Saturday, December 29, 2007

For Auld Lang Syne

New Year's means two things to me (movie-wise). The Marx Bros. and Ginger Rogers in Bachelor Mother (1939).

The ritual of watching The Marx Bros. movies around New Years started a couple of years ago with a Marx Bros. marathon on TCM (I'm convinced TCM is less a channel and more a lifestyle). I had so much fun, counting down the hours to a brand New Year, by watching the hilarious antics of Groucho, Harpo and Chico (sometimes Zeppo). Duck Soup (1933), A Day at the Races (1937), Horse Feathers (1932), just to name a few. All of the films made during Thalberg's lifetime of course. Irving Thalberg was a big supporter of the Marx Bros, and films made after Thalberg's death in 1936, lack the luster of the great originals.

I have yet to see the Holy Grail of the Marx Bros. movies, A Night at the Opera (1935), and saved that for this New Years. Fingers-crossed, I'll get to watch that in a real-life theatre, on a big screen on New Year's day. What better way to ring in the New Year with the hilarious romps of those silly brothers!

Bachelor Mother (1939) is a personal pleasure of mine. Ginger Rogers plays a young, independent women who loses her job at the toy deparment of a major department store. She stumbles upon an old lady leaving a baby on the steps of a foundling home, only to be confused later as the mother of the baby. She cannot convince anyone that the baby is not hers, especially David Niven, who plays one of the head of the department store, who gives her, her job back and consquently falls for her and the baby.

Its a wonderful movie. There is one particular scene when Niven asks Rogers out for New Years (as a last minute option) and she hasn't a thing to wear. He gets a brand new dress, scarf, shoes, stockings and even a mink coat from the store for her. They go out to a fancy dinner and she pretends to be Swedish so she won't have to talk to his society friends. He can't get a moment with her because all of his friends whisk her away to the dance floor. He finally wrangles her out of the restaurant they go out to Times Square to ring in the New Year. They get lost in the chaotic arms only to find each other at the moment the clock strucks midnight and they kiss. It's just a wonderful wonderful part of a spectacular movie. It epitomizes New Years. Going out, living it up and having a ball so that you can start a new year afresh!

Happy New Years to you and yours!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Ultimate Story: The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1928)

Imagine a young prince, very young, still fresh with youthful ideals and not yet tainted by the burden of royal duty. Then comes a long a beautiful young girl, a commoner only in status, but marvellous in all other respects. The young prince meets the young girl and they fall in love. All seems right until the royal burden puts a damper on their romance. They have arrived at a crossroads in their romance and their fate depends upon the prince making a major decision about his future.

This story has appeared in the history of mythology, literature and film in many forms and variations (Cinderella anyone?). Personally, I have very little information about its history, but I feel that I've come across it so many times that I have a somewhat good understanding of it. I didn't make much of this story until I read about The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1928) and after much waiting, got the chance to watch it when TCM aired it a couple of months ago. Norma Shearer plays Kathi, a maid at a beergarten who falls for the young prince Karl Heinrich, played by the very handsome Ramon Novarro, who happens to be lodging at the beergarten as a temporary escape from the palace. When the king dies, and young prince Karl takes over the throne, he has a very important decision to make. Whether to follow his heart and marry young Kathi or to honor his father's memory by fulfilling his royal obligations and marrying Princess Raquel (yes, Raquel, I did a double-take when I saw her name written on the marriage contract!).

So I thought about all the other places this story has appeared in film. With its name "The Student Prince in Old Heidelberg" it was released in 1919, 1928 and 1954. The most recent incarnation of this story is Prince & Me (2004) with Julia Stiles. In that variation, the girl doesn't know that the guy she is falling for is in fact a prince. There have been subsequent sequels of that film, sans-Julia Stiles. If you are a Marilyn Monroe fan like I am, you may also recognize the story in The Prince and the Showgirl (1957). Its also appeared as a sub-story with minor characters in other films, such as Black Narcissus (1947). Since monarchy is an ever-dying establishment, today we seek this same story in other types of authority figures. Like the unrealistic romantic scenarios involving single presidents or prime ministers. Take for example, Michael Douglas in The American President (1995) or Hugh Grant as prime minister in Love, Actually (2003).

So why is this story so important? I don't really know. Is it a way for us to sympathize with royalty? Or does its sole purpose serve to give little girls the hope that they one day may become a princess, regardless of their current status? I'm interested enough to keep exploring the mythology of this story in film and in literature, to see how its become our ultimate story.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

On the Waterfront (1954): Mother and Daughter Reaction

My mother and I watched Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront (1954) recently and I think our reaction to the film, as spoken to each other when the film ended, pretty much sums up our experience.

Mom: "Wow!"

Me: "Wow! Eso fue una buena pelicula!!!" (Wow! That was a great movie!)

