Best Years of Our Lives on TCM

Best Years of Our LivesWilliam Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives will be on TCM Tuesday at 8pm.  Veterans returning home from war find their lives are changed forever. Though this film is more than seventy years old, it is as relevant today as it was as 1946. There are still lessons to be learned.

Read about its influence in Lessons in the Dark. Available at Amazon.

book cover lessons in the dark final ver4

A Face in The Crowd on TCM

A FACE IN THE CROWD, Andy Griffith, 1957, afitc1957-fsct05, Photo by:Everett Collection(afitc1957-fsFar ahead of its time, Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd is a brilliant look at the media and its influence. Set your DVR for tomorrow at 1:45PM. Watch the film and then read about it in Lessons in the Dark,

Remember, classic films are not just nostalgia. They are avenues for learning and a passageway to take a look at ourselves as we were then and are now. Movies hold up a mirror to our past and our lives today. We can see how far we have come; the mistakes that we made, the choices we made, both the good and the bad.

 

book cover lessons in the dark final ver4

The Best Years of Our Lives on TCM


the-best-years-of-our-lives-still-526x295William Wyler’s superb film about returning veterans will be broadcast on TCM tonight at 10 PM eastern. The brilliant cast includes Dana Andrews, Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Theresa Wright, Virgina Mayo, and Harold Russell, A must see!

Read about it and more than 30 other important films in my my book, Lessons in the Dark. Available at Amazon. Just click here.

Lessons Dark Final Book Cover

My Book Covers, My Photography

Book Covers1001I have been designing my own book covers, for better or worse, except for my first ebook of fiction (Murder with a Twist), and have been using my own photographs for the covers. Professionals say this is a potential road to disaster. I assume that may be true, but as a  photographer with a backlog of thousands of photographs available, it seemed to me I should be able to find suitable cover photos if I gave it the thought and time.  That said, in this post I thought I’d share some of the creative process involved in selecting the right photograph or photographs that work with each book’s subject matter.

Film Noir at Twenty Four Frames Per Second

My first ebook, Film Noir at Twenty Four Frames Per Second, consist of a collection of film articles from my film blog Twenty Four Frames. When I first became interested in photography, back in the 1970’s, I lived in New York City and many weekends were spent roaming the streets photographing. I sometimes merged my love of movies and photography by photographing the movie theaters that were all over the city. This was before the bland, box cutter multiplexes we have today.  Over the years, whenever I traveled I continued to photograph  classic  movie theaters that have managed to survive the onslaught of multiplexes.  One of these survivors is the Tampa Theater.

My wife and I moved to Florida some twenty years ago and we have attended many film showings at the Tampa Theater (built in 1923). I had photographed the exterior on a few occasions, but wanted to photograph inside the theater. One afternoon, with camera in hand and between film showings I took a series of shots including the one that graces the cover of Film Noir at Twenty Four Frames (I did ask for permission to shoot). The original photograph was in color but keeping in line with the book’s dark theme of film noir, I changed it to black and white giving it a darker look in line with the subject matter.  Below are both the original photo and as it appears on the book cover.

                    Tampa Theate-Aud - Book Cover    Book Cover_DSC_0583-005

 

Lessons in the Dark

Skipping over my first work of fiction (Murder with a Twist), Lessons in the Dark was the second book where I used my own photographs. The cover is a collage of multiple photographs of various New York movies theaters now all sadly gone except for the Paris theater on 58th street. Most were shot on black and white film which I did a lot of at the time.   Lessons in the Dark is collection of article  on films  that hold up a mirror to both our past, and our lives today. These are films though made thirty, forty or fifty years ago remain relevant to our world today. Life and art repeat themselves. The fear mongering, the racial hatred we hear today from plastic gods promising greatness  for America feeding the hate. I knew that I wanted to use a movie theater photograph and began searching through my files. I came to the decision the one theater would be too bland but realizing I have many  photographs of movie theaters and a book that looks back in time I felt a collage might work. I began arranging and rearranging my various theater photographs. There were multiple versions until I came up with the final cover. Below are a few of the original photographs used followed by the final book cover.

