Archive for Twentieth Century Fox

Heads you lose.

Posted in FILM, MUSIC, Mythology with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2008 by dcairns

Regular Shadowplayers may recall my near-sexual fascination for Busby Berkeley and the FLOATING HEAD OF DEATH. Imagine my all-pervading joy and sheer, sensuous transport at finding another such head at the start of B.B.’s THE GANG’S ALL HERE:

This cheerful yet somehow alarming individual drifts weightless towards us, crooning “Brazil”, right at the start of the film. He’s not quite as skull-beneath-the-skin terrifying as Wini Shaw in GOLD DIGGERS OF 1935, but it turns out he’s only a foretaste of the main attraction, which comes at the film’s end:

At the climax of a number celebrating the perennial joys of the polka dot, the traditional B.B. chorus-line transmutes by the aid of mirrors into a glistening Technicolor iris-sphincter, permutating kaleidoscopically and finally emitting –

Eugene Pallette! B. Kite and I struggled to capture this man’s majesty in our Believer article on character actors, only for Fiona to encapsulate the Great Man in a colossal nutshell: “He’s the brick shithouse everybody’s always talking about.”

Anyway, I don’t want to take that sphincter metaphor any further than I absolutely have to, but basically the entire cast of the film is evacuated right in our faces, an image out of Heironymous Bosch.

It’s hard to decide who’s more terrifying. Mock-turtle Edward Everett Horton on a sickly green polka dot platter, lunging into our eyes like a vision from Hades, certainly comes near the  top. For once in this film, Carmen Miranda is actually less horripilating than everybody else.

Benny Goodman is just WRONG ALL OVER. He’s an odd film presence, in general, quite likably different and welcome, but hurled bodiless towards us with a translucent lavender ruff, he becomes a CREATURE OF NIGHTMARE.

AARGH! Shit shit shit get it way from me! Charlotte Greenwood demonstrates why Nicholas Ray slept with a gun under his pillow. If you wake up from dreaming of THIS, you’ve gotta be able to fire off a few rounds at anything lurking in the corner of the room or you’ll have a case of the screaming ab-dabs for sure.

And then Alice Faye, the singing Simone Signoret, with her cerulean-blue face, is wafted at us on happy updrafts of melody and we realise that we truly are in the Twentieth Century Fox’s idea of Sheol, Gehenna, the bottomless pit — adrift, decapitated, among the eternally smiling, hopelessly insane stars.

“Hell will have no surprises for them!”

Come to Think Of It…

Posted in Comics, FILM with tags , , , , , , , on April 18, 2008 by dcairns

American International Pictures? The name makes no sense. WHICH IS IT??? American or international?

Studio names have always been a bit baffling. As a very small child I had no idea that the “Bros” in “Warner Bros” meant “brothers”. And certainly I’d never encountered a human being called Walt, let alone Walt Disney (although the soundalike word “disnae” is Scots vernacular for “don’t”).

But the greatest mystery was always Twentieth Century Fox. What kind of fox is that? While I figured out Disney and Warner early on, it probably took me twenty years to learn how the Fox Film Corporation joined forces with Twentieth Century Pictures. A similar merger accounts for one of the comics I read as a kid being called Whizzer & Chips — an unlikely pairing! Although having that answer really just trades one question for two: why Whizzer?  Wherefore Chips?

Who whizzed on my chips?

I don’t think I’d ever wondered what R.K.O. stood for (although I certainly scratched my head over “An R.K.O. Radio Picture” — “radio picture”…???). Now that I know the answer — Radio Keith Orpheum — I’m none the wiser. But it sounds like an instruction, doesn’t it? If anybody knows what frequency Keith is on, please radio him.

On a marginally more modern note, Miramax, which sounds like a luxury hotel somewhere in the Arab Emirates, is actually a combination of the names of the parents (Mira, Max) of founding brothers Bob and Harvey Weinstein. If only Weinstein mere et pere had been called Fuchsia and Hedley, what a different and, on the whole, more enchanting world this might be.

(If somebody wants to photoshop the resulting logo, I’ll gladly run it!)

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