Jun 26, 2006

Fab Flicks

No, my little kittens, I haven't abandoned this blog of mine in pursuit of more rewarding leisure activities - although now, being 21, social functions tend to promise a bit more fun than, say, googling in vain for a suitable photo of Randolph Scott to post. I haven't given up on classic movies! In fact, in the past two weeks alone I've seen:

Grand Hotel, 1931 - Joan Crawford, Lionel Barrymore, The Great Garbo
Der Blaue Engel (The Blue Angel), 1934 - Marlene Dietrich, Emil Jannings
Camille, 1936 - Greta Garbo, Robert Taylor...Mmm, mmm, mmm, Robert Taylor
Young Mr. Lincoln, 1939 - Henry Fonda
Love Crazy, 1941 - William Powell, Myrna Loy
Presenting Lily Mars, 1943 - Judy Garland, Van Heflin
Meet John Doe, 1941 - Barbara Stanwyck, Gary Cooper
Gaslight, 1944 - Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer
Christmas in Connecticut, 1945 - Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan
The Snake Pit, 1948 - Olivia de Havilland opposite a very handsome Mark Stevens - whatever happened to him?!
The Heiress, 1949 - Liv de Hav, Montgomery Clift
Two for the Road, 1968 - Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney

and I wasn't even tryin'. Camille's achingly tender romance and incredible lead characters (it was my first Robert Taylor film, and yes, I am officially in love); that inimitable Powell/Loy camaraderie and saucy slapstick; Barbara Stanwyck flirting with Dennis Morgan in a barn - I must say, oh, what wonderful films. The only downer in the lot was Meet John Doe, a veritable ear of "Capra corn" rife with social commentary as played out through a long and tenuous plot. Cooper and Stanwyck don't fail to shine, but the material is so somber, it feels as though it comes second to the message our director so desperately wants to relay to, and instill in, us. There is still relevancy in much of its depiction of mankind and society today, but...I'll be honest. I liked them best when Stany was a stripper and Coop played the smitten professor.

Jun 22, 2006

Crawford and La Davis Send Their Love

My sweet cousin, Michelle, took some camera-phone photographs as souvenirs of her recent trip to Hollywood, which she then sent to me as part of an extremely creative photo message. Imagine my waking up on my 21st birthday to none other than Bette Davis' essence in Sid Grauman's cement!

Shell sent a pic of superfab Joan Crawford's prints, too!

Unfortunately, the size of these pictures could not be altered, as they were twice-forwarded images with minute pixellation. They look wonderful on my phone, though! Thanks Shelly, you Trog fan, you!
Discussion Junction: If you've been to Hollywood, which celebrities' hand- and footprints did you stop to admire? If you've never been there, whose would be a must-see?

Jun 16, 2006

Quote of the Week

Henry Fonda warns the host of BBC talk show Parkinson about longtime pal James Stewart's sensational storytelling abilities and penchant for embellishment (excerpts from the 1970 interview):


HF: If he tells you the story about how (John) Swope(s) and he and I and Josh (Logan) decided we were gonna tunnel under Garbo's fence - 'cause she'd built a fence around her house to make it more private - he dramatizes the story that we run out and dug and started, and we finally hit a water main someplace and it sprung a leak. Well, now, that's not it at all...the four of us sat around drinking and got drunk one night and started talking about 'Let's dig a tunnel under that fence!' We talked a lot about it and laughed a lot about it, but we never left the house.

(audience laughter)

Host: What happened here - when I interviewed him he told me that story, and he actually came up in Garbo's bedroom, I think!

HF: It gets better every time he tells it.


This is part of a wonderful and very personal interview with Fonda which is included with the supplementary material on the recent DVD release of Young Mr. Lincoln, the first of eight Fonda/John Ford pairings. For a similar recollection of his bachelor days with Jimmy, I recommend reading Fonda: My Life, in which Henry indulges in some wickedly funny tales of his starving artist years, like living on rice and grain alcohol when in between jobs or fending off a clan of wild cats that overran the boys' yard (maybe that's why Greta put up her fence?)

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Jun 10, 2006

It Hasn't Lost Its Glitter

Judy Garland is a star. She's a beautiful child-talent-cum-teenage-sensation who, despite struggles with the studio and several debilitating health issues, went on to achieve unanimous acclaim as a vocalist throughout the 1950's and '60's. Her presence in movies like Meet Me In Saint Louis and The Wizard of Oz is simply unforgettable; her concert performances are the stuff of legends. Yes, our girl Judy is a star: enduring, glittering, luminous.

