With an Oscar-nominated script by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin, "Adam's Rib" pokes fun at the double standard between the sexes. Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn play husband and wife attorneys, each drawn to the same case of attempted murder. Judy Holliday, defending the sanctity of her marriage and family, intends only to frighten her philandering husband (Tom Ewell) and his mistress (Jean Hagen) but tearfully ends up shooting and injuring the husband. Tracy argues that the case is open and shut, but Hepburn asserts that, if the defendant were a man, he'd be set free on the basis of "the unwritten law." As the trial turns into a media circus, the couple's relationship is put to the test. Holliday's first screen triumph propelled her onto bigger roles, including "Born Yesterday," for which she won an Academy Award. The film is also the debut of Ewell, who would become best known for his role opposite Marilyn Monroe in "The Seven Year Itch", and Hagen, who would floor audiences as the ditzy blonde movie star with the shrill voice in "Singin' in the Rain."
Also known as "The Glory Road," this was among the approximately 500 "race movies" produced between 1915 and 1950 for African-American audiences and featuring all-black casts. In this film, a deeply devout woman (Cathryn Caviness) faces a spiritual crossroads after being accidentally shot, and is forced to choose between heaven and hell. Spencer Williams, who wrote, directed and starred in the film, produced the film in response to a need for spiritually-based films that spoke directly to black audiences. Long thought lost, prints were discovered in a warehouse in Tyler, Texas, in the mid-1980s. Expanded essay by Mark S. Giles (PDF, 256 KB)View this film at Southern Methodist University Central University Libraries External
One of the truly unique pioneers of cinema, African-American producer/director/writer/distributor Oscar Micheaux somehow managed to get nearly 40 films made and seen despite facing racism, lack of funding, the capricious whims of local film censors and the independent nature of his work. Most of Micheaux's films are lost to time or available only in incomplete versions, with the only extant copies of some having been located in foreign archives. Nevertheless, what remains shows a fearless director with an original, daring and creative vision. Film historian Jacqueline Stewart says Micheaux's films, though sometimes unpolished and rough in terms of acting, pacing and editing, brought relevant issues to the black community including "the politics of skin color within the black community, gender differences, class differences, regional differences especially during this period of the Great Migration." For "Body and Soul," renaissance man Paul Robeson, who had gained some fame on the stage, makes his film debut displaying a blazing screen presence in dual roles as a charismatic escaped convict masquerading as a preacher and his pious brother. The George Eastman Museum has restored the film from a nitrate print, producing black-and-white-preservation elements and later restoring color tinting using the Desmet method.
This fourteen-minute black-and-white silent documentary salutes the "good natured Germans or Hollanders" of Cologne, Minnesota as photographed by local amateur filmmakers Esther and Raymond Dowidat. Cologne, population 350, is located southwest of Minneapolis in the midst of dairy farms. When "examined more closely, the town is really quaint and picturesque" we're told by Esther's handwritten "diary" which serve as the film's narration. It stands out not because its subject matter is particularly unique, but because it exhibits a cinematic sophistication and artistry not usually found in home movies, while capturing a distinct flavor of time and place.Expanded essay by Scott Simmon for the National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) (PDF, 316KB)View this film at National Film Preservation Foundation External
One of the earliest film recordings and the oldest surviving copyrighted motion picture, Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (Jan. 7, 1894) is commonly known as "Fred Ott's Sneeze" or simply "The Sneeze." W. K. L. Dickson, who led Thomas Edison's team of inventors, took the images of fellow engineer Ott enacting a snuff-induced sneeze. In March 1894, Harper's Weekly magazine, which requested the pictures, published a sequence of still images taken from the film. "The Sneeze" became synonymous with the invention of movies although it was not seen as a moving picture until 1953 when 45 frames were re-animated on 16 mm film. The full 81 frames published in Harper's Weekly were never seen as a movie until 2013 when the Library of Congress made a 35 mm film version. In this new complete version, Fred Ott sneezes twice. Video clip from the Library of Congress Inventing Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies.
