Evolution of Silent Cinema: The Business of Film

By the turn of the century, the moving image had moved beyond it’s basic platform, there was a constant state of experimentation with the form, from close-ups to linking footage together to form the basis of editing. As film began to emerge as a public form of entertainment, it wasn’t hard to see there was money to be made from screening these films. In 1905, “The Nickelodeon” in Pittsburgh, began screening films on a regular basis, the most popular of these screenings would be “The Chase” film, the first example originating in England by James Williamson, who made a film called ‘Stop Thief’. Others soon followed his example and began creating narrative short films which the protagonist would be chased in some form or another.

By 1907, theatre’s specifically designed for screening film began operating in the U.S. Britain & France. Pathe were the first to capitalize on the increasing demand for programmes by the emerging theatre chains, the programme was usually a 30 minute affair accompanied with live musicians to enhance the experience. In the initial stages, Pathe would sell their films for a flat fee but soon came to realize that there was more money to be made by renting out their films to be screened. Not to be outdone, the U.S. began increasing their production output.

As Cinema began to spread throughout Europe, other countries began to make their own strides in forming production companies, the most unlikely becoming one of Europe’s most important production centres, Denmark. Ole Olsen, seeing an opportunity, founded Nordisk and began cranking out films for the local market, he eventually produced 67 films with his collaborator, director Viggo Larsen. Sweden, Russia & Germany soon followed suit, bringing their own ideas to the table but the first world war derailed their efforts leaving the U.S. to pick up the slack, as their film technique improved so did their audiences both at home and overseas.

For more info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_film

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Evolution of Silent Cinema: The Big Bang

It’s no surprise that the first people to utilize cinema’s potential in its earliest form were magicians, cinema was in its basest form just another illusion for the public. In 1878, an english photographer, Eadweard Muybridge performed an experiment whereby he set up a row of cameras at a racetrack with a timed image exposure and took photos of a horse as it ran past, linking these stills in sequence, the horse was shown to be moving within the set of stills, “a motion picture” was born. Inventor Thomas Edison, had already been working on a device he called the Kinetograph, which captured images and a Kinetoscope, which allowed for viewing the images, through these two devices he created a smoother way for the images to viewed in linked succession. Edison thought he’d make a quick buck selling the Kinetograph/scope but forgot a crucial detail, he didn’t patent his invention.

In France, almost a decade later after Muybridge had made his discovery, Louis Le Prince shot a 2 second film called Roundhay Garden Scene in Roundhay, Leeds, it’s considered the oldest surviving motion picture. The Lumiere Brothers were also at work on their own camera, called the “Cinematographe” but their genius was to make it more suitable for travel while containing a projector and processor in the same unit, this allowed them more options for filming, their first experiments involved filming workers leaving a factory (Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory in Lyon) a man and a woman feeding a baby and filming life as it was in France in general. The Lumiere Brothers were not just content to film in France, The Lumiere Brothers took their invention on a global tour, filming in nearly every continent and documenting different cultures, they basically invented the travel documentary.

In 1896, George Melies was a working magician in France when he attended a private demonstration of the Cinematographe. Melies immediately saw the potential for this new invention and offered The Lumiere Bros. 10,000F for the camera, they refused. Melies, undaunted looked elsewhere until he found an Animatograph film projector in London, an invention by Englishman Robert W. Paul. Melies bought one-off Paul and returned to France to install it at his theatre, he modified it into a film camera. When better cameras emerged from The Lumiere Brothers, Gaumont etc Melies immediately upgraded. Melies established a film company called the “Star Film Company” with Lucien Roulos. Lucien Korsten was appointed as their primary camera operator. Their first initial attempts at filming were mostly remakes of Lumiere Brothers shorts but Melies background in magic began to emerge as he began to experiment with theatricality, it was a direct contrast to The Lumiere Brothers scientific approach to the new art form, Melies just wanted to entertain. Melies started to experiment with the camera achieving visual tricks, creating cinema’s first visual FX. As his films became more ambitious, Melies built a film studio on his property in Montreuil, as his films became more successful he built up the studio to include more props and set’s to bring to life the more vivid ideas of his imagination.

