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This caught my eye recently. The actor Edward Norton was interviewed by the Telegraph (4/19):


and he made the observation:

"As an actor," he says, "I know in my gut, watching him, what a low-quality mind he has. Because I've been doing this since I was five years old, I know when a person is saying words that aren't their own - and it's as apparent as it could possibly be to me that he's a mouthpiece, and not even a good mouthpiece. Reagan was a B-movie actor, but at least he had the ability to touch certain emotional notes."

I must say that this is the sort of thing that gives actors who speak out about politics a bad name, but that's not why I post it. I'm not an admirer of former President Reagan, but in the interests of historical accuracy I would like to point out, because this error is frequently made, that he was NOT a "B-movie actor" (in the sense that, say, Ann Sothern was a B movie actress). He had star status at Warner Brothers. True, he wasn't Errol Flynn, but he was A-list, and not bad, either.

As for Norton's (an actor I like, although he's maybe a tad overrated) "ferocious intelligence," that's not the impression I got from his performance in "Red Dragon." :)

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He didn't make any classic movies with the arguable exception of Kings Row, but he did qualify as a star and did receive star billing, Calliope. (It's unlikely without his subsequent career as a politician that he would be widely known today, but that's also true of other actors of brighter stellar status than Reagan.) There's a difference between being a second rank star and being known as a B-movie actor. Eventually Reagan did decline into some features that could be defined as Bs, but it's still not the same.

It may seem like nitpicking, and I suppose it is, but what can I say.

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To quote the late Senator Moynihan from a different context, "Terminological exactitude, gentlemen! Terminological exactitude!" :)

I think Reagan is now remembered by the young only for "Bedtime for Bonzo" (which would be a B movie?) and not the others.

This raised the question to me, what is a B movie today? Is there such an animal?

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Thank you, Mel! I didn't realize that was the origin of the "B movie." I thought it was an analytical hierarchy (like "A list"), not a question of billing.

As a historical note, slightly before Reagan's day (i.e., in the 19-teens) my aunt told me that going to "the pictures" cost 25 cents. This included 5 cents for the streetcar to go, and another 5 to come home; 5 cents for that double bill with the newsreel and short subjects; 5 cents for candy in the movie (bought from a vending machine attached to the back of the seat in front of you), and 5 cents for an ice cream soda on the way home.

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Considering that Nutcracker was the B feature on a bill with Iolanthe, does that make it a B-ballet? Remember to take into account that it was choreographed by Ivanov, not Petipa. Is Dell'Erte then a B-ballerina? It seems as if they thought she was, back then.

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Originally posted by Alexandra

As a historical note, slightly before Reagan's day (i.e., in the 19-teens) my aunt told me that going to "the pictures" cost 25 cents.

More recently, it cost less to see ballet than to see a film. During The Balanchine Era (and some have said at Balanchine's insistence), 4th Ring tickets were approximately the same price as movie admission, standing room a bit less. I remember paying $2.50 for an evening -- many evenings -- with City Ballet.

Now at City, even with Fourth Ring Society membership, we pay a few bucks more than the going rate for movies, and at ABT? Fuggedaboudit! And then there are those houses with no standing room . . . :)

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There still are B movies today. A few years ago, I think the Independent would have qualified, but they've now gotten their own category.

Roger Corman comes to mind as a B movie director. Example, several years ago he did a film version of the comic "The Fantastic Four" very campy movie, never got released in the theater, but has a huge cult following.

I am guilty of only knowing Reagan for "Bedtime for Bonzo" :)

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Usually, the B-movie was a Western or a hillbilly comedy (see above example) and very frequently, it was made by Republic Films.

Now, what was the leading event on the night of the Iolanthe/Nutcracker double bill is open to dispute, depending on your taste. If you liked opera, the ballet was a short subject. If you were a balletomane, then the opera was a curtain raiser for the ballet! And I'll bet that there were those who left after the opera, and the "second act" audience snuck in!

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What is "Bedtime for Bonzo"??:cool:

I thought that post-modernism and a certain type of referencing B-movies (I'm thinking of movies like Ed Wood and Pulp Fiction) erased most of the differences between A-movies and B-movies.

Also, I haven't seen The Dreamcatcher but in Israel a short Matrix movie is being shown before the main feature. Maybe double billing is making a comeback?:eek:

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The major studios also produced their own Bs; for example, MGM's Tarzan and Maisie movies were Bs. (Independent movies were and are often small and made on a shoestring, but that's not quite the same.) It's true that B movies in that sense are no more, but as Calliope notes, they're still being produced, although not as a standard line of studio product.

In any case, I thought the point worth clarifying, and I thank the board for its indulgence. (The I-Know-It-All flair of Norton's comments annoyed me sufficiently that I actually felt roused to defend two of my least favorite chief executives. :cool:)

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As an admirer of Reagan 'on-screen' but not 'off screen', he was always seen as the 'good-guy' in his movies. However, he got his best reviews in a movie called "The Hasty Heart" in which he played the anti-hero. He was often quoted as saying he did not like the movie.

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The "B" movie--generally shot and edited more quickly than the "A" features, starring contract players who may or may not become stars, often of an easily recongnizable genre, like western or ganster and shipped to distributors and exhibitors as the second part of double feature--no longer exists.

Some of the B movie functions have been taken by DTV--direct to video--although they are often of the horror or soft-core porn variety.

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For those in GWTW's camp - Bedtime for Bonzo was a screwball farce starring Reagan and a chimpanzee. After WWII, there was a bit of a trend for animal comedies, thus breaking the old W.C. Fields rule of "never play an act against animals." Bringing Up Baby is another, more successful one of the genre, but then with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, wouldn't anything be?

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Thanks, Mel. In light of my family's (almost definite) relocation to the USA this summer, I am on the lookout for cultural references I am clueless about. I have just acquired 'Pat the Bunny' for my son, and I was afraid that 'Bedtime with Bonzo' would be the next item on my list:p

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I really enjoyed The 25th Hour. Edward Norton certainly displayed his intelligence and others displayed a great deal of ferocity (is that a word?). The scenes of NYC (post 9/11) were tremendously moving - one scene especially takes place in an apartment overlooking Ground Zero and it looks like the dark side of the moon. Very much like Edward Norton's character's emotional situation. Highly recommended.

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