WEIRDLAND

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Romance, JFK

Shailene Woodley is a Hollywood actress, climate advocate and board member of Our Revolution, a Bernie Sanders-affiliated advocacy group. She supports 100% renewable energy for the future with these words: Every person on this planet has one thing in common, the need for clean air and water. Right now, our nation is at a crossroads. Fossil fuel companies have pressured members of Congress into denying that climate change exists and is caused by human behavior.

These corporations think that Americans won’t notice when their water is polluted and their farm lands are covered in oil. Americans who care about clean air and water must come together now to support increasing our country’s use of renewable energy. Now is the time to create a just transition away from fossil fuel consumption to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Oil, natural gas and coal are finite.

America is one of the most dynamic and inventive countries in the world. The reason we haven’t stopped climate change isn’t because we aren’t trying, it’s because a small subsection of the 1 percent are doing everything in their power to maintain the status quo. America has the technology, the workforce and the need to transition our energy grid away from fossil fuels to 100 percent sustainability as soon as possible. Renewable energy advocates in Congress are working to make that happen — Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernie Sander (I-Vt.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) recently introduced S. 987, the “100 By ‘50 Act,” named for the goal of transitioning our nation to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. Source: thehill.com

Here’s what our 35th president might have said about the challenges of energy transition and the opportunities in clean energy: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” "Kennedy was able and willing to embrace industry and the environment at the same time," said Joshua Fershee, an associate professor at the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development at West Virginia University. "The way he talked about things was unique, it was evolutionary." Early in his administration, President Kennedy was willing to take on multiple industries and make clear that the government would support and facilitate projects that were in the best interests of the country, not particular constituencies. President John. F. Kennedy, Feb. 23, 1961: “From the beginning of civilization, every nation’s basic wealth and progress has stemmed in large measure from its natural resources.  This nation has been, and is now, especially fortunate in the blessings we have inherited.  Our entire society rests upon—and is dependent upon—our water, our land, our forests, and our minerals.  How we use these resources influences our health, security, economy, and well-being.” —"Atomic Power, Fossil Fuels, and the Environment:  Lessons Learned and The Lasting Impact of the Kennedy Energy Policies" (2009) by Joshua P. Fershee

“Baby Driver” star Ansel Elgort has signed on to play John F. Kennedy in the drama “Mayday 109,” scripted by Samuel Franco & Evan Kilgore, based on the 1943 sinking of Kennedy’s PT boat during World War II. Kennedy was the commander of patrol torpedo boat PT 109 in the South Pacific when it was rammed by a Japanese destroyer Amagin, killing two crewmen. With the crew presumed dead by allies, Kennedy led the 11 survivors in swimming to a deserted island, where the crew had to hide from passing Japanese barges.

Kennedy swam over two miles to two other islands in search of help and food, then led his men to Olasana Island, which had coconut trees and drinkable water, before they were rescued. He and his shipmates engaged friendly locals and after scrawling an SOS on a coconut, they were finally located by rescuers. “We could not be more excited about Ansel coming aboard,” producer Basil Iwanyk said, per Deadline.

“Not only is he a tremendous actor, he embodies the charisma, athleticism and looks of a young JFK. We love that this is not a bio-pic nor a film about politics. This is simply a riveting and unbelievable tale that very few people know—about a young man who was a hero long before becoming the iconic 35th President of the United States. With Ansel, we’ve found our perfect JFK.” Source: variety.com

No one can play the 35th President and emerge fully unscathed. They either don’t look right or they overdo the accent or both. Elgort’s main advantage is that he’s matinee-idol handsome and slender like Kennedy, although he’s slightly disadvantaged by being too tall at 6′ 3″. Elgort would have made a note-perfect Han Solo — he’s got the slightly brash attitude, the smug assurance and the guy-ness. Han Solo movie directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord, not to mention producer Kathy Kennedy and the Disney brass, were dead blind not to see this. Instead they hired a 5′ 9″, beady-eyed Rabbinical student with a gloomy countenance (Alden Ehrenreich).

