Children of Hollywood

The granddaughter of Melvyn Douglas appeared this spring in the room where the first Academy Awards were held to moderate a discussion with Cary Grant’s, Charlton Heston’s and Ruby Dee’s adult children on being a child of Hollywood. It happened at the classic movies festival.

Douglas, Grant, Muhammad and Heston at TCMFF 2019

I wrote about the insightful panel discussion, dubbed ‘the descendants’ by Turner Classic Movies for their 10th annual TCM Classic Film Festival, for Flicker Alley’s online classic film journal. The Hollywood-based company, which creates, distributes and sponsors top caliber movie restorations and releases, kindly announced that “[o]ur Flicker Alley Team attended the TCM Film Festival in April, where we met the talented Scott Holleran who graciously shares his experience in this month’s blog.”

Read my article about surviving Hollywood parents — besides Melvyn Douglas, these include Dyan Cannon, Ossie Davis, Charlton Heston, Ruby Dee and Cary Grant — here.

 

This Month on TCM

The Manchurian Candidate (1962), a strangely prophetic film starring Laurence Harvey (Butterfield 8), airs this month on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). John Frankenheimer’s controversial conspiracy-themed movie, withdrawn by the studio from distribution after the assassination of President Kennedy, shows on May 18 (check local listings for all movies in May).

Another conspiracy-themed film, the sterling Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), shows on May 23. So does the fine little British war movie, Hope and Glory (1987). On the following day, May 24, TCM airs three unforgettable movies with extremely dark themes about the child in mortal danger: Barbara Stanwyck in 1931’s chillingly exquisite Night Nurse (I rarely say this but do not miss this movie, especially if you like to see strong women depicted in proximity to heroic men); 1955’s Night of the Hunter, based on the novel, starring Lillian Gish and Robert Mitchum as good and evil religious practitioners and John Wayne in The Searchers (1956).

Inherit the Wind, the 1960 motion picture version of the stage play about the trial of a Tennessee teacher who dared to teach Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, shows the next day (May 25), followed by a 1973 romp starring Richard Chamberlain, Charlton Heston and Faye Dunaway based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel The Three Musketeers.

The 1989 movie about an all-black unit of the Union Army in the Civil War, Glory, starring Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, screens on May 27 after a showing of the World War 2-era film From Here to Eternity (1953) starring Montgomery Clift, Donna Reed, Ernest Borgnine, Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster. Two classics by director Howard Hawks, 1959’s outstanding moral alternative to the anti-heroic High Noon (1952), Rio Bravo (1959) starring John Wayne, and the romantically heroic Only Angels Have Wings (1939), air on May 30.

On the last day of May, May 31st, TCM features Steven Spielberg’s prelude to his 1982 masterpiece E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, the marvelous 1977 hit Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Each movie airs on Turner Classic Movies, founded by Ted Turner 25 years ago this spring, uncut and commercial-free.

Spring Announcements

This is my fifth year of delivering writing and media adult instruction in Southern California. I’m pleased to announce a new summer series in both Writing Boot Camp and Maximizing Social Media. I enjoy teaching the courses, which I created to foster practicing virtue in media and writing. Recently, I extended an offer to my ‘alumni’ to attend private networking mixers near Burbank’s movie studios. This week, I will share details of my recent literary agency representation.

Recent developments integrate the lessons from both courses; specifically, my thesis in Maximizing Social Media that one must commit, create and cash in using today’s media to advance one’s self-interest. Writing Boot Camp‘s thesis is the same idea in reverse; that the writer must devote himself to the writing process and to being explicitly social in disseminating his work.

Details of my discovery by a literary agent prove that both approaches yield results.

In the meantime, I’m happy to report that I recently interviewed one of my favorite filmmakers. Stand by for details on my exclusive interview with the director of Paramount Pictures’ Grease, Randal Kleiser, in Hollywood. We talked about his new virtual reality series, his stories for television, including episodes of The Rookies and Marcus Welby, M.D., as well as his movies The Blue Lagoon and Summer Lovers, a new book on Grease, his studies at the University of Southern California (USC) and working with the late Patrick Swayze. Mr. Kleiser is an amazing man of ability. What a privilege to meet and interview one of Hollywood’s best directors.

I’m currently writing articles about new books, events and old movies, including this season’s 10th annual Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Classic Film Festival in Hollywood. The annual festival celebrated the 25th anniversary of Turner Classic Movies with a visit from Cable News Network (CNN), TBS and TCM founder Ted Turner.

So, look for new analyses of Cecil B. DeMille’s Samson and Delilah (1949) and James Stewart in Winchester ’73 (1950) as well as a roundup of last week’s events. I also plan to write an analysis of the motion picture version of Margaret Mitchell’s 1936 novel, Gone With the Wind, starring Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable and Hattie McDaniel.

Seeing David O. Selznick’s production of Gone With the Wind (1939), directed by Victor Fleming, on screen at Grauman’s Chinese Theater for the first time, I found the movie simply brilliant and astonishing. The epic remains powerful, vibrant and penetrating. This time, watching with an appreciative audience of hundreds, I noticed new aspects. I discovered new insights. Seeing the remarkable four-hour movie again, this time inside the grand Chinese Theater, made me want to re-read the novel, which is better than the movie. That I saw the movie which initiated Turner Classic Movies 25 years to the day after the breakthrough channel’s debut was the ideal way to honor what TCM does, is and means at its best.

Megyn Kelly, FilmStruck and Media

The recent cancellation of Megyn Kelly Today demonstrates the folly of putting popularity above good business principles. When NBC, which is owned by NBCUniversal (which is owned by cable corporation Comcast), recently signed the Fox News personality to a reported $69 million contract, the broadcasting unit severely overestimated Kelly’s value.

