Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Weinberg Center to ring in the New Year with classic Marx Brothers films

1935 ad for the Tivoli Cinema, showcasing the
Marx Brothers film "A Night At The Opera."
(The Frederick News-Post/Randall Family LLC/
Newspaper Archive)

PROLOGUE: This was originally written as part of a group multimedia blog project in my Online Journalism class at Hood College (with two fellow “friends of the Matinee”).  Enjoy!  

Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo’s zany antics.  Margaret Dumont’s deadpan reaction to Groucho’s wisecracks.  “Hooray for Captain Spaulding.”  “Hail, Hail Freedonia.”

Fans of slapstick and classic comedy in the Frederick area may start the New Year by treating themselves to an afternoon of iconic comedy classics at the Weinberg Center for the Arts.

The theater will showcase a double dose of films featuring the Marx Brothers on the afternoon of Sunday, Jan. 10 at 2 p.m., as part of the Weinberg’s “Cinema Classic Series.”

The first film that will be shown in the Marx Brothers double feature event will be the 1935 film, “A Night at the Opera,” directed by Sam Wood.  This was the brothers’ first film for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, alongside Margaret Dumont and Kitty Carlisle.

Vintage Tivoli memorabilia booth, inside the lobby
of the Weinberg Center for the Arts. Photo: Chris Hamby.
Then, the Weinberg will showcase the 1933 motion picture, “Duck Soup,” directed by Leo McCarey. “Duck Soup” was the brothers’ last film for Paramount Pictures, featuring Dumont and the “fourth” Marx brother, Zeppo Marx.

This would be Zeppo’s last film with his brothers, as he later pursued a successful career as a talent agent.  According to “A&E Biography,” he also worked as a successful inventor, notably helping the Allied effort during World War II on developing special clamping devices for secure transportation of atomic bombs on the “Enola Gay.”

Out of all the Marxes’ comedies, both “A Night at the Opera” and “Duck Soup” have been considered the best out of the Marxes’ film career, according to the movie guide, “VideoHound’s Golden Movie Retriever.”

The two films were shown at Frederick’s crown jewel theater, when it was known as the Tivoli cinema during their general release years.  Both Marx Brothers films were made by two different studios, and the theater was owned by rival studio Warner Bros. Pictures, which owned the Tivoli from the late 1920s until 1948.

Interior of the Weinberg Center (former Tivoli) stage with
movie screen.  Photo: Chris Hamby
John Healey, executive theater director of the Weinberg Center for the Arts, said that the upcoming Marx Brothers double-feature screening of “A Night at the Opera” and “Duck Soup” is important to the theater’s motion picture heritage.

“Film is a very large part of the history of the Weinberg Center,” Healey said.

Jef Cliber, box office manager of the Weinberg Center, said that he was delighted that the two Marx Brothers films would make their return to the big screen.

“It’s nice to see some of those older films make a return to us,” Cliber said.  “There was enough of a demand for us to create another niche where there are different kinds of films.”

Katherine Orloff, an assistant professor of journalism at Hood College, said that the timeless humor of the Marx Brothers would be a great way to kick off the New Year.

“What better way to start 2016 with laughter and happiness,” Orloff said. “Laughter is the best medicine.”

The cost of admission for the Marx Brothers double feature screening at the Weinberg Center is $7 for adults and $5 for children, students, senior citizens, Frederick city employees and members of the military.

Marx Brothers Double Feature Screening: “A Night at the Opera” (1935)/”Duck Soup” (1933)

Jan. 10 at 2 p.m.

Weinberg Center for the Arts

20 W. Patrick St.

Frederick, MD 21701


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Television Corner: "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" to be shown on Antenna TV in January

“Carnac the Magnificent.”  “Stump the Band.”  The “Tea Time Movie” with Art Fern.  Floyd R. Turbo.  “How Hot/Cold was it?”  “And now, ladies and gentlemen… here’s Johnny!”

23 years after Johnny Carson (1925-2005) bid farewell to "The Tonight Show" on NBC, one of the major classic television subchannels will showcase vintage episodes that were hosted by the original "king of late night."

"The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" on Tribune's Antenna TV

Tribune Media's Antenna TV network will showcase full-length episodes of "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" beginning in January.  According to Cynthia Litton’s article in “Variety,” Tribune made an agreement with Carson Entertainment Group to broadcast full-length, classic episodes from 1972 to 1992.  

What happened to the pre-1972 episodes?

According to Litton’s findings in “Variety,” a small fraction of pre-1972 episodes exist of “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” (consisting of both tapes and filmed kinescopes, since NBC was known for re-using videotape at the time, thus destroying many tape masters ). 

An alternative to the current state of Late Night television

Antenna TV’s showcase of “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” will be great for those who have never watched Carson’s incarnation of the “Tonight Show” and for those who want to re-live the “golden age” of late night TV with Johnny, Doc Severinsen (with his NBC Orchestra) and sidekick Ed McMahon.  

Where to watch:

Starting Jan. 1 at 11 p.m. Eastern/8 p.m. Pacific

In the Washington, D.C./Frederick, area: WDCW-TV 50.2/Comcast 201

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

RiffTrax Live: “Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny” to be shown in theaters on Dec. 3rd

A re-post (from the offshoot blog of "At The Matinee," "Silver Screen Reflections").  

For those who watched the “Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day ‘15” streaming marathon, there’s another “cheesy movie” serving presented by several familiar voices from the cult series.

