Harlem, Georgia is a sleepy little southern town. If you blinked, you’d miss it. On January 18, 1892 Oliver Norvell Hardy was born in this town and his success in Hollywood gave the town an eternal claim to fame. They are clearly very proud of this and it shows. The town seemed full of sincere people and great southern hospitality.
I found information about the Laurel & Hardy Museum online shortly before my Christmas trip home to Georgia to see my parents. I pleaded with them to take me there for a little day trip and they agreed. I really love these little “Mom and Pop” type museums, as they are always run by such devoted, passionate people. When we first arrived in Harlem, I noticed “The Columbia Theatre”. The marquee looked beautiful and there was a large Laurel & Hardy mural on the side of the building. Unfortunately the interior of the theatre was complete gutted and empty. I later found out this is a work in progress. The town is trying to raise money and get grants to re-open the theatre with an eye to showing Laurel & Hardy films along with other silents and talkies from Hollywood’s Golden Age. I wish I was wealthy, as I would have written a check for that on the spot. This would really be a great thing for this town and would provide them with a nice cultural and social hub.
The museum itself was small but filled with all sorts of memorabilia, displays and information. They had all sorts of books, resources, historical documents and photographs. Fans from around the world have generously donated items to the museum throughout the years. The docent was a very nice lady named Linda who volunteers for the museum and has an incredible passion for Laurel & Hardy. She has even been to the Laurel & Hardy museum in England where Stan Laurel was born and also runs the local Harlem Fan club called “BerthMarks”. She guided us around the museum and was very helpful.
In the back of the museum they had a screening room with several of their films on VHS and DVD…but the image was really bad. I have been so fortunate to see all of the Laurel & Hardy films on the big screen at various events. I had no idea that the home video offerings were that scant and that poor in quality. I promised the lady at the museum that I would do my best to locate cleaner copies. If ANY of you out there have nice, clean DVD recordings of any Laurel & Hardy films, please let me know. I want to donate it to the museum. Often times if someone’s first exposure to old movies is a bad one, then they will often assume that all old films looks that way. I’m always trying to dispel that notion. The museum hosts a huge Laurel & Hardy Festival every year and they also do many educational programs that teach children about film and local history. I was so pleased to hear that these films will keep being discovered by younger generations, thus assuring that the boy from Harlem GA will never be forgotten.
I’ve always been a Jean Harlow fan and I was thrilled to see they even had a little display at the museum featuring information about her appearances in Laurel & Hardy films. These films were a great springboard that helped to launch her legendary career.
I had such a great time at the museum and my enthusiasm ran wild . I even posed with several Laurel & Hardy statues. I had to!!!
On the way out of town I walked across the railroad tracks to a vacant lot filled with green grass and a plaque. It is the exact lot where Hardy was born.
The town as also painted their watertower in tribute to him as well.
So if you are a Laurel & Hardy fan, I highly recommend taking a trip to Harlem. I plan to keep tabs on how the theatre is progressing and hopefully I’ll get to come back and watch some films when it has been re-opened.
To see more of my pictures, click HERE for my flickr page.
As most of you know, last summer LACMA Michael Govan tried to discontinue the film program that has been a local staple for over 30 years. The entire cinephile community expressed outrage including several high profile directors. Martin Scorsese wrote an open letterto Michael Govan in the pages of the LA Times with the title heading, “I am disturbed.” Indeed. Scorsese is without question the most high profile of film exhibition and preservation advocate that we have. A torrent of outrage came forth from coast to coast and even rated stories in the NY Times and Wall Street Journal. Govan claimed that the film program could continue through June of 2010 after Ovation and the Hollywood Foreign Press coughed up generous donations. That said, the future of the film program at LACMA is still far from certain. Naturally I was very curious to see how the public conversation between Scorsese and Govan would proceed.
In spite of the cold, wind and pouring rain on Wednesday night the Bing Theatre at LACMA was packed. Scorsese received a standing ovation as he walked out on stage. Govan wisely did very little talking and simply asked Scorsese questions about the importance of film preservation and the connection between film and art. To be perfectly honest, the proceedings were far more polite than I had anticipated. I was really hoping for a smack-down where Scorsese would publicly put Govan in his place for neglecting to realize the importance of film. I also felt frustrated that there was no official statement made about how the LACMA film program will proceed in the future. To me it seemed like they were not acknowledging the proverbial elephant in the room.
