Ed Gorman

The Spookiest Little Publisher in the World

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Oct 302014
 


  

The Spookiest Little Publisher in the World
A Hallow's Eve visit to visit Cemetery Dance Publications, one of the unlikeliest--and scariest--small-business success stories in publishing.
To a casual observer, Forest Hill, Maryland, is light on evil. Corn grows tall in the fields, but no vacant-eyed, scythe-wielding juveniles lurk among the stalks. Campaign-season lawn signs promote the ominous sounding Sheriff Bane, but--judging by the photos on his web site--this guy is no one’s idea of a demonic enforcer. At least the local Waffle House is good for a quick gut-curdle.
But Forest Hills is home to Cemetery Dance Publications, the country’s leading specialty publisher of horror and dark suspense. For years its flagship magazine has arrived quarterly in my mailbox, delivering even on the brightest day in May a whiff of autumn decay. All the dark stars--Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Gillian Flynn, William Peter Blatty, Joe R. Lansdale and many more--have appeared in the magazine or in the company’s trade or limited-edition books. My basement shelves--my literary id--are crammed with this stuff.
As many as a thousand independent magazines have come and gone in the decades since “Rosemary’s Baby,”“The Exorcist,” and “Carrie” ushered in a horror renaissance. To put Cemetery Dance iit in horror-film tropes, Cemetery Dance is the virtuous-yet-smokin’ brunette who survives the slaughter. Contributors have praised it for sustaining the genre even during the depths of the ’90s, when horror was often played for laughs (“Scream”) or thinned down to juvenilia (“Goosebumps”). The company’s line of hardcover books-;many illustrated, signed by the authors, and sheathed in elegant covers--helped elevate disposable paperback fodder into the realm of collectibles.
Like most genre fiction, horror is sometimes art, often craft, and too often (thank you, Internet) crap. Since its early days, Cemetery Dance has had pick of the litter: it receives more than 5,000 stories every time it opens submissions. Recently, founder Richard Chizmar posted a call for Halloween-themed entries on his personal Facebook page: in two weeks he had 150. The publisher spurns trends (Splatterpunk, swoony vampires) in favor of atmosphere, storytelling, and freshness. “We don’t buy a lot of zombie stories,” says Managing Editor Brian Freeman. “It’s rare to find something where by page two you’re not like, ‘OK, they’re going to end up at the Walmart.’”
Chizmar and Freeman are also admirably democratic: selecting first-rate submissions from no-names over second-rate submissions from names. The result is more and more-varied voices than mainstream publishers typically corral. “Every issue of Cemetery Dance has the kind of wild-eyed, freewheeling quality that Hunter Thompson used to call ‘gonzo,’” says Peter Straub, bestselling author of 17 novels, including the seminal “Ghost Story.” The editors “have always been open to the whole range of the genre they love and, even more importantly, appreciate.
“Chizmar and his crew are willing to gamble, and they are right more often than not,” says Straub. “In any case, whatever they choose to publish is worth reading.”
***
Cemetery Dance Publications lives in a featureless office park around the corner from a logistics company. A pair of office dogs greets me with boundless enthusiasm and no Cujo-esque ‘tude whatsoever. They are followed by Freeman and his wife, Kate, who handles production and design and is cradling their 11-month-old son, Charlie, and here is where I give up on looking for Forest Hill's heart of darkness. As family businesses go, this one is more Waltons than Addams. 
An upcoming Halloween anthology from Cemetery Dance—available as a hardcover and as a $500 limited edition featuring autographs from luminary contributors.
Dressed in a faded T-shirt and Under Armor cap, Chizmar, 49, looks like a suburban dad who coaches his kids’ sports teams, which is what he is. “We adapted the story ‘Eater’ for [the NBC show] ‘Fear Itself,’ and at one point we had a guy frying up a human tongue,” says Chizmar, who also writes horror fiction and screenplays, the latter with his actor friend John Shaech. “What I always hear is, ‘you are so normal. I can’t believe you do this stuff.’” 
Cemetery Dance was a typical college startup, launched by Chizmar in the late 1980s while he was studying journalism at the University of Maryland. Sidelined from lacrosse by an injury, he spent his newly free time writing horror stories and peddling them to small magazines. “There were a bunch of them-;New Blood, Death Realm, Grue. I could have 20 stories out at one time,” Chizmar says. “I would get the magazine in the mail with a check for $5. A lot of them I didn’t even want to show to anybody, because they were stapled, poorly photocopied, no thought to design. I kept thinking, ‘I can do better than this.’”
At first, Chizmar reached out to potential contributors through writers’ organizations and personal contacts. The author and editor David Silva, who at the time was shutting down his own revered magazine, The Horror Show, became an advisor. Even in the early days, rising authors like Bentley Little, R.C. Matheson and Steve Rasnic Tem appeared in Cemetery Dance’s pages alongside unknowns. Meanwhile, Chizmar made sure the titans of the terror trade received each new issue. “In the small presses, people were really stingy with giving copies away, which I understood because of the finances,” says Chizmar. “But I knew from the beginning Steve King, Peter Straub, Bill Blatty--these guys are not going to buy my little magazine. I sent it free to anybody and everybody who was a prominent figure I would eventually want to work with.”
