Monday, August 26, 2013

Chaplin, Kelly and Jobs on Wikipedia

You can almost gauge a person's star power by the size of their Wikipedia page.  Click the person's name below to see and read about them.  As a result of Wikipedia being added to and edited by the public, the size and detail of the page will reflect their relative popularity. With Chaplin and Kelly, the IMDB pages are equally as large.

Charlie Chaplin

Gene Kelly

Steve Jobs

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gene Kelly's Team: Carol Haney: A Powerful Talent in Support of a Powerful Star

In this blog entry, and many to follow, I want to profile individuals who were integral to the success of each of the men I'm profiling. Carol Haney was with Gene for his six most successful years.  She was an assistant, co-worker, choreographer, dancer, devoted employee and friend to Gene.  The title of assistant doesn't begin to cover what she did for Gene and what so many others did for Chaplin, Kelly and Jobs.  I will cover one "assistant" per week as I continue working on my book.  

This article was archived by Google from an old Geocities page that is no longer live.  I'm not even sure who wrote it, but it is excellent.  The article includes information on Jeannie Coyne, who Gene would later marry.

The assistant

Carol had already spent two years of her life at various studios as a chorus dancer. Although she was a tremendously gifted dancer, the movie producers concluded that Carol did not photograph well enough for the camera (as opposed to Cyd Charrise, Vera- Ellen, or Ann Miller, MGM's top end dancers) to become a major dance musical star. However, having the knowledge that Carol had assisted Jack Cole at Columbia with teaching dance routines to the stars before arriving at MGM, Gene Kelly persuaded Carol not to continue wasting her talents in the chorus and join him as a choreographic assistant on a full time basis. Gene Nelson was also interested to sign her for the same purpose, but at Warner Brothers. When she agreed to the offer at MGM, Carol would end up spending her next six years there, working loyally for Gene Kelly, mainly as an assistant choreographer.
During her period at MGM, Carol became friends with Gene Kelly (He would deliver a speech at her memorial service a decade or so later) and frequently participated in his open house entertainment at Rodeo Drive, by as Leslie Caron remembers, dancing, while others such as Judy Garland and Lena Horne sang, and Comden and Green performed comic skits.
So what exactly did Carol do at MGM? Below is a list of the assistance she gave to Gene Kelly that I have found in books of Kelly, the Freed unit, and Vincente Minnelli, during her days at MGM.
bibliography is provided for your convenience:
  1. Carol's first film at MGM was Kelly's 1951 masterpiece An American in Paris (AAIP).Carol is on the left, and Leslie is on the Right. Carol is giving Leslie some words of advice before the camera rolls in the Paris Opera segment of the AAIP ballet
    1. One of the first tasks she was assigned to was to, along with her fellow assistant Jeannie Coyne, pick out the strengths of young starlet Leslie Caron. Leslie Caron remembered Haney and Coyne to be extremely supportive during the process of making the film.
    2. Carol was assigned to rehearse French import Georges Guetary in his big Folies Begere number "I'll build a Stairway to Paradise". Wisecrack Oscar Levant remembers Guetary in performance: "He was pure Carol Haney: he imitated her to a 't'."Vincente Minnelli remembers Carol's dedication to Guetary: "Carol Haney, who was one of Gene's assistants, and who was marvelous, worked with him and worked with him (Guetary) to give him that style which is really American. She worked so hard with him. She just concentrated on him."
      Minnelli remarks on the same issue in his autobiography: "It was more difficult getting a performance out of Georges Guetary, an entertainer with far greater experience. Carol Haney took him in hand, and worked until they both dropped from exhaustion."
    3. Carol was credited to have operated the controls to the flashy lights that lit up the stairs during the actual shooting of the film. The cinematographer, Alfred Gilks, recalls: "The risers were made of glass, with a circuit of lights behind each one. Each riser was on a separate circuit, controlled by a mercury switch. All circuits ran to an ingenious master drum controller devised by Sid Moore of the MGM Electrical Department. During the takes, the controller was operated by Gene Kelly’s dance director, Carol Haney. Because of her complete familiarity with the music and routine, she was able, after a few rehearsals, to operate the controller in perfect sync- as smoothly as a musician in the orchestra playing his instrument."
    4. She helped rehearse Kelly for the Tolouse- Lautrec segment of the AAIP ballet. The dancing in that segment, which Kelly refered to as "strong dancing", was a form of experssion very kindred to Carol, who was instrumental to help Kelly perfect every movement.
    5. Kelly remembers Carol's contribution to the rehearsal procedure: "... So in the initial stages you always had some help. We were also here every night with Jeannie Coyne and Carol Haney, just working out costumes and colors and things like that. The days we really had to use for rehearsals with Leslie and the dancers. If I had composed something, I'd turn it over to one of them. Then I'd compose something else and turn it over to the other one and say, "All right, drill them on it." There again the repertory idea came in. Carol had been with me six years, Jeannie not quite that long, but she had been around studios... Carol Haney's training of dancers was fabulous and continued to be so after she became an independent choreographer. She was that good because I was always so mean. I'd say, "It has to be right! Go back and do it again." Her precision, you know, her eye for seeing that everybody did it on the beat, was wonderful."
    6. Leslie Caron remembers Carol's contributions to the choreography and Kelly's creative process: "Gene had sort of told Carol Haney to see what I could do best. Gene was very clever as a choreographer. He would find out what the best points of a dancer were and make up a ballet around that. In other words, he suited the ballet to you, and not you to the ballet. He took advantage of my good points. Carol was helping very much with the choreography. She would sort of think up things and present them to Gene, and if Gene liked them he would incorporate them, and if he didn't he would change them- that sort of thing. She was truly an assistant."
  2. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
    1. Like AAIP, Carol and Jeannie Coyne were assigned to rehearse the young starlet. In this case, the two assistants were also given tap teacher Ernie Flatt, and also the task of teaching Debbie Reynolds to appear to dance as well as Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor.the SITR team- from left, Jeannie Coyne (looking lovingly at Gene), Stanley Donen (looking protective), Gene Kelly (looking back at Jeannie), Carol, and Donald O'Connor (both looking amused).
    2. The choreography of "The Broadway Ballet" was done with Carol in mind- Kelly had wanted her to appear as the femme fatale in the dance. When Arthur Freed didn't like Carol's screen test, he called for stock dancer Cyd Charrise to dance the role. Carol beared the embarrassment and took the task of rehearsing Charrise for the dance. Charrise remembers: "I'll always remember Carol fondly for the way she helped me, when her heart must have been breaking. If it had been me I think I might have just walked out. She was truly fond of Gene, so she stayed and worked with me..."Charrise is also quoted in a Donen biography on this issue: "I was never told that Carol Haney was originally meant for my role. She even rehearsed me throughout that whole sequence and never once brought it up.".
    3. Does this caption from a corbis portrait of Carol suggest what happened with the "Broadway Melody" fiasco? If so, I'm glad Carol was not too disheartened by that experience:
      Carol Haney, who bounced to fame after opening as a featured dancer in the smash Broadway hit, The Pajama Game, says she's glad she wasn't born beautiful. With a round face, blue eyes that slant upward at the outer corners, and brown hair cropped short and brushed flat from the crown of her head to her eyebrows in a shaggy fringe, Miss Haney recalls that she once made a living in hollywood as a dancer and finally got a chance for a screen test. By the time studio make up men got through reshaping her face and covering her hair with wigs [ed: the black femme fatale wig and makeup??], she "looked lake an idiot," as Carol says. Instead of becoming a movie Queen, she taught the stars to dance for films. But the yearning to perform at last took her to the stage, where she has registered with an impact that makes her one of the most talked about performers of today.
    4. Carol and Jeannie Coyne also took the weird task of manouvering the airplane motors that made the crazy veil come to life, in time to the music in the "Crazy Veil" dance.
    5. Carol, with Jeannie, enjoyed the entertainment of Donald O'Connor whilst rehearsing and noting O'Connor's improvisations in his tour de force number, "Make 'em Laugh".O'Connor recalls:
      They didn't have a solo dance for me in the movie, and we thought we'd have to do another number like Moses Supposes. And Gene picked out a tune called, "Follow in my Footsteps."
      And then one day, we were in the rehearsal hall and Roger Edens (ph), who was a great writer, came in and he gave us this sheet music, lead sheet, on Make 'Em Laugh.
      And Kelly was busy, so he said: "why don't you go in and get the pianos, and take the girls in" -- which was Carol Haney (ph) and Jeanie Coyne (ph) his assistants-- and he said, "why don't you see what you can come up with."
      So I went in and I'd have the pianist, I called for a lot of props, and the girls thought I was the funniest man in the world. They -- I really had their funny bone. I'd say hello in the morning and they'd fall down on the ground laughing.
      And so, I started doing these pratfalls and whatever they laughed at the most, I said write it down. So, that's how the number came about. Through love and laughter. And also, it was all spontaneous.
  3. Carol and Jeannie flew all around Europe to assist Kelly's dream project Invitation to the Dance in 1952-53.
      Gene, Jeannie and Carol during the creative process Gene and Carol between takes I think during the Circus segment

