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Archive for ‘Films’

Bacall Tweets On Twilight

By , 7 October, 2009, No Comment

I can’t swear this is really Lauren Bacall’s Twitter account, but with tweets like this, I so want to believe it is!

Yes I saw Twilight my granddaughter made me watch it, she said it was the greatest vampire film ever.After the “film” was over I wanted to..

smack her accros her head with my shoe, but I do not want a book called Grannie Dearest written on me when I die, so instead I gave her a

DVD of Murnau’s 1922 masterpiece Nosferatu and told her, now thats a vampire film! and that goes for all of you! watch Nosferatu instead!

If you don’t want to be hit in the head with Lauren Bacall’s shoe, get Nosferatu!

Monday Movie Meme: Film Fathers

By , 5 October, 2009, No Comment

This week’s Monday Movie Meme theme is movies featuring Dads and it brought one name immediately to mind: Spencer Tracy.

Spencer Tracy may not have been the world’s best father or family man, but perhaps it’s his personal feelings about such personal failures which provided him with the ability to act the part of complicated fathers with such divine grace. Naturally Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) leaps to mind — but I think the role which best captures Tracy’s ability to portray a film father is Father’s Little Dividend (1951).

Both films focus on parental reaction to the situations of their adult children, but in Father’s Little Dividend Tracy’s role as father Stanley Banks is the focus on the film. This focus on a common man’s response to the traditional life cycle change from father to grandfather makes for portrayal of full, complex person — a character rather than a caricature. But I don’t think anyone can watch Tracy and not give his acting ability its due.

It may be dutiful and doting dad Stanley Banks who struggles with his new relationship with his “modern” daughter and his disconnected and distanced relationship with a grandson who begrudges him that magic moment of bonding by crying whenever grandpa is near; but it’s Spencer Tracy who delivers those scenes and the emotions beneath them.

(Spoilers follow — Stop reading if you don’t want to know!)

It is because of Tracy’s superb acting that we understand — not just because “things were different back then” — just how useless grandpa feels around his grandson. So we understand how easy it would be for grandpa to step too far away from the sleeping-safely-in-his-carriage baby at the park and go feel useful and connected by helping a group of boys with their soccer game… And just how devastated, guilty, and frightened he would feel when he returns to the park bench to find the carriage and baby missing!

When Banks stands before the less than understanding police, confessing he lost the baby and pleading his case for his grandson to be returned to him without calling his daughter, his pain becomes our pain because Tracy is the one who inhabits it and conveys it.

When the policeman suggests the test of Banks’ claims be the baby’s reaction to him, we all flush and swallow hard lumps of fear right along with Tracy because we fear what Banks does: that the baby will cry and reject him, resulting in further embarrassment and problems. We all hold our breath while Tracy as Banks walks towards the baby who is happily preoccupied with the group of police…

And when that baby lights up with delight upon seeing his grandpa, we all feel giddy with relief — and the realization that these two finally have their magic moment and are forever bonded, their devotion sealed in this shared secret.

We wouldn’t feel any of that if it weren’t for Spencer Tracy’s ability to feel and convey all the emotions of fatherhood, including the less than flattering ones.

Spencer Tracy may not have been able to, as he himself lamented, been able to be a the best father — but he carried within himself not only such bittersweet knowledge, but teh ability to apply the bitter and the sweet to his acting roles as on-screen dads.  From watching Spencer Tracy “dads,” I’ve learned that fatherhood comes with all the expectations, mistakes, and complexity of motherhood.

While there’s certainly sadness in such things, there is also awareness — we are not alone, knowledge is power, there is hope.

Lessons In Vertigo (Hitchcock’s Vertigo, That Is!)

By , 22 September, 2009, 3 Comments

Vertigo (1958), with James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, is another “classic film” you may have heard so much about that you’ve possibly avoided it — but that’s not its only problem.

