Sunday, March 25, 2012

Sylvia (1965) - Film Locations

First, something a little off subject - on March 22, my wife gave birth to our daughter and future cinephile, Hazel! It was a really long day, beginning at 1:00am when my wife's waters broke and continuing with a long labor that didn't end until 7:02pm when Hazel finally arrived. My wife was a real pro. She had a completely natural birth with no drugs. The hospital kept pushing the epidural over and over again but my wife stuck to her original goal of having a natural birth without drugs. Even during the transition part of labor, the worst part of the process, my wife listened to her body's natural signs and worked through the pain. She was awesome and handled it well.

Now we have a beautiful little girl and although she has kept me from getting any sleep, she is just too precious to get upset at. I am very excited to be a dad and to begin teaching Hazel "Good Stuff" as Laura, from the blog Laura's Miscellaneous Musings commented, quoting a Cary Grant reference that he  used with his daughter Jennifer.  No doubt you will be hearing more about Hazel and other good stuff, but now onto another girl named Sylvia.

In the film Sylvia (1965) California millionaire Frederic Summers (Peter Lawford) is engaged to Sylvia (Carroll Baker), a beautiful, sophisticated and wealthy author of poetry, but before he marries, Summers hires private investigator Alan Macklin (George Maharis) to uncover Sylvia's past. There is something mysterious about Sylvia and Summers wants to be sure that she doesn't want to marry him just for his money. What Macklin discovers is a dark past filled with abuse, prostitution and blackmail but rather than share these details with Summers, he keeps this information to himself. That's because Macklin has also fallen in love with Sylvia.

Macklin's investigation begins in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania the city where he learns that Sylvia grew up. In the screenshots below we see an aerial view of Pittsburgh and a shot of Macklin entering the city through the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

Aerial view of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as seen in Sylvia.

Contemporary view looking down at Pittsburgh
from Mount St. Mary's Church, 403 Grandview Ave

Macklin enters Pittsburgh through the Fort Pitt Tunnel

The Fort Pitt Tunnel

Crossing the Fort Pitt Bridge

Looking across the Fort Pitt Bridge

Below, Macklin visits a Pittsburgh church where he tries to dig up some information on Sylvia. In the background, in the red square we can see the historic Penn Sheraton hotel located at 530 William Penn Place and in the yellow circle the tower of the Allegheny Courthouse and Jail building located at 436 Grant Street. An interesting tidbit about the William Penn Hotel, according to Wikipedia, it was the site of Bob Hope's marriage proposal in 1934.

Macklin stands at church. Allegheny Courthouse and
Penn Sheraton hotel can be seen in background.

Looking down Centre Avenue towards the William Penn Hotel.

Bing Birds Eye view of Allegheny Courthouse 
and William Penn Hotel.

Later in the film, Macklin's investigation takes him back to California. Sylvia has left her dark past behind her and settled in sunny Los Angeles, where she is soon to be married to the millionaire Fredric Summers. Below, Macklin takes a cab from the LAX airport. In the background is the iconic and kitschy Encounter Restaurant and Bar, a building that looks like something straight out of The Jetsons cartoon series.

Macklin takes a cab from LAX airport. Encounter is on the right.

Outside LAX. Encounter can be seen in the red circle.

Macklin eventually finds Sylvia in a Brentwood bookstore called the Brentwood Book Shop, the now closed Dutton's Brentwood Books, located at 11975 San Vicente Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Macklin parked outside Brentwood Book Shop
at 11975 San Vicente Boulevard, Los Angeles.

Looking down San Vicente Boulevard today.

Macklin looks through the window of the Brentwood Book Shop.

The book store is now the site of Cisco Home, a 
sustainable living furniture store.

After Macklin meets Sylvia he spends the day with her at Kiddieland, a kiddie park that was once located where the Beverly Center mall now stands at the corner of Beverly Boulevard and La Cienega Boulevard. Kiddieland had pony rides and carnival like attractions. Does anyone have any memories of visiting Kiddieland before it closed?

Macklin (Maharis) and Sylvia (Carroll Baker) enter
Kiddieland park from Beverly Boulevard.

The Beverly Center mall now stands at the corner of
Beverly Blvd & La Cienega Blvd.

Macklin and Sylvia enter Kiddieland. In the background
looking across Beverly Blvd. up La Cienega Blvd.

