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William Wyler’s Love Letter to His Comrades in Arms: The Best Years of Our Lives

In the opening shot of William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), CAPT Fred Derry walks into an airport terminal in hopes of catching a flight home to Boone City, USA. Upon reaching the clerk at the counter, Fred learns there is a several day wait for a commercial flight, even though he’s a returning war hero. A wealthy middle-aged businessman then charges up next to Fred, interrupts his conversation with the airline clerk, and confirms his seat on the next flight regardless of the extra cost. He barely acknowledges CAPT Derry, no nod or a “thank you for your service.” The air is thick with rotten apathy, and it’s this scene that signals the audience is in for a different kind of war movie. William Wyler, himself a WWII veteran, saw America’s shift in attitude immediately following the war. The wells of patriotism had been tapped dry and those keeping the fires burning on the home front were tired of making sacrifices. Once the servicemen returned home, the warm welcome was short lived. After fighting for years in the Pacific and Europe, these soldiers were expected to resume life as normal almost immediately. Definitely easier said than done. The transition back to civilian life was difficult for many of the soldiers displaced by the war, and Wiliam Wyler wanted to pay tribute to their post-war struggles.

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2012 Holiday Gift Guide

Happy Holidays from The Fence!

 

It’s never been a better time to be a classic film fan. With numerous theatre screenings across the country, the TCM Film Festival, never before released and remastered films on DVD/Blu-ray– there’s an abundance of goodies for every fan. With only two weeks until Christmas, I have put together a gift guide for the classic film fans on your list. Already done with your shopping or don’t celebrate Christmas? Then pick something out for yourself! Make sure to scroll through the entire post for some fantastic deals and enter the giveaway.

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TCM Classic Film Festival: No Sleep, No Food, Good Times

Count me now on the list of jerks who’s been to the TCM Classic Film Festival. To say that my experience was incredible is a complete understatement.

I arrived in California on Wednesday evening. After a lovely, relaxing dinner with some close friends, I traveled up to Hollywood from Orange County to check into my hotel. Little did I know, that meal would be the last one for quite a while. After finally meeting some of my Twitter friends in person for the first time, I settled in for a good night’s sleep. It would be the last one of those too. I quickly learned there is no place for eating or sleeping at the festival. After all, “sleeping is giving in, no matter what the time is.”

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Fredric March and William Holden Clash in Executive Suite

By Rick29

I first saw Executive Suite in an unlikely setting: a broadcast management class at Indiana University in 1978. I don’t remember how the film pertained to the class (or if the professor just wanted to take a break from lecturing). But the film, an engrossing look at corporate politics, stuck with me over the years. I didn’t see it again until I discovered a copy at a local video store in the 1990s. This second viewing surprised me—Executive Suite was far better than I remembered.

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Fredric March as Mark Twain

By Cliff Aliperti, Immortal Ephemera

“Some things a man doesn’t like to tell about himself unless he gets beyond the grave as they say. But now I can tell the truth, the whole truth. Well, that is, within limits. You see truth is a very valuable thing, and I believe we should be a little economical with it.” –Fredric March as Mark Twain in The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944)

The Adventures of Mark Twain takes the story of Twain’s actual life, more or less wraps it all up into a ball and then explodes these facts across the screen so as to make them fit the movie in the most entertaining way believed possible.

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I Married a Bitch

By Brandie Ashe

Over the course of his rather prolific career, Fredric March racked up five Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, ultimately winning the prize twice. The majority of these nominated roles came from his work in dramas (save his first nomination for 1930’s The Royal Family of Broadway). Indeed, March excels as a dramatic performer, brilliantly bringing to life such iconic characters as Dr. Henry Jekyll (and his murderous counterpart, Mr. Hyde), Jean Valjean, Norman Maine (the 1937 version of A Star is Born), hapless salesman Willy Loman, and even the personification of Death himself (1934’s Death Takes a Holiday).

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Mister Norman Maine

By Carley Johnson

“A Star Is Born is a Hollywood story of, by, and for its people. It has the usual preface, attesting to the fictional quality of the characters and incidents depicted, but it is nonetheless the most accurate mirror ever held before the glittering, tinseled, trivial, generous, cruel, and ecstatic world that isHollywood. That, in itself, guarantees its dramatic interest, for there is no place on this twentieth-century earth more fascinating—not even that enchanting make-believe republic which James Hilton called Shangri-La.”

Thus read The New York Times April, 1937 review of William Wellman’s drama A STAR IS BORN, and Frank Nugent’s words could scarcely be more on target.

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