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Posts tagged ‘classic film’

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.

Citizen Kane Fashions?

By , 29 January, 2009, No Comment

Do you think this is what Charles Foster Kane had in mind when he murmured, “Rosebud?” *wink*

Vintage Sheer Chiffon Peignoir

Vintage Sheer Chiffon Peignoir

A sweet yet stunning vintage sheer chiffon peignoir set with embroidered rosebuds on both the nightie and the matching robe.

Vintage Peignoir Set With Rosebuds

Vintage Peignoir Set With Rosebuds

Close Up Of The Vintage Nightgown Bodice

Close Up Of The Vintage Nightgown Bodice

King Creole’s Queen: Carolyn Jones

By , 12 January, 2009, No Comment

If you haven’t seen King Creole (1958), it’s probably because you’ve dismissed it as “just another Elvis movie.” Even if you’ve heard that it’s his best film, you likely smirk, “Well, the competition isn’t that rough; they’re all just some schlock created around pretty babes and musical interludes.”

I’m certainly not the one to dismiss classic Elvis kitsch films (I adore the music, fashion and the babes right along with looking at The King himself), but I have to tell you that King Creole isn’t just good by comparison to his other films; it’s a good film period.

Elvis King Creole Promo

Elvis King Creole Promo

Now real film critics will tell you that Elvis was saved by a good director (Michael Curtiz — yes, the one behind my film nemesis, Casablanca), a movie based on book (the 1952 novel A Stone for Danny Fisher, by Harold Robbins) as opposed to one with its plot concocted by gyrating bodies and rhythms, and, the real cynics, will point to the fact that Elvis’ handlers hadn’t yet sold him out on settling for the safety of a screen franchise — and all of that’s true to one degree or another — but what makes this film really work is all of the above and the fact that Elvis has a supporting cast of real actors, as opposed to entertainers. The cast included Walter Matthau, Academy Award winner Dean Jagger, and Academy Award nominee Carolyn Jones.

In short, it was a real film project.

The proof of which is the official film history notation that James Dean was set to play the lead role of King Creole as straight drama but when he was killed in a car crash, the role was open for Elvis — at which time, the musical numbers were added. And when I say “added”, that’s what I mean; this film is a story, not a music vehicle. In fact, some argue that they find the music lackluster in comparison to the acting — something I’m not sure how they can say after the film’s opening with jazz vocalist Kitty White:

While the promotional materials (in color, while the film is black and white) showed Elvis surrounded by the usual bevy of babes, that’s rather misleading. The film is a more character study than romance — and in fact, it wouldn’t be wrong in my book to classify this as film noir. Or at least film noir lite.

Elvis and Babes Publicity Photo For King Creole

Elvis and Babes Publicity Photo For King Creole

In any case, there’s only one woman who stands out in this film. That woman is Carolyn Jones. Her performance is equal to, if not better than, Elvis’s. But then it would have to be. She plays Ronnie, a victimized moll about as cliché as it gets. While the rest of the girls are virtually bobby-soxers in comparison (even the cheeky Banana Girl), Jones’ Ronnie has all the dark romance such a character ought to have — at least to be alluring.

Carolyn Jones and Elvis Presley Still From King Creole

Carolyn Jones and Elvis Presley Still From King Creole

She blends sophisticated sexuality and the alcoholic’s self-medicating self-loathing with exhausted victimization & a dash of “maybe I’m not too-worldly-to-hope?” In today’s terms, she’s an over-experienced cougar with an unsure hand forced to manipulate a teen-aged bad boy (one who actually is less likable, actually abrasive with his anger, resentment and shame than the iconic standard). There’s certainly chemistry.

Danny and Ronnie Kiss

Danny and Ronnie Kiss

Danny may be drawn to Ronnie for all the right reasons, or even the wrong ones, but in any case, these two are doomed in several ways… But enough of the plot; let’s move onto the glamour.

In terms of glamour, the best thing to discuss is Carolyn’s hair.

