Many thanks and much gratitude to all of the brave and honorable men and women who have given their lives for our country.
Now that I've mastered the 3-column blogger format, New Links are coming soon!
May 29, 2006
May 26, 2006
In the midst of all this boredom, I've come to rely quite a lot on the trusty cd case that houses my beloved collection of dvds. Movies I haven't watched in months were brought out for re-assessment, and I was definitely surprised at how much I enjoyed some of the discs I've owned for ages and never viewed:
To Catch A Thief, 1955 - Grace and Cary's camraderie seems funnier, and wrought with more sexy tension, than the last few times I've sat through it. The special edition dvd that I own boasts a plethora of extra features, including a documentary on the making of the film, a short biography on the private life of Alfred Hitchcock, and a very interesting look at famed costume designer Edith Head's contributions to Paramount films during her six-decade career. This is delightfully lightweight Hitchcock at its finest....
'Do you want a leg or a breast?'
The Philadelphia Story, 1940 - This week marks the first time I watched this vividly-dialogued spitfire of a romantic comedy after having gained greater appreciation of all four leads: Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, George Brent, and Miss Kate the Great. Everyone from the bitter little Dinah to sour old Uncle Willie the pincher has a memorable and amusing scene, and if the pace saps for even a second (though it rarely does), you can always just marvel at all of the legendary talent squeezed into one screen. Plus, where else will you see Jimmy Stewart drunk in a wicker wheelchair?
'Can you have a drink, or will Kittredge spank?'
Ball of Fire, 1941 - I would be lying if I said that I've owned this movie forever, and it would most definitely be a falsehood if I claimed to never watch it: I bought it just last month and in fact, have watched it practically once a week ever since. Once you get the plot down pat with an initial viewing, Ball of Fire should be watched just to fall in love with its characters and its marvelous acting over and over again. This is the film that not only sold me on Barbara Stanwyck and her be-all, end-all seductiveness, but it endeared me completely to quiet, sensitive Gary Cooper and cemented the lyrics to "Drum Boogie" in my mind forever (Stany sings it in a number with Gene Krupa). I don't care if you've never heard of any of these cats - just Netflix it already, will ya? You won't regret it.
'This is the kind of woman that makes whole civilzations topple!'
Victor Victoria, 1982 - Okay, okay, so it's not classic cinema. But V/V is nearly 25 years old, and it does feature three eminent talents that factor largely into moviemaking of the 1960's: director Blake Edwards, composer (and frequent Edwards collaborator) Henry Mancini, and the beautiful, multi-talented Julie Andrews. Set in Paris in the 1930's (perhaps this lends it its "classic movie" feel), the film follows the struggles of desperately poor young soprano Victoria Grant (Andrews), who soon meets her personal Svengali in flamboyant nightclub singer Carroll Todd (Robert Preston and his ginormous hair). His solution to Victoria's lack of employment involves a short haircut with plenty of brilliantine, disguising a non-existent Adam's apple, and James Garner's greasy gangster character falling in love with a man. That is a man, right...? Either way, Victor/Victoria is a delightful musical with a decidedly adult feel, a sparkling score, and Edwards' signature comedic shots (look for the telltale flaming umbrella).
'Well Greta, whatever he is, I think he's divine.'
What excellent films do you have in your collection that never lose their appeal?
Quote of the Week
What A Tease
Knowing that my family would be in the midst of a cross-country relocation this summer, thus throwing askew any plans of celebrating my birthday together, I decided to flash a little cash on some gifts for myself. The only stipulation? That I postpone indulging in my new purchases until I'm actually another year older. So, I bought it: The Lady Eve, Criterion Collection edition, barely $20 online. It's a beautiful single-disc edition in pristine shape, with a striking black-and-white contrast that fills the giant flat-screen in a way my pathetic 20-inch television could never capture. Barbara Stanwyck has never looked lovelier or more confidently appealing; Henry Fonda, never more naive or boyishly handsome. I already love this movie.
