Showing posts with label Norma Shearer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Norma Shearer. Show all posts

Friday, September 7, 2012

Classic Hollywood Style by Caroline Young

Classic Hollywood Style
by Caroline Young
October 2012
224 pages
Hardcover ISBN 9780711233751
Frances Lincoln

I cannot tell you how many times someone has come up to me to tell me that my outfit looks like something from an old movie. Or they point out something I would like because it's old Hollywood style. I just really love the fashion (as well as the design) of classic movies. So, a book like Caroline Young's Classic Hollywood Style is right up my alley.

Caroline Young's background is in Literature, Film and Journalism but her love and appreciation of classic Hollywood fashion is quite evident in this book. She takes a look at 34 films starting with Camille (1921) and ending with The Thomas Crown Affair (1968). Other notable films include Gone With the Wind (1939), Casablanca (1942),  Gilda (1946), The Seven Year Itch (1955) and Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961). There is a nice mix of popular films as well as some lesser known ones. There are 3 films from the 1920s, 7 films from the 1930s, 8 films from the 1940s, 11 films from the 1950s and 4 films from the 1960s. Each movie gets 3 spreads, 6 pages total with a couple movies getting an extra spread, 2 pages. There are many full page images but the focus really is on the text. Young explores the decision making of the fashion, the relationship between designer and star, the cultural influence of the film's fashion as well as the role the fashion plays in each film.

This book is nice and compact and is beautiful enough to serve as a small coffee table book but can easily be shelved as well. Basically, you want to read the book, not just look at the pretty pictures. The book is chockfull of great anecdotes and trivia bits. It's a really good choice for someone who is either into fashion or into classic films or both. There are no spoilers so if you haven't watched one of the films discussed then the movie won't be ruined for you. There were only a couple films I wasn't interested in but for the most part each film was a delight to read about. I hadn't realized how iconic certain outfits really are and how we identify certain films by those very outfits. The wife-beater on Marlon Brando, the white negligee on Elizabeth Taylor, the red windbreaker on James Dean, the white flowing dress on Marilyn Monroe, the green curtain dress on Vivien Leigh, etc. I don't even need to mention which outfit went with what film. You automatically know what it was just by the image.

I thought it was interesting that Young decided to end the list with 1968 when the Hays Code was put to an end. Young claims that with the end of the Hays Code there was a more towards realism because now filmmakers had more freedom to show what they wanted on screen. So the lack of realism in designer fashioned masterpieces didn't fit the new era of film. Designers became more like shoppers rather than artists. This is why fashion in film these days isn't as important as it was back then and why so many of us mourn for the style of old Hollywood.

My biggest issue with the book was a glaring error found in the section about The Dancing Lady (1933) with Joan Crawford. Young says "... in the 1930s she was the reigning queen of MGM." Oh hell no! You did NOT just diss the real 1930s Queen of MGM who was...

Norma Shearer!

Norma Shearer WAS the Queen of MGM. That was her actual title. Movie stars were often given titles or tag lines that were used in the promotion of their movies. Norma Shearer was Queen of MGM, Clark Gable was King of Hollywood, Sterling Hayden was "The Most Beautiful Man in Movies", etc. Norma Shearer was the Queen of MGM and no matter how much this author loves Joan Crawford it's not going to change the fact that Joan Crawford hated Norma Shearer because Shearer was the Queen and Crawford wanted the title for herself. The author tends to favor Joan Crawford featuring her more times in the book than any other actress. Joan Crawford was very influential to fashion with the clothes she wore on film. It was quite common for stores to start carrying Joan Crawford inspired pieces for the masses.  However, NORMA SHEARER WAS STILL THE QUEEN OF MGM!

There were a couple other instances of the author making similar statements but the others seemed more based on fact rather than this Joan Crawford one. There were no Norma Shearer movies in the book. While Norma Shearer wore amazing clothes I don't think she was as influential in fashion as Joan Crawford so I understand her absence. But I'm still offended by the statement.

However, the book is very well-researched with an appendix full of sources including interviews, newspaper articles, press releases, biographies, production notes, etc. Let's just hope that the author and publisher can fix that Joan Crawford line to read "in the 1930s she was one of the biggest stars of MGM" which would have been more accurate.