While her hair is the chic and sophisticated bob which matches her role as former sultry singer, woman of the world, now owned as both a trophy & a tool by the gangster, there are those bangs…

Scene from King Creole

Scene from King Creole

The bangs are both blunt and severe, emphasizing the mature lines in her face, yet those open spots, those pixie-like wisps, pose the question of play… But what kind of game is this? Those bangs beguile with the questions they beg.

But what really mixes the message of Ronnie’s character are those soft curls, which, especially when seen from the side, offer more than some glimpse of the clichéd hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold but offer up a softness, a tenderness, which contradicts her otherwise worldly air.

Carolyn Jones' Soft Curls

The Soft Side Curls Of Carolyn Jones

It’s those curls, which we & Danny see when we take those sly side glances at her while we try to secretively evaluate her, which make us want to rescue her — and therefore find escape ourselves.

Elvis and Jones on King Creole

Elvis and Jones on King Creole

Defending To Have And Have Not

By , 8 January, 2009, 5 Comments
Bogart and Bacall in To Have and Have Not

Bogart and Bacall in To Have and Have Not

Recently I joined The Golden Age of Hollywood group, and, upon seeing that he had listed Casablanca as one of his favorite films and was a huge Bogart fan, I began a discussion with Michael B. Druxman.

I probably should have read his profile a bit more closely — seen the “Screenwriter, Playwright, Novelist, Hollywood Historian” bit — before I blundered on in and babbled my question; but hey, I didn’t. And so, Jaynie, the not-a-film-critic-but-a-fan found herself discussing debating film with a person certainly more suited to the role of film critic than herself.

While I was/am admittedly out of my element, I thought the conversation was worth sharing here.

It began innocently enough, with me, a person who favors To Have And Have Not, asking, “I’d be interested to know what you think of To Have And Have Not v. Casablanca…”

He replied, nicely, but showing his greater film education:

CASABLANCA is my all time favorite movie, but I’ve always considered TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT to be one of Bogart’s lesser films. It’s okay…but it’s not in the same league as CASABLANCA, THE MALTESE FALCON, KEY LARGO, etc.

Although the scenes with Bacall certainly sizzle, they also slow down the forward movement of the story, which takes the title from Hemingway’s book and little else. The remake with John Garfield (i.e. THE BREAKING POINT) was much closer to the book and, I think, a better movie.

To which I replied:

I’m sure my ignorance to the book puts me in a weak position overall for debating/defending To Have And Have Not, but…

I’ve never been a real fan of Casablanca. Bogart is excellent, but Ingrid Bergman, while beautiful, has a coldness and is so passionless that frankly, I’d have put her on the plane and been relieved to see her go. Without that tension, there’s no dilemma, no story. However, in To Have And Have Not, the sizzle as you call it (and the characters) drive the action for me.

Again, the book v. film perspective I lack — and addressing that might then very well change my views — but I think it’s at least interesting to note that you, a man, watch/address/see Bogart, while I, a woman, watch/evaluate/respond to the female leads. On the surface you could just say I’m reacting to them as ‘chick flicks’ but I think there’s something more to it…

In any case, I very much enjoy the discussion. 🙂

He replied, likely sensing my intimidation, including his more personal reactions on becoming a fan:

The first time I saw CASABLANCA was at a revival theater when I was in college…and I didn’t like it. In hindsight, I realize that the reason I didn’t like it was because I was expecting an action movie, and this was a romantic drama. However, upon a 2nd viewing (on TV) it started to grow on me and every time I see it (20 times?) I see something new. The characters. The situations.

I must disagree with you about Bergman’s performance. Why shouldn’t it be on the cold side. This woman has been running from the Nazis. Her husband has been tortured by the Nazis. Yes, she has feelings for Rick, but she’s torn. This is not a happy woman.

Regarding TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT, this is generally considered to be one of Hemingway’s weaker novels. In fact, I believe that director Howard Hawks bet Papa that he could make a movie out of the book when Hemingway bet he couldn’t.