Towards the end of the 19th Century, Melies had made over 200 films within a variety of different genres that were emerging as the art form expanded. Melies innovations were capturing the audience’s attention, the age of cinema as entertainment was beginning to emerge.

For further info:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silent_film

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Melies

The Mad Detective of Hong Kong

The quirky detective has a long history in both film & television, dating all the way back to Columbo. Usually presented with observational skills that far outstrip their colleagues, using unorthodox methods to solve crimes or just the ability to see things others can’t, they’re left as outsiders (but not always). Johnnie To and Wai Ka Fai take the quirky detective down a much darker path.

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Detective Bun (Lau Ching Wan) has a unique gift (or curse depending on how you look at it) to see the inner personalities of the person he is investigating but it’s left him adrift, he cut’s off his own ear as a retirement gift for his boss and get’s kicked off the force. Inspector Ho Ka-On (Andy On) approaches Bun with the idea of getting Bun’s help in solving a case he is working on, the case as it stands involved a police officer Wong Kwok-Chu (Lee Kwok-Lun) along with his partner Ko Chi-Wai (Lam Ka-Tung) investigating a series of thefts and tracking the thief to a nearby forest. The thief is alerted and heads into the forest, forcing Wong and Ko to give chase. Wong goes missing, his gun ends up being used in a series of armed robberies.

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Bun lives with his wife May (Flora Chan) who is adamantly against him becoming a detective again. Ko realizes how unbalanced Bun has become when he sees him arguing with someone who clearly isn’t there. Bun starts off by following Chi-Wai and discovers that he has seven inner personalities, the most dominant being a woman (Jay Lau) dressed in a business suit, a violent man (Cheung Siu-Fai) and a portly man (Lam Suet) who clearly abhors violence.

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As Bun continues his investigation, all evidence points towards Chi-Wai being the prime suspect in the disappearance of his partner. Bun’s non-imaginary wife May (Kelly Lin) confronts On about her ex-husband not taking his medication and not keeping his appointment with his psychiatrist, leaving On to seriously question Bun’s mental health.

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The re-emergence of Bun’s ex-wife is what gives this film a certain resonance, and also cast doubt on whether Bun has a supernatural gift or if he’s just mentally ill. May is represented in two different ways, one as Bun sees her and the other as she really is. The May as seen through Bun’s eyes is not subservient or demure but she does care for him, she just wants him to be happy when clearly, he isn’t. The May that exists is just fed up with having to be his caretaker. There’s a scene late in the film where the two Mays finally collide and Bun is forced to confront the reality that he is the only one that can see imaginary May. Real May asks Bun if he sees her as a cruel and heartless woman before she walks off, Imaginary May says a tender farewell to Bun and disappears leaving Bun well and truly alone.

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It’s also significant that at the end, On’s inner personality of a scared young boy is replaced by a young woman (again, dressed in a business suit) who guides On out of a tricky situation and On’s wife is presented almost as Lady MacBeth type, she also becomes complicit in a cover-up.

This just as much of Wai Ka Fai film as it is a Johnnie To film, I think it’s one of the best film’s made under the Milkyway banner and a sad and touching exploration of mental illness.

Penny Dreadful & the feminine monster

It goes without saying that horror has never been a safe space for women (or anyone for that matter but women more than most) so it’s kind of refreshing to see a gothic horror provide us with two fascinating female protagonists as they blaze an evil path towards redemption that’s largely kickstarted by one man’s desire and two demonic forces who both want the same thing, a bride.

The first season introduces us to the two principle female characters in the form of Vanessa Ives (ferociously played by Eva Green) and Brona Croft (a surprisingly good Billie Piper) who exist at two ends of the social spectrum. Vanessa is a former childhood friend of Mina Murray, daughter of noted adventurer Malcolm Murray (Grizzled Timothy Dalton). Brona Croft is a working class prostitute, who largely exists as a romantic interest for Ethan Chandler (a surprisingly great Josh Hartnett) so the focus is primarily on Vanessa for the duration of season one.