If you love Classic Hollywood fashion and are willing to overlook the Norma Shearer-Joan Crawford gaffe, then pick up this book! It's quite a treat.

Disclosure: Thank you to Frances Lincoln Limited Publishers for a review copy of the book

Friday, December 31, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

This crazy still is taken from Riptide (1934) in which Norma Shearer and Herbert Marshall don ridiculous bug costumes for a party. Swell!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Summer Under the Stars - Norma Shearer on TCM

This starts tomorrow. Here are the Raquelle-approved reasons why you should watch each and everyone (except for one). And if you are not a Norma Shearer fan there is something wrong with you. Watching TCM Summer Under the Stars tribute to Norma Shearer can cure you of your atrocious malady.

Lady of the Night (1924) - Joan Crawford absolutely despised and envied Norma Shearer. Especially because Shearer had an established career and dated and then married MGM bigwig Irving Thalberg. Crawford had to play Norma's double in this picture. I bet that got Crawford's goat! Plus Norma Shearer wears a wicked feather headpiece and dons a busca-novio. Excellent!

A Lady of Chance (1928) - A late silent watches like an early silent. It's Art Deco splendor and by far my favorite Norma Shearer film of them all. Read my previous post about it.

Their Own Desire (1929) - It's even more Art Deco splendor. The film was shot on location at the Norconian Resort which is now a rotting Art Deco relic. It's also the first film in which Robert Montgomery and Norma Shearer co-star. They went on to make several films together.

Complicated Women (2005) - It's a documentary which features Norma Shearer but mostly discusses actresses and films from the Pre-Code era. It's worth watching.

The Divorcee (1930) - Norma Shearer's husband Chester Morris cheats on her with some tramp. So Shearer cheats on Morris with Robert Montgomery. Morris can't take it so he divorces Shearer. Then Shearer goes and nails every rich guy she can get her hands on including Conrad Nagel. Heck yeah! Plus I dressed up as Norma Shearer in The Divorcee for Kevin's Birthday party.

The Barretts of Wimpole Street (1934) - The start of Norma Shearer's prestige film career (period pieces with costumes and big productions). Charles Laughton co-stars as her tyrant father.

Riptide (1934) - A Montgomery-Shearer vehicle. Watch it for the adult-sized bug Halloween costumes. Excellent!

Escape (1940) - This is one of my least favorite Shearer films mostly because it's very depressing. But if you like depressing WWII movies, this is right up your alley.

Idiot's Delight (1939) - Norma's outrageous wig, canned oyster soup and Clark Gable singing and dancing to Puttin' on the Ritz.

The Student Prince of Old Heidelberg (1929) - Classic story of reluctant prince falling in love with a peasant girl (civilian). Shearer & Novarro's chemistry is sweet and playful, not passionate.

Private Lives (1931) - Watching a bickering couple go from hot and cold was never this fun, especially a couple on their honeymoon, WITH OTHER PEOPLE!

Romeo and Juliet (1936) - I would actually say pass on this one. Shearer and Leslie Howard are far too old to be playing Juliet and Romeo respectively.

Marie Antoinette (1938) - The pinnacle of Norma Shearer's prestige films. Thalberg's final gift to her. It's grandiose and over-the-top just as it should be.

Strangers May Kiss (1931) - Football, men in fur coats, airplanes, awesome. And why can't a girl have fun and not have to worry about her reputation?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Out of the Past, Into the Now - Celebrate Norma Shearer's Birthday, Ke$ha style

Today is Queen Norma Shearer's Birthday. I wasn't going to do a post but I just couldn't help myself. Jennifer, avid Norma Shearer devotee and curator of the official Norma Shearer Facebook fan page, posted this very enjoyable mash-up of Ke$ha's song Tik-Tok along with clips of Norma Shearer in motion and dancing from various films. It's superb. The timing is excellent. What better way to celebrate the Queen's birthday by watching this over and over again?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Queen Norma Shearer ~ Their Own Desire (1929) now on DVD

I cannot tell you how happy I am that one of my top favorite Norma Shearer films is now out on DVD, thanks to the Warner Archive Collection. And now that they are doing nice original packaging for these DVD-Rs (instead of that boring navy blue swirly design they were previously using), Their Own Desire (1929) gets an awesome treatment with this funky contemporary colorized cover!

