Dec 31, 2010

There Are Many Greats Still With Us

Once again, I’ve decided to compile a complement to my yearly R.I.P. post. There are still several performers who made their mark in classic movies, from top box office stars to reliable support players, who are alive today. I've got about 170 people on this list--and I wouldn't be surprised if I've still missed someone. Please let me know in the comments if you've got a name to add!

Sue Lyon, 64

Tuesday Weld, 67

Yvette Mimieux, 68

Julie Christie, 69

Ann-Margret, 69

Gigi Perreau, 69

Peter Fonda, 70

Karolyn Grimes, 70

Samantha Eggar, 71

Richard Beymer, 72

Claudia Cardinale, 72

John Howard Davies, 72

Dolores Hart, 72

Millie Perkins, 72

Paula Prentiss, 72

Jane Fonda, 73

Margaret O'Brien, 73

Susan Kohner, 74

Robert Redford, 74

Dean Stockwell, 74

Diahann Carroll, 75

Julie Andrews, 75 (thanks samxart!)

Alain Delon, 75

Russ Tamblyn, 75

Brigitte Bardot, 76

George Chakiris, 76

Barbara Eden, 76

Sophia Loren, 76

Shirley MacLaine, 76

Joan Collins, 77

Kim Novak, 77

Marisa Pavan, 78

Debbie Reynolds, 78

Elizabeth Taylor, 78

Claire Bloom, 79

Leslie Caron, 79

Anita Ekberg, 79

John Gavin, 79

Mitzi Gaynor, 79

Tab Hunter, 79

John Kerr, 79

Rita Moreno, 79

Ann E. Todd, 79

Anne Francis, 80

Tippi Hedren, 80

Marni Nixon, 80

Robert Wagner, 80

Joanne Woodward, 80

Sybil Jason, 81

Anne Meara, 81

Vera Miles, 81

Terry Moore, 81

Don Murray, 81

Irene Papas, 81

Joan Plowright, 81

Jane Powell, 81

Elaine Stewart, 81

Rod Taylor, 81

Sada Thompson, 81

Ann Blyth, 82

Arlene Dahl, 82

Peggy Dow, 82

Sally Forrest, 82

Rita Gam, 82

James Garner, 82

Kathleen Hughes, 82

Martin Landau, 82 (Thanks kittypackard!)

Barbara Lawrence, 82

Nancy Olson, 82

Shirley Temple, 82

Harry Belafonte, 83

Honor Blackman, 83

Cora Sue Collins, 83

Lee Grant, 83

Rosemary Harris, 83

Gina Lollabrigida, 83

Roger Moore, 83

Estelle Parsons, 83

Sidney Poitier, 83

Barbara Rush, 83

Julia Adams, 84

Mona Freeman, 84

Andy Griffith, 84

Anne Jackson, 84

Gloria Jean, 84

Cloris Leachman, 84

Jerry Lewis, 84

Joan Lorring, 84

Marcy McGuire, 84

Betsy Palmer, 84

Jane Withers, 84

Patrice Wymore, 84

Lola Albright, 85

Denise Darcel, 85

Gloria DeHaven, 85

Farley Granger, 85

Julie Harris, 85

Martha Hyer, 85

Angela Lansbury, 85

Joan Leslie, 85

June Lockhart, 85

Dorothy Malone, 85

Colette Marchand, 85

Dickie Moore, 85

Dick Van Dyke, 85

Cara Williams, 85

Lauren Bacall, 86

Theodore Bikel, 86

Ruby Dee, 86

Stanley Donen, 86

Eva Marie Saint, 86

Ursula Thiess, 86

Richard Attenborough, 87

Valentina Cortese, 86

Betsy Drake, 86

Rhonda Fleming, 87

Glynis Johns, 87

Dina Merrill, 87

Peggy Stewart, 87 (thanks Elisabeth!)

Jean Stapleton, 87

Turhan Bey, 88

Jackie Cooper, 88

Doris Day, 88

Coleen Gray, 88

Janis Paige, 88

Juanita Moore, 88

Eleanor Parker, 88

Lizabeth Scott, 88

Harry Carey, Jr., 89

Carol Channing, 89

Nancy Davis (Reagan), 89

Deanna Durbin, 89

Barbara Hale, 89

Jane Russell, 89

Phylis Thaxter, 89

Esther Williams, 89

Mary Anderson, 90

Nanette Fabray, 90

Jayne Meadows, 90

Michele Morgan, 90

Noel Neill, 90

Maureen O'Hara, 90

Mickey Rooney, 90

Ann Rutherford, 90

Ruth Terry, 90 (Thanks Elisabeth!)

