Dec 31, 2011

R.I.P. 2011

It is always bittersweet to reflect on the people who have passed each year. I first learned of many of these people by reading their obituaries. It's sad to think of these artists passing on, but inspiring to reflect on their achievements and in some cases, get to know them better. 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! 

Ray Aghayan Costume designer, Doctor Dolittle (1967), Our Man Flint (1966)

Dev Anand Actor/Director, Jewel Thief (1967), Haré Raama Haré Krishna (1971)

James Arness Actor, The Thing From Another World (1951), Gunsmoke (1955-1975)

Doe Avedon Siegel Actress/Model, Deep in My Heart (1954), The High and the Mighty (1954)

William Campbell Actor, Lover Me Tender (1956), Man Without a Star (1955)

Linda Christian Actress, Athena (1954), The Devil’s Hand (1962)

Diane Cilento Actress, Tom Jones (1963), The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)

Jackie Cooper Actor, The Champ (1931), Skippy (1931)

 Paulette Dubost Actress, Rules of the Game (1939)

 Annalisa Ericson Actress, Summer Interlude (1951)

Peter Falk Actor, Murder Inc. (1961), Pressure Point (1962)

Edith Fellows Actress, She Married Her Boss (1935), Pennies from Heaven (1936)

Margaret Field Actress, The Man From Planet X (1951), mother of Sally Field

Anne Francis Actress, Forbidden Planet (1956), The Blackboard Jungle (1955)

 Dolores Fuller Actress, Glen or Glenda (1953), Bride of the Monster (1955)

Betty Garrett Actress, On the Town (1949), Neptune’s Daughter (1949)

Susan Gordon Child Actress, Attack of the Puppet People (1958), The Five Pennies (1959)

Farley Granger Actor, Strangers on a Train (1951), Senso (1954)

 John Howard Davies Actor/Producer, Oliver Twist (1948)

 Michael Gough Actor, Batman (1989), The Man in the White Suit (1954)

 Jill Haworth Actress, Exodus (1960), In Harm’s Way (1965)

 Sybil Jason Child Actress, The Little Princess (1939), The Blue Bird (1940)

 Leonard Kastle Director, The Honeymoon Killers (1969)

Barbara Kent Actress, Lonesome (1928), Flesh and the Devil (1926)

 Arthur Laurents Screenwriter, Rope (1948), Anastasia (1956)

 Judy Lewis Actress/Therapist, daughter of Clark Gable and Loretta Young

Anna Massey Actress, Peeping Tom (1960), Frenzy (1972)

Cynthia Myers Actress, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)

Harry Morgan Actor, Moonrise (1948), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943)

 Mary Murphy Actress, The Wild One (1953)

 Charles Napier Actor, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970), Cherry, Harry & Raquel! (1970)

 Marilyn Nash Actress, Monsieur Verdoux (1947)

 David Nelson Actor, Peyton Place (1957), The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952-1966)

Paul Picerni Actor, House of Wax (1953), The Untouchables (1959-1963)

 Harry Redmond, Jr. Special Effects, King Kong (1933), The Most Dangerous Game (1932)

Cliff Robertson Actor, Charley (1968), Picnic (1955)

Jane Russell Actress, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), His Kind of Woman (1951)

Tura Satana Actress, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), Irma La Douce (1963)

 Miriam Seeger Actress, When Knights Were Bold (1929), Seven Keys to Baldpate (1929)

Elaine Stewart Actress, The Adventures of Haji Baba (1954), Brigadoon (1954)

 Hideko Takamine Actress, Floating Clouds (1955), House of Many Pleasures (1955)

Elizabeth Taylor Actress, National Velvet (1944), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)

Yvette Vickers Actress, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958), Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959)

Googie Withers Actress, Night and the City (1950), The Gang’s All Here (1939)

Dana Wynter Actress, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Something of Value (1957)

Susannah York Actress, Tom Jones (1963), A Man for All Seasons (1966)

All images from Wikimedia Commons

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 that are alive today. From top box office stars to reliable support players, there are about 160 people on this list. 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.

