Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Omar Khayyam ( 1957 )

"Could you and I alone with Fate conspire" 

In the 1940s and early 1950s colorfully costumed Arabian adventure films were all the rage. Universal studios started this string of sword and sandal spectacles in Hollywood when it released Arabian Nights, a modest box-office success starring Jon Hall. Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves (also with Jon Hall), The Prince Who Was a Thief, Son of Ali Baba, A Thousand and One Nights, and Sinbad soon followed. By 1957, however, the genre was beginning to wane in popularity and it was in this year that Paramount Pictures decided to release Omar Khayyam starring Cornel Wilde and Debra Paget. 

Omar Khayyam was a fictional biographical account of the life of the 11th century mathematician-poet who lived in Bagdad. Since very little details of his life are known, Barre Lyndon freely took the opportunity to weave a script which included sultans, thieves, intrigue, harems, and a beautiful princess. All the prime ingredients for an Arabian night fantasy. 

It begins with our hero, the wise poet, discovering that his beloved is to become the Shah's newest bride. Forlorn at the thought of losing her, he obtains a position at the palace as chief astronomer to be near her, and lo! what does he discover here but schemes of betrayal stirring within the palace walls!

Cornel Wilde, who rose to fame in Hollywood for his swashbuckling films (he was a champion fencer), lacks the pizzazz that he had in his other pictures and understandably so since the role calls for a distressed lovelorn poet, not a swashbuckling hero. However, the supporting cast in Omar Khayyam is marvelous and more than makes up for Wilde's mild performance. Michael Rennie, always a familiar face in costumed dramas, is excellent in the role of Hasani, one of Khayyam's dear friends and later his adversary. Sebastion Cabot is also one of Khayyam's childhood friends who helps give Omar an audience with the shah, which later earns the poet the position of counselor and astronomer at the palace. 

Raymond Massey, the man of one face, looks surprisingly Arabic in appearance in his role as the mighty Shah who surrounds himself with wise counselors and his two fighting sons, played by John Derek and Perry Lopez. Yma Sumac, the exotic four-octave range singer (check out her amazing performances with the Les Baxter Orchestra) has a brief appearance to do some warbling while Joan Taylor and Margaret Hayes round out the cast of femme fetales. Debra Paget is ravishingly beautiful as ever and was well-chosen by the Shah to be his newest wife. 

Other familiar faces include Edward Platt ("Sorry about that, Chief"), John Abbott, and Dick Elliott (Mayor Pike on The Andy Griffith Show). 

The film boasts some stunning costumes by Ralph Jester who did only a handful of costume design work in films such as The Ten Commandents, Soloman and Sheba, and The Buccanneer.

William Dietrele discontinued his 27-year long Hollywood career after completing Omar Khayyam and it is no wonder he was dissatisfied with what he was being given. As colorful and vibrant as Khayyam is (it was filmed in VistaVision) the movie is a far cry from Dietrele's earlier biopics, such as The Story of Louis Pasteur and The Life of Emile Zola. One cannot help wondering how great it could have been had the film been approached differently. Perhaps with a different leading man, or even if it were turned into a musical.... with Howard Keel.

Nevertheless, for loyal followers of sword-and-sandal Arabian Nights flicks this is highly recommended viewing. Especially on a Saturday morning. As Khayyam would say, "A bowl of oatmeal, a jug of juice, and thou...great television set. Give me the sweet pleasures of life to while my days away". 

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Introducing Children to Classic Movies

Winter is almost over and springtime is approaching - a great time to clean house, lose weight, learn a new hobby, and pick up some new interests. And what better interest is there than classic movies? We certainly can't think of any, so we thought we'd undertake the ultimate Classic Movies for Those Who've Never Seen a Classic Movie Before list. Never heard of one of those before? Believe me, there are plenty. Since it is such a loooong list we have broken it up into five different groups: 

  • Children 5-8 ( that's what you're reading here )
  • Children 9-12 
  • Teens 13-19
  • Adults
  • An Introduction to Silents

This will probably take us over a month year to write, so for now we'll just focus on introducing children to classics.

