Irving Thalberg Documentary on Turner Classic Movies

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Robert Crawford, Jan 30, 2005.

  1. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    A new documentary on Irving Thalberg is playing on Turner Classic Movies in February. The first showing will be on 02/01/05 at 12:00 a.m. ET with a repeat showing later that day at 8:00 p.m. ET. There are some other scheduled showings too.

    Since, most of the movie buffs hangout in this area of the forum, I have posted this thread and the following link here.

    Irving Thalberg Documentary
     
  2. Chucky P

    Chucky P Supporting Actor

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    I watched this last night and I was entertained by it. The Documentary did a good job of showing specific examples of Thalberg's "tinkering" of certain films and his influence on cinema. The part about Louis B. Mayer and him making that anti Upton Sinclair propaganda film was something I did not know about and I'm glad they included it. Plus the documentary had a good compilation of interviews of past and present including Helen Hayes and Samuel Goldwyn Jr.
     
  3. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    I enjoyed the documentary tremendously and TIVOed it for future reference.

    I never knew a lot about Thalberg except that he was responsible for some great films and died young. The only part that I found a bit depressing was his dominance over the creative aspects, and how he was responsible for firing such masters as Lubitsch & Von Stroheim. (Especially on Greed - I would do anything to see the 9 hr version).

    Aside from that, the documentary was very informative and entertaining.
     
  4. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Who's to say that firing them wasn't the correct decision. As good as those directors were, they were not infallible when it comes to making a good film. I'm sure like all of the Hollywood greats, Thalberg made his share of mistakes too, but the man was brilliant and died much too young.

    I see that George Feltenstein had a big hand in producing this new documentary which might offer us an opportunity to see some boxset release of Thalberg films like "The Good Earth" and "The Big Parade".





    Crawdaddy
     
  5. Rob Willey

    Rob Willey Screenwriter

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    Informative documentary of a fascinating and brilliant man.

    Aside from the fake newsreels intended to sway the Calif. governor's race away from Upton Sinclair, the most interesting thing I learned was that Norma Shearer was so "maternally challenged."

    Rob
     
  6. Eric Peterson

    Eric Peterson Cinematographer

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    I wasn't implying that it was DEFINITELY the wrong decision. In general, I don't like hearing of artists being interferred with by anyone, especially by someone who appears to have been driven so heavily by money. Yes, Thalberg also wanted to make great movies, but the documentary stressed strongly that he was a COMPANY man, and one of his primary goals was money. I don't think anyone could argue against Von Stroheim and Lubitsch being two of the greatest directors of the period, if not of all time, and Greed is one of the most distinguished silent movies, even in it's abbreviated form.

    An argument can be made for this interference being beneficial as the documentary infers, but it's still a decision that is debatable (IMHO). I remember quite a few HTFers bemoaning the fact, that the Weinsteins messed with Scorcese on "Gangs of New York", and there have been countless other occurences of great directors being interfered with by legendary producers (Hitchcock & Selznick being another off the top of my head). None of these decisions can be definitively proven as good or bad, but in general I fall slightly on the side of bad. As stated above, I'm not comfortable with artistic decisions being made based on money, which is where movies differ from nearly every other art form (Outside money is required).[​IMG]
     
  7. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Just remember that some of those great artists almost bankrupted their studios with their extravegance. Thalberg might have been a money man, but he knew how to tell a story better than most directors.





    Crawdaddy
     
  8. Steve Felix

    Steve Felix Supporting Actor

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    I liked the documentary -- it kept up a good sense of time chasing Thalberg and causing him to accomplish an incredible amount quickly.

    On the issue of Greed, the crime wasn't cutting the film (nine and a half hours couldn't have been exhibited). The crime, which is indefensible, is that the cut film was destroyed for its silver nitrate. I don't know who made that decision, but they sure failed to plan for the DVD.
     
  9. TheLongshot

    TheLongshot Producer

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    Considering that for a decent period of his reign, there was this thing called "The Great Depression", and MGM was still profitable, I can excuse Thalberg for firing great directors. As someone else said, a great director can bankrupt a company, if not handled correctly.

    I give a hand to someone who can work magic like that, and not be a director.

    What I think is a crime is comparing him to Harvey Sissorhands. [​IMG]

    Jason
     
  10. Seth Paxton

    Seth Paxton Lead Actor

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    Also remember that Thalberg, Zanuck and other "super producers" of the studio era were artists themselves. Robert's point, especially with these particular directors, is a good one. Some directors have trouble checking themselves and others have just "lost it". Von Sternberg without Dietrich for example.

    I've mentioned it in another thread, but I had a film prof for my Studio Era class who proposed that we apply auteur theory to these producers in fact. He made a pretty solid case for it.

    If you had to have a guy overseeing the whole production and thinking about the money too, you would want it to be thinkers like Thalberg who could really grasp the entire picture.


    I didn't see this thread till now so I need to try to TIVO a replay of this doc. Sounds like a good one. edit - darn, doesn't come back till the 28th, so I had TMC (I almost put TCM again [​IMG] ) email me a reminder. It's not even on the TIVO schedule yet.
     
  11. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    It's a damn good doc. and I agree with Seth, the big producers were auteurs, most of the memorable auteur-directors with personality of the era were in positions to have greater control, Frank Capra at the mini Columbia with free reign under Harry Cohn (and set the studio back big time with Lost Horizon) or John Ford's editing in camera wherever he was at (UA or Fox etc). Directors like Cukor, Fleming, Van Dyke and Wyler were very much studio men who tended to do exceptionally well made studio pieces that are still memorable and worthwhile. But the people in control of the movies they directed tended to be the Producers (capital P) like Thalberg.

    The Champ has an incredibly gorgeous restoration, I think that would be a prime candidate for a two disc set to include the Thalberg doc, plus additional features on Vidor, Cooper, Beery, and Marion.

    On the other hand, a restoration of Skippy was commissioned last summer, and Warners may be waiting to do a Jackie Cooper collection... in which case a Thalberg box with films like the Good Earth, Big Parade, Big House Ben Hur (silent) might have a chance of getting released.


    Adam
     
  12. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    oh yeah, and personally I thought Tobey Maguire is a dead ringer for late 1920s Thalberg--so where's Martin Scorsese's dark biopic of Thalberg, it'd be great to really play in studio era MGM and pre studio era Universal City, rather than just having a throw away line from Mayer that Londan after Midnight is Chaney's best performance. [​IMG]

    Adam
     
  13. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator
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    Actually, a dead ringer for Thalberg was Robert Evans when he was still an actor and long before becoming a studio head himself. Just checkout the film "Man of a Thousand Faces" which starred James Cagney as Lon Chaney and Robert Evans as Irving Thalberg. A good film that captured the essence of both men.




    Crawdaddy
     
  14. Steve Felix

    Steve Felix Supporting Actor

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    And I would have said Robert Downey Jr!
     

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