Jerry Mathers, 63

Sue Lyon, 65

Tuesday Weld, 68

Yvette Mimieux, 69

Julie Christie, 70

Ann-Margret, 70

Gigi Perreau, 70

Peter Fonda, 71

Karolyn Grimes, 71

Samantha Eggar, 72

Richard Beymer, 73

Claudia Cardinale, 73

Dolores Hart, 73

Millie Perkins, 73

Paula Prentiss, 73

Jane Fonda, 74

Margaret O'Brien, 74

Susan Kohner, 75

Robert Redford, 75

Dean Stockwell, 75

Diahann Carroll, 76

Julie Andrews, 76

Alain Delon, 76

Russ Tamblyn, 76

Brigitte Bardot, 77

George Chakiris, 77

Barbara Eden, 77

Sophia Loren, 77

Shirley MacLaine, 77

Joan Collins, 78

Kim Novak, 78

Marisa Pavan, 79

Debbie Reynolds, 79

Claire Bloom, 80

Leslie Caron, 80

Anita Ekberg, 80

John Gavin, 80

Mitzi Gaynor, 80

Tab Hunter, 80

John Kerr, 80

Rita Moreno, 80

Ann E. Todd, 80

Sean Connery, 81 (thanks Bill Parades!)

Clint Eastwood, 81 (thanks Artman!)