It’s time for “RiffTrax Live: Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny” (1972)

Fans of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and “RiffTrax” will be in for a holiday treat, as Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett will riff the 1972 Z-budget kiddie holiday film, “Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny.”

The cast of RiffTrax, in conjunction with NCM Fathom Events, will present a live broadcast screening of this low-budget Christmas film in select theaters from coast-to-coast, on Dec. 3.  A re-broadcast of that night’s screening will occur in select cinema venues on Dec. 15.

An advertisement for the RiffTrax screening of “Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny” was seen throughout Shout! Factory TV and their streaming broadcast of the “MST3K Turkey Day ‘15” event on YouTube (in-between each episode).

From a long line of cheesy, low-budget “kiddie” holiday films…

“Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny” is one of many cheesy holiday films that have been riffed by the cast of RiffTrax over the years, including “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (1964) and K. Gordon Murray’s English-dubbed Mexican fantasy film, “Santa Claus“ (1959).  Both aforementioned films have also been shown on MST3K.

Why you should see the RiffTrax version of this holiday “turkey” (for those that may have never watched MST3K or RiffTrax):

If you didn’t watch the “Mystery Science Theater” marathon, or have never experienced a “RiffTrax Live” screening, then this is the perfect opportunity to experience movie riffing at its finest on the big screen, through the courtesy of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett.

RiffTrax Live Presents: “Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny” (1972)

Broadcast live in select theaters nationwide on Thurs., Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m.

Closest cinema venue to the Frederick area (to see the live broadcast of "RiffTrax Live: Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny"):

R/C Gateway Gettysburg Theaters 8
20 Presidential Circle
Gettysburg, PA 17325
Phone: (717) 334-5575

Buy Tickets from R/C Gateway Gettysburg Theaters 8 (via

Complete list of theaters from coast-to-coast that will be showing “RiffTrax Live: Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny”(on Dec. 3, via NCM Fathom Events)

NOTE: A re-broadcast of the RiffTrax screening of “Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny” is scheduled for select theaters from coast-to-coast on Dec. 15.  

Yet according to the theater listings for the re-broadcast date (via NCM Fathom Events), R/C Gateway Gettysburg Theaters 8 will not be showing the Dec. 15 re-broadcast (the listing of theaters for the re-broadcast may be updated by then).

More information about "RiffTrax"

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Silver Screen Reflections" Is Finally Here!

"Silver Screen  Reflections" is finally here (for my online journalism class at Hood College).

Check out the first two posts, including "Top 10 Ways to enjoy Classic Film," and an article on the recent Turner Classic Movies airing of the once-lost 1929 Colleen Moore Vitaphone (non-talking) film, "Why Be Good?"

The address is  Enjoy!

Friday, September 25, 2015

An "Update" from Chris Hamby

Well, everyone- I'm creating a new blog.  No, this does not mean the "end" of At The Matinee.  

This new blog will be part of the Online Journalism class that I am currently taking at Hood College.

My upcoming blog site will have some of the same features as the blog that you are currently reading right now, mostly focusing on classic, contemporary and cult motion picture and television programs, along with new interactive features as well.

My goal in this class is to become a better blog writer.  I hope you will join me and fellow like-minded film enthusiasts in this new endeavor, which will be coming shortly.

Oh, and one more thing.  Remember when I stated earlier that classic, contemporary and cult cinema features were being virtually ignored in the Frederick area?

Finally, one Frederick theater will be bringing back "classic" and "cult" feature films soon.  More information will follow in this and my "new" blog, which will be coming shortly.

Coming Soon to a competing blog platform near you!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mr. Hamby meets Ken Burns at Gettysburg (November 2008)

In commemoration of the upcoming premiere of the new high-definition transfer of Ken Burns' landmark 1990 documentary film, The Civil War on PBS, let's take a walk down "memory lane."

November 19th, 2008: Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns addresses the
crowd at the Dedication Day ceremony at Gettysburg National Cemetery
in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
"November 19th... This day is one of my most favorite of days, a day of possibilities."
-Documentary Filmmaker Ken Burns, giving the introductory keynote address at The 145th Gettysburg Address Dedication Day Ceremony, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19th, 2008

November 19th, 2008: It was a chilly day up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  I learned about the Dedication Day commemoration event several days earlier, after reading in The News-Post that documentary filmmaker Ken Burns would make a special appearance at the event.  I was studying at Frederick Community College at the time, and by luck- I didn't have any classes on that day.  So I trekked up to Gettysburg to watch the Dedication Day ceremonial event on the morning of November 19th, which marked the 145th anniversary of President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

On that cold day at Gettysburg National Cemetery, the guest speakers for the event (in addition to Ken Burns) were renowned Abraham Lincoln impersonator Jim Getty, Andy Brunhart, then-deputy director of the United States Mint (Brunhart unveiled a commemorative Lincoln coin design at the Dedication Day ceremony), Gettysburg National Military Park superintendent John Latschar, Sons of Union Veterans' Chief Commander of the National Order David Acheson and Lincoln Fellowship of Pennsylvania President Ron Hankey.

Ken Burns with a Civil War re-enactment troupe
at the 2008 Dedication Day ceremony in
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Throughout the ceremony, Burns gave the keynote address, after Jim Getty's re-enactment of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.  With my palm-sized Aiptek Digital Camera that I had at the time (I still have it in my camera collection, as I have upgraded to better cameras since then), I filmed the entire event from start to finish in freezing temperatures, along with some still photographs of the ceremony (including a group photograph of Burns with an area Civil War re-enactment troupe).

