Archive for July, 2012

Quiet(er) on the blogging front

Posted in Writing and blogging on July 30th, 2012

For some reason, I thought August was going to be a fairly placid month. After all, I’ve already written (but not edited) the two-part essay that will make up most of the September Cites & Insights and part of the October issue as well; another essay for September’s already in place; and I just finished doing a little recheck of an old spreadsheet that will yield (most or all of) the rest of the October issue. Figure a week to turn the results into an essay (and a new page here, one that LSW members have a head’s-up for).

But there’s also… [Updated 8/2 to correct personal misunderstandings and keep track for myself!]

  • Comments due by the end of August as an external reviewer for a promotion review; I will do that this week (and, given the candidate, it’s a pleasure)\
  • Speaker forms and bio for Internet Librarian speech by 8/26 (slides & draft due September 26; whew)
  • Some specific blogging expectations on a different blog, second full week of August.
  • Almost forgot: I should get proposed editorial changes for my social networking book this month…Later
  • I agreed to do a foreword for a book, also due by the end of the month.
  • Oh, and as noted in the previous post, IMLS just released the FY2010 public library database, and I’d like to at least get started on the real, improved, useful Give Us a Dollar and You’ll Get Back Four in August, so I can finish in September (or at worst October) [This last one is the biggie and drives other deadlines.]

Not complaining. But this does mean that post traffic here is likely to be even lighter than usual. Not that anybody will notice the difference…

 

Speak now…

Posted in Books and publishing, Libraries on July 30th, 2012

You already know the rest of the line, and it doesn’t really apply.

But.

I would love to have any further comments on the desirability or advisability of doing the vastly-revised Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four, based on FY2010 data.

This post is your best bet for background.

I’d particularly like to hear from you (strange as this may seem) if you think there’s a reason I should not do this–that it in some way could harm public libraries.

Why now?

Because the uncertainty as to when IMLS would release the FY2010 data has been resolved: It just did. I’ve downloaded the data and documentation, but haven’t yet started looking at it.

There are some other things I need to attend to first, but I’m guessing I could turn my attention to this in another week or so–and that, interspersed with other requirements in August, I could have the book done in six to eight weeks.

So: If this is a bad idea, I should really hear why. Now.

Thanks.

[Will there be another huge gap in C&I as a result of this project? Probably not.]

A matter of degrees

Posted in Stuff on July 25th, 2012

Two matters, actually–and if you’re looking for thoughts on the ML[I]S or anything like that, you’ve come to the wrong place.

104? 40

Matter the first: I’d noticed a few news stories over the past week or so mentioning how difficult life in (Europe, Australia, wherever) when it was over 104 so often. And in my hindbrain, something started saying “104? Why 104? Why such a specific number?”

Then I read an interview with a Melbourne official talking about their various climate problems–flooding after a long run of 104-degree days. “104? Why 104?”

And then it hit me.

The Melbourne official didn’t say “104.” Neither did those non-US press reports when originally written.

9×5 + 32.

They were all saying “40 degrees.” Centigrade. Which is, aha, 104F.

And which is a perfectly good slightly vague version of “HOT,” although not, say, 50C (“TOO DAMN HOT FOR ANYBODY TO DEAL WITH“–or 122F, if you’d like).

Sometimes three or four degrees makes all the difference

Matter the second: Yesterday, our 7-year-old Honda Civic was due for the Dreaded Maintenance that comes at 7 years if mileage doesn’t get there first (and our car has less than 32,000 miles on it).

Namely, replacing the timing belt. And the water pump, ‘cuz it’ll probably go not too much later, and now that the engine’s half-disassembled… And the other drive belts, because they’ll age out soon also.

I won’t mention the overall price, which in our case also included new spark plugs and the usual 30,000-mile maintenance. (It was three digits, but high three digits. But at least it was three digits, not four…and in a relatively expensive market. Independent mechanic that only works on Hondas, Acuras and a couple of other Japanese makes.)

