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Archive for ‘Films’

Don Knotts As Hugh Hefner?

By , 15 July, 2009, No Comment

That’s the role Knotts has in The Love God? (1969) — a mocking romp of magazines, obscenity law, and the sexual revolution.

Don Knotts As The Love God

Don Knotts As The Love God

In the film, Don Knotts plays the prim & proper publisher of The Peacock (a nature magazine devoted to birds — of the feathered variety) who mistakenly becomes the pigeon to a smut publisher has lost his own mailing rights due to obscenity. Now that he’s unwittingly traded birds for chicks, he becomes the publication’s reluctant & geeky publicity tool. While he enjoys the attention, he quickly is forced to choose between the playboy’s lifestyle & fame and the only “bird” he wants in his hand, his true-blue girl back home. (Awwww!)

The Love God? is a cheeky film, full of retro fashions & fun, but it also seems to capture the contrasts of the 60’s — affectionately mocking both the conservative & the liberal, the hip & square. Forty years later, the irony is that most of these “sides” are still at odds with one another. That, and Hugh Hefner now looks a lot like Don Knotts *wink*

Goldwyn’s Folly Is My Gain

By , 14 July, 2009, No Comment

An awesome quote from Anna Sten in Nana (1934), “It’s men who make women whatever they are.”

Anna Sten

Anna Sten

The line, in case you don’t feel it, is in response to the judgment of women in general and her mother specifically. As soon as Sten (as Nana) utters the retort, I was smitten with this tale of a poor girl who scratches her way out of poverty to become a streetwalker (if you find yourself judging, recall that line!) and then finds work in the theater — where she uses her wiles to flirt her way into lead roles, public adoration & high society. But when she falls in love…

Well, she’s thwarted by the man’s jealous brother, who plots & schemes to have Nana for himself! (See how true that line is?!)

Nana (aka Lady of the Boulevards in the UK) was a vehicle for Anna Sten, a Russian actress Sam Goldwyn was determined to make the next Garbo or Dietrich (listening to Sten sing, you can really hear the comparison to Dietrich). But Sten never endeared herself to film fans in America… Some blame the fact that she never did learn English very well. Whatever the reason, Anna Sten was dubbed Goldwyn’s Folly.

Perhaps this is why I’ve never heard of the film before… Watching it, I really enjoyed it — save for predictable Code ending. *Boo Hiss*

Totally worth watching, no matter what film critics say.

Sam Goldwyn did not pay for this post *wink*

anna-sten-in-nana

Anna Sten As Nana

High-Five Friday: Vintage Fashion & Film Edition

By , 9 July, 2009, No Comment

Another High-Five Friday!

1. Your Momma Wears Capri Pants, a feminist fashion history lesson including Audrey Hepburn (and some snark) at Kitsch-Slapped.

2. Find a fabulous celebration of two years of vintage film posts at Out Of The Past — congrats, Raquelle!

3. Antique Jewelry – Investment and Fashion at Central Kentucky Antiques and Collectibles.

4. Clifford Aliperti, of Vintage Meld, is also the NY Classic Films Examiner, so add that to your list of usual haunts.

5. The 3rd edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival, where “old stuff” (vintage film included!) is reviewed monthly, is out and if you’ve got something to share, you can submit your own posts (or those you find elsewhere) via the carnival submission form for the next editions.

The Fantasy Of Star-Crossed Cursed Lovers

By , 26 June, 2009, No Comment

With all the hype of Twilight, which I’ve not seen, I wanted to focus on my favorite star-crossed-by-fantasy-curse lovers film which captured my heart as fiercely as Twilight seems to have captured the hearts of legions today.

While Twilight seems to strike a chord with teens, who are very impressionable when it comes to romance sans sex, and, something which seems to amaze or impress the press, “moms” and other women who are missing the romance with or without the sex, this chord of emotional longing is also something that most of us hunger for at any age. (If you don’t believe me, please consider the theme of the bulk of popular music in our culture, of which longing, loss and pain are the mainstay. See also Alessia’s Puppies, Kittens & Vampires, Oh My!) So while this film is a film I first saw when I was in my still-wistful-and-not-yet-jaded 20’s, it continues to move me as an adult of a certain age.

The film is Ladyhawke (1985).

Ladyhawke (1985)

Ladyhawke (1985)

In Ladyhawke, thief Phillipe “The Mouse” Gaston (Matthew Broderick) escapes from the dungeon prison at Aquila, with the medieval soldiers of the guard of the ruler of Aquila in hot pursuit.