I would really like to personally grill Govan myself on how much money he THINKS the film program has lost. It can’t possibly be as much as he claims. I’d also like to see an itemized budget and see where and how these donated funds are spent. In my humble opinion, I think Govan is back-peddling to save face due to bad PR and public outrage.
Scorsese emphasized the importance of having a venue to screen films in saying, “film doesn’t exist unless you project it. Of all the art forms, cinema depends on electricity.” He also stated how important it is for film “to be shown properly. And that’s why this room is important.” He talked about his days of living in Los Angeles in the 1970s and how watching films at LACMA was such an important part of his life. Scorsese also brought along several clips that illustrated the difference between the look of a film pre and post restoration. He discussed his work with The Film Foundation and The World Cinema Foundation. He also mentioned that New York and Paris both have very strong film programs in their museums and how that is really lacking here in Los Angeles, which is where the industry was born.
I enjoyed hearing Scorsese speak and always feel inspired by his passion and dedication. By the end of the evening, it was agreed that Scorsese would return for another talk in the future. I hope that by then the future of the film program is a little more secure….and if not I hope that Scorsese acts like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver and shows Govan the error of his ways.
This past holiday season, I took a little roadtrip with my parents to Harlem, Georgia to visit the Laurel and Hardy Museum. I’ll post my photos in a few days. It was a fun experience and it got me to wondering what other film museums might be out there. After doing numerous google searches, I came up with the results listed below. I notice that stars who came from small towns tend to get museums as opposed to stars born in major hub cities like New York or Los Angeles. There is a sense or pride or “claim to fame” for many of these small towns. I know that the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences is planning to build a film museum, but I hear that project has been slowed down considerably due to the current economic crisis. I really hope it does happen someday. Hollywood has such a rich and fascinating history and we need a large scale museum to showcase that. The good news is that the Academy has really impressive exhibitions that change year round. These exhibitions are always free and open to the public along with the Academy screenings throughout the year. Take a look at the list and let me know if there are any other museums out there that I’m missing!!!!
Clark Gable Museum in Cadiz, Ohio
I’m not sure if I’ll ever find myself being in Ohio, but I’ll put this on my list.
Ava Gardner Museum in Smithville, North Carolina
I literally stumbled across this museum while I was on a roadtrip with my parents to Virginia. It is a small museum, but really packed with fascinating items about Ava Gardner’s life and career. As a vintage fashion collector, I was also thrilled to see several evening gowns on display that were gifts to Ava from Howard Hughes. Ava Gardner and her family are buried at the Sunset Memorial Park cemetery one mile from the museum. They also have an Ava Gardner Film Festival each year to celebrate her life and career.
Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota
I haven’t been, but it is on my list.
Laurel and Hardy Museum in Harlem, Georgia
This museum is in the birthplace of the great Oliver Hardy. More details will be posted soon!
Laurel and Hardy Museum in Cumbria, England
This museum is in the birthplace of Stan Laurel. I must add this to my list for my next trip to England.
Carmen Miranda Museum at Parque do Flamengo, in Rio de Janeiro
I know someone who went to this museum and said is was rather ramshackle and decrepit. That makes me all the more curious to see it.
Marlene Dietrich Collection at the Filmmuseum in Berlin, Germany
I’m dying to see this museum as I love Marlene and the era of German Expressionism. Someday!!
Greta Garbo Museum in Smaland Province, a section of Sweden
I haven’t been, but it is on my list.
Individual Film Museums:
Wizard of Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas
I’m not sure when I’ll ever be in Kansas, but this may warrant a special trip.
Gone with the Wind Museum in Marietta, Georgia
This will be my next road trip when I’m with my parents again in Georgia.
Silent Film Related Museums:
Niles Essenay Silent Film Museum in Fremont, California
This film museum is a short jaunt from San Francicso and well worth the drive. They have docents who are passionate devotees of silent film and give excellent tours. The Niles Museum also has silent film screenings year round as well as a Broncho Billy Film Festival every summer. There are also little antique stores, a cafe, a biker bar and a vintage train in the immediate area as well. What more could you possibly ask for?
