Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving Holiday Consumption

In my latest questionnaire, I asked visitors "What is your Thanksgiving movie watching ritual?". While some of you were passing out after all that turkey or all that cooking, others saw a new film at the theater. However, the majority of you said you'd be watching old movies at home.

So what did you see? Even if you are not in the US and/or didn't celebrate Thanksgiving, what did you watch over the weekend? I'd love to hear your answers. Please share!

I definitely did my fair share of movie consuming over the break. Here is what I saw.

1) Breathless (1961) - I watched this for a second time along with some of the documentaries (DVD extras). Absolutely brilliant. Post about this movie TK.

2) Stalag 17 (1953) - I had to see this movie again before sending it back to Netflix. Whoever thought that a movie about American POWs in WWII could be so entertaining? I'm recommending this movie to everyone and their cousin!

3) Dancing Lady (1933) - A great pre-code musical. Check out Jonas' review of this movie on his blog All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!

4) Mister Lonely (2007) - I missed out on watching this Harmony Korine film at the Boston Indie Film Festival because of school. Kevin got the DVD for my birthday because he knew how much I wanted to see it (You rock Kevin!). I cried watching this. A touching story about a Michael Jackson impersenator trying to fill the void inside of him that his loneliness created. He connects with a Marilyn Monroe impersenator who takes him to an impersenator commune. Oh and there are some flying nuns too.

5) She Done Him Wrong (1933) - This is the first Mae West film I have ever seen and by golly I'm already a BIG fan of hers. She was the shizzle, fo sho! I love the line: When a woman goes wrong, the men go right after her.

6) Blotto (1930) - Laurel & Hardy short. Laurel has a nag of a wife and he works with Hardy on a way to get Laurel out of the house. Laurel plans to steal his wife's liquor, but she's on to him. She replaces it with cold tea, unbeknownst to the pair who think they are getting plastered. Very funny!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's My Birthday!

Today is my birthday. I turn 28 years old at exactly 12:25pm on the dot (I was a very punctual newborn). I'm sure my soul is probably a couple of centuries old. I did some research and found some birth dates, marriage dates and death dates that happened on my birthday. See below.

Also, I'm taking a short hiatus to enjoy Thanksgiving with my family. I'll be back next week. Hope you have a safe and happy holiday! And if you start your Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving, please buy books as presents. Support the book industry and literacy!

This Day in Film History

11-25-1914 ~ Joe DiMaggio, one-time spouse of actress Marilyn Monroe, was born on this date.
11-25-1920 ~ Actor Ricardo Montalban was born on this date.

11-25-1934 ~ Sucky Actress Margaret Sullavan marries the director William Wyler (who totally should have known better). I'm wondering if she noticed that he wasn't Jimmy Stewart! What an idiot. Can you tell I don't like her?
11-25-1946 ~ Actor Louis Calhern marries actress Marianne Stewart.
11-25-1965 ~ Jazz Musician Chet Baker marries Carol Baker. I know he's not a classic film actor, but I like him okay!

11-25-???? ~ No names that I recognized. Let's keep it that way.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Quel Interprétation ~ Bonita Granville - Nancy Drew

I decided to start a new series called Quel Interprétation which features yours truly attempting modern visual interpretations of classic film actresses. I study one film and try to model an outfit as closely as possible with my current wardrobe and limited budget. I'll also do hair and make-up to match the concept. Sometimes it'll be conceptual because of the great differences between past and present fashions.

This is my attempt at recreating Bonita Granville as Nancy Drew. Complete with a wrench. I'm sure both Ginger and Jonas will appreciate that prop as they've been bugging me about it on Facebook (the picture of Bonita is my current Facebook profile pic).

To create this I wore my detective hat, a purple ruffled blouse, high-waisted & flowy brown trousers, blue girlish shoes with heels, a trench coat and green gloves. Everything is prety much what Bonita/Nancy would have worn with the exception of the trenchcoat. Her adventures often took place in the summer so she wouldn't have needed it. I included it to add a detective vibe to the outfit. I couldn't quite achieve her perm without doing some serious damage to my hair so I opted to do girlish ringlets as Bonita is a teenager. It was a lot of fun to dress up and pretend I was about to clonk some burglar on the head with a wrench!

