Maud Linder (1924-2017)

Maud Linder, historian and the only daughter of silent French film comedian Max Linder, has died aged 93.  Her death was reported by the Agence France-Presse.

Maud was only 16 months old when both her parents, Hélène and Max, died in 1925 in a murder-suicide (some press at the time called it a double-suicide).

She was raised by her maternal grandparents and at age 20 saw her father’s films on screen for the first time.

That became the catalyst for her to rescue, restore and release what survived of his large body of work.

“This man was known to millions as Max Linder. He was my father, yet I never knew him” she narrates at the start of The Man in the Silk Hat, a documentary she wrote, produced and directed, which premiered at 1983 Cannes Film Festival.

“The first time we met he was smiling on the screen, beyond my reach and I was wondering why he had been so soon forgotten, he and his films.”

Max Linder was born Gabriel-Maximilien Leuville in France in 1883.  A trailblazer of film comedy, he appeared in over 200 short films from 1905 until his early death at age 41.

He created one of cinema’s first recurring characters – ‘Max’ – a young handsome man of the upper class who found himself in constant trouble with the opposite sex.

His visual style and movements were adored by Charlie Chaplin, who befriended him around 1917.  “To the one and only Max. The Professor. From his disciple Charles Chaplin” he autographed for him in May of that year.

One of their meetings in Los Angeles was captured by newsreel cameras

But after his death, with the advent of sound, the destruction of his films, and the continued success of Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Linder began disappearing from filmgoers’ memories and was all but forgotten.

It took until 1963 for his work to be rediscovered and reappraised, when Maud supervised the release of Laugh with Max Linder, a compilation of his last three Hollywood films.  It received its premiere at the Venice Film Festival.

Maud worked as a journalist in the 1950s and 1960s, as well as an assistant director to French film maker.

She later published the book “Max Linder Was My Father “, and received the Prix Henri Langlois award which honours film conservation and restoration.





Although her parents death is often called a double-suicide, Maud says “he killed my mother, and killed himself, and left me at 15 months old” in this 2010 interview


Shep Houghton (1914-2016)

Shep Houghton, an uncredited extra whose Zelig-like career spanned 50 years, has died.

His stepson Phil Gross, in an email to me, confirmed Mr Houghton passed away peacefully in his sleep on December 15th 2016 at the age of 102.

From von Sternberg silents to movie musicals, and Oscar winners-  Shep Houghton hugged the sprocket holes of cinema’s most memorable films.

There he is downing a drink with friends, as Det. Mulligan (played by Pat O’Brien) enters a club in Some Like It Hot (1959),  dancing the waltz as the opening credit ‘Directed By Alfred Hitchcock’ is superimposed over his face at the start of Shadow of a Doubt (1943),  kicking back in the nightclub watching Elvis perform in Jailhouse Rock (1957),  Listening intently with headphones behind Maximilian Schell  in Judgment at Nuremberg (1961).


Shep Houghton, bottom left wearing headphones, in Judgment at Nuremberg.

Shep family began living in Hollywood when he was 13,  a stone’s throw from Paramount Studios.   A two-reeler being filmed on the block caught his interest, and while watching the filming, was asked by a studio rep if he wanted some work.

By his own account he was a Russian in von Sternberg’s The Last Command (1928), a Roman in  DeMille’s Cleopatra (1934), a Southerner at the Twelve Oaks barbecue in Gone With The Wind (1939),  and part of the Emerald City townsfolk in Wizard of Oz (1939) (all of those appearances difficult to verify on viewing.)

Unfortunately, most of Shep is his hidden inside a piano during the elaborate dance number  ‘The Words Are In My Heart’ in Gold Diggers of 1935.  

He’s easier to identify in Topper (1937), because he actually speaks (his first words on screen). As the waiter in the nightclub preparing Constance Bennett’s table he welcomes her:  ‘Good Evening , Mrs Kirby’ . Those few words got Shep an increase in salary to $25.


Shep Houghton, far left, in Topper

Shep talks in Back Street (1961), this time to an airline attendant “I have to be in Chicago by tomorrow’, and also in  Send Me No Flowers  (1964) where he back slaps Rock Hudson and Tony Randall on the back with a ‘Good morning Arnold, George’.

He claims to have taught Greta Garbo how to waltz, in preparation for her film Conquest (1937).  “So I spent a couple of days with her, showing her how to make a pivot, putting her leg in back, and turning. “ he told the Los Angeles Review of Books in 2014.  She learned quite rapidly. She was kind of a standoffish person — but every time I saw her subsequently, she’d say, ‘Hi, Shep!’ I’d say, ‘Hi, Greta!’”

