Apr 30, 2006

Suddenly That Name Will Never Be the Same to Her...

Yesterday, Chicago's very own Hollywood Boulevard hosted a truly once-in-a-lifetime event: a weekend screening of West Side Story, the 1961 blockbuster that took home an incredible 10 Academy Awards and remains one of the best beloved musicals, and soundtracks, of all time. If ever a movie was made to utilize all the glorious dimension and immense size of a theatre screen, Story is it, with its dazzling color, incredible choreography, unforgettable Leonard Bernstein score and inventive cinematography...and did we mention Natalie Wood?

Yesterday, as well, blog frequenter (and my younger sister, thank you) Kyleigh also had a once-in-a-lifetime experience: she had the great fortune to meet with Russ Tamblyn, one of her favorite actors of all time and a foremost character in WSS! Russ and former Story co-star (and rival gang member, for those enthusiastic Sharks and Jets fans) George Chakiris hosted the movie's screening and visited with fans in the lobby throughout the day. While Kyleigh didn't have a chance to speak to Mr. Chakiris, she did snatch a photo of him, and she dishes on her meeting with a movie star:

"In awe, I made my way into the line for autographs. My line moved somewhat swiftly and before i knew it I was next. My mom had to do most of the talking seeing as I was completely speechless. The Russ Tamblyn I had had the most adoration for since the second I saw West Side Story was sitting less than a foot away. My mom told him that his biggest fan was standing in front of him and at that second, he looked up from the West Side Story dvd he was about to autograph and with the biggest smile, stuck out his hand and asked for my name. Surprisingly enough, I was able (barely, but able) to tell him. My father explained that The Haunting was his favorite (of Russ's movies), and my mother's favorite was Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and mine was West Side Story; once again, with a big smile, he told us how great that was. I was shocked at how down to earth he was! He asked me how to spell my name, and as I spelled it out he wrote it on my case and told me how beautiful the spelling of my name was. Thankfully my mom spoke up and asked if it was okay if I got my picture taken with him. My knees buckled as he put his arm on my shoulder and his face touched mine. I was completely numb and I walked away absolutely fulfilled...I wanted to talk to George Chakiris, but the theatre announcer told us it was time to go see the movie, so I didnt get a chance to interact with him. But I did get to see him, and thats good enough for me."

Kyleigh was at a loss for words when I asked her what seeing the film in that setting, and in those dimensions, was like, but she did say that she loved West Side Story even more after having experienced it in the theatre. And we celebrated a small victory - getting our parents to actually sit through it!

Kyleigh also adds: "Overall, I must say this was the best day of my entire life so if you get any opporitunity like this TAKE IT! Russ was unbelievably generous and the way George was giving out hugs and kisses, made me think that he was just as wonderful. This definitely proved that West Side Story is the paramount movie of all movies!"

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Masterpieces in May

For those of you whose penchant for procrastination prevents you from frequenting your local Blockbuster or library (my combined late fees are feared to be roughly the same figure as my current year's tuition), fret not - Turner Classic Movies will seem like a gift from heaven during the month of May. The best channel on basic cable kicks things off with a block of great dramas tomorrow evening, and proceeds to air some of the best movies ever made right up until Memorial Day weekend, when it screens great classic war-themed films like The Longest Day and They Were Expendable.
I've highlighted some can't-miss films for both the film buff and the interested blog visitor alike, but to view their complete summer schedule, visit their website.
During this week alone, you can catch:

Casablanca, (1942) the Bogey-Bergman classic, 5/1, 8:00 PM E
Citizen Kane (1967) 5/2, 12 AM E
The Philadelphia Story (1940) 5/2, 8 AM E
Double Indemnity (1944) 5/2, 12 PM E
Sunset Boulevard (1950) 5/2, 2 PM E
Gilda (1946) 5/6, 8 PM E

...as well as dozens of the best films of Bette Davis, some of director Elia Kazan's lesser-known and more controversial work, and a few groundbreaking films like Birth of A Nation (1915) and The Jazz Singer (1927).

Apr 28, 2006

Wild for Wilder

Why God, why? Why, knowing full well that I am a financially-unsound college student stranded in the westernmost of these United States, do you put on fantastical film festivals such as these way out in the Big Apple? Did I do something to deserve this?

