Virginia Davis, who starred in a series of short films for Walt Disney that combined animation and live action and pre-dated Mickey Mouse, died last Saturday, August 15, at her home in Corona, CA. She was 90.
Walt Disney was a struggling filmmaker trying to keep his Kansas City, Missouri Laugh-O-Gram cartoon studio in business when he hired the four-year-old Davis to star in Alice’s Wonderland, the first in a proposed series of one reel (about ten minutes long) short films which combined live action and animation. In the short, a young girl (Davis) sneaking into a cartoon studio to see how cartoons are made. She is surprised when the cartoon characters come to life and dreams of more adventures with them that night.
Unfortunately, Disney had to close the studio soon after the short was finished. He headed to Hollywood to find interest in financing the series, ultimately securing a distribution deal with Winkler Pictures. Disney sent back to Missouri for Davis, convincing her parents to bring his young star out to Hollywood.
Davis would go on to star in 14 more of the Alice shorts between 1924 and 1925. She would film the segments that combined live action and animation in front of a white sheet hung over a billboard in a vacant lot. (Films at the time were shot outside using sunlight as the powerful lights needed for shooting indoors in a studio had not yet been developed.) She often stated that acting opposite characters who would be added later by animators wasn’t hard thing to do because she had an active imagination and Disney was a good director. She sited 1924′s Alice’s Wild West Show as her favorite of the series, mostly because she gets to play a tomboy who beats up a bully. The success of the series helped Disney lay the groundwork for the entertainment empire he would eventually build.
After Davis’ contract with Disney expired, she turned her career more toward singing and dancing, appearing in College Holiday (1936), Footlight Serenade (1942) and, her final film, The Harvey Girls (1946). Following her retirement from show business, Davis pursued careers as an interior decorator, magazine editor and real estate agent.
Will Ghostbusters 3 finally start shooting this winter? Dan Aykroyd seems to think it could.
In an interview with the LA Times‘ The Hero Blog, Aykroyd stated that he feels optimistic that the long in development sequel will finally be in front of the cameras relatively soon. Of course, Akyrord cognizantly recognizes the reality of Hollywood and that “at any second everything could blow up.”
At this point, the film’s script by Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky is currently going through some revisions, but there is enough story in place that Ghostbusters stars Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, Ernie Hudson and Sigourney Weaver have all committed to returning to the franchise. (Not returning will be Rick Moranis who has retired from show business following the death of his wife in order to raise his family.)
Aykroyd confirmed that the film will “pass the torch” from the original group of paranormal investigators to a new group. “Let’s revisit the old characters briefly and happily and have them there as family but let’s pass it on to a new generation,” he stated. As for who that new generation might be, Aykroyd stated he’d like to see a five member group, with more than one female, mentioning Alyssa Milano and Eliza Dushku as two actresses he’d like to see strap on proton packs.
It is uncertain if the films’ original director Ivan Reitman will be able to return to duty behind the camera. Aykroyd concedes that Reitman is “too busy as a mega-producer” to make a return seem feasible. As a replacement, Aykroyd would like to nominate castmate Ramis, who has developed his own directorial career with films like Groundhogs Day and Analyze This. Ramis’s most recently film is the upcoming pre-historic comedy Year One, coincidentally written by Eisenberg and Stupnitsky.
Mickey Carroll, one of the few surviving actors who portrayed the residents of Munchkinland in MGM’s 1939 classic The Wizard Of Oz, has passed away yesterday, May 7, 2009 in Crestwood, Missouri. He was 89.
Dressed in a purple costume with a yellow flower on his vest, Carroll portrayed Munchikinland’s Town Crier, instructing Judy Garland’s Dorothy to “Follow the Yellow Brick Road!”
Carroll was born on July 18, 1919 in St. Louis, Missouri. The son of Italian immigrants, he began taking dance lessons at the St. Louis Fox Theater at the age of 7, where he met actor, and future Oz Tin Woodsman, Jack Haley. Carroll accompanied Haley to Hollywood and quickly landed the role of Mickey in seven Our Gang shorts. At age 17, he was one of six bellhops in the “Call for Phillip Morris!” live radio commercials. A year later he was appearing on stage with Mae West.
For The Wizard Of Oz, Carroll joined nearly 100 child and little people actors to play the denizens of Munchkinland. In addition to his duties as Town Crier, Carroll as played a soldier and one of the fiddlers who start Dorothy on her way to the Emerald City of Oz.
