Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Also, while I'm linkin' it up, if you'd like to visit some excellent Norma Shearer sites here are my top three favorites. Enjoy!
Divas: The Site ~ Norma Shearer
Norma Shearer at Classic Movie Favorites
Lady of the Night ~ Norma Shearer
Monday, March 30, 2009
(Pictures of Norma from Divas: The Site)
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Edith at first wanted Norma to be a pianist, however Norma's early career involved bouts in vaudeville and modeling. She landed an infamous gig as the Springfield Tires billboard girl Miss Lotta Miles which her future rival Joan Crawford loved to poke fun at.
One day, almost out of the blue, Norma decided she wanted to be an actress and she and Athole auditioned and got bit parts in the Olive Thomas film The Flapper (1920). Edith joined in on the fun and they all became extras in the barn dance scece in D.W. Griffith classic silent Way Down East (1920). Norma took that opportunity to meet the director so she stood under an arc-light to show off her features. Griffith gave her one good look and told her she would never become a star.
Norma continued to make films in New York and got noticed in The Stealers (1922) and with the help of producer Hal Roach, she made her way over to Hollywood. The day after her arrival she met with producer Irving Thalberg of MGM (then known as The Mayer Company). He was so young she mistook him for an office boy until she saw him sit behind the producer's desk and put his feet up. They were both impressed by each other, Irving by Norma's charisma and drive and Norma by Irving's power and work ethic.
Norma signed with MGM and made many movies with MGM's top stars Lon Chaney Jr., Conrad Nagel and John Gilbert. She wasn't an instant success but with each film her star rose higher and higher in the Hollywood heavens. After various affairs with other people, Thalberg proposed marriage to Shearer and she accepted. The marriage would make her the Queen of MGM and it was a union of business and mutual admiration and respect. Most say Shearer was an opportunist as the union helped get her lots of choice roles, but Shearer hard to work hard to prove herself.
In 1929, Norma helped usher in a new era of talking pictures with MGM's first talkie The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929). Her upper-class Canadian accent worked well and the transition was smooth for her. She was however very unhappy with her roles and wanted better parts. She proved to her husband Thalberg that she had potential beyond her "good girl" roles and she landed parts in pre-code classics such as The Divorceé (1930) and A Free Soul (1931), for which she won the Best Actress Academy Award. Her career boomed and she made lots of popular pictures with co-stars such as Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery and Leslie Howard. Most fans today love her Prestige Films which are those films she made from 1936-1939 including Marie Antoinette (1938) and The Women (1939).
Norma had two children with Irving: Irving Jr. (b. 1930) and Katherine (b. 1935). Irving's health was very poor due to a heart condition and he passed away in 1936 leaving Norma a widow. She continued to make films for MGM However, Norma was aging and becoming less and less believable in romantic leads. When Her Cardboard Lover (1942) proved to be a total flop, she made the decision to end her acting career.
Norma met ski instructor Martin Arrouge, a handsome strapping man some 12 years her junior and married him in 1942. Martin (whom she convinced to go by the name "Marti") and Norma were a very suitable pair. She wanted to continue living as a queen and he wanted someone to adore. They remained married until Norma's death.
What very few people realize is that Norma's family had a history of mental illness. Sister Athole was in and out of mental hospitals and her parents and her brother Douglas had their own manias. Norma was a very poor mother to her children and had very little in the form of maternal instincts. She became obsessed with her appearance (a trait she shared with her mother) and in her advanced years succumbed to failing eyesight and dementia, often calling her second husband Martin, "Irving". She passed away on June 12th, 1983.
Future posts will reveal even more about Shearer, her love life, her career, etc. so stay tuned!
Friday, March 27, 2009
To Have and Have Not (1944)
The Big Sleep (1946)
Dark Passage (1947)
Key Largo (1948)
Other Great Humphrey Bogart Films:
The Petrified Forest (1936)
The Maltese Falcon (1941)
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
In a Lonely Place (1950)
The African Queen (1951)
The Caine Mutiny (1954)
Other Great Lauren Bacall Films:
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)
Written on the Wind (1956)
Murder on the Orient Express (1974)
The Mirror Has Two Faces (1996)
Facts and Trivia about Bogie and Bacall
Lauren Bacall's birth name is Betty Perske. After her father abandoned her and her mother, she took her mother's maiden name, Bacal. An extra "L" was added upon her entrance into Hollywood, and she was given the name "Lauren" by director Howard Hawks.
