Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

Dracula’s Cape & Other Ephemera

November 10, 2011

There was a news item on the Internet regarding the decision of the Bela Lugosi family to auction off the cape he wore in the 1931 movie Dracula. Lugosi left the cape to his wife with the instructions that it be given to their son, Bela Lugosi, Jr. The cape will be auctioned by Profiles in History of Calabasas Hills, CA, along with other Lugosi items from December 15 to 17. The cape is expected to sell for $2 million.

Another item dealing with Hollywood ephemera is a Marilyn Monroe dress, specifically the white subway dress she wore in the film The Seven Year Itch. The dress sold at auction in June for $4.6 million. This dress was part of a collection of movie costumes that actress Debbie Reynolds collected during the course of her career in the hopes that they can be part of a museum of Hollywood history. Since the museum is still in the planning stages and it was becoming difficult for Reynolds to keep these costumes, the decision was made to sell the items at a series of auctions. The next auction from the Reynolds collection will take place on December 3 and again Profiles in History will be running the auction.

At the risk of sounding like a crank,  I feel these two items are grossly overpriced. Yes, Dracula was Lugosi’s signature role and yes, the white dress is the iconic image from The Seven Year Itch, yet I don’t feel that they are truly worth the prices quoted. While many items in the Debbie Reynolds’ auction sold for more than what was expected, there were other items that sold for more ‘reasonable’ prices. For example, Laurel and Hardy’s suits sold for $19,000 and Claudette Colbert’s gold-lame dress from the 1930s Cleopatra sold for only $49,000.  (Heck, I could almost afford those items.) The only explanation for the high prices for the Lugosi and Monroe items is that there are those who want these items so badly and price is not an object. It must be good to have THAT MUCH money.

In addition, these items belong in a museum dedicated to filmmaking. While plans were announced recently to have such a museum in a 300,000 square foot building in Los Angeles, things are still on the drawing board and no open date has been scheduled. This lead to Reynolds’ decision to sell the items. While the new owners were contacted regarding loaning the items for future exhibits, it would be good if the Academy would snap up items from the next Reynolds’ auction. Reynolds invested her time, money and energy to purchase and preserve these items for posterity, so it would be a fitting tribute to her efforts that the powers that be at the Academy would grab a film worn custom or two before some billionaire collector does. After all, they are going to need stuff for the museum and they can’t expect all the billionaire collectors to be willing to loan out a every villain’s or starlet’s costume, no matter how many prestige points it earns them.

Note: Any mention of auction houses or dealers of collectibles are mentioned for informational purposes only. It is not to be taken as an endorsement.

Sources:
http://movies.msn.com/movies/article.aspx?news=678662&silentchk=1&wa=wsignin1.0

http://articles.cnn.com/2011-06-19/entertainment/hollywood.auction_1_monroe-dress-bids-auction?_s=PM:SHOWBIZ

http://www.profilesinhistory.com/press-releases/debbie-reynolds-collection-part-2-auction-press-release

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Disasters Films of the 1970’s

May 26, 2011

Well, May 21, 2011 6:00 PM came and went and we’re all still here. All this talk about the end of the world got me thinking about how I can turn this into a blog entry. Then it hit me. (I’m talking about an idea, not a bolt of lightening.) I could do a blog entry on the disaster films of the 1970’s. After all, disasters flicks of the 1970’s have it all, action, drama, sometimes a secondary love story to keep the story going when there’s a lull in the action.

Also, what was going on 1970’s is similar to what is going on today, such as high energy prices, a war, a recession, high unemployment. In a way, is it not surprising that these films came out when they did and interestingly enough they were very successful, to boot. Yet, one would think that in such a situation, people would flock to see happy, escapist films, not films where people had to deal with earthquakes, fires, plane crashes or other catastrophes. My theory is that in a weird kind of way these films were escapist. The people watching these films were safe and sound in a movie theater, so they could comfort themselves with the thought, “Those people in the film REALLY have it bad.”

So, without further ado, here is a short list of disaster films of the 1970’s.

Airport 1970
What would happen if you got on a plane on a snowy night and one of the passengers carried a bomb?  No, this is not the latest terror plot, this is the plot of Airport. Based on the book of the same name by Arthur Hailey, the film stars Dean Martin, as pilot of the ill fated plane (in a rare dramatic turn), Burt Lancaster, as the airport’s manager and George Kennedy is the gruff mechanic who saves the day. This film was successful at the box office and spawned three sequels and the infamous Airplane! spoof movies.

The Poseidon Adventure 1972
Picture this: You’re on a cruise ship on New Year’s Eve. Everyone is at dinner, they’re happy and waiting for midnight to strike. Midnight comes and so does a tidal wave. Uh-oh. Well, that’s The Poseidon Adventure for you. But wait, there’s more than just a tidal wave. The wave turns the boat upside down, so people have to swim up to the bottom of the ship in the hopes of being rescued. Stars Ernest Borgnine, as a cop on his honeymoon, Stella Stevens, plays his wife, the prostitute who went straight and it also stars Gene Hackman, Shelly Winters and Roddy McDowell. This picture wasn’t a disaster at the box office and earned nine, count’em nine, Academy Award nominations. I guess this film floated the Academy’s boat. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Earthquake 1974
In the late 1970’s many a comedian made a joke out of the “Big One”, which is the earthquake that does more than just shake up California, but causes havoc. When I heard these jokes, I wondered where the comedians got this idea from. Then I saw the movie Earthquake on television and I stopped wondering. This movie came out just as the disaster flick was wearing thin, so its kind of a throw in everything but the kitchen sink, type of film.  It has major stars, such as Ava Gardner, Lorne Greene (as her father, no less, even though she was only 7 years younger then him), Charlton Heston and George Kennedy, as a gruff cop who saves the day. It has a disaster, i.e. the big earthquake that shakes Los Angeles to its core. It also has a cliché love story where businessman Heston has an affair with a young mother. The film didn’t win any awards, but it did feature a new sound system called  Sensurround. Yet, it this feature didn’t catch on for subsequent films. You think the fact that it was associated with the film Earthquake had something to do with it?

