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Archive for ‘Films’

I’ve Had A Strange Love Affair With Silent Films.

By , 1 May, 2009, No Comment
Phantom Scene

Phantom Scene

Like Simon Cowell I have this aversion to theatrical performances. Unless the play is a comedy or a campy musical, I just can’t stand most live theatre performances.

My husband, the theatre major, has forced me to defend articulate (over & over again) my dislike of most plays and stage performances, so you’d think I’d be better at this than I’m likely going to be…

First of all, I get that in theatre the actors stand, under a spotlight, on a stage with rows & rows of seats and other real excuses for vast physical feet between them and the audience, which means that they need to exaggerate & make dramatic gestures in order to be seen… They compete for audience attention & comprehension.

But I’m not *ahem* emotionally retarded; so I can “get it” without all the drama of obnoxious teenagers and attention seeking media whores of today. All that wild-arm-swinging, loud sound & fury that struts & frets an ungodly-long hour upon the stage, signifies nothing.

Nothing, perhaps, but loud laughter. Or eyeball rolls, signs and whines of, “When can we go home?”

I prefer to see shades & subtleties, little nuances, which communicate and guide me along in the performance. I even adore being swathed in the confusion of multiple at-odds-with-one-another layers — because most of life is living in the ambiguity of shades of grey. So I don’t, for the most part, enjoy all-white heroes & all-black villains. (Unless it’s a comedy or campy satire work — and in those cases the over-simplification of such all-or-nothing assumptions and caricatures only drives home the very fact that life is not as simple as the color of our hats.)

Characters & the portrayal thereof ought to be as complicated as real life human character — that’s what makes it compelling. At least that’s my opinion. Which is why film is such a marvel to me.

Using the perfect lighting, the lens, focus, editing, sound & music, costumes — all the technical things that are magic to me — applied to amplify and echo, peel & mask, hide & hint, like eyes behind a lady’s feathered fan. Ooooh, just what does it all mean? I stare. Drinking it in, absorbing every detail the filmmakers & actors give me, assembling it into The Big Picture.

(I’m no film scholar; don’t pretend to be. I don’t even know how to fake enough of the tech lingo to sound like one! I could try to figure it out, but I don’t care to understand how the magic is created — I just want to marvel at the rabbit popping out of the hat! Oh, when I think of it all — and I often do! — I get dizzy. I experience the same sense of wonder and amazement that I imagine those at the dawn of film felt when they first witnessed moving pictures.)

Lyda Borelli

Lyda Borelli

But theatre performances, to me, are anything but subtle, shaded and rich in complexity. Theatre is gaudy & loud. It is one part wooden — and one part flamboyant beyond belief. Like performances on wooden stilts. And the action & motivation of theatre performances are driven home with all the delicate finesse of a two-by-four to the head. Ouch!

And this, my friends, is often what I saw in silent films. At least in the beginning.

Historically speaking, many of the early (and dubbed “Great”) actors of the silver screen were favored sons and daughters of “the legitimate theatre,” so naturally they brought their unnatural-to-me acting skills with them. Film quality and movie making techniques being more “primitive” than the lush productions we have today, it’s something I intellectually understood — but I still didn’t like them.

And it doesn’t necessarily help if your earliest exposures to silent films were Laurel and Hardy works.

At least, not if you’re a girl, who by virtue of her gender is apparently missing the slapstick gene (closely related to, if not actually, the pull-my-finger comedy gene). Double the trouble when this girl finds grandiose theatrical exaggeration downright unpleasant.

Chaplin vs Keaton by damianblake

Chaplin vs Keaton by damianblake

(I don’t know why Laurel and Hardy & the like are what people most often use to introduce youngsters to silent film… To reach boys, maybe? Because I don’t know a single woman who, when asked, said she fell in love with silent or classic films because of any slapstick production. Better, in my opinion, to start with Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin as The Little Tramp, where you still get slapstick — but with an additional depth and poignancy that can break a girl’s heart.)

Anyway, it took at least a decade for me to submit to another silent film viewing. I wish I could tell you what it was… But I can’t. I can tell you that it was one of those go-to-the-silent-film-screening-at-college-so-you-can-look-cool things. I don’t know if I garnered any “cool clout” as a result, but, whatever the film was, I know I didn’t hate it. And so I consented to see more silent films after that, eventually coming to adore many of them to the degree that silent film titles appear on many of my top film lists.

Yes, there are a number of “The Greats” that I must “forgive” for their inherited theatrical flamboyance before I can really enjoy their performances… But for the most part, I no longer grit my teeth as I sit and await the wooden two-by-four laden performance to the head; I just watch them with joy.

Somehow or other, some of the actors and filmmakers alike transcended the simple act of filming stage enactments in those early moving picture shows… Which means that often the real joy lies in watching the discoveries made by the actors and filmmakers themselves — watching as they created something new, subtle & moving.

Without words, they learned to collaboratively speak via the intimate framing of emotionally imbued faces or hands — something visually & physically smaller than the totality of the entire person yet still able to convey the largest of emotions.

Finally, for example, the soundless sigh of “futility” was wordlessly given it’s weepy due as magnificent drops of dew held in the corners of eyes above weary slack faces… We saw it, felt it’s miserable weight on our shoulders.

And it was vastly different than the overstated dramatic chest-heaving, foot dragging, antics of theatre actors.

Now we would begin to see such things as “sly,” “cheeky,” “sorrow,” and “giggle” become the whispered shared intimacies of delight that we now know them to be, rather than the gross weighty extravagant luggage of live theatrical stage performances.

In some ways, the birth of film was even more magical than it is today. All they had then were their bodies — silent bodies — and the camera…

I’ll let Carol Burnett, as the cleaning lady (The Charwoman), and Gloria Swanson, as Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp *, show you.

Before you begin part two of this classic television clip on classic film, it’s interesting to note that this was filmed in 1973 — years before the complete influx (and overshadowing impact) of special effects in films. Such changes do not change the sentiments, but strengthen them for me.

And get the tissues ready — Burnett’s song makes me cry every time.

* I didn’t know it at the time I first saw this on television, but this was not the first time Gloria Swanson (then aged 76) had played Charlie Chaplin; she had done so in scenes in Sunset Boulevard.

Gloria Swanson As Charlie Chaplin In Sunset Blvd.

Gloria Swanson As Charlie Chaplin In Sunset Blvd.

Recalling that, and my shame at my previous dismissal of that film, I’m struck all the more. Yes, that means I cry harder. But sometimes that’s what you do when you’re in love. And I am a lover of silent film.

Buster Keaton Playing Cards In Sunset Boulevard

Buster Keaton Playing Cards In Sunset Boulevard

PS Buster Keaton was also in Sunset Boulevard — which thrilled me to no end, I might add!

Image credit: Chaplin vs Keaton by damianblake.

