an impression. Mammy was the O’Hara family’s maid and helped raise and look after Scarlett from a child. Mammy was originally bought as a slave by Scarlett’s grandmother, but the character was a cherished member of the family.

Clark Gable played a joke on the set. In the scene where they toast to the safe arrival of baby Bonnie, Gable put real brandy in McDaniel’s glass without her knowing. The two were good friends. Learning that the black American cast members were banned from the film’s Atlanta premier, Gable wanted to boycott the entire event. Atlanta was still a racially segregated state in 1939. McDaniel convinced Gable to attend. She was absent.

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McDaniel and Gable in Gone with the Wind Credit: A Tripe Down Memory Lane

Gone with the Wind was nominated for thirteen categories at the 12th Academy Awards. The film won eight, including Best Picture and Best Director for Victor Fleming. That same year Fleming also directed The Wizard of Oz. McDaniel’s award was presented to her by actress Fay Bainter and she gave a short acceptance speech. She was the first black American to attend the ceremony as a guest and not a servant. As of 2018, McDaniel is one of only six black American women to win an Oscar. In 1964, Sidney Poitier became the second black American to win an Academy Award.

Opinion of Gone with the Wind was divided among the black community. Some felt Mammy was yet another stereotyped, black maid, while others saw her as a ground breaking, witty and resourceful character. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) criticized McDaniel publicly for her continued portrayal of maid characters. In response, she said “I’d rather play a maid than be one.” McDaniel was proud of her work and felt she was a role model for future generations of black Americans. If any black actors were struggling in Hollywood, and needed a place to stay, she would happily open her doors to them every time.

After Gone with the Wind, McDaniel enjoyed a brief stint of successful work. She had parts in The Great Lie (1941) and Disney’s controversial Song of the South (1946). McDaniel also entertained soldiers during World War II and promoted war bonds. By the mid-1940s, her career was slowing down and she focused more on radio work. She sadly passed away from Breast Cancer on October 26, 1952. McDaniel continued to work until her final days.

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McDaniel accepting her Oscar from Fay Bainter Credit: Hollywood Reporter

McDaniel loaned her Oscar to Howard University but it went missing during the Race Riots of the 1960s. It hasn’t been seen in the years since. She has two stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Black Film Makers Hall of Fame in 1975. As part of the Black Heritage series, McDaniel’s likeness was featured on a stamp in 2006. Producers Aaron Magnani and Alysia Allen purchased the rights to Jill Watt’s book, Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood. They plan to make a McDaniel biopic film in the near future.

hattie-mcdaniel-1 (Black Doctor)
Credit: Black Doctor

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on February 14th, 2018. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

Get Ready For A Biopic About Hattie McDaniel, The First Black Oscar Winner (http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/entry/hattie-mcdaniel-biopic_us_5a57a204e4b068abc338babd)

Gone With the Wind – iMDB (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0031381/?ref_=nv_sr_1)

Hattie McDaniel – Biography.com (https://www.biography.com/people/hattie-mcdaniel-38433)

Hattie McDaniel – iMDB (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0567408/?ref_=tt_cl_t8)

Hattie McDaniel winning Best Supporting Actress (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7t4pTNZshA)

Rides: Terminator 2 3-D: Battle Across Time

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Credit: iMDB

Terminator 2: 3D – Battle Across Time was a theme park attraction at Universal Studios Florida and Hollywood. As of 2018, the ride now only operates at Universal Studios Japan. James Cameron – director of the first two Terminator films – played a big part in its creation. The principle cast returned: Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, Edward Furlong as John Connor and Robert Patrick as the T-1000. The ride featured a mixture of live actors and 3-D film interaction.

The Production

In the early 1990s, designers from The Goddard Group and producers from Universal Studios met to come up with concepts for a Terminator attraction. The Goddard Group had previous success for Universal with rides such as The Adventures of Conan and Jurassic Park: The Ride, as well as other theme park attractions around the world. CEO Gary Goddard loved Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) so much when it came out that he took his entire staff to see it in the cinema. They took up an entire row of seats. He was very excited to work on the T2: 3-D project. Extensive brainstorming and storyboarding were completed before anything was proposed to Cameron.

Goddard (James Cameron Online)
Cameron, Goddard and Schwarzenegger
Credit: James Cameron Online

The director was unsure of the idea and was convinced he would be telling both companies “no” on his way to the meeting. He was very impressed with what Goddard and the rest had come up with and, not only had a few things to add, wanted to direct.