The Towering Inferno 1974
This film is considered the best of the disaster film genre, since the level of acting of its two major stars Paul Newman, as the architect of the the world’s tallest building and  Steve McQueen, in his last film role, as the fire chief who obviously wants to put out the fire, is top notch. The film also stars William Holden, as the chief builder, Richard Chamberlain (who plays the film’s villian, no less) as the electrican, Faye Dunaway and even Fred Astaire. Newman’s character returns from vacation and senses that something isn’t right with the building. He is proven right, as shoddy wiring starts a fire that quickly consumes the building, just as a high society party is going on at 129th floor. Who will be saved and who will go up in smoke? I don’t know. I guess, I’ll just have to watch the movie and find out.

Of course, this blog entry is no disaster, since no one was hurt in the writing of this entry. 

Sources:
http://www.amazon.com/Airport-Full-Screen-Burt-Lancaster/dp/B00000I1CJ/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_t

http://www.amazon.com/Poseidon-Adventure-Special-Gene-Hackman/dp/B000EHSVNW/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1305945909&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.com/Earthquake-Charlton-Heston/dp/6305137277/ref=sr_1_2?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1305943269&sr=1-2

http://www.amazon.com/Towering-Inferno-Special-Paul-Newman/dp/B000EHSVOG/ref=pd_sim_d_1

Where Have All the Memorabilia Shops Gone?

March 24, 2011

An article in the March 5 Los Angeles Times talks about Larry Edmunds Bookshop. This is a combination bookstore specializing in movie books and movie memorabilia shop located on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles. While pop culture is big business, the majority of the business is online and shops like Larry Edmunds are one of the few independent brick and mortar outposts in a sea of dot coms.

As you can expect, that got me thinking. While there is nothing wrong with buying a movie poster or other item online, there is something to be said for going to a memorabilia shop, looking around at the store, perusing the poster and photo files and finding an item that you always wanted and now have the opportunity to buy or finding an item that you didn’t know existed but like it enough to buy on the spot

In addition to being great places to spend an afternoon, the memorabilia shops have launched careers. The current owner of the Larry Edmunds Bookshop, Jeff Mantor, worked at the store for 16 years before buying it from the previous owners, husband and wife Milt and Git Luboviski in 1996. Movie historian and author Leonard Maltin, got his start by visiting memorabilia shops in the New York City area in the 1960’s and buying movie stills and publicity photos for between 25 and 50 cents. While selling childhood doo-dads on Internet auction sites got me started in selling movie posters, I enjoyed going to a collectibles and antique shop in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia and going through a photo album filled with vintage advertisements promoting products ranging from Spam™  to cigarettes (one such ad featured a picture of a doctor recommending Lucky Strikes cigarettes). That store is now gone and a bicycle shop is in its place and I’m willing to bet that the memorabilia shops that Maltin went to are gone as well, so that just leaves the Larry Edmunds Bookshop.

As great as the Internet is in locating and being a conduit for buying memorabilia and everything else, it’s doesn’t replace holding something in your hand and looking at it, in person. When you see something like an old movie poster or an old publicity photo in person, it is almost like going back in time when movies were the mass media and the place where our hopes and dreams where projected along with the images on the screen. The memorabilia shops aren’t just places of commerce, they are places that help to preserve a part of American pop culture. So the next time you happen upon a memorabilia shop, go inside and buy something. Not only will you be helping stores like Larry Edmunds Bookshop stay in business, you will also be keeping the awe in the memorabilia buying experience.

Sources:

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/books/la-et-movie-books-20110305,0,4762396.story

Cantu, Hector. “Hollywood Charms” Heritage Magazine Summer 2008, pgs. 46-51

Phew! Not All Is Lost

March 17, 2011

Just when I thought Hollywood was just greenlighting remakes and reboots, I learn of a contest sponsored by FilmDemic, an independent film distribution company. This contest is for the best independent film trailer. The winners get to have their film screened at one of the FilmDemic Screening Series events in Los Angeles.

The founder of FilmDemic, Vaughn Juares felt it was important to help independent film makers find an audience for their work. “…[W]e partner with filmmakers, not take their film and toss it in to the black hole of distribution with no marketing support.” Juares said. In addition to the contest, FilmDemic allows filmmakers to submit their films on a non-exclusive basis. The filmmaker retains all the rights to the film and 60% of all net proceeds from the sale of their film through the FilmDemic online store and 50% of all net proceeds from all other distribution channels such as, DVD’s, television, VOD and theatrical releases.

Talk about a breath of fresh air. Finally, someone in the movie industry is looking for and funding original work. Granted, it specializes in independent films. Still, you have to start somewhere. After all, George Lucas, Martin Scorcese and other filmmakers started with minimal budgets. I was bothered when I learned about the remakes of Arthur and The Bodyguard. Surely there must be enough money out there to fund something original? Thankfully Juares and others at FilmDemic are putting their money and marketing know-how where their mouths are.

Now I want to see the big studios do the same thing. After all, they have a lot of money at their disposal. How hard can it be to find and fund an original project?  I don’t think it is so hard, then again I don’t run a film studio. So, I have a feeling that the studios will be riding the remake/reboot train for a while and the original stuff will come from the independents like FilmDemic.

To learn more go to: http://filmdemic.com/

Sources:
http://www.benzinga.com/press-releases/11/02/p861683/new-indie-film-distributor-filmdemic-kicks-off-its-search-for-great-ind

http://filmdemic.com/