B Movies

EPUB EBook by Don Miller

EBook Description

As Leonard Maltin says in the Introduction most people associate
B movies with tackiness and everything bad. B Movies EPUB EBook They were certainly
cheap but as Don Miller delves into them, some extraordinary
innovations were allowed to be put through - EPUB only because the
films were cheap and no one was going to be out of pocket. Like
"The Sin of Norah Moran" (1933), a real downer by Majestic which
has heroine going to the electric chair (with a lot of graphic
detail) but was from first to last "stream of consciousness" -
I think it predates "The Power and the Glory" (1933).
As William K. Everson is to the Western, Don Miller must be to
the Bs - there doesn't seem to be any B movie from even the lowliest
studio (Action, Mayfair) that he hasn't seen. Way back in 1930
there were no double features but by 1933 with the depression
killing movie attendance "little" films started to rear their heads.
Sometimes it produced "sleepers", so called when minor films were
so good they caught everyone napping. "King of the Jungle" (1933)
starred Buster Crabbe to cash in on the Tarzan craze (one critic
from "The Times" compared him to Johnny Weismuller - "from the neck
up he is a vast improvement", just love that quote) but it proved
a big hit by spoofing the genre before it had even got going,(much
like Lon Chaney's "The Monster") by showing what would happen if
Tarzan, (here named Kaspa) was brought back to civilization!! And
"Mama Loves Papa", a Paramount film released in the dead box office
season of summer, featured a new screen team (Mary Boland and
Charlie Ruggles) and made the NBR's top film list of 1933.
Another oddity mentioned was the very B"Hello Sister" of Fox -
it had began life as an Erich Von Stroheim directed A as "Walking
Down Broadway" (which, if you have seen the movie, makes a lot
more sense). He vowed to give Zasu Pitts the dramatic role of her
life and the finished film had her as a psychotic old maid, insanely
jealous of her pretty room-mate. By the time the film was released
another director had been bought in and what emerged was a gritty
but light weight film about young love in depression New York. Pitts
role was supporting and only her whining was present. When talkies
came in studios were reacting like "passengers on the Titantic"
(according to Bill Haines) and stars whose contracts were due to
expire were jittery, whence the reason a 1930 exploitation film
like "Party Girl" had Douglas Fairbanks Jnr., Jeanette Loff and an
uncredited Marie Prevost - they went were work was offered.
Miller says the minor studios specialized in different genres and
had different looks to them - the same as the majors. Majestic was
one of the hidden gems: they were a small versatile company whose
product was far above average - "The Sin of Norah Moran" had loads
of experimentation, "The Vampire Bat"(1933), a superior horror which
starred Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray and Melvyn Douglas, a trio which
had all been seen in major films that year. "The World Gone Mad"
had Pat O'Brien and Evelyn Brent as well as Mary Brian, Neil Hamilton
and Louis Calhern in a topical film (for 1933) about big business
and stock market corruption. Brent was also in "The Crusader" about,
you guessed it, an honest D.A. Majestic disappeared in 1935 and
before it went out of business in 1934, Mayfair specialized in lurid
melodrama - "Her Resale Value", "Sin's Pay Day" and "Sister to Judas"
etc. By 1935 a lot of these studios were gone but strangely the
cinema double bill was here to stay. Major studios were getting in on
the act and setting up B producing units, making movies that could
showcase their up and coming talent or players nearing the end of
their contract.
Some "seen better days" stars owed the rest of their careers to the
Bs - Richard Dix, dropped by RKO because of faltering box office was
brought back by same studio for a series of westerns, then in the
1940s found himself with a life sentence (literally) issued by
Columbia to appear in "The Whistler" series. Another actor who found
himself shackled to Columbia was Warner Baxter for "The Crime Doctor"
series and yet another "once big star" Richard Arlen found himself
in a series of Universal oaters buddied up with Andy Devine. But
wait, there's more - Chester Morris (a completely under-rated actor
in my opinion) hit pay dirt in the 40s with Columbia's "Boston
Blackie".
Miller writes in a breezy, very readable style, it sounds like he
is remembering the films from first hand experience of sitting
in the movie theatre. You know exactly who he likes and doesn't
-he rates Jane Withers highly, saying she was a breath of fresh air
and a welcome relief against the sugariness of Shirley Temple. He
also doesn't believe Marian Nixon ever received a fair go in the
talkies. The way he describes Grand National's coup of obtaining
James Cagney is hilarious - "Imagine Cagney in an indie - not First
National but Grand National"!!! Among other chapter headings - "For
Adults Only" about the proliferation of exploitation films that
were about in the 1930s - "Reefer Madness", "The Pace That Kills",
"Assassin of Youth". Strangely, when the book was written in 1973,
they had some funny ideas about marihuana not being addictive (page
87)!! "Two Dollar Bills" about Pine Thomas productions, even one
called "The Runt of the Litter", all about PRC. The only down side
of the book is that it ends in the late 1940s - boo hoo!!
I'd just like to mention a terrific B team (that Miller mentions as
well) - Frankie Darro and Mantan Moreland. They were starred in a
series of Monograms which saw Frankie as a bell hop, delivery boy,
soda jerk etc usually getting involved in a murder mystery as a
young Sherlock. He would be teamed with Mantan, an Afro-American
actor I always liked in movies. The fact that they acted as an equal
team - there was no down talking or racist jokes (in the 1940s
quite a feat). I read an interview with Darro where he praised Mantan
and said it was an honour and privilege to work with him and that
they were great mates. It definitely showed. Like this book? Read online this: The American Film Institute Guide to College Courses in Film and Television, Little Ink Movies.

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