Who will I be next?

Viewing Guide:

Nancy Drew, Detective (1938)

Nancy Drew, Reporter (1939)

Nancy Drew... Trouble Shooter (1939)

Nancy Drew and the Hidden Staircase (1939)

Friday, November 21, 2008

A-Z Movie Meme

I've been tagged by fellow blogger Ibetolis at the excellent blog Film for the Soul to do the A-Z Movie Meme started by Blog Cabins. Premise is simple, just list a good film that starts with each letter of the alphabet. There are some crazy rules to follow, but I like to throw rules out the window on this blog, so I'm doing my own thing, see? I'm trying to either chose films that I'm interested in or really like right now to match with each letter.

Thanks Ibetolis!

A is for All That Heaven Allows (1956)
B is for Bonjour Tristesse (1958)
C is for Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
D is for D.O.A. (1950)
E is for East of Eden (1955)
F is for Father of the Bride (1950)
G is for Good News (1947) ... goody, good, good, good!
H is for Holiday Affair (1949)
I is for Idiot's Delight (1939)
J is for Jezebel (1938)
K is for Keep Your Powder Dry (1945)
L is for The Letter (1940)
M is for Metropolis (1927)
N is for Nancy Drew, Detective (1938)
O is for Out of the Past (1947)
P is for A Patch of Blue (1965)
Q is for Queen Christina (1934)
R is for River of No Return (1954)
S is for Strangers When We Meet (1960)
T is for Thunder Road (1958)
U is for Unfaithfully Yours (1948)
V is for The Virgin Suicides (1999)
W is for The Women (1939)
X is for Madame X (1966)
Y is for Yours, Mine and Ours (1968)
Z is for Ziegfeld Girl (1941)

As my friend Lisa would say, tag yourselves bitches!

I would also like to thank Jacqueline over at Another Old Movie Blog for tagging me too.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Classic Film Fan Travels to Indiana

I recently went on a business trip to Indiana. Whenever I travel, I leave my regular life behind in Massachusetts but somehow, on this particular trip, classic films seemed to follow me into the depths of the Midwest.

1) Hitchcock's Box of Mints

I was staying at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Brownsburg, Indiana during my trip. It is by far the best hotel I've stayed at in Indiana. The morning after my arrival, I woke up refreshed and ready for an early cup o' joe. A lady at the banquet area was passing out boxes of mints. Now I'm never one to turn down freebies, so I graciously accepted the tiny box. Each box had a trivia question on the back and the answer on the bottom. And wouldn't you figure, I got the box with a classic film question on it. It read:

Q: Where is the school in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds located?

A: Bodega Bay, CA
How cool is that?

2) Classic Film Networking

Whenever I meet new people, my love of classic films ends up working it's way into the conversation. It's inevitable. When I had dinner with my boss and some people from 2 other book publishers, I ended up talking to two women who just happen to be classic film fans. We talked about how much we loved TCM (and griped about how the best movies are shown at ungodly hours). I mentioned to one of the women how I loved her company's annual Movie Poster calendar and had been buying it religiously for the past 5-6 years. She offered to send me 2009's calendar, but I had already purchased it. I mentioned that I had a classic film blog and the other lady wanted me to send her the address so she could read it!

3) Knitting The Letter

I am a scaredy-cat flyer. There is no question about that. It doesn't matter that I've been flying since I was 20 days old (I got my first passport when I was 10 days old), itis still a terrifying experience for me. It's worse if I haven't flown in a while, and not having done so in over a year made this recent experience quite painful. Luckily, I had something to distract me. My friend Lisa recently taught me how to knit. I brought my knitting needles, ball of yarn, and scarf-in-progress to the airport. By some miracle, the TSA allows knitting needles on planes. We had two 3-hour delays and 2 2-hour flights in the span of 2 days, so needless to say I had a lot of downtime (which I sometimes refer to as freak-out time). Knitting helped me calm my nerves. The concentration on the different knots as well as the repetitive motions helped relax me. It put me in mind of Bette Davis' character Leslie Crosbie in The Letter (1940). She played a married woman living in Malay who, having shot down her lover, was facing trial for said murder. Throughout the film you see her doing lacework to calm her nerves. When she finishes her project, she wears it in a pivotal scene.