Yes, New York's Film Forum is hosting a special double-event this summer, screening the films of Ernst Lubitsch and of Billy Wilder in two separate, incredible affairs. This may be the only time in my life I've wanted to be just another face in the hustle and bustle of NYC. I've always joked about selling my possessions to get enough cash for something extravagant and spontaneous like this - but I truly do wonder what I could pawn to afford a ticket out there...?

If you as a poster/reader happen to screen a piece of classic cinema in an authentic theater setting, let me know where, when, and what you saw, and I'll be sure to post it here. I've had a few e-mails regarding our favorite genre of movies on the big screen, but to the best of my knowledge, there is no definitive search engine, directory, or website that lists such events...and I, for one, am exasperated by continually finding out about such events after they've already occurred. Chicago, New York and L.A. can't be the only cities that host classic movies - they just can't!

Come on now, people, this woman is not joking when she says she needs to see Ball of Fire on the big screen! Sugarpuss O'Shea working her innuendo on Professor Potts in all her 35mm glory? I am SO IN!

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Quote of the Week

"On the screen...I don't kiss the way you should. I keep my mouth closed. People tell me, 'Shit, Fonda, you can't even kiss good!' Not a girl, mind you - maybe a director. No girl ever told me that." - Henry Fonda, as quoted by Howard Teischmann in Fonda: My Life

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Apr 26, 2006

Barbra Streisand Owes Me 2 hours and 23 Minutes of My Life

Because that's precisely how much time, patience, and half-attention I gave to her film Funny Lady last night. Going into it, I should have seen the red flags - the fact that it was a musical starring James Caan being the reddest of them all, probably even emblazoned with skull and crossbones - yet I pressed on defiantly, hoping at some point, I would be rewarded for my persistence; after all, I was pleasantly surprised at what a gem the prequel to this film, 1968's Funny Girl, turned out to be when I caught it last month.
The thing is, I don't think that Babs can give a poor performance. Funny Girl, Hello, Dolly!, The Way We Were - the woman and her larger-than-life voice are spectacular, and like her or not, you can't help but admit she's got a hell of a lot of talent. The plot of this movie, though - and don't argue that musicals don't need plots - can't be held afloat by even the most valiant of Streisand's efforts. She still manages to shine here, but she's the only ray of light in this seemingly never-ending, picaresque bio-pic. Two and a half hours into Funny Lady, I still didn't care about the fate of fantastically bitchy Fanny Brice, I had seen Caan lash out as the frustrated husband (complete with expletives and wall-punching, in true Sonny-Corleone style), and was totally indifferent to the fact that Omar Sharif's Nicky Arnstein had remarried a tacky Lesley-Ann Warren wannabe. I never thought I'd long for the strains of "Don't Rain on My Parade" or the sight of Babs on rollerskates again, but Funny Lady succeeded only at highlighting what a great flick its predeccesor is. People may need people, but they definitely don't need this movie.


Apr 25, 2006

I have a new idol

...and her name is Sugarpuss O'Shea.

I should've known this would happen. A week after I bust Babs Stanwyck's acting chops, she completely bowls me over as sexy, wisecracking nightclub chanteuse Sugarpuss O'Shea, a dame with a lust for life and a thousand comebacks who just happens to be on the lam. 1941's Ball of Fire is absolute, one-hundred-percent-bonafide delightful entertainment - a bit bittersweet, a touch tender, but mostly laugh-out-loud funny. And Barbara Stanwyck is...she just...wow. The way she endears goofy, gallant Professor Potts (a devastatingly handsome Gary Cooper) with a soulful look or the suggestive extension of her stocking-clad gam has to be seen to be believed, and even then, she's simply remarkable. She dances seductively to Gene Krupa and his orchestra, tosses out double-entendres without batting an eye, and manages a delicate and inimitable balance of sultry and sweet, crass and cautious, brazen and bashful - all the while melting the hearts of eight shut-in scholars, only one of whom has ever had a sweetheart.

So I bow down to you, Miss Stanwyck. I once thought the only role you were capable of playing with coolness was the matriarch on The Big Valley, but now I am humbly before your legendary status, knowing full well that you deserve it.
And Sugarpuss O'Shea - I salute you.

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Apr 24, 2006

Classic Film Trivia

During World War II, Adolf Hitler offered a monetary reward to anyone who could capture this silver-screen stud alive and turn him over to Hitler unscathed. Who is it?
Hint: he has received one Oscar for his work in his lifetime.

