Thursday, December 31, 2009
My first ever recipe post with a meal straight out of The Fortune Cookie (1966)
I try to make sense out of all those "Heaven" movies
I declared my adoration for Ernest Borgnine
My very first giveaway. TCM 31 Days of Oscars Notebooks
I take some friends to see Pillow Talk (1959) on the big screen.
My most controversial post ever: I declare never to participate in blog awards
I get people thinking about Susan Peters
I show off my own entertainment center and ask fellow bloggers to do the same.
Norma Shearer Week!
Norma Shearer Week continues into April
I turn a Ball of Fire (1942) review into a recipe
I become smitten with Pamela Tiffin
An Ode to My Father
Latino Images in Film series and giveaway in conjunction with TCM's festival
Guest Blogger month with lots of great contributions from: Mercurie, Jonas, Alex, Tommy, Nicole, Donna, Kate Gabrielle, Paulie, Steve-O and Sarah.
Karl Malden breaks my heart
Then I fall in love with Carlos and watch The Hustler (1961) for him.
I watch Rebel Without a Cause (1955) outside in a park
I drag Kevin's butt to see The Arrangement (1969) at the HFA
I take a bit of a break this month. Lots going on but managed to post a few things.
I get to see director Stanley Donen in person twice! For Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) and Two for the Road (1967)
Carlos and I see Phantom of the Opera (1925) in an armory with live musical accompaniment. Just in time for Halloween.
Casablanca Squared happens!
I become fascinated with Charles Emmett Mack (McNerney) who shares my birthday
I finally FINALLY watch It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and I liked it.
I make a menu out of Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
I bite my thumb at that mean blogger and at last put up my Anita Page - The Easiest Way (1931) post.
Happy New Year to you all!
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
by David R. Slavitt
Northwestern University Press
Slavitt has a lot to say. In this book, he gets an opportunity to get those thoughts on paper and into the public's hands. Slavitt is a film critic (local to me since he lives in my area) who has shmoozed with and panned lots of greats from the classic film world. You may think from the title that this book is just about George Sanders his wife Zsa Zsa Gabor and Slavitt. Well, you are completely wrong. While George Sanders' life is the foundation of this book, it is really a free platform for Slavitt to talk about his days as a critic and his interactions with various people in the film world.
While reading this book, to me it seemed like Slavitt was a pretty angry guy. What saves the book for me is that he's a no-nonsense, straight-talking critic who isn't afraid to tell you what he thinks. For that reason, and that reason alone ,I kind of admire the man. George Sanders is a figure of both admiration and curiousity for Slavitt. Sanders was a charming, intelligent man who didn't realize his talent and settled for making lots of not-so-great films and as the final words of the book read: "Sanders' performance [in Viaggio] and All About Eve earned him a crumb of immortality. It's more than most of us get." Slavitt touches upon a lot of aspects of Sanders' life including his odd relationship with Zsa Zsa Gabor who he claims is a sort of angel of death in the lives of her husband Sanders and his brother Tom Conway.
There is a laundry list of other stars mentioned throughout the book and I can guarantee you none of them are put on a pedestal and adored. Slavitt sees them as real people who may or may not have done extraordinary things, but not as untouchable ethereal stars. People mentioned in the book include Alfred Hitchcock, Kim Novak, Natalie Wood, Tony Curtis, Suzanne Pleshette, Jennifer Jones, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Otto Preminger, etc. Slavitt gives us insights that you won't find anywhere else. He tells us about how he disliked Suzanne Pleshette for snubbing his wife in an elevator and he tried to get out of a breakfast with Alfred Hitchcock because he couldn't stand The Birds and didn't want to face him. He also comments on a rumor started by Ava Gardner about her ex-husband Frank Sinatra's lack of sexual prowess. This book is not for the faint of heart. Pretty much everyone is a target for some disdain on Slavitt's part, except for George Sanders. If anyone is on a pedestal in this book, it's him.
I highly encourage you to read this if you have an interest in the life of George Sanders or if you want a different look at classic Hollywood. The book has no real structure and it moves strictly through wandering thoughts with everything coming back to Sanders.
