Question: How do people have this much free time in their lives to do something like this? Not knocking them, just amazed: (1) That they have this amount of time. (2) That they would choose to use their free time doing this. (3) That they came up with such an amazing recreation.
The movie To Kill a Mockingbird premiered in L.A. on December 25, 1962, then in New York on February 14, 1963, but it opened nationwide 50 years ago today. Here is the movie’s original trailer:
The movie is, of course, based on the novel by Harper Lee. Horton Foote wrote the screenplay adaptation and Richard Mulligan directed the movie. It starred Gregory Peck in arguably the greatest role of his career as single father and lawyer Atticus Finch. An IMDB plot summary:
Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice.
Here is an excerpt of Finch’s summation argument in the court case:
You may listen to the entirety of Finch’s summary argument here.
The story is told through eyes of Finch’s six year-old daughter Scout played by Mary Badham:
In a pivotal scene where locals have gathered outside the jail intent on killing the defendant Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), Scout along with her brother Jem and friend Dill play a critical role:
Notice how the camera tracks through the crowd of men, intimating Scout’s perspective.
This is a powerful movie, selected by the American Film Institute as the #1 courtroom drama of all time. It is especially evocative for me because my father, an Air Force officer, attended the Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama from 1963-1964. It was my first time in the segregated South and a major eye-opening experience. George Wallace, a staunch segregationist, assumed the office of Alabama’s governor in 1963. That same year, he stood in front of the doorway of the University of Alabama in an attempt to block the entrance to some African-American students. That’s a well-known event. Less familiar is the fact that in September of that year, Wallace again tried to block the desegregation of some public schools in the state — elementary schools.
I was an elementary student at that time. It was there on November 22, 1963, a school official interrupted our class to announce that President John Kennedy had been shot. Some of the students clapped.
Movies exist for any number of reasons. To Kill a Mockingbird is much more than a commentary on racism, one reason it is such a special film. But to me at its philosophical core, it is about the power of humanity against the insanity of dehumanization.
That is a big reason why To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my very favorite movies.
For more, you may go here for commentary and video about the PBS American Masters documentary “Harper Lee: Hey, Boo”. Here is a clip featuring the author:
What are your thoughts about To Kill a Mockingbird?
Casablanca was released 70 years ago today: January 23, 1943. [It had its world premiere on November 26, 1942 in New York City.] It is one of the most iconic movies of all time, voted the #1 screenplay of all time by the WGA which is ironic because apparently there never was a finished script. Check out the Wikipedia entry on the writing of the movie:
The original play was inspired by a trip to Europe made by Murray Burnett in 1938, during which he visited Vienna shortly after the Anschluss, where he saw discrimination by Nazis first-hand. In the south of France, he came across a nightclub, which had a multinational clientele and the prototype of Sam, the black piano player. In the play, the Ilsa character was an American named Lois Meredith and did not meet Laszlo until after her relationship with Rick in Paris had ended; Rick was a lawyer. To make Rick’s motivation more believable, Wallis, Curtiz, and the screenwriters decided to set the film before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The first writers assigned to the script were the Epstein twins, Julius and Philip who, against the wishes of Warner Brothers, left after the attack on Pearl Harbor at Frank Capra’s request to work on the “Why We Fight” series in Washington, D.C. While they were gone, the other credited writer, Howard Koch was assigned to the script and produced some thirty to forty pages. When the Epstein brothers returned after a month, they were reassigned to Casablanca and—contrary to what Koch claimed in two published books—his work was not used. In the final Warner Brothers budget for the film, the Epsteins were paid $30,416 and Koch $4,200.
The uncredited Casey Robinson assisted with three weeks of rewrites, including contributing the series of meetings between Rick and Ilsa in the cafe. Koch highlighted the political and melodramatic elements, while Curtiz seems to have favored the romantic parts, insisting on retaining the Paris flashbacks. Wallis wrote the final line (“Louie, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”) after shooting had been completed. Bogart had to be called in a month after the end of filming to dub it. Despite the many writers, the film has what Ebert describes as a “wonderfully unified and consistent” script. Koch later claimed it was the tension between his own approach and Curtiz’s which accounted for this: “Surprisingly, these disparate approaches somehow meshed, and perhaps it was partly this tug of war between Curtiz and me that gave the film a certain balance.” Julius Epstein would later note the screenplay contained “more corn than in the states of Kansas and Iowa combined. But when corn works, there’s nothing better.”
The film ran into some trouble from Joseph Breen of the Production Code Administration (the Hollywood self-censorship body), who opposed the suggestions that Captain Renault extorted sexual favors from his supplicants, and that Rick and Ilsa had slept together in Paris. Extensive changes were made, with several lines of dialogue removed and/or altered, and all direct references to sex in the film removed. Additionally, when Sam played “As Time Goes By” in the original script, Rick had remarked “What the —— are you playing?” This line implying a curse word was removed at the behest of the Hays Office, and both Renault’s selling of visas for sex, and Rick and Ilsa’s previous sexual relationship were implied elliptically rather than referenced explicitly.
Someone once described Casablanca as a B-movie that God reached down and turned into an A-movie. Works for me!