Phillipe "The Mouse" Gaston (Matthew Broderick) Escapes

Phillipe "The Mouse" Gaston (Matthew Broderick) Escapes

Just as The Mouse is cornered, he is rescued by a mysterious black knight. This knight is Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer), and his appearance creates quite a stir with the soldiers — not just for his rescue of the escaped prisoner, but, we soon learn, Etienne is the bishop’s sworn enemy.

Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer)

Etienne Navarre (Rutger Hauer)

When Etienne discovers that The Mouse has escaped from the dungeons of Aquila, the knight decides that the thief’s knowledge of escape can be used in reverse to sneak in unseen to Aquila and kill the evil bishop. As the two travel together, The Mouse (and we the audience) discover some odd things about the black knight…

He rides on horseback by day, talking to a hawk on his arm; at night he disappears, and at the same time a wolf appears. And that’s not all; when the hawk disappears at night, a beautiful woman appears.

The Mysterious Ladyhawke

The Mysterious Ladyhawke

When both Etienne and the hawk are injured during another fight with the bishop’s guards, The Mouse is instructed to take the hawk to an old abbey where Father Imperius the monk (Leo McKern), will heal her. It is there at that abbey that we see the hawk transform into the beautiful Isabeau d’Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer) — and the monk tells the tale…

Wounded Ladyhawke

Wounded Ladyhawke

The wicked bishop lusted after Isabeau, but she and Etienne (then the captain of the bishop’s guards) were lovers. Once the bishop learned of their love, he turned in rejection, bitterness, and hate to the devil, selling his soul to the devil for a curse to be placed upon on the lovers.

The curse made Isabeau a hawk by day, resuming her human form at sunset when Etienne took the form of a wolf. At sunrise, Isabeau would get a glimpse of her love returning to human form before she would become a hawk again, and sit on his arm.

Etienne & The Hawk

Etienne & The Hawk

The cursed lovers were doomed to always be together… Yet always apart… Catching glimpses of each other at sunrise and sunset.

Doomed Glimpses

Doomed Glimpses

But now, armed with The Mouse’s knowledge of the dungeons & the monk’s belief in a scientific prediction, there just might be a way to break the curse — or at least seek revenge…

The film’s scenery is amazingly, undeniably breathtaking. So is Michelle Pfeiffer. I think Vincent Canby, at The New York Times, said it best:

… Miss Pfeiffer, who may well be the most beautiful woman in movies today, is demonstrably someone worth risking eternal damnation for. Her presence, both ethereal and erotic, is so vivid that even when she’s represented as a hawk, she still seems to be on the screen.

Isabeau d'Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer)

Isabeau d'Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer)

While Ladyhawke has been criticized for it’s “dialogue of a banality” (and please note that no one accuses the actors of ham-handed delivery of same — even considering Time Out‘s reference to Hauger being “camp”), I find the combination of stereotypical fairy tale talk & sometimes simplistic lines mixed with modern phrasings as both providing refreshing accessibility (sort of reversing the theory of Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 Romeo + Juliet) and amusing in a near fourth-wall breaking sort of a way.

The result is a transformation to a perceived collective “fantasy past” as well as a sense of possibility of living that dream today… It touches me, moves me, in ways that many might feel I should be ashamed to admit — or that I should refer to as a “guilty pleasure.” But I won’t, you see. Because to do so would smear Ladyhawke — and hasn’t she suffered enough? What’s more, calling Ladyhawke a “guilty pleasure” besmirches romance itself.

Why deny the existence of the power of romance? I’m no more likely to deny my love of romance than I am to deny my love of family (which is founded upon such notions & commitment) or my love of my country (which is a collection of families founded on romantic love — all of which agree to protect & pursue romance).

So, when the movie ends, I cry like The Mouse and the monk. And I won’t apologize for it either.

The Emotional Ending

The Emotional Ending

Twilight Lips: Past Bee-Stung Lips To Vampire Sucked Ones?

By , 25 June, 2009, No Comment

Continuing on the movie themed cosmetics, there’s a new Twilight lip product to be released on July 1:

This special limited edition Lip Venom is a sneak preview of our highly anticipated Twilight Venom, debuting this Fall. Lip Venom V is not your typical DuWop venom. Instead of a gloss, Lip Venom V is a shimmering crimson lip stain suspended in a venom-laced liquid lip conditioner with a bite, and contains argan, avocado, olive oils and vitamin E.

This product should be shaken before use to represent the blending of the human and vampire worlds and applied repeatedly until lips are plumped, revitalized and the desired intensity of color has been reached.

Only a limited number of Lip Venom V have been produced. Vampires may live forever, but this offer won’t. Due to limited quantity and exclusivity of this offer, limit 2 per customer.

