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Clint Eastwood

Arts Days: May 31, 1930: Dirty Harry, Anti-Hero
Action-picture star Clint Eastwood took a circuitous route to Hollywood fame. After stints working as a truck driver and serving in the U.S. Army, Eastwood took a screen test in Los Angeles in 1954, promptly landing a small part in a long-forgotten horror film. With that, he landed roles in other films, starring on the hit TV show Rawhide, and working in a series of “spaghetti Westerns” (given that nickname because they were filmed in Italy).

When he got back to the U.S., Eastwood directed his first movie beginning the behind-the-camera work that would win him as much acclaim as his acting. From the Dirty Harry series of films, in which he first uttered his immortal catchphrase, “Go ahead—make my day,” to his work directing the haunting Mystic River and poignant Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood mastered the art of filmmaking.
Movies & Movie Stars

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Mute Button
Without talking, show you’re annoyed by the people talking behind you in the movie theater. Can someone guess what you’re acting out?
Theater, Movies & Movie Stars

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Sound Effects
You’re a movie sound effects machine for a new science fiction film. Make your best alien noises. See if anyone can guess what kind of scene you’re working on.
Science Fiction & Fantasy, Movies & Movie Stars

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Be a Star!
Pretend you’re a character from your favorite movie. Do your homework as the character. Are they as good a student as you?
Movies & Movie Stars, Theater

Peter O'Toole in Lawrence of Arabia

Arts Days: August 02, 1932: Peter the Great
No matter how many leading stage and screen roles he’s portrayed, Peter O’Toole is best recognized as the title character in David Lean’s 1963 screen classic, Lawrence of Arabia. In this epic adventure film, O’Toole plays the title character, T.E. Lawrence, a British national torn during World War I between his allegiance to the crown and the bonds he forms with Sherif Ali and other Arabs.

O’Toole’s performance, coupled with stunning cinematography and a soaring soundtrack, riveted audiences and catapulted him to worldwide fame. Whether appearing in a drama, comedy, romance, or even musical, O’Toole impresses critics and fans alike with his larger-than-life insight and intelligence.
Movies & Movie Stars, Theater

The Cocoanuts film announcement

Arts Days: August 03, 1929: A Bunch of Mixed Nuts
The first surviving Marx Brothers film showcases the quartet’s zany acts and brand of comedy. Audiences loved the rapid-fire patter and slapstick antics of these hilarious brothers—Harpo, Zeppo, Chico, and Groucho, who with his greasepaint mustache is probably the best known of the bunch.

Each brother had his own “schtick:” Groucho is famous for his one-liners and wiggling cigar; Harpo for his never speaking, blond wig, and harp playing; Chico for his girl chasing; and Zeppo for his straight man routine.

In this musical comedy, the four run a Florida hotel, where they scheme against and con their guests, filling the screen with comedic chaos. The Cocoanuts and numerous other Marx Brothers’ movies kept audiences laughing through the Great Depression and continue to crack us up even today.
Comedy, Movies & Movie Stars

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

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

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

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

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

Jimmy Stewart

Arts Days: May 20, 1908: Mr. Stewart Goes to Hollywood
Born in a small town in Pennsylvania not unlike Bedford Falls, the setting of his film It’s a Wonderful Life, actor Jimmy Stewart enjoyed huge success in several film genres: comedies such as The Philadelphia Story and Harvey; suspense thrillers including Vertigo and Rear Window; and films in which an idealistic fellow beats the bad guys as in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

His first acting experiences, both on stage and in film, were interrupted by World War II. Stewart, the first major American movie star to fight in the war, enlisted in the Army, flying planes for the Army Air Corps. When the war ended, more film offers came in, and he resumed a busy acting career. This 1983 Kennedy Center Honoree was nominated for numerous Academy Awards®. He took home two.
America, Movies & Movie Stars

Bob Hope

Arts Days: May 29, 1903: You Gotta Have Hope
The man with the famous ski-jump nose knew how to make them laugh. British-born Leslie Townes Hope—whose stage name was Bob—was one of the first stand-up comedians, mastering the art of writing and delivering jokes with impeccable timing. Nobody had more one-liners at the ready; nobody was better at poking fun at himself to get a laugh.