Within three years, the mountain came to Mohammed. Chizmar received a postcard from Chuck Verrill, a literary agent. “Dear Rich,” it read, “I hope this finds you well. A couple of months ago I sent you a manuscript from Stephen King, and we were wondering if you had had a chance to read it yet?”“I sprinted down the hall of my apartment, tore through the slush pile, and found one with the agency sticker on it,” says Chizmar. “It was nice and fat.”“Chattery Teeth,” an unexpectedly touching tale about an oversized wind-up toy that dispatches an evil hitchhiker, debuted in issue 14. Cemetery Dance was firmly planted.
In the early ‘90s, a few presses were publishing hardback horror. But the market was dominated by mass-market paperbacks that could be purchased in an airport store at trip’s beginning and ditched in an airport trash receptacle at trip’s end. With a growing stable of authors who trusted him as an editor and a growing base of readers who trusted the Cemetery Dance name, Chizmar decided to create his own book imprint. His first title was an original: “Prisoners & Other Stories,” by the crime writer Ed Gorman, with an afterward by Dean Koontz. Both writers signed all copies. “’Prisoners’ is still the best-looking book to ever appear under my name,” says Gorman, a frequent contributor to the magazine. “It also brought me a kind of attention I’d never had before. And that was all Richard’s doing.”
Today Cemetery Dance publishes as many as 20 hardcover books a year, ranging from original anthologies and novels to autographed limited-editions of popular titles from such authors as Gillian Flynn, Clive Barker, Ray Bradbury, and Frank Darabont, who developed “The Walking Dead” for cable. Prices range from $18.95 for trade books to well over $150 for what Chizmar calls the “super-fancy-crazy-deluxe-lettered editions for the super-collectors." The collector gene is a common mutation among horror fans, he notes. “A lot of them grew up collecting those Aurora monster model kits, and they had to have them all.”
The company’s biggest seller to date is “Blockade Billy,” a 2010 baseball yarn by King--packaged with a special baseball card--that the author offered first to Chizmar. The company printed 25,000 copies-;many of them for libraries--an unprecedented run for Cemetery Dance. Then Sports Illustrated, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine and others wrote about the book, and major retailers like Amazon started clamoring for huge orders. Unable to meet demand, Chizmar stepped aside and Scribner stepped in.
Cemetery Dance remains a small business with under $5 million in sales, and most of that comes from books. “If we looked at it from a straight business standpoint we would stop publishing the magazine,” says Chizmar, who estimates he has a subscriber base of 10,000, and that each issue sells another 5,000 copies at newsstands. “A big company would have shut it down years ago because it’s not profitable enough. But I’ve got such a sense of nostalgia and affection for it. It’s the company’s beating heart.”
***
The boogeyman under Cemetery Dance’s bed is the same one haunting virtually all publishers. Cemetery Dance’s loyal fan base is aging, in some cases dying off. And while people return from the grave from all kinds of reasons, renewing magazine subscriptions isn’t one of them. “There’s a lot more visibility of horror these days in television and movies, but not so much in books,” says Chizmar. “At a couple of schools I went to recently I said, ‘Raise your hands if you know who Stephen King is.’ Ten years ago, all the hands would have gone up. Now, maybe a third. So I’ll say,’ raise your hands if you’ve seen the remake of “Prom Night.”’ Now you see hands.”
Freeman, also a horror writer, is 14 years Chizmar’s junior. Since joining the business in 2002 he has been nudging Chizmar toward a digital future by building out Cemetery Dance’s e-commerce function, exploiting social media, and--most recently--experimenting with e-books, of which the company offers 60. Freeman is also working on a digital edition of the magazine, “although a lot of feedback we get from people is that they really like having it show up in their mailbox,” he says.
“We have a lot of customers who are 25 to 30 years old, although it’s still a small percentage of the base,” says Freeman. “But every year I’ll hear from people who found us online while they were looking up a new author they just discovered.”
One of Cemetery Dance’s most creative experiments in social media kicks off on Halloween, when Chizmark plans to embark on a quest to reread the entire Stephen King oeuvre in order and blog about each book. The effect should be something like Julie Powell’s episodic recounting of how she prepared all the recipes in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking,” only with pig’s blood instead of onion soup. 
Chizmar will also invite visitors to the blog to describe the circumstances under which they first read a particular book. King fans, he says, tend to remember those experiences. He may be right. I started “The Stand” as a freshman on my first train trip to college and finished it later in my dorm. One night, Steve Lewis, who lived in the room next to mine and had noticed me reading it, hid in my closet and lurched out at me when I opened the door. I do not blame Stephen King for this. I do blame Steve Lewis. Chizmar reminds me that EC Comics is a great source for revenge ideas.
I ask Chizmar and Freeman if, after all these years, anything they see or read still scares them. All the time, they say. Freeman’s weak spot is zombies: “this idea of people you know-;your friends, your family, your neighbors-;trudging along and they’re them but also not them,” he says. “There is something primal about being 10 years old and there’s mom and dad and they are going to eat me.”
Chizmar cites the last 30 pages of “Revival” (the new King novel being released next month) and then starts reeling off movies: “28 Weeks Later,” (rage virus) “The Descent” (cave monsters); “30 Days of Night” (Alaskan vampires).
“The first ‘Paranormal’ movie didn’t scare a lot of people,” he says. “But I watched that with my son at night, with the lights off. Halfway through I said, ‘Billy, let’s finish this tomorrow in daylight.’ And he said, ‘OK.’”