A sidebar that’s even less relevant than the main post: A local Honda dealership with extensive maintenance facilities had some online service coupons. Including a great one: They’ll give you the timing belt free when you replace the timing belt. So I looked at the detailed invoice for our maintenance. Out of, well, more than $700 and less than $1,000, the timing belt itself was a whopping $21. What a deal!

 

So anyhow: For most maintenance, I bring in the car, bring along some reading, and wait until it’s done–usually an hour or two. But that didn’t make sense for what’s a most-of-the-day service.

The shop provided transportation back to my house.

At 3 p.m., they called and said the car was (or soon would be) ready. My wife said I should call a cab, ‘cuz it was too hot to walk. I looked at the outdoor thermometer: 86F-87F. Said, ‘Nah.’ Put on sunscreen, filled my water bottle, and took off–I already knew it was 3.4 miles walking. Promised I’d take it easy. Took our emergency cell phone just in case.

A good walk, although unfortunately the path is one where there’s very little if any breeze–unlike our daily neighborhood 1.4-mile walk, which usually has somewhere between a strong breeze and VERY strong wind. I got there right around 4 p.m.–as promised, I wasn’t pushing it at all. (Yes, I did accompany my wife on the neighborhood walk later. This 3.4 miles wasn’t like a typical Wednesday hike: Maybe 50 feet total up & down, all sidewalks except for one block, 3.4 miles instead of 4 to 6 miles–and since it was sidewalks, I was wearing my usual “business” Rockports instead of my inexpensive hiking shoes, and the Rockports are much better walking shoes.)

Here’s the thing: Monday around 3 p.m. was also around 91-92 degrees (F, of course: short of the sun going nova, it’s not ever going to get up to 92C!).

Monday, I would have called a cab and paid the $12-$15 (most of the cabs here are Prii, or whatever the plural of Prius is).

Sometimes three or four (or five) degrees makes all the difference–in this case between “warm but walkable” and “too hot to voluntarily walk 3.4 miles.”

Deep significance of this post: I posted something this week.

Cites & Insights August 2012 (12:7) available

Posted in Cites & Insights on July 20th, 2012

Cites & Insights 12:7 (August 2012) is now available for downloading at http://citesandinsights.info/civ12i7.pdf.

The 58-page issue is also available as a single-column 6×9 PDF designed for e-reading (at http://citesandinsights.info/civ12i7on.pdf)-but please don’t use that version for printing, as it’s 119 pages long.

The issue consists of one essay:

Intersections:
It Was Never a Universal Library:
Three Years of the Google Book Settlement  (pp. 1-58)

Recounting events in the 8-year-old Google Book lawsuits since March 2009, when most of us assumed that the proposed settlement would be approved, and we were primarily discussing whether it was on balance good or bad. It’s quite a story, and it’s not over yet…

Please don’t use the HTML version for printing either, as it’s likely to run at least 91 single-spaced pages.

Reminder: Still looking for feedback…

I’d still like to get feedback on Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. See here.

 

Give Us a Dollar: Any interest? (Redux)

Posted in Libraries on July 18th, 2012

I think it’s worth asking the question once again:

Is there any interest in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four?

Here’s a blurb (thanks again to Laura Crossett):

Your public library is in competition with a lot of other agencies–city, county, district, even state–for money. You want your library to sustain its current services and expand them in the future. You know you get a lot of bang for your buck, but how do you show that to the people who hold the purse strings? One way is to use the data in Give Us a Dollar and We’ll Give You Back Four. Walt Crawford has compiled, analyzed, and organized library funding and service data from all around the United States. Give Us a Dollar will let you compare your services to those of other similar libraries at a glance and will help give you the data you need to show your funders how much you already stretch their dollars–and how much more you could provide with even a few dollars more.

To get the best idea of what I have in mind, read the first six pages of the one-column version of the July 2012 Cites & Insights (or use this HTML version instead), up to “The Current Structure.”

I think the book–as now conceived–could be useful both as a snapshot of how America’s public libraries did (using a number of measurable service metrics) in FY2010 and, for individual libraries, a quick way to position themselves against libraries of similar size and funding, to help improve or at least retain funding levels.

