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  1. Top News Stories

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    • The Front on Blu-ray

    • An interesting acting departure for Woody Allen, this beautifully judged comedy-drama from 1976 is perhaps the only really successful movie about the notorious Blacklist era. Critics concerned about the HUAC and McCarthy witch hunts voiced displeasure that Martin Ritt and Walter Bernstein's The Front wasn't more incisive, accusatory and comprehensive about the harm done by the Blacklist. It's better to compare their film to a Sidney Poitier movie -- it is the strongest movie on the subject that the general public could be expected to accept. The non-threatening The Front wisely sets up the absurdity of the witch hunts and allows viewers to become curious on their own. For interested parties, it's a short step from this entertainment to the docu Point of Order!, actor Robert Vaughn's book Only Victims and the personal accounts found in interview-driven works like Tender Comrades. As with Poitier and the Civil Rights issue, the public apparently needs to take anything socially challenging by baby steps.

      Most of what's written about the blacklisting era concerns big stars, writers and producers, like the Hollywood Ten. The news coverage of the recent passing of Pete Seeger made mention of his 'Blacklist' problem, when the fact is that the F.B.I. and the State Department harassed many performers that made social criticism or labor activism part of their performance. Through publications like Red Channels, for-profit "loyalty companies" pressured commercial sponsors to ban ideologically suspect performers from TV and radio. In some cases the government stepped in to revoke passports of targeted individuals, preventing them from making a living in Canada or overseas. But thousands of law-abiding citizens in all walks of life also saw their lives ruined. Teachers and professors were dismissed with no way to appeal their 'invisible blacklisting'. If denounced by a colleague, someone in insurance or broadcasting could lose their entire livelihood. When the news is full of hysterics claiming that Red traitors have infiltrated government bureaucracies and even the military, who will listen to a schoolteacher who once supported a politically unpopular cause?

      Nowhere was the bite of the Blacklist felt stronger than in the profit center of New York television, where so much money was being made that nobody wanted to rock the boat. Just like witchfinders from the Inquisition of old, the loyalty companies helped the networks purge their ranks of undesirables, on the basis of old affiliations, hearsay and innuendo. Deprived of his career for several years, screenwriter Walter Bernstein packs The Front with autobiographical details, including the ulcers brought about by worry. In a major subplot, actor-comedian Zero Mostel recreates real incidents that happened to him personally.

      Deli cashier and bookmaker Howard Prince (Woody Allen) is approached by his old friend Al Miller (Michael Murphy), a successful pro TV writer. Because of the Blacklist, Al suddenly cannot get a job. Is Howard willing to put his untarnished name on Al's scripts so they can be sold to the networks? For ten percent of the writing fees, all Howard need do is pretend to be a writer, attend a few meetings and turn in Al's final scripts. Eager to earn some easy money, Howard starts working as Al's "front". He soon has a girlfriend in production assistant Florence Barrett (Andrea Marcovicci), who is impressed by "his" writing talent. Howard also begins fronting for Al's friends Delaney and Phelps (Lloyd Gough & David Margulies). The ex-bookie foolishly begins to believe that he's part of the creative process, rather than just a necessary inconvenience. He becomes aware of the grave injustice of what is happening only when his new friend comic performer Hecky Brown (Zero Mostel) is blacklisted and can find no way to placate the self-important, pitiless executives at the "Freedom Information Service". The Red-hunters eventually connect Howard to the three blacklisted writers... and the witch hunt turns on him as well.

      The Front is always amusing, yet Walter Bernstein's script grows darker as Howard Prince develops a conscience about what's going on around him. At first a happy opportunist with dollar signs in his eyes, Howard gets a swollen head, adding insult to injury when he starts critiquing his friends' work. He learns his place when the show's producer (Herschel Bernardi) shoves him into a room to do a quick rewrite of a script -- Howard is like the girl in Rumpelstiltskin, suddenly asked to spin a pile of straw into gold. If The Front were told in the gritty NYC style of the cynical Sweet Smell of Success, it might be difficult to watch. We can easily imagine a shark like Tony Curtis' Sidney Falco playing his friends' predicament for all he can get. The writers would be turning out shallow, moralistic pap for TV drama shows, while engaged in a grim existential struggle for survival.

      The pressure of this precarious situation so affects Al Miller's ulcer that he winds up in the hospital. Florence is disgusted when her superiors at the TV studio treat the Blacklist opportunists as something to be appeased at any cost. Professional cowardice is the order of the day. Once the hex is in against Hecky Brown, he becomes persona non grata. The socially oriented Hecky dies inside when former glad-handing associates and employers suddenly turn their heads away at his approach. It's as if the popular performer no longer exists.