Oct 302014
 

Posted: 28 Oct 2014 08:38 PM PDT
There is a dusty little desert town straddling the Utah-Nevada border fringing the southern edge of I-80. A ninety minute run from Salt Lake City. The dull crystalline salt flats hustle into the rocky foothills of the Silver Island Mountains. The flats stretch for miles. In the winter they flood with water, and the summer finds rocket cars, motor cycles, and just about anything else on two or four wheels, playing for speed on its flat, straight surface.

The place: Wendover, Utah.

And it has a history. It was built in 1908 as a railroad town, and pretty much stayed that way until World War 2 brought an Army bomber training base. If it was a B-24, and flew in Europe, there is a good chance plane and crew touched Wendover. Its most famous trainees were the crews of Enola Gay, and Bockscar. The fliers and B-29s that dropped “Little Boy” and “Fatman” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The old structures, clapboard barracks, box style hangars, concrete swimming pool, rot in the dry air. A light blue sky above, and a faded alkaline earth below.

The casinos came in the early-1950s. They came to lure the Mormon population of Salt Lake City across the border to sin. And it worked. The Nevada side—called West Wendover—has prospered. The casinos hatched a fully functional small city—schools, neighborhoods, parks, parents, and children. The east has been stagnant, and poor. Its only draw is the collapsing old base, the airport, and an old propellerless C-123 Provider with a sign identifying it as the airplane used in the film “Con Air”.

Its tires flat, a wooden ramp providing access to its starboard door. A fading blue runner, or cheatline, on its silver fuselage. Faded block letters, just aft of the wings and above the door, read: UNITED STATES MARSHAL. The number N709RR painted on the tail. The words “The Jailbird” below an eagle with a ball and chain in its talons on the nose. The markings are right; matching perfectly with the “The Jailbird” from the film. The interior is torn apart. A cavernous bay occupies the majority. Bare aluminum walls, the odd wire lifting from the surface. A Gatorade bottle jammed in an I-beam near the ceiling.

The cockpit is barren. Aluminum shine with little else. Two small windows stare at the desolate desert. The original stick—wheel, I think, in this case—is replaced with something like a steering wheel from a bus. If it ever flew it was long ago. In the film the old airbase fronted for “Turner Field”; the desert location where the convict crew landed and most of the film’s action happened. If you look around you can see it. The unpainted clapboard buildings. The rotting airplane hangars, a vintage control tower—now restored—and a swimming pool, its surface covered with peeling blue paint where Steve Buscemi likely took tea with an unsuspecting girl and her dolls.

