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Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

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Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby moira finnie » April 16th, 2014, 12:40 pm

Here's the spot for the Q & A with Matthew Kennedy about Roadshow! The Fall of the Film Musical in the 1960s (Oxford University Press) from Friday, April 18th-Monday, April 21st. All are welcome to participate in this discussion.
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Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Lzcutter » April 18th, 2014, 12:08 am

Matthew,

Welcome and thank you for being here.

Having grown up in the era you cover in Roadshow and seen many of the films in their roadshow versions (even in Las Vegas!), I wanted to know, what inspired you to write Roadshow?

And what was the most interesting fact you uncovered?

Thank you again for spending the weekend with us!
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Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby moira finnie » April 18th, 2014, 9:22 am

Thanks for making this return visit, Matthew. I am loving your book and am astounded by the thinking of some of the studios regarding the musical. Could you please comment on some of the directors who were enticed into tackling the projects that you touch on Roadshow? Do you think that Joshua Logan, Gene Kelly, Richard Fleischer, Blake Edwards, Francis Ford Coppola and whomever else you could name in the director's chair tried hardest to craft something fresh from the material they had to work with at the time?

Critically battered and often financially disappointing at the time of their release, are there any musicals from this period that you think now seem better than they were first perceived?

Thanks in advance for your answers.
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Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Matthew » April 18th, 2014, 10:46 am

Greetings All,

Many thanks to Moira and Lynn for inviting me back to Silver Screen Oasis. It's a pleasure to be amidst folks who have much film experience and knowledge! [Warning: Since writing Roadshow! I tend to overuse exclamation points! :lol: ]

I was inspired in a number of ways to write Roadshow! My book output had been three biographies and I was eager to try something else. These particular movies, the big budget musicals that flooded the market following The Sound of Music, had been given scant attention in film history. I remember them well from my childhood, and found them fascinating. Put it all together, and the idea of devoting a book to them took shape.

The most interesting fact? They're so many. I found the making of Goodbye, Mr. Chips particularly amazing. Thanks to the voluminous Arthur Jacobs files at Loyola Marymount University, there's practically day-by-day accounting of its conception and production. The process of hiring stars, composers, and director was stupefying. Such a small, tender story with production complexities that rival Cleopatra. :o


Lzcutter wrote:Matthew,

Welcome and thank you for being here.

Having grown up in the era you cover in Roadshow and seen many of the films in their roadshow versions (even in Las Vegas!), I wanted to know, what inspired you to write Roadshow?

And what was the most interesting fact you uncovered?

Thank you again for spending the weekend with us!

Matthew

Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Matthew » April 18th, 2014, 11:30 am

Hi Moira,

One Roadshow! reviewer said (I'm paraphrasing) "'What were they thinking?' is the subtext on virtually every page."

The directors of the last roadshow musicals form a strange fraternity. What's stunning is their lack of experience with musicals, Logan and Kelly notwithstanding. It was a far cry from the musical glory days of MGM, when Minnelli or Charles Walters or Stanley Donen directed with a fantastic array of in-house talent. Now the studios were throwing millions of dollars at directors with no musical experience, sending them on distant locations, and expecting them to come back with another Sound of Music. Crazy.

I get the impression Fleischer did what he could to save Doctor Dolittle, but the frustrations of egomaniacal Rex Harrison, an ever-changing score by newcomer Leslie Bricusse, and location nightmares conspired against him. Coppola (Finian's Rainbow) wasn't just new to musicals, he was fresh out of film school. By his own admission, he didn't know the first thing about staging musical numbers, and he was directing none other than Fred Astaire! I think Edwards never got a firm grasp on what Darling Lili actually was, other than a stretch for soon-to-be wife Julie Andrews. The veterans Carol Reed (Oliver!) and William Wyler (Funny Girl) actually made hits, though they, too, had no prior musical credentials. All of them labored to do the best they could, with the possible exception of Logan. He was demoralized by Camelot, and grew to not give a damn when Paint Your Wagon devolved into a muddy mess. That was the end of his directing career.

Goodbye, Mr. Chips is the one that improves with age. Peter O'Toole's singing still hurts, and the production is way too big and airy for the story being told, but the romance between O'Toole and Petula Clark is sweet and moving. Clark's voice is pure and lovely, and the two of them play beautifully off each other. It's also a sentimental tribute to learning, and the profound difference a great teacher can make to young lives. That one moistens the eyes.

moirafinnie wrote:Thanks for making this return visit, Matthew. I am loving your book and am astounded by the thinking of some of the studios regarding the musical. Could you please comment on some of the directors who were enticed into tackling the projects that you touch on Roadshow? Do you think that Joshua Logan, Gene Kelly, Richard Fleischer, Blake Edwards, Francis Ford Coppola and whomever else you could name in the director's chair tried hardest to craft something fresh from the material they had to work with at the time?