The spotlight ended for Shep in the mid 1970s.  “The whole picture business was changing. The big moguls were gone, and so many second assistants and first assistants who had done the selecting [of extras] were retiring. After going in and out of the pearly gates for thirty years, the studio guards didn’t know your name, even. “


Shep Houghton, far left, listening to Elvis sing in Jailhouse Rock.


-By Rhett Bartlett.

Oral History of the Oscar Best Picture debacle.


Combining all the first person accounts that have appeared in the newspapers, magazines, and tv interviews – its possible to start forming an oral history of the Best Picture error involving La La Land, and Moonlight.
(- collated by Rhett Bartlett)

Warren Beatty, co presenter.
My instructions were, take the envelope when I walked out. I couldn’t have it before that.  Then I go out.  Then I say something.  And then I open the envelope and then I give it to Faye and she then says what it says.  (Graham Norton Show April 2017)

Warren Beatty on stage.
“And the Academy Award … (long pause)  for  Best Picture…”  (long pause)

Faye Dunaway on stage.
‘You’re impossible. Come on. (is giving envelope)  La La Land”

Warren Beatty, caught on microphone seconds after announcement
‘But it says Emma Stone’

Faye Dunaway, caught on microphone seconds after announcement

Gary Natoli –  (Stage Manager)
“I was in the wings stage left with Jimmy [Kimmel] when they announced ‘La La Land.’ We watched for about 10 more seconds, and during that entire time Martha (Ruiz, PriceWaterHouseCoopers) was no more than five feet away from us.   When ‘La La Land’ was announced, she did not try to get my attention, she did not say anything.  And she’s supposed to have memorized the winners.”
The Wrap 

Warren Beatty
I thought well maybe this is a misprint.  And then  I shouldn’t foul up the show just because someone made a little error.  It looked like it said the name of the movie -La La Land.(Graham Norton Show April 2017)


Jordan Horowitz – (La La Land Producer)
They just kind of handed us an envelope and the awards and we kind of just started accepting and everybody came up.

Gary Natoli – (Stage Manager)
“As I was taking Matt’s (Damon) wife to the side of the house, I heard John Esposito on my headset say, ‘Brian (Cullinan, PriceWaterhouseCoopers) says he didn’t think they said the right winner. Can you have Martha check her envelope?’ That was the first time I heard anything about it, and it was probably a minute, or a minute and 15 seconds, from the time Faye announced the wrong winner.”
The Wrap

Michael De Luca – (Oscar producer)
I literally heard, ‘Oh my God! He got the wrong envelope!’ And then it was slow motion. You perceive things slowly as the adrenaline rises and the cortisol floods your system.”
(KCRW The Business Radio Show)

Gary Natoli – (Stage Manager)
“At this point I didn’t know that they’d been given the wrong envelope.  Brian (PWC) had led us to believe that Faye had just said it incorrectly. So I went looking for the envelope.”
The Wrap

Jim Parsons,  The Big Bang Theory
La La Land was accepting and I heard somebody with a headset really close by say Moonlight!, Moonlight! a little too loud. Why are they saying that? That’s rude, during the speech.’  I thought maybe they played the wrong song, and I thought ‘who cares’.  And then I went ‘No!’  And then I looked at the guy next to me and I said ‘Is this really happening?”. 

Jimmy Kimmel, host,  moves down into the crowd for one final joke with Matt Damon.
We’re watching and waiting for the camera but suddenly the stage manager wanders on set, which is never supposed to happen and he’s in the shot, which I know is not supposed to happen.
The Hollywood Reporter

Jordan Horowitz (La La Land Producer)
Then there were some people with headsets  who started coming out on the stage. And it was suddenly clear that something wasn’t right.

Jimmy Kimmel in crowd next to Matt Damon.
So I really don’t know what’s going on, and I don’t hear very well, so Matt picks up someone saying they have the wrong movie for Best Picture. He says to me, ‘I think they announced the wrong Best Picture’ and I said, ‘what?’ and he said, ‘yeah I heard them saying that it’s the wrong movie,’ and I looked at Matt and I said ‘well I guess I better go out there’ and he said ‘yeah, I guess you better.'”
The Hollywood Reporter

Gary Natoli – (Stage Manager)
“Get the accountants out there!”  ‘We have to announce that ‘Moonlight’ is the winner,’”
The Wrap 

Producer at Governors Ball (either Steve Stabler or Stanley Isaacs)
“Why did the accountants wait for all three ‘La La Land’ speeches before they corrected it?”
New Yorker

Gary Natoli – (Stage Manager)
“John was trying to get Brian (PWC) to go on stage, and he wouldn’t go. And Martha wouldn’t go. We had to push them on stage, which was just shocking to me.”
The Wrap 

Jordan Horowitz ( La La Land producer)
And so they started looking at envelopes, they took the envelope I had and it wasn’t the Best Picture envelope, that was the one that was handed to me.