It’s in the second season where things get really interesting as Brona (who died from consumption at the end of the first season, with a little help from Victor Frankenstein) is brought back to life and re-named Lily,  primarily as a bride for Caliban (Rory Kinnear). Lily, at first appears to be compliant as both Caliban and Victor clumsily attempt to romance her but darker impulses start to emerge following her interaction with Dorian Gray (who Brona had a brief sexual liaison with in the first season) which culminates in Lily going home with a male stranger and killing him, this act ultimately awakens something in her, leading her to reject Caliban in a terrifying scene which leaves him both awestruck and terrified as she lays out her plan to kill Victor and eventually subjugate men. That theme wouldn’t be fully realized until the third season.

The second season introduces another fascinating female protagonist in Evelyn Poole (Helen McCrory, a witch and occultist who just wants to live forever). Evelyn seduces Malcolm as a way of getting at Vanessa and we find out that Vanessa and Evelyn have crossed path’s before while Vanessa was searching for a way to harness her powers which led her to arrive at the doorstep of Joan Clayton (Patti LuPone) a cut-wife (abortionist) and witch. It’s revealed that Evelyn and Joan are former members of a witches coven but Evelyn now serves Satan, in return for everlasting youth. The theme of dominance emerges again as we see Evelyn exerting her power over a prominent local aristocrat (it helps that he’s a vile asshole), there’s a scene where he’s kneeling naked in front of a fire while she stands over him holding a stick and hitting him with it while she taunts him. It’s a total display of dominance in an era where men were clearly in charge.

Frankenstein pathetically makes an attempt to win back Lily from Dorian by confronting her with Dorian present in his house. Lily has embraced her newfound independence, is pretty much sick of Frankenstein’s whiny shit and taunts him until she ends up getting shot. Frankenstein is horrified to discover she is immortal and runs away while Dorian and Lily continue their macabre blood soaked dance. It’s such a defiant fuck off to Frankenstein, who doesn’t love Lily, so much as he loves the idea of her being his perfect girlfriend, his plans to mould her into such a thing has catastrophically backfired.

The third season takes Lily’s adventures even further into the absurd (but so much fun to watch) as Lily and Dorian rescue a young girl, Justine, from certain death , she was about to be tortured to death for the sexual amusement of a group of men. Lily takes Justine under her wing and relays her plan to dominate men, there’s an interesting scene where Lily and Justine watch as suffragettes protest in the street until they clash with the police resulting in an altercation. Lily mocks them and their attempts at a democratic process of change, instead viewing dominance as the real arbiter of power. Lily begins recruiting prostitutes and making Dorian’s place a halfway house (which he seems none too pleased about) and forming a kind of guerilla army. She urges them to go out and cut off the hands of their oppressors, which they quite gladly accommodate her.

Vanessa, after expelling Satan at the end of season 2, visits an alienist Dr. Florence Steward (Patti LuPone) in the hope of exploring her trauma, and ends up re-living her time in the mental asylum through hypnotherapy. Her stint in the asylum reveals the inhumane methods she suffered in order to cure her but also her relationship with her caretaker, John Clare (before he died and became Frankenstein’s monster), they manage to help each other in a fundamental way through empathetic communication. Vanessa’s demon’s (Satan and Dracula) rear their heads in the form of John Clare and attempt to win her over as romantic rivals as they’ve been trying to do since she reached puberty.

Dorian finally reaches the limit’s of his patience with Lily and her army of women and teams up with Frankenstein to basically re-set her like an operating system (men are such dicks) then kicks out the women living in his house and kills Justine. Lily pleads with Frankenstein not to go through with his plan for re-setting her, it’s the memory of her dead child that finally breaks through to Victor and he let’s her go free. She finally returns to Dorian to find a dead Justine and breaks it off with him as well, going to forge her own path alone, leaving Dorian alone with his paintings.