I also want to take a moment to mention The Siren's series on George Sanders. She, like Slavitt, is fascinated by Sanders and has written some excellent pieces on him. Here are a few to check out:
Life with Zsa Zsa, or the Importance of Closet Space
Surreal Sanders: The Private Affairs of Bel-Ami (1947)
George and Bernard: Notes on a Scandal
George Sanders: "Caddishness of Homeric Proportions"
George Sanders on the Kind of Thing to Give the Public
Special thank you to Northwestern University Press for sending me a copy to review. And a special thanks to Slavitt for mentioning Northeastern University Press (Boston)! I used to work there as an undergrad, a couple of years before it closed it's doors and it was nice to see it mentioned.
Monday, December 21, 2009
What touched me (or bothered me) the most about this film is the kindness factor. The kindness that Bailey showed the town and the kindness the town showed back to him. Kindness is rare these days. I find that many kindnesses go unrewarded. While you shouldn't be kind to get a reward, the joy should be enough, the quality of one's life is immensely improved by acts of kindness. On some days, when I'm down and out and really need a hug or a kind word said to me, I come up empty. All I really get in return is people wanting sympathy for their own problems and not seeing that I have many of my own. Maybe people are too self-centered these days. Or maybe, just maybe I'll have my George Bailey moment one day. We'll see.
Now that I've thoroughly depressed you (or angered you, whichever), I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!
P.S. Why did no one tell me Gloria Grahame was in this film?!
Friday, December 18, 2009
I hope you and your families have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Hallucinating on a Life Raft
Steak with Bordelaise Sauce - Wine
Ideal post-life raft post-starvation Dinner
Big, thick juicy steak - baked potatoes - asparagus with hollandaise sauce - chocolate cake with ice cream
Elizabeth Lane's Ultimate Christmas Dinner
Fresh Fruit Cup - Olives - Boullion
Roast Goose Bernaise - Walnut Dressing - Giblet Gravy
Cranberry Orange Relish - Buttered Green Beans - Candied Sweet Potatoes
Tomatoes - Celery Souffle - Hot Rolls - Lettuce with Russian Dressing
Mince Pie - Pumpkin Pie - Ice Cream - Old Fashioned Plum Pudding
Fresh Fruit - Mixed Nuts - Mints - Coffee
Sinky's Magoo Meal
Elizabeth Lane's Fake Husband's Favorite Meal
Lettuce & Endive salad with a creamy blue cheese dressing
The Meal that didn't happen
Toasted Veal Cutlets that haven't been toasted
A plate of sardines thrown away - Mushroom omelet - Toast with butter and jam - Coffee
Next Month's Mink Coat Installment Meal
Breat of grave, sauteed with peaches grenadine (no bones) - chicken soup with Mosel Wine (no bones)
Yardley's Reminiscing Through the Months Meal
October's Breast of Guinea - June's Strawberries Chantilly with rum and egg white
Felix's Cheer-You-Up-Out-of-a-Catastrophe Meal
Chicken Budapest - Brussel Sprouts a la Felix - Potatoes Au Gratin - Artichoke Hearts - Marinated Herring a la Creme
Bologna - Horseradish - Nuts
The Ireland Meets Hungary Stew
Irish Stew + Paprika = Goulash
Post-Marathon Christmas Food Fest - Late Night Snack,
Chicken Drumsticks - Cold Chablis
Attractive Woman's Breakfast*
Flipped pancakes, good coffee and sizzling bacon
The Christmas Tease
Potage Mongol - Roast Goose Bernoise with walnut stuffing
Publisher's Temptation Breakfast
Kidney and onions
*served in a sunny kitchen
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
In continuation of yesterday's post... (some spoilers)
This movie isn't kidding around. A lot of folks even today consider San Fransisco a sinful city and it is portrayed that way in this film. There is a unique juxtaposition of various Biblical references peppered throughout the film alongside shots of sinful activities in the various seedy places of Old San Fransisco. You cannot watch this film and truly appreciate it without taking into account it's religious overtones. At one point in the film, Buckwell (Warner Oland) and his entourage are drinking and carousing in a dive in the Mile of Hell. A man barges in and boldly proclaims to all who will listen to him: "In the midst of thy inquities, God will punish thee! His wrath will fall from Heaven - ". This is a warning for sure.
The movie mostly takes place in 1906 and the biggest natural disaster that San Francisco (or California for that matter) has ever seen is imminent. The earthquake of 1906 was catastrophic and it's estimated that 3,000 people perished in the quake and the ensuing fires that engulfed the city. Most people were left homeless. We have the man's proclamation as well as other references to a vengeful God that lead us to this natural disaster at the epicenter of the film.
