Jan 26, 2008

Newman's Own Special Day

  It is a rare thing that renders me speechless, as my many blog posts will attest (don't you care about Van Johnson's controversial 1947 marriage?!) - but oh, there is one exemplary specimen of man that does the trick every time. He is endlessly awing, heartbreakingly handsome, and I fear my entire romantic future suffers from a predisposition for disappointment because men, I'm afraid, don't come quite like this anymore. His name is Paul Leonard Newman.

  The venerable Mr. Newman - actor, philanthropist, salad dressing connoisseur, professional auto racer - may be celebrating his 83rd birthday today in his hometown of nearly fifty years, Westport, Connecticut. He may similarly be mulling over the fact that he and brainy big-screen beauty Joanne Woodward have been married exactly half a century, or that he's spent five decades in film, or even, perhaps, that his public is anxious to revel in one last collaboration between himself and frequent co-star Robert Redford, who is, not surprisingly, delectable as well. But in the presence of this rare man - his celluloid presence, my occasional daydream, or otherwise - I cannot mull over anything, so intrigued and enamored am I with the Aristotilian mind within the Adonis-like body (have you seen The Long, Hot Summer? Young, shirtless, flirtatious Paul Newman earns every bit of the Adonis title you just scoffed at).

  But beyond the beautiful facade over which I could rhapsodize for the rest of my born days, there lies the personality Newman presents to his public in sumptuous scraps: through his film characters, in his infrequent interviews, and in the family-oriented, Hollywood-eschewing way he has lived his life since the early 1960's. He is disarmingly witty, effortlessly self-effacing, and somewhere in him remain the traces of the rebellious rogues he played in his best-loved films like Cool Hand Luke and The Sting.

  Despite critical acclaim and a succession of box-office breakthroughs throughout the late 50's, 60's and 70's, it was during this same time period that Newman focused his energy on directorial efforts and pursued alternate interests, such as the auto-racing he performed into his late 70s (he owns half of Newman-Haas Auto Racing) and the food and beverage line he created, Newman's Own, the complete proceeds of which go directly to charitable causes and to fund the children's camps Newman and Woodward founded for children with terminal illness.

  So you see, I must be given some leeway with my fawning over this incredible man. It isn't just Ben Quick's broad, sculpted shoulders, Butch Cassidy's chiseled jaw beneath a cowboy hat or the way Fast Eddie Felson handled a pool cue that had me smitten from the outset. It is also Luke's insurmountable insolence, Rocky Graziano's downbeaten discontent, and Paul's perpetually enchanting persona. And, okay, maybe the eyes have something to do with it.

Paul Newman was born on this day in 1925 in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

To learn more about Newman's Own products, visit their website.

For additional information on Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang programs for children, click here to be redirected to an exterior site.

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Jan 25, 2008

Awesomes in the Dust

Of all the lovely stars comprising the classic film constellation, brassy-haired Brit Greer Garson was among my least favorite ladies. The basis for my criticsim was as ridiculous as it was lacking reason: I had never seen a film of hers (but then again, I told myself, I didn't want to), I knew very little about her, and she had never offended me in any particular way, but still, disdain remained. There was so little sense to my dislike - now but a memory, to be sure - and it becomes even more of an oddity to consider now that I am officially in love with Greer, courtesy her heartbreaking 1941 film Blossoms in the Dust.

Crafted by seldom-credited screenwriter Anita Loos and finessed by the touch of deft-handed director Mervin LeRoy, Blossoms unfolds the story of turn-of-the-century children's rights activist Edna Gladney, who, through her rejection of then-contemporary convention and her obstinance towards the legal system of the day, significantly changed the process of child adoption to a more humane and loving procedure. And Blossoms is everything one would expect of an MGM biopic from cinema's golden age: love and heartbreak, triumph and tragedy, and a testament to a tenacious and intrepid life, all tinted in emotion-intensifying Technicolor. Gladney is gladly depicted as the heroine she was and, truthfully, still is: the testy Texas woman rallied in defense of abandoned children whose parentage was questioned and who were stigmatized with the legal branding of illegitimacy, a term whose assignment wreaked grave social implications as they grew up to seek jobs, get married, or even join 'respectable society'. The real-life activist opened her home to hundreds of children through her revolutionary day-care facility, which she also financed, never envisioning her impact on the social issues tied to pregnancy, parenthood and adoption.