Attorney Howard Joyce: [on the subject of her lacework] It must take enormous concentration and patience.
Leslie: I find it soothing.
Howard: You mean it... takes your mind off other things?

This just shows that over the past 6 years or so, classic films have really woven themselves into my life. And it's not so bad. Not so bad at all.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Leading Couples: Garbo and Gilbert

As I promised in my review of the new book Leading Couples, I watched the silent classic Flesh and the Devil (1926) to explore my fascination with Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. The story is about two friends, Leo (Gilbert) and Ulrich, whose friendship is bound by blood with a ritual they performed as children on the Isle of Friendship. When Felicitas (Garbo), a temptress, falls in love with Leo, he is forced into a duel by her husband. Sent off to Africa, Ulrich takes care of Felicitas and marries her, not knowing Leo's previous romantic attachment to her. The triangle becomes a square as Ulrich's little sister, Hertha, is hopelessly in love with Leo. Can Leo and Ulrich's friendship survive Felicitas' temptations?

The love shared between the two men is so intense it borders on the homoerotic. Their love rivals that they share for Felicitas. It's quite interesting. Passion, in many forms, is the driving force of the story as well as the characters. Also, Gilbert and Garbo had such great chemistry that the screen seems to light up when they are together. They had a real-life romance on and off throughout the years they knew each other.

Two Moments of Eletricity

1) A cigarette in the garden.

Leo (Gilbert) says to Felicitas (Garbo) "You know... when you blow out the match... that's an invitation to kiss you." WOW! If only I could use that line in real life (any guys out there with matches handy?). Cigarettes are so symbolic in classic movies. They are one of the most important tools to show sexual attraction. And this scene is a great example of that.

2) The Den of Sin

Felicitas lures Leo into her "den of sin", as I like to call it. It's basically the bedroom in the home that she and her husband share. Here, hidden from the rest of the world, they proceed to be all up on each other. The scene is so long and it lingers on each kiss that the passion elevates to a sort of heightened eroticism. Hot!

Interesting Facts about Garbo & Gilbert from Leading Couples

1) Garbo never married. The one time she came close was when she left Gilbert at the altar. This may or may not be a rumor. Garbo fans, please let me know!

2) Garbo was a notoriously shy hermit. Gilbert was the only person who go her to come to a film premiere, Bardelys and the Magnificent (1926), and smile for the camera.

3) Garbo helped Gilbert get a talkie role when his star was falling. She insisted he be cast opposite her in Queen Christina (1934).

4) Gilbert alowed Garbo to share billing above the title in Flesh and the Devil (1926) (see above image), even though he could have sole billing.

5) Gilbert encouraged Garbo to host parities. She was the most sociable she had ever been when she was with him.

6) When Gilbert passed away, a rumor spread saying that Garbo's response was "What's that to me?" Garbo was so upset, that she held a press conference to denounce the rumor as false.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Otto Preminger Lecture 11/13/2008

What I learned at the Otto Preminger lecture (and from Kevin in general)...

1) Otto Preminger employed Dalton Trumbo to write the movie Exodus (1960), even though Trumbo was blacklisted.

2) Leonard Maltin once said something to the effect of: Otto the director should tell Otto the actor not to overact.

3) Otto did two all black musicals, both starring Dorothy Dandridge. Carmen Jones (1955) and Porgy & Bess (1959).

4) It's speculated amongst film historians that Dana Andrews was Otto's favorite actor. They made 5 films together.

5) Otto often kept the camera on groups of people. He was an objective filmmaker and trusted the audience's intelligence to form opinions of their own. You'll see very few reaction shots in Preminger films.

6) Otto was all about realism. He also liked to cast real life people in their real life roles in his movies. For example, the conductor Shorty Rogers and his band Shorty Rogers and His Giants were in the film The Man with the Golden Arm (1956).

7) Jean Simmons had 4 weeks left of her RKO contract with Howard Hughes and had to make Angel Face (1953) against her wishes. Otto was hired since he was very efficient. Simmons cut her hair in protest.

