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Archive for ‘Gloria Swanson’

Monkey Fur Capelet

By , 29 September, 2009, No Comment

Stunning vintage 1920’s monkey and sheared beaver fur capelet:

Vintage Monkey Fur Capelet

Vintage Monkey Fur Capelet

The capelet is especially stunning against the royal blue. Below, Gloria Swanson wears a whole lot more monkey fur…

Gloria Swanson Wearing Monkey Fur

Gloria Swanson Wearing Monkey Fur

However you feel about fur, please remember, this is vintage; the crime was committed long ago.

Need a flashy and fabulous fashion accessory? Don’t want to spend to much money? Have no fear, go online and find affordable chic jewelery.
Everything from bracelets to loose diamonds.

Mack Sennett Bathing Beauties

By , 7 May, 2009, No Comment

Inside the pages of A Pictorial History of the Silent Screen, by Daniel Blum (mine is the 1972 printing), pretty photos of a young Gloria Swanson & Phyllis Haver as pin-up bathing beauties — wouldn’t these outfits make great summer outfits?!

Gloria Swanson In Swimsuit

Gloria Swanson In Swimsuit

Phyllis Haver In Swimsuit

Phyllis Haver In Swimsuit

Mack Sennet's Bathing Beauties, Swanson & Haver

Mack Sennet's Bathing Beauties, Swanson & Haver

From the book:

1917 Mack Sennett bathing beauties were pin-up girls for the doughboys of the First World War. Gloria Swanson, Marie Prevost, Phyllis Haver and Mary Thurman were Sennett bathing girls at this time. Roscoe Arbuckle, now more familiarly known as “Fatty” Arbuckle, left Sennett to make his own comedies at Paramount. With Arbuckle in this setup were two clever acrobatic comedians, Buster Keaton and Al St. John. Before the year was out, Sennett was making his Keystone comedies for Paramount. Charlie Murray, Ben Turpin, Louise Fazenda, Chester Conklin, and Teddy and Pepper, a dog and cat, were now the cheif Keystone comics.

Mack Sennett-Keystone Comedies Poster

Mack Sennett-Keystone Comedies Poster

Chester Conklin With Mack Sennet Bathing Beauties

Chester Conklin With Mack Sennet Bathing Beauties

Film Stars, 1917

Film Stars, 1917

Marie Prevost In Swimsuit

Marie Prevost In Swimsuit

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

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!

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.

Wrap Your Mind Around Wearing Turbans

By , 19 January, 2009, No Comment

Few things say “vintage glamour” the way turbans do.

Gloria Swanson Wearing A Turban

Gloria Swanson Wearing A Turban

We don’t see turbans often today, which is rather surprising because they are practical — especially in winter and on bad hair days. Look how cute Solanah is in her pink velvet turban!

Solanah Wearing A Pink Velvet Turban

Solanah Wearing A Pink Velvet Turban

A fun 50’s floral turban with blue bow.

1950s Printed Turban

1950s Printed Turban

A turban-inspired sculpted metallic 1930s hat with gold tone metal buttons down front.

1930s Metallic Turban Inspired Hat

1930s Metallic Turban Inspired Hat

If you can crochet, there are even vintage turban patterns — I love this striped one!

Vintage Turban Crochet Pattern

Vintage Turban Crochet Pattern

Of Gloria Swanson & Gloves

By , 24 November, 2008, No Comment

A photo of Gloria Swanson taken after Sunset Boulevard as part of the film’s promotional buzz.

Gloria Swanson In Gloves

Gloria Swanson In Gloves

This 1950 article by photographer Philippe Halsman explains how Swanson arrived at his studio so nervous and exhausted that she even cried. In his scramble to help her (and get himself some salable photographs), he impulsively gave her the long black leather gloves as a prop. While these gloves weren’t magic all on their own, they did assist with the transformation. Halsman writes:

She wiggled her hands into them, pulled them high on her arms to where her strapless gown left off, and held out her hands for a self-inspection. Then, finally, the miracle happened. I don’t know how. Perhaps it amused her to see her long, white bare arms turn suddenly black.

She leaned over a high box resting her elbows on its surface and began to flirt with the camera, to play with her hands — half-hiding her face behind her spread, black fingers, like a pretty kitten suddenly bemused with the discovery of its own front paws. That quick, she looked twenty years younger. You could not tell she had been crying. Her arms moved in swift pattern, making wonderful black designs against her pale skin and the pale backdrop, and in perhaps ten minutes I had the photographs I had sought.

Such a breathless description! As wonderful as those glamorous photos!

Now I’m not saying that fashion alone can always provide such a transformation; but glamour sure has its own magical allure which can distract us, capture our own interest, as well as amaze and delight others.

These stunning black leather Italian opera length gloves — which go almost-to-the-shoulder! — have a silk lining and black leather covered buttons at wrist shown and are available at Leather Gloves Online.

Italian Black Leather Opera Gloves

Italian Black Leather Opera Gloves