Friday, February 13, 2015

Tom Sito's February History

Once again, it's time for Professor/President Emeritus Sito's movie factoids.

Feb 1, 1893- In New Jersey, Thomas Edison and his engineer W. K. Dickson build the FIRST MOTION PICTURE STUDIO.

It was covered with black tar paper and nicknamed "The Black Mariah", because that was the nickname of police wagons that it resembled. It's debatable how much of the inventing effort was more Dickson than Edison. Edison was only marginally interested in the movies. Dickson worked himself into the hospital to make the studio work; resenting Edison’s apathy, he started experimenting on his own. When Edison found out he fired him.

Feb 2, 1922 - Twenty-one-year old Walt Disney starts Newman's Laff-O-Grams in Kansas City.

Feb 5, 1919 - Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and D.W. Griffith form the United Artists Studio.

Feb. 5, 1937 - Charlie Chaplin’s film Modern Times premieres. Chaplin was inspired to lampoon modern technological madness when he was invited to view the auto assembly production lines in Detroit and saw men moving like machines.

Feb 5, 1953 - Walt Disney’s Peter Pan premieres.

Feb 7,1964 - THE BRITISH ROCK INVASION BEGAN. Thousands of screaming fans welcome THE BEATLES to New York for their first U.S. Tour. The last music out of England to be taken seriously by Americans was the Lambeth Walk; now the UK announced itself as a powerhouse of rock & roll. The crowds of teenagers were so excited they mobbed a Rolls Royce in front of the Warwick Hotel where the Beatles were staying, just because they figured a Rolls Royce would be something they drove in. They had actually arrived in a taxicab.

Feb 8, 1914 - THE FIRST TRUE CHARACTER ANIMATION - Windsor McCay's "Gertie the Dinosaur" premieres as part of a vaudeville act. Up to then most U.S. animations were attempts to bring popular newspaper comic characters to life, but Gertie was a new character never before seen. Some critics had wondered if animated characters weren’t some kind of man in a special suit, so McCay drew a dinosaur, a character that couldn’t possibly be impersonated by a living thing. The brilliant draftsmanship and timing of this film would inspire the generation of Animation artists of the Golden Age of the 1930's-40s.

Feb 8, 2001 - Walt Disney’s California Adventure theme park opens.

Feb 9, 1914 - “Mabel’s Strange Predicament” The Max Sennett Keystone short where Charlie Chaplin first donned his baggy pants, little mustache and derby to create The Tramp, one of the most beloved characters in cinema history.

Feb 10, 1940 - MGM's "Puss gets the Boot" the first Tom and Jerry cartoon and the first collaboration of the team of Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera.

Feb 11, 1976- Chuck Jones’s TV special "Mowgli’s Brothers."

Feb 13 , 1886- Artist Thomas Eakins resigns his professorship at the Philadelphia Academy of Art in disgust when he's attacked for having male nudes in his art class with women as students.

Feb 13, 1937- Hal Foster's comic hero Prince Valiant first appears. ...

And the rest of the month:

Feb 13, 1939- Producer David O. Selznick replaced directors on Gone With the Wind. George Cukor was out, Victor Fleming was in ... after completing all but the opening sequence of The Wizard of Oz. Vivien Leigh liked Cukor, who was known for directing women, but Clark Gable convinced the producers that they needed an action director. [He convinced them because he was Clark Gable, the nation's top star, and thus had leverage. -- Hulett]

About 15 minutes of George Cukor’s work remains in the picture. Victor Fleming loved Clark, but didn't get along with Vivien Leigh and came to hate the controlling Selznick. David O. brought in Sam Wood to direct second unit when Fleming fell behind. At the end Victor Fleming had one more tantrum when Selznick proposed giving Wood and Cukor co- screen credit..

Yet despite it all, Gone with the Wind became a box office phenomenon. Years later Clark Gable came up to Selznick at a party and said: "Maybe I'm wrong about disliking you David, 'Gone With the Wind' keeps getting re-released and keeps me a star." Selznick once said:” My biggest fear is that all I shall ever be remembered for is producing Gone With the Wind.”

Feb 14, 1967- the birthday of Laura Croft.

Feb 14, 1931 - Tod Browning's film of the play Dracula, starring Hungarian actors' union organizer and recreational morphine addict Bela Lugosi, premiered.

Feb 16, 1987 - "Family Dog" episode on Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories TV show. The first direction by Brad Bird.

Feb 17, 1912 - THE NEW YORK ARMORY SHOW - Mabel Dodge and Gertrude Stein introduce Post expressionist modern art to the U.S. public. The first U.S. showings of Picasso, Matisse, Duchamp and the Italian futurists. The show was denounced as a "chamber of horrors" and Matisse was burned in effigy in Chicago. Marcel Duchamp's "Nude Descending a Staircase" was described by an art critic as "an explosion in a shingle factory". Duchamp was highly gratified, I believe.

Feb 19, 1960 - Bill Keane's "Family Circus" cartoon strip debuts. Bill Keane is the father of animator Glen Keane and the young son Billy in the strip is modeled on him.

Feb 20, 1925 - Willis O’Brien’s silent movie The Lost World premieres. The stop motion animation of dinosaurs and exploding volcanoes issued in a new era of special effects films.

Feb 22, 2009 - Slumdog Millionaire wins best picture and best cinematography at the 81st Academy Awards. The first movie shot completely digital, with no film used, to be so honored.

Feb 23, 1935- Walt Disney’s Mickey & Donald cartoon "The Band Concert" is released. This was the first color Mickey Mouse cartoon.

Feb 25, 1932 - TOONTOWN SCANDALS. Former Australian prizefighter Pat Sullivan was the producer of the Felix the Cat cartoons, the first true animation star. Although animator Otto Mesmer actually created him, Sullivan's name is the only one on the titles. Felix was one of the top film stars of the 1920s. Lindbergh supposedly had a Felix doll with him in the Spirit of St. Louis and his body shape was the prototype of Mickey Mouse and dozens of other characters. While Mesmer quietly drew pictures, Sullivan lived the fast life of a roaring twenties celebrity. 

Mrs. Marjorie Sullivan had been having an affair with her chauffeur. After a nasty scene when husband confronted wife and the chauffeur fled, Mrs. Sullivan mysteriously fell out of her window to her death. The scandal was front page news and Sullivan never got over it. He drank himself to death, which during Prohibition wasn’t an easy thing to do. Sullivan's death and his failure to get Felix into sound cartoons doomed his studio. Otto Mesmer went on to animate the first Broadway light signs but did not receive any recognition for his contributions to animation until he was re-introduced to the public at a Bob Clampett night at the Museum of Modern Art in 1975.

Feb 26, 1991- At a meeting in Switzerland, Tim Berners-Lee introduces the first Web Browser.

Feb 27, 1991 - The Mitchell Brothers were tops in the pornography business, producing blockbusters like Behind the Green Door and running the O’ Farrell Theater in San Francisco. This day after doing a lot of drugs, Jim Mitchell shot his brother Arnie to death with a rifle. The Mitchell Brothers Court case marked the first use of 3D computer animation as a scenario tool.

Feb 28, 1953-Chuck Jones’s short cartoon “Duck-Amuck” debuts - called by Steven Speilberg the Citizen Kane of Animation.

February Birthdays: George Pal, Nathan Lane, Thurl Ravenscroft, H.R. Giger, Marty Sklar, Frank Frazetta, Seth Green, Matt Groening, Faith Hubley, Gahan Wilson, Paul Terry, Simon Pegg, Joe Oriolo, Edward Gorey, Tex Avery, Mister Magoo.


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