Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Following the Joads

A large portion of our upcoming cross-country road trip will correspond with the journey of the Joad family, as chronicled in John Steinbeck's classic American novel The Grapes of Wrath and, its equally acclaimed 1940 film adaptation starring Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell.  Poor Depression-era Oklahoma tenant farmers forced off their land, the Joads strike out for California in hopes of finding work and greener pastures.  

The bulk of these travels, both literary and cinematic, takes place along old Route 66. In his narration, Steinbeck provided a very detailed account of the family's trek, citing specific cities, small towns and landmarks throughout the southwest.  It was Steinbeck that also provided the highway with its now-famous moniker:
"From all of these the people are in flight, and they come into 66 from the tributary side roads, from the wagon tracks and the rutted country roads. 66 is the mother road, the road of flight."
When making the 1940 movie version of The Grapes of Wrath, director John Ford dispatched a second unit to film locations along the now-famous Mother Road, from Oklahoma through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

Our own travels will take us to many of these novel and film locations and we will be documenting those visits here as part of our cross-country blogging efforts. Stay tuned.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Go West Young Man!

 "Go West Young Man, go West and grow up with the country."
The legendary words of Horace Greely, (later interpreted in song by the likes of Groucho Marx and Bing Crosby among many, many others), will resonate with us very soon.  Boom-Pop! writer and son will embark on an epic cross country road trip this June through the retro heart of America that will include everything from the Mother Road to Walt Disney's Missouri and more.

Twelve days.  Seventeen states.  Sixteen major cities.  Four national parks.  Disneyland.  Hollywood.  Monument Valley.  Las Vegas.  And of course, Route 66.

Stay tuned to Boom-Pop! and our companion site 2719 Hyperion.  We'll be on the road soon!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cinema Redux: Putting on the Ritz

I have a passion for finding and photographing old and abandoned movie theaters.  It is a subject I've been intending to feature here at Boom Pop! for quite some time. I have only recently started to actively pursue the matter, due in large part to the recent advances in technology as represented by Google Maps and its ever so resourceful street-view function.

I live just outside of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a city almost completely bereft of its historical theaters.  Even the Stevens Center for the Arts bears little resemblance to the Carolina Theatre, its original incarnation.  But in the course of my research I did stumble upon a still standing vintage theater quite photogenic in its currently decaying state.
The Ritz is located in the northeast section of the city, near the intersection of Patterson Avenue and Greenway Avenue.  It opened in 1968 and was likely a second-run, B-movie house; it debuted with a double feature of Duel at Diablo and Goliath and the Vampires.

Inset photo from Digital Forsyth collection.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Photo Retro! - The Central Hotel

The Central Hotel occupied the upper floors of the John B. Ray Building in downtown Leaksville. Leaksville was one of three small towns that were combined to become the greater metropolitan area of Eden, located in central North Carolina just south of the Virginia border.  Its now age-worn and broken neon sign could have been a set piece in a classic Hollywood film noir.

A vintage postcard shows the whole of the building; the entrance to the Central Hotel can be seen at the rear corner.  The sign featured above remains hanging above that entrance, however the artist chose not to include it in the postcard rendering.  The vertical HOTEL sign at the front also survives, albeit in equally poor condition.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Freeze Frame! - The Fate of the Venture

Here at Boom Pop! we consider Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow to be a modern classic.  Masterfully realized and distinctly underrated, it is a loving homage to pulp, movie serials and golden age comic book heroes.  I decided to seek out one of its notable but not altogether obvious Easter Eggs, one that pays subtle tribute to a very famous film classic.

When Sky Captain navigates an underwater landscape on approach to Dr. Totenkopf's island, he passes by a sunken vessel identified on its hull as the Venture.  The S.S. Venture was the tramp steamer used to travel to Skull Island in the original King Kong and its sequel Son of Kong.   Peter Jackson recreated the Venture in his 2005 King Kong remake.  Totenkopf is in fact the German word for "skull," and Totenkopf's island is not so coincidentally populated with prehistoric-type creatures.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Snap! Crackle! and Pop! (Culture)

