Tagged: Citizen Kane

Marc Alan Fishman: And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth

The Joy of Tech comic

A few weeks back, an esteemed colleague of mine (oddly enough this time, not Mike Gold…) pitched a debate for my podcast: “Have nerds won? And if they have… is it a good thing?” Well, it was a great idea, and the debate on my show was fairly one sided. Now, after plenty of time to steep on the topic, I can plainly state my opinion; we have, and it is.


JOHN OSTRANDER: Casablanca At 70 – As Time Goes By

AS I SAID LAST WEEK AND THE WEEK BEFORE  AND THE WEEK BEFORE THAT – WARNING: I’m assuming that people reading this have seen the movie and thus will be fine with my discussing elements of the plot. If you’re one of those who haven’t watched the movie, do yourself a favor and DON’T READ THIS. See the movie instead and have your own experience with it. Trust me. You’ll be glad you did. If you need a plot synopsis, imdb has a good one here

This is the fourth and final installment in my examination of the classic Warner Bros. film, Casablanca. Not that I couldn’t go on (and on and on) about it further but I figure there are limits to the patience of all of you out there and I thank you for indulging me thus far in looking at one of my own favorite films.

Possibly yours as well. Roger Ebert has noted that, while Citizen Kane is generally respected more as the better film, Casablanca may be better loved, probably showing up on more all time best lists.

One of the amazing things to me is,that as it was made, most of those working on Casablanca didn’t think much of it. The principle actors were not crazy about it and Ingrid Bergman had a legitimate complaint in that, as production started, no one knew with whom Ilsa was going to go – to Rick or to her husband, Victor Lazlo. By accounts, Claude Rains referred to it as “a piece of crap,” which is startling to me considering the number of classic lines he gets. Paul Heinreid, playing Victor Lazlo, fumed about his part because he felt it would undermine his viability as a romantic lead in other films. Instead, as critic Pauline Kael noted, it defined him as a very stiff actor. Ingrid Bergman found him to be a prima donna.

The script has been used by many people, including myself, as a prime exhibit of how to tell a story. Robert McKee in his amazing book, Story, uses it as an important example in story construction. Yet, there are three scriptwriters credited on the film, a fourth unaccredited writer, and the producer, Hal Wallis, came up with the closing line! What a writing hodge-podge!

Casablanca started with an unproduced, unpublished play called “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” by Murray Bennet and Joan Alison. It was bought by Warner Bros. and re-named Casablanca to play off of a previous hit for the studio, Algiers. Hal Wallis came on to produce it and, to my mind, that was key. Wallis superbly did one of a producer’s primary functions – hiring the right people for the right jobs.

He hired Michael Curtiz to direct and brought in the Epstein Brothers – Julius and Phillip – as the principal screenwriters. After the attack of Pearl Harbor, they left the job to help Frank Capra in his series Why We Fight and Howard Koch was brought in to assist, although there are those who claim little or no work of his was used in the film. Casey Robinson, who was unaccredited, added important scenes of Ilsa and Rick in Paris. The Epsteins returned to finish the script.

The Breen Office – the Hollywood Censor – had some problems with the script and so Ilsa and Rick’s love affair in Paris is never shown to be sexual (although we all know it was) nor is Captain Renault trading exit visas for sexual favors (although we all know he did). Ilsa, after all, was a married woman, although she thought her husband was dead. I think both story elements are stronger for their not being explicitly stated. Trust to the audience’s imagination: it’s bound to be filthier than anything shown.

What is also interesting to me is that Claude Rains’ character, Captain Renault, is gay. That certainly wouldn’t have been stated but, despite Renault’s compulsive womanizing, I think it’s there. In describing Rick to Ilsa the first time Renault meets her, he says “if I were a woman, I would be in love with Rick.” I think Renault is also deeply in the closet; the above described womanizing is his attempts to hide his homosexuality, especially from himself. He defends Rick to the Nazis, he covers for him, and, in the end, walks away into the night with him. For me, Renault’s sexual orientation just adds another layer to an already fascinating character.

The film is chock full of fascinating characters, right down to small parts like Sascha, the bartender, Carl, the waiter, the jilted Yvonne and on and on. Only three members of the large cast were born in America: Bogart, Dooley Wilson (Sam), and Joy Page as the Bulgarian newlywed Annina Brandel (fun fact – Page was also the step-daughter of WB studio head Jack Warner). The others were all foreign born and many were refugees from Nazi oppression in Europe, which adds to the film’s authenticity. They lived the parts they were playing.

