Something I have been doing for a number of years is adding past notes to the Toronto Film Society’s website. As recently as yesterday, I added the November 27, 1989 film buff notes for a George Formby film, It’s in the Air (1938) and the obscure Everything is Rhythm (1936). Both these films are British, and wishing I could view the latter, I remembered that friends had given me their extra copy of a disc set of “British Musicals of the 1930s, Volume 1”. Although Everything is Rhythm wasn’t included on this 2 disc set, there were four other films ranging from 1930 to 1937 to choose from. I settled on The Song You Gave me (1933), choosing it because it falls in the pre-Code range and it ironically starred American actress Bebe Daniels.
A couple of months ago, I read a book by author Daniel Keyes about a man with 23 personalities. The Minds of Billy Milligan was published in 1981 but I don’t believe its protagonist ever reached the level of fame that Eve of The Three Faces of Eve, Sybil or her psychiatrist Cornelia B. Wilbur—who incidentally also treated Billy Milligan—reached. This is possibly due to the fact that it was never made into a movie, although at one point Leonardo DiCaprio was one of the big names hoping to develop it into a film. Billy Milligan was given the choice of who would write his biography, and after reading Keyes’ Flowers for Algernon, Milligan’s choice made sense.
I have been watching a few interesting films this past week or so, starting with the 1932 film Make Me a Star. Someone I know had posted a write up on the film HEARTS OF THE WEST (1975) and in part compares its theme to the 1932 film. This reminded me that I had a copy of the earlier film and that it was as good a time as any to take a look at it.
I finally had the opportunity to attend the Pordenone Silent Film Festival! It’s been a wonderful week of silent films, something to look forward to each day. I had heard about Pordenone for many years but it just wasn’t on my radar to be able to attend; it was an event I was aiming towards when I eventually hit my retirement days. So, trying to find the silver lining during Covid times, I would say bravo to the people of Le Giornate del Cinema Muto and host Jay Weissberg for programming something special to these less than social times.
Several years ago a friend recommended that I watch Three Godfathers (1936), thinking, even though it was a Western, that I would enjoy it. For the most part, a Western has to have something different than the usual Cowboys and Indians shooting it out to hold any interest for me. I remember when I was a kid, I would sometimes watch these films on TV, and would mostly feel sorry for the horses that fell during the battle. Therefore, I was delighted that I enjoyed Three Godfathers with the unusual story-line about three murderous outlaws who end up caring more for a baby than they do for themselves.
Since we have to stay at home, and since the type of job I do is not something I can do from home, I have plenty of time to watch films if I so choose. A film that had been on the back burner of my mind was the Swedish version of A Woman’s Face [En kvinnas ansikte] (1938) directed by Gustaf Molander and one of ten films Ingrid Bergman made before being brought to Hollywood.
I’m in the midst of reading the biography Hattie McDaniel, Black Ambition, White Hollywood by Jill Watts. Several years ago I read Watt’s Mae West: An Icon in Black and White. She’s a very good writer and researcher and, besides involving my favourite topic of film, this book broadens my education on black people and the issues they have had to deal with during and after slavery.
I watched these two films with my kids; Quadrophenia (1979) with both my son and daughter and True Romance (1993) with just my son. To actually get my kids, especially my daughter, to watch a film with me, well it’s just short of being a miracle. I had Quadrophenia on my list of films to watch with them for a very long time and we finally did it. I had a lovely Criterion copy that my friend gave me as a gift so that made it an even more anticipated viewing.
While reading Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin by David Kaufman (2016), I had the urge to watch a couple of Mary Martin films.
I’m dedicating this week of films to my long-time friend Barry Chapman. Barry was a director on the board of Toronto Film Society for many, many years and was always involved in the programming. The last time I spoke with him was just after the TFS screening on December 8th and he died in the early hours of the morning on the 14th. If there’s a movie house in an afterlife, I’m sure that’s where Barry will be.