Tag Archives: Alfred Hitchcock

“Good Acting Is Like Good Love-Making” – Old Time Movie Stars Reflect On Acting

 Actors Talking About Acting

Heartbreak Pair in New Air Epic – William Holden reaches new stellar heights as a flying cadet whose career is temporarily shattered through his love for Veronica Lake in Paramount’s “I Wanted Wings” an Arthur Hornblow, Jr., production based on the Army Air Corps training and tactics. Blonde and sultry newcomer, Miss Lake, plays menace in piece. photo – Paramount studios

William Holden – “The best actors I know have no style but that of genuine professionalism. They act each role according to the script. And if they do have a style, it is so much a part of their personality it can’t be noticed.” (Atlanta Constitution April 22, 1956)

If you hear people lament that today’s movie stars don’t stack up to the old stars, there are probably many reasons for the lack of charisma or star power today. Regardless of their approach to acting, the old-time Hollywood stars all had one thing in common: they came through the studio system, where they were trained and “groomed” to be and act like movie stars. How each actor accomplished that varied from actor to actor.

Whatever techniques they used to develop their acting style; “The Method,” “Chekhov,” or simply showing up and knowing your lines, movie stars usually could provide philosophy or insight into their craft when being interviewed by the press. Whether they had honed their skills on the legitimate stage or come straight from a farm, to be a star you had to learn and understand something about acting.

Here are twelve old time movie stars expressing their views, sometimes simply, other times with great insight about acting.

Veronica Lake – “I’m no great actress. I just had a movie job dumped into my lap, the public seemed to like me, and that’s all there was to it.”  (Wide World Features May 3, 1942)

Rod Steiger – “Good acting is like good love-making. Leave yourself alone and explore. Do it. Don’t watch yourself do it. Don’t think about yourself doing it. You just go from moment to moment. But don’t take anything for granted either, especially not in acting. That’s when you get your ass kicked.” (Los Angeles Times  September 15, 1994)

Yul Bryner – “I’m not of the can-kicking, shovel-carrying, ear-scratching, torn T-shirt school of acting. There are very few real men in the movies these days. Yet being a real man is the most important quality an actor can offer on the screen.”  (Detroit Free Press April 27, 1958)

Paul Muni – “Acting is a scientific art. It’s a matter of trial and error. You try out your effects like a man who is experimenting on a new chemical formula. I enjoy the experimenting.”  (Boston Globe Feb. 6, 1949)

Barbara Stanwyck on reluctantly accepting the role of the “no good” Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity – “Once I said yes I was awfully glad. During the making of it Fred (MacMurray) would go to the rushes. I remember once the next day he said, ‘You’re not acting, you’re enjoying it.’ And I remember saying ,’Fred, really, how was I?’  And very candidly he looked at me and said, ‘I don’t know about you- but I was wonderful!’ And that was such a true remark. Actors only look at themselves.”  (Los Angeles Times April 5, 1987)

Spencer Tracy – “I’ve always played the same character. Larry Olivier says the way to act is learn your lines and get on with it. I’m Spencer Tracy with some deference to the character. When a person says he’s an actor – he’s a personality. The whole idea is to show your personality. There are people who are much better technically, but who cares?  Nobody cares.” (Los Angeles Times  November 18, 1962) Continue reading

Ten Great Films From The 1940s Featuring New York City

Filming Around New York City In The 1940s

On The Town posterDuring Hollywood’s golden years from the 1930s through the early 1950s there were many films set in New York City, but the vast majority were made on the studio lots in southern California. Almost every studio had their own New York set which would convey “the Big Apple.”

The reasons for doing so were obvious; the costs of actually sending the cast and crew on location to film would be cost prohibitive and complete control could be exercised in the studio for crowd control, noise, lighting and other technical issues.

Occasionally films would use stock footage of New York or a second unit directing team would be sent to capture a New York scene or two to be used as establishing shots showing the audience, yes this is New York. Usually though none of the principal characters in the film were ever actually in New York, but back in Hollywood, playing against what is called a “process shot” a background screen showing New York footage usually while the actors were walking or driving.

Even such quintessential “New York” films such as A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) were shot completely in Hollywood.

So when the cast and crew actually did any filming in New York it was a rare treat, especially looking back today at the much changed metropolis.

Here are ten of the best 1940s films where a part of the movie was actually filmed on location in New York City.

Saboteur Cummings and Lloyd Statue of LibertySaboteur (1942) This cross-sountry chase of one man falsely accused of sabotage pursuing the real saboteur winds up in New York. Director Alfred Hitchcock had his second unit shoot footage in the city that shows New York in the midst of World War II. We see Rockefeller Center, Radio City Music Hall, the waterfront and other familiar city sights.  A masterpiece of storytelling the film moves at a smooth pace as you bite your nails watching. Spoiler alert: Sinister character actor Norman Lloyd battles hero Robert Cummings on Bedloe’s Island at The Statue of Liberty in one of the most iconic conclusions to a film ever shot.