In the end, both Vanessa and Lily are victims of a patriarchal society but they refused to let themselves be victims, Lily didn’t ask to be brought back from the dead just because someone felt lonely (that goes for both Victor and Caliban, they’re both selfish assholes) and Vanessa didn’t ask to be stalked by Satan and Dracula, it probably didn’t help that Malcolm had an affair with her mother (which basically led her down the path to Mina’s fiance and eventually the mental asylum, way to go Malcolm, you asshole) but she fought on to the very end, she chose to go out on her own terms.

Fistful of Dynamite & the human cost of revolution.

In Once Upon a Time in the West, Sergio Leone cemented his love of westerns and it’s mythic storytelling of America, his entire filmography can be seen as one long epic about the birth of America  which makes Fistful of Dynamite an interesting anomaly as it’s set, not in America but in Mexico during the Mexican revolution.

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Before the film begins. a quote from Mao Tze-Tung is emblazoned across the screen “The revolution is not a social dinner, a literary event, a drawing or an embroidery; it cannot be done with… elegance and courtesy. The revolution is an act of violence…” which promptly cut’s to an ant hill getting drowned in a sea of urine as we’re introduced to Juan (a clearly not Mexican Rod Steiger) as he flags down a coach with a sob story about his dying father. The coachman initially waves him off but decides to play a practical joke on the people inside the coach by giving Juan a lift. The reactions are swift and immediate as Juan is placed in an environment where he’s clearly uncomfortable but feigns ignorance as they prod him with questions and mock him. Juan is no fool though as he has planned a robbery of the stagecoach with the help of his family. The privileged are now at the mercy of Juan and his family after they kill the coachman and the guards.

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Juan delivers a form of social justice to his “betters” by first taking the man who mocked him with the idea that he didn’t know who his father was and asking him if he can make a “babeh” then introducing the man to his father then taking the woman behind a house where he whips out his dick (It’s implied that he rapes her but it’s never shown onscreen) before stripping them all naked and putting them into a horsecart which is pushed down a hill where it crashes into the ground, they all fall into a group of pigs.

It’s when Juan meets John (James Coburn in all his shaggy Irish glory) an Irish nationalist, on the run for the murder of a couple of British soldiers (punctuated through flashbacks) that Juan get’s mixed up in Pancho Villa and Zapata’s rebellion. Juan is understandably reluctant to get involved in a conflict which does not concern him and it’s only through John’s manipulation that Juan somehow becomes a revolutionary hero.

Juan’s views on revolution can best be summed up via the speech he gives to John about what a revolution means to poor people “I know what I am talking about when I am talking about the revolutions. The people who read the books go to the people who can’t read the books, the poor people, and say, “We have to have a change.” So, the poor people make the change, ah? And then, the people who read the books, they all sit around the big polished tables, and they talk and talk and talk and eat and eat and eat, eh? But what has happened to the poor people? They’re dead! That’s your revolution. Shhh… So, please, don’t tell me about revolutions! And what happens afterwards? The same fucking thing starts all over again!”  and this point is really hit home when Juan finds his entire family massacred. Leone’s camera hovers over the dead until it finally rests on the face of Juan’s youngest child.

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John H Mallory has already fled one conflict only to join another, mostly due to Juan but his reason’s run deeper than just patriotic ideals as the flashbacks peppered through the film reveal John’s past, from his best friend’s radicalization into the IRA, to his lover, who seemingly shares affection with both John and his best friend. His best friend is caught by the British and, through confession and torture, is forced to point out other IRA nationalists, in a small pub, it’s when he finally points out John that everything goes to shit as John goes on the offensive and fires a shotgun at the British soldiers before finally turning it on his best friend, who is aware of his betrayal and tacitly acknowledges his death is necessary.

