American Cinema

Behind the Song: ‘M’appari’ from Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha

‘M’appari’ is the best-known name for the central aria from Friedrich von Flotow’s Martha, a romantic comic opera in four acts. Flotow – who was born into a musical family, his mother playing the piano and his father the flute – composed some thirty operas during his lifetime, beginning his career after studying at the Conservatoire de Paris, before achieving his first…

May Film: Born to Win (1971)

  Born to Win 88 minutes | 1 December 1971 | United States ‘Born to Win is the grimly ironic title of this jet-black comedy about heroin addicts. George Segal plays Jay Jay, an ex-hairdresser who struggles to support his expensive drug habit. To avoid arrest, Jay Jay turns ‘narc’, informing on his fellow junkies. Eventually Jay Jay’s sense of self-hatred…

September Film: Bowery Blitzkrieg (1941)

  Bowery Blitzkrieg 62 minutes | 1 August 1941 | United States ‘While a cop steers a kid street-fighter away from being a public nuisance, a petty hoodlum leads a studious kid into a life of crime.’ Director: Wallace Fox Producer: Sam Katzman Writers: Brendan Wood (original story), Donn Mullahy (original story), Sam Robins (screenplay), Carl Foreman (uncredited) Starring: Leo Gorcey as Muggs McGinnis, Bobby…

Buster Keaton and His Pork Pie Hat

Following the rise of the top hat, bowler or derby, Panama, fedora, and flat cap across the nineteenth century, by the first decades of the twentieth century a man could scarcely open his front door, much less appear before a discerning public, without some suitable form of headwear. In the realm of silent comedy, Charlie Chaplin tramped about in a tight…

June Film: Port of New York (1949)

  Port of New York 82 minutes | 28 November 1949 | United States ‘A film noir shot in semidocumentary style. Two narcotics agents go after a gang of murderous drug dealers who use ships docking at the New York harbor to smuggle in their contraband.’ Director: László Benedek Producer: Aubrey Schenk Screenplay: Eugene Ling Story: Arthur A. Ross, Bert Murray Starring: Scott Brady…

Capsule Movie Review: Big (1988)

Big Fantasy Comedy | 104 Minutes | 1988 | United States * * * The last of a cluster of movies, all released within the space of a year between the autumn of 1987 and the summer of 1988, to depict youths turning into or swapping forms with adult men – the others were Like Father Like Son (1987), Vice Versa (1988), 18 Again! (1988), and…

January Film: The Great Flamarion Analysis

Based on a short story by the Austrian writer Vicki Baum, The Great Flamarion is full of film history resonance and would seem ripe for critical reassessment: set in the world of vaudeville, depicting an embittered artiste who kills at the behest of a femme fatale, the picture was an early directorial effort from Anthony Mann, who would later become renowned…

January Film: The Great Flamarion (1945)

  The Great Flamarion 76 minutes | 13 January 1945 | United States ‘Erich von Stroheim is The Great Flamarion, a marksman who employs a married couple for his vaudeville act. Having decided to rid herself of her husband, Connie plots to trick The Great Flamarion into doing the dirty work for her.’ Director: Anthony Mann Producer: William Lee Wilder Screenplay: Anne Wigton, Heinz…

The Birds (1963): A Bird’s-Eye View of Bodega Bay

In a 1969 interview with Roger Ebert, Alfred Hitchcock described how he and his team achieved one of the most famous shots in The Birds. At a glance a bird’s-eye view of Bodega Bay, the aerial image depicts gulls swooping into frame and down towards the site of a fire which has broken out by the town’s waterfront restaurant, the result…