Showing posts with label Blonde Bette Davis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blonde Bette Davis. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Warner Archive Wednesday ~ Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume 7

The seventh set in the popular Forbidden Hollywood Collection is a true gem. All four films, on 4 MOD-DVD discs, are rife with all the sins that make Pre-Codes so enjoyable to watch.

I started to do something recently that I have been wanting to do for a very long time: watch Pre-Codes every morning. It sounds like a silly ritual and I blame it all on TCM's influence. I had TCM for years before I moved out on my own and couldn't afford cable anymore (I got it back last year). I had become used to waking up early in the morning, turning on TCM and watching about 20-30 minutes of whatever early 1930s film was showing. It became a habit and for years afterwards I had always craved Pre-Codes in the morning. The only bad part about this was that I would want to watch the entire film but didn't have the time. I would either rent it or buy it later but that didn't always work because many of the films weren't available on DVD. Now that I own numerous Pre-Codes, including several of the Forbidden Hollywood Collection sets, I decided that I would pop in a DVD in the morning and watch 30 minutes of a Pre-Code. I know it seems like such a weird thing but this new morning ritual makes me so happy and gives me a nice start to my day. If I have time, I watch the entire film in the morning if I can. I started this new ritual with the seventh set in the Forbidden Hollywood Collection and I had so much fun that I hope to stick with it.

Now on to the films...

The Hatchet Man (1932) - This curio from First National stars Edward G. Robinson and Loretta Young. They are both made to look Asian and Loretta Young is almost unrecognizable in "yellow face". The story takes place in San Francisco's Chinatown and explores the conflict between old Chinese traditions and the modern sensibilities of 1930s America. Edward G. Robinson plays Wong Low Get, a Hatchet Man who acts as an executioner for the different Tongs in Chinatown. Whenever a crime is committed, he executes the criminal with his hatchet. He has to kill his best friend but before he does he makes a promise to take care of his daughter Sun Toya San (Loretta Young). There is romance, adultery, betrayal and violence in this rather disturbing movie. It's the slowest of the four films in the set and probably the most odd but worth watching.

Skyscrapers Souls (1932) - This is the first of the two Warren William films in this set, this Pre-Code looks at the lives of the people who work in a New York City skyscraper. All the action happens inside the building. The conceit works really well and made for a very enjoyable and clever little film. Warren William is despicable as the womanizing executive who is hell bent on owning the entire building. That skyscraper is his life, he lives, breathes, eats, works and sleeps in it. He's having an affair with his secretary Sarah (Verree Teasdale), funds his wife's (Hedda Hopper) adventures to keep her out of his sight but isn't satisfied until he gets his hands on his secretary's secretary Lynn (Maureen O'Sullivan) who happens to be having a romance with bank teller Tom (Norman Foster). That is quite a romantic entanglement! Anita Page is also in the film but has a very minor role. She receives good billing and I don't think she was utilized well. It's an enjoyable film with a rather serious ending.

Employees' Entrance (1933) - Warren William is back to his old antics in this film (well not really, in real life he was a very nice guy!). William plays Kurt Anderson, a tough executive who runs a department store with an iron fist. He has no compassion for anyone except for those who are willing to sacrifice everything, even happiness, in the name of business. Alice White plays Polly, a fashion model who Kurt hires on the side to be a romantic distraction to a busy-body executive. Kurt himself has his eye on another fashion model, Madeline, played by Loretta Young. He lures her into bed only to abandon her shortly after. When Madeline marries the boss' right-hand-man Martin West (Wallace Ford), they have to keep it a secret. Things get really messy when sex, booze and money get involved! If anyone tells you that they think old movies are tame, show them this film! In fact, sit them down and show them several Pre-Codes. 

Dog lovers may not care for one particular scene in the film. Consider yourself warned.

Ex-Lady (1933) - I know that Bette Davis used to make fun of her early movies and this one is considered to be one of her flops. I have always disagreed with Bette Davis though and her early pictures are my favorites. In my honest opinion, this one is the best of the set. I enjoyed it so much and  the story really resonated with me. It doesn't try to shock like other Pre-Codes do. Instead it takes an honest look at romantic relationships and marriage. Bette Davis plays Helen, a very accomplished artist whose illustrations are highly sought after. She's an independent woman and in charge of her own life and career. Gene Raymond plays Don, an advertiser and Helen's beau. Helen doesn't want to get married so instead Don sneaks in to her apartment and sleeps over regularly. Helen's parents find out and they feel pressure to marry but Helen fights it every step of the way. I could go on but this film is so good that I hope to devote an entire post to it. This film most likely flopped because it took an honest look at relationships instead of romanticizing the marriage ideal. That kind of truth doesn't make for popular entertainment. Everyone wants the fantasy, not the reality. This film is a new favorite indeed!