Ansel Elgort, who resembles the young Marlon Brando of the mid ’40s, is the anchor and owner of Baby Driver. Lily James is almost terrific as a heart-of-gold manic pixie waitress whom Baby falls for early on. The noirishly cool baddies are played with great flair by Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm (best thing he’s done since Mad Men), Jamie Foxx (a little too hostile and crazy), Jon Bernthal and Eiza Gonz├ílez. However this strange-sounding Mayday 109 project turns out, Ansel Elgort is definitely a movie star in the wings.

After seeing The Fault In Our Stars three years ago I wrote that “Elgort’s charm and charisma has a lulling effect… I sat there saying to myself, this guy’s got it.” He has that X-factor quality, he just does, and one thing strongly in his favor is that he’s acquired a rep as a bit of a scamp. If you ask me, anyone who doesn’t play the game as ordered by the PC banshees is doing something right, and especially if they inspire Jezebel articles that seem to take exception to some of his interview comments. Source: www.hollywoodelsewhere.com

—Ansel Elgort on Shailene Woodley: Shailene is very different. I wouldn't use her as an example of what most women are like. She hates people pleasing. She wishes the world could be a place where we could be really honest and true to our emotions.

For a generation of young women, Ansel Elgort may always be Augustus Waters, the cancer-stricken heartthrob in the heartbreaking romance The Fault in Our Stars. Gus is basically Prince Charming with an iPhone. It turns out Elgort is a hopeless romantic too, often speaking as if he's been sprung from a Shakespearean sonnet. If he is so in touch with his emotions, perhaps that's because he graduated from Manhattan's LaGuardia High School Of Music & Art and Performing Arts, and spent his summers at Stagedoor Manor, the storied theater camp in the Catskills. The dude knows drama.

—Ansel Elgort: I'm not a playboy. I like to go on really nice dates... I go to nice dinners. I prefer being with a girlfriend longterm. I prefer to be with someone I can trust. I'm more into that. My mom is very romantic. As is my dad. They appreciate real romance. I like romanticizing romance. I think I could say this: If you like someone and the sex is really good and you enjoy spending time together, why wouldn't you make that person your girlfriend? Why go around dating random girls and having terrible sex when you can be with someone you really like? Source: www.elle.com

Ansel Elgort and his girlfriend Violetta Komyshan (his high-school sweetheart whom he started to date at LaGuardia High in 2012).

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

RIP Barbara Sinatra, Ava: A Life in Movies

Barbara Sinatra passed away on Tuesday at her home in California. The former model and fourth wife of Frank Sinatra was 90, and had been in declining for several months. Barbara became one of the most famous women in the world when she married Sinatra in 1976, spending 22 years with the singer before he passed away in 1998 at the age of 82 from a heart attack. She leveraged the fame afforded to her by way of her marriage to raise funds and rally support for a number of charitable causes, most notably the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center at Eisenhower Medical Center.

Barbara divorced Zeppo Marx in 1973, at which point she and Sinatra had already made a very public display of their relationship. She said it her way: The star, seen here in 2005, wrote about Frank in her tell-all autobiography "Lady Blue Eyes" (2011). Barbara converted to Roman Catholicism before marrying Frank in 1976, with the two enjoying a long and happy union. Barbara had previously told the Desert Sun she was never sure why Frank wanted to marry her instead of another star like Ava Gardner or Mia Farrow. 'I’ve tried to analyze it,' she said. 'I think it’s because we were friends before anything romantic happened. He would call and chat, but it wasn’t romantic until later. It’s something you can’t explain why or how it happened.'

There is no one Frank trusted more however, which was made very clear in his final will and testament, which left almost everything to Barbara. She received over $3million, three California mansions (in Beverly Hills, Malibu and Palm Springs), the rights to Sinatra's legendary 'Trilogy' recordings and complete control over her husband's name and likeness. Source: www.dailymail.co.uk

For more information about Barbara Sinatra, please read my previous post Frank Sinatra biographies: Mr. Ol' Blue Eyes and Lady Blue Eyes

Ava, a Life in Movies (2017), a new biography by Kendra Bean and Anthony Uzarowski, delves into the late screen siren’s colorful life, on and offscreen.  From her wild affair and marriage with Sinatra to her other rocky romances here are some of the most fascinating details about the woman who won the hearts of movie audiences and some of Hollywood’s most famous leading men. She was divorced twice before the age of 25.

