Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Maine in The Movies

Join us as we celebrate Maine's 200th birthday with the 17-city bicentennial event "Maine In The Movies," which showcases 35 films with connections to The Pine Tree State.

On Wednesday, March 11th at 7pm, Mark Griffin introduces a special screening of the 1946 classic A Stolen Life at the Nordica Theater in Freeport.  Oscar-winner and longtime Maine resident Bette Davis not only starred in the film but produced it as well. Learn more and view the official festival trailer at MaineMovies200.com.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Rock of Ages

Mark Griffin's new book, All That Heaven Allows: A Biography of Rock Hudson, will be published by HarperCollins on December 4, 2018.   Drawing on more than a hundred interviews with Hudson's co-stars, family members and former companions, All That Heaven Allows pays homage to the screen legend whose life and death had a lasting impact on American culture.

Click the link below to pre-order the book that Kirkus Reviews calls "an engrossing  and carefully documented account of a beloved film icon's life."


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Hooked on "Dolls"

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication of Jacqueline Susann’s immortal bestseller, Valley of the Dolls, Mark Griffin will introduce a special screening of the 1967 film adaptation starring Barbara Parkins, Sharon Tate and the incomparable Patty Duke (as tormented superstar Neely O’Hara).  

Released by 20th Century-Fox a year after Susann’s novel became a publishing industry phenomenon, the movie version of Valley of the Dolls is widely considered ‘The Queen Mother of Cult Classics’ and the ultimate guilty pleasure.  In addition to the three leads, the film also features Oscar winners Susan Hayward and Lee Grant and in a contractually arranged cameo appearance, Jacqueline Susann herself.  

This invitation only event takes place on Saturday, July 16th, 2016 at the Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick, Maine.  In addition to Griffin’s introductory remarks, this Valley extravaganza includes surprise guests, a trivia contest and a thematically appropriate luncheon served at Henry and Marty restaurant (as Lee Grant says in the movie, “I’ll start heating up the lasagna…”).    

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Best of Bond: All About 007

On newsstands now...i-5 Publishing explores the enduring influence of the James Bond film franchise in its new special edition magazine ("James Bond: The World's Most Famous Spy"). Mark Griffin celebrates "The Sound of Bond" by interviewing Dame Shirley Bassey, Carly Simon, Sheena Easton and Bond theme composer Monty Norman. Get the inside story on the most stylish secret agent in cinema history by picking up your copy today.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

For The Love of Lucy

On newsstands now...Celebrate the enduring popularity of America's best-loved sitcom with i-5 Publishing's special edition tribute to "I Love Lucy."
This collector's magazine examines the unprecedented success of the series while providing readers with a glimpse behind the scenes of many of the best remembered episodes.
Mark Griffin's profiles of Vivian Vance and William Frawley reveal how these two seasoned veterans came to be cast as Fred and Ethel Mertz and why they were far from fond of one another. Pick up your copy of the magazine today. 
Up Next: 007.
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Hills Are Alive (and Thoroughly Fabulous) at 50

Now available on newsstands nationwide…Mark Griffin interviews the cast of the Oscar-winning blockbuster The Sound of Music for i-5 Publishing’s special edition magazine celebrating the 50th anniversary of the classic film. 

Starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer and directed by Robert Wise, The Sound of Music has been described as “the most mainstream cult film ever made.”  Released in 1965, this widescreen adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s hit Broadway musical won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  

In addition to exploring the production history of The Sound of Music, this collector’s edition magazine pays tribute to the glory days of the Hollywood musical and also features Griffin’s articles on the making of three other 60’s spectaculars: Mary Poppins (1964), Star! (1968) and Hello, Dolly!(1969).  

Julie Andrews won an Oscar for her film debut as the “practically perfect” nanny in Mary Poppins (1964).  While Andrews and co-star Dick Van Dyke were roundly applauded for their performances, neither actor was Walt Disney’s first choice in terms of casting.  The magazine reveals who Disney initially had in mind to play Mary Poppins and her friend Bert, the amiable chimney sweep and street performer.  

After their shared Sound of Music triumph, Julie Andrews and director Robert Wise reunited for an ambitious musical biography of the “thoroughly fabulous” theatrical legend Gertrude Lawrence.  Entitled Star!, the movie boasted elaborate production numbers built around songs written by Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin and Lawrence’s quick witted confidante, Noel Coward.  In the magazine, Griffin recounts how Star! was subjected to some studio tampering and reckless editing after its initial release in 1968.


Hello, Dolly! (1969) seemed to have it all...An impressive Broadway track record to build from, an infectious title tune and the most exciting musical star of the era.  With Barbra Streisand headlining and Gene Kelly directing, how could a movie version miss?  20th Century-Fox pulled all the stops out and Dolly - which was nominated for seven Academy Awards - still stands as one of the costliest musical extravaganzas ever produced.  And by all accounts, it was one tough shoot.