In my opinion, Dolores (Dolores Costello) is the epitome of Christian innocence. She is a vertiable angel. She lives on the outskirts of the city and when she steps into the seedy parts of San Fransisco sticks out like a sore thumb. Buckwell's attempt to rape her just serves to show us how truly evil he is and how the city has got out of hand. After Buckwell gets caught and her grandfather dies trying to duel with Buckwell for her honor, Buckwell's true self is exposed to Dolores in a sort of godly revelation. Through the power of her Christianity, her god (and the ghosts of her ancestors!, she is given a moment of clairvoyance and is able to see that Buckwell isn't white as all the Chinamen in Chinatown thought. He's actually a Mongol. The titlecard reads "In the awful light of an outraged, wrathful, Christian God, the heathen soul of the Mongol stood revealed". Let's not get into the racist parts of this film, but this is useful information for Dolores. If she is able to reveal this to the Chinamen who are oppressed by this man who they thought was a white superior, she can stop Buckwell's reign of terror. He tries at all costs to stop her from revealing this. With the help of his sidekick Anna May Wong, he seeks his revenge by sneaking her into one of his brothels and having the madam dress her for services. This is not right and we know it. An angel cannot be sullied this way and just around the time she gets her first customer, she begins to pray the Our Father, while O'Shaugnessy is trying to save her with the help of Buckwell's now freed, but previously trapped midget brother, the earthquake starts. The walls collapse, rubble falls down on all the sinners and the whole city disassembles itself into chaos.
To me this smacks of Samson and Delilah. So I pulled out my Oxford Annotated Bible and went to the Book of Judges Chapter 16 to refresh myself on the tale. The two stories are definitely parallel. Samson was born of barren parents who were blessed with the pregnancy by an angel of God if they promised not to cut his hair. Samson was born with incredible strength which he could keep unless his hair was cut. Delilah, a prositute and a spy for the Philistines, tries to find the secret of Samson's strength. In a moment of weakness, he tells her. She cuts his hair in his sleep and the Philistines capture Samson and gouge his eyes out. He is placed in between two pillars, in front of 3,000 Philistines for their amusement. He prays to God to give him one last bought of strength and he proceeds to bring down the pillars, and the building and he and all the Philistines perish in the rubble.
Now back to the movie. Dolores has long hair, but her strength is really her innocence and beauty. Buckwell knows her strength is in her reputation as part of Spanish aristocracy and people believe and trust her because of her purity. Her weakness is Terrence O'Shaugnessy (Charles Emmett Mack), whom she loves. Buckwell traps O'Shaugnessy and uses him as ransom. He puts Dolores in a brothel (Delilah was in a brothel!) and the moment her innocence is at stake the walls fall down among everybody. It's not a perfect correlation but it's pretty darn close.
It's interesting that this story chose to equate the San Francisco earthquake as an act of God against the sinfulness of San Fransisco. I don't really have an opinion other than an objective one. In terms of storytelling, it's an interesting plot device to lead up to the earthquake. The event becomes part of the driving force of the storyline rather than something unfortunate that just happens.
I haven't seen any other films about the San Francisco earthquake and fires of 1906 so I'm not sure how other movies have treated the subject. Old San Francisco (1927) is a film I highly recommend to anyone with a particular interest in this important moment in US history.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Actor Charles Emmett Mack (McNerney) must not have been scared to tackle heavy topics in his movies. In The First Auto (1927), the audience follows Mack's character and through him and others we see the effects that the invention of the automobile, and it's replacement of the horse-drawn carriage, has on American society and how new technology often times distances different generations. In Old San Francisco (1927), we learn about the history of the city of San Francisco through the stories of different characters.
Old San Francisco (1927) tackles the history of San Fransisco, California from the time when the Spanish established a colony there in 1776, to the Gold Rush of 1848 and on to the great earthquake and fires of 1906. The story lingers on 1906 but the city's past is just as important to the story as the city's present.