Forbidden Hollywood Collection: Volume 7 is available on DVD MOD from Warner Archive.

Warner Archive Wednesday - On (random) Wednesdays, I review one title from the Warner Archive Collection. I received Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume 7 from Warner Archive for review.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Uglification of Bette Davis & the Oscars

The Oscars are just around the corner and in thinking of these awards, I'm reminded how, in the past 10 years or so, the Academy has favored actresses who have transformed themselves physically for their movie role with nominations and/or Oscar statuettes. In an industry that is so focused on a specific type of beauty, the fact that these actresses were willing to sacrifice what they had in order to throw themselves into a role that they believed in is in many ways admirable. Let's look at a few examples:

Hilary Swank in Boys Don't Cry (1999) - won
Salma Hayek in Frida (2002) - nominated
Nicole Kidman in The Hours (2002) - won
Charlize Theron in Monster (2003) - won
Mo'Nique in Precious (2009) - won

While this seems like a recent trend, it has happened in the past. Certain classic film actresses chose to strip their makeup and expose themselves to the harsh unforgiving lens of the movie camera in order to honor their character's role in the film. One that comes to mind is Norma Shearer in Marie Antoinette (1938). Yes I know it's one of her "prestige" films and she donned wigs, makeup and fabulous period costumes throughout the film. But at the end of the movie, when Marie Antoinette is imprisoned and about to be beheaded, there is a poignant scene with Norma Shearer, sans makeup and with a worn and fearful expression on her countenance all of which makes you forget that she is the Queen of MGM.

The best example I can think of, of a classic film actress undergoing a dramatic physical transformation is Bette Davis in The Private Lives of Essex and Elizabeth (1939). Davis was determined, at all costs, to look the part of Queen Elizabeth I. And in a time when historical pictures were frivolous with facts and details, it's admirable to see how devoted Davis was to being as historically accurate as possible.

From the book, Fasten Your Seat Belts: The Passionate Life of Bette Davis by Lawrence J. Quirk

[Makeup artist] Perc Westmore... shaved Davis's hair back two inches, thus underlining the reality of baldness under the red wigs and hairpieces. He then applied white, pasty makeup and shaved off her eyebrows, replacing them with thin lines that, in Robert Lord's words, 'made her look like a baby in a Halloween mask and costume.'
Davis spent much time studying portrait reproductions provided by the research department, seeking to approximate Elizabeth's actual appearance as accurately as possible. Her own appearance meant nothing to her - only historical accuracy. 'Make me up horribly, and dress me outlandishly - I don't care, so long as you get the essence of the original,' she told Perc Westmore and [costume designer] Orry-Kelly. 

Yet Bette Davis didn't win the Oscar for this performance. She wasn't even nominated for it. Instead, the Academy favored her performance in Dark Victory (1939) more and she was nominated for that role. If Bette Davis had done the same two performances in today's day and age, would she have won for Private Lives of Essex and Elizabeth instead?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Good Heavens: All This, and Heaven Too (1940)

All This, and Heaven Too (1940) is a Warner Bros. period epic starring Bette Davis and Charles Boyer. It was directed by Anatole Litvak, whom Bette Davis was both rumored to have clashed with professionally and had a romantic affair with. And according to Robert Osborne, studio execs felt that in this stage of Bette Davis' career, she had enough star power to carry a movie as the sole major star. This film is a departure fromt that with that as Charles Boyer, at the height of his fame, sharing top billing with the great Bette Davis.

The story is based on the Rachel Field novel. It's a fictionalized account of the true story of Henriette Deluzy Deportes (Davis), an English governess who finds work in the home of the French Duc de Praslin (Boyer). Deportes falls in love with the children she cares for as well as their father, provoking the ire of the Praslin's insanely jealous and demented wife, the Duchess de Praslin (Barbara O'Neil). Fans of Virginia Weidler will be happy to see her in this film playing one of the Praslin children.

The film was expensive and lavish with lots of period costumes and grand sets. All that money couldn't ensure a hit, and this film went on to have lukewarm reviews and did poorly at the box office. I can't say I'm surprised as I did not enjoy this film that much. For one, I have a tendency to shy away from classic period films. Studios back in the day took period dramatics too seriously. What we end up with is a lot of grandiose films that have the potential to overwhelm and bore instead of awe. For me personally, it was far too long (140 minutes) and every scene was dripping with seriousness. There needed to be some lighter elements, such as happy scenes with the children, to let the pace of the movie move forward more smoothly rather than dragging on which it did. I also wished they had tempered the characters a bit. More subtlety and less dramatics. Barbara O'Neil's performance, although nominated for an Oscar, felt over-the-top in the worst way possible. I found myself laughing at some of her scenes, which was definitely not what the filmmakers intended as a suitable audience response.