Mom: "Raquel! Yo ni me dormi!!!" (Raquel! I didn't even fall asleep!)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Robert Mitchum's Sad Eyes: Holiday Affair (1949)

I'm not quite sure how I had forgotten about this film, seeing as its really my most favorite Christmas film, but I did. Luckily, I rediscovered it when TCM had it on rotation and On Demand this month. This absolutely a superb, quiet and heartfelt Christmas movie. The story goes that Howard Hughes wanted to clean up Robert Mitchum's reputation after the whole marijuana/jail scandal. So he took him out of his usual tough guy roles and put him in a sweet romantic Christmas story. Hughes also had a huge crush on Janet Leigh and borrowed her from MGM so that she could be in this RKO film. The result: amazing!! I don't feel that I express my love enough for Robert Mitchum. That is quite a shame because he is by far my most favorite actor ever! There is no one, and I mean no one that tops him in my book. His acting style was so effortless and his charm so intoxicating that anytime I watch one of his films, I feel like I've been privileged to see something very grand. In Holiday Affair (1949), Robert Mitchum plays Steve Mason, a toy shop employee who is saving money to move to California to build sailboats by taking odd jobs in Manhattan. Janet Leigh is the widowed mother of one, who falls for Mitchum, but has to deal with the complicated dynamic of already have a psuedo-fiancee, not being able to let go of her dead husband's memory and her young son's idealism. We get to see wonderful sides of Mitchum here. He is romantic! He is self-sacrificing! He is good with children! He is kind! What more could a fan like me who hearts Robert Mitchum to the nth degree ask for? ::swoon::

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Arrangement (1969)

As the DVD sat snug in its Netflix sleeve, I was reluctant to take the extra step and to put The Arrangement (1969) into my DVD player. Approaching a movie you know nothing about is almost like going on a blind date, there is that internal conflict of either seeking security and safety and not going through with it, in case the experience would turn out to be traumatic, or taking a risk hoping that this time things might work out in your favor. In this case, what I thought might be a strange, weird '60s film that I wouldn't enjoy, would turn out to be a strange, weird '60s film that I did enjoy.

Based on his own novel, The Arrangement (1969) is a lesser-known Elia Kazan classic. Its a film that contemporary film afficianados might enjoy because of its chaotic, psychadelic, A.D.D. type of cinematography. Shots come at all sorts of strange and interesting angles and any remotely chronological timeline is thrown askew my patches of memory flashbacks. Watching this film felt new, fresh and invigorating in a way older films don't usually.

The story is about an ad executive, played by the ever superb Kirk Douglas, who suffers a major mid-life meltdown. He is torn between the life he leads, with his idyllic wife, played by Deborah Kerr, and his current job and the life he wants to lead, as a bohemian free-spirit with his lover, played by Faye Dunaway. The viewer is trapped in his mind, which is terribly chaotic making for amazing sequences.

I don't know how else to intrigue people enough to watch this film. So instead of rambling on and on about its merits, I'll simply leave you with a few crazy shots that I enjoyed in hopes that they might pique your interest.

1) Kirk Douglas hallucinating by the pool with a bunch of grapes which he dangles over the water's surface. In his imagination, the mythic Faye Dunaway emerges from the water to take a bite.

2) Kirk Douglas, again hallucinating, but this time flying an airplane over the city. The scene to which my mother reacted by saying "Ay yay yay! El loco va en un avion!" (Ay yay yay! The crazy guy is flying an airplane!)

3) After Deborah Kerr, tears up the naughty pictures she finds of Douglas and Dunaway at the beach, a neat camera trick shows live action in the scraps of the pictures left behind.

4) Kirk Douglas, hallucinating, (does he do anything else?). But this time its Kirk Douglas dressed as an ad executive, in bed with Kirk Douglas, in the buff as they both smoke cigars!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Breaking the Code Boxed Set: Final Grade

I got an A- in my desktop pub. class. This grade include my class participation, my mid-term project and my final project. I'm happy that I'm in the "A" range (which is only "A" and "A-", no "A+"), although I really wish my grade didn't have that pesky minus sign. This new grade brought down my GPA by about .03 points (boo!). I think that minus is because I didn't proactively seek help or assistance in my project from the professor. I'm sure he probably had ways he would have liked to advise me to improve my various pieces, but I'm sure they would have been changes that I would have just rejected anyways. I guess in the end, what really counts is that I'm really proud of my project and that it is all my own independent work.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Queue Chaos Management

My Netflix queue was at ::gasp:: 334 movies!!! 334! There is absolutely no way I can humanly watch that many movies in the forseeable future. When I'm in school, I usually watch comfort shows and films for respit (usually repitions) and an ocassional new film (or old as it usually is the case). When I'm out of school, I try to devour as many films as I can. But my queue of taped films (those movies not available on DVD) AND my Netflix queue are overwhelming me.

So what did I do today? I cleared out my Netflix queue. I blindly took everything out and added 10 titles I really want to see. My queue is now clear for the addition of films I really want to see and those that were personally recommended to me. And this way these films don't get lost in the chaotic shuffle of my too long queue.

Anyone else have this problem? An itchy "Add" trigger finger? The constant need to add to your own to-be-watched list?
Here are the 10 movies now on my new shortened queue:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Breaking the Code Boxed Set: Final!

Yay! It's so pretty. When I printed it out, pasted it together and assembled it I did a special happy dance of joy! I presented it last night to the class, with awesome results. Let's hope I get an A!