Cheryl Boone Isaacs (President of the Academy)
“Horror. I just thought, What? What? I looked out and I saw a member of Pricewaterhouse coming on the stage, and I was, like, Oh, no, what—what’s happening? What what WHAT? What could possibly . . . ? And then I just thought, Oh, my God, how does this happen? How. Does. This. Happen.” 
New Yorker

Jordan Horowitz (La La Land producer)
Eventually they found the Best Picture envelope and opened it and it said Moonlight.  I guess when I saw that, I just sort of took it and said… as I said I love those guys and I felt like it was sort of my duty to be true to the words I was saying.  This is community. This is all love. This is a wild thing and I wanted to be able to express to them that they had won.

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight director)
I was speechless. I’ve watched the Academy Awards and I’ve never seen that happened before.  And so it made a very special feeling even more special, but not in the way I expected
ET Canada 

Jordan Horowitz (La La Land producer)
“This is not a joke. ‘Moonlight’ has won Best Picture.”

Alex R. Hibbert, who plays little Chiron in “Moonlight.”
“When they said, ‘You guys won,’ we were, like, ‘Uhhh, nice joke,’ “And they’re all, like, ‘No, you guys really won,’ and I was, like, ‘Oh, my God!’ I’m sorry for this guy, but I jumped right over him and walked onstage. He was, like, ‘What’s up?’ And I was, like, ‘I’m sorry, I just won an award!’ Me and Jaden”
New Yorker

Tom Dolby
“When they said ‘Moonlight’ really won, I thought they meant on an emotional level,”
New Yorker

David Oyelowo
It was like watching the Superbowl. That was crazy. I literally thought it was part of Jimmy Kimmel’s skit.  What made it even more confusing is that the guy who came on with the envelope looks a bit like Matt Damon. So you thought this is an inappropriate moment to do a bit.

Tim Allen
I thought it was a gag.
ET Canada

Lucia Schultz, Oscar librarian in Press Room responding to queries immediately after the confusion.
“I cannot think of a case where this has happened. There are times when people thought it happened.”
New Yorker 

Viola Davis.
Oh. My.  Goodness. I have to say it was a little bit exciting.
ET Canada

Barry Jenkins
I make movies and so I’ll give an actor a bad direction and it ruins as a take, or the boom might dip into a shot, or the light somehow goes out, these things happened and unfortunately these things happened.  But it wasn’t malicious in anyway . And thankfully because we are so close to La La Land and crew I think it happened amongst friends and peers and in a way its kind of bonded us even more as a family”

Producer at Governors Ball (either Steve Stabler or Stanley Isaacs)
“Deadline and the Hollywood Reporter are running the story that the Pricewaterhouse accountants gave Emma Stone’s backup envelope to Warren Beatty,”
New Yorker

Warren Beatty 
“I opened the envelope and it said Emma Stone, La La Land, thats why I took such a long look at Faye and at you. I wasn’t trying to be funny”

Emma Stone (to the press)
“I also was holding my Best Actress in a Leading Role card that entire time. So, whatever story—I don’t mean to start stuff, but whatever story that was, I had that card. Congratulations Moonlight”

Leslie Moonves – President of CBS
The accountants have one job to do thats to give Warren Beatty the right envelope, thats what these people are paid alot of money to do.
If they were my accountant I would fire them
ET Canada

Producer at Governors Ball (either Steve Stabler or Stanley Isaacs)
“I thought Warren Beatty just couldn’t read the freaking envelope,”
New Yorker

Michael De Luca (Oscar producer)
“By the time I went back to the green room, Dawn Hudson (Academy CEO) was already in midconversation with the players, just trying to figure out what happened. Everyone was a little shaken. Everybody looked white-faced and the blood was just drained from [them].”
(KCRW The Business Radio Show)

Faye Dunaway
I’m not going to speak about that.  Warren is the right one.

Warren Beatty, when asked what happened.
I don’t know

Tom Dolby
“I don’t think it’s embarrassing at all. Filmmaking is full of mistakes.”
New Yorker

Jordan Horowitz ( La La Land producer)
It was a really surreal moment.  I got to be a winner and a presenter in the end.

Faye Dunaway (as overheard at the Governors Ball)
“I really fucked that up.”
New Yorker

Alec McCowen 1925-2017


Alex McCowen in ‘Frenzy’

Alec McCowen, the English actor who portrayed the chief inspector investigating the ‘Necktie Murders’ in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy,  has died aged 91.

