The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

The Art of Cinema #127


The Bowery
(Raoul Walsh, 1933)

A Is For Arbus #15


Jacqueline Susann and husband Irving Mansfield (1969)

Great Moments in Moxie #6


Ballot Box Bunny
(Friz Freleng, 1951)

The Cool Hall of Fame #40


George MacDonald Fraser

They Were Collaborators #136


Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly

Before and After #28:
Clark Gable

Before

After

The Hitchcock/Truffaut Tapes #4


In its first few minutes, Part Four of The Hitchcock/Truffaut Tapes seems headed in an extremely intriguing direction, as Alfred Hitchcock speaks of the lull his career fell into after two of his better films from the early 1930s, Number Seventeen and Rich and Strange, met with commercial failure. He claims not to have been entirely aware of this decline at the time, however; largely because, to hear him tell it, he'd never lost faith in his fundamental skill as a filmmaker. In the end he was rescued from the Hell of projects such as 1933's Waltzes in Vienna through the intercession of Michael Balcon, who'd produced a number of his films in the Silent era. Balcon, he says, refocused his skill in a more useful direction; putting him on the path that would lead to his mid-30s masterpieces The Man Who Knew Too Much, Sabotage, The 39 Steps and Secret Agent. What's intriguing is the tone of gratitude he displays in speaking of his debt to Balcon. He seems on the verge of a rare expression of emotion . . .

And then François Truffaut (who up till this moment has been silent) jumps in with both feet to ask Hitchcock if The Man Who Knew Too Much was really based in part on some incident involving Winston Churchill.

Terrific.

After this classic of cinephile prioritizing grinds everything to a halt, the excerpt, sad to say, is pure Snoresville. Truffaut confuses the British and American versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much, Hitchcock wearily trots out his warhorse theories on screen Suspense (even pointing out by way of understatement that this is not the first time he's gone into this rap), Helen Scott translates with her mouth full (I think they were eating lunch during this part . . . but one never knows), and the Master of Suspense concludes by complaining about Production Designers who think like Interior Decorators.

Alida Valli Dead at 85


Alida Valli, who possessed the too-often separate graces of extraordinary beauty and extraordinary talent, passed away in Rome on Saturday at the age of 85. I could have used images from a dozen or more films to mark this occasion (not the least of which being the iconic final scene of Reed's The Third Man; which you'll find in a preceding post), but this image from Luchino Visconti's Senso will more than suffice for that purpose.

Here is the Obituary from today's New York Times.

Seminal Image #416


Oltre l'amore
(Carmine Gallone; 1940)

When Legends Gather #112


Alida Valli and Jean Marais

Artists in Action #58


Alida Valli embraces a goldfish bowl

Seminal Image #415


The Third Man
(Carol Reed; 1949)

When Legends Gather #111


Ed Sanders, Tom Waits, Phil Ochs and David Blue share a private joke at a Sanders poetry event in New York City in 1975.

Great Moments in Moxie #5


Ted Williams goes to bat for his favourite soft drink (until they came up with Ted's Root Beer, that is).

Seminal Image #414


Frau Im Mond
(Woman in the Moon)
(Fritz Lang; 1929)

(Note: lunar landscape by German animator Oskar Fischinger.)

A Is For Arbus #14


Tiny Tim (July, 1968)

I picked this image in commemoration of Rhino Handmade's release of God Bless Tiny Tim: The Complete Reprise Recordings. Available only for a limited time through this special offer.

Do it for Miss Vicki.

Artists in Action #57


Paul McCartney practices

The Cool Hall of Fame #39


Eugene V. Debs

Great Madmen of the 20th Century #17


Kim Fowley

They Were Collaborators #135


Kitten Natividad and Russ Meyer

The Art of War #16

Housekeeping Matter #15:
Quo Vadis the Updates, Baby?

Just thought I'd set down a few words of apology to our regular visitors for the general absence of new content the last week or so. You see, I've been staring down the barrel of a writing deadline for the last couple of weeks, and . . . deadlines are simply not my friend. Consequently, I've had little time for anything more than errant, perfunctory additions.

But fret not, dear visitors. Once I've delivered of myself this latest masterwork in the canon of film lterature, a regular stream of wonders (including more Hitchcock/Truffaut installments) will issue forth from these pages.

Until then, I thank thee for thy patience.

Tom

Artists in Action #56


Agnes Moorehead emotes

Before and After #27:
Delmore Schwartz

Before

After

Artists in Action #55


Luchino Visconti orders take-out.

Before and After #26
Clare Boothe Luce

Before

After

A Who's Who of Swinging London #3


Brian Epstein

El Cine Del Oro #23


Maria Magdalena
(Miguel Contreras Torres, 1946)

The Art of Cinema #126


Bombshell
(Victor Flemming, 1933)

Seminal Image #413


Human Wreckage
(John Griffith Wray, 1923)

When Legends Gather #110


Harry Houdini and Theodore Roosevelt

Fun at Bohemian Grove #8


The Bohemians stage another theatrical (1926)

The Art of the Weekly #1


Colliers
(vol. XLVII, #10; May 27, 1911)

Before and After #25:
Emma Goldman

Before

After

Artists in Action #54
They Were Collaborators #134


Dean Martin and John Wayne cook pasta.

(vast thanks to Jeff Duncanson for this Hawksian image)

The Cool Hall of Fame #38


Wilkie Collins

The Art of Jazz #24


Lullabies for Losers
(Ethel Ennis)
(Jubilee; 1956)

Seminal Image #412


Sama soruja
(Summer Soldiers)
(Hiroshi Teshigahara; 1972)

The Golden Age of Prurience #32


Kitten
(vol. 2, #4; May, 1969)

Artists in Action #53


Roger Daltrey plays a record

The Art of Cinema #125


A Good Time for a Dime
(Dick Lundy; 1941)

Seminal Image #411


Corruption of the Damned
(George Kuchar; 1965)

When Legends Gather #109


Odetta and Bob Fass

(if you don't know who Bob Fass is . . . you should)

The Art of the WPA #4

Seminal Image #410


Footlight Parade
(Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley; 1933)

The Art of the Big Top #4