Check out my slideshow to your right. It contains an album of all the pieces of my project.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Breaking the Code Boxed Set: Web Banner

The web banner is complete. And I have to say, I'm really happy with it. The whole concept is Christmas/Winter and that the boxed set is the perfect gift if you've run out of ideas of what to get someone. I love it. I ashamedly stole the snowflakes off a particular website. Eek! I hope they don't find out.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Breaking the Code Boxed Set: Booklet

The booklet is complete! Since this is probably the most complex out of the 4 parts of the project, I'm very happy that its done. My project due date is Tuesday the 18th, so I'll be working on the boxed set slipcase and web banner until then!

I couldn't include the last spread because its an advertisement for a particular channel's website. On that last spread I suggest 6 other controversial classics from the 1960's. These include: A Patch of Blue (1965), The Children's Hour (1961), The Americanization of Emily (1964), Blow-Up (1966) , Lolita (1962) and Pressure Point (1962).

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Breaking the Code Boxed Set: Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

Are you sick of my boxed set? Too bad. Because I'm not. The postcards are final. What you've seen is what it is. I'm not fussing with it anymore.
Also I decided not to post an article about Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) mainly because the one I used in the booklet is a re-hashing of this previous post.
So here is my embarassingly crude and brazen article on Anatomy of a Murder (1959). This is the last of the five movies. Woohoo!

Broken Code: Rape should never be more than suggested.
Otto Premminger’s Anatomy of a Murder is arguably one of the most outspoken film of the late ‘50s. "Outspoken" being the operative word here as the controversy behind this movie was the language it so brazenly used. Terms like "rape", "slut", "climax", "intercourse", "sperm", "penetration", "contraception" and most notably "panties" were bandied about in the movie. These words were not just highly suggestive, they were downright specific going against the Production Code’s careful restrictions on the use of language. Initially the film is as coy as the main protagonist, James Stewart’s character, defense lawyer Paul Biegler. There is a sense of being cautious. It tip-toes around the story’s central plot which involves a rape that incites a murder. Yet, later in the movie, there is this great scene with Lee Remick’s character, Laura Manion, the rape victim, as she is describing more details of the incident to Biegler. The one key evidence is a pair of ripped underwear. Biegler is cautious about referring to the item specifically. Sexy Manion beckons him to just say it. Say "panties". In James Stewart’s special brand of aw-shucks self-consciousness, he is mesmerized by her seductive charm and brazen sexuality and manages to mouth the word.

Mostly, this film is a being unto itself, not afraid to say what it needs to say and not afraid with how people will react or how they will interpret it. The storyline and its climax go against the very nature of the Code. The concept that a defense lawyer in his right mind can defend someone who’s intent was ambigiously justifiable, is probably a concept radical for its day. The normal chain effect of crime equals punishment does not necessarily apply here. The boundary between good and evil is blurred by the uncertainty of intention when brief insanity comes to play. Sexual tension is the root of the drama with all the film’s central character. Sex here has been used for not only just violence but also a method of manipulation for personal gain. Both Laura and Frederick Manion realize that Laura’s sexuality is what got them into this mess, so that is exactly what will be used to get them out. And the final outcome, is a film that has to be one of the greatest courtroom dramas in film history.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Breaking the Code Boxed Set: The Hays Code

Hays, or Hayes? I've been spelling it both ways lately. Its definitely Hays, so I don't know why I have a penchant from throwing in the extra "e".
I've been very sick the past few days (although the hospital tests have shown I do not have an ulcer, woohoo!) so I've gotten little to nothing done. Today I broke out of my misery fog, and managed a poor re-hashing of a history of the Hays Code. As listed below. Its meant to be boring I guess and the lay-out will be boring too. It will contrast with the fun-flashiness and literary quality of the following spreads. This article will appear on the first page or the first spread of the booklet.

The History of the Hays Production Code

After being rocked by many sex, murder and drug scandals in the 20’s, the movie industry took steps to clean up its image. William H. Hays, President Warren G. Harding’s campaign manager, wrote a set of strict guideliness for movies to follow in 1927. He spent the next several years trying to get it enforced. The newly formed Motion Picture Associate of America (MPAA) adopted the Hays Code in 1930. The Code was also backed up by the newly formed Catholic Legion of Decency which felt there was a moral obligation to the members of their church. In June of 1934, a Production Code Administration was created and the Code began to be enforced. Filmmakers had to preview their films to the administration, the result of which was either a certificate of approval that allowed for public viewing of said film or the call to the filmmaker to reshoot or edit their films for content.

The details of the codes were specific, denouncing many particulars of violence, sex and morality that would forbidden to be shown on screen. It functioned off of three basic principles. The first was the prevention of lowering the moral standards of any potential audience members. The second was to have films show "correct" standards of living in good light. The third was that law and authority were not to be ridiculed and thus encourage law-breaking of any sort.

In the late ‘50s, Hollywood filmmakers were under increasing competition from television and foreign movies for their audiences. Televisions were convenient and foreign movies were not under the Production Code’s regulations and the government could not prevent these films from being shown in American theaters. Because of this filmmakers, felt the pressure to give their films an edge, which often meant exploring subject matter that was controversial. In 1952, a US Supreme Court ruling under Joseph Burstyn, Inc v. Wilson overruled the 1915 decision that claimed motion pictures were not viable under First Amendment protection. This weakened the now dying power of the Code. The most outspoken director of them all was Otto Preminger, whose films such as The Moon is Blue (1953), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) and Anatomy of a Murder (1959) seemed to give the middle finger to the Code.