Over the course of his career, Hope, a 1985 Kennedy Center Honoree, would find fame on the vaudeville circuit, the radio waves, the stage, the silver screen, and on TV. He made more than 50 films, many with close friend Bing Crosby. Bob Hope died at the ripe old age of 100.
Comedy, Movies & Movie Stars

3d Glasses

Arts Days: May 02, 1986: Image Maximus
It’s wild how putting on a pair of funny glasses in a movie theater can make you feel like an electric eel is swimming right into your face, or a helicopter is hovering about an inch over your head, but that’s exactly the effect that super-sized IMAX movies give when they’re designed for 3-D viewing.

When the 20-minute Transitions was shown on this day in Canada, it stunned viewers with some of its illusions: eggs appeared to break in your lap, and logs seemed to roll off a conveyor belt into the theater.

As the science of 3-D has developed further and IMAX theaters have opened around the world, more feature length 3-D movies have delighted viewers with their crazy, in-the-thick-of-the-action sensations. Now just imagine for a moment watching a 3-D IMAX film on the largest IMAX screen in the world in Sydney, Australia. It’s 96 feet high—the equivalent of an eight-story building. No wonder IMAX is short for “Image Maximum.”
Inventions, Movies & Movie Stars

arts quote

Arts Quotes: Carrie Fisher
"I do not want life to imitate art. I want life to be art."
Movies & Movie Stars, America

arts challenge

Everyday Arts Challenge: Casting Call
You’re starring in a movie as a French chef. Get into character by describing what’s in your refrigerator. Remember your accent!
Movies & Movie Stars, Theater, World Cultures, Europe

Blockbuster video store

Arts Days: October 19, 1985: Movies Come Home
Cold out? Feeling lazy? Or is a trip to the movie theater simply too costly? The Blockbuster video-rental chain solved these problems for movie lovers when it opened the doors to its first store on this day in 1985. All of a sudden, instead of going out to a theater and paying for tickets and popcorn, you could spend a lot less money and watch movies from the comfort of your home, even dressed in your jammies.

All you had to do was visit your neighborhood Blockbuster, browse through hundreds of movie titles, and pick out which films to bring home. You could find everything from obscure documentaries to first-run hits. Blockbuster stores were an instant success and started popping up everywhere. The chain launched a whole new market for the film industry and changed the rules of movie-watching forever.
Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Television, Art Venues

John Wayne

Arts Days: October 24, 1930: The Duke Saddles Up
In The Big Trail, a 23-year-old John Wayne starred as Breck Coleman, a young man heading west on a wagon train. This early, epic Western was the type of movie in which Wayne excelled. He had the rugged good looks, gruff demeanor, and height to carry off the part of a man on a mission to avenge the death of a friend.

The movie—filmed on location all over the American West, which had relatively few people living in it then—was a two-million-dollar flop, largely because the equipment needed to show it best wasn’t installed in many theaters. But Wayne’s cowboy persona appealed to men and women alike, and he went on to become synonymous with the Western movie.
Movies & Movie Stars, America, Popular Culture

The Jazz Singer

Arts Days: October 06, 1927: You Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Yet!
Goodbye silent film, hello talkie. This movie became the first feature-length film with a soundtrack synchronized to what was happening onscreen. In short, it was the first bona fide “talkie,” the movie that heralded the beginning of the end of the silent film. Al Jolson played Jakie Rabinowitz, a man who yearns to be a jazz singer but whose strict Jewish family disapproves of his creative goals.

Jolson performed some of the songs in the movie in blackface, a tradition left over from minstrelsy. While the practice is considered shameful and improper now, scholars have lauded the movie as “the only film where blackface is central to the narrative development.” For all these reasons, The Jazz Singer continues to be a landmark movie all these years later.
Movies & Movie Stars, Controversial, America, Popular Culture

Buster Keaton

Arts Days: October 04, 1895: The Great Stone Face
A star of the silent film era, Buster Keaton delighted audiences with his trademark deadpan expression or “stone face”—which he maintained even as slapstick mayhem filled the screen. At age three, he began working with his parents in vaudeville and honing his talent for being a fearless, agile performer on stage.

