Showing posts from 2016

Goodbye, Debbie.

Tuesday night was not an easy one. When my sister texted me that Debbie Reynolds had died, I felt strangely numb. Of course I was deeply saddened, but the news didn't seem to sink in until five minutes later when I found myself bawling my eyes out. This probably seems weird, maybe even melodramatic, especially for someone who never even met Debbie Reynolds. While it's certainly true that I didn't come face to face with Ms. Reynolds, the open and frank way that she lived her life made her feel like a great friend to me. The woman didn't pull any punches on any subject, and the sheer delight that she took in acting made it clear to audiences that we weren't seeing Debbie Reynolds the Actress, but rather Debbie Reynolds the Person. She never put up a wall between herself and her fans. What you saw was what you got, and what we got was totally and magnificently fabulous.

Announcing the Doris Day Blogathon!

Doris Day has become one of the 20th century's greatest entertainers, so imagine my surprise that she hasn't been given her very own blogathon! Since Ms. Day is one of my absolute favorites, obviously that had to change, so I invite you to join me in celebrating the triple threat on April 1-3, 2017!
I know, it's four months away, but that just gives you four months to prepare, right? (I also kind of wanted to make sure I announced this blogathon before anyone else could. It's happened before, so you can't call me paranoid. Just kidding, you totally can.) Although it's some time away, April 3rd is Doris's birthday... and she's still with us!
Here are the rules: You can write about anything relating to Day -- her films, her music, her personal life, her work with animals, her role as a style icon, the list goes on! I also won't limit how many posts you want to do.
Because there is so, so much you can write about, I'd prefer no duplicates. Sorry g…

Gene and Cyd miraculously meet in... Brigadoon (1954)

If you asked me to name my top twenty list of the most romantic films I've seen, I could say a few of them right off the bat: Notorious, An Affair to Remember, The Thin Man (seriously!), Love Letters, Casablanca... and Brigadoon. I have a feeling most of you would disagree with me on that last one. Poor Brigadoon is used to it -- the film has been battered around ever since it was first released in 1954. Actually, Brigadoon's troubles began from the very start of production.

The Vincente Minnelli Blogathon is here!

My first blogathon has arrived, and I'm excited to say that it looks like it's going to be a success! Seeing the love for Mr. Minnelli is amazing. I want to thank everyone who was generous enough to participate, and thanks to all of the readers who are going to help make this blogathon fun and great!

John Wayne and Lucy Ricardo.

After the sensational success of I Love Lucy's first three seasons, Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball wanted to hit the big screen. While Ball had been the self-proclaimed Queen of the B's, the studios never really knew how to best illustrate her talent. Arnaz, meanwhile, was hardly given a chance in Hollywood. After the fateful Too Many Girls, the film that introduced him to Lucy, Desi was only in a few more movies before I Love Lucy, partly because he had enlisted for WWII and partly because, like his wife, he wasn't handled properly. Once television made them instant icons, the powerful duo looked to Hollywood to expand their empire. It probably didn't hurt that they were returning to Tinseltown as huge successes, either.

Released in 1954, The Long, Long Trailer proved that audiences were willing to pay to see the couple that they could just as easily see for free in the comfort of their living rooms. MGM studio head Dore Schary offered Lucy and Desi an irresistible two-…

10 days until the Vincente Minnelli blogathon!

It's true! Just ten days until my first blogathon! I've been incredibly pleased with the turn-out so far, especially because I've never hosted, so thank you to everyone who has signed up! I'm super excited to read your entries.
If you're reading this and you decide "Hey, I'd love to help celebrate Vincente Minnelli," you can still drop me a line. Feel free to comment on this post or on the original announcement post. I'll be accepting participants until the very last day of the blogathon (Dec. 18th)!
If you can't participate, please help spread the word through whatever social media you use, and if you have a blog, please consider posting one of my banners to help me advertise. I'd appreciate it greatly!