The budget for T2: 3D has been estimated at over $60 million USD ($24 million USD for the film alone). This makes it one of the most expensive theme park attractions of all time. The “near future” battle ground scenes were shot at night in the Arizona Desert and took three weeks to complete. New 3-D camera technology was invented to meet the requirements of the production. In one extreme close up shot, Schwarzenegger unintentionally damaged part of a $40,000 USD camera beam splitter with his shotgun prop. The film crew had to cut retakes short because of the incident.

T2 Theatre (The Studio Tour)
T2: 3-D Theatre Credit: The Studio Tour

While filming continued, a custom-built theatre was made at Universal Studios Florida. It featured three 15 meter wide screens, 66 speaker locations, as well as secret panels, sliding walls and hydraulic lifts that would work in sync with the film throughout the show. In post-production, editors continually tweaked the film to seamlessly match the movement of actors and stunt people. A full-size replica of the theatre was constructed in an abandoned airplane hangar where the live action choreography was rehearsed.

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Stan Winston Credit: Wookipedia

Special effects, animatronics and puppetry fell to Stan Winston. Cameron and Winston had previously worked together on both Terminator films, as well as Aliens (1986). Winston’s other credits include Predator (1987), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), Jurassic Park (1993), Iron Man (2008) and many other movies. He won academy awards for Aliens and Jurassic Park. Sadly, he passed away in 2008 from cancer.

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T-70 Credit: Hollywood Hardware

 Showtime…

After the audience are ushered to their seats, the show begins with a Cyberdyne Systems representative taking the stage and welcoming everyone. A brief video is played that highlights the company’s upcoming technological marvels, including a group of T-70s (a crude and simplistic precursor Terminator to Schwarzenegger’s T-800 model). The machines show off their capabilities before Sarah and John Connor highjack the video feed. They tell people to evacuate the building as they are about to blow it up. The T-1000 enters via a time portal and is followed shortly after by The Terminator on a motorcycle. The T-1000 chases The Terminator and John back through the time vortex to the 2029 battle grounds of the human and machine war. The Terminator and John evade the T-1000, Hunter Killers and Mini Hunters before infiltrating the Skynet complex. They fight the T-1000000 – a completely computer-generated chrome spider-like creature – before blowing everything up and winning the war. John is returned to the present day.

T-1000000 (Terminator Wiki)
T-1000000 Credit: Terminator Wiki

Legacy

T2 3-D opened at Universal Studios Florida on the 27th of April 1996. It received 5.1 million visitors during its first year of operation. A second attraction was opened at Universal Studios Hollywood in 1999, and a third in Japan in 2001. The attractions have been a great success, but the Hollywood ride was closed in 2012 and the Florida one in 2017. The ride at Universal Studios Japan is still going. With the release of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003, T2: 3-D is no longer considered Terminator canon.

T2a (iMDB)
Credit: iMDB

Sources:

Stan Winston – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0935644/?ref_=nv_sr_1)

T2 3-D: Battle Across Time – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117880/)

T2 3-D: Battle Across Time – Terminator Wiki (http://terminator.wikia.com/wiki/T2_3-D:_Battle_Across_Time)

T2 3D: Battle Across Time – The Story Behind the Theme Park Extravaganza at Universal Studios (https://www.flickeringmyth.com/2012/12/t2-3d-battle-across-time-story-behind/)

The Making of T2: 3-D: Breaking the Screen Barrier (Documentary, 2000)

Lillian Gish: The First Lady of American Cinema

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Credit: Los Angeles Times

Lillian Gish was one of the most influential and famous actors in Hollywood’s history. Her first film was in 1912 and a career spanning seventy-five years followed. Gish’s partnership with pioneering director D. W. Griffith is regarded as one of the greatest collaborative relationships of all time. Some of their films include Way Down East (1920), Intolerance (1916), Broken Blossoms (1919) and the controversial, and highest grossing film of the silent era, The Birth of a Nation (1915). Not only having a successful acting career, Gish was also a writer, director and producer. She received an honorary Academy Award in 1971. As the years passed, the media dubbed Gish “The First Lady of American Cinema.”

Lillian Diana Gish was born on the 14th of October, 1893, in Springfield, Ohio. Her father left when she was young. Running low on money and with nowhere else to turn, Gish’s mother, Mary, and her daughters joined a group of traveling actors. Gish and her sister, Dorothy, made their stage debuts in 1902. They proved to be extremely popular in melodramas, making $10 a week for their efforts. (No figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation.) The three women travelled all over America, taking any roles they could and saving every cent possible. It was during this period Gish met future silent screen legend Mary Pickford and the two became lifelong friends.