PPS Don’t forget to enter my The Get Fab-U-Lush Eyelashes Contest!

Safe In Hell

By , 15 April, 2009, 5 Comments

When I applied to join the Large Association of Movie Blogs (The LAMB) (I am thrilled to now be a member!), I was asked to name no more than three of my favorite films. That’s a tough order for any Gemini, let alone a moody female, but rules are rules. So one of the films I listed, which certainly makes nearly any of my Top 20 Movie lists (no matter the category), was Safe In Hell (1931).

Safe In Hell, 1931

Safe In Hell, 1931

Safe In Hell is one of my favorite Wellman films and a great example of work prior to full force of The Motion Picture Production Code — so it’s no coincidence that it provides a feast of discourse for females.

A film history tidbit about Safe In Hell, from TCM, explains a lot about the quality of the film too:

An interesting footnote to Safe in Hell is that Wellman cast two popular black actors of the day, Nina Mae McKinney and Clarence Muse, as what are practically the movie’s only positive and reputable characters. And this was a period in which blacks were routinely stereotyped or exploited. Frank T. Thompson, in a biography of Wellman, points out that, while the film’s written script was filled with “a white writer’s idea of ‘Negro dialect,’ no such talk reaches the screen. Either McKinney and Muse had enough clout to demand that they speak in normal language or Wellman just wanted to avoid a convenient cliche.”

Surely the cliched speech would have made the movie more corny & less memorable — or memorable for less-than-good reasons.

The story centers around Gilda (Dorothy Mackaill), a woman who, before we are introduced to her, had been seduced away from pining for a sailor at sea & tricked into dating a married man, Piet Van Saal (Ralf Harolde). Gilda was a good girl caught in a bad situation, only made worse by the married man’s wife who did what she could to ensure that Gilda’s name was “Mud” — or worse. Left both with a ruined reputation and a need to survive, Gilda does what you imagine a woman — especially a “Wild Bill” Wellman woman — would do; she becomes a prostitute.

While all of this has happened before the film begins and told to us through film dialog, it’s an important part of the movie’s story. It not only sets Gilda up as a “good girl at heart,” a victim of circumstance, but provides the cultural context of a woman’s powerlessness. Not only are women secondary to men, but there’s a social order used by women to keep or push other women down the ranks. To some extent this is still done today, with women blaming “the other woman” for their man’s cheating ways; and societal disapproval of “loose women” turning into a very real disowning, as these women are abandon and left to whatever “mercies” they can find & scrounge for in the crumbs of men.

Dorothy Mackaill (Not So) Safe In Hell

Dorothy Mackaill (Not So) Safe In Hell

When Gilda responds to a phone call from her Madam to meet a “John” at a hotel, she’s surprised to discover that her client is none other than the married man who deceived her and put her in this position. She refuses to stay — and when he says she’s in no position to deny him, she declares, “Any man but him.” A struggle ensues, a fire starts, the man is declared dead, and Gilda is suspected of the damages and death.

Warned by the Madam, Gilda prepares to get out of town & live a life on the lam — just as the good sailor, Carl Erickson (Donald Cook), returns from sea.

Carl doesn’t know the whole story, but he’s desperate to help his girl. Being a sailor, he both knows of a place where there’s no extradition laws, (Tortuga, a Caribbean Island) and has the means to smuggle her there.

When they arrive at the only hotel on the island, Gilda quickly discovers she’s not just the only white woman in the hotel but the only white woman on the whole island. The other hotel residents, also criminals hiding out from the law, begin to drool and dream at the site of Gilda. (Their leering lust is so comical that you might be reminded of old cartoon wolf “aaooga”s — which, as a woman, I feel isn’t so far off from male reactions of today lol)

Before Carl’s ship leaves, he & Gilda run off to church where they hold their own marriage ceremony, promising their love & dedication to one another. She is to wait, alone in her room, and be a good girl until he returns.

Gilda does her best. Endless days alone in her room playing solitaire, lounging, and staring out the window to look at the sea for Carl’s ship to return, punctuated by quick trips to the front desk (or dockside) in search of mail from Carl.

She’s lonely.

It’s hot.

She’s bored out of her mind.

Meanwhile, conversation among the lust male criminals, as you might imagine, revolves around two things: competition for Gilda’s attentions and life on the island.

As she bats away invitations & advances in lady like fashion, we learn that this is no island paradise. The law on the island, Mr. Bruno (Morgan Wallace), is happy to not extradite because he prefers to play God, leveraging hanging and prison work camps into prosperity for himself. The prison work camps are so bad that hotel guests debate which is worse, death or the camp — leading them to conclude that they are, as the movie’s title states, safe in hell.

Of course the shady lawman, Bruno “The Hangman,” has eyes for Gilda. But more than eyes, he has the means to maneuver her into his arms.

When his advances are refused, he makes sure that Gilda receives no mail and suggests that Carl’s intentions were if not pure to begin with, that he’s changed his mind… Leaving Gilda to feel abandoned and alone.

Eventually, Gilda gives into the loneliness, fear and boredom of her isolation and accepts one of the endless invites to have dinner with the other hotel residents.

Gilda As Guest Of Honor In Safe In Hell

Gilda As Guest Of Honor In Safe In Hell

After just one night of partying with the men, Gilda, who still desperately hopes for Carl’s return, returns to keeping to her room. She hasn’t done anything unforgivable (i.e. no sex), but decides that she must remain faithful to Carl and her promise.

One afternoon, during yet another hopeful-turned-soul-crushing trip to the docks for mail which isn’t there (because, remember, Bruno is intercepting it), Gilda spots Piet, the married man she (and the law) believe she’s killed is alive!

Piet is alive and hiding out on the island because he used the fire to fake his own death and is now on the run from authorities for the insurance fraud. Both are happy to see each other; she because she’d like to clear her name, but he because he’d like to continue the “romance.” When he refuses to help clear her name & she refuses, again, his advances, Piet begins a smear campaign. He informs the hotel residents and the island law that Gilda is anything but a faithful bride, a dutiful & faithful girlfriend, or a lady — she’s a prostitute. The thin veneer of respect removed, all the men’s lusty leering turns into dirty scheming.

Stripped of whatever dignity & hope she’d had, Gilda finds herself without any defenses — save for the locked door of her small hotel room.

While Gilda’s vulnerability is something most women can identify with (to some extent, anyway), Bruno’s not only furious to discover that it’s a prostitute not a lady who’s been refusing his advances, but, because he has Carl’s letters, he knows that his time is short — Carl’s on his way to bring her back to America with him. Furious and with the circumstances forcing his hand, he has to make his move.

Spoiler Alert! What follows may ruin the film for you; so don’t read if you’d rather watch the film & have it unfold for you as film should.