But wait, there's more! At the end of my Minnelli blogathon, I'll be announcing my next blogathon! Yep, I haven't even hosted my first one yet and I'm already thinking of my second -- it's fun stuff. It'll take pla…

Grant, Loy, and Temple charm with... The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947)

It sounds like an icky premise. A playboy artist is forced by a judge to play along with the teenage crush of the judge's 17-year-old sister; comedy ensues. Thankfully, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer is a joyful and hilarious film that is handled expertly by the likes of Cary Grant (never more charming), Myrna Loy (gorgeously wry), Shirley Temple (doe-eyed perfection), and the Oscar-winning script of Sidney Sheldon (so much fun). Let's dive in!
It's morning at the Turner household, and maid Bessie (Lillian Randolph) is having a rough time waking the house up. Teenager Susan (Temple) doesn't budge until Bessie threatens to bring in her older sister Margaret (Loy), which is a laugh since Margaret is still cozy in bed herself. Later at the breakfast table, Susan gives us a bit of foreshadowing when she asks Margaret what sentencing she gave in her latest case, the one where an older man ran away with a 16-year-old girl. It turns out that
Susan has been placing bets wit…

The Friendship of Victoria Grant and Carroll Todd.

Friendships in the movies have been varied. You have the perfect best friends, like in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, or the not-so-perfect ones, like in Old Acquaintance -- you even have the friendships that are liable to get you killed, such as The Sting, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Harper (I don't know what Paul Newman did, but apparently he pissed some people off. Is it jealousy over the blue eyes?). For me, the gold standard is Victor/Victoria, Blake Edwards's wonderful 1982 comedy, starring three of my favorite people: Julie Andrews, Robert Preston, and James Garner. It's almost too good to be true.

Doris Day finds the elephant in the room in... Billy Rose's Jumbo (1962)

In 1935, showman Billy Rose staged a gigantic show appropriately titled Jumbo at the New York Hippodrome. Rose wanted the best, hiring Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur to write the script, George Abbott to direct, Jimmy Durante to star, Paul Whiteman to conduct, and Rodgers and Hart to write the score. With over a dozen circus acts and about 1,000 animals in the cast, Jumbo was posed to be a smash. Except it wasn't. The show ran for just five months and Rose had a hard time recuperating the costs, mainly because the show was so big that it kept absorbing any profit that it could have made.

In 1943, MGM bought the rights to the show, with Arthur Freed planning to turn it into a Judy Garland-Mickey Rooney vehicle. Later in the 1940's, it was thought that Garland and Frank Sinatra would give it a go (!!!). Then in 1947, Jumbo was supposed to be longtime choreographer Charles Walters's directorial debut, but instead he was given Good News. In 1952, after Singin' in the Rai…

Frank, Bing, and Grace are sensational in... High Society (1956)

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of High Society is probably its predecessor, The Philadelphia Story. Every classic film fan has their own opinion about which is better, what works and doesn't work in the other, et cetera. I'm not really interested in that. Instead of comparing the films, I want to look at the merits of just one of them. (I'll admit upfront that I prefer The Philadelphia Story. The three leads are three of my favorite people who ever walked on Earth, for one thing. Funnily enough, my sister hates the 1940 film and enjoys High Society infinitely more.) I've never had the urge to vilify High Society for daring to be a remake of a pretty fantastic movie. They're allowed to co-exist, especially because they are both wonderful in their own ways.

The Fashion of Fred and Ginger's Characters.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers had to be two of the most stylish people to be captured on celluloid. Impressively, their fabulous looks weren't always the result of the studio's wardrobe department -- Rogers and Astaire were both fashion-conscious and took particular care in their style, on the screen and off. Not only did the team become famous for their dancing, they also became icons through their look. I'm pretty sure the universal sign for the duo is a man in top hat and tails and a woman in a feather-covered dress.

If Fred had had his way, though, those tails wouldn't have been a part of the equation. In his 1959 autobiography Steps in Time, he recalled how fond he was of doing films that put him in military uniforms, saying "Some people objected to me in these [military] outfits, thinking I should always be decked out in those damned tails, I guess, but I liked it." Fred's personal fashion sense was well-known in Hollywood, with impeccably-dressed…

A Second Sunshine Blogger Award!

Just when I thought I couldn't get any luckier, Carol from The Old Hollywood Garden nominated me for my second Sunshine Blogger Award! Thank you, Carol! It was very sweet of you!