As much a star as Gladney, though, is the woman who brings her to life in the film even today. Tough yet delicate and never histrionic, Garson presents the balanced and trailblazing woman Gladney likely was - feminine yet defiant, steadfast yet nurturing, a pioneer who saw her work as the good fight it was.

I wave my white flag proudly, Miss G, in deference to your awesome acting acuity. I will never speak ill of you again!

An unlicensed version of Blossoms in the Dust is available on dvd through Free Movies on Dvd.

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Jan 24, 2008

Seen It?!

In this age of at-your-fingertips knowledge, posting trivia questions has become a bit of a challenge for me - who's to say a quick Google search isn't truly responsible for all those right answers I've fielded? I don't mind, really, but don't you feel so much more the true movie connoisseur when you solve a perfectly perplexing puzzle without consulting a search engine? If so, then I give you a new type of trivia: The Picture Pane Puzzle. It's up to you to determine the mystery film by recognizing the images from it, posted below.

From what film were the following stills taken?

Post your answers using the comments link below.

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Jan 16, 2008


   If the myriad of posts on the subject didn't cue you in to the fact that I adored Life Magazine's Remembering Grace issue - the vibrant, glossy, picture-packed special edition devoted entirely to actress and princess Grace Kelly's timeless glamour - then you probably won't fathom how rabidly I received the news that Life has accorded like treatment to her sister icon, the inimitable Audrey Hepburn.

   Fifteen years after her death of cancer at the age of 64, the life of The Gamine Girl of the 1950's and 60's is celebrated in page after page of photos by her trusted photographer Bob Willoughby, many of which were unpublished until now. And though captions are sparse in the 144-page tribute, they are nearly unnecessary when coupled with such lush imagery over the span of Audrey's life: instant and lasting stardom in Hollywood at the start of her career, two saddeningly tumultuous marriages, and two sons who saw her through to the charity work she participated in until her illness became debilitating. Even if each phase isn't depicted within these covers, Aud's essence shines through in the impressive array of pictures, whether she's being dirtied on the set of My Fair Lady or riding her bicycle around the studio lot with her Yorkshire Terrier in its wicker basket: she is at once kind and compassionate, self-conscious and slight. She is simply stunning.

Remembering Audrey. As if we could ever forget.

Photo Source


The January 8, 2008 magazine reportedly retails for 12.99, just like Grace's, and is available on newsstands through April (it is not, however, available online).

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Hometown Homage

  If there ever was a moment for re-inforcing my hometown pride, it was the Christmastime discovery of a Hollywood homage in my very own downtown. Handsome actor Kerwin Mathews, perhaps best known for his swarthiness and swordfighting in films like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) and 1962's Jack The Giant Killer, was recently honored in his home city of Janesville, Wisconsin, just months after his July 5th death in San Franscisco at the age of 81.

  Mathews was born in Seattle but raised in Janesville (he attended high school with my grandparents), a city of around 60,000, and stayed close to his midwestern roots until his late twenties, when he left a high school teaching position to make a foray to Hollywood. Although he never achieved the fame of contemporary 1950s stars like William Holden or Spencer Tracy, with whom he starred in The Devil at Four O'Clock, he nonetheless found a particular genre of films which suited his acrobatic and acting abilities, and remains a cult favorite even today. He relocated to San Francisco in the 1970's, where he replaced a dwindling number of TV and film roles with an interest in dealing antiques and furniture; he remained in the city until his 2007 death.

The city of Janesville recently renamed a small street in its historic downtown area after Mathews, which I was giddy to find while home for Christmas break:

(I will, of course, completely overlook the fact that they spelled his name wrong, at least until I sit down to write my congressman about it).

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Jan 1, 2008

Happy New Year from HCC!

A New Year and new resources mean only one thing: a fabulous 2008 is in store for all of you bloggers, first-time visitors and fab devotees alike! Once the effects of last night's champagne leave yours truly, I hope to add exciting new features, to expand my links to include retail suggestions, shopping tips, creative ideas, book reviews, and music connections, among other additions, and to generally improve upon Hillary's Classic Cinema to achieve a more cohesive, easy-to-navigate resource for classic film lovers everywhere.

Here's to a happy, healthy, new year filled with every good flick from The Apartment right down to Xanadu (okay, that's the champagne talking).