June Vincent, 90

Marge Champion, 91

Betty Garrett, 91

Louis Jourdan, 91

Joe Mantell, 91

Patricia Medina, 91

Patty Andrews, 92

Joyce Redman, 92

Diana Serra Cary (AKA Baby Peggy), 92

Audrey Totter, 92

Efrem Zimbalist Jr., 92

Ernest Borgnine, 93

Danielle Darrieux, 93

Phyllis Diller, 93

Joan Fontaine, 93

Zsa Zsa Gabor, 93

Lorna Gray, 93 (Thanks Elisabeth!)

Celeste Holm, 93

Marsha Hunt, 93

Googie Withers, 93

Olivia de Havilland, 94

Kirk Douglas, 94

Harry Morgan, 95

Patricia Morison, 95

Alicia Rhett, 95

Eli Wallach, 95 (Thanks kittypackard!)

Norman Lloyd, 96

Grace Bradley, 97

Risë Stevens, 97

Mary Carlisle, 98

Luise Rainer, 100

Barbara Kent, 104

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R.I.P. 2010

A diverse group of movie talents passed on this year, some of them among the biggest stars, others who had shorter careers, but who outlived many of their contemporaries. Regardless of the size of their impact, each of these people made their mark on classic movies. Please let me know in the comments if I have missed anyone who you feel belongs on the list!

Roy Ward Baker
Director, A Night to Remember (1958), The Vampire Lovers (1970)

Claude Chabrol
Director, Les cousins (1959), Les bonnes femmes (1960)

Cammie King Conlon
Child Actress, Gone With the Wind (1939), Bambi (1942)

Robert Culp
Actor, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969), Sunday in New York (1963)

Tony Curtis
Actor, Some Like it Hot (1959), The Sweet Smell of Success (1957)

Doris Eaton Travis
Dancer/Actress, The Broadway Peacock (1922), High Kickers (1923)

Blake Edwards
Director, The Pink Panther (1963), Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Eddie Fisher
Singer/Actor, BUtterfield 8 (196), Bundle of Joy (1956)

John Forsythe
Actor, The Trouble With Harry (1955), Kitten With a Whip (1964)

Peter Graves
Actor, Red Planet Mars (1952), Stalag 17 (1953)

Kathryn Grayson
Singer/Actress, Kiss Me Kate (1953), Showboat (1951)

June Havoc
Actress, Gentleman’s Agreement (1947), My Sister Eileen (1942)

Dennis Hopper
Actor, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Giant (1956)

Lena Horne
Singer/Actress, Cabin In the Sky (1943), Stormy Weather (1943)

Joyce Howard
Actress, Terror House (1942), They Met in the Dark (1943)

Dino de Laurentiis
Producer, La Strada (1954), Nights of Cabiria (1957)

Kevin McCarthy
Actor, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Death of a Salesman (1951)

James Mitchell
Actor, Stars in My Crown (1950), Border Incident (1949)

Mario Monicelli
Director, Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), The Girl With a Pistol (1968)

Helen Alice Myres (AKA Baby Marie Osborne)
Child Actress, The Maid of the Wild (1915), Captain Kiddo (1917)

Patricia Neal
Actress, Hud (1953), A Face in the Crowd (1957)

Ronald Neame
Cinematographer/Writer/Producer/Director, The Horse’s Mouth (1958), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)

Leslie Nielsen
Actor, Forbidden Planet (1956), Tammy and the Bachelor (1957)

Fess Parker
Actor, Old Yeller (1957), Westward Ho the Wagons! (1956)

Neva Patterson
Actress, An Affair to Remember (1957), Desk Set (1957)

Arthur Penn
Director, The Miracle Worker (1962), Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Ingrid Pitt
Actress, The Vampire Lovers (1970), Countess Dracula (1971)

Meinhardt Raabe
Actor, Munchkin in The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Lynn Redgrave
Actress, Georgy Girl (1966), Gods and Monsters (1998)

Jean Simmons
Actress, Hamlet (1948), Elmer Gantry (1960)

Gloria Stuart
Actress, The Invisible Man (1933), The Old Dark House (1932)

Dec 28, 2010

I'm Dying to See Burt Lancaster on Sesame Street!

Ever since I read this item about James Earl Jones and Burt Lancaster performing on early episodes of Sesame Street, I've been dying to see Lancaster recite the alphabet. He also did a segment where he does push-ups while counting. I must see these clips!

I've seen this James Earl Jones clip (and another of him counting) in several places online:


So where is Burt? Is this on a DVD I'm not aware of? Or is there a clip floating out there somewhere?

