New Film Class Explores So-called ‘B-Pictures’

During the golden age of Hollywood (1930’s), movie studios began making B-pictures and starting in October, GCC student Charles Lee Jackson II will teach a course on the history of these classics in North Hollywood.

Jackson, 56, has been a student here since 1991 and is working towards his associate degree in 2-dimensional visual arts. He taught Ephemeral Cinema in January and May and the class is being held as a fundraiser for the LA Science Fantasy Society Clubhouse in North Hollywood.

The Clubhouse is a non-profit organization and according to wikipedia.org, “It is the oldest continuously operating science fiction club in the world.”

The course is five weeks long and highlights the three decades of B-movies and the eight major genres in the movie industry: mystery and drama, fantasy, comedy, adventure, horror, musicals, westerns and science fiction.

“Ever since I was a kid I was interested in movies,” said Jackson, “I was disabled as a child; I have cerebral palsy, very mild. But it meant that as a kid I had to stay home a lot and on TV in those days, what you mostly had were old movies. So I watched a lot of old movies as a kid.”

His passion seems to lie in the B-pictures/movies. B-pictures were originally used as double features. Studios would turn out quick, shorter, films to go along with their feature films. This is where the phrases A-list and B-list stars were coined.

The A-listers were seen in the feature films that were given a larger budget while the B-listers worked on a much smaller budget and had less time to complete the project.

B-pictures were a way for many to get their ‘big break.’ According to wikipedia.org, stars such as John Wayne, Jack Nicholson, Robert Di Niro and Vincent Price got their start in B-movies, as well as directors Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. Most of former President Ronald Reagan’s acting career was in these types of films.

“A lot of people have a bad idea of B-pictures because of the really bad ones that were made in the 1950’s,” said Jackson. “Especially the science fiction pictures, where anybody who got a few thousand dollars would make a movie and [people,] especially journalists of that period, saw what the B-pictures of that time were and they kind of assumed that they’d always been that bad.”

Ed Wood is one of the more famous B-list science fiction movie makers.

Jackson is no stranger to the movie industry having worked in the business in the 1970’s. He was forced to stop due to stress so he went into film journalism instead, focusing on his appreciation for the B-pictures.

“I was always very curious about who the people were, what they did, how they got there,” said Jackson. “What they were when they weren’t in the movies and so just because of my curiosity I started finding books to read about them and a little later when I was old enough finding them and interviewing them myself.”

He has written for various magazines including Orbit, a Netherlands based magazine as well as FilmFax, a magazine dedicated to the B-movies. Jackson has written for Extra Added Attractions for the past six years, which is a magazine that he publishes himself.

Ephemeral Cinema will be every Tuesday night from 7-10 p.m. for five weeks beginning October 7. For more information about the class call (818) 246-2552.