In 1975, I attended LACC (Los Angeles City College) and took as many film classes as I could. Tom Stempel taught three of them: film history, documentaries and screenwriting. The film history class would meet and watch films in the science lecture hall, a large echoy room with seats set at a steep rake which made it a good place to watch films.
I remember watching The Seven Chances there. It was my first introduction to Buster Keaton, who would, in time, become my favorite comedian — in either silent or sound films. That semester, we also watched Storm Over Asia (Potomok Chingis-Khana), a film by V. I. Pudovkin, and definitely in the Eisenstein mold of early Soviet films. With its bold, direct images; its at times heavy-handed visual metaphors; and didactic, unapologetic, manipulative editing; this film, in an odd way, spoke to me. I’d never seen anything like it, and it was a surprise and a thrill to watch. Other great films that I saw for the first time in that lecture hall were Jesse James and My Darling Clementine.
Hollywood is filled with stars, but these stars come in different forms. There are the stars who continuously burn strong and bright over the years and seldom disappoint (How ya’ doing, Meryl Streep?). There are the ones who explode dynamically when they hit the scene, only to burn out, little by little, flickering only occasionally (How’s it hangin’, Matthew McConaughey?). Finally, there are those stars who initially appear with great brilliance and promise, only to crash and burn and either fade away or hang on, only to be listed occasionally in one of those “Where Are They Now?” articles (I’m looking at you, Tatum O’Neal!).
I love good character actors…their light may be dimmed a bit by the Big Stars they support, but it burns, much like Polaris, the Northern Star, with smooth, dependable consistency.