“She was more than just a sex symbol or Mrs. Frank Sinatra or this crazy hard-drinking person,” Bean says. Bean’s co-author Uzarowski echoes this sentiment: “She was a real person, and she was an actor as well. There is a legacy there that needs to be looked at. It’s not just image.” For Gardner, image and glamour are central to her identity; after all, it was a photograph that first earned her a ticket to Hollywood. The authors compare her to Marilyn Monroe in this regard, with Uzarowski noting, “There exists this very one-dimensional view of her as just this unbelievably beautiful person.” “She just had a really keen sense of humor. She didn’t take life too seriously,” Bean says.

Sinatra was still married when he dated Ava, and the book recounts a time when an insistent Gardner made the crooner drive to his house, where he phoned his wife Nancy asking her to confirm to the actress that he had asked her for a divorce. Though Nancy initially refused to give in, she eventually granted Sinatra a divorce and he married Gardner in 1951. She had two abortions while married to Sinatra: While the two traveled to Nairobi for Gardner’s role in Mogambo, Gardner became pregnant with Sinatra’s child and chose to have an abortion after Sinatra left, without telling him. 

Sinatra was reportedly crushed when he found out about the abortion, but the two continued to try to make their difficult relationship work. When Gardner became pregnant again and decided to terminate it, Sinatra was there when she woke up with “tears streaming down his face.” The two would go on to have multiple affairs with others before divorcing in 1957, though they remained close friends until her death in 1990. By merging the image of a woman renowned for her physical beauty with a nuanced study of her life and career, the book forces readers to look beyond Gardner's exterior star persona. “It puts her in a wider cultural context, and that was very important for us,” Bean says. Source: www.laweekly.com

Saturday, July 22, 2017

‘Baby Driver’ Strikes the Right Notes

“The linkage of musical passage and unreason is a philosophical commonplace… of course music speaks through mere sensations without concepts, and hence does not, like poetry, leave behind something for reflection, yet it moves the mind in more manifold ways and, though only temporarily, in deeper ways…” —Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgement

Baby Driver (2017) is a heist and dark-comedy hybrid, as well as a musical thriller written and directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), featuring a baby-faced antihero whose insouciant attitude vaguely echoes James Dean for the millenial generation. Baby (Ansel Elgort) is an outcast prodigy who keeps the rhythm at the wheel—even during an impossible car chase or after a botched bank robbery—all the while  strategically synchronizing oldies from his iPod. The soundtrack serves not only to underline the emotions that the main characters (Baby’s partners in crime) want to communicate in certain key scenes—the songs add further momentum just like in classic musical movies.

The eclectic track selection mixes the frantic action scenes and the romance subplot with the melodies of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Beck, T. Rex, The Detroit Emeralds, Martha & The Vandellas, R.E.M., Queen, Barry White, Simon & Garfunkel, etc.

A very precious moment is the introduction of Debora (Lily James) while The Beach Boys’ tune Let’s Go Away For Awhile resonates inside the diner—that instant brings out the nostalgia factor, which will prove to be crucial for the resolution of the story. Debora is a charming young waitress who shares with Baby her dreams of escaping into another world, by etching in his mind the ‘open road’ leitmotif as a 1950’s retro postcard.

Throughout the film, Baby seems to be trapped in Doc’s criminal enterprise in order to pay off an old debt. Doc (Kevin Spacey) is a calculating mastermind who doesn’t ever hire the same gang twice for his planned heists, but feels a special bond with the inscrutable Baby. Spacey gives a menacingly laconic performance, reminiscent of his manipulative manager John Williamson in Glengarry Glen Ross (1992). Despite Doc and Baby’s power imbalance, Doc persistently courts the ultracool chauffeur’s respect and friendship. Buddy and Darling (played by Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonz├ílez) are a romantic couple of crooks plagued with an addiction to sex, drugs, and luxury. Their constant displays of trashy affection and sympathy towards Baby’s plight (tinnitus or ‘hum in the drum’ due to a childhood car accident) turn them into sort of his surrogate parents for a while.

