Category Archives: Movies

Memories On The Small Screen

Dear Friends,

Last Saturday a film we produced played on NBC.  It was Judgement at Nuremberg, starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Maximilian Schell, Montgomery Clift, and Werner Klemperer.

Judgement at Nuremberg

We enjoyed it so much—it was so filled with the author, Abby Mann’s screenplay.  And, despite being thought of as too “intellectual and thoughtful,” it was one of our greatest successes! We just love the story about how the film came together and decided to re-share our story with you today (we originally posted the story below November 2014).

KATHARINE HEPBURN’S UNKNOWN TRIUMPH! 

In 1960, a teleplay was performed on Playhouse 90. The program was called Judgment at Nuremburg, which was a somber and serious piece.
Philip Langner of The Theatre Guild, Inc. received a script “over the transom”—as they say about unknown scripts. The Guild directors liked the script and “knowing” its virtual impossibility as a film, decided—with the author’s agreement—to have a play written and to produce it on Broadway.

At the time, Katharine Hepburn was playing Antony & Cleopatra at the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, CT (created by Lawrence Langner). On a very remote possibility, Philip and the author, Abby Mann, drove to Stratford on a matinee day to see Kate.  After the matinee, they went to her cottage.  She opened the door and Philip said politely “Kate, you have a lovely suntan!”  Kate said with her typical Locust Valley lockjaw accent—“That’s not a suntan, those are spots!” Looking back, Philip always wondered if he should have replied, “well, they do look wonderful on you!”

Kate agreed to look at the t.v. production, which she did at The Theatre Guild building on 53rd Street. She liked the teleplay enormously and decided to work diligently to make it into a film.

She sent the play to Spencer Tracy and she succeeded! Tracy sent it to Hollywood producer, Stanley Kramer, who produced it in 1961 with the most incredible cast for such a serious—and therefore risky—film.  Kramer persuaded all 9 film stars to take modest salaries.  The film was released in 1961.

Kramer was the Producer, Philip Langner the Associate Producer, and Abby Mann was the Screenwriter. The incredible cast included:

  • Spencer Tracy
  • Richard Widmark
  • Burt Lancaster
  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Max Schell
  • Montgomery Clift
  • Judy Garland
  • William Shatner
  • Warner Klemperer

Thus, one of the Great War films of all time was created.

And who got it done? Katharine Hepburn.

AND WHO WAS NEVER TOLD ABOUT HER TRIUMPH? The World. 

Judgment at Nuremburg was nominated for 11 Academy awards, winning 2 for Best Actor (Schell) and Best Adapted Screenplay (Mann). The film was recently entered into the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

Best regards,
Philip and Marilyn

PS—The discussion in this film on the subject of war is so important, and of course, it is wildly pertinent in today’s world with North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Yemen all hoping(?) for some war excitement.

And also: we bought a DVD of Judgement at Nuremberg at Amazon, which is currently for on sale for $12.00.  To order your copy, click here.

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Classic Movies on the Small Screen

Dear Friends,

Today we want to write to you about a lovely happening brought to us by our daughter.

I am speaking about the films that are available every day on Turner Classic Movies (here in New York, it’s Channel 82).

We have been going about our business for years, only really watching PBS and a handful of news stations, but we never seem to branch out and explore other channels.  Finally, our daughter “made us” turn to Channel 82 and we have been extremely enthusiastic ever since!

TCM actors

The best thing about TCM is that they play movies you’d never get to see normally and when you watch them, you realize that you are getting to watch the best movies that were made between 1930-1950!

Many of these films are absolutely wonderful!  In analyzing them, we find that they are very much like Broadway plays.  Back then, movies had not gone into space or battled aliens or imaginary characters—they simply had the feel of the stage, however, you were just viewing them on the big (and now small) screen!

It is so interesting to watch great stars like Bette Davis or Joan Crawford just by changing the channel.  We love this era of movies, where everyone spoke so passionately about life!