Carroll stayed in shop business a few more years, primarily doing voice over work for film and appearing on numerous radio shows. He also continued to perform in vaudeville and he was the warm-up for Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman during their presidential campaigns. He eventually left show business in the mid-1940s to return home to Missouri and run the family business. In later years, he was able to use his fame as a former Munchkin to help raise money for several charities.
In 2007, Carroll joined six other surviving Munkinland actors in Los Angeles to represent the entire group in receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Have a favorite Warner Brothers film that you’ve despaired would never reach DVD because it just isn’t a commercial enough title for the studio to go to the expense of transferring it to the digital medium? Well, now you’re in luck, as Warner Brothers has announced a new initiative to make these lesser demand titles available on special order DVD.
The newly opened Warner Archive website is making available titles that might not otherwise ever get a DVD release through a new manufacture-on-demand program. (Think along the lines of Café Press’s business model.) Currently there are 150 titles available with plans to add 20 more a month. The titles range from silents all the way up to the 1970s.
I would imagine that this is actually an interim step for the studio, as they are probably in the process of converting their entire library to digital for eventual use in some sort of streaming/on-demand functionality in the future. This way, the studio still earns some income from these films while waiting for whatever digital delivery system they may be contemplating to be installed. The only drawback to these DVDs is that they will be barebones releases, with no supplimental materials to help justify their $19.99 price tag.
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed when I saw one title that is already available- the 1975 adaptation of pulp hero Doc Savage. Sure it is not a great movie. The script tries too hard to cash in on the long faded popularity of the campy Batman television series and the John Philip Sousa music is just too bombastic and “gee-whiz” for the film. The casting of the Doc Savage, former TV Tarzan Ron Ely, and his five adventuring friends is near perfect to their descriptions in the pulps. I was hoping that we would someday get a nice, tricked-out special edition with perhaps a commentary track from a pulp historian like Will Murray. But given the alternative of getting it in a no-frills edition and not getting it all… Well, I’ll take what I can get.
If you’re a classic horror fan you only havejust a few days left to vote for the Seventh Annual Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards.
If you don’t know what the Rondo Awards are, you might have to question how big a classic horror film fan you really are.
Named and modeled after genre actor Rondo Hatton, the Rondos are the brainchild of David Colton and Kerry Gammill of the Classic Horror Film Boards. Voted on by fans rather than given out by some industry organization, the Rondos are a great indication of what the fan community is thinking rather than being a backslapping industry affair.
In addition to the categories for best film and television productions, there are numerous other categories that cover best DVD releases and restorations, magazines, blogs and websites and scholarly articles written on the genre. There are also a few categories to cover various fan events. (And may I for a moment lobby you to vote for BlobFest’s movie theater panic reenactment in this category.)
Cast your votes here. But hurry, the deadline is midnight Saturday night.
Katsuhiro Otomo’s 1988 groundbreaking classic Akira is coming to Blu-Ray disc at the end of the month, and news is starting to circulate about the restoration that the film has undergone for the upcoming release. From the sound of things, fans of the film have every reason to look forward to the new transfer. Blu-Ray.com, which has a comprehensive story on the work that was needed to be done on the film, reports-
Even though Akira had major restoration work done for the 2001 DVD release, including a 1080p theatrical quality master, advances in digital restoration and film transfer technologies have increased to the point where a brand new transfer was warranted. As with the audio, a new inter-positive was struck from the original film negative for a new scan into a digital intermediate (DI); the master computer file upon which all of the remastering work was performed.
The article does into detail (Warning: Some mid-to-high level tech talk involved) about how the film was restored. It also talks about how the restoration producers tackled one of the on-going dilemmas of transferring film to Blu-Rau- How to accurately represent the cinematic experience of a film in a medium that can substantially change the look of that film-
Even though modern audiences have grown used to computer painted animation it is very easy to go overboard during the cleaning process in an attempt to come closer to that look and feel, as has been the case with some Hollywood films where processing and noise reduction has been used to excess. Subsequently, AKIRA was given a thorough color correction and [restoration producer] Mr. Takei believes the restoration team has gotten very close to the luster of the original animation cels, restoring the picture to a condition that allows AKIRA to be experienced as its creators had intended.
The Blu-Ray release of Akira hits shelves on February 24. You can pre-order it at Amazon.com.
For years, cable outlet Turner Classic Movies has made it a mission to bring not only popular vintage films to television audiences but also presenting lesser-remembered output from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Now, TCM looks to be expanding that second part of that mandate to home video as well.