At the turn of the decade, from the ‘50s to the ‘60s, films started to release even without the Code’s certificate of approval, weakening its authority. By the ‘60s, filmmakers started blatantly ignoring the code and exploring all sorts of themes including sex, race, culture, gender and violence. The reign of the code ended with the seminal film Blowup in 1967. It was released by MGM, who had been abiding by the Code for many years, without a certificate. After that, enforcement became impossible and the MPAA abandoned the Code in favor of the tiered rating system we have today (i.e. G, PG, PG-13, R, NC-17, etc).

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Breaking the Code Boxed Set: Preliminary Booklet Cover

Here is the preliminary cover (both the front and back) of my 12-16 page booklet. I think I have to change the color scheme to match the interior but this is the basic look.

The background text is actual language from the Hayes Production Code. I've made a layer on top highlighting particular words of importance to make them stand out.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Breaking the Code Boxed Set: Sexy Promotional Postcards

Here are my postcards. They are a bit naughty, for that I apologize for anyone who might think they are in bad taste. A few of them are actual quotes from the movies. My whole goal here was to give the postcards a young/hip/feminine/sexy vibe. The theme is "Spend the night with [insert channel name here]". I blacked out the actual channel's name so as not to have any copyright issues. I wanted a departure from that channel's regular style which is usually an older, gentleman-bachelor sort of feel. And I really believe they need to mix it up to broaden their audience scope. Hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed making them!

Breaking the Code Boxed Set: Project Details

Just to reiterate, this is what my whole desktop publishing project will consist of.

1) Boxed Set slipcase
2) 12-16 page Booklet
3) 5 Promotional Postcards
4) Web Advertising Banner

Because all of the films are in black and white, and I love love love to use color, I'm turning my pictures into duotones (black and one other color). I will give a select few photos a sepia-like tint as well. I have a color scheme for each of the films so they are consistent.

The Three Faces of Eve (1957) - Orange
Baby Doll (1956) - Purple
The Night of the Hunter (1955) -Red
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) - Green
Anatomy of a Murder (1959) - Blue

Friday, December 7, 2007

Breaking the Code: The Night of the Hunter (1955) Article

I don't like my article very much, but I do really like how it looks in my spread. This is the preliminary lay out for each of the 5 articles. I like it so much that I don't know if I'll change it at all, unless my professor has some really good insight on how to improve it. Once I've finalized them I'll post them here for viewing.

Broken Code: Ministers of religion in their character as ministers of religion should be used as comic characters or as villains.

The only film the legendary actor Charles Laughton ever directed, The Night of the Hunter is an allegorical tale of good versus evil with a creepy twist. Robert Mitchum plays Reverend Powell, an antinomian and religious fanatic who is a growling evil monster that feigns to hear commands of violence and crime from the voice of God. He’s hell-bent on recovering the money his prisonmate had hidden before being arrested for robbery. His history of manipulation and corruption make him a force to be reckoned with but he is no match for innocence in its purest form: children. Its the only thing that stands in his way and he finds himself outmatched when angelic Lilian Gish as Rachel Cooper comes to the children’s rescue. Beautifully directed and stylized, the film’s creepiness stems from its characters, night time settings, tall vertical and wide horizontal shots, sharp shadows, eery silences and religious singing. The film is best known for its main character who sports the letters "L-O-V-E" and "H-A-T-E" tattooed on his knuckles. Spike Lee fans will recognize a reference to this in his film Do the Right Thing (1989).

Highly underestimated at the time of its release, this film is a classic example of allegory told and shown throw realism. This film also demonstrates the growing need for realism in film. Audiences were being wooed away from movie theatres by TV and Hollywood was in direct competition of European cinema. Filmmakers needed an edge to survive and the Hays Code seemed like a needless obstacle in their way. The Night of the Hunter approaches gritty realism in two significant ways. The first is how its not afraid to show the hideous side of death. Refusing to follow the path of many bloodless death shots of previous films, The Night of the Hunter has a truly grotesque underwater shot of a corpse that is only preceded by the a similar, but much less horrifying in Sunset Bld (1950). However, the second and arguably most defiant way it approaches realism is through its focus of the use and abuse of religion. The Reverend Powell uses his own spirtuality to do evil and in his mania believes his actions are sanctioned by God. The idea of religious authority using faith for evildoing is revolutionary for film history.


1) Robert Mitchum once said this was his favorite film to make and Laughton was his favorite director.

2) Director Charles Laughton had a difficult time with children and was helped by Mitchum to direct the child actors.

3) Director Charles Laughton was horrified by the poor reception of the film to the point where he never directed a film again.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Breaking the Code Boxed Set: Preliminary Cover

Here is the preliminary cover. I was aiming for horizontal shots, but unfortunately all except two, involve people sleeping. I may switch images and change the font but this will be the drift and the color scheme.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Elia Kazan Lecture 11/29/07

What I learned at the Elia Kazan lecture...