Why should you introduce children to classic films? Simple - because why should they be limited to today's entertainment? There is a wealth of great films to be savored and enjoyed. At present, there are roughly 25,000 films easily accessible to the public through online streaming, cable television, dvds, and vhs tapes. Limiting oneself to only what the current media offers is like never reading a book written before the year 2000, or never playing a sport that wasn't invented within the last 15 years. Golly!

This list doesn't read as the "best classic films children should watch"....instead it's a compilation of some of the best films to get your child introduced to classics. Let them discover their favorites on their own. Think of this as a launching pad into the realm of the classic film galaxy. 

First off...some basic tips ( take it from a former child ) : 

  • Start with more recent films and work backgrounds in decades. If your children enjoy 1990s films like Mrs. Doubtfire, Jumanji, and Home Alone already, then start introducing them to the 1980s classics like The Goonies, E.T, Pippi Longstocking, and Ghostbusters, then the Kurt Russell Disney flicks, Star Wars, Freaky get the picture. NOTE: If your children are under 7, throw this tip out the window. So long as a classic film is in color, they'll enjoy it. 

And that leads us to the second tip : 

  • Begin with color films. Children might be turned off just because the movie is in black and white. "Eeeeew, what an old movie...was the world really in black and white then?". That's not the best reaction you hope to hear. Once they come to appreciate films from all generations, they'll have plenty of time to get into the black and white films. This doesn't apply to slapstick though...The Three Stooges and the Marx Brothers somehow transpose the realm of color. 

Lastly ( and most importantly! ) :

  • Never push a film on them because you enjoy it, or just because it is a renowned classic. Introduce your kids to movies that you believe they will like based on their interests. A boy who loves space and rockets will enjoy The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Reluctant Astronaut, and October Sky much more than The Sound of Music or Shane. This doesn't mean you should always limit the movies to their tastes ( heck, discovering a new interest is one of the best qualities of watching a film! ), but when starting out, it is best. 

Alright, so 'nuff of the prep-talk...on with the films! 

Children 5-8 Years Old 

Darby O'Gill and the Little People ( 1959 )

A young pre-007 Sean Connery stars in this classic Irish tale of leprauchens, pots of gold and banshees. Great special effects ( utilizing matte shots by Peter Ellenshaw ) make those little people seem surprisingly real. 

Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang! ( 1968 )

This film has it all - eccentric inventors, castles, airships, a deranged king, a wicked child-catcher, a beautiful heroine named Truly Scrumptious, a windmill house, and best of all....the flying car herself - Chitty. What's there not to like? Okay.. it is a bit on the lengthy side. 

Doctor Dolittle ( 1969 ) 

Like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Dolittle has a long runtime but it moves at a sprightly pace ( except during the court sequences ) and features such beautiful location shooting and music that it's hard to resist. Rex Harrison plays an engaging Doctor even if he does seem rather stiff. 

Back to the Beach ( 1987 )

My sister and I grew up with this goofy film and loved it to pieces. Watching it a few years ago I realized how risque some of the quips were, but all that stuff eluded us as children ( and we were quite perceptive kiddies ). This film marked a return of the 1960s beach icons Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello. Pee-Wee Herman, Jerry Mathers, Don Adams and Bob Denver ( Gilligan's Island ) all make guest appearances. It features some great surf numbers Jamaica Ska!, Bird is the Word, and California Sun.

Flipper ( and Flipper's New Adventure ) ( 1963 )

Who can resist a squeaking dolphin? Flipper is the king of the sea, faster than lightning and friends to you and me. Flipper's New Adventure features Sandy on a secluded island with a young Pamela Franklin and it's up to Flipper to rescue them. Note : girls will find a new heartthrob to drool over in Luke Halpin, who was the Zac Efron of his time. 

The Incredible Journey ( 1963 )

If dolphins don't appeal to your wee ones, try cats and dogs. In this film, two dogs and a cat take an incredible journey to find their way back home to their owner. Simple story....compelling film. I've never seen the 1995 remake, but that's a children's classic too. 

Godzilla's Revenge ( 1969 )

Don't like cats and dogs? How about giant reptiles then? Godzilla films can be enjoyed at any age, but this flick is especially geared towards little Godzilla fans. A young boy comes across a bully everyday on his way to school and during his naps he dreams of the great Godzilla instructing his own son on how to gain courage to fight his enemies. Nice monster mush.