Now 51 years old, Vertigo is a film which has long been playing on late night on television — a position that puts films into the easily dismissed pile, not only for its too-frequent showings, but an air time left to insomniacs and after-bar munchies-eating persons who turn TV on for some noise once back in a too-quiet house. The results are that a film that most people know is a called a classic is now either too old and junky to watch or a film they’ve seen bits & pieces of and were unimpressed.

Sadly, my previous viewings of Vertigo were of the post-bar & trying to fall asleep variety and so were admittedly hampered. While I knew I wasn’t giving the film a proper viewing, I was very bored. For this reason, when my movie club suggested Vertigo, I wrinkled my nose — but once it was suggested as a Classic Schmassic, I had no way out.

Vertigo Film Poster

Vertigo Film Poster

Vertigo is a rather stylish movie, but it moves slowly…

One one hand, you have lovely details — both for fans of vintage and character points for story lovers. (Early on I was most in love with Bel Geddes who, despite her often poorly written lines, earnestly tugs are your heartstrings; the lack of sexual tension made utterly clear as Stewart takes a look at lingerie artist/designer Bel Geddes’ work.)

Stewart Doesn't Seem To Care About Bel Geddes' Bra

Stewart Doesn't Seem To Care About Bel Geddes' Bra

But on the other, you can’t help but feel a bit impatient for the famous Hitchcock to get going. And even when Hitchcock does get going there are problems.

Novak Clutching Stewart in Vertigo

Novak Clutching Stewart in Vertigo

First, there was the fact that I knew we, as an audience, have become much more sophisticated in our mystery-suspense movie watching. No, it’s not that we wanted more special effects and higher body counts (as if!), but I figured even my 9 year old would figure out the secret identity switcher-roo and basic plot premise. I’m not boasting that my children are gifted; simply too experienced with (and perhaps even jaded by) mystery and suspense films (and books) today to not guess the plot. Maybe audiences back then were too, maybe this was Hitchcock’s intent; I don’t know and I leave such matters to film critics and the like. But I do know that once I got my kids past the slowly unfolding story to a plot they could easily guess, they’d be bored.

This leads us to the second problem.

After the slow-moving pace and the spoon-fed clues, Hitchcock suddenly jerks us like a fish in a line. Stewart is in the mental ward; then he’s out of it. Me and my film-watching friends asked, “Is he dreaming this?” “Is he out?” “Is he out of the ward or out of his mind?”

Stewart is both.

Out of the hospital and out of his mind, Stewart can’t stop looking for the girl he believes is dead, finding Novak’s face and figure in nearly every woman he sees. When he finds her, he doesn’t seem any less crazy because while we know it’s Novak he doesn’t — yet he forces this woman to dress and look like the doomed lady he loves.

Key Players In Vertigo: Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak Times-Two

Key Players In Vertigo: Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak Times-Two

As a woman, these scenes are very uncomfortable to watch and Stewart goes from poor dupe to manipulative, controlling, and abusive boyfriend.

Like how Bel Geddes was just dropped from the film, it may all be done to swing audience favor from Stewart to Novak; but it’s not pretty. Watching Novak be transformed is not a blossoming; it is not movie magic reuniting lovers; it is disturbing and creepy and misogynistic.

And then, when Stewart realizes how he’s been duped, he doesn’t feel pity towards Novak. His anger, aggression and abuse may be the catalyst for curring the very acrophobia which led to his victimization, but it’s not healing; this too is ugly.

Perhaps Stewart would have come around, could have come around (as we the audience would have if we were clued in on a few things, such as the plot holes), but what happens next left all of us sputtering. It wasn’t mere surprise at a (finally) unexpected film twist — it just didn’t seem to make any sense.

“Did his film budget run out?”
“Did we miss something in the back story — all those spoon-fed bread-crumbs?”
“Are we dumb?”

A serious WTF? movie moment — and then the film ends.

My first thought whilst writing a review of Vertigo in my head was, “Watch it and be surprised!” but while actually writing this review, I find myself feeling cheated. And angry. Should a sudden and inexplicable WTF? ending equate to a good mystery and/or suspense? Can you call a film “classic” when the mystery and suspense are so out of character and random that it feels slapped-together?

