Direct(orial) mail

Stamps depicting Frank Capra, John Huston, John Ford, and Billy WilderIt’s the first day of issue for a set of four postal stamps honoring a quartet of great (native or naturalized) American motion picture directors, and we can’t argue with the selection of a single one of them. Here’s what the USPS has to say about the occasion:

These Great Film Directors (Forever®) stamps honor four great filmmakers who captured the many varieties of the American experience. Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, and Billy Wilder created some of the most iconic scenes in American cinema. They gave audiences an unforgettable (and in some cases, deeply personal) vision of life.

These four filmmakers received multiple Academy Award nominations, 15 Oscars, and numerous other honors during their lifetimes. But their greatest accomplishment lies in the vitality and artistry of the stories they told through film. The stamp art combines a portrait of each man with a scene from one of his most iconic works.

The background art for the stamp honoring Frank Capra shows a scene from It Happened One Night, a comedy in which a runaway heiress (played by Claudette Colbert) and a reporter (Clark Gable) compare their hitchhiking skills.

For the John Ford stamp, the background recalls a scene from The Searchers, an influential Western starring John Wayne and making Ford’s characteristic use of the American landscape.

The Maltese Falcon inspired the background art for the John Huston stamp. In this classic mystery, gumshoe Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) goes up against various unscrupulous characters (among them Mary Astor, Peter Lorre, and Sydney Greenstreet).

And for Billy Wilder, the background artwork was inspired by Some Like It Hot, a farce about two male musicians (Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) who seek refuge from gangsters by posing as members of an all-girl band featuring luscious singer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe).

Art Director Derry Noyes designed these stamps using art by award-winning illustrator Gary Kelley, who created the images using pastels on paper.

You can purchase these stamps, along with First Day of Issue color postmarked envelopes and other related items, here.

You screened it for her, you can screen it for me…

Like most movie buffs, we occasionally are asked to name our favorite movie.

At first thought, it seems a difficult question. After all, there aren’t many genres of movies we don’t enjoy, and we happily watch pictures more than a century old and the latest releases. We have a list of favorite directors as long as our arm and a list of favorite actors and actresses as long as our leg.

But in the end, it’s really not that tough a call. For our money, Casablanca is the perfect movie—or the closest we’ve ever seen to it. Amazing performances from the whole cast, from Bogart and Bergman down to the tiniest bit roles. A witty, suspenseful, and moving script that deftly combines romance, drama, and humor and features some of the most celebrated dialogue and memorable scenes ever committed to celluloid.

We’ve seen Casablanca a dozen times or more, most of those on a big screen, surrounded by a collection of appreciative fellow movie buffs. It’s one of the benefits of living in a city like New York; we get to see an amazing range of movies from across a century-plus of cinema in theatres.

But there are plenty of burgs where a movie classic like Casablanca can be seen only on television, on a DVD or when Turner Classic Movies airs it. So I got excited—not for myself, but for the millions of Americans living somewhere other than NYC or Los Angeles or Chicago or San Francisco or half dozen other cities that have outlets for viewing classic movies in theatres—when I learned that on Wednesday, March 21, TCM is commemorating the movie’s 70th anniversary with a one-time digital screening of this classic in more than 335 theatres across the country. There will be an introductory short starring TCM host Robert Osborne, who will “take audiences behind the scenes of this epic love story.”

Every theatre is showing the movie at 7 p.m., so in each time zone, thousands of moviegoers will be watching it simultaneously. We love that.

There’s a good chance there’s a participating theatre near you. If you’ve never seen this wonderful movie on a big screen with an audience of fellow movie fans, you owe it to yourself to attend. Tickets went on sale today.