Like in The First Auto (1927), Old San Francisco tells a big story through the lives of a few people, thus giving us insight on a meaty topic through a microcosm. We follow the story of the Vasquez family, aristrocratic Spaniards who reside in a mansion in San Francisco. They hold very strongly to the ideals that they inherited from their Spanish ancestors and the family's downfall starts as they resist the overwhelming influence the Gold Rush of 1848 has on the town. At the point the story really starts, 1906, we are introduced to Dolores (Dolores Costello - how fitting!) an amazingly beautiful young Spanish-American woman who lives with her grandfather and strives to maintain the old Spanish customs. Their dilapidated mansion and the land it sits on, is lusted after by various potential buyers. One day, two irishmen show up at the mansion offering to buy it from the proud grandfather who obviously refuses. One of those irishmen is Terrence O'Shaugnessy (Charles Emmett Mack) who falls head over heels with Dolores. But he's got competition. There is another old-fashioned Spaniard in the neighborhood, nipping at Dolores' heels. There is greedy Czar Chris Buckwell (Warner Oland - the Swede of Charlie Chan fmae) who corruptly rules all the chinamen in Chinatown with his iron fist. Dolores' beauty is like a dazzling jewel that he must possess and Buckwell will do so by any means possible. O'Shaugnessy has a chance because Dolores is smitten with the senor, but he gets sidetracked with the prostitutes and booze on Cocktail Route. Will he be able to save Dolores from Buckwell's attempts to rape her and to coerce her grandfather out of his home?
Charles Emmett Mack is again his charming loveable self in this film. The moment his character lays eyes on the beautiful Dolores, he stops, stares and drops his briefcase with important documents into the carriage. You just know that at that moment he leaves his business behind to concentrate on falling in love and pursuing Dolores. My heart just melted when he says (through title cards since this is a silent picture) "Sinful ye are - hiding your beauty from a starvin' world." His character gets sidetracked a lot. Even when he is living it up with the prostitutes on Cocktail Route, you still have the feeling that he is a genuinely good guy, just misguided by all the sinfulness that San Fransisco has to offer him. He plays the most real and mult-dimensional character in the movie. Everyone else seems to be one-dimensional. Dolores is pure and good, the grandfather is proud, Buckwell is greedy and evil, etc. Yet Terrence O'Shaugnessy waivers between good and bad and grows as a person as the story develops. He comes through at the end and you find yourself rooting for him all along the way. Don't let the other big stars Anna May Wong, Warner Oland, Dolores Costello, et.al dazzle you away from the genuine charms of Charles Emmett Mack.
I hope you'll take an opportunity to watch this film. It's available to buy in the Warner Archive collection or to rent on Classicflix. Next up is an examination of the religious overtones of the film. I thought it would be too much to put it in my general review so I separated it into another post.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
Special thanks to everyone for their encouragement!
Here are a few things you should know about me.
1) I didn't grow up celebrating Christmas but adopted the tradition as an adult.
2) I tend to shirk those movies that are uber-popular. Gone with the Wind, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc.
3) I believe life is too short to watch films that don't interest you when there are so many other films that do.
4) I will however take a film recommendation of a friend or someone I care about because sharing films is a great way to experience them.
Unfortunately, It's a Wonderful Life happens to be a really popular Christmas movie that my family never watched when aired during the holidays, that never piqued my interest and one in which no one has realy taken the initiative of forcing me to watch it. Until now.
Tonight, I will break my lifelong boycott of It's a Wonderful Life (1946). I have absolutely no idea what my reaction will be! Will I hate it and wonder why I even bothered? Will I love it so much that I wondered how I lived so long without this marvelous film? Or will I simply say "meh"?
Next up: My reaction
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Aren't cloche hats wonderful?!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
My outfit is sort a modern interpretation. I wore my purple-polka dotted H-M dress, my cloche hat, geometric tights, red high heels and I painted my nails with gold-colored nail polish (because a true Gold Digger would wear gold-colored nail polish right?).
So here is the result. This is purely just for fun! I hope you take the opportunity to watch The Easiest Way (1931) now that it's out on DVD. It's a nice little pre-code starring Constance Bennett, Robert Montgomery, Adolph Menjou, Anita Page and Clark Gable (in one of his early roles). If you are interested in Depression-era movies, that's quite a gem.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
It was imperative that I go the whole nine yards and wear a really nice outfit that night. I was very inspired by the Ginger Rogers outfit Kate Gabrielle put together in her fabulous A Classic Movie Halloween post on her blog Silents and Talkies. I really liked the coat she listed and I had bought it a while ago from Forever 21. I dug into my closet for the rest of the pieces. I wore my Target cloche hat and gloves, my black skirt from TJ Maxx, my seamed nylons from Victoria's Secret, a pair of fabulous pumps from DSW and a white short-sleved collared shirt from H&M. This was the result:
"It is very possible to watch the film Casablanca (1942) and then head downstairs to Casablanca to discuss the movie over drinks. I still dream of doing just that one of these days."We did this but in reverse. It was Black Friday and with Carlos working at retail and not getting out until late, we had to go to the 9:30 pm showing of Casablanca. So we ate dinner before watching the movie.