He also added that he’s sure the conversation will continue. I’d like to, but I’m a little less sure how to continue…

Nothing against him — he’s been very nice dealing with a movie fan whose ignorance is pretty clear — but how do I better articulate my thinking that our perceptions may be, at least in part, influenced by our genders (and related expectations, emulations, and emotions) without sounding like a silly girl? Or worse yet, some foaming-at-the-mouth feminazi?!

I suppose the first step is getting my hands on (and nose in) a copy of Hemingway’s book; and the second step is to watch The Breaking Point.

But then, assuming my thinking about the films (that To Have and Have Not is better than Casablanca) and/or our gender reactions remain the same, I’m still stuck on step three: How to say it without sounding like an off-putting (and female) idiot.

To Have (And Not Have?) Bacall’s Look

By , 19 November, 2008, No Comment
Lauren Bacall & Humphrey Bogart In To Have And Have Not

Lauren Bacall & Humphrey Bogart In To Have And Have Not

One of my favorite films is To Have And Have Not (1944), starring Bogie and Bacall. The film was (loosely) based on Ernest Hemingway’s 1937 novel of the same name, and William Faulkner himself helped write the screen play (with Jules Furthman) in order to keep Hemingway’s sharp dialog.

This was Lauren Bacall’s film debut, at the age of 19. She stunned everyone with her sizzling sexuality and her ability to deliver the stinging dialog. It’s also the film where she and a married Humphrey Bogart met & fell in love. After his divorce from wife number three, the two were married in 1945. She was his forth and last wife.

The film’s plot & construction are much like Casablanca. It’s set in an exotic locale during WWII, with Bogie as an unmarried ex-patriate American (named Captain Morgan — insert giggle over the booze here) who is politically apathetic amidst resistance fighters and the Vichy/Gestapo police captain — until his romantic love (Bacall, of course) interest walks into his regular cafe/bar — complete with resident a piano player (Hoagy Carmichael).

Some say To Have And Have Not is too much like Casablanca — but I adore it for the charming characters (watch it and you can’t forget the ‘being bit by dead bees’ running gag), the clever witty and biting dialog — and for the feisty, sexy Bacall.

This film is most known for two stand-out Bacall moments. The first being the scene where Bacall, with downcast face, using her eyes to sizzling look at him, lights Bogie’s cigarette — earning her the name The Look. The second is the famous, “You know how to whistle, don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together – and blow.”

My favorite scene, however, takes place just before that scene. In it, Bogie as Captain Steve Morgan and Bacall as Marie, nicknamed Slim by Morgan, are in Morgan’s room. Slim puts herself in his lap and kisses him…

Steve: What’d you do that for?
Slim: Been wondering whether I’d like it.
Steve: What’s the decision?
Slim: I don’t know yet.
After a brief pause, she kisses him again. Then she stands & says, “It’s even better when you help.”

She proceeds to exit his room, delivering the classic whistle & blow line.


See for yourself!

No wonder she ends up with Bogie in this film (and real life!), while Ingrid Bergman, in Casablanca, does not.

I much prefer the biting, feisty, sizzling chemistry of this couple to the weepy ‘romantic’ couple in Casablanca. In fact, this is why I love To Have And Have Not; and don’t care much for Casablanca. (No, it’s not the ‘happy ending’; it’s the sizzle, I tell you!)

You might not be able to pull off all of Bacall’s moves, but you can emulate her look in fabulous checked suits from the 40s’.

A Scene From To Have And Have Not

A Scene From To Have And Have Not

While from the 1950’s, this black & white checked suit would be worthy of Bacall.

Vintage Black And White Checked Suit

Vintage Black And White Checked Suit

This vintage Jaeger worsted check suit is from the 50’s too, but it still has the look.

Vintage Jaeger Checked Suit

Vintage Jaeger Checked Suit

Finding a suit with a peplum, a collar and in checks won’t be easy… Maybe you can sew one, or hire a seamstress to make you one? If you love the silhouette, it’s worth buying a pattern.

Hollywood Pattern Number 172, Two Piece Suit

Hollywood Pattern Number 172, Two Piece Suit