Aug 28, 2011

Quote of the Week

There is something elemental about Bette, a demon within her which threatens to break out and eat everybody, beginning with their ears. The studio was afraid of her.

-John Huston

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Aug 21, 2011

Quote of the Week

If you become a star, you don't change, everyone else does.

-Kirk Douglas

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Aug 14, 2011

Quote of the Week

You know, I'm not afraid to die, but I just wish it didn't have to be.

-Basil Rathbone

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Aug 7, 2011

Quote of the Week

Isn't there any other part of the matzo you can eat?
(after having matzo ball soup for three meals in a row)

 -Marilyn Monroe

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Aug 4, 2011

Q&A: David Greenstreet of

Every since I first started renting from ClassicFlix about a year ago, I’ve been curious to learn more about the service and the people behind it. Recently, I finally decided to contact the company directly and get some answers to my burning questions.

For those of you who haven’t heard of ClassicFlix, it is a DVD mail rental service in the United States that focuses only on classic movies and television (essentially pre-1970). While I do find it easier to browse a specialized selection, the thing that I love most about this company is the huge number of Manufacture on Demand (MOD) discs they offer exclusively for rental. I’m not a huge DVD collector (gasp—I know), but there are so many MOD titles that I really want to see. It has been fantastic to be able to rent all these movies that have been otherwise inaccessible to me over the years.

I was hesitant to feature these answers on the blog, because I am aware that it seems like a big old ad. Full disclosure: it isn’t. I also can’t be held responsible for your own experience with ClassicFlix, though I have been very happy myself. I’m just a fan of this growing company. I like that it was a venture started with the same love of the classics that a lot of us share.

So here they are, the answers to the questions I asked co-founder and owner of ClassicFlix, David Greenstreet:

What inspired you to start ClassicFlix?

After awakening to the joys of classic film in the 90’s (I’m 42), I found and watched every classic I could find at local video stores. When Netflix came along, I thought it was a great idea because selection was broader and searching for titles, actors, etc. became easier. However, I soon ran through most of what I wanted to watch at Netflix and knew there was so much more out there to be seen that they didn’t offer. Additionally, navigation of their site made it difficult to find what I was looking for as it displayed many “classics” from the 70’s upward that I just didn’t care to view. So my wife and I started ClassicFlix as a specifically tailored website for classic film fans.

How many titles do you currently offer?

Over 8,000

How has the rise of MOD titles changed your business? Which studios’ MOD discs do you currently offer?

We currently carry close to 1,000 MOD titles from all lines (Warner Archive, TCM Vault, Sony Screen Classics, Universal Vault and MGM MODs) and it has changed our business dramatically. MODs now make up the vast majority of classic films releases. While it has attracted more members for us, it has also increased acquisition cost dramatically as over 70% of our acquisitions are for MOD titles. The rise of the Blu-Ray format has also not mitigated our acquisition per DVD cost. However, we wouldn’t have it any other way as we couldn’t claim the mantle of THE Classic Movie Rental Site if we didn’t.

I’ve always been curious, how many discs do you lose a year due to breakage? Those mailing envelopes seem so vulnerable.

If I told you our breakage percentage, you probably wouldn’t believe it. It is very high when compared to the kid-glove treatment that Netflix gets. However, the breakage percentage, along with the high acquisition costs is built in to the cost of membership. It makes it no more joyful to see one broken disc, but it’s just a part of doing business.

What is your most popular rental disc of all time?

The recently released Night Flight is our most popular of all time. Other titles that have been locked up in the vault are popular too like Stranger on the Third Floor and While the City Sleeps.

What are your future plans for ClassicFlix?

A complete re-design is coming and should be completed in the fall. It will allow for more interactivity, have reviews, articles and have some great new features. Streaming is coming down the road too. Although we don’t have a firm timetable.

What are your favorite movies?

Too many to count. But if I had to name one, it would be Casablanca. It may be cliché, but it holds special place in my heart as it triggered my awakening when I went to a 50th anniversary screening at the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto. It opened my eyes to a world wonderful films that I didn’t know existed.

In no particular order, other favorites come to mind: Arsenic and Old Lace, To Be or Not to Be, It’s Love I’m After, Hobson’s Choice, Brute Force, Shadow of a Doubt, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Mr. Skeffington, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Ace in the Hole and many, many more.

Aug 2, 2011

The Ida Lupino Blogathon: Search for Beauty (1934)

This post is my entry in the Ida Lupino Blogathon. Check out the other entries here at Ida Lupino

Search for Beauty (1934) was Ida Lupino’s first Hollywood movie, but it wasn’t meant to be. Paramount had planned to give Lupino a big build up in the title role of its all-star production of Alice in Wonderland. When the young starlet arrived from the United Kingdom, the studio realized she was much too sophisticated for the part of young Alice.

The movie she did make could hardly have been more different. Its plot fits well into the pre-code era. Search for Beauty is about a trio of con artists who convince a pair of Olympic athletes to edit their health and exercise magazine, which is actually a front for a racier mag with juicy stories and photos. Lupino is one of the athletes, and it isn’t a great role. She’s there to be cute and earnest, and she is.

Lupino’s look in this flick is a starlet version of Jean Harlow. You almost can’t recognize her under the platinum curls and the plucked, eternally astonished eyebrows. She still speaks with a British accent on screen which makes her foreign in more ways than one. When I first saw her in the role I thought "Who is this?"

Though Lupino had enough spunk for the pre-code age, it didn’t give her the means to demonstrate what made her special. She came upon that in the forties, when her voice began to get smoky, and she restored her naturally dark hair color. Her wistful, but steely persona fit the somber mood of the film noirs that sprouted during the era.

Fortunately, Ida knew how to take care of herself. For a while she was homesick, and despaired of ever finding a decent part, but by the end of the decade, she had established herself as a powerful leading lady.

In 1939, she was something more than the damsel in distress in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Then she stole a script for The Light That Failed and insisted upon an audition, which won her the juicy part of Bessie, a streetwalker. Finally she blew everyone away with an intense, crazed performance in They Drive by Night (1940).

I’ve often wondered what would have happened to Lupino if her role in Search for Beauty had been a blueprint for her career, rather than a starting point. Would she have been that charming, but dull starlet until she faded away? I tend to think she would have. Ida Lupino was a smart gal, and she became the artist we love today because she was determined to make her own opportunities. That makes me love her even more.

Here are a couple more of my posts about Lupino:

Guest post about Ida on Silents and Talkies

A Tribute in Song: Ida Lupino by Carla Bley

Image Source: Classic Film Scans