Sunday, October 30, 2011

John Wayne Tribute Event


The Jules Verne Festival is back again and this time they are honoring the legendary actor, director and producer, John Wayne. The festivities include a special screening of the Wayne film, True Grit, an award for Wayne that will be accepted by his sons Patrick and Ethan Wayne, an exclusive filmed interview with Glen Campbell that will be shown at the screening and special celebrity guests. Some of the guests in attendance will include actress and True Grit costar Kim Darby and harmonica player Tommy Morgan (Rio Bravo, The Cowboys, Dances with Wolves) and others yet to be announced. 

Tickets can be purchased here and a limited number of ticket buyers will receive the John Wayne Screen Legends Collection DVD Box Set which includes the films, Wild Wind, Rooster Cogburn, Hellfighters, The War Wagon, and The Spoilers. The event takes place on November 10, 2011, at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. For more details visit the official Jules Verne Festival website.

I've gone to two Jules Verne events in the past, one honoring Tony Curtis (who was still alive and in attendance at the time) and another honoring Steve McQueen. The tribute to Curtis was a fun and entertaining time and it was wonderful being able to listen to Curtis share many stories about his classic Hollywood costars, such as Marilyn Monroe. The event honoring McQueen I felt was much less organized and started much later than scheduled. Nevertheless, it was interesting to listen to actor Robert Vaughn, who was in attendance at that event, to share some funny stories about McQueen. I'm sure there will be many great stories to be heard about John Wayne from his sons Patrick and Ethan, as well as his costar Kim Darby. Let's just hope that this event runs a little more on schedule than the McQueen event.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Big Night (1951) - Film Locations

The Big Night (1951)

Director Joseph Losey had a short career making films in America before he was forced to move to Europe after being blacklisted in Hollywood during the era of red-baiting and HUAC hearings. So, it's no surprise that Losey's films didn't get much attention in the United States, especially those films that he made in Europe. Although Losey's films are highly regarded in Europe, they're still not widely recognized and appreciated in the United States, which is a real shame because Losey made some real gems.

A few weeks ago I did a film locations post for one of Losey's American films, The Lawless (1950), which was filmed in Northern California. This time around I spotlight some of the film locations for The Big Night (1951) which was filmed in Los Angeles.

Like many noir films, The Big Night (1951) is a revenge story with a very simple plot, but I was quite surprised at just how dark and moody this film was. The film stars a young John Drew Barrymore, a teenager who witnesses his father beaten to a pulp. Barrymore takes to the streets with the intention of getting back at his father's attacker, but when he confronts the man that beat his father, he discovers some dark secrets about his father. But are they true? Things are little more complicated than Barrymore thought.

In one scene when Barrymore is wandering the streets he comes up to an old church. The building is St. Joseph Catholic Church located at 218 East 12th Street in Los Angeles. The church was constructed in 1901 and stood on the site for many decades, until in 1983 a fire damaged the church and the building was demolished. A new church was then erected in its place. Below is a screenshot from the film of Barrymore approaching the church matched with some images of the church during different time periods.

Barrymore at St. Joseph Catholic Church, Los Angeles

St. Joseph Catholic Church in 1906

St. Joseph Catholic Church ca. 1940

St. Joseph Catholic Church as it appears today.

During the opening of the film and later in the story, we see Barrymore running down the streets where the Southern California Gas Company tanks once stood. The intersection below is Center Street at Commercial Street near downtown Los Angeles.

Barrymore between the Southern California Gas Company tanks.
Center Street at Commercial Street, Los Angeles

Center Street at Commercial Street, Los Angeles

Barrymore running down Center Street passed the Friedman Bag
building, now the Devon Self Storage building.

Center Street at Commercial, Los Angeles
Former Friedman Bag building on left.

Side street next to the Friedman Bag building.

Looking down the side of the former Friedman Bag building.

The Big Night (1951) is currently available for streaming on Netflix Watch Instantly, but is not to be confused with the film from 1960 with the same title. To my knowledge it has not been released on DVD in the United States, but it is available on DVD as part of the Joseph Losey collection box set released in the United Kingdom.