Writing about this film was quite painful. I delayed it as long as I could. I do not like to write about films I don't enjoy because I try to find merit in everything I view. But I can't be pleased with everything can I?!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

20 Actresses Movie Meme

I was just dying for someone to tag me for the 20 Actresses Movie Meme started The Film Experience blog. But I was patient because I knew that Ibetolis over at the excellent blog Film for the Soul would tag me. He's always very kind to think of me and I appreciate that a lot.

It was a lot of fun working on this list. I discovered that my tastes are by no means mainstream or ordinary. Ladies are presented in no particular order, except for the Queen of MGM who always gets top billing.

~ Norma Shearer ~

~ Joan Blondell ~

~ Susan Peters ~

~ Sandra Dee ~

~ Bette Davis ~

~Ruby Keeler ~

~ Doris Day ~

~ Jean Harlow ~

~ Kim Novak ~

~ Marilyn Monroe ~

~ Bonita Granville ~

~ Ginger Rogers ~

~ Jean Seberg ~

~ Jean Hagen ~

~ Caroll Baker ~

~ Shirley MacLaine ~

I couldn't just make this all about classic film ladies, when there are so many contemporary actresses I enjoy watching too. Here are a few.

~ Amy Adams ~

~ Samantha Morton ~

~ Romola Garai ~

~Ludivine Sagnier~

(thanks Jonas for the photo of Ludivine!)

I'll tag Jonas of All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing!, Ginger of Asleep in New York, Carrie of Classic Montgomery, CK Dexter Haven of Hollywood Dreamland and Sarah of Cinema Splendor. Not so much as a tag, more like a smack. Hee hee. Have fun!

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!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

12 Movies Meme

Tag! I'm it!

Ibetolis over at Film for the Soul tagged me to participate in the 12 Movies Meme started by Lazy Eye Theatre. I don't really get the rules so I kind of just went with a similar form based off of Ibetolis' entry. Basically I'm creating line-ups for 6 double-feature nights (Monday through Saturday), each with it's own theme. I've also provided a reason for why I chose that line-up. I have to tag 5 people and with an interesting twist, I'm tagging 3 guest bloggers (their responses I'll post here) and 3 bloggers. I know that's 6, but since I'm already breaking rules... My double-features and tags are listed below. Enjoy!

Theme: Right in the Belly - Poisonous Stories
Films: D.O.A. (1950) & Notorious (1946)
Reason: My favorite film noir matched with an astounding Hitchcock classic, both feature protagonists who have been poisoned.

Theme: Blonde Bette Davis Does Not Want to Kiss You
Films: Cabin in the Cotton (1932) & Of Human Bondage (1934)
Reason: Two great Bette Davis films, with her as a blonde, both include famous lines about kissing. Cabin in the Cotton - "I'd like to kiss ye, but I jus' washed ma hair". Of Human Bondage - "And after ya kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth! WIPE MY MOUTH!"

Theme: Robert Mitchum Just Wants to Love on You
Films: Holiday Affair (1949) & Two for the Seesaw (1962)
Reason: Robert Mitchum's softer side shines through with these two romances. A delight for anyone who crushes on him.

Theme: The Morning After ~ Ultra Sexy Pre-Codes
Films: Female (1933) & The Divorcee (1930)
Reason: One thing leads to another and well, you know... Women in charge of their sexuality. And a little Norma Shearer never hurt anyone.

Theme: Triumphant Triumvirates ~ Everything's Better in Threes
Films: Three on a Match (1932) & A Letter to Three Wives (1949)
Reason: It's a shame I couldn't make this one into a triple-feature! Based on threes, great films about three very different women coming together in unusual circumstances.

Theme: Multiple Families, Multiple Problems
Films: Yours, Mine and Ours (1968) & With Six You Get Eggroll (1968)
Reason: Two films that gave birth to The Brady Bunch. What happens when two families come together as one? Laughter is sure to follow.

Frank ~ Guest Blogger
Bob ~ Guest Blogger
Kevin ~ Guest Blogger
Carrie ~ Classic Montgomery
Ginger ~ Asleep in New York
Steve ~ Film Noir of the Week

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Blonde Bette Davis ~ Double Feature Pre-Codes

I had the opportunity to watch two Blonde Bette Davis pre-codes at the Brattle Theater last night. What a treat. Here are some of my quick thoughts on both films.

Bureau of Missing Persons (1933)

Even though Bette Davis doesn't even show up until mid-way through the movie, and with her comes the actual plot, I have to say I really enjoyed this film. It's entertaining and a little cheesy, just the way I like my '30s films to be! Plus it's got Lewis Stone! You can't go wrong with that. SPOILER ALERT! None of us quite expected the ending which involved Pat O'Brien's character giving his wife quite a beating. He had just found out that she was already married and had been conning him into giving her alimony. When the movie was over, I proclaimed that there was nothing like ending a film with some good ole domestic abuse!

