C’era una volta il West (1968)

Concerning Sergio Leone’s epic masterpiece, “Once Upon a Time in the West,” what can a mere mortal possibly say? The scope, ambition, and perfection of this movie are of such gigantic proportion that it quashes idle chatter. You simply have to see it. It’s my good fortune to live in Los Angeles where this film-of-all-films was properly ...

Why is James Cameron so happy? 2

Dance · Film
Is it the $1.8 billion his film has garnered in world-wide box office receipts? Pish-tosh! All in a day’s work! James Cameron is a happy man because he stands surrounded by beautiful modern dancers: choreographer Lula Washington and her troupe’s two leading ladies, Christa Oliver and Tamica Washington-Miller. Lula, truly the Queen of Crenshaw Boulevard, ...

Satchmo sings “Stardust”

This nattily dressed young man is Louis Armstrong, age 30. The photo was taken in 1931, the same year in which Armstrong made his groundbreaking recording of Hoagy Carmichael’s plaintive “Stardust.” Here Carmichael plays his own great song. Here’s Nat King Cole. Now here’s Satchmo. Armstrong was by then an experienced Chicago musician, and the ...

Sir Frederick Ashton. Genius. Cigarette smoker. 1

“He smoked like a chimney. He would always have a cigarette in his fingers. He would walk up to you and he would want to tilt your head for the correct épaulement. I always thought he would burn my ear with his cigarette.” This memory of Frederick Ashton comes from Ashley Wheater, the 50-year-old artistic ...

Martin Scorsese’s disappointing lecture at LACMA 3

The brilliant witty and charming film director, Martin Scorsese, while visiting the hinterland to collect the Cecil B. DeMille award at the Golden Globes, stopped by the local museum for what was billed as a rousing discussion on the future of film there. The invitation to appear at the County Museum, LACMA, followed an outspoken ...

Panorama-kan at Velaslavasay 1

Architecture & Design · Visual arts
The ever-charming Velaslavasay Panorama, located in L.A.’s Pico-Union neighborhood, was the site of media art scholar Machiko Kusahara’s talk, “Panorama-kan of Meiji Japan,” on a recent scholarly Saturday night. Dr. Kusahara discussed the  popular entertainment halls — called panorama-kan in Japanese. They were a “craze,” to borrow the lecturer’s expression, from 1890-1910.  Dozens of the rotundas sprang up all ...

Moira Shearer in Ashton’s Cinderella 1

I’ve been researching “Cinderella,” Frederick Ashton’s fairy tale ballet for adults choreographed for Sadlers Wells Ballet (precursor to the Royal Ballet) based on Prokofiev’s score. The Joffrey Ballet is bringing its production of this gem to Los Angeles at the end of January. “Cinderella” was the first full-evening ballet Ashton, or any British-born dance maker, created. He made the work ...

Hitler’s emigres & exiles in Southern California 1

Ideas & Opinion · Music
Prominently marked in my calendar for February 16 is a book talk at the L.A. Central Library’s ALOUD series by my friend Dorothy Lamb Crawford. Dorothy, a musicologist whom I met at the Ballets Russes centenial celebration in Boston last year, writes about the brilliant gathering of composers, conductors, and other musicians who fled Nazi Germany to ...


Happy New Year from arts•meme!

Rambova’s Aztec costume for Kosloff 2

Dance · Fashion · Film
Ballets Russes dancer Theodore Kosloff and his protegee Natacha Rambova pose at left, costumed for their Aztec dance number on the Keith Orpheum vaudeville circuit. Kosloff brought to the stage the role in which he made his cinematic debut  — Guatemoco, the Aztec prince, in Cecil B. DeMille’s “The Woman God Forgot” in 1917. Here’s a ...