Street View images (c) Google (2011), St. Joseph Catholic Church images from Los Angeles Library photo collection.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Donovan's Brain (1953) - Film Locations

Donovan's Brain (1953)

It's not a horror film, but Donovan's Brain (1953) is creepy enough (ok, campy enough) for October Halloween viewing.  In the film, Lew Ayres plays Dr. Patrick Cory, a scientist experimenting with keeping monkey brains alive outside of their bodies. When a millionaire by the name of Donovan crashes nearby Dr. Cory's home and lab, Dr. Cory volunteers to help resuscitate the victim. When that fails, Dr. Cory secretly removes Donovan's brain and attempts to keep the brain alive outside the body. The experiment seems to work until Donovan's brain begins to take control of Dr. Cory.

Many of the scenes take place at the home of Dr. Cory, which looks to be a remote area of Southern California. However, there are a few scenes that take place in Los Angeles. In an early scene when Lew Ayres needs to go into the city, we see his plane flying over downtown Los Angeles with a view of City Hall in the background.

Lew Ayers flies over Los Angeles. City Hall in background.

Bird's eye view of City Hall in Los Angeles as it appears today.

When Ayers needs to stay in Los Angeles for a few days he crashes at The Town House apartment building located at 639 S. Commonwealth Ave. This same apartment building can be seen 22 years earlier in the Charlie Chaplin film, City Lights (1931) in the scene where Chaplin, after receiving money from a millionaire, runs out of the apartment to buy the basket of flowers from the blind girl. Below are comparisons of the Town House apartments as they appear in the film and how the building appears today.

Lew Ayres arrives at the Town House apartments.

639 S. Commonwealth Ave, Los Angeles

The entrance to The Town House apartments.

A present view of the entrance to The Town House apartments.

The Town House Apartments, 639 S. Commonwealth Ave.

I'm not a hundred percent sure, but it looks like there may have actually been scenes filmed inside The Town House apartments building. Usually, a film production would recreate the interiors on a soundstage at the studio, but the screenshots below look like they may be an authentic look at the interior of the Town House apartments circa 1953.

Lew Ayres enters The Town House apartments.

Ayers goes up the steps to the lobby.

Ayers in the lobby of the Town House apartments.

The elevators inside the Town House apartments.

In the next scene comparison Lew Ayres is seen leaving The Town House apartments, getting into a cab parked on Commonwealth Ave. In the background you can see the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, the same church where James Mason brings his family in the Nicholas Ray film, Bigger Than Life (1956). In the modern day view you can just barely see the church steeples peeking above the trees and partially blocked by the modern glass building.

Looking down Commonwealth Ave 
outside the Town House apartments.

Looking down Commonwealth Ave, the First Congregational 
Church of Los Angeles in the upper right corner.

In one scene when Lew Ayres is going about town he is spotted by a reporter. In the screenshot below, we can see that the building Ayres goes into was on South Olive Street near West 7th Street. The building in the background can also be seen in Charlie Chaplin's film City Lights, in the opening credits of the Joan Crawford film, Possessed (1947),  and in the Pat O'Brien and Bette Davis film, Bureau of Missing Persons (1933).

Reporter on S. Olive near W. 7th Street, Los Angeles

S. Olive near W. 7th Street, Los Angeles

Near the end of the film, Lew Ayres is almost completely controlled by Donovan's brain. Under Donovan's control, Ayres nearly gets killed by stepping in front of moving traffic. The scene was filmed near the intersection of Wilshire Blvd and S. Westmorland.

Ayres on Wilshire Blvd near S. Westmorland. The art deco
Bullocks Wilshire building can be seen on the right.

Looking east down Wilshire. Bullocks Wilshire building on right.

Looking down S. Westmorland near Wilshire Blvd.

Looking down S. Westmorland near Wilshire Blvd. 
The side street is now divided in half.

Donovan's Brain (1953) is available on DVD and is currently available to Watch Instantly on Netflix. 

The film also stars Nancy Davis, later known as Nancy Reagan and Gene Evans.

Bird's Eye View (c) 2011 Microsoft Corporation, Pictometry Bird's Eye (c) 2010 Pictometry International Corp, Google Street View (c) 2011 Google

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Female (1933) - Film Locations

Female (1933)

It's a woman's world in the film Female (1933). Ruth Chatterton plays Alison Drake, a tough business executive at an automobile factory who has her way with all the men that work for her. When Alison sees one of her male employees that she fancies, she invites them over to her house for what will be a one night stand. Miss Drake doesn't get attached. That is until she meets Jim Thorne (George Brent), an inventor who refuses her advances. 