By the way, I think it's hilarious that James Earl Jones thought the Muppets would scare children, because I think his intense, steely-eyed rendition of the alphabet is much more intimidating (if very cool). He kind of looks like he wants to start a fight.

The pic is from Muppet Wiki. Isn't it fantastic to know that there is a Muppet Wiki?

Dec 26, 2010

Quote of the Week

The way von Stroheim treated time was like any artist should treat time. He just ignored it.

-Fay Wray

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Dec 25, 2010

Re-post: Deanna Durbin Sings Silent Night

[This is a re-post from exactly a year ago. I may need to make this post a yearly tradition. I can't think of a better way to celebrate Christmas]

I get the chills every time I hear Deanna Durbin's low-key, but lush performance of Silent Night from the murder mystery-musical-comedy-noir (and how many of those exist?) Lady on a Train (1945). While she sings to her father to ease the pain of being apart on Christmas Eve, even the thug listening at the door is moved to tears (though he still goes through with the secret theft his boss has ordered). Given the underlying threat of danger, it's an oddly peaceful and hopeful scene.

Dec 19, 2010

Dec 16, 2010

RIP Blake Edwards, 1922-2010

R.I.P. Blake Edwards—you deserve immortality for The Pink Panther (1963) alone, [though I can't forget My Sister Eileen (1955), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Experiment in Terror (1962),Days of Wine and Roses (1962), A Shot in the Dark (1964), The Party (1968) –birdy num-nums!-and Victor Victoria (1982). Okay, Skin Deep (1989) kind of made me laugh.]

Edward Copeland on Film

Edwards and Sellars on the set


The Guardian:

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Dec 15, 2010

Re-post: The Forties Goldmine of Christmas Movies--Part I

[I had a lot of fun writing this post last year, so I thought I'd give it another run in 2010]

Have you ever noticed how many great Christmas movies came out of the forties?

The era produced not only some of the most beloved titles, such as It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Christmas in Connecticut (1945), The Bishop’s Wife (1947), and Holiday Inn (1942), but also several movies with memorable holiday moments. Here are a few that come to mind:

The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
Never have I wanted so badly for a group of characters to find a happy place to celebrate Christmas. It practically turned the end of this movie into a suspense flick for me.

They Live by Night (1948)
Cold-eyed gangster Howard Da Silva demonstrates how to thoroughly terrorize a young couple by simply crushing an ornament. It’s as if he’s threatening to cancel Christmas.

Christmas Holiday (1944)
Deanna Durbin has a bleak Christmas Eve as she pines for her jail bound husband.

Lady on a Train (1945)
A happier Durbin’s intimate phone performance of Silent Night is a peaceful interlude in the midst of a chaotic murder mystery.

Lady in the Lake (1947)
Robert Montgomery’s Christmas noir, complete with an angelic choir on the soundtrack.

Penny Serenade (1941)
Christmas is a troubling season for a struggling couple played by Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in this classic tearjerker.

Meet Me In St Louis (1944)
Judy Garland’s moving rendition of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas makes such an impact that this mostly non-holiday movie is still satisfying Christmas viewing.

Check out part two: more fine holiday movies from the forties (I promise they will be happier than this bunch)

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Dec 12, 2010

Quote of the Week

I have to think hard to name an interesting man who does not drink.

-Richard Burton

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Dec 5, 2010

Nov 28, 2010

Nov 14, 2010

Nov 7, 2010

Quote of the Week

It was a dedicated life then. You had no social life. You had to have lunch or dinner, but it was always spent talking over work—talking over stories or cutting or titles.

-Lillian Gish

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Nov 2, 2010

Book Review: Hail! Hail! Euphoria! Presenting the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup the Greatest War Movie Ever Made

Hail! Hail! Euphoria! Presenting the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup the Greatest War Movie Ever Made
Roy Blount. Jr.
HarperCollins, 2010

If you want to know the definition of a “gookie”*, then you must read Hail! Hail! Euphoria! Roy Blount Jr. approaches his history of the Marx Brothers classic Duck Soup (1933) as a well-read fan, and he gleefully geeks out on bits of trivia like this one.

Hail! Hail! Euphoria! weaves a buoyant shot-by-shot analysis of the anarchic comedy with anecdotes, history and gossip about the Marx clan. There’s a nice history of the brothers, including a revealing tribute their devoted and determined mother Minnie (she sounds like a character. I would have liked to have seen her in the movies). Blount also pays tribute to matronly straight woman Margaret Dumont and director Leo McCarey, who was out of his element with the Marx boys, but directed a masterpiece nevertheless.

Blount’s research is extensive, and there are footnotes on nearly every page. Sometimes the footnotes take up most of the page. This often drove me crazy; I even threw the book down a couple of times because I was tired of constantly switching gears.

Despite my little fits, I couldn’t think of a bit of information that I didn’t want in the book or of a better way that it could have been presented. The movie is crazy, and the Marx Brothers are crazy, so a decent book about them has got to be crazy as well. I realized I was like one of the Marx's dupes—this book was kicking me in the butt, cutting the pockets out of my trousers, and destroying my hat, but it was brilliant, so I had to take it.

Hail! Hail! Euphoria! will be rewarding for classic movie fans and goofy bliss for Marx Brothers lovers.

*The Gookie is one of Harpo Marx’s most familiar crazy expressions—he bugs out his eyes, puffs out his cheeks and makes a fish face with his lips.

Oct 31, 2010

Amanda's Cinema Survey

I finally got around to tackling the yearly survey from Amanda of A Noodle in a Haystack. It was lots of fun. Thanks for putting this together Amanda:

1. What is your favorite movie starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, excluding all of The Thin Man films?

Love Crazy (1941) is hilarious. The first time I saw it, I couldn't believe I hadn’t heard of it before. Why isn’t it a huge classic?

2. Name a screen team that appeared in only one film together but are still noteworthy for how well they complimented each other.

It was great luck that Carole Lombard and Cary Grant had the chance to work together in In Name Only (1939)

3. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' best film together?

Swing Time (1936)

4. Your favorite actor named "Robert"?

Robert Mitchum

5. An actor/actress who, when you see one of their movies, you always wish that someone else was in his/her role?

I don’t get Greer Garson.

6. An actor/actress that someone close to you really loves that you can't stand or vice versa?

My husband doesn't get Kim Novak, but I adore her.

7. An actor/actress that you both agree on completely?

My husband is on board with me about James Cagney. He didn’t like him much personally after reading his autobiography though. I told him, he’s an actor, they have big egos!

8. Complete this sentence: Virginia O'Brien is to Ethel Merman as...

Hedy Lamarr is to Paulette Goddard (I based my choice on facial expressiveness--is that a word?)

9. What is your favorite film starring Ray Milland?

The Univited (1944), I liked him as a romantic hero.

10. You had to have seen this one coming: what is your favorite movie of the 1960s?

La Dolce Vita (1960)

11. An actor/actress that you would take out of one film and put into a different movie that was released the same year?

I would have loved to have seen Marilyn Monroe star in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) . I thought Audrey Hepburn was a great Holly Golightly, and it has long been one of my favorite movies, but I always wonder how Monroe would have approached the role.

12. Who was your favorite of Robert Montgomery's leading ladies?

Ms. Shearer

13. You think it would have been a disaster if what movie starred the actor/actress who was originally asked to star in it?

Hedy Lamarr in Casablanca (1942) *shudder* (I do like Hedy Lamarr—in the right role)

14. An actor/actress who you will watch in any or almost any movie?

Cary Grant (almost Bette Davis, but I can’t bring myself to watch all of Wicked Stepmother (1989))

15. Your favorite Leslie Howard film and role?

The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934)

16. You have been asked to host a marathon of four Barbara Stanwyck films. Which ones do you choose?

Baby Face (1933), The Lady Eve (1941), Double Indemnity (1944),The Furies (1950)

17. What is, in your mind, the nearest to perfect comedy you have ever seen? Why?

My Man Godfrey (1936), because the cast selection, timing and quips were all so perfectly executed.

18. You will brook no criticism of what film?

Oh many! Maybe just classics overall.

19. Who is your favorite Irish actress?

Maureen O’Sullivan. Girl-next-door with a hint of glamour.

20. Your favorite 1940s movie starring Ginger Rogers?

I’ll Be Seeing You (1944) was beautiful and heart-wrenching.

21. Do you enjoy silent movies?

Yes! Especially comedies.

22. What is your favorite Bette Davis film?

All About Eve (1950)

23. Your favorite onscreen Hollywood couple?

Myrna Loy and William Powell--they always seemed to enjoy each other's company.

24. This one is for the girls, but, of course, the guys are welcome to answer, too: who is your favorite Hollywood costume designer?

Adrian--he helped to make actresses like Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow and Garbo look like goddesses.

25. To even things out a bit, here's something the boys will enjoy: what is your favorite tough action film?

The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

26. You are currently gaining a greater appreciation for which actor(s)/actress(es)?

Alain Delon

27. Franchot Tone: yes or no?

Yes, based on I Love Trouble (1948).

28. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are underrated?

Veronica Lake

29. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are overrated?

