These Amazing Shadows-preserving our history

In October Comet Over Hollywood was approached, along with other classic film blogs, to review “These Amazing Shadows,” a documentary directed by Kurt Norton and Paul Mariano.  The documentary, which airs at 10 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 29, 2011, on PBS, explores the foundation of the National Film Registry in 1988 and the importance of preserving culturally significant films.

“These Amazing Shadows” explains clearly how the Film Preservation Act of 1988 came into being.

It began when media mogul Ted Turner purchased the entire MGM film library and proceeded to colorize many of the black and white films.  According to Turner he was improving the movies and had every right to colorize them. “Last time I checked, they were my films,” Turner said.

But this did not sit well with members of Hollywood-directors and actors alike were furious.

Orson Welles famously said, “Keep Ted Turner and his damn Crayolas away from my movies.” Ginger Rogers, Sydney Pollack, Woody Allen and James Stewart were just a few to speak out against the process before Congress.

Eventually the Film Preservation Act would be enacted and the National Film Registry would pick 25 significant films to preserve each year.

Had the documentary chosen to focus solely on the history of the Film Preservation Act and the National Film Registry, it would have been nothing more than a short history lesson.  Thankfully, “These Amazing Shadows” delves deeper into why film is so important and why particular movies are chosen for the registry.

The documentary takes the time to expand upon why the Film Registry includes other movie genres including industrial, educational, documentary and home movies, touching on how these other areas shape American culture and life.

Watching this documentary it becomes very clear that films are not just for entertainment, but that they can be time capsules of our history and culture. Speakers in the documentary from other countries saw movies like “West Side Story” (1961) and thought that was what America was like.

Many of the movies in the registry are relatively unknown when compared to stable mates such as “The Wizard of Oz”(1939) and “Cascablanca” (1942).  Some of the most surprising films in the registry are “Gus Visser and His Singing Duck” (1925), a two minute film demonstrating sound, and the 1950s cartoon advertisement “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” which encouraged patrons to go buy snacks.

Other films in the registry are as simple as a 1939 home movie of daily life in Minnesota or the disturbing footage of President John F. Kennedy getting shot. Neither of these were block buster Hollywood films but contribute to the history of America.

“These Amazing Shadows” poignantly conveys that a movie is more than a series images burned into film.  A good film functions as art, a time capsule, or a reflection of culture.  But even seemingly insignificant films like a man talking with a duck still deserved to be respected for its cultural value.

Ultimately, “These Amazing Shadows” is a near perfect documentary. It left me informed, emotional and in awe. I was uplifted that so many films have been rescued and preserved through the National Film Registry, but also found myself holding a warning, “If we don’t save and preserve films, we won’t have a history.”

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Christmas wishes from Comet, Judge Hardy and a dachshund

Merry Christmas from Comet Over Hollywood!!

Here is a Christmas greeting from my dachshund, Molly, and me.

Here is another heartwarming family Christmas wish from the Hardy family. This video was made in 1938 holiday season and I think it went along with “Love Finds Andy Hardy” (1938)-my favorite Andy Hardy movie.

I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe holiday weekend with family and friends. Thank you all so much for reading Comet Over Hollywood. Stop by and relax after the holidays and we will continue to have more classic film fun!

Merry Christmas and best wishes,

Jessica Noelle Pickens

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Classic movies in music videos: Boots by The Killers

This is December’s edition of Comet Over Hollywood’s classic film references in music videos.

The song's single cover channels "Citizen Kane"

Right on the heels of watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) in Mount Airy, I want to share a reference of the film in The Killer’s 2010 Christmas single “Boots.”  It was the fifth Christmas single the band wrote to help raise money for AIDS.

The video starts off with George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) praying for help in “It’s a Wonderful Life” right after the $8,000 is lost and he thinks he is going to jail. The song also mentions the movie title in the chorus.

The cover of the single also references “Citizen Kane.” The snow globe with the boots inside is similar to the snow globe Charles Foster Kane is holding when he dies.

“Boots” was directed by “Napoleon Dynamite” director Jared Hess and the homeless man in the video is street performer Brad “Super Bad Brad” Prowley- I had no idea he was anyone well-known until a today.

Most of the band’s Christmas songs are silly and fun, such as “Don’t Shoot Me Santa Claus”, “Great Big Sleigh” and “The Cowboy Christmas Ball.” However, this video is about home, memories and is a bit more serious and sentimental. I believe this might be, because Flowers’ mother passed away in February 2010 and he was dedicating it to her and childhood memories, though this is just an assumption.

As most of you know The Killers are my favorite band. In past classic film in music video posts I have shared their videos “All the Things I Have Done” and “Bones.”  From what I have heard in interviews and read in articles, I feel like lead singer Brandon Flowers appreciates the old times and classic film. He was raised in Las Vegas and tries to channels the Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Elvis days of 1960s Las Vegas in his performances and music.

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‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in Andy Griffith land

Tonight I had my third classic film on the big screen experience- and I have to add it might be my favorite thus far.

The Earle Theater in Mount Airy, NC. Taken from the Surry Arts Council

I drove roughly 30 minutes with fellow Elkin Tribune reporter, Kristin Zachary, to see “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946) in Mount Airy, North Carolina.  Some of you may recognize Mount Airy as the town the television show “Andy Griffith” is based off of. The town is full of Andy Griffith related places such as the Andy Griffith Playhouse/mall/Parkway, Opie’s Candy Store or Barney’s Lunch Counter-but I digress, that is another post.