Casablanca has these wonderful murals with different scenes from the movie. This one happens to be my favorite and I wanted to make sure we sat in front of it for our meal. I highly suggest taking a moment to stop by the restaurant's website and reading about the history of it came about.
Friday, November 27, 2009
I have a special Casablanca post coming up so stay tuned!
- Fire and Music ~ I'm the only cause I'm interested in... - Great post about the significance of Casablanca.
- Noir Girl ~ The Floating Head Syndrome - Noir Girl dissects the use of Floating heads and compares two very different Casablanca posters.
- Movie Viewing Girl ~ On love in Casablanca - Wendy explores love between the characters in the film and the significance and ambiguity of love in the plot of the film.
- Classic Forever ~ The Lesser Loved That I Love More: Rick Blaine vs. Victor Laszlo - In a battle between these two male characters, Laszlo beats out Blaine with his accent.
- Only the Cinema ~ Casablanca - Ed's review of the film. He discusses the importance of the film and how different elements come together to make this the ultimate classic.
- Film Forager ~ Casablanca (1942) - Alex saw it at the Brattle! Yay!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Today is my birthday. It falls so close to Thanksgiving that it often gets overlooked which suits me just well because as I get older these anniversaries get more and more depressing. So today I decided to honor someone other than myself who was born on November the 25th.
I first discovered Charles Emmett Mack when I was watching the Norma Shearer film The Devil's Circus (1926). In researching the film for a post I have yet to write, I discovered that Charles Emmett Mack lived a tragically short life. He died in a car accident while shooting the film The First Auto (1927) (See my review of that film). I wondered what his career could have been had he lived longer. Mack had quite a dynamic onscreen presence. He had a kind countenance with a sort of playfullness in his eyes. His face seemed finely sculpted out of stone and he had the most amazing dimples that I'm sure had the ladies swooning.
There is very little to no information on this actor online. Below is what I could gather from various sources. If you have any information to add, please let me know!
Charles Emmett Mack
B. November 25, 1900 Scranton, Pennsylvania
D. March 17, 1927 Riverside, CA
~ Real Name: Charles Emmett McNerney or Charles Stewart McNerney (most sources list the first one)
~ Discovered by D.W. Griffith who put him in several of his movies.
~ Had a contract with Warner Bros. was being set-up for major stardom.
~ "Mack" seemed to be a popular name in early Hollywood. In addition to Charles Emmett Mack there was also Johnny Mack Brown, Helen Mack, Charles E. Mack, Charles Mack, Wilbur Mack, etc.
~ One source claims that his stage name was Charles Montague at first, but really that was his character's name in the film America (1924)
~ Died on the way to the set of The First Auto (1927) - It was a car accident which is ironic given the topic of the film he was shooting.
~ Buried in Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles
Dream Street (1921) as Billy Mcfadden
The Daring Years (1923) as John Browning
Driven (1923) as Tom Tolliver
The White Rose (1923) as Guest At Inn
Youth for Sale (1924) as Tom Powers
America (1924) as Charles Philip Edward Montague
The Sixth Commandment (1924) as Henry Adams
Down Upon the Suwannee River (1925) as Bill Ruble
Bad Company (1925) as Dick Reynolds
Down Upon the Swanee River (1925)
A Woman of the World (1925) as Gareth Johns
The Devil's Circus (1926) as Carlstop
The Unknown Soldier (1926) as Fred Williams
Old San Francisco (1927) as Terrence O'Shaughnessy
The Rough Riders (1927) as Bert Henley
The First Auto (1927) as Bob Armstrong
Dream Street (1921) ~ The Directors: Rare Films Of D.W. Griffith As Director Vol. 1
The White Rose (1923) ~ The Directors: Rare Films Of D.W. Griffith As Director Vol. 4
America (1924) also on ClassicFlix
A Woman of the World (1925)
The First Auto (1927) ~ Warner Archive also on ClassicFlix
Old San Fransisco (1927) ~ Warner Archive also on ClassicFlix
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!
Monday, November 23, 2009
Carlos presented me with a copy of the out of print Norma Shearer biography by Gavin Lambert as an early birthday gift. When I say "presented", I mean hid it in my apartment and made me go on a wild goose chase to find it! I'm so happy to have this. Now I don't have to check it out several times a year from my local library because I OWN it.