The next time you find yourself in front of the television, do turn it on to Turner Classic Movies—you never know what you’re going to find! For example, last night’s line-up was The Good Earth (1933), a wonderful film adaptation of the novel by Pearl S. Buck.  That was followed by the entertaining musical Gold Diggers (1933) starring Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell.  After that was a favorite of ours, Holiday, starring Carey Grant and Katharine Hepburn.  All around, it was an entertaining evening!

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

PS—speaking of Bette and Joan, the FX series Feuds: Bette and Joan, starring Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, only has only weeks left—don’t miss out!  Sundays at 10pm (Eastern Standard Time) on the FX channel.

feud poster

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Bette & Joan.

Dear Friends,

Last week on television we watched a fantastic movie, What Happened to Baby Jane?.  As I think we all tend to do as time passes by, we forget just how good something is until we happen upon it once again.

It stars two of the most renowned actresses: Joan Crawford and Bette Davis.  Their on-and-off stage acrimony, has them permanently linked even after all these years.

In fact, their fighting was so famous that their story is now the feature of FX’s series “Feud: Bette and Joan,” starring Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange as the iconic stars Davis and Crawford respectively.

According to Ryan Murphy (creator/writer/director), “what was really interesting to explore was what a tragedy the last 15 years was in the lives of these women, and how they deserved so much more.”

feud

 

The show focuses on more than just the glamour of these two glamourous stars of the big screen, but the trials and tribulations of what it means to get older as a woman in Hollywood—something their modern counterparts say is all too familiar.

“Feud” airs Sunday nights at 10pm on FX.  You can read more about it at the New York Times and you can watch it online here.

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

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La La Land

Dear Friends,

We have just seen the movie La La Land and it is a once-in-10-years kind of movie!

The two actors—Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling—are incredible and have delivered the movie of the year (or perhaps 10 years?).    La La Land won 7 Golden Globes, including Best Motion Picture—Comedy or Musical and Best Performance by Actor in a Motion Picture—Comedy or Musical (Gosling) and Best Performance by Actress in a Motion Picture—Comedy or Musical (Stone).

la-la-land-2

It is still showing in movie theaters.  Click on the picture for the full review from Peter Travers in Rolling Stone.

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn Langner

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Patrice.

Dear Friends,

It is with heavy hearts that we share with you the passing of Patrice Munsel.  Patrice was one of the musical theatre greats, a dear friend, and a wonderful person.

patrice munsel 1

Patrice is—still to this day—the youngest star ever at the Metropolitan Opera, debuting when she was just 18 years old.  She later ventured into musical theatre, movies, and television.

patrice munsel 2

Patrice came on many of our theatre cruises.  We always loved it when she came along, as she was such a delightful and entertaining person!  We will miss her greatly.

To read her obituary in the New York Times, please click here.

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

 

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The Power of The Bard

Dear Friends,

We received an email today from the Shakespeare Society:

Summer Shakespeare at The Gunn Memorial Library in Washington, Connecticut

A special event with scenes from Shakespeare’s effervescent comedy

As You Like It

This Sunday, August 14 at 3 PM

As you may have realized from the frequency of posts, we love Shakespeare!

It is absolutely incredible that a playwright whose 400th birthday we are celebrating continues to have such an influence on the world of theatre.  If you google “Shakespeare” you will get “about 124,000,000 in 1.02 seconds.”  You can narrow this down to only 647,000 results in 71 seconds if you search for “Shakespeare Theatres.”

We have personally known many great playwrights, but no matter how inspiring, how empowering, how influential—no one even comes close to Shakespeare.  It is not only the plays that are his, that are shown night after night in city after city, but the format of his plays.  Not only can they been seen on the stage and big screen in modern day tales like West Side Story and The Lion King, but they can be seen on the small screen in popular tv shows like House of Cards and Sons of Anarchy.

Proof that his stories transcend time and are still relevant all these years later.

And if you’re now in the mood to see a bit of live Shakespeare, go see As You Like It or whatever Shakespeare is playing near you!

Best regards,

Philip & Marilyn

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More About Marlene…

I TALKED A LOT WITH MARLENE DIETRICH

marlene dietrich 2

We recently wrote about Marlene Dietrich’s 1930 film, Blue Angel, which we urged you to see. So interesting!