NBC’s executives should’ve read my review of her debut on Fox News. Kelly’s hard, self-centered manner may have been suited to the Fox News cable television brand, but her brand is defective. It’s not surprising that audience reception and ratings have been mediocre at best.

The astronomical price tag for such a vapid hostess, or, if you insist, “celebrity journalist”, underscores the media industry’s fixation on ratings, metrics and short-term gain to the detriment of quality and credibility, proper standards and practices and long-term profit and progress.

Megyn Kelly, an intelligent lawyer who has more in common with the president and other vulgar, showboating sensationalists than she does with able-minded journalists, has never been serious (read my comparison of Kelly and NBC’s other overpaid darling, Trump, here). By hiring Megyn Kelly as it did, NBC showed its desperation and a willingness to do anything for a hit as a presumably non-leftist counterpoint to its leftist brand. Unfortunately, NBC’s supposed goal to gain intellectual balance probably will be abandoned, as against the network’s fixation on getting up fast hits.

While NBC backtracks on Megyn Kelly, with whom it’s apparently still negotiating, for dubious reasons, Comast’s competitor AT&T has made the call to cancel its Turner-branded streaming service for independent films, FilmStruck. This service, affiliated with the Criterion Collection and Turner Classic Movies (TCM), represented a real commitment to streaming thoughtful, harder-to-find motion pictures. AT&T terminated FilmStruck, which was part of Turner’s parent WarnerMedia company, for FilmStruck’s lack of a wider audience. WarnerMedia may launch its own streaming service to compete with Disney’s proprietary streaming service and outlets such as Netflix.

The termination is another AT&T mistake. As Comcast fails to grasp why metrics and popularity alone are not proper tools for forecasting success, AT&T’s decision to nix FilmStruck shows the media corporation’s failure to understand the same idea. While FilmStruck, which for full disclosure I wrote scripts for last season, was too focused on intellectuals and with an ivory tower slant, as a brand FilmStruck showed potential for appealing to wider audiences.

Experimenting with new ideas is crucial for media success. AT&T, which, in my experience is mostly incompetent at delivering goods and services, doesn’t know how to cultivate its assets any better than NBC knows how to apply better judgment to the business of earning its television, streaming or media customers’ trust (i.e., NBC News, especially MSNBC).

FilmStruck ends its operations in America and the world late next month. I think that, in the current cultural context, it’s unlikely that WarnerMedia will replace it with a classic movie streaming service or brand, though the company, with its vast Warner Bros. archive of great movies, should do exactly that. Cynical Megyn Kelly, on the other hand (or more empty vessels like her), is unfortunately likely to return to media in some other program or format.

Both cancellations, with Kelly’s cancellation coming in the aftermath of her controversial comments — further eroding the media industry’s commitment to defending the freedom of speech — are a sign that the culture’s plunging down. Ditching Megyn Kelly for being controversial — her problem is lack of coherence, consistency and authenticity, not any among her ginned up controversies — and abandoning movie streaming for being intellectual portend more of the anti-intellectualism already spreading fast in American culture.

America is already besieged by increasingly bloodthirsty irrationalists, from assaults on softball diamonds and gay nightclubs to mass shootings at the nation’s churches and synagogues. The United States needs more serious, controversial and thoughtful programming, not fewer choices among the status quo.

Americans in media, producers and consumers alike, should ease up on the asinine pictures, memes and clips and focus instead on producing and consuming more intelligent, radical material and make and watch it faster than ever. Comcast and AT&T, through whomever remains subversive at NBC, Universal, Turner and Warner Bros., and I know you’re out there, should take note: replace Kelly and FilmStruck with more rational programs, discourse and ideas, not more pap. There’s value to gain. There’s little value, such as credibility, left to lose.

Movies This Spring

Movies This Spring

Marvel’s movies dominated this spring at the box office again. This time, however, the plot and character glut maxes out to the point of fatigue. I was already dissuaded from further investing in Marvel’s comic book-based series, which I’ve favored, defended and enjoyed, by the overwrought, confused and overrated Black Panther. I’m apparently alone in that camp, which is fine with me.

Read the review

Unfortunately, this season’s Avengers: Infinity War is worse; my review explains why. I doubt I’ll look forward to seeing another Marvel movie. Even before I saw the most recent Star Wars picture, I was already starting to lose interest in that series, too, which I’ve never thought were comprised of great motion pictures.

Then, Lucasfilm named director Ron Howard to direct the new movie (an origin story) about the main major Star Wars character I find the least involving, Han Solo, titled Solo. The film debuts later this month. I’ve decided to see the movie, however, because I like some of Ron Howard’s work, especially Frost/Nixon, Cinderella Man and his TV series Parenthood for NBC. As always, I hope for the best.

The best is what I get every time I attend the TCM Classic Film Festival and this year’s events, screenings and movies do not disappoint. After previewing the literary-themed festival, I covered the red carpet affair on opening night. I met and interviewed honored guest Robert Benton, who wrote and directed two movies which screened this year, which I also reviewed.

My roundup of TCM’s 2018 Classic Film Festival, with a critique of what went wrong and an account of what was wonderfully right, is available on The New Romanticist. Among the classic movies screened and reviewed are Alfred Hitchcock’s 1945 murder mystery, Spellbound, Benton’s finely tuned Kramer vs. Kramer and my favorite film of all the pictures I saw, William Wellman’s original version of A Star is Born. They’re each reviewed and linked, with other films such as 1972’s Sounder and 1931’s I Take This Woman, in the roundup.