Thank you Carlos!
Monday, November 16, 2009
36-year old man
New York, NY
Relationship: Never Married
Want Kids: No Interest
Body Type: Fit
Smoke: Regularly. It helps me concentrate on my game.
In My Own Words:
My manager Charlie put me up to this. I'm not really looking for anyone but if someone with a similar life experience who understands a man with troubles comes around, I won't turn her away.
For Fun: Shooting Pool & Drinking J.T.S Brown
My Job: Shooting Pool
Favorite hot spots: Ames', Stan's and various other pool halls. Bus Station, Kentucky Derby, etc.
Best Feature: Blue Eyes
Sports and exercise: Shooting Pool & Fighting in Pool Halls
Occupation: Sales Rep peddling Druggist Supplies/Shooting Pool
Turn-ons: Hustling a sucker, making money, J.T.S. Brown, Blondes, Beating Minnesota Fats, etc.
Turn-offs: Losing to Minnesota Fats, Burt Young's greed, Having my thumbs broken, etc.
About My Date
Hair: Blonde, short
Eyes: Piercing yet sad
Height: 5' 0" - 5' 5"
Body type: Slender & Petite
Smoke: If she wants
Drink: Yes. I'll buy her a drink if she gets me breakfast.
Have kids: No
Want kids: No
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
While the changes are happening, we don't stop to analyze and study them, that comes years later when we look back on what has transpired. I think it's very important that cultural shifts be explored and sometimes it takes a few years to really realize their impact. New technology divides generations. What older generations learned from schooling and hard work over the years seems to be trumped by the new technology that is more difficult for them to grasp but is easily understood by younger generations.
Sometimes we need films and other outlets to help us understand the ramifications of the rapid change of modern technology . In 1927, a film came about that offered to analyze, discuss and reconcile the very important transition in transportation technology from horse-driven carriage to the automobile (the horse-less carriage).
The First Auto (1927) is a Warner Bros. silent which was written by Darryl F. Zanuck and directed by Roy Del Ruth. The story follows Hank Armstrong (Russell Simpson) a popular horse-racer with a prize mare called Sloe Eyes. His son Bob (Charles Emmett Mack) is highly enthusiastic about a new invention called the "horseless carriage". He shares his passion with his girlfriend Rose (Patsy Ruth Miller) who is amused by Bob but also admires him for his enthusiasm. We start at the turn of the century and progress a few years; from the invention of the automobile to the later advancement towards racing cars. Hank watches his world fall apart as the advent of automobiles threatens his business, while his son Bob sees new and exciting opportunities open up before him. Progress and change are inevitable in society and Hank has to learn to embrace this new technology whether he wants to or not.
This film is quite excellent on so many levels. It explores a major technological advancement and a change in American culture. It focuses on two characters with a specific story to paint a bigger picture. It's both sad and funny. We see the technology evolve as the autos get more and more advanced.
This film was recently made available in the Warner Archive collection and I'm so happy it was! It really is a treat to see and you should take advantage and buy a copy of this film (or rent it on Classicflix). The biggest irony of the film is that Charles Emmett Mack died during the making of this film. He was driving to the set in his auto when he was broadsided by a wagon. Mack had offered to give costar Patsy Ruth Miller a ride, but she had declined on the account of her maid insisting she got some rest. If she had gone with Mack, it's possible that both co-stars would have died that day. At the point of Mack's death, almost all of the film had been shot, give or take a few scenes. At the end, Mack's character is noticeably absent but spoken about by Hank to keep him in the story. There is also a point towards the middle of the film in which Mack's character is far away and writes letters to his girl (part of the story? a rewrite? who knows). *Spoiler Alert*: At the climax of the film, Bob is racing his car and gets into an accident. At that point it looks like he may be dead. This kind of creeped me out. I thought that this may have been his real death and they kept it in the film! But alas, it was not and his character survived, but sadly he did not.
Monday, November 2, 2009
This is one bizarre film. There is no other way around it, this film is very weird. And if you hear Tuesday Weld stars as Barbara Ann, a high school teen that aspires to be a movie star. She was named after Barbara Stanwyck and Ann Sheridan. Her mother, Marie (Lola Albright) is a cocktail waitress who has a drunken penchant of taking her customers home with her. Barbara Ann meets Mollymauk (Roddy McDowell) another high school student who seems to know everything about Barbara before they even met. In the beginning of the film we learn that Mollymauk (Alan or the "duck" referred to in the title) is mentally insane. Great! Mollymauk/Alan/duck follows around Barbara Ann trying to make all her wishes come true. She wants 12 cashmere sweaters, he convinces her to put a guilt trip on her estranged father to get them. She wants to get married to a rich man, he works that out for her. But every step of the way, Mollymauk/Alan/duck makes sure that all her granted wishes turn awry. This is when the movie really gets dark with suicide and attempted murder.
