Tuesday, September 30, 2008

You Otto See It: Angel Face (1953)

This is my first in a series of entries on the director Otto Preminger. I'm planning to watch 8 Preminger films (click here for the list) in preparation for my friend Kevin's lecture in November.

The first I watched was Angel Face (1953) , "presented" by Howard Hughes and starring Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum. I'm not sure what this film is and after watching it I wasn't sure exactly what it was that I saw. I just know that Robert Mitchum looked hot and that he slapped Otto Preminger during production. Go Mitchum! I would have liked to have slapped Preminger too for having to sit through this film. Although I titled this series "You Otto See It", I don't really recommend it. It's boring, confusing and the only thing to look forward to is Mitchum's pretty mug.

I did, however, like the beginning of the movie. Mitchum plays an ambulance driver, Frank, who gets called to the scene of a potential smothering. A rich woman claims someone tried to suffocate her and already we are suspicious. Then there is the woman's step-daughter, Diane, played by Jean Simmons, who is beautiful, tormented, has an angel face, blah blah blah. Frank and Diane slap each other a few times (many re-takes compelled Mitchum to slap Preminger) and are thrusted into a hot and heavy affair. Trouble is Frank's got this girl, Mary, played by Mona Freeman, a nurse at the hospital he works for. She doesn't have the angel face but she's got an angel heart. He should be with Mary but Diane is the one who excites him. Mary is confronted by Diane and finds out about Frank's infidelity. Frank doesn't know that Mary knows about Frank & Diane's rendezvous the previous night. When Mary confronts Frank, this gem appears in the dialogue:

Frank: I would have been lousy company last night. Ten minutes after I left Harry's I was in the sack.

Mary: I can believe that. Well, you can head for that same sack tonight.

I don't know much about the social norms of dating and relationships in the 1950's. But from what I gather from this film and others like it is that a man is free to see who he wants until he gets married. There isn't really a concept of a "boyfriend" or a committed pre-marital relationship, as we have in our contemporary culture. Just a courtship, which if successful, leads to an engagement which is mercifully brief and followed by a quick marriage. Engagements sometimes last hours or a few days, unless the beau is really dragging his heels. Maybe fast courtships and engagements were a way to snag a guy before a dangerous angel face lures him away. Who knows?

It's not that this film answered any questions I had, it just got me thinking. So at least I have that. In the end, the moral of the story was that beauty is dangerous and don't teach a girl how to fix a car.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Work: My Classic Film Nest

I am by nature a nester. I settle into a spot, make it all nice and cozy and I nestle in as happy as can be. When the company I work for moved offices in March of this year, I had a difficult time with the transition. After 4+ years of perfecting my desk-nest, I had to give it up forever for a new, bare and foreign cubicle. I knew if I was going to make the transition unscathed I had to nestify my cube, FAST! So within 30 minutes of my arrival to the new office, my new cubicle was decked out with tchotckes, notes, doodads and of course, Classic Movie Paraphernelia! Since then, the area has become less foreign and more of a comfort zone. And whoever stops by will for sure know I'm a classic film fan.

I thought it would be fun to take you on a journey of all the classic movie images I have posted in my work area. So I snuck into work early one morning and took some snap shots (lest I be ridiculed). Please enjoy!

First of all there is my Classic Movie Posters Calendar. It's been a permanent fixture in my work area for almost 5 years! I even have my 2009 calendar ready and waiting. And behold! September features Metropolis (1927)!



A few of the older calendars had preview layouts on the back with all the posters in mini-form. Being the resourceful person I am, I didn't let them go to waste and promptly cut them out and used them to decorate various parts of my desk area.

What would my desk be without Norma Shearer? This is a little clip that is pinned to my corkboard. It's from an issue of Parade and Norma's presence is purely coincidental because the tiny article was about Clark Gable. The caption reads "Gable with Norma Shearer: Good actor, bad breath".

Other people grace my cubicle too. I love this picture of Marilyn Monroe, it's by far my favorite of her. She looks elegant and vibrant. And that picture of Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn staring into each others eyes, classic! My picture of Robert Mitchum was defaced however and is missing (see my post about the incident). Oh woe is me.

I tend to chuckle to myself when I see that great picture of Irene Dunne pulling on Cary Grant's hair. Grant's expression is priceless. I kept the old Harvard Film Archive schedule so I could hang that image at work and see it everyday. And what TCM fan doesn't love Edward Hopper? Represent!

I like to keep mementos from outings, especially when I go see films at theaters. The image at the top is a cut-out from an old HFA schedule and its of Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott in Pitfall (1948) (see my previous post about that movie). The other picture is of Ludivine Sagnier (I LOVE HER!) in A Girl Cut in Two (2007). It's a cut-out from a Kendall Square Cinema schedule, where I saw the film recently. Yes, I watch contemporary films! Foreign ones too!

And then there is the obligatory Audrey Hepburn photo. This was a blad from BEA that a co-worker picked up for me. It's quite gorgeous and adds a bit of style to a bookshelf that holds books about dinosaurs, dragons, ducks and poop!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Metropolis (1927)

There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.


My friends Kevin, Haze and Lisa accompanied me last night to the Harvard Film Archive to watch a free screening of the great silent epic Metropolis (1927) (some sites list it as 1926). It was quite a treat to see this monumental film up on the big screen. However, that was dampened by my disappointment in the audience reaction to the viewing. I believe that if most of the people in that audience had voted on my poll which asks "What do you think of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927)?" they would have chosen "Weird! Hello? Have you seen it?" as an option. I noticed that a couple people left in the middle of the movie while others stayed to gripe and moan about the over-the-top elements of the movie. I for one was tremendously irked by the negative reaction. Sure it's over-the-top. It's a silent film people!