Edgar Wright’s major influences in Baby Driver are Richard Sarafian’s Vanishing Point (1971), Walter Hill’s The Driver (1978), and Quentin Tarantino’s blend of pop culture references angled towards bursts of violence. The central ingenious gimmick in Wright’s story, however, hinges on an underlying commentary of how most of us periodically file in our memory a meaningful song of our choice to drown out the reality’s adversities. Debora lost her mother and now aspires to “head west on 20 in a car I can’t afford, with a plan I don’t have, just me, my music, and the road.”

Related to this aspect of taking refuge in nostalgic music as a means of survival, Sounding the Virtual: Gilles Deleuze and the Theory and Philosophy of Music (2010) expounds: “All musicians have always proceeded by drawing their own diagonal, however fragile, outside coordinates and localizable connections, in order to float a mutant sound block down a liberated line. In order to unleash, in space, a haecceity.” This understated philosophy, sprinkled underneath the choreography of spectacular getaways and flippant non-sequitur jokes, makes Baby Driver trascend the ‘fun summer blockbuster’ label.

Not quite so obvious as the intermittent allusions to Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs, True Romance), Walter Hill (Streets of Fire), Michael Mann (Heat) or Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive), but equally powerful is the absurdist undertone that connects Wright’s film to Vanishing Point (a post-Woodstock road movie influenced conceptually by Kerouac’s mythical On the Road). In addition to this context, Baby Driver (1981) is a novel written by Jack Kerouac’s daughter Jan Kerouac, and although her narrative style is often gloomy (opposite to Wright’s sunny touch), both stories share similar strokes of hopeful obstinacy.

In a tender scene with his foster-care father, Baby fixes a peanut butter sandwich while the piano music starts a descending octave. In Jan Kerouac’s Baby Driver, the heroine bravely recalls: “At Bellevue, the girls had given me a hard time. I had been thrown into a pit of rational vipers. They plastered my head with cold cream, peanut butter and talcum powder, expecting me to resist. But I sat there shrugging vacantly beneath their slopping blobs.”

Also, there is a parallel with the love interest instigating mutual desertion of an oppressive past. In the Baby Driver novel: “I was despairing over my star-crossed affair with Paul. The desire to get out and see him filled my spirit, leaving rom for nothing else. Paul brought me a red chiffon nightie with black lace to cheer me up. I wore it around that night, lost in imageries of my own, tiptoeing through the halls with a faraway look on my face.”

In Wright’s film, Debora, a flawed underachiever girl, is seen in Baby’s eyes as an angel who will be waiting for him forever. “I got all the time in the world,” she assures him. Baby’s childish magnetism seduces the sexy Debora, especially in the diner and laundromat scenes. Their romance is indeed ‘love at first sight… and sound,’ having Baby found a woman who—like his aspiring singer dead mother—will love him unconditionally. To Ansel Elgort’s credit, he can look detached and warm at once, being capable of fleshing out an old-school antihero without unnecessary mocking gestures or a sense of false superiority.

The erotic tension between Elgort and James is sincere and palpable, despite of their innocent stares and kisses. Indeed, the film would have benefitted from developing Debora’s persona a little more, since Lily James creates such a delightful character. Maybe Wright wants us to remember her just like an angel, standing before a gleaming classic convertible, a white 1954 Cadillac Eldorado.

Article published previously as Movie Review: ‘Baby Driver’ Strikes the Right Notes on Blogcritics.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tarantino's planned film take on Sharon Tate and The Manson Family murders

Quentin Tarantino is developing a film about the Manson family murders. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Pulp Fiction and Hateful Eight director will write and direct the as-yet untitled film, which concerns the notorious killings of five people, including pregnant actor Sharon Tate – wife of director Roman Polanski – carried out by followers of Charles Manson in 1969. Manson and four followers later received life imprisonment – and his group were also responsible for a number of other killings during the 1960s.