With her trendsetting Dutch bob haircut and short skirts, Colleen Moore brought insouciance and innocence to the flapper image, character and aesthetic. By 1926, however, when she appeared in "Ella Cinders," Moore's interpretation of the flapper had been eclipsed by the more overtly sexual version popularized by Clara Bow or Joan Crawford. In "Ella Cinders," Ella (Colleen Moore) wins a beauty contest sponsored by a movie magazine and is awarded a studio contract. New York Times reviewer Mordaunt Hall observed that the film was "filled with those wild incidents which are seldom heard of in ordinary society," and noted "Miss Moore is energetic and vivacious." The film is an archetype of 1920s comedy, featuring a star whose air of emancipation inspired her generation.
"The Exorcist" is one of the most successful and influential horror films of all time. Its influence, both stylistically and in narrative, continues to be seen in many movies of the 21st century. Adapted from the popular novel by William Peter Blatty inspired by an actual case from the 1940s, the film version centers on a young girl (14-year-old Linda Blair) who falls victim to fits and bizarre behavior. The girl's actress-mother (Ellen Burstyn) calls in a young priest (Jason Miller) who becomes convinced that the girl is possessed by the Devil. They summon a veteran exorcist (Max von Sydow) and both the priest and the girl suffer numerous horrors during their struggles with the demon (voiced by Mercedes McCambridge). The sound work earned Robert Knudson and Christopher Newman an Oscar, and the opening piano solo of Mike Oldfield's debut album "Tubular Bells" became forever associated with the film.
This 14-part Pathé serial starring Pearl White as Elaine built on White's phenomenal popularity in "The Perils of Pauline." Considered the superior of the two series, "The Exploits of Elaine" boasts increasingly sophisticated camera work and production values. When Elaine's father (William Riley Hatch) is murdered by a notorious outlaw (Sheldon Lewis), she sets out after him with the help of detective Craig Kennedy (Arnold Daly), whose adventures had been successfully serialized in magazines by mystery writer Arthur B. Reeve. Along the way, Elaine is framed in a blackmail scheme and is almost sacrificed by devil worshippers, but Kennedy and his high-tech gadgetry rescue her time and again.Expanded essay by Margaret Hennefeld (PDF, 686KB)
During 1961, more than 400 people from across the nation, black and white, women and men, old and young, challenged state-sanctioned segregation on buses and in bus terminals in the Deep South, segregation that continued after the Supreme Court had ruled the practice to be in violation of interstate commerce laws. Some 50 years later, "Freedom Riders," a two-hour PBS American Experience documentary made by Stanley Nelson, charted their course in considerable depth as they faced savage retaliatory attacks and forced a reluctant federal government to back their cause. The riveting story is told without narration using archival film and stills and, most engagingly, through testimonies of the Freedom Riders themselves, journalists who followed their trail, federal, state, and local officials, white southerners, and chroniclers of the movement including Raymond Arsenault, whose book inspired the documentary. The film takes viewers through many complex twists and turns of the journey with extraordinary clarity and emotional force. The courage and conviction of the Freedom Riders, ordinary Americans willing to risk bodily harm and death to combat injustice nonviolently, will inspire later generations who watch Nelson's eloquent film. Nearly 50 full interviews conducted for the film are now available in the American Archive of Public Broadcasting at _collections/freedom-riders-interviews External.
Though it would be Spencer Tracy's last film and the second film for which Katharine Hepburn would win an Academy Award for best actress, even these movie milestones are somewhat overshadowed by the then-novel plot of the 1967 "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner." Hepburn and Tracy play an older married couple whose progressiveness is challenged when their daughter (Katharine Houghton, Hepburn's real-life niece) brings home a new fiancé, who happens to be black. Celebrated actor Sidney Poitier plays the young man with his customary on-screen charisma, fire and grace.
Paul Newman is an up-and-coming pool player and Jackie Gleason the reigning champ in this moody, deliberately-paced morality play directed by Robert Rossen. Rossen and Sidney Carroll's adaptation of a Walter Tevis novel gets its gritty reality from the black-and-white cinematography by Eugen Shuftan, who won an Oscar for his work. The real contest in "The Hustler" is not between Newman and Gleason, but between Newman's love for his girlfriend (Piper Laurie) and his self-destructive impulses. Rossen's best directorial decision is giving full weight and screen time to all of his characters. In only his third film, George C. Scott gives a chilling performance as Newman's manipulative manager. 2b1af7f3a8