June 21, 2007


AFI again rates 'Kane' as top movie

LOS ANGELES - The years have been kind to "Citizen Kane," including the last decade. The 1941 Orson Welles classic — the story of a wealthy young idealist transformed by scandal and vice into a regretful old recluse — was again rated the best movie ever Wednesday by the American Film Institute.

In the CBS special "AFI's 100 Years ... 100 Movies — 10th Anniversary Edition," "Citizen Kane" held the same No. 1 billing it earned in the institute's first top-100 ranking in 1998.

There were notable changes elsewhere, though, with Martin Scorsese's 1980 masterpiece "Raging Bull" bounding upward from No. 24 in 1998 to No. 4 on the new list and Alfred Hitchcock's 1958 thriller "Vertigo" hurtling from No. 61 to No. 9 this time.

Charles Chaplin's 1931 silent gem "City Lights" jumped from No. 76 to No. 11, while the 1956 John Ford-John Wayne Western "The Searchers" took the biggest leap, from No. 96 all the way to No. 12.

"The ones that made the huge jumps are really, really fascinating," said Jean Picker Firstenberg, chief executive at AFI, which has done top-10 lists every year since 1998 showcasing best comedies, thrillers, love stories and other highlights in American cinema.

"I'd like to think this entire series has had a real influence on what people think about a film like `City Lights,' `The Searchers,' `Vertigo.' Gotten them talking about these films and going back to watch them again, and if they've never seen them, to go watch them for the first time."

Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 epic "The Godfather" ranked No. 2, up one notch from 1998, switching places with Michael Curtiz's 1942 favorite "Casablanca," which dipped from second-place to third.

Both 1967's "The Graduate" and 1954's "On the Waterfront," which ranked Nos. 7 and 8 respectively in 1998, fell out of the top 10, "The Graduate" coming in at No. 17 and "On the Waterfront" finishing at No. 19.

The other five films in the new top 10 also were among the original 10 best, though they shuffled positions: 1952's "Singin' in the Rain (No. 5 now, No. 10 in 1998), 1939's "Gone With the Wind" (No. 6 now, No. 4 in 1998), 1962's "Lawrence of Arabia" (No. 7 now, No. 5 in 1998), 1993's "Schindler's List" (No. 8 now, No. 9 in 1998) and 1939's "The Wizard of Oz" (No. 10 now, No. 6 in 1998).

The top-100 were chosen from ballots sent to 1,500 filmmakers, actors, writers, critics and others in Hollywood from a list of 400 nominated movies, 43 of which came from the decade since the first list was compiled.

Of those newer films, only four made the top-100: 2001's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" (No. 50), 1998's "Saving Private Ryan" (No. 71), 1997's "Titanic" (No. 83) and 1999's "The Sixth Sense" (No. 89).

Older films that did not make the cut on the 1998 list broke into the top-100 this time, led by Buster Keaton's 1927 silent comedy "The General" at No. 18. Others included 1916's "Intolerance" (No. 49), 1975's "Nashville" (No. 59), 1960's "Spartacus" (No. 81), 1989's "Do the Right Thing" (No. 96) and 1995's "Toy Story" (No. 99).

Some silent-era classics and other old films may have fared better this time because they are more readily available in good quality restorations in today's DVD age as opposed to the VHS days.

Films that dropped out of the top-100 this time included 1965's "Doctor Zhivago," which had been No. 39 on the 1998 list; 1984's "Amadeus," which had been No. 53; 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," which had been No. 64; 1990's "Dances With Wolves," which had been No. 75; and 1927's "The Jazz Singer," which had been No. 90.

"Close Encounters" director Steven Spielberg had the most films on the list with five, while Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and Billy Wilder each had four. James Stewart and Robert De Niro were the most-represented actors with five films apiece.

In interviews for Wednesday's special, filmmakers and others in Hollywood told AFI they loved the behind-the-scenes story of "Citizen Kane" as much as the film itself, said Bob Gazzale, who produced the AFI show.

It was the first movie by Welles, who bucked studio and storytelling conventions to craft a landmark film about the rise and fall of a William Randolph Hearst-like newspaper publisher.

The film was ahead of its time, a dark tale whose brooding design, murky lighting, overlapping dialogue and ripped-from-true-life Hearst connection created an unnerving sense of realism.

"No one disputes it's a great American film, but what you hear from the great artists of our day is the love they have for this ideal of a young maverick making a movie like this, that a 25-year-old Orson Welles changed the fabric of cinema, and that that ideal still holds today of this jewel everybody reaches for," Gazzale said.

"It's not only the movie, but the embodiment of the man who broke all the rules to tell his story."

While AFI officials have not decided if they will continue the annual lists in coming years, Firstenberg said the institute will do a new list of all-time best American films every 10 years as a guide to changing tastes in future decades.

"With this new list, it became clearer the value of this program was to have five lists to chart rather than one 50-year-old list," Gazzale said. "It's not only celebrating the films again and driving people to see them again, but we get to see what's gone up, what's gone down."

CLICK HERE to download the AFI's 100 YEARS...100 MOVIES - 10TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION complete list.

June 17, 2007

Elvis Presley's pills, gun auctioned off

BEVERLY HILLS - A gold-plated gun and a pill bottle owned by Elvis Presley, an umbrella twirled by Marilyn Monroe and Alfred Hitchcock's passport were among items that attracted bidders at an auction Saturday.