      Zero Mostel's performance puts most Supporting Oscar nominees to shame -- it's both brilliant and heartbreaking. The Borscht Belt comedian adds a touch of nuttiness to the movie while illuminating the terrible personal tragedies experienced by some Blacklistees. Hecky Brown is based partly on Mostel's own experiences, especially an incident in which the sleazy proprietor of a Catskills resort cheats him of half his fee simply because he knows that Hecky has no choice because he needs the money. Most of Hecky's story is borrowed from that of actor Philip Loeb, who was labeled as a communist for his union activities, and unceremoniously dropped from the cast of his enormously popular TV show, The Goldbergs.. Mr. Loeb's story did not have a happy ending.

      Immersed in his own films, Woody Allen took this acting-only assignment because he believed in the subject matter and respected the filmmakers. It was our first opportunity to see Woody in non-clown mode, in a serious role. Allen is wonderful -- this is probably his only screen character that isn't undercut with comic detachment. Howard Prince grows from a position of willful ignorance to taking a stand for common decency and loyalty to his friends. The only righteous path is to resist the Congressional committee, the Freedom Information Service and all their corrupt minions.

      It's telling that The Front lands right between Allen's comedy Love and Death and his breakout seriocomic hit Annie Hall. Director Martin Ritt's no-frills direction resembles Woody's own later style. Directorially speaking, the only difference I caught is that Martin Ritt frequently overhangs dialogue and audio across scene transitions. The screenplay sets up the 1953 context with a montage of newsreel footage -- Marilyn Monroe, Joe McCarthy, the atomic spies the Rosenbergs -- set off against Frank Sinatra's optimistic pop tune Young at Heart. The uplifting conclusion making Howard a hero in handcuffs is perfectly acceptable, even though few if any Blacklist victims experienced anything so positive. Essayist Julie Kirgo cites the Sinatra song again: "Fairy tales can come true".

      The end credits list several actors and creatives by name and the year they were blacklisted: Martin Ritt, Zero Mostel, Herschel Bernardi, Lloyd Gough, Joshua Shelley. In 1952 actor Lloyd Gough won a featured role in the Technicolor RKO picture Rancho Notorious, but was blacklisted before it was released. Howard Hughes solved that problem by having Gough's name and his character removed from the credits and cast list.

      Twilight Time's Blu-ray of The Front is a perfect encoding of this entertaining favorite. I've previously seen it only flat on cable viewings, and Michael Chapman's widescreen images are very handsome.

      Composer Dave Grusin's work has its own Isolated Score Track. An original trailer is present as well. I listened to and enjoyed the commentary with actress Andrea Marcovicci and Twilight Time's Nick Redman and Julie Kirgo. Ms. Kirgo's engaging essay presents plenty of interesting information, such as the fact that Walter Bernstein based Howard Prince's three writer clients on himself, Abraham Polonsky and Arnold Manoff.

      It's nice to see Woody Allen play a genuine moral hero for once; his committee testimony that finishes the film is a fine piece of work with only the slightest comic payoff. I recommend that readers check out the courageous and daring real testimony of actor Lionel Stander, as recorded in Eric Bentley's eye-opening book Thirty Years of Treason: Stander feeds the committee questioning him some really effective double-talk as well as sound arguments why their Inquisition is a farce. He doesn't name names. As one might expect, the actor was put on the list of un-friendlies and "informally" stripped of his right to practice his profession.

      By Glenn Erickson

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  1. New Books

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    • Elizabeth and Michael

    • By Donald Bogle

      One of the country's leading authorities on popular entertainment presents an eye-opening and unique biography of two larger-than-life legends--Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson--and their unlikely yet enduring friendship.

      From the moment Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson met, they were hooked on each other. He peered into her violet eyes and was transfixed; she, in turn, was dazzled by his talent, intrigued by his sweet-tempered childlike personality, and moved by the stories she had already heard about his troubled early life. Soon a deep friendship blossomed, unexpectedly unlike anything either had ever experienced. Through thick and thin, through their various emotional upheavals, through the peaks and valleys of their careers, through their personal traumas and heartaches, through the unending health issues and extreme physical pain that each experienced, and through the glare of the often merciless public spotlight, their bond held them together, and their love for each other endured.


      Donald Bogle skillfully recreates the moving narrative of Taylor and Jackson's experiences together and their intense emotional connection, without shying away from the controversies that swirled around them. Through interviews with friends and acquaintances of the two stars, as well as anonymous but credible sources, Elizabeth and Michael emerges as a tender, intimate look at this famous "odd couple" and a treasure to their millions of fans.