At the end of the ceremony, Burns was on hand to sign programs from interested patrons.  I was one of the lucky ones to have my program booklet signed by the master documentary filmmaker.  After the event, I had lunch at The Dobbin House Tavern in Gettysburg, sitting near several Civil War re-enactors who attended the event, munching on a delicious hot Reuben sandwich with warm cider.

Ken Burns (center), singing autographs on patrons'
programs at the 2008 Dedication Day ceremony
in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  I was one of the
lucky ones to have my program booklet signed
by Burns.
The day after, I had my one of my evening Video Editing classes at FCC.   I thought that it would be an unique idea to share with the class about getting Ken Burns' autograph on my program guide for the ceremony in Gettysburg.  To my surprise, neither the instructor, nor any of my fellow friends in class knew who Ken Burns was.  I was in shock that no one knew about the acclaimed historical documentary filmmaker.

Some six years later, when I entered Hood College as a transfer student (using my FCC credits), I was glad to hear that several of my friends in my classes have heard of Ken Burns and his critically-acclaimed documentary films on Public Television.  I was glad to hear that I wasn't the only one who had heard of Ken Burns.

Aside from all that, I felt that was one of the most exciting moments of my life, not only as an aspiring filmmaker/videographer, but as a person who enjoys watching Ken Burns' iconic historical documentaries, including The Statue of Liberty, The Civil War, Empire of the Air, Baseball, Jazz, The National Parks and The Roosevelts (which premiered last fall on PBS)- just to name several.

Here's your chance to see documentary filmmaking at its finest: The 25th Anniversary edition of Ken Burns' The Civil War (restored in high-definition), will be shown on PBS, starting on September 7th at 9:00 PM EST (in areas close to the home base of At The Matinee, it will be shown on Maryland Public Television and WETA-TV 26).

More on Ken Burns' 1991 documentary on the pioneers of radio and television broadcasting, Empire Of The Air can be found here.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Moment of Zen: Farewell to "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"

Credit: Comedy Partners (Comedy Central)
NOTE: While the author of "At The Matinee" respects viewpoints from all sides of the political spectrum, this post isn't about politics or anything related to the field of politics, this is related to the field of satire and comedy.  Thank you.

May 22nd, 1992: The "king of late night," Johnny Carson (1925-2005) hosted his final episode ofThe Tonight Show on NBC.

August 6th, 1993: Joe Franklin (1926-2015) retired from hosting his local New York (and later, Secaucus) talk show, The Joe Franklin Show.  Throughout Franklin's 40 years in television from his WABC and WOR/WWOR shows, the pioneering talk show host hosted more than 21,425 programs (more on "the king of nostalgia" here). 

November 18th, 2011: Regis Philbin stepped down from "Live," after co-hosting 17,000 hours of live morning television.

December 18th, 2014: Stephen Colbert hosted his last episode of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central.  That same evening, Craig Ferguson hosted his final episode The Late Late Show on CBS (read the previous blog post here).

May 20th, 2015: After 33 years in late night television (on NBC and CBS), David Letterman bid farewell to The Late Show on CBS.

August 6th, 2015: After sixteen years and over 2,500+ shows on Comedy Central, noted personality Jon Stewart bid farewell to The Daily Show.  One could have said that the evening of Thursday, August 6th was a "golden" evening for comedic satire.

Cover from the DVD box set of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart:
Indecision 2004
episodes during the 2004 Presidential campaign.
Stewart is surrounded by his then-Daily Show corespondent
team, consisting of Stephen Colbert, Rob Corddry,
Samantha Bee and Ed Helms.  From the vast 
At The Matinee media vault. 
"So if you smell something, say something." -Jon Stewart, on his final telecast of Comedy Central's The Daily Show.

On the same night that the first televised  Republican 2016 Presidential candidates' debate took place, Stewart bid farewell to his Daily Show colleagues (past and present), along with pre-recorded messages from celebrities, dignitaries, top guests and foes who wanted to bid farewell to Jon Stewart. The tribute included a farewell greeting from the president of the fast-food chain Arby's, Paul Brown (Stewart made hilarious rants about Arby's during his stint as host of The Daily Show).

Throughout Jon Stewart's tenure as host, the majority of Daily Show corespondents throughout the years have credited the show as a springboard to later successes in their careers.

Past and present Daily Show corespondents were on hand to bid farewell to Stewart, including Steve Carrell, Lewis Black, Wyatt Cenac, John Oliver (who has his own successful weekly satirical news series on HBO), Samantha Bee, Jason Jones, Mo Rocca (who is now a correspondent for CBS' Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood), Vance DeGeneres, Larry Wilmore (who now hosts his own post-Daily Show series, The Nightly Show), original Daily Show host Craig Kilborn (who hosted the show from its inception in 1996 until the end of 1998), Ed Helms, Michael Che, Rob Corddry, Nate Corddry, Aasif Mandvi, Jordan Klepper, Dave Attell, Hasan Minhaj, Kristen Schaal, Rob Riggle, Jessica Williams, John Hodgman, Olivia Munn, Al Madrigal, Matt Walsh, Dan Bakkedahl, successor host Trevor Noah, Bassem Youssef, Josh Gad and last but not least- the great Stephen Colbert, sharing his moments with Stewart (apart from Colbert's faux arch-conservative pundit role on the successful Daily Show spin-off, The Colbert Report from 2005-2014).  Colbert will be taking over David Letterman's old Late Show spot on CBS this September.

