Sunday, January 31, 2016

Durbin and Laughton have a ball in... It Started with Eve (1941)

A newspaper editor gleefully awaits the big news of the death of billionaire Jonathan Reynolds (Charles Laughton), a story that is sure to feed the paper for weeks. While he impatiently grumbles about the old man delaying the inevitable, in a dark, quiet mansion, the great Mr. Reynolds lies on his deathbed, weakly telling his son, Johnny (Bob Cummings), that he wants to meet his fiancee before it's too late. Desperate to fulfill his father's wish, Johnny hurries to his hotel to get his fiancee, Gloria,
who went out and can't be found. Who is found, however, is hatcheck girl Anne (Deanna Durbin) -- Johnny whisks her away to the house to pretend to be Gloria in order to make his father happy one last time. Feeble but still with a twinkle in his eye, Reynolds is delighted that Johnny has picked such a beautiful woman, her eyes filling with tears as he holds her hand and whispers "Don't cry, dear, there's nothing to be sorry for. I had a good life. I didn't miss anything. I've never been happier than I am
right now." The doctor tells Anne and Johnny it's time they leave, Anne gently letting go of his hand. Johnny thanks her for what she did and pays her $50, Anne confessing that she shouldn't take it but she really needs the money to pay off her singing lessons and go back home to Shelbyville, Ohio. The two said goodbye, Johnny going back to worry by his father's bed and Anne going back into the depressing, rainy night.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Esther Williams and Charles Walters: The Dear Dame and Her Dear Director

I'm thrilled to say that I'm taking part in the Star-Director Blogathon, hosted by the marvelous Theresa. Click here for the giant, amazing list of entries here.

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If you've read my blog before, you've probably noticed that Esther Williams is one of my favorite people ever. I love the gal, and I'm determined to spread the word of her brilliance for as long as I can. Every time I sign up for a blogathon, I instantly think of how I can talk about Esther because, if we're being honest here, blogathons are when I get the most traffic and I don't want people to miss learning about an Esther Williams film. Maybe it's just that others aren't as vocal as me, but it seems like she's fallen to the wayside, a possibility that obviously I can't accept. Writing for this blogathon affords me the chance to shed some light on a collaboration that isn't as celebrated as Jack Lemmon & Billy Wilder or Hitchcock & Cary Grant/Jimmy Stewart or Marlene Dietrich & Josef von Sternberg -- the marvelous pairing of Esther and director Charles Walters.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Barbara Stanwyck invites you to... Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

An effervescent comedy, a holiday classic, and a showcase of Barbara Stanwyck's perfection. All of this describes Christmas in Connecticut, but it doesn't capture what makes the film so special. Touted as the world's greatest cook and homemaker, Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck) writes a column for Smart Housekeeping, one of many publications owned by Alexander Yardley (Sydney Greenstreet). Yardley forces Elizabeth into hosting war hero Jefferson Jones (Dennis Morgan) for Christmas, also inviting himself to the woman's idyllic Connecticut farm. The problem is that Elizabeth is not who she says she is. Backed into a corner, she enlists the help of her beau John Sloan (Reginald Gardiner) to try and save her job. Using his Connecticut home and planning on getting hitched before Jeff and Yardley start their stay, Elizabeth's plans come crashing down once she meets Jeff, putting even more pressure on her to get through this charade. This being a romantic comedy, we all know how things will go down, but the fun is how we get there, right?

Friday, January 15, 2016

A star-studded cast wants you to know... There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)

This is my contribution to the Backstage Blogathon, another superb event from Fritzi of Movies Silently and Janet of Sister Celluloid. Click here to read the other posts.

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If it weren't for the presence of Marilyn Monroe, what would our knowledge be of There's No Business Like Show Business? Would it be known for housing the dynamic talents of Donald O'Connor at his prime? Or would it be used as an example of what Mitzi Gaynor was like as her star was rising? If you ask me, if it weren't for Marilyn, this film would be all about Ethel Merman, the boisterous songstress who wouldn't need a microphone to fill a football stadium with her voice. But because of glamorous Ms. Monroe, everyone else is sort of unfairly pushed aside. Don't get me wrong -- I love Marilyn, I really do, but I must admit that her popularity can be a bit much. For instance, the box set of her films I have that includes Show Business. While Monroe has a good-sized part in it, including two solo musical numbers, I'm not totally sure I would put this alongside The Seven Year Itch, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, and Bus Stop like my set does. You know what I mean? It gives you the wrong impression of what the film is like, which can sometimes ruin the viewing experience for you.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Astaire loves Hepburn's... Funny Face (1957)