8) In the film Laura (1944), an artist had done a painting that was to be used as a central point in the film. When Otto took on the project, he got rid of that painting and had Gene Tierney photographed. The photo was painted over to make it look like a real painting.

9) Martin Luther King, Jr. was asked by Otto to play a cameo role in Advise & Consent (1962). He was interested, but ultimately declined due to negative publicity that ensued from the offer.

Below is a picture of Kevin (left), me (middle) and Bob (right) shortly before the lecture started. Close friends Frank and Blythe attended too. The lecture turned out great. Kevin managed to provide a lot of information in just an hour. He showed clips from Man with the Golden Arm, Anatomy of a Murder and Fallen Angel and had a kick-ass Powerpoint presentation. Go Kevin!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Otto See It: Stalag 17 (1953)

Gutten Morgen, Sergeants. Nasty weather we're having, eh? And I so much hoped we could give you a white Christmas... just like the ones you used to know...

This is my last entry before the lecture, which is today. This project was a lot of fun and I'm a little sad it's almost over. My next post will be what I learned from Kevin's lecture, in the same style from the one I did last year for Elia Kazan. I still have a few more Otto Preminger films on my Netflix queue, and I can post about them in the future, but for now this series is complete.

I have one big, gigantic, enormous reason why you Otto see Stalag 17 (1953). Because Otto Preminger is in it! He plays Oberst von Sherbach, the Kommondant of a German prisoner of war camp. Preminger did so well with his Nazi type roles that it became part of his image, even though he was Jewish and very anti-Nazi. He also played Nazis in The Pied Piper (1942), Margin for Error (1943), They Got Me Covered (1943) and Where Do We Go From Here (1945) (I'm not 100% sure on the last one). Mind you, Stalag 17 is not directed or produced by Otto Preminger. This is Billy Wilder's film. But after watching so many Preminger-directed films, it was a nice change to see him acting in one.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

You Otto See It: Bonjour Tristesse (1958)

Bonjour Tristesse (1958) is my new obsession. In a nutshell, the story is about bored, rich people who play with other people's lives to pass the time. It reminded me a lot of the film My Man Godfrey. In Bonjour Tristesse, 17-year old Cecile (Jean Seberg) is staying with her father, Raymond (David Niven), at their vacation home on the French Riviera. He is openly having an affair with a French woman named Elsa (Mylene Demongeot), that is until Cecile's godmother, Anne (Deborah Kerr), comes to stay and he shifts his focus. Anne gets in the way of Cecile's two major relationships. The tight yet aloof bond with her father and the burgeoning romance with young law student, Philippe (Geoffrey Horne).

This film is probably the best example of Otto Preminger's keen attention to the details. If you don't pay close attention, you'll miss many important subtleties that are woven into the fabric of the story. And since I am all about the details, I thought I would dissect 3 short scenes from the film to show how Preminger used these subtleties to reveal elements of the character's personal dilemmas.

1) Champagne Scene

Before heading to a casino for a night of fun, the primary characters, all glammed up, drink some champagne. Distracted by their own charms, not one of them notices that the maid is serving herself very generous portions of champagne, which she guzzles down greedily as the party laughs away at their own jokes. It's an interesting commentary at the obliviousness of the upper class (and its moochers) to the state of the lower class. This is an ongoing theme throughout the movie.

2) The Shoulder Kiss Scene

All summer long, Cecile and Philippe frolick around in their bathing suits worshipping the sun, the ocean and each other. The lack of parental supervision has put their courtship into overdrive. That is, until Anne, Cecile's father's fiancee, catches them in a passionate embrace. Anne chastises them, demanding that they no longer see each other. Philippe leaves, but not before kissing Cecile on the shoulder. Enjoying the kiss, Cecile kisses that exact same spot on her shoulder. This is really the first instance we Cecile acknowledging some kind of real connection with someone other than her father. These people are to some extent numb and when one actually feels something real they are either excited or scared by it.

3) Sleep or Sex? Scene

Preminger got away with murder here. Anne and Raymond are engaged. Only a serious commitment from Raymond would allow for Anne to ignore her prudish nature and give into their mutual passion.