Promotional leaflet (circa 2005) for
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,which was included with the
Indecision 2004 DVD box set (from the vast At The Matinee

media vault).
There were also pre-recorded appearances by noted celebrities, politicians, pundits and news commentators, including Representative Charles Rangel, New Jersey Governor (and Republican Presidential candidate) Chris Christie, Senator Chuck Schumer, former First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State (and current Democratic Presidential candidate) Hillary Clinton, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, MSNBC morning hosts/commentators Joe Scarborough and co-host Mika Brezinski, CNN anchor/reporter Wolf Blitzer, Senator (and Republican Presidential candidate) Lindsay Graham, Secretary of State (and former Massachusetts Senator) John Kerry, Stewart's arch-nemesis Bill O'Riley, and Senator John McCain- all taking a jab at Stewart.

The show ended with legendary musician Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band (one of the band's members, percussionist Max Weinberg, was Conan O'Brien's original bandleader on NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien from 1993 to the program's conclusion in 2009) performing a tribute song in honor of Stewart's Daily Show career.

During Stewart's Daily Show career, the show transformed from a niche cable "fake" news program with celebrity and comedic personalities, to one of the most-watched popular television programs in the nation.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart surpassed traditional news platforms over time, as Stewart interviewed political experts, figureheads, authors, pundits, politicians, humanitarians, national and world leaders.  When it came to certain politicians and people in the field of politics- Stewart would put them on the "hotseat," and ask questions that no other anchor/host from a news (or interview-based) program would have asked.

Stewart's show would spawn two best-selling books (with fellow Daily Show correspondents and writers)- America (The Book) in 2004 (the audiobook version won the 2005 Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word album), and Earth (The Book) in 2010.  Stewart is also praised for charitable causes, it was noted that he helped raise $2.2 million dollars (from his final show) for the organization New York Collaborates for Autism (according to CNBC).

In October 2010, both Stewart and Colbert (in his faux arch-conservative pundit role on The Colbert Report) took their comedic routine to Washington, D.C.- by having the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the grounds of the National Mall.  It would have been great to have seen both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert in person that year (a "Frederick to Washington" tour bus group was launched for interested patrons to attend the event, but was unfortunately scrapped due to a lack of interest for the event).  Luckily, I purchased a commemorative T-Shirt from the event (via Comedy Central's website).

With Stewart's departure from The Daily Show, the general public may never see another entertaining (and interesting) program like Stewart's Daily Show.  With the zaniness of the 2016 Presidential election coming in, who will we turn to for a satirical look at the election?  I guess Conan O'Brien's TBS show and Colbert's Late Show on CBS (which will premiere this September) will do for my "late night" fix.

At The Matinee salutes Jon Stewart for sixteen great years of The Daily Show.  


Friday, July 31, 2015

"At The Matinee" wants to hear from you!

1939 trade advertisement for the
screwball comedy Midnight, with
comments/suggestions from test
audiences who saw the test screening.
As we transition into August, the author of At The Matinee would like to hear from fellow friends and readers of this blog.

As I've stated before, this blog is dedicated to the field of classic/contemporary motion pictures, television, music and technology.  It has come to my attention that some readers of At The Matinee may not be interested in these subjects at all.  No matter what, that will not deter me from writing about classic/contemporary cinema and television (along with technology and music from time to time).

Plus, I will continue writing about the Frederick area cinema venues* and their ignorance of showcasing classic/contemporary films, the way they were meant to be seen- on the big screen.

ATM Wants To Hear From You!  As I am the author/head writer of this blog, I would enjoy hearing comments/suggestions from fellow readers and newcomers to At The Matinee.

For example: what works on this blog, and what doesn't work on this blog?  What improvements/changes could be made to this blog, and what general suggestions would you have for future posts on At The Matinee?

Plus, I'm also open to the idea of contributing posts (from interested writers) to this blog on classic/contemporary cinema, and other topics related to those aforementioned fields.

Again, I am open to all comments on At The Matinee or anything related to this blog (NOTE: all comments are monitored by the author).  Don't be afraid to ask!

You can add your comments at the bottom of this post, or you can e-mail me anytime (by clicking on the hyperlink).

Be on the lookout for new posts in August!

Thanks to all for your suggestions.  I highly appreciate it.

All the best,
Chris Hamby

*Excluding The Weinberg Center For The Arts from the cinema venues that are refusing to show revival screenings of classic/contemporary films, since the theater is closed for air-conditioning renovations from now until October.  

Friday, July 17, 2015

Shout! Factory to present streaming "Kaiju" movie marathon

There are many interesting aspects to the field of modern Japanese cinema- the groundbreaking films of "auteur" filmmakers, including Akira Kurosawa (1950's Rashomon and 1954's Seven Samurai), Yasujiro Ozu (1953's Tokyo Story and the Early Spring/Late Spring/Early Summer/Late Summer series of films)  and Keisuke Kinoshita (1954's Twenty-Four Eyes).  Besides these and other significant works of modern Japanese film, there's one genre that also fits in with modern cinema from Japan, and that would be known as Kaiju films.