Ray Milland The Lost Weekend Third Avenue photo Life MagazineThe Lost Weekend (1945) Director Billy Wilder takes advantage of New York, shooting many of the exteriors of The Lost Weekend on location. Ray Milland’s portrayal of troubled, alcoholic writer Don Birnam won him an Academy Award for best actor. The film also won Oscars for best picture, best director and best screenplay. There are so many shots of Milland in the city it becomes a game to recognize where the actual locations are. Third Avenue is prominently put on display. The giant street clock Milland passes in one scene is still there today – located on Third Avenue between 84th and 85th Streets. All the mom and pop stores and restaurants along the way are long gone, replaced mostly by chains. P.J Clarke’s on Third Avenue and 55th Street was used in the shooting but many of the interior scenes of the bar were shot back in Hollywood. Continue reading

The Greatest TV Game Show Ever

What’s My Line 1950 – 1967

Whats-My-Line-Cast-Dorothy-Kilgallen-death-November-8-1965 cr

A few years ago my Tivo was tuned into the Game Show Network weeknights at 3:00 a.m., taping every episode of the greatest TV game show ever made, What’s My Line.

Let me state it was not just a great game show, but one of the best television shows ever.

Unfortunately the series is not being broadcast now, but many segments of the show are available on Youtube.

To describe the brilliance of the show better than I ever could, we will refer to The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows 1948 – Present by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (Ballantine 1988), an indispensable television reference book.

What’s My Line was the longest-running game show in the history of prime-time network television. It ran for 18 seasons, on alternate weeks from February to September 1950, then every Sunday at 10:30 p.m. for the next 17 years. The format was exceedingly simple. Contestants were asked simple yes-or-no questions by the panel members, who tried to determine what interesting or unusual occupation the contestant had. Each time the contestant could answer no to a question, he got $5, and a total of 10 no’s ended the game. The panel was forced to don blindfolds for the “mystery guest,” a celebrity who tried to avoid identification by disguising his voice.

That little game, by itself, hardly warranted an 18-year run, when other panel shows of the early 1950’s came and went every month. But What’s My Line was something special, both for the witty and engaging panel, and for a certain élan which few other shows ever captured. There were no flashy celebrities-of-the-moment or empty-headed pretty faces on this panel; they were obviously very intelligent people all, out to have some genteel fun with an amusing parlor game. Like (moderator) John Daly with his bow tie and perfect manners, it reeked of urbanity [“that’s three down and seven to go, Mr. Cerf?”]

The panelists who created this special atmosphere were an elite group. Continue reading

A Comedian Unlike Any Other

The Man Who Pushed Johnny Carson, Charlie Callas Dies at 83

For many people under a certain age (probably 40), the passing of Charlie Callas on January 27, 2011, will be met with indifference or “who was he?” But for anyone who had seen Callas interviewed on his numerous appearances on the late night talk shows or seen his cameos in movies, it marks the end of one the last true eccentrics in Hollywood.

Charlie Callas was bizarre.

He could do strange things with his voice and get laughs out of things that were not necessarily funny. It was Callas himself that was funny and there was that underlying danger that an appearance by Callas on a show could go in an unintended direction at any second.  That unpredictability would nearly end his show business career when he shoved Johnny Carson during a 1982 Tonight Show appearance and in front of the studio audience Carson subsequently banned him from ever appearing on the show again.

Charlie Callas will always be remembered for one of the strangest performances in Mel Brooks’ send-up of Alfred Hitchcock films, 1976’s High Anxiety. Callas plays a man who has been committed to an asylum because he thinks he is a cocker spaniel.  It is 1 minute and 40 seconds of sheer silliness.

Here is the link to Charlie Callas in High Anxiety:

http://youtu.be/_WEVmVKUk7s?t=4m32s

(UPDATE – 2013 High Anxiety clip- all copies removed from youtube)

A staple of 1970’s TV, The Dean Martin Roasts, where celebrities were insulted and joked about mercilessly by other Hollywood celebrities, Callas has comedian Don Rickles and the rest of the attendees laughing hard as he delivers Don Rickles’ eulogy.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHDU2jhLE-Y[/tube]

The appearance may not be as funny to today’s audience as Callas is doing an impression of George Jessel, who made a living it seemed at delivering eulogies of many of the entertainment world’s luminaries from the 1920’s right until Jessel’s own demise in 1981.