Greer Garson

30. Favorite actor?

Cary Grant

31. Favorite actress?

Bette Davis

32. Of those listed, who is the coolest: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, or Patrick Stewart?

If we’re just talking cool—McQueen

33. What is your favorite movie from each of these genres:

Comedy: My Man Godfrey (1936)

Swashbuckler: The Crimson Pirate (1952)

Film noir: Nightmare Alley (1947)

Musical: Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

Holiday: Remember the Night (1940)

Hitchcock: I suppose Hitchcock is a genre! Notorious (1946)

Here's the link to the survey if you'd like to give it a shot, but note that Amanda will only be posting results for one more week.

Quote of the Week

Nudity on stage? I think it's disgusting. But if I were twenty-two with a great body, it would be artistic, tasteful, patriotic and a progressive religious experience.

-Shelley Winters

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Oct 24, 2010

Quote of the Week

Men are creatures with two legs and eight hands.

-Jayne Mansfield

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Oct 17, 2010

Quote of the Week

I've never sought success in order to get fame and money. It's the talent and the passion that count in success.

-Ingrid Bergman

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Oct 10, 2010

Quote of the Week

Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.

-Groucho Marx

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Oct 3, 2010

Quote of the Week

I do not regret one professional enemy I have made. Any actor who doesn't dare to make an enemy should get out of the business.

-Bette Davis

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Sep 26, 2010

Quote of the Week

The world never puts a price on you higher than the one you put on yourself.

-Sonja Henie

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Sep 19, 2010

Quote of the Week

Nobody can forsee what will please the critics. Every artistic activity is, and always will be, a poker game.

-Marlene Dietrich

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Sep 16, 2010

Book Review: Jack and the Jungle Lion

Jack and the Jungle Lion
Stephen Jared

A dim-witted matinee idol, a drunken pilot and a gorgeous movie animal trainer with two young wards crash-land in the Amazon jungle. With nothing but determination to survive, the group battles enormous snakes, angry natives and their own weaknesses in their quest to return to civilization. Will they make it out alive? Will the movie star woo the feisty trainer? Will everyone end up happy in the end?

I’m not going to spoil anything for you by saying upfront that the guy does get the girl—it is beside the point. I enjoyed the ride that got me to that happy ending. Jack and the Jungle Lion tells a well-worn story, but the characters really pop. I reveled in the warmth, excitement, and earnest energy of this lively adventure-romance.

There are lots of winks and nods to classic Hollywood throughout the story, and Jared evokes lots of familiar "types" from the era. The book itself has the crackle and snap of a thirties comedy. There’s also plenty of the cliff-hanging action of a Saturday morning serial. However, the plot made me think of more recent action throwbacks such as the Indiana Jones series and Romancing the Stone.

At 115 pages, Jack and the Jungle Lion was a brisk read. I became fond of the characters—and I hope to see them in further adventures.

Stephen Jared is an actor and writer. I recognized him immediately from a series of commercials he’d done for Jack in the Box (remember “Phil in the Box”?). He appears to be equally devoted to each profession—with regular appearances on commercials and television shows and writing projects from screenplays and articles to a children’s adventure story.

Check out some of Stephen’s articles here. This guy loves classic Hollywood.

For more information on the book, check out the official site for Jack and the Jungle Lion.

Sep 14, 2010

Great Quotes: Tough Dames and Femme Fatales

I’ve wanted to do another favorite quote post for some time, and this clip from the film noir 99 River Street (1953) finally inspired me to get it together.

This marvelously tense scene is equally frightening and sensual. Evelyn Keyes tries to seduce a dangerous-looking man—and she doesn’t seem to be at all concerned by the murderous look in his eyes. She is confident that she has power over him, a sentiment she makes clear with this suggestively cooed closing line:

I don’t believe in sometime. With me, it’s now or never.

Tough noir dames and femme fatales always have the best lines. In this particular flick, Keyes is actually a decent gal just posing as a dangerous lady so that she can help the leading man, but she’s pretty darn convincing.

Here’s a few more that I’m fond of:

Bart, I've been kicked around all my life, and from now on, I'm gonna start kicking back.
-Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy AKA Deadly is the Female (1950)

You're not strong or weak enough.
-Marie Windsor in Force of Evil (1948)

I don't go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons.
-Jan Sterling in Ace in the Hole (1951)

It isn't fair. I never had anybody but you. Not a real husband. Not even a man. Just a bad joke without a punch line.
-Marie Windsor in The Killing (1956)

Say who do you think you're talking to - a hick? Listen Mister, I been around, and I know a wrong guy when I see one. What'd you do, kiss him with a wrench?
-Ann Savage in Detour (1945)

You shouldn't kiss a girl when you're wearing that gun... leaves a bruise
-Claire Trevor in Murder, My Sweet (1945)

. . . the lie was in the way I said it, not at all in what I said. It's my own fault if you can't believe me now.
-Mary Astor in The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Sep 12, 2010

Quote of the Week

First, I'm trying to prove to myself that I'm a person. Then maybe I'll convince myself that I'm an actress.

