Jul 30, 2021
Jul 28, 2021
Stay tuned for a fabulous new guest on Wednesday, 8/4!
Jul 23, 2021
There’s not one memorable song in It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963), a dire condition for an Elvis musical, but there are pleasing elements to this film that never quite comes together. I recently revisited it on a new Blu-ray from Warner Archive.
Jul 21, 2021
First Episode! Watching Classic Movies Podcast with Guest Christina Rice, Author of Mean...Moody… Magnificent: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend
The first episode of my new interview podcast Watching Classic Movies is now available!
Update: now available on Pocketcasts
The show will be available in more places very soon.
This is one of five weekly episodes in my inaugural summer season. I loved chatting with my first guest, Christina Rice:
There’s more to the actress Jane Russell than those “two things” they announced in the ads for her films. Writer, librarian and archivist Christina Rice can tell you all about it. Her first biography, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood’s Forgotten Rebel was a passion project. When her publisher suggested Russell as a follow up, she had to think about whether she wanted to write about this star about whom she knew so little. We are fortunate that she went for it, because her book Mean...Moody… Magnificent: Jane Russell and the Marketing of a Hollywood Legend is just as fascinating and addictive as her debut. We talked about her life, her career, and her must-see films.
You can learn more about Christina Rice at:
Recommended movies discussed:
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
The Tall Men (1955)
His Kind of Woman (1951)
Cauliflower Cupids (1970)
Fate is the Hunter (1964)
The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1956)
The Yellow Rose (TV) (1984)
Stay tuned for a fabulous new guest on Wednesday, 7/28!
Jul 16, 2021
Vitagraph: America’s First Great Motion Picture Studio
Jul 14, 2021
I'm delighted to announce that after years of reviewing podcasts here on the site, I will now be starting my own podcast Watching Classic Movies.
On Blu-ray: Costume Dramas Green Dolphin Street (1947) and The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
This pair of dramas newly on Blu-ray from Warner Archive features two vastly different, but equally wrenching explorations of the complications of love. In both cases the turmoil is set in grand locations with actors in lavish costumes.
Jul 9, 2021
Jul 7, 2021
Clara Bow had a knack for communicating her emotions so clearly that you can't help feeling them along with her. If she grieves, you grieve.
While Bow is rightfully beloved for the way she embodied the youthful energy of the jazz age, she was even better when a moment required deeper emotion. Children of Divorce (1927) is a showcase for Bow’s considerable and considerably underappreciated dramatic skills. I recently marveled again at her performance via a new Blu-ray-MOD release from Flicker Alley.
It’s a shame that Paramount production head B.P. Schulberg refused to give Bow better roles, because if he had she probably would have been better remembered for the full breadth of her talents. As it is, she got unimaginative scripts like Children of Divorce, which is essentially a tale of wealthy people making each other miserable because they won’t fight for love.
The film works though and that is primarily due to its stars. As childhood friends who grow up into messy romantic entanglements, Bow, Gary Cooper, and Esther Ralston are deeply appealing. In the case of the latter two, that has more to do with the simple pleasure of watching them in action, but when it comes to this appealing duo, that is more than enough.
On the other hand, Bow has everything: beauty, charisma, and the deepest feeling for tragedy. It is well known among silent film fans that the actress only needed a little mournful music on the set to bring up real tears for her scenes, which came easily when she remembered her painful childhood. Those glistening eyes project pain in a visceral way, as does the subtle flicker of emotions across her face.
Clara Bow’s instinctive, raw performance style gives Children of Divorce a weight it could not otherwise have. Josef von Sternberg was hired to film additional scenes when original director Frank Lloyd’s footage was deemed unsatisfactory and he marveled at Bow, later sharing his disbelief that Schulberg didn’t make the most of her remarkable talent.
Ultimately, her skill could not be obscured. Even in this uninspiring story, she is heart-rending and elicits full empathy from the viewer. Who else could get away with moistening the flap of an envelope with her own tears? It sounds silly. She makes it devastating.
Special features on the disc include the documentary Clara Bow: Discovering the ‘It’ Girl (1999), which is a carry-over from the label’s 2016 DVD/Blu-ray release of the film. There’s also an image gallery with an interesting variety of photographs and promotional images related to the production.
Many thanks to Flicker Alley for providing a copy of the film for review.
Jul 2, 2021
Jayne Mansfield: The Girl Couldn’t Help It