A few months back the cable outlet quietly introduced their DVD “Vault Collection” in the form of six vintage RKO titles that had been rediscovered and restored. The films – A Man To Remember (1938), Double Harness (1933), Living On Love (1937), One Man’s Journey (1933), Rafter Romance (1933) and Stingaree (1934) – had been out of circulation for nearly 50 years, due to their rights being tied to the estate of producer Marion C. Cooper.
And according to the NY Post’s Movies Blog, they are currently in talks with various studios to bring to DVD older titles that their owners don’t feel will be profitable enough to be worth the trouble. Among the studios that TCM is talking to are Warner Home Video (which controls the rights to the vast Turner Entertainment library, including pre-1948 Warner, pre-1986 MGM and the bulk of the RKO titles), Universal (which also controls hundreds of long-unseen 1929-1948 Paramount titles), Sony and MGM.
“We decided our brand can stand for classic movies on all fronts, not just on TV. And we’re looking at new ways to give fans access to these films, many of which have never been available on video’,” explains TCM exec Molly Battin. Although no specific titles were announced, it was hinted that collections featuring writer Robert Benchley’s short films, the Dogsville series of comedy shorts and the series of shorts were golfing legend Bobby Jones teaches golfing tips to stars of the day are all being considered.
A city is like a living, breathing entity in that it is constantly undergoing growth and change. Fortunately, films have helped capture the looks of certain locations at a specific moment in time, preserving them for future generations.
One of the changes currently being seen in many major metropolises is the disappearance of the phone booth. With the ever increasing use of the cell phone, the small, street corner glass and burnished metal cabinets where one could make a quick call have slowly been fading away to history.
And when it happens to the bank of pay phones behind the NYPD station in Manhattan’s Times Square, that means a small piece of movie history has also disappeared, for this was the bank of phones used by Robert DeNiro’s character Rupert Pupkin in Martin Scorsese’s King Of Comedy.
According to a report over at Vanishing New York, the payphone bank where Pupkin once had his “office” has gone the way of so many other pay phones in the area. Now all that is there are some police barricades and a few patrol bicycles. Thankfully, directors like Scorsese were able to capture the feel of Manhattan in the 1970s giving us something to look back on as the city transmogrifies itself for the 21st century.
Twentieth Century Fox has announced the release of the 1953 classic Biblical epic The Robe on DVD and BluRay on March 17. The film was the first motion picture to be released in the new, wide screen process CinemaScope, which the disc will replicate. Fox has put the film through a year-long restoration with input from the Academy Film Archive and the Film Foundation.
Additional special features on the standard DVD edition include:
An introduction to the film by Martin Scorsese
Audio commentary with film composer David Newman and film historians Jon Burlingame, Julie Kirgo and Nick Redman
The Making of The Robe featurette,
The Music of The Robe
Alfred Newman’s score presented as an isolated music track
Additionally, the BluRay disc will have the following additional extras-
Vintage celebrity introductions by Richard Widmark, Susan Hayward, Robert Wagner, Clifton Webb and Dan Dailey
The CinemaScope Story featurette
From Scripture to Script: The Bible and Hollywood featurette
A 1969 audio interview with screenwriter Philip Dunne
5 Movietone News shorts
Trailers and TV spots
A poster and lobby card art gallery
BonusView picture-in-picture viewing mode featuring The Robe Times Two (a comparison of the full frame and widescreen versions)
10 A Seamless Faith: The Real-Life Search for The Robe featurettes
It seems that I spend an inordinate amount of time reporting on planned remakes of classic films. It is therefore with great pleasure that I get to tell you about a remake project that has been abandoned.
The planned redo of Rosemary’s Baby, from remake-centric studio Platinum Dunes, has been cancelled. As producer Brad Fueller tells Collider,”We even talked to the best writers in town and it feels like it might not be do-able. We couldn’t come up with something where it felt like it was relevant and we could add something to it other than what it was so we’re now not going to be doing that film.”
Fueller also indicated that their in development remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s eco-thriller The Birds, for which director Martin Campbell is currently working on a script, may also be canceled if a new story angle can’t be found for the material. “So that’s not a movie that we’re just going to step up and just go have birds attacking people and trying to throw that into the box office. If we can’t make that movie unique or add something to it, I don’t think we’re going to make it.”
Could this be the beginning of a new trend in Hollywood, moving away from trying to turn a buck through bastardizing a classic film and instead actually show some restraint when it comes to remaking films? As much I would like to think so, I am not holding my breath.