Monday, December 08, 2014

It Happened One Night (1934)

One of the first and best-loved "screwball comedies," Frank Capra's 1934 classic It Happened One Night features a reference to Wilkes-Barre.

Opposites attract with magnetic force in this romantic road-trip delight from Frank Capra, about a spoiled runaway socialite (Claudette Colbert) and a roguish man-of-the-people reporter (Clark Gable) who is determined to get the scoop on her scandalous disappearance.

Released in February 1934 (a mere four months before the Production Code was fully enforced), It Happens One Night was the first of only 3 motion pictures to win "big 5" at the Academy Awards (the other 2 being 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and 1991's The Silence of the Lambs):  Best Picture, Best Actor (Clark Cable), Best Actress (Claudette Colbert), Best Director (Frank Capra) and Best Screenplay (Robert Riskin).

39:25 minutes into the movie, Peter (Clark Gable) and Ellie (Claudette Colbert) are staying overnight at an autolodge, due to a washed-out bridge on their bus trip.   When her father's spies approach their shared room, Peter and Ellie pretend to be a married couple in the midst of an argument:

"Yeah, yeah.  I, uh...I got a letter from Aunt Bella last week.  Uh...she said if we don't stop over to Wilkes-Barre, she'll never forgive us."

It Happened One Night is available to borrow on DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System.  You may place a hold by clicking here or clicking here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Ghost Breakers (1940) Available To Borrow From Library; Features Scranton Reference

The 1940 horror-comedy The Ghost Breakers is now available to borrow on DVD from Scranton Public Library.  The film features a brief reference to Scranton, spoken by none other than comedy legend Bob Hope.

Directed by George Marshall (Marlene Dietrich’s “comeback” film Destry Rides Again, as well as Bob Hope and Lucille Ball in the film Fancy Pants and Ball again in episodes of her TV series Here’s Lucy) this breezy, timelessly amusing comedy re-teams Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, who two years earlier appeared together in The Cat and the Canary.

Mary Carter (Goddard) has just inherited a castle owned by her great-great grandfather off the coast of Cuba and said to be haunted. Despite warnings and death threats, she accepts the inheritance.

She is joined by radio broadcaster Larry Lawrence (Hope) who, believing he has killed a mob boss, flees New York with his butler, Alex (Willie Best). She enables him to escape by stowing him in a trunk bound for Cuba. In return, he promises to help rid her inherited castle of the ghosts and ghoulish creatures said to inhabit it. Once on the island, the three explore the eerie castle and search for the key to the castle's treasure while being haunted by the ghosts of Mary's ancestors.

Hope proves yet again that he is the master of the one-liner. The following dialogue is spoken as Mary and Larry descend a staircase into the dungeon of the castle--the scene takes place at the 1:21:14 mark, in the last five minutes of the movie:

Look at these railway tracks running through here.

Reminds me of my hotel room in Scranton.

Click here to place a hold on The Ghost Breakers.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson (2013)

Local references related to legendary actress Barbara Stanwyck are numerous on this blog, from movies like Remember the Night and Lady of Burlesque to books like the excellent A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson.  The first in a two-volume set (Volume Two is due in 2015), this 1000+ page is a thorough exploration of the life and career of the legendary actress.  Alas, a local reference was bound to appear. 

In the early 1930s, between filming movies, Stanwyck would often tour the country with her then-husband, vaudevillian Frank Fay. The following description of one such tour appears on page 358 of the book: 

"Through the late winter and spring (1932-1933), Barbara and Fay traveled with Tattle Tales, a 'gay gorgeous musical revue,' on its 'transcontinental' tour, to Portland, the Metropolitan in Seattle, Spokane, playing each city two or three nights and then moving east to Billings, Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, Denver, Omaha, Kansas City, the Shubert in Cincinnati, the Hanna in Cleveland, Wilkes-Barre, the Lyceum in Rochester, Philadelphia, the Capital in Albany, making their way to the Broadhurst Theatre in New York." 

