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THE GOOD EARTH – Herbert Stothart

December 27, 2021 1 comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Producer Irving Thalberg was keen on bringing the popular Pulitzer Prize winning novel “The Good Earth” to the big screen. His initial attempt with MGM studio executive Louis B. Mayer was thwarted with his reply; “The public won’t buy pictures about American farmers, and you want to give them Chinese farmers?” Undeterred, he solicited support from Nicholas Schenck the CEO of Loew’s Theaters Inc, MGM’s parent company and was given the green light to proceed. A massive budget of $2.8 million was provided, and Talbot Jennings, Tess Slesinger and Claudine West were hired to adapt the novel and write the screenplay. In an audacious gambit, Thalberg resolved to hire only Chinese and Chinese-American actors for the film, but soon gave up on the idea conceding after much studio resistance that American audiences were not yet ready to accept a film with an all-Chinese cast. The paucity of accomplished Chinese Hollywood actors at the time was also contributory to his decision. Ultimately, the principal actors would be white, but many of the secondary supporting actors were Chinese American. Sadly, he was unable to celebrate his passion project as he died tragically in 1936 and at age 37 of pneumonia, five months before the film’s premier. Sidney Franklin was hired to direct, but casting was problematic as the Hayes Code anti-miscegenation rules forbade the casting of husbands and wives of different races. The cast included Paul Muni as Wang Lung, Luise Rainer as O-Lan, Walter Connolly as Uncle, Tily Losch as Lotus, Charles Grapewin as Old Father, Jessie Ralph as Cuckoo, Soo Young as Aunt, Keye Luke as Elder son, and Roland Lui as Younger son. Read more…

MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY – Herbert Stothart

December 20, 2021 Leave a comment

GREATEST SCORES OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY

Original Review by Craig Lysy

In 1934 director Frank Lloyd was impressed by the 1932 novel Mutiny on the Bounty by Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall. He believed that the historically based nautical adventure tale would transfer well to the bug screen. To that end he sought the assistance of producer Irving Thalberg to persuade MGM studio executives to purchase the film rights and fund the project. Lloyd’s diligence was rewarded and he was provided a $1.95 million budget. He and Thalberg would produce the film, and he would also take on director duties. For Lloyd this was a passion project and he insisted that screenwriters Talbot Jennings, Jules Furthman and Carey Wilson stay true to the actual novel. He also constructed the Bounty from plans obtained from the British Admiralty and considered the ship an important actor in the film. A stellar cast was hired, which included Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh, Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian, Franchot Tone as Roger Byam, Movita Casteneda as Movita, and Mamo Clark as Maimiti. Read more…

THE WIZARD OF OZ – Herbert Stothart

June 29, 2016 Leave a comment

wizardofoz100 GREATEST SCORES OF ALL TIME

Original Review by Craig Lysy

Following the enormous commercial success of Walt Disney’s “Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs” (1937), MGM Studio Executive Louis Mayer was determined to cash in and duplicate its success. He found the story he felt was needed and purchased the rights to L. Frank Baum’s novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” (1900). Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf were tasked with writing the screenplay. Veteran director Victor Fleming was hired for the project and he assembled a cast, which is now legend; Judy Garland (Dorothy), Frank Morgan (Professor Marvel/Wizard of Oz), Ray Bolger (Hunk/Scarecrow), Jack Haley (Hickory/Tin Man), Bert Lahr (Zeke/Cowardly Lion), Billie Burke (Glinda) and Margaret Hamilton (Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West). Read more…

HERBERT STOTHART – Fathers of Film Music, Part 11

July 1, 2015 1 comment

Herbert StothartArticle by Craig Lysy

Born: 11 September 1885, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Died: 1 February 1949.

Herbert Stothart was born of Scottish and German ancestry in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1885. He studied at Milwaukee Normal School with a curriculum tailored to prepare him for an academic career as a teacher of history. He helped pay for his education by working as a theatre usher, which also elicited a lifelong fascination with movies. It came to pass that he joined an Episcopal Church choir, which kindled a fervent love of music. When he entered the University of Wisconsin, he continued on this path by composing and conducting musicals for the Haresfoot Dramatic Club. His exposure to the musical arts and his extracurricular activities staging school musicals ignited in Stothart a lifelong passion for music, which would now dominate his life. His hard work paid off when one of his productions, “Manicure Shop”, was successfully staged professionally in Chicago, which opened opportunities for further musical studies in Europe. Once this occurred his career path was firmly set, and he returned to America, securing full-time employment as a composer for vaudeville and New York musical theatre. Read more…