Still from the original version of Godzilla (1954), which will be part of
Shout! Factory's streaming Kaiju marathon.  The original Japanese cut is also
available on DVD and Blu-Ray (paired with Godzilla: King of the Monsters)
from Janus Films' Criterion Collection line (under license from Toho Co., Ltd.).
What is Kaiju?  For those that may not know this, Kaiju is Japanese for "monster." After the success of the Toho studio and the popular 1954 Ishiro Honda film, Godzilla (Gojira, which was released here in the United States as Godzilla: King of the Monsters in 1956 with Raymond Burr), it set a cultural phenomenon not only in Japan, but worldwide as well.

Competing studio Daiei responded to Toho's success with the GodzillaMothra and Rodan series of films, by creating their own Kaiju film franchise- Gamera, beginning in 1965 (the original Gamera films were later picked up for television syndication by Sandy Frank, and have been famously riffed on Mystery Science Theater 3000)

When Godzilla, Gamera, and other Japanese Kaiju films were released in the United States, they were known for one interesting factor: poorly-dubbed English dialogue to replace the original Japanese dialogue track.

From the 1970's throughout the mid-1980's (before the author of this blog was born), many Japanese Kaiju films were staples of Saturday morning/Saturday afternoon movie programs on independent television stations from coast-to-coast.  The art of Japanese Kaiju motion pictures has a definitive place in motion picture and pop culture history.

SHOUT! FACTORY PRESENTS STREAMING KAIJU MOVIE MARATHON: If you're a Kaiju film enthusiast, a person who wants to learn more about cult Japanese monster films, or if you've never seen the original Godzilla film, Shout! Factory TV is offering an all-day marathon of classic Japanese Kaiju films.  The marathon will consist of nine Japanese monster films produced by Toho Studios, including the original uncut version of Godzilla.

In addition to the Toho-produced Kaiju feature films, there will be select episodes of the cult Japanese action television series, Ultra Seven and Ultra Q.  The marathon will be hosted by the world's foremost expert on Japanese Kaiju monster films, August Ragone.  The marathon will stream on the live website for Shout! Factory TV (not sure if it will be available on Shout's Roku channel) this Saturday at Midnight, and will last until Sunday at Midnight (EST).  The event will also be shown through Shout! Factory's online "live feed" on Pluto.TV (Channel 427).

Sit back, relax and watch some Kaiju films (whenever possible).

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Double Indemnity (1944): Another classic that the Frederick area will miss out on

1944 Paramount promotional advertisement for
Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity, featuring Fred MacMurray,
Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson.

Billy Wilder's 1944 suspense film, Double Indemnity is one of the definitive films of the 1940's, and is considered by many as one of the true motion pictures in the "film noir" genre category.

It was adapted from James M. Cain's 1943 crime novel of the same name, which was originally featured as an eight-part story in Liberty Magazine.  Double Indemnity features Fred MacMurray as insurance salesman Walter Neff, Barbara Stanwyck as femme fatale Phyllis Dietrichson, and Edward G. Robinson as investigator Barton Keyes.  This was not the first pairing of MacMurray and Stanwyck, the two were in a previous Paramount film four years earlier, the Preston Sturges Christmas comedy Remember The Night (1940).

I'm not going to give away the complete synopsis of Double Indemnity, due to a upcoming re-release of the film.  With its dark, suspenseful gritty overtones and intriguing moments throughout the film, Wilder's adaptation of Double Indemnity became a smash success when it was released in 1944.  The film received numerous Academy Award® nominations, including Best Picture, Best Actress (Barbara Stanwyck), Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Screenplay (Billy Wilder & Raymond Chandler) and Best Dramatic Score (Miklos Rozsa).

1944 Newspaper ad for the Paramount-owned cinema in Newark, New Jersey-
showcasing Double Indemnity (from a 1944 issue of Motion Picture Herald).
Fourteen years later after its theatrical release, Double Indemnity was one of many pre-48 Paramount sound feature films that were sold to Lew Wasserman's MCA for television distribution, along with  re-release/re-make rights.  Television audiences in the Frederick area (circa 1958) may have experienced viewing Double Indemnity along with many other vintage Paramount features in the MCA package, when Washington's WTOP-TV 9 (W*USA after 1986) and Baltimore's WBAL-TV 11 acquired the broadcast rights (according to an advertisement in the Lantern Media History Archive).  

It was remade in 1973 as a made-for-TV-movie by Universal Studios, with Richard Crenna (as Walter Neff), Samantha Eggar (as Phyllis Dietrichson), and Lee J. Cobb (as Barton Keyes).

Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity will never fail to disappoint.  It is one of the many interesting (and iconic) classic motion pictures of all-time.  If you've never seen it before, see it when you have the chance to.

SPECIAL REVIVAL SCREENING OF DOUBLE INDEMNITY NATIONWIDE:  Universal Studios, Turner Classic Movies and NCM Fathom Events will present a special revival screening of Double Indemnity (1944) in theaters nationwide on July 19th and July 20th at 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM (all times eastern).

Yet unfortunately, the Frederick area will miss out on this gem.  Frederick's cinema venues, MDL Holiday Cinemas, and the "eyesore" that is known to many as Regal Cinemas' 16-plex "Westview" complex are not planning to screen this definitive classic,  Frederick's cinemas (excluding the Weinberg Center For The Performing Arts, which is closed due to air-conditioning system renovations) are missing out on this golden opportunity, to showcase classic films the way they were meant to be seen- on the big screen.  

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This may sound far-fetched to some, but I think it's past time that Frederick had another movie theater/cinema venue.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

It's almost Independence Day here at the "screening room" (and worldwide headquarters) of At The Matinee.  While the current lineup of "summer blockbusters*" mostly consisting of "endless" reboots and remakes, there's one definitive classic that outshines the competition.  And it's perfect for the July 4th weekend.

