We Like Comics AND Movies by Peter Fraser
Conditioned by a culture that tells me I shall not judge other people's behaviors or tastes, I shall draw no conclusions about the current comic book to film explosion. It means nothing. A genuinely sensitive person will recognize immediately that what other people do with their bodies and minds is their personal business.
So, I merely note the fact that Hollywood has begun pumping out pulps at a rate never seen before. From those innocent days of the 70s which gave us the new Superman to the more mature Batman films of the late '80s to, more recently, Spiderman, Daredevil, Blade, Tomb Raider, X-Men, The Fantastic Four, Iron Fist, and soon The Hulk, Bastard Samura, etc.
Add to that "graphic novels" gone to film like Ghost World and Road to Perdition, and we have an unmistakable trend. But it's purely a matter of changing tastes and clever Hollywood producers who can smell a new market. Right?
Speaking practically, on the level of pure cinema, one might observe that a comic book is already set up for transference onto film. Hardly the need to storyboard a comic-the work's virtually done in advance. Plus the comic book plot is paced around the rhythms of "wop," "thud," and "argh." Perfect for the Fast and the Furious attention spans of contemporary audiences – ease of production, high profit margin.
So, let's just sit back and enjoy this renaissance. After all, we go to films to be entertained. And these films guarantee that.
They offer everything I just enjoyed this past weekend while watching The Matrix Reloaded; namely, lots of choreographed fighting (who needs wrestlemania?), screen-popping special effects, and gorgeous girls in black leather who occasionally take some of it off. Yes, indeed.
Except, I distinctly recollect my mother nagging me to put my Green Lantern down and pick up Huck Finn or, believe it or not, The Hobbit. That was when I was about my son's age – eleven. I did know a few guys (never girls) who smuggled comics to old St. Edward's Grade School who were older than eleven, but they tended to fall into two categories budding collectors, guys who later became small business owners or math geniuses, like my older brother; or guys like Billy Fuoco who once had to sell me his road race set after an evening of pitching quarters. Billy owns a cigarette habit and a bad case of psoriasis now, and not too much more.
But there I go, peeing at everyone's party again, sticking my opinions in when not asked and when I said I wouldn't, intellectualizing all the fun out of the evening. Comic books are where the money is, and where the people are. They are coming to your Cineplex and into your homes. And why would you want to read Huck Finn or The Hobbit anyhow, as the one is racist and the other, implicitly Christian; and, after all, the movies are better.
Matthew Arnold, the Philistines are in the orchard chopping down the apple trees. Or how did that story go? Isn't Matthew Arnold the guy who was accused of treason or something like that?
Peter Fraser is Professor of English and Chair of the Dept. of Modem Languages at Wisconsin Lutheran College. He has written two books and numerous articles on Film and Popular Culture. Also see Books by Author Peter Fraser.
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Harry "Hilarious" Holloway Remembers 770 Club at Memorial Union by Robyn Traub
When I spoke with Harry Holloway on the phone I could feel his excitement when he spoke about the time he spent with the 770 Club. Wait, but isn't it Club 770 now? In October 1944 when the club first opened, it was the 770 Club, named for the Memorial Union's address at the time – 770 Langdon Street. Harry Holloway was the club's first Master of ceremonies and he loved it!
Mr. Holloway, originally from Wisconsin, performed professionally in Milwaukee and in New York as a song and dance man, leaving only after developing TB. After being discharged, he came to UW-Madison for his law degree. Mr. Holloway was asked to entertain weekly as master of ceremonies at the 770 Club. For $15 meal books, Harry performed every week with acts from the UW student body and his accompanist Jerry Bock (who has written the music for "Fiddler on the Roof" and four other Broadway musicals!). On the campus of 10,000 students, Mr. Holloway became known as '"the big man on campus". The Daily Cardinal wrote articles about the young entertainer, and he became a local celebrity; he even took on another job, performing at the Great Hall’s Coca Cabbana!