The Incredible Mr. Limpet ( 1964 )

And while we're on the subject of reptiles, here's a fishy flick. Before Finding Nemo there was....Mr. Limpet! Don Knotts plays a mild-mannered fish lover who stumbles into the Atlantic ocean during an outing at Coney Island. He finds he loves being under the sea much more than being on land and becomes a hero by helping the US Navy seek out enemy submarines. There's nothing as stirring as watching a patriotic fish in action. 

The Jungle Book ( 1967 )

Oooh, Ooh, Ooooh, Baloooo! One of Walt Disney's most finger-snapping films to watch. A colorful plot, engaging characters, down-right jazzy music and plenty of action make this an all around winner for all ages. It will introduce your children to the world of Rudyard Kipling too. ( Time to bring out Wee Willie Winkie ). Other late Disney animated classics to enjoy : The Aristocats, The Rescuers and Robin Hood

The Little Rascals

Spanky, Alfalfa, Stymie, Darla, Spot, Chubby....the ragamuffin little group of kiddies known as Our Gang ( and later The Little Rascals ) have entertained youngsters for over 80 years. If you never heard of them till now, then what box have you been hiding under?

Mary Poppins ( 1964 )

Take a jolly holiday with your children and secretly enjoy this classic for yourself as well. P.L Travers was a hard one to convince when it came to Walt Disney filming her beloved books, but we're sure glad she was won over. Can you tell we like Disney films? 

Miracle on 34th Street ( 1947 )

This classic airs every Thanksgiving on television and has yet to lose its charm. Tales of faith have a way of lasting. John Payne counted it as his favorite film. Maureen O'Hara and a young Natalie Wood also star. Interestingly enough, Santa is revealed but there are no elves to be seen anywhere in New York. 

Peter Pan ( 1953 )

Pirates, a flying ship, mermaid lagoons, indians, twinkling fairies...that James Barrie certainly knew what children liked best. Make sure you got a stock of pixie dust on hand to sprinkle the kids with when the film is over. You might as well get them started flying at a young age. 

Pollyanna ( 1960 )

Girls will love Pollyanna, boys will....roll their eyes? This just isn't a boys flick. An orphan girl gets - reluctantly - adopted by her stiff aunt and annoys her to no end with her "goody two shoes" attitude. But, like a true Disney film, Pollyanna wins her over completely by the end of the picture and comes to realize what a wise little girl landed in her lap. This film teaches a wonderful lesson on always looking for the good in people, and for the good in adverse situations. 

The Red Balloon ( 1956 )

A little boy finds a red balloon in Paris and follows it on its drifting adventures. The Red Balloon won the Cannes Film Festival award for Best Short Film upon its release and has been a standard for many short films since. 

Pete's Dragon ( 1977 ) 

An orphan runs away from his foster parents and, along with his invisible dragon friend Elliott, comes to the town of Passamaquoddy and befriends a lighthouse keeper and his daughter. This was one of the Disney Studios weaker films, but when you're young you don't really pay attention to the quality of animation or any of that jazz.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ( 1937 )

The film that launched Walt Disney films into feature-length stardom. With its new digital hi-def transfer it looks stunningly sharp and as fresh as ever. A true classic never ages. Like fine wine it just gets better with time. Other animated Walt Disney classics to enjoy : Bambi, Pinocchio, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Dumbo.

The Three Lives of Thomasina ( 1964 ) guessed it...another Disney film. And this one is a darling! The Mary Poppins girl ( Karen Dotrice ) loves her beloved cat so much that when she thinks the pussy dies, she begins to waste away herself. It takes her daddy's prayers and the help of a kindly "witch of the woods" to bring her back to strength. 

The Wizard of Oz ( 1939 )

We're off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.....Did you really think this list would finish without a mention of The Wizard of Oz

Coming Soon :   Introducing Children to Classic Movies Part 2 - Children 9-12 Years Old

Thursday, February 20, 2014

First Men in the Moon ( 1964 )

Charles Schneer and Ray Harryhausen, two of the foremost producers of sci-fi films of the 1960s, had in 1963 recently completed their sea-faring mythology extravaganza " Jason and the Argonauts "  when they decided to embark upon a screen-telling of H.G Well's famous Victorian fantasy novel "First Men in the Moon".

