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MALTESE FALCON Statuette Brings $3.5 Million At Auction

Posted on 25 November 2013 by Rich Drees

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It was considered priceless by those who sought to posses it, but the stuff that dreams are made of has a price.

The screen used statuette used in the 1941 classic The Maltese Falcon which starred Humphrey Bogart fetched $3.5 million at an auction of Hollywood memorabilia today, not including a $585,000 buyers premium. It was estimated that the prop would earn $1.5 million.

Another Bogart-related prop, the 1940 Buick Phaeton used in the cliamctic airport scene in Casablanca went under the gavel for $380,000. Also up for sale were Casablanca producer Hal Wallis’s working copy of the shooting script for the film and the chair used in the office set of Bogart’s Maltese Falcon private eye Sam Spade.

Curated by Turner Classic Movies, the auction featured over 100 lots ranging across almost 100 years of film history from a joke file from W. C. Fields to Michael Keaton’s superhero costume from Batman and Harrison Ford’s whip from Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. Numerous costumes included in the auction spanned from the early days of talking pictures like a majorette jacket worn by Shirley Temple in 1936’s Poor Little Rich Girl to Oscar-winning gowns for Shakespeare In Love designed by Sandy Powell. Other pieces include a preliminary design maquette for the Terror Dogs from Ghostbusters to a diving helmet from 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea to animation cells for the cast titles to films such as The Sound Of Music and Hello Dolly. Below are pictures of a few props that were on display at Bonham’s Auction House in Manhattan this past weekend preceding today’s sale.

The falcon prop was one of two cast in lead statuettes by the prop department at Warner Brothers Studio for the film and the only one that can be verified as having appeared in the classic noir tale. It had been owned by a private collector who purchased it in the 1980s.

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Vintage Film Journals And Magazines Now Searchable Online

Posted on 21 October 2013 by Rich Drees

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If you’ve been looking to do some research by digging through early issue of such notable film publications like Variety, the Hollywood Reporter or Photoplay, you’re in luck. The holdings that are part of the Media History Digital Library are now available to be searched online through a new project called Lantern.

In addition to the publications named above, the database also includes issues of Moving Picture World, Picture Play, Film Daily, Hollywood Filmograph, Movie Classic and numerous fan magazines, all available to search and view as images and pdfs on the Lantern site.

Heck, even if you’re not researching right anything currently, the site is still good for just general poking around. I know that I just spent an hour on their just inputting various search topics and following where ever they may have lead me.

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Help Save GHOSTBUSTERS’s Ecto-1A!

Posted on 16 October 2013 by Rich Drees

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One of the most iconic cars in motion picture history is the retrofitted 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance from the Ghostbusters movies known by fans as the Ectomobile. Unveiled in the first movie with the moniker, Ecto 1, it received some upgrades for when Manhattan’s paranormal eliminators went back into business in Ghostbusters 2 and was rechristened Ecto 1A.

In reality, there were actually three cars that “played” Ecto-1 in the films. The first, the dilapidated old black car seen in one early scene of the first Ghostbusters, was a rental and never converted into the Ecto-1 that fans know. The second was used in both the first and second films, but when it broke down during production of Ghostbusters 2, a third car was brought in to complete filming. Universal studios restored the first Ecto 1 back in 2007, but the replacement Ecto 1A never got similar treatment reportedly due to budgetary issues. It was on public display at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida for a while, but now sits in a corner of Sony’s prop storage space, forgotten and in a sad state of disrepair. As you can see from the photo below (via Instagram user cheekybama) the car has a smashed windshield, a dented hood and its lightbar tossed unceremoniously on top. Additionally, the interior has had several parts stripped out, presumably by fans.

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But there may some hope for Ecto 1A. A group of Ghostbusters fans named, appropriately enough Ghostbuster Fans, have started a petition to buy the car and original parts at scrap value from Sony in order to restore it themselves. The group’s petition, which you can sign here, doesn’t state how the group will pay for the project, but I certainly do admire their spirit a (no pun intended) and their willingness to step up and save the car in the face of Sony’s disinterest.

While there are a couple of professionally built replicas of Ecto 1, one made for Universal’s “Spooktackular” stage show now owned by a collector in Tennessee while another replica currently is on display at the Historic Auto Attractions museum in Roscoe, Illinois, there are only two original, screen-used cars. Given the ongoing popularity of the films nearly a quarter of a century after the second one came out, it seems right that both of the cars are preserved for posterity.

Via Motor Authority.