    1. From the biography "Gene Kelly" (Clive Hirschhorn), on the planning stages of the film: "So he [Gene] rented a house, called Moulin de la Roche, from a well-to-do French family in a small village six miles from Chartres, and he and Kerry as well as his assistants Jeannie Coyne and Carol Haney and his secretary, moved to France for the summer... The working conditions were idyllic and with Jeannie and Carol around, Gene was able to 'Block out' his choreography with the two dancers 'trying each new step for size' as he went along. For Gene it was the perfect creative setup, and he and his entourage spent a blissful couple of months preparing a picture which he hoped whould contain the synthesis of his art..."
    2. Worked out the score for the second segment "Ring around the Rosy" with boy wonder composer-pianist-conductor Andre Previn. The music was not composed at the time the sequence was shot, only to the counting-out-loud of both Carol and Jeannie. Carol then subsequently had to be locked in a little room with Previn, trying to remember what the time measures and beats were and Kelly's intentions for the dance. What Previn worked out was fabulously a jazzy score with clarinet, sax and piano solos (played by Previn himself!).Previn remembers: "What he [Gene] didn't tell me, was that he had already shot the ballet and that I would be presented with thirty minutes of silent film to which I'd have to put appropriate music! Some of the ballet, I discovered, had, in fact, been shot to Malcolm Arnold's music, some of it to Carol Haeny and Jeannie Coyne counting beats off camera, but most of it to nothing. So I said to Gene, "How do I know whether what they're dancing is meant to be a bridge passage, or a waltz, out of tempo, in tempo, or what?" Well, he gave me Carol Haney, and together we sat in a claustrophobic little viewing theatre in the music departments which had all sorts of sophisticated knobs that allowed you to stop the film, or make it go up or down, or backwards or sideways- frame by frame- and between the two of us, sitting in taht terrible little room from 9 am to midnight for three long weeks- during which time Carol tried to remember the tempi and the ideas behind the moves Gene had choreographed- I finally managed to chart down some sort of musical framework for myself, so that not once during the whole of "Ring Around the Rosy" was I able to develop an idea without considering the restrictions imposed by the film..."

      Carol dancing with gene for the animators the actual cartoon
      Carol bellydancing? Rehearsing the start scary genie bit with Gene
    3. The two girls assisted Kelly in probably the most ambitious segment of the film- the fully animated "Sinbad the Sailor" cartoon. Carol gets her first appearance credit here as scherazade the scary genie woman, dancing two dances: one featured at the start of the sequence, and I believe the featured belly dancer that follows the chase sequence is also her. These oriental dances, choreographed by Carol, are obviously influenced by her earlier training with Jack Cole, who was himself a master of oriental dances.
    4. Haney is credited by a site on MGM cartoons to have personified the serpent in the beginning of the cartoon sequence for the animators.
    5. Footage of Carol dancing in place of the cartoon "Scheherazade" is often shown in Gene Kelly documentaries.