Today Mr. Holloway is 83 years old and still young at heart. After graduating from the UW Law School, he became a well-known trial lawyer in Milwaukee. He is now retired and living in Prairie du Sac, Wis.
I want to thank Mr. Holloway for being so helpful and for sharing his story with us. Who knows, he says that he would like to come back to the Union again and possibly perform!
Photos of Harry Holloway conducting the Milwaukee Sentinal/Fox Theaters "Talent Quest" also
Schusters War Bond Promotion with Harry Holloway. Photos of Jubilee Week and Daffy Auction Promotions. Back to topics
View From The Balcony by Peggy Schulz
Men Have Used Women to Their Advantage Long Before the Invention of Film,
and Plenty of Times Since Then
If there had been a filmmaker in the Garden of Eden, we might have had the first documentation of a male taking advantage of a female. If you get right down to it, and you can suspend disbelief for a moment, think about how woman was supposedly created specifically to meet man's needs.
Films made 2000 years later frequently followed in a similar vein, from the classic sci-fi film Forbidden Planet, 1956, all the way up to What Women Want in 2000, with plenty of examples in between.
In Forbidden Planet, Walter Pidgeon uses his daughter, to some extent, because she is his only human companion. When Leslie Nielsen and his crew are nearing the planet with orders to rescue the scientists who've been there for years, they establish communication with Pidgeon.
But, rather than welcoming them as the first humans his daughter would meet, he tries to scare them away. Undaunted, they land. And it's not long before one of the crew, Jack Kelly as Lt. Farman, manages to get the young, naive Anne Francis alone, demonstrating to her the alleged physical benefits of kissing and hugging.
Later, when she expresses her desire to leave the planet with her new beau, Leslie Nielsen (Kelly, her original kiss instructor, having been killed by the "Id Monster"), her father tries to stop her.
As if all that wasn't enough use and abuse, the movie's promotional poster trumpets the image of a longhaired voluptuous blonde (who bears no resemblance to Anne Francis other than in hair color and gender) being held by Robby the Robot. However, nowhere in the actual film does such a scene occur.
The closest image that does appear is one of Anne Francis giving Robby as much of a hug as she can, given his size, after he agrees to whip up a new dress for her, to her exact specifications, overnight.
Skipping ahead a few years, we find Doris Day and Rock Hudson, in one of several films they made together. Lover Come Back, 1961. As is fairly common in these match-ups, Day is a rather ditzy, albeit lovable blonde who falls prey to Hudson's manipulations, schemes and deceit. This time around, they are competing advertising agency pros. She's out for blood, or at least, to get him blackballed in their profession, for using alcohol and women to win contracts for his ad agency.
He makes up a product and enlists the help of a scientist to create the mystery product, "VIP." But when Day goes to the scientist's lab. Hudson is there and ends up impersonating the good doctor and of course in the process, ultimately winning Day's affections.
The ladies in our next film are neither ditzy nor quite as easily taken advantage of as Doris Day in almost any of her films. But Dabney Coleman as Frank Hart in 9 To 5, 1980, sure gives it the old college try. Variously described as sexist, egotistical, deceitful, hypocritical and bigoted, Hart has taken every possible advantage of a rather unlikely office grouping of Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton. When the three band together, though, Hart's days are numbered.
The Godfather, 1972, probably isn't the first film that leaps to mind when thinking of representations on film of men taking advantage of women. Maybe that's because virtually all of the female characters in the film, with the possible exception of Kay Adams, played by Diane Keaton, are largely subordinate to the men in their lives. And this film, unlike the good-natured romp of Lover Come Back or the sometimes-unrealistic 9 To 5, is far more serious and bloody.
Sonny's lover (Lucy Mancini as played by Jeannie Linero) is taken advantage of by him, largely due to her unnaturally large vagina, which better accommodates his supposedly unnaturally large penis.
Mama Corleone is there only to cook and raise the children and grandchildren of her husband, Don Vito (Marion Brando). After Diane Keaton marries Michael Corleone (Al Pacino), and she begins to see the true nature of the family "business," Mama tells her how she deals with it: by going to church and praying hard!