Filmed in astounding "Dynamation!" the movie begins in modern times with a UN space ship rocketing to the moon. Amidst cheers on Earth for the historic moment, the very first men walk on the surface of the moon.....but lo! within steps from their rocket ship these astronauts discover a flag - a Union Jack flag.  And along with the flag, a declaration ( written on the back side of a summons for Katherine Callender ) claiming British subjects had honorably walked that solitary surface in 1899....and had claimed the moon for her majesty, Queen Victoria.

Quickly a UN investigation team is dispatched to the tiny village of Dymschurch to question Katherine Callender, but when they discover that she had since died, they seek explantations from her husband Arnold who is now living in a nursing home.

After his initial shock at seeing photographs of the flag he had helped to place on the moon, he relates the story of their voyage.....

In the secluded country village in England, Arnold Bedford ( Edward Judd ) is working ( or rather....not working ) on his play. Always looking for a new way to make some money, he becomes fascinated with the scientific substance his neighbor, an eccentric scientist named Joseph Cavor ( admirably played by Lionel Jeffries ) has recently invented....Cavorite it is called. A liquid substance it be, and it deflects the force of gravitity on any object that it is painted unto. Seeing a very lucrative business opprotunity here, Arnold talks his way into becoming partners with Cavor.

Cavor explains that his main use for Cavorite will be to apply it to the surface of a bathysphere that he has constructed in his greenhouse with the intention of flying to the moon...and of course, Arnold is astonished at this fool hardy scheme...UNTIL that is, he hears the reason why. "There be gold in them thar mountains!" Ah yes, to the depths Man would fanthom for the pursuit of wealth.

And so, in no time at all our merry duo hastily prepare for their sojourn to the Moon. Unlike the book, where Bedford and Cavor remain the only passengers on this journey, the film added a female character - Bedford's fiancee, Katherine ( Martha Hyer ) known simply as "Kate" to tag along with the boys on their ride through space. A pretty addition she is too.

" Stop calling me Mrs. Bedford. We are not married! " ....." Not married?!... Madam ....kindly leave the room! "
Once on the moon we see the handiwork of model-maker extrodinaire Ray Harryhausen with magnificent space sequences, a gigantic brained Grand Lunar ( seated on a throne behind a veiled screen, much like the Wizard of Oz ), a caterpillar-like mooncalf, and a number of little Selenites....which are actually children in suits, so maybe that doesn't count as Harryhausen handiwork.

"First Men in the Moon" has always been my favorite of all of the Charles Schneer/Ray Harryhausen pictures because of the mood it evokes. There is a beautiful Victorian flavour throughout the film and the pre-moon scenes are my especially favorites ( oddly enough, these are the ones that have no special effects at all and make up about 45 minutes of the picture ).

" It's....simply.....imperial "

Laurie Johnson, one of England's most renowned television and film composers at the time, wrote a haunting and atmospheric theme to "First Men in the Moon" as well as a lovely romantic ballad that can be heard softly in the background whilst our characters are at Cherry Cottage and during the greenhouse sequences. The complete soundtrack to the film has been released on audio cd but unfortunately, is quite a rare album to find today.

Peter Finch happened to stop by the set one day to visit his good friend, Lionel Jeffries, and found himself being used for a guest spot as the baliff who serves Kate her legal summons. Aside from his appearence there are not too many well-known character actors with the exception of Milles Malleson who does one of his characterisitc dithery/absent-minded impersonations as the church registar.

" Poor Cavor...he always did have that nasty cold "

"First Men in the Moon" takes us on a wonderful light-hearted sojourn to a Victorian era, a period when the spirit of exploration was at its peak and there were new and exciting worlds just waiting to be explored....and conquered. Some say this film drags on until the scenes when they land on the moon and see the "creatures" but I disagree. But then, that may be because I have never been much of a sci-fi film fan.

Anyway, overall the film is a delight to watch and the recent DVD release has just astounding sound and remarkable color restoration. Details you never thought to notice stand out bright and bold. It is a relaxing movie and what I like best of all about it is the carefree way our heroes go about on their expedition to the moon. They pack a few cans of sardines, a couple of chickens and are off on their way in no time at all. Where modern scientists take months and months of planning and preperation for a routine space flight, Bedford and Cavor simply put on their jackets, hop in their sphere....and enjoy the ride! What comes, comes.

