Richard Schickel

No one lives forever -- except, perhaps, Shirley MacLaine. This is where we ring down the final curtain for Filmdom's finest.
Richard M Roberts
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Richard Schickel

Postby Richard M Roberts » Mon Feb 20, 2017 1:44 pm

http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries ... story.html

So Richard Schickel croaked............aw darn.

"Father of American Film criticism".......really? Mordaunt Hall, Bosley Crowther, hell, even James Agee, but Schickel? A generation or two too late, and besides, being a "father" of American Film Criticism ain't much to brag about when most critics never had mothers anyway.

The great thing about when a critic passes is that their words become completely meaningless and forgettable even moreso than when they were alive. Schickel was an especial idiot when still walking the planet:

"He took on other classics as well, describing “The Best Years of Our Lives” (1946) as “close to travesty” and “The Maltese Falcon” (1941) as “cramped and static.”"

Need we say more?

His biographies were as joke even when first printed, Harold Lloyd, Walt Disney, D.W. Griffith? Poorly researched, rife with errors, and the first two especially written in a condescending, mean-spirited tone that implied the biographer was above the subjects he was writing about. Like Schickel had any accomplishments that even came to street level under the feet of those subjects. Remember, critics are the eunuchs at the Gang Bang; they can watch, they can comment, they couldn't do it if they tried.

Then, in his later-life reviews of other silent film books for the LA Times, Schickel would bemoan the tomes that he felt were written about topics no one cared about by film nerds who cared too much about said unimportant (to him) topics. I never forgave him for an especially petty, incorrect and uninformed trash review of David Kiehn's Essanay book in this manner, a book that was better and more worthwhile than everything Schickel ever wrote.

So condolences to his family, but no kind words for him, he is now just that much more easy to ignore.


RICHARD M ROBERTS

William Ferry
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Re: Richard Schickel

Postby William Ferry » Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:09 pm

Anxiously awaiting the turning of the worm, i.e. a biography of Richard Shickel's life and work by a film fan/historian who ultimately doesn't like him.

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Richard Schickel

Postby Richard M Roberts » Sun Feb 26, 2017 8:27 pm

William Ferry wrote:Anxiously awaiting the turning of the worm, i.e. a biography of Richard Shickel's life and work by a film fan/historian who ultimately doesn't like him.


If you're waiting for one from this corner, you have a long wait, I wouldn't waste the time. MOST critics deserve neither monuments nor biographies, they deserve to be forgotten by or before their expiration dates. One of the few ironies of the dreaded internet that one appreciates is the complete devaluing of the critics, now EVERYONE'S a critic, and the value of any criticism was never anything more than merely one persons opinion, now that point is driven home with a sledgehammer and no critics have any power to truly do any harm.

Schickel always s expressed a "protesteth too much " surprise that he apparently led a critics charge against David Lean's RYAN'S DAUGHTER that had actually stopped David Lean from wanting to make more movies, that "surprise" masked a smugness that showed Schickel was actually impressed with his potential ability to have that sort of power, all it meant was we got fewer David Lean movies, and I would trade all of Schickel's life's work for one more frame of film by David Lean(and I'm no great lover of David Lean).

The irony of all the internerds being critics these days also means everyone tries to write in the same smug, pretentious, whiny tones that many of the critics who actually made livings at it, and the best day of the lives of all of them can't produce anything the quality of what Richard Schickel did (can one even measure how low a bar that is?).


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Frank Flood
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Re: Richard Schickel

Postby Frank Flood » Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:30 am

I was probably about 11 when I found that our local public library had a new-ish biography on Walt Disney. As we all know, back in those days there were very few books about the people who made short comedies, much less cartoons. To this day I remember my excitement checking it out and the corresponding disappointment when I stopped wading through it about half way through. Why, young me asked at the time, would Schickel spend the time to write a book about a filmmaker and his films that he neither liked nor understood. I glanced at it a couple of years ago, and the question still stands.

But of course, knocking what you neither like nor understand is too often the "art" of criticism, isn't it? If you get the chance, look up some of Robert Benchley's theater reviews from the 1920s and early 30s. It always seemed to me that his approach was the correct one: look to be entertained, judge the work on it own terms, put it into the context of other similar sorts of works, note what might be good, and if you have to slam the work, at least be funny about it.

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Richard Schickel

Postby Richard M Roberts » Mon Feb 27, 2017 1:24 pm

Frank Flood wrote:I was probably about 11 when I found that our local public library had a new-ish biography on Walt Disney. As we all know, back in those days there were very few books about the people who made short comedies, much less cartoons. To this day I remember my excitement checking it out and the corresponding disappointment when I stopped wading through it about half way through. Why, young me asked at the time, would Schickel spend the time to write a book about a filmmaker and his films that he neither liked nor understood. I glanced at it a couple of years ago, and the question still stands.

But of course, knocking what you neither like nor understand is too often the "art" of criticism, isn't it? If you get the chance, look up some of Robert Benchley's theater reviews from the 1920s and early 30s. It always seemed to me that his approach was the correct one: look to be entertained, judge the work on it own terms, put it into the context of other similar sorts of works, note what might be good, and if you have to slam the work, at least be funny about it.