Apr 21, 2006

Thumbs Up for Three (well, actually just two)

A little insight on some of the fab flicks I've seen recently:

Cactus Flower (1969) What, really, can be said about a love...rectangle between Walter Matthau (shudder), Ingrid Bergman, a young Goldie Hawn fresh from Laugh-In and her skinny, nondescript beatnik neighbor? Only that it was far more entertaining than I could've hoped. Matthau is a dentist who hopes to date Hawn, but somehow, she's come under the impression that he's married - and no one wants to be a homewrecker, right? Sensing his impending loss, Matthau pleads his shy, introverted secretary (a still-flawless and amazingly comedic Bergman) to parade as his soon-to-be-ex-wife and inform Hawn that the marriage is over, leaving the delicious (shudder) dentist is up for grabs. But who ends up with whom is still being sorted out til the film's very finish. A truly classic scene: Ingrid Bergman in a dazzling blue dinner gown and mink stole, dancing freestyle among teenagers at a fashionable, free-love hippie coffee spot. Seriously, see this movie.

Double Indemnity (1944) Barbara Stanwyck * the dad from My Three Sons + Billy Wilder's directorial skill = film noir classic, non? Well...sort of. Double Indemnity is perhaps the kind of complex, mulitlayered film, much like Casablanca, that earns its due praise and respect upon multiple viewings, but doesn't have much clout the first time around. The plot seems simple enough: a frustrated wife (Stanwyck, in a hideous blonde wig) meets down-on-his-luck insurance salesman Walter Neff (yup, Rob, Chip & Ernie's dad) when he visits her home to inquire on the extension of the coverage of one of her husband's soon-to-expire policies. Intrigued, she realizes that if her husband were to have life insurance, she could gain a swift and sizable sum upon his death - if it's proven to be an accident. Scandal and intrigue arise as she and Neff work together to plot and execute the perfect murder. I stayed around to catch the end, but certainly not because of Stanwyck's acting; I could hardly call it a worthwhile film, but I will admit the suspense was nearly nauseating at some points throughout. Perhaps I'll give it a try in a few months and see if I can glean any new aspects to appreciate from it. Until then, though, I'll give it a double condemnation.

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) Before this past Tuesday evening, if you were to ask me anything about James Cagney, my response would invariably be "You dirty rat, you killed my brudda" in one horrible attempt at colorful dialect or another, because that's just one of those things I feel you're societally responsible to know - a timeless quote that you're simply born knowing to whom it's attributed. Imagine my surprise, then, upon realizing that the Yankee Doodle Dandy I'd tuned into was a good movie. Not just a decent movie, but a very good one (albeit a tad propaganda-laden, justifiable in the flagwaving months following Pearl Harbor). Who knew Cag could dance? And sing? And do comedy? And dance?! Did I mention the hoofing? Though not too similar to the vibrant, color-saturated MGM spectacles I'm used to, Dandy is just that - dandy. It's a delightful bio-pic of songwriter, actor, and stage producer George M. Cohan, and Cag pulls it off to a tee, infusing as much patriotism and enthusiasm into his character's creative forces as we'd like to imagine the real-life Cohan did. Cagney took home his only Oscar for his performance here, and I can say that as the real-live nephew of his uncle Sam, he definitely deserves it.

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Apr 18, 2006

Ava and the Mickster

This classic cinema actress was married three times in less than ten years, to none other than an actor, a bandleader, and a man who combined both his film and music talent to become a famous crooner and a big screen star. None of her marriages lasted more than a five years; in fact, two of them ended after little more than a year each. Who is the actress, and who were her husbands?

Update: Yay to Amelia Lucia for being the first poster and the first correct answer. Ava Gardner did indeed have three marriages: to pint-size Mickey Rooney when she was just 19 (it lasted roughly 14 months), to bandleader Artie Shaw (they parted eight days after their first anniversary), and finally to Frank Sinatra, whome she wed after a tiring and tumultuous courtship in 1951. Here's Miss Mogambo and Andy Hardy on their honeymoon, 1942 - and I feel it's worth noting that Mickey was propped up on a crate in this photo to erase the four-inch height difference he and Ava shared:

You guys gotta stop being so frighteningly good at these trivia questions.