Poster for Warners' Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
featuring James Cagney as George M. Cohan.
That definitive classic film is 1942's Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Directed by Michael Curtiz and produced by Hal B. Wallis, the film features James Cagney (as George M. Cohan), Joan Leslie (as Mary Cohan), Walter Huston (as Jerry Cohan), Richard Whorf (as Sam Harris), Irene Manning (as Fay Tempelton), George Tobias (as Dietz), Rosemary DeCamp (as Nellie Cohan), Jeanne Cagney (as Josie Cohan), Frances Langford (as Nora Bayes), S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall (as Schwab), and Eddie Foy, Jr. (as the senior Eddie Foy).

Based off the story of real-life songwriter George M. Cohan (1878-1942), the film goes into the life, times and career of the multi-talented entertainer and songwriter, who brought such popular classic songs including Yankee Doodle Dandy, Over There, You're A Grand Old Flag, just to name a few.

When the film premiered in New York at the Hollywood Theatre in May 1942, it was tremendous hit, and was one of the top-grossing motion pictures of 1942.  According to The New York Times, the audience on opening night purchased $5,750,000 worth of war bonds to help America's war effort during the Second World War.

For Warner Bros. (who acquired the rights from Cohan for his life story, where Warners' competitors declined Cohan's story throughout the latter years of his life), it would be the studio's top-grossing film at the time (along with Warners' other popular noteworthy films released that same year, including Casablanca, Air Force, George Washington Slept Here, and Now, Voyager).

The film won three Academy Awards for Best Actor (James Cagney), Best Sound Recording (Nathan Levinson and the Warner Bros. sound department), and Best Music, Scoring of a Motion Picture (Ray Heindorf and and Heinz Romfeld).

My first experience of watching Yankee Doodle Dandy was on WETA's Saturday classic film showcase several years ago.    I was originally going to plan to attend the recent revival screening of Yankee Doodle Dandy at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania- but could not attend due to an important family commitment.

Warners has recently released Yankee Doodle Dandy on Blu-Ray (through the studio's "Archive" line), from a new high-definition transfer (along with several extras ported over from the previous DVD release).  It is also available for streaming on Flixster and Warners' YouTube VOD service. The film will be the highlight of Turner Classic Movies' primetime lineup for the Fourth (at 8:00 PM EST).

I'm not going to give away any other additional information on this.  To my fellow readers- if you haven't seen Yankee Doodle Dandy, see it when you have the chance to.  It is an entertaining and enlightening motion picture about the life and times of George Cohan, portrayed by James Cagney (in one of his few non-gangster roles on the screen).

I feel that in recent times, we need uplifting entertainment.  And Yankee Doodle Dandy is one of the best examples of uplifting screen entertainment.  You won't be disappointed!

1958 advertisement for Associated Artists Productions (AAP),
advertising the 1942 film Yankee Doodle Dandy, one of many pre-48
Warner Bros. feature films (along with shorts and select cartoons)
that were available for syndication to local television stations.


TCM will have a schedule of movies related to America's day of independence, beginning at 11:45 AM with the 1955 film, The Scarlet Coat (featuring Cornel Wilde, Anne Francis, and George Sanders), followed by The Devil's Disciple (1959, with Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and Lawrence Oliver) at 1:30 PM, the musical 1776 (1972, featuring William Daniels, Howard Da Silva and Ken Howard) at 3:00 PM, the modern comedy Miss Firecracker (1989, with Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins) at 6:00 PM, the 1943 Warner Bros. short subject on the United States Army Band at 7:50 PM, and the big highlight of the night- Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) at 8:00 PM.  It will be followed by The Music Man (1962, featuring Preston Foster, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett and Ron Howard) at 10:15 PM, and Rosalie (1937, with Nelson Eddy, Eleanor Powell and Frank Morgan) at 1:00 AM (eastern standard time).

As I've stated before, it wouldn't be the Fourth of July without the annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York City, which will be telecast live on ESPN2 at Noon EST.  

Of course, there's always A Capitol Fourth, live from Washington, D.C. on PBS (from 8:00-9:30 PM EST).

Last but not least, it wouldn't be Saturday without Svengoolie on Me-TV, showcasing the third (and final) film in Universal's Creature From The Black Lagoon franchise, The Creature Walks Among Us (1956), which will be shown at 10:00 PM EST (for viewers from coast-to-coast, check local listings for time and channel).

WITH ALL THAT ASIDE: At The Matinee wishes everyone out there a happy (and safe) Fourth of July weekend.  Do something great and exciting during this weekend!

NOTE: Again, I'm not criticizing the recent "summer blockbusters."  I'm sure there are many (like myself) who would like more variety in the field of cinema entertainment.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Cool" Tivoli Theater: The tale of Frederick's first major building with air conditioning

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have been on hiatus for a brief time, due to a recent family medical situation that took place on Father's Day (June 21st).   After several days of medical treatment and recuperation, my father is doing fine.  He is resting and relaxing comfortably at the home office and worldwide headquarters of At The Matinee.  

My family and I would like to take this time to thank everyone out there for the prayers, well wishes and kind messages of concern.   All of us highly appreciate it.  

