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Monday, January 2, 2017

Classic Film Obsessions 2016-- The One Year Blog Anniversary Post

First, excuse me while I congratulate myself ๐Ÿ˜Š. I started this blog exactly one year ago, and 12 months and 44 posts later, it's still going! I had a lot of fun with it, and extended my connections into the fantastic community of classic cinephiles and bloggers, which was my hope, as stated in my very first post.  I was thrilled and humbled to join the Classic Movie Blog Association, enhance my relationship with Turner Classic Movies through participation in the annual film festival, and membership in the Backlot fan club, and have made many friendships in the community, connecting in person as well as online.

I'm establishing a tradition of posting a look back at my 'obsessions' over the course of the last year, and sharing my blog resolutions for the next year.  In 2016 I watched 162 new-to-me movies, slightly under my 2015 total of 178.

Classic Film Obsessions for 2016

Heflin won his only Oscar for his
supporting role in the gangster drama
  Johnny Eager (1941).  Here he shows
off his unique way of holding a cigarette
Van Heflin
Singling out Heflin likely doesn't surprise those who a) know me in person or on social media, or b) who've looked at my blog label list and see his name at the top in large font.  My obsession with the Oklahoma-born Heflin grew from my 2015 obsession with Alan Ladd, as they starred together in the classic Western Shane.  I wrote about Shane for my first ever blogathon, and while I didn't focus on Heflin there, over the course of the year I watched more and more of his films until my love was in full bloom.  I marveled at his versatility and talent, admired his intellectual approach to his craft, and found him a magnetic screen presence.  Also this year, his first-ever biography was published, which I reviewed here, and I featured and/or reviewed five of his films.   I did however, watch a great deal more from his filmography that I didn't write about, and of those, I'll recommend a few, in chronological order:  A Woman Rebels (1936)--this one's an interesting melodrama and vehicle mainly for Katharine Hepburn, who was a friend of Heflin's and helped get him his role.  He really isn't entirely recognizable here and doesn't register strongly, but it's his first role, and one of only six he made in the 1930s.  In the 1940s there are so many good ones, including Johnny Eager, but for a change of pace he is a riot in the comedies Presenting Lily Mars (1943) with Judy Garland, and The Feminine Touch (1941)with Kay Francis, Don Ameche, and Rosalind Russell, proving that this "craggy-faced" Western and Noir star could hold his own in light comedy.  In the 1950s, his best performance for my money may be in The Prowler (1951), where he is a seriously flawed protagonist.  I loved him also in the Rod Serling drama Patterns (1956), and for an all-around fantastic film, check out 3:10 to Yuma (1957), in which Heflin stars alongside a terrific Glenn Ford in this psychological Western.  There are many in his filmography still waiting for me, assuming this obsession continues in 2017.

I was delighted to listen to a recent interview with his daughter, actress Vana O'Brien here, in which, among other things, she commented that her father hated 'over-acting.'  For the most part I found his performances appropriately understated, which adds to the enjoyment of his work.  I hope that someday soon Ms. O'Brien will come to a film festival (TCM??) to share her remembrances of her father and his life and career -- she would receive a tremendous and appreciative reception.

The Western, and John Ford
Following the fun that was the 2015 'Summer of Darkness' dedicated to film noir, I dedicated myself to learning more about the Western in the summer of 2016 -- a vast film genre to be sure, but one most certainly under-represented in my film log. I listened to a recorded online course on the subject, and watched a number of films spanning eight decades, and dipped into several books on the subject. Check my posts from June-August for my thoughts on several of these films.