Tippi Hedren, 81

Marni Nixon, 81

Robert Wagner, 81

Joanne Woodward, 81

Anne Meara, 82

Vera Miles, 82

Terry Moore, 82

Don Murray, 82

Irene Papas, 82

Joan Plowright, 82

Jane Powell, 82

Rod Taylor, 82

Ann Blyth, 83

Arlene Dahl, 83

Peggy Dow, 83

Sally Forrest, 83

Rita Gam, 83

James Garner, 83

Kathleen Hughes, 83

Martin Landau, 83

Barbara Lawrence, 83

Nancy Olson, 83

Shirley Temple, 83

Harry Belafonte, 84

Honor Blackman, 84

Cora Sue Collins, 84

Lee Grant, 84

Rosemary Harris, 84

Gina Lollabrigida, 84

Roger Moore, 84

Estelle Parsons, 84

Sidney Poitier, 84

Barbara Rush, 84

Julia Adams, 85

Mona Freeman, 85

Andy Griffith, 85

Anne Jackson, 85

Gloria Jean, 85

Cloris Leachman, 85

Jerry Lewis, 85

Joan Lorring, 85

Marcy McGuire, 85

Jane Withers, 85

Patrice Wymore, 85

Lola Albright, 86

Denise Darcel, 86

Gloria DeHaven, 86

Julie Harris, 86

Martha Hyer, 86

Angela Lansbury, 86

Joan Leslie, 86

June Lockhart, 86

Dorothy Malone, 86

Colette Marchand, 86

Dickie Moore, 86

Dick Van Dyke, 86

Cara Williams, 86

Lauren Bacall, 87

Theodore Bikel, 87

Ruby Dee, 87

Stanley Donen, 87

Eva Marie Saint, 87

Richard Attenborough, 88

Valentina Cortese, 87

Betsy Drake, 87

Rhonda Fleming, 88

Glynis Johns, 88

Dina Merrill, 88

Peggy Stewart, 88

Jean Stapleton, 88

Turhan Bey, 89

Doris Day, 89

Coleen Gray, 89

Janis Paige, 89

Juanita Moore, 89

Eleanor Parker, 89

Lizabeth Scott, 89

Harry Carey, Jr., 90

Carol Channing, 90

Nancy Davis (Reagan), 90

Deanna Durbin, 90

Barbara Hale, 90

Phyllis Thaxter, 90

Esther Williams, 90

Mary Anderson, 91

Nanette Fabray, 91

Jayne Meadows, 91

Michele Morgan, 91

Noel Neill, 91

Maureen O'Hara, 91

Mickey Rooney, 91

Ann Rutherford, 91

Ruth Terry, 91

Marge Champion, 92

Louis Jourdan, 92

Patricia Medina, 92

Patty Andrews, 93

Joyce Redman, 93

Diana Serra Cary (AKA Baby Peggy), 93

Audrey Totter, 93

Efrem Zimbalist Jr., 93

Ernest Borgnine, 94

Danielle Darrieux, 94

Phyllis Diller, 94

Joan Fontaine, 94

Zsa Zsa Gabor, 94

Lorna Gray, 94

Celeste Holm, 94

Marsha Hunt, 94

Olivia de Havilland, 95

Kirk Douglas, 95

Patricia Morison, 96

Alicia Rhett, 96

Eli Wallach, 96

Norman Lloyd, 97

Risë Stevens, 98

Mary Carlisle, 99

Tony Martin, 99 (Thanks Tom!)

Luise Rainer, 101

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Dec 28, 2011

Must Watch TV: These Amazing Shadows

I don’t know if this was specifically planned, but I think it’s great that the National Film Registry announced its choices for the 2011 list  today, one day before These Amazing Shadows, a documentary about the birth of and reason for that list will air on Independent Lens (PBS, 10PM PST).

These Amazing Shadows starts in the eighties, a dark time for those who love film. Ted Turner (who would eventually be the ‘T’ in TCM!) has purchased the MGM film library and he is determined to make his new acquisition marketable to as wide an audience as possible. His solution is colorization, a process that director John Huston once called as effective as “pouring sugar water over a roast”. There was an immediate uproar, both from the public and the artistic community. Turner seemed flabbergasted. There’s a clip in the documentary where he arrogantly smirks, “the last time I checked, they were my films. I’m working on my films.”

Of course, a lot of people knew better. In fact, is there any other art form where the public claims such fervent ownership of the product? You could make an argument for music, but there’s no denying that despite whoever owns the rights, movies are the shared cultural heritage of anyone who cares to claim it. It is this passionate belief, and the fear of seeing that heritage destroyed, that led to the National Film Preservation Act of 1988 and the creation of the National Film Registry.

Each year, the Library of Congress selects twenty-five notable films that will be preserved. The National Preservation Board, with assistance from the public, helps to pick the titles. The only common element among these choices is that they are deemed to be "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant". As a result, the list of over 550 movies is a wonderful mishmash of all sorts of goodies. From short to feature-length, fictional to documentary and home movies to big budget Hollywood productions.

These Amazing Shadows manages to cover many of these areas, with clips from the movies and personal interviews with notable film lovers. The diversity of interviewees was almost exciting. How fun to see Debbie Reynolds and John Waters in the same documentary. It was great to see a classic film blogger, Farran “Self-Styled Siren” Nehme, speak her piece as well!

The film zips among genres with delightful grace. One minute you’re learning about sci-fi, the next you’re watching a family in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. You’d think switching moods so frequently would be jarring, but the transitions are managed smoothly. In addition to the overall review of many of the things Registry titles have to offer, there are also segments where lesser-known titles are explored in greater detail. 

Though the Registry is a government-sponsored effort, it is clear that it is driven by passion for the many worlds to be found in film. The voices here may be diverse, but their common affection for movies enveloped the film.

 I felt invigorated after watching These Amazing Shadows, because it spoke to a lot of the reasons why I treasure the medium so much. I did not need to be reminded of the importance of the Registry, I think a lot of the people who watch this film will feel that way, but I was surprised to find how much more I appreciated the significance of what it does for our culture.

These Amazing Shadows airs Thursday, December 29 at 10PM PST on the PBS show Independent Lens.

 Check out the amazing site for the documentary.

 There are lots of interesting things to read and do on the documentary site at Independent Lens as well.

 I love this interview with the filmmakers.

Dec 25, 2011

Deanna Durbin Sings Silent Night

[This is the third year I've posted this clip on Christmas Day. It's a perfect way to celebrate the holidays!]

I get chills every time I hear Deanna Durbin's low-key, but lush performance of Silent Night. It's 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 shifty boss has ordered). Given the underlying threat of danger, it's an oddly peaceful, heartwarming scene.

 Happy Holidays!

Quote of the Week

You are here to please me. Nothing else on earth matters.

