Jun 30, 2009

Classic Links

The Top Ten John Ford Westerns—AMC Blog

Lure of Gangster Films Lasts Through Generations—
Indiana Gazette

DVD of the Week: Last Year at Marienbad—
Green Cine

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Jun 29, 2009

Classic Links

David Niven Jr: The Truth about Dad’s Deathbed Confession--
The Daily Mail

Michael Jackson: The Least Weird Man Elizabeth Taylor Ever Knew—
The Guardian

Author claims Errol Flynn was a Nazi spy—
The Australian

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Retro Book Review--Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: And Don't Have Sex or Take the Car

As I read Elizabeth Taylor’s heartbreaking statement about Michael Jackson’s death, I was reminded of a great book about child stars in classic Hollywood: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star: And Don’t Have Sex or Take the Car. It is essentially a collection of interviews with commentary, compiled by former child star Dick Moore (who is perhaps most famous for giving Shirley Temple her first screen kiss, a traumatic event he describes in the book). Because he understood much of what his subjects had experienced, and was even acquainted with some of them as a child, Moore was able to elicit frank revelations from stars such as Donald O’Conner, Natalie Wood, Jackie Coogan and Mickey Rooney. He captures the anxiety, confusion and occasional joy of being young breadwinners and working with adults in a challenging industry. There are also a few reminisces about Taylor, who possessed a very adult beauty as a child, but struggled with shyness. Many of these child stars found solace in each other, just as Taylor and Jackson did. In fact, Moore fell in love with one of his interview subjects, Jane Powell, and they are married to this day.

The book is out of print, but I’ve seen affordable used copies around the web. It’s an occasionally heartbreaking read, but Moore is a compassionate and intelligent storyteller. If you have any interest in classic Hollywood child stars, I highly recommend it.

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Jun 28, 2009

Quote of the Week

If you have made mistakes, even serious ones, there is always another chance for you. What we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.
-Mary Pickford

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Jun 25, 2009

A Gable and Lombard Haunting?

According to the Trip Tip Guys, there have been reports over the years of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard haunting a room at the Oatman Hotel in Oatman, Arizona. Apparently, the pair honeymooned there in 1939, after they tied the knot in Kingman, Arizona, and they enjoyed a few return visits in the years before Lombard’s sudden 1942 death in a plane crash. Guests and staff have reported hearing “faint whispering and giggling coming from their old room, particularly at night, when it was vacant. Lights sometimes flicker on and off and toilets are heard to flush in the empty bathrooms.” I suppose it’s just better business for the hotel to assume that their ghosts were glamorous movie stars and not another happy pair that had also been in the room? Whatever the case, it is pretty amusing to think of Gable and Lombard having a great time in the afterlife.

Here’s the link to the full article. The haunted hotel piece is the last section.

Jun 23, 2009

Intermission Time!

I found a bunch of interesting movie intermission clips on YouTube. Here are some of my favorites. I love the jazzy tune and nutty panting family in this one:  

 Don’t the characters in this one have creepy eyes? *shudder*  

 I tell you, nothing makes me want to eat a hot dog more than watching it dance in a circle with popcorn and ice cream:

Jun 22, 2009

Classic Links

A tribute to two-strip Technicolor--
The Kitty Packard Pictorial

Errol Flynn Honored in Australia--

David Denby’s tribute to Victor Fleming and Gone With the Wind(1939)—-
The New Yorker

Joseph Losey’s Rebirth in Britain—
The Guardian

Jun 21, 2009

Ten Movies for Father's Day

Many of the dads in these movies are deeply flawed, and some are downright despicable, but they are all, in their way, deeply devoted to their children:

The Champ (1931)—Jackie Cooper is so heartbreaking as the loyal son of downtrodden boxer Wallace Beery that you actually shed a tear for the meanest man in Hollywood.

Five Pennies (1959)--As a career-obsessed jazz musician, Danny Kaye has his share of mishaps as a father. When he isn’t out on the road, he’s taking his daughter to nightclub jam sessions in the middle of the night. He redeems himself when tragedy forces him to see his child in a new way.

The Lady Eve (1941)—Con artists Barbara Stanwyck and Charles Coburn are a marvelous father and daughter team, because they both understand and delight in each other. Coburn doesn’t fight his true nature to spare his daughter, but he clearly separates his love for her from his vices.

Sabrina (1954)—Put in the awkward position of watching his daughter being wooed by the sons of his employer, Audrey Hepburn’s chauffeur father only shows true concern for the wellbeing of his daughter. His unwavering loyalty puts the rich folks to shame.

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes (1945)—The strict, but compassionate relationship Edward G. Robinson has with daughter Margaret O’Brien is the most touching part of this gentle rural drama.

The Thin Man Goes Home (1944)—The murder to be solved is secondary to the battle William Powell wages to convince his father that he isn’t just a worthless drunk. Fortunately he has Myrna Loy, one of the best screen wives ever, to campaign for him.

