John A. Douglas

Living Passionately In the World of the Moving Image

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John Douglas Passes Away

May 15th, 2015 · Grand Rapids Press, John Douglas Passes Away, John Serba, Tribute to John Douglas

It is with a very heavy heart that we report the passing last night of legendary movie critic, musician, and raconteur John A. Douglas. Here is the story from the WZZM TV13 web site. Here is a wonderful tribute from Grand Rapids Press columnist John Serba.

John was a unique man, with so many stories to share that he always had me (webmaster, Bill) in stitches. He was often referred to as a curmudgeon. And he may have been, on the surface. Underneath, he had a heart of gold.

This website went dormant years ago because John’s interest in movies waned as his love for music waxed. We often talked about creating a new web site that featured his music career as well as his countless stories. But John preferred to live life rather than write about it. So that site never happened.

Thank you for many years of friendship (and lots of laughs), John. You will be missed.

- Bill Murphy

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September 15th, 2010 · Fall 2010 Movie Schedules

Celebration: Woodland
Mondays and Wednesdays at 5:30 and 8:15 p.m.
Admission $2.99

Sept. 6 & 8 – The Godfather (1972), directed by Francis Ford Coppola, with Marlon Brando and Al Pacino. The story of a crime family that struggles as youth replaces the older members. 175 min.

Sept. 13 & 15 – The Godfather Part 2 (1974), directed by Frances Ford Coppola, with Al Pacino and Diane Keaton. The Corleone crime family continues to grow in wealth and power under the leadership of Michael Corleone. 200 min.

Sept. 20 & 22 – Tootsie (1982), directed by Sydney Pollack, with Dustin Hoffman and Jessica Lange. An out-of-work actor disguises himself as a woman in order to get a part in a soap opera. 116 min.

Sept. 27 & 29 – Dirty Harry (1971), directed by Don Siegel, with Clint Eastwood and Harry Guardino. A ruthless San Francisco cop pulls out all the stops to capture punks and a serial killer. 102 min.

Oct. 4 & 6 – Midnight Cowboy (1969), directed by John Schlesinger, with Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. A male prostitute from Texas moves to New York City where he develops a friendship with a street-wise hustler. 113 min.

Oct. 11 & 13 – Five Easy Pieces (1970), directed by Bob Rafelson, with Jack Nicholson and Karen Black. A man with a background of wealth and culture leaves it all to find himself on the highways and byways of America. 98 min.

Oct. 18 & 20 – Groundhog Day (1993), directed by Harold Ramis, with Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. A television weatherman discovers that he must live a single day of his life over and over and over and over. 101 min.

Oct. 25 & 27 – Jaws (1975) directed by Steven Spielberg, with Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw. A very large shark moves into the waters off a small New England community that fears the loss of tourist revenue if the word gets out. 124 min.

Nov. 1 & 3 – The King of Comedy (1982), directed by Martin Scorsese, with Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis. A man obsessed with being a stand-up comedian goes to dangerous lengths to accomplish his dream. 109 min.

Nov. 8 & 10 – M*A*S*H (1970), directed by Robert Altman, with Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould. Two doctors rely on humor and pranks to get them through the horrors of the Korean War. 116 min.

Nov. 15 & 17 – Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987), directed by John Hughes, with Steve Martin and John Candy. A man trying to get home for Thanksgiving has to deal with the elements along with an obnoxious traveler he picked up along the way. 93 min.

Nov. 29 & Dec. 1 – Chinatown (1974), directed by Roman Polanski, with Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway. A private detective investigating a case involving adultery gets tangled up in a murder case involving the powerful people of the community. 130 min.

Dec. 6 & 8 – The Princess Bride (1987), directed by Rob Reiner, with Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin. A fairytale (and a comedy) complete with a hero, villains and a princess bride. 98 min.

Dec. 13 & 15 – Tender Mercies (1983), directed by Bruce Beresford, with Robert Duvall and Tess Harper. A country-western singer tries to get his life together with the help of a woman and her son. 100 min.

Dec. 20 & 22 – The Christmas Story (1983), directed by Bob Clark, with Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon. A young boy schemes to get his parents to give him a BB gun for Christmas. 94 min.

Celebration: North
Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1:30 and 5:45 p.m. (Also a Sunday showing at 11 a.m. in the month of September.)
Admission $3.00

Sept. 7, 9 & 12 – Rebel Without A Cause (1955), directed by Nicholas Ray, with James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo. A rebellious young man with a troubled past comes to a new town, finding friends and enemies. 111 min.

Sept. 14, 16 & 19 – Singin’ in the Rain (1952), directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. The changeover in Hollywood from silent to sound movies is satirized in this musical considered to be one of the best. 103 min.

Sept. 21, 23 & 26 – Casablanca (1942), directed by Michael Curtiz, with Humhrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. A man’s life is changed when an old love turns up in his bar looking for a way out of Casablanca for herself and her husband. 102 min.