1) Controversial figure throughout most of his life, many people refused to stand or applaud when he received his Honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement at the 1999 Academy Awards.

2) He revealed the name of 8 known Communists to the HUAC. 3 of which were friends of his and who gave him permission to name them.

3) He was part of the Communist party for 2 years but left as he didn't like the secrecy or the propaganda involved.

4) Marlon Brando was reluctant to work with him after the HUAC controversy.

5) As a director, Elia Kazan was known for filming on location instead of in a studio, for very long takes, encouraging actors to use props, exploring intimacy and emotional distance between characters, and helping actors from the Actor's Studio get their start in films (Andy Griffith, Carroll Baker, etc).

6) Modeled the father character in East of Eden (1955) more after his own father than John Steinbeck's version in the original novel.

7) He shared Marilyn Monroe as a girlfriend with Arthur Miller, who went on to be Monroe's last husband (tee hee!).

8) Did not work well with established film stars Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy on the set of Sea of Grass. They clashed artistically.

9) He was influenced by filmmaker Orson Welles.

10) Nicknamed "Gadget" or "Gadge", a name he would resent throughout his life.

11) Watch A Face in the Crowd (1957) . On pain of death. (Just kidding!)

Thanks Kevin!

(Just a Baby Doll (1956) shot I liked. Enjoy!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Molestada: Ace in the Hole (1951)

“Molestada” is the best word I could think of to sum up my experience watching Billy Wilder's classic film noir, Ace in the Hole (1951). “Molestada” in Spanish means to be "bothered". But there is something more to "molestada" than there is in "bothered", "disturbed" or even "discomforted". There is a twinge in “molestada” that captures that feeling of a fine nerve being plucked, triggering a well of emotion which over time and after so many plucks begins to overflow.

To say I was completely molestada by Ace in the Hole (1951) is succumbing to the great power of this film. An exploration of media manipulation through the story of one particular bad apple, Charles Tatum (or Charlie, Chuck or plain Tatum depending on who addressed him), a deceitfully opportunistic and greedy journalist. He sees an unfortunate situation, a man trapped cave, and knows how to exploit it for his own need. What's amazing about this is that Tatum is seeking a type of immortality in a business where one's story one day is treasured, and the next day, it's used to wrap fish. He even admits this himself, but still wants to grasp that fame, to make his mark in the industry.

Tatum's character is matched evil-to-evil with Mrs. Lorraine Minosa, the platinum-blonde wife of the poor man trapped in the cave. She's my favorite character. A hard-boiled dame, so overcooked that even her yolk is rock hard. She has only one very small soft spot, which is reserved for the elation she receives from money. Lorraine is as manipulative as Tatum, using her husband's situation for her own selfish needs. Two such characters are so bad, that one town will always be too small for them and its a wonder they don't instantaneously combust when they meet.

I discovered while flipping through my Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide that the film was initially called Ace in the Hole but the name was changed to "The Big Carnival". As part of the Criterion Collection, its kept its original name, for which I'm truly grateful. While Leo Minosa's entrapment and Tatum's media frenzy do result in a twisted carnvial of sorts, I think this film is more aptly named Ace in the Hole as its the germination of Tatum's lucky break, which he exploits too much.

It's a marvel I even got through this film. It took two days of watching it in ten-minute intervals. Somehow I made it through to appreciate it for what it is.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Breaking the Code: Baby Doll (1956) Article

Here is my entry in the booklet for Elia Kazan's Baby Doll. This one was by far the easiest to write.

Broken Code: Impure love must not be presented in such a way to arouse passion or morbid curiosity on the part of the audience.

Stories that take place in the deep South are wonderful exaggerated studies of the human condition, especially when its character's lives seem to fester in the sweltering heat. And nothing festers better than a good Tennessee William's story. Controversial to its very core, Elia Kazan's adaptaion of Baby Doll is true resistance against the code. The repressed and expressed passions in this film are as hot as the exposed light bulbs that hang from the ceilings. And when those two opposing passions collide the results are explosive. Nothing is hidden, nothing is coy, its all exposed and has either the effect of arousal or discomfort. Baby Doll is a woman-child, married too young to Archie Lee, whose frustration with his unconsummated marriage affects his cotton-gin business. Rival, the hot-blooded Mr. Vacero (literally Mr. Cowboy), sweeps into town stealing away Archie's business. In retaliation, Archie burns down Mr. Vacero's gin. But what he doesn't expect, is the hit below the belt when Mr. Vacero manages to seduce his previously frigid young wife.

The swing scene is by far the most infamous and passionate. It is difficult to watch it without experience a quickening of the heart and shortness of breath. With every touch and caress, Mr. Vacero brings out the hidden lust in Baby Doll and brings about her transition from child to woman on the eve of her 20th birthday. Such power that sizzled from the screen, terrified audiences and censors alike leading to a national boycott. Raw sexual energy like that had never been seen before in a film and people immediately resisted it. In 1956, a primary figure in the Catholic church, Cardinal Spellman , spoke out about the film telling all Catholics that if they dared watch this movie, they would commit a sin against God. It eventually got pulled from theatres. Yet, this low-budget film stood out as an legitimately amazing film and received 4 Academy Award nominations. It marked a turning point in how sexuality could be expressed on film and paved the way for the expression of passion in cinema.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Breaking the Code: The Three Faces of Eve Article

Here is the first of six articles that will go in the booklet inside the DVD boxed set. I'm writing one on each of the films plus an introduction to the history of the Hays Code and censorship. I have no idea how long they should be, so this may expand or shrink, but its the general idea. And since the professor won't read the text, he's only looking at design, I can write whatever I want.