Humphrey Bogart's full name was Humphrey DeForest Bogart – made up of three family surnames.
Back when she was a self-described gawky teenager, Bacall met her hero, actress Bette Davis, in a hotel room meeting arranged by her uncle, who had connections in show business. Bacall later played Davis's famous Margo Channing character from the movie All About Eve in a stage adaptation re-titled Applause.
Bogart briefly attended Phillips Academy in Andover, MA. He was expelled.
Bacall's rather auspicious debut at age 19 in To Have and Have Not contrasted greatly to Bogart's own career trajectory. Despite a great role in the 1936 film The Petrified Forest as gangster, Duke Mantee, his stardom didn't become cemented until he was in his early forties, when he starred in The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca.
During their courtship, Bogie and Bacall liked to call each other "Slim" and "Steve" after their characters' nicknames in To Have and Have Not. "Slim" and "Steve" were also the nicknames of director Howard Hawks and his wife, Nancy.
Bogart was 25 years older than Bacall and had been married three times by the time he met her.
Both Bogie and Bacall were models before they were actors. Bogart's mother was Maud Humphrey, a successful commercial artist. She drew sketches of him when he was an infant which became product advertisements. For this reason, Bogart is referred to as "the Maud Humphrey Baby". Bacall's exotic good looks attracted the attention of famous fashion magazine editor, Diana Vreeland. Bacall's pictorial in Harper's Bazaar summarily led to her discovery by Howard Hawks's wife, Nancy "Slim" Hawks.
Bogart and Bacall named their daughter Leslie, after actor Leslie Howard. Bogart felt forever indebted to Howard for helping him land his breakthrough role as gangster, Duke Mantee, in the 1936 film The Petrified Forest.
Shortly after they got married, Bogart presented Bacall with a mink coat. Bacall promptly threw the coat onto the floor and proceeded to walk on it with her bare feet, reveling that she had always wanted to walk on mink.
Bogart was the founding member of the Fifties "The Rat Pack", a phrase coined by Bacall after he and some friends returned home from a late night in Las Vegas. "You look like a goddamn rat pack", she's reported to have said. The members included friends like Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Nathaniel Benchley, Judy Garland, Sid Luft, Frank Sinatra, and David Niven.
Both liberal Democrats, Bogie and Bacall were strong supporters of Adlai Stevenson, during his Presidential campaigns in 1952 and 1956.
Bogart and Bacall were clearly each other's greatest loves. Bogart practically risked his life in divorcing his then volatile wife, Mayo Methot, to marry Bacall. After Bogart's death, Bacall later married actor Jason Robards. Many people have noted the strong physical resemblance between the two actors.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
So how did people plan meals in the Great Depression? They had to be very creative. Not only did they have to make meals out of what was available but they also had to make do without a lot of basics that we today take for granted. Meals had to be very simple and with few ingredients.
A little while ago I found a series of YouTube videos about Depression-era cooking. A sweet 93-year old woman who lived through the Depression shares her recipes, stories and photographs in little installments called Great Depression Cooking with Clara. They are simply wonderful and I beg you to watch them. Here is one of the episodes:
Friday, March 20, 2009
Peters had a short-lived career with various films in the 1940s. She started off with small roles in 1940 and 1941 under her real name Suzanne Carnahan. She switched to the more Hollywood-friendly name of Susan Peters and in 1942 made a formidable impression on the industry in her role in Random Harvest (1942), a role which got her a nomination for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. This was the first film I had seen her in and I was immediately drawn to her.
The height of Susan Peter's career was 1942-1944 . Within that time she married film director Richard Quine and folks in the industry saw her as a young star on the rise with lots of potential. She made several films, a few of which got her top billing. In 1944 she filmed Keep Your Powder Dry (1945), a WWII movie about 3 very different young women who join the Women Army Corps (WACS) while the men are off at war. It's a very sweet film about patriotism, love, friendship and self-sacrifice. This just happens to be the favorite of the Susan Peters films I have seen because it showcases her at her most genuine. It also happens to be Susan Peters last hurrah.