The Lady Eve arrived with the bills and bank statements just this morning in a nondescript manila envelope, but I was estatic as I sliced through the wrappings and eased out the gorgeous plastic keepcase with the bright cartoon depiction of Stany seducing the wide-eyed Fonda, who is so sublimely attracted to her womanly wiles that he can barely speak. Having never seen the movie, I slipped the disc in my dvd player, vowing to watch only five minutes - as if that would sate me for the next month, knowing I own such a fantastic transfer of this classic movie. Twenty minutes and a few truly endearing scenes later, I decided to give my challenge the old college try and truly abstain from any more Stanwyck/Fonda indulgences until the calendar deems me worthy.
As if I can last almost a month. As if.
May 20, 2006
Starving, but Glamorous
The HRC was established by the House of Windsor Group, an organization of skilled craftsmen and jewelers who took upon themselves the task of replicating the crown jewels of Britain's Royal Family to showcase throughout the world. The group soon segued into replicating Hollywood-inspired jewels, as America has no such monarchy, and often refers to some of its greatest actors of the past as "Hollywood Royalty". You can find delish diamonds just like those sported by Audrey Hepburn and Jean Harlow, pearls like Deborah Kerr's, simulated rubies worthy of Veronica Lake's jewelry box, and stunning cocktail rings you can claim you borrowed from Myrna Loy. All of HRC's breathtaking designs are inspired by both publicity stills and actual movies of some of Hollywood's most glamorous, and their current collection includes over 150 individual pieces (mostly women's, but a few Bogie-worthy items for the boys, too).
My particular faves include a ravishing ruby ring in the Bette Davis collection; a beautiful cognac-colored rock set in gold, inspired by Marlene Deitrich; and a reproduction of the stunning emerald ring that graced Norma Shearer's hand in 1938's Marie Antoinette.
Now my only problem is finding a decent fur to sport all these gorgeous rocks with. Oh, and, affording them.
May 18, 2006
Coolest. Movie. Ever.
Let me just say this: amazing. There is a timeless quality to this movie that is perhaps only surpassed by the effortlessness of its comedy and wit; I was astounded to find that it came out over 70 years ago, in 1934. William Powell's and Myrna Loy's endless banter, easy sarcasm, and constant martini-downing guarantee that their charm is as powerful as their deductive skills, and the whodunit-facet of the plot is just as entertaining as their unmatchable camaraderie. And to top it all off, Powell is easily the coolest man to ever walk the face of the earth (his pup, Asta, could definitely pull a spot in the top five.)
Eventually, I had to turn it off and head to bed, as it was nearing 2 a.m. and I was laughing far too hard to keep quiet. I fell asleep wondering if the puppy I've picked out for the new apartment could somehow be nicknamed Asta, if my roommate will protest to my drinking dry martinis at all hours of the day and night, and if there are still men like Nick Charles in the world. I'd certainly like to think there are.
Please, do yourself a favor. See this movie.
Juday Juday Juday
You can find more upcoming portraits of your favorite performers in the PBS American Masters series, or search for them in Turner Classic Movies' extensive database.
Labels: Judy Garland
May 16, 2006
Happy Birthday, Handsome
If you missed tuning in to TCM's half-hearted birthday tribute to Fonda this morning, then I suggest renting any of the aforementioned films along with such classics as The Ox-Bow Incident, Young Mr. Lincoln, and On Golden Pond. In honor of my paramour's 101st, I myself plan to lie poolside and skim through Fonda: My Life once again, watch Jezebel for the second time this week, and spend the money I've allocated for a security deposit on the Criterion Collection edition of The Lady Eve instead. Ahhh, summer.
Interestingly enough, Fonda's first wife, actress Margaret Sullavan, was also born on this day; she died in 1960 at the age of only 48.
"He moved me always, this reserved man. There was a reason he was a star." - Sidney Lumet on Henry Fonda
May 14, 2006
Happy Mama's Day!