Sept. 28, 30 and Oct. 3 – The Wizard of Oz (1939), directed by Victor Fleming, with Judy Garland and Ray Bolger. A young girl from Kansas is swept up by a tornado and lands in the wondrous land of Oz. 101 min.

Oct. 5 & 7 – Sunset Blvd (1950), directed by Billy Wilder, with William Holden and Gloria Swanson. A screenwriter moves into a mansion owned by a silent film star who begins to control his life. 110 min.

Oct. 12 & 14 – Giant (1956) – directed by George Stevens, with Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. An epic story of life, love, lust and Texas crude. 201 min.

Oct. 19 & 21 – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), directed by Alfred Hitchcock, with James Stewart and Doris Day. A family vacationing in Morocco becomes involved in international intrigue that threatens to destroy the family. 120 min.

Oct. 26 & 28 – Dracula (1931), directed by Tod Browning, with Bela Lugosi and Helen Chandler. A vampire leaves his Transylvanian home to look for new blood. 75 min.

Nov. 2 & 4 – The Sting (1973), directed by George Roy Hill, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Two veteran con men set out to pull an elaborate con on a man who murdered their friend. 129 min.

Nov. 9 & 11 – Patton (1970), directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, with George C. Scott and Karl Mauldin. A biographical film covering the life of General Patton during World War II. 172 min.

Nov. 16 & 18 – It Happened One Night (1934), directed by Frank Capra, with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. When an heiress runs away from home, a reporter finds her and travels with her in order to get a story. 105 min..

Nov. 30 & Dec. 2 – Modern Times (1936), directed by Charles Chaplin, with Charles Chaplin and Paulette Goddard. A romance and a satire set against the struggle between workers and management. 87 min.

Dec. 7 & 9 – Show Boat (1951), directed by George Sidney, with Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson. A musical about life on a show boat travelling up and down the Mississippi River. 107 min.

Dec. 14 & 16 – The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), directed by Leo McCarey, with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. A priest and a nun struggle over whether or not to save a parochial school that has fallen on hard times. 126 min.

Dec. 21 & 23 – White Christmas (1954), directed by Michael Curtiz, with Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. A singer and a dancer do what they can do to save a vacation lodge owned by a man who they served under during the war. 120 min.

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Celebrating the Classics Winter/Spring, 2010, Schedule

December 28th, 2009 · Celebrationing the Classics Winter/Spring 2010 Schedule


Jan. 5 & 7

“All About Eve” (1950) Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, with Bette Davis and Anne Baxter. A ruthless young woman does whatever she can to be a star of the theater no matter who is hurt by her actions.

Jan. 12 & 14

“Cool Hand Luke” (1967) Directed by Stuart Rosenberg, with Paul Newman and George Kennedy. A man tries to keep his individuality while incarcerated in a chain gang. 126 min.

Jan. 19 & 21

“Sullivan’s Travels” (1941) Directed by Preston Sturges, with Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. In this comedy/drama a movie director takes on the disguise of a hobo in order to discover the real America during the depression. 90 min.

Jan. 26 & 28

“A Fistful of Dollars” (1964) Directed by Sergio Leone, with Clint Eastwood and Gian Maria Volonte. An Italian western in which a gunfighter manipulates two warring factions for his own profit. Based on the Japanese film “Yojimbo.” 99 min.

Feb. 2 & 4

“The Cocoanuts” (1929) Directed by Robert Florey and Joseph Santley, with the Marx Brothers and Margaret Dumont. The Marx Brothers bring their Broadway show to the movies and do anything for a laugh in a story set in a failing Florida resort hotel. 96 min.

Feb. 9 & 11

“Key Largo” (1948) Directed by John Huston, with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. A group of gangsters take over a small hotel as a place to ride out an oncoming hurricane. The cast also includes Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. 100 min.

Feb. 16 & 18

“The Apartment” (1960) Directed by Billy Wilder, with Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine. By renting his apartment to philandering executives, a man tries to rise within his company in this comedy/drama. 125 min.

Feb. 23 & 25

“The Letter” (1940) Directed by William Wyler, with Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall. Intrigue abounds on a rubber plantation when the wife of the manager is accused of murder and she says she is innocent. 95 min

Mar. 2 & 4

“West Side Story” (1955) Directed by Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins, with Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer. Based on “Romeo and Juliet,” this musical is about love that develops a boy and girl who are attached to different street gangs. 114 min.

Mar. 9 & 11

“Million Dollar Mermaid” (1952) Directed by Mervyn Leroy, with Esther Williams and Victor Mature. The swimming star of MGM was a perfect choice to play Annette Kellerman, the lady who introduced America to the one piece bathing suit. 115 min.

