Have You Seen...? Episode 1
Scott Vander Werf and former educator and film maker David Hast talk about Footlight Parade and other classic films on this first episode of Have You Seen...?
Have You Seen is a new series featuring WGVU’s Scott Vander Werf in conversation with former educator and film maker David Hast about classic Hollywood movies.
They’ll explore the history of cinema and the relevance of older movies within today’s world, of how the origins of cinema continue today. We bring you our first installment today, looking at Footlight Parade and other films.
David Hast: Scott, have you seen Footlight Parade?
Scott Vander Werf: Footlight Parade? I have not, when was that made?
DH: That was made in 1933.
SVW: And is this a suspense movie, is this a comedy, Is this a musical?
DH: No. Yes, and yes, it is a comedy and a musical. Not much suspense, but it is most famous as being a movie that was partially directed by Busby Berkeley. Busby Berkeley was is in amazing choreographer, who is really the first to turn musicals into movies, you know, that were like film. He did this amazing cinematography and choreography of dance sequence.
SVW: And he was really renowned for having the aerial footage of having cameras suspended over the dancers.
DH: That's right. That's right. When sound came to movies, right in the late 20's well it was natural to see what we do with this sound. We don't they didn't know how to make movies with sound yet. So the thought what we do music right. We will do musicals and mostly they just set the camera up like you are sitting in the middle of the audience at a Broadway musical and shot them very and uncreatively and Berkeley was really the first to say, yeah, let's put the camera straight overhead, the dancers underneath shooting through a clear floor, lots of editing and crazy amazing choreography individuals.
SVW: So other than that, what was significant about this film.
DH: The reason I ask that you see that is because it stars James Cagney and you know, for people that know movies that we see James Cagney, Jimmy Cagney. He was the gangster. He was in all these Warner brothers, gangster films and
SVW: He's the guy that squashes the grapefruit in the in his girlfriend's face right at breakfast,
DH: Right famous scene and he played those kind of roles a lot. But it turned out that James Cagney was this like 5 tool player to use a baseball analogy, right. You know, 5 tool player can do everything right. Hit run etcetera and it turned out Cagney besides being able to do the drama of gangster movies was also funny. He did a lot of comedies in the early 30's people do that,
SVW: I didn’t know that, I didn’t know that he did that. I know that he was a song and dance man.
DH: Yeah, he did a number of comedies is always a little bit funny, haha. And but then it was a song and dance man to which became people knew that once the 1940's rolled around. He won his his Oscar for Yankee Doodle dandy where he sang and danced. But and maybe they sort of forgot about foot light parade. But yeah, he's amazing and then but but even more than that, besides that. It's this one movie that revolutionized movie musicals and turned them in that direction was amazing.
SVW: So this is one of the first significant ones.
DH: It is one of a few by Berkeley. Berkeley did a few, you know, that were like that and this is the only one that has tag but also several of those including this one are pretty coed films. So they're crazy to watch too, because they do all these things that weren't allowed in movies after 1934 not exactly nudity. But you know, showing a lot more skin than they could before, language. And there's a lot of other things. Pretty--people get away with stuff that they're supposed to be punished for later on. so it's just entertaining in that way.
[Short Clip from Film]
SVW: I'm Scott VanderWerf and this is David Hast. And this is our new segment called Have You Seen. And we're going to talk about movies from the past. Each Friday we usually feature Eric Kuyper from Studio C and we talk about the brand-new movies that are hitting the screen. But David and I are going to talk about films as early as the silent era through maybe the 90's or even the last 15 or 20 years. And David, tell us about yourself. You are a former high school teacher. Your now retired. But you are also part of the film industry as well as what the filmmaker and as a projectionist.
DH: Yeah, I worked and worked as a movie projection right out of college in California. So I was in I was kind of in the industry got to work when lived in a small town along the coast and then when with Hollywood productions come to town, they’d come to the projections union to get extra grips and things so I sort of got the movie bug. And then I did go to film school and because I worked in that industry, not in narrative feature films but worked in the corporate video industry in that kind of thing, after film school…until I changed my mind became a teacher and then I got to teach in film, too.
SVW: And you did he taught high School junior high school students in film and what were some of the films that you used and what was the reaction from the students?
DH: It was fun. If I would mention an old film they would think, oh, yeah. Anything from about 2005 back- that's an old movie. You know. And I was like, no, I'm going to show you a movie from 1914 or 1937 and their like “Oh, no is it black and white?” I showed the movies from the whole history of film and some really struck out and they didn't get into them, show them Citizen Kane, which all the critics say the greatest movie ever made just didn't go over with them very well. But then some movie they really, really like.
SVW: Why teach classic Hollywood films to students? And of course, that would that maybe dovetail into the question, why should we on the radio talk about old movies.?
DH: Yeah. I mean, there's so much good stuff now, right. We're in this kind of golden age of series television and not just American shows, shows made from all over the world from places we never saw saw before. And but, you know, it's like it's also cool to think about how we got here. You understand your history and you understand a lot that's going on. Certainly the filmmakers do. They're constantly making references to old movies and that sort of thing. And there's a certain kind of movie that that that doesn't really exist anymore, and it's interesting to make connections to that. All the movie genres that we that we know now really go back to the beginning of film. Drama, Comedy, Romance…Science Fiction - all those genres have existed for 100 years. Certainly there's a deeper level of realism sometimes now because it could show certain things because of moral no restrictions in in an earlier age that they can be more realistic now and also says and maybe in some ways less realistic because we know over the top with amazing special effects and all that, but still doesn't change the fact that the basic stories in the basic kind of genre has been around for a 100 years. We also have to look at those movies with our eyes open, not idealize them – but it's just it's cool to see where the how we got here and what are some good things for the past. But the same time you have to acknowledge there's some pretty terrible stuff and movies. They're pretty sexist and racist and you need to talk about that too.
SVW: And I remember you telling me that sometimes that that they would have a reaction like they don't make them like this anymore -and they meant that in a positive way towards the past.
DH: They did. It's funny because you think, well, kids now are going what the newest thing. They're going to want everything, you know fast and you like movies now, right. They're faster. They're more explicit. They're more realistic in many ways. And but they sometimes like I think, you know, not too old of a movie, but a movie like Say Anything from 1990, which is the movie that made John Cusack a star, the one the famous movie scenes - playing the Genesis song on the boom box over his head. You know, the girl is in love with…but they like it because they're like, yeah, it doesn't just show everything, and it's not all like crude and... it's just sweeter and kids like that.
SVW: And what were some of the films that were actually made in the 30's of the 40's that they responded to in a positive way.
DH: They loved Casa Blanca. Of course, everybody loves Casa Blanca. They loved It Happened One Night with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, which is 1934. I show them the history, I gave them a thumbnail sketch of the history of film, so they saw…I showed them…to deal with the silent era I went with what I thought would work, which would be like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. And so a lot of kids didn't like it, but most of them did you know, especially if you give some context.
SVW: So we're going to be talking about a romantic and screwball comedies will also be talking about some of the forgotten great actors, the Film Noir and Neo Noir films and many others in the weeks to come. And of course science fiction and also will be focusing on Pre-code movies more as well. So this is Have You Seen with Scott VanderWerf and David Hast.