Critically battered and often financially disappointing at the time of their release, are there any musicals from this period that you think now seem better than they were first perceived?

Thanks in advance for your answers.

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Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Lzcutter » April 18th, 2014, 11:43 am

The veterans Carol Reed (Oliver!) and William Wyler (Funny Girl) actually made hits, though they, too, had no prior musical credentials.


Matthew,

Thanks again for being here! Hoping you can talk a bit about how Reed and Wyler were able to make successful musicals when so many others who had also not helmed musicals had so much trouble.

What did Reed and Wyler have going for them that the others didn't?
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Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby moira finnie » April 18th, 2014, 12:16 pm

Your account of Rex Harrison's whims and tirades in Roadshow! is hilarious and confounding. Could you please touch on how much power and influence he wielded on the flurry of musicals in the late '60s?

How did the expanded impact of actors in movie-making affect other productions such as Camelot (1967)?

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Above: Rex Harrison, who was not averse to playing "pushmi-pullyu" with producers and directors.
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Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » April 18th, 2014, 1:29 pm

Dear Matthew,
Thank you so much for visiting The Silver Screen Oasis, and we are indeed privileged you are here.

I was hoping you might elaborate a bit on the "muddy mess" and Josh Logan's meltdown on the set of Paint Your Wagon. It is a film that has been so maligned by critics, and I thought you might have some positive comments about it.

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Lucky Vassall » April 18th, 2014, 2:40 pm

Greatly enjoying the discussion. Thanks for joining us to share some of your knowledge and experience in this,one of my favorite subjects.

I clearly remember watching what I believe was the first Roadshow picture, West Side Story. Am I right about this, and do you think it played any part in the rise of the Roadshows, or was it just the prelude to Sound of Music.

I believe it was shown at the Wintergarden in New York, the same theater where I saw the original Broadway production. Both lasting memories I treasure.

I remember being blown away by the movie opening (the first Overture opening?) and feeling throughout that it was well worth the added price.

This seems to be a trick they now seem to be using for 3D; wonder if it will have the same unfortunate result). It was, I'm afraid, the last time I didn't feel I'd been taken just to make an extra buck. I think the non-musical Spartacus was what did it for me with hard ticket Roadshows.

Was there any one film, in your opinion, that really killed Roadshows, or was it just the long run of less-than-successful musicals that turned off the audience?

Looking forward to enjoying more of your comments. Thanks, again, for joining us.
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Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Matthew » April 18th, 2014, 5:07 pm

I think Reed and Wyler chose their projects wisely. Oliver! had top rank designers contribute mightily to its success. Reed was generous in acknowledging them. They freed him to concentrate on the actors, which was one of his demonstrated fortes. Herbert Ross staged the musical numbers for Funny Girl, so Wyler concentrated his gift with actors on Barbra Streisand. Both shows had already been very successful on stage in New York and London, and came with popular songs. With Funny Girl, the curiosity of Streisand in her film debut was overwhelming. She had already conquered Broadway, television, and records, so the anticipation of her movie stardom was great. Also, both were cast with people who had genuine musical talent, something that should be obvious but can't be assumed in musicals of the late '60s. :?

Lzcutter wrote:
The veterans Carol Reed (Oliver!) and William Wyler (Funny Girl) actually made hits, though they, too, had no prior musical credentials.


Matthew,

Thanks again for being here! Hoping you can talk a bit about how Reed and Wyler were able to make successful musicals when so many others who had also not helmed musicals had so much trouble.

What did Reed and Wyler have going for them that the others didn't?

Matthew

Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Matthew » April 18th, 2014, 5:25 pm

Harrison briefly had a tremendous amount of power, and used it, in the wake of My Fair Lady. The only big musical he made after Lady was Dolittle, however. As audiences tired of musicals, musical makers tired of Harrison. He was on the short list for Goodbye, Mr. Chips, and might have been effective in Scrooge, but by then his shenanigans were well known.

It seems that once productions were underway, certain stars took full advantage of their privileges. Both Richard Harris in Camelot and Lee Marvin in Paint Your Wagon were reportedly "difficult," and drank heavily. The press enjoyed reporting on Streisand's temper and demands in Funny Girl and Hello, Dolly! Stars were harder to replace, could delay production, and could be all around more demanding in the post-studio age, especially on films that rested on their shoulders.

I like your caption for the photo - so true. :)

moirafinnie wrote:Your account of Rex Harrison's whims and tirades in Roadshow! is hilarious and confounding. Could you please touch on how much power and influence he wielded on the flurry of musicals in the late '60s?