In 1912, Gish and Dorothy appeared before a camera for the first time in An Unseen Enemy. Pickford had previously introduced Griffith to the sisters and he decided to give them a go. On set, Griffith thought the two women were twins and found it hard to distinguish them apart at a distance. He gave them different coloured hair ribbons; blue for Gish and red for Dorothy. Griffith very much enjoyed working with the two, especially Gish. He cast them often in his one- and two-reel shorts. Gish appeared in near forty silent shorts between 1912 and 1914. She received universal acclaim for her performance as The Young Wife in The Mothering Heart (1913).

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Dorothy and Gish in An Unseen Enemy (1912) Credit: Movies Silently

As silent films became more sophisticated and had longer run times, Gish starred in many of Griffith’s signature feature films. In 1915, she was cast as Elise Stoneman in The Birth of a Nation. The film was a critical success, but drew a lot of controversy for its negative depictions of African-Americans. It had white people dressed up in blackface. Gish stayed clear from commenting on the issues, but always defended that it was never Griffith’s intention to be racist.

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Dorothy, Griffith and Gish Credit: Library of Congress

In the climax of Way Down East, Gish, Griffith and the film crew shot on a real frozen river during a blizzard. Gish had to dangle her hand and hair in freezing cold water for hours at a time. She never once complained and crew members noticed how dedicated to the role she was. Though the scene is now regarded as one of the greatest in Hollywood’s history, Gish would experience health concerns for the rest of her life. She lost partial feeling in her hand. Gish’s last film with Griffith was Orphans of the Storm in 1922.

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Gish on the ice in Way Down East (1920) Credit: Pinterest

Gish directed her first and only movie in 1920. The film, Remodelling Her Husband, starred her sister Dorothy. With no known footage existing today, it is now considered a lost film. Around this period, Gish supervised the construction of a new film studio for Griffith too.

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Photoplay Magazine (December, 1921) Credit: Famous Fix

In 1924, Gish signed a $800,000 picture deal with MGM. This made her one of the highest paid and sought after actors in Hollywood at the time. Under MGM, Gish appeared in classics such as The Scarlet Letter (1926) and The Wind (1928). She made her “talkie” film debut in One Romantic Night in 1930.

By the early 1930s, Gish and MGM’s relationship had broken down and they parted ways. She returned to the theatre and focused her attention there. Gish also had her radio debut in the early 1930s. She scarcely acted in films during this period. In 1948, Gish appeared on television for the first time. She was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Duel in the Sun (1946). Gish also received critical praise for The Night of the Hunter (1955).

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Gish accepting her Oscar in 1971
Credit: University of California

Gish was active in films throughout the 1960s to 1980s. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960. As part of the pre-production for the western The Unforgiven (1960), director John Huston and star Bert Lancaster intended to teach Gish how to shoot. They were shocked to discover she already knew and was quicker and more accurate than them both.

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Gish and Davis in The Whales of August (1987)
Credit: IMDb

In 1987, Gish starred along side Bette Davis in The Whales of August. At 93-years-old, this made Gish the oldest actress ever to star in a leading role. She passed away peacefully in her sleep on February 27, 1993. Every year on Gish’s birthday, the Museum of Modern Art, in New York, show at least one of her films as a tribute.

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Credit: IMDb

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on December 6th, 2017. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

50 Facts About Lillian Gish – The First Lady of American Cinema (http://www.boomsbeat.com/articles/105983/20160119/50-facts-lillian-gish-first-lady-american-cinema.htm)

Charles Affron – Lillian Gish: Her Legend, Her Life (Book)

Lillian Gish, 99, a Movie Star Since Movies Began, is Dead (http://www.nytimes.com/1993/03/01/movies/lillian-gish-99-a-movie-star-since-movies-began-is-dead.html?pagewanted=all)

Lillian Gish – Encyclopaedia Britannica (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lillian-Gish)

Lillian Gish – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001273/)

Lillian Gish: The Actor’s Life for Me (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/lillian-gish-about-lillian-gish/614/)

Lillian Gish – Women Film Pioneers Project (https://wfpp.cdrs.columbia.edu/pioneer/ccp-lillian-gish/)

The Official Website of Lillian Gish (https://www.lilliangish.com/)

Stella Adler on Method Acting

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Credit: The Famous People

A big influence on the modern Hollywood acting style comes from Stella Adler. She had done away with the earlier big gestures used in silent film acting, such as an actor placing both hands on their heart to indicate sorrow. She bridged the gap between early twentieth-century Russian theatre and what was becoming popular in film at the time. Adler drew from the imagination rather than personal experience. She had a name in American theatre, appeared in a handful of films and has taught some of the greatest actors of all time. She was known for her harsh, but fair analysis of student’s skills. Some included Marlon Brando and James Dean. Even after her passing, the likes of Mark Ruffalo and Angelina Jolie have studied at her acting schools.

