Bill Stern’s keen eye for California design

Visual arts
For about half a century starting in the 1890s, California orange and lemon growers branded their wares using vivid and outstanding graphic design. The fancifully imagined, richly colored paper labels adhered to wooden packing crates. When (pre-printed) cardboard boxes replaced the crates, labels fell into disuse. Warehouses were full of them by the early 1950s. Now they are valued art objects. ...

Ballerina’s beautiful beach birthday bash 1

Dance · Film
Last year I wrote an article about former New York City Ballet ballerina Yvonne Mounsey coaching a young dancer, Melissa Barak, in the lead role of George Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son.” Mounsey danced the role in the early 1950s. By all accounts, she was an amazing, full-blooded dancer. She went on to become a great ballet ...

Yvonne Rainer, filmmaker 1

Dance · Film
As a dance writer, I approached Yvonne Rainer, filmmaker, with trepidation. But she is as highly regarded in the experimental film world as she is in dance. My apprehension was for naught having attended the first of an eight-part retrospective of Rainer’s film work at the L.A. Filmforum at the Egyptian Theater. The films are marvelous, even ...

Monty Python’s dead parrot sketch

Language & ideas
It’s not pining… It’s bleeding demised. It’s passed on. This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker. This is a late parrot. It’s a stiff! Bereft of life, it rests in peace! If you hadn’t nailed him to the perch, it would be pushing up the daisies! Its metabolic processes are now ...

Saving the village: our struggle to save LACMA’s film program

Film
On 28 July, 2009 the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) announced that CEO Michael Govan’s vision for more comprehensive treatment of cinema at the museum required the axing of a superb 40-year-running film program. That kind of logic reminded me of the Vietnam War general explaining that the U.S. army had to “destroy the village in order to save the village.” But our little hamlet of Los Angeles ...

Getting out of Dodge …

Film
     Michael Govan spotted this morning heading to Hamptons vacation. artist: Benoit Le Pennec  

Marilyn dances . . . 1

Dance · Film
The first man to impersonate Marilyn Monroe may well have been her dance coach, Jack Cole. Anticipating the iconic Marilyn, he brought out her exceptional femininity through dance. Monroe copied him in return. A star was born. Monroe’s six-movie collaboration with Cole began with 1953’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” the breakthrough film that made her a ...

Why film community matters

Film
In this coming Sunday’s Los Angeles Times Calendar section you will find my article about choreographer Jack Cole who coached Marilyn Monroe in movement over the course of six of her films. Most famously, he choreographed “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Jack Cole also choreographed “Put the Blame on Mame” for Rita Hayworth in Gilda, at ...

LACMA cancels film program 1

Film
This is a bizarre personal twist to a story affecting our community. On Tuesday July 28 I did something I have never done before. I sent a proposal for a series on dance and film to Ian Birnie, the erstwhile head of LACMA’s superb film program.  The subject was choreographer Jack Cole whom I have been researching for ...

Travis Banton turned tootsies into stars 1

Fashion · Film
I had the great pleasure of spending a few hours with writer David Chierichetti, the film fashion expert. David is the biographer of the under appreciated film director Mitchell Leisen; costume designer Edith Head; and he is author of coffee table volume, Hollywood Costume Design. Driving in L.A. traffic en route to the Egyptian Theater, ...