Review: A Trip to the Moon (1902)

A Trip to the Moon is a French silent film directed by George Méliés. The film was inspired by Jules Verne’s novels From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. The film follows a group of astronomers who travel to the Moon in a cannon-propelled capsule. Once the group reaches the moon they are confronted by Selenites, the Moon’s inhabitants. The film features a cast of French theatrical performers, led by Méliés as the role of Professor Barbenfouillis. This film introduces the idea of a long feature film with the newly invented Latham Loop and the idea of using a mixture of theatrics and illusions to create a film.

A Trip to the Moon was an international success on its release and was pirated by other studios, especially in the United States. Its unusual length, lavish production, special effects, and the interesting story line has become the foundation for all narrative films. Because of Méliés satire and artistic ability, this film has become one of the most famous films of all time.

When watching the film, audiences can see Méliés use of special effects and theatrics. One of the editing special effect that Méliés used in A Trip to the Moon is the Fade transition. This transition creates a natural feeling of easiness during the film. Méliés uses his Paris magician background in order to effectively mix these editing techniques and theatrics. Méliés believed in using the same painted sets that would be used in a magic show to tell a narrative on screen.

I originally watched the colored version of A Trip to the Moon on Netflix, but it as unfortunately been removed. From the very first scene, I was mystified by the haunting music and the archaic scientists planning their next experiment. Then by the end, I was cheering for the scientists in order for them to return home unscathed. Despite the film being over a hundred years old, it still has the same characteristics a science fiction film would have today. I recommend it to anyone.

For more information on George Méliés, Crash Course has a whole video series on Film History.


Women in Film: How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)


How to Marry a Millionaire is the 1953 romantic comedy film directed by Jean Negulesco and written and produced by Nunnally Johnson. This film was based off two screenplays – The Greeks Had a Word for It and Loco. The film stars the all star cast of Lauren Bacall, Betty Grable, and Marilyn Monroe.

How to Marry a Millionaire was the first film ever to be photographed in CinemaScope’s new wide-screen process, although it was released after The Robe, another film done by the same process. It was also the first movie to be presented on NBC Saturday Night at the Movies.

The movie was nominated and won an Academy Award for Best Costume Design – Color. All costumes were designed by Charles LeMaire and Travilla. Travilla soon became friends with Marilyn Monroe during the filming of How to Marry a Millionaire and went on to do several movies with her including Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Travilla is also the creator of the most famous costume design – the ivory cocktail dress in The Seven Year Itch. Shown below are costumes used in How to Marry a Millionaire.

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Schatze (Bacall) in her stylish lace wedding gown.

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Monroe in her dazzling maroon gown.


Pola (Monroe), Loco (Grable), and Schatze (Bacall) modeling three sample dresses in the film for Tom Brookman (Mitchell).

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Loco, Pola, and Schatze lounging on their patio.



Betty Grable as Loco Dempsey

Marilyn Monroe as Pola Debevoise

Lauren Bacall as Schatze Page

David Wayne as Freddie Denmark

Rory Calhoun as Eben

Cameron Mitchell as Tom Brookman

Alex D’Arcy as J. Stewart Merrill

Fred Clark as Waldo Brewster

William Powell as J.D. Hanley

Founding Mothers Who Need A Movie Made After Them

1. Angelica Schuyler Church

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Famously known as a feminist and strong willed female in the Broadway hit musical Hamilton, Angelica Schuyler is seldom thought about, but should be associated as a founding mother.

Angelica Schuyler was born in Albany, New York; the eldest child of Phillip Schuyler and Catharine Van Rensselaer Schuyler. She had seven siblings who lived to adulthood, including Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton.

Angelica came of age during the American Revolution, and met many of the prominent revolutionary leaders. Because of her father’s rank and political stature, the Schuyler house in Albany was the scene of many meetings and war councils.