I could use expressions of interest, which are not in any way commitments to purchase.

[If it matters: Assume that the PDF price will probably be around $15 and the paperback price around $25, possibly less--and that price includes the assumption that I'll email each purchaser the data line for his or her own library on request, making it even easier to position his or her library.]

A simple email–“Yes, this might be interesting” (or, on the other hand, “No, we don’t want any more data” or “We already have all the money we need” or “We don’t trust your work”)–to waltcrawford@gmail.com, or a simple comment to this post would help.

[I have no idea when IMLS will release FY10 numbers. Could be next week. Could be October. I figure the book should take about six weeks to two months to do, once the IMLS figures are available.]

Possible disruption

Posted in Stuff on July 17th, 2012

If there’s anybody who comes by here on a regular basis, you might see some disruptions today.

I’m trying to fix an issue with the “collapsing” archive on the sidebar–which no longer collapses–by deleting and reinstalling it.

That means that, for some period, there won’t be any collapsing archive or there will be a call in the HTML that isn’t referenced.

This should all be fixed by this evening. Or not.

Update, a little bit later:

Deleting and reinstalling had no effect.

I’ve replaced Collapsing Archives with Moo Collapsing Archives (an updated fork). It sort of works–the “sort of” being that months won’t collapse into years. That makes the sidebar longer than I’d like. I’ve coped, sort of, by moving categories to come before the date archive (and pages to come after).

I guess this will do for now, until I have time to find something better. Meanwhile, on to get something accomplished…

Cites & Insights Readership, part 2

Posted in Cites & Insights on July 14th, 2012

How about article readership–that is, articles viewed independently as HTML files rather than as parts of issues?

Page views in 2012

The recent view numbers (January 1-July 8, 2012) are interesting, and maybe a little surprising (or not). Nineteen articles have been viewed at least 450 times in the first half of 2012:

Articles 2012 Title
v7i2c.htm 1,003 Perspective: Conference Speaking: I Have a Little List
v9i10c.htm 844 Perspective: Academic Library Blogging: A Limited Update
v6i10a.htm 710 Perspective: Looking at Liblogs: The Great Middle
v8i4c.htm 604 Old Media/New Media Perspective: Thinking About Kindle and Ebooks
v9i2a.htm 560 A was for AAC: A Discursive Glossary, Rethought and Expanded
v12i3a.htm 552 Public Library Closures: On Not Dropping Like Flies
v8i1c.htm 537 Perspective: Discovering Books: OCA & GBS Retrospective
v12i1b.htm 521 Making it Work: It’s Academic (or not)
v11i7b.htm 515 Copyright Comments: Public Domain
v9i9b.htm 514 Offtopic Perspective: 50 Movie Comedy Classics, Part 1
v9i4a.htm 512 Perspective: The Google Books Search Settlement
v10i3a.htm 503 Making it Work: Philosophy and Future
v9i3c.htm 494 Interesting & Peculiar Products
v6i12d.htm 483 Open Access Perspective, Part II: Pioneer OA Journals: Preliminary Additions from DOAJ
v8i4b.htm 468 Library Access to Scholarship
v8i9b.htm 467 Perspective: Updating the Book Discovery Projects
v12i1a.htm 464 Bibs & Blather
v12i1c.htm 458 Offtopic Perspective: 50 Movie Box Office Gold, Part 1
v9i12a.htm 455 Library Access to Scholarship

I’m a little surprised that the first one–now five years old–is the most popular article this year. (I’m a little surprised by the first five in general.)

Worth noting: v8i11c is an earlier item on Google Books, as is v8i9b (and, of course, v9i4a). You folks should look forward to the August 2012 C&I.

I’m pleased to see that old movie reviews continue to be popular–and if I’d extended the table two more rows, you’d see The Back from March 2012 at 444, so I guess I’ll keep doing the snarky stuff as well.