    See that small glowing spec on the bottom right? That's Carol I think in the outfit she was in when she was dancing in the scene for the animators
  4. Brigadoon, or "Brigadoom", would be Carol's last film with Gene Kelly. Her contributions are not noted as much as in Kelly's earlier films.

    Is that Carol on the left in a pre- Pajama Game cropped hairstyle?... with Minnelli and Kelly in the foreground working or worrying about something.

    1. Vincente Minnelli remembers in his autobiography: "The film went as easily as it had for 'The Band Wagon', helped immeasurably by Gene's assistants, Carol Haney and Jeanne Coyne. With Gene so busy on the choreography, I depended on Carol to fill in when Gene was occupied elsewhere. This was to be her last picture as assistant choreographer. She would be leaving for New York and Pajama Game, and fromthat point on, she was known as STAR."

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Gene's All Female Team

The women behind the man and the daughter behind the camera. These women were as important to Gene and his success as anything or anyone else. Note Gene is not wearing his hair piece. The "Me" is Betsy Blair in the caption. Gene was married to two of these women, danced with two of them, worked with three of them, but spent the longest with only one, Lois McClelland on the far left. She worked with Gene in 1945 in Wachington DC as his assistant and secretary in the photolab while Gene was in the Navy. He brought her back to Hollywood and she worked for him for 50 years until PWK fired her sometime prior to Gene's death. She had been his part time nanny to Kerry, helped Betsy clean up and paint the N Rodeo house when they first moved in and acted as Gene's personal secretary. No one knew him better and she kept a diary about her experiences.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gene on Facebook

This is one of the best Gene Kelly sites on the net.  Professor Kelli Marshall has over 1600 members on her Facebook fan page and growing all the time.  She is a rabid Gene fan and posts many scholarly articles on her site about Gene and social media in general.  One of her articles has nearly 75,000 hits. Click the link below for her academic site.

avatar haircut blue AboutKelli Marshall

Film, Shakespeare, TV.
Child of pop culture.
Advocate of social media.
Gene Kelly junkie.
Co-editor of Locating Shakespeare in the Twenty-First Century.
Click link below for Professor Marshall's Facebook fan site on Gene 
Gene Kelly Fans

Steve Jobs: Still in the News

Steve Jobs has been in the news every day, somewhere in the world, for 37 years, since 1976 and still 2 years after his death.  The company he built, Apple, that he left in 1987 and then came back to in 1997, is the worlds largest company.  The Ipod changed the way we listen to music.  The Iphone, introduced in 2007, is still the single most innovative communications product of our time.  The Ipad is now changing the way we consume information.  After Steve Jobs died in October of 2011, the world wondered if Apple would be rudderless under anyone else, but Steve.

Click the link below to follow all news articles related to Steve Jobs and why he remains the Edison, The Picasso of our time.

Click to Read

Steve in 1976 just Starting Apple Computer

Steve in 1997 in the greatest 2nd act in business history coming back to Apple

Steve in 2011, the year of his death when Apple ruled the world of consumer technology

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Young Women; Chaplin's Weakness

One issue that caused Chaplin the most angst and nearly ruined him, was his dalliances with young women. While not the focus of my book, I'll cover it simply because it was a big part of lapses in the creative process or feeling funny and causing periods of long absences from movie making.  He had a nervous breakdown during one episode and stayed away from his studio for almost a year during the making of The Circus.

For whatever reason, Chaplin was attracted to women around the age of 16 and this was to be his greatest weakness and almost his undoing.  Even his eldest daughter, Geraldine, from his marriage to Oona Chaplin, admitted that her dad liked younger women.  Lady Chaplin, his last wife, was the love of his life and they were together from 1942 until his death in 1977 with 8 children, including Geraldine.  Oona was the daughter of the famous playwright, Eugene Oneill.

The Women

Mildred Harris

Chaplin went to a party in 1918, was taken with Mildred Harris, then 16, and married her soon after when there was word she was pregnant.  It truly happened that fast.  She turned out not to be with child and it may have been deliberately faked as a ruse to catch Chaplin.  Soon afterward, she became pregnant for real and gave birth, but the baby was severely deformed and died within three days.  Chaplin was distraught, but had nothing in common with Mildred and divorced her in 1919. During the run up to a settlement, she almost took control of his movie, The Kid, as community property and he was forced to smuggle the film out of state to edit it.  Chaplin was 30 at the time.

Lita Grey

Just prior to the filming of The Gold Rush in 1924, Chaplin signed a 16 year old Lita Grey, real name Lillita MacMurray, as his new leading lady.  He was 35.  Lita had a small part in his film, The Kid, when she was 12 and played a vamp, of all things.  Chaplin was taken with her then and with her now at age 16, he was again smitten with her.  Before the movie could start, she was pregnant.  Chaplin might have been charged with crimes involving sexually relations with a minor so he took a fake movie troop to Mexico and married her out of the view of the press. The baby was born in March, but the Doctor agreed to fake the birth certificate to June to keep the math in line with their marriage date.  They had two children, Charlie Jr and Sydney.

Again, as in the case with Mildred Harris, Chaplin had nothing in common with his child bride and he spent most of his time away from home, in many cases, with other women.  Lita grew tired of the "cruelty" and sued for divorce claiming all manner of crimes.  It was a huge scandal with some boycotting of his films and the divorce settlement was nearly $1 million.  Chaplin found a new leading lady for The Gold Rush and it was a huge success, but he came under the focus of J. Edgar Hoover.  Hoover would eventually chase Chaplin out of the country for other transgressions.

