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John Barry

Arts Days: November 03, 1933: A Musical Bond
John Barry had been working as a composer and record producer for several years when he caught a lucky, career-making break—he was hired to work on the music for a new movie called Dr. No. This was the first James Bond film ever made, and Barry’s arrangement of the “James Bond Theme” was soon tied to the very successful string of movies, starring Sean Connery as the suave British agent named Bond. James Bond. 

Barry went on to compose the scores for 11 of the next 14 Bond films, as well as music for other popular movies, including The Lion in Winter, Out of Africa, and Dances with Wolves. For these latter three, Barry took home the Oscars® for Best Original Score.
Composers, Music, Movies & Movie Stars, Music Legends, Popular Culture, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Mickey Mouse

Arts Days: November 13, 1940: Animation as Art
This artful melding of classical music and animation, Fantasia is perhaps one of the most interesting experiments in the history of feature animation. Walt Disney, fresh from successes like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, wanted to stretch animation beyond its traditional cartoon roots.

The film interpreted classical music through short bursts of animation, creating such classic sequences as Mickey Mouse’s star turn in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the fire and brimstone dance of Night on Bald Mountain. At this premiere, audiences listened to the film through Fantasound, a sound system that enriched the music by making it fuller and more dynamic. In 2000, Disney released a sequel of shorts with similar pairings of music and animation, including Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Music, Popular Culture

Grace Kelly

Arts Days: November 12, 1929: Beauty and Grace
From teenage model to Hollywood actress to the Princess of Monaco, Grace Kelly’s life was the stuff of fairy tales. She acted in TV shows, on stage, and in blockbuster movies, like Rear Window and Dial M for Murder.

Directors like Alfred Hitchcock adored Kelly’s golden hair and flawless features, and often cast her as the beautiful, but unattainable dream girl. But she also exhibited considerable acting talent in films like The Country Girl for which she earned an Academy Award® nomination. When she fell in love with and married Monaco’s Prince Rainier, the world—well, maybe just 30 million people—watched the royal wedding in awe on TV.
Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, America, Television, Europe

Fox Film using Movietone

Arts Days: July 23, 1926: Breaking the Sound Barrier
It only costs $60,000 to turn the page in the movie industry. That was the amount the Fox Film Corporation plunked down to buy the equipment to record sound onto film. Noises like bells ringing, car horns beeping, or birds squawking could be added with this kind of technology. This Movietone sound system created a sound track that matched the visual “track” of the film.

The first movie produced this way was in 1927. Though it was the first commercial film released with music and sound effects (like a trolley car rumbling by) to accompany the action, the actors spoke just a few words, none of them synchronized to the soundtrack. The technology that supported that kind of synchronization would come later.
Movies & Movie Stars, History, Art Venues

Bert Lahr after being hit in the face with pie

Arts Days: July 17, 1913: Banana or Coconut Cream?
The practice of “pieing” in film got its start in the 1913 movie A Noise from the Deep. Actress Mabel Normand hit co-star Fatty Arbuckle in the face with a pie—no word on what flavor it was.

Throwing a pie in someone’s face was just a physical stunt done to get audience laughs. Actually, it became something of a cliché in the days before talkies because it was done so often. But over the years, the act has sometimes taken on political overtones, with pies being tossed in the face of some politicians, corporate executives, and others perceived by the pie-thrower as being wrong about an issue and in need of a public humiliation.
Comedy, Movies & Movie Stars, Stunts & Special Effects, Innovators & Pioneers

Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy

Arts Days: July 18, 1911: An Actor's Actor
This 1986 Kennedy Center Honoree made many movies, a number of which alongside his wife Jessica Tandy. On more than one occasion, Cronyn also directed as well as acted in plays with Tandy. It was clearly the couple’s rich onstage and onscreen chemistry that made them a pleasure to watch.

Cronyn also enjoyed a successful career as a stage actor, playing roles in works by Shakespeare, Edgar Albee, and many others. Whether as Arthur Keats in The Postman Always Rings Twice or Joe in Cocoon, Cronyn was able to disappear into his roles creating many multi-layered, complex human characters.
Movies & Movie Stars, Theater

Steamboat Willie

Arts Days: July 29, 1928: The Mouse That Roared
When Steamboat Willie debuted, it was the third cartoon to feature an early rendition of Mickey Mouse. In this seven-minute animated short directed by Walt Disney, Mickey is steering a steamboat, whistling a happy tune, sassing Captain Pegleg Pete, and trying to impress Minnie Mouse. Most of the short features Mickey creating an impromptu orchestra with a bunch of animals on the boat.

For its significance as a milestone in animation, Steamboat Willie is one of 25 films added to the National Film Registry in 1998.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Innovators & Pioneers, Animals

A Wild Hare Title Card

Arts Days: July 27, 1940: Whatta Wabbit!
That irrepressible bunny named Bugs first popped out of his hole during a showing of The Wild Hare, only to ask the bumbling hunter Elmer Fudd the immortal question, “What’s up, Doc?”