-Marilyn Monroe

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Sep 7, 2010

Four Things I Learned from Jackie Cooper’s Autobiography

I recently got a screaming deal on a copy of Please Don’t Shoot My Dog: The Autobiography of Jackie Cooper. Though I had only seen him in The Champ (1931) and a few Little Rascals shorts, I’d always wanted to learn more about Cooper. I knew that he had built a successful, lasting career in Hollywood—both in front of and behind the camera--and I hoped that meant that he had a happier story to tell than the typical child star.

While Cooper did have the inevitable difficulties associated with working young and dealing with the pressures of stardom, not to mention some nasty family troubles, his story is for the most part an even balance between the bitter and the sweet. Having a handful of good mentors and a loving, intelligent mother did much to point him in the right direction.

Since I’d always envisioned a little boy whenever I thought of Cooper, I was surprised to read about some of the big boy things he was up to after his initial rise to fame. Here are the tidbits I found most interesting about his post-childhood life:

1. He had quite a way with the ladies.
For some reason, the former star of Skippy was irresistible to women. I had no idea that this book with the weepy child on the front would be so racy. From a slightly older neighbor across the street who gave him “lessons” as a tween, to a secret, bizarre affair with Joan Crawford when he was seventeen—this guy had no trouble sowing his oats. This is not to say he was a womanizer, he counts his girlfriends and wives as the most significant friendships in his life. Judy Garland was his first love, and he enjoyed a close, but chaste teenage romance with fellow former child actor Bonita Granville.

2. and 3. He was the star of two successful television comedies,
The People's Choice and Hennesey—though he didn’t care much for either of them. Cooper didn’t ever seem to hurt for work, but he had high standards for himself, and struggled to find meaningful projects. He was particularly chagrined to play second fiddle to a wisecracking Bassett Hound in The People’s Choice (I don’t think it was that bad. The dog wasn’t even in every scene.):


Hennesey was a Navy comedy--which was appropriate for Cooper because he'd worn the uniform for real during the war. I couldn't find a clip but here’s a slideshow with scenes from the show and pictures of its stars—the jaunty tune is the theme song:


4. He was an accomplished drum player.
Cooper enjoyed the escape of playing music, and he dabbled in drumming for years. During World War II, he played in a USO band and as a civilian, he was deemed worthy enough to jam with several nightclub combos. Here he accompanies singer/dancer Dagmar in a 1953 episode of the explosively popular Buick-Berle Show:


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Sep 5, 2010

Quote of the Week

Hiring someone to write your autobiography is like hiring someone to take a bath for you.

-Mae West

(Who wrote her own highly entertaining, less-than-truthful autobiography Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It)

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Sep 2, 2010

Guest Post: Silents and Talkies

Come check out my guest post at Silents and Talkies. I have to admit that I mostly wanted to do this to see what lovely picture Kate Gabrielle would come up with to accompany it!

Joan Fontaine on What's My Line?--1973

I've never seen the 1970s version of What's My Line. Joan Fontaine is adorable as the mystery guest. She actually has the panel believing she's a man for quite a while!

Aug 29, 2010

Quote of the Week

Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday.

-John Wayne

Aug 22, 2010

Quote of the Week

Vulgarity begins when the imagination succumbs to the explicit.

-Doris Day

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Aug 17, 2010

Summer Movie Blogathon: All About Eve (1950)


 I first became obsessed with classic movies at the age of thirteen, when I saw Dark Victory (1939) on broadcast TV. Bette Davis caught my eye—and that was it, I was hooked. I soon had a nice collection of classic flicks on VHS—all recorded from TV.

I must have watched them all several times, but the one I remember best is All About Eve (1950). For a while, I think I must have watched that movie once a week. It was irresistible to me. I’ve never been able to figure out exactly what it was about those impeccably dressed theater people that reached me. My best guess is that this was one of the first times that I recognized I was watching a well-made movie. Rather than being drawn to separate elements, like the star or the plot, on some level I realized I was seeing something that was more than the sum of the parts.

And so on lovely summer days, when I was on vacation from school, I watched Eve many times. Sure I’d hang out with my friends, and there were family vacations—but once I had all that free time, I chose to spend a great deal of it with this clever group of martini-sipping New Yorkers.