Dr Viega (Romollo Valli), a physician and ally of John’s who helps orchestrate attacks on the Mexican government is faced with a similar dilemma as he is caught by an army detachment led by Colonel Gunther Reza, beaten and forced to identify his colleagues then watch as they’re shot in the pouring rain, while John watches in the background. Dr Viega is not presented as a villain, just a man who broke under torture (as a lot of us probably would) before finally sacrificing himself for the cause.

The Mexican government Villa and Zapata are fighting against are presented as the villains, as we see soldiers performing executions in the middle of the day, summarily shooting people by the hundreds and killing children. It’s easy to sympathise with the rebels when the government are presented as just another fascist government who deserve to be destroyed.

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The political climate at the time greatly informs this film as it was made during a time of political instability in Europe. Leone and his writing collaborator’s sought to de-romanticise the idea of revolutions and to a certain extent, they succeeded. A revolution is just like any other conflict, whether the goals are noble, it still comes down to a war of ideals and in war, people die.

 

D.W. Griffith & the birth of a cinematic revolution

On February 18th at the Clunes Auditorium, a film called The Clansmen had it’s official premiere and would forever change the cinematic landscape, for all intents and purposes, it created the epic and would become known by it’s more well known title, Birth of a Nation.

It’s director was D.W.Griffith, who had already established himself as a talented director with his regular collaborator G.W. “Billy” Bitzer. The film immediately attracted controversy for it’s racially charged narrative, the NAACP took it as a clarion call to have the film banned (unsuccessfully) and D.W. Griffith spent the rest of his career apologising for it’s existence.

Before Birth of a Nation fundamentally changed cinema, D.W. Griffith entered the film industry as a struggling playwright and attempted to sell one of his scripts to Edwin Porter of Edison Studios, he found himself cast an actor in a film ‘Rescued from an eagle’s nest’ instead and began to pursue acting as a form of artistic pursuit instead.

Griffith was cast as a stage extra in a film called ‘Professional Jealousy’ for American Mutoscope and Biograph studio (Biograph for short) and it was here that Griffith would finally find his calling as a director. When Wallace McCutcheon (the studio’s primary director) fell ill, his son stepped in but failed to generate any revenue for the studio, as a result, the co-founder ‘Henry “Harry” Marvin offered Griffith a shot at being Biograph’s director.

The Adventures of Dollie was Griffith’s first attempt at directing, a short film about the kidnapping of a little girl by a gypsy peddler and his wife. The film itself is only notable for displaying Griffith’s talent for shot composition and narrative pacing. Griffith would make over a hundred film’s for Biograph in a variety of different genre’s and proved adept at nearly all of them. Griffith would gravitate towards the western and it was the civil war that would remain his primary interest long before Birth of a Nation emerged. Griffith would explore various themes of cowardice (House with the closed shutters) and Class (Swords & Hearts) but it wasn’t just the Civil War that interested Griffith as he also made a number of films depicting Native Americans as more than just villains for the western hero to face.

The film’s are remarkable artefacts of depicting Native American life from ‘The Red Man’s View’ which explored the struggle of a Kiowa tribe are evicted from their land by white settler’s and are forced to find new land to settle on, each time being moved on to Ramona which depicted the love story of a Sioux indian who falls in love with the adopted daughter of a wealthy Spanish family which ultimately leads to tragedy but the sad fact is that Griffith’s still elected to cast white men and women as Native Americans and would go on to dress up men and women in blackface for films such His Trust and His Trust Fulfilled.

This ultimately stains his legacy which is a shame because Griffith also made a number of westerns with women as the leads from The Female of the Species about a miner, his jealous wife, his sister and another woman traveling a desolate stretch of land, when the miner dies the ladies must fend for themselves to The Lonsdale Operator about a plucky young woman who manages to foil two robbers at a railroad station. These two films are both exercises in tension and pre-date Hitchcock by a number of years. In Female of the Species builds up the tension nicely between the three women, as the wife and sister-in-law blame the other woman for the death of the husband and plan to kill her until they come across a baby lying in the arm’s of it’s dead mother and all hatred subsides (I don’t buy that ending but everything leading up to it is a thrilling example of how to execute tension.