Hollywood Heritage Museum in Hollywood
If you are like me and live in Los Angeles, this is right in your backyard. This museum is affordable, has incredible docents and a series of lectures each month on the golden age of Hollywood. These lectures are only $5 for members and $10 for guests. Past lectures have included “Early Hollywood”, “Irving Thalberg and the Rise of MGM” and “Haunted Hollywood”. They also have books, DVDs, cards and numerous items for purchase. This museum/organization is also one of the strongest voices for historic preservation in Los Angeles. I strongly suggest paying a visit to the museum and showing your support.
Larger Film Museums:
National Museum of Cinema in Turin, Italy
I must must must return to Italy and see this!
Cin?math?que fran?aise in Paris, France
While the primary mission of the Cin?math?que is to show films, they also have three floors of stunning exhibition space. On my last trip to Paris I saw an exhibit to the great cinema pioneer Georges Melies, an exhibit on Hollywood and the history of Henri Langois and another exhibit about Dennis Hopper and the New Hollywood. There is also a gift shop in the building and three separate theatres to see films in usually seven days a week for most of the year. For any film fan, a visit to the Cin?math?que fran?aise is an absolute must!
Museum of Moving Image in Astoria, NY
I took a train to Queens and visited this museum in 2004, but I must admit it was disappointing. Astoria was a huge location for many silent films and where Paramount Pictures kept their East Coast Productions housed. Numerous stars such as Clara Bow, Louise Brooks and Gloria Swanson made films at the studio there. Read the book “Hollywood On the Hudson” by Richard Koszarski for more details on this. The museum’s costume selection consisted of Robert DeNiro costumes all from films after 1991. It mostly consisted of information about how films are made. There wasn’t really any trace of the silent era or of the in depth, detailed history I had hoped to find. Then again that was several years ago now. I might be tempted to visit again the next time I’m in New York to see if they have made any changes.
Hollywood Museum at the Max Factor Building in Hollywood, CA
I’m a bit mixed on this museum. I love the art deco design of the Max Factor building, but this museum tends to include WAY more modern film items for my taste. That said, they are the only large film museum we have at the moment.
I got the below press release in my email in box. I can’t WAIT for this!!!!! I love dark city dames!!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Watch Out for These Dames, They’re Dangerous—
Which Makes Them Oh, So Fun to Watch
BAD GIRLS OF FILM NOIR - VOLUME 1 & VOLUME 2
Volume 1 Includes: The Killer That Stalked New York, Two of a Kind, Bad for Each Other, and The Glass Wall with Special Introduction by Terry Moore
Volume 2 Includes: Night Editor, One Girl’s Confession, Women’s Prison, and Over-Exposed
Eight Classic Film Noirs Available for the First Time on DVD February 9th
CULVER CITY, CALIF. (December 7, 2009) - In the ‘40s and ‘50s, the juiciest roles for actresses in Hollywood were often in B-pictures that explored the dark side of life and offered them starring roles as cool, calculating gals who could stick a knife in a man’s back and make him like it. On February 9, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) opens the doors to the Columbia vault to release two newly restored and remastered collections of classic films when Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume 1 and Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume 2 debut on DVD. Volume 1 showcases some of the best femme fatales of the period - Gloria Grahame, Evelyn Keyes, and Lizabeth Scott - displaying plenty of their best bad-girl behavior in The Killer That Stalked New York, Two of a Kind, Bad for Each Other, and The Glass Wall. Bonus materials include an all-new interview with Two of a Kind co-star Terry Moore, the vintage television episode “The Payoff” with Janet Blair and Howard Duff, and original theatrical trailers.
Volume 2 highlights more classic noir gals (Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling, Audrey Totter, Janis Carter, and B-movie Bombshell Cleo Moore in a triple-bill) in four films: One Girl’s Confession, Women’s Prison, Night Editor, and Over-Exposed. Bonus Materials include the original theatrical trailers and the vintage television episode “Remember to Live” with Cleo Moore and Dane Clark. Each two-disc volume will be available separately for $24.96 SRP.
Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume 1 includes:
The Killer That Stalked New York (1953)
After helping to smuggle diamonds into the country and getting burned by her latest flame (and her sister!), Sheila Bennet (Evelyn Keyes, The Jolson Story, Johnny O’Clock) decides to get even. But she unwittingly puts herself and millions of others at risk, requiring an all-out manhunt for a killer. The deep shadows in Joseph F. Biroc’s cinematography heighten the suspense, with excellent support from actors Charles Korvin (Sangaree), Academy Award(r) winner Dorothy Malone (Best Supporting Actress, Written on the Wind, 1957), Lola Albright (The Tender Trap), and William Bishop (Harriet Craig). The Killer That Stalked New York has a running time of approximately 79 minutes and is not rated.
Two of a Kind (1951)
Brandy Kirby (Lizabeth Scott, Dead Reckoning) is on a manhunt to locate a look-a-like for a missing heir imposter in an inheritance scam. She finds a willing participant in Lefty Farrell (Academy Award winner Edmond O’Brien, Best Supporting Actor, The Barefoot Contessa, 1954): raised in an orphanage and trained in small-time rackets. But will Brandy’s partner (Academy Award nominee Alexander Knox, Best Actor, Wilson, 1944) cut in on Lefty’s piece of the action or will the partners double-cross each other before they get their hands on the loot? Photographed by two-time Academy Award winner and veteran Columbia cinematographer Burnett Guffey (Best Cinematography: From Here to Eternity, 1953; Bonnie and Clyde, 1967), the film co-stars Academy Award nominee Terry Moore (Best Supporting Actress, Come Back, Little Sheba, 1953). Two of a Kind has a running time of 75 minutes and is not rated.
Bad for Each Other (1953)
Academy Award winner Charlton Heston (Best Actor, Ben-Hur, 1959) is a Korean War vet and surgeon whose return to his small coal-mining hometown offers him few possibilities, one of which is the intriguing socialite/divorcee Helen Curtis (Lizabeth Scott, The Racket). Helen’s charms prove to be too much to resist, drawing the young doctor into a social circle and lifestyle that raises concern from the others in his life, including his mother and pretty young nurse (Dianne Foster, The Brothers Rico). Bad for Each Other has a running time of approximately 83 minutes and is not rated.
The Glass Wall (1953)
Desperate to immigrate to America, Peter Kuban (Vittorio Gassman, Bitter Rice) stows away on a ship and jumps quarantine to try to find support for his petition for a visa on human rights grounds. Academy Award winner Gloria Grahame (Best Supporting Actress, The Bad and the Beautiful, 1952) is the down-on-her-luck easy mark who, in helping Kuban, finds more trouble for herself. Joseph Biroc’s great location photography makes New York City the menacing femme fatale in this race-against-the-clock suspense story. The Glass Wall has a running time of approximately 82 minutes and is not rated.
Bad Girls of Film Noir: Volume 2 includes:
Night Editor (1946)
Jill Merrill (Janis Carter, Framed) may just be the coldest gal in town. Her extra-marital affair with a cop (Oscar(r) nominee William Gargan, Best Supporting Actor, They Knew What They Wanted, 1940) forces him to forsake his duty when they witness a murder. Even when an innocent man’s life may be at stake, Jill’s biggest concerns are no different than any other ice-blooded society gal in noirdom. This below-the-radar Columbia treat directed by Henry Levin (Jolson Sings Again) with photography by Burnett Guffey really packs the punches. Night Editor has a running time of approximately 68 minutes and is not rated.
One Girl’s Confession (1953)
People think Mary Adams (Cleo Moore, Bait) is a bad girl because she’s just too sexy to be good. So she decides to even the score, even if it means jail time. After stealing $10,000 and serving her time, Mary’s determined to go straight…she just needs someone to help get the buried cash, and a good investment strategy. This efficient story, written, directed and co-starring Hugo Haas (Pickup), takes up his favorite themes of luck and fate. One Girl’s Confession has a running time of approximately 74 minutes and is not rated.
Women’s Prison (1955)
Where do the bad girls go when the law catches up with them? Some of noir’s notorious femme fatales are locked up in prison with the sadistic Ida Lupino (High Sierra, On Dangerous Ground) as their warden. Strong performances from Lupino, Academy Award nominee Jan Sterling (Best Supporting Actress, The High and the Mighty, 1954), Audrey Totter (Tension), Cleo Moore (Strange Fascination), and Howard Duff (The Naked City, Shakedown) turn what otherwise might have been a melodramatic story into an entertaining twist on an age-old tale of institutionalized redemption. Women’s Prison has a running time of approximately 79 minutes and is not rated.
