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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Two Years and 466 Postings Ago...

Greenbriar Picture Shows opened on December 27, 2005. It began as a place to deposit images hopefully unfamiliar to readers. Sometimes I’d post three times a day. The novelty of seeing everything go up instantly was quite a kick. Later I slowed down to once a day. After awhile, it seemed an index and search archive was needed. Greenbriar became for me one of those blogging obsessions people speak of. The movie life seems normal enough to one who lives it. I’ve been reassured in finding there are plenty of others who are similarly driven. The thing I love about the internet and DVD and TCM and all the rest is how they create opportunities for online writers to discover and rediscover movies long unseen. It happened this past year with Ace In The Hole, These Are The Damned (TCM leased a package from Sony, and suddenly this Columbia owned Hammer Film was back after decades of hibernation), and many others. Something like Witchfinder General resurfaces and informed voices are heard worldwide in celebration. I love the instant gratification of newsgroups and forums. Every day’s an adventure in this peculiarly twenty-first century funhouse. I don’t read a tenth of stuff daily I know I’d like. Forty-eight hour days might help, but not much. Blogs I follow are great because they tap into their creator’s personality and experience. Would print media ever have allowed for such expression? I think someday we’ll look back and marvel at this revolution we’re living. I don’t take it for granted a moment because I remember what it was like when we didn’t have all this. Most Greenbriar readers probably do too as I suspect we’re in the approximate same age group. Rest assured I appreciate each and all who comment here. Sometimes I think some of you ought to be writing these posts instead of me. The things I learn from readers! When Google took over Blogger, they instituted policies requiring commenters to sign on with Google first, essentially becoming a "member" of that group. I’ve not seen any downside to this, but it has complicated the commenting process somewhat. Anyone who’s had problems might look into signing with Google. It’s simple and requires no meaningful forfeit of privacy. Anyway, to those who share views with other Greenbriar readers and myself, I do offer thanks and invite you to please continue.

I’ve spent these two years reflecting on movies that have impacted on me. Most I came upon during that age of wonderment we all experience between ten and twenty when the best picture-viewing experiences of our lives are gathered and collated. I could review any number of worthwhile recent films (and I do watch a lot of them), but others are better equipped for that commission. The fact is I like ads and photos and lobby cards they generated during the classic era. Writing about premieres and ballyhoo is as close as I’ll get to reliving them, as I experienced so few classics when they were new. Sobering indeed has been my realization that most everything I speak of at Greenbriar was past before I was born. A shame I can’t get as excited over opening night of National Treasure --- Part Two, but I leave those joys to the present generation between ten and twenty, hoping they get as much fun out of what’s new as I did forty years ago over the likes of Goldfinger and The Dirty Dozen. For what it’s worth, realization of my own diminished capacity for adolescent awe came in 1977 when I went to see Star Wars first-run. We arrived twenty minutes in, and as I recall, there was a boy and two distinctly unappealing robots shuffling amidst a desert wasteland. One of them looked like a vacuum cleaner and made irritating noises. Over the next two hours, I came to know I’d lost touch with whatever it was people wanted in movies. This was the first new release I felt old watching, and that’s some kind of hammer to come down when you’re twenty-three (I’ve just this week captured Star Wars on DVR and intend to give it another chance). Such late seventies fare would accelerate my enthusiasm’s retreat toward the older stuff, and revelations would come, if at all, over encounters with classics I’d never seen. One of these was The Tall T. Some of us drove down to a vintage theatre in eastern NC some "B" western fans had taken over for a nostalgic Saturday of cowboys on the big screen. The place and the people seemed transported from 1957 when this show was new. Certainly the theatre was unchanged from that time. I came away thinking this was one of the greatest things I’d ever seen. That doesn’t happen often once you’ve reached a certain age, as I definitely had by 1992. Was it The Tall T, or this apparent trip backward I’d taken? Looking at the (so far) whole of Greenbriar, I realize there are many films that have had similar effect. I couldn’t be there when Psycho, Citizen Kane, The Searchers, and Sunset Boulevard opened, but with enough trade ads, stills, and ephemera, maybe it’s possible to travel at least part of the way back. Speaking of which, I’d invite readers, especially those who’ve joined Greenbriar Picture Shows more recently, to visit (or revisit) past postings. The search index is a good way to explore what’s been previously published on favorite people and titles. Going into this third year, and time, health, and interested readership permitting, Greenbriar looks forward to keeping its house lights burning.
PHOTO CAPTION: Up top, Joan Crawford takes a break from shooting Ice Follies Of 1939 to celebrate Greenbriar's second anniversary.


Blogger convict 13 said...

Congratulations on your anniversary, surely it could not have been just two years, with all those postings that you have done. I have learnt so much about movies from your entertaining blog, hopefully you will continue.

5:13 AM  
Blogger Kevin K. said...

Such an extraordinary amount of information in only two years! Thanks for setting up shop -- can't wait to see what the next TWENTY years brisng!

8:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog has meant a lot to me in the last two years, and I believe to countless others as well. I also have sharp memories of the 1950s moviegoing experience, and that inspired my hobbies of film collecting as a kid in the 1960s, then as a young adult in the 1970s, collecting 16mm and 35mm film. In 1990 I bought a small historic theatre and realized the dream! Now I'm involved with a 100 year old arts center and produce their classic film series and theatre organ shows. I'm sure many site visitors have their stories to tell as well! Keep the articles coming!

EC, Toledo

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting how the movies can "age" us. I certainly understand your comments about Star Wars, which I am sure along with Jaws represented a radical change from movie-going experiences of the 1960's. Looking back, as a thirty-something year old child of the 1980's, Star Wars (and its sequels) were certainly the influential films of my childhood along with Raiders of the Lost Ark and one or two others. By the way, I clearly remember the day (sometime around 1981 I guess) when I told you that I was planning to see "Clash of the Titans" at the Cool Liberty and you strongly suggested that I see "Raiders of the Lost Ark" instead. Thanks for that tip! Anyway, I think film started to age me sometime in the mid-1990s when I was still in my mid-20's. That was around the time that the computerized special effects boom hit the film industry. By that time I was accustomed to seeing real stunt men performing actual feats on film and I had developed a keen enough eye to tell the difference between "real" action and computerized fakery. When Indiana Jones climbed underneath that moving truck and then got dragged down the dirt road hanging on by his bullwhip, I knew there was a real guy actually performing that stunt. I remember literally sitting on the edge of my seat throughout that film! Even when Rambo blew up all those Viet-Namese bamboo huts (were they full of gasoline or gun powder?), I knew it was a real explosion - not some computerized cartoon like I might see in a video game. I leave almost every "action" film I see today feeling totally cheated. Oddly enough, I think the first Star Wars prequel may have been the film that left me walking out of the theater scratching my head and feeling older and out of touch with what younger audiences desire. I distinctly remember asking myself, did they actually shoot any of this on location in New Zealand or wherever they were reputed to be? The entire film, to me, from the settings to the action sequences was 100% computerized and I remember leaving the theater thinking that I could have played a video game for two hours and gotten the exact same experience. I think history will show that the action genre hit its pinnacle, so to speak, sometime in the 80's and then it slowly turned downhill from there. Congratulations again on two years... I still enjoy reading your blog every week and I hope you'll keep it going. Nephew Will.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks from me as well for all you've written in the past 2 years.

I was there for much of the '50s, '60s and 70s and still fondly recall my reactions and the audience reactions.

For example, your ad and still from "The Tall T" made me remember seeing it on a drive-in triple feature. "The Tall T" was the second feature bookended by "The
7th Voyage of Sinbad" and "The Lineup". I knew then at age 8 or 9 that I was watching three great I still watch those 3
movies and feel privileged to have seen them on the big screen along with countless others.

11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep up the great work, John. This is one of a handful of must-read blogs on my list.

My wish for the New Year would be a Greenbriar posting on Borzage's MOONRISE. I watched this recently for the first time and it reminded me of nothing so much as Laughton's NIGHT OF THE HUNTER but -- dare I say it -- it is arguably a better film in every respect. That is something I did not expect to ever see and hopefully a nice DVD will be released soon so MOONRISE can get the attention it deserves.

12:51 PM  
Blogger MDG14450 said...

Congratulations--I really enjoy your articles, especially the photos of past lobby displays and other ballyhoo. Also, the dissections of distribution strategies like regional openings.

On a somewhat related note: We talk here a lot about lost films and the remarkable availability of movies these days compared to the 60s-70s when we had to put up with cut-up, murky, late-night viewings on local TV, so I was a little shocked by this article in the NY Times:

Apparently, preserving digital movies may be trickier and more expensive than preserving movies on celluloid.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks again John, for a great blog!! Your comments concerning Star Wars hit home for me as it took me back to 1977. I was going though my "Griffith period" screening the likes of "Intolerance" and "Way Down East" in super 8 sound prints from Blackhawk at 150 bucks a pop. Every Thurday night I would have a small group of friends over for an evening of Silent films. All Summer we heard the buzz about "Star Wars" and it's blockbuster status but we resisted. Eventually though, we broke down and caught it at a discount venue. As I recall the print was badly worn and may have singlehandedly put the film in the black!! In any event, the lights went up and we talked in the car all the way home about how we were at a loss to explain what all the fuss was about. We went back to our weekly movie routine and I never bothered to see "Empire" or "Return" when they were released. Now it's thirty years later and "Star Wars" is as old as the post-war noir pictures I used to set my alarm clock to see at one AM on TBS back in the 70's. Now I have an eight year old son who loves "Star Wars" and all it's prequels and sequels. I have sat and watched them with him. He knows the story lines and has a light sabre and a Darth Vader costume. We went to Columbus Ohio and saw the 30th aniversary Star War exhibit on loan from Lucasfilms. We posed next to dozens of props, models, and even the actual C3PO and R2D2. I have become a fan and it was then that I realized that I now understood the greatness of "Star Wars" because I had now seen it through the eyes of a child. Keep up the great work, everything you write is "dead on".