Quite right.....the only way to travel.

Two chumps having a jolly good time on the Moon

This post was originally published on The Absent-Minded Buccaneer blog. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nugget Reviews - 9

Daisy Kenyon ( 1947 ) 24k

A fashion illustrator loves a married lawyer but when he refuses to get a divorce she marries a returning soldier and thinks her life is perfect until the lawyer decides he wants her afterall.  Joan Crawford, Dana Andrews, Henry Fonda, Ruth Warrick. 20th Century Fox. Directed by Otto Preminger.

A golden nugget for sure! Daisy Kenyon is one of those films that if you catch a glimpse of it on late-night television you can't tear yourself away from it. Its been-filmed-a-hundred-times-before plot somehow becomes amazingly fresh in Preminger's hands. It's obviously Joan Crawford's picture but our two leading man vie for the spotlight in every scene they are in which only adds to the excellent dramatic acting. 


Peter Ibbetson ( 1936 ) 18k

Two childhood sweethearts become separated and meet again years later - one a rising architect, the other a Duchess. Gary Cooper, Ann Harding, Ida Lupino, Douglas Dumbrille, John Halliday, Virginia Weidler, Dickie Moore. Paramount Pictures. Directed by Henry Hathaway.

This movie started off simply superb - fantastic settings, great actors, and magnificent cinematography. We were sure it was a 24k gold nugget, but mid-way through it took a turn into the realm of mystic fantasy and became quite somber in tone. That's our only beef with it. Well...that and Gary Cooper's western accent. A beautiful and haunting film otherwise. 


Three Wise Fools ( 1946 ) 14k

Three men who all love the same pretty girl are given a curse by the Irishman who whisks her away. Years later, as old bachelors, her granddaughter comes to live with them and softens the old fools' hearts. Margaret O'Brien, Thomas Mitchell, Edward Arnold, Lionel Barrymore, Lewis Stone. MGM. Directed by Edward Buzzell.

Margaret O'Brien is adorable in this film with her masterly airs and her Irish brogue and we've come to appreciate Thomas Mitchell more and more with every film we see him in. Our "three wise fools" seem like they are a bit embarrassed to be in the picture and wish they were doing something else. Did Louis Mayer give them these roles for punishment perhaps? Hmmm.... Nevertheless Lionel Barrymore is delightful with his curmudgeonly manner.


Fiend without a Face ( 1958 ) Elctr. 

Several recent strangulation deaths in a small Canadian village have been attributed to the US Air Force bases nuclear power output but then the people SEE the real culprit behind the deaths. Marshall Thompson, Kynaston Reeves, Kim Parker, Terry Kilburn. Amalgamated Productions. Directed by Arthur Crabtree. 

Oh dear. This film was a doozy. "Fiends take form before your very eyes" reads the poster. And by golly, its right. That "fiend" you see in the poster is what you get in the flick. A brain with antennae. Obviously, this was the Brits version of The Tingler. The old professor is the real kicker in the movie....he got a basement full of neato gadgets and managed to figure out a way to make thoughts take form. Scientists the world over have not been able to do this, but this old man figured it out in his basement...with a simple headband. Terry Kilburn, an MGM child star, makes an appearance as one of the Air Force men. 


Stolen Hours ( 1963 ) 14k 

A jet-setting party-loving woman discovers she has a brain tumor and turns her life around before she dies. Susan Hayward, Michael Craig, Edward Judd, Diane Baker. Mirisch Corporation. Directed by Daniel M.Petrie.

Stolen Hours, also known as Summer Flight, was one of those 1960s Delbert Mann/Ross Hunter style soap operas. It was a ( rather inferior ) remake of Dark Victory starring Bette Davis ( Davis said after this film was released, "Some pictures should never be remade" ). Hayward is supposed to be a 30-year-old-something woman but looks more like the 46 year old woman that she is. Despite the mushy plot, the film boasts some great color locale shots of the coast of England and really swell art direction. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Hollywood Home Tour - James Stewart

"Today we're going to take a short spin three blocks west of Rodeo Drive and head on over to Roxbury Drive to catch a glimpse of the beautiful English tudor home of James Stewart.....