Lewis Seiler (Women’s Prison) directs Cleo Moore (Bait) and Richard Crenna (Wait Until Dark) in this story of an inexperienced, ambitious girl who, after being caught in a raid at a clip joint, has the chance to learn a trade as a photographer. Her new profession brings her closer to respectability and the opportunity to use her talent to extract blackmail. Moore was often the “bait” in movie publicity campaigns; in Over-Exposed, the exploitation was more explicit. Over-Exposed has a running time of approximately 80 minutes and is not rated.
My Top 10 of the Decade 2000 - 2009
1. City of God (2002) Directed by Fernando Meirelles and K?tia Lund
This searing look into gang life in slums of Rio de Janiero was one of the most powerful and unforgettable films I’ve seen in a long time. If you missed it in theatres, rent it. This film deserves your attention.
2. The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (2007) Directed by Julian Schnabel
Directed by artist Julian Schnabel, this film about a paralyzed writer was beautiful, painterly, heartbreaking and ultimately triumphant. It also features a complex and brilliant performance by French actor Mathieu Amalric.
3. Mulholland Dr. (2001) Directed by David Lynch
This dark twisted brain teaser from David Lynch satisfies on numerous levels. It takes a head trip to the dark side of the Hollywood dream gone terribly awry. This is Lynch at his best.
4. There Will Be Blood (2007) Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
This towering epic unfolds slowly without relying on the rapid fire editing techniques so often used in films today. The film takes its time and reveals a monumental power pulsing through every frame. As an unflinching examination of greed, evil, power and religion, There Will Be Blood is a cinematic achievement that will hopefully stand the test of time and be appreciated and re-discovered for decades to come.
5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Directed by Michele Gondry
This dizzying maze of love and loss is explored with a deft touch by director Michele Gondry. Jim Carey and Kate Winslet are excellent as mismatched lovers with erased memories. The film leaves you with bittersweet feelings that you can’t quite reconcile… and really don’t want to.
6. Far From Heaven (2002) Directed by Todd Haynes
Borrowing heavily from filmmaker Douglas Sirk, Haynes has crafted a beautiful melodrama that involves issues such as interracial romance and homosexuality that were cinematic taboos in Sirk’s era. The film is lush, beautiful and powerful in a quiet way. The facial expressions and small moments add up to a great deal. There are excellent performances all around from Julianne Moore, Dennis Haysbert and Patricia Clarkson. Dennis Quaid also turns in the best work of his career.
7. Borat (2006) Larry Charles
In an age of ultra political correctness, Borat was a much needed explosion onto the comedy scene. Seeing the film, I had a feeling I was seeing something groundbreaking and entirely unique. Sascha Baron Cohen and Ken Davitian give performances that can only be described as fearless. The naked wrestling scene alone earns this film a singular place in comedy history.
8. Memento (2000) Directed by Christopher Nolan
Christopher Nolan’s non-linear thriller about a man with short term memory loss hunting his wife’s killer still stands out in my mind as his best work. It is a noirish puzzle that compels you to unfold it. With each new viewing you start to notice pieces of it with increasing clarity while still appreciating the labyrinth you are remain lost in.
9. Moulin Rouge! (2001) Directed by Baz Luhrmann
Set in bohemian Paris in the 1900s, this dazzling, dizzying musical was unlike anything I had ever seen before. The film scaled so many heights with a blend of comedy, tragedy, music, dancing with a touch of exotic Bollywood flavor. It is total sensory overload in the best possible way, resulting in cinematic intoxication.
10. Rize (2005) Directed by David LaChapelle
This powerful documentary chronicles a new dance movement out of South Central Los Angeles. It also delves into the lives and problems these youth face while trying to focus on dance instead of the perils of gang life. The photography is simultaneously gritty and stunning and the same could be said of the dancers themselves. This film is ultimately a story of triumph and hope as these kids learn there is a better and higher path for them to take. This film was little seen upon release, but it is a gem well worth discovering.