Remembering Paul Mazursky

George Segal (left) and Paul Mazursky (right) on the Skirball stage in April 2012 as they reminisced about the making of Mazurksy’s Blume in Love, which starred Segal as the title character.

George Segal (left) and Paul Mazursky (right) on the Skirball stage in April 2012 as they reminisced about the making of Mazurksy’s Blume in Love, which starred Segal as the title character.

We at the Skirball mourn the loss of Paul Mazursky, undeniably one of America’s great filmmakers. He was at the vanguard of a generation of American auteurs who took their cues from the history of American and foreign film and adapted it to contemporary filmmaking. Paul had an understanding of and an ability to create both comedy and drama that touched us all in so many ways. From Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, his first film, he made an instant mark upon the American psyche. The list of his classics is long and includes the extraordinary Harry and Tonto, the heartfelt Next Stop, Greenwich Village, the trailblazing An Unmarried Woman, and the madcap Down and Out in Beverly Hills. As an actor, too, Paul captivated audiences in important work, from Stanley Kubrick’s Fear and Desire right through to episodes of The Twilight Zone and, more recently, Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Paul gave generously of his time and participated in numerous programs with us at the Skirball. Most recently I was fortunate enough to work with him on a 2012 Skirball retrospective of his films, a series we entitled “Through a Glass Brightly.” Continue reading

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Revolutionary Aquarians: Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin

While putting together our classic film series highlighting the significance of the U.S. Constitution as a living document, I happened to notice that two “game changers” in history have the same birthday: on February 12, 1809, both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin were born. Coincidence or not? I am not usually one to read into horoscopes, but according to the Zodiac, Aquarians (Lincoln and Darwin’s sign) are considered to be forward-thinking leaders and revolutionaries. Undoubtedly, Lincoln’s and Darwin’s steadfast and unorthodox perspectives have changed the way we see our world, and both men have inspired Americans to utilize the Constitution as a living document.

The Lincoln Spotlight is on view now through February 17.

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth president of the United States, was elected during a tumultuous time in U.S. history. He fought to unify the country throughout the Civil War and outlawed the institution of slavery with the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment. A lesser known fact about Lincoln, as highlighted in the Skirball’s current “Lincoln Spotlight” exhibition—on view in conjunction with Creating the United States—is that he also advocated for the rights of Jewish Americans. Leading up to and during the Civil War, as anti-Semitism ran rampant, Lincoln steadfastly asserted the rights of Jewish soldiers and citizens. The same month that he declared the Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863), he also renounced Ulysses S. Grant’s General Order No. 11 of 1862, which banned Jews from certain areas of the States and prohibited them from serving in the army alongside their fellow citizens. Furthermore, Lincoln made a point of appointing a number of Jewish generals to his Union forces. Again, an unpopular stance in the nineteenth century that laid the groundwork for other social and political revolutionaries to come.

Charles Darwin was a nineteenth-century British scientist best known for his theory of evolution. Continue reading

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The Lolly Gag

Our free series of Alexander Mackendrick matinee screenings starts today with Whisky Galore (1949). Coming up on October 9, we screen The Ladykillers, which Entertainment Weekly has called “one of the greatest comedies ever made.”

In the mid 1970s, PBS in New York City ran a retrospective of Alec Guinness movies filmed at London’s famed Ealing Studios. It was my accidental introduction to a series of amazing British comedies, including not only The Lavender Hill Mob (1951) andKind Hearts and Coronets (1951) but also the work of American/Scottish filmmaker Alexander Mackendrick. He directed Guinness in both The Man in The White Suit (1949) and The Ladykillers (1955), both of which are frequently cited as the pinnacle of Ealing films.

The Ladykillers, which we will screen on October 9, is an achingly funny tale of robbers who are almost able to pull off the perfect crime. As they scheme to rob an armored car, the gang pretends to be a string quintet, “rehearsing” (by playing record albums) in order to allay the suspicions of the little old lady from whom they are renting a room. When the landlady, Mrs. Wilberforce, accidentally uncovers their crimes, the miscreants decide they must kill her!

Peter Sellers and Alec Guinness are the most widely recognized members of the cast, but it is filled with faces like Jack Warner and Cecil Parker whom you will undoubtedly recognize from other British movies.