The movie itself is a feast for the eyes. Many scenes were shot at the Norconian Resort in Norco, California which was an Art Deco paradise. I secretly dream of breaking into the abandoned resort and looking for the lost and decaying Art Deco treasures. The resort boasted an amazing Art Deco swimming pool and Norma Shearer got to show off her diving skills in a great scene with Robert Montgomery. They both hit the water and share an underwater kiss which to me is an iconic representation of the film, the resort and the era.

There is lots more for the eye to feast on! A dancing scene with moving lights and shadows is the essence of cool Art Deco/1920s style. The rich soak up the sun and get some exercise with a nice game of polo. And the clothes. Oh the clothes. I want them all.

Believe it or not, there is a story too but this is where I separate from other folks. Most people do not like the story because they feel it's lacking in substance and is full of predictable cliches. However, I am very drawn to stories about rich jaded people who are so bored and numb that they manipulate lives to get themselves to feel something. Bonjour Tristesse (1958) anyone? And that's what this is. A story about rich people bored with life. To me that's fascinating. Norma Shearer stars as Lally, a young beautiful rich girl who escapes to a resort with her mother after they have found out that her father, Lewis Stone, is having an affair with another woman. At the resort, Lally meets Jack, Robert Montgomery, and they fall in love. Trouble is, Jack is the son of Beth, the woman who is having an affair with Lally's father. Oops! It's the type of soap opera that only a really excellent Pre-Code film can provide.

I wrote a short review back in 2008 when I first saw the film on TCM and I forsee writing more about this in the future. Now that this is on DVD, I hope to purchase it and make some lovely screen cap collections of all the Art Deco beauty of this film. Maybe I'll even make it a week long affair. Stay tuned... 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Norma Shearer

This was a guest post on Silents and Talkies. Artwork is created by Kate Gabrielle. Go visit her new blog Scathingly Brilliant.

Norma Shearer was a sight to behold. She was simply stunning and had an elegance and grace that translated well on film and in photographs. Shearer loved the camera and the camera loved her, but their courtship started off on very rocky footing. Over the years Shearer, along with the help of studio stylists and photographers, developed tricks and techniques for her so that the camera always captured her in the best light possible.

If Norma Shearer was so beautiful, what could she have had to hide? Shearer's biggest physical flaw was the slight cast in one of her eyes. Technically it was not a lazy eye but it was ever so off center, enough to make her look cross-eyed. At one point she had surgery to correct this, but it never did fully go away. So what did she do? She dealt with it. If you watch Norma Shearer's films or see any of her photographs, she'd always tilted her head and face at an angle. It created a dramatic look, showcased her spectacular profile and hid her major flaw. It took years of practice and it wasn't until well into her talkie career in which her crossed eyes are completely unnoticeable. She learned an effective trick from photographer George Hurrell that if she looked towards directly in the camera's direction she had to look past it, as though she was looking beyond at something very far away.

As I got to learn more and more about Norma, I discovered that she had even more physical flaws that she withheld from the camera. She had a short dumpy figure, a result of thick legs and arms on a petite body. She was also knock-kneed, something clearly visible when you see her silent film He Who Gets Slapped (1924). Shearer learned to hide her legs with long skirts and dresses and showcase her torso which was slender. She got very knowledgeable about lighting and refused to be shot at any unflattering angle. This oftentimes made her clash with her co-stars who also wanted to look their best on screen. The most notable one is Clark Gable, Shearer's co-star in A Free Soul (1931), Strange Interlude (1932) and Idiot's Delight (1939). Gable had huge ears which were very noticeable and everything possible was done to hide them. He was banned from wearing bowler hats, he had to always look away from the camera and oftentimes his ears were taped to his head so they would lay flat. You can imagine all the work it took to get the best lighting and positioning for when Gable and Shearer shared a scene. It must have been quite a battle!