As originally voiced by Mel Blanc, this rabbit has a wisecracking persona, a Brooklyn accent, and a knack for getting out of tough spots.  And let’s not forget, a penchant for carrots, which he gnaws on contentedly with his enormous buck teeth.

According to TV Guide, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are the top two cartoon characters of all time.
Cartoons, Comics, & Animation, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture, Animals

Godzilla

Arts Days: July 07, 1901: Godzilla Suits Up
Just who was the guy who created the fierce Godzilla, who crushed skyscrapers with his enormous lizard fists? Credit goes to the special-effects master Eiji Tsuburaya, who built model airplanes as a kid and never forgot the thrill of seeing the American-made film King Kong in Tokyo. It was at that point Tsuburaya vowed he, too, would make monster movies.

He created costuming breakthroughs, such as “suitmation,” in which actors wear monster suits to pantomime throwing cars or squashing buildings (with sound effects added later). That’s how all of the early Godzilla movies were made, starting in 1954.

This type of movie was known in Japan as kaiju, or “strange beast” film, otherwise known as a monster movie. Tsuburaya’s ingenuity helped propel the genre to new levels of worldwide success.
Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Stunts & Special Effects, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Japan

Shirley Temple

Arts Days: July 02, 1934: Hollywood’s Little Princess
Many agree that the best known and best loved child star of all time was Shirley Temple, a talented little girl who had audiences eating out of her hand at the box office back in the 1930s and 40s.

During the course of her contract with Fox, Temple starred in 24 films, from Poor Little Rich Girl to The Little Princess. In just about all of them, she sings, dances, winks, and smiles, melting the cold hearts of the crooks and corporate executives she encounters in the storylines. Her character is often called upon to solve problems, bring people together, or otherwise act as a sort of good fairy.

There have been plenty of child actors since Shirley Temple’s onscreen reign, but few who can match her sparkle.
Movies & Movie Stars, Young Artists

Hollywoodland

Arts Days: July 13, 1923: A Sign of the Times
It’s a lot more than just a series of letters stuck on a hill in Los Angeles. The Hollywood sign has come to embody glamour, success, and drama since it was dedicated on this day in 1923.

When it was first put in place, it was a marketing tool for a real estate project Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler had invested in. At this time, the sign actually said “Hollywoodland,” the name of the housing development. At night, the letters’ 4,000 light bulbs blinked on and off, spelling out the words “Holly,” “wood” and “land.”

While the development didn’t survive the Great Depression with the “H” falling off due to neglect, the city of Los Angeles bought the sign, fixed the “H” and removed the “land.” The resulting sign represents magic and movies.
Movies & Movie Stars, Art Venues, Geography

Bill Cosby

Arts Days: July 12, 1937: Just Be Cos
Most standup comedians wish they could be just like Cos. That’s because Bill Cosby entertains millions of fans with his unique brand of family-style humor.

Cosby’s standup comedy career kicked off in the 1960s, leading him to guest host The Tonight Show and star in his own situation comedies. Cosby made television history when he was cast as the first African American actor in a dramatic lead role.

Later, The Cosby Show proved to be the most successful sitcom ever. It ran for eight years and cemented his image as Cliff Huxtable, a loving husband and father to five charismatic children. According to Coretta Scott King, the show was “the most positive portrayal of black family life… ever broadcast.”

Cosby received a Kennedy Center Honor in 1998 and was named the 2009 recipient of the Mark Twain Prize, an award that recognizes humorists (like Twain) who serve as social commentators and satirists.
Comedy, Television, Movies & Movie Stars

Tom Hanks holding Oscar

Arts Days: July 09, 1956: Hanks for the Memories
If Tom Hanks is in a movie, conventional wisdom says it will probably sell lots and lots of tickets. And it does. As a writer, producer, and director as well as an actor, Hanks is a beloved “everyman” figure in American films from Forrest Gump to Apollo 13 to The Da Vinci Code.

After his first big hit, Big, the range of his roles included a desert-island castaway, a baseball coach, an AIDS-stricken lawyer, a WW II army captain, and a Harvard symbologist, among many others. All of these roles have been played with an uncanny believability. This all around Hollywood nice guy appeals to fans of all ages.
Movies & Movie Stars, America

Akira Kurosawa

Arts Days: March 23, 1910: Master of Japanese Cinema
Arguably the best-known Japanese film director in history, Akira Kurosawa also edited, produced, and wrote screenplays for movies. His first movie, Sanshiro Sugata, premiered in 1943. He went on to make another 29 movies, his most famous being Rashomon, Seven Samurai, Ran, and Throne of Blood. Each of his films features some of his cinematic hallmarks: the use of multiple cameras with which to shoot a scene from different angles, and the personification of weather.