Raymond: Oh. Pig, pig, pig. I ate like a pig.
Anne: Sleepy?
Raymond: In a way.
Anne: [pause] No, I have to work.

Basically, Raymond just gave her an opportunity to sleep with him and she just turned it down. All of this in front of Raymond's daughter Cecile. It shows how wrecklessly Raymond treats sex and how this will affect not only Cecile but also Anne.

You definitely Otto see this film. In fact, I will go out on a limb and say that because there is so much in this film to take in, that I think you Otto see it twice! If anything, watch it for Saul Bass' beautiful title sequences. They are worth it on their own.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

You Otto See It: Carmen Jones (1954)

I do love de movie Carmen Jones. It's de best dat Preminger got!

Carmen Jones (1954 or 55) is by far my favorite Otto Preminger film yet. I just adore this film. What's not to love? It's an opera remake with an all black cast. It's gorgeous and the music, of course, is the best. Dorothy Dandridge is the femme fetale that lures the angelic soldier Harry Belafonte with her charms. They get into trouble along the way. You Otto see it!

Watching this film reminded me of my days in youth orchestra. I played violin to Bizet's Carmen many times and still have my sheet music (I wonder if I can still play it? hmmm). So listening to the music in the movie just brought back good memories. Also, some years ago I watched Introducing Dorothy Dandridge, with Halle Berry as Dandridge. It's quite a moving biopic of an actress who struggled with love, prejudice and her daughter's disabilities. Her story is quite sad but she did so much to show how a black woman could be beautiful, talented and independent. She had an affair with Otto Preminger in real life. I don't blame him. She was drop-dead gorgeous!

I think Carmen Jones is a great example of Preminger's range. Studios could throw anything his way and he could take it on and do it well. Film noir, war drama, Catholic epic, court drama and black opera, he could do it all. If you still need more reasons for why you "Otto" see it, I'll give you three more.

1) The famous "Dat's Love" musical number. It's da best!

2) Harry Belafonte + Sun + Oil - Shirt = All Good!

3) Dorothy Dandridge. She always stood out in every scene. Dandridge was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for this role (the first African-American woman to do so in history).

Extra Bonus Reason: PEARL BAILEY!!!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

You Otto See It: Daisy Kenyon & Cardinal DVD extras

Warning: If you rent The Cardinal (1963) from Netflix, please make sure you also rent the 2nd DVD with special features.

The Cardinal DVD Extras
1) Preminger: Anatomy of a Film Maker (2 hours) - Hosted by Burgess Meredith
2) Behind-the-scenes Featurette
The 2 hour documentary was a delight indeed. For an Otto Preminger fan, it was the four course meal to the Fox documentary's appetizer. Burgess Meredith hosts and narrates the documentary.. There were a lot of people interviewed. Actors such as Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Stewart, Deborah Kerr and Carol Lynley. Also, Saul Bass, the graphic designer for many of Otto Premingers films talked extensively about the title sequence and art for Man with the Golden Arm. Tom Tryon, whose relationship with Otto Preminger was the worst of any other actor in Preminger's career, spoke about the man who he believed was a tyrant. The documentary spends an appropriate amount of time on each of Premingers films. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes footage shown which was quite a delight (even more in the 5 minute featurette). Also, it was interesting to learn about Preminger's defiance of the Code and his various flirtations with controversial topics.

Daisy Kenyon DVD Extras
1) From Journeyman to Artist: Otto Preminger at Twentieth Century Fox
2) Life in the Shadows - The Making of Daisy Kenyon

The two documentaries are short and poorly styled. I mean what is with the cigarette smoke coming out of the left hand side? It was very distracting. But I do think you Otto see them because of who is in them. There are your film historians Foster Hirsch, Robert Osborne, etc plus your resident Preminger and Crawford experts. But what really makes this interesting are the family members. Preminger's daughter, Crawford's grandson and Dana Andrews' son and daughter were all interviewed. Preminger's daughter Victoria spoke extensively about her dad. I always think it's a treat to watch offspring of legends talk about their parents. It gives you a perspective that no historian or expert could provide. This isn't something often seen in Special Features, so take advantage of this and watch it!

