Tonight at 8 EST, TCM premieres its seven-part series, Moguls & Movie Stars: A History of Hollywood, and, all but simultaneously, Robert Cashill debuts Cineaste's "first-ever serial post, previewing each new episode before it airs."
Before examining the first episode, Peepshow Pioneers ("Interest picks up whenever the praised and reviled Thomas Edison, the Mark Zuckerberg of his day, takes someone to court for patent infringement"), Bob writes: "Venerable documentaries about the movie industry and its major players have long been a part of TCM's programming, including the work of Kevin Brownlow (who is receiving an honorary Oscar next month), Richard Schickel's Emmy-nominated The Men Who Made the Movies (1973), and even Dick Cavett's freewheeling interviews with the likes of Katharine Hepburn and Bette Davis. Its own movie star biographies can be compulsive viewing; two that linger in the memory are Garbo (2005), cowritten and codirected by Brownlow, and Lana Turner: A Daughter's Memoir (2001), with Cheryl Crane relating her homicide-tossed relationship with her mother. This, though, is the big one, tracing the evolution, rise, and fall of the studio system, from DW Griffith to Dennis Hopper. It even comes with its own touring multimedia exhibit, which is wending its way through a few cities until Nov 20. A nice bit of ballyhoo — you've heard Christopher Plummer narrate the show, now see one of his costumes from The Sound of Music. Needless to say this not one of Martin Scorsese's personal essays on the topic, nor will any Godardian digressions be entertained. This is a foursquare, meat-and-potatoes approach."
Michael Korda, nephew of Alexander, opens his preview for the Daily Beast with one of the longest but also one of the most fun disclaimers you're likely to see for some time. A sample: "My aunt was Merle Oberon, and I attended boarding school in Switzerland with Warner LeRoy and Irving Thalberg Jr, my uncle Zoltan made The Jungle Book and Sahara (the latter starring Humphrey Bogart, the former starring Sabu) in Hollywood, and my father won the 1940 Academy Award for Art Direction, for The Thief of Baghdad, which was presented to him by Darryl F Zanuck. I cannot therefore claim to be an altogether impartial audience or a disinterested bystander." As for TCM's series, "If your family was part of the movie business, then watching Moguls & Movie Stars is like looking at the family photo album, hilarious to members of the family, numbingly boring to those outside the family circle." And yet, if watching it is half as fun as reading him write about it, he may have misjudged us outsiders, at least those of us with a penchant for Hollywood history.
Movie Morlock suzidoll isn't a disinterested party, either. Not only does she blog for TCM, she's also written four biographies for the Moguls site. But she had to hone those pieces so severely that she's decided not to let all that research go to waste and uses her entry today to expand on the lives of Sam Warner, Louis B Mayer, Jesse L Lasky, and Irving Thalberg.
For the New York Times, Jonathan L Fischer talks with Jon Wilkman, the series' director, writer and producer, who tells him, "It's a history of Hollywood power — who had it, how'd they get it, what they did with it and how'd they lose it."
Meantime, a few more new "Webtakes" from Cineaste: Jared Rapfogel on Frederick Wiseman's Boxing Gym, Leonard Quart on Mike Leigh's and Another Year and Robert Sklar on Alex Gibney's Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer.
New issues: Artforum, featuring Tony Rayns on Obayashi Nobuhiko's House, and Camera Lucida, with, among other features, Mariana Hristova's interview with Estonian director Veiko Ounpuu (The Temptation of St Tony) and Neil Young's review of Pietro Marcello's first full-length documentary La Bocca del lupo (The Mouth of the Wolf).
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