With the exception of a high school friend who would watch anything, and my dad—who liked to watch classic flicks while ironing his shirts—I didn’t know anyone else who liked these movies. I don’t recall being bothered by that, but on some level I must have wished I knew more people who enjoyed Eve as I did.

Years later, my boyfriend took me to an outdoor screening of All About Eve. I couldn’t believe it. In a series that usually screened Grease, Raiders of the Lost Ark and other crowd pleasers, they were showing this dialogue-driven flick  in a parking lot on a warm summer night!

As I watched Eve for the first time with a crowd, I could have recited every line. That was nothing new. The thing that excited me was that I could see there were other people in the crowd who seemed to know the movie as well as I did. And it was a big crowd. The parking lot was full. There had to have been a couple of hundred people there. It was a marvelous night.

Aug 15, 2010

Quote of the Week

If you don't stand for something, you will stand for anything.

-Ginger Rogers

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Aug 9, 2010

Patricia Neal, 1926-2010

Goodbye to Patricia Neal. I couldn’t stand her the first time I saw her—as a sophisticated sugar mama in Breakfast at Tiffanys (1961). That voice drove me crazy. Then, it grew on me, and it became the thing I like most about her. I realized she had been so darn good in Tiffanys that I hadn’t been able to separate her from her character, and that voice was the most distinctive thing about her.

I know Hud (1963) was her big award-winning role, but I loved her in The Fountainhead (1949); it was satisfying to watch her play that wild-eyed over-the-top character. Not that she was ever capable of fading into the woodwork. Even in a movie like The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), where she is only meant to prop up a host of sci-fi wonders, she grabs your attention. She projected such intelligence and strength that she could never be simply a damsel in distress. And I can’t forget A Face in the Crowd (1957)—she was the soul of that movie, an increasingly lucid force for good in a swirl of rottenness.

Here are some tributes I grabbed from my feed:

The Guardian always puts together such moving memorials--
Film clips
David Thomson tribute

And a few more--
Self-Styled Siren
Motion Picture Gems

I'm sure there will be many more fine tributes as the day progresses.

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Aug 8, 2010

Quote of the Week

I never think of myself as an icon. What is in other people's minds is not in my mind. I just do my thing.

-Audrey Hepburn
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Aug 5, 2010

The Hilariously Offbeat Dialogue of Deadline at Dawn (1946)

Deadline at Dawn (1946) is finally available on DVD—and I’m so glad its purple prose is now readily available to the masses. I saw this offbeat noir flick for the first time in a theater—and the over-the-top dialogue made the audience giggle so much that I thought I must have missed half of what the actors were saying.

I don’t mean to disrespect the movie, because it’s a great mystery, with interesting twists, appealing actors and even some well-executed touching moments, but that Clifford Odets script is nutty. People just don’t talk the way he writes. If you Google “purple prose Odets”—you’ll find that I’m not the only one who feels this way.

Odets was best known for his association with the adventurous Group Theater in the 1930s. He wrote most of his works for the stage—the most famous being Golden Boy (which made it to the big screen as well)—but he also wrote a few memorable screenplays, including Humoresque (1946) and the snarky Sweet Smell of Success (1957).

Of all of Odets’ screenplays, I have the most affection for Deadline at Dawn. It’s the sweetest-tempered noir I’ve ever seen and a loveable mutt of a movie. The dialogue may make me laugh, but it is its own brand of clever and extremely entertaining.

The story is of a sailor (Bill Williams) on shore leave who finds himself mixed up in a murder. A weary taxi dancer (Susan Hayward) and a wordy taxi driver (Paul Lukas) try to help him clear his name.

I had to share some of the incredible things these characters say. The taxi driver had the craziest lines:

A blind man could see how many boyfriends she had. Evidently the water tasted good so she jumped down the well.

Stop zigging when we should be zagging and zagging when we should be zigging.

Remember Alex, speech was given to man to hide his thoughts.

Golly Wolly it’s hot tonight.

Statistics tell us we’ll see the stars again.

I read all the incriminating papers you are looking for and I bunked them away like a squirrel.

Mr. Bartelli the bedbugs will never forgive you. Your skin is made of iron.

Between you and me and the lamppost captain, happiness is no laughing matter.

[His advice to a pair of lovers] Push through the daily shell shock of life together.

The dancer's lines are slightly less outrageous:

This is New York, where hello means goodbye.

You’d better drop down on your bendified knees and pray.

He was nervous like every butcher, baker and candlestick-maker in the town.

And the rest:

If she cut off her head, she’d be very pretty.
-Val, the conman (Joseph Calleia)

She was no lullaby, but she had the brains like a man.

Gee, time takes so long and it goes so fast.

For some reason, this exchange really cracked me up:

Sailor: Do you hear anything?
Dancer: Only your breathing.
Sailor: Is that what that is?

