Luckett explores the cultural discourse surrounding Fantasia at the time of its release, finding mixed reviews of the animated feature film. Positive reception focused on the film's master animation techniques and somewhat abstract narrative structure, while negative criticism came mainly from representatives of the music world who saw classical music and film as incompatible - the former being art and the latter being a "distraction." The author also analyzes the marketing and distribution strategies that made Fantasia a spectacle. Disney positioned the film as a "prestige picture" by releasing it as a roadshow, traveling around the country visiting large theaters in major cities. This strategy of infrequent screenings served popular as well as technical purposes, creating suspense/"buzz" but also allowing time for theaters to install the necessary equipment for the film's multi-channel audio "Fantasound" technology. However, this distribution method also kept the film from earning enough revenue to make up for its enormous budget. As a reslt, the film went on to be re-released many times over the next several decades. Luckett examines the conditions around these re-releases as well as their individual receptions, finding a "double connotation" in the contemporary United States. Some products (e.g. home video copies of the film) signal the film as a children's/family amusement, while other products (e.g. the Collector's Edition tapes, classical music soundtrack, lithograph) associate the film with art. The author concludes that contemporary (1990-91) marketing strategies for Fantasia re-releases mirror those for its original release: both focus on the rarity of the chance to see the film.
This article is important because it represents a kind of meta-analysis of the releases and receptions of Fantasia over time. The author acknowledges the hostility the film originally received from the musical community and argues that Fantasia has consistently been marketed as a rare event. My thesis uses similar information as explored in this article and expands on the author's conclusion by also taking into account how temporal distance from the original film affects its interpretation as art versus mass commercial commodity. While Luckett does mention the "double connotation" of the film in recent years regarding its relationship to art, this aspect of the article is mainly focused on the marketing techniques involved to produce such an effect. In this way the author's explanation here provides a more complete picture of how Fantasia has come to be viewed as art over the years.
Luckett, Moya. "Fantasia: Cultural Constructions of Disney's 'Masterpiece'" Disney Discourse: Producing the Magic Kingdom. Ed. Eric Smoodin. New York, NY: Routledge, 1994. 214-36. Google Books. 22 Nov. 2008 <http://http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=wpxzl1lcr30c&oi=fnd&pg=pr9&dq=fantasia+disney&ots=fdmktnkohv&sig=hx9e44_3n-ovwcn1ikbssvzu1vy#ppr6,m1>.
This 1931 film review heaps praise on The Public Enemy, specifically commending James Cagner and Edward Woods for strong performances in their respective roles. The review also discusses director William Wellman’s contribution to character development.
The review places a significant emphasis on Cagner’s performance, claiming that it is “magnificently acted” and “uncompromisingly realistic in his portrayal of the youthful killer.” The review also offers a character analysis of Cagner’s Powers, writing that although Powers is an unlikeable character, he “stands out in bold relief.” Essentially, the review declares the character of Tom Powers to be a success, and attributes it to a collusion of Cagner and Wellman’s talents. Wellman shaped a sharp, multi-dimensional gangster with his directing, allowing Cagner to bring Powers to life with his “magnetic” acting and interpretation.
The review also notes that Edward Woods was “admirably cast” in the secondary role of Matt Doyle, and praises the performances of the film’s other stars, including Leslie Fenton and Jean Harlow.
I feel that this review is particularly important because it offers an evaluation of how the film’s actors served their respective roles. In my annotation of Wellman’s biography, I note that Wellman encouraged James Cagner to take the lead role of Powers, instead of playing the more muted part of Matt Doyle. This review praises how well-suited Cagner’s acting style was for his part, in addition to how aptly Edward Woods portrayed Powers’ second hand man. As a result, this review essentially confirms that Wellman’s instinctual decision to re-cast the main roles was in the right.
And, because the review claims that the strong acting was so central to the film, it allows me to make the argument that Wellman’s interference with production decisions positively contributed to the overall success of the film. Wellman’s decision to change the roles created believable characters with more depth and substance, uniquely allowing American viewers to connect and empathize with the gangsters.