And today I’m telling you about Marlene, whom I got to know quite well during the filming of JUDGEMENT AT NUREMBERG, a manuscript I found and became one of its film producers.

During the course of the 12 weeks shooting of the film in Hollywood I spent every morning with Marlene in her dressing room talking and wiling/ away the hours waiting for her to be called.

And this is what is so surprising: Marlene’s thinking was totally antithetical to her glamorous image.

If you watch Blue Angel, you will see the real Marlene. She wanted no part of glamour. You see her as a down to earth regular woman, spending no time on makeup, dresses, and other fashion activities. I would say she wanted to be respected for her thoughts and actions.

So…when she was chosen out of hundreds of actresses to go to Hollywood and star in Morocco with Gary Cooper (1930), she had no idea she would turn into one of the two most glamorous stars ever seen on screen – the other being Greta Garbo.

It’s so ironic that the most sexy and gorgeous star was totally against her image. As we spent many mornings in her dressing room she wanted to talk about regular things, average happenings in the newspaper, or, indeed, the difficulties of the human race.

She was very interested in helping the poor, and spent much time writing letters and working to help people she knew, or who wrote to her about their problems

If aspects of her film persona came up, she would ridicule her costume requirements. And yet she was a total expert. She chose or created every aspect of her inimitable attire. She created Marlene Dietrich, The Glamor Queen of All Time.

Marlene Dietrich was a wonderful, lovely, caring person, and a great actress, but never wanting to be what the Hollywood image makers had decried for her.

Philip Langner

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The Blue Angel

Last weekend, Marilyn and I watched a fabulous classic film: The Blue Angel starring Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings produced in 1930.  The story follows an older professor, Jannings, as his life takes a downward twist when he falls in love with a nightclub singer (Dietrich).

Blue Angel

A bit of trivia (courtesy of IMBD): even though many women were considered for the role of Lola, the director (Josef von Sternberg) said that he hired Dietrich because of the “bored, world-weary attitude” she displayed in her audition, which was attributed to the fact that she assumed she was never going to get the part.

If you’re looking for a classic to watch this holiday weekend, brush up on your German because this would be a fabulous pick (just kidding—there are subtitles and even an English version, if you are so inclined!).   You can rent it from Amazon or Netflix.

It’s a great and fascinating film!

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We Still Give A Damn!

We were reading in our AARP Magazine a fabulous article about Gone With The Wind.   This incredible movie from 1939 still holds the title of the best movie ever made!  We salute Gone With The Wind on 75 years of amazing and unparalleled entertainment!
Here’s another great article from the LA Times by Susan King that we thought we’d share with you about this iconic American movie:
Audiences still frankly give a damn about the lavish Civil War epic “Gone With the Wind” 75 years after its release.When adjusted for inflation, the Oscar-winning romance remains the domestic box-office champ with a gross of $1.6 billion. The 220-minute Technicolor film received a record 13 Oscar nominations, winning eight competitive Academy Awards, including best film, actress (Vivien Leigh), supporting actress (Hattie McDaniel) and director (Victor Fleming). With a production cost estimated between $3.85 million and more than $4 million, it was the longest and most expensive Hollywood sound film of the time.More than 30 million copies of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, on which the film was based, have been sold. The film has been re-released eight times, been a staple on television since the 1970s and a bestseller on video, DVD and now Blu-ray.

Celebrations of the film’s diamond anniversary include an exhaustive exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin, a new collector’s edition Blu-Ray and several books including Life’s “Gone With the Wind: The Great American Movie 75 Years Later.”

Despite criticism and controversy over the film’s racial stereotypes — the slaves in the film are happy, and McDaniel’s Mammy is a welcome member of the family and loyal servant — “Gone With the Wind” continues to have a special, if troubling, place in the hearts of American filmgoers.

“The film was and I think continues to be a pop cultural phenomenon,” said Richard Jewell, professor at USC’s School of Cinematic Art. “It’s one of the few movies that lived up to the book.”