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    • Robert Wagner's I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES: Memories of Hollywood's Legendary Actresses

    • By Robert Wagner and Scott Eyman

      In a career that has spanned over sixty years, Robert Wagner has witnessed the twilight of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the rise of television, becoming a beloved star in both film and TV. During this time, he became acquainted, both professionally and socially, with many of the greatest female screen personalities of all time. I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES: Memories of Hollywood's Legendary Actresses (On-sale: 11/15/16) by Robert Wagner, with co-author Scott Eyman, provides an intimate and revealing account of the charisma of these women on film, why they became stars, and how their specific emotional and dramatic chemistries affected the choices they made both as actresses and as women.

      I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES offers a privileged look behind the scenes at some of the most well-known women in show business. Among Wagner's subjects are Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Gloria Swanson, Norma Shearer, Loretta Young, Joan Blondell, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, Dorothy Lamour, Debra Paget, Jean Peters, Linda Darnell, Betty Hutton, Raquel Welch, Glenn Close, and the two actresses whom he ultimately married, Natalie Wood and Jill St. John. In addition to offering perceptive commentary on these women, Wagner examines topics like the strange alchemy of the camera--how it can transform the attractive into the stunning, and vice-versa--and how the introduction of color brought a new erotic charge to movies--one that enabled these actresses to become aggressively sexual beings in a way that that black and white films had only hinted at.


      Robert Wagner is the star of such films as A Kiss Before Dying, The Longest Day, The Pink Panther, and most recently, the Austin Powers franchise. On television, he starred in It Takes a Thief (with Fred Astaire), Switch (with Eddie Albert and Sharon Gless), and Hart to Hart (with Stefanie Powers). He has recently appeared on Two and a Half Men and NCIS. He is married to actress Jill St. John.

      Scott Eyman is the author of eleven books about the movies, including Lion of Hollywood: The Life of Louis B. Mayer (which the Wall Street Journal called one of the five best books ever written about Hollywood), Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille, and more recently, John Wayne: The Life and Legend.

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    • King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue

    • King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue tells the story of the making, release, and restoration of Universal's 1930 Technicolor extravaganza King of Jazz. Authors James Layton and David Pierce have uncovered original artwork, studio production files, behind-the-scenes photographs, personal papers, unpublished interviews, and a host of other previously unseen documentation. The book offers a richly illustrated narrative with broader context on the film's diverse musical and theatrical influences. The story concludes with an in-depth look at the challenges Universal overcame in restoring the film in 2016. Additionally, the book's appendix provides a comprehensive guide to all of the film's performers, music, alternate versions, and deleted scenes.

      King of Jazz was one of the most ambitious films ever to emerge from Hollywood. Just as movie musicals were being invented in 1929, Universal Pictures brought together Paul Whiteman, leader of the country's top dance orchestra; John Murray Anderson, director of spectacular Broadway revues; a top ensemble of dancers and singers; early Technicolor; and a near unlimited budget. The film's highlights include a dazzling interpretation of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," which Whiteman had introduced to the public in 1924; Walter Lantz's "A Fable in Jazz," the first cartoon in Technicolor; and Anderson's grand finale "The Melting Pot of Music," a visualization of popular music's many influences and styles. The film is not only a unique document of Anderson's theatrical vision and Whiteman's band at its peak, but also of several of America's leading performers of the late 1920s, including Bing Crosby in his first screen appearance, and the Russell Markert Dancers, who would soon become Radio City Music Hall's famous Rockettes.


      James Layton is Manager of the Museum of Modern Art's Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center. Prior to this he worked at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, where he curated two gallery exhibitions and the website Technicolor 100. Layton has also acted as Cataloguer and Workflow Coordinator at the East Anglian Film Archive in Norwich, UK, and is co-author of the Image Permanence Institute's informational poster Knowing and Protecting Motion Picture Film (2009).

      David Pierce is an independent film historian and archivist. He was formerly the Head of Preservation and Curator of the National Film and Television Archive at the British Film Institute. His articles have appeared in numerous journals, and his report on the survival of American silent feature films was published by the Library of Congress in 2013. He founded the Media History Digital Library, providing free online access to millions of pages of motion picture magazines and books.

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    • THE ESSENTIALS: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter

    • By Jeremy Arnold
      Forward by Robert Osborne

      Since its inception on Turner Classic Movies in 2001, The Essentials has become the ultimate for movie lovers to expand their knowledge of must-see cinema and discover or revisit landmark films that have had a lasting impact on audiences everywhere.

      Based on the hit series, THE ESSENTIALS by Jeremy Arnold showcases 52 must-see movies from the silent era to modern times. Readers can enjoy one film per week, like on the show, for a year of great viewing, or indulge in a movie-watching binge-fest. Each film is profiled with entertaining discourse on why it's an Essential, and running commentary is provided by TCM's Robert Osborne and Essentials guest hosts past and present: Sally Field, Drew Barrymore, Alec Baldwin, Rose McGowan, Carrie Fisher, Molly Haskell, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Pollack, and Rob Reiner.