Broken Code - Repellent Subject - Apparent cruelty to children or animals

The Three Faces of Eve (1957) is less an example of Hollywood's rebellion against the Hays Code and more a specimen of how restrictive it was to storytelling and how it could not stop the wheels of social change from turning. The film starts with an opening narration in which a psychologist introduces the case of Eve White, a woman who has multiple personality disorder. Based on a true story and provided to the audience as educational rather than entertainment, was one of the ways this film worked around the codes restrictions. Educational material, presented as such, had more leeway than a regular film which only had a story to tell. Three Faces of Eve did something great for film history. It explored the societal and emotional dynamics of mental illness in a new and interesting way. In so many films in the years before, characters were either inherently good or bad or in the case of film noir, ambigously both. It was stepping into murky waters when a character did bad things yet also captured audience's sympathy. Case in point, in Three Faces of Eve, we have Eve White, a quiet unassuming woman. She is a simple housewife and in submission to her backwardly stubborn and aggressive husband. Eve gets these terrible headaches in which her alter-ego Eve Black manifests. This personality is the polar-opposite of Eve White. She's single, flirtatious and manipulative. She even proves herself capable of great violence when tries unsuccessfully to strangle her own daughter to death.

The two "Black" and the "White" personalities into yet another personality deconstructs the ultimate binary of character that has been created by the mental illness. In turn, it deconstructs the social stereotypes of good housewife and it's opposite, cheap floozy to a more grounded image of woman. The two Eves, biblical in their shifts from good to bad, become Jane, symbolic of Janus the two-headed good. Jane is the medium who encapsulates the history of both Eves into one sensible woman. She is independent and has the clarity of mind reconciliate the deep-seated trouble that is festering in the two other personalities. This represents the underlying message of the film, which is a warning against the repression of the female and that individuality and the freedom to be oneself is what balances the person. One could argue that Three Faces of Eve could be one of the minor and quite early germinations in the complex web of the feminist movement. Whether it had been intended that way or not, there is no denying the power of this film.

1) June Allyson was talked out of starring in this film by her husband Dick Powell who thought that she would be a miscast.
2) Joanne Woodward won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Eve White/Eve Black/Jane.
3) Orson Welles was considered for the roll of Dr. Luther, played by Lee J. Cobb, but instead decided to devote his time to directing Touch of Evil (1958).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Breaking the Code: Boxed Set Update

After re-watching The Three Faces of Eve (1957), I realize its not a suitable option for my boxed set. But I have to work with what I've got nontheless. Its too late to find a new film selection and I'm already knee-deep in image research and my proposal is due on Thursday, so I cannot back out now. However, the film has been very inspiring visually for the project, so I'm glad of that at least. The design of the two menu screens of the DVD have inspired me to do something similar with the boxed set cover. It is tres cool! See below.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Breaking the Code: Boxed Set Directors

I've been playing around with images and doing some image research. I decided that in the booklet that goes with the boxed set, that the directors would appear in profile as a sort of stamp. Their presence is kind of vague but its also like they gave their seal of approval of sorts. Anyways, I just like how they look.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz ~ Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Nunnally Johnson ~ The Three Faces of Eve (1957)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Reactions to Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind
~ Ode on Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood ~
~ William Wordsworth ~
  • Consequences of sexual repression affect both the female and male protagonist. A rarity amongst coming of age stories.
  • I was both enraptured by the story but put off by the soundtrack. Violins screeching the same sentimental notes over and over again was too much.
  • The title of the movie means something to the story and its characters. The fact that it comes from a line written by a well-known Romantic poet gives it even more credence.
  • I could not have seen this same story taking place in a city. There is something about rural open space, small communities and isolation that exaggerates the human condition.
  • A tolerable, even enjoyable Natalie Wood. That says a lot for me, I'm not a fan.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Breaking the Code: Updates

I just read some amazing news at Pre-Coded Messages about the second volume of the The Forbidden Hollywood DVD boxed set collection. It'll have 2, count 'em 2, Norma Shearer movies, a blonde Bette Davis film and another crazy Stanwyck flick. I was particularly surprised by the Davis film, Three on a Match (1932) being a selection. This is a lesser-known work and may only have been chosen because of the big-wig stars that have supporting roles in the film (Davis, Bogart, Blondell). I highly recommend watching it as its a very interesting story involving many of the classic Pre-Code elements including infidelity, drug-abuse, mob activity and child-neglect.

In other news, I've finally selected my 5 films to go in my mock "Breaking the Code" boxed set. I will hold A Face in the Crowd (1957) as a back-up selection in case I find one of these doesn't quite work.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Baby Doll (1956)
The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Three Faces of Eve (1957)

Now I'm wishing I could do a Pre-Code boxed set too! Shucks!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Exciting New Project!