When the film was originally released, theatre goers didn’t care for Hitchcock’s Vertigo; but since then, film critics have lauded the film classic status, placing it on Top 100 and even Top 10 lists. These film critics have said that audiences didn’t understand the film, didn’t appreciate Hitchcock’s work. But I think the original audiences had it right and that the film critics wrap Hitchcock’s status around the film and make it something it’s not.

Bel Geddes Tries To Make Herself Something She's Not

Bel Geddes Tries To Make Herself Something She's Not

Stewart did a fine job of making himself unlikable (no easy task); Novak may never have done such fine dramatic work as she beautifully did in her two complicated roles; and Bel Geddes was (surprisingly to those of us who only knew her as the aged matriarch of TV’s Dallas) simply heartbreakingly wonderful as the taken-for-granted-girl-who-is-a friend-but-not-a-girlfriend. Had Hitchcock only crafted a real ending that made sense — or left us some of those giant bread crumbs to follow into whatever madness he was thinking — Vertigo could have been good, grand even…

As it is, I suspect you’d have to be a male to look past the creepy misogyny and slapped-on ending to appreciate Vertigo; this is one classic I’m still calling a schmassic.

Film Options Are Like Predictions: Made, But Not Always Fruitful

By , 2 September, 2009, No Comment

Also in those 1949 Quick predictions, a prediction that puzzles me…

Front-Page Movie: One of the 1950’s most exciting films will be made from Bob Sylvester’s yet-to-be-published novel, Second Oldest Profession. Four studios are bidding for it — a shocker about a reporter who rises to editor.

The novel was published, as titled, by Robert Sylvester in 1950 — and, according to what I could see in journalism chatter, the book included the ethical dilemma of “an advice columnist who gets actively involved with reader.” The paperback, at least, sensationalized the newsman’s novel with a bawdy cover and tag line: “Hard Men and Soft Women in the World’s Roughest Business.”

Just the sort of romantic film fodder you could envision from vintage Hollywood, right? But what happened to the film…

There’s evidence that 20th Century-Fox bought the rights to Sylvester’s book in the April 4th, 1950 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

And in the April 1, 1950 issue of Boxoffice (under Four Literary Purchases Recorded for the Week, page 30), there’s this brief but detailed report:

To 20th Century-Fox went “The Second Oldest Profession,” a novel by Robert Sylvester and concerned with the newspaper business. With Otto Preminger assigned to produce – and – direct, the vehicle is being shaped as a starring subject for Gregory Peck when he returns to the U.S. from his current British assignment, Warners’ “Captain Horatio Hornblower”

Boxoffice, April 1, 1950

Boxoffice, April 1, 1950

But I’ve never heard of a film titled The Second Oldest Profession — and even if 20th Century-Fox would have opted to skip the promotional favor of a recognizable title, I can’t find any film by either Preminger or Peck which fits the bill… Even Robert Sylvester’s IMDB record is bereft of any mention of The Second Oldest Profession.

So, for all the fanfare & the bidding war, I guess the film was never made? If you know otherwise, I’d love to hear from you — otherwise it’s just one more prediction Quick seems to have gotten wrong.

Quick Film News, November, 1949

By , 1 September, 2009, No Comment

In that November 21, 1949 issue of Quick magazine which featured Esther Williams, some interesting films news…

First, the prediction that “within five years over half of all Hollywood films will be in color. Reason: two new color processes — one developed by Kodak, the other by Cinecolor — which will give Technicolor its first competition in many years.”

And below that, news that “studios were upping their quota of Westerns” — including a photographic “study in mayhem” in “Saturday-matinee style” of John Hodiak “knocking the whey out of Robert Taylor.”

1949 Film News, Quick Magazine

1949 Film News, Quick Magazine

Also, under “Quick predicts,” one-liners on the back few pages:

Ida Lupino’s “Sleeper”: Not Wanted, Ida Lupino’s little picture starring young unknowns, will be the “sleeper” of the year. It cost $140,000, already is near $1 million in domestic box-office gross.

