9/23/16

MY FIFTY POUND COMPUTER; A LOVE STORY



Enjoy a two-minute ad for the then brand-new 1977 IBM 5100, a fifty-pound computer that appears to have been invented to help people figure out what to do with their cows (you have to watch it). By the way: is she holding an I-Pad in that opening scene? Or, more likely, is this the commercial that put the idea of the I-Pad in the then pre-teen Steve Jobs mind?

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9/21/16

DIALING A PHONE--IN 1954?



The above makes no sense. Yesterday I posted a 1927 instructional film on how to use a rotary phone.  (Moron that I am, I just mistakenly deleted yesterdays post whilst attempting to re-link it. The 1927 film is now posted below. 'Whilst'?) From the above instructional film (on how to dial a phone) it would appear that Bell Telephone somehow didn't convert from the operator saying "numbah-pleeze" to the rotary phone for another twenty-six years. Is this possible? Was the 1927 attempt somehow foiled and people had to wait another twenty-six years for this fabulous moment of progress to happen? ('Foiled'?) Or were people in 1954 as puzzled--or perhaps retarded is the better word--as to how to use a phone as people in 1927 were? What the hell is going on here???



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9/16/16

'GAY LOVE': A LIONEL HAMPTON CAMEO



Dig Lionel Hampton, age 18, playing the drums in a mixed-race band (the first ever filmed?) in the above clip from the 1929 RKO film "The Delightful Rogue". The song, performed by Rita Le Roy (a name that sounds like its straight out of "Singing In the Rain"), is called "Gay Love" and was written by a young Oscar Levant and Sidney Clare. (The young Levant made a cameo last week in this blog when he appeared playing piano behind Hal Skelly in the clip where Skelly goes nuts while singing to his ex-wife).

There's no mistaking it--the drummer is Hamp all the way. The impish and joyously ambidextrous showman is already on display and the editor seemed to delight in his antics as he keeps cutting back to him, giving the young unknown more screen time than you'd expect. Starring along with Le Roy was the wonderfully (and absurdly) named silent star Rod La Rocque (which sounds like the name of a silent movie star in an episode of 'The Flinstones'), a man who was as famous as any star of the twenties and who married the equally famous (and absurdly named) Vilma Banky in one of the most famous weddings of its time. Weirdly, the marriage didn't end in a flurry of gunshots, drug abuse or drowning in booze and pills. La Roque retired genially from films and became a real estate broker, working in partnership with his equally famous, once exotic, now very tame wife. The couple stayed married until his death in 1969. Banky lived until 1991. Rita Le Roy quite acting in the 1930s and opened a modeling agency, surviving until age 92. What the hell went wrong with this crowd? They all ended up happy and anonymous and Lionel Hampton, the kid playing drums in the corner, wound up being the superstar.

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9/14/16

HARLEM SEXBOMBS: CENSORED STUFF FROM 1938 (Or 37?)



"Vogues Of 1938" (also known as "Walter Wanger's Vogues Of 1938", after the eponymous producer whose name not only didn't mean much of anything to the moviegoing public but may well have been a factor in the film having the rare distinction of being a depression-era musical that actually lost money according to this Wikipedia entry--STOP ME!!)...

Anyway, where was I? "Walter Wanger's Vogues of 1938" was actually made in 1937, which may have been another contributing factor to its financial failure. After all, who wants to see a movie that doesn't even know what year it was made in? Perhaps the fact that it was named after the following year caused people to stay away from the theaters, assuming that it would be there next year (which, after all, is understandable given that the movie was named after the following year. Jesus, how do I stop this rant?)

As musicals go, it would seem to have left no mark whatsoever on film history. Walter Wanger later produced some fine movies ("Stagecoach", "Foreign Correspondent", "I Want To Live" etc.)  but the mark he left on film history was a rather dark one; he was married to the actress Joan Bennett, who purportedly had an extra-marital affair with the agent Jennings Lang. When Wanger found out, he got a gun and shot Lang in the testicles. (This later resulted in a  little Hollywood Gothic humor, as people began referring to the unfortunate agent as Jenning Lang). (Get it? Jenning?)

Why the hell am I writing about this and what is that clip doing up there? Well, one of the songs from "Walter Wanger's Vogues of 1938 or 1937 or whatever" is a terrific jump tune called "Turn On That Red Hot Heat (and blow your blues away...)". It was staged as an all-black revue show-stopper and apparently contained an 'orgy' section so salacious that the Hays Office demanded it be cut. But the Gods of Cinema prevailed and the scene survived as an outtake that was finally discovered sometime in the recent past. The first few minutes of the clip are the 'clean' section and features some pretty incredible, now forgotten, dance performers. The orgy stuff happens in the last couple of minutes and, though the quality of the print is execrable, it actually does live up to the hype that the Youtube poster promises. Sex sells now but it scared the crap out of people in the 30s I guess--or at least the white/Christian/Puritan/Choirboys who ran the Hollywood decency committees. And while sex didn't seem to phase Walter Wanger (producer of "Walter Wanger's Vogues of 1938"--made in 1937), it certainly did piss him off when he found out his wife was having it with somebody else--an agent (no less) named Jenning Lane. Get it? Jenning?

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9/12/16

'THE MADISON' GOES EURO



Re: my friend Marc Myers wonderful weekend post delving into the popular late 50s dance known as the Madison, above is a modified version from Jean-Luc Godard's 'Band of Outsiders'. Go here to experience Marc's smorgasbord of Madison recordings. I'll repost the best of them below--it's an early 60s German TV show hosted by the Rhineland's Dick Clark. Dig:



And this just in from Marc, literally as I was finishing the post. The hip spin from the Ray Bryant combo.


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