Details on the plot of the film remain unknown, but Deadline reports that Margot Robbie has been approached to play Tate, while the Hollywood Reporter suggests that Jennifer Lawrence is also being considered for the part. Brad Pitt and Samuel L Jackson are also being linked with roles in the film, which will begin shooting next year. The Manson Family murders became headline news around the world, and were seen as symbolic of the disorder and violence of the late 1960s, as well as the demise of the hippie movement. Tarantino’s last film, the violent western The Hateful Eight, was released in January 2016. Despite an all-star cast that included Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Samuel L Jackson, the film performed disappointingly at the box office. Source: www.theguardian.com

In June 1968, Roman Polanski’s film Rosemary’s Baby had become a huge success and made the Polish director a celebrity in the United States. Sharon Tate, an actress he had married in January 1968, was not yet a star. She had appeared in Valley of the Dolls, a film depicting the sleazier side of screen fame, Polanski’s Fearless Vampire Killers, and a nude pictorial in Playboy magazine—her husband shot the session photos. Tate seemed to be the quintessential Hollywood starlet. With Rosemary’s Baby a substantial hit, Polanski and his wife had to be based in L.A., though they could and did spend considerable time in England and Europe on film projects. 

They had trouble finding the right place to live, settling for a while in a Chateau Marmont apartment on Sunset Boulevard, then renting a house in the Hollywood Hills from actress Patty Duke. The place didn’t really suit them. They wanted something grander, commensurate with Polanski’s new, exalted status, and so they kept looking. Meanwhile, the couple hired a housekeeper named Winifred Chapman. Tate hoped soon to become pregnant. Despite her flashy image and nude photos, she was something of a homebody at heart. When they learned about Altobelli’s Cielo Drive property, Polanski and Tate were interested; their plans to find a new home had taken on new urgency when they learned that Tate was pregnant. Even when Polanski was away, there were friends with her all the time, quite often celebrity hair stylist Jay Sebring, who had been Tate’s boyfriend before she left him for Polanski. After their breakup Sharon and Jay stayed close friends.


In the "Manson Women" documentary of the Biography Channel it's mentioned that Jim Morrison visited the Ranch Spahn's and The Family Manson at some point prior to the murders. Jim knew one of the murder victims, Sharon Tate's ex-boyfriend Jay Sebring, who worked as hair stylist for actors in Hollywood. His clients included Warren Beatty, Steve McQueen, Frank Sinatra and Kirk Douglas. Sebring was introduced to Sharon Tate by journalist Joe Hyams in October 1964 and they had a romantic relationship until 1966, when Tate went to London to work on The Fearless Vampire Killers and began a romance with director Roman Polanski.  

Jay Sebring was also the creator of Jim Morrison's famous haircut (a free-flowing hairstyle) for the photo sessions by Joel Brodsky (The Young Lion photoshoot). Jim Morrison did visit Death Valley several times in his famous shamanistic "Vision Quests" trips and allegedly met there some members of The Manson Family, who hung out at The Spiral Staircase, the place that inspired Jim Morrison to write "Roadhouse Blues"—about the drive up Topanga Canyon Blvd to The Corral. Charles Manson often hung out at The Corral with his Family. On December 9, 1970, the day after celebrating his 27th birthday, Jim Morrison sat in the Doors’ business office, reading an article from the LA Times about a grand jury having indicted Charles Manson and members from his Family for the slayings at Cielo Drive. Jim Morrison put down the paper and said to others in the room, "I think I’m having a nervous breakdown." It seemed strange Manson had seized upon the sunny music of the Beach Boys and the Beatles for his psychotic projections but he had ignored The Doors' prophecies.

Sharon Tate, here pictured around 1969, with her husband, Roman Polanski, were customers of Pamela Courson’s store, Themis. Sharon is wearing a traditional Moroccan djellaba robe. Although it has not been proven Sharon actually purchased this item in Themis, it is almost certain she bought it at Pamela's boutique. 