The umbrella used by Monroe in a famous 1949 seaside photo shoot by Andre de Dienes sold for $42,000 at the annual Julien's Summer Auction, CEO Darren Julien said in a statement. The buyer, William Doyle, said he planned to display the umbrella at the Museum of Style Icons in County Kildare, Ireland.

Hitchcock's passport sold for $19,200 during the eight-hour auction at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Presley's gun commanded $28,800, while a microphone used by the rock icon on the Louisiana Hayride in the 1950s sold for $15,000.

A prescription pill bottle belonging to Presley sold for $2,640.

"We'd planned to sell the bottle with the pills, but the Los Angeles Police Department told us it would be a federal crime to do it, so sad to say we had to remove the pills," Julien said before the auction.

The undated bottle was for the antihistamine and decongestant drug Naldecon, prescribed by George Nichopoulos, who was Presley's personal physician from 1970 until his death.

June 09, 2007

`Peyton Place' was Maine attraction

CAMDEN, Maine - When moviemakers wanted to film "Peyton Place" in this small seaside town, the best-selling novel the movie was to be based on was so scandalous the local library didn't even keep it on its shelves.

The book had sparked outrage with its titillating look behind closed doors in a proper New England town. People read it in secret, and it was banned from many schools and homes.

But that didn't keep Camden from welcoming 20th Century Fox to turn its streets, homes and people into "Peyton Place." Now 50 years ago, film crews transformed the small mill and summer resort town into a movie set for a story about adultery, sexual abuse, murder and lies.

At the time, Barbara Dyer was among those who were indignant that such a movie was being made in Camden. What would people think?

It wasn't until decades later that Dyer watched the movie. When she looks back now, the movie seems tame and she laughs at being offended.

"At that time, 50 years ago, it was a different time," said Dyer, who is 83. "Up until that time, movies were censored. When Clark Gable said `Damn' (in `Gone With the Wind'), that was terrible."

Grace Metalious' 1956 novel "Peyton Place" was dubbed "trash" by some critics, but it made for juicy reading and sold more than 12 million copies.

The book focuses on the lives of three women in a small New Hampshire town in the 1940s, and brings with it themes of class privilege, sexual desire and hypocrisy. In revealing the hidden secrets behind the straight-laced facade of a quaint New England town, the book rocked the region's stuffy reputation; the term "Peyton Place" has come to mean any place with sordid secrets.

The novel also has been credited with providing social commentary on previously taboo subjects such as sex, alcoholism, incest and spousal abuse.

It wasn't long before Hollywood decided to cash in.

When moviemakers first looked for a location to film, they were rejected by towns in Vermont and New Hampshire. So producers looked to Maine, choosing Camden over Skowhegan, Waterville and Wiscasset.

During the month of filming, more than 500 locals got roles as extras. The movie — starring Lana Turner,
Hope Lange, Arthur Kennedy and Russ Tamblyn — was nominated for nine
Oscars (it didn't win any) and spawned a 1960s prime-time TV soap opera.

Throughout June of 1957, Glenna Drinkwater pedaled around Camden on her bike to watch the movie being made in hopes of catching a glimpse of Hollywood stars.

The 15-year-old read the book under her bed covers with a flashlight because her mother had forbidden her from reading it. When she was chosen as an extra — she was paid $10 a day — it was doubly exciting because of the racy nature of the book.

"It was wonderful. But it was a scandalous thing because it was a taboo book," she said.

The filming became a defining time for the town, said Terry Bregy, who will narrate a trolley tour of the film's landmarks next weekend as part of the town's 50th anniversary celebration of the film.

At the time, Camden was mainly a working man's town with a small wealthy summer community, Bregy said. Now it's a major tourist destination with pricey real estate and high incomes.

"If there was a seminal event that changed the mind-set of the people here, this was it," Bregy said. "Having a major motion picture made here made people think this must be a unique place."

After the movie was released, tourists flocked to Camden in search of the places where "Peyton Place" was filmed; a half century later, they're still coming.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary, the local chamber of commerce is holding a two-day celebration June 15-16 with a parade, trolley tours, receptions, a panel discussion and, of course, a screening of the movie.

Visitors will find that the town still looks remarkably like it did in the movie.

The Village Restaurant and the Village Shop are still there. The town's amphitheater overlooking Camden Harbor is the same, as is Mount Battie, where an innocent kiss is shared in the film. The Whitehall Inn still has rocking chairs on its big front porch, and the house at 77 Chestnut St. still has a white fence.

The arched sign that says "Entering Peyton Place" in the film can be found on Union Street, except that it welcomes people to Camden.

There are differences as well.

The Camden movie theater on Mechanic Street, where the film made its world premiere on Dec. 11, 1957, is now a clothing and shoe store. The Knox Mill, which was renamed Harrington Mills for the movie, has been converted into offices, shops and condos. The Western Union store is now a restaurant, and the Tweed Shop is now Planet Emporium.

Todd McIntosh expects a crowd at the anniversary festivities. In the movie, he's the one in a red nylon James Dean-style jacket and a crew cut rowing a boat in the mill pond during the Labor Day picnic scene.

Though there were reservations about the film 50 years ago, the movie is now a cherished part of the town's heritage, McIntosh said.

"`Peyton Place' has attached itself to Camden," he said, "and Camden to `Peyton Place.'"