In the beginning of their relationship, Michael takes advantage of Kay, in an apparent attempt to distance himself from the family and establish a legitimate career. He tells her just enough about the family though, to pique her curiosity. She is a prototypical WASP, representing for him, evidently all that his family is not.
Connie, the only Corleone daughter, played by Talia Shire, becomes figuratively and literally a punching bag for Carlo Rissi, as he hopes to gain a foothold in the family business by marrying into it. His comeuppance in the well-orchestrated slaughter after Sonny's death is especially gratifying (ok, so I'm a tad bloodthirsty').
Finally, back to a little bit less intense and certainly more pacific film, What Women Want, 2000.
Reminiscent to some extent of both 9 To 5 and Lover Come Back, this film puts Mel Gibson in the odd position, after a fluke accident, of being able to hear what women are thinking. This ability extends, apparently, even to female dogs.
Unfortunately for the cause of the feminism, it is Bette Midler as a whacky psychiatrist who suggests he use this power to his advantage; after he seeks her help to rid him of this unwanted insight into the female psyche. He takes her advice and works to unseat Helen Hunt. Hunt has managed, in Gibson's absence after the accident, to win the promotion he coveted.
Just like Doris and Rock, but unlike the better part of reality, Mel and Helen wind up the closest of teammates rather than the bitterest competitors. Maybe we can blame it on that first, too-tempting apple. Back to topics
Slapstick Encyclopedia by Gary Johnson
Mack Sennett Comedies
"The Sennett comedies were formulaic but inspired, and they frequently concluded with a great chase, often involving a gaggle of Keystone Kops. The motivation for the chases themselves rarely made much sense. Frequently, the motivation was even treated as a joke. In "Wandering Willies," for example, the final chase is motivated when the heroine (Ruth Hiatt) discovers that the villain has dropped a paper of some sort on the hallway floor. She opens it, reads it, her lips form an "oh!" and she goes running to the hero (Billy Bevin). They read the paper together and then off they go. The chase begins. But what does the paper say? Well, the subtitle explaining the contents of that sheet of paper was rewritten several times after shooting had been completed. At one point, the heroine said, "He was stealing my diploma as winner of the beauty contest!" At another, "This proves he is the president of the Kidnappers Corporation!" And yet another version read, "The big clam was trying to get a corner on Muscle Shoals!" Finally, they settled on "Look! A mortgage on Niagara Falls. We must stop it before he shuts off the water!"
Total nonsense, yes. And hardly motivation at all. More likely Sennett was making fun of the whole idea of motivation. His product needed an ending and audiences loved chases. So he was simply finding a way to reach the expected ending for a Keystone production – all-out mayhem, with momentum pushing everyone in different directions until the entire effort exploded under the stress.
Or in the case of "Muddy Romance," Sennett and a car full of writers took off for Echo Lake when they learned it was being drained. Here was an effect they would normally never be able to afford. They made up the gags and story as they went along. Once again, much of the motivation is sheer nonsense: at the climax, the heroine and her beau suddenly decide to get married in a row boat in the middle of the lake! While the priest conducts the ceremony, the villain (Ford Sterling at his snarling best) turns the water valve (marked "WATER OUTLET – DO NOT TOUCH") that drains the lake and leaves a muddy mess for the Keystone Kops to thrash around in. As in "Muddy Romance," Sennett's comedies could become practically surreal in their wanton disregard for motivation and logic"
"Slapstick Encyclopedia" is an eight-cassette boxed set from KINO ON VIDEO. Each video has a running time of approximately two hours. Suggested retail price: $24.95 each. For more information, we suggest you check out the Kino Web site: http://www.kino.com/video/item.php?film_id=162. Back to topics
Before Queen, Halle, Dorothy or Lena, There Was Hattie by Jim Searles
Her career was defined by the culture of post civil war America. The limitations on a black person in film should have stopped her cold. Hattie McDaniel was not an ordinary person. She appeared in over 84 films. She was a performer on stage, on the radio and television. Her legacy to history is that of a warm and engaging actress giving each role her own original touch. She brought to the silver screen strengths of warmth, humor, intelligence, and assertiveness. She opened doors to all black actors – not bad for the daughter of a former slave.