Exhibs, in selling the picture, will do well to bear in mind that it goes heavy on the love theme. Although the title and Humphrey Bogart’s name convey the impression of high adventure rather than romance, there’s plenty of the latter for the femme trade. Adventure is there, too, but it’s more as exciting background to the Bogart-Bergman heart department. Bogart, incidentally, as a tender lover (in addition to being a cold-as-ice nitery operator) is a novel characterization that, properly billed, might itself be good for some coin in the trough.
Bogart, as might be expected, is more at ease as the bitter and cynical operator of a joint than as a lover, but handles both assignments with superb finesse. Bergman, in a torn-between-love-and-duty role, lives up to her reputation as a fine actress. Henreid is well cast and does an excellent job too.
Superb is the lineup of lesser players. Some of the characterizations are a bit on the overdone side, but each is a memorable addition to the whole. There’s Claude Rains, as the charmingly-corrupt prefect of police; Sydney Greenstreet, as the polite and insidious boss of Casablanca’s underground traffic in visas; Peter Lorre, as a sinister runner of phony papers; Conrad Veidt, as the usual German officer; S. Z. Sakall, as a waiter in Rick’s and a participant in the anti-Axis underground; and Leonid Kinskey as Rick’s bartender.
Of course, no reference to Casablanca can stand without including this monumental scene:
So let’s wish Casablanca a Happy Birthday today with your memories, thoughts and feelings about the film. Do you remember the first time you saw it? What are your favorite scenes? Favorite lines of dialogue? Who is your favorite character? Where does the movie slot in on your all-time favorite list? It’s definitely in my Top 10.
On the same day the cast of The Avengers was assembling for its London premiere, the film’s writer-director Joss Whedon was in New York, attending the twentieth anniversary celebration of Equality Now. In fact, Whedon penned some comic skits for the ceremony, with actors like Laura Linney, Eliza Dushku, and Daphne Zuniga reading his lines.
And here is transcript of the skit:
Daphne Zuniga: What equality means to me is that women are given their moment, their chance to stand alone before everyone, with dignity, and to know that no man is going to try to upstage … Evil Robot: [comes on stage, making robot noises] Zuniga: … with dignity… Evil Robot: Evil! Evil! Zuniga: Oh, no. Evil robot from the future. Evil Robot: I am an evil robot from the future! Zuniga: I just said that. Evil Robot: It’s my line. And I am an evil robot from the future. Zuniga: What do you want, evil robot? Have you come from the future to destroy humankind? Evil Robot: I come from the future to destroy … Stop saying my lines! I come all the way from the future! Zuniga: What is it like? Evil Robot: All the humans like to have a good time, jet packs, it makes me want to barf. Not the jet packs, those are pretty cool, but all the singing and dancing, all the people building things together, and getting along. Ergh! So that’s why I was nominated by the Robot Council to come back in time to destroy the human race. Zuniga: So I suppose you’re going to tell us your evil plan. I can’t believe Laura Linney got the [female genital mutilation] thing and I got this bit. Evil Robot: Ouch! Ouch! What, you think I can’t feel? Okay, here’s the plan. The plan is to pit one half of the human population against the other, so robots can take over the land … and the jet packs. Zuniga: Really? Really? Evil Robot: That’s the plan. Zuniga: You think humans will go for this? Evil Robot: They’ll love it. There will be oppression, there will be bloodshed … Zuniga: Starting now? Evil Robot: Starting now. Zuniga: So you’re going to create the inequality between the sexes? Evil Robot: Between the what? Zuniga: Wow, you’re tripping me out. You’re going to invent the oppression of women? Evil Robot: No, no, where are you getting this from? That would be insane. Random. Why would men hate women? Men need women. They literally need each other. Why would men hate women? That’s nuts. They can’t reproduce on an assembly line like we can … which in my opinion is way hotter. Zuniga: So violence against women isn’t a part of the future? Evil Robot: No. Why are you fixated on this? Zuniga: No femicide? No honor killing? No sex trafficking? No female genital mutilation? Evil Robot: [agitated] Where are you getting this stuff? Please, no! No! Zuniga: Well, then, who were you planning on turning against each other? Evil Robot: Figuring it out! Um, Vikings. Steam-punkers. Vegans. The people behind Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, which is still running in the year 10,220. People who wear weird things. [motions to throat] Zuniga: Ascots? Evil Robot: Yes. It’s a work in progress. Zuniga: Nothing about women? Evil Robot: No! You’ve got to talk to somebody, because you’re fixated on this for some reason. No, no, nothing about women. Zuniga: Great, great. So you’re not against equality. So why are you here tonight? Evil Robot: I uh … [clears throat] I wanted to see if maybe you’d sign my Spaceballs DVD. Zuniga: [signs DVD as the robot starts to walk away] No, no, wait, maybe we’re the evil ones, and you’re the … Evil Robot. No, no, I’m evil. And I hate all of you … equally.
A recent roundtable: The New Yorker’s editor, David Remnick, moderated a live conversation about the changing entertainment landscape, featuring the staff writers Richard Brody, David Denby, Emily Nussbaum, and Kelefa Sanneh.
In fact, this article by Brendan Connelly at BleedingCool points out this isn’t a definitive list at all, but rather 85 films Scorcese mentioned in a 4 hour conversation that led to the overhyped titled article from Fast Company.
Not to minimize the value of the list, nor the fact that Scorcese could toss off such a collection of films off the top of his head.