Call#: Van Pelt Library--4 East--Temporary Location Annenberg PN1998.A3 W467 1983
Thompson points out that Wellman did not shy away from making drastic changes to the screen play, which was inspired by the gangster novel Beer and Blood. For instance, Wellman “loved using children to introduce his characters” (111), and insisted that the opening scene portray moments from the gangsters’ childhood. In shooting those scenes, Wellman used a combination of early 20th century stock shots of Chicago and new footage, in order to create a credible visual scene.
Most notably, Thompson points out that in directing the film, Wellman drew inspiration from his personal life. This is particularly true for the film’s infamous “grapefruit scene,” in which Tom Powers smashes a grapefruit in the face of his girlfriend. According to Thompson, Wellman was in the midst of his unstable marriage to Marjorie Crawford. Thompson recounts how each morning, the couple ate a grapefruit breakfast together, and Wellman would imagine throwing the food at her. Wellman added the grapefruit scene to the film in order to vicariously live through Powers’ actions.
Furthermore, Thompson points out that initially, Cagney was not cast for the role of Tom Powers. He was originally granted the secondary role of Matt Doyle. However, Wellman, acting on instinct and at the urging of a number of writers, including production chief Darryl F. Zanuck, became a major advocate for making Cagney into the story’s protagonist.
This excerpt is particularly fundamental to my argument. Significantly, Wellman was responsible for putting Cagney into the role of Tom Powers. As noted in other annotations, Cagney is credited with adding an intensity to The Public Enemy that transcends the screen. Without this last minute switch, the role of the main gangster would be far less memorable.
Additionally, as Thompson notes, Wellman played a heavy hand in shaping the film, taking great care to add a sense of legitimacy and believability to the gangster drama. The ability of Americans to identify with Tom Powers can be largely attributed to Wellman’s efforts. His nuanced editing engendered the empathy that viewers felt for the film’s characters.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1995.9.G3 M37 2002
Mason’s piece explains the visual style of The Public Enemy, in addition to the film’s representation of the Hollywood gangster. She analyzes the editing, production, and acting components of the movie, contrasting The Public Enemy to other well known films, particularly Little Caesar.
Mason emphasizes the striking and shocking nature of a number of scenes in the film. She specifically mentions the grapefruit scene, in which Cagney shoves a grapefruit into his girlfriend’s face after they begin to argue over drinking in the morning. The scene incited social and public controversy at the time of its release, but also remains “one of the best remembered scenes in gangster cinema” (17). Mason remarks that the film brims with other memorable scenes, including the final one, in which Powers’ body – bandaged tightly to a stiff board – topples over in his family’s entrance way.
Mason discusses the production of The Public Enemy, noting that its style is fairly “naturalistic” (16). This is largely due to the crisp editing that generates a strong connection between each scene. A significant portion of the film is also shot outdoors, allowing natural light to dominate each scene. The characters, bathed in this natural light, seem more approachable and normal than gangsters in other crime films, such as Little Caesar.
This piece is particularly central to my argument, because it enumerates the reasons why Americans related to the gangster protagonist in The Public Enemy more so than other films. As Mason notes, The Public Enemy is filled with striking, memorable scenes. The unforgettable nature of the scenes allows the moments to resonate with the audience. Viewers are emotionally and mentally impacted by the movie, and are consequently more able to connect and empathize with the characters. Additionally, Mason’s mention of the naturalistic production of the film – evident in the use of natural light and sense of continuity between scenes – further contributes to the audience’s ability to connect with characters and identify with those living in a world of crime.
Lewis, John. Hollywood V. Hardcore: How the Struggle Over Censorship Saved the Modern Film Industry. New York and London: New York UP, 2000. 135-191.Chapter 4, titled Hollywood v. Soft Core, examines arguably the most influential year of film censorship to date. In this year, MPAA president Jack Valenti issued a press release to stating that a new production code/ move rating system would be put into place. The same system is still used today to rate films. The chapter does a good job of outlining the events of how this code came into place. The author explains how the "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" was denied by the PCA but began production anyway, anticipating that change was to come. It talks about the controversy over the language such as "screw" and "hump the hostess" were debated and the issues Valenti faced with content regulation. In the end of the meeting, Warner Brothers appealed the PCA's preliminary ruling to deny Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and the film was released. Because of the films amazing success, it marked a point in history where the industry was beginning to understand that the Production Code was a dated system. The film was released with a warning stating "for adults only" and ranked third in the box office list in 1966 behind two other mature-themed pictures. This chapter is very useful and entertaining in its explanation of the pressures and challenges that Valenti faced when negotiating the new rating system. It offers a very in depth perspective and takes the reader on a film by film journey of the controversy.