Page views total

What about total pageviews–noting that early volumes of C&I didn’t have HTML separates? Twenty-two articles have at least 6,000 pageviews to date:

Articles Total Title
v6i2a.htm 20,895 Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0”
v6i10a.htm 15,564 Perspective: Looking at Liblogs: The Great Middle
v7i2c.htm 15,165 Perspective: Conference Speaking: I Have a Little List
v5i10b.htm 15,057 Perspective: Investigating the Biblioblogosphere
v5i13a.htm 11,482 Perspective: Life Trumps Blogging
v7i1b.htm 8,532 Perspective: Book Searching: OCA/GBS Update
v5i5a.htm 7,669 Bibs & Blather
v6i12d.htm 7,275 Open Access Perspective, Part II: Pioneer OA Journals: Preliminary Additions from DOAJ
v6i4a.htm 7,133 Perspective: Folksonomy and Dichotomy
v8i4c.htm 6,904 Old Media/New Media Perspective: Thinking About Kindle and Ebooks
v6i6a.htm 6,866 Perspective: Discovering Books
v7i9a.htm 6,860 Perspective: On the Literature
v6i3a.htm 6,707 Followup Perspective: Beyond Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0”
v6i12a.htm 6,640 Open Access Perspective Part I: Pioneer Journals: The Arc of Enthusiasm, Five Years Later
v6i13a.htm 6,456 Net Media Perspective: What About Wikipedia?
v6i3e.htm 6,440 (C)2 Perspective: What NC Means to Me
v6i4d.htm 6,353 PC Progress, October 2005-February 2006
v5i14a.htm 6,269 Perspective: OCA and GLP 1: Ebooks, Etext, Libraries and the Commons
v6i5a.htm 6,188 Perspectives: Seventyfive Facets
v6i8e.htm 6,069 (C)3 Perspective: Finding a Balance 2: Signs of Imbalance
v6i1c.htm 6,012 Interesting & Peculiar Products
v6i1e.htm 6,002 (C)2 Perspective: Will Fair Use Survive?

I don’t see a huge number of surprises there–except for v5i5a, Bibs & Blather, which was (as is typical) purely functional: I was explaining a few changes in sections and why I was starting to do HTML separates.

If this list is at all a guide, it says I should continue writing about blogging, Google Books, open access, media and copyright, as well as other things. Well, copyright’s been paid close attention to this year; Google Books will get the year’s longest issue in a week or two; a blogging article will probably be in the September issue. I think OA is now my largest set of Diigo tags, so that will show up–and I’ll never stop writing about media.

There’s one more way of looking at article readership: Adding issue (PDF) downloads to article (HTML) pageviews. That yields a somewhat astonishing 80 articles for which I can assert a combined readership of more than 10,000, way too big a table to include here and including a wild variety of stuff. Even a cutoff of 12,000 or more yields 29 articles–which is long, but maybe not too long.

Total readership including HTML pageviews and PDF downloads

Here it is–“Gtotal” is short for Grand Total. (vlookup makes this table plausible, although nontrivial.)