Since I couldn't be with my own mama on this, the pinnacle of mom-honoring holidays, I figured I would at least get into the spirit by celebrating some of the best and most famous mother-daughter pairs to come from Tinseltown. See if you can match the correct celeb mother to her equally-famous daughter, and hey, no googling! Happy Mama's Day!
B. Janet Leigh 2. Melanie Griffith
C. Jayne Mansfield 3. Emma Walton
D. Julie Andrews 4. Liza Minnelli
E. Connie Stevens 5. Joely Fisher
F. Natalie Wood 6. Carrie Fisher
G. Tippi Hedren 7. Jamie Lee Curtis
H. Judy Garland 8. Mariska Hargitay
May 13, 2006
Are You Tired? Rundown? Listless?
Between final exams on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and packing my life's possessions up to cart them out of the ol' apartment Thursday and Friday (a thankless and exhausting task, even in such a small apartment), I've had nary a chance to log in and post in almost a week....but I haven't given up on watching movies! The T.V. was the last thing to be bid farewell and hauled into storage yesterday, so I got my fill of Katie Hep flicks during TCM's morning birthday tribute to the grand dame (never watch Dragonseed. Seriously). In this week alone, I've been delighted to see:
Baby Face, 1933 - Barbara Stanwyck and George Brent; it's a rare and scandalous pre-code movie that's coming to DVD this year. I'm excited.
Chained, 1934 - Joan Crawford and Clark Gable
Jezebel 1938 - Bette Davis, Hank Fonda, George Brent, and an amazing Max Steiner score. Lady Jane was born during the shooting for this film!
The Mad Miss Manton, 1937 - Stany & Hank Fonda...what a pair.
That Certain Woman, 1937 - Davis & One-Take Fonda team up again
The Seven-Year Itch, 1955 - Tommy Ewell and Marilyn Monroe
The Wedding Night, 1935 - Gary Cooper and not-so-star-y Anna Sten
Titanic, 1953 - Stany is back and better than ever opposite Clifton Webb, and honestly, this movie was better than I thought.
...and the week's not over yet. I've got an entire listless week at my disposal to sunbathe, procrastinate, and lie by the pool sunbathing and procrastinating, but I'll be sure to use my downtime to watch as much TCM as possible. Hit up their website to see if anything watchworthy is on this week, and let me know if you caught any of the flicks I've listed here.
And yes, all this moving by myself into the big, wide city makes me feel a little like Ann Marie, in case you were wondering about the fabulous picture posted here. I'll pass on the Don Hollinger though.
May 7, 2006
Put the Blame on Glenn-Ford, Put the Blame on Him...
Okay, so Bob's an enviable cinephile. But when it comes to his selections for The Essentials, I guess I'd rather do without, choosing instead to devour wonderful, unsung films with my favorite stars, esoteric titles, and nary a chance of a DVD release, ever. This weekend's pick, Gilda, threw me for a loop - and left me looking for someone to put the blame on, besides Mame.
The title character is played by vivacious Rita Hayworth: she is, as always, a beautiful actress. I've always thought so, as did the innumerable GI's who adorned their bunks and barracks with her pin-ups in the years before Gilda was made - and the film uses her physical presence to its fullest advantage, her image still as dazzling today as it was sixty years ago. Glenn Ford enters the picture as an old flame of Gilda's, a young man working in a gambling house in Argentina, where the story takes place; tension arises when his character, Johnny, makes the startling discovery of Gilda's presence in the casino after all that has happened between them. It's an interesting enough storyline, but...is it an Essential?
Hayworth is smouldering and sensual, George Macready is top-notch as the sinister casino owner, and I can't complain about Glenn Ford's performance here. As for the rest of the film, though - the story's pace is uneven, the plot seems somehow secondary to the visual allure of the film, and it clocks in at nearly two hours (a quite tolerable length, had it been a tolerable movie). While the dialogue is delicious, dangerous innuendo written in true film-noir style, and the fierce love-hate relationship between Johnny and Gilda is engaging, Gilda fails to reach classic film status due to its seemingly hastily-comprised ending, which leaves much to be desired, especially after all of the tension that has built up in the first portion of the movie.