Using Piet’s arrival as a threat to her own safety, Bruno gives Gilda a gun for her own protection; guns are illegal for anyone but the law on the island, but “she’s his friend, so it will be OK.” Then he arranges it so that Piet, who is still under the all-too male assumption that he has rights to Gilda, can gain access to her room.

When Piet tries to rape Gilda, she defends herself, using Bruno’s gun — killing Piet for real this time.

One of the hotel-hide-out-residents is a lawyer. He defends her and it looks like he will escape The Hangman’s noose — but while she hopefully awaits the jury’s decision, Bruno The Hangman himself comes to visit her and he explains that even should she be found innocent of the murder, there’s still the matter of her illegal possession of a gun…

That’s when it hits her: Bruno has set her up to get her in his prison where she’ll be his.

Gilda runs from the room and throws herself at the judge — for the kind of mercy you can only find in film noir. She confesses that she killed Piet in cold blood; he’d never attacked her, that she shot him in the back. Then she turns to smarmy hangman and says, “The only way you’ll touch me is when you put that rope around my neck!”

She is sentenced to hang, of course, but given a brief escorted visit back to the hotel to pack up her things. Carl, who has impeccable timing regarding Gilda’s packing activities, arrives now. Gilda convinces her guard to give her a few minutes alone with the happy — and oblivious — Carl. (And she convinces her lawyer to go along with the skit to follow.) She then convinces Carl that she’ll follow him back to the states on the next ship; there they will live virtuous lives of happiness and love. As he leaves happy & hopeful, Gilda instructs her lawyer not to inform Carl of the truth ’til after the deed is done and she is gone.

Affairs in order, Gilda now turns to accept the fate of her own construction.

As Pagan Moon plays, we are mesmerized by a moment… The beautiful exposed neck of Gilda, presented with the film lighting version of an aura of goodness… The smarmy tear-covered face of Bruno, who now realizes what he’s done…. And then glorious Gilda, resplendent in the power of good & finally in control, strides off to her execution, leaving the impotent & evil law man trailing behind her.

And that’s why Safe In Hell is a movie that I categorize as film noir — other critics be damned.

Sadly, Safe In Hell is not available in DVD (or even VHS); we must ait for another airing on TCM — and while we do, pressure Warner Brothers to release it:

Warner Bros.
Warner Home Video
4000 Warner Blvd.
Burbank, CA 91522-0001

Phone: 818-954-6000
Fax: 818-954-7305

Thank Heavens For John Barrymore

By , 30 March, 2009, No Comment

Without John Sidney Blyth Barrymore, we wouldn’t have the lovely & talented Drew Barrymore (his granddaughter), nor would we likely have many of the films we have today.

John Barrymore

John Barrymore

While many ascribe the arrival of the the talkies to The Jazz Singer (1927), the first feature-length film with synchronized sound was Don Juan (1926), a Warner Brother’s production starring John Barrymore as the legendary lothario. (In which Barrymore set a record of 191 kisses in one film production!)

Mary Astor and John Barrymore in Don Juan, 1926

Mary Astor and John Barrymore in Don Juan, 1926

The film wasn’t officially a talkie; it featured no dialog, but via Vitaphone (technology invented by George Robert Groves now owned by the studio) music and sound effects were synchronized to the film’s action.

The New York City premiere of Don Juan was also used by Warner Bros. as the premiere for the new Vitaphone technology, the Vitaphone Prelude, where the technology was presented with various demonstrations — including performances of the New York Philharmonic (they had done the music for the film) and six Vitaphone shorts. Despite the film’s erotic subject and nature, the premiere in New York City had a welcoming speech from Will H. Hays, the censor behind the Production Code.

Premiere of Don Juan at Warners' Theater

Premiere of Don Juan at Warners' Theater

Much was riding on this film. Sam Warner was a rare and nearly lone voice in Hollywood who stood in support of Vitaphone and talking films in general. His arguments for the use of musical soundtracks really only won for practical business reasons, not for the art of film making, as explained by George Groves tribute website:

It was considered as a cost-effective means of replacing the large symphony orchestras which played in the more luxurious theatres. Plus the masses in the flea-pits who only had a pianist or organist could now enjoy a full orchestral accompaniment to their films. Because of Vitaphone, uniformly good presentations could be made wherever a film was shown.

On September 3rd 1926, less than a month after Don Juan premiered, Jack Warner was quoted as saying that talking films would never be successful because they “…fail to take into account the international language of the silent pictures and the unconscious share of each onlooker in creating…the imagined dialogue for himself.”

But quickly he and the studio would change their minds.

Don Juan had tremendous box office draw, so even though it didn’t recoup all the money put into the film, Warner Brothers saw its success and invested once again in Vitaphone and director Alan Crosland, with The Jazz Singer — a film which would set box office records.

It’s fair to say the novelty of sound synchronized with moving pictures gave Don Juan a huge box office push; but no one should discount the effects of the talented John Barrymore.

Watching the film again last night (on TCM’s Sunday Silents), it’s easy to see Barrymore as charismatic as Don Juan himself. Barrymore is charming & captivating acting in both the betrayed aging father & the bitterly indoctrinated son roles. He performed all his own swashbuckling stunts too.

John Barrymore and Montague Love fencing in Don Juan

John Barrymore and Montague Love fencing in Don Juan

But it’s his performance in the titular role as the hurt man hiding his wounds behind the mask of handsome heartless rogue which reaches across the decades to pull at this woman’s heart.

No small feat as the actor was reportedly unhappy with playing such “pansy parts” as this romantic role… Yet there he is, the swashbuckling & romantic hero — oh-so swoon-able!

Swoon-able Swashbuckling Barrymore

Swoon-able Swashbuckling Barrymore

The Jazz Singer may get most of the credit for the technological film advance of sound, but I’m a firm believer that without John Barrymore’s Don Juan, Sam Warner would have lost his battles for sound and Warner Bros. may have taken a very different path. So thanks, John.

Forbidden Wellman

By , 26 March, 2009, No Comment
Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three

Forbidden Hollywood Collection Volume Three

Those of us utterly engaged by Pre-Code movies are excited this week by Turner Classic Movies and Warner Home Video’s latest release: the third volume in Forbidden Hollywood Collection series.

The four-disc set contains six films, all by William Wellman — who is vastly becoming one of my favorite directors. The films are: Other Men’s Women (1931), The Purchase Price (1932), Frisco Jenny (1932), Heroes for Sale (1933), Midnight Mary (1933) and Wild Boys of the Road (1933). (Of the films, I’ve only seen The Purchase Price, Frisco Jenny, Heroes for Sale and part of Midnight Mary when it was on TCM the other night. I’ll discuss them more in depth later; for now, I’m just excited to have them all available on DVD.)