        Baronet & Coronet Theatres_CR1-001 Book Cover   Loew's S-002 book cover

42nd Street-003 book Cover    Loew's Oriental -1971 Book Cover

 

Lessons Dark Final Book Cover

Devious Tales

Devious Tales needed something dark and maybe a bit mysterious considering the subject matter. The original photo was taken in 2016 along Santa Fe’s Canyon Road, known for being a street filled with art gallery after art gallery, many artist owned and run. The photograph was taken outside the entrance way of  one of those gallery’s. The image was all shadows reflecting off the gallery’s adobe building. The photo came across to me as somewhat dark and shadowy. Below is the original photo, a black and white version followed by both the final ebook cover and paperback cover.

        Wall Shadow_DSC655_CW-6555          Wall Shadow_DSC655_CW_B&W-6555

 

                     Devious Tales Book Cover - Final (1 of 1)-001           Devious Tales Paperback Cover

In a future post, I will take a look at the making of the book cover for Bitter Ends, my upcoming collection of short stories.

Depression Blues and the Dance Marathon

they-shoot-horsesDance marathons were phenomena that began in the 1920’s. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Horace McCoy’s 1935 novel is a dark tale of losers desperately attempting to hang on to impossible dreams. Just like in Nathaniel West better known novel, Day of the Locust the characters all have unreachable dreams of being in the movies. Continue reading “Depression Blues and the Dance Marathon”

Coming Soon to TCM

golddiggers-of-1933Two films featured in my book, Lessons in the Dark, will be coming soon to TCM. Tonight at 10:15PM (Eastern) the superb Great Depression era musical Gold Diggers on 1933. The film stars Joan Blondell, Ginger Rogers, Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell along with an excellent supporting cast that includes Aline McMahon, Ned Sparks, Guy Kibbee and Billy Barty.

grapes-of-wrath-3On Friday (Feb. 10th) at 8PM (Eastern) don’t miss John Ford’s masterful production of John Steinbeck’s classic novel, The Grapes of Wrath. Henry Fonda stars as Tom Joad. The cast includes Academy Award winner Jane Darwell and John Carradine. Look for a very young Darryl Hickman (Dobie Gillis) in a small role.

You can read more about both of these films plus others in Lessons in the Dark. Below I have reprinted the Introduction to the book.

Introduction – Lessons in the Dark

Why these films, why this book and why this collection you ask? It’s simple enough to answer. A few years ago I did a series of articles for Halo-17, a now defunct Australian music and arts website. One of the editors discovered my blog, I assume liked it, and asked if I would be interested in writing a column about classic films. The only caveat was that I had to make the films I wrote about connect to what was happening in today’s world. I needed to show readers how these old black and white films were still relevant. Illustrate how history repeats itself and there are lessons to be learned even from a film that is seventy years old.

   Well, the requirement set forth by the folks at Halo-17 turned out to be simpler than I thought. As I began to look at films from this perspective I realized many films whether twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years old or more remain relevant. They had something to say about us today as well as years ago. Life and art repeat themselves. As the poet, novelist and philosopher, George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” Classic films help us remember the past, both the good and the bad. Sometimes they even predict the future as it did in Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd (1957) and Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), both which forecast the reality TV and political circus we are forced to endure today. A film like Black Legion (1937) teaches us about hating someone who’s different, how people get sucked into hatred or blaming immigrants for taking jobs from “real Americans.” Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of Will (1935) presented Adolph Hitler as Germany’s savior, a leader who would bring glory back to Germany by once again making it a great power! This Nazi rhetoric, the fear mongering, is awfully familiar to what we hear today from plastic gods with simplistic solutions promising to make America great again as they feed on the hate.

This collection of essays is divided into various sections focusing on specific themes. Each contains essays on films. Though “old” they speak about or reflect on the times we are living in today. Every one of these films remains pertinent to our current lives. Not all are great cinematically, yet there are lessons or messages to be learned. Some films are more direct in their ideas, others are more understated. There are even a few films that put forth a message or point of view for most of the film and then reverse course in the final moments. Why? Censorship sometimes exposes its ugly head or maybe the filmmakers or the studios got cold feet. Whatever the reason, it’s all part of what makes these films fascinating and worth watching and discussing.

    Part One looks at films from or about the Great Depression of the 1930’s.  As we continue to come out of our recent Great Recession that has been hanging over us since 2008, one can read into many of these films the similarities, the hard times and uncertainty we have all recently endured. In Part Two there are films exploring the absurdities of war and its effects on the men and women on the front line and back at home. Part Three contains a couple of films that reveal the influences of the news media on our lives. Part Four takes a look at social injustice. In Part Five we look at films about discrimination. In Part Six we see how the pre-code era gave us a look at tough, strong, independent and progressive women. Finally, in Part Seven, a section that is a catch all. It contains a variety of topics that we still deal with and affect our lives today.