All the best,
Chris Hamby

Marquee of The Weinberg Center For The Arts, formerly known as the Tivoli theater, which was the first major building (and cinema venue) in the Frederick area to have air conditioning.
Marquee of The Weinberg Center For The Arts, formerly known as the
Tivoli theater, which was the first major building (and cinema venue)
in the Frederick area to have air conditioning.
You may have heard by now that the Weinberg Center For The Arts (the former Tivoli theater) will be shuttering its doors for a brief period, due to the installment of a new air conditioning unit in the building, according to The News-Post.  The theater will be closed after the Frederick Film Festival concludes on June 28th, and will reopen on October 1st.  This post is being called "Cool" Tivoli, in reference to vintage newspapers calling air-conditioned cinemas "cool" in advertisements for the city's air-conditioned cinema location.

The new unit will replace the theater's older air conditioning unit, which was installed in 1940, during the "golden age" of Hollywood cinema.  To paraphrase Joe Franklin (1926-2015), let's take a trip down "Memory Lane."

1940- Enter "Challedon," Warner Bros.' Jack L. Warner, W.L. Brann and Dr. Thomas: The idea for air-conditioning in the Tivoli theater came one day before the 1940 Hollywood Gold Cup thoroughbred horse race at Santa Anita Park in the town of Arcadia, California.

Jack L. Warner (late 1940's).
At a party that was held on the day before the race, Warner Bros. studio head Jack L. Warner was overheard by guests that he would bet $50,000 on the favorite horse in the race.  One of the guests, Dr. Edward "Eddie" Thomas, a local Frederick physician encouraged Warner to place his bet on the thoroughbred racehorse "Challedon" instead.  The youngest Warner took Thomas' advice, and decided to place his bet on Challedon.

Challedon, champion racehorse that Warner Bros. head
Jack L. Warner bet on, decided to return Dr. Edward
"Eddie" Thomas' favor on installing air-conditioning
at the studio-owned Tivoli theater in Frederick.
Thomas was close friends with advertising executive W.L. Brann (1877-1951), who bred Challedon at his own farm, Branncastle Farm (now Glade Valley Farms) in Mount Pleasant (which is close to the home office of At The Matinee).  Brann's racehorse would win both 1939 and 1940 titles of "Horse of the Year," won second place in the 1939 Kentucky Derby and won first in the Preakness stakes that same year.

Challedon won the Hollywood Gold Cup race, and Warner won his bet.  The prolific studio mogul wanted to throw a party in honor of Dr. Thomas, yet Thomas declined Jack Warner's offer.  Warner wanted to ask the Frederick physician what he could do to return the favor.  Thomas told Warner about one of his studio's theaters in Frederick- the Tivoli, and how the theater could benefit from having an air-conditioning unit in the theater.  Warner agreed, and ordered his associates in New York to install air conditioning at the studio-owned Tivoli theater in Frederick.

NOTE: Warner Bros. acquired the Tivoli, along with two other Frederick area cinema venues- the City Opera House (now Brewer's Alley Restaurant), and the Frederick theater in 1928, as part of the studio's acquisition of The Stanley Company of America, a major cinema chain (and around the same time, First National Pictures and its major Burbank studio complex, which would become the official home of Warners).

One factor of this was because of the Stanley chain's installation of Warners' landmark "Vitaphone" sound-on-disc sound motion picture projection equipment.   The studio would own these theaters until the 1948 Paramount anti-trust consent decree, where the major studios were forbidden to own movie theaters (Warners' theater holdings were spun off to Fabian Interests, and were renamed Stanley-Warner Theaters, the organization sold the three theaters to the Weinberg family at the end of the 1950's).

Since then, audiences flocked to the Tivoli to see landmark motion pictures throughout the years in the "cool" on hot summer days, along with the latest newsreels and short subjects.

An interesting tale of how a prominent Hollywood studio mogul, two Frederick residents and a celebrated racehorse brought air-conditioning to Frederick's "crown jewel" theater.

SIDEBAR: Here's something I would like to know (to the current management of the Weinberg)- When is the theater going to show classic films from Hollywood's golden age on the big screen to compliment the "Flying Dog Brewery Movie Series"?

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with the Flying Dog Movie Series, I think it would be great (along with fellow classic cinema enthusiasts) to showcase vintage and contemporary films the way they were meant to be seen, on the big screen.   

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Lost" reel of Laurel & Hardy's "Battle of the Century" Found

Section from a 1927-28 trade ad for Hal Roach's short subjects
(distributed at the time by MGM), featuring Laurel & Hardy.
A missing link to one of the most iconic moments in cinema history has been found, after one of the reels for this classic 1927 slapstick short was considered "lost" for many years.

According to Matthew Dessem's article on Slate, the discovery was recently announced at the Library of Congress' fourth annual Mostly Lost classic film festival.

The festival showcases select restored motion pictures that were once considered to be lost (or surviving fragments from "lost" motion pictures) at the State Theater in Culpeper, Virginia, the same city that is home to the Library of Congress' National Audio-Visual Conservation Center.

Dessem's article mentioned that silent film historian Jon Mirsalis uncovered the "lost" second reel of the classic 1927 Hal Roach comedy, Battle of the Century (featuring Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy).  The second reel of the comic duo's 1927 short was classified as "lost" for nearly 60 years, due to the fact that clips from the film were used for a compilation film on classic moments in motion picture comedy (the "pie fight" sequence was served as the inspiration for Blake Edwards' 1965 farce, The Great Race).

