Should We Still Call Them ‘Films’?

Paramount has announced that it will become the first Hollywood studio to stop releasing movies on reels of old-fashioned film, a medium that’s been around since the movie industry began some 120 years ago. Paramount’s The Wolf of Wall Street is the first blockbuster to come out only in digital format. Other studios are sure to follow. Movies increasingly are shot with digital cameras, edited on computers, and distributed on a paperback-book-sized hard drive or by satellite transmission. Only 15 …

Tom Laughlin: The Renegade Who Challenged Hollywood and Won

Action flicks of the 1970s featured an army of  two-fisted tough guys with hard stares and gritted teeth, who angrily defied the establishment and did things their own way, especially if that entailed acts of violence at frequent intervals. But none was angrier, more defiant or more willing to kick butt and take names than Billy Jack, the protagonist of a trio of films by actor-director-producer Tom Laughlin. Laughlin, who died on Dec. 12 at age 82 in Thousand Oaks, …

Redford, Loneliness and the Ocean

Anyone who has never been in the middle of an ocean surrounded by an eternity of waves can ever imagine  how lonely it can be. Time has no meaning and distance is a dream on an empty sea, whether you’re on a cruise ship, a troop ship, a battle ship or a canoe. It’s all the same in a cosmic vision. The ocean is a metaphor for loneliness. Robert Redford, the actor who once seemed to offer little more than …

He Taught Hollywood How to Write Screenplays

Syd Field was one of the most famous names in Hollywood screenwriting – even though, by his own account, the only movie script of his ever produced was an obscure Argentine film, Los Banditos. “I never saw the film,” he once explained. “But it was a pretty good script, as I remember.” Field, who died on Nov. 17 at age 77 in Beverly Hills, became famous by analyzing the art of screenwriting and then giving other writers tips on how to …

Did This Actor Invent the Gourmet Hamburger?

If you’re a devotee of the Turner Classic Movies cable channel, you may well know Harry Lewis, even though you might not recognize his name. In the 1948 classic Key Largo, Lewis played Edward “Toots” Bass, a dapper but menacing gunman in a gang – led by Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) – that takes the occupants of a hotel hostage as a hurricane approaches. When the hotel’s owner, portrayed by Lionel Barrymore, asks whether their motive is robbery, Lewis …

Esther Williams: Who Says Mermaids Aren’t Real?

You don’t have to watch a recent controversial cable TV documentary about mermaids to see convincing visual evidence that the mythical creatures might actually exist. Just rent a few of Esther Williams’ classic Hollywood aquatic musicals – Bathing Beauty, Neptune’s Daughter and Million-Dollar Mermaid, to name a few – in which the teenage national swimming champion turned glamorous actress thrilled 1940s and 1950s moviegoers with her graceful underwater maneuvers and lithe, shapely figure. But for fate, Williams, who died on June …