Author: Ray Olson


Ray Olson at the Movies

In the 1930s, MGM’s top directors were Clarence Brown (a favorite of Garbo’s), the prolific W. S. Van Dyke, of whom I’ve written for FF, and Victor Fleming. In 1939, MGM observed its silver anniversary. Since it was the biggest American movie studio, it launched a campaign to make 1939 known as Hollywood’s greatest year


From Golding’s Ovid

I’ve just finished reading what is sometimes called Shakespeare’s Ovid because the playwright borrowed from it extensively. The passage below comes in the twelfth of the poem’s fifteen books.


The Movies: Getting It Right

On the supposition that lightning strikes twice, the movie industry loves remaking box office bonanzas. There are six Hollywood versions (and one Japanese) of Peter B. Kyne’s short novel, The Three Godfathers (1913). In 1929, when the talkies were taking, if not baby, then toddler, steps, everything clicked. 


Fred Zinneman

Few other first features involved so many future luminaries as the documentary-style German silent, People on Sunday (1930). Not the actors, but directors Edgar G. Ulmer and Robert Siodmak and writers Billy Wilder and Curt Siodmak, all of whom had long careers in Hollywood.


The Talkies: One-offs

Four of these movies are genuine anomalies for their makers. The fifth is the best film by a very famous and successful director-writer whose other movies—and I’ve seen nearly all of them—reliably disappoint me. 


Movies That Began To Talk,

The Jazz Singer (1927) is said to have brought down the curtain on silent movies. Sound shorts were made before The Jazz Singer, but few theaters were set up for them, and it was Al Jolson’s hit feature that first pushed exhibitors hard to install sound.