Wednesday, October 17, 2012

AMPAS Shorts

TCM is running The Screen Writer overnight tonight at about 12:35 AM. (That is, after The Mummy.) I don't think I've seen this one before, but it's part of a series of shorts that deserves a mention.

Back in 1949 or so, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the people who give out the Oscars) decided to do a series of shorts on various aspects of movie making, mostly behind the scenes aspects. There's one on costume design, one on cinematography, one on sound, and this one on screenwriting, among others. I know I've seen their short on The Sound Man on TCM before, because it's the place where I first saw mention of Lights of New York, a 1928 film which was the first feature-length all talking film. Well, if you can count 58 minutes or so as feature length. But The Jazz Singer was of course only a partial talkie. The rest of the short on sound engineering is OK but not great, and I'd have to guess that tonight's short on screenwriting of similar quality: there's some historically interesting stuff in it, but it's nothing particularly outstanding.

In fact, looking at the IMDb page on The Screen Writer, there is something interesting, which is the presence of Charles Brackett. If you've seen enough classic movies, you'll probably recognze the name. Brackett is a name you'll see several movies directed by Billy Wilder (most notably Sunset Blvd. and The Lost Weekend which won both of them screenwriting Oscars) as well as some movies in the 1930s when Wilder was still just a screen writer and not yet a director: Ninotchka and Midnight would be the two best-known examples here. Brackett actually won a third screenwriting Oscar, for Niagara. At the end of his career, Brackett was producing movies (or at least being given producing credit) at Fox. IMDb lists this as his only screen appearance, at least on the big screen; he was a presenter at some Academy Awards shows once they made it to TV.

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