A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel True 1907-1940 is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System; click here to place a hold. 

The uncensored version of Barbara Stanwyck's 1933 film Baby Face will kick off the upcoming "Ladies of Pre-Code" Film Series at Scranton Public Library on Wednesday, July 30 at 6 PM.  Click here for more information. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Out of the Furnace (2013)

My dear friend and colleague Anna Kilcullen recently told me about a passing reference to Scranton in the critically-acclaimed 2013 movie Out of the Furnace, directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart). 

Filmed mostly in Braddock, PA (located in the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh), Out of the Furnace follows hard-working Russell Blaze (Christian Bale) as he takes matters into his own hands to seek justice after his brother Rodney (Casey Affleck) mysteriously disappears and law enforcement doesn't follow through fast enough.

About 10 minutes into the movie, Russell and his girlfriend Lena Taylor (Zoƫ Saldana) are lying in bed and discussing future plans:

Wanna run away somewhere?

Don't change the subject.

I want to run away somewhere.  Let's do it.


I don't know.  I've never been east of Scranton, but... 

Out of the Furnace is available to borrow on both Blu-Ray and DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System

Much thanks to the fantastic Anna Kilcullen for this reference.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Purge (2013)

One of the things I really love about doing this blog is the fact that eagle-eyed movie fans like Eric Drago pick up on local references that are easy to miss.  I've seen last summer's sleeper hit The Purge starring Ethan Hawke, but I never noticed the Wilkes-Barre reference hidden on a TV monitor in the background -- Eric did :-)

Directed by James DeMonaco, The Purge refers to a futuristic crime prevention concept of a 12-hour period in which any and all crime is legalized.  During this period, a wealthy family is held hostage for harboring the target of a murderous syndicate.

Eric emailed me the following:

"In the film The Purge, there are a number of scenes where we are shown camera footage from different locations throughout the country. One such scene shows camera footage belonging to Wilkes-Barre, PA." 

The Purge is available to borrow on DVD from the library; click here to place a hold.   

Much thanks again to the ultra-groovy Eric Drago for this reference. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Lady of Burlesque (1943) Available To Borrow on DVD From Library

The 1943 classic film Lady of Burlesque, starring Barbara Stanwyck, is now available to borrow on DVD from Scranton Public Library.  Based on the novel The G-String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee, the film features a passing but memorable reference to Wilkes-Barre, spoken by Stanwyck herself (who plays dancer Dixie).

Eleven minutes into the film, an unnamed burlesque dancer enters the shared dressing room of the strippers and complains of the bathroom facilities at The Old Opera House:

That settles it! We GOTTA have a new one!

New what?

(gestures towards the off-stage ladies' room)

Oh, the museum piece. I haven't seen one like that
since the Wilkes-Barre Regal.
Click here to place a hold on Lady of Burlesque.

If you are a fan of Barbara Stanwyck, Scranton Public Library will be screening the long-lost uncut version of 1933's Baby Face on Wednesday, July 30th at 6 PM in the Community Room (basement of Lackawanna County Children's Library).  Baby Face kicks off a weekly month-long film series devoted to the "Ladies of Pre-Code Hollywood".   Click here for more information on the film series.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The English Teacher (2013)

Released in 2013, The English Teacher is a dark comedy about a single English teacher from Kingston, Pennsylvania who helps a former student and budding playwright by presenting his latest play at Kingston High School.  The film stars Julianne Moore, Michael Angarano, Greg Kinnear and Nathan Lane, and it is narrated by Fiona Shaw.

The film includes numerous references to Kingston, as well as Scranton and other areas/places in NEPA.

"She lived in Kingston, Pennsylvania, not too far from where she was born. 

Teacher Linda Sinclair (Julianne Moore) accidentally pepper sprays her former student Jason Sherwood (Michael Angarano) when he approaches her at an ATM at night.
"Who uses pepper spray in Kingston?"

