“Upstream” Premieres at the Academy Wednesday, Sept. 1: John Ford’s Lost Silent Film, Restored

August 31, 2010 § Leave a comment

One of the 75 rediscovered films from the New Zealand Film Archive, “Upstream,” makes its first appearance in 80 years tomorrow night at the Academy. (For more on these films, see my post https://underthehollywoodsign.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/a-treasure-trove-of-silent-film-resurfaces-in-new-zealand/)

A love triangle from 1927, the film shows the influence of F. W. Murnau, the great German director (“Sunrise”) who at the time was also directing at Fox. There will be live musical accompaniment as well as the trailer of Ford’s 1929 “Strong Boy,” the only surviving footage from that film.

Tickets are only $5 and still available at www.oscars.org


Rare 1922 Color Footage from Kodak: Silent Stars Predict Film’s Glorious Future

August 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

The artist and director Daniel Auber sent me this link to a clip from Eastman Kodak’s early color tests. It is revelatory: suddenly, actresses known only from black-and-white Silent films appear, as they used to say, in living color. The notables in this clip are Hope Hampton (#2) and Mae Murray (in the red and silver coat).


Beyond the unexpected pleasure of seeing Silent film stars in color, the sequence proves what I’ve long known about Kodak film. Growing up in Japan, I was told Kodak was best at capturing the red-yellow spectrum and less good at the blue-green spectrum–whereas Fuji film was the opposite. Thus, before digital cameras made the issue moot, I would use Kodak film in the United States and Fuji in Japan, a very blue-green country, with excellent results.

The clip proves this theory: the reds are brilliant and varied while the greens are muddy and rendered in two shades: forest and sage. There are no blues, though I’m sure some of the green clothing was actually blue. The Kodak film simply couldn’t make the distinction.

It would have been interesting if Kodak had overcome this problem but, despite improvements in subsequent years, it never did. There may have been a conscious decision to emphasize the red-yellow spectrum, given those colors’ prevalence in our geography. But it’s also  possible that the scientists at Kodak didn’t perceive any spectral defect in the film. After all, deuteranomalycolor blindness affecting the perception of green–affects 6% of males, which they undoubtably were.

“Cinema Paradiso” in Beachwood Village this Sunday, August 29th

August 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Carol Moldaw: A Brilliant Poet Comes to Los Angeles

August 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Carol Moldaw

Normally I write about film and Hollywood history. Today I am writing about poetry, which was my introduction to literature and the first kind of writing I attempted. While I no longer consider myself a poet, I’m fortunate to know Carol Moldaw, who has achieved greatness in the field. 

Carol and I have been friends since 1981. Though we and our boyfriends studied at Harvard, we hadn’t crossed paths there; instead, the four of us met as neighbors in Berkeley. Carol would later perfectly capture our hillside apartments in “64 Panoramic Way,” in the process making me one of the lucky few whose grad school digs have been immortalized in verse: 

At the first switchback,
pine needles tufted with dog fur
pad up the wide cracked steps 

leading to a cottage and two
ramshackle shingle houses.
From the lintel of an illegal
basement apartment, magenta 

fuchsia, silent bells,
bob and sag over a pot’s rim. 

Since then, Carol has published five collections of poetry and a novel. Her work has appeared in AGNI, Antioch Review, Boston Review, Chicago Review, Conjunctions, Denver Quarterly, FIELD, The New Republic, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Parnassus, Threepenny Review, and Triquarterly. It has also been anthologized in many venues, including Western Wind: An Introduction to Poetry, and Under 35: A New Generation of American Poets. She has been the recipient of a Lannan Foundation Marfa Writer’s Residency, an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, and a Pushcart Prize. 

On Friday, September 10th at 7:30pm, Carol will read from her new collection, “So Late, So Soon: New and Selected Poems” (Etruscan Press) at Skylight Books in Los Feliz. I’ll be there; I hope you will, too.

Peter the Hermit, Memorialized in Bookends

August 20, 2010 § 1 Comment


All Photos Courtesy Jean Hawkins


From Jean Hawkins come pictures of these wonderful bronze bookends of Peter the Hermit with his greyhound. Found in a thrift store, the bookends were produced by Novel-Arts of Hollywood and copyrighted 1927. Inscribed “Peter the Picturesque, Beloved Hermit of Hollywood,” they are touching proof of Peter’s fame in Hollywood during the 1920’s and 30’s. 


What a great piece of local history! Thank you for sharing them, Jean.