They have been a part of our popular culture for over seven decades; three energetic gnomes who are likely the most famous of cereal pitchmen.  Snap!, Crackle! and Pop! were created by prolific and well known commercial artist Vernon Grant, who provided illustrations to countless books and magazines throughout much of the 20th century.  He first created Snap! for Kellogg's in 1933.  Crackle! and Pop! were added in 1939 as seen in the above vintage advertisement.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Vintage Headlines: Adult Cartoons circa 1960

Lest you think that The Simpsons and Family Guy were groundbreaking in regard to being animated fare targeted at grownups, realize that over fifty years ago, a certain stone-age family was initially targeted to an adult-based demographic.  The Flintstones debuted in prime time in September of 1960, and then television reporter Ray McConnell made these interesting observations in response to the show's premiere:
SUBURBIA IN THE STONE AGE: A thousand years from today "The Flintstones" may be evidence of history, goofed-up, or of science fiction, also goofed-up but an eerie, prophetic caricature of life after The Bomb fell. TV fans will get a chance to make their own guess about this tonight when "The Flintstones" comes on ABC-TV and Channel 7 as a weekly cartoon comedy designed for adult viewing. It is television's first animated assault, outside the commercials, on adult funnybones. The cartoon series has been created by Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, who tailored "Huckleberry Hound," "Quick Draw McGraw" and "Rough 'n Ready" for the TV tube. These were kid cartoons, primarily. The Flintstones are something else. Their fanciful out-of-kilter world is the Hanna-Barbera answer to what they believe is an adult demand for an adult cartoon. (Who demanded this? I didn't).

It goes something like this: With their pals, Barney and Betty Rubble, Fred and Wilma Flintstone bumble through life in Bedrock (Pop. 2500), the seat of Cobblestone County. They are average couples, with the same problems, foibles, ambitions and frustrations of any couples anywhere, anytime. The difference is that the Flintstones and Rubbles live in hollow boulders and wear bearskin kilts. .It's a version of Suburbia in the stone age; a homily of life among cave dwellers — in the light of some modern improvements. But whether the time is 25,000 years ago, or a couple of hundred years hence, is your guess as much as anyone's.
Another article from the same time quoted both Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera on the show's intended adult appeal:
"We had so much success our other cartoon characters —'Quick-Draw McGraw" and 'Huckleberry Hound' — and there was so much adult public reaction and acceptance that we decided to try an adult cartoon series." says Joe Barbera.

"Older people just took a liking to 'Quickdraw' and 'Huck'." Bill Hanna asserted. "Joe and I thought that possibly a cartoon series with an adult approach might be something that would please the oldsters."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Freeze Frame! - Claude Smith Proprietor

He was the proprietor of the General Merchandise store in the 1945 Droopy cartoon Wild and Wolfy.  But just who was Claude Smith in real life?

Claude Smith was already a veteran of the animation industry when Wild and Wolfy was released in 1945.  He began working at the Walt Disney Studios as early as 1933.  He was a casualty of the fallout from the Disney Studio strike in 1941, but quickly landed at MGM where he did character layouts for Tex Avery for a number of years and assisted Avery specifically on Wild and Wolfy.  Smith ultimately became well known as a cartoonist, publishing predominantly in Playboy and New Yorker magazines well into the 1970s. 

A Claude Smith cartoon from New Yorker, published May 15, 1948.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Greetings from the Rockets at Kennywood

Kennywood Park in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania is a distinct landmark of my boomer youth, as it is to many Pittsburgh natives of my generation.  The Rockets debuted at the park in 1940 and were likely inspired by the popular Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers movie serials of that era.  The circle swing ride mechanics actually dated back to 1925 when the attraction was located in a different area of the park and featured seaplanes as the ride vehicles.  The Rockets circled above the Kennywood Lagoon for the last time in 1978.

The postcard dates from the early 1950s.  The back-side description reads:
"The Nation's Greatest Picnic Park" One of the largest and finest amusement parks in the United States. A wonderland of pleasure for the entire family with every kind of outdoor amusement device including a mammoth crystal clear swimming pool and beach. Not to visit Kennywood is not to know Pittsburgh.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Windows to the Past: The Smiling Irishman

We couldn't resist posting this particular Window to the Past as we fast approach this week's Saint Patrick's Day Holiday.  The photograph dates from 1946 and showcases a Los Angeles entrepreneur know as the Smiling Irishman.  The image is from the UCLA Library Digital collections.