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Happy Birthday, Lucille Ball!

In honor of the famous comedienne, enjoy a guest post by James Sheridan, author of Lucille Ball FAQ.

Unlike many performers who began a motion picture career during the Golden Age of Hollywood, Lucille Ball did not get her start on the Broadway stage or in radio. Instead, Lucille Ball’s career as a model led her to the movie capital of the world. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Lucille Ball was a young aspiring actress from Jamestown, New York trying to find a part in New York City. Unable to secure employment as a Broadway chorus girl, Ball chose to seek modeling work.

She was soon working for the renowned designer Hattie Carnegie, but eventually moved on to a clothing store on Seventh Avenue owned by Mr. and Mrs. E.A. Jackson. One sweltering Wednesday in July 1933, Lucy was walking down Broadway in front of the Palace Theatre when she was stopped by an acquaintance, agent Sylvia Hahlo. Hahlo told Lucy that Samuel Goldwyn needed a showgirl immediately for the Eddie Cantor film Roman Scandals. Twelve girls were required, and one of the ones selected had to drop out because her mother would not let her go to California. Hahlo sent Lucille upstairs to Goldwyn’s New York representative Jim Mulvey, whose office was in the Palace building.

All of the girls were required to be poster girls, which Lucy indeed was. Lucy was the “Chesterfield Girl,” since a portrait of her painted by artist Walter Ratterman was used on billboards for Chesterfield Cigarettes. Lucy was hired as a Goldwyn Girl at a salary of $125 a week for what was originally supposed to be a six-week job. Lucy and the eleven other girls left New York for California three days later. The assignment for six weeks of work led to fifty-six years of continuous employment for Lucille Ball.

Lucille Ball FAQ

Although countless books and articles have been written about Lucille Ball, most people know only the surface details of her personal life and some basic facts about her popular television series. Lucille Ball FAQ takes us beyond the “Lucy” character to give readers information that might not be common knowledge about one of the world’s most beloved entertainers. It can be read straight through, but the FAQ format also invites readers to pick it up and dig in at any point. Background information and anecdotes are provided in such categories as:

• People Lucy found funny

• Lucy at home: her various residences throughout the years

• Movie/television/radio/theater projects that never materialized

• Lucy’s off-camera romantic attachments

James Sheridan and Barry Monush go beyond the well known facts, making this an indispensable book for all Lucille Ball fans!

Film Noir FAQ Trivia

Test your knowledge of film noir! Be the first person to answer all three questions correctly (and tell us about your favorite noir film) and you’ll get a free copy of Film Noir FAQ by David Hogan. Don’t forget to include your email address so we can contact you in case you’re the winner.

1. Who played Norma Desmond’s butler Max in Sunset Boulevard?

2. Name three movies that Humphrey Bogart starred in.

3. Who wrote the original novel Psycho in 1959?

Bonus question – What is your favorite noir film?

Film Noir FAQ celebrates and reappraises some 200 noir thrillers representing 20 years of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Noir pulls us close to brutal cops and scheming dames, desperate heist men and hardboiled private eyes, and the unlucky innocent citizens that get in their way. These are exciting movies with tough guys in trench coats and hot tomatoes in form-fitting gowns. The moon is a streetlamp and the narrow streets are prowled by squad cars and long black limousines. Lives are often small but people’s plans are big – sometimes too big. Robbery, murder, gambling; the gun and the fist; the grift and the con game; the hard kiss and the brutal brush-off.

Film Noir FAQ brings lively attention to story, mood, themes, and technical detail, plus behind-the-scenes stories of the production of individual films. Featuring numerous stills and posters – many never before published in book form – highlighting key moments of great noir movies. Film Noir FAQ serves up insights into many of the most popular and revered names in Hollywood history, including noir’s greatest stars, supporting players, directors, writers, and cinematographers.

Pour a Scotch, light up a smoke, and lean back with your private guide to film noir.

Happy Birthday, George Clooney!

So, George Clooney is 52 today (we can’t believe it either). Enjoy an excerpt from George Clooney, by Kimberly Potts.

George Clooney had often told reporters he wouldn’t attend the Oscars until he was nominated for one. He didn’t expect, though, that one trip to the Academy Awards was all he’d need to take home one of the little golden guys.

After nearly twenty-five years in Hollywood, more than a dozen failed TV shows, a breakout role in a hit TV series that gave him his firstbig success at age thirty-three, and another decade of critical film hits (Out of Sight) and box-office misses (Batman & Robin), 2006 was the year that his industry cohorts decided Clooney was a genuine triple threat: he had become the first person in the history of the Academy Awards to be nominated for three different Oscars in two different movies. All of a sudden, in 2006 Hollywood had decided that Clooney was one of the best actors, one of the best writers and one of the best directors in the industry.