Image Sources: Poster, Odets Photo

Aug 1, 2010

Quote of the Week

Tallulah [Bankhead] never bored anyone, and I consider that humanitarianism of a very high order indeed.

-Anita Loos

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Jul 25, 2010

Quote of the Week

A tragedy relieved by heavy doses of gloom and good honest tedium.

-Charles Laughton's assessment of Arch of Triumph (1948), in which he appeared

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Jul 20, 2010

Dream Casting: The Classic Duos That Never Happened

Have you ever seen a classic movie and wished it would have been cast differently? Or have you seen a perfect pair in a supporting role and wished they were the leads? And then there’s the role that was nearly perfectly cast—but for some reason wasn’t.

I nearly always think in pairs when I pine for that kind of perfect casting. Here are some of the duos I wish could have been (some of which almost became a reality):

Joan Blondell and Louise Beavers run a numbers racket together As much as I love Edward G. Robinson in Bullets or Ballots (1936), my favorite part of this crime drama is the lively relationship between numbers racket business partners Joan Blondell and Louise Beavers. Their story was the movie I really wanted to see. Blondell runs the primary business, while her former maid Beavers handles the Harlem sector. I loved their snappy dialogue and gal pal chemistry—and I was so frustrated by how few scenes these two had together. Their relationship could have been the basis for a fantastic crime comedy. When I imagine it taking place in the pre-code period, I practically weep for the lost possibilities.

Carole Lombard and Clark Gable costar in a screwball comedy It’s hard to say how real life couples will play off each other on the big screen. They definitely aren’t all Bogey and Bacall. In fact, some of the worst romantic screen pairings are real life lovers (maybe they get self-conscious?) Lombard and Gable had such big personalities; I can see how they may have been too overwhelming together in a screwball comedy. And yet, what an idea! Imagine these two getting wild together on the screen. They were both comfortable in comedies, and they had the bravado and courage necessary to go for the big laughs. This could have been a dynamite pairing.

Marie Dressler and Jean Harlow costar in a comedy According to biographer David Stenn, Harlow was so proud of her comic performance in Dinner at Eight (1933) that she burst into tears in her dressing room after filming her last scene. Co-star Dressler was also impressed with the young star, and hoped that she could star in comedy with her. It could have been the start of an entirely new kind of comedy team—the glamour girl and the matron. Unfortunately, Dressler died in 1934 before the movie could be made.

A film noir with Marie Windsor and Robert Mitchum Windsor and Mitchum had a similar laid back menace, strangely interwoven with a down-to-earth quality. They stole scenes on their own, so I’m guessing they’d either cancel each other out, or be absolutely electric together in a noir. I envision Mitchum as a detective and Windsor as the tough-talking owner of a nightclub. Maybe she helps him solve a crime?

Cary Grant with Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina (1954) I only learned last year that Billy Wilder wanted Cary Grant for the part of Linus, the older man who seduces Audrey Hepburn’s Sabrina away from her girlhood crush, but that he wasn’t available. Now I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to watch that movie without imagining him in the role. I think that bit of casting could have made Sabrina my favorite romance. As it is, I can’t accept Bogie in that role; I never believed Linus loved Sabrina. I just wanted her to go back to David. I could see Grant playing the role in some Bringing up Baby-style glasses—and gradually revealing the handsome romantic beneath the serious businessman. It would have made so much more sense.

What classic duos do you wish could have been?

Jul 18, 2010

Quote of the Week

If Irene Dunne isn’t the first lady of Hollywood, then she’s the last one.

-Gregory La Cava
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Jul 13, 2010

Ethel Merman: A Showstopping, Ripsnorting Swan Song

I recently re-watched Airplane (1980), and I was stunned to see Ethel Merman in a brief cameo. I couldn't believe that I had forgotten this hilarious moment. I checked out her filmography later, and realized that this was Merman's last movie role. What a great way to go! Singing your most famous song with gusto while getting a laugh in an enormously successful comedy. Good work Ethel!

(Too bad this didn't happen for more classic actresses who worked past the studio age. Can you imagine an exit like this for Joan Crawford, Bette Davis or Veronica Lake?)

Jul 6, 2010

TV Tuesday: Lana Turner on Donahue (1982)

I've got another great Lana Turner clip to share this week. I love the way she is holding court on this 1982 episode of The Phil Donahue Show. It's a marvelous performance! I especially like the way she uses that fan as a dramatic prop.

Jul 4, 2010

Quote of the Week

In order to have great happiness, you have to have great pain and unhappiness-otherwise how would you know when you're happy?

-Leslie Caron

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