Joan Barry

Chaplin went onto meet and marry Paulette Goddard who was older and she brought true joy to his life for a time.  They were married with no children for six years.  It was near the end of their marriage, that Chaplin met Joan Barry, an aspiring actress.  He toyed with starring her in a movie he was pondering, but she showed signs of mental illness and he canned the idea.  She would not give up though and harassed Chaplin to the point of being arrested and even broke into his home threatening him with a gun. She got pregnant, but Chaplin denied he was the father in the strongest terms.  Three experts claimed, based on blood tests, that Chaplin could not possibly be the father.  In two spectacular trials, one criminal and one civil, Chaplin was accused of breaking the Mann Act of taking a woman across a state line for illicit purposes.  Barry had flown to New York where Chaplin was briefly staying and he gave her $200 or so for a room.  The prosecutor called Chaplin a Cockney Cad and Chaplin was not the best witness in his own defense.  While beating the Mann Act charge in the criminal trial, he was, however, found to be the father of the Child in civil court. California would not allow the blood evidence to be admitted in trial.  Chaplin was forced to pay child support for a child that was not his.

The fault for all of these controversies were due to Chaplin's weaknesses and lapses in judgement.  He got himself into each mess and it cost him in money and some popularity.  In each case, amazingly, he did come through virtually unscathed, but by the time of his last issue in the Barry trial, his popularity was waning for the other reason I'll post about; his associations with perceived communists.

Chaplin was a genius, and artist, but a flawed man. His older half brother, Sydney, suffered the same weakness for young women and got into trouble according to his only biography.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Brief Gene Biography

If you don't like reading a whole book this is a short biography on Gene.

Fans of the all-singing, all-dancing entertainment icon, Gene Kelly, will mark his 101st birthday on Aug. 23.
He won’t be around to celebrate the landmark event, having left us in 1996 at age 83—but, his grateful fans will definitely make up for the slack. To them, Kelly’s achievements on film and in the theater were so significant that they continue to shine like blazingly bright beacons over the performing scene.
Famous for his exceptional talents as dancer and choreographer, Kelly got clued into his life’s vocation and profession very early, because his mother ran a dancing school—in fact, she named it after him!
When the Ballet Russe passed through Pittsburg, he turned down an offer to join the famed ballet troupe, because he had his sights trained on Broadway and Hollywood. —Unfortunately, when he finally got to New York, he had a hard time achieving his dream of stardom.

Big success
Still, he persevered: Choreographer Robert Alton put him in Mary Martin’s 1938 show, “Leave It To Me,” and later cast him in his first big success as Harry the Hoofer in William Saroyan’s “The Time of Your Life.” He up and married another dancer, Betsy Blair—and, in 1940, clinched the most coveted assignment on Broadway, the title role in “Pal Joey.” —Finally, Gene Kelly was on his way!
The movies soon followed, and MGM got him to star in one musical film after another—“Cover Girl” with Rita Hayworth, “Anchors Aweigh” with Frank Sinatra—etc.
Other now iconic musical films that had Kelly on board as dancing star and/or choreographer include “On The Town” (the first musical shot on location); “An American in Paris,” which won six Oscars, and “Singin’ in the Rain” with Debbie Reynolds, Russ Tamblyn and other great musical performers (some movie buffs hail it as “the apotheosis of the MGM musical”)!
Unfortunately, the movie musical trend eventually passed its peak, but Kelly is still remembered for his iconic productions in the ’40s, as well as other great musicals like “Brigadoon,” “It’s Always Fair Weather,” “Invitation to the Dance,” “Les Girls,” “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort,” “Marjorie Morning Star,” “Summer Stock,” “Deep in my Heart” and “Let’s Make Love.”
Kelly was also tapped in his mature years as one of the host/narrators of the “That’s Entertainment” series that paid homage to and excerpted the best musicals that Hollywood has ever produced. Many of those great musicals featured him, reminding viewers of his unequaled contributions to the once-popular film genre.
In the past decade, musical films have been making a big, bright comeback, with glittering successes like “Moulin Rouge,” “Mamma Mia” and  “Hairspray.” So, Kelly’s iconic and pioneering contributions are inspiring a new generation of filmmakers and movie buffs, as well.

Avid acolytes
Aside from his own work, Kelly is credited with discovering Stanley Donen, who became a famous director-choreographer in his own right, and other standout dance mavens like Bob Fosse have gratefully admitted to being Kelly’s avid acolytes and devotees.
So, on Gene Kelly’s birthday on Aug. 23, there’s a whole lot to celebrate! For starters, we urge our movie channels to mount retrospectives of Kelly’s “best-est” films!