Also included in the DVD box set are two documentaries on Wellman (Todd Robinson’s Wild Bill: Hollywood Maverick and Richard Schickel’s The Men Who Made the Movies: William Wellman) which are much appreciated because Wellman has been vastly under-appreciated as far as Hollywood goes, because the director was not known for playing Hollywood politics properly. But that’s largely why Wellman’s work is so fantastic.

Unafraid of telling stories that were relevant to the times, he focused social issues such as prostitution, adultery and drug addiction, and the real moral questions (as opposed to “morality plays”) surrounding poverty, service and good will — issues that largely are still with us today. So it’s easy to see why Wellman made his great films before the Hay’s code (The Motion Picture Production Code), when movie making was nearly restricted to concise, predictable, rather unimaginative and predictable stories. (This is not to say that all films made after the code was instituted in 1934 are bad; but too often it is easy to see where stories were bent to the will of The Code.)

William Wellman Jr., instrumental in the release of his father’s films for this collection, was interviewed at The London Free Press where he had this to say about his father’s reaction to :

“He didn’t like the fact the the Code came in because he thought that the pictures — at least the ones he was making, even though they were risque in some sense — were still quality pictures,” Wellman Jr. says. “He felt that they were real. He didn’t like the Code coming in and then they started having to make all these changes. Of course, the filmmakers were always trying to work around it and get something through that maybe they weren’t supposed to.

“But he loved that era (the Pre-Code days). That was his favourite era.”

That era is my favorite too; and that’s largely due to Wellman’s films.

The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930

By , 24 March, 2009, 6 Comments

Because I’m going to be talking about “pre-code” films quite a bit, I thought it would be nice & handy (and important) to have a copy of The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 here to refer to.

The Motion Picture Production Code of 1930

First Section

GENERAL PRINCIPLES

I. Theatrical motion pictures, that is, pictures intended for the theatre as distinct from pictures intended for churches, schools, lecture halls, educational movements, social reform movements, etc., are primarily to be regarded as Entertainment.

Mankind has always recognized the importance of entertainment and its value in rebuilding the bodies and souls of human beings.

But it has always recognized that entertainment can be of a character harmful to the human race, and, in consequence, has clearly distinguished between:

Entertainment which tends to improve the race, or, at least, to recreate and rebuild human beings exhausted with the realities of life; and

Entertainment which tends to degrade human beings, or to lower their standards of life and living.

Hence the moral importance of entertainment is something which has been universally recognized. It enters intimately into the lives of men and women and affects them closely; it occupies their minds and affections during leisure hours, and ultimately touches the whole of their lives. A man may be judged by his standard of entertainment as easily as by the standard of his work.

So correct entertainment raises the whole standard of a nation.

Wrong entertainment lowers the whole living condition and moral ideals of a race.

Note, for example, the healthy reactions to healthful moral sports like baseball, golf; the unhealthy reactions to sports like cockfighting, bullfighting, bear-baiting, etc. Note, too, the effect on a nation of gladiatorial combats, the obscene plays of Roman times, etc.

II. Motion pictures are very important as Art.

Though a new art, possibly a combination art, it has the same object as the other arts, the presentation of human thoughts, emotions and experiences, in terms of an appeal to the soul thru the senses.

Here, as in entertainment:

Art enters intimately into the lives of human beings.

Art can be morally good, lifting men to higher levels. This has been done thru good music, great painting, authentic fiction, poetry, drama.

Art can be morally evil in its effects. This is the case clearly enough with unclean art, indecent books, suggestive drama. The effect on the lives of men and women is obvious.

Note: It has often been argued that art in itself is unmoral, neither good nor bad. This is perhaps true of the thing which is music, painting, poetry, etc. But the thing is the product of some person’s mind, and that mind was either good or bad morally when it produced the thing. And the thing has its effect upon those who come into contact with it. In both these ways, as a product and the cause of definite effects, it has a deep moral significance and an unmistakable moral quality.

Hence: The motion pictures which are the most popular of modern arts for the masses, have their moral quality from the minds which produce them and from their effects on the moral lives and reactions of their audiences. This gives them a most important morality.

1) They reproduce the morality of the men who use the pictures as a medium for the expression of their ideas and ideals;

2) They affect the moral standards of those who thru the screen take in these ideas and ideals.

In the case of the motion pictures, this effect may be particularly emphasized because no art has so quick and so widespread an appeal to the masses. It has become in an incredibly short period, the art of the multitudes.

III. The motion picture has special Moral obligations:

A) Most arts appeal to the mature. This art appeals at once to every class—mature, immature, developed, undeveloped, law-abiding, criminal. Music has its grades for different classes; so has literature and drama. This art of the motion picture, combining as it does the two fundamental appeals of looking at a picture and listening to a story, at once reaches every class of society.

B) Because of the mobility of a film and the ease of picture distribution, and because of the possibility of duplicating positives in large quantities, this art reaches places unpenetrated by other forms of art.

C) Because of these two facts, it is difficult to produce films intended for only certain classes of people. The exhibitor’s theatres are for the masses, for the cultivated and the rude, mature and immature, self-restrained and inflammatory, young and old, law-respecting and criminal. Films, unlike books and music, can with difficulty be confined to certain selected groups.

D) The latitude given to film material cannot, in consequence, be as wide as the latitude given to book material. In addition:

(a) A book describes; a film vividly presents.

(b) A book reaches the mind thru words merely; a film reaches the eyes and ears thru the reproduction of actual events.

(c) The reaction of a reader to a book depends largely on the keenness of the reader; the reaction to a film depends on the vividness of the presentation.

E) This is also true when comparing the film with the newspapers. Newspapers present by description, films by actual presentation. Newspapers are after the fact and present things that have taken place; the film gives the events in the process of enactment and with apparent reality of life.

F) Everything possible in a play is not possible in a film.

(a) Because of the larger audience of the film, and its consequently mixed character. Psychologically, the larger the audience, the lower the moral mass resistance to suggestion.

(b) Because thru light, enlargement of character presentation, scenic emphasis, etc., the screen story is brought closer to the audience than the play.

(c) The enthusiasm for and interest in the film actors and actresses, developed beyond anything of the sort in history, makes the audience largely sympathetic toward the characters they portray and the stories in which they figure. Hence they are more ready to confuse the actor and character, and they are most receptive of the emotions and ideals portrayed and presented by their favorite stars.

G) Small communities, remote from sophistication and from the hardening process which often takes place in the ethical and moral standards of larger cities, are easily and readily reached by any sort of film.

H) The grandeur of mass meetings, large action, spectacular features, etc., affects and arouses more intensely the emotional side of the audience.

In general: The mobility, popularity, accessibility, emotional appeal, vividness, straight-forward presentation of fact in the films makes for intimate contact on a larger audience and greater emotional appeal. Hence the larger moral responsibilities of the motion pictures.