Griffith’s also made a number of films about social ills such such as Alcoholism (The Drunkard’s Reformation) poverty (The Song of the Shirt) crime (The Musketeer’s of Pig Alley which could be considered the first gangster film ever made) & greed (A corner of wheat) but he would always return to the western and civil war setting for better or worse.

Griffith’s name has been forever tarnished in the following decades since Birth of a Nation was released but his contributions to the emerging film industry at it’s inception cannot be denied.

 

 

Moonlighting: The Show that broke all the rules

In early 1984, writer/producer Glenn Gordon Caron was offered a lucrative agreement with ABC most writer’s would’ve killed for, this agreement had Caron setting up his own company in order to create television show’s for the network. Caron and producer Jay Daniels already had two pilots ready to go, they both failed. The network came to Caron and Daniels with an idea of their own, a boy/girl detective show, they didn’t care what Caron did with it, just as long as they kept the format. Caron initially baulked at the idea, he’d already dipped his oar into those waters with Remington Steele and wasn’t pleased with the experience. The idea grew on him, or should I say, the idea he could do whatever he wanted with the format and started work on a pilot script, Moonlighting was born.

During the writing process, Caron formed an image of the character Maddie Hayes and kept going back to Cybill Sheperd, he sent a draft of the script to Cybill (who had only just recently returned from treading the boards in Memphis and New York) and she fell in love with it. Caron had found his Maddie Hayes. Maddie’s sparring partner, David Addison was a tougher find, the network wanted a handsome stud, until an unknown by the name of Bruce Willis auditioned and blitzed it, Caron immediately wanted a second audition with Sheperd to see how the chemistry was but she refused (her version may differ), it didn’t matter, Caron had found his David Addison.

Caron’s approach as showrunner was unorthodox to say the least as he began spending more than the allotted budget he was given, in Caron’s mind he was making a movie every week and he believed it should show on the screen. The pilot and first half of the season was rough going until something clicked and the show became a hit, once it did, it allowed Caron some breathing room at budget meetings but the network made their presence known. It wasn’t until the second season that Caron really decided to push the television format and showcase his love of classic movies at the same time, Caron flirted with Hitchcock homages during the first season with episodes such as ‘Murder’s in the Mail’ and ‘The Next Murder You Hear’ which contains a terrific opening sequence but he wouldn’t fully commit until ‘The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice’, a loving homage to film noir and filmed in black and white for authenticity, it was the game changer for the show. When Caron pitched the idea to the network, they wanted to film it in colour and drain it, Caron knew that wouldn’t work and convinced the network to let them film it with cameras and filmstock that would’ve been used if it had been made back in the forties, the process was costly but  the results were spectacular.

Caron had a hit show on his hands, both with audiences and critics but the production schedule was proving to be a nightmare, for both cast & crew. The erratic production schedule meant that episodes would just barely make it to the air date or not at all, having to be delayed until the following week, it became a running joke, so Caron decided to do something truly innovative, he had Bruce & Cybill open the Season 2 premiere by having them address the audience directly as Maddie & David, they would discuss why the network thought the latest episode was too short, get into an argument then storm off, only to have them come back as Bruce & Cybill. This would be occur every few episodes as a way to stretch the show out to it’s allotted timeframe so some episodes would begin with title credits and others with David & Maddie reading fanmail, David talking about his funk video etc but Caron would get more daring as the second season went on, having Bruce & Cybill walk off the set at the end of ‘T’Was the night before Christmas’ into a room full of the writers and their families as they sang a Christmas Carol, having David & Maddie walk into the Blue Moon Detective agency at the end of the episode ‘Camille’ to find that the set is literally being dismantled as Bruce & Cybill try to explain to Whoopi Goldberg & Judd Nelson why this is happening as they all start calling for their agents and in ‘The Straight Poop’ Rhona Barrett took a camera crew into the Blue Moon offices to find out why David & Maddie weren’t talking to each other. The word Meta was invented for Moonlighting.