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Thursday, August 15, 2013

New Movie about Steve Jobs Fails to Impress Critics

It would drive Steve Jobs nuts to know that the new movie about his life has all the sex appeal of a PowerPoint presentation. It isn’t only that PowerPoint has become synonymous with the dry, dreary, droning of corporate meetings or that it’s an application developed by Microsoft, itself a favorite target of Jobs. (“The only problem with Microsoft,” he said, “is they just have no taste.” Also: “They just make really third-rate products.”) Jobs, who died in 2011 at 56 from complications of pancreatic cancer, thought of himself as an artist, one who, in talking about the design of the Macintosh, said, “Great art stretches the taste, it doesn’t follow tastes.”
The historical record is all that’s stretched in “Jobs,” which stars Ashton Kutcher and was directed by Joshua Michael Stern. Compression and omissions are part of any biography. So it’s to be expected that a two-hour movie about one of the most important public figures in recent times leaves out a lot, including famous feuds, forgottencolleagues and even significant business ventures. The point isn’t that there are gaps; the point is what and who have been left out. It’s understandable that a movie that concentrates on Jobs’s earlier years would overlook his involvement with Pixar, which he capitalized in 1986; given the filmmakers’ difficulties dealing with hisdifficulties it’s also understandable that they slide over a little player called the Xerox Corporation.
The story of Jobs visiting Xerox’s Palo Alto research center in 1979 and realizing that the company was, as he put it, “sitting on a gold mine,” is an oft-repeated foundationaltale, partly because he appropriated some of Xerox’s ideas. It was during this visit, he later said, that he could see “what the future of computing was destined to be.” In the movie this epiphanic moment seems to occur earlier, during an acid trip. It’s the early 1970s and Steve, who’s dropped out of college, is bumming around, usually barefoot. One day he and two friends, Chrisann Brennan (Ahna O’Reilly) and Daniel Kottke (Lukas Haas), go on a lysergically enhanced picnic that culminates with Steve drifting into a field and, as the camera twirls around him and the sun shines upon him, throwing his arms open to the infinite.
Before long, Steve has embraced his destiny, hooked up with Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad, delivering a sympathetic, sensitive performance) and is staring into a different immensity: the Apple computer and the technological revolution that it helped bring about. Things move quickly for Steve, who one minute is cobbling together the first Apple in his family’s garage and the next is crunching numbers with an investor, Mike Markkula (Dermot Mulroney). There are good, bad, happy, sad times, mostly with guys (women barely register), though it all gets heavier after Steve starts driving a Porsche and shacks up in a mansion with only an Einstein poster for company, a trajectory echoed in the soundtrack: “Life’s Been Good,” “Roll With the Changes,” “You Can Do (Whatever).”
Written by Matt Whiteley, the movie is bookended by scenes of the middle-aged Jobs, doing what some believed he did best: pitching new products. Fuzzed up and hunched over, Mr. Kutcher looks somewhat like the young Jobs, and there are moments — as when he gives another character a small, devious look as if sliding in a knife — that the casting seems more than a matter of bottom-line calculation. But Mr. Kutcher doesn’t have the tools that some actors use to transcend weak material and either he didn’t receive any help or didn’t allow any real direction from Mr. Stern. Mr. Kutcher’s tendency to cap so many emotional scenes with small, self-satisfied smiles is especially unfortunate because they can’t help but bring to mind his other career as a pitchman for digital cameras.
The greater blame rests on the filmmakers, who never find a way to navigate the “passions, perfectionism, demons, desires, artistry, devilry and obsession for control” that Walter Isaacson enumerated in “Steve Jobs,” his 2011 authorized biography. Mr. Stern and Mr. Whiteley pile up Jobs’s multitudes: he screams and smirks, the score rises triumphantly only to ease and darken. Other characters announce to Steve and one another that he’s changed. But how and why? There are nods at his adoption and the daughter he initially refused to acknowledge, but those never amount to much and, after a while, you don’t care. The Great Man theory of history that’s recycled in this movie is inevitably unsatisfying, but never more so when the figure at the center remains as opaque as Jobs does here.

Great Article on Kelly's Crowning Achievement

The Art Theater continues to be a film lover’s best friend as it continues to screen classic movies during its weekend late night slots.  This week, Singin’ in the Rain will be screened (Friday and Saturday at 10 p.m.), the influential movie musical that is continually listed on “Best of” lists some 60 years after its release.  Really, it comes as no surprise that this is the case as the film still seems fresh, primarily because of the enthusiastic performances of its three principals as well as the many innovative dance sequences that set the bar high for all other entries in the genre that would come in its wake.
Blog Photo
The plot of the film is relatively simple as it focuses on the motion picture industry’s transition to sound and the difficulties it posed not only from a technical point of view but a personal one as well when it comes to the talent of those involved.  Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are a popular on-screen couple whose latest silent feature is being transformed into a musical.  While Lockwood has the chops to accomplish this task, his co-star’s voice is not suitable for sound films let alone singing so dire steps must be taken.  The star enlists his old friend Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) to help him write songs and come up with dance numbers for the revamped production, while he enlists Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), a young actress eager to make it big, to dub Lina’s dialogue and singing.
The musical numbers are not only delightful to behold but something to wonder at as well.  The precision and innovation present in each of them never cease to amaze and none of them was accomplished without many hours of hard work.  Some production days stretched to 19 hours in length and from all accounts, Debbie Reynolds had it worst of all.  Only 19 years old at the time, the actress still lived with her parents and would have to wake up at 4 a.m. in order to get to the studio in time, what with having to take three different buses to get there. Equally trying for the actress was dealing with Kelly, a notorious taskmaster who had no problem berating Reynolds whenever she made a mistake.  After a particularly rough day, she retreated under a piano to hide, only to be found, in tears, by Fred Astaire who helped her master some of the film’s more difficult dance scenes.
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Even O’Connor, a veteran vaudeville entertainer, was intimidated by Kelly as he recounted long after the film was made that he was afraid of making a mistake for fear of incurring his co-star’s wrath and that overall making the movie was an unpleasant experience.  He was so stressed that he took to smoking four packs of cigarettes a day, something that came back to haunt him during has incredible Make ‘Em Laugh number in which Kelly asked him to recreate a trick he had done as a young dancer – running up a wall and doing a somersault. The actor put so much into the sequence that he spent time in a hospital afterward due to exhaustion and severe carpet burns.  Unfortunately, the footage that was shot was ruined due to an accident and O’Connor had to redo the sequence when he was up to it.
Without question, the hard work done by all paid off handsomely as the film was a huge hit for MGM as it took in nearly $8 million during its initial release against a budget of $2.5 million.  More importantly, it proved to be a landmark work in the genre of the movie musical, providing inspiration for those who would attempt to emulate the dizzying heights that directors Kelly and Stanley Donen achieved.       

