Archive for the ‘history’ category

A History Lesson By Way of Franklin Pierce, Stephen A. Douglas and Abraham Lincoln’s Really Great, Awesomely Bad Hair

So, there’s this obsession with the 16th president of the United States that I’ve had pretty much all my life. It hit me, all of a sudden, early in the 7th grade when for no reason at all I found myself crying because I was assigned to cover Franklin Pierce for our presidential reports instead of Lincoln. Our teacher assigned the presidents in alphabetical order and my surname came just two letters shy of “L”. And so the fate of Mr. Lincoln’s five page double-spaced, Times New Roman report was destined for a classmate who, bless his heart, was under the impression that every sentence ought to begin with a pronoun. (And, judging by his Facebook profile, this still appears to be the case. Not that I stalk old classmates on Facebook. Ever.)
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What Makes A Classic Film Classic…?

That was the question once asked by writer Ted Elrick, his answer coming in the form  the essay Classic is in the Eye—and Mind—of the Beholder (as published in DGA News Magazine, Feb. 1992). Elrick gave the daunting task of defining that elusive quality which differentiates a good movie from a classic film to over 100 people working in the entertainment industry. Many of them were veterans of the classic silver screen themselves– still with us when the story went to print back in 1992.

Below are a few of the highlights from this most insightful piece, written at the height of the industry’s first major rally in Washington on the issue of film preservation, and I hope it provides much food for thought…and discussion. Read more ►

Sound and Vision: Charlie Chaplin and the Sound of Silence

First things first: this post is in conjunction with the Park Circus Charlie Chaplin Blogathon … for which I am shamefully late. The blogathon wrapped two days ago, but I absolutely HAD to contribute. Park Circus does amazing work: a UK-based organization dedicated to bringing classic films back to their home on the big screen. Not being a part of their Chaplin blogathon would be unforgivable!

So. That being said…

I thought it would be fun to explore Chaplin’s fascinating love/hate relationship with a little thing called … sound. Chaplin may have been the one filmmaker to hold out the longest against sound, but he also happened to be one of the earliest filmmakers to embrace it. A fitting contradiction given Chaplin was a man of so many contradictions. Read more ►

Project Keaton

For the month of October, the Pictorial will be heavily focusing on the life, work and art of the legendary Buster Keaton. It felt right we should do so, given Buster’s 116th birthday on October 4th, the month-long salute to Keaton’s films on Turner Classic Movies, and some exciting new releases from Kino video.

Project Keaton will be a month long open forum in which writers, artists, everyday Joes and everyday Janes (like me) from all over the world are being invited to tip their pork pie to Buster. The goal is to foster a month of creative exchange, with Buster as muse, and to celebrate one of cinema’s few, true geniuses.

There are no rules as to content: essays, reviews, art, critiques, tributes, prose, poetry, all are welcome. And, since this is a month long project, there are no pressing deadlines: participants may contribute as little or as much as they wish any time at all during the course of October.

The Pictorial has some fun Keaton-related giveaways planned (more on that later!) and plenty of goodies to keep your slapstick sweet tooth satisfied. (Alliteration foul, I know, couldn’t resist.)

I’m also hoping Project Keaton will provide a great cross-platform for writers and artists to explore each others work. All participants’ contributions will receive coverage here on the Pictorial blog, our Twitter feed as well as the special Project Keaton Tumblr and Facebook page.

If you are interested in participating, please send an email to or respond to this thread with your appropriate contact email and we’ll add you to the Project Keaton roster.

C’mon, everyone. Let’s really give Buster something to smile about!

Charlie Chaplin's Studio: Then And Now

Charlie Chaplin, 1918. Autochrome photograph taken outside his as-yet-unfinished Studio on La Brea Avenue, Hollywood. I live exactly three blocks north from that studio's edge. The red brick of his studio, the deep blue of the sky and the quiet slope of the Hollywood hills remain exactly today as they were then ... oh how cruel time can be.

Every morning I pass Charlie Chaplin’s studio. And I hate myself for letting it have become routine. When I first moved to Hollywood five years ago, it was reverent Holy Ground. And, oh, it still is! When I remember it’s there, that is. Rushing to work with a head full of figures and deadlines succeeded in, momentarily, dulling its wonder.

Well. Penance is being paid for such disrespect.

These Autochrome photographs were taken during the construction of Charlie’s studio empire. The studio is still there, fully functional and quite unchanged these past 85 years since its dedication.

In a city where history is so easily and readily disposable, it is quite a testament indeed that the Tramp has so truly triumphed against time.

Chaplin on his studio backlot, 1918. Deep in production for A DOG'S LIFE .

Charlie on the backlot, in costume for A DOG'S LIFE-- the precursor to his groundbreaking classic THE KID.

Terrific autochorome shot of Charlie out front of the studio steps.

The Jim Henson Company is the reverent tenant occupying the Chaplin Studio today. Pictured here: Their absolutely charming homage: Kermit the Frog as the Little Tramp

The Chaplin Studio-front, 1922

Kermit the Tramp -- the Chaplin Studios today.

Looking north on La Brea Ave, 1918

Looking north on La Brea Avenue... 21st Century.

Charlie had a swimming pool at the north end of his studio. Here he is smiling (far left) while his moviestar best friend Douglas Fairbanks takes a dip. What's depressing about this shot is that the pool is now a parking lot for a Ross Dress for Less.