Stella Adler was born on the 10th of February, 1901. Her father, Jacob P. Adler, was a famous actor on the Yiddish Theatre circuit. She was only four-years-old when he had her star in one of his productions, Broken Hearts. Adler had no formal acting training, but instead learnt from her father and by watching others. By her late-teens, she had been in over one hundred plays either in the Yiddish Theatre or as part of a vaudeville act. Adler’s performances took her all over the United States, Europe and South America.

In 1931, she was invited to join the Group Theatre in New York City. Adler accepted the offer but never felt fully welcome. Many agree this is where she achieved her best work as Sarah Grassman in Success Story, Adah Menken in Gold Eagle Guy, Bessie Berger in Awake and Sing and Clara in Paradise Lost. The Group Theatre was formed by Harold Clurman, Cheryl Crawford and Lee Strasberg; themselves experimental actors focusing on cutting edge techniques and deeply influenced by Russian theorist Konstantin Stanislavski. Adler and Strasberg frequently clashed over the interpretation of Stanislavski’s work.

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Credit: Stella Adler: A Life in Art

Having a break, Adler headed to Europe in 1934. On a chance encounter in Paris, she met Stanislavski and was not only able to speak with him, but was instructed and taught by him for the next five weeks. Stanislavski was born in Moscow in 1863, was an actor himself and brought new psychological and emotional aspects to the craft. His theories were big in the United States in the 1930s. Adler was the first and only American to study directly under him. Returning home with new insight, Adler and Strasberg still couldn’t find a common ground so she decided to leave the Group Theatre.

In 1937, Adler gave Hollywood a shot. She appeared in three films: Love on Toast (1937), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) and My Girl Tisa (1948). Adler spent six years as an associate producer at MGM. She taught acting at the New School for Social Research around this time. Adler also directed commercial theatre in the 1940s and 1950s.

The Stella Adler School of Acting first opened its doors in New York in 1949. She could finally teach acting her own way. Where Lee Strasberg highlighted an actor’s need to draw upon personal experience to envision a character, Adler focused and honed the imagination. She was against the idea of using past traumas as a way to achieve an emotion, especially a negative one. In her own words: “drawing on emotions I experienced – for example, when my mother died – to create a role is sick and schizophrenic, I don’t want to do that.” Adler instead focused on spiritual realism, emotional memory, dramatic and self-analysis, and disciplined practise. Adler received critical acclaim for her work with Marlon Brando and his performance in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). He was nominated for Best Actor at the 1952 Academy Awards.

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Credit: Los Angeles Times

Today, Adler’s school is known as the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. It is a not-for-profit organisation; an LA branch opened in 1984. Both run weekly acting classes. Some actors to come through Adler’s schools include Robert De Niro, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe, Al Pacino, Alec Baldwin, Dustin Hoffman, Salma Hayek, Steve Buscemi and Scarlett Johansson.

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Credit: John Kehoe Bookseller

Adler officially retired from acting in 1961. In the later part of the decade, Adler juggled her time between her acting school and teaching at Yale University’s School of Drama. She was head of drama at New York University in the 1980s. Adler released a book in 1988, The Technique of Acting. The book is still widely taught and referenced. She continued to teach until her death from a heart attack on December 21, 1992.

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Credit: Pinterest

This article was originally posted on The Sydney Feminists Blogspot on November 21st, 2017. (http://thesydneyfeminists.blogspot.com.au)

Sources:

8 Acting Techniques (and the Stars Who Swear by Them) (https://www.backstage.com/advice-for-actors/resources/8-acting-techniques-and-stars-who-swear-them/)

Encyclopaedia Britannica – Stella Adler (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Stella-Adler)

PBS – American Masters (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/stella-adler-about-stella-adler/526/)

Stella Adler Biography (https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/stella-adler-5150.php)

Stella Adler – IMDb (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0012245/bio)

Stella Adler Los Angeles (http://www.stellaadler.la/)

Stella Adler Studio of Acting (http://www.stellaadler.com/)

Filming Locations: Vasquez Rocks

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The Vasquez Rocks Credit: Roadtrippers

The Vasquez Rocks are one of the most iconic filming locations in American cinema history. It has been used as a backdrop in movies since the late silent era and is still prominently seen in modern films and television series. The Vasquez Rocks have been featured in Dracula (1931), The Texas Ranger (1931), The Girl and the Bandit (1939), Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993-1995) and Star Trek (1966-1969), among many others. The rock formation is located close to the town of Agua Dulce and is about a forty-five minute drive from central Hollywood. It is believed the Rocks was formed approximately 25 million years ago when the tectonic plates along the San Andreas Fault line pushed together. The Vasquez Rocks are near 45 meters tall, at their highest point, and cover an area just under four kilometres square.