      Featuring full-color and black-and-white photography of the greatest stars in movie history throughout, THE ESSENTIALS is the ultimate curated guide to 52 films that define the meaning of the word "classic."


      Jeremy Arnold, a writer and film historian, is the author of Lawrence of Arabia: The 50th Anniversary, a coffee-table book companion to that film's Blu-ray release. In addition to his work for numerous film trade publications, he has written over five hundred programming articles for the Turner Classic Movies website and contributed audio commentaries and historical essays to the DVD and Blu-ray releases of classic films.

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  1. DVD Reviews

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    • Dick Dinman & Eddie Muller Explore THE ASPHALT JUNGLE!

    • DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER EXPLORE "THE ASPHALT JUNGLE": Producer/host Dick Dinman welcomes back the "Czar of Noir" himself Eddie Muller as both celebrate the Criterion Collection's pristine release on Blu-ray of John Huston's THE ASPHALT JUNGLE which remains conceivably the greatest "heist/noir" masterwork ever committed to celluloid. (It's early in the year but its difficult to conceive that any home video outfit in the ensuing year will be able to top the astonishing "special features" included on this sensational disc.)

      PLUS: Show opener "Dick's Picks" salutes the Criterion Collection's recent Blu-ray releases of Robert Altman's McCABE & MRS. MILLER, Marlon Brando's ONE EYED JACKS and Howard Hawks' HIS GIRL FRIDAY.

      COMING SOON: DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER ARE "ON DANGEROUS GROUND"!

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman Salutes Air Hero Jimmy Stewart!

    • DICK DINMAN SALUTES WW2 AIR HERO JIMMY STEWART: The dual releases of Olive Films stunning Blu-ray incarnation of the James Stewart air power classic STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND as well as author Robert Matzen's awe inspiring book MISSION: JIMMY STEWART AND THE FIGHT FOR EUROPE, which for the first time ever reveals the truth about Stewart's dangerous bombing missions over Germany, give producer/host Dick Dinman ample motivation to salute the spectacular military career of screen icon Stewart and Dick is joined by returning guest Robert Matzen as they marvel at the courage, skill and fortitude of this certifiable American hero.

      The opening DICK'S PICKS segment salutes Olive Films and their latest Blu-ray releases of not only STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND but Orson Welles' MACBETH (two versions!), HOUDINI, THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI, VILLA RIDES. ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING and two new 4k releases of THE QUIET MAN and JOHNNY GUITAR (first time in original widescreen format on home video!).

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman & Eddie Muller Salute Ultra-Rare Noir Classics!

    • DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER SALUTE ULTRA-RARE NOIR CLASSICS: Producer/host Dick Dinman and Film Noir Foundation's Czar of Noir Eddie Muller wax poetic about the first-rate Blu-ray releases of three rarely seen film noir gems: Flicker Alley's dark and deadly duo of two heretofore thought virtually lost noir thrillers TOO LATE FOR TEARS and WOMAN ON THE RUN and KL Studio Classics 99 RIVER STREET about which Dick and Eddie have a rare major disagreement regarding the validity of what some consider the most memorable two scenes in the film.

      PLUS: A preview of KL Studio Classics upcoming noir Blu-ray release CRY OF THE CITY.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman & Kathleen Hughes Return to 3-D "Outer Space!"

    • DICK DINMAN & KATHLEEN HUGHES RETURN TO 3-D "OUTER SPACE": Kathleen Hughes, whose breakout appearance in Universal-International's first 3-D blockbuster inspired the media to dub her the "first feminine sensation created by 3-D" rejoins producer/host Dick Dinman to salute Universal Pictures Home Entertainment's wonderfully immersive 3-D Blu-ray release of IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (immaculately restored by the 3-D Archive) and shares priceless memories about her career from her very first film ROAD HOUSE (just released on Blu-ray by Kino's KL Studio Classics) to her time as a contract star at Universal and 3-D Archive's Robert Furmanek chats about the challenges inherent in restoring this certifiable sci-fi classic to its current eye-poppingly spectacular 3-D grandeur.
      PLUS: OPENING "DICK PICKS" SEGMENT SALUTES UNIVERSAL'S "THE MARX BROTHERS SILVER SCREEN BLU-RAY COLLECTION." AND A PREVIEW OF THE UPCOMING KINO RELEASE OF THE 3-D ARCHIVE'S "THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE".

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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  1. Press Release

Alan Ladd: The 1940s Collection DVD
$35.95
was $44.95
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir DVD
$10.47
was $14.98
Hard-boiled detective Sam Spade gets caught up in the murderous...
$14.96
was $19.98
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  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca