24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Classic Films

TCM Classic Film Fest: See home movies made by stars

April 13, 2012 |  7:45 am

Long before reality shows, viral videos and TMZ, Hollywood types loved to make home movies of their lives — on sets, hanging out at their mansions in Beverly Hills, relaxing on their boats in the Pacific, visiting Disneyland.

On Saturday evening, the TCM Classic Film Festival will be screening a selection of such home movies at  the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel — you can see Esther Williams teaching her children how to swim, Steve McQueen taking his two kids to Disneyland, and Fred MacMurray and his family relaxing and having fun at home.

The films are from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ archive. Randy Haberkamp, managing director, programming, education and preservation at the academy, and Lynne Kirste, special collections curator at the archive, will present the one-hour treasure program of silent 8mm and 16mm films.

Film history professor Bob Koster, the son of veteran director Henry Koster (“Three Smart Girls,” “The Robe,” “My Cousin Rachel”) will be appearing at the program commenting on behind-the-scenes footage his father shot of two Margaret O’Brien films he made for MGM: 1944’s “Music for Millions” and 1947’s “The Unfinished Dance.” The former child star O’Brien will also be talking about her experiences on the films. Also participating will be McQueen’s ex-wife, Neile Adams McQueen Toffel.

The program, said Haberkamp, calls attention to the academy archive “and specifically home movies, because it’s such a unique thing — when you get these home movies, particularly that were shot by or featuring celebrities, it is a unique window [into their lives]. You have people just being themselves. You get to see them as kind of how they are as opposed to being in a role or being a star. It’s fun to see that ‘normal people’ reflection.”

Koster said that his father was “almost a compulsive picture-taker. We have about 10 hours of movies. There is altogether way too much stuff of me as an infant playing on the lawn.”

Hollywood’s elite loved taking home movies, said Koster, because “don’t forget people in the movie industry, and this is not meant in any pejorative way, but in order to be successful they have to have a tremendous sense of themselves. They have to have an ego much larger than the average Joe. So of course they wanted to take movies recording what they did because it fed their ego. It was satisfying to them to have this record of their lives and work.”

Kirste said that the academy archive has some 2,000 reels of home movies. “They vary in length,” she said. “We probably have several hundred hours. We are getting more all the time.”

She noted that unlike many of the films these Golden Age of Hollywood stars appeared in, these home movies are in color. “There is great color footage of people you have only seen in black and white up to that point,” she said. “I have never seen Fred MacMurray in color in 1936. We have footage where you see [actors] really young and in color.”

The behind-the-scenes footage shot on productions were also shot in color. “We are going to show some behind-the-scenes of ‘Heidi’ with Shirley Temple,” said Kirste. “The film is in black-and-white but the footage is in color. There is something really great about that. It kind of brings it to life in a different way.”

For more information on the event, go to tcm.com/festival.


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Around Town: Celebrate Easter with Jimmy Stewart and Harvey

April 5, 2012 |  6:00 am


The American Cinematheque's Aero Theatre is going rabid for rabbits Easter Sunday  -- just don't expect the Easter Bunny. The evening begins with 1950's "Harvey," starring Jimmy Stewart in his Oscar-nominated performance as Elwood P. Dowd, a sweetly crazy guy whose best friend is an invisible 6'3" white rabbit named Harvey. Josephine Hull earned an Oscar as Elwood's frazzled sister. The evening concludes with the 2001 cult fave "Donnie Darko," with Jake Gyllenhaal and a rabbit a lot less friendly than Harvey.

On Easter Sunday evening, the Cinematheque's Egyptian will screen the 1933 version of "King Kong," starring Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong and Bruce Cabot and featuring the groundbreaking stop-motion special effects of Willis O'Brien. www.americancinematheque.com

Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theater presents a week-long engagement of Noel Black's 1968 cult favorite, "Pretty Poison," beginning this Friday. Black will be on hand Friday evening for the screening of this dark comedic-thriller starring Anthony Perkins as a young disturbed man on parole from a mental institution who meets his match in the form of a beautiful high school cheerleader (Tuesday Weld) who also happens to be a sociopath.  For years, only a 16mm print of the film was available, but Cinefamily is showing a new 35mm print. www.cinefamily.org

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President Obama to introduce 'To Kill a Mockingbird' on TV

April 3, 2012 | 12:42 pm

President Obama will introduce a new restoration of the 1962 courtroom drama "To Kill a Mockingbird" on April 7 on the USA Network
President Obama will introduce a new restoration of the 1962 courtroom drama "To Kill a Mockingbird" on April 7 on the USA Network.

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee, "To Kill a Mockingbird" tells the story of white Southern lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), who defends a black man accused of rape, Tom Robinson (Brock Peters).

The airing on USA marks the first national broadcast of the movie since it was digitally remastered and restored by Universal Pictures and the American Film Institute in conjunction with Universal's centennial this year.

"I'm deeply honored that President Obama will be celebrating the 50th Anniversary of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' by introducing it to a national audience," Lee said in a statement. "I believe it remains the best translation of a book to film ever made, and I'm proud to know that Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch lives on -- in a world that needs him now more than ever."

USA is broadcasting "To Kill a Mockingbird" as part of its "Characters Unite" public-service campaign, a bid to combat discrimination through on-air programming, digital content and events.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" won Peck an Academy Award for best actor. The film also won Oscars for adapted screenplay and art direction.


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-- Rebecca Keegan

Photo: Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in "To Kill a Mockingbird." Credit: Universal Pictures


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