I have wondered about the plane for years. What its role in the film actually was, and, if it was airworthy then, why leave it to die? I did some research, finally, and what I found was as interesting as the airplane. It is a movie star, or nearly one. “Stand in” is more accurate. It was never flown in the film, but it was used as the Earth bound plane for the desert scenes. It taxied along the Wendover runways, a bus engine powering its wheels. It was in the film, and it played a central role, but it wasn’t the star. Instead it was a prop; part of the scenery. Very much like the abandoned airbase itself.

But still, it is pretty cool.




















The Jailbird, Wendover, and “Con Air”

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Oct 302014
 

Gravetapping


Posted: 28 Oct 2014 08:38 PM PDT
There is a dusty little desert town straddling the Utah-Nevada border fringing the southern edge of I-80. A ninety minute run from Salt Lake City. The dull crystalline salt flats hustle into the rocky foothills of the Silver Island Mountains. The flats stretch for miles. In the winter they flood with water, and the summer finds rocket cars, motor cycles, and just about anything else on two or four wheels, playing for speed on its flat, straight surface.

The place: Wendover, Utah.

And it has a history. It was built in 1908 as a railroad town, and pretty much stayed that way until World War 2 brought an Army bomber training base. If it was a B-24, and flew in Europe, there is a good chance plane and crew touched Wendover. Its most famous trainees were the crews of Enola Gay, and Bockscar. The fliers and B-29s that dropped “Little Boy” and “Fatman” on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The old structures, clapboard barracks, box style hangars, concrete swimming pool, rot in the dry air. A light blue sky above, and a faded alkaline earth below.

The casinos came in the early-1950s. They came to lure the Mormon population of Salt Lake City across the border to sin. And it worked. The Nevada side—called West Wendover—has prospered. The casinos hatched a fully functional small city—schools, neighborhoods, parks, parents, and children. The east has been stagnant, and poor. Its only draw is the collapsing old base, the airport, and an old propellerless C-123 Provider with a sign identifying it as the airplane used in the film “Con Air”.

Its tires flat, a wooden ramp providing access to its starboard door. A fading blue runner, or cheatline, on its silver fuselage. Faded block letters, just aft of the wings and above the door, read: UNITED STATES MARSHAL. The number N709RR painted on the tail. The words “The Jailbird” below an eagle with a ball and chain in its talons on the nose. The markings are right; matching perfectly with the “The Jailbird” from the film. The interior is torn apart. A cavernous bay occupies the majority. Bare aluminum walls, the odd wire lifting from the surface. A Gatorade bottle jammed in an I-beam near the ceiling.

The cockpit is barren. Aluminum shine with little else. Two small windows stare at the desolate desert. The original stick—wheel, I think, in this case—is replaced with something like a steering wheel from a bus. If it ever flew it was long ago. In the film the old airbase fronted for “Turner Field”; the desert location where the convict crew landed and most of the film’s action happened. If you look around you can see it. The unpainted clapboard buildings. The rotting airplane hangars, a vintage control tower—now restored—and a swimming pool, its surface covered with peeling blue paint where Steve Buscemi likely took tea with an unsuspecting girl and her dolls.












I have wondered about the plane for years. What its role in the film actually was, and, if it was airworthy then, why leave it to die? I did some research, finally, and what I found was as interesting as the airplane. It is a movie star, or nearly one. “Stand in” is more accurate. It was never flown in the film, but it was used as the Earth bound plane for the desert scenes. It taxied along the Wendover runways, a bus engine powering its wheels. It was in the film, and it played a central role, but it wasn’t the star. Instead it was a prop; part of the scenery. Very much like the abandoned airbase itself.

But still, it is pretty cool.






Oct 302014
 
Poster of the movie The Money Trap.jpg


Lionel White's The Money Trap-Glenn Ford & Rita Hayworth
(from an older issue of the Film Noir Sentinel)


This is from Vince Keenan's piece on the films that Glen Ford and Rita Hayworth made together. Vince is particularly eloquent on the subject of The Money Trap based on (for me) Lionel White's finest novel of the same name. Don Westlake always acknowledged his debt to White. But he wasn't just talking about the caper novels that helped establish Parker. Get a copy of the novel and you'll find it reads very much like early Westlake hardboiled. As Vince notes, the movie is an especially grim one. And it does have a decided pre-hippie Sixties feel to it. Death in a thousand Danish modern living rooms while consuming a few million martinis.