Second Section

WORKING PRINCIPLES

I. No picture should lower the moral standards of those who see it. This is done:

(a) When evil is made to appear attractive, and good is made to appear unattractive.

(b) When the sympathy of the audience is thrown on the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil, sin. The same thing is true of a film that would throw sympathy against goodness, honor, innocence, purity, honesty.

Note: Sympathy with a person who sins, is not the same as sympathy with the sin or crime of which he is guilty. We may feel sorry for the plight of the murderer or even understand the circumstances which led him to his crime; we may not feel sympathy with the wrong which he has done.

The presentation of evil is often essential for art, or fiction, or drama.

This in itself is not wrong, provided:

(a) That evil is not presented alluringly. Even if later on the evil is condemned or punished, it must not be allowed to appear so attractive that the emotions are drawn to desire or approve so strongly that later they forget the condemnation and remember only the apparent joy of the sin.

(b) That throughout the presentation, evil and good are never confused and that evil is always recognized clearly as evil.

(c) That in the end the audience feels that evil is wrong and good is right.

II. Law, natural or divine, must not be belittled, ridiculed, nor must a sentiment be created against it.

A) The presentation of crimes against the law, human or divine, is often necessary for the carrying out of the plot. But the presentation must not throw sympathy with the criminal as against the law, nor with the crime as against those who punish it.

B) The courts of the land should not be presented as unjust.

III. As far as possible, life should not be misrepresented, at least not in such a way as to place in the minds of youth false values on life.

Note: This subject is touched just in passing. The attention of the producers is called, however, to the magnificent possibilities of the screen for character development, the building of right ideals, the inculcation in stry-form of right principles. If motion pictures consistently held up high types of character, presented stories that would affect lives for the better, they could become the greatest natural force for the improvement of mankind.

PRINCIPLES OF PLOT

In accordance with the general principles laid down:

1) No plot or theme should definitely side with evil and against good.

2) Comedies and farces should not make fun of good, innocence, morality or justice.

3) No plot should be constructed as to leave the question of right or wrong in doubt or fogged.

4) No plot should by its treatment throw the sympathy of the audience with sin, crime, wrong-doing or evil.

5) No plot should present evil alluringly.

Serious Film Drama

I. As stated in the general principles, sin and evil enter into the story of human beings, and hence in themselves are dramatic material.

II. In the use of this material, it must be distinguished between sin which by its very nature repels, and sin which by its very nature attracts.

(a) In the first class comes murder, most theft, most legal crimes, lying, hypocrisy, cruelty, etc.

(b) In the second class come sex sins, sins and crimes of apparent heroism, such as banditry, daring thefts, leadership in evil, organized crime, revenge, etc.

A) The first class needs little care in handling, as sins and crimes of this class naturally are unattractive. The audience instinctively condemns and is repelled. Hence the one objective must be to avoid the hardening of the audiences, especially of those who are young and impressionable, to the thought and the fact of crime. People can be accustomed even to murder, cruelty, brutality and repellent crimes.

B) The second class needs real care in handling, as the response of human natures to their appeal is obvious. This is treated more fully below.

III. A careful distinction can be made between films intended for general distribution, and films intended for use in theatres restricted to a limited audience. Themes and plots quite appropriate for the latter would be altogether out of place and dangerous in the former.

Note: In general, the practice of using a general theatre and limiting the patronage during the showing of certain films to “adults only” is not completely satisfactory and is only partially effective.

However, maturer minds may easily understand and accept without harm subject matter in plots which does younger people positive harm.

Hence: If there should be created a special type of theatre, catering exclusively to an adult audience, for plays of this character (plays with problem themes, difficult discussions and maturer treatment) it would seem to afford an outlet, which does not now exist, for pictures unsuitable for general distribution but permissible for exhibitions to a restricted audience.

Plot Material

1) The triangle, that is, the love of a third party by one already married, needs careful handling, if marriage, the sanctity of the home, and sex morality are not to be imperiled.

2) Adultery as a subject should be avoided:

(a) It is never a fit subject for comedy. Thru comedy of this sort, ridicule is thrown on the essential relationships of home and family and marriage, and illicit relationships are made to seem permissible, and either delightful or daring.

(b) Sometimes adultery must be counted on as material occurring in serious drama.

In this case:

(1) It should not appear to be justified;

(2) It should not be used to weaken respect for marriage

(3) It should not be presented as attractive or alluring.

3) Seduction and rape are difficult subjects and bad material from the viewpoint of the general audience in the theatre.

(a) They should never be introduced as subject matter unless absolutely essential to the plot.

(b) They should never be treated as comedy.

(c) Where essential to the plot, they must not be more than suggested.

(d) Even the struggles preceding rape should not be shown.

(e) The methods by which seduction, essential tot eh plot, is attained should not be explicit or represented in detail where there is likelihood of arousing wrongful emotions on the part of the audience.

4) Scenes of passion are sometimes necessary for the plot. However:

(a) They should appear only where necessary and not as an added stimulus to the emotions of the audience.

(b) When not essential to the plot, they should not occur.

(c) They must not be explicit in action nor vivid in method, e.g. by handling of the body, by lustful and prolonged kissing, by evidently lustful embraces, by positions which strongly arouse passions.

(d) In general, where essential to the plot, scenes of passion should not be presented in such a way as to arouse or excite the passions of the ordinary spectator.

5) Sexual immorality is sometimes necessary for the plot. It is subject to the following:

General principles—regarding plots dealing with sex, passion, and incidents related to them:

All legislators have recognized clearly that there are in normal human beings emotions which react naturally and spontaneously to the presentation of certain definite manifestations of sex and passion.

(a) The presentation of scenes, episodes, plots, etc., which are deliberately meant to excite these manifestations on the part of the audience is always wrong, is subversive to the interest of society, and a peril to the human race.

(b) Sex and passion exist and consequently must sometimes enter into the stories which deal with human beings.

(1) Pure love, the love of a man for a woman permitted by the law of God and man, is the rightful subject of plots. The passion arising fromt his love is not the subject for plots.

(2) Impure love, the love of man and woman forbidden by human and divine law, must be presented in such a way that:

a) It is clearly known by the audience to be wrong:

b) Its presentation does not excite sexual reactions, mental or physical, in an ordinary audience;

c) It is not treated as a matter for comedy.

Hence: Even within the limits of pure love, certain facts have been universally regarded by lawmakers as outside the limits of safe presentation. These are the manifestations of passion and the sacred intimacies of private life:

(1) Either before marriage in the courtship of decent people;

(2) Or after marriage, as is perfectly clear.

In the case of pure love, the difficulty is not so much about what details are permitted for presentation. This is perfectly clear in most cases. The difficulty concerns itself with the tact, delicacy, and general regard for propriety manifested in their presentation.