Articles Gtotal Title
v6i2a.htm 54,059 Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0”
v6i10a.htm 25,181 Perspective: Looking at Liblogs: The Great Middle
v5i10b.htm 24,807 Perspective: Investigating the Biblioblogosphere
v7i2c.htm 20,498 Perspective: Conference Speaking: I Have a Little List
v5i13a.htm 17,071 Perspective: Life Trumps Blogging
v7i1b.htm 16,187 Perspective: Book Searching: OCA/GBS Update
v5i5a.htm 15,502 Bibs & Blather
v5i10d.htm 15,003 (C)2 Perspective: Orphan Works
v6i4a.htm 14,397 Perspective: Folksonomy and Dichotomy
v6i12d.htm 14,345 Open Access Perspective, Part II: Pioneer OA Journals: Preliminary Additions from DOAJ
v6i12a.htm 13,710 Open Access Perspective Part I: Pioneer Journals: The Arc of Enthusiasm, Five Years Later
v6i4d.htm 13,617 PC Progress, October 2005-February 2006
v6i10b.htm 13,529 Bibs & Blather
v4i12a.htm 13,498 Perspective: Wikipedia and Worth
v6i4e.htm 12,976 Offtopic Perspective: 50-Movie All Stars Collection 1
v7i1d.htm 12,892 Finding a Balance: Patrons and the Library
v6i6a.htm 12,883 Perspective: Discovering Books
v7i9a.htm 12,654 Perspective: On the Literature
v4i3c.htm 12,621 PC Progress, July 2003-January 2004
v6i12b.htm 12,588 Old Media/New Media: Books, Bookstores and Ebooks
v5i14a.htm 12,551 Perspective: OCA and GLP 1: Ebooks, Etext, Libraries and the Commons
v6i4b.htm 12,547 The Library Stuff
v4i12b.htm 12,337 Copyright Currents
v4i12c.htm 12,316 Offtopic Perspective: The Rest of the DoubleDoubles
v6i13a.htm 12,173 Net Media Perspective: What About Wikipedia?
v6i4c.htm 12,058 (C)1: Term & Extent
v6i3a.htm 12,052 Followup Perspective: Beyond Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0”
v4i12d.htm 12,037 Interesting & Peculiar Products
v6i9a.htm 12,008 Bibs & Blather

 

 

Cites & Insights readership: Part 1

Posted in Cites & Insights on July 13th, 2012

I finally got around to updating Cites & Insights “readership” statistics (based on Urchin logs), adding a column for the first half of 2012 (actually through July 8, 2012). I thought it might be amusing to note some of the items.

Most widely-read issues in 2012

Looking only at PDF downloads (and combining the traditional two-column PDF versions and the single-column online-oriented versions of recent issues), here are the 11 most frequently downloaded issues for the first half of 2012:

Issues 2012 2012On T2012
civ12i4.pdf 809 424 1,233
civ6i2.pdf 1,063 1,063
civ12i2.pdf 715 306 1,021
civ12i3.pdf 611 254 865
civ12i1.pdf 640 19 659
civ4i13.pdf 556 556
civ12i5.pdf 339 153 492
civ10i11.pdf 491 491
civ9i4.pdf 463 463
civ12i6.pdf 271 183 454
civ6i12.pdf 403 403

[In case the columns aren't clear: "2012" is the count of downloads of the filename as stated. For issues in volume 12, "2012On" is the count of downloads of the single-column version. "T2012" is the sum of the two counts.]

The first row is gratifying–the May 2012 C&I, featuring the second half of the Public Library Closures study along with a Futurism section and the last part of the three-part Social Networks roundup, has had very solid readership–and, notably, one-third of the downloads are of the one-column version.

The second is, frankly, mystifying: Even now, Library 2.0 and “Library 2.0″ gets more “readers” than most new issues–and I say “readers” because so few of those apparent readers will take the trouble to actually get the issue (or buy the Reader: two this year, I think)–the actual issue (saved under a different name, a name that’s provided on the pdf) has been downloaded all of ten (count ‘em, 10) times in 2011. Thus, apparently, 99% of those who came looking for the issue couldn’t actually be bothered to cut-and-paste or key in a relatively short URL in order to read it. (OK, I know, that issue is linked to in various places, including Wikipedia, and most people really don’t care.)

The next three are all Volume 12 issues, and those are all reasonable numbers. It’s odd that almost nobody chooses the single-column version of the January/February issue; otherwise, roughly one out of three seems right (with the latest issue getting a higher percentage of single-column readers).

The others?

  • Civ4i13 (November 2004) was a mix of six different essays with no clear dominant theme
  • Civ10i11 (November 2010) featured a Zeitgeist piece on Blogging Groups and Ethics (and three other essays–maybe it’s the Legends of Horror movie reviews that draw the readers?)
  • Civ9i4 is a single-essay issue on the Google Books Settlement–and this might be a good place to announce that the August 2012 Cites & Insights, due out later this month, is a (longer) followup to that essay
  • Civ6i12 (October 2006) had five essays–oh, look, there’s another set of old movie reviews–with two of the five on pioneer OA journals.