Long before social media, the buzz surrounding the film version of “GWTW” was astonishing. After independent producer David O. Selznick brought the rights to the book, “GWTW” fans waited on every story coming out of Hollywood about the production, particularly about who would play the willful and beautiful Scarlett O’Hara, the belle of the Tara plantation.

Though such stars as Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard and Katharine Hepburn were among those considered to play Scarlett — about 1,400 actresses were interviewed — Selznick chose British actress Vivien Leigh, who had made a few films, to play the lead role.

Fan favorite Clark Gable was selected to play Rhett Butler, the rakish Charlestonian who pursues her, and British actor Leslie Howard was cast as Scarlett’s obsession, the glum Ashley Wilkes. Olivia de Havilland, best known for ingenue roles opposite Errol Flynn, landed the plum role as Wilkes’ sweet cousin and wife, Melanie, and McDaniel was chosen to play the O’Haras’ beloved and opinionated Mammy.

Jewell noted the film was brilliantly cast. “Clark Gable was absolutely the right person to play Rhett Butler. Every actress in Hollywood wanted to play Scarlett. The fact that they went with a relatively unknown and she turned out to be the incarnation of Scarlett. It’s like a baseball team when one day every one gets a hit.

“It’s a testament to the old studio system where producers were the most important factor in most cases. Selznick kept that film together. It was Selznick’s vision more than Victor Fleming’s. To me he is one of the greatest producers of all time.”

But as Missy Schwartz, editor of the Life “GWTW” book and a senior editor at Entertainment Weekly, pointed out, “you can’t watch it without 21st century eyes. You have to address race. It’s problematic, there is no question. It is just not the reality [of slavery].”

The conversation about “GWTW’s” treatment of slavery, race and a benign antebellum South was particularly heated over the last year with the release of 2013 best picture Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave,” which depicted the brutality of slavery.

Todd Boyd, professor of critical studies at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, told The Times this year that “the entirety of the history of African Americans in Hollywood has been problematic, and I think in some ways still is. A lot of people looked at those movies as sort of an authentic representation of what African Americans were like.”

Jim Crow laws were in full force in the South 75 years ago. McDaniel and the other black cast members couldn’t attend the premiere in Atlanta on Dec. 15, 1939. Gable had threatened to boycott the premiere but was persuaded by McDaniel to attend. The Life book reveals that during production, Gable had also protested when he learned there were segregated toilets on one of the sets, promising not to return if they were still there the next day. They weren’t.

African Americans protested the film when it opened in major cities. Black playwright Carlton Moss stated in the Daily Worker found Mammy’s love for the white family “that has helped to keep her people enchained forever” particularly reprehensible.

Jewell noted that a lot of films from the Golden Age of Hollywood make one “uncomfortable” because of depictions of race and other issues. “But they need to be screened and talked about, as a way to measure the kind of attitudes that existed at that point, which was 75 years after the end of the Civil War. These kind of stereotypical depictions of black people need to be put in a historical context so people will have a better appreciation of how far we have come.”

TCM host and film historian Robert Osborne believes “GWTW” has endured because of its emotional resonance.

“It’s about survival,” he said. “It hit the world in the ’30s when Europe was going to war and just before we went into the war. Also, everybody has had somebody in their life that they loved more than they loved them back.

“I think the brilliant thing about the story is that there are little samplings of every part of us in it. It doesn’t matter if it was set during the Civil War. It’s a relevant movie about emotions.”

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Unknown

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Family Movie Time

Looking for something fun to watch over the holidays that isn’t a holiday movie?  We’d like to suggest On The Town.  As you know from a prior article, On The Town, it is currently playing on Broadway.  But if you can’t make it, you can always get it on Amazon, starring Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra!  We found you both the single DVD—or Amazon offers a Gene Kelly/Frank Sinatra Collection of On The Town, Anchors Away, and Take Me out to the Ballgame.

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We strongly recommend getting the collection because Gene Kelly is quite simply one of the greatest dancers we’ve ever seen!

Great classics to add to your collection!

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