-Cecil B. DeMille

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Dec 24, 2011

Jazzy Holiday Cartoon: Frosty the Snowman (1954)

I love this lively version of Frosty the Snowman from UPA. The animation is charming. I've never seen such an energetic Frosty!

Dec 23, 2011

It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)

 It’s funny, It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947) is one of my favorite Christmas movies, but you don’t even see a Christmas tree until the movie is nearly over. Still, I’ve added it to my annual holiday queue, because it has the warm spirit of the best holiday movies.

The story begins with a drifter (Victor Moore) who decided long ago that, rather than work, he would enjoy the fruits of other men’s labors. This makes him a terrible person on paper, but a more agreeable guy in practice.

He squats in lavish homes while the owners are away and he’s been happily spending his winters in the 5th avenue mansion of the second richest man in the world for the past three years. He runs into a veteran (Don DeFore) who has just been evicted, and they think they run into another drifter (Gale Storm), though she is actually the daughter of the man who owns the house.

Everyone shacks up, which is more wholesome than it sounds. Then the veteran’s army buddies, their wives and children move in. Finally, the wealthy owner himself arrives and lives there incognito with his ex-wife who has flown in from Florida.

 As can be expected, this full house has its share of craziness, but it isn’t madcap. The humor is laid back. Sometimes it is sly and ironic. Often it is tender and sweet. It all works because the cast is so charming.

  Here are some of the major players:

 Aloysius T. McKeever (Victor Moore) is the drifting squatter. He may wear another man’s clothes and pinch food from his pantry, but he’ll also make sure the furniture is dusted and that no one steals anything. Particularly the stuff he is borrowing.

Jim Bullock (Don DeFore) is a high-spirited World War II vet who has just been evicted from his apartment. He is furious to realize he is staying the house of the man who ordered that eviction so he could destroy the building to clear space for a new development.

Trudy O'Connor (Gale Storm) is the charming, lonely heiress. She is delighted to learn that so much is happening in her father’s home while everyone is away. It is just the thing she needs to lift her spirits.

Michael J. 'Mike' O'Connor (Charles Ruggles) is the wealthy owner of the home, though he pretends to be an aimless drifter to humor his daughter. He bristles when Aloysius wears his lounging robe and gives him chores to do in his own home, but underneath his irritation, there always seems to be a small spark of amusement.

Mary O'Connor (Ann Harding) is Mike’s ex-wife and Trudy’s mother. She also pretends to be a drifter, and she has a good time doing it. She’s the only one in the house with a sense of calm—like the eye of the storm. Mary is so dignified, she doesn't even look goofy in that party hat.

Then there are the army buddies, their wives and children. I have to admit I mixed them up a lot. The only stand-out among them for me was a very young Alan Hale Jr., years before Gilligan’s Island.

And this baby too. Isn’t he cute?

This is a great flick, and since it’s not too Christmassy, you won’t feel weird if you watch it next week. So check it out!

Dec 22, 2011

"You’re A Mean One Mr. Grinch": All Hail Thurl!

I’ve always loved Boris Karloff’s narration of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. For years, I thought he also sang the song You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch. At some point though, I began to realize the voice was too low to be Karloff. I finally did a little research and learned that the rumbly bass voice belonged to voice actor and singer Thurl Ravenscroft.

There are many reasons to love this man:

• His name is Thurl Ravenscroft. You don’t mess with a guy who has a name like that. You just bow down.

• It took one audition at Paramount Studios for him to break through as a studio singer. He received so many job offers that he had to abandon his studies at the Otis Art Institute and take up singing full time.

• He was the voice of Tony the Tiger for over five decades.

• Out of all the things there are to love in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Thurl steals the show with that song.

• He was in singing groups called the Sportsmen, the Metropolitans and the Mellomen. This man attracts cool names like a magnet.

• Thurl worked with everyone from Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley.

• Since he was a bass, he rarely faded into the background, even though he was often a backup singer.

• One of his solo records (pictured above) was simply titled Ravenscroft. Do you think he ever answered the phone like that? “Ravenscroft” or “Ravenscroft here”? Can you imagine having a phone conversation with this man? Swoon.