Beyond the physical, Norma used her natural charisma to enhance her beauty. She always had lively expressions and elegant hand and arm movements. Her vibrancy was electric and seemed to light up the screen. Who would be searching for flaws when they would be too busy being entranced by her charm?

So why do Norma's flaws matter? Norma Shearer acknowledged what she had and what she didn't and worked very hard to be her best. It's something that made her notorious as a diva but to me it showed her admirable diligence to overcome obstacles in her path. I've learned from her and even I've developed tricks so I can look my best on camera.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Early Birthday Present

Carlos presented me with a copy of the out of print Norma Shearer biography by Gavin Lambert as an early birthday gift. When I say "presented", I mean hid it in my apartment and made me go on a wild goose chase to find it! I'm so happy to have this. Now I don't have to check it out several times a year from my local library because I OWN it.

Thank you Carlos!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sunday, March 29, 2009

From Montreal to Hollywood: Norma Shearer's Story

Edith Norma Shearer was born August 11, 1900 or 1902 in Montreal, Québec, Canada. It's unclear which year. Norma came from a privileged Scottish family. Her father Andrew Shearer owned his own business which was at first successful but eventually failed, leaving his family destitute. Norma's mother, Edith Shearer, had high hopes for herself, for her two daughters (Athole and Norma) and son (Douglas) and refused to settle for their current situation. Edith took the kids and eventually moved them to New York.

Edith at first wanted Norma to be a pianist, however Norma's early career involved bouts in vaudeville and modeling. She landed an infamous gig as the Springfield Tires billboard girl Miss Lotta Miles which her future rival Joan Crawford loved to poke fun at.

One day, almost out of the blue, Norma decided she wanted to be an actress and she and Athole auditioned and got bit parts in the Olive Thomas film The Flapper (1920). Edith joined in on the fun and they all became extras in the barn dance scece in D.W. Griffith classic silent Way Down East (1920). Norma took that opportunity to meet the director so she stood under an arc-light to show off her features. Griffith gave her one good look and told her she would never become a star.

Norma continued to make films in New York and got noticed in The Stealers (1922) and with the help of producer Hal Roach, she made her way over to Hollywood. The day after her arrival she met with producer Irving Thalberg of MGM (then known as The Mayer Company). He was so young she mistook him for an office boy until she saw him sit behind the producer's desk and put his feet up. They were both impressed by each other, Irving by Norma's charisma and drive and Norma by Irving's power and work ethic.

Norma signed with MGM and made many movies with MGM's top stars Lon Chaney Jr., Conrad Nagel and John Gilbert. She wasn't an instant success but with each film her star rose higher and higher in the Hollywood heavens. After various affairs with other people, Thalberg proposed marriage to Shearer and she accepted. The marriage would make her the Queen of MGM and it was a union of business and mutual admiration and respect. Most say Shearer was an opportunist as the union helped get her lots of choice roles, but Shearer hard to work hard to prove herself.

In 1929, Norma helped usher in a new era of talking pictures with MGM's first talkie The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929). Her upper-class Canadian accent worked well and the transition was smooth for her. She was however very unhappy with her roles and wanted better parts. She proved to her husband Thalberg that she had potential beyond her "good girl" roles and she landed parts in pre-code classics such as The Divorceé (1930) and A Free Soul (1931), for which she won the Best Actress Academy Award. Her career boomed and she made lots of popular pictures with co-stars such as Clark Gable, Robert Montgomery and Leslie Howard. Most fans today love her Prestige Films which are those films she made from 1936-1939 including Marie Antoinette (1938) and The Women (1939).

Norma had two children with Irving: Irving Jr. (b. 1930) and Katherine (b. 1935). Irving's health was very poor due to a heart condition and he passed away in 1936 leaving Norma a widow. She continued to make films for MGM However, Norma was aging and becoming less and less believable in romantic leads. When Her Cardboard Lover (1942) proved to be a total flop, she made the decision to end her acting career.

Norma met ski instructor Martin Arrouge, a handsome strapping man some 12 years her junior and married him in 1942. Martin (whom she convinced to go by the name "Marti") and Norma were a very suitable pair. She wanted to continue living as a queen and he wanted someone to adore. They remained married until Norma's death.