It was 2008. My sister and I were wandering around Target aimlessly. Naturally, I gravitated to the movie section -- I was about a year into my obsession with classic films, and I was still in that phase where every old movie I found, my heart burst because I never saw it before and I was so excited that a mainstream place like Target would have it and therefore acknowledge that my adoration wasn't all in my head, that others enjoyed it as well and my growing passion wasn't a lost cause. I still get a twinge of that every now and then, but nothing like when I laid eyes on Funny Face in that Target aisle. Fred Astaire was already one of my favorites, and of course I knew about Audrey Hepburn but I had really only seen Roman Holiday. Finding out that these two megastars had made a movie together blew. my. mind. And yet, for some reason, I didn't buy it. Somehow my sister talked me out of it and the second we left the store, I regretted it. And I let my sister know how upset I was for three days straight. On the fourth day, my dad was driving us by Target when I began my tirade again and, bless that man, he offered to stop so I could buy Funny Face. You could have seen my sister's eye roll from outer space, but the joy I felt when I had the DVD in my hands at the checkout line is something I relive every time I watch the movie.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Fred and Cyd are fated to be mated in... Silk Stockings (1957)

Silk Stockings is perhaps one of the weirdest remakes you can see. Let me explain: when you think of Ninotchka, what comes to mind? The irresistible Greta Garbo? Sure. The dapper, underrated Melyvn Douglas? Of course. The tagline "Garbo Laughs," as if it were the first time the actress ever broke her frown? Annoyingly, yes. Do you think of Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse dancin' and romancin' to Cole Porter tunes in a Metrocolor Paris? Or even more out of left field, Peter Lorre singing and dancing? No? Exactly. To me, Silk Stockings is so completely the opposite of its source material that it's able to become its own film without the strings attached to the classic that started it all. I don't watch it and go "Man, Lubitsch did it better!" or "Ninotchka had much more depth!" I'm too busy thinking "Holy cow, that number was beautiful" and "Cyd Charisse, you are a dancing goddess." Look, I love both movies, but to be honest, I think I'm more partial to Silk Stockings, and that's probably only because it's got such fantastic musical moments. Let's break down the film by its routines.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

A new year.

Hello, all! Sorry it's been crickets from me for the past few weeks -- this semester has been stressful and being on winter break was a huge relief, so much so that I wanted to step away from my laptop for a bit and just focus on my family and non-computer related interests. The downside of that is now I'm scrambling to write my entries for blogathons that have suddenly jumped up on me, which is exacerbated by my stupid disk drive deciding it doesn't want to play my DVDs and therefore blocking me from taking screenshots. Hopefully I can get it straightened out in the next day or two, but for now you can find me hitting and cursing my computer because we all know that helps things.

Since we've entered the new year, I've seen many of the blogs I follow talk about what they hope to accomplish in 2016. I did that last year and it didn't work out -- my spotlight on Ida Lupino completely fell through, and my posts on classic TV series never even made it past taking notes. I certainly learned a lot in 2015, though. I started participating in blogathons, which opened a door that brought in more traffic and introduced me to many blogs and bloggers that I enjoy immensely. I also increased my output of posts greatly, something I'm planning on keeping up. Most exciting of all in 2016 is the possibility of studying cinema in Paris and Prague this summer. I applied for my passport on New Year's Eve and once that comes in, I'll be able to finish my other applications and a few weeks after that, I'll know if I've been accepted or not. It's sure to be an incredible experience, with four weeks in Paris learning about French cinema and four weeks in Prague learning about Czech cinema. Fingers crossed that I get it!

Thank you to everyone who made 2015 a great year for Love Letters to Old Hollywood, and here's to hoping this year will be even better.

With love and gratitude,
Michaela

Ameche, Young, and Fonda tell... The Story of Alexander Graham Bell (1939)

When you read the words "The Story of Alexander Graham Bell," if you haven't seen it, you probably think "This sounds terrible." I mean, it must be a stuffy, fact-stretching, superficial account of a man who is suddenly deemed faultless and highly moral, right? Well, you'd be partially correct. Like many biopics, there are liberties taken and I'm not nearly knowledgeable enough to tell you if Alexander Graham Bell is portrayed truthfully or not. To me, though, I know that films like Rhapsody in Blue or Words and Music aren't going to be accurate -- I don't watch them for that, I watch them for the casts or the music. And that's why I was drawn to The Story of Alexander Graham Bell. Don Ameche, Loretta Young, Henry Fonda, Charles Coburn, and Spring Byington are all great reasons to check out this movie, and it's an added bonus that the film is actually pretty good.