I guess I'll give good ol' Gild another try in the future, but I'm curious as to who hails this film and what elements of it they find redeeming and noteworthy. Do you consider Gilda to be a great film? What about Rita Hayworth's acting ability - in what films is it best showcased?
May 6, 2006
I run a couple of newspapers. What do you do?
George Orson Welles, an only child, was born in Kenosha, WI, in 1915, and suffered the losses of both parents by the time he was a teenager.
The number of children he fathered is disputed, as his marriage to first wife Virginia Nicholson is not well-documented, but the biographies I referenced list three daughters, one with each of his wives: Christopher (b. 1938) with Nicholson, Rebecca (b. 1944) with Rita Hayworth, and Beatrice (b. 1955), with Paola Mori.
While rushing from live broadcast to live broadcast at various New York City radio stations in the late 1930's, Welles was often late due to the heavy traffic - so he utilized a loophole in city code that allowed for those who were not sick to hail ambulances. For the remainder of his obligations in New York, he rode from studio to studio in a wailing ambulance, and his punctuality was rarely an issue.
The controversial and landmark Citizen Kane was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Writing/Original Screenplay (which it won), Best Picture, and Best Actor and Best Director (both Welles).
Welles has assumed the responsibilities of actor, writer, director, producer, editor, production designer, art director, and cinematographer throughout his career, in addition to his extensive radio work.
Welles died of a heart attack in 1985.
Whether he was behind the camera, before it, or nowhere near it - whether he was outraged pappy Will Vahnuh or boyishly charming young Charles Foster Kane - when he was inciting mass panic with a sizzling reading of H.G. Wells' sci-fi drama -Orson Welles was an extraordinary talent that should be remembered, for both the contributions he made to film and media, and for the paths he paved for great minds that came after him.
For more Orsonian indulgences:
Here you can locate and listen to several of Welles' radio programs, including the infamous War of the Worlds broadcast from 1938.
Turner Classic Movies hosts an afternoon of Welles' films on Monday, May 16, inlcuding Citizen Kane, Journey Into Fear, and A Touch of Evil. Follow the link for showtimes and details, or click here to see a monthlong schedule of his films on television.
Visit Amazon.com's extensive list of Orson Welles books, DVDs and videos to add to your collection.
May 5, 2006
New Sites Posted
I've also added a fantastic Joan Crawford fansite that I stumbled upon while searching for the photo I used for the post immediately preceding this one. It's been comprised by a huge Joan fan, a young man named Neil, and I urge you to set aside some time to browse through the immense photo galleries, read fan letters, and learn a little about this oft-overlooked screen sensation and her significant contributions to film and history.
Do enjoy perusing these sites! I am more than happy to link to your sites if they pertain to classic cinema - please e-mail me to get a post!
Q: I found your website in a Google search - is it a private blog? - Jeannie
A: Absolutely not! I started posting articles on the site as I became more and more interested in classic cinema, and found very few receptive outlets to discuss such things in my general vicinity (and in my age group, at least in this area). A huge college campus is hardly the ideal place to chat about the best Debbie Reynolds film or ooze about Bogie and Lauren's love affair, and while I'm away at school - as are those of my friends who love the old flicks as much as I do - my indulging in movies takes a backseat to more pressing obligations and responsibilities, unfortunately. But I truly love classic film, and I appreciate the opportunity to meet others who are as enthusiastic about the medium and pasttime as I am.
Q: i tried to do a comment but it asks for a name and i don't have a blogger name
A: Well...that could almost pass for a question. You don't have to be registered with any service OR have your own blog/journal/website in order to post a comment on an 'article' in my blog. Simply click on the 'Comments' link at the end of any post and fill in the appropriate boxes in the window that pops up; click 'Submit' to post your comment. I sift through them every few days, so any movie recommendations, opinions, or questions are much appreciated and will be addressed.