I find solace in the fact that most of the people in the audience were probably required to be there and they obviously did not understand the background, history and impact of the film in order to enjoy it fully. I didn't enjoy Citizen Kane (1941) until I studied it in a film class as an undergrad and I hated The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) until I read Tolkien's books and got what the hell was going on. And if I didn't appreciate Metropolis' impact on history and culture and didn't enjoy futuristic art deco style, allegory, social commentary and biblical references, I probably would have bolted from the theater as soon as "The End" appeared on screen, as so many did yesterday evening. Knowledge is indeed power. Even if it only extends into the power of enjoyment.



On a more positive note, watching Metropolis last night reinvigorating my strong interest in this movie. I highly recommend that you read the Wikipedia entry on this film. Usually entries on this site are bare-bones, but this one contains a lot of interesting content as well as links to other sources. And Metropolis fans, like myself, can look forward to the complete film being released after an original print was discovered a couple of months ago in Argentina. One website claims, a new release on DVD and Blu-Ray may be on the market as soon as next year! Huzzah!

In the meantime, please vote on my poll to let me know what you think of Metropolis. Also, please feel free to share your thoughts in the form of comment entries on this blog (I love reading those!).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Out of the Past, Into the Now ~ Deuil

Je suis dans le deuil



I am in mourning for the Back to Basics - Christina Aguilera. Christina Aguilera reinvents herself with each new album, as many pop stars are prone to do. It keeps their fans from getting bored and allows the musician to experiment with a new and different style. It also brands their album with an image that is intrinsically tied into the music. So when I saw the glamorous old Hollywood style of the Back to Basics album I was full of glee. I knew that this was an Aguilera I could identify with and I was so proud of her of bringing some sense of the past to her fans. I even posted (sort of) here about it!


First there was Ain't No Other Man, which captured the noir essence of a '40s night club. Then there was Hurt, an homage to the bohemian-gypsy style of the turn of the 20th century. Finally, there was Candyman, a hyper-sexualized delight that was a throwback to the youths of WWII. This was only the visuals for the music videos, the music itself was astounding on a whole other level. I loved it all, ate it up and couldn't get enough.


I knew full well that this was only a phase and that it wouldn't continue past the life of the album. This was confirmed at the recent VMA's where she performed decked out in a new futuristic style which told me the Back to Basics - Aguilera is gone. ::sigh:: I will miss her.

At least I have Katy Perry to keep me company...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Nothing much now, but things will get better!

There is not a lot going on, Classic Film-wise. It's funny how these things work. Sometimes, I have a million things I want to write and I end up writing a whole bunch of new posts all at once and stage them out so as not to flood the blog an overwhelming amount of verbiage. And other times ideas are scarce and the blog becomes a wasteland of silence. I hope that this is only temporary and the flow of ideas will soon return.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Ultimate Norma Shearer Fan


A friend of mine on Facebook is the ultimate Norma Shearer fan. Her profile page is plastered with Norma Shearer mentions. She owns the official Norma Shearer member page and fan group on the website. She even lists her religion as "Norma Shearer Worshipper". While all of this must seem mundane, she showed her true devotion recently with something that even astounded myself. And I consider myself quite a fan. She had the name "Norma Shearer" tattooed on what looks to be her forearm. For many reasons, I would not post the picture or even indicate this person's name, but I thought it worthy of a post. Now it is one thing to have an image of a celebrity tattooed on your body (it can be considered artwork in addition to radical devotion), but it is quite another to have their name tattooed. I was quite amazed. I wonder what Norma would think if she were still alive?

DISCLAIMER: Please withhold your judgment as getting a tattoo is a very personal decision and everyone has their own reasons for getting one. I'm just posting this as an interesting story to share.

All in the name of the queen. Long live the queen.
Tout en la nom de la Reine. Vive la Reine.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

God Speed Anita Page (1910-2008)

Anita Page was one of the last few silent screen stars still alive. I remember watching her play one of the sisters in Broadway Melody of 1929. And believe it or not, she actually has a film coming out later this year! Amazing. God Speed Anita Page!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Out of the Past, Into the Now: The Women (1939) or is it (2008)?

The Sunday New York Times featured an article discussing the newest incarnation of the famous Clare Booth Luce play The Women. Nothing, since the George Cukor film that so many of us love and hold dear to our hearts, has been able to capture the magic of that theatrical all-women spectacle. There have been some really bad remakes like The Opposite Sex (1956), which in my opinion was the opposite of good (its got men, people!!!). And there have been some good remakes, like the televised Broadway play that featured Cynthia Nixon, of Sex and the City fame, in the title role.

It's been a long process to get the newest remake underway and in theatres. But can it hold up? Can Eva Mendes capture the cutting wit and ruthlessness of Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford in the original) when she says "there is a word for you ladies, but it isn't used in society... outside of a kennel". We'll just have to wait and see. The new film, features "little-girl-voiced blonde" Meg Ryan (in contrast to the "mellifluent brunet" Norma Shearer) and hits theatres on September 12th, with TCM fast on its heels, showing the original version on September 15th. In the meantime, check out the NYT article online as well as their chart comparing and contrasting the 1939 version to the 2008 one. Enjoy!


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