918 North Roxbury Drive

"Coming up on the right you'll see the house. The ivy-covered home is accented with a wide lawn, long stone walk and birch trees lining the sides. James Stewart purchased this house in 1949, shortly after he married Gloria and before he began filming on Winchester '73 and Harvey

"The 6,300 square foot house was originally built by director King Vidor in 1928. It features a spacious entrance hall, living room, large library, dining room, kitchen, breakfast room, and five bedrooms upstairs. In the backyard a walled English garden adds a touch of privacy. 

Both Jimmy and his wife had green thumbs and enjoyed growing flowers and vegetables in their garden. Whenever they had a bountiful harvest they shared their crops with the occasional giant rabbit and with their neighbors. I do believe some of these neighbors you are quite familiar with....anyone ever hear of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz? How about Jack Benny? Jeanne Crain, Rosemary Clooney, the Gershwins, and that acerbic wit Oscar Levant also lived further down the street. We'll take a closer look at these homes further on in our tour folks." 

Up-to-date Note: During the 1970s James Stewart purchased his neighbor's property and tore down the house so that he could expand his garden. He could be seen walking his dogs along Roxbury up until his death in 1997. After his death, his house was purchased by the founder of a brokerage service who called it a "dump" and tore it down within weeks. You can view photographs of the inside of Stewart's house over at the Architectural Digest website. Obviously, Stewart had a great home and was an avid reader too.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple - A Legend Has Passed

A legend in Hollywood - Shirley Temple Black - has passed away today at the age of 85. An internationally-renowned child star, Presidential delegate, ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia and co-founder of the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies, Mrs. Black made an indelible mark in the world. At the height of her popularity in the 1930s, she received more fan mail than Greta Garbo and was photographed more often than President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She was aptly nicknamed at the time "America's Little Darling" and will forever remain so. May you rest in peace!

Shirley Temple ( Apr. 23, 1928 - Feb. 10, 2014 )

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Editor - Cotton Warburton

For anyone who is a Walt Disney film fan the name "Cotton Warburton" will ring a bell, even if you can't quite recall where you have seen that name. Of course, if you never pay attention to credits ( gasp!! ) then that name will probably not be ringing any bells in your carillon. But for my sister and I, we see "Cotton Warburton" flash upon the tele at least once a week - for that's about how often we watch a Disney film. Starting in 1956, Warburton had a long career with the Walt Disney Studios as a film editor, working on 35 films in that time period. Even though he is best known for his Disney work, Warburton edited a number of films throughout the 1940s for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer as well. Let's highlight a little of this man's work and his life : 

Irvine Eugene Warburton was born on October 8, 1911 in San Diego, California. During his high school years at San Diego High he excelled in sports and especially enjoyed track and field events, winning several championships for his running speed. When he entered USC he joined the Trojans football team and went on to become an All-American Quaterback in 1933. While Warburton was quarterback, USC had a winning streak that lasted for 27 games, a record which remained unsurpassed until 1980. 

When "Cotton", as he was nicknamed, left college in 1934 he was offered the opportunity to become a pro football player with the Chicago Bears, but declined, instead choosing to enter the film industry. Hoorah for Cotton!  

He first tried his hand at acting, appearing briefly in Big City ( 1937 ) but then decided to venture behind the camera and became a film editor. This was where he found his forte. His first film at MGM studios was a short Laurel and Hardy comedy entitled Air Raid Wardens, released in 1943. 

Comedy was the genre that Warburton began his career with and which he excelled at best. Several more "B"-comedy films followed ( Three Hearts for Julia, Up Goes Maisie, Love Laughs at Andy Hardy ) before Warburton moved up to the "A" films such as Cynthia, Neptune's Daughter, the delightful Two Weeks with Love, and Three Guys Named Mike ( 1951 ). 

Warburton continued editing for musicals and dramas into the 1950s, working on such films as Sombrero, Above and Beyond, and Skirts Ahoy! before he decided to try his hand at the new medium called television. One of his first forays in editing for the small screen was The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. 

The next project Warburton undertook was editing a western film for Walt Disney studios : Westward Ho the Wagons. It was a happy experience for Warburton and it led to him switching studios permanently. From 1957-1959 he edited one of Walt Disney's most popular television series, Zorro, as well as the film The Sign of Zorro...which were mainly episodes from the first season of the show spliced together to create a feature film. 