Born in Kansas. Hattie learned gospel singing from her dad. Hattie was one of two black children in an otherwise all white elementary class. Teachers and students noted her talents as a singer. By high school she had lead parts in school plays. Her dad started the Henry McDaniel Minstrel Show, 1910 two brothers joined the group. Hattie quit school to join the tour. She later toured with the Melody Hounds. When the depression hit, work for vaudeville acts crashed. Times were hard. Hattie went to work as a bathroom attendant at Sam Pick's Club in Milwaukee. The club hired whites only. Some of the patrons heard her singing in the bathroom. They convinced the owner to hire her as a singer. She performed there for a year, and then headed to Los Angeles. Her brother found her a small role on a local station, The Optimistic Do-Nuts. Before long she was the main attraction, Hi-Hat Hattie. Hattie was the first black woman to be broadcast over American radio – on the air with Professor George Morrison's Negro Orchestra, Denver, Colorado (1915).
Hattie landed her first film role in The Golden West, 1932 (not credited) playing the part of Mammy Lou, a maid. A lot of her film parts were not credited. The pay was low. Hattie had to use the back door at the studio. She was not invited to social events. She was not invited to premiers – she had to work as a maid to keep food on the table while building her career. She learned a southern accent that she used in her stereotyped southern maid parts. Her parts continued to get larger. She had five more minor roles in films. In 1934 she got a larger part, Aunt Dilsey, in Judge Priest starring Will Rogers. In 1935 she got the part of Becky, a servant, in The Little Colonel, starring Shirley Temple. Her roles put her at odds with some of the black community. They were upset with Hollywood stereotyping. Hattie said "I would rather play the part of a maid in the movies than be one in real life." The roles available during the 30s and 40s for large black women were for maids, cooks or a mammy. In 1935 she played the part of a grumbling maid, Malena Burns. In the dinner scene (Alice Adams, starring Katherine Hepburn) she makes it clear that she has little use for her employer's pretensions. The scene was the only bright spot in the movie. In The Mad Miss Manton, 1938, she had the role of Hilda, Melsa's maid. Hilda tells off her socialite employer, Melsa Manton, and her snobby friends.
The path leads her to the most famous part of her career, Mammy, in Gone with the Wind, 1939, earning a thousand a week. Clark Gable and Hattie were friends. He played a trick on Hattie during a shoot. In the Bonnie Blue birth scene, he put brandy in the decanter instead of iced tea. Gone with the Wind was a national sensation, premiering at Loew's Grand Theater, Atlanta, Georgia. Hattie was not invited to the premier. Clark Gable threatened to boycott the premier. He relented when Hattie convinced him to go.
The original book to be handed out at the premier had her picture on the back cover. The studio realized that because the opening was in Atlanta, they could not use it. They had it reprinted with a blank back cover. That would not work. They had it printed a third time with Hattie on half the back cover and Clark Gable on the other half. The first two prints were never distributed. They slowly disappeared from the studio. The really valuable book is the one with the picture of Hattie on the back cover – few survived. In 1940 Hattie got an Oscar for best supporting actress in Gone with the Wind. She was the first black to win an Oscar. She was the first black to attend the Academy Awards as a guest. There had been lots of blacks at the Oscars before that… all serving food.
Hattie died in 1952 of breast cancer. Her last wish... to be buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery... was denied. In 1999, 47 years after her death, a pink and gray granite monument was put up at the cemetery. Hattie left her Oscar to the Howard University but it was lost during the race riots there in 1960. Gone forever. In the 73 years of the Academy Awards, only 2.2% of the Oscars have gone to black actors. Hattie was the first. Back to topics