Tuesday 2 February 2010


Your weekly reminder to tune into David Puttnam's Century of Cinema, the third episode of which will be broadcast on BBC Radio 2 tonight.

As you will have gathered, when the series originally hit the airwaves in 1999 it was as a celebration of the first 100 years of cinema and in this episode we talk specifically about the Hollywood film factories where so many of the century's greatest movies were made.

MGM it was said had more stars than there were in the heavens above, and like all of the other great studios - Twentieth Century Fox, Paramount, Universal, Warner Brothers, RKO Pictures, Columbia, Walt Disney - they each had their hallmark style and stars.

Margaret O'Brien, Dirk Bogarde and Angela Lansbury tell us what it was like to work under the studio system and we find out that the tycoons who ran these studio came from just about every trade and business other than filmmaking.

Nevertheless this motley crowd of immigrant glove-salesmen and junk-dealers with such improbably namers as Samuel Goldfish and Edgar and Archibald Selwyn (the men behind Goldwyn Pictures) became the great studio bosses who were, as David Puttnam says, "responsible for America's sense of self-identity..."

The question in 1999 - and it is still relevant today - is whether those studio names with their famous logos and fanfares mean what they once meant back in those formative years of movie-making.

You can hear David Puttnam's Century of Cinema - 'Reel 3: Hollywood Incorporated' - on BBC Radio 2 at 10:30, and, if you miss the transmission this evening, it can be heard again for seven days via the BBC iPlayer.

And, until the transmission of tonight's episode, you've still a few hours left to catch 'Reel 2: Right Directions', which explores the talents of the people who make the movies.


DOuG pRATt said...

I listen to the BBC in Boston on a very nifty piece of gear, the Logitech Squeezebox Radio. I think Clare Teal is a treasure.

Unfortunately, they're charging about twice in the UK what it costs here when on sale for $150.


I don't know why it says there's no BBC player, because I have one.

Brian Sibley said...

Thanks, DOG RAT, sounds like a great device!

Sheila said...

I thought David Puttnam's analysis of the social and cultural impact of the film-makers on the American sense of identity was fascinating.

Also, I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall during your interview with Angela Lansbury. She is obviously very aware of the changes that she has lived through and was very articulate about her experiences. It sounds as though the whole interview was a fascinating experience - or maybe that was down to careful editing!

I am sorry that this series won't be running for longer than another 3 weeks. I will be driving back from Oxford on another 6 Tuesday evenings - maybe you could arrange for a few more update programmes than just the one we have been promised ...

Brian Sibley said...

Glad you enjoyed it, SHEILA! Nice to know I'm seeing safely back home from Oxford on Tuesday nights and wish I could oblige for a further three weeks, but, alas...

I have literally just returned from talking with David Puttnam for the new sixth programme and - once again - the conversation was fascinating.

Stephen Gallagher said...

Very happy to have caught the programme on the way home from the pub last night. It's always seemed to me that Puttnam's one of those necessary figures who loves art as much as he understands commerce, which raises everyone's game a little.

Arts and Crafts said...

Like many other artistic expressions, for me the "old" cinema was a more caring, more artisan work, better work than the current cinema (with exceptions of course). Now, however, better means do not result in better movies.

Brian Sibley said...

STEPHEN - You're right, he is! The industry could do with a few more Puttnams today.

EUDORA - The proof of the pudding will be not (as the saying goes) in the eating but in the digesting. By which I mean that only time will tell. But, personally, I do wonder just how many of today's over-lauded, over-awarded, box-office-record-busting films will stand the test of time as well as some movies from the past 100+ years have done.