Mar. 16 & 18

“Twelve O’Clock High” (1949) Directed by Henry King, with Gregory Peck and Hugh Marlowe. When morale gets low in a bomber squadron during World War II, a tough officer is sent in to set things right. 132 min.

Mar. 23 & 25

“Going My Way” (1944) Directed by Leo McCarey, with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. An older priest and a young priest must learn each other’s ways in this heartwarming film that also contains wonderful music. 126 min

Mar. 30 & Apr. 1

“Seven Days in May” (1964) Directed by John Frankenheimer, with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. A group of military men plan to overthrow the government of the United States. 118 min.

Apr. 6 & 8

“Lonely Art the Brave” (1962) Directed by David Miller, with Kirk Douglas and Gena Rowlands. A modern day cowboy who can’t stand to be confined becomes the object of a manhunt in the mountains of New Mexico. 107 min.

Apr. 13 & 15

“In the Heat of the Night” (1967) Directed by Norman Jewison, with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. A racist southern sheriff gets a hand in a murder case from an urban cop who is black. 109 min.

Apr. 20 & 22

The Searchers” (1956) Directed by John Ford, with John Wayne and Jeffrey Hunter. When Indians kidnap a man’s niece, he devotes his life to the search for her no matter where it takes him. 119 min

Apr. 27 & 29

“Gone With the Wind” (1939) Directed by Victor Fleming, with Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. A classic tale of the Civil War in which a woman does what she can to survive the war. 238 min.


All movies in the Celebrating the Classics film series are shown at Celebration Cinema North located on the East Beltline and Knapp in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Prices are just $3.00 per show. Each showing will be introduced by film reviewer John Douglas.

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STORY – Harvey Pekar

August 10th, 2009 · Personal Stories

Very few periods of my life have been without comic books. From the days when comics could be purchased for a dime at newsstands, drugstores and anywhere a kid might frequent to these days when there are stores that specialize in comic books, I have loved comic books. During that period of time I made no secret of my lust for the stories printed in color on newsprint. Sometimes when I boasted of my love for comics, someone who was still in the comic closet would pipe up and reveal that they too read comics.

I remember once back in the 70s when I was running a film series on Monday nights at the Grand Rapids Art Museum, I happened to mention to the group that I was a major comic book fan and after the show was over, a friend I had met during the series asked me if I had ever read “American Splendor.” I had to admit that I had not and he indicated that I couldn’t be that much of a fan if I had not read “American Splendor.” I, of course, had my doubts that this friend knew what he was talking about.pekar

The next Monday evening my new friend arrived at the film series with five or six comic books, all of which were issues of “American Splendor.” He told me to take them home and read them and let him know what I thought.

I agreed to do so but the fact is that the comics didn’t look all that interesting to me, so they sat on my desk and began their downward trek to the bottom of a pile.

Before I managed to muster the energy to read an issue of “American Splendor,” my friend died.

Soon after his funeral I remembered that I still had his comics. [Read more →]

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August 9th, 2009 · Movie Reviews

Directed by Duncan Jones; produced by Stuart Fenegan and Trudie Styler; screenplay by Nathan Parker; story by Duncan Jones; director of photography, Gary Shaw; edited by Nicolas Gaster; music by Clint Mansell.
Sam Bell……………….Sam Rockwell
Voice of GERTY………Kevin Spacey

What in the world has happened to science fiction? It’s almost impossible to find a paperback book in the science fiction section of a bookstore that doesn’t have a wizard and/or a unicorn on the cover and as far as I’m concerned any story about a unicorn and/or a wizard is not science fiction.

Science fiction on television is also a problem. While they do have science fiction programs, most of them are space operas looking like nothing more than a clone of “Star Trek.” (Hasn’t Hollywood milked the “Star Trek” franchise dry? I think so.)

Science fiction in the movies often looks like no more than a sample reel for a computer graphics geek. In most science fiction movies, [Read more →]

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STORIES – Mrs. Lee and George M. Cohan

August 1st, 2009 · Personal Stories

I was notified last weekend that Mrs. Lee recently died at the age of 101. Mrs. Lee was the principal of the elementary school that I attended in the late 1940s in Glen Ferris, West Virginia.

We kids all knew that her real name was Virginia Lee but no kid that I ever knew said her name aloud either in front of her or behind her back. That kind of disrespect was too dangerous for we believed either consciously or subconsciously that she probably possessed powers that were not given to regular folks.Mrs. Lee

She was Mrs. Lee and that was that.

So what does Mrs. Lee have to do with movies? Nothing. But she does have something to do with one movie in particular. That movie is Michael Curtiz’ “Yankee Doodle Dandy” with James Cagney and Joan Leslie.