Vince Keenan:

Hayworth’s star faded as Ford made some of his most successful films. But
his luster had also dimmed by the time they were drawn together for one final
movie that makes the most of their rich history. The pity is hardly anyone saw it.
The Money Trap(1966), like many black-and-white films of the mid-to-late
60s, seems infused with a sense of its own futility. That only intensifies the over-
all mood of melancholy. Naturally, this Burt Kennedy-directed adaptation of a
novel by Lionel White (The Killing) haunted the bottom half of double bills before
vanishing into the ghostly realm of late-night TV.

Ford plays weary LAPD detective Joe Baron. The echo of the name Dave
Bannion from The Big Heat is apt; Joe is a wised-up Dave back on the force and
opting to coast. He’s married to a wealthy younger woman (Elke Sommer), and
that’s taking a toll. The Money Trapsurrounds him with flesh – Sommer teasingly
undressing at the edge of the frame, loads of curvy women in garter belts – all of
it fueling Joe’s fear that living off his wife’s money has diminished him as a man.
The missus begins having cash flow problems just as Joe catches the case of
a thief gunned down in front of a safe by Mob physician Joseph Cotten. Joe and
his partner (a bristling Ricardo Montalban) scheme to heist the safe’s contents
themselves. When Joe approaches the thief’s widow he’s stunned to discover that
it’s Rosalie (Hayworth), his first love from the old neighborhood. At that point The
Money Trapbecomes more than a solid crime drama. It’s transformed into a med-
itation on age and memory.

Hayworth’s ravaged, almost unrecognizable face retains its bearing. This is a
woman who was once a queen, and Ford will always regard her as one. “Tell me
how you been,” Joe implores. “I been around,” Rosalie replies. When Joe offers a
heartfelt “It’s good to see you, Rosie,” the look she gives him is shattering.
A quarrel with his wife sends Joe back to Rosalie, who’s living in the build-
ing where they first made love. They reminisce about the old days, comparing their
grim realities to the dreams of their youth. They sleep together, the weathered hunk
and the withered beauty giving each other some small bit of comfort in the long
night.

Headlines That Shouldn’t Be True But Are

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Oct 292014
 

Bible-toting ‘f*cking Christian’ throws screaming tantrum at In-N-Out
Burger
(these aren't Christians-they're Kristians)

‘So Bill Maher is the Grand Dragon of the KKK?’ MSNBC debate goes off
the rails

Florida cop goes bonkers on ‘f*cking little wise-ass 20-year-old punk’

Georgia GOP county chair accused of attempted rape after crime is
broadcast live on Skype

Georgia investigator: Lazy and violent ‘black culture’ to blame for
1-year-old boy’s shooting death
(you can bet this'll be a fair investigation)

Pat Robertson shames terminally ill woman planning suicide for
promoting liberal ‘culture of death’
(I think Pat should try assissted suicide-I know a lot of people who'd help him)

Chris Christie shrugs off detained Ebola nurse’s threat to sue:
‘Whatever. Get in line.’

Phony Trump University delivered ‘neither Donald Trump nor a
university,’ suit claims
(yeah Trump's name guarantees intellectual excellence)

Halloween ‘lynching’ display removed from on-base home at Fort Campbell
(remember now racism is dead)

6 foods you think are vegetarian but aren’t

Former Texas cop accused of raping teen girl while other officers
watched
(what a crack police force)

Comedian John Fugelsang comes up with great reasons why you shouldn’t
vote next week

Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio ordered to undergo training to stop racial
profiling
(i'm betting this asshole winds up on death row yet)

700-year-old 'zombie' virus shows climate change could unleash ancient
diseases

Ferguson’s police chief denies ouster, but he and other officials
signal possible shakeup
(what could possibly be wrong with the Ferguson police dept?)

‘Young Turks’ rip ‘moron’ Sarah Palin for comparing climate change to
eugenics

Russia offers the US help with space station after rocket explodes
(no irony here--the motor that exploded was Russian)

Fox pundit's 'American jihad' plan: 'Every tax dollar is tithing' in
our 'God-given right' to fight Arabs
(Stephen Colbert refers to this guy(Dr. Keith Ablow) as Dr. Keith A Blow Me)

This is what 10 hours of street harassment experienced by a woman looks
like

Stephen Colbert butchers the NRA for killing bill that banned the
eating of puppies and kittens
(absolutely true--in Penn. (thanks to the NRA you can still butcher and sell and eat cats and dogs)

Jon Stewart mocks Mitch McConnell: He still has to buy friends and
likeability


Patricia Highsmith, comic book writer

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Oct 292014
 


Patricia Highsmith, comic book writer

I'm pretty sure the NY Times has now published three reviews of Joan Schenkar's new biography of Patricia Highsmith. This must be quite a book. The latest review, by Jeanette Winterson, makes fleeting note of Highsmith's days as a comic book writer.