   “Old” films are not just nostalgic. They entertain, or at least attempt to, however, they are also avenues for learning and a passageway to take a look at ourselves as we were then and are now. Movies hold up a mirror to both our past, our lives today and our future. We can see how far we have come; the mistakes that we made, the choices we made, both the good and the bad. Hopefully we are able to learn, realize the bad and not repeat them.

   The majority of these essays first appeared on my blog, Twenty Four Frames. I began the blog almost eight years ago, like many others, as a place to share my love of movies. The blog has evolved over time as I believe I have myself. During a lifetime of watching movies I have discovered new roads to travel and lessons learned. I hope you, the reader, will too.

Gold Diggers of 1933 0n TCM

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Set your DVR’s!

The great Depression era musical, Gold Diggers of 1933, is on TCM tomorrow at 6:30 AM eastern time with a repeat showing on February 9th at 10:15PM.

Hugely successful at the time of its release, Gold Diggers of 1933 is filled with tough streetwise characters, and wise cracking dialogue, ready to face the Great Depression head on. Like many of Warner Brothers films of the day, Gold Diggers of 1933 is not just escapism entertainment. Audiences of the day looking for a couple of hours to get away from their woes found themselves watching  a film filled with cynicism and grit.

You can read more about Gold Diggers of 1933 in my book. Available from Amazon. Just click on the link below.

Reading Photographs: James Dean and Brute Force

dead brutThe more I looked at this photograph of James Dean, the more fascinating I found it. It looks like it was shot in New York City, most likely in the early to mid 1950’s before Dean made any of his three iconic films. Unfortunately, I do not know who the photographer is but it could be Dennis Stock, (please see comment below from Peter. L. Winker who clears this up. Peter is the editor of the forthcoming book, The Real James Dean: Intimate Memories From Those Who Knew Him Best, to be published later this year). Stock became a friend of Dean’s early on and was one of several photographers who photgraphed Dean during those early times. The painted ad in the background for the 1948 film Brute Force reflects it’s age.

What’s fascinating I felt was the connection the photo makes between the old Hollywood of Burt Lancaster who starred in the film and that of  an actor on the verge of stardom. Not just any up and coming actor but someone who would come to represent the beginning of the New Hollywood and the Youth Culture that would explode within a few years.

You can read about Brute Force in my e-book Lessons in the Dark available at Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Lessons-Dark-John-Greco-ebook/dp/B01CC0TWLS?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc

Author Jacqueline T. Lynch Review’s My Book Lessons in the Dark

Lessons in the Dark Cover-Small-003

Jacqueline Lynch, author Ann Blyth: Actress, Singer, Star and many other books, as well an ace blogger at Another Old Movie Blog reviewed my book, Lessons in the Dark. There is also a short interview. Check it out at the link below.

http://anotheroldmovieblog.blogspot.com/2016/06/lessons-in-dark-by-john-greco.html

Check out Jacqueline’s books at Amazon at the link belowblyth-ebook-cover

http://www.amazon.com/Jacqueline-T.-Lynch/e/B004583B4U

 

And you can read my interview with Jacqueline right below.

https://urframes.wordpress.com/2015/06/12/interview-with-author-jacqueline-t-lynch/

 

 

 

Remembering James Garner

James Garner would have been 88 years old today. The actor whose career began in the early 1950’s hit it big with his 1957 TV western, Maverick. From there he went on to movies like The Great Escape,  The Children’s Hour The Thrill of it All, Boy’s Night Out, Move Over, Darling and The Americanization of Emily in which he co-starred for the first time with Julie Andrews.

emilyJames Garner and Julie Andrews made a great team. Garner confesses in his blunt memoir (The Garner Files), the lovely Ms. Andrews was a great kisser and he really enjoyed doing their love scenes. They would reunite on-screen some eighteen years later in her husband’s (Blake Edwards) Victor, Victoria.

Garner’s career would shift back between movies and television over the years. What always remained the same though was his likability and his talent in both drama and comedy.

You can read more about Garner and The Americanization of Emily in my new e-book, Lesson in the Dark. Available on Amazon for only $2.99.

http://www.amazon.com/Lessons-Dark-John-Greco-ebook/dp/B01CC0TWLS/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8