Twilight Lip Venom V

Twilight Lip Venom V

According to the makers, Lip Venom is a blend of essential oils (including cinnamon, wintergreen, and ginger) that cause the blood to rush to the surface of the lips, flushing and swelling them slightly.

Monday Movie Meme: Trauma In Your Drama?

By , 15 June, 2009, 3 Comments

This week’s Monday Movie Meme is all about trauma — and the minute I read it I knew just what I was going to say!

Just this past weekend, the girls & I in film club watched Easy Rider (1969) for our latest Classic Schmassic screening and, because there’s very little glamour and fashion to discuss, I wasn’t sure I’d mention it here… But now I have an excuse *wink*

Easy Rider was an easy choice for our Classic Schmassic viewing because it’s not only a film we’ve all heard glorified so much (it’s a “touchstone for a generation,” the start of “mockumentaries,” etc.) but it’s such a “male film” (motorcycles, traveling by two cross country — something even today that two women would be too vulnerable to do, and more motorcycles) that we all wrinkled our noses when the title was suggested; the collective nose wrinkling made it mandatory viewing.

For the first, what, quarter? half? of the movie, I (and the rest of the film club) were bored out of our minds. The two main leads, Peter Fonda as Wyatt & Dennis Hopper as Billy, were not particularly likable to us; selling drugs is not as glamorous to women who have children, and then there’s the rather sexist regard of women (no matter how accurate, it’s not likable). The trip itself makes some commentary on “others in our society,” both conservative powers that be (“The Man”) and those living on the fringe (sometimes supposedly “Utopian”); but we just found ourselves faced with further dislike of the characters (who really didn’t know how good they had it). It was becoming intolerable to watch (exhibited by our increasing talk) — and then Jack Nicholson appeared on screen (as George Hanson).

The Boys On Bikes In Easy Rider

The Boys On Bikes In Easy Rider

Easy Rider is supposed to be the movie that made Nicholson a star, so matter what your thoughts on him (and in my film club, they vary to the least flattering thoughts you can imagine!), you are sort of compelled to see what the fuss was about. As good as Nicholson is (and we all agreed that he was good here), even his charming performance wasn’t quite turning this movie into something we were all glued to.

We were anxious, shifting in our seats, trying not to talk when we desperately wanted to entertain ourselves somehow, when finally one scene pulled us all in.

It’s the scene were the three guys stop to eat in a Louisiana restaurant. Here we actually found a level of unpleasant realism which made us shift in our seats for completely different reasons; it was the sort of extreme vulnerability that we’d each felt at one time or another — the sort of fear which keeps us from trying to travel cross country in such small numbers.

This kept us riveted to the movie from then on.

And once engaged, we were shocked with what happened next.

I won’t tell you what it was. Doing so would be more than a spoiler; it would completely destroy your viewing of the film.

Part of our shock was wondering how we’d each managed not to know this about the film… Had everyone who talked about the film provided the same “non spoiler” respect? Was most of the chatter about this film perpetuated by those who had never even seen it? Or had each of us been living under rocks?

In any case, from that moment on we were in shock — the medical kind. We were cold, some of us were shaking, and we were aware that other things were happening on the screen — but we weren’t quite sure if we were seeing them or interpreting them right.

By the time we got to the doing drugs with hookers (played by Karen Black and Toni Basil) in the cemetery scene, we were already feeling disjointed and confused…

Perhaps the DVD spiked our Diet Cokes? We sure felt like we were on a trip.

But the movie doesn’t end there; and neither did our trauma. Again, I won’t go into details; if you’ve managed not to know the entire plot, I won’t be responsible for ruining it. Instead, I’d much rather be responsible for encouraging you to stop resisting this film. Easy Rider, for all it’s bluster & bluff, is legendary stuff.

Just don’t drive any deserted roads alone. Not after viewing — maybe not ever.

Easy Rider is one move that I can safely dub as Most Traumatic Film I’ve Seen.  I’ve cried more, I’ve been more depressed, I’ve been angrier; but I’ve never physically suffered from shock from a film before.

Monday Movie Theme

By , 8 June, 2009, No Comment

I’m new to the Monday Movie Meme (I found it via Kitsch Slapped), so I’m not sure if there was a mistake in offering two distinctly different themes in one day — or if it was done to allow options in your posting. But since Deanna dished on the 80’s films, I thought I’d take a stab at the Alfred Hitchcock movie meme — even though I’ve only seen two of his films. (Which reminds me, since I’ve seen so few Hitchcock films, that I’ll have to add him to the Classic Schmassic list.)

