There are few things in life that tickle our fancies more than hearing from you, our faithful blog audience, in response to one or more of our Classic Movie treatises.
Hello, everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers back again. It’s amazing the amount of self serving junk email we get every day, so when genuine reader reaction to something we publish arrives electronically it’s cause for celebration.
We thought we’d spread the wealth today by discussing two recent missives.
The first from “Anonymous” takes us to task for asserting in our Sept. 22 blog that James Dean’s reputation as a screen actor is overblown, and that his performances in his three big movies — “Giant,” East of Eden” and “Rebel Without A Cause” — seem self conscious and dated today.
We won’t re-argue our case, which didn’t sit well with “Anonymous,” who writes:
“Your need to criticize (Dean) at all, when even if one-fifth of your observations contained enough truth within them to have caused any artist to have been swept into the forgotten dustbin of history, only heightens the profound nature of his singular genius to have lasted long enough to remain the object of your derision.
“Think about it if you can, because it gives away how very un-overblown he was, and how very, very wrong you are.”
We agree, Anonymous, that Dean’s legend certainly has lived on. His dying young at the start of what was considered a highly promising career helped. But obviously we disagree about his merits as an actor. Joe believes Dean’s early television work is excellent. Frank hasn’t seen enough of his tv stuff to comment.
But we still feel there is James Dean the legend versus James Dean the screen actor. The former is as remarkable as you suggest, but the latter isn’t as impressive. Thanks for writing in, and we’d certainly welcome hearing more from you about his “singular genius.”
Jessica P. (Comet Over Hollywood) liked our evocation of what a major studio looked like back in Hollywood’s classic heyday. The Sept. 23 blog was inspired by the recent publication of a lavishly illustrated coffee table book, “MGM — Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot.”
She writes: “MGM really was the best movie studio, I think.
“Sure, Fox, Paramount, Warner and RKO all have their big blockbuster movies they are known for, but I don’t think any of them (well maybe Warner in its own way) had the same power and amount of hits as MGM — the studio with ‘more stars than in the heavens.’
“It’s really a shame that the most powerful studio is the one that no longer exists.”
Actually, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer still exists, Jessica, in emaciated form. The company emerged from bankruptcy late last year, and assembled a new management team. It is currently involved in several co-productions not the least of which are a pair of James Bond sequels.
However, it might interest you to know that the Culver Studios, one of Hollywood’s oldest independent lots (13 sound stages), is now on the market for the asking price of $150 million. Built in 1918 by silent movie director-writer Thomas Ince, Culver Studios have been owned at various times by Cecil B. DeMille and successive RKO heads Joseph Kennedy and Howard Hughes.
Part of “Gone With the Wind” was shot on Culver Studios sets as was most of Orson Welles’ “Citizen Kane.” If we had a spare $150 million lying around, we’d immediately put in our bid.