Man of a Thousand Faces (1957)—This Lon Chaney biopic is made all the more touching by James Cagney’s depiction of a devoted single father, a rarity in showbiz movies.

Poppy (1936)--W.C. Fields tries to find a place for his daughter in high society in a sort of male Stella Dallas with fewer tears and a lot less nobility.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)—Papa Fredric March may slow the course of true love with his fatherly meddling, but he teaches his daughter’s suitor an important lesson about the worth of his little girl.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)—Is there any screen father more admirable than Gregory Peck? By day, he works to save a man’s life in court. At night, he quietly teaches his children about compassion and bravery. His message is effective because he leads by example.

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Quote of the Week

My advice to you concerning applause is this: enjoy it but never quite believe it.
-Robert Montgomery

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Jun 18, 2009

Classic Links

10 Shocking Hollywood Deaths--
Mental Floss

Flynn Typecast in Heroic Roles—
Washington Times

Eve Arnold’s Photos (including stars from classic Hollywood)—

Jun 17, 2009

Classic Links

Olivia de Havilland confesses her love for Errol Flynn--
The Mirror

Now a Bride of Frankenstein remake? Please Hollywood, stop!--

The eventful life of Karolyn Grimes, Zuzu from It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)--
Times Colonist

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Ralph Bellamy: The Man Left Behind

Dependable, good-natured, and dumped--that’s the classic view of Ralph Bellamy on the silver screen. Was there any another actor from the classic age of Hollywood who played more characters so unlucky in love? He’d start nearly every movie with the leading lady on his arm and then spend the rest of his screen time trying to keep her there, often unsuccessfully. Sometimes he would play the villain, but for the most part, his characters were decent, if a bit dull, fellows who would arouse your sympathy, if nothing else. At least he lost out to some of the biggest actors in the business, including: Gary Cooper, Fred Astaire, James Cagney, Fred MacMurray and of course, Cary Grant. He was discarded in favor of Grant twice, in His Girl Friday (1940) and The Awful Truth (1937), and I must say he did his best job being dumped in those movies.

Of course, Ralph Bellamy did more as an actor than watch his leading lady ditch him. In the Deanna Durbin film noir Lady on a Train (1945) he puts a surprising twist on his typical good guy role. In Brother Orchid (1940), he has strong competition in Edward G. Robinson, but for once, he does hold his own. He was also a triumph as Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the stage (where he won a Tony) and onscreen in Sunset at Campobello (1960) and in the mini-series War and Remembrance (1988-89) and The Winds of War (1983). His career lasted over 60 years and he was successful in several stage and television productions in addition to film. Bellamy likely owes some of his success in other mediums to the disgust he professed at being typecast as the dull, discarded boyfriend. Would he have escaped to Broadway and television if he had always gotten the girl?

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Jun 16, 2009

Classic Links

It looks like the remake of The Birds is probably not happening. Maybe the studio will actually think of something new?—The Guardian

Another remake: a trio of Roy Rogers movies are in the works. Sheesh.—
EW Online

Rare Audrey Hepburn photos—
The English Muse

Jun 15, 2009

Classic Links

Hitchcock’s influence on Bond movies and blockbusters--
The Guardian

A Visit to Movieland, reprinted from Forum Magazine, 1920--
Vintage Meld

Gallery: the birth of Hollywood-
The Guardian

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Monday Serenade: Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye

Here's Louis Armstrong and Danny Kaye singing When the Saints Go Marching In in The Five Pennies (1959). They play well off of each other, but I think Louis Armstrong can't help but dominate this scene with his blissed-out charisma.

Jun 14, 2009

Quote of the Week

I don't want to read about some of these actresses who are around today. They sound like my niece in Scarsdale. I love my niece in Scarsdale, but I won't buy tickets to see her act.

-Vincent Price

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Jun 11, 2009

Great Movies from the Warner Bros. Archives

I finally had a chance to look at all the movies available from the Warner Archives collection and I’ve found that I’m almost as excited about the movies I’ve seen before (but on disintegrating library VHS tapes) as I am those I haven’t seen. Here are some titles that I am particularly excited to see available on DVD:

Of the few movies that Margaret Sullavan made, many were very good and at least one, The Shop Around the Corner (1940), is a classic. Still, for some reason, Sullavan seems to have been forgotten by all but highly devoted classic movie lovers. That’s why I am pleased to see two of her best movies, Three Comrades and The Shopworn Angel (both 1938), in the archive collection. The first is a charming tearjerker about a trio of soldiers who all love the same woman the second is. . .a charming tearjerker about a soldier in love with a brassy showgirl. Despite the similarities in set-up, the movies are actually very different and Sullavan demonstrates great versatility in these two roles.