My favorite — and the first Hitchcock film I’ve ever seen — was To Catch a Thief (1955). Even though I didn’t even realize that was a Hitchcock film! I just fell in love with Cary Grant (as John Robie, The Cat) and Grace Kelly was pretty enough to make me wonder if I was a lesbian.

Cary Grant & Grace Kelly

Cary Grant & Grace Kelly

Eventually, I just figured it was the fashions. New Look fashions just drop me to my knees. Always have; probably always will.

Talk about suave; who even cared if there was a plot? But of course there was, and for a little while, I even found myself (gasp!) routing for Danielle (Brigitte Auber) to catch The Cat.

To Catch A Thief Still With Auber On Left

To Catch A Thief Still With Auber On Left

I’m not sure if that was routing for the underdog, or just more of the fashions and their fit (Brigitte Auber wasn’t built like Audrey Hepburn, but she wore similar styles — and Auber’s build was more “real,” more like me than ultra-waif-like).

In any case, I did swing back to the more aloof Kelly — but was there really a choice? *wink*

Catching A Thief

Catching A Thief

Let’s Make Love

By , 29 May, 2009, No Comment

I don’t usually watch movies on AMC (commercials, you know), but Tuesday night Let’s Make Love was on & as I haven’t seen it in quite awhile…

Let’s Make Love (1960) is one film that has greatly mixed reviews — even from big fans of Marilyn Monroe. As a big fan of Marilyn’s, as well as of George Cukor films, I’ve even had varied responses to the movie.

My first viewing, when I was maybe 14 years old or so, I was very uncomfortable with the film. Marilyn’s big body & blatant sexuality were uncomfortable issues for me which I’ve only quite recently begun to understand. In this film, after some comical “history” of Yves Montand’s character (billionaire Jean-Marc Clement), we meet a scantily clad Marilyn in nothing but a black nylon catsuit and a large lavender cable knit sweater, cooing My Heart Belongs To Daddy as she gyrates & thrusts about a stage.

Marilyn Monroe In Let's Make Love

Marilyn Monroe In Let's Make Love

Such displays of ample charms in a teenage girl’s blushing face are rather easy to understand. Obviously, being confronted with such female eye candy made me subconsciously question my own sexuality — or, perhaps more accurately, question how I was perceived sexually.

But beyond that, was Marilyn’s appearance.

A bulky sweater over such an hourglass figure (set atop nothing but black pantyhose covered legs yet), gives the impression of an apple on a stick. (Ladies with big bosoms know this; more on that later.) It didn’t get any better when she shed her sweater.

Marilyn Monroe Dancing In Black Nylon Catsuit

Marilyn Monroe Dancing In Black Nylon Catsuit

Since I was watching Let’s Make Love decades later, times had changed and I’d already been taught “thin was in!” so the risqué display of her voluptuous figure wasn’t just a matter of shameful sexuality, but inappropriate as well. The lesson 14 year old me already knew was that only thin girls had the right to flaunt it (even if what “it” they had was in much smaller amounts — or maybe it was because they had less of “it” they could flaunt it?). And at 14, with more than budding breasts but a B-cup “rack” that men were already leering at me for, I felt far more like “lumpy” & “obvious” Marilyn than the properly svelte & sexy supermodel who was supposed to let it all hang-out (in one long lanky line, resembling a 13 year old boy’s body). It was embarrassing.

Years later, I’d developed even more — and not just in bust & hips, but intellectually & emotionally. But this only posed a new set of issues with regards to watching Let’s Make Love.

At some point (probably about the time I began to accept my own “points” — my big breasts), I became rather obsesses with Marilyn Monroe. I can’t claim to have read every biography because Marilyn’s the most biography-ed entertainer; but I read as many as I could get my hands on. Like many fans (or obsessives) of Monroe’s, I spent as much time turning her into my own individual legend (icon of our culture’s sexuality, and, in a perverse way, a role model for my brand of feminism) as I did learning about her. But I did learn about her.

And so when I saw Let’s Make Love a few years later, I knew of the troubles that she struggled with in her personal life and career during the making of the film… Doomed marriage to Arthur Miller, the icky affair with Montand, and Cukor’s horrid treatment of the star. And so once again, my personal reactions to the film were coloring my view of it. Sure, she wasn’t at her best or brightest in this film, but poor Marilyn was now a martyr to her struggles with men. It was a wonder she was there at all, even bothering to fulfill her contractual obligation to the hated Fox studio!

Wardrobe Test

Wardrobe Test

Now, years later, on a cool May evening I watched Let’s Make Love again. I tried to strip away the personal reactions, the knee-jerk response to defend Marilyn, and just watch the film.