For the Desktop Publishing course I am taking, I have to work on a final project using Adobe InDesign to develop something new in print. I was inspired by the DVD boxed set of the 7th Season of Road to Avonlea which came with a booklet with notes "written" by one of the characters. I decided to do something similar.

I'm developing a "Breaking the Code" special edition boxed set. It will have 5 DVDs, all of which are from the late 1950's and represent Hollywood's rebellion against the Hayes Code. I'm going to pretend that its sponsored by Turner Classic Movies and possibly be inspired by some of their designs. The booklet itself will have a different article, written by myself, on each of the 5 movies. My goal is to make the complete package, the DVD boxed set cover as well an 8-page booklet and present it to the class as my final project.

The reason I'm so excited about this is that I have finally found a way to incorporate my love of classic films into my school work! And I can simultaneously post my progress on this blog! I will be, of course, careful about what I will post because I'm probably stealing lots of copyrighted material (granted this project will never be distributed into the real world).

For now, I have to come up with the 5 movies I want to be in the boxed set. I know definitely that Suddenly, Last Summer (1959) will be one of the films. Please feel free to send in your suggestions for the other four DVDs and let me know what you think about my project.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A Face in the Crowd (1957)

~ Lonesome Rhodes

The collection of truly amazing classic films, that I have yet to see, is an ever-shrinking pool. And it just got smaller when I watched Budd Schulberg and Elia Kazan's film A Face in the Crowd (1957). I was captivated both by the film's over-arching message of the corruptiveness of power as well as its fantastic storytelling. This film is so well done that I feel it merits, not one but two entries, with this being the first.

The story is about Larry "Lonesome" Rhodes, a simple Arkansas country boy, whose charm catapults him from jail to radio to broadcast television. He becomes intoxicated by the power his growing audience gives him and this of course leads to his downfall. Its fascinating to see how dangerous it can be and how vulnerable we are when power is put into the wrong hands.

The film itself is exquisitely made. The pacing shifts as the story moves along. My favorite example of this is the Vitajex scene which starts slowly with the formation of the advertising plan and escalates when Lonesome Rhodes takes over. The following scenes are manic flashes of Rhodes' numerous Vitajex commercials. The flashes become faster and faster as the ratings of Rhodes' show rises as well as the sales of Vitajex.

Its also interesting how the two main characters are filmed. Andy Griffith ,as Lonesome Rhodes, is practically bursting out of the screen. Whereas Patricia Neal, as Marcia, is swathed in light in those early scenes when things are still innocent and pure and towards the end when things start to go downhill, she is drowned in shadows, with the exception of her face, which is framed in various ways by clever lighting.

This film encapsulates the film-debuts of Andy Griffith and Lee Remick and the pinnacle Walter Matthau and Anthony Franciosa's early careers. Walter Matthau is particularly exceptional as Marcia's love interest who is the single voice of reason because he sees through the fogs of illusion. And Lee Remick! I had been actively watching for her and was excited to see her as the 17-year old baton-twirling, cheerleader who seduces Lonesome Rhodes.

There are so many reasons to watch this film. Watch it for its political message of the abuse of power. Watch it to see several legends get their film start. Watch it to see cameos by Rip Torn, Mike Wallace and Bennett Cerf (I haven't found him yet!).Watch it for Elia Kazan's excellent direction. But most of all, watch it for Budd Schulberg's amazing story.

Monday, October 1, 2007

I Shall Return!

I'm taking a short hiatus to be able to concentrate on some major school projects. Do not fret. I shall be back very soon and I do have things to talk about. I'm excited to do a little research on Student Prince in Old Heidelberg (1927) as soon as I'm on a break (and as soon as I've finished watching it), I'll do a post on it.

Hasta luego!

Monday, September 17, 2007


I've decided to take advantage of Blogger's new blog-friendly polls and post a new one every month. For September, I did a Norma Shearer - Favorite Film Poll as you see to the right of your screen. Please vote!

Trombonology (Relative Esoterica) asked me which of the many great Norma Shearer films is my personal favorite. To answer truthfully, it is, hands down, The Women (1939). It's what introduced me to her and what's kept me a fan.

I'd love to hear your responses and your ideas for future polls.

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Road to Avonlea

Nothing of real worth ever comes completely without pain.
- Olivia Dale - Road to Avonlea

It was over a decade ago. I was a young teenager in high school when I caught my first glimpse of this other world. I was sitting on the living room floor in front of the television and I watched while on the screen, a young woman opened a copy of Charles Dickens' David Copperfield and started reading the first chapter to several boys as they sat upright on their beds. I was mesmerized and a million questions raced through my head. What was this show? What's the story about? Who is this character? Why hadn't I heard of this show before?

Then as quickly as it came it had gone away. I didn't know at the time that I had watched part of one of the last episodes of the series, Road to Avonlea. The Disney Channel had been giving cable subscribers a free preview week, thus giving me the opportunity to see this one episode. I had begged and pleaded with my parents, willingly sacrificing many a small childhood luxury in order to have that which I desired. When they finally broke down and added the channel to our subscription, it was too late. The series had ended and although I waited patiently for months, I never got to see another episode.