Some of Warburton's other credits in the late 1950s, early 1960s included The Absent-Minded Professor, Son of Flubber, Moon Pilot, Miracle of the White Stallions and The Misadventures of Merlin Jones ( 1964 )

The same year Warburton completed The Misadventures of Merlin Jones, he also worked on another project for Walt Disney...a much bigger film : Mary Poppins. It was for the creative editing in this supercalifragilisticexpialidocious musical that he was awarded the Academy Award in Best Editing during the 37th annual awards ceremony. The competition that year included Becket, Father Goose, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte and the other musical favorite of the year, My Fair Lady

Warburton had to work closely with the animators for the Jolly Holiday sequence but it was the chimney pot sequence of Mary Poppins which was the creme-de-la-creme of Warburton's editing work. It was crisply edited and, combined with the stellar animated special effects, created a toe-tappin', eye popping entertaining musical feast. 

The entry for Wikipedia describes the job of a film editor as thus : Film editing is often referred to as the "invisible art" because when it is well-practiced, the viewer can become so engaged that he or she is not even aware of the editor's work. On its most fundamental level, film editing is the art, technique, and practice of assembling shots into a coherent sequence. The job of an editor isn’t simply to mechanically put pieces of a film together, cut off film slates or edit dialogue scenes. A film editor must creatively work with the layers of images, story, dialogue, music, pacing, as well as the actors' performances to effectively "re-imagine" and even rewrite the film to craft a cohesive whole. Editors usually play a dynamic role in the making of a film. 

We believe much of what makes a Disney film so entertaining, especially the comedies, can be attributed to Warburton's clever editing and perfect comedic timing. He never lets a shot rest on an actor's expression or on an action sequence for longer than is necessary to capture the humor or the excitement of the moment.

Take a look at this short sequence from That Darn Cat ( 1965 ) and you can see what we mean :


Some other Disney classics that Cotton Warburton edited during the late 1960s were The Happiest Millionaire, The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band, The Love Bug ( and the Herbie sequels ) as well as the amusing The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. After Walt Disney's death in 1966, the studio was reeling from not having one leader in charge of production. A committee took over to head up the studio and the following year they decided the best project they could undertake would be to finish a film that Walt had started in the early 1960s as a back-up plan in the event that P.L. Travers would not let Mary Poppins be made - Bedknobs and Broomsticks ( 1971 ). Once again, it was Cotton Warburton who was called upon to edit the finished film. He did a marvelous job on the musical numbers ( especially With a Flair ) and the famous marching armor finale, but alas....times had changed. Bedknobs and Broomsticks suffered from major cuts upon its release and failed to be the box-office smash the studio had hoped for. Warburton's editing went unrecognized at the Academy Awards that year as well. 

Warburton went on to edit the comedies that the Walt Disney Studios was creating throughout the early 1970s ( The Stongest Man in the World, No Deposit No Return, Freaky Friday ) and continued until his retirement in 1976. His final film was The Cat from Outer Space. Not the altogether best film to end one's career with but a fun flick nonetheless. 

Filmmaking is a collaborative form of art. No one person can make a masterpiece.  Even if a film has a marvelous cast, great cinematography, and a fine script, the whole film can fall apart in the hands of a bad editor. Each person has to be at the top of their game, and just like football...each man has an equally important position. Cotton Warburton played football like a pro and he brought his game-face into every film project he worked on as well, making sure he wasn't the man who would foul up the game with a "tumble". In our book Warburton was a true All-American Editor.

This post is apart of the 31 Days of Oscar ( Feb. 1- March 1 ) blogathon hosted by Paula's Cinema ClubOnce Upon a Screen, and Outspoken and Freckled. Be sure to check out all of the other great entries in this blogathon!

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Impossibly Difficult Name That Movie Game

A mysterious woman hiding in the bushes and a happy hiker.....this is a key scene in a engrossing dramatic film. Can you guess which film? Give it a try and if you want some more picture puzzles, check out our past Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game posts. Most of them have not been solved yet!

If you are not familiar with the rules to The Impossibly Difficult Name that Movie game or the prize, just click here

Good luck guessing! 


Congratulations on Phyl, who correctly guessed the film "The Unguarded Hour" ( 1936 )!