He learned techniques to help him endure the pain of the amazing, and sometimes dangerous, athletic comedy stunts for which he also became well-known. Over the course of his career, Keaton made the transition to “talkies,” had his own TV show for a while, and also performed in live theater. His films, including The General, routinely land spots on best-film lists even today.
Comedy, Stunts & Special Effects, Movies & Movie Stars

Gene Autry playing guitar

Arts Days: September 29, 1907: The Singing Cowboy
The five stars bearing Gene Autry’s name on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame are a testament to his versatility as a performer. The “Singing Cowboy,” as he was commonly known, earned stars for his work in radio, recording, television, movies, and theater. Autry is the only person to have been awarded five stars.

As a very popular public figure, Autry felt a personal responsibility to live by a creed he called the Cowboy Code, rules to live by that he hoped his young radio fans would emulate. Over the course of his multi-faceted life, Autry also served in the military, bought the Los Angeles Angels baseball team, and gave money to create a museum about the West, now known as the Autry National Center.
America, Movies & Movie Stars, Music, Music Legends

Moon face looking out of a telescope

Arts Days: September 01, 1902: Sci-Fi’s First Flight
This French silent film, which features a now-iconic image of a smiley-face moon with a spaceship poking it in the eye, is widely considered to be the first science-fiction movie. Lasting only 14 minutes, the movie tells a story of astronomers who travel to the moon and fight with bug-like aliens.

Along the way, they get a close-up view of the Big Dipper constellation (with human faces peering out of each star) and a moon goddess sitting on a crescent moon-shaped swing. Le Voyage dans la Lune, its title in French, was directed by Georges Méliès. A true film pioneer, he experimented with special effects, double exposures, fades, and dissolves. His work was incredibly innovative for the times.
Innovators & Pioneers, Movies & Movie Stars, Europe, Science Fiction & Fantasy

Marilyn Monroe

Arts Days: September 15, 1954: The Blonde Bombshell
Standing over a subway grate with a train rushing by below, Marilyn Monroe titillated moviegoers when her skirt blew up in the wind.

The director of The Seven-Year Itch, Billy Wilder, had ordered this scene to be filmed repeatedly. The shooting was taking place at Lexington Avenue and 52nd Street in New York City, and as he ordered more takes, more people gathered around to ogle Monroe. She was one of a long line of movie blondes dating back to Jean Harlow, who appeared in the 1933 film, Bombshell. Movie fans have idolized these golden-haired beauties of film and television. Monroe may well be the most famous of them all.
Controversial, Fashion, Movies & Movie Stars, Popular Culture

Clark Gable in Gone with the Wind

Arts Days: August 24, 1938: Gable Becomes a Goner
It’s said that actor Clark Gable didn’t even want to play Rhett Butler—the very role with which he will forever be synonymous. This Hollywood heartthrob of the 1930s was the person the film’s producer David O. Selznick wanted to play Butler from the start, but it took Gary Cooper turning down the role for Gable to become a serious contender.

Gable had starred in successful films like Mutiny on the Bounty and It Happened One Night, but Gone With… forever cemented him in the public’s mind as a leading man without peer: dashing, handsome, sophisticated.

The epic Civil War drama, based on the book of the same name by Margaret Mitchell, is routinely cited as one of the greatest movies of all time.
Movies & Movie Stars, Literature, America, History

Lee de Forest

Arts Days: August 26, 1873: Mister Sound Man
Can you imagine a movie without sound accompanying the action? Lee de Forest is the guy who first gave sound to movies in a synchronized way. Invented in 1920, his Phonofilm process made it possible to link the sound and the images on the screen.

Sure, there had been sound in films before this time, but it might have been, say, a scene of a car driving by and a random horn blowing on the soundtrack. De Forest’s technology made it possible for a car and its beep to be linked together.

Basically, de Forest found a way to use a photocell to “read” light and dark areas on the film, then convert them to an audio track matching the action. For his accomplishment, de Forest received a special Oscar® in 1959.
America, Innovators & Pioneers, Inventions, Movies & Movie Stars

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