What very few people realize is that Norma's family had a history of mental illness. Sister Athole was in and out of mental hospitals and her parents and her brother Douglas had their own manias. Norma was a very poor mother to her children and had very little in the form of maternal instincts. She became obsessed with her appearance (a trait she shared with her mother) and in her advanced years succumbed to failing eyesight and dementia, often calling her second husband Martin, "Irving". She passed away on June 12th, 1983.


Future posts will reveal even more about Shearer, her love life, her career, etc. so stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

It's Coming...

Norma Shearer Week
Sunday March 29th to Saturday April 4th
on Out of the Past ~ A Classic Film Blog

To celebrate my queen, for no reason other than I want to, I'm dedicating an entire week to her. Every day, I'll have a new post on Norma Shearer. It's all Norma, all week long!

Such adoration makes the Queen of MGM very happy...

Over the years that I have been watching Norma Shearer's films, it has been easier and easier to get access to them. Several films have become available on DVD and TCM has heard my pleas (along with everyone else's) for more Norma Shearer! Below is a list of availability of Norma Shearer films for your viewing pleasure.

Coming up on Turner Classic Movies

Escape (1940) ~ April 13th
The Divorcee (1930) ~ April 14th & June 30th
Lady of the Night (1925) ~ April 15th
The Women (1939) ~ April 21st & May 14th & June 28th
Marie Antoinette (1938) ~ May 5th & June 24th

Available on DVD

Available through the new Warner Bros. Archive

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!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ten Things I Like About Old Movies

Jacqueline over at Another Old Movie Blog, did an excellent post called Ten Things I Like About Old Movies. She set aside obvious things like acting, script, camera work, etc. and listed only quirky things that she enjoyed. Self-Styled Siren also did a similar post. I'm going to join the bandwagon and do one too! It's not stealing if I give credit to folks, right?

1) Busby Berkeley-esque choreography - Women and men move in and out of shapes. It's a beautifully complex feast for the eyes. 42nd Street (1933) , Dames (1934) and The Gold Diggers of 1933 are among my favorites.

2) Men lighting Matches - Oh so sexy. They light them in unconventional ways. These men exude confidence and are not scared of a little flame. Wow. Fred MacMurray lit one with his thumb in Double Indemnity (1944), Kirk Douglas lit one on a typewriter in Ace in the Hole (1951) (see below) and William Holden lit one on another man's shirt in Stalag 17 (1953). S'all good.

3) Women's silk robes/negligees - Complete with fancy slippers or some other frou-frou. It made going to bed look like a red carpet event. Like Jean Harlow in Red-Headed Woman (1932).

4) New Year's Eve - It looks like so much more fun in an old movie than it is in real life. How I would love to have a night like Ginger Rogers had in Bachelor Mother (1939) . David Niven dolled her up and took her out for a fancy meal, dancing and a final countdown in Times Square. ::sigh:: New Year's Eve celebrations in The Divorcee (1930) and The Apartment (1960) are memorable too!

5) Coffee & Pastries - So much more delicious (and less fattening) when actors consume them on screen. There is the famous Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) scene with Audrey Hepburn balancing a pastry and cup of coffee in front of the famous Tiffany's store. Jane Wyman offers Rock Hudson a coffee and a roll in All That Heaven Allows (1956) and they fall in love over lunch. Robert Mitchum sips at a cup of coffee when he romances Janet Leigh in Holiday Affair (1949).

6) Clothes Shopping - The Women (1939) anyone? "Zips up the side and no bones." Young models wearing the latest fashions, walking and posing for potential buyers. You'd have to be famous or an industry professional to get this kind of showcase these days. It puts me in mind of How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) too.

7) Impeccably dressed Men - Cary Grant, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart. They all look good in a suit. Sure the women's fashions were great. But a well-dressed man is a sight to behold. If they just happen to be wearing a pocket watch, I absolutely swoon. Even ratty trenchcoats are wonderful, because they wore them well. My absolute favorite? Dennis Morgan in uniform in Christmas in Connecticut (1945). Someone get me the smelling salts! I feel a faint coming on.