Q: You should talk about The Thin Man! I can't believe you don't have a review of it. It's certainly a classic film. - Tim
A: I've never seen The Thin Man, m'dear. William Powell is enchanting in Mister Roberts, but that's the only of his films I've seen. The Thin Man is on TCM May 17th, so expect a post on Nick and Nora soon after!
Quote of the Week
Labels: Quote of the Week
Figs on a Hot Tin...Serving Tray
I adore this man.
Update - Several readers have e-mailed me asking why I featured this photo, so I'll enlighten all who are unaware of this man's admirable contributions to the world. Paul Newman, one of my fave actors and reigning handsome man, is founder and overseer of an extremely profitable food production company called Newman's Own. Years ago, he began giving his homemade salad dressing to friends as gifts upon their request, but he soon realized the charitable potential of his endeavors and transformed his penchant into a trade, marketing popular food items like lemonade, candy, and these Fig Newtons (um, Newmans), giving well-established brands a run for their money. His advantage? Newman donates 100% of his after-taxes profits to charities benefitting education and children's welfare, as well as funding and running his own Hole in the Wall camps for seriously ill children and their families.
If you don't love Pauly already, then watch the slideshow of his company's history on his website and prepare to fall head-over-heels. And don't forget to look for Newman's wife Joanne Woodward as "the neighbors turned ugly!"
Labels: Paul Newman
May 2, 2006
Swing Time, Swing Time...
It looks awfully cozy on my white walls, doesn't it? Ah, I love that movie.
The Engaging Miss Margaret
As Jimmy Stewart's character says in Ernst Lubitsch's achingly-good Shop Around the Corner, people seldom go to the trouble of finding out more about those they encounter everyday. I've seen this particular scene in the film several times, never failing to catch it in a rare airing on TCM - and it never fails to be as moving with each successive viewing. When I watched it most recently, though, it was the young woman Jimmy's character was speaking to that caught my attention more than his words: the beautiful, husky-voiced Margaret Sullavan.
I was first introduced to Sullavan in 1940's Shop, read about her brief, stormy 1931 marriage to Henry Fonda in his autobiography (it was both his first nuptuals and hers), and marvelled at those big, pensive eyes while watching her play opposite Stewart in 1938's The Shopworn Angel just yesterday. Her fragility and stubborness seem almost too innate to be completely effaced from the women she plays, and so whether she is a haughty young shopgirl, a glamorous society woman, or an ordinary lady with extraordinary expectations, there is an unmistakable amalgam of vulnerability and obstinance that I have yet to see so exemplified by any other actress of her time.
Sullavan made only seventeen movies in her career, yet to me, she is a standout performer whose personal pain and neediness translate all too well to her characters on the big screen. After her marriage to Fonda dissolved in 1932, she had a lurid affair with Broadway director Jed Harris, then leapt into the real-life role of director William Wyler's wife to avoid furthering her relationship with Harris. It wasn't until she married agent-producer Leland Hayward (who happened to be Fonda's agent and close personal friend) in 1936 that she settled into a more stable lifestyle; the couple had three children before divorcing in 1947: Brooke, Bridget, and Bill. Venturing away from film and back to her first love, the stage, Sullavan once again drew crowds with her solid, enchanting acting in the 1950s. As her theatrical career began to sour and her family life began to collapse, though, she inevitably battled substance abuse issues; her death of barbituate overdose in 1960 was ruled an accident.
Margaret Sullavan had such an impact on me as impetuous shopgirl Klara Novak in Shop Around the Corner that I can never discount her when thinking of my favorite actors to ever grace the silver screen: she's full of nearly-impossible ideals and dreaming far beyond the boundaries of her humdrum young city life, her natural vibrancy and her enthusiasm for her secret romance barely subdued by the seriousness of her work environment and the bland duties she must attend to. I only wish that watching her - Margaret, Klara, any number of the women she became - I only wish could admire those rueful eyes without knowing the reality of this versatile and boundless actress's unrealized potential and too-short life.
Don't miss The Shopworn Angel on TCM Saturday, May 27.