Fast forward to 2007. The moment when my inner child rejoiced was when I put the first DVD of the first season on my Netflix queue. I waited with baited breath until it came in the mail and since then I've been on a wonderful journey through the lives of the folks of Avonlea. I felt I owed it to myself to enjoy it with all the youthful vivacity and enthusiasm that my younger self would have done if she had been given the opportunity!

I've been watching this series for a few months, savouring the episodes as I watch them each week. I'm currently on Season 5 and I love how the series grows. My favorite character is Gus Pike, whom I have to say is probably the best romantic male character in all of history (he even rivals Austen's Mr. Darcy).

The advent of the DVD has given me the opportunity to do something I could not do as a child, and for that I'm eternally grateful.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Votre, Mon et Notre and the Crazy Schedule

The next three months of my life are going to be a trial to test my personal fortitude, strength of will and character. I will be working full-time, attending graduate school full-time, juggling a giant load of homework all while trying to maintain a healthy and sane personal life. (Not to mention planning a trip, learning a fourth language and trying to keep this blog regularly updated). The fear has started to set in my heart and I'm worried about whether I will make it through - whether I will be strong enough to come out the other side unscathed. The last time I had a crazy-hectic schedule, I had less on my plate than I do now and I came out of the experience the worse for wear.

In crazy times like these, I try to find support amongst family and friends. But I also realize that I need to be responsible for developing my own strength and tranquility. And sometimes a really good story can transport you to your comfort zone and while you are there you build up your own confidence. That story for me right now is Yours, Mine and Ours (1968).

This particular film stands out in the midst of many other "large family" stories. This particular sub-genre has two of it's one sub-categories. The first being two familys coming together while clashing and bonding in With Six You Get Eggroll (1968) and The Brady Bunch (1969-1974). The second features an excessively procreative couple such as in Cheaper by the Dozen (1950) and henceforth any sequels, remakes and remake sequels. Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) has two excessively procreative individuals coming together to combine their large families (11 and 9) into one monstrosity of a household (20!). What's inspiring is that the story is based on real life events. They successfully manage meals, clothes, ailments and personal dramas in what seems like an impossible situation. The situation is very difficult for the couple (played by Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball) but they get through it because they rely on their abundant love for their children and each other to get them through. Plus they realize the importance of organization, perseverance and strict scheduling in maintaining a hectic life and they put all of this to work at all times.

It's a heart-warming and inspiring story. When I watch this film, I think to myself if this one couple can manage raising a family of 20, soon to be 21, then why can't I manage myself. I'm only one person managing my own life, and I have no other lives dependant on me. If they can manage 20, I can certainly manage 1.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Out of the Past, Into the Now: Metropolis (1927)

I thought I'd start yet another new mini-series on this blog in which I point out references in our present culture (pop culture, literature, etc.) to classic films. I see them all over the place and I think it might be a fun new venture to list them here. Here is my first entry.

Metropolis (1927) anyone?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Robert Mitchum's Sad Eyes: Two for the Seesaw (1962)

Certain die-hard Robert Mitchum fans, such as myself, hold a dear secret about one tiny particular aspect of his lengthy career. No, I'm not talking about his brief foray into the music industry with his Calypso album (::shudders::). I'm referring to the few select romantic films he made. Mitchum is more well-known as the tough, mean guy or the tough, nice guy in many a film noir, Western, war drama or thriller. However, he had a much softer side - one that twinkled through his sad eyes and escaped through his parted lips.

My first encounter with a Mitchum-romance, as I like to call it, was Holiday Affair (1949) (co-starring Janet Leigh). At first, I was surprised that Robert Mitchum was even in this film. Mitchum! He's the big, surly, manly-man in all those great film noirs. What is he doing in a nice, heart-warming Christmas movie? Then when I actually watched the film, I was even more shocked to see that it was also a romance! (And yes he was part of the romance!) Mitchum was not man-handling some woman telling her, "Baby, I don't care", he was opening his heart and showing he did care, while maintaining his domineering masculinity of course. It was all lovey-dovey and I just lovey-dovied this other side of Mitchum.

So, when Mitchum was saluted with his own Summer Under the Stars day on TCM recently, I was incredibly happy to see that they were showcasing another lesser-known Mitchum-romance. In this case, it was Two for the Seesaw (1962) and his love interest was Shirley MacLaine. In contrast to Holiday Affair (1949) , this is a much grittier, realistic film. Robert Mitchum plays a soon-to-be-divorced lawyer who finds himself nearly penniless and heart broken in New York City. Shirley MacLaine is a young, street-wise dancer who has health issues as well as men issues. They meet as she is trying to hock off an ice box at some strange beat party and he, unlike most men today who are just plain wimps!, actively pursues her.

There are a few interesting things about this film. Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine had a real life, 3-year, love affair as a result of working very closely on set. Might I add that they were both married at the time? (naughty!) The film is also a good example of Breaking the Code as it shows an openness to talk about sex in a romantic relationship - something that wouldn't have been discussed on-screen even a few years earlier. And finally, never have I seen a film that really shows the complexity in the minutiae of a romance. Oftentimes you get a taste of the dynamics but this film really dives in and stays there for long run.

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