Ida Lupino made her directing debut in Not Wanted, although she was uncredited as per her request. Just a few days into filming, the original director, Elmer Clifton, suffered a serious heart attack and was unable to complete the picture. (Clifton, in fact, died shortly after the film’s release.) The film did indeed to well at the box office, but I don’t think the B-movie ever got quite the hoopla that Quick predicted… Then again, making such a prediction after a film’s grossed a million (in 1949 dollars) isn’t much of a prediction, is it? *wink* (I just purchased Not Wanted at Amazon; so watch for the review.).

Male Star: Hollywood’s fastest-rising male star in 1950 will be Wendell Corey. Cause: hit roles in Holiday Affair, Thelma Jordan, No Sad Songs for Me, The Furies.

Call me film-illiterate, but I only (vaguely) recall Corey for his stint as the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences… If he was meteoric in his rise, I guess I’m ignorant; TCM too because they don’t even have a photo of him on his profile/bio page.

Ready To Get Manhandled?

By , 27 August, 2009, 2 Comments

Manhandled Film Poster (1949)

Manhandled Film Poster (1949)

Manhandled (1949) is another one of those films you’ve probably not heard much about — and if you have, you probably heard about it from one of those film critics who didn’t have anything good to say about it.

Stupid film critics. *sigh*

Thankfully I was spared such dim views from dimwits because I’d never heard of Manhandled before watching it on TCM the other night; and I missed most of Robert’s pre-film talk to boot, vaguely catching something about it being a rare Dorothy Lamour film because she was out of her usual sarong (& that it was one of her last films due to the dreaded “aging” that nixed many a beautiful woman’s Hollywood career). So overall, I had few, if any, expectations.

This was a good thing — but it also added to the confusion too. For Manhandled is one film that nearly defies categorization.

There’s intrigue and danger in this vintage who-dun-it of a psychologist’s secretary (Dorothy Lamour) who divulges too much about the patients & her work… When a man confesses his dreams of killing his wife, you might surmise who will end up dead; but from then on out, who knows?

Manhandled does everything it can to keep you on your toes.

You might be pretty sure Dan Duryea (Lamour’s supposed boyfriend) did it; he does have the murder victim’s missing jewels…

dan-duryea-in-manhandled

But what about the victim’s husband — the patient who confessed his dreams of murder?

The police are sure it’s Lamour. (Why her more than the psychologist himself? Duryea helps with that!) Sterling Hayden, as the insurance investigator trying to recover the missing jewels, doesn’t seem to want to believe the secretary could have done it; but maybe he’s too quick to judge…

Hayden and Lamour in Manhandled

Hayden and Lamour in Manhandled

You’ve got good cops playing the “bad cop” to Hayden’s “good cop” treatment of innocent Lamour — and Duryea, the former cop now gum-chewing gum-shoe, who’s full of artificial sweetener (if not crap). Just try to figure it out — and how the film will end!

Interrogation Scene From Manhandled

Interrogation Scene From Manhandled

A black & white film, with much of the style & moody substance of film noir, Manhandled also throws in some comedy — and not the wry, dry, sort either. Manhandled throws you oddball quirks (like when Irving Bacon as Sgt. Fayle charmingly hops into a room just before the door closes), reoccurring gags (the police car has no breaks), and even a few down-right odd situations (like when Detective Lt. Bill Dawson, played by Art Smith, nearly falls asleep on his feet, passing for a drunk). For many of the other viewer-slash-reviewers, the comedy is Manhandled‘s downfall; they want the movie to be a traditional film noir — or at least a straight-up, straight-laced suspense-filled mystery thriller. But both hubby & I found the comedy, even the unnecessarily disarming. It was part of the confusion, the slight of hand; it may have been a distraction, a deviation from formulaic film, but, like Tarantino’s work, in a way that adds to the film.

Whatever you think of the film’s blending of noir & comedy, it’s the dialog which makes & moves this sophisticated film. Some lines are arguably continuity errors, saying things that weren’t exactly told to them; but these lines serve to reinforce the complicated happenings to the viewer. Best of all are how a few lines are used to cover pages of context.