6:57 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I just watched Star Wars (for the first time in at least a decade) with my 9-year-old. It's amazing how slow it seems now (which I have to say is one of the things I liked about it). It takes a good 30 minutes to get going, there's almost as much walking around the desert doing nothing as in L'Avventura. Who'd have guessed that? (Jaws, too, seems amazingly naturalistic now, almost like a Maysles Brothers documentary about Martha's Vineyard at times.)

Anyway, congrats on the anniversary, I sure have enjoyed the site since discovering it some months back. By the way, and I hope you don't mind the blatant plug, I just started a board for discussing classic films, particularly in regards to collecting and film preservation. It's mostly a silent-oriented crowd (an outgrowth of alt.movies.silent) so far but there's room to expand beyond that. We'd be honored to have anyone from here drop in. It's called NitrateVille, at

11:46 PM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

The first time I discovered STAR WARS was during 1977 when certain people would produce an 8mm projector and there was a condensed version that I have seen several times then. Eventually, in that same year, my mother took me to the Gaumont movie theater, located almost in front of (Argentina's) National Congress, where I had the chance to watch the entire film for the very first time.

Those versions, the full feature film and the condesation, were similary dubbed in Spanish and were eventually reused when Fox eventually distributed to television. It took me many years to find the original English version, which is still one of my favorite films.

I vividly remember the toys and the comic book version, from those obscure days of the Argentine dictatorship.

The film is still around us... yet the Gaumont is no longer the same place. Back in the silent era, it was established in 1925 and bandoneon player Ciriaco Ortiz would perform with a memorable tango sextet (with he recreated in 1948 for four recordings for RCA Victor) and in 1929, Ciriaquito replaced it with a trio, himself and two guitar players, that managed to survive the sound revolution performing (and recording) up to his death in 1968.

The Gaumont theater continued doing well and in 1953 it readapted to show Cinerama films. Its screen was so impressive that it was terrific to be able to watch there STAR WARS, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, as well as the restored version of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

It is too bad that the multiplex business of the day forced the theater to divide itself into three screens. The Gaumont is no longer the big theater it was (they only play nowadays Argentine productions that don't make it to the commercial circuit) but at least it is still around us.

Happy new year and thanks for providing extremely interesting articles to read!

8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your blog and I look forward to your future posts. Happy anniversary Greenbriar Picture Shows!

8:06 PM  
Blogger Vanwall said...

Thanks for all the wonderful reading - I was amazed to read it was only two years old, as it seemed so awesomely polished and detailed from the get-go. When I remember my first independent steps into viewing films, your blog brings back a lot of those feelings - a pretty good indication you've got something significant for me to read every time.

I was actually a huge SF fan, so "Star Wars", altho a bit of disappointment because of its outdated space opera premise, still seemed to validate my general tastes in film as a young man - I made the third showing on opening day after a moderate wait in line, and when we came out, the line was around the block, strictly by word of mouth, so they had hit a nerve somewhere in the viewing public's mind. The disconnect came for me with first the rise of the slasher films, and second with the later rise of all the frat-boy writing and humor, almost all of which leaves me cold.

Thank god the DVD revolution has brought back many of the oldies, that let's face it, WERE the goodies. I've had to work hard to get my family to watch those "plot-less old B&Ws" at least some of the time, and it's pretty obvious color film and TV still rule here to a degree, but if I can stop by here every so often and catch up on some interesting history, often shared, you've got a repeat customer at this cinema. Thanks for all the hard work!

11:24 PM  
Blogger Joe Thompson said...

John: Happy anniversary and happy new year. Thanks for a year of must-read posts.

Joe Thompson ;0)

1:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Anniversary, John.

I never miss your fascinating blog.
It actually helped emboldened me to start my own site, www.TRAILERS FROM Check it out.

Keep up the good work!

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A very happy birthday from your faithful french reader (and best wishes for 2008). Two years after, i still wonder : how do you find all this exciting material ?

8:07 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...


Let me add my congratulations on your second anniversary. Yours is one of the websites I have bookmarked on both my home and office PC. It is always a pleasure reading your posts and seeing the gorgeous photos, ads, lobby cards, etc. It makes me smile just thinking about it! Happy New Year and keep up the great work!

1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have always been a classic film fan, watching classic film from my childhood in the 70's onward. I used to goto the library and get old movie books and read all about the old time film stars, many of them still alive at the time. I too remember when Star Wars came out in 1977, I was almost 16 and I vividly remember how popular it was at the time with my age group. It wasn't until it was shown on HBO years later that I actually saw the entire thing. It just didn't interest me. The only Star Wars film I saw in theatres was the "return of the clones" or something like that about 10 years ago with the kids and they fell asleep. Talk about feeling old; they were tired though. At one point I would only go see films if they had enough special effects to justify the ticket price; I could stay at home and watch dramas, comedies, etc.; why drive to a theatre for that? The DVD revolution has really changed things as now I can get old films and not only watch the film as much as I want but most of them have extras, like the trailers and commentary.

Anyway, you have a great site and I am thankful that it will continue.

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, John,

I get a kick out of your blog that reminds me of the way I used to hangout at the drugstore newsstand in Catawissa, PA waiting for the next issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine.

Thanks for putting in all the work to give us all a good seat in your memory and memorbillia theatre.

6:33 PM  

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