To learn more, look for i-5 Publishing’s 50th Anniversary tribute to The Sound of Music and the last of the great Hollywood musicals.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Faithful Companion

by Mark Griffin

[Please note that this review originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of The Baum Bugle]

The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion
By Jay Scarfone and William Stillman
Harper Design/HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. 
Cover image courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers

I’ve long harbored this fantasy that in the summer of 1939, some subversive MGM janitor – fed up with sweeping the cutting room floor – decided to “preserve” some of the scraps of celluloid that he found after the editors on The Wizard of Oz had knocked off for the night. 

Allowing my fantasy to take full flight, I imagine that this crafty custodian managed to rescue the choicest cuts.  What if he had salvaged scenes deleted from Oz that have obsessed movie buffs for decades?  We’re talking about the mother lode here:  The "Jitterbug" number, “The Triumphal Return” to the Emerald City (following the Wicked Witch’s unforgettable liquidation) and a poignant reprise of “Over The Rainbow.”   As my wishful thinking would have it, my insubordinate janitor not only saved the most significant excisions but he stashed these treasures in his worn-out steamer trunk.  Said cache is now sitting in a downtown Burbank consignment shop, just waiting for someone to peer inside that battered trunk and make the cinematic discovery of a lifetime.

The point of all of this is to express a fervent hope that there is still something new that remains to be seen in reference to everybody’s favorite movie.  That kind of hopefulness envelops The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman.  This is the same duo responsible for the 1989 bestseller, The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History (co-written with John Fricke) as well as its lavishly illustrated follow-up, The Wizardry of Oz, which followed a decade later.  You’d think that by now the cupboard would be bare in terms of excavating any unseen Oz ephemera. 

Apparently not.  In their latest effort, Scarfone and Stillman promise the reader material “rarely seen or previously unknown since 1939” as well as “new, uncovered quotes and fresh facts.”  Do they deliver?  Pretty much.  Or as well as can be expected considering that The Wizard of Oz has been exhaustively analyzed, annotated and footnoted like no other film in history. 

So what new information have the authors uncovered?  The most exciting discoveries in this anniversary companion are the visual elements.  On page 38, we’re treated to a fascinating glimpse of the Oz that almost was:  An image of an uber glam Judy Garland, decked out in a blonde wig and looking far more Lana Turner of Beverly Hills than Dorothy Gale of Kansas.  The authors inform us that this is “the only color photograph known to have survived from Richard Thorpe’s tenure as [the film’s original] director.”  As none of Thorpe’s footage has surfaced, this kind of intriguing artifact becomes all the more important.  The photo also bears evidence of producer Mervyn LeRoy’s original vision – his Oz was initially conceived as a highly stylized production, like an animated cartoon come to life.  In this way, the movie would serve as Metro’s answer to Disney’s groundbreaking blockbuster Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Another rare visual is an arresting sepia-toned image of the Gale farmyard, looking every inch like a Walker Evans photograph of the Dust Bowl in the midst of the Great Depression.  This still image allows one to fully absorb just how meticulously detailed this production was.  To the best of my knowledge, this shot hasn’t turned up in any of the previous books on the film’s production history.   Same would be true for a series of captivating thumbnail photos that reveal how the Great and Powerful Oz’s disembodied head appeared to float over the throne room long before the advent of digital technology.

The book has been beautifully designed by Paul Kepple and Ralph Geroni of the Philadelphia-based Headcase Design.  The elegant, Art Deco style on display is reminiscent of MGM in its voguish hey day.  The visual style of the Companion reminds us that Oz emerged from the same sleek universe where Joan Crawford was gowned by Adrian and William Powell and Myrna Loy solved murders between sips of champagne.

Text-wise, the style is straightforward and restrained, though the narrative is upstaged by the outstanding artwork throughout.  Purists will undoubtedly take exception to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “Mighty Miracle Show” being repeatedly referred to as “Turner Entertainment Co.’s The Wizard of Oz,” which sounds an awful lot like a corporate takeover talking.

The glut of commercial tie-ins whipped up to cash in on the 75th anniversary of Oz ranged from the embarrassing  (Julep’s Oz-inspired nail polish…”Give Tin Man a try…It’s a silver, holographic shade that reminds us of the man without a heart”) to the lackluster (the recent Warner Home Video re-packaging of the film).  Compared to these letdowns, the Scarfone-Stillman collaboration achieves the appropriate balance.  Their Anniversary Companion is reverent yet fun and the determination to scrounge up some new material for die-hard Oz fans is admirable.  So skip the holographic manicure and celebrate in style.