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George Lucas’ Original Plan For The STAR WARS Prequel Trilogy

Posted on 07 October 2013 by Rich Drees

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Later this month comes the release of writer J W Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, the final installment in his trilogy of books taking an in-depth look at the making of George Lucas’ epic trilogy.

As a bit of a tease for the book, we though we would share just a short bit in which Rinzler reveals how Lucas mentioned his at-the-time nebulous plans for what would become the Prequel Trilogy to Return of the Jedi director Richard Marquand, screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, and producer Howard Kazanjian –

“Well, anyway, Luke’s father gets subverted by the Emperor. He gets a little weird at home and his wife begins to figure out that things are going wrong and she confides in Ben, who is his mentor. On his missions through the galaxies, Anakin has been going off doing his Jedi thing and a lot of Jedi have been getting killed—and it’s because they turn their back on him and he cuts them down. The president is turning into an Emperor and Luke’s mother suspects that something has happened to her husband. She is pregnant. Anakin gets worse and worse, and finally Ben has to fight him and he throws him down into a volcano and Vader is all beat up.

Now, when he falls into the pit, his other arm goes and his leg and there is hardly anything left of him by the time the Emperor’s troops fish him out of the drink. Then when Ben finds out that Vader has been fished out and is in the hands of the Empire, he is worried about it. He goes back to Vader’s wife and explains that Anakin is the bad guy, the one killing all the Jedi.

When he goes back his wife, Mrs. Skywalker has had the kids, the twins, so she has these two little babies who are six months old or so. So everybody has to go into hiding. The Skywalker line is very strong with the Force, so Ben says, ‘I think we should protect the kids, because they may be able to help us right the wrong that your husband has created in the universe.’ And so Ben takes one and gives him to a couple out there on Tatooine and he gets his little hideout in the hills and he watches him grow. Ben can’t raise Luke himself, because he’s a wanted man. Leia and Luke’s mother go to Alderaan and are taken in by the king there, who is a friend of Ben’s. She dies shortly thereafter and Leia is brought up by her foster parents. She knows that her real mother died.”

As you can see, Lucas has had the broad strokes of the story already in mind, as he would need to as it is backstory for Jedi. In the run up to the release of The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas had mentioned in many interview the bits about Vader and the volcano before, but because he obviously didn’t want to spoil Empire‘s big reveal, he didn’t mention the whole parentage angle of the story. This still doesn’t solve the mystery as to whether it was before or after Empire that Lucas decided that Luke and Leia would be twins.

And we can see that this is basically how things played out in Attack Of The Clones and Return Of The Sith, though it does have “Mrs. Skywalker” surviving past child birth which would play into Leia saying that she has vague memories of her mother in Return Of The Jedi. Interestingly, there is no mention of Anakin’s childhood and what would become the relatively unaddressed issue of his parentage, so if Lucas had any ideas about that at the time, he was keeping them to himself. And since they had no bearing on the backstories needed for Jedi, I see no reason for him to bring them up if he did have these story elements in mind.

The Making of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi arrives in bookstores on October 22 or can be ordered from Amazon here.

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See An Alternate Look For Galactus For RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER

Posted on 01 October 2013 by Rich Drees

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There were a lot of things to be disappointed by in the 2007 comic book adaptation Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer and for some fans one of those things was the non-appearance of the interstellar entity known as Galactus. Although his herald, the Silver Surfer, was the main focus of the superhero sequel, many were hoping that the dreaded “Devourer of Worlds” would show up in the film for more than just the few tantalizing glimpses we got during the film’s finale.

It turns out that during the film’s development, there was much thought given to how much Galactus would be an active part in the film’s story. And to that end, some concept art was created by Daniel J. Cox to show how he could possibly be portrayed. As you can see below, Cox was working variations on a theme in which Galactus towers over a city, partly obscured by skyscrapers.

Personally, I always felt that director Tim Story was setting himself up to disappoint by choosing to attempt to do a story involving Galactus. The character is a great one for comics, but I am unsure as to how well it could ever be translated to a live action film. Would general audiences buy into a hundreds of feet tall guy in a purple skirt and a tuning fork for a hat as a credible menace? Of course, the direction that Story went in – having Galactus being just vaguely glimpsed through swirling clouds of energy – was bound to not only disappoint but anger fans.

Now Story has reportedly stated that the reason that they kept Galactus obscured so that he could be revealed in a planned spinoff film featuring the Silver Surfer. And that spinoff’s screenwriter, J. Michael Straczynski, had stated that Galactus would be featured prominently in the film and would be seen. But it strikes me that Story was more likely just kicking the problem down the road a bit, where it became moot in the wake of Rise Of The Silver Surfer‘s lackluster box office and critical reception.