Three on a Match (1932)

I had seen this movie a couple times previously, but it was wonderful to see it up on the big screen. I really enjoy this film and it's one of my top favorite pre-codes. But really it isn't a Bette Davis film even if she is part of the triumvirate. Her character is weak and really the only thing you get out of her performance is seeing Bette at her most beautiful. Three on a Match is really all about Ann Dvorak and Joan Blondell. This film is a cautionary tale warning people off of adultery and alcohol/drug abuse. The real victim is the little boy who has to watch his family fall apart. Its just a superb film and watching it again just solidified that for me.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lifetime Achievement Viewing

Some time ago I had made set goals to watch every single film which feature my top favorite personalities. I say personalities because these are people I am captivated by and it extends beyond any acting abilities or their appearance in good stories (sometimes they lack both!). Hunting for those films reach makes watching their work even more enjoyable.

Norma Shearer ~ 17 out of 61
Bobby Darin ~ 5 out of 14
Sandra Dee ~ 10 out of 24
Marilyn Monroe ~ 25 out of 29
Blonde Bette Davis ~ 14 out of 33
Doris Day ~ 17 out of 39

Lately I've come across a few more opportunities to advance towards my final goal. Sandra Dee's Tammy Tell Me True (1961) and Tammy and the Doctor (1963) were released on DVD a few months ago and Netflix just added it to their extensive library. I immediately added it to my queue, bypassing the original film Tammy and the Bachelor (1957) with Debbie Reynolds, which I guess I really should have seen first to fully understand the storyline. But while Debbie Reynolds is cute, I've always found Sandra Dee even cuter and much more fun to watch on screen!

With The Forbidden Hollywood Collection Vol. 2 I got an opportunity to see The Divorcee (1930) and A Free Soul (1931) in their entirety. Two marks on my list. But these I knew would eventually turn up on DVD. However, two more even rarer opportunities presented themselves recently. My friend Frank is a Laurel & Hardy fan and let me borrow one of his DVDs which contains the short film Stolen Jools (1931) a comedy which features many MGM stars, including Norma Shearer. And TCM recently had a Robert Montgomery marathon (one of Norma's best-known leading men), and they showed Their Own Desire (1929), (which I taped) an elusive film I know very little about but am very happy to see.

There are other actors whose film work I'd like to view in their entirety, but making a goal of it would be quite a feat, and very likely impossible (Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, etc). Those whom I think may be manageable and whom I would like to add include:

Kim Novak
George Sanders
Tom Conway
Dennis Morgan
Bonita Granville
Susan Peters
Richard Barthelmess

Do you have anyone whose life's work is your goal to consume? Or have you already seen the entire canon of films of a favorite star? Let me know!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

I'm Back and I love Cabin in the Cotton (1932)

I've been MIA for a while working on the truckload of homework and projects that my professors have unloaded upon me. Now I'm done for a few weeks, before I start a new semester, and I should keep up posting. Right now I don't have much to say, so I will just share another design of mine (which is of course a cool image someone else designed and I just layered text over it). Enjoy!

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blonde Bette Davis: Marked Woman

The virtues of a blonde Bette Davis are many and go largely unacknowledged. Most know Bette Davis as a wide-eyed brunette; fiesty and domineering. The films she's best known for are all in her brunette period [Jezebel (1938), The Letter (1940), Now, Voyager (1942), Mr. Skeffington (1944), All About Eve (1950)]. These are wonderful in their own right and I do not disagree at all with those who say that these are her best pictures. However, just because Bette Davis made wonderful films in her brunette period doesn't mean that her blonde period should be forgotten.

You'll find me talking about blonde Bette Davis often here. This selection of films, pre-Jezebel and spanning roughly 7 years are some of my absolute favorites. My top favorite being Cabin in the Cotton (1932) where Bette Davis utters one of her most famous lines: "I'd kiss ye. But I jus' washed ma hair."

I was very lucky to come across another blonde Bette Davis jewel: Marked Woman (1937). It bridges between the blonde and brunette periods. Her hair is significantly darker but she is often referred to in the film as a "blonde". Plus her role has that youthful vivacity that is juxtaposed with her burden of worldly knowledge that is so reminiscent of blonde Bette Davis characters. I find that her brunette roles lack that youthfulness and sprite and are either jaded or feeling the weight of the chains from living a hard life. Marked Woman is a sad drama but Bette Davis is still quite vivacious. She plays one of many prostitutes that work for a gangster at his nightclub. Betrayal is either punishable by death or a cross-mark on one's face. It's quite good and watchable to see Davis as well as a very young Humphrey Bogart. Highly recommended.

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