What Chaplin and Kelly Have in Common

Something Chaplin and Kelly have in common: Roller Skating was something they were both incredible at and this skill ended up in their films. While Gene is the master here with his roller skating number in It's Always Fair Weather from 1955, Chaplin beat him to it by 40 years in the movie The Rink from 1915. Not as polished, but incredible.Click Here for Video

Good Artists Copy, but Great Artists Steal

Something Chaplin and Kelly have in common #2: In a scene from Singin in The Rain, from 1952, Gene Kelly is dancing with Cyd Charisse. She approaches and Kelly flips his head back shooting his hat onto the floor. In a similar scene from The Gold Rush, from 1925, Chaplin does the exact same thing. What would Steve Jobs have said? "Good artists copy, Great artists steal." A great sight gag is a great sight gag.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Early Mention of Chaplin Before his Movie Career 1912

Chaplin's Worldwide Reach

Kambiz Derambakhsh in an undated photo
Kambiz Derambakhsh in an undated photo
TEHRAN -- Iranian cartoonist Kambiz Derambakhsh has said that he is “strongly influenced” by English comic actor and filmmaker Sir Charles Spencer “Charlie” Chaplin.
“He is my idol,” Derambakhsh admitted during a meeting at the City Book Institute in Tehran on Monday. The meeting was part of “The Artistic Dialogue”, a program organized by the institute every week.
“Chaplin’s works are simple, silent, emotional and meaningful. The works make people laugh and enjoy themselves, but they have not been produced just to make you laugh,” he stated.
Derambakhsh, who won the Grand Prize at the 33rd International Nasreddin Hodja Cartoon Contest in Istanbul, Turkey in mid-July, said that he would not like to draw cartoons about politicians and political issues.
“Politicians have become thick-skinned and cartoons do not affect them anymore,” he said.
“I would like my works to refresh the world and… to give people peace of mind,” he added.
The veteran cartoonist has participated in many international events in Canada, Bulgaria, Turkey, Italy, Belgium and Brazil over the past four decades.
He won the grand prize at Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun competition in 1998, the grand prize of a contest in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1998, the bronze medal for third place of a South Korean contest in 1998, and the grand prize of a Polish anti-war caricature contest in 2002.

My Artist Hero: Chaplin, Kelly and Jobs

The word artist is thrown around as much as genius, but there were and are very few who truly can be classified as both.

These three men fall into the category of genius and artist:

The series is called Artist Heroes.  Click the names to read each article.

Steve Jobs

Gene Kelly

Charlie Chaplin

New Movie on Steve Jobs

New Movie on Steve Jobs

Article from the Huffington Post:

LOS ANGELES — It's clear from Ashton Kutcher's tone – even though he's siting 2,500 miles away in New York – that the 35-year-old actor and technology enthusiast holds an unflinching reverence for Steve Jobs, the Apple co-founder he portrays in the film "Jobs," opening Friday.
When he speaks about embodying the notoriously demanding Mac mastermind during a recent video conversation on Skype, in which Kutcher was an early investor, he's resolute and thoughtful. It's the antithesis of his goofball on-screen personas in TV series like "That `70s Show" and "Two and a Half Men" and in films such as "Dude, Where's My Car?" and "What Happens in Vegas."
For Kutcher, he says it was imperative that he personify, not parody, the well-documented mannerisms of Jobs, who died in 2011 of pancreatic cancer and will also be profiled in an untitled Sony film by Aaron Sorkin. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who's played by Josh Gad in "Jobs," has been hired as an adviser on the upcoming Sorkin film.
With "Jobs," Kutcher hopes his performance is as much a lesson about entrepreneurship to today's youth as it a profile of a man who revolutionized technology.
AP: You don't paint a spotless portrait of Steve Jobs in this film. How did you balance playing a man that's obviously an icon but also has flaws like everyone else?
Kutcher: I think Steve cared about the end result and wasn't worried about being liked and knew he would eventually be liked if his creations were properly executed. He was very blunt, but it's because he cared. I tried to look at his faults as his gifts, and I tried to understand it and not judge it. I think the way that guy received love in life was by creating products that people loved, and when they loved the products, they thereby loved him.
AP: How did you mentally prepare for the scenes where Jobs goes into beast mode and he's yelling and combative?
Kutcher: He was never just senselessly combative. I think there was something he desired, and he had a goal and passion for his consumers that were driving his frustration. He wanted the people around him to care as much about the result as he did. I think his frustration was in an effort to motivate people to care.
AP: Why do you think now is the right time for this story? It isn't too soon?
Kutcher: As time passes, I think the tales get taller. He'll become more glorified for the things he did right, and more vilified for the things he did wrong. We had a great opportunity to tell a story about a guy with an exponential amount of resources to inform us about what really happened – or as close to what really happened as they can recall.
AP: How do you feel about Steve Wozniak declaring some scenes weren't accurate after he saw footage of the film?
Kutcher: Steve Wozniak is being paid by another company to support their Steve Jobs film. It's personal for him, but it's also business. We have to keep that in mind. He was also extremely unavailable to us when producing this film. He's a brilliant man and I respect his work, but he wasn't available to us as a resource, so his account isn't going to be our account because we don't know exactly what it was. We did the best job we could. Nobody really knows what happened in the rooms.

Gene Kelly and a 9 Year Old

Gene Continues to Inspire  Click link for full article

A great story I found of how Gene continues to inspire new generations:

By Rod Dreher in the August 9th issue of the American

A couple of weeks ago, we watched An American In Paris as a family. Tonight the boys and I watched On The Town tonight. After it was over, Lucas, who is nine, said, “I want to see every movie Gene Kelly ever made!”  I told him that sometime this weekend, we would watch Singin’ In The Rain, which is Gene Kelly’s most famous movie.  “I think I’ve heard of that,” he said.  “Come see this,” I said, and showed him the clip above.  It dazzled him. Lucas said, “It’s hard to believe somebody like that died.” Which, after a second or two, I realized might be just about the best thing that anybody could say about Gene Kelly, or anybody: that you were so full of life that it seemed only right that you should live forever.  Look what I found just now. Gene Kelly, the quintessential American, was a Francophile who spoke French. Good man!: 
UPDATE.2: Look what just came in the e-mail:

Dear Mr. Dreher,
A Google Alert this morning directed me to your lovely piece about my late husband Gene Kelly. I smiled when I read your son’s comment about Gene’s death.
I feel the same way. I am often on panels with filmmakers who say that young people don’t have any attention span and that you need to dumb things down – hype them up – in order to make them appealing to kids. I disagree completely and your son’s response to the films is a good example of why. Instead, I think you have to do what Gene did – make something of quality that is both contemporary and timeless.
By the way, Gene also spoke Yiddish and pretty fair Italian. He read Latin, wrote poetry and often read a book a day.
Good man is right!
Warm regards,
Patricia Kelly

Isn’t that marvelous? I can’t tell my children what to like, but what I can do is expose them to the greats, and hope that their imagination is captured. My son Lucas is athletically and musically inclined, so I’m not surprised that he is fascinated by Gene Kelly … but I am delighted. Thanks to Mrs. Kelly for this generous note. He read Latin and spoke Yiddish! Can you imagine? How great it would have been to have known him.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A New Yorker Article Chaplin's Perfectionism

Chaplin's Perfectionism

AUGUST 5, 2013


My favorite (though perhaps apocryphal) story of an artist’s inability to let go is about Pierre Bonnard, who, in old age, is said to have visited museums with paints and brushes hidden in his coat in order to add some touches to his works on display. The cinema, built as it is of cuts, is a natural medium for self-critical or penitent artists; Stanley Kubrick famously had scenes cut from prints of “2001” and “The Shining” after the movies were already in theatrical release, and there is the remarkable subgenre of directors’ cuts that are shorter than the released version (certainly Charles Burnett’s “My Brother’s Wedding,” and Elaine May showed a slightly shortened version of “Ishtar” at the 92nd Street Y two years ago). In the mid-nineties, André Téchiné told me that he was considering making trims to his film “My Favorite Season” for its American release (the distributor later said that Téchiné went into the editing room to rework the film but then decided to leave it as-is, a wise decision regarding a fine movie). And, of course, directors often rework the same material, as Alfred Hitchcock did with his remake of “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” as Howard Hawks did with “Ball of Fire” (improving it as “A Song Is Born”) and with “Rio Bravo” (as “El Dorado”).
But maybe the strangest of directorial reworkings is the one on view tonight at 7 P.M. at Anthology Film Archives: Charlie Chaplin’s 1942 sound version of his 1925 silent classic “The Gold Rush.” (It’s also an extra in Criterion’s DVD release of the film.) Like so many of Chaplin’s movies, the personal element is built into the story. Just as his 1923 drama “A Woman of Paris” (in which he does not star but has a cameo) suggests the decadent backrooms of Hollywood, “The Gold Rush,” a snowbound Yukon comedy, also hints at the movie-land boom town, filled with brutes and rowdies, in which the puckish striver of elegant gentility—Chaplin’s Little Tramp—arrives to seek his fortune only to suffer humiliation and heartbreak.
It has some of Chaplin’s most exquisite set pieces, but Chaplin always looked at these pieces somewhat condescendingly. In his autobiography, he called its succession of comic sallies “one two three, pantry cakey” compared with the carefully composed “situation comedy.” Speaking with Jean Cocteau in 1936 (as cited in David Robinson’s superb biography of Chaplin), he said,
The dance of the bread rolls. That’s what they all congratulate me on. It is a mere cog in the machine. A detail. If that was what they specially noticed, they must have been blind to the rest
In the sound version, Chaplin made sure that viewers would see the rest. In suppressing the title cards, he smoothed out the movie’s rhythms and gave its succession of scenes a more dovetailed flow. Chaplin’s voice-over—sometimes a commentary and sometimes an impersonation of characters’ lines—unified the movie’s tone, turned its third-person staging into a first-person reminiscence. The ironic poignancy of a man of feeling in a cynical land was given a voice; Chaplin, now fighting on the world stage of “The Great Dictator,” looked back at the Little Tramp (whom he now called the Little Fellow) with a wistful tenderness. Brutality now had an altogether different face, and romantic sensibility was hardly its only victim.
Anthology Film Archives follows that screening with Chaplin’s 1952 film “Limelight,” another film of personal retrospect and self-doubt. In that film, set half a century earlier, Chaplin plays Calvero, a London music-hall comedian. It’s Chaplin’s there-but-for-the-grace-of-God story, and the deus ex machina that Calvero lacked but that saved Chaplin is the cinema itself. He knew that he owed everything to the camera; his redemptive view of the movies made him hate what he considered the medium’s banalization, and in “A King in New York,” playing next Monday at BAM Cinématek, one of his most scathing and ruefully satirical scenes—in a movie filled with them—is reserved for Hollywood’s new ballyhoo.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Kelly Donen Partnership

Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly worked together as partners on movies from 1945 to 1955 at MGM. Stanley had been a member of the Pal Joey cast on Broadway in 1940 as a 16 year old boy.  He later came to Hollywood and started apprenticing for Gene.  They made many movies together with Gene in front of the camera and Stanley behind it.  They even co-directed three films.  Stanley was a major part of Gene's success.

After their last film together, It's Always Fair Weather, in 1955, they never worked together again.  Stanley had already been on his own directing other movies and wanted to get out from behind Gene's shadow. Gene got all the credit and screen time when they were together and Stanley simply grew up and became resentful of Gene.  I don't blame Stanley at all.  It was his time to shine.  He, eventually, outshone Gene in the directors seat and had a brilliant career behind the camera working with Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in many movies.

He and Gene never worked together and rarely spoke or saw each other again until 1991, five years before Gene's death.

Donen, on Kelly in a 1992 interview talking about the split after It's Always Fair Weather: "I thought about quitting, and I almost did. Co-directing is a nightmare. Co-anything is a nightmare.... It's especially unpleasant and very difficult. To work with somebody particularly somebody who is so concerned with his image, was impossible." "I'm grateful to him, but I paid him back the debt, ten times over. And he got his money's worth out of me." Not only did Donen never work with Kelly again, but he never worked with Arthur Freed, MGM or Comden and Green. 