"Highsmith had a kind of archive- attachment disorder; she adored lists. She chronicled, mapped, numbered and cross-referenced everything in her life, and even rated her lovers, but she wiped out what didn’t suit her and only vaguely acknowledged, when pressed by the more ferrety kind of interviewer, having conjured up a few story lines for Superman and Batman.

"In fact her job was much less glamorous than plotting for those superheroes, but the comic strip formula of threat/pursuit/fantasy life/alter ego/secret identity was the formula she used in all her work. The four-color, six-panel comic strip shaped Patricia Highsmith the crime writer like nothing else — however much she cared to cite Dostoyevsky and Henry James."

For the rest go here:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/20/books/review/Winterson-t.html?ref=books

I got curious about her connection to comic books and looked around on the web to see what I could find. Here's from Wikpedia:

"In 1942 Highsmith graduated from Barnard College, where she had studied English composition, playwriting and the short story. Living in New York City and Mexico between 1942 and 1948, she wrote for comic book publishers. Answering an ad for "reporter/rewrite," she arrived at the office of comic book publisher Ned Pines and landed a job working in a bullpen with four artists and three other writers. Initially scripting two comic book stories a day for $55-a-week paychecks, she soon realized she could make more money by writing freelance for comics, a situation which enabled her to find time to work on her own short stories and also live for a period in Mexico. The comic book scriptwriter job was the only long-term job she ever held.[3]

Mary Astor in ACT OF VIOLENCE.

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Oct 282014
 


ActofViolence.jpg



Mary Astor in ACT OF VIOLENCE.


I usually eat lunch around twelve thirty, catch the news and then go back upstairs to my office to write again.

Yesterday I happened to be channel surfing when I saw the billboard for a Turner movie called ACT OF VIOLENCE. I’d never seen it but as soon as I saw Robert Ryan (my favorite noir actor) l knew I’d watch the whole thing.

I’m going to be lazy and let a reviewer from the Internet Movie Database do the heavy lifting for me but I do want to remark on Mary Astor’s performance. Astor is famous for two things, being in THE MALTESE FALCON with Bogart and having her diaries admitted as evidence in a divorce case. She certainly got around.

ACT OF VIOLENCE is hijacked in the middle of act two. Previously the picture belonged to Van Heflin and Ryan. But Astor, who figures prominently in the action far into act three, just walks off with the picture. TCM ran several movies of hers a while back and she was usually a giddy spoiled heiress or somesuch in a glitzy comedies. She was always approriately irritating (the movies encourage us to hate giddy spoiled heiresses).

But in VIOLENCE we see a side of Astor that is, to me at least, astonishing. As a middle-aged hooker, she manages to be a decent person and a con job at the same time. Her faded looks are spellbinding. She’s got those great facial bones and the still-slender body but she plays against them with a weariness that makes her the most interesting character in the movie. I couldn’t stop looking at her. She’s every bar floozie you ever met and yet she transcends the stereotype by having a kind of hardboiled street intelligence. And at least a modicum of honesty. And, to my taste anyway, she’s sexy as hell.

This is one of those movies you enjoy because you soon realize that you have no idea where it’s going. It’s the standard three-act structure but the writers and director Fred Zinnemann aren’t afraid to introduce new plot elements right up to mid-way in the third act. That rarely works but it sure works here.

The only melancholy part for me was knowing how bitter Ryan was about playing psychos. He needed the work but considered it his jinx. He was among the finest film actors of his time but never really got his due. It’s his savaged face (he was dying of cancer at the time) that haunts the final moments of THE WILD BUNCH. Grim Sam Peckinpah knew what he was doing.
Oct 272014
 

English professor suspended 9 months for unfriendly body language,
sighing, and using irony

Caught on video: Philly cop threatens to ‘beat the sh*t’ out of teen
for looking him in the ‘f*cking eye’

St. Louis mayor dismisses open carry rally as 'a scene out of a bad
Western'