Pamela Courson (aka Pamela Susan Morrison, Jim Morrison's common law wife) operated Themis (1968-1971), a fashion boutique that Jim Morrison bought for her with his royalty checks from the album Strange Days. One of The Family Manson's followers was seen wearing the same Moroccan djellaba robe that both Sharon Tate and Pamela Courson wore. The Manson Family were known to be thieves, or as they called it “creepy crawling,” their way into people’s homes to steal at night. We don’t know if the night Sharon Tate was murdered they stole any of her clothes, but it is very eerie that one of Manson’s followers was wearing this same rare djellaba that Sharon Tate owned in 1969—probably bought at Pamela Courson's storeat one of those “Free Manson’s” protests. Source: pamelasusancoursonmorrison.
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Saturday, July 08, 2017

Howard Hawks' screwball influence on Edgar Wright's Baby Driver


“Baby Driver” (2017) is exuberant, fast paced and tightly scripted. There’s not much in the way of fat—no scene goes on longer than it needs to. The picture isn’t just a collection of jokes and improve-y back and forths poorly glued together to resemble a feature length film. Edgar Wright firmly believes in narrative and structure to keep things organized and the action moving. Story and character come first, while the humor flows effortlessly out of them. “Baby Driver” keeps to a meticulous and playful comedic rhythm, sort of like a classic screwball comedy with more music, heavier cutting and a lot more action.

Edgar Wright also likes working within established genres. “Baby Driver” embraces a well-worn sub genre of the crime film—an expert criminal trying to get out that dangerous life but that life wont let him leave. In this case, that expert criminal is a young (talented) getaway driver known as “Baby” (Ansel Elgort). A good kid who mostly means well, he works for the master criminal Doc, (Kevin Spacey) doing jobs to pay off a debt he acquired years ago. “Baby Driver” is Wright’s hyper screwball take on films like “Thief” and “Drive.” It’s kinetic and cartoon-y, with a palpable undercurrent of violence and danger. Source: drewsmovieblog.com

Between the favorite films of Edgar Wright, there are several directed by Howard Hawks: "Scarface" (1932), "Bringing Up Baby" (1938) and "The Big Sleep" (1946). Source: mubi.com

Between April and July 1974, Tom Luddy at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley ran the most complete Howard Hawks retrospective ever organized to date, in that it included the silent films until then thought to be lost: Paid to Love, The Cradle Snatchers, and Trent’s Last Case. His Girl Friday and To Have and Have Not received the usual rapturous receptions. While in Berkeley, Hawks agreed to speak with three representatives of a radical leftist film journal called Jump Cut. The interviewers were prepared to suspend their “aversion to his reactionary romanticism and hail him as a closet subversive, a repressed populist, perhaps even a right-wing anarchist.” The result was undoubtedly the oddest, most rambling, but in some ways most personal interview with Hawks ever published. In it he railed, as much of his generation did, against the “biased” media that “has turned people against Nixon,” against newfangled school textbooks, against political messages in motion pictures, and against “sick” pictures, which he defined as “pictures of psychopaths, pictures of strange people, pictures that are nauseating, people that you don’t like to look at or follow—those are sick pictures.” He expressed a revulsion at politics in general and at the “gradual erosion” of ideals in America. On the subject of Vietnam, Hawks said, “America lost all over the world by fighting there. I think that whoever started it in the first place was wrongly advised. They should have said, ‘Go over there and drop a couple of big bombs, and if you don’t feel like doing that, stay out of it.’”

Hawks was not an intellectual yet he was very intelligent; he possessed the wisdom of his years but remained an adolescent in his enthusiasms even in old age; he was innately conservative in his worldview yet daring and inclined to risk; he was embraced by many feminists in the 1970s for liberating his women characters from the home and placing them on the same field with men, yet he held an utterly conventional view of women’s role in his own life; he was stoic but reckless, reserved but excessive; he was celebrated but little known; he was a pragmatist but a poet; and he had the mind of an engineer but the subconscious of an artist. He was, above all, a modern artist. —"Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood" (2007) by Todd McCarthy

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Only Angels Have Wings' emotional core and redemption: Jean Arthur

Frank Capra's 'Lost Horizon' (1937) headed for an 80th Anniversary Blu-ray Edition this Fall. Celebrate the 80th anniversary of the lavishly produced Frank Capra classic, LOST HORIZON, based on the best-selling novel by James Hilton. Ronald Colman and Jane Wyatt star in this unique journey to the enchanted paradise of Shangri-La, where time stands still. Sony is working on 'Lost Horizon: 80th Anniversary Edition' for Blu-ray on October 3. Fully restored in 4K and presented in high definition, the Blu-ray is housed within a lavish, limited edition 24-page Digibook, complete with an all-new essay from film historian Jeremy Arnold and rare archival photos from the film. In addition, as part of the restoration, more than a minute of rarely-seen original footage from the film was found and included, making this the most complete cut of the film in existence. In 2016, the film was selected for inclusion in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." 