Angelica never failed to enchant the famous, intelligent men she met; and in Paris she befriended Benjamin Franklin, U.S. Ambassador to France. She also developed lasting friendships with Franklin’s successor, Thomas Jefferson and Marquis de Lafayette. Through her newly formed friendships, she was able to have a backseat in politics – girl power!

Angelica’s  now famous correspondence with Alexander Hamilton shows their deep affection for each other, but also their spiritual connection. Hamilton relied on Angelica for advice and ultimately her opinion on the forming country.

2. Dolley Madison

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Dolley Payne Todd Madison was the wife of James Madison, President of the United States from 1809 to 1817. Dolley Madison defined the role of First Lady. Dolley Madison also helped to furnish the newly constructed White House. When the British set it on fire in 1813. Madison was credited with saving the portrait depicting George Washington.

Despite much controversy about what happened on the night of 1814, a movie depicting Dolley Madison would be interesting in itself to truly understand how she shaped the role of First Lady.

3. Abigail Adams

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Abigail Adams was born in Weymouth, Massachusetts, to William Smith and Elizabeth Smith. Adams was a sickly child and was not considered healthy enough for formal schooling. Although she did not receive a formal education, her mother taught her and her sisters to read, write and cipher. As an intellectually open-minded woman for her day, Adams’ ideas on women’s rights and government would eventually play a major role in the founding of the United States. She became one of the most famous first ladies.

Adams’s life is one of the most documented of the first ladies making her a perfect choice for a movie subject. She is remembered for the many letters she wrote to her husband, John Adams as he stayed in Philadelphia during the Continental Congresses. John frequently sought the advice of Abigail on many matters of women’s rights and slavery. Her letters provide for an excellent eyewitness report of life on the home front of the American Revolution.

4. Phillis Wheatley

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Although the date and place of her birth are not documented, Wheatley is believed to be born in 1753 in West Africa. Wheatley was brought to British-ruled Boston, Massachusetts, on July 11, 1761, on a slave ship called The Phillis. She was brought to the Wheatley family and given their surname.

The Wheatleys’ daughter, Mary, tutored Phillis in reading and writing. John Wheatley was known as a progressive throughout New England; his family gave Phillis an unprecedented education for an enslaved person, and for a female of any race. By the age of 12, Phillis was reading Greek and Latin classics and difficult passages from the Bible. Recognizing her literary ability, the Wheatley family supported Phillis’s education and left the household labor to their other domestic slaves. The Wheatleys often showed off her abilities to friends and family. Through her poetry, she became the voice of the American Revolution.

5. Mercy Otis Warren

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Mercy Otis Warren was born on September 14, 1728, the third of thirteen children and first daughter of Colonel James Otis and Mary Allyne Otis. The family lived in West Barnstable, Massachusetts. The Otis children were raised with revolutionary ideals. Although Mercy had no formal education, she studied with Reverend Jonathan Russell while he tutored her brothers Joseph and James in preparation for College. Unlike most girls of the time who were simply literate, Warren wanted to learn as much as she possibly could. This set her apart from other girls, and most likely paved the way for her to break the traditional gender roles of her time. Her father also had unconventional views of his daughter’s education, as he fully supported her endeavors, a very rare situation for the time.

She married James Warren on November 14, 1754. After settling in Plymouth, James inherited his father’s position as sheriff. Her husband James had a distinguished political career. This led to Mercy actively participating in the political life of her husband including the American Revolution. Their Plymouth home was often a meeting place for local politics and revolutionaries including the Sons of Liberty. With the assistance of her friend Samuel Adams, these meetings laid the foundation for the Committee of Correspondence. Afterwards Mercy became her husband’s  chief correspondent and sounding board. Warren formed a strong circle of friends including Abigail Adams, Martha Washington,  and John Adams. Through their correspondence they increased the awareness of women’s issues. Mercy then became an advisor to many political leaders including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Sadly, all of Mercy’s works were published anonymously until 1790 when she republished all of her works including her political poems and dramas.