Linda gives Jason a ride home.
"Jason Sherwood.  What ate you doing back here in Kingston, Pennsylvania?  I thought you'd be tearing up Broadway by now."

Sign: "Welcome to Kingston High School.  The Pride of Kingston, PA.  Go Monarchs!"

Drama teacher Carl Kapinas (Nathan Lane) defends a production of Oklahoma done in masks.
"It was in the traditional Japanese nose style, for your information.  And Lydia Plutka at the Times Leader called it 'profoundly imaginative,'" 

"You wanna sell the board?  You wanna sell the parents?  Then sell them on Jason Sherwood, a former Kingston High School student who came back to inspire the next generation."
"We'll double normal ticket sales.  You'll see.  The people of Kingston are hungry for something new." 

During rehearsals for the play.
"And now, Mr. Sherwood, may I say on behalf of the entire Kingston High School Theater Department, it is an honor to have you with us."

Jason is offended by a comment from a student regarding the play.
"Oh, come on!  He's a kid.  He's just an insecure kid from Kingston, Pennsylvania and you're a New York playwright."

"I did keep at it.  That's how I found my way to Kingston and to all of you."

(Greg Kinnear)
"Listen,  so you know.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he's supposed to be taking LSAT prep tests up in Scranton."

Linda's bank statement reads charges from Kingston Gas & Electric, Kingston Wardrobe Supply, and Kingston Fabrics and Drapery.

Shot of Kingston High School opening night sign for the play

"If it's not too weird for you or me, Walter Mosley's speaking over at Wilkes next week, and I thought maybe..."

In the end credits,  a special thanks is given to WNEP - Newswatch 16 at 6 PM.

The English Teacher is available to borrow on DVD from the Lackawanna County Library System.  Click here to place a hold

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dance, Fools, Dance To Be Shown Wednesday, August 13th at Scranton Public Library

The 1931 Joan Crawford classic Dance, Fools, Dance, which centered on the murder of a reporter named Bert Scranton, will be screened at Scranton Public Library as part of its upcoming "Ladies of Pre-Code" film series.  It will be shown Wednesday, August 13th at 7 PM in the Community Room (basement of Lackawanna County Children's Library).  The screening is free with your library card.

For more information, please call Bill at (570) 348-3000, x3008 or email Bill by clicking here.

Check out a clip of Dance, Fools, Dance below:

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Face the Music: A Life Exposed by Paul Stanley (2014)

In April 2014, Paul Stanley published his autobiography Face the Music: A Life ExposedStanley is the last of the four original members of KISS to publish his memoirs.  The book details not only the meteoric rise of KISS, but his overcoming being born with an ear deformity and deafness in his right ear.

On page 171 in Face the Music, Stanley relates a story previously published in Nothin' To Lose: The Making of KISS (1972-1975) involving a bizarre incident with the band's opening act at the Paramount Theater (now the F.M. Kirby Center) in Wilkes-Barre, PA:

"There was no consistency.   One night in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, our opening act was a circus juggler.He rode a unicycle and people in the audience tried to knock him down by throwing coins at him."

Nothin' To Lose identifies the performer as comedian Kenny Kramer.
Face the Music: A Life Exposed is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System; click here to place a hold.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nothin' To Lose: The Making of KISS, 1972-1975 by Ken Sharp with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons (2013)

On Monday, September 16th, 1974, Wilkes-Barre became a part of the beginning of KISStory as the legendary band (being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame next month) played the Paramount Theater -- now home to the F.M. Kirby Center -- on their first major tour as headliners. 

This information appears on page 247 of the book Nothin' to Lose: The Making of KISS, 1972-1975 by Ken Sharp, with Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons.  The book discusses the very early history of KISS, from its formation in the early 1970s to their struggle to find an audience to their triumphant 1975 double album Alive!

Page 247 of Nothin' to Lose features an image from the 1974 tour ledger of Gene Simmons (pictured above) that lists the Wilkes-Barre date near the final leg of their tour.