According to Frank Capra, the word around Columbia was that Jean Arthur was a bit "cuckoo." But he liked her style-and her voice-and signed her for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936) over the objection of Harry Cohn. "Great voice?" Cohn bellowed. "See her face? Half of it's angel, and the other half horse." But Capra fixed the problem, as he did for Claudette Colbert, by making sure his cameraman Joe Walker always shot the actress with her best face forward. It was a move to which Arthur later attributed much of her movie success. When the American Film Institute honored Frank Capra with its Life Achievement Award in 1982, practically all the major living stars Capra had directed, including Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert, Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, showed up to pay tribute. But not Jean Arthur. "She's just a hermit," Capra told Tom Shales of the Washington Post. "She doesn't do very well in crowds, and she doesn't do very well with people, and she doesn't do very well with life but she does very well as an actress. She certainly had two sides: the actress, this wonderful actress, and this person, this shy personality that she was in reality."

When movie buffs sought out Capra's films, inevitably they stumbled upon the director's "favorite actress," Jean Arthur. America's "forgotten actress," as one journalist called her on the occasion of her birthday in 1985, could readily be seen in such classics as The Plainsman, Only Angels Have Wings, The Devil and Miss Jones, The More the Merrier and Shane. And her list of leading men: Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, Charles Boyer, William Powell, Ronald Colman, John Wayne, Ray Milland, William Holden, Joel McCrea and Alan Ladd.


Becoming Cary Grant (2017) documentary by Mark Kidel draws on an unpublished memoir by Cary Grant, and also dwells on his experiments with LSD in the 1950s. Grant’s LSD experiences were part of a rigorously supervised experiment in cutting-edge Southern California psychotherapy. He would take a tab, once a week, in his therapist’s office, lie down on the couch with a cover over him, and hallucinate his way back into his subconscious self. He found the experience to be frightening, liberating, and healing—“I passed through seas of horrifying and happy sights, through a montage of intense love and hate, a mosaic of past impressions,” Grant wrote. “At last,” he said, “I'm close to happiness.” “Becoming Cary Grant” leaves too many questions unanswered. Grant, who was married five times and was so handsome that Pauline Kael described him as the most pursued male of the 20th century, was a person haunted by the fragility of his romantic temperament. The film includes commentary from his daughter Jennifer Grant, his last wife, Barbara (Harris) Jaynes, longtime friend Judy Balaban and authors David Thomson and Mark Glancy.

“If you haven't seen Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, and Rita Hayworth in Howard Hawks's romantic and exciting 1939 South American flying drama, Only Angels Have Wings, you have not experienced one of the most vibrant, resonant, and deeply entertaining movies ever made.”—Peter Bogdanovich 

In Only Angels Have Wings (1939) Howard Hawks transformed Geoff Carter's “stoicism” into a metaphor for the very type of reserved, nonswaggering macho heroism that young American servicemen would need after America's coming entry into World War II, so much so that the film's signature line of dialogue, “Where's Joe,” would serve as a catchphrase for the wives and mothers of a generation of wartime G.I. Joes. As Peter Bogdanovich rightly points out, this picture transformed Cary Grant from light comedy into the front ranks of Hollywood leading he-men, the first successful action film in which he got the girl—or rather, the girl got him. It was the intricate dynamics of sexual combustion between men and women that preoccupied the poetic engineer Howard Hawks. The screenplay of Only Angels Have Wings has always been viewed as the essence of Jules Furthman in its world-weary romanticism, cynical attitude toward sex, hard-shelled and stoic leading man, and footloose leading lady with a past. One could carp that certain scenes represent a warped, toxic notion of masculinity (not an uncommon criticism of Hawks), but that would require ignoring Geoff’s willingness to give Bonnie what she needs from him even as he makes it appear that he’s withholding it (in order to protect himself from a potentially disastrous surge of vulnerability).