8) Art Deco Architecture & Design - I'm getting really specific here. The clean, elegant lines and shapes of Art Deco were beautiful and very conducive to bringing a sense of sophistication to movies. Pools seem to fit very nicely here for some reason. I'm thinking of the communal swimming pool in Their Own Desire (1929) as well as the private one in Female (1933) (see image below).

9) Title Songs - Very popular in the late '50s and early '60s, especially for the sex comedies. Titles were taken from the song name or a song was written for the title. My favorite is Pillow Talk (1959) sung by Doris Day. But I also really love Where the Boys Are (1960) (sung by Connie Francis), Come Fly with Me (1963) (sung by Frank Sinatra) and If a Man Answers (1962) (sung by Bobby Darin).

10) Physical Comedy - We have physical comedy these days, but not to the extent of the great comedians back in the day such as Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, Charlie Chaplin, The Three Stooges and Laurel and Hardy, just to name a few. They threw their bodies into their work and the results were hilarious. Even Donald O'Connor did amazing physical comedic work in Singin' in the Rain (1952). The Make 'Em Laugh number sent him to the hospital, but has kept us laughing for decades afterwards.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

You were looking for what?!

A friend of mine who has a personal blog (going for almost 10 years!) used to periodically make a list of the funny keywords people used on internet search engines that led them to her blog. I always enjoyed them and wanted to do something similar for my blog. I had never really paid attention to keyword paths until recently when I waded through some on my stat site. While some were pretty basic, others were downright hilarious! I've listed some of the most amusing or interesting ones below with my reactions. I'm using dashes instead of spaces for some of these so that people don't use the same keyword paths again to find my site.

Seductive-classic-movie-moments - Yes please. I'll take two.

Pressure-Point-lipstick-tic-tac-toe - I haz it!

Famous-Film-Noir-cloche-hat-scene - Whatever this person is looking for, I bet the right words are at the tip of the tongue.

People-that-got-rich-thanks-to-the-great-depression - Those bastards!

A-Face-in-the-Crowd-Vitajex-scene - I haz it!

Classic film calendars - get this one -> Universe's Movie Posters Calendar 2009

Double-Indemnity-matches - huh?

Fred-MacMurray-matches-Double Indemnity - OK I get it. I posted about how I thought Fred MacMurray's ability to light a match with his thumb was oddly sexy. Read it here.

1930's-gay-movie - Well, Let Us Be Gay is definitely 1930 and Norma Shearer was definitely gay. In the jovial sense.

What-necklace-did-norma-shearer-wear-in-The-Women? - I need to join forces with this person to find the long lost booty of Norma. Arr. We search for buried treasure.

Kirk-Douglas-naked -I haz it!

Kirk-Douglas-in-bed-with-cigar - I haz it!

Why do I enjoy watching classic film? - Good question my friend. I ask myself that question every day and I love coming up with answers.

Classic-nun-sex-movies - OK that's just wrong!

Leslie-Nielsen-children's-narrator - He's got a wonderful voice for a narrator. I loved his storytelling in the long lost Canadian TV show Katie & Orbie. This search probably led them to my Young Leslie Nielsen post.

Coolattas3 - I think Kevin has a stalker.

Garbo-at-party-at-Otto-Preminger - Did she actually come out of hiding and attend a Preminger party? I need my resident Preminger and Garbo experts to come answer this one. Kevin and Jonas, where are you?

Robert Mitchum in a trenchcoat - Nice one. Here you go!

I encourage other film bloggers to post any funny or interesting keyword paths that have lead internet roamers to your site. Consider yourselves tagged!

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!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Leading Couples: The Most Unforgettable Screen Romances of the Studio Era

Leading Couples
The Most Unforgettable Screen Romances of the Studio Era
by Frank Miller
Introduction by Robert Osborne
September 2008
Chronicle Books

My favorite line: They were cool before anybody had picked up the word. Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall were united by their deep love and respect for each other and their disdain for anybody who didn't get it.

I received an advance copy of this book a while back and have been relishing every page. It's a beautiful 4-color paperback book with french flaps. Quite a deal for only $19.95. I should know, I work in the book business.