Outside of The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice, Moonlighting usually kept things fairly grounded but in the third season, Caron introduced another element into the Moonlighting universe, fantasy. Caron indulged himself by staging a musical dance sequence in the episode ‘Big Man on Mulberry Street’ which has Bruce dancing surprisingly well with Sandahl ‘Yes, I was in something other than Conan’ Bergman in a lengthy sequence about the whirlwind marriage of David Addison to a high school sweetheart and it’s ultimate demise, it’s a thoroughly well-done sequence as the episode serves to stoke the David/Maddie romance fires, like ‘The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice’ which included a musical number by Cybill Sheperd, the sequence is seen through Maddie’s viewpoint, she processes the idea of David being married and her slowly becoming more attracted to him through the same sequence, only with Maddie as the object of his affection. Caron would also give us a Moonlighting variation on ‘It’s a wonderful life’ which could be considered the darkest episode in the entire series as Maddie finds out what happens to her if she had folded the Blue Moon Detective agency she originally planned.

The battle of the sexes is the driving force of the screwball comedies of the thirties and forties and is largely what drives the engine of Moonlighting. David & Maddie’s back and forth is probably the show’s greatest strength but it also deconstructs certain stereotypes. Maddie is basically the straight woman of the show, designed to play off David Addison’s childish persona, it’s a running gag that she’s always so serious when all she wants is for David to act like a responsible business partner, but we discover over the course of the series that Maddie is a fundamentally lonely woman, she lives alone and she’s largely seen as a dragon by her employees because she wants to run a business, not a funhouse. This isn’t to say Maddie is completely humorless 24/7 but alot of it is reactions to David’s sexist remarks and behaviour, this was explored in the episode ‘Blonde on Blonde’ where Maddie revealed the constant arguing with David was getting tiresome to her, so she refuses to engage, as David tries to find the spark that will turn on the engine (because that’s what the viewers want) and get’s her to reveal why she’s unresponsive, when Maddie finally does open up and tells him about a sexual fantasy she’s been having, David reacts like he’s hearing it from his sister which leads David to do something he really had no business doing and probably the worst night of his life.

I won’t claim that Moonlighting was the first T.V. show to do this but that one moment was a shot fired for eighties feminism (I doubt Caron saw it that way) then there’s the romance between Bert & Agnes. Agnes DiPesto began as a kooky secretary on the show and nothing more but as the series progressed, it occasionally gave us detours through Agnes world beginning with ‘Next Stop Murder’ a homage to Murder on the Orient Express, ‘North by North DiPesto’ another Hitchcock tribute & ‘Poltergeist III Dipesto Nothing’ where Agnes attempts to solve a case by herself to prove that she’s more just a secretary, with a little help from Bert Viola. When Bert Viola was first introduced to the show, he was being sexually assaulted by Agnes, who for whatever reason just couldn’t keep her hands off him and chased him around the office in a sexual frenzy until Bert finally said, enough, and got nothing but scorn in return. It was all played for laughs with Agnes as the sexual aggressor (which is both positive and negative) and Bert as the unwilling focus of Agnes lust (if the roles were reversed, it would be sexual harassment).

After the third season, the show began it’s inevitable decline, some have blamed it on the David/Maddie/Sam romance and Maddie’s eventual marriage to a total stranger, others blamed it on various factors such as Bruce’s emerging superstardom in the wake of Moonlighting and his constant behind the scenes bickering with Cybill Sheperd but those first three seasons were some of the best television ever created, if the show stopped after the third season, it might’ve been a near flawless show. Moonlighting would remain Glenn Gordon Caron’s greatest achievement, he moved onto a film career which included the films Clean & Sober, Wilder Napalm (which was written by Vince Gilligan) Love Affair and Picture Perfect before going back to Television with shows such as Now & Again (another favorite of mine) and Medium.  Glenn Gordon Caron brought screwball comedy into the modern age and we’re all the better for it.