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Power Ranger Command Centre
Credit: Blogspot

The Rocks take their name from notorious outlaw Tiburcio Vasquez (1835-1875). The earliest known group of people to occupy the Vasquez Rocks region were the Chumash Native American Indians in 450AD. Their descendants, the Tataviam, later lived in the area. But it wasn’t until Tiburcio used the Rocks as a hideout in 1873 and 1874 that it would later gain fame. Before Tiburcio’s time, the area was known to locals as simply “The Rocks”. Born Jose Jesus Lopez, Tiburcio entered a life of crime at an early age. He was in and out of prison throughout his youth. On August 13, 1873, he and a gang robbed the general store in Tres Pino and killed three people in the process, including one marshal. A bounty was issued for his capture: $8,000 alive or $6,000 dead (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation). For the following two years, Tuburcio and his gang used the Vasquez Rocks to elude law enforcement. Eventually Tuburcio was captured and brought to justice. He was somewhat of a celebrity leading up to his hanging on March 19, 1875. While in custody, Tuburcio signed autographs and was considered charming by anyone who met him. He was played by Anthony Curio in an episode of Stories of the Century (1954-1955).

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Tiburcio Vasquez Credit: San Francisco Chronicle

In 1910, entrepreneur Henry Krieg recognised the location’s uniqueness and invested in turning it into a tourist destination. Krieg’s family still reside in the area.

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Title Card from 1952 Credit: The Agua Dulce History Project

As of today, over 200 movies and television series have been filmed at the Vasquez Rocks. The site’s harsh and rural landscape was extremely popular in B-Westerns during the 1940s and 1950s. The Rocks can be seen in the backgrounds of Golden Trail (1940), Along the Oregon Trail (1947) and Shotgun (1955). Television companies began to utilise the area’s close proximity to Hollywood when they became regular productions in the 1950s. Some shows include The Lone Ranger (1949-1957), Gunsmoke (1955-1975), Bonanza (1959-1973) and The Big Valley (1965-1969). The Vasquez Rocks have been used as alien worlds in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979-1981), the original Battlestar Galactica (1979-1980) and four series and three movies of Star Trek.

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Captain Kirk and the Gorn fight  Credit: Los Angeles Times

In the Star Trek first season episode “Arena”, Captain Kirk is transported to the surface of a remote asteroid – by an alien intelligence – where he must fight a Gorn commander to the death. Using local materials, Kirk forms a crude weapon and overpowers the lizard. At the final moment when Kirk can kill the Gorn, he refuses. Impressed by Kirk’s resolve, the alien intelligence return them to their ships. Peaceful dialogue between the Federation and the Gorn Hegemony had been opened. The Enterprise flies off in search of its next adventure.

 

Considered corny by today’s standards, the fight sequence is regarded as one of the most iconic scenes in film history. The desert shoot lasted for two days in November, 1966. Actors Bobby Clark and Gary Combes got so hot inside the Gorn rubber suits that they nearly fainted. The Vazquez Rocks have been a favourite filming site for Star Trek and have been featured in The Next Generation (1987-1994), Voyager (1995-2001) and Enterprise (2001-2005).

The Vasquez Rocks was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. It is maintained by The County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation. The Interpretive Centre (tourist information) was opened in 2013, and was awarded the highest ratings award for environmental safety. People can visit the site most days of the year, but a permit is required for filming. Weddings are a popular event, with groups of up to forty being allowed per function. Filming shoots are still common at the Vasquez Rocks with many being planned for the immediate future.

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Interpretive Centre Credit: Gruen Associates

Sources:

County Parks – Vasquez Rocks Natural Area (https://santaclaritaguide.com/VasquezRocks.html)

How Vasquez Rocks, L.A.’s onetime outlaw hideout, became ‘Star Trek’s’ favorite alien landscape (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/la-et-st-star-trek-50-vasquez-rocks-20160829-snap-story.html)

Memory Alpha – Vasquez Rocks (http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Vasquez_Rocks)

Movie Sites – Vasquez Rocks (http://www.moviesites.org/vasquez.htm)

The True Hollywood Story of The Vasquez Rocks – Hollywood’s Favorite Rocky Set (https://filmmakeriq.com/2012/06/the-true-hollywood-story-of-the-vasquez-rocks-hollywoods-favorite-rocky-set/)

Vasquez Rocks (http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/vasquez-rocks)