He often used rain, snow, or fog to heighten drama and increase tension during scenes. Kurosawa also was demanding as a director. He wouldn’t tolerate challenges to his creative decisions, and he insisted his actors wear their costumes for weeks before shooting began. He thought this would help them understand their characters better.
Asia, Japan, Movies & Movie Stars

Swifty Lazar

Arts Days: March 28, 1907: Nothing Slow About Swifty
When Hollywood legend Irving Lazar managed to sign three mega-deals in a single day, actor Humphrey Bogart jokingly gave him the nickname “Swifty.” It stuck, creating the role of a super talent agent, with such clients ranging from writers Ernest Hemingway, Vladimir Nabokov, and Tennessee Williams, composers Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, and George Gershwin, and actors/singers Cary Grant, Gregory Peck, Cher, and Madonna.

Lazar was notorious for his legendarily high phone bills (he worked those phones!) and even more famous for the party he threw every year after the Academy Awards®; an invite to Swifty’s party meant that you had arrived.  Standing only 5’3”, Lazar was a giant when it came to protecting the creative and financial interests of his famous clients. Lazar also produced movies and plays, and even represented politicians like Richard Nixon, but his work as a performer’s advocate is still what he’s best known for.
Backstage, Movies & Movie Stars, Presidents

Spotlight

Arts Days: March 16, 1912: Electrifying Art
It can be easy to overlook the role that lighting plays during a ballet or theatrical production, but you’d be surprised at how much a performance’s lighting design contributes to our enjoyment of it. From how well we are able to see the action to the emotions we feel as we watch, Jean Rosenthal helped make the position of lighting designer more important than it had been.

In her work lighting dance performances for Martha Graham and plays for Orson Welles, she not only used lights to illuminate the action for the audience, but to set the mood, advance the plot, or underscore the importance of certain characters. Nowadays, lighting designers work closely with the director and actors to figure out how to use light effectively before, during, and after a show. And, if you’ve seen a dancer or singer standing in a diagonal shaft of light during a big solo, you’re seeing a bit of Rosenthal’s influence at work.
Backstage, Dance, Innovators & Pioneers, Jobs in the Arts, Movies & Movie Stars, Theater

The Godfather

Arts Days: March 15, 1972: Mob Appeal
The Godfather was a hit when it first appeared in movie theaters. Critics hailed the work of the cast—from Al Pacino as Michael Corleone to Marlon Brando as his father Vito, the Mafia godfather of the title—as nearly flawless. The drama also earned kudos for its music and screenplay, and for the nuanced portrayals of the members of the Corleone family and their friends and rivals in organized crime. Over the years, The Godfather has stood the test of time.

Critics—as well as millions of ordinary fans—have continued to praise the film and its director, Francis Ford Coppola, for making viewers feel sympathetic toward characters who routinely committed murders and other crimes. Coppola pushed his actors to explore and portray the psychological reasons why their characters acted as they did, making each character multi-faceted and complex. Adapted from the book of the same name by Mario Puzo, The Godfather won several Academy Awards®, including one for Best Adapted Screenplay.
America, Controversial, Family, Literature, Movies & Movie Stars

Sidney Poitier

Arts Days: February 20, 1927: Breaking the Color Line
The first African American actor to receive an Academy Award® for Best Actor, Sidney Poitier helped dismantle a worn-out belief system in Hollywood—that audiences were not familiar with seeing black actors in lead roles of serious films.

After a stint in the U.S. Army and a stage career, Poitier turned in many deeply nuanced performances in films like Lilies of the Field, To Sir, With Love, and In the Heat of the Night where he created the character of cool, highly-intuitive detective Virgil Tibbs.  In 1967, in fact, he was the top box-office draw, starring in three well-received films including Lilies, for which he won that Oscar®.

Poitier went on to direct films such as Stir Crazy, starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. Audiences have long considered Poitier onscreen and off as charismatic and elegant.
Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Controversial

Saturday Night Fever

Arts Days: February 16, 1979: Disco Fever… Can You Dig It?
Who’d have thought that a movie about a Brooklyn kid in a white suit trying to win dance contests would kick off a disco phenomenon? Well, actor John Travolta boogied down as 19-year-old Tony Manero in this classic movie, whose music—about half of which was performed by the Bee Gees, a trio of brothers from Down Under—swept the nation in 1979, and never really went away.