The film was showing at The Earle Theater, built in 1938 and opened in time to show “Gone with the Wind,” according to the Mount Airy News.

I can’t tell you when the last time I had watched “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Though my family owns it, it isn’t a Christmas movie we watch every year like “Charlie Brown’s Christmas,” “Bishop’s Wife,” “Christmas in Connecticut” or “White Christmas.”  I think part of the reason we don’t is because my dad gets very, very angry when Thomas Mitchell loses the money.

I had forgotten what a good movie it was, but then it’s a Frank Capra film so it’s pretty much flawless.

For those who haven’t seen the movie, the film is about George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart. He is in a bad place in his life, and his guardian angel comes to help. Before coming down to Earth the angel looks back over George’s life- reviewing events like saving his little brother from drowning, the death of his father and getting married. We see the struggles George Bailey has gone through for his family and how he has had to set aside everything he wanted in life to help everyone else out-mainly to keep his father’s business out of greedy Mr Potter’s hands. Before being visited by his guardian angel, he feels like he has reached the end of his rope and everything he has worked for has been for nothing. Bailey wishes he was never born and Clarence the Angel (played by Henry Travers) shows him what Bedford Falls would be like if Bailey hadn’t been born and how much he has affected everyone around him.

We meet grown up Mary (Donna Reed) for the first time.

Capra has some great camera shots. Most of my favorites were toward the end when George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) hasn’t been born such as when childhood friend and local hussy Violet (Gloria Graham) is being arrested- the camera is in her face as she is struggling with the cops.  Another shot is  the close up of George Bailey’s face as he is frantically looking around Pottersville/Bedford Falls. Other shots I liked were at the graduation dance with the close up on Mary (Donna Reed) when George first sees her after many years and ( also at the graduation dance) when the two boys (one being Carl ‘Alfalfa’ Schwartz) are planning to open the swimming pool floor.

Some other thoughts I had during the movie:

-The last time I saw “It’s a Wonderful Life” I was probably in late elementary school or in middle school. Sometimes I didn’t understand why George was upset with how his life was going. Now that I’m out of college and have my own ambitions, I can relate to him a lot more.

George yelling at Uncle Billy for losing $8,000.

-Thomas Mitchell (who played Uncle Billy) broke my heart. He was so sweet and forgetful and didn’t mean any harm to anyone. I almost died at the part where George is yelling at him and calling him a stupid fool for losing the money and then….Uncle Billy cries….and a squirrel jumped on his arm-further tears from me.  I understand being upset over the loss of $8,000, but who sends the absent minded relative to the bank with that much money?

-I always knew Donna Reed (who plays Mary) was a good actress, but I was really impressed with her acting in this movie. Unfortunately, she wasn’t given the chance at MGM she deserved, because many roles that might have gone to her, went to June Allyson.

-Gloria Graham (who plays Violet) isn’t one of my favorite actresses, but she also does a great job in this movie. It may be my favorite role of her’s.

Lionel Barrymore, as Mr. Potter, is the richest, greediest man in town.

-Lionel Barrymore is my favorite of the Barrymores and he sure can play a good bad guy. Barrymore plays Mr. Potter who is the richest man in town, greedy and wanting to have control everything. However, is anyone else bothered by what looks like a bald cap on Mr. Barrymore?

-I never realized how many funny parts were in this movie, either. Kristin and I were cracking up the whole time, particularly because a little boy with a really funny laugh was sitting in front of us. Every time he laughed at the funny parts, we would laugh harder.

At the end of the movie, Kristin and I walked out wiping tears from our eyes and she said, “They sure don’t make movies like that anymore.’

George running through the streets of Bedford Falls thankful to be alive.

Overall, the uplifting film mixed with the small town ambiance of Mount Airy, it was a very lovely experience and is my favorite classic film experience thus far.

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Actress beauty tip #19: Golden hair

Marlene Dietrich and her beautiful, golden hair.

This is the nineteenth installment of the monthly classic actress beauty tips that I have read about and tested.

During the holiday season, glitter and sparkle seems to be all the rage.  Garland, holiday dresses, sequined shoes.  Well why not add some shine to your hair?

As I’ve highlighted in a prior tip, Marlene Dietrich is well known for her eyes. Another noteable feature is her shining, golden hair.

I read that Max Factor would sprinkle real gold dust over Marlene’s golden locks and wigs to add extra shine and sparkle.

Since I don’t see myself stumbling over gold dust, I decided to buy the next best thing- lose gold powder.

I know it exists, but I was about to give up hope at Wal-Mart when I came across some. It’s made by Hard Candy and is called “Show Girl loose glitter” with the name of “Vegas Baby.”  It was a very funny name, but it served it’s purpose.

My hair with a hint of sparkle.

“Vegas Baby” had a tiny little brush that you use to apply, but that took too long on my hair. I ended up turning it over and sprinkling it like a salt shaker.

I’m not sure what real gold dust looks like in hair, but the loose glitter showed up just fine.

To review: The glitter showed up and added some extra shine to my hair, but I’m not sure if I would wear it to the grocery store or to work. It might be something to add to an evening look or for a holiday party.

Stay tuned for January’s beauty tip!

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