Benchley's reviews were indeed very benign and had the same befuddled friendly voice that he used for his humorous prose (of course Benchley gets a pass from me, he was not a critic, he was a brilliant comic writer who had an unfortunate moonlighting job, same pass Leonard Maltin gets, he's a Film Historian who had to do criticism to make ends meet, we've been there a time or two, and it's acceptable when you've still managed to do the worthwhile work as well), but that is exactly the approach one should have to any film criticism and so few have. When I sit (or lie down mostly these days, I've always preferred couches to theater seats) to view a film, all my hope and expectation for the experience is that I am getting an evening's entertainment. I take the film on it's own terms, if it's a comedy, I hope to laugh, if it's a romantic tearjerker, I hope there will be wet hanky's, if it's an action picture, some good car chases, shoot-em-ups and explosions. If it's an A-picture, with big stars and budget, lets see the money and quality, if it's a PRC, lets have a tight story and some good character actors making it work. If it delivers that evening's entertainment, it has succeeded, if it gives one that much extra, all the better.

Too many "critics" go before the film with knives poised, daring it to entertain them, to make them laugh, etc., or their heads are filled (if they are filled with anything) with too many pre-conceived notions and expectations, which is why when I read something like "how can Buster Keaton appear in that because he was such a great artist" or "Lelia Hyams didn't have the career she should have had" the eyes immediately roll in my head. Lelia Hyams had the career she had, probably the career she wanted or certainly accepted, and as it was certainly more impressive than anything said critic has or ever will do in it's life, who is it to carp? Judging a PRC on MGM or Paramount expectations is pointless, better to be amazed and happy when PRC rises above it's limitations than to berate it for being what it is.


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Re: Richard Schickel

Postby Louie Despres » Mon Feb 27, 2017 9:33 pm

Richard M Roberts wrote:Too many "critics" go before the film with knives poised, daring it to entertain them, to make them laugh, etc., or their heads are filled (if they are filled with anything) with too many pre-conceived notions and expectations, which is why when I read something like "how can Buster Keaton appear in that because he was such a great artist" or "Lelia Hyams didn't have the career she should have had" the eyes immediately roll in my head. Lelia Hyams had the career she had, probably the career she wanted or certainly accepted, and as it was certainly more impressive than anything said critic has or ever will do in it's life, who is it to carp? Judging a PRC on MGM or Paramount expectations is pointless, better to be amazed and happy when PRC rises above it's limitations than to berate it for being what it is.


RICHARD M ROBERTS


Yes. Agreed. And although he's nearly universally hated for whatever reason, El Brendel kept working, doing what he did, and fans loved him for it, as I have seen through my research.

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Re: Richard Schickel

Postby Thomas Reeder » Tue Feb 28, 2017 11:20 am

When I sit (or lie down mostly these days, I've always preferred couches to theater seats) to view a film, all my hope and expectation for the experience is that I am getting an evening's entertainment. I take the film on it's own terms, if it's a comedy, I hope to laugh, if it's a romantic tearjerker, I hope there will be wet hanky's, if it's an action picture, some good car chases, shoot-em-ups and explosions. If it's an A-picture, with big stars and budget, lets see the money and quality, if it's a PRC, lets have a tight story and some good character actors making it work. If it delivers that evening's entertainment, it has succeeded, if it gives one that much extra, all the better.


Well put, Richard. When I researched B-producer Ben Pivar and viewed all of films he made for Universal (and selected ones from Columbia and later), these were viewed solely within the very limited context of the budget, cast and crew, and stock footage that he had to deal with. They were uneven, for sure, some merely fillers while others were surprisingly imaginative and well done, but all provided a more than acceptable hour's worth of entertainment. His use of stock footage, I should add, was second to none, adding a big budget look that belied the rather spartan budgets he had to work with. Universal's contract players always managed to deliver, and the pairings of Richard Arlen and Andy Devine in their fourteen film series were mindlessly delightful. As for his low budget horror film sequels, these have managed to pass the test of time.

Richard M Roberts
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Re: Richard Schickel

Postby Richard M Roberts » Fri Mar 03, 2017 5:59 pm

One of the denizens of nitwitville today called Schickel one of the "five or so most important film history authors", all I can say is said nitwitvillian needs to read more film history.


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William Ferry
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Re: Richard Schickel

Postby William Ferry » Sun Mar 05, 2017 5:26 pm

"Five most divisive" perhaps, but he's waaayyyyyy down the list for me in terms of any real importance. There are even some Citadel Press "The Films of..." authors that I'd rank above Schickel. Hats off to him for THE MEN WHO MADE THE MOVIES, to give credit where credit is due (despite Cliff Robertson's monotone narration, AKA,"The Talking Dead"); however, in my personal opinion, showing a liking for your subject - even while recognizing that subject's shortcomings - goes a lot further in spurring your reader's interest in film.


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