24 July 2004 | rsoonsa
ONE MIGHT EXPECT MORE QUALITY FOR 75 YEARS.
Of value essentially to cineastes, this interesting but thinly produced documentary includes a small amount of seldom seen footage of screen tests among several on display. Elsewise, although there is little here not to like, excerpts from primarily well-known films are shown, with an overall array seemingly sparse for a 75 year commemoration. Goldie Hawn serves as hostess for the affair that is in five primary sections: Rising Stars (new performers); Tough Guys (gangsters); Fight to the Finish (friction between actors and studio bosses); Director as Star; Shooting Stars (John Wayne and Clint Eastwood). The screen tests of talent in the making, despite their brevity, will be of interest to some, as they highlight Orson Welles, Marlon Brando, James Dean, Paul Newman, and Lana Turner. Oft shown clips are mainly of performers from the star classification, including James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart (and Lauren Bacall), Bette Davis, Natalie Wood, Mel Gibson, and Robert Redford. During Hawn's narration, she emphasizes the variance between a historic "working class sensibility" of Warner Brothers motion pictures, and the purely escapist although charming fare developed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, principal rival of the Burbank company. A briefest mention is made of directors, and then but two, Michael Curtiz and Stanley Kubrick, although Robert Zemeckis does mention the significance of "filmmaker's vision" as compared with works created by committee. There is an obligatory grouping of snippets commenting upon Jack Warner's autocratic methods while dealing with performers working under the security of seven year contracts existent during his studio's salad days. Performers other than Hawn are seen relating of their experiences with the studio and its product, and while some are without worth, others deserve attention, notably Dennis Hopper, Bill Paxton, and Peter Bogdanovich. By and large, production values for this 45 minute piece are disappointing, a perception being created of its being merely an extended trailer; nonetheless, although one must wonder why a better effort is not made, this film is rewarding for aficionados of cinema.