Mercy Otis Warren is considered as being the most influential writers of the Revolutionary War making this list incomplete without her.




Women in Film: Bette Davis

Bette Davis – The First Lady of the American Screen

Bette Davis created a heroine persona on and off screen by being a liberated woman in an industry dominated by men. She could play a variety of roles ranging from powerhouse dramas to raging psychopaths. Off-screen Davis battled the studio hierarchy in order to gain equal rights for all actors. Bette Davis has been a hero of mine since I first started watching classic film when I was nine. Even after doing biography after biography, I have always found her an interesting woman on and off screen.

“This has always been a motto of mine: Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work.” – Bette Davis


1989 Wicked Stepmother
1987 The Whales of August
1986 As Summer Die
1984 Murder with Mirrors
1983 Right of Way
1982 A Piano for Mrs. Cimino
Little Gloria
1981 Family Reunion
1980 The Watcher in the Woods
White Mama
1979 Strangers: The Story of a Mother and a Daughter
1978 Death on the Nile
Return from Witch Mountain
The Dark Secret of Harvest Home
1976 Burnt Offerings
The Disappearance of Aimee
1973 Scream, Pretty Peggy
1972 The Scientific Cardplayer
Connecting Rooms
Madame Sin
The Judge and Jake Wyler
1971 Bunny O’Hare
1968 The Anniversary
1965 The Nanny
1964 Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte
Where Love Has Gone
The Empty Canvas
Dead Ringer
1962 Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
1961 Pocketful of Miracles
1959 The Scapegoat
John Paul Jones
1957 Stranded
1956 Storm Center
The Catered Affair
1955 The Virgin Queen
1952 Phone Call from a Stranger
Another Man’s Poison
The Star (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
1951 Payment on Demand
1950 All About Eve (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
1949 Beyond the Forest
1948 June Bride
Winter Meeting
1946 Deception
A Stolen Life
1945 The Corn is Green
1944 Mr. Skeffington (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
Hollywood Canteen
1943 Old Acquaintance
Watch on the Rhine
Thank Your Lucky Stars
1942 Now, Voyager (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
In This Our Life
1941 The Little Foxes (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
The Bride Came C.O.D.
The Great Lie
The Man Who Came to Dinner
Shining Victory
1940 The Letter (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
All This, and Heaven Too
1939 Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
The Old Maid
Dark Victory (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
Day at Santa Anita
1938 The Sisters
Jezebel (Best Actress Academy Award Winner)
1937 It’s Love I’m After
That Certain Woman
Kid Galahad
Marked Woman
1936 Satan Met a Lady
The Golden Arrow
The Petrified Forest
1935 Dangerous (Best Actress Academy Award Winner)
Special Agent
Front Page Woman
The Girl from 10th Avenue
A Dream Comes True
1934 Housewife
Of Human Bondage (Best Actress Academy Award Nominee)
Fog Over Frisco
Jimmy the Gent
Fashions of 1934
The Big Shakedown
1933 Bureau of Missing Persons
The Working Man
Parachute Jumper
20,000 Years in Sing Sing
1932 Three on a Match
Cabin in the Cotton
The Rich Are Always with Us
So Big
The Man Who Played God
Hell’s House
The Menace
The Dark Horse
1931 Waterloo Bridge
Bad Sister
Way Back Home

Eight Great Poltical Movies

Movies focusing on politics are shown in many different formats. Some take a serious approach on a major issue in history, or engage in a satirical plot designed around a major issue. As the election is vastly approaching, take a seat, grab some popcorn, and watch these poltical showstoppers. 