“Yankee Doodle Dandy” is a film that was built to elicit an emotional response from its audiences be they folks that lived through World War I and/or World War II. The film is filled with inspirational songs that were composed [Read more →]

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July 28th, 2009 · Resurrected Films

Directed by Akira Kurosawa, produced by Yoichi Matsue and Nikolai Sizov; screenplay by Akira Kurosawa and Yuri Nagibin; based on the diary of Vladimir Arseniev; cinematography by Fyodor Dobronravov, Yuri Gantman and Asakazu Nakai; art direction by Yun Raksha; music by Isaak Shvarts.


Derzu Uzala…………………. Maksim Munzuk
Capt. Vladimir Arseniev….…..Yuri Solomin
Mrs. Arseniev……….Svetlana Danilchenko
Wowa……………….…..…….Dimitri Korshikov
Jan Bao……..………..Suimenkul Chokmorov

Dersu small

I’ve never gotten over my love of stories of high adventure and I hope that I never will as there is no film more satisfying that one that tells a story about a man or woman or both up against an almost impossible situation. The part of my youth spent in movie theaters was, for the most part, reserved for stories of high adventure. I wasn’t too much interest in love stories or biographies or musicals. I wanted my 15 cents to go toward witnessing the activities of Hopalong Cassidy, Tarzan, the Durango Kid, [Read more →]

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STORIES – Walter Cronkite

July 20th, 2009 · Personal Stories

I just finished looking ar “Sunday Morning” on CBS which was dedicated to the career of Walter Cronkite. If you don’t know who Mr. Cronkite was then I will leave it to you to find out on your own. From the point of view of an 70 year-old man it would seem an insult to the intelligence to the majority of the readers of this article to have to explain who I’m talking about. It would like writing an article about Abraham Lincoln or Jesus Christ or [Read more →]

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STORIES – Me and Sophia

July 15th, 2009 · Personal Stories

As one who has been involved in movies most of his life – first as an avid fan and later as a film reviewer – I can report to you that there is a positive aspect that you are probably unaware of. I have seen so many movies and talked to so many movie people that they appear in my dreams sometimes as major players and at other times as guest stars.

A couple of nights ago I was involved in a dream that featured Sophia Loren. It’s great fun to be in a dream with a movie star but the fact that a movie star appears does not guarantee that I will remember much about the dream after I have been awake for awhile.

But for some reason there are dreams that I do remember a little about. I remember once I was in a dream with James Arness that took place on the top of a boxcar on a moving train. There was some gun play and Mr. Arness fell on top of me. I’m not sure whether he was wounded or dead although I would like to believe that he had suffered a flesh wound and was OK. I wouldn’t like the word to get out that it was difficult to survive my dreams.

Another time I was involved in some kind of adventure with Dick Tracy. Well, it was Dick Tracy as played by Ralph Byrd and I don’t remember much else about it. And speaking of Dick Tracy, I shared a dream not long ago with Warren Beatty who had nothing more than a walk-on role.

It happens all the time and for the most part I am pleased to have visitors from the silver screen involved in my dreams. But what about Ms. Loren? Well, the dream took place in New York City where I was attending a junket along with James Sanford, who was a reviewer for the Kalamazoo Gazette, and John Serba who was there representing The Grand Rapids Press.

For some reason I was to escort Ms. Loren to a screening of a movie and just as I was to shake hands with her, I woke up. I told my wife who was also awake that I just had a dream in which Sophia Loren appeared. “What happened?” she asked. “Nothing,” I said. “I woke up.”

Well, wouldn’t you know it? This was one of those times when I was able to go back to sleep and pick up the dream essentially where it had left off. I was standing with Ms. Loren and I was wondering what kind of intelligent thing I could say to Ms. Loren that would indicate to her that I was a man of great intellect.

“Do you still make Italian films?” is what I came up with. It had occurred to me that I had seen her only in American films in recent years. I don’t know what she said in return because the dream got chaotic after I helped Ms. Loren into a vehicle. The rest of the dream involved missing an airplane flight to the screening and trying to figure out how to get to the screening not knowing where it was taking place.

I don’t know what happened to Mr. Sanford and Mr. Serba and when all was said and done I really didn’t care. I had had a few moments with Sophia Loren which is as much as you can ask from a dream.

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DVD Review – Big Business

June 18th, 2009 · Resurrected Films

“Big Business” (1929) Directed by J. Wesley Home; titles by H. M. Walker; produced by Hal Roach; director of photography, George Stevens; edited by Richard Currier.
Stan……………….…….Stan Laurel
Ollie………………….…Oliver Hardy
Homeowner…..James Finlayson
Policeman……….…Tiny Sandford

Do you want to see a funny movie and I mean a really funny movie? Then search out “Big Business” with Laurel and Hardy. This silent film is only about 19 minutes long and was released in 1929 which makes it 10 years older than me. True movie buffs know that the age, length of a film is immaterial and that the ability of the characters to speak is not always essential.

In the 19 minute span of “Big Business” will give you [Read more →]

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