What a surprise, then, that prior to screening 1954's A Star Is Born this weekend, Dame Judy's star status had somehow slipped my mind. At nearly three hours long, the newly-restored director's version tells the tale (or re-tells, if you've seen the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor and Frederic March) of a faded alcoholic movie star (Mason) and his relationship, both professional and personal, with aspiring singer Esther Blodgett (Garland, in a role that was tailor-made for her sensational stage presence). The storyline is compelling enough - to watch the pair's careers struggle valiantly to synchronize in success and remain buoyant in defeat is sadly captivating, and the movie is perfectly punctuated with staggeringly spectacular musical numbers, both dazzling, upbeat songs and hauntingly melancholy ballads (Garland's The Man That Got Away is a landmark moment in the history of the musical - quite possibly the most impressive and memorable song ever filmed).
We here at Hillary's Classic Cinema salute you, Miss Frances Gumm - it was a long and troubled road from Minnesotan plains to the skies of Hollywood legends, dotted with stars - but you made it most gracefully, leaving behind a bright, beaming legacy that still lights our world today.

Judy Garland would have celebrated her 84th birthday today, June 10, 2006.

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Jun 3, 2006

Party at My Place

You've lost me, folks. Just in case you ever thought I'd snap back to being a 20-year-old and embrace 2006 like a normal young'n, my discovery of The Greta Garbo Collection on dvd has me awash in sentimentality and a new love for the Swedish Sphinx, not to mention the library card that makes it all possible (and most definitely free).
The local public library I found on Thursday is unquestionably the most dangerous place I have ever been, at least for a cinephile like myself. Though it boasts only one metal rack of dvd's, arranged in a nearly-alphabetical, haphazard manner, every shelf contains some gem whose mere title gets me giddy with excitement. In less than five minutes, I'd snatched Love In the Afternoon, Anna Christie, A Place in the Sun, Christmas in Connecticut (yay for Barbara Stanwyck!), Grand Hotel, A Star Is Born, and Harvey, none of which I've ever seen. Forget Netflix, y'all! I've got a hundred movies lined up to rent for free after this weekend finds me watching the seven I have now!

Party at my place tonight - Jimmy and Liz and Coop and Audrey and Garbo will be there, brilliant and beautiful in black-and-white. And you?

Bogged Down in Bogdanovich

I usually don't take blog space to fill you in on a current read, but I am so bowled over by Peter Bogdanovich's comprehensive Who The Hell's in It: Portraits and Conversations that I feel I must scatter the seeds of recommendation far and wide. Knowing Peter solely from his turn as host of American Movie Classic's Sunday Morning Shootout, I was a touch hesitant to pull out the broad spine of the book bearing his name as I browsed a newly-discovered neighborhood library this week. But the book's jacket boasted intimate conversations with stars like Henry Fonda and Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon and John Wayne...how could I resist at least glancing over it?
Reading Bogdanovich's book is like finding a forgotten scrapbook with juicy clippings from old Photoplays, except the polish of reserved formal interviews and posed photographs doesn't exist here. Each chapter - they're arranged in the general order in which the author came to know and interview each celebrity - is more engrossing than that last, and Bogdanovich's narration allows for the reader ultimate voyeurism into the lives of these larger-than-life personalities we feel we know so well.

As a friend and business associate of the majority of the stars covered in his book, Peter is not only incredibly knowledgeable of the technical aspects of the studio era, but he generously indulges in his behind-the-scenes experiences with some of Hollywood's greatest icons. He dines with Jack Lemmon and wife Felicia Farr in Los Angeles in the 1960's; visits Jimmy Stewart at his home over the course of nearly forty years; shares a plane ride with Marlene Dietrich - his interaction with these icons is endless, and covers both personal and professional fronts, from private dinner parties to huge gala ceremonies. While Bogdanovich speaks reverently of each person he has written an engaging piece on, he also sheds a most humanizing light on each - his point of view is an alluring mixture of awestruck, devoted fan and respectful, artistic contemporary.

Whether you possess a stunning faculty of classic movie trivia or are the kind of person who "maybe saw Casablanca....a long time ago", Who The Hell's In It is a stellar selection for a poolside read this summer. Thank you, Peter!

Who The Hell's In It also features essays on legends like Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Jerry Lewis, and Sidney Poitier, among others.


Quote of the Week

I ain't gonna sit in a theater for heartache. I can go into my own room and close the door and look at myself and cry. - Jerry Lewis, on his preference for comedy as entertainment


Jun 1, 2006


Yeah! Summer's here! School is out, the sun never sets, and I turn 21...what a month to be alive.

And no, it isn't June Allyson's birthday...she's just the only June I know of....