The film was fairly successful when it first appeared and it won three Oscars: scriptwriting, direction, and best picture. Famously, Jack Warner leapt up when the latter award was announced before Hal Wallis could and claimed the prize. It so infuriated Wallis that he would soon quit Warner Bros.

The film would become more highly regarded as time went by with many of the classic icon shots and posters of Bogart coming from it. I have watched it over and over again and gotten something new from each viewing. Its lines are endlessly quoted because they continue to reverberate. It’s romantic, it’s suspenseful, and it has great characters. It was very much a film of its time but it has become a film for all time.

I would love to do something half as good. I’ll keep working at it.

Go watch a great movie. Go watch Casablanca.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell, R.N., CNOR, C.G.


Happy 69th birthday, Bugs Bunny!

Happy 69th birthday, Bugs Bunny!

On this day in 1940, A Wild Hare was released in theaters, which was written by Rich Hogan, animated by Virgil Ross, and directed by Tex Avery. It was in this cartoon that Bugs Bunny first emerged from his rabbit hole to ask Elmer Fudd, now a hunter, “What’s up, Doc?” It was also the first meeting of the two characters, and the first cartoon where Mel Blanc uses the version of Bugs voice that would become famous worldwide.

The film would go on to get an Academy Award nomination for best short film, alongside Puss Gets The Boot, which introduced Tom and Jerry. Both lost to Citizen Kane.

National Film Registry Recognizes SF, Fantasy

National Film Registry Recognizes SF, Fantasy

Every year, the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry names 25 films for historic preservation.  This year’s list was announced yesterday and we applaud the inclusion of several genre offerings including The Invisible Man and the first Terminator film.  The Perils of Pauline, the first movie serial, makes the list and is seminal for the way it influenced moviemakers and storytellers, notably comic book writers, ever since.

Here’s a look at this year’s list:

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
John Huston’s brilliant crime drama contains the recipe for a meticulously planned robbery, but the cast of criminal characters features one too many bad apples. Sam Jaffe, as the twisted mastermind, uses cash from corrupt attorney Emmerich (Louis Calhern) to assemble a group of skilled thugs to pull off a jewel heist. All goes as planned — until an alert night watchman and a corrupt cop enter the picture. Marilyn Monroe has a memorable bit part as Emmerich’s "niece."

Deliverance (1972)
Four Atlanta professionals (Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty, Ronnie Cox and Jon Voight) head for a weekend canoe trip — and instead meet up with two of the more memorable villains in film history (Billy McKinney and Herbert Coward) in this gripping Appalachian "Heart of Darkness." With dazzling visual flair, director John Boorman and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond infuse James Dickey’s novel with scenes of genuine terror and frantic struggles for survival battling river rapids — and in the process create a work rich with fascinating ambiguities about "civilized" values, urban-versus-backwoods culture, nature, and man’s supposed taming of the environment.


On This Day: You Wanna Side-Step Outside?

On This Day: You Wanna Side-Step Outside?

When’s the last time you got into a fight?

The last time you took it outside, socked the sonofabitch, readjusted your tie and went about your business – where was it? In a bar? How about in a ballroom?

Today in 1931, two film big-shots exchanged blows at the Hollywood Biltmore, in the middle of a dance. The fight was between prolific writer Herman J. Mankiewicz, famous for writing the screenplay for Citizen Kane and rewriting The Wizard of Oz, and executive David O. Selznick, later producer of Gone with the Wind.

What spawned it? Who knows… Maybe Selznick insulted the cowardly lion.

TV REVIEW: Flash Gordon

TV REVIEW: Flash Gordon

Okay, I’ll get this over with real fast. Sci-Fi Channel’s new Flash Gordon show really sucks. I sat through the 90-minute pilot, and I sat through the next episode. No more. Life is too short.

Here’s the first tip-off: Flash Gordon creator Alex Raymond is not in the opening credits. Hell, he got better (far better) treatment in that campy movie from 1980. Say what you will about that movie, compared to this waste of time that movie was [[[Citizen Kane in Outer Space]]].

Second tip-off: No rocketships. Rocketships are not “dated.” In fact, we launched one into space with a whole bunch of people in it right when this show debuted. Doing Flash Gordon without rocketships is like doing The Lone Ranger without horses. Hi-yo, moccasins!

Third tip-off: They only refer to Dr. Zarkov by name once in the 90-minute pilot and once in the subsequent episode. That’s crazy. Dr. Zarkov is to Flash Gordon what Dr. Watson is to [[[Sherlock Holmes]]].

Mind you, if there were a real Hans Zarkov, he’d sue. The real Zarkov was a genius; this guy is a bumbling fool. The real Zarkov was driven mad by the fact that he could save the Earth from destruction but had no way to do it; once Flash appeared on the scene and they got to Mongo (in their rocketship!) he got better.