Hawks encountered heavy resistance to his methods from Jean Arthur. Questionable in the role of a vagabond showgirl knocking around Latin America, Frank Capra’s greatest leading lady was simply too wholesome and irrepressibly upbeat to fit comfortably into Hawks’s world. Arthur was not adept at improvising with the quicksilver Grant, and when Hawks would try to direct her to act in the sexy, subtly simmering way that he'd later find in Lauren Bacall, she simply refused, saying, “I can’t do that kind of stuff.” Hawks didn’t hide his disappointment and attributed Arthur's inability to follow his direction to “a quirk.” The film greatly benefited from the romantic optimism Hawks was feeling at the time, as he was just in the initial throes of falling in love with Slim, the most important woman of his life. Howard Hawks eventually had to admit that Jean Arthur was "really good," marveled  at "one of the best love scenes that I've ever seen in a picture. That was beautifully done."

There had been rumors that Arthur was unfriendly to Hayworth during filming, beginning when Arthur refused to stand next to the striking newcomer for publicity stills. Hayworth recalled that Arthur would do a scene, run off to her dressing room and lock herself in. Then Hayworth would do her scene, run back to her own dressing room, and lock herself in. Finally they bumped into each other on the last day of shooting. "You're shy," observed Arthur to the young newcomer. "You are too," Hayworth replied. Rita Hayworth eventually displaced Jean Arthur as queen of the Columbia lot, but she also inherited the title of Harry Cohn's chief whipping girl. Like Jean Arthur before her and Kim Novak after her, Rita Hayworth refused to bend to Cohn's will or to submit to his possessive, bullying tactics. All three actresses had introverted natures that did not respond well to the mogul's gruff manner, but it was Rita Hayworth who suffered the special indignity of constantly having to ward off her boss's blatant sexual advances.

At the start, Carter’s feeling is that women are dangerous, and there is considerable evidence that Bonnie’s mixture of ingenuousness and impulsiveness, however attractive, makes her more dangerous than any girl he may have had in mind in the first place. Carter and Bonnie first become intimate in an argument about the compatibility of male professionalism and female domesticity, and their growing love affair erodes Carter’s code a good deal. Carter gradually subsides in a growing and largely unstated emotional commitment to a girl who is herself rather rootless (she is an unemployed showgirl, daughter of a circus tightrope walker who died from a fall). Each fills a real emotional need in the other. Only Angels Have Wings would inspire adventure TV series Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982) which was set in 1938 in the South Pacific, about an ex-Flying Tigers pilot named Jake Cutter, his best friend Corky, a good-hearted alcoholic, and his love interest Sarah who sings in the Monkey Bar as a cover for her espionage activities.

The most fascinating character in Only Angels Have Wings is Bonnie, played brilliantly by the always-underrated Jean Arthur. She's the film’s emotional core. She holds Geoff’s redemption. Modern Oscar historians regard Arthur's repeated slightings as among the more egregious of the Academy's many errors of omission. In 1990, Emanuel Levy observed that Arthur "occupies a special position among the Academy's underestimated actresses," noting that at least three of her performances should have been nominated but were not. Danny Peary ventured that Arthur deserved several nominations (for Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Easy Living), and at least one Best Actress award (for The More the Merrier). Several factors conspired to cause Arthur's work to be overlooked so frequently by the Academy. Comediennes have fared especially poorly in Oscar competition. She had abandoned the role of Billie Dawn in "Born Yesterday" for which Judy Holliday won a Best Actress Oscar in 1950. But the biggest factor Arthur had going against her in the annual Oscar sweepstakes was simple politics. Hedda Hopper had labeled Jean the "Least Popular Woman in Hollywood" in 1942. The Academy voters, among whom Arthur had few friends, were aware of her reputation for being difficult, and it was considered bad form for a star to feud so openly and repeatedly with her employers. So, when Arthur finally did garner her first and only Oscar nomination, it was in spite of, rather than because of, Harry Cohn. —Sources: "Jean Arthur: The Actress Nobody Knew" (2004) by John Oller and "Howard Hawks: The Grey Fox of Hollywood"  (2007) by Todd McCarthy