This unusual film is a pre-code comedy filled with gorgeous art deco sets and snappy dialogue. One of the interesting film locations is Chatterton's home, which is the Ennis Brown house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The home is located at 2655 Glendower Avenue in the hills of the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles and can be seen in numerous films. The Ennis Brown house was even the title character in House on Haunted Hill (1959), starring Vincent Price.   

Ruth Chatterton and her help outside the Ennis-Brown house.

The entrance to the Ennis-Brown House.

The Ennis-Brown House as seen in Female (1933)

The front of the Ennis-Brown House

The driveway of the Ennis-Brown House.

Ruth Chatterton in front of the Ennis-Brown house.

The back of the Ennis-Brown house.

Ruth Chatterton about to take a dip in her art deco pool.

In one scene we see that Chatterton's home has a large art deco swimming pool. That pool is not part of the Ennis-Brown home designed by Wright. It was fabricated on a Warner Bros. soundstage. According to IMDB, it was actually constructed for the musical number "By a Waterfall" in the bigger budget film, Footlight Parade (1933), starring James Cagney.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Spooktacular October Screenings!


October is here and Halloween is just around the corner. That means a month of thrills and chills. For a classic movie fan like me it means a month of viewing creepy films to get in the Halloween spirit and fortunately, in Los Angeles, there are numerous theaters showing some scary films to pull me away from my Netflix marathons at home. Here are some of the upcoming screenings that I am marking on the calendar.

On Thursday, October 6, at 6:30pm the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood will be doing a double feature of Island of Lost Souls (1932) and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). Filmmaker John Landis will be on hand to introduce the films and to sign copies of his new book, "Monsters in the Movies."


Island of Lost Souls is an adaptation of the H.G. Wells book, "The Island of Dr. Moreau" and stars Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, Richard Arlen and Kathleen Burke.

The 1931 version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde stars Fredric March in the dual roles of Jekyll/Hyde and Miriam Hopkins as the barmaid Ivy Pearson.

Visit the American Cinematheque website for full details by clicking here.


On Saturday, October 8, at 7:30pm the Egyptian Theatre will be showing three Frankenstein films: Frankenstein (1931), Bride of Frankenstein (1935), and Son of Frankenstein (1939). All three films star the legendary Bela Lugosi as the Monster.


On Saturday, October 22, at 2:00pm, one of my favorite theaters, the Alex Theatre in Glendale, is showing the campy Ed Wood film, Plan 9 From Outer Space. This film stars Bela Lugosi, Vampira, and Lyle Talbot. For full details including ticket information click here.


On Thursday, October 27, at 7:30pm the Egyptian Theatre will be showing the Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) in anaglyphic 3-D! The film stars Richard Carlson and Julie Adams. Actress Julie Adams will be at the Egyptian to discuss the film and will be available to sign copies of her new book, "The Lucky Southern Star: Reflections From the Black Lagoon" before the film. This is part of a double feature, the second film being Bend of the River (1952), starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Rock Hudson and Julie Adams.


All month long the Cinefamily will be showing horror fair at the Silent Movie Theater. On Tuesday, October 4, at 8pm, animation historian Jerry Beck will be programming a "monster mash-up" which, according to the Cinefamily website will include, "classic cartoon monsters, spooks and witches - from Casper the Friendly Ghost and Witch Hazel through TV's Groovie Goolies and Milton the Monster, all on the big screen using rare 35mm and 16mm film prints that range from ghoulishly red Eastmancolor or gorgeously garish Technicolor." Other films that will be shown during the month of October include the silent picture, The Bat, Fright Night, Halloween II, Nightmare on Elm Street III, Friday the 13th IV, and Death Becomes Her. And to cap things off, on Monday, October 31, the Cinefamily will be presenting the Vincent Price classic, The Tingler (1959), in "Percepto"!

View all of the upcoming Cinefamily screenings here.

Also, the New Beverly Cinema will be showing three double features of horror:

October 23, 24 - A Nightmare on Elm Street / Wes Craven's New Nightmare
October 28, 29 - The Burning / Friday the 13th
October 30, 31 - Island of Lost Souls / Them!

Visit the New Beverly Cinema for more information by clicking here.

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