But in the case of impure love, the love which society has always regarded as wrong and which ahs been banned by divine law, the following are important:

(1) It must not be the subject of comedy or farce or treated as the material for laughter;

(2) It must not be presented as attractive and beautiful;

(3) It must not be presented in such a way as to arouse passion or morbid curiosity on the part of the audience;

(4) It must not be made to seem right and permissible;

(5) In general, it must not be detailed in method or manner.

6) The presentation of murder is often necessary for the carrying out of the plot.

However:

(a) Frequent presentation of murder tends to lessen regard for the sacredness of life.

(b) Brutal killings should not be presented in detail.

(c) Killings for revenge should not be justified, i.e., the hero should not take justice into his own hands in such a way as to make his killing seem justified. This does not refer to killings in self-defense.

(d) Dueling should not be presented as right or just.

7) Crimes against the law naturally occur in the course of film stories.

However:

(a) Criminals should not be made heroes, even if they are historical criminals.

(b) Law and justice must not by the treatment they receive from criminals be made to seem wrong or ridiculous.

(c) Methods of committing crime, e.g., burglary, should not be so explicit as to teach the audience how crime can be committed; that is, the film should not serve as a possible school in crime methods for those who seeing the methods might use them.

(d) Crime need not always be punished, as long as the audience is made to know that it is wrong.

DETAILS OF PLOT, EPISODE, AND TREATMENT

Vulgarity

Vulgarity may be carefully distinguished from obscenity. Vulgarity is the treatment of low, disgusting, unpleasant subjects which decent society considers outlawed from normal conversation.

Vulgarity in the motion pictures is limited in precisely the same way as in decent groups of men and women by the dictates of good taste and civilized usage, and by the effect of shock, scandal, and harm on those coming in contact with this vulgarity.

(1) Oaths should never be used as a comedy element. Where required by the plot, the less offensive oaths may be permitted.

(2) Vulgar expressions come under the same treatment as vulgarity in general. Where women and children are to see the film, vulgar expressions (and oaths) should be cut to the absolute essentials required by the situation.

(3) The name of Jesus Christ should never be used except in reverence.

Obscenity

Obscenity is concerned with immorality, but has the additional connotation of being common, vulgar and coarse.

(1) Obscenity in fact, that is, in spoken word, gesture, episode, plot, is against divine and human law, and hence altogether outside the range of subject matter or treatment.

(2) Obscenity should not be suggested by gesture, manner, etc.

(3) An obscene reference, even if it is expected to be understandable to only the more sophisticated part of the audience, should not be introduced.

(4) Obscene language is treated as all obscenity.

Costume

General principles:

(1) The effect of nudity or semi-nudity upon the normal man or woman, and much more upon the young person, has been honestly recognized by all lawmakers and moralists.

(2) Hence the fact that the nude or semi-nude body may be beautiful does not make its use in films moral. For in addition to its beauty, the effects of the nude or semi-nude body on the normal individual must be taken into consideration.

(3) Nudity or semi-nudity used simply to put a “punch” into a picture comes under the head of immoral actions as treated above. It is immoral in its effect upon the average audience.

(4) Nudity or semi-nudity is sometimes apparently necessary for the plot. Nudity is never permitted. Semi-nudity may be permitted under conditions.

Particular principles:

(1) The more intimate parts of the human body are male and female organs and the breasts of a woman.

(a) They should never be uncovered.

(b) They should not be covered with transparent or translucent material.

(c) They should not be clearly and unmistakably outlined by the garment.

(2) The less intimate parts of the body, the legs, arms, shoulders and back, are less certain of causing reactions on the part of the audience.

Hence:

(a) Exposure necessary for the plot or action is permitted.

(b) Exposure for the sake of exposure or the “punch” is wrong.

(c) Scenes of undressing should be avoided. When necessary for the plot, they should be kept within the limits of decency. When not necessary for the plot, they are to be avoided, as their effect on the ordinary spectator is harmful.

(d) The manner or treatment of exposure should not be suggestive or indecent.

(e) The following is important in connection with dancing costumes:

1. Dancing costumes cut to permit grace or freedom of movement, provided they remain within the limits of decency indicated are permissible.

2. Dancing costumes cut to permit indecent actions or movements or to make possible during the dance indecent exposure, are wrong, especially when permitting:

a) Movements of the breasts;

b) Movements or sexual suggestions of the intimate parts of the body;

c) Suggestion of nudity.

Dancing

(1) Dancing in general is recognized as an art and a beautiful form of expressing human emotion.

(2) Obscene dances are those:

(a) Which suggest or represent sexual actions, whether performed solo or with two or more;

(b) Which are designed to excite an audience, to arouse passions, or to cause physical excitement.

Hence: Dances of the type known as “Kooch,” or “Can-Can,” since they violate decency in these two ways, are wrong.

Dances with movements of the breasts, excessive body movement while the feet remain stationary, the so-called “belly dances”—these dances are immoral, obscene, and hence altogether wrong.

Locations

Certain places are so closely and thoroughly associated with sexual life or with sexual sin that their use must be carefully limited.

(1) Brothels and houses of ill-fame, no matter of what country, are not proper locations for drama. They suggest to the average person at once sex sin, or they excite an unwholesome and morbid curiosity in the minds of youth.

In general: They are dangerous and bad dramatic locations.

(2) Bedrooms. In themselves they are perfectly innocent. Their suggestion may be kept innocent. However, under certain situations they are bad dramatic locations.

(a) Their use in a comedy or farce (on the principle fo the so-called bedroom farce) is wrong, because they suggest sex laxity and obscenity.

(b) In serious drama, their use should, where sex is suggested, be confined to absolute essentials, in accordance with the principles laid down above.

Religion

(1) No film or episode in a film should be allowed to throw ridicule on any religious faith honestly maintained.

(2) Ministers of religion in their characters of ministers should not be used in comedy, as villains, or as unpleasant persons.

Note: The reason for this is not that there are not such ministers of religion, but because the attitude toward them tends to be an attitude toward religion in general.

Religion is lowered in the minds of the audience because it lowers their respect for the ministers.

(3) Ceremonies of any definite religion should be supervised by someone thoroughly conversant with that religion.

PARTICULAR APPLICATIONS

I. Crimes against the law:

These shall never be presented in such a way as to throw sympathy with the crime as against law and justice or to inspire others with a desire for imitation:

The treatment of crimes against the law must not:

a. Teach methods of crime.

b. Inspire potential criminals with a desire for imitation

c. Make criminals seem heroic and justified.

1. Murder

a. The technique of murder must be presented in a way that will not inspire imitation.

b. Brutal killings are not to be presented in detail.

c. Revenge in modern times shall not be justified. In lands and ages of less developed civilization and moral principles, revenge may sometimes be presented. This would be the case especially in places where no law exists to cover the crime because of which revenge is committed.