From what I understand, this film is supposed to be a spoof but I didn't find it very funny. Especially the darker parts towards the end seemed disturbing, even if they were ridiculous. This film pokes fun at bikini movies, high school, teenage-parent relationships in the 1960s, the movie industry, American culture (drive-in church?!) etc. It's an interesting satire but I can't say that I enjoyed this film. It may be too late in the decade. I seem to gravitate more towards the earlier half of the 1960s when films are becoming more experimental but haven't reached the state of utter bizareness!
One reviewer said that Tuesday Weld was very Tuesday Weld-ish in this film. However, this is only my second Tuesday Weld film so I'm not very sure what Tuesday Weld-ish means. She is very cute, pixie-ish and vibrant in the film and these qualities are what draw me to her as an actress. Please enjoy some screenshots of the lovely Tuesday Weld.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Yesterday afternoon I found out that Somerville's Arts at the Armory (MA) program was having a special event featuring the silent film Phantom of the Opera (1925) that very night. The film would be shown with live musical accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra. I couldn't believe my eyes. This was my chance to watch a silent film on the big screen with live music! I called Carlos and being the amazing boyfriend he is, he encouraged me to go ahead and buy the tickets so we could go (any other boyfriend would have shirked and mumbled some excuse about watching a sporting event on TV instead).
The even was held at this very cool building. It was an armory built in 1903 to house the Somerville Light Infrantry of the Massachusetts Volunteer Militia. Over the past century it's been used for many things and now the space is used for community arts programs.
The space was very open and they used really cool lighting. Red light pillars running alongside the wall, spotlights, and lots of blue and green lighting. It's hard to explain but you can get a feel for it from the picture. It was a very open space and quite suitable for a big production.
Carlos and I really just came for the screening of Phantom of the Opera (1925) with live music. However, if you go to a concert oftentimes you'll have to sit through the opening act. R/A and DJ Dzinga showed 3 short films with live techno-music accompaniment. This part of the event was really trippy. The first short we saw was the experiment German film The Fall of the House of Usher (1928). Woah. It was Art Deco & German Expressionism in a very hypnotic way. I didn't quite get it. Carlos was amused. The next two short films were very strange. Some trippy '60s/70's horror sequences that made me go all cross-eyed. The last short film has techno-music so loud that I thought I was going to go deaf. So when it was time for Phantom, I was more than ready.
The film was shown on a big elevated screen and the Alloy Orchestra played below. I was very impressed by their music and how they closely watched the movie to make sure their music suited what was going on in screen. It really enhanced the movie-watching experience. They used a wide variety of instruments including: drums, chimes, bells, horseshoes, cymbals, an accordion, a saw and some other metal with a violin bow (for the creepy sounds) and a multi-functional keyboard that happened to play organ music. Sometimes I would take my eyes off the screen just to see what instrument the orchestra would use next.
The film itself was spectacular. I had never seen it before so it was a real treat to watch it both on the big screen and with live music. The film we was an amalgamation of the 1925 and 1929 versions. Most notably, the 1929 version has a talking scene in which Carlotta sings a song in the opera. We didn't hear the sound but it was notably different visually than the others since it spent so much time focusing on her face and her mouth. In reading the Trivia section of this film's entry in IMDB, there are lots of differences between the two versions so it's interesting that what we saw was a fusion of the two.
The version we saw had what I consider extraordinary use of color. Many duo-tone scenes of green, blue, orange and red were found throughout the film. My favorite was with Lon Chaney as Erik the Phantom when he is perched on the statue at the top of the Paris Opera House. He's wearing a red suite with a red cape when he crashes theBal Masque as the red death. It's at night and the rest of the elements are blue. So it's great to see the contrast between the black and the blue of the night with the Phantom's bright red!
The sets in the film were so elaborate and beautiful. It seemed like a costly film to make. I think Phantom of the Opera (1925) is a great example of how sophisticated and beautiful silent films can be. Of course, the story looks at Erik the Phantom as a horrible monster who must be destroyed whereas notable late versions like Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, take a more sympathetic view of that character.