Florida man shoots pregnant wife in back of the head, claims it was
self-defense

Gay-hating Westboro Baptist Church files legal brief to save Kansas
from God’s wrath

Pat Robertson: Oil investments are biblical because they don't send
'condoms through pipelines'

GOP candidate repeatedly refuses to explain her vote for Arizona
‘birther bill’

Defendant in KC prayer-group murder says his confession was tainted by
‘exorcism’

Popular radio host opened door to rough sex allegations with Facebook
post

Creationists to explore link between Hitler and evolution at Michigan
State conference

Florida man who attacked drag queen while wearing ‘ironic’ KKK costume
is running for mayor

John Oliver wants you celebrate Halloween by trolling Big Sugar with
#ShowUsYourPeanuts

Cops fire pepper balls into crowd to break up Phoenix protest against
police brutality

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's fast food math prompts lawsuit from labor
group

ISIS prison nightmare: Ex-hostages describe how jihadists tortured
captives before beheading them

Liberal or conservative? How your brain reacts to disgusting images
reveals your political affiliation

The 10 most conservative cities in America

Dr. Jane Goodall shares a banana with John Oliver and names a chimp
‘Poo-throw Hitler’

Reince Priebus deflects GOP’s abortion extremism with bizarre complaint
about Florida strip clubs

Indiana man shoots and kills 13-year-old neighbor for laughing at him

Is this violent passage from the Bible, Torah or Quran? Take this quiz!

Elon Musk: Developing artificial intelligence would be as dangerous as
‘summoning a demon’

Russell Brand rips media coverage of Renee Zellweger

More ‘Sons of Guns’ stars arrested: Pro-gun reality TV family charged
with child abuse

Wisconsin cops deploy armored vehicle to collect fines from 75-year-old
man for messy land

Chuck Todd: Jodi Ernst’s personhood amendment protects ‘unborn human
beings’

Catholic League leader calls for constitutional amendment banning gay
marriage

Republicans waiting on Jeb: Will another Bush run for the White House
in 2016?

Rachel Maddow rips Fox News’ Megyn Kelly for made-up Colorado vote
fraud ‘scandal’

The science of flirting

Quarantined nurse without Ebola symptoms: I’m being made to feel like
‘a criminal’


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Utah man shot and killed by SWAT team after calling suicide hotline

Annie Lennox avoids talking about lynching while talking about a song
about lynching

Bystanders at Dallas Airport stop antigay attack by piling on drunk
bully

Two dead, six injured after shooter opens fire at Washington state high
school

Breitbart’s Gamergate defender: The Internet is in no way ‘specifically
hostile’ to women

Texas man charged with raping two girls, ages 2 and 14, infecting them
with HIV

JK Rowling promises new 'Harry Potter' story on Halloween

Plants can tell when they’re being eaten, and they don’t like it

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Oct 262014
 
Trouble in Paradise (1932) Poster

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2008

Kay Francis

Delightful & Sophisticated!, 1 August 2002
10/10
Author: sabrina1396 from Harlem, NY (USA)

First of all, let me say that this film is as close to perfection as one can get---look at the "throw away gags", the play with words, the wardrobe (Miriam Hopkins stole the show; especially in the Opera scene when she comes out of the "Parlour des femmes" & asks her "Sugar Daddy" for some "francs" to give to the ladies room attendant---that black dress was haute couture at its best!), the gait of the actors, the snappy dialogue. They all look so-o sophisticated & worldly.

SHEER PERFECTION!

It took me 5 years to get this film & it was worth every minute! This is MY FAVORITE film!


Ed here: Turner Classic ran several Kay Francis pictures yesterday. The only one I caught was Trouble in Paradise and I'm glad I did. It is flat out a masterpiece. Ernst Lubitch who directed this and several classics including Ninotchka said that this was his favorite film.

The picture wasn't much seen once the Breen office held sway in Hwood. Several of the people in it are merry adulterers and two of the three principals are thieves.

One surprise, for me if nobody else, was learning that Herbert Marshall wasn't a corpse after all. I'd never seen a performance of his that didn't need to be re-animated. Here he's light, deft, engaging. I think Sabrina, author of the review above is right that Miriam Hopkins probably steals the show. Damn was she cute and damn she wore clothes well and (as with Elaine in Seinfeld) her steely nerves dominate the men in the film. And did I mention she was cute? There are a couple of scenes where she dons these large eyeglasses and you get fixated on her face. You want to freeze frame it. And with that mop of blonde hair she's very sexy.