For example, when Duryea goes to get a kiss from Lamour, he asks her if she “doesn’t like him, kitten” to which she replies that she likes him fine, but she’s just not willing to make a second mistake… This clarifies the earlier scene in which Lamour is seen affectionately speaking to a photograph of a little girl; you now know that the child may be her daughter, but Lamour is no fallen woman — her poor circumstances are due to a shove from a cad. Especially important when watching a film made under Code influences.

Perhaps it’s not so odd that I would adore the film & its dialog…

Manhandled was based on a story, The Man Who Stole a Dream, by L.S. Goldsmith and the screenplay was written by Whitman Chambers, a man who authored over twenty published novels and many short stories in the mystery & crime genres. Chambers also had many screenplays to his credit — plus uncredited contributions to one of my favorite films, To Have and Have Not. (Another film I’ve had to defend from critics.)

In any case, Manhandled is an excellent film.

Dorothy Lamour Being Manhandled

Dorothy Lamour Being Manhandled

I won’t say anymore about Manhandled; you ought to enjoy it for yourself. Which will be difficult as the film apparently, sadly, is not available on DVD (other than what appears to be pirated copies) — you’ll have to keep an eye out for TCM’s next showing of Manhandled.

Quick Film Links

By , 24 August, 2009, No Comment

At Kitsch Slapped, Deanna dishes on the joys of TCM and Bathing Beauty.

At Out of the Past, Raquelle went to go see Rebel Without a Cause outdoors.

At The Bumbles Blog, check out the Monday Movie Meme.

Oh, and if you’re a film maker, actress or have any other talent, check out Twolia’s Talent Contest — you could win $1000! (And, you can get $50 just for entering this month’s contest!)

Shoe Shopping With Barbara Stanwyck (Or, Stanwyck Exploits The Power Of Shoes)

By , 10 August, 2009, 1 Comment
Barbara Stanwyck In Lady Eve

Barbara Stanwyck In Lady Eve

OK, so these scenes of Barbara Stanwyck & Henry Fonda in The Lady Eve (1941) aren’t exactly about shoe shopping…

But if you’ve ever seen The Lady Eve, the shoe scenes are difficult to forget — even if you don’t love shoes.

Those that believe in the power of shoes, well, let’s just say you’ll find Stanwyck’s sacrifice of a pretty shoe — stretched out from under the table into Fonda’s path tripping him — a grim but understandable tactic to get the attentions of one’s Prince Charming.

Stanwyck Trips Fonda In The Lady Eve

Stanwyck Trips Fonda In The Lady Eve

Once she’s made him literally fall for her, she stands above him and complains that he has broken the heel off her shoe and has him escort her back to her room to help replace the shoes he has ruined with another pair.

Once back in her room, Stanwyck seductively leans back on a wardrobe trunk and toys with the shy, awkward Fonda with a flirtatious, “See anything you like?”

Barbara Stanwyck Shoe Fitting

Barbara Stanwyck Shoe Fitting

Now that he’s confused by her sexual aggression and drunk on her perfume, she points to her compartmented shoe bag with fifty pairs of shoes & commands him to select another pair for her — all the while, making suggestive lines to further distract him. Once he’s found a pair, she proffers her nylon covered foot — exposing her nylon covered leg via the generous slit in her black evening gown — and bids him to put the shoes on her feet.

He is as mad about her now as many fashionistas are about shoes in general; he is in full swoon.

If you’re looking for some shoes with the power of Stanwyck’s, try some strappy peep toe pumps from the 40’s.

Saucy vintage maroon suede peep toe shoes with a wooden heel!

Strappy Suede Vintage Peep-Toe Shoes

Strappy Suede Vintage Peep-Toe Shoes

Black Mary Jane peep-toe shoes never go out of style.