And all the big-screen triumphs he was at last enjoying had come not because he had motored along the usual path to success in Hollywood. Instead, Clooney had done things his way, shrewdly switching back and forth between projects with big box-office potential and smaller, more independent movies he felt passionately about, working with actors and filmmakers who shared his goals of turning out good work they could be proud of listing on their résumés and, in a reflection of his personal ethics, making it a priority in his professional life to treat people, at every stage and level of the filmmaking process, fairly.

Clooney had become a genuine movie star, one of the biggest in the world, one of the most beloved and most respected—and, judging from the crop of those coming up behind him, one of the last real movie stars in Hollywood. As unlikely as it might have seemed earlier in his career, when he felt lucky to land parts in movies like Return to Horror High and Return of the Killer Tomatoes! and to be playing sixth banana to Mrs. Garrett and the girls on The Facts of Life, Clooney had deftly managed to sustain and expand upon a career in an industry that is notoriously fickle. He’d become a better actor, one capable not only of genuinely terrific performances in movies such as Steven Soderbergh’s slick heist crime dramedy/romance Out of Sight and Joel and Ethan Coen’s comic adventure O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but also of aligning himself with filmmakers who could draw out his best acting efforts and who had likeminded commitments to making movies that mattered, that provoked, that entertained . . . that, above all, did more than just line a leading man’s pockets with an eight-figure payday.

He’s famous for twice being People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, for his penchant for practical jokes and his vow never to remarry, as well as for his Oscar-winning and Emmy-nominated acting career. But George Clooney’s reputation as a celebrity belies his essential seriousness, as a businessman, a humanitarian, and, of course, in his ascendancy to the Hollywood A-list.

George Clooney: The Last Great Movie Star 

In this updated biography of one of Hollywood’s most colorful leading men, pop culture expert Kimberly Potts traces Clooney’s life from small-town boy to big-screen idol. Clooney slowly and deliberately built a résumé that took him from TV stardom on ER to a winning film career as a serious actor, writer, producer and director. Along the way Potts fills us in on Clooney’s early attempts to break into film (including his Batman flop), his many well-publicized romances, his political and humanitarian efforts, plus a major fight with director David O. Russell on the set of Three Kings.

Potts also recounts how Clooney has gained success and acclaim with his shrewd strategy of alternating blockbuster movie roles, such as the Ocean’s franchise, with less lucrative “passion” projects – such as Syriana and Good Night, and Good Luck – that reflect his personal ethics. He won an Academy Award for the former and rave reviews for the latter, and has continued to earn accolades and Oscar nominations for smart dramas such as Michael Clayton and Up in the Air.

Including fresh interviews, essential Clooney photographs, a filmography, a timeline, and a list of his favorite 100 films, this is the book no Clooney fan will want to be without.

Roger Ebert’s Legacy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGuest Blogger: George Case is the author of Jimmy PageLed Zeppelin FAQ, and Out of Our Heads. Below is an excerpt from his blog.

Always At the Movies

Roger Ebert, the famous film critic who died on April 4, is rightly being remembered as an impassioned defender of cinematic art and a fierce opponent of Hollywood’s lowest-common-denominator ethic. He was a champion of the sleeper and the un-blockbuster. If his aesthetic standards were not as rigorous as those of highbrow reviewers like John Simon or Stanley Kauffmann, they nonetheless informed a generation of moviegoers who learned from him that big budgets and big stars do not inevitably produce great films. But Roger Ebert left another, more troubling, legacy – one he surely didn’t intend but which has nevertheless changed, for the worse, the medium he loved.

When it debuted on PBS in 1978, “Sneak Previews,” the program Ebert co-hosted with Gene Siskel, was a unique show that afforded TV viewers the unusual opportunity to learn about new, old, and little-known films. Today the review paradigm it pioneered – thumbs up, thumbs down; five star, one star; I say, you say; he says, she says – is ubiquitous on television and the Internet. Today movies, TV series, music, books, dance, and just about every other art form are subject to instant judgements passed by countless professional and amateur critics, ranging from highly paid celebrities, as Roger Ebert certainly was, to talking heads on the local news and down to anonymous bloggers and online trolls. Today there are cable networks devoted to old movies, websites devoted to new graphic novels, YouTube channels about television and Facebook pages about radio. Today the opinions of Ebert’s descendants and imitators are themselves praised, panned, and deconstructed by ever-expanding circles of commentary. Today the relationship between even the most populist creators and the least discriminating audiences is mediated by leagues of insiders, second-guessers, and full-time spectators. Today the entertainment and cultural industries are, in a significant sense, their own chief subjects.