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Via Film Sketchr.

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Recovered Lost Mary Pickford Short Film To Screen In New Hampshire Next Month

Posted on 30 September 2013 by Rich Drees

FirstMisunderstandingThe previously thought lost short film that marks the first onscreen credit silent film superstar Mary Pickford would receive will be screened in New Hampshire next week, the first time that the film has been seen by audiences in decades.

The short, the 1911 comedy-drama Their First Misunderstanding, was discovered in a New Hampshire barn seven years ago by a contractor who had been hired to tear down the decaying structure. Checking to see that it was empty before he started, the contractor discovered an ancient film projector and a stack of seven reels of highly volatile nitrate films that weren’t even stored in cans. Of those reels, four, including Their First Misunderstanding, were shorts previously thought to be lost to history. (Another one of those reels contained When Lincoln Paid (1913) directed by Francis Ford, the older brother of legendary director John Ford.)

Although she had become a star almost immediately for D.W. Griffith and the Biograph Co. when she was signed to the company in April of 1909, it was Biograph’s policy that they would not credit the names of their actors led the public to know her only as Little Mary an not Mary Pickford. At the end of 1910, Pickford left Biograph for independent producer Carl Laemmle’s Independent Moving Picture Co.

Their First Misunderstanding was Pickford’s first film for Laemmle, and not only did she co-star with her first husband, Owen Moore, she also also wrote the film’s scenario. Legendary director/producer Thomas Ince, who is thought to have directed the short, also makes a short appearance. Of the 39 films that Pickford made over the nine months she was at IMO, only 13 have survived.

The restored film will screen on October 11 at Keene State College in Keene, NH, with Pickford scholar Christel Schmidt on hand to introduce it. It was Keene State College film program founder Larry Benaquist who was contacted by the contractor who had discovered the abandoned films. Benaquist sent the films to a restoration lab where it was discovered that one of the reels was indeed the lost Pickford short. He then contacted Schmidt, and the film was then donated to the Library of Congress which oversaw a complete restoration of the material. reportedly there are a few moments missing from the short but the story is still easily followable.

Via LA Times, who have a short, 45 second clip from the movie that they don’t supply embed codes for.

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Hugh Jackman Reveals Wolverine Almost Cameoed In Raimi’s First SPIDER-MAN

Posted on 10 September 2013 by Rich Drees

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Marvel Studios has been very successful with their intertwined superhero franchises that make up their Marvel Cinematic Universe. But they were almost beaten to the punch in having their superhero franchises crossover with each other by a few years by Sony Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox.

According to the X-Men franchise’s Hugh Jackman, his mutant hero character Wolverine almost made an appearance in Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man. Speaking with the Huffington Post, Jackman explained –

In the first “Spider-Man” — Kevin Feige reminded me of this — we really tried to get me to come on and do something, whether it was a gag or just to walk through the shot or something. The problem was, we couldn’t find the suit. The suit was stuck in something. And so when they were in New York when I was there, we couldn’t get it together.

So, you know, I actually asked some high level people about it. Because the optimist in me goes, “Why not? Why can’t we do it? You know, a split cast or whatever?” And someone reminded that the amount of money Fox paid compared to the amount of money Disney paid is very different [laughs]. So how you split that pie up? God knows. But in the comic books, what’s great about it is they’re just mashing together all the time — and it’s awesome. And people are like, “Yeah, well, let’s get this one with that!” And, you know, I still think, one day, there may be an ability to do it.

Let’s stop and think about this for a moment. Sony would have their two superhero franchises cross over six years before Marvel Studios launched their Cinematic Universe with the first Iron Man film.

If this had come about, how would fans reacted? They most likely would have lost their collective minds, much like they did with Sam Jackman’s reveal in Iron Man‘s now famous post-credit scene. But with Spider-Man’s film rights owned by Sony Pictures and the X-Men owned by Twentieth Century Fox, any further links between the two series, including a proper Team-Up (pun intended) between them would probably be out of the question.

Today, though, there has been hints that the X-Men franchise may interact with Fox’s other superhero franchise, The Fantastic Four, once that series gets rebooted in 2015.

Of course, before Wolverine almost showed up in Spider-Man, the wallcrawler almost showed up in the first X-Men film, thanks to this on-set practical joke.

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Watch Some Rare Behind-The-Scenes Footage Of Jerry Lewis’s Unreleased Film THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED

Posted on 11 August 2013 by Rich Drees

Some people have called Jerry Lewis’s holocaust drama The Day The Clown Cried a lost film in that it has never been seen by the public. I suppose it is in a sense, but am reluctant to give it that tag as it has gone unseen more due to legal problems keeping it in a vault rather than through any casual neglect that resulted in no prints for the title in continued existence.