2. Methods of crime shall not be explicitly presented.

a. Theft, robbery, safe-cracking, and dynamiting of trains, mines, buildings, etc., should not be detailed in method.

b. Arson must be subject to the same safeguards.

c. The use of firearms should be restricted to essentials.

d. Methods of smuggling should not be presented.

3. Illegal drug traffic must never be presented

Because of its evil consequences, the drug traffic should never be presented in any form. The existence of the trade should not be brought to the attention of audiences.

4. The use of liquor in American life, when not required by the plot or for proper characterization, should not be shown.

The use of liquor should never be excessively presented even in picturing countries where its use is legal. In scenes from American life, the necessities of plot and proper characterization alone justify its use. And in this case, it should be shown with moderation.

II. Sex

The sanctity of the institution of marriage and the home shall be upheld. Pictures shall not infer that low forms of sex relationships are the accepted or common thing.

1. Adultery, sometimes necessary plot material, must not be explicitly treated, or justified, or presented attractively. Out of regard for the sanctity of marriage and the home, the triangle, that is, the love of a third party for one already married, needs careful handling. The treatment should not throw sympathy against marriage as an institution.

2. Scenes of passion must be treated with an honest acknowledgement of human nature and its normal reactions. Many scenes cannot be presented without arousing dangerous emotions on the part of the immature, the young or the criminal classes.

a. They should not be introduced when not essential to the plot.

b. Excessive and lustful kissing, lustful embraces, suggestive postures and gestures, are not to be shown.

c. In general, passion should be so treated that these scenes do not stimulate the lower and baser element.

3. Seduction or rape

a. They should never be more than suggested, and only when essential for the plot, and even then never shown by explicit method.

b. They are never the proper subject for comedy.

4. Sex perversion or any inference to it is forbidden.

5. White slavery shall not be treated.

6. Miscegenation (sex relationship between the white and black races) is forbidden.

7. Sex hygiene and venereal diseases are not subjects for motion pictures.

8. Scenes of actual childbirth, in fact or in silhouette, are never to be presented.

9. Children’s sex organs are never to be exposed.

Bee Jackson

By , 20 March, 2009, No Comment

Bee Jackson, world champion Charleston dancer and a probable inspiration for “the bee’s knees,” was in Lying Wives in 1925; she played “danseuse” Betty Lee. That year The New York Times called the film, “Not So Good.” And that was about it. Literally. Other than listing the title & cast, that was it.

But Bee sure was cute. And there’s little information about her. …I smell a new obsession — which will keep me one busy bee *wink*

Lovely Dancer Bee Jackson

Lovely Dancer Bee Jackson

Don’t You Sometimes Hate Yourself?

By , 19 March, 2009, No Comment

Recently I posted about my movie watching group and how we were going to push past preconceptions regarding certain films and watch them — finally. This past week was our first effort and we watched “my” former rejection, Sunset Boulevard (1950).

I’d previously rejected this film because I thought I knew it. That most-mocked line from the (nearly) final scene, “Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up,” has become such an over-used quip that I shuddered when people dropped (forced) the cliched line into conversation. But I was more than bored with the film…

The parodies of Gloria Swanson as Sunset Boulevard‘s Norma Desmond, the aged and forgotten silent movie star who lives in the past, have so permeated pop culture that I actually thought of Gloria as that character. Sure, I thought she was beautiful, but I just knew Gloria had failed when the talkies came out just as her character, Norma, had.

One of the first times I’d ever seen such a parody of the film was when I was a youngster. It was Carol Burnett and her non-too-cleverly-disguised ‘Nora Desmond’ character.

From then on, every parody, quote, reference and mere suggestion of the film’s possible reference made me sigh with boredom.

And when I suggested it to my movie group, there were sighs all around; all of them had done their best to avoid this film too, and none were happy to have it suggested. Ah, the perfect film for our project then, ey? *wink*

Oh, the poetic justice then, that each and every one of us (six women), fell in love with the film.

And Gloria Swanson? Oh, honey do I owe you an apology! You were brilliant!

I’d tell you more about the film and our reactions, but that would be yet another tired review of a film you thought you knew. And I have no desire to do that — to you, or the film. I’d much rather prefer that you just knew that the lot of us ashamedly ate our hats; and I invite you, encourage you, to do the same.

Please.

Oh, and if you or someone you know has been avoiding film noir, our group decided that this would be the perfect film to pop your noir cherry. One of the many delights of Sunset Boulevard is the sublime, nearly perverse, sense of humor which adds the perfect edge to what some fear is the “all melodramatic gloom all the time” that is film noir. (Note: Neither myself not the other members of my film group dislike film noir or feel that’s a fair statement; but that’s the sort of comment we hear from noir nay-sayers, and so we’d like to offer this movie up as a very enjoyable entre to the genre.)

Now, just go watch Sunset Blvd. You’ll be glad you did.

PS The title of this post comes from a great line in the movie:

Betty Schaefer: Don’t you sometimes hate yourself?
Joe Gillis: Constantly.

Rolled Stockings, Bees Knees, And All That Jazz

By , 18 March, 2009, 13 Comments

The first time I heard the song And All That Jazz from the movie Chicago, the line, “I’m gonna rouge my knees. And roll my stockings down,” struck me… Did women once rouge their knees?

Zeta-Jones wearing rolled stockings in Chicago

Zeta-Jones wearing rolled stockings in Chicago

Yes, Virginia, like courtesans who rouged their breasts (or, more accurately, their areolas), flappers heightened the color of, and therefore the attention to, their knees. My guess is though, that they rouged post placement of their stockings. *wink*

1920-flapper-wearing-rolled-stockings

Woman From The 1920s Wearing Rolled Stockings

Why were knees so important? Well, as we (I hope) all know, the 1920’s were about female liberation, especially in terms of fashion. Gone were the bustles and skirts which rendered women unable to enjoy even the simple joy of riding bicycles. Without the bottom part of the hourglass, less emphasis was put on the top half, and corsets which whittled waists and pronounced bust lines were escaped.

Now, I’m not against corsets or figure forming via foundation garments, but if it’s not fashion but rather enforcement which limits activities, akin to foot binding, then I’m not a fan. And to some extent, Victorian dress was as much about women’s place in society as it was the placement of breasts — about the ease and accessibility to life and their own sexuality.

Naturally, such freedom would lead to a mocking fashion frivolity in which women, especially young women, would relish in the abandonment of fashion’s constraints & an exploitation of fashion loopholes such as higher hemlines to express themselves, their attitudes and their intentions to live life fully.

Where once legs and even ankles had remained lily white in the dark shadows of skirts, now flappers dared to bare. They exposed skin to kisses of sunlight, trading the pasty pallor of invalids for the rosy complexions of those who lived life fully. As skin kissed by sunlight is also exposed to kisses from beaus, flappers used bare skin and its coloring to garner attentions and announce intentions. Like bees to flowers, flappers drew admiring glances and those that gave them. They used the natural appeal of revealing what had so recently been forbidden to see — and they used the artificial appeal of cosmetics.