Monday, November 3, 2008

You Otto See It: Daisy Kenyon (1947)

An earlier Otto Preminger film, Daisy Kenyon is a film about a working artist, played by a too-old Joan Crawford, who finds herself caught in a love triangle. There is the married lawyer, played by Dana Andrews. He's suave, charming and tough but has a frustrated wife and two scared daughters depending on him. Then there is the vet/widower, played by Henry Fonda, who is doting and caring and available but tormented by his war past and the suddent death of his first wife. Shot in lots of darkness and soft focus (mostly to hide Joan Crawford's age), it's a romantic drama with a noir twist.

It's funny how a single moment in a film can have such a great impact. I was particularly struck by one scene. Maybe because it's a slice of life from the late 1940s. To set it up for you, Henry Fonda just stood up Joan Crawford who then was stood up by Dana Andrews. Fed up with the both of them, she takes her friend out to a picture. Fonda tries to make up for it by inviting her out but she refuses. He follows her to the movies and enters a restaurant right across from the cinema to watch for her (can you say "stalker"?). You can see in the image below that the marquee lists the pictures showing as Mr. Lucky, a Cary Grant film as well as the Edward G. Robinson classic Woman in the Window.

The scene goes...

Henry Fonda: Scotch and soda please.

Waiter: This isn't a bar. This is a restaurant or haven't you noticed?

Fonda: In that case bring me a steak sandwich and a glass of milk.

Waiter: Who's in there buddy? Your wife? I can give you the name of a guy, he's very cheap and will save you all this trouble.

Fonda: If I had a wife, it would be when she wasn't at the movies that I'd worry not when she was.

Waiter: [muttering to himself] Steak sandwich and a glass of milk.

I still don't get it. Why can't I get this scene out of my head? Before I go on ranting any more, I'll just say that you Otto see Daisy Kenyon!

And this is for Ginger. You're welcome.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Out of the Past, Into the Now ~ Retro-Ware

I try to dress like I'm in a classic film. That is, as much as I can in our contemporary culture. I usually go clothes shopping with an actress, actor or film in mind. Sometimes it's just a concept and other times I have something very specific in mind. I don't always succeed in my ventures but when I do, it's quite rewarding.

I thought I'd share some parts of my classic film wardrobe. These are prize pieces in my closet and I try to wear them when I can. Fall and Winter are prime time as I can go crazy with layers and accessories. One day I hope to further expand my wardrobe and maybe make some pieces of my own.

This is what I fondly refer to as my Robert Mitchum trenchcoat. I bought it at a Banana Republic outlet a few years ago and it's by far my favorite coat! Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past (1947) was my inspiration during the purchase. This coat has become a staple of my wardrobe especially during the Fall months and I always get lots of compliments when I wear it.

If I pair my Robert Mitchum trenchcoat with this hat I feel like a real gumshoe. Got a mystery I can solve? This is either my Dick Powell or my Fred MacMurray hat. Depends on the day.

This is my Kim Novak dress. It was a purely conceptual idea. I had Strangers When We Meet (1960) in mind when I bought it at an H&M. Novak wore a lot of grey and red in that film (along with white and black). This dress had a black belt but I swapped it out for a red one. I wore this to my graduation and to go see Mickey Rooney (see previous post)!

Remember this? This is my Norma Shearer outfit that I wore to my friend Kevin's 30th birthday party (that's him on the left as James Dean). That whole outfit was based on a very specific one Norma wore in The Divorcee (1930) (see the comparison in my previous post). I call that my Norma Shearer skirt. Its from United Colors of Benneton and was in Glamour magazine. Believe it or not, they had modeled an outfit based on Grace Kelly in Rear Window (1954). Score! I was going to call it my Grace Kelly skirt but Norma Shearer won me over.

And finally, my Bette Davis hat. This reminds me of those cloche hats from the 1920s and 1930s. Something Blonde Bette Davis would wear. I had Three on a Match (1932) in mind when I bought this at a DSW Warehouse. You can't really see it but it has a rhinestone buckle!

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