Fourth tip-off: No longer merciless, Ming is a dick. He’s about as threatening as [[[Garfield]]] after a place of lasagna. I understand they wanted to update the character – these guys should have taken a cue from the way Russell Davies updated The Master on Doctor Who. Ming wouldn’t even make it as a member of George Bush’s cabinet, and from the first (and for me, only) 150 minutes of the series, he’s not even that competent. Plus, he looks about seven weeks older than his daughter.

So here’s my question. Why the hell did these people pay King Features for the license? They could have saved themselves a bundle and called this limp and lame pile of fly-feed “Bill Jones.”

If you’re a fan of Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon or of the 1930s serials, avoid this teevee waste like Chinese toothpaste.

Artwork copyright King Features Syndicate, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Happy 67th birthday, Bugs Bunny!

Happy 67th birthday, Bugs Bunny!

On this day in 1940, A Wild Hare was released in theaters, which was written by Rich Hogan, animated by Virgil Ross, and directed by Tex Avery. It was in this cartoon that Bugs Bunny first emerged from his rabbit hole to ask Elmer Fudd, now a hunter, “What’s up, Doc?" It was also the first meeting of the two characters, and the first cartoon where Mel Blanc uses the version of Bugs voice that would become famous worldwide.

The film would go on to get an Academy Award nomination for best short film, alongside Puss Gets The Boot, which introduced Tom and Jerry. Both lost to Citizen Kane.

Citizen Kane anniversary

Citizen Kane anniversary

Sixty-six years ago today, Citizen Kane premiered in New York.

We mention this because not only is it one of the greatest films of all time, nor because it’s been the basis for everything from Andy Helfer and Kyle Baker’s Shadow Annual #2 to the unproduced screenplay for I, Robot by Harlan Ellison, nor even that without Orson Welles, we don’t have that great scene in Ed Wood or even the Brain or possibly the radio version of The Shadow.

No, because after two thirds of a century, we can now officially dispense with SPOILER WARNINGS and talk freely about the plot of the film and its amazing ending.

And man, I would never have suspected that Rosebud was really Luke Skywalker’s father.*

So let’s raise a glass and toast, Jedediah, to love on our own terms.

And if you don’t want to watch Kane tonight, watch RKO 281 instead. A great behind the scenes story, and everybody in the cast is great– yes, even Melanie Griffith.

* You think I’m kidding. Orson Welles was actually considered for the voice of Darth Vader.

MIKE GOLD: The kids ARE alright

MIKE GOLD: The kids ARE alright

There’s an ad campaign on radio right now demanding that all movies that show people smoking cigarettes be handed an R rating. This is based upon the perception that despite parents’ best and most consistent efforts, kids who see somebody smoking a cigarette in a motion picture will turn into hopeless addicts.

This is amusing, as the baby boomers that are making these noises represent the first generation to turn their backs on smoking. Of course, we baby boomers were raised on cigarette commercials, our teevee heroes smoked like chimneys, our movie stars didn’t need fogged up lenses to hide the wrinkle lines, and, oh yeah, our parents and our grandparents were complete tobacco fiends.

Virtually all of our finest movies would have to be reclassified as R-rated. Casablanca, Citizen Kane, the Marx Brothers movies … I think about 95% of the movies the American Film Institutes’ Top 100 list wouldn’t make the cut. I’m not sure about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – why do you think they called him Dopey?

So instead of actually raising our young with standards and values, it’s easier to simply have somebody else erase history for us. Forget about learning from our mistakes, let’s just stick our head in the sand and pass a law demanding everybody else does the same.

Here’s a fact. Parents want somebody else to raise their children for them. Offended? If I had said “Too many parents want somebody else to raise their children for them” would you still be offended? In the 1950s we looked at comic books said “somebody should stop kids from reading that.”  Then we heard rock music and said “somebody should stop kids from listening to that.” Then the villains became long hair, video games, rap music… it will never end.

The problem is, we have millions and millions of baby boomers who read comics and/or listened to rock who have grown up to be productive, or at least normal, citizens. Kinda fat, though. Maybe our parents should have spent their time bitching about Dr. Pepper and Froot Loops.

Parents, raise your children yourselves. Leave our history and our culture to fend for themselves; they do a great job without interference from lazy busybodies.

As for our children, well, they’ll make some mistakes. That’s their job. Be there to help them learn from those mistakes and remember, 99.5% of them will survive just like you did.

The Who said it best, and they said it 42 years ago: The Kids Are Alright.

Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.com. He watches a lot of old movies and he does not smoke. So there.