It’s no coincidence that a more portable & easier to apply form of lipstick (in the tube) and other cosmetics (in compacts) were made at this time. And as odd as it may seem to us to color the knees, legs were all the rage so why not color & accentuate them?

Legs were so much the rage in the roaring 20’s that there was even the expression, “the bees knees” which means Its origins aren’t completely clear, but two theories seem possible…

One is that because bees carry pollen back to their hives in sacs found in the middle of their legs (the ‘knee’, if you will), the phrase alludes to the goodness to be found around the bee’s knee. Euphemistically, it’s racy; which certainly fits the 1920’s. And it reminds me of those lines from Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise:

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Speaking of dancers…

Another possibility for the origins of “the bee’s knees” may be found in the dancing legs of Bee Jackson. Jackson, once a member of the Follies, is said to be the first white girl to feature the dance we all associate with the 20’s and flappers, the Charleston.

Dancer Bee Jackson

Dancer Bee Jackson

Bee Jackson went on to become a world Charleston champion and her legs were insured for a whopping $10,000. Surely the glimpses of this Bee’s knees could garner a catchphrase along with admiring glances and erotic thoughts, and inspire other young ladies to dance and to show off their legs with short hemlines.

Obviously, such states of fashionable undress were seen as brazen & inappropriate by many; and not all women dressed (or acted) like flappers. While the moral majority & fashion minority may not have agreed, everyone knew of flappers and rolled stockings. In fact, there was even a 1927 film called Rolled Stockings.

Rolled Stockings Movie Poster

Rolled Stockings Movie Poster

The film stared the fabulous and iconic Louise Brooks as Carol Fleming, the girl two boys — actually brothers — Jim and Ralph Treadway (James Hall, Richard Arlen), fall in love with. The movie is believed to be lost, so not only have I never seen it, but don’t know a soul who has. However, there are a few remnants of its existence, such as promotional photos like this one:

Promotional Louise Brooks Photo

Promotional Louise Brooks Photo

You’ll no doubt notice that lovely Lulu is not wearing rolled stockings — but the irony continues! According to Hal Erickson:

Not unexpectedly, one of the publicity photos taken for this film was a close-up of a pair of rolled stockings, ostensibly filled by the trim legs of Louise Brooks; in fact, Brooks refused to pose for this cheesecake shot, whereupon her legs were “doubled” by her co-star, Nancy Phillips.

Rather strange for a woman who posed for nude photos… I guess completely bare equals “artistic nude” while rolled stocking promotional photos are exploitative? Or maybe she thought rolled stockings ruined the lines of a lady’s leg?

In any case, I can’t find a single photo of Louise with rolled stockings — but here’s one of Louise with her younger sister, June, who is wearing rolled stockings.

Louise Brooks (L) and Sister June (R)

Louise Brooks (L) and Sister June (R)

June looks so sweet — like a young woman wearing knee-highs, not some risqué flapper. But that’s just the way time — and stockings — roll by… *wink*

Reproduction Rolled Stockings Movie Poster

Reproduction Rolled Stockings Movie Poster

Do You Watch Or Avoid Classic Films?

By , 6 March, 2009, No Comment

A few of my movie night friends and I were trying to come up with a schedule of films for our next few gatherings and we ended discussing “classic films”. There are just those in my group who think “classic” means “old” — and they mean that in a bad way! — whereas others think that films need to be of a certain age in order to be called “classic”.

Our talk swirled & spiraled around the supposed accuracy of such a label — just who has the right to authentically denote such films as classic?

Individually, we all use that word “classic” to mean different things, including, but not limited to, the use of the word to express a kitsch hilarity which many of my friends and I feel is nearly the antithesis of what film critics intend the “classic film” moniker to mean. We then came up with the idea of denoting such critically acclaimed “classic” films as Classic Film or at least “Classic” with a capital ‘c’; leaving our personally exclaimed “classics” to the little ‘c’.

But this brought up the issue of film snobbery & supposed (or perceived) film snobbery and the related issue of films so famous, so entrenched in popular culture, that we avoid seeing them. As one of my friends said about A Streetcar Named Desire:

The film and that line have permeated popular culture to the point where it has reached iconic status. Not only do we feel we “get it” from this referential culture-point, but the legendary status gives the property such a build-up that one may wish to avoid the film for fear it will not live up to the expectations.

Sometimes, this popularity & intensity hype is rather short-lived. For example, I only had to wait to see E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial until it’s 20th anniversary edition was released — because that’s how long it took the hype to die down enough, to let me forget enough, so that I felt like I might just enjoy it if I watched it.

I know you might think 20 years is a long time — but it’s shorter than the entire lifetimes people avoid some films for.

In my little group of film watching friends, quite a number of us have been avoiding and refusing Classic Films (and probably some classic films too) for all sorts of reasons… Sometimes, the greater the film’s reputation, the more more strongly we dig our heels in and avoid being dragged to see it. But no more.

Now we’re challenging ourselves to watch what we’ve formerly refused for being “too old,” “so iconic”, etc. So keep an eye on my new “Classic Schmassic” category where I’ll be discussing just what films we’re finally dusting off and facing — and why.

Handmade Paper Movie Star Dolls

By , 6 March, 2009, No Comment

I didn’t mean to abandon you like that! There were some server moves or upgrades or whatever due to the new beta Twolia Music & Stores, and a few of us Twolia bloggers had some scheduled posts lost in the transition. I’m doing my best to get caught up, but as I didn’t save copies of all my posts, well, ugh.

One of my posts was about this post by Deanna at Kitsch Slapped which included this project to make charming little dolls with faces cut from magazines!

vintage-the-bride-gives-a-party1

I was struck by how much fun that would be for any girlie gathering, like my movie nights with friends. We typically watch films on some theme or other, and so the dolls could be “us” as gangster molls, musical maids, or our favorite actresses.

Admittedly, I wouldn’t want to cut up my vintage movie mags; but you can easily scan photos and make paper copies (or even photo quality ones) to cut up.

With as many movie nights as we have, we’d have quite a cute collection of little handmade paper movie star dolls!

I think it would also be a super idea for parties for little girls and tweens too. Even though they are more hung-up on modern celebrities the simple project allowing them to be Hillary Duff or even Hannah Montana (we call her Hanna Man-Hand-a ’round here lol) would keep them happily entertained.

And even though lots of kids these days are (sadly) more high-tech than low-tech (some of them honestly would be more adept at cut and pasting a celeb head in Photoshop than performing a paper craft cut & paste version), a handcrafted paper doll like this would allow them to take something home to show low-tech moms & grandmoms — and give them a trinket to keep in their room.