If you’re wondering: eight more issues had at least 300 downloads in the first half of 2012; 51 had 200 to 299; 81 had 100 to 199; and nine had fewer than 100 (including three issues that are relocated Library 2.00-related issues)–and five of those are end-of-volume indexes, not actual issues. The only regular issue with fewer than 100 downloads in the first half of 2012 (it has 83) is Civ4i14, December 2004, a 22-page issue with nine different essays, none of them particularly compelling.

So what I see is that readership of older issues continues over time, even for issues that weren’t all that compelling.

Most widely-read issues to date

Now let’s look at the big picture: Total downloads from the inception of C&I at its current home (it was at two different locations before I established this domain) through July 8, 2012.

Issues Total
civ6i2.pdf 33,164
civ3i9.pdf 16,465
civ5i10.pdf 9,750
civ6i10.pdf 9,617
civ4i12.pdf 9,257
civ3i8.pdf 8,933
civ4i13.pdf 8,659
civ3i14.pdf 8,605
civ2ix.pdf 8,540

These nine issues have been downloaded at least 8,000 times (from citesandinsights.info). In addition to the obvious (Civ6i2), they include:

  • Civ3i9 – Midsummer 2003: Coping with CIPA: A Censorware Special
  • Civ5i10 – September 2005, including Investigating the Bibliogosphere and Orphan Works
  • Civ6i10 –  August 2006, Looking at Liblogs: The Great Middle
  • Civ4i12 – October 2004, two copyright essays and “Wikipedia and Worth” (among 7 essays in all)
  • Civ3i8 – July 2003, eight essays including one on copyright and one on OA.
  • Civ4i13 – already notes.
  • Civ3i14 – December 2003, seven essays, including one related to the USA PATRIOT act
  • Civ2ix – The index to Volume 2.

For what it’s worth, 13 issues have been downloaded 7,000 to 7,999 times; 14 6,000 to 6,999 times; 29 5,000 to 5,999 times; 28 4,000 to 4,999 times; 35 3,000 to 3,999 times; 19 2,000 to 2,999 times; 25 1,000 to 1,999 times; and 10 fewer than 1,000 times. (That final group includes two end-of-volume indexes and the trivial “hiatus” issue from last fall).

Next: Most frequently-viewed HTML essays.

Public libraries rarely close

Posted in Libraries on July 10th, 2012

Of the more than 9,000 public libraries in the U.S. (library systems and standalone libraries, not branches), only 36 have closed and remained closed over the 12 years from 1998 through 2009.

Thirty-six. Less than 0.4%. Over a dozen years.

Breaking down the 36

Of those 36, four are in communities that have full access to other public libraries within less than three miles.

What of the other 32?

  • Fourteen served fewer than 500 people each (including five serving fewer than 200).
  • Another seven served 539 to 984 people, but still fall into the smallest library category.
  • “Larger” public libraries include five serving 1,000 to 2,499 people; two serving 2,500 to 4,999; one serving 5,000 to 9,999; and three—one of them a bookmobile—serving 10,000 to 24,999. Not one of these is large enough to be classified as an urban library.
  • The total served by all 32 libraries: 73,931 people—not a trivial number, but still 0.02% of the population served by America’s public libraries, even though it’s roughly 0.4% of the nation’s libraries (noting that more libraries have opened than have closed over those 12 years).

For more information

For much more detail, including how I arrived at these figures, read “Libraries: Public Library Closures: On Not Dropping Like Flies” in Cites & Insights 12:3 (April 2012)–a preliminary study looking only at reported closures in 2008 and 2009–and “Libraries: Public Library Closures 2” in Cites & Insights 12:4 (May 2012).

And if you think this is important information for libraries trying to avoid budget cuts and closures, and faced with the claim that “public libraries are shutting down all across the country,” please link to this post or the articles.