Once again, the rules are this:
- Answer the 11 questions posed by the blog that nominated you.
- Nominate 11 other blogs.
- Ask 11 questions of my own for my nominees to answer.

How to be a World-Class Detective, Courtesy of Inspector Clouseau

Watching Humphrey Bogart and Dick Powell, you realize that being a detective looks hard. You have to constantly smoke, you need to be able to brood but still crack jokes, you probably need to be able to throw a punch, and you have to be witty all the time. Sounds exhausting, no? Well, luckily, the movies have given us Inspector Jacques Clouseau, a man who knows how to make detecting look as easy as pie and as fun as eating said pie. Follow his lead and you're sure to be on your way to becoming one of the greatest detectives the free world has ever seen!
Do whatever you can to follow a lead.
Do you need to go to a nudist colony to check out what your suspect is up to? Take off everything and do it! Need to impersonate a dentist to infiltrate the villain's lair? Go for it! Nothing is too crazy if it means solving your case.

To the Women of Classic Hollywood.

I'm at a loss as to how to begin this letter. I have a million things to say, trust me, but organizing my thoughts is difficult when it comes to confessing my adoration for the people I call my heroes. And trust me, you gals are my heroes. I've always been proud to be a woman, but watching you on the screen consistently makes me hold my head up a little higher. We have a camaraderie, despite coming from different places, cultures, and time periods, and there has never been a time when I felt disconnected from you. Can I relate to you snuggling with blindingly handsome leading men? No. Can I recall a moment where I was dressed in Adrian, Irene, or Givenchy creations, looking stunning with my Bud Westmore-applied makeup and Sydney Guilaroff hairstyle? Absolutely not. But can I giggle when you make a funny face at that leading man? Can I do the most horrific sobbing when the plot deals you an undeserved hand? Can I cheer when you finish a complicated dance or complete a beautifu…

Spending September with Gene Wilder.

When I found out Gene Wilder passed away a month ago, I was thrown for a loop. Although it makes absolutely no sense, I had always assumed he would be around. A world without Gene Wilder? That's insane -- but it's what we have now, and because I'm a sentimental fool, I've been trying to fill my life with as much Wilder as I could. Reading all of the dedications to him made me realize that I had only seen a small portion of his filmography, the usual suspects if you will: Bonnie and Clyde, Willy Wonka..., and his three with Mel Brooks. The only outlier was Haunted Honeymoon, a flick I had checked out of my local library years ago when I had finished Wilder's autobiography and was curious to see what he and Gilda Radner were like together. Practically all of my September has been devoted to Gene's films and the big takeaway is this: I love Mr. Wilder more than ever. Below are short reviews of all of the movies I watched, plus where I found them if you want to ho…

The Sunshine Blogger Award.

Well, bust my buttons! I just got another award! One day after getting the One Lovely Blog Award from one lovely Simoa, the wonderful Virginie over at The Wonderful World of Cinema (I'm so clever) nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Thank you, Virginie! You're much too generous!
The Sunshine Blogger Award is pretty similar to the Liebster. The rules are: - Answer the 11 questions posed by the blog that nominated you. - Nominate 11 other blogs. - Ask 11 questions of my own for my nominees to answer.

The One Lovely Blog Award.

Darling Simoa from Champagne for Lunch has nominated me for the One Lovely Blog Award! Thank you to Simoa for giving me my first one of these! And to my readers, please go check out her blog. It's pretty wonderful.
The rules for this award are as follows: 1. Write a blog post accepting your nomination. 2. Show the blogger who nominated you how much you love them by thanking them in the post and linking to their blog. 3. Tell us seven things about yourself. 4. Nominate other blogs that you love. 5. Let the bloggers you’ve nominated know about they’ve received an award. 6. Post the rules again to let those bloggers know how it works.

Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk (1959) and Lover Come Back (1961)

As much as I wanted to be scholarly while writing this piece, I soon discovered that it was pretty hard to do, strictly on a personal level. You see, talking about Rock Hudson is something I love to do, but it can be difficult to leave his personal life out of the discussion. Because I adore Hudson, I'm apt to look at him as a tragic figure, a man who wasn't able to completely live as himself and died of a horrific disease. People often like to look at his films through the lens of his homosexuality, which is perfectly fine and a worthy thing to do, but it also seems to leave something out: Rock Hudson, the actor. Can we separate Rock from his closeted image and just examine him as an actor? I think I owe it to him to try. I can't believe that his sexuality is all that we have to define him.