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Paper Mates: Phoebe and Henry Ephron

How can you not love seeing Kate Hepburn and her beloved Spencer Tracy together? Here they are in Desk Set, one of the best films by screenwriting duo Phoebe and Henry Ephron. © 20th Century Fox / Courtesy of Photofest.

How can you not love seeing Kate Hepburn and her beloved Spencer Tracy together? Here they are in Desk Set, one of the best films by screenwriting duo Phoebe and Henry Ephron. © 20th Century Fox / Courtesy of Photofest.


In thinking about the exhibition Jewish Homegrown History and the impact that Jewish individuals and communities have had on the fabric of Los Angeles, I immediately thought, “Hollywood!”

Most of us know the great Jewish men of Hollywood, like Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Danny Kaye, MGM Founders Louis B. Mayer and Samuel Goldwyn, and the four brothers of Warner Bros. We also know Jewish women who found fame on the silver screen, like Lauren Bacall, June Havoc, and Molly Picon, to name a few. But what’s less known are the behind-the-scenes contributions that Jewish women have made to the industry and to the culture of L.A. Perhaps this is because of a gender-bias in “the biz,” or an oversight by historians. Whatever the reason, I was happy that a quick search on the Jewish Women’s Archive led me to a plethora of information about the important and well-known films either written or co-written by Jewish women.

The Skirball’s new, upcoming film series The Write Stuff celebrates these hidden gems, the great films of the Golden Age of Hollywood penned by Jewish women screenwriters. In these early days, i.e. the 1930s to the 1950s, women were mostly relegated to acting roles. Thankfully, some were able to break through this glass ceiling to become not only great screenwriters, but also directors, producers, editors, etc.

Fannie Hurst wrote the novel <em>Humoresque</em>, for which Phoebe and Henry Ephron adapted the screenplay. This tragic film starring Joan Crawford is a tear-jerker. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy of Photofest.

Fannie Hurst wrote the novel Humoresque, for which Phoebe and Henry Ephron adapted the screenplay. This tragic film starring Joan Crawford is a tear-jerker. © Warner Bros. / Courtesy of Photofest.

Some of the women who won early renown as screenwriters were: Sonya Levien (Daddy Long Legs [1931], which was remade in 1955 by Phoebe and Henry Ephron, and Interrupted Melody [1955]); Fannie Hurst (Humoresque [1920] and Imitation of Life [1934]), and Betty Comden (Singin’ in the Rain [1952], The Band Wagon [1953], and The Barkleys of Broadway[1949]). These films went on to win prestigious awards for best screenplay and best writing, not only attesting to these writers’ achievements, but also paving the way for future generations of women screenwriters, many of whom remain on our “favorites” lists today.

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Paul and George (But Not John or Ringo), Together on Stage

Filmmaker Paul Mazurksy (pictured with mic in hand) had the audience in stitches at last night's Q&A with him and frequent writing partner Leon Capetanos. Highlight of the night was a truly hilarious tale of how Paul roped Federico Fellini, whom he had long admired, into making his on-screen debut in Paul's "Alex in Wonderland".

Filmmaker Paul Mazurksy (pictured with mic in hand) had the audience in stitches at Wednesday night's Q&A with him and frequent writing partner Leon Capetanos. Highlight of the night was a truly hilarious tale of how Paul roped Federico Fellini, whom he had long admired, into making his on-screen debut in Paul's Alex in Wonderland.

Here’s some late-breaking news that I was able to announce from the stage at Wednesday night’s kick-off to our Through a Glass Brightly: A Paul Mazursky Retrospective:

Swing by the Skirball on April 3rd to watch Blume in Love—the second evening screening in the series—and you’ll get a chance to hear filmmaker Paul Mazursky in conversation with actor George Segal.

Paul, of course, was the writer and director of the 1973 drama about a Beverly Hills divorce lawyer who’s got his own problems in love and life. Winner of the 2010 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Lifetime Achievement Award, Paul was the creative mind behind a run of memorable films, including Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, Harry & Tonto (my personal favorite of all Mazurskies), Enemies: A Love Story, and Down and Out in Beverly Hills. (For younger audiences, he may be better known for his appearances on HBO, on both The Sopranos and Curb Your Enthusiasm.)

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