Finish the article on George’s blog


Led Zeppelin FAQ

In this exhaustive and insightful reference text, rock writer and cultural critic George Case details the key names, dates, figures, and features of one of the biggest and most mythologized rock-and-roll groups of all time: Led Zeppelin. Here, finally, are the answers to the puzzles that have haunted fans for over four decades – puzzles such as the meaning of Led Zep’s enigmatic album covers; the truth about leader Jimmy Page’s involvement with the occult; a breakdown of the sometimes murky roots of their greatest songs; firm data on their musical instruments, live performances, and studio productions; and sordid specifics of the band’s infamously debauched private lives.

But here, too, is a deeply reflective analysis of why Led Zeppelin’s music has endured as long as it has, and of how Led Zeppelin’s mystique has only grown in the years since their official disbanding. Placing the group in the context of their time and place, Case scrupulously compares and contrasts their achievements with those of their influences, rivals, and followers. Led Zeppelin FAQ is not only an indispensable listener’s companion to a classic rock act, but a considered history of rock and roll as a business, an art form, and a worldwide social phenomenon.

The Hollywood Style of Acting

Guest Blogger: Toni Attell is the co-author of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers (with Carl Gottlieb). Below is a post from her blog, The Acting Biz. Please pay it a visit for more inside tips on showbiz!

Welcome to Hollywood! You will find many excellent coaches, agents, and managers here. However, please take baby steps as you start out in this business. Acting is a business. Your face, body, and talent are all embedded in “YOU.” You are the merchandise. The casting director already has your image in a picture, so make choices with your objectives (what the character wants) and your movement through spine and back life (that help the words, written by the writer to life).

First let me suggest that before you do anything, know that Hollywood has a style unlike most other states and countries, so like any business, you must learn the different styles of acting and then find the acting techniques that work for you, and feel free to mix the ones that work for you. Do not get stuck in just one style of acting. Learn Meisner, Uta Hagen, Bill Ball, Viola Spolin, Nina Foch, Alexander, Paul Sills, or Method styles and techniques, and combine them. You have to prepare before you get to the audition or set, as there is no time for a director to work for a long period of time with actors. Make your choices before you go to the audition and then forget them and do no “try” to be the character … just let the character make choices — in the moment. If you have done your homework, the choices will come. This is called the spine of the character.

Please do not let yourself be seen by an agent, manager, or casting director until you know your acting is ready to be seen. Big Mistake! Don’t take pictures or spend any money, unless it is to learn your craft through classes and then you can do the next steps.
Any agent or manager that asks for money is not a legal representative. Do not give your photos to a photographer without your permission or to anyone else, or you might end up as a cover for an insurance packet or other promos, and you will never get a nickel from it, as photos are not covered by SAG/AFTRA. This is a business, so remember to treat it that way.

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers  discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.

Working with Managers and Agents

Guest Blogger: Toni Attell is the co-author of The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers. Below is an excerpt from her blog The Acting Biz.

In Hollywood if you are new, or a teen, child, or parent, it can sometimes seem overwhelming.  Remember the whole “feeling” around Hollywood for all actors, even adults, seems to be “You are never enough!”  All this is untrue, but it keeps the actor off balance and can be a slight manipulative way to control the talent.

First of all remember, “You are more than enough!” Do not listen to anyone who remarks you must get new pictures, you must get SAG/AFTRA, etc.  All this will happen the minute you get a SAG/AFTRA job.  Your first job you can do free without joining a union.  After your first job, be prepared to have the monies necessary to join the Union if you get a second job.  Most production companies will give you a little time to make an appointment with SAG/AFTRA  to do what is called a “Must Join.”  However, do not put it off.  The minute you have the second job, call into the Union and make an appointment to pay dues and join immediately.  Some actors who put it off can sometimes lose the job, because the production company does not wish to get a stiff fine, so if you do not join before going to the set, they may just find someone else.

Keep reading this article on Toni’s blog, The Acting Biz.

The Little Blue Book for Filmmakers

The book discusses issues faced by all beginning filmmakers, with a historical perspective that explains problems and solutions that reach back to the invention of movies at the turn of the last century, and stretch forward to include new digital technology and the popularization of videography as global self-expression. A valuable addition to the shelves of all film school instructors who’ve not had years of practical experience working in the trade, it’s also a syllabus in itself and can be the foundation for a course schedule. More important, it’s something every film student will want to own as a reference and guide.