Shortly after filming ended, Susan Peters became paralyzed from the waist down, an unfortunate result from a hunting accident, and was wheel-chair bound. Peters made one more film The Sign of the Ram (1948), played Elizabeth Barrett Browning in a stage production of The Barretts of Wimpole Street and was in the 1951 TV series Miss Susan. All of these were valiant attempts to keep her career going despite her disability. However, she went into deep depression, her marriage with Richard Quine ended and her contract with MGM was terminated. She died in 1952 of what most people say was a long, slow suicide in which she lost the will to live and succumbed to starvation.
I often think of what she could have been if the accident hadn't happened, but I don't think her life be overshadowed by her tragic demise. It's really her career and wonderful films that should be celebrated. I hope you will watch one of her films if you haven't already. Luckily, there are several opportunities for you to do this.
Turner Classic Movies (US) is showing 5 of her films in the next few months. Here is the line-up.
Santa Fe Trail (1940) - March 25
Meet John Doe (1941) - April 16
Dr. Gillespie's New Assistant (1942) - April 28
The Sign of the Ram (1948) - May 10
Random Harvest (1942) - June 20
Some of Susan Peter's films are on DVD too.
Santa Fe Trail (1940)
Meet John Doe (1941)
Random Harvest (1942)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
1) Decades I Love - This is a new networking site for folks like me who love various decades of the past. It's an interactive community that is just starting up. On it you can upload music, photos, videos, etc. and connect with other old souls. Please check it out! (decadesilove.com)
2) Twitter - I have succumbed to the tweet. Follow me on Twitter (twitter.com/QuelleLove) for various classic film related updates. I'll tweet about articles and blog posts of note, classic film news, new books out on the market, or anything else that strikes my fancy. My tweets will be as relevant as possible. You can also see my latest tweets on the sidebar of this blog.
3) Fred Astaire - There are a couple new Fred Astaire books out on the market. Check them out! As always, I'm taking this opportunity to remind folks of the wonderful picture book, Footwork which is about the childhood of Fred and his sister Adele Astaire.
Puttin' on the Ritz: Fred Astaire and the Fine Art of Panache
written by Peter Levinson
Icons of America series
written by Joseph Epstein
Yale University Press
Footwork: The Story of Fred and Adele Astaire
written by Roxane Orgill
Illustrated by Stephane Jorisch
Friday, March 13, 2009
Released during this year's Black History Month, The Sidney Poitier collection highlights this legendary actor in all his glory. Poitier is classy and sophisticated and shines in any role he is given. It is very possible that they could have thrown his worst films in this set and it still would have worked. Instead they assembled a set of 4 gems. This box set contains 4 of his films, 3 of which are new to DVD and all of which are exclusive to the set.
Edge of the City (1957) - Gripping drama about the meaning of friendship. Sidney Poitier plays Tommy, a dock manager who befriends wayward newcomer Axel (John Cassavetes). Axel has a lot of baggage and is trying to get his life back on track by lying about his past. Tommy senses something's wrong and takes Axel under his wing. Their interracial friendship angers increasingly volatile dock manager Charles (Jack Warden). Their friendship is put to the test when it becomes clear Charles wants revenge. This film gets poor reviews, but I thought it was excellent. It's very moving and the final scene is raw and vivid.
A Patch of Blue (1965) - One of my all-time favorite films. Poitier plays journalist Gordon Ralfe, who befriends a young blind woman Selina D'Arcy (Elizabeth Hartmann in her first role). Selina comes from the most dire of circumstances. She has no proper education, no father and her blindness was caused by a cruel accident. She lives in a hovel with her drunk grandfather and hateful mother, Rose (Shelley Winters) who dabbles in prostituion. With Gordon's help, Selina learns the joys of life and becomes more independent, threatening the hold her mother has over her. This one movie is worth the purchase of box set!