Comedy Kings Disc 9

Posted in Movies and TV on July 6th, 2012

The Nut Farm, 1935, b&w. Melville W. Brown (dir.), Wallace Ford, Betty Alden, Florence Roberts, Spencer Charters, Oscar Apfel, Bradley Page. 1:05 [1:07]

A small businessman’s wife gets a postcard from her mother and brother, living in sunny California—and he’s just been offered $40,000 for his store (from a chain), a lot of money in 1935. Maybe they should move to California and buy a nut farm…

Next thing we know, they’ve arrived, first meeting the mother and brother’s half-deaf landlord (whose daughter is the brother’s girlfriend). The brother’s a wisecracking “producer”—or, rather, assistant director who hasn’t actually had a call in six weeks. And the wife has been reading an ad about Hollywood’s need for new faces and a great acting studio.

So we get the plot. She falls into the hands of a slick “producer”/drama coach, while her husband’s out looking for nut farms. He finds one—but she says she can star in a movie for an investment of $40,000, guaranteed to triple the money. And the smooth operator manages to con the husband as well—and even the brother, who he chooses on the spot to direct.

Caution: Spoilers ahead, but not the final round. Since the “producer” has already, um, spent all the money, filming will shut down early—but the kid’s going to shoot those final scenes somehow. When it all comes together and gets its premiere showing, it gets laughed off the screen. As a drama, it’s a pretty good comed…oh, wait… Anyway, after a few more twists, all winds up happily. And it’s funny: fast, well played, funny. Not a major motion picture, but a nice little flick. I’ll give it $1.25.

Palooka, 1934, b&w, Previously reviewed in C&I 7.5.

The Perils of Pauline, 1947, color. George Marshall (dir.), Betty Hutton, John Lund, Billy De Wolfe, William Demarest, Constance Collier, Frank Faylen, William Parnum, Chester Conklin, Snub Pollard, Bert Roach. 1:36.

The good news here is that the film is in Technicolor—a little faded but still wholly enjoyable—and the print is about as good as these ever get: Still VHS quality but very good VHS quality. The better news is that this is a thoroughly enjoyable comedy about movie-making, with Betty Hutton showing herself to be a great physical comedienne as well as a fine singer and accomplished deliberate scenery-chewer.

Hutton plays Pearl White—who did star in the actual serial The Perils of Pauline, but whose life had only certain points in common with this combined romance, musical comedy and satire of early silent churn-em-out movie-making. The first introduction to the movie factory, in which Hutton winds up raging through a series of doors and, in the process, through four or five entirely different movies being made, is nothing short of classic. The supporting cast is also first-rate.

I could go on, but the plot itself is somewhat secondary. If you’re looking for a pure biography of Pearl White, this ain’t it—but I don’t think it was ever intended to be. (Reading the negative reviews on IMDB, I can practically smell the grinding compound on the axes.) This movie is delightful, and I couldn’t possibly give it less than $2.

The Rage of Paris, 1938,b&w. Henry Koster (dir.), Danielle Darrieux, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Mischa Auer, Louis Hayward, Helen Broderick. 1:18.

The plot, such as it is: French girl in New York, trying to find work, bluffs her way into a modeling job but takes the wrong address slip—and soon finds herself half-stripped when a businessman walks in to his office. After she flees following an odd conversation, her friend in the apartment house convinces her she needs to marry a rich man, and engages a maître d’ who’s just about saved up enough to open his own restaurant to underwrite the girl so she looks uptown and can snare a millionaire.

Which she does—except that the millionaire’s a good friend of the businessman, who knows she’s up to no good. This leads to him kidnapping her, a variety of stuff happening, her realization that she loves him, his saying “and just when did you find out I’m wealthier than my friend?”—and, of course, it all works out in the end.

It’s an early romantic comedy with some screwball elements, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. plays the businessman with flair. (Darrieux and Auer—the maître d’—are also first-rate, and the rest of the cast is more than adequate.)It’s charming and in the best romcom tradition, years before the genre was really solidified. The print’s pretty good, and I think it’s easily worth $1.50.


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