But Kay Francis fascinated me. There is something in her languid self-conscious style that gently mocks the melodrama of the love scenes and gives the humorous scenes a subtle sexuality. She was very much of the theater but used those particular skills to provide a center for all the festivities. Even when she's off camera her presence is felt. I wouldn't say that she was beautiful exactly but she was so elegant beauty became beside the point. You wait for her to come back.

As for the story, Marshall and Miriam Hopkins are thieves trying to defraud Kay Franics. I'm not kidding when I say the plot has as many twists as a comic caper by Don Westlake. The pacing is extraordinary. Lubitch gives us a long somewhat serious scene and then tops it with a jab of screwball comedy. I'd bet that Billy Wilder considered this one of his essential films. Any number of Wilder films can be felt in the picture.
Oct 252014
 
TWENTIETH-CENTURY-post1.jpg


Ed here: I've written many times about screwball comedies being my favorite genre of film (hardboiled/noir being a close second). This one is in the top five. A masterpiece. You will be in awe of Barrymore and Lomard. I promise.


From Lev-


“The sorrows of life are the joys of art.”  What a great line.  It was spoken by the great John Barrymore in a movie I just finished watching on DVD, Twentieth Century, in which he stars opposite the great Carole Lombard.

This line and this movie have revived my faith in art.  Because I’ve been a little depressed lately, if the truth be told.  My so-called literary career, 83 published novels under 22 pseudonyms, has been a disaster.  Here I am living in genteel poverty and squalor in HUD housing in a little town that no one ever heard of, and I never heard of either until I found it on a map one gloomy day in my so-called life.

This movie just woke me up.  One could say it was the call of destiny.  My flat screen TV, given me by a friend, is still warm.  I’m still in the thrall of this movie.  Because it’s more than a movie.  It’s a true work of art whose subject is art, and how people can become obsessed by it, and devote their lives to it, despite setbacks, scorn, neglect, and countless humiliations which all artists experience at some point in their careers, even if they become very successful later on.  And some artists endure these experiences throughout most of their entire artistic careers, not mentioning any names.

But it’s not one of those preachy movies full of the nobility of suffering, yearning for meaning, and tears in the night, although there’s plenty of that.  Twentieth Century primarily is a comedy about a theatrical couple who love and hate each other, who need and have contempt for each other, like both my marriages and several of my so-called love affairs.

I laughed out loud many times in this movie because it is genuinely funny, unlike some comedies that are supposed to be funny but aren’t, such as Woody Allen qvetching on camera, or Adam Sandler mouthing idiotic lines, or Jerry Seinfeld impersonating a stand-up comic, or people throwing pies at each other, or night club comics insulting people, which is considered quite amusing nowadays.

The art of comedy has sunk way down low compared to this movie.  The quips and wit came at me like machine gun fire, one after another.  I haven’t laughed so hard at years.  If art can accomplish this miracle, then surely a life in art is worth the effort.

John Barrymore was the great tragedian of his day, but it appears his true metier was comedy.  What a brilliant actor.  There’s never been anyone like him before or since.  His gestures and facial expressions seem new and original, even when he’s purposely hamming it up.  The raising of a Barrymore eyebrow is more eloquent than ten pages of words from that hack Len Levinson.

Carole Lombard was a great Hollywood beauty, but it appears her true metier also was comedy.  One might be tempted to think there’s nothing funny about a beautiful woman, because beauty and desire seem so serious, but Carole was riotously outrageously scintillatingly funny.  It seemed impossible for a great beauty to carry on in this disgraceful manner, but she brought it off marvelously, and of course I’ve fallen madly and hopelessly in love with her although she died long ago.

Barrymore and Lombard get into countless vicious arguments, insulting each other most cruelly, and it’s all hilarious.  Then even engage in domestic violence!  Both would both be put in prison nowadays for some of their shenanigans.  But love can be very complicated, as those of us who’ve been in love know all too well.

So art is worth the effort because it’s entertaining and inspiring and teaches us about life far better than most psychology books and most sermons.  And if an artist is a failed artist, well, it might be better to aim high and fail, than not aim high at all.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself whenever I think of taking the gaspipe, although there’s no gas in this apartment, or jumping out the window, although I’m only on the third floor and only would break a leg or arm.

Anyway, I highly recommend this movie.  If you’ve never seen it, you’re in for a revelation.  You’ll realize how commonplace and pedestrian most movies actually are in comparison.