This is the third in the TCM book series. The first was Leading Ladies followed by Leading Men, both books were released in 2006. This year brings Leading Couples a collection of 37 on screen romantic duos. This book was quite a pleasure to read. So much so, that could be why it took me so long to finish it as I have a tendency to linger over the books I truly enjoy. The book is divided into sections which each couple getting their own. Some starts repeat but you won't find anyone in there more than twice and there is still a lot of variety to keep the reader interested. Some couples were in many films together, others only a few, some even only one but sometimes it only takes one shock of electricity to be memorable.

Each section is pretty consistent (me likey consistency) and the structure works well.

1) Half-Spread image of couple
2) Introduction
3) Behind the Scenes
4) Offscreen Relationship
5) Star Bio Stats
6) Key Quote
7) Essential Team-Ups (if applicable)

My favorite section to read was the Offscreen Relationship. Some folks liked each other, some folks LOVED each other and other folks just faked it for the silver screen. I also really appreciated the list of "Essential Team-Ups". That helped me fatten up my Netflix Queue quite a bit.

My favorite of all the couples features came as a surprise to me. I would have thought it would be Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. I've watched several of their films and have read a biography on their love affair. Woman of the Year (1942) is one of my favorite films. But I couldn't help but be transfixed by Greta Garbo and John Gilbert. I have never seen them on screen but read their section at least three times!

TCM is doing a Leading Couples film festival in November. (Read their press release here). Their November schedule is coming out soon so watch for it.

I do have a couple of gripes about the book. They kept to the very mainstream. There were only a few obscure pairings like Dick Powell & Ruby Keeler and Janet Gaynor & Charles Farrell. I understand that this kind of guide is meant to be an accompaniment to the actual movies and many other obscure pairings (Norma Shearer & Robert Montgomery for example) are not necessarily available for viewing on DVD. Also, the author said Jimmy Stewart was a notorious womanizer. No he was not! Hmph! But I did enjoy the bit about Norma Shearer watching Jimmy Stewart in The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and singling him out as her next romantic target. Only Norma Shearer could do something like that.

In honor of this new book, I decided to take my peculiar interest in Greta Garbo & John Gilbert as an on screen couple and I will watch and review Flesh and the Devil (1926). Watch for the review here along with a couple of tidbits from the book.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Queen Norma Shearer ~ Let Us Be Gay (1930)

~Let's be gay about it!~

This is what it's all about. This is the stuff that feeds my soul. This is the cream in my coffee, the salt in my stew, the starch in my collar and the lace in my shoe. This is what I love.

Picture this. It's 6 am and the TV is turned to Turner Classic Movies. A lion roars on the screen and some jazz music follows opening up to the title sequence. It's a film from the early 1930's. Part comedy, party drama, light-hearted with a moral. It could be naughty, it could be sweet, it could be a wonderful mixture of both.

This is my absolute favorite type of film and Queen Norma Shearer happened to make several of them, including Let Us Be Gay (1930). Now before you snicker, "gay" here means jovial and carefree. When the title character of the movie finds her husband is cheating on her and divorces him, taking their three children with her, she decides to be gay, without a care in the world. Norma Shearer transforms from a plain jane to a celebrated beauty. What amazes me is the plain jane version of Norma Shearer. I did a doubletake when I saw her. Stripped of any make-up, donning thread-bare duds, glasses and a homely haircut, this vision of her contrasts greatly from the glamorous Norma that most of us are familiar with. I admire Norma for her willingness to do strip down like this. She does the same in Marie Antoinette (1938).

Films like Let Us Be Gay don't take themselves seriously. They are perfect 1 to 1-1/2 hour vehicles in which audiences escape into someone else's life. Whether they be rich or poor, the unique characters are what drive the story. The industry was still transitioning into talkies from many years of producing silent films, so the movies from the early '30s are oddly quiet. I find this quite refreshing. The takes are sometimes long and lingering, a total opposite of what is found in our present ADD culture. These films are not difficult to watch and most are quite entertaining. This is my favorite type of film and what a pleasure it was to have seen the obscure classic Let Us Be Gay!

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