Nothin' to Lose: The Making of KISS, 1972-1975 is available to borrow from the library.  Click here to place a hold on the book.

UPDATED 3/29/14 I just finished the book and I highly recommend it.  Pages 386-387 feature a humorous anecdote when comedian Kenny Kramer (the inspiration for Kramer on the TV show Seinfeld) opened for KISS on Monday, December 23, 1074 at the Paramount Theater in Wilkes-Barre (according to previous information in the book--pictured above--they had previously played September 16, 1974).

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dance, Fools, Dance Available To Borrow on DVD

The 1931 Pre-Code classic Dance, Fools, Dance (featuring the first pairing of Joan Crawford and Clark Gable) is now available to borrow from Albright Memorial Library. 

Dance, Fools, Dance includes a character named Bert Scranton, played by Cliff Edwards.

Fearing her brother Roddy (William Bakewell) has become part of a bootleg gang, socialite-turned-cub reporter Bonnie Jordan (Joan Crawford) volunteers to cover the follow-up story to the murder of the paper's star reporter, Bert Scranton (Cliff Edwards), while he is investigating a Prohibition-era massacre.   Posing as a professional dancer, she infiltrates the gang of Jake Luva (Clark Gable), working in one of his speakeasies.

Click here to place a hold on Dance, Fools, Dance

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Front (1976)

In one of only a handful of films he appeared in that he did not direct, acclaimed filmmaker Woody Allen stars in the 1976 comedy/drama The Front. The film, which deals with blacklisting in the entertainment industry in 1950s New York City, was directed by formerly blaclisted director Martin Ritt (The Long Hot Summer, Norma Rae, The Sound and the Fury) and co-stars former blacklisted actors Zero Mostel (Mel Brooks' The Producers) and Hershel Barnard

Allen plays Howard Prince, a down-on-his luck cashier who poses as a writer for blacklisted talents to submit their work through, but the injustice around him pushes him to take a stand.

Around the 1:12:50 mark in the film, Howard is visited by Hecky Brown (Zero Mostel), a blacklisted actor from a television show Harold is "writing" for; Hecky is cooperating with the HUAC to entrap Harold into admitting he is a fellow Communist.  They have the following exchange:

How's it going?

Hecky Brown:
Not bad.  Club date.  Out-of-town.  Not bad.  Scranton.  Allentown.  Altoona.  You didn't know I was a big hit in Pennsylvania.

The Front is available to borrow on DVD from the library; click here to place a hold.  It was also recently released on Blu Ray by Twilight Time.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani (2012)

Your truly with author Adriana Trigiani following her lecture in Scranton on April 18th, 2013.

My wonderful colleague and fellow avid reader Michele L. recently finished bestselling author Adriana Trigiani's final book in her Valentine series.  The Supreme Macaroni Company, released in late 2013 (and whose title Adriana first announced when she presented at the Matthew F. Flynn Library Lecture Series on April 18th, 2013) continues the saga of the love, life and work of shoemaker Valentine Roncalli.

On page 113 Valentine's mother inquires whether Valentine spoke to Father Drake.  Valentine responds:

"I left him a message.  God, I wish we were better Catholics and had some decent connections.  If we did, we could climb up the food chain for a officiante.  Our monsignor retired, and the one bishop we knew left for Scranton to live with his sister at the Mercy Home."

On page 338, on the final page of her acknowledgements, Adriana thanks her "lifelong friend, (actor) Joe O'Brien, first of Scranton and then Manhattan."  She pays tribute to her dear friend, who passed away on April 3, 2013, shortly before Adriana's lecture in Scranton), as "the best brother and friend, and a fine actor who lit up the stage and screen with originality and passion."

The Supreme Macaroni Company is available to borrow from the Lackawanna County Library System in several formats: regular print, large print, and CD audiobook.  Click on the preceding links to place on a hold.

Much thanks to Michele L. for this reference.