In many ways it is better than I remembered. While she’s mainly in the movie to exist as eye candy, Marilyn’s work with The Actors Studio is noticeable when she’s given the opportunity to do something other than be lovely. And she is lovely — even if my knowing eye can see strain & yes, the dreaded “age” and “weight” which are bad things for any actress, let alone one only allowed to be beautiful & sexy. And call me crazy, but I love her singing voice (I own several Marilyn CDs) and there’s lots of it in this movie.

But what really sticks out this go-around is that the movie itself is aged & tired.

No, not just for “today” — it was aged and tired when it was made.

Montand & Monroe

Montand & Monroe

Contextually, the film struggles to balance between the playfulness of the 50’s reserved conservatism (a wiggle in a dress, a wiggle of an eyebrow) and the more frank peek-a-boo sexuality of the 60’s (Marilyn’s black catsuit). Audiences were changing; but Hollywood wasn’t quite ready to pander to Beatniks — not at the expense of the establishment’s rich wallets.

So, Fox puts Marilyn, the classic sex pot, together with Montand, the rising French star, for some generational shared “mmms” (even adding a bit British teen idol effervescence with Frankie Vaughn) hoping to tease both the establishment and the hep cats & kittens into movie tickets. It gives Marilyn a risqué dress & career, but makes it clear that she’s a good girl — with a preacher for a daddy — and marries her off to the wealthy guy who can take care of her. (Note at the end of the film, when she surrenders to love, that she mentions night school, but not the theatre.)

Basically, the film tries to say, “Yes!” to the spicy 60’s Bohemian artistic lifestyle — but in the end, it’s stuffed in rather flavorless 50’s ring bologna.

Theda Bara

By , 24 May, 2009, 7 Comments

One of the most iconic film images — not iconic silent film images, but just plain most iconic film images — are those of Theda Bara as the titular Egyptian queen in Cleopatra (1917).

Iconic Theda Bara As Cleopatra

Iconic Theda Bara As Cleopatra

Only about 40 seconds of this film has apparently survived; like the bulk of Bara’s film career, this film is believed to be lost. (Though there are those dedicated people who continue to search for films presumed lost; like Mary Ann Cade, who actually owns the belt, slave bracelet and chain of office Theda wore in Cleopatra!)

Of Theda Bara, Daniel Blum (in A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen) writes:

1915 Fox was forging ahead as one of the leading film companies, and this year their prestige soared when in January they released “A Foll There Was” with Theda Bara in the leading role. She became famous overnight. “A Fool There Was” had been a stage play which had been evolved from Kipling’s poem “The Vampire.” The word “vamp” became a household word and Theda Bara became the most famous vampire in the screen and a great box office attraction. She made 40 pictures for Fox in three years, or more than one a month. A legend, built in a press agent’s mind, had Miss Bara born in the shadow of the Sphinx, the daughter of a French artist and his Arab mistress. She was born Theodosia Goodman in Cincinnati of a nice middle-class family. As Theodosia De Coppet she had some stage experience and played a small part in Pathe’s film “The Stain” before shooting to stardom. She appeared also this year in a version of “Carmen” in direct competition with Geraldine Farrar, and “The Two Orphans” with Jean Sothern and Herbert Brenon who subsequently became a famous director.

I don’t know why I’ve not yet watched any of the few surviving Bara films… I take that back; I do know…

As a feminist, I’ve sort of intellectualized what I know of Theda Bara the actress’ vamp status — yet another female stereotype based on “dangerous women” (in this case, those who literally sucked the life force from men) — and that of the real life Theodosia into some sort of doomed duel with The Man.

By all accounts (outside of the old Hollywood image machine), Theodosia was not only a “good girl,” but a very kind and virtuous person. Like Marilyn Monroe, she hated being typecast and forced into roles she did not find challenging. But more than just feeling stifled in her career, Theodosia personally disliked the image of vamp itself; finding it so contrary to her own identity. One could just call it “acting,” but to Theodosia, it was the publicity machine which choked the life out of her & her career.

For those reasons, I’ve found the idea of watching Theda Bara films more than a little saddening…

Perhaps one day I’ll suck-it-up and watch what magic she left for us on the screen.

Some Images Of Theda Bara From Blum's Book

Some Images Of Theda Bara From Blum's Book

Elizabeth Taylor & Paul Newman Boo-Boo

By , 4 May, 2009, No Comment

I’m not just sharing this photo of Liz & Paul because it’s hot; can you spot the error on this vintage movie promotional photograph?

Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman

Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman

(Clicking the links will allow you to self-check your knowledge — and see the irony!)