Interesting to note, Carla Laemmle, the niece of Phantom's producer Carl Laemmle, is in the film as one of the ballerinas. She was 15 when it was shot and she is the only surviving cast member of Phantom. And on that very same night, October 30th, 2009, Carla Laemmle was on the other side of the country celebrating her centennial birthday and signing books at the Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Los Angeles. Isn't that neat?
It was a really great night and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to see this and that Carlos was willing and excited to come with me. Now I leave you with some fun shots we took at the Armory. Perfect pictures for Halloween.
Have a safe and wonderful holiday!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
by Francoise Sagan
Harper Modern Perennial Classics
Buy at Powells.com
I had watched the Otto Preminger film Bonjour Tristesse (1958) a while back for my You Otto See It series, and was very impressed by it. (See my post about it here) The film stars Jean Seberg, David Niven and Deborah Kerr. Seberg plays Cecile, a 17-year old who is living it up on the French Riviera with her bachelor father Raymond (David Niven). When an old family friend, Anne (Deborah Kerr), threatens their bohemian lifestyle by bringing structure and morality to their lives, Cecile becomes desperate to hold on to her free lifestyle at all costs. Even if it means breaking up Raymond and Anne's engagement.
The film is based on the Francoise Sagan novel published in 1954. Sagan is from France and wrote the novel in French at the age of 17. It was an instant hit and it only took a couple of years for the film rights to be snagged up and for the movie to be created. Many folks think that the novel is autobiographical considering the fact that both Sagan and her character Cecile are 17 years old and living in France. The novel is written in first-person narrative in Cecile's perspective and at times it did feel that I was reading a short memoir.
The book can be classified as a novella as it's only about 130 pages long. It's separated into two sections. The first part is when Anne comes into the lives of Raymond and Cecile. The second part is when Cecile puts into place her elaborate scheme to separate Raymond and Anne. It's a light, melancholy story and although it feels subdued it really makes you think about the consequences of people's actions. This story is very much about manipulation, aversion to change and the numbness and boredom experienced by the rich. Our present society is very fascinated by this, as you can see by the plethora of reality shows that follow rich people around. I think a story like Bonjour Tristesse is more eye-opening and intellectually stimulating.
Reading this book make realize not only how much I love this story but how excellent a job Otto Preminger did in adapting this novella for the screen. The 1958 film version is visually stunning bringing the characters and the setting alive before our eyes. Preminger stayed very true to the story and did little to change it. In fact, the film added to the story in a way that enhanced it. The novella is very linear chronologically. Preminger's film shifts from present day to past back to present day and did this by representing present day as black & white (the sad aftermath) and past day as color (the carefree happy days before the incident). There are a lot of little subtleties in the text that Preminger kept and showed on screen. For example, one of my favorite scenes involved Cecile being caught in the arms of her lover by Anne. Her lover kisses her shoulder and Cecile kisses the same spot. This very subtle and short moment, the shoulder-kissing, is in the novella! Preminger had picked up on a lot of the nuances of the novella and weaved them into the film. While Preminger stayed very close to the original book, I feel like he improved upon it by adding a few extra scenes and by adding a layer of social commentary. The novella is written in the perspective of Cecile so she is not capable the level of social awareness that Preminger added to the movie. I think this just enhances the story. For example, there is a scene when one of the two interchangeable maids gulps down champagne why the rich folk go about their amusement. This really shows the differences between the two classes, especially the obliviousness of the upperclass. This isn't in the book. Also, the novella was famous for being blunt sexually, with an outright reference to abortion. Preminger didn't include the abortion reference but he kept the language in the film sexy in an indirect way.
I think Bonjour Tristesse the novella and the film could be used as an example of a book-to-movie adaptation that went really well. Because an adaptation should do two things: it should stay true to the original story and improve upon it. What we get today is film directors trying change too much of the story or they are pressured by film studios to make the film in a way that makes it generate the big bucks. What ends up happening is they bastardize the story and lots of folks who loved the original book are outright disgusted by the movie adaptation (::cough ~Talented Mr. Ripley ~ cough::). I think classic film book adaptations worked a lot better even though they had the same pressures: money, pleasing film studios, time, etc.
I highly recommend you read the Sagan novella then watch the Otto Preminger film, and in that order.
Full Disclosure: A friend lent me her copy of this book.
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