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Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen
New York Icons: Kaufman Astoria Studios
"New York for its entire. History has brought people together of wildly different backgrounds and that might be different races or cultures or a geographic areas Irish people and Jews and African Americans and you know Italians but also different classes. You had the tenement girl and the rich playboy and everybody in between well. That's just a natural for storytelling. But when these stories were told by Hollywood what was distinctly New York about them could get flattened out for the mainstream. If you look today at a Marx brothers movies the first couple of Marx brothers films. They're throwing all these terms around. Mommy's Nora Nori. There is Jewish for free loader animal crackers in the coconuts where designs you know for a New York audience but when the Marx Brothers then do moved to Hollywood and they begin making films for MGM. There's no Yiddish in those movies anymore. Right they become the sort of universal. You Know Hollywood movie Marx Brothers that that's from forty second street classical nine hundred thirty three musical about the Broadway chorus girl who becomes a star that connick number has the busby Berkeley dance formations but it also has the skyline the elevated train street vendors and attempted rape and murder. It's a film about New York. Made in Hollywood that helped form what sanders calls the mythic city. That dream version of New York. That's a distillation of the real place. Forty Second Street and all those back stage musicals that were made all the homes that were about the putting on of a Broadway show. They were shot in Broadway theaters. They were shot in Hollywood sound stage theaters. You know there was just endless numbers of these amazing films which did not have a single frame except possibly the establishing shot the opening shot would be shot in New York as the credits ran by with music behind him in. May Nineteen thirty. Three paramount turned the Astoria studios over to its main creditor western electric that companies filmmaking arm Eastern Services Studios INC operated it as a rental studio for independent productions. Its output varied widely. The Scoundrel for example was set in Manhattan's literary world. Noel Coward plays a ruthless hated publisher. Julian place the woman he charms. Mary's then abandoned putting something happened. Man I do live. I hope you're playing folk killed when you're dying using it on. The homepage of the year does not think of human when he dies. He's condemned to damnation unless he finds one person on Earth to mourn. Him novelists writes Ben. Hecht and Charles MacArthur rotated but at Astoria. They also got to produce and direct. They won an academy award for best original. We don't be Marquette. Hulu your new. There was a series of Spanish language. Musical starring Tangos Star Carlos Gardell Tambien. A nineteen thirty. Three's Emperor Jones was based on the controversial Eugene O'Neill play main character was a black pullman porter who escapes prison to become dictator of a small island. The film could only have been made with independent funding. Then the studios were called to service for World War Two. The Department acquired the property in Nineteen Forty Two and the pictorial center of the army. Signal Corps moved into make trading and propaganda films. They expanded the facility and built barracks for the soldiers. The army used motion pictures in the war effort and turned to experienced filmmakers for help frank. Capra worked on a series of orientation films called why we fight one episode related to our won the Oscar for best documentary. Just what was it? Made US change our way of living overnight but turned our resources are machines our whole nation into one vast awesome producing more and more weapons of war instead of the old materials by the end of the war the ABC employed over two thousand people making movies over half of them civilians. All this work even brought new film techniques like multiple angles shooting and change film in even more momentous ways for five years American audience. It has been seeing newsreels. And it's someone you know. A movie maker said well you couldn't you couldn't bring in the enemy for for production meeting you know before. The battle and people went out with sixteen millimeter cameras. And these lightweight cameras that could go everywhere. They saw actual action after the war audiences and creators had developed a taste for this more realistic filmmaking. There was an appetite. For a new kind of filmmaking. That would be used more available light less contrived cinematography be shot with faster. Granier film be more shot on location and feel more like a took place in real place and not this kind of fabricated construct and be more adult this desire for realism meant the glossy representations of New York. That Hollywood made before the war wouldn't do director is like Ilya. Kazan felt their stories needed New York locations and New York talent. You don't understand I coulda had class. Gerber contamination could have been somebody by the MID FIFTIES NEW YORK. Filmmakers were more than just contenders. The Oscar wins for on the waterfront in nineteen fifty five and Mardi fifty six affirm. That excellence could come from outside. Hollywood New York is setting is capable of whatever mood or dramatic statement? You WanNa make architecturally in its light for talk about winter light as Mr Bergman did. New York's winter light image. That Sidney Lumet in the documentary film titled by Sidney Lumet. He grew up on the lower east side in nineteen fifty seven. He went from directing theater and TV. Two movies with twelve angry men. You're asking us to believe that somebody else did the stabbing with exactly the same kind of knife. Larger a million or one go onto make more New York classics like Serpico Dog Day afternoon and network. He died in twenty eleven. I'm not comfortable anyplace but New York when I leave New York for any other place in the United States My nose starts to bleed. Filmmakers at this time took full advantage of New York locations for their exterior shooting. When they needed a controlled indoor set they may do with whatever studios were available. Tv Or old movie studios the old Bronx by graph for example operated as a rental studio under different names until the seventy s the Astoria Studios. Meanwhile were still occupied by the army. There was some leftover stages from the twenty s and they reuse them and Sidney Lumet told me amazing stories of going onto these studios which he was in an editing room up in the Bronx. That had been Edison's old editing suite with an e draw you know kind of worked into the curtains E for Edison. These were the oldest movie studios in the world and they were using them in the nineteen fifties to make all those great early in mid fifty s movies like Twelve angry men and on the waterfront the city eventually recognized how vital New York and the screener to each other in nineteen sixty six mayor. John established the first mayor's film office in the world to lower hurdles to filming their Lindsay's film office streamline the permitting process and removed a lot of red tape for shooting in the city he even dedicated a police. Unit to location shoots then in nineteen seventy. The army moved production to different site and turned the Astoria property over to the federal government. This was not simply a movement of some soldiers because most of the people making the films were grips carpenters electricians and actress who were part of. New York's commercial motion picture industry so they were not at all happy when this plug got pulled in Astoria. The complex sat abandoned. For years unprotected and open vandals people would go in there. Rip The copper out of the walls and those people with a purpose then they were also just people in there for mischief terrible condition in the meantime you have this eyesore at the edge of a residential communities have halfway between the area and Long Island city. It's just getting worse and worse and worse. They abandoned cars dropped all around weeds growing through the sidewalk. I remember this very clearly. The film unions local community and the city got together to preserve the studio site. Save film jobs and clean up the neighborhood in nineteen seventy seven. They formed the nonprofit a story of Motion Picture and Television Center Foundation. They managed to prevent the studio from being sold off or turn down by getting the site on the National Register of historic places a process that normally took years.