The books focus on Bonnie and Clyde begins with Robert Benton and David Newman slow and gradual formation of the Bonnie and Clyde Treatment in 1963. Their positions at Esquire Magazine afforded them sufficient time to leave work and visit the museum of Modern Art where they incessantly watched Hitchcock films in the museums retrospective. The two wrote the treatment with every intention that it would break down the norms of current cinema in the U.S. and establish a more European, art oriented style. The two writers were heavily influenced by the French new wave, and modeled their treatment and script after that style, targeting Francois Truffaut as their ideal director and almost part of the very script.
Truffaut however had his eyes set on Fahrenheit 451 as his first American project and turned it down, but recommended it to Jon Luc Godard, another one of Benton and Newman’s New Wave idols. Godard, however, had an entirely different vision for the project and was subsequently removed from the project, both of his own will and the production team’s. After Godard’s disappointing departure, Benton and Newman seemed to lose hope in their project and started to write Broadway musicals together.
The book then switched to following Warren Beatty after 1965 when he bought the option for the Bonnie and Clyde screenplay for $75,000. After trying to get Truffaut and Godard to direct the film failed yet again for Beatty, he finally convinced Arthur Penn to agree to the project in 1966, after the director had previously turned it down three times already.
The book provides valuable insight into the birth and assembly of Bonnie and Clyde and shows the inner workings of the films production. From Benton and Newman’s American French New Wave dream, to Beatty and Penn’s reworking of the script and groundbreaking final project that eventually led to the Oscar Nomination in 1967 and years of influence.
The book shows the hectic context of Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’s production and the difficulties at the time to shoot an independent Black movie. With a florid language and sense of humor, Van Peebles provides a view “from within” on the conception, financing, directing, editing and distribution of his movie. Thus replacing the production of the movie in its historical framework, the book comes back to the time when Black people were depicted only through Hollywood paternalistic and racist stereotypes and when everything had to be done for an African American to be completely in control of his work. It is also a testimony of a production phase that revealed itself to be as chaotic as the movie itself.
tagged production van_peebles by thomleon ...on 09-APR-08
Joel Super describes A Man For All Seasons as a documentary fiction, with recurring themes appealing to the director. He also elaborates on the film’s production and appeal.
Super notes that AMFAS was, in part, an independent film because Columbia felt the film had limited appeal. Thus, the film had a small budget and was filmed in England, much to Zimmerman’s delight because it limited influence from the studio. Zinnemann took advantage of location in shooting this film. He shoots in bucolic environments to help the audience gain a sense of the underpopulated world(168) and uses mise-en-scene techniques to emphasize the gravity of developments.
Though his works may seem to be genre films, he largely avoids them. Furthermore, Super argues that Zinnemann consistently had a broad appeal because of his respect for the audience and interest in the subject. Along those lines, filmgoers enjoyed that his films broke from the relentless and nonsensical innovation of his contemporaries and the strong acting and directing he offered.
More than anything else, this film reinforces Zinnemann’s interest in the theme of a “solitary individual of integrity against the corrupt and cowardly world” (158). Though More is like other Zinnemann protagonists in that he is left without friends, he is of the upper strata and suffers at the whim of a powerful bureaucracy. The success of the film draws on Zinnemann’s strength as a documentary fiction technician. Zinnemann casts unknowns in the lead parts, like Brando in The Men and Montgomery Clift in The Search to create an element of freshness due to his firm belief that stars detracted from the story. So to in A Man For All Seasons, Zinnemann cast relatively unknown actors, and they all give fresh, powerful performances.
Ultimately, A Man for All Seasons is a Zinnemann film that utilizes politics to provide a narrative to a story largely devoid of action, stars and genre appeal that engenders itself, largely with the power of precise and intelligent dialogue, to a large audience.