Something of Value (1957) - Two young men, of different races, grow up together in 1940's Nigeria. Soon they both learn, that even their close bond could not prevent the inevitable divide that race, society and religion creates between them. Insulted by a white settler, Kimani (Sidney Poitier) becomes vengeful against the settler and his white friend Peter (Rock Hudson). The final straw comes when Kimani's father is put in prison for performing a tribal ritual. Kimani becomes a member of a violent tribe, Mau Mau and Peter finds himself fighting a war against his friend. This is the first classic film I've seen which actually criticizes white, Christian presence in Africa. The film is violent and difficult to watch, but absolutely necessary!
A Warm December (1973) - Melancholy love story of foreigners abroad. Poitier plays widower Dr. Matt Younger, who takes his daughter Stacey on an extended vacation to England. There he sees Catherine (Esther Anderson), a mysterious and elusive beauty who is being chased along the streets of London by mysterious men. Intrigued by her, he helps her out only to have her slip away. Appearances are deceiving and Dr. Younger gets into more than he's bargained for. This is such a sweet movie yet very sad. I recommend it to anyone who likes a good weepy romance.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
I have always wanted to do a sort of follow-up to my post Work: My Classic Film Nest with an ode to my entertainment center.
Here is the piece de resistance! My secret stash of taped movies. I have hundreds of films in here including my extensive collection of Norma Shearer movies.
Calling all fellow bloggers to participate! What does your entertainment center look like? What films are in your personal collection?
Laura @ Laura's Miscellaneous Musings
Sarah @ Cinema Splendor
Casey @ Noir Girl
Kate Gabrielle @ Silents and Talkies
Nicole @ Classic Hollywood Nerd
Friday, March 6, 2009
Pennies from Heaven is a feel good movie that tugs at the heart strings. It's good ole Great Depression fare. Bing Crosby stars as Larry, a free-spirited wanderer who travels across the country with his 13th-Century lute. He finds himself in jail (a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time of course) and serenades a fellow jailer with his lute and beautiful singing voice. The jailer, on his final walk to the execution, thanks Larry and asks that he do him the one favor of delivering a letter to a family in New Jersey. Once Larry is released from prison, being the kind soul he is, he sets out to find the family.
This is where he gets in trouble of the very best kind. He befriends an orphan girl Patsy (Edith Fellow) and her Gramp, both of whom are destitute and being hounded by social worker Susan (Madge Evans). They go on an adventure, trying to find a situation that will make Susan leave the family alone. They even go as far as taking an abandoned, haunted home and turning it into a Haunted House Cafe complete with special Halloween effects, chicken dinners and live music.
There are several reasons to watch this film. It's a heart-warming story, Bing Crosby is downright charming and his songs are beautiful. However, the biggest reason to watch this film is Louis Armstrong! Crosby and Armstrong were sort of a musical duo and this is one of their many acts together. Armstrong has a wonderful musical number called "Skeletons in the Closet" which is worth the rental of this film alone.
This film is available on Netflix but the DVD has gone out-of-print since it's release in 2003.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
1) Frank A. ~ Guest Blogger & The Avenger's Enthusiast
Favorite Oscar-Winning Movie: The Apartment (1960)
2) Wendy Moon ~ Movie-Viewing Girl and fellow L.A.M.B.
Favorite Oscar-Winning Movie: Sunset Blvd (1950)
3) Lisa R. ~ Screwball Comedy & Hitchcock Afficianado
Favorite Oscar-Winning Movie: Amadeus (1984)
4) Mercurie ~ A Shroud of Thoughts
Favorite Oscar-Winning Movie: Citizen Kane (1941)
5) Kate Gabrielle ~ Silents and Talkies
Favorite Oscar-Winning Movie: You Can't Take it With You (1938)
6) Casey K. ~ Noir Girl
Favorite Oscar-Winning Movie: Rocky (1976)
7) Caitlin ~ Fire & Music
Favorite Oscar-Winning Movie: All About Eve (1950)
8) Millie ~ Classic Forever
Favorite Oscar-Winning Performance: Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (1945)
9) Nicole ~ Classic Hollywood Corner
Favorite Oscar-Winning Performance: Charles Coburn in The More the Merrier (1943)
Favorite Oscar-Winning Movie: Rebecca (1940)
10) DKoren ~ Sidewalk Crossings
Favorite Oscar-Winning Performance: Lee Marvin in Cat Ballou (1965)
Winners shall be receiving this splendid TCM University Composition Notebook in the mail!