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Je deteste l'Hollywood

"There is no shortage of good, original ideas and there's just no point to remakes. Why do they have to mess with things that were perfect the first time around." - Robert Redford, 2006

I don't have anything further to add to Bobby Red's lamenting, but I will clarify that the following titles are but a small list of upcoming feature films that are blatant rip-offs adaptations of the television shows of yesteryear. Am I the only one who finds these films rather blasphemous and completely devoid of any of the creativity, originality, and social commentary that make films worthwhile? Films like Baywatch and Sailor Moon will undoubtedly be a waste of time, but I take a little more than a modicum of offense to updating shows like Welcome Back, Kotter and I Dream of Jeannie. Is there some pressing need to revive these classics? Funny - TV Land has been sating me for years.

Why, Hollywood - why? I guess they didn't learn from big-screen versions of The Honeymooners, Bewitched, The Wild Wild West, Leave It to Beaver, The Dukes of Hazzard, Starsky and Hutch, The Beverly Hillbillies, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera....

Coming Soon! Be sure to coordinate the release dates of the following pointless, box-office bombs with your fervent boycotting of any and all theatres:

The A-Team
cast to be determined

starring Jessica Simpson

possibly starring Jennifer Lopez

Get Smart
starring Steve Carrell

I Dream of Jeannie
potentially starring any one of the interchangeable, talentless young blondes who pass for celebrity these days

Miami Vice
starring Jamie Foxx

Welcome Back, Kotter
starring Ice Cube as Mistah Kottaire

What do you think about all of this? Can you type from where you are, curled in the fetal position with all of your dvds and memories of yesteryear television, crying for the fate of the world?

Old Mother Hill

I guess at 20 I'd prefer not to be referred to as "Old" anything, but like the Mother Goose rhyme of old, I do indeed have a very bare cupboard - except I know exactly why my lack of "vittles" came about. I have this little thing, a disorder, really, that doesn't allow me to pass up inexpensive versions of my favorite classic films on DVD, no matter how bleak my financial outlook may be. I can talk myself out of Cadbury Eggs, economy-size packages of Oreos, and even a beautiful pair of vintage-inspired patent-leather slingbacks, but show me Three Faces of Eve for $7.50 and I am rabid. So, here's a rundown of my most recent acquisitions - and yes, I will let you borrow them sometime:

Barefoot in the Park - $3.26
How the West Was Won, Special Edition Widescreen - $3.72
To Catch A Thief, Special Edition - $4.98
Swing Time, the best Astaire-Rogers collaboration ever - $9.98

I figure I should keep everyone updated on my movie-buying ventures - just in case you ever stop by and discover I'm living on cheap-champagne Mimosas and popcorn, you'll understand why.

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Apr 14, 2006

Your girl is lovely, Hubbell

"(Robert) Redford told me - I don't know if it still goes on, probably does cause he told me this rather recently - women come up to him and brush his hair the way she did. They remember that. He should be very grateful."

- director Sydney Pollack on the famous scenes from The Way We Were (1973)


Apr 13, 2006

Did You Know...?

The term "Rat Pack", which popularly references swinging singers Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Junior and their contemporaries (Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop, among others) is actually the name created by another social set prominent in the late 1940's and early 1950's. The informally organized "Holmby Hills Rat Pack" initially included Sinatra, Humphrey Bogart and wife Lauren Bacall, Judy Garland and husband Sid Luft, Hollywood agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar, David Niven and wife Hjordis, and technical advisor/professional impostor Mike Romanoff and wife Gloria (Romanoff acted occasionally). Over the years, the configuration of the group changed dramatically and, as marriages dissolved or group members passed away, it eventually came to refer to Dean, Sammy, and the group of outrageous nightclub singers, notorious for their affection for booze and broads. Actress Shirley MacLaine even became an honorary Rat in the mid-60's, though by this time, the group called themselves "The Clan".

"In order to qualify, one had to be addicted to nonconformity, staying up late, drinking, laughing, and not caring what anyone thought or said about us. Spence(r Tracy) was only an honorary rat, because he lived a secluded life, but his heart was in the right place." - Lauren Bacall

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Constance Bennett is beautiful!

