Standing – Robert Mulligan, William Wyler, George Cukor, Robert Wise, Jean-Claude Carrière and Serge Silverman. Sitting – Billy Wilder, George Stevens, Luis Buñuel, Alfred Hitchcock and Rouben Mamoulian. (Photo from 1972, posted at John Greco’s blogsite Watching Shadows on the Wall.)
Note: This is the second entry in an ongoing series of bloggers who have really made a difference, raising the bar for quality and productivity on the cultural front.
by Sam Juliano
Everyone has their own special niche. Floridian John Greco, who lived most of his life in and around New York City has amassed an enviable collection of photographs of yesteryear, when movies premiered in red-carpeted palaces, and with it an incredible memory of the times he was an active participant during cultural upheaval. At his two blogsites, the widely popular Twenty Four Frames and the newer Watching Shadows on the Wall, Greco has made film history a central focus, unearthing rare photographs (like the priceless one that heads this piece) across the entire cultural spectrum, and covering films that were released in the 60’s and 70’s, but never caught on with the public. An avid movie goer since the late 60’s, Greco continues to this very day to maintain a torrid pace at theatres for the current fare, while negotiating the DVD front for a continuing examination of classic cinema.
While Greco makes no secret that his favorite genre is “film noir” and has reviewed virtually every major entry at Twenty Four Frames, he is still as diversified as any blogger-critic out there, and his background in film is extraordinarily comprehensive. A patron of the old Video Shack and RKO Video Store on 49th Street in Manhattan, where all the action was from the mid 7o’s well in the 80’s, Greco has admitted he dropped more money than he’d like to remember in those days when Betamax tapes had better quality than their VHS counterparts, while simultaneously collecting music CDs during the glory days of rock.
Relentless almost to a fault the married Greco’s area of specialty is unquestionably film history, and his exhaustive reviews contain a lead-in which frames the work’s conception, incubation and exhibition, while almost always including it’s critical reception. The author then discusses the film’s artistry, themes, story and performances, and either some interesting anecdote or trivia related to someone in the film or behind the camera. One reading a film review by John Greco is sure to get a crash course better than any informational site, as the personalized touch here has been informed by years of experience and research, exquisite taste and a very fair consistency in asserting value judgement. Greco is not quick to kill, yet he isn’t afraid to admit when he doesn’t always following prevailing opinion as in the case with Frank Capra’s beloved Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), which he derides as “corny” or Howard Hawks’s Sergeant York a film that Greco says is “artificial in story and performance.” Yet the recently-retired former New Yorker readily admits he loves most of Capra, Hawks, and especially Billy Wilder, a director that inspired Greco to pen two of his best Twenty Four Frames reviews on Ace in the Hole and Sunset Boulevard.
While Greco isn’t the only blogger that could be described as exceedingly prolific, his activity on several fronts all at the same time is what makes his performance miraculous. Watching DVDs at home, and reviewing a large percentage at his main site, and posting some contemporary reviews at Watching Shadows, Greco still finds time to gather poster art, old photographs and recent obits, and run holiday displays and press releases of what’s happening on the movie and music scene. Greco was the first for example, to showcase a full post on the popular “Newspaper film series” now running at Manhattan’s Film Forum, and on last summer’s ‘Brit Noir Festival’ at the same location, and in a recent engaging post asked readers to identify their own favorite newspaper-themed films. Greco is from the baby-boomer era, and he’s fiercely dedicated to 60’s rock, where John Lennon (who was recently displayed in another great photograph at Watching Shadows) holds a special place in his heart along with other icons Dylan and The Doors. Like his good friend Judy, the friendly British proprietor of Movie Classics, Greco has focused his attention in recent months on a number of films unavailable on DVD or video tape, and has motivated others to seek a number of these out with his descriptive writing. He has furthermore offered his services to help some locate the films as well.
Having a blogger with an impressive foundation in film noir, and a still excellent background in almost every other genre including foreign lanaguage cinema, who still visit others’ sites each and every day is quite a special accomplishment, and John Greco has combined this ‘gift’ with one of the most enthusiastic and personable approaches out there. It’s why places like Twenty Four Frames and Watching Shadows on the Wall are daily stops for so many.
They’ll be no real retirement for John for a quite a while yet, and his readers are the biggest winners.