To me, Hudson is irresistible, and nowhere is that more apparent than in his comedies, particularly those with best friend Doris Day. Known primarily for dramas such as Giant and his …

Jane Wyman falls for... Three Guys Named Mike (1951)

Many years ago, I was a classic film novice. It feels like a lifetime ago that I didn't know who Cary Grant was or what Citizen Kane was about, yet I can still clearly remember the small steps I took that led to my passion for old movies. One such step was Three Guys Named Mike. My oldest sister had heard that I was slowly learning about the classics and so she brought me one of those cheap collections comprised of those poor films that have been doomed to the public domain. The quality wasn't the best and the selected films were hit-and-miss, but to me, it became an education because of two films that couldn't be more different: Of Human Bondage with Bette Davis and Leslie Howard and Three Guys Named Mike.

While OHB knocked me to the floor, TGNM charmed me to pieces. Its story about a young woman leaving Indiana (!) to become a stewardess and explore the world tickled me, and watching her navigate her journey with wit and grace while juggling the attentions of three suit…

Announcing the Vincente Minnelli Blogathon!

A genius filmmaker, Vincente Minnelli created some of cinema's most amazing images, as well as some of its greatest works: Meet Me in St. Louis, An American in Paris, The Bad and the Beautiful, Father of the Bride, The Band Wagon, the list goes on! So, in honor of Mr. Minnelli, I wanted to host my very first blogathon, which will be a tribute to the director and will take place on Dec. 16-18, 2016. Why these dates? Well, I originally thought of doing this on Minnelli's 114th birthday in February, but I decided I couldn't wait that long because I'm an impatient child. December was a touch closer and works with my current schedule, plus December 18th happens to be the 58th anniversary of the premiere of Some Came Running, so there's my official excuse. On to the rules!
The rules: You can write about any of Minnelli's films, or really anything else related to him, such as his relationship with Judy Garland, his stage work before he came to Hollywood, his work on s…

The Loss of Gene Wilder.

I've been starting and erasing every opening sentence I've had for this post for the past five minutes. Honestly, how do I begin? I've been in love with Gene Wilder ever since I first saw him in The Producers. He was hysterical (and wet and in pain), a tightly-contained man who could suddenly burst into the most outrageous and magnificent being. The moment he started clawing at Zero Mostel for his blue blanket, I knew Wilder was someone I could never forget.

Throughout high school, I was always bugging my friends about the latest classic I had seen; I could practically feel the stars in my eyes as I recounted Swing Time or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes or Funny Face. I can still remember how much my friend Maggie and I laughed as I gave her all the details on The Producers. She had never heard about it, but here we were, giggling until we cried over a movie only one of us had seen. You could say that demonstrates the power of Mel Brooks, the film's director and writer. But…

Clark Gable is Doris Day's... Teacher's Pet (1958)

No, you don't need your eyes checked, you read my title right -- Clark Gable and Doris Day made a movie together, and you know what? It's really good. When I first heard of this film, I was thrilled. I mean, Doris and Gable worked together? But then a bit of dread set in. Will this be super terrible? I mean, isn't it a weird pairing? And then I saw the posters, which all have Clark staring wide-eyed at Mamie Van Doren's behind. Oh no, I thought. This is going to be one of those awful, cliché-ridden sex comedies. I'm so happy to say that I was wrong.
Teacher's Pet is a smart, witty, and surprisingly thought-provoking romantic comedy. Fay and Michael Kanin's screenplay is fantastic, showing real character development and depth, as well as looking at both sides of the coin fairly -- it's not often that I can watch a rom-com and understand both of the leads' point of view as clearly as I do with Teacher's Pet. If I may be so bold, I'm going to v…

Anniversary #3!