 Arthur Freed giving Stanley and Gene their first directors job.
 Gene with one of Stanley's wives.  He later married another one of Stanley's wives, Jeannie Coyne, who has also been Kelly's student in Pittsburgh and his dance assistant for many years.  There was personal as well as professional animosityl
 Donen in later years.
 Stanley and Gene playing around as directors from the silent era.
Stanley and Gene conferring on the set.
The only time he broke bread with Kelly again, was at a dinner after a Comden and Green tribute when they all went to Spagos in Hollywood. Kelly had paid tribute to Stanley during the tribute and invited he and his wife to dinner. Donen seemed upset at a joke Kelly told at dinner. This was not a reconciliation, but a polite get together. 

So sad that this great team split on bad terms.

What do Tom Cruise and Charlie Chaplin have in common?

United Artists was incorporated as a joint venture on February 5, 1919, by four of the leading figures in early Hollywood: Mary PickfordCharlie ChaplinDouglas Fairbanks, and D. W. Griffith. Each held a 20% stake, with the remaining 20% held by lawyer William Gibbs McAdoo.[4] The idea for the venture originated with Fairbanks, Chaplin, Pickford, and cowboy star William S. Hart a year earlier as they were traveling around the U.S. selling Liberty bonds to help the World War I effort. Already veterans of Hollywood, the four film stars began to talk of forming their own company to better control their own work as well as their futures.
They were spurred on by established Hollywood producers and distributors who were tightening their control over actor salaries and creative decisions, a process that evolved into the rigid studio system. With the addition of Griffith, planning began, but Hart bowed out before things had formalized. When he heard about their scheme, Richard A. Rowland, head of Metro Pictures, is said to have observed, "The inmates are taking over the asylum." The four partners, with advice from McAdoo (son-in-law and former Treasury Secretary of then-President Woodrow Wilson), formed their distribution company, with Hiram Abrams as its first managing director.
List of UA stockholders in 1920
The original terms called for Pickford, Fairbanks, Griffith and Chaplin to independently produce five pictures each year. But by the time the company got under way in 1920–1921, feature films were becoming more expensive and more polished, and running times had settled at around ninety minutes (or eight reels). It was believed that no one, no matter how popular, could produce and star in five quality feature films a year. By 1924, by which time Griffith had dropped out, the company was facing a crisis: either bring in others to help support a costly distribution system or concede defeat. The veteran producer Joseph Schenck was hired as president. Not only had he been producing pictures for a decade, but he brought along commitments for films starring his wife, Norma Talmadge, his sister-in-law, Constance Talmadge, and his brother-in-law, Buster Keaton. Contracts were signed with a number of independent producers, most notably Samuel GoldwynAlexander Korda and Howard Hughes. Schenck also formed a separate partnership with Pickford and Chaplin to buy and build theaters under the United Artists name. They also began international operations, first in Canada, then in Mexico, and by the end of the 1930s, United Artists was represented in over 40 countries.
D.W. GriffithMary PickfordCharlie Chaplin (seated) and Douglas Fairbanks at the signing of the contract establishing United Artists motion picture studio in 1919. Lawyers Albert Banzhaf (left) and Dennis F. O'Brien (right) stand in the background.
Still, even with a broadening of the company, UA struggled. The coming of sound ended the careers of Pickford and Fairbanks. Chaplin, rich enough to do what he pleased, worked only occasionally. Schenck resigned in 1933 to organize a new company with Darryl F. ZanuckTwentieth Century Pictures, which soon provided four pictures a year to UA's schedule. He was replaced as president by sales manager Al Lichtman who himself resigned after only a few months. Pickford produced a few films, and at various times Goldwyn, Korda, Walt DisneyWalter Wanger, and David O. Selznick were made "producing partners" (i.e., sharing in the profits), but ownership still rested with the founders. As the years passed and the dynamics of the business changed, these "producing partners" drifted away, Goldwyn and Disney to RKO, Wanger toUniversal Pictures, Selznick to retirement. By the late 1940s, United Artists had virtually ceased to exist as either a producer or distributor. It sold off its Mexican releasing division to Crédito Cinematográfico Mexicano, a local company.
 Charlie Chaplin seated with Mary Picford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith.  These were the most power and richest stars of the Silent Era.  Also seated below.  D.W. Griffith produced Birth of a Nation.

The Tom Cruise era[edit source | editbeta]

On November 2, 2006, MGM announced that actor Tom Cruise and his long-time production partner Paula Wagner were resurrecting UA[15][16] (this announcement came after the duo were released from a fourteen-year production relationship at Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures earlier that year). Cruise, Wagner and MGM Studios created United Artists Entertainment LLC and the producer/actor and his partner owned a 30% stake in the studio,[17] with the approval by MGM's consortium of owners.
The deal gave them control over production and development of films. Wagner was named CEO of United Artists, which was allotted an annual slate of four films with different budget ranges, while Cruise served as a producer for the revamped studio as well as serving as the occasional star.
UA became the first motion picture studio granted a WGA waiver in January 2008 during the Writers' Strike.[18]
On August 14, 2008, MGM announced Paula Wagner would leave United Artists to produce films independently.[2] Her output as head of UA was two films, both starring Cruise, Lions for Lambs[19] and Valkyrie, the latter of which, despite mixed reviews, was successful at the box office thanks to $117 million in foreign revenue.[20] Wagner's departure led to speculation that an overhaul at United Artists was imminent.[2]
Since then, United Artists has merely served as a co-producer with MGM for two releases: the 2009 remake of Fame and Hot Tub Time Machine. Throughout 2010, continued debt and credit issues for MGM Holdings, Inc., United Artists' parent company had left the future of MGM and UA in doubt until it was resolved near the end of the year.
A 2011 financial report revealed that MGM reacquired its 100% stake in United Artists.[17] MGM might continue to make new films under the UA brand.[17]