The Candidate (1972)

Without a candidate to run for the senate seat against Republican Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter), campaign manager Marvin Lucas (Peter Boyle) recruits leftist lawyer Bill McKay (Robert Redford). McKay’s appearance interests the public’s eye, and gradually Lucas pushes McKay toward a more centrist message in order to gain more popularity. As McKay’s original platform gets watered down, his popularity increases so much that he is running even with Jarmon as Election Day approaches. When McKay receives the vote at the end of the movie, he famously asks Lucas what to do next. Many candidates have gone through the stress of getting into their position, but tend to not know what to do afterward. As election day is vastly approaching, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump must now evaluate what they must do after they get elected.  

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

When the dreamer Jefferson Smith (James Stewart) winds up appointed to the United States Senate, he gains the mentorship of corrupt Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains). However, Paine isn’t as honest as his reputation would indicate, and he becomes involved in a scheme to discredit Smith, who wants to build a boys’ campsite where greater scandal lies ahead. Determined to stand up against Paine, Smith takes his case to the Senate floor. Smith soon becomes a popular figure in the Senate due to his desire for his project and patriotism. Despite its mixed reviews, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington won an Academy Award for Best Writing. In today’s election, Clinton and Trump must defend what they believe in even if the people disagree. 

All the President’s Men (1976)

Bob Woodward (Robert Redford) and  Carl Bernstein (Dustin Hoffman) work for the Washington Post. They research the 1972 burglary of the Democratic Party Headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex. The two reporters make a connection between the burglars and a White House staffer. Despite many warnings, the duo follows the money all the way to the President. As the 2016 Election has been an election of scandal with the Washington Post once again breaking the latest headlines, the American people must decide what they want in a president. 


Political movies do not always have to revolve around adults. Alexander Payne’s look at a high school election and the consequences that occur when a teacher (Matthew Broderick) is fed up with Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), who is running for student body president. Election satirizes the life of suburban high schoolers and politics and describes today’s view on politics. 

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

This political satire focuses on what would happen if the wrong person pushed the wrong button. Directed, produced, and co-written by Stanley Kubrick, Dr. Strangelove is a film satirizing the Cold War fears between the USSR and the USA. During this election, voters must decide who they would rather have with their finger on the nuclear button.

Advice & Consent

 Based on the novel by Allen Drury, this drama depicts the debate when candidate Robert Leffingwell (Henry Fonda) is nominated as U.S. Secretary of State. As concerns are shown during the Senate investigation of Leffingwell’s qualifications, Senator Brig Anderson (Don Murray), soon finds that Leffingwell is being used for separate parties political agenda. As we saw with Obama filling a Supreme Court Justice spot, there may be controversy for the next President when filling similar spots.  

All the Way

 Lyndon B. Johnson (Bryan Cranston) becomes President of the United States after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. LBJ must immediately work on the passage of the Civil Rights Act as he is pressured by Martin Luther King (Anthony Mackie) and other movement leaders. However, LBJ is almost unable to pass the bill due to Southern Democrats. Meanwhile, the war in Vietnam escalates. As the 2016 Election breaks, and barriers affecting minorities become more apparent each day, Clinton and Trump must decide how to address and ultimately resolve these pressing issues. 

All the King’s Men

 This drama depicts the rise and fall of Southern Democrat Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) who promises his way to power. In the beginning of his campaign he swears against the corruption in government, but towards the end of his career, he is the most corrupt politician. All the King’s Men won three Oscars for Best Motion Picture, Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actress. As we enter the 2016 Election, once elected, the next President will decide whether to run the country in a corrupt or innocent manner to accomplish their objectives. 

Women in Film: In This Our Life (1942)

In This Our Life is an American drama film directed by John Huston. The screenplay by Howard Koch is based on the novel of the same name by Ellen Glasgow. The star studded cast includes Bette Davis and Olivia de Havilland as sisters and rivals. The film was completed in 1942, but disapproved in 1942 for foreign release by the wartime Office of Censorship because it dealt with racial discrimination.