His death was reported by The Guardian

In the film his investigation leads to the arrest of the wrong man, Richard Blaney (played by Jon Finch), whilst the real murderer Robert Rusk (played by Barry Foster) is still at large. McCowen famously speaks the last line of the film.

His film career began in the 1953 drama The Cruel Sea, directed by Charles Frend, where he portrayed a seaman as part of the Royal Navy. In the 1958 Roy Ward Baker film A Night to Remember, he was the real-life RMS Carpathia wireless operator Harold Cottam, who received the distress signal from the Titanic.

During the 1960s he acted in Tony Richardson’s The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962),  In The Cool of the Day (1963) opposite Peter Finch, Jane Fonda and Angela Lansbury, and the horror film  The Witches (1966) where he portrayed the wealthy owner of a small private school who hires a schoolteacher (played by Joan Fontaine).

He received a Golden Globe Best Supporting Actor nomination in Travels with My Aunt (1972) as the retired London bank manager who journeys across Europe with his Aunt (played by Maggie Smith).


Alec McCowen in ‘Never Say Never Again’

In the James Bond film Never Say Never (1983),  he was the character Q who heads up the Q-Branch.  Sean Connery reveals his name to be Algernon during the film.   The film was one of the few Bond films not produced by Eon Production

Director Martin Scorsese hired him for two films.  Firstly as Sillerton Jackson, the expert on the families that make up New York society in The Age of Innocence (1993) and  as Reverend Raleigh in the Oscar nominated film Gangs of New York (2002).
It was his last film appearance.


Alec McCowen in ‘Gangs of New York’





Dial M Five: February 2 2017


Five film stories you may have missed.  Curated by me with tender-loving care.


David Shepard, a giant of film preservation who unfairly didn’t receive the universal acclaim that Kevin Brownlow got (ie: an Oscar), has died.
The Hollywood Reporter obit is here

I interviewed David in 2011 and he spoke about working with Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton to preserve their films.

“Chaplin was very concerned with the care of his films , he thought of himself as an artist. And beside that he had lots of progeny who were depending on these things for being fed and clothed.   Keaton wasn’t very interested.”

The audio of our phone interview is here


President Trump and Hollywood seemed destined to be connected at the hip for at least four years.  Matthew McConaughey was interviewed on 29 January  by the BBC about his new film GOLD, and asked “Do you think its time maybe Hollywood and the cultural elite of America gave this guy a break?”

McConaughey’s reply:  They don’t have a choice now. He’s our President.
(see the rest of his reply at the 2min 55 sec mark)


Footage of the late Debbie Reynolds appearing on the Australian TV show The Mike Walsh Show, has surfaced online.
The National Film and Sound Archive has uploaded her appearance from November 13 1979, and it really is quite lovely – it includes a performance of Gee, But It’s Good To Be Here.    Watch the footage here


Here’s a very impressive montage of every film that won the Best Cinematography Oscar. From SUNRISE to THE REVENANT.  Some forgotten films in here.


Walt Disney Animation, Pixar, and LucasFilm filed a motion in U.S District Court on Tuesday for the approval of a settlement over wage theft and anti-trust claims.

“The studios were able to achieve this by conspiring to set salary limits and avoid hiring artists from other studios, thereby circumventing the free market for the skills and talents of their artists.”

Read more from Cartoon Brew, who has been reporting on the case for the last 2 years



Warner Bros has announced all 8 Harry Potter films will be released on 4K Blu-ray before the end of 2017.    By the time you buy those,  they will have been released on 5K I guess.
More here

Gavin J Blair from THR reports that Sony Film Unit reported a $926 million loss in the last quarter. The revenue was hit by the failures of PASSENGERS, and THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (remake).  Read more

David Oyelowo is conducting a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Feb 8.
He has 3 films out this year NINA, QUEEN OF KATWE, A UNITED KINGOM
Put it in your calendar.

Have you ever crowd-funded the restoration of an old film?
I made a small donation to this project – which was to release THE PRIDE OF PALOMAR (1922), a film directed by Frank Borzage, that is currently held in the Library of Congress.  Because the Kickstarter went over his target, the additional money used was to release a additional Borzage silent film called  BACK PAY (1922).   The latter has been sent to donors to view privately, and will appear on YouTube in around 6 months.
Pencil in June 2017.
Pride of Palomar is still being digitised after a few setbacks and is due for a DVD release this year.

Regal cinemas throughout America are screening all 9 Best Picture Oscar nominees for only $35.    For those wondering,  $35 would get you 1 1/2 films in Australia.