Looking up La Cienega Blvd across from Beverly Blvd.

Maharis and Baker stroll through Kiddieland.

Sylvia is an entertaining drama that takes some risks and features some interesting filming locations. Surprisingly it hasn't been released on DVD but it is currently available as a Watch Instantly title on Netflix.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Fredric March - Attack Ads "Dirty Trick"

Fredric March with wife Florence Eldridge

With an election coming up later this year and with a Republican presidential primary in progress, it's hard to avoid the many political attack ads airing on television. I'm just glad that California, where I'm at, is one of the last states in the primary process so we haven't quite been bombarded with ads the way other states have. Still, every news program seems to re-run the ads. I just saw one a couple weeks ago that portrayed Mitt Romney as an action figure - think Arnold Schwarzenegger in any of his action roles - running around with a large mudslinging gun. Eventually while Romney is firing his mudslinging gun it backfires on him. The sad thing is, contrary to the message of this particular ad, attack ads have proven to be an effective weapon for taking down an opponent. For this reason, despite how much any of us seem to dislike attack ads, politicians continue to use them.

Of course, these polished attack ads that sometimes look like a trailer for an upcoming Hollywood blockbuster are nothing new. Attack ads have been used for a long time. For that matter, Hollywood has been involved for a long time in producing attack ads.

The classic movie related blog Sittin On A Backyard Fence is currently hosting a blogathon dedicated to the early Hollywood star, Fredric March. As my contribution to the Fredric March blogathon I couldn't think of anything more currently relevant than a short anecdote that involves March, a political campaign, Hollywood and attack ads.

During the 1934 campaign for governor of California, socialist writer and political activist Upton Sinclair was the choice candidate for many politically left leaning Hollywood celebrities. Fredric March and his wife, actress Florence Eldridge, both progressive Hollywood liberals,  were part of Sinclair's ardent Hollywood supporters. To make a long story short and keep this centered on March, Sinclair lost the election. Many Sinclair supporters believed that Sinclair might have won the election if it wasn't for a series of newsreel films that were really just attack ads. In some of the films, supporters of Sinclair were shown as shady looking characters or spoke like newly arrived immigrants with foreign accents, while supporters of Sinclair's opponent, incumbent Republican Governor Frank M. Merriam, were always shown as respectable, upstanding citizens. 

At a post-election party hosted by March and Eldridge in Beverly Hills, several guests complained about the use of the films. In the book The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair's Race for Governor of California and the Birth of Media Politics, author Greg Mitchell writes about an exchange that took place at the party between March and the respected MGM producer, Irving Thalberg:

"Suddenly, and to the surprise of nearly everyone, Irving Thalberg quietly announced, 'I made those shorts.'
'But it was a dirty trick!' Fredric March protested. 'It was the damnedest unfair thing I've ever heard of.'
'Nothing is unfair in politics,' Thalberg replied, unperturbed. 'We could sit down here and figure dirty things all night, and every one of them would be all right in a political campaign.'
'It wouldn't be all right with me,' March maintained.
'That's because you don't know politics,' Thalberg answered, recalling his days as a boy orator for the Socialist party in New York. Tammany Hall, he explained, never would have let his party win an election in New York. 'Fairness in an election,' Thalberg advised, 'is a contradiction in terms. It just doesn't exist.'"

Nearly eight decades later and the same argument is still taking place in politics!

To read more about actor Fredric March please visit the blog Sittin On A Backyard Fence where many bloggers are contributing entries on all aspects of March's career.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Liberace and Terry Thomas Duet

Liberace and Terry Thomas Duet

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy both at work and at home. On the home front, my wife and I have been getting ready to welcome a daughter into our lives. We've been slowly turning what was once our office/craft room space into a little girl's bedroom, buying all the baby essentials, and reading up on birthing methods. Honestly, my wife has been the more studious one - doing most of the reading. Although, I can say I have attended classes and seen my fair share of pregnancy related documentaries - which there are many - just do a quick search on Netflix. 

With dwindling free time I'm taking a relaxing break to catch up on some YouTube fluff. I came across the video above of Liberace and actor Terry Thomas singing a duet of, "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue (Has Anyone Seen My Girl?)." It's a fun and silly song, with Liberace and Thomas adding in some of their own improvisations. My favorite line is when Liberace says, "pearls and sequins, jewels and furs" and Thomas jumps in with "enough about you and now about her."


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