• And once again, his name is Thurl Ravenscroft

 For more information about this magnificent singer: All Things Thurl

Dec 20, 2011

Classic Movie Gift Guides

A few classic movie bloggers posted great gift guides this year. I thought I’d gather them together for last minute shopping ideas:

Immortal Ephemera 

Frankly My Dear

Out of the Past

This one is awfully cute:
 Via Margutta 51

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The Forties Goldmine of Christmas Movies

[This is a slightly-edited repost of one of my favorite review posts.]

What was it about the forties that inspired so many heartwarming holiday movies? I think World War II had a lot to do with the sentimentality in these wonderful flicks. They are all about the longing for love and family at a time of year when those things are held especially dear.

Remember the Night (1940)
It’s a shame this romance gets draggy in spots, because in its best moments, this is the perfect holiday movie. Barbara Stanwyck is a shoplifter on trial who is sprung from jail for the holidays by a sympathetic assistant D.A. (Fred MacMurray). They end up traveling together to his country home, where they fall in love over the course of a cozy holiday with his family. All the best elements of a dream holiday are here: down home cooking, family sing-a-longs, loving relatives and joyful present exchanges. It sounds a bit corny on paper, but it is heartbreaking when you see the longing in Stanwyck’s eyes, and realize how badly she wants this kind of a life.

I’ll Be Seeing You (1944)
This is a darker holiday tale of a couple that overcomes unusual obstacles to find love, but it is equally moving. Ginger Rogers is a convict who is on furlough from prison so that she can spend the holidays with her aunt and uncle. On the train, she meets an emotionally-disturbed sergeant (Joseph Cotten) who is also on leave, but from a mental hospital. Over the course of their holiday, they struggle to bond while still hiding their dark secrets from each other. Cotten and Rogers poignantly communicate their frustrations, disappointments and fears as they struggle to reveal themselves to each other completely. The plot may sound depressing, but you really root for these sympathetic characters.

Beyond Tomorrow (1940)
A trio of lonely business associates who share a mansion in New York play a game on Christmas Eve to see if they can find some last minute dinner guests. Their ploy works, and the lonely man and woman who join them end up falling in love themselves. The new couple continues to enjoy spending time with their benefactors, until tragedy strikes, and the men are killed in a plane crash. The ghosts of the men continue to walk the earth, and it is a good thing, because the happy couple they left is struggling and needs their intervention. Though Jean Parker and Richard Carlson are sweet as the young couple, this movie belongs to the character actors: Harry Carey, C. Aubrey Smith and Charles Winninger as the wealthy benefactors and Marie Ouspenskaya as their loyal maid.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947)
Victor Moore is Aloysius T. McKeever (that name must have been hijacked from the files of W.C. Fields), a homeless man who takes up residence in a New York mansion each Christmas while the owners are on holiday. This year, he picks up a few more houseguests--including the family—who all unexpectedly turn up and end up playing along with their thoroughly in the wrong, but also quite reasonable squatter.

 [I'll write more about this charming movie later this week.]

Holiday Affair (1949)
This is a great movie for anyone who shrinks from holiday-themed schmaltz. Though this story of a war widow who meets a helpful stranger has the requisite happy, romantic ending, Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh and even Gorden Gerbert as her precocious son are all so darned laidback. Which is not to say this group is too cool; there is great warmth and good humor in this story of a war widow comparison shopper who tangles with, and then falls for a department store clerk. Though the interactions between Mitchum, Gerbert and Leigh are great fun, this is at heart the story of a grieving wife who must overcome her reluctance to deal with the loss of her beloved husband. Leigh’s struggle to move on both places the story firmly in the post-war era and helps it to transcend time.

Dec 18, 2011

Quote of the Week

There, but for the grace of God, goes God
-Herman Mankiewicz, about Orson Welles

My personality is that of an egotisical adventurer
-Orson Welles

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Dec 11, 2011

Quote of the Week

First picture I've ever seen in which the male lead has bigger tits than the female.

-Groucho Marx, about Samson and Delilah (1949, Starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr

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