ENTER ROBERT YOUNGSON: In 1957, filmmaker Robert Youngson (1917-1974) decided to make a feature-length motion picture, a compilation celebrating classic silent comedy, utilized from the libraries of Mack Sennett and Hal Roach.  This compilation film was titled The Golden Age of Comedy.

SIDENOTE: Youngson was no stranger to the industry, he originally made retrospective short subjects for Warner Bros., beginning in the late 1940's (compliled not only from the studio's own films, but from Warners' Vitagraph and First National holdings).  Some of Youngson's short subjects for Warners can be seen from time to time on Turner Classic Movies.

Fast forward to 1957, and Youngson was making his feature-length tribute to classic silent comedies. According to further findings from Dessem, Youngson might have been one of the last persons to see Battle of the Century in its complete form at the time.  He chose the legendary "pie fight" sequence in Roach's film, and it is widely speculated that Youngson junked the rest of Battle of the Century.

Shortly after the release of Youngson's compilation film, the original nitrate camera negatives became unusable (either due to mishandling or poor film storage).

It wasn't until last year, when Mirsalis found a can (acquired as part of a private film collection that once belonged to the late Gordon Berkow) with a label identifying the second reel of Battle of the Century. Thought to be lost, the film elements for Hal Roach's Battle of the Century are now being restored by Lobster Films in Paris.

This might be a clear sign that there will be a "complete" version of this classic Laurel & Hardy film sometime in the near future.

Friday, June 12, 2015

ATM Remembers: Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015)

1972 promotional ad for Warner Bros.' "Horroritual,"
encouraging exhibitors to induct audiences
into the "Count Dracula Society," during
midnight screenings of Hammer's Dracula A.D. 1972,
featuring Christopher Lee (in his sixth portrayal
of Bram Stoker's vampire character).  This was
advertised as a "double feature" with another
Hammer horror feature released by Warners,
Crescendo (featuring Stefanie Powers).
Christopher Lee, in a publicity photo for his
role of Count Dracula in Dracula A.D. 1972.
At The Matinee remembers distinguished actor Sir Christopher Lee, who died at the age of 93 on Sunday in London.  Lee's death was not made public until Thursday.

The actor appeared in over 250 feature films throughout his career, mostly known for his villainous roles in cult British horror films produced by the Hammer Film Corporation, and for his role as the wizard Saruman in Peter Jackson's adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy film series.

Lee was born on May 27th, 1922 in London.  After serving as an intelligence officer for the Royal Air Force during the second World War, Lee's cousin suggested that he consider acting.  Shortly thereafter, he signed a contract with the Rank Organization, one of  the leading motion picture production and releasing companies in Britain at the time.  This led Lee to minor roles early in his screen career, beginning in 1948 with Corridor of Mirrors, and the filmed adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet, featuring Lawrence Oliver, which was released that same year.

Because of his tall height (6-foot-4), it has been noted that Lee was typecast throughout most of his motion picture career in villainous roles, especially in horror and fantasy films.  Beginning in 1957, his first major role for Hammer Films (in conjunction with Warner Bros.) was his portrayal of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, in The Curse of Frankensteinopposite Peter Cushing.  The film opened to mixed reviews in the United States, but is now considered a "cult classic" by many in recent years.

One year later, Lee would portray one of his most famous roles in another Hammer horror adaptation of Bram Stoker's Dracula, in Horror of Dracula (which was known as Dracula in Britain, but was re-titled for the American market, so that audiences would not confuse the film with the 1931 Bela Lugosi version).

Lee's "Dracula" role would lead to several more films: Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966), Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968), Count Dracula . Taste The Blood of Dracula, Scars of Dracula (all from 1970), Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) and The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973). 

He also portrayed the mummy Kharis in Hammer's 1959 adaptation of The Mummy.  Lee also portrayed Sherlock Holmes in the 1962 German film, Sherlock Holmes And The Deadly Necklace (which was not released in the United States until 1968, when Columbia Pictures acquired the North American television rights for its Screen Gems subsidiary).

Lee would also portray Sax Rohmer's Fu Manchu character, beginning in 1965 with The Face of Fu Manchu.  He would act in four more films in this series, ending with The Castle of Fu Manchu (1969, which was famously mocked on Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1992).

Lee's other prolific roles included Lord Summerisle in the 1973 horror film, The Wicker Man, and in the James Bond film franchise, playing villain Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun (1974, opposite Roger Moore as James Bond).

Around the same time  his role in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Lee played the role of villain Count Dooku in George Lucas' Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002), and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005).

In 2009, Lee was knighted by Prince Charles, in honor of his acting and charitable work. In 2010, Sir Christopher Lee crossed into the field of recorded concept music, by releasing a heavy metal-classical concept album, titled Charlemange: By The Sword and the Cross.  That same year, he received the "Spirit of Metal" award at the Metal Hammer Golden Gods award ceremony.   Four more concept albums would follow, along with four heavy metal Christmas singles.

In remembrance of Lee, Turner Classic Movies will present a marathon of Sir Christopher Lee's best-known motion pictures on June 22nd.  Here are the films that will be shown on that day's schedule:

6:15 AM- The Mummy (1959)
8:00 AM- The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
9:30 AM- Horror of Dracula (1958)
11:00 AM- Dracula, Prince of Darkness (1966)
12:45 PM- Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1969)
2:30 PM- Horror Express (1972)
4:00 PM- The Three Musketeers (1972)
6:00 PM- The Four Musketeers (1975)

Farewell to one of the greats of the silver screen, Sir Christopher Lee (1922-2015).