the-ambersons

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Happy Birthday Orson Welles: 6th May 1915 - 10th October 1985

Orson Welles is a giant with the face of a child, a tree filled with birds and shadows, a dog who has broken loose from his chains and gone to sleep on the flower-bed. He is an active loafer, a wise madman, a solitude surrounded by humanity. - Jean Cocteau

Ah, but Orson…that huge, strong man, you know that he’s very easily loved, but it’s very easy to hurt him…he’s capable of such beautiful things, and it’s so hard for him now to make a film that you wouldn’t be the little stone that stops the machine from going, once he has the chance to make a film.  - Jeanne Moreau

‘The Ambersons’ and 'Chimes at Midnight’ represent more than anything else what I would now like to do in films…what I am trying to discover now in films is not the technical surprises or shocks, but a more complete unity of forms, of shapes. That’s what I’m reaching for, what I hope is true. If it is, then I’m reaching maturity as an artist. If it isn’t true, then I’m in decadence, you know? - Orson Welles, in 1965

New in the Pioneers Press catalog!

GROWING THINGS: A GUIDE FOR BEGINNING GARDENERS

compiled by Joshua James Amberson

$3

Get a copy here.

“An accessible guide for home vegetable gardening! Good for beginners and also intermediate gardeners looking to learn a little more.

Within: raised beds, row beds, community gardens, container gardening, direct-seeding, starting indoors, transplanting, hardening off, weeds, bioremediation, fun and easy plants to start with, when to plant, watering, bugs, seed saving, composting, plant growth and nutrients, tomatoes, flowers, berries, and more.ar

With writings from Sarah Keliher, Sarah Tavis, Jeff Shannon, Hannah Horovitz, and Rylie Thayer. Based on gardening in the Pacific Northwest, but is kept pretty general throughout. Includes images from vintage gardening books and vintage children’s books, typed on a cursive typewriter.”

Jacques Tourneur and Val Lewton’s legendary partnership began in the mid-thirties at MGM under the supervision of David O. Selznick, but it wasn’t until the 1942 RKO film Cat People that their chemistry produced an original and highly influential aesthetic. Based on a short story written by Lewton and published in 1930, this cult sensation stars Simone Simon as a Serbian émigré in Manhattan who fears that an ancient curse has doomed her to morph into a feline predator upon physical contact with her lover. Though made on a modest budget with sets left over from other RKO productions, including Orson Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons, Cat People demonstrates the ingenuity and resourcefulness of two perfectly paired visionaries at the height of their creative powers.

Watch a rare interview with director Jacques Tourneur originally broadcast on French television in 1979

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Happy Birthday Charles Laughton 1st July 1899 - 15th December 1962

Rembrandt is his great part, his matriculation; full of the intimate moments that test an actor’s integrity to the highest…probably the finest acting performance ever recorded on celluloid. - C A Lejeune

Charles was both inteligent and gifted, with an instinctive genius for acting. - Jean Renoir

Apart from ‘Ambersons’, the most exciting experience I have had in the cinema was with Charles Laughton on 'Night of the Hunter’…every day I considered something new about light, that incredible thing that can’t be described. Of the directors I’ve worked with, only two ever understood it, Orson Welles and Charles Laughton. - Stanley Cortez

I have become a teller of stories. I would like to become the man who knows all the stories…When I go into a good book-store or library, I often feel sad when I see the shelves of books that I will never be able to enjoy. I think of all the wonderful tales I will never know, and I wish I could live to be a thousand years old. - Charles Laughton

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The Hunger Games UK held a Capitol Costume Competition on Sunday, March 16th in honor of the UK release of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire on March 17th. They requested that fans turn up at Marylebone Station dressed in their Capitol finest in order to win prizes and a chance at a pair of tickets to the Mockingjay Part 1 premiere in November.

“When you’re doing a picture with Orson Welles, Orson runs the show, and if he doesn’t, his voice does.” —Stanley Cortez

The late, great Stanley Cortez often said that light was “an incredible thing that can’t be described,” and that every day he learned something new about it. He further maintained that “only two of all the directors I’ve worked with understood it: Orson Welles and Charles Laughton.” For Welles’s The Magnificent Ambersons and Laughton’s The Night of the Hunter, Cortez used light and shadow to create enough perfect black-and-white images to fill an art gallery. Cortez had gone to New York to shoot tests for David O. Selznick when Welles asked to borrow him for The Magnificent Ambersons, which was about to start at RKO. Welles had seen some of Cortez’s work in Universal mystery films, especially the 1941 comedy-mystery The Black Cat, and wanted a somewhat similar look for The Magnificent Ambersons. Cortez arrived in Hollywood on Monday and shot the first scene the next morning, with no preparation. Based on a Booth Tarkington story, the picture takes place in the early part of this century, and relates the tale of an American family that is unable to change with the times. Three interior floors of the Amberson home, filled with gingerbread woodwork, fancy wallpaper, heavy furniture and a massive staircase, were built on Stage 3 at RKO’s Hollywood studio. Cortez recalled that when he’d seen the set before he went to New York, he said to himself, “I pity the poor bastard who has to photograph this damned thing!” Snow scenes involving a sleigh ride were set up in the big ice plant in downtown Los Angeles.

Street scenes and other exteriors were made at RKO-Pathé in Culver City. Welles and Cortez struck up a good rapport, but Welles later became increasingly impatient with Cortez’s perfectionistic approach to lighting. The cameraman was quoted as saying, “When you’re doing a picture with Orson Welles, Orson runs the show, and if he doesn’t, his voice does.” However, the extra effort paid off in artistic compositions, rich blacks and scenes of remarkable depth. Welles was still producing and acting in his Mercury Theatre radio dramas, and sometimes was unable to be on the set. On these occasions he left recorded directions for Cortez and editor Robert Wise, who would film the scenes without him. The 10-day shoot in the ice house made it possible to use real snow and show the frosty breath of the actors, but it was tough going. In their attempts to stay warm, the crew wore fur-lined leather coveralls and sipped brandy. Arc lights were used to create a sunlit effect on the snow, and the cold caused incandescents to burst at unexpected moments. At one point, actor Ray Collins was sidelined with pneumonia. Because RKO was committed to furnishing double-bill programs, a new studio chief decreed that no feature could be longer than 7,500 feet. Cortez was horrified when many of his favorite scenes from The Magnificent Ambersons were chopped out. Even in its truncated state, the picture stands as one of the finest examples of black-and-white cinematography ever to grace the screen. —From the ASC website, © 1999