After the unintentional screening of a Cary Grant/Roland Young double feature at my apartment last night - we started off with The Philadelphia Story and wrapped things up with Topper - I decided that I needed to know more about the fiery blonde apparition who played opposite endlessly-mischievous Cary Grant in our second film, Constance Bennett. Constance, the elder sister of Barbara and Joan Bennett, of the famous Bennett sisters, turns out to be one more fascinating lady of the big screen, so I'll share some tidbits about this beautiful blonde:

- She was born October 22, 1904 in New York, NY
- She eloped at age 16 and made her screen debut in Reckless Youth at age 17. The marriage was soon annulled.
- She was married five times in her life and has three children: an adopted son, and two daughters with husband Gil Roland.
- In the 1930's, she negotiated with studio head Jack Warner to not only pay her extremely high salary, but also her agents' fees and income taxes.
- Constance's most memorable performances include Common Clay (1930), The Common Law (1931), and What Price Hollywood (1932), an early version of A Star Is Born. Her considerable comedic skill is showcased in such films as Ladies in Love (1936) and Topper (1937), where she plays the charmingly carefree socialite Marion Kirby - both before and after Marion's death.
- She was an excellent poker player and often, the only woman invited to play in Hollywood circles.
- She died suddenly of a cerebral hemorrhage in 1965; she was 59 years old.
- Is buried in Arlington National Cemetery due to her marriage to a U.S. Air Force colonel, and to her skilled coordination of flying shows to U.S. troops stationed abroad from 1946-48.

"That beautiful sister of mine was an overwhelming and volatile mixture. One had the feeling that she'd been shot from a canon and showered her sparks over an incredulous world with no thought or care where they fell...She was like some silvery comet who streaked through life with daring speed, the wellspring of which was an inner confidence that I deeply admired." - sister Joan Bennett on Constance

"I'm a lot more sartorial than thespian. They come to see me and go out humming the costumes." - Constance Bennett


Roger, Rogers!

Identify this classic cinema star:

Update: One week has gone by. No one has given the correct answer yet, but poster Cardinal Martini came awfully close with an awesome guess. Would you like to know who our Mystery Star is?
Virginia MacMath - aka Ginger Rogers
shown top, in Vaudeville (1927), and bottom, in a portrait from the late 1930's.

"I'm most grateful to have had that joyous time in motion pictures. It really was a Golden Age of Hollywood. Pictures were talking, they were singing, they were coloring. It was beginning to blossom out: bud and blossom were both present."

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Apr 11, 2006

A Secret Midnight Millionaire

Somehow, despite the fact that my weekends feel like they're only about 14 hours long, I always squeeze in some classic films I've never seen before, courtesy Turner Classic Movies' phenomenal round-the-clock lineup. Some gems I encountered this weekend:

Midnight Lace (1960) Eternally-cute Doris Day stars in what isn't her first thriller (she played opposite James Stewart in Hitchcock's 1956 The Man Who Knew Too Much), but could very well be her most memorable. Lace centers on the life of a young, elegent housewife Kit Preston (Day) and her crusty British husband (the crusty, British Rex Harrison) during their temporary stay in a London hotel. From the film's very outset, Mrs. Preston is stalked by a mysterious man who calls to her in the city's heavy fog, makes lewd phone calls to her apartment, and threatens to kill her while her husband is away. Though a bit lengthy, Midnight Lace is nonetheless a true thriller, as the suspense is made all the more taut with a startling revelation at the film's end. Oh, and John Gavin stars, looking sexy (and wooden) as ever.

The Secret Garden (1949) Margaret O'Brien, what do I think of thee? I really don't know whether I want to wallop the diminutive diva or shower her with praise for all the performances of her preadolescent years. Evoking similar ambivalence from me is The Secret Garden, neither a terrible film nor a classic: its plotline is decent enough, and it does employ some fabulous Wizard-of-Oz-esque Technicolor sequences, quite artsy and dramatic in the middle of a dreary black-and-white setting. A notable star besides Ms. O'Brien (who will eternally be Tootie Smith, Flour-Thrower to me) is Dean Stockwell, pint-sized even at age 14, as the bedridden boy limited by his doctors' well-meaning diagnoses. Catch it if it's on, but don't go out of your way for this one, unless you love Tootie Smith.

How to Marry A Millionaire (1953) Lauren Bacall plays a deliciously devious ringleader in this frothy comedy, the first ever to be shot using fabulous Cinemascope. Convinced that dollar signs are more the key to marriage than love is, she buys a first-rate luxury apartment in just the right New York neighborhood for meeting wealthy, eligible men, and shares her new digs with fellow unattached models Marilyn Monroe and Betty Grable. While it's arguable that Bacall - slim, pretty, with enough brains, tenacity, and acerbic wit to get what she wants - steals the show, Marilyn doesn't disappoint in her role as the near-sighted beauty who refuses to wear her glasses when men are around, resulting in many an upside-down book and tripped-over curb. Betty Grable's character is the only snag here, as it doesn't do anything to showcase the talent or beauty of the screen-weary blonde (although the dream sequence is hilarious). Still, this is definitely worth seeing at least once, if only for the comdey, the fashion, and the delightful and inspiring gold-digging these three screen goddesses embark upon. And don't miss William Powell and David Wayne as two of the hapless men they prey on!