The genesis of this idea flowed from the delight I took in my first viewing of John Ford's She Wore A Yellow Ribbon (1949) at the 2016 Turner Classic Festival with a crowd of appreciative fans.   I grew to better know and appreciate much of Ford's work this past year, and began to internalize his style and approach.  What a phenomenal treasure he left us in the 140 films he directed.  Additionally, through Ford, I was introduced to the father and son acting duo of Harry Carey and Harry Carey Jr., who devoted their lives to giving us great entertainment in this great American film tradition.  I wrote about them here.
John Wayne, Harry Carey Jr., and Pedro Armendariz
star in Ford's 3 Godfathers from 1948.
New to me this year were the classic Westerns High Noon, My Darling Clementine, Destry Rides Again, and one of the earliest Westerns ever, The Great Train Robbery (1903).  I came to appreciate the acting talent of Dean Martin by watching Howard Hawks' Rio Bravo (1959); in fact, to me, Martin is the main reason to watch this film.  Lesser-known but interesting Westerns I caught this year include The Spoilers (1942) with Marlene Dietrich, Randolph Scott, and John Wayne, and The Texan (1930), starring a young Gary Cooper, previewing how he would come to dominate the genre!
Dean Martin as the alcoholic lawman 'Dude' in Rio Bravo

Berklee Silent Film Orchestra
Prof. Sheldon Mirowitz
 Of  Film Scoring
@ Berklee School
(photo from Berklee School)
Since I'm a fan of music as well as film, attending a screening of a silent film with live musical accompaniment claims a spot in the top five of my favorite things.  When the accompaniment is a local orchestra premiering their own student-composed score, it's a treat that is absolutely unique to the Boston area.  I wrote about the unique process of the Berklee Silent Film Orchestra, a group of top students from Berklee School of Music Film Scoring Department, here.  Well, actually, the secret has gotten out and the reputation of the BSFO has taken them to the prestigious San Francisco Silent Film Festival for two years now, where they've gotten rave reviews.

This year, I saw the world premiere of their score to Variete (1925), at one of our local art houses -- The Coolidge Corner Theatre, which is the BSFO's local partner and features them regularly through their 'Sounds of Silents' rep program.  It's been announced that Kino-Lorber is producing a new DVD of this film featuring the BSFO score; I hope it's available soon!  I also made it to the Coolidge the week of Halloween for their encore performance of their original score to Phantom of the Opera, the Lon Chaney classic.  I don't know what original film score the 2017 students are working on, but I will be sure to feature it here, as I don't miss these live premieres.
The magnificent 'Theatre 1' at the Coolidge 
My 2017 Blog Resolutions
Like most humans, I don't have much luck with annual resolutions (!), but here goes, anyway:

  1. Find ways to make my blog more interactive -- with quizzes, Twitter polls, or the like.
  2. Continue to use the blog as a way to learn more about film history, by exploring genres, actors, and/or directors that deserve more of my attention.
  3. Submit at least one post in the annual CMBA awards process. 
  4. Find and comment on more of my fellow bloggers' work.  There is no lack of great writing and interesting classic film commentary out there, and we are all enriched by reading one another.

Wishing all of my readers a healthy and properous 2017!

5 comments:

  1. Congratulations on your accomplishment, and on your obsessions. It has been, and I am sure will continue to be, a pleasure to read your articles.

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    1. Thanks so much! Your comments throughout the year, and also your excellent posts, were a great source of inspiration for me. All the best to you for 2017.

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  2. Happy blogaversary! It's funny -- I had a Van Heflin "spring fling" about five years before I fell for Alan Ladd, so kind of the reverse of you!

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    1. Thank you!

      Oh I didn't realize you had a fling/thing for Van! It's been great fun for me to read your posts about Alan's films since I discovered your blog. Anyway, both of those guys deserve all the love! I wish there were more hours in the day so I could finish out their filmographies. Wonder what 2017 will bring... ๐Ÿ˜€

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    2. Yeah, I watched like 5 of his movies in a row one spring. 3:10 to Yuma and Shane and Battle Cry and The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and I feel like there were a couple more, but I can't remember them right now.

      I'm perfectly content to continue basking in my adoration of Alan Ladd in 2017, though I've added a teensy new thing for Diego Luna perhaps maybe a little bit...

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