Setsuko Hara at 90: Ozu’s Muse, Forever Young

August 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Setsuko Hara, circa 1950

Setusuko Hara is an actress with no equivalent in western film. For 20 years after WWII, she defined contemporary femininity for Japanese audiences, first playing young, unmarried women, then wives, then mothers. In all her roles, she was a vital, central character, never an adjunct to a male star. (If only the same were true for female characters in American films!) So totemic is Hara’s place in Japanese cinema that she earned the moniker “The Eternal Virgin.” By refusing to grow old onscreen–she made her last movie at 46–and never marrying in real life, she further set herself apart, not only from other actors but societal norms.

Although Hara made 73 films in her 30-year career, she is best known for the twelve she made with three major post-war auteurs: Akira Kurosawa, Mikio Naruse and Yasujiro Ozu. A more detailed essay on her life and work can be found in my Pages.

Graffiti Update from the Hollywoodland Stairs

August 16, 2010 § Leave a comment

After the Clean-up/Hope Anderson Productions


At some point during the last few weeks–exactly when I can’t say–the City finally cleaned the graffiti off the Beachwood-Westshire stairs and the retaining wall halfway up. What a difference it makes!  

Now if people would just stop leaving trash on the stairs, we’d be in heaven.

Beachwood’s Scofflaw Tourists: ‘Just Get Us to the Hollywood Sign, Residents Be Damned’

August 7, 2010 § 5 Comments

Parking Illegally to Pose in the Middle of Beachwood Drive, 6:45pm Aug. 7/All Photos Hope Anderson Productions

Last Thursday night’s packed meeting of the Beachwood Canyon Neighborhood Association brought forth a torrent of stories about the ever-increasing number of tourists coming into the Canyon to see the Hollywood Sign. Arriving by bus, van and rental car, they not only throng Beachwood Drive but the narrow residential streets that run off it, creating gridlock.

As the tourists’ objective–to get photos of themselves in front of the Hollywood Sign–has become more ambitious, it has put residents in an increasingly dangerous and frustrating situation. GPS has made it easier for visitors get nearer to the Sign, where they create chaos on the already treacherous access roads. On a recent weekend, so many cars came up Durand Drive that they completely blocked access to the fire road  running along the top of Griffith Park, to say nothing of the houses along the way.

Residents who live below the Hollywoodland gates described having their driveways blocked by tourist vans and rental cars, public urinaton and flower-picking (presumably not simultaneous) by trespassing tourists, and a pervasive atmosphere of lawlessness. This goes on all day  every day, as tourists stand in the middle of Beachwood Drive, weave in and out of traffic or simply stop their cars in the middle of  the two-lane road to take pictures, halting all traffic behind them.  Objections to this illegal behavior are met with curses and jeers: how dare we, the residents, stand in their way?

Everyone who lives in the Canyon has narrowly missed hitting tourists who dash in front of their cars to pose for pictures in the middle of Beachwood Drive. My own close call came a couple of years ago, when a father who was photographing his children on Beachwood pushed them directly in my path as I drove down the hill. Only fast reflexes and good brakes prevented a catastrophe.

Parking Illegally on Mulholland Highway While Posing, 6:35pm

Last night’s meeting focussed on tour buses and vans, whose numbers and reach have increased dramatically in the past few years. No longer is it just a matter of the Starline Tours trolley bus stopping for pictures near Glen Oak before turning around at the Village. Open-air vans now transport smaller groups all the way up to Lake Hollywood Park, adding to the already hazardous conditions on Ledgewood Drive and Mulholland Highway. The van drivers also use microphones to point out the sights, creating a jarring monologue that residents hear many times a day, even behind closed doors. (Thanks to the efforts of Councilmember Tom LaBonge, tour operators have pledged to switch to headsets.)

Parked Cars at the Intersection of Mulholland Highway and Canyon Lake Drive, 5:55pm

One of Tom LaBonge’s ideas was to petition the government to relocate the GPS for the Hollywood Sign to Lake Hollywood Park. Nice try, but he should know that the area is already overrun with vans and cars. The intersection of Mulholland Highway and Canyon Lake Drive, where the Lake Hollywood lookout is located, is so clogged with parked and double-parked cars on both sides that access on the steep hill is sometimes limited to a single lane. Cars also stop illegally on the winding ridge of Mulholland, forcing traffic to pass on blind curves. As someone who drives that route five times a week, I can attest that head-on collisions are only narrowly averted.

Striking the Pose--Legally--at Lake Hollywood Lookout, 6pm

What is to be done? I hate to say it, but no substantive change is likely until a tragedy occurs. It’s going to take a fatal accident caused by the lawless behavior of Beachwood tourists to change things because the reasonable alternative–seeing the Hollywood Sign from afar–isn’t an option anymore. As for the pictures that accompany this article, all were taken in the space of an hour on a relatively slow night. But you get the idea.

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