In songs like “Jive Talkin’” and “You Should Be Dancing,” the Brothers Gibb (get it? B-Gs) exhorted listeners to forget their day-to-day troubles to the flashing lights and thumping tunes of discothèques, which were springing up all over New York City and other urban centers.
Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Dance, Music, Movies & Movie Stars

Elizabeth Taylor

Arts Days: February 27, 1932: The Eyes Have It
Her striking beauty was undeniable and unmistakable, thanks to her piercing violet eyes and a double set of lashes. (Once, as a child actor, a director told her to “take off that mascara,” only to learn that her thick lashes were in fact real!) Not just a pretty face though, this 2002 Kennedy Center Honoree is a quintessential Hollywood legend.

As a young girl, Taylor moved to the United States and began acting, immediately turning studio heads with her lead performance in National Velvet. Her career skyrocketed and she went on to break film ground in movies including Butterfield 8, Cleopatra, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Over the course of more than 50 films and two Academy Awards® for Best Actress, Taylor radiated Hollywood glamour. Her lasting legacy also includes her advocacy and humanitarian work in the fight against AIDS.
Theater, Movies & Movie Stars

Gone with the Wind

Arts Days: February 29, 1940: Wind Wins
When the epic movie Gone with the Wind—about life in the South before, during, and after the Civil War, from a white Southerner’s point of view—racked up nine Academy Awards®, it broke all previous records for how many awards one movie could win.

It made superstars out of Vivian Leigh (who played Scarlett O’Hara), Clark Gable (Rhett Butler), and others. The soaring music, dramatic shots of battles, and fantastic costumes—plus the love, loss, and intrigue captured in the book upon which the movie was based—all contributed to the film’s amazing success that night.

And one cultural barrier was shattered, too. Actress Hattie McDaniel became the first African American ever to win an Oscar®. She won her award, for Best Supporting Actress, for her moving performance as “Mammy.”
Controversial, Innovators & Pioneers, Literature, Movies & Movie Stars

Youtube

Arts Days: February 15, 2005: Your Fifteen Minutes of Fame
In 1968, American artist Andy Warhol claimed that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.”

Well, the future is now. The video-sharing website YouTube can make you—and your singing parrot, your foolhardy buddies, or your high-school orchestra playing Beethoven’s 9th Symphony—famous overnight.

Founded by three friends, YouTube makes it possible to view all kinds of interesting arts-related videos, to name just one category that YouTube covers. Viewers who register with the site can rate the videos, share them with friends, and even post them to their Facebook page. You can watch your favorite pop music videos or snippets of a Eugene O’Neill play. Or why not listen to jazz played in a tiny club in Ecuador or catch ballet dancers onstage in Paris, France?

It’s said that tens of thousands of new videos are uploaded to YouTube every single day.
Inventions, Innovators & Pioneers, Popular Culture, Movies & Movie Stars

United Artists

Arts Days: February 05, 1919: United They Stood
Picture Hollywood back in the 1910s and 20s. In those days, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith were kind of like the Julia Roberts, Will Smith, Brad Pitt, and Tom Hanks of today; big-name stars whose appearance in a movie would sell lots of tickets.

Pickford and her pals decided to form a company called United Artists to try to get more money per movie and to have the opportunity to star in movies every year. Plus, they wanted to distribute the movies directly to theaters.

However, the time and expenses required to pull that off soon proved hard to come by, especially with the introduction of sound movies. While UA was eventually a very profitable company, these founders never enjoyed the success they had dreamed of.
Movies & Movie Stars, Innovators & Pioneers, Controversial, Popular Culture

Frank Sinatra

Arts Days: February 02, 1940: Hello, Old Blue Eyes
A young crooner from Hoboken, New Jersey, caught a lucky break on this night while performing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

Frank Sinatra, whose vocal prowess, acting chops, and star quality would go on to earn him worldwide fame, was born to Italian immigrants in 1915. After hearing Bing Crosby sing, he worked hard to develop his voice and land local gigs.

While the kind of big-band music Dorsey favored was popular with an older crowd, Sinatra’s charm and talent lured younger people—especially teenage girls who hoped for a glance from the singer with the famous blue eyes. For over six decades, Sinatra’s great gift of combining effortless technique, innovative phrasing, and impeccable taste in song selection made what he did look oh-so easy.
Music Legends, Movies & Movie Stars, Music, Popular Culture

Cinematography

Arts Days: February 13, 1895: The Light Brothers
August and Louis Lumière—French brothers whose last name means “light” in English—applied for and received a patent on their Cinématographe, which was part movie camera, part movie projector.

The year before, their father, Antoine, had gotten a peek at Thomas Edison’s peephole Kinetoscope. He was so excited by the machine’s possibilities that he rushed back home to describe it to his sons.

Antoine and his boys believed that the Kinetoscope’s main drawbacks were its huge size, coupled with the fact that only one person could view the movie at a time through a tiny peephole. Together, they worked hard to solve these problems with their own hand-cranked invention. If not for the Lumière brothers, we might still be lining up to peek through a hole in a box to watch a 30 second movie.
Inventions, Movies & Movie Stars

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