In the 1930s and '40s and even into the '50s, they were all over the newsstands on the street, in train stations, in bus stations and in drugstores: Movieland, Movie Life, Screen Stars, Photoplay, Modern Screen and Screen Album, just to name a few. The faces of glamorous screen queens and kings graced their covers, and everybody had a favorite movie magazine.
Are any of them still published today? I haven't seen one in years. But I haven't been looking, either.
The closest thing I've seen to the genre lately is AMC American Movie Classics Magazine. But you can't buy it at newsstands. You have to subscribe.
I don't, mind you, but somehow I got on the right list, and every month a new one comes in the mail. I must admit, as a fan of old movies the kind that show up on the AMC cable channel I read each issue from the front cover (which features a movie star's photo or a still from an AMC movie of the month) right through to the back cover (which promotes a movie AMC will be airing the following month). The March issue has a still from "Shane" on the front and, on the back, a studio portrait of the young Elizabeth Taylor in 1951's "A Place in the Sun".
Of course, unlike its popular counterparts from four or five decades ago, there is no gossipy trivia and not a hint of scandal in AMC's magazine. What fills the pages, in addition to the daily guide to what's on AMC, are feature articles on the channel's movies of the month. Most are by authors who know their stuff from having written books about the movies.
For example, this month's cover story is by Joseph McBride, the author of books on Frank Capra and John Ford. He writes about director George Stevens' longing to make a war movie and, oddly, how "Shane," a Western, fulfilled his wish. "The cattlemen against the ranchers, the gunfighter, the wide-eyed little boy: It was pretty clear to me what it was about," he quotes Stevens as saying in 1975, 22 years after the film was made. McBride also relates an interesting story about Stevens saving the movie's first gunshot until deep into the film and of how he emphasized the sound of it to shock his audience.
Other March articles are about the two versions of John Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men," the making of 1953's "The War of the Worlds," the problems encountered by movie-costume conservationists, and an interview with Edward L. Bernds, who directed two Three Stooges features and 25 of the comedy team's shorts.
If you're an old movie buff, this might be just the magazine for you, too.
To subscribe, call 1-877-542-6222. A year's subscription is $12.95.
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