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Apr 9, 2006

Steals and Deals

Yes, I am a broke college student. Does that cross my mind, though, when I'm confronted with the Discount DVD display at Super Wal-Mart? Actually, little else crosses my mind besides the plethora of titles and shiny keepcases and low, low prices before me, and how distinguished they would look alphabetized by genre on a shelf in my apartment. This weekend's big steals:

, Special Edition - with extra features hosted by Lauren Bacall, $3.72
The Maltese Falcon, $3.72
The Philadelphia Story, $5.00
The Way We Were, Special Edition $7.50
4 Excellent Movies (give or take Le Falcon one) = $19.94

Of course, I shouldn't have splurged on these, and I'll probably regret it when I've got a stomach as empty as my wallet...but $3.72? I can't even get a sub sandwich for that kinda dough! Oh well...I will survive on Cadbury eggs and Robert Redford movies until I've got a little more green to go on, at which point, I'll let you know what new movies I spent it on. It just never ends.


Apr 7, 2006

To O-o-prah, With Lo-oo-ooove

Last night while channel-surfing and evading homework, I came across a special 20th Anniversary episode of Oprah in which she recounted all the highs and lows of her show, its guests, and her life. It was reasonably boring until she began to talk of the time she interviewed the inimitable Sidney Poitier, a personal hero of hers, and was subsequently so disappointed in the way she had handled her live encounter with him that she was wracked with depression, anxiety, and a fear that she had made a terrible impression upon the famed actor. Oprah was in the midst of describing her overwhelming feelings of incompetence to the audience when suddenly, they began to go wild - a confused Oprah turned around for the shock of her life. Poitier made a surprise guest appearance, entering onstage from behind Oprah and, after calming her down, began reading aloud from a letter he had written about her charitable efforts and the contribution she has made to the media world (and for the record, said letter did not begin with the words "To Sir, With Love").

All I have to say is this: Oh, Sidney, you've done it again. I didn't cry this hard at the end of Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?.

You can read more here.

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Apr 5, 2006

Is it National Birthday Month or what?

Apparently, God appointed April 5 as Worldwide Day of Classic Cinema Actors' Births, as we celebrate the birthdays of five immensely talented individuals who now reside in the annals of Hollywood history.

Spencer Bonaventure Tracy (1900-1967)

- born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (of course he's a Badger - he's a cool guy)
- attended six different high schools, five of them in the midwest region
- had only one spouse, Louise, during his lifetime; she refused him a divorce despite the fact that he was in a relationship with co-star Katharine Hepburn for almost 27 years.
- made nine films with Hepburn; his last film (both of his life and of his films with Hep) was Guess Who's Coming To Dinner? Spence died less than three weeks after shooting had wrapped.
- has two children with his wife: son John (1924) and daughter Susie (1932).
- Only agreed to play the role of "The Penguin" in the Batman television series if he was allowed "to kill Batman". History shows...he wasn't.
"This mug of mine is as plain as a barn door. Why should people pay thirty-five cents to look at it?"

Eldred Gregory Peck (1916-2003)

- born in La Jolla, California, Peck was an only child whose parents' divorce when he was five years old necessitated that he live with his grandmother.
- studied pre-med at Berkeley, but soon changed his intended studies to acting and enrolled in the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York.
- was married twice: he divorced first wife Greta in 1955 after 3 children and 13 years of marriage; he wed second wife, French journalist Veronique Passani, the same year that his divorce was finalized and remained with her until his death in 2003.
- five children: Jonathan, Stephen, Carey, Tony, and Cecilia.
- His five Oscar nominations ranged from 1946-1963; he took home the gold for his performance as just lawyer Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird.
- To Kill A Mockingbird is Peck's favorite of all his films.

"I just do things I really enjoy. I enjoy acting. When I'm driving to the studio, I sing in the car. I love my work and my wife and my kids and my friends. And I think, 'You're a lucky man, Gregory Peck, a damn lucky man.'"

Ruth Elizabeth "Bette" Davis (1908-1989)
- born in Lowell, Massachusetts, to parents who eventually divorced, leaving the care of Bette and her sister to the girls' mother, Ruthie.