How did the expanded impact of actors in movie-making affect other productions such as Camelot (1967)?

Image
Above: Rex Harrison, who was not averse to playing "pushmi-pullyu" with producers and directors.

Matthew

Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Matthew » April 18th, 2014, 5:48 pm

Hi Christy,

Logan was clinically depressed during the making of Wagon. As he reported, the production was so large and out of control that he began to doubt his abilities. Producer Alan Jay Lerner and the suits at Paramount were breathing down his neck, and he had a falling out with production designer John Truscott, who he worked with on Camelot.

When I've talked to folks about Roadshow!, they often mention Wagon as the primary example of what went wrong with musicals in the late '60s. Here's my take. I recently rewatched the scene just prior to the Intermission, and it felt long and aimless, rather like it didn't have a director. I feel the central love triangle is weak - Marvin mugs, Eastwood is bland, and Seberg looks perpetually unhappy. But I have a fondness for Wagon, too. The opening number over the credits promises lusty, robust entertainment, and Harve Presnell singing "They Call the Wind Maria" is a real highpoint. So is Marvin's treatment of "Wand'rin' Star." The whole film has a sense of lonely freedom, and it uses the great Oregon wilderness effectively.

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:Dear Matthew,
Thank you so much for visiting The Silver Screen Oasis, and we are indeed privileged you are here.

I was hoping you might elaborate a bit on the "muddy mess" and Josh Logan's meltdown on the set of Paint Your Wagon. It is a film that has been so maligned by critics, and I thought you might have some positive comments about it.

Thanks in advance!
Last edited by Matthew on April 18th, 2014, 6:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Sue Sue Applegate » April 18th, 2014, 5:55 pm

Thank you, Matthew. I have a special fondness for Presnell's version of "They Call the WInd Maria" and Lee Marvin's "Wandrin' Star," which was a #1 hit in Great Britain. I also felt the opening had such great promise, but Eastwood was bland, and Seberg just seemed unhappy the whole time, except when she knew she shedding herself of the Mormon husband. :D

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Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Matthew » April 18th, 2014, 6:13 pm

Hi Lucky,
Roadshows actually go back to the silent era, when live orchestras traveled with major films, i.e. "let's take this show on the road."

If there was a Golden Age of the roadshow, it would have been the '50s, when Hollywood was delivering reserve seat blockbusters like This is Cinerama, The Robe, Oklahoma!, Around the World in 80 Days, Ben-Hur, etc. West Side Story came along in 1961 and somewhat foreshadowed The Sound of Music. They were both directed by Robert Wise, produced by Saul Chaplin, written by Ernest Lehman, adapted from Broadway, and premiered at the Rivoli, the roadshow cinema place in New York for many years. And both had those spectacular openings! :)

Your memories of feeling a little taken by the higher ticket prices were shared by millions in the late '60s, dooming the roadshow. Was there one film responsible for the death of the roadshow? Would I be pelted with tomatoes for answering with The Sound of Music? Its phenomenal success incited so many would be hoped for copy cats that Hollywood was in a recession by 1969.


Lucky Vassall wrote:Greatly enjoying the discussion. Thanks for joining us to share some of your knowledge and experience in this,one of my favorite subjects.

I clearly remember watching what I believe was the first Roadshow picture, West Side Story. Am I right about this, and do you think it played any part in the rise of the Roadshows, or was it just the prelude to Sound of Music.

I believe it was shown at the Wintergarden in New York, the same theater where I saw the original Broadway production. Both lasting memories I treasure.

I remember being blown away by the movie opening (the first Overture opening?) and feeling throughout that it was well worth the added price.

This seems to be a trick they now seem to be using for 3D; wonder if it will have the same unfortunate result). It was, I'm afraid, the last time I didn't feel I'd been taken just to make an extra buck. I think the non-musical Spartacus was what did it for me with hard ticket Roadshows.

Was there any one film, in your opinion, that really killed Roadshows, or was it just the long run of less-than-successful musicals that turned off the audience?

Looking forward to enjoying more of your comments. Thanks, again, for joining us.

Matthew

Re: Welcome to Matthew Kennedy, Our Guest Author April 18-21

Postby Matthew » April 18th, 2014, 6:21 pm

Christy,
Agree completely. It's wonderful in parts, but overall it just doesn't fully click. I always want it to be better than it is.
M

Sue Sue Applegate wrote:Thank you, Matthew. I have a special fondness for Presnell's version of "They Call the WInd Maria" and Lee Marvin's "Wandrin' Star," which was a #1 hit in Great Britain. I also felt the opening had such great promise, but Eastwood was bland, and Seberg just seemed unhappy the whole time, except when she knew she shedding herself of the Mormon husband. :D

Thank you so much for visiting us here at the SSO!


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