On Borrowed Time (1939) is a delightfully corny supernatural drama about an old man who literally fights off death while he tries to find a proper guardian for his orphaned grandson. With Lionel Barrymore full of piss and vinegar and Bobs Watson demonstrating why he was the go-to child actor when waterworks were required.

Christopher Strong (1933) The most sensual and moody Katharine Hepburn performance you will ever see. Artfully shot by Dorothy Arzner, one of the most prolific female directors in classic Hollywood. And it’s a real heartbreaker to boot.

The Big House (1930) This efficiently-paced pre-code drama about prison life has a satisfyingly hard-edged simplicity. The gritty prison riot scene is both tense and thrilling.

Too Hot to Handle (1938) Myrna Loy and Clark Gable are great sparring partners in this fast-paced screwball comedy about competing newsreel photographers.

Possessed (1931) Joan Crawford and Clark Gable had such intense chemistry as a screen couple (their real life love affair surely helped) that it is surprising that they are not lauded as one of the great romantic partnerships. They were at their most intimate in this sexy pre-code romance about a small town girl who becomes the mistress of a wealthy New York lawyer.

Private Lives (1931) This is a sharp adaptation of the Nöel Coward play about a divorced couple who can quit each other, no matter how badly they get along. If you couldn’t stand Norma Shearer in The Women (1939), try watching her in this before you write her off.

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Classic Links

Roger Ebert Remembers John Wayne (it’s a long, but a great read)—
Roger Ebert's Journal

Tony Curtis’ Ever Hot Career—
LA Times

I still need to check out TCM’s Facebook for classic movie fans—
PR News

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James Mason Ad

This commercial with James Mason cracks me up. Check out that suave mustache!

Jun 9, 2009

Anne Hathaway as Judy Garland

There was an item on IMDb today in which Anne Hathaway said she was "terrified" to take on the role of Judy Garland in a biopic now in the works. While I've been intrigued by her casting in the part ever since it was announced a few months ago, I haven't been able to envision Hathaway as Garland. I don't doubt her skill as an actress or vocalist; it seems she has embarked on an interesting career covering both areas. I also believe that she could nail that blend of bravado and self-deprecation that made Garland so endearing. I think I'm still a bit unsure because I can't envision Hathaway playing a woman with the loopy fragility that Garland had (she is fragile in Rachel Getting Married, but in a more aggressive way). I think that will be the most difficult aspect of Garland to portray. However, if she pulls that off, she will be sensational in the role. I can't wait to see how she does.

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Jun 8, 2009

Classic Links

Roger Ebert’s Great Movies: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)-- RogerEbert.com

A clip from Bardelys the Magnificent (1926), King Vidor’s long-missing swashbuckler-- New York Post

Raymond Chandler cameo in Double Indemnity(1944)--The Guardian

Jacques Lagrange and Jacques Tati-- David Bordwell

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Monday Serenade: Carmen Miranda

Here’s Carmen Miranda performing Chattanooga Choo Choo as only she could in Springtime in the Rockies (1942).

Jun 7, 2009

Quote of the Week

Acting is standing up naked and turning around very slowly.
-Rosalind Russell

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Jun 4, 2009

Elizabeth Taylor Should Have Made More Comedies

Was Elizabeth Taylor just too beautiful as a young actress to be considered for comedy roles? Based on many of her real life appearances (such as this 1954 clip from What’s My Line), I think that, given a strong director and script, it would have been great to see her cut loose in a crazy role. As it was, she appeared in a lot of comedies, but tended to play the role of the placid beauty. You get a taste of what she could have done in These Old Broads (2001), but that was just a collection of funny moments that didn’t add up to much. At least we’ve been able to enjoy glimpses of the real Liz over the years: a bawdy, clever woman who is not afraid to let it all hang out and have a good laugh at herself. People like to make fun of her wackier moments (like in the clip below, where she literally howls at a reporter’s question), but I love how she isn’t afraid to be herself. She’s marvelous.

Classic Links

Warner Bros. adds more titles to on demand archive— Video Business

Molly Haskell’s Gone With the Wind book— 27 East

Celebrity classic car auction-- Philly.com

The charmed life of Micky Moore-- Palisades Post

Jun 1, 2009

Classic Links

The TCM tribute to great directors begins— TCM

Valerie Harper as Tallulah Bankhead-- Washington Post

Why drag Bogie into this?-- The Mirror

Life Photo Galleries

Today I've been fascinated by this gallery of Never-published photos of Marilyn Monroe on Life.com. Most of the shots are from a 1950 session in a park, just as Monroe was starting to gain attention in bit parts. They show a photogenic, but somewhat timid starlet (though look at the determination in those eyes!) Near the end of the gallery, there are a few shots of Monroe after she broke out in 1953, and the difference is amazing. In just a few years, she transformed from an appealing ingenue to a glittering movie goddess. I love the Life site overall. It's got tons of old photos, including lots of great shots from classic Hollywood.