(You can read an in depth explanation of those legal problems, as well as a review of the film’s screenplay in our script review here.)

But one thing is for sure. The Day The Clown Cried is probably at the top of almost all serious film fans of unavailable titles that they would love to have a chance to see. And while a nearly complete version of the film lies tucked away in a safe in Jerry Lewis’s office, a sequence from an old Dutch television show on Lewis has surfaced on YouTube that shows the comic/director in the process of shooting the film. The sequences we do get to see are from early in the film, centering on Lewis’s German circus clown character Helmut Doork before he is caught making fun of Adolf Hilter and sent off to a concentration camp where he is forced to entertain children on their way to the gas chamber.

The clowning that we see Lewis do is fairly benign and out of context I can’t tell if it is supposed to portray Doork as just a middling talent or if Lewis is not actually bringing anything funny to the scene. I would imagine that there is a clue to be found though in a 1992 Spy magazine piece on the film titled “Jerry Goes To Death Camp!” Comedian Harry Shearer, through a series of fortuitous connections, was able to see the film explained what he saw thusly –

With most of these kinds of things, you find that the anticipation, or the concept, is better than the thing itself. But seeing this film was really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of a perfect object. This was a perfect object. This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. “Oh My God!” – that’s all you can say… if you flew down to Tijuana and suddenly saw a painting on black velvet of Auschwitz. You’d just think ‘My God, wait a minute! It’s not funny, and it’s not good, and somebody’s trying too hard in the wrong direction to convey this strongly-held feeling.

Shearer elaborated on his experience with the view on the Howard Stern radio show in 1990s.

I am sure that Lewis started off on the project in 1971 with the intention of doing something he thought would highlight both his comedic and hitherto untapped dramatic abilities but vanity and ego blinded him to what a train wreck in the making the project was becoming. But it seems that over the years, Lewis has become more clearheaded about what the film that was made. While he ignores the legal aspect tying up the film’s release, he in the below excerpt from a public question and answer this past January, he is brutally honest about his own estimation of his work.

Via Bleeding Cool.

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Three MONSTERS UNIVERSITY Easter Eggs

Posted on 27 June 2013 by Rich Drees

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I would wager that when Monsters University opened last weekend that more than a few people were not just watching the film for itself but also for the numerous in-jokes that animators at Pixar Studios like to include into their output.

For the uninitiated, Pixar animators have made it a tradition to include little nods and winks to not only past films, but to upcoming ones as well. The folks at EW got Pixar to show us where three of these Easter Eggs.

The first, is the number A113, a reference to the Cal Arts classroom where Pixar head honcho John Lasseter and others received their first instruction that set them on the course to where they are now. The second Easter Egg is the familiar Pizza Planet truck, a mainstay of Pixar features all the way back to its appearance in the first Toy Story movie. But the third reference goes back even further to one of the company’s very shorts, Luxo Jr., and the toy ball that becomes the plaything for two lamps.

Now there is one hidden reference to the upcoming Pixar film Dinosaurs, but that film’s director, Bob Peterson, will only confirm that it is there but not where. keep your eyes peeled.

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Dr. Strangelove Or: How Stanley Kubrick Learned To Stop Worrying And Name His Film

Posted on 01 April 2013 by Rich Drees

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Shakespeare may have said that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, but that doesn’t mean that finding the right name for something is any less an arduous task.

Take Star Wars, for instance. George Lucas at one point planned on encumbering his space opera with the rather awful The Adventures Of Luke Starkiller, As Taken From The Journal Of The Whills – Saga I: Star Wars. A decade or so earlier, one of Lucas’s idols, Stanley Kubrick, found himself in a similar predicament. He was in the midst of adapting Peter George’s Cold War thriller Red Alert into a satire about nuclear war and felt that the book’s title wasn’t sufficient to convey what his film was about. So he sat down and started jotting ideas into a notebook, the results of which you can see below. It is interesting to see him experimenting with the format and the number of permutations of words he went through to find just the right combination. I suppose that it would be more informative about his creative process if he had just written each idea down in a straight column, but then again Kubrick was really never one to let people into his thoughts on how he made his films.

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I have to admit that out all of the ones seen here, my two favorites are The Passion Of Dr. Strangelove and Dr. Strangelove’s The Secret Uses Of Uranus, though I could see that second one attracting an entirely different kind of audience.

Via Lists Of Note.

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