Maybe this is just indicative of my grasp on time, but I could have sworn today would be my fourth anniversary of starting this blog. Instead, it's my third and I'm pretty proud of the work I've done so far; hopefully you readers agree. For the most part, though, I feel like I haven't even begun to do everything I want to do with this blog -- I have tons of movies to still cover, which is probably endless, but I have an idea for a series that will look at more recent films. Don't get me wrong: I'm all about the classics. But I enjoy some modern movies as well, and the series would likely just be looking at one film every few months. We'll see how it goes. I started a Forgotten Classic series back in my first year of blogging and it fizzled out after about three films.
In addition to the new series, I think I'm going to finally host my own blogathon. I'm not sure when, but my goal is to do it before my next anniversary. I have at least two ideas on …

Day and Sinatra are matchless in... Young at Heart (1954)

Doris Day had a lot of terrific film partners in her career: Gordon MacRae, James Garner, Howard Keel, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon, David Niven, Clark Gable (look out for my review of that film in a few weeks!), and of course, the greatest of them all, Rock Hudson. Now, that list isn't totally comprehensible -- I left a few names out -- but you get the gist: Doris got to act with some incredible talent, and she always worked on their high level. That's why her teaming with Frank Sinatra is so unique. You have two of the 20th century's greatest artists working together and in my opinion, they match each other every step of the way. They have different styles and admittedly different personas, but you can't tell me that both of them weren't trying their damnedest to make the film work.
Is Young at Heart perfect? Goodness, no. Is it an admirable melodrama saved by the presence of its superb cast? Definitely. I recognize that not a lot of people will agree with me. I ca…

"My Letter, Her Stocking, and No Key": Dial M for Murder (1954)

Poster art is fascinating to look at. With just a few images and a few words, it has to tell you what a film is all about. Sometimes it can be disastrous or laughable, thanks to an awful portrayal of what an actor looks like or a cheesy tagline (my favorite: "Baby-faced savage in a jungle of intrigue!" [Born to be Bad, 1950]. Excuse me, what?). Sometimes, though, posters can be just right, such as the one above for Dial M for Murder. Initially, I was confused. Doesn't it look like Grace Kelly is being sexually assaulted and she's trying to call for help? That's not the plot at all!

But then I remembered something Hitchcock once said about how he liked to shoot dangerous or murderous scenes like love scenes, how he enjoyed adding a sexual charge to moments that weren't necessarily about sex. That's when the poster clicked for me, because although Kelly is being strangled and is struggling for her life, that scene has always struck me as highly sensual. Pe…

The Czech Méliès: Karel Zeman

Over two weeks ago, I returned from my two month-long journey in Europe, where I lived and studied in Paris for a month and then did the same in Prague. (If you're curious about my time in Paris, you can see my post about it here.) Prague was absolutely gorgeous -- possibly the prettiest place I've ever seen -- but I'm afraid I didn't do much learning while I was there. My class on Czech cinema wasn't nearly as informative as I wanted it to be, especially in comparison to my French cinema course, but there is one thing I will always cherish from it: discovering Karel Zeman, the man called the Czech Méliès.
Zeman was an animator from the 1940's up until his death in 1989, a genius who often combined live action and animation to beautiful effect. In 2012, Prague opened its Karel Zeman Museum, also called the Film Special Effects Museum, and it was there during a class field trip that I fell in love. The images I saw were striking and imaginative, with exhibits a…

Olivia de Havilland as Maid Marian

This post could easily just be me drooling over Errol Flynn for a thousand words. I'm kinda sorta really in love with him, and I will protest until my dying day that he was a fantastic, underrated actor. Watching one Flynn film makes me want to watch ten more immediately, a particular addiction of mine that only Flynn can lay claim to. While I can't say I love every movie of his, I can say that I've always loved his performances, and The Adventures of Robin Hood happens to belong to both camps. Quite simply, it is one of the best films period, and so doing a review of it is a bit daunting. Good thing I'm not doing a review!

Because it is Olivia de Havilland's birthday on July 1st, I wanted to focus solely on her in this film. Even if I didn't adore Flynn as much as I do, it would be hard to tear my concentration from him because let's be honest, he is the unequivocal star here. Does he have an incredible cast surrounding him? Oh yes. But Flynn had a high w…