Peep-Toe Mary Jane Pumps, 1930s-1940s

Peep-Toe Mary Jane Pumps, 1930s-1940s

If you don’t have an evening gown, or the occasion to wear such dressy ensembles, these lace-up green leather peep toe shoes from the 1940s allow for more casual thrills.

Green Leather Lace-Up Peep-Toe Shoes, 1940s

Green Leather Lace-Up Peep-Toe Shoes, 1940s

My Top 10 Road Trip Movies (They Might Surprise You!)

By , 26 July, 2009, No Comment

This week’s Monday Movie Meme is Cruisin’ — all about On The Road, so here’s a list of my Top 10 Road Trip Movies (in no particular order):

1) Thelma & Louise Also one of my favorite films period. (I’m a chick; so sue me.)

2) The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of The Desert I cry when I watch this movie — I laugh too, but the tears are what make me really love it.

3) Pee-wee’s Big Adventure Laugh til you wet your pants — then, if you’re old enough, laugh again thinking about all the years & changes between now & when you fist saw it. (If you can lol)

4) Planes, Trains and Automobiles The classic. (If you only want one road trip film, this is probably it.)

5) The Out-of-Towners Jack Lemmon & Sandy Dennis did it right. (Though Martin & Hawn’s remake was cute.)

6) Sideways Kinda girly meets artsy indie film.

7-9) The Mad Max films Best watched in order (the first one also makes me cry — and haunts me).

10) And of course I’d have to include Easy Rider.

A Real Peach Of A Film

By , 16 July, 2009, No Comment

If you think silent films are only corny slap-stick physical comedies or overly dramatic theatrical fare, have I got a treat for you!

The Peach Girl aka Peach Blossom Weeps Tears of Blood (1931) stars Ruan Lingyu (billed here as Lily Yuen; also known/billed as Ruan Ling-Yu, Lingyu Ruan, & Lily Yuan), an incredible Chinese silent film star whose works are not very well known here in the US — but once you see her in a film, I don’t think you can ever forget her. (Stay tunned for a complete bio post on her!)

Ruan Lingyu As Lim

Ruan Lingyu As Lim

In the film, Lingyu plays Miss Lim, a poor peasant girl who falls in love with the son of the landowner, Teh-en. He returns her love, but because of the classism, the couple are not permitted to marry.

While the tragic love story could be reduced to an intellectual discourse of classist societies, gender roles, etc., or worse yet, dismissed as “typical old movie fare,” it’s best to (at least the first few times), simply enjoy the film for the joy of film.

Director Bu Wancang masters the medium, using it to tell a harsh, sad story, with all the style of poetry.

Ruan Lingyu, The Peach Girl

Ruan Lingyu, The Peach Girl

The film’s title — and much of its poetry — comes from the peach tree Lim’s parents planted for her when she was a baby, saying that the tree would come to symbolize her life: If she grew up to be good, the tree would blossom and flourish; if she grew up to be evil of heart, the tree would surely wither and die. Cinematically, the tree not only marks the passage of time, illustrates the differences between country girl and city boy, but actually weeps for Lim.

And it should.

The couple meet as small children, and, as the title cards state, they do note notice such things as “class difference” — but the parents do. Years later, the couple meets again — and the differences may make for apparent awkwardness, both are more enamored of each other’s perceived glamour. When he finds her sitting & working at a spinning wheel, he exclaims, “A city girl’s beauty depends on powder and rouge. But this is true beauty!”

From then on, the couple is clearly in love, but, as I said, the parents are fixed on tradition & forbid the couple to marry — even after Lim gives birth to Teh-en’s daughter.

The Peach Girl, A Tragic Silent Film Love Story

The Peach Girl, A Tragic Silent Film Love Story

Watching Teh-en’s weakness to stand up to his mother (who goes so far as to lock him up) is perhaps the most infuriating (and that includes watching Lim rebuff lewd men) — but the most agonizing things to watch are the scenes involving Lingyu’s beautiful & emotive face.

If you’ve been looking for a beautiful film to begin your foray into silent film, give The Peach Girl a try. And if you already love silent film, don’t miss it!