During production Bette Davis became concerned over John Huston’s relationship with Olivia de Havilland. She and de Havilland worked well together, but Davis feared John Huston would favor de Havilland with close ups, lighting, and editing. Davis ended up over acting to compensate for any favoritism. Once Huston found out of this, he immediately confronted Davis and said nothing would prevent him from making a good film. According to Davis, Huston’s Irish charm dispelled any fears she had from then on.

The film co-stars George Brent, Dennis Morgan, Frank Craven, Billie Burke, Charles Coburn, and Hattie McDaniel.

Essentials:Gone With the Wind (1939)

 Gone with the Wind is a 1939 American classic adapted from Margaret Mitchel’s 1936 novel of the same name. This epic directed by Victor Fleming and produced by David O. Selznick has stood the test of time and has been a staple in any film collector’s collection. Set in the Old South during the American Civil War and Reconstruction period, the film tells the story of Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) as she tries to pursue the charming Ashley Wilkes (Leslie Howard).

Along with RKO and MGM, Selznick was not a fan of the novel due to its content matter. However, Selznick changed his mind after his partners Kay Brown and John Hay Whitney urged him to buy the film rights. One month after the novel was published, Selznick bought the rights for $50,000, about $856,974.00 in today’s money. This ended up being the easiest part of production.

When Selznick was trying to find the two leads to play Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler he had to back up production by two years. Selznick wanted Clark Gable for the role of Rhett Butler, but Gable was signed under MGM, who was unable to trade him. Finally, an agreement was reached between MGM and Selznick. Selznick was to give up half of the movie’s budget to Gable and MGM. While working out a deal for Gable, Selznick used his two-year production delay to build publicity for the film by having an open casting call for Scarlett O’Hara. Some of the front-runners included Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Bette Davis, and Katherine Hepburn. Paulette Goddard was originally chosen for the film, but because of her controversial marriage to Charlie Chaplin, Selznick changed his mind. Selznick soon considered Vivien Leigh, a young English actress who was barely known. Finally on January 13, 1939, Vivien Leigh was cast as Scarlett, only a few months before filming.

Vivien Leigh posses for a Make – Up Still

 Many troubles arose during filming including the replacement of George Cukor. Clark Gable disagreed with George Cukor which made Cukor get fired. Even after Vivien Leigh and Olivia De Havilland objected, Cukor did not come back and Victor Flemming took over.

Gone with the Wind was finally released on September 9, 1939 in Atlanta. Though because of Georgia’s Jim Crow laws, none of the African-American actors could attend, including Hattie McDaniel.

At the 12th Academy Awards, Gone with the Wind  set the record for Academy wins by receiving eight Academy Awards.

Best PictureWon

Best Director (Victor Flemming)Won

Best Actor (Clark Gable) – Nominated (won by Robert Donat for Goodbye, Mr Chips)

Best Actress (Vivien Leigh)Won

Best Adapted Screenplay (Sidney Howard)Won

Best Supporting Actress (Hattie McDaniel)Won

Best Supporting Actress (Olivia De Havilland) – Nominated (won by Hattie McDaniel)

Best Cinematography, Color (Ernest Haller and Ray Rennahan)Won

Best Film Editing (Hal C. Kern and James E. Newcom)Won

Best Art Direction (Lyle Wheeler)Won

 Best Visual Effects (Jack Cosgrove, Fred Albin, and Arthur Johns) – Nominated (Won by Fred Scott for The Rains Came 

Best Music, Original Score (Max Steiner) – Nominated (Won by Herbert Stothart for The Wizard of Oz)

 Best Sound Recording (Thomas T. Multon) – Nominated (Won by Bernard B. Brown for When Tomorrow Comes)

Special Award (William Cameron Menzies) –  For outstanding achievement in the use of color for the enhancement of dramatic mood in Gone with the Wind.

Technical Achievement Award (Don Musgrave)For pioneering in the use of coordinated equipment in the production Gone with the Wind. 


Hattie McDaniel receiving her Academy Award. McDaniel was the first African-American to receive an award.