- enrolled in John Murray Anderson's dramatic school, from which she soon moved onto Broadway (she debuted there in 1929).

- earned an astounding eleven Oscar nominations, all for Best Actress in a Leading Role; two wins for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938) .

- was the first female preisdent of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

- was married four times, with her longest marriage lasting for ten years (1950-1960). She also has three children.

- claims to have coined the nickname "Oscar" for the Academy Award.

- had a delicious, lifelong rivalry with archnemesis Joan Crawford.

- her epitaph reads, "She did it the hard way."

"Why am I so good at playing bitches? I think it's because I'm not a bitch. Maybe that's why (Joan) Crawford always plays ladies."

Two other birthdays today include veteran actor
Melvyn Douglas (1901-1981), and respected writer Robert Bloch (1917-1994), author of the novel on which Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho is based.

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What the hell?!

You are Carole Lombard
You scored 14% grit, 23% wit, 38% flair, and 40% class!

You're a little bit of a fruitcake, but you always act out in style.
You have a good sense of humor, are game for almost anything, but you
like to have nice things about you and are attracted to the high life.
You're stylish and modern, but you've got a few rough edges that keep
you from attaining true sophistication. Your leading men include
William Powell, Fredric March, and Clark Gable. Watch out for small

Find out what kind of classic leading man you'd make by taking the
Classic Leading Man Test.

I don't usually take this silly online quizzes, but for a Classic Dames survey, I couldn't resist. But William Powell and Frederic March? Blechhh! I want me some Cary Grant and Henry Fonda! I know in my heart I'm a Hepburn, and you guys know it, too. I'd even have been okay with a Bette Davis! But Carole Lombard? I demand a recount!

If you manage to take the test, let me know which classic star you are deemed and we'll post the whole lot of 'em.

Apr 4, 2006

An Ardor for Autobiographies

I'll admit it: since our valleywide drought of nearly six months was washed away in March, gray-sky weekends have become more prevalent - and I don't need any more encouragement to delve into reading than a sunless afternoon. Not skimming-textbook-reading, but total, engrossing reading, just the way I relished it before all of this wonderful, adult responsibility became mine (not that I assume
most of it). And since that same day that I braved surface street floodwater to peruse the bookshelves at my favorite bargain bookseller, Half Price Books, I have soared through three autobiographies on three separate, drizzly days, each book as poignant, as informative, and as humorous as the next (and one, a bit more scintillating than I'd hoped.)

Thing is, now I'm hooked. I'm set for the next few days, but once I polish off my current read, I hope to have another at the ready. Have you read any lengthy books on the personal life or philosophy of your favorite actor? What are some great cinema- or celebrity-related biographies or autobiogs you've read?

Update, 04/05: I snagged Lauren Bacall's By Myself at the campus booksale today for a cool $1. If its gorgeous black-and-white pictures and incredibly candid and engaging style of writing are any indication of how good this book is, I will let you know how much I loved it - tomorrow. Still, recommend me some more! I've got a knack for bargains and a voracious appetite for all these Hollywood stories and scandals!


Apr 3, 2006

Paul, do you hate me?

From what classic movie is this quote taken?

"'Did you know that in Harry's Bar last New Year's Eve I punched an old woman? Don't tell me about drunk!'"
Update: Truer words were never spoken than those above, attributed to Robert Redford's character in 1967's Barefoot in the Park. Ol' Red plays a young newlywed lawyer in this light romantic comedy that's a bit yellowed with age, but everything - the quick, acerbic dialogue, the dazzling Mancini-esque score by Neal Hefti, Jane Fonda at her loveliest, and the fab supporting actors Mildred Natwick and Charles Boyer - combines to make this still infinitely better than the drivel they crank out these days. And seriously, there are few onscreen couples who are as totally attractive as Jane and Bobby...see it if you haven't!

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Rhino Records and MGM Studios have collaborated to produce the most stunning musical confection I have ever encountered. Six discs comprise the official, re-mastered That's Entertainment! cd boxset, with fab musical moments starring everyone from Ann Miller to Yvonne de Carlo (yes, you read that right.) All your favorite songs from every movie you can think of: Judy Garland's "You Made Me Love You", Dinah Shore singing "The Last Time I Saw Paris", Tony Martin, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne, Vic Damone - everybody's on this disc. Check it out here!

Whatever I have to pawn so I can afford this collection, I will. I think I'm going to need this the day it comes out.