1960s Film, Fashion in Film

TWO FOR THE ROAD (1967): A Few Thoughts + Fashion

By George, I finally did it: I watched Two for the Road. I’d been wanting to watch this movie for several years and for some reason never tracked down a copy of it to enjoy until now.

twofortheroad

I had the chance to watch it back in 2013 when I visited Hollywood for the first time with my dad. We got tickets to a double-feature of this film and It Happened One Night (1934) at the Egyptian Theatre. Unfortunately, Two for the Road was screened after It Happened One Night, which didn’t begin – if I’m correct – until 7:00 or 7:30 that evening. My dad wasn’t keen on the idea of walking back down Hollywood Blvd near midnight to locate our rental car. Although I was bummed, I will admit that he had the right idea in getting back to our car much before that hour. Nevertheless, I saw no less than two people dressed as Spiderman running and jumping around the sidewalks and I was totally enamored by seeing It Happened One Night on the big screen.

But good things come to those who wait!

tumblr_nfh455vJ071tyslwao1_500.gif


Directed by Stanley Donen, Two for the Road looks at a young couple’s twelve-year relationship – from their first meeting, to moments of bliss, to a strained and seemingly doomed marriage. Some moments in the film are terribly romantic, some are bittersweet, and some are downright heart-wrenching.

Audrey Hepburn and Albert Finney star as Mark and Joanna Wallace. The film begins in the “present day”, introducing the watcher to a miserable couple seemingly on the brink of divorce. They begin to reminisce about the different periods in their relationship. The unique quality of this film is in its storytelling manner; instead of telling it chronologically, it’s presented in a nonlinear sequence.

Hepburn and Finney share a red-hot chemistry and despite it being a bit difficult to follow, the story is compelling and engaging. I think this was the best acting I’ve seen from Hepburn in a film so far. She’s so genuine and nails her dramatic and lighthearted scenes.

twofortheroad2

twofortheroad11

twofortheroad12

twofortheroad13

twofortheroad17

twofortheroad18

twofortheroad19

twofortheroad24


As always, Ms. Hepburn is at the top of her game where fashion is concerned, proving to us that she can pretty much grace any outfit she wears. (Side note: Hubert de Givenchy collaborated with Audrey for a handful of her biggest films, but she was costumed by Mary Quant, Paco Rabanne, and several other designers in this one.)

The style of Audrey’s costuming in Two For the Road is much different than any of her previous films. Viewers are used to seeing her in elegant dresses, simplistic blouses, and long skirts. Along with her naturalistic performance, the wardrobe does wonders.

twofortheroad2.jpg

twofortheroad3

twofortheroad4

twofortheroad6

twofortheroad7

twofortheroad8

twofortheroad9

twofortheroad10

twofortheroad14

twofortheroad15

twofortheroad16

twofortheroad20

twofortheroad22

twofortheroad23

twofortheroad25

twofortheroad26


On top of everything, this film’s soundtrack was scored by Henry Mancini, who scored three other Audrey Hepburn films: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), Charade (1963), and Wait Until Dark, which was also released in ’67.  The theme of this film is absolutely beautiful.

Fashion in Film

YANKEE DOODLE DANDY (1942) on the Big Screen

It’s always a pure joy to watch a classic film on the big screen, especially when you’re watching James Cagney sing and dance. On the evening of Thursday, July 6, I drove about an hour and a half to a little town called Moberly and met one of my online friends (and fellow classic film blogger), Terry, at the newly restored 4th Street Theatre.

As you can see below, the theater is gorgeous. A lot of hard work has been put in over the last several years in order to make it look as it did when it screened movies in its original run.

IMG_9485

The 4th Street Theatre opened in early 1914 and functioned as a movie and vaudeville house. 1,000 people were able to pack in at one time, a concept that most of us are not familiar with. Many cinemas are now multiplexes, which means that there are multiple movie screens in one complex. In theaters like the 4th Street Theatre, this meant that 1,000 people were able to pack into one movie showing. With multiplexes, we lose out on that feeling of true camaraderie, in my opinion.

large
The 4th Street Theatre in its infancy. Date unknown.   (courtesy of cinematreasures.org)

As Terry and I stepped inside the theater, I was in awe as I looked around. To say that the restoration of this theater was merely successful would be an understatement; everyone who put effort into its restoration did an incredible job. One of the volunteers informed us that many of the parts inside are original and most of the parts that are not original are replicated. Terry and I got there about an hour before the show began, so we took advantage of the extra time and took photos. Here are a few I captured:

IMG_9492
A closeup of the exterior of the 4th Street Theatre
IMG_9517
This popcorn machine is to die for.
IMG_9529
The inside of the theatre: 100% restored and 100% lovely
IMG_9535
The poster for Yankee Doodle Dandy is on the left side and the poster for Pillow Talk, which was screened in June, hangs beside it.
IMG_9540
Filing out after the show

This is the second James Cagney film that I’ve been fortunate enough to see on the big screen. Incidentally, the first was his first musical film, Footlight Parade (1933). Prior to the release of that film, movie audiences had only known Cagney as a gangster onscreen. He played the fast-talking, seedy tough guy characters like nobody’s business. Funnily, enough his first gig as a performer came in 1919 when he appeared onstage, in drag, as a chorus girl.


For his portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Cagney won the Oscar for Best Actor. Cohan, who began his career as a young boy on the vaudeville stage with his family, became the most popular figure in Broadway in the early 20th century. Besides having a successful acting career on Broadway, he went on to write some of the most enduring songs in American history, including “The Yankee Doodle Boy” – often referred to as (I’m a) Yankee Doodle Dandy” – and “You’re a Grand Old Flag”. Cohan was also the first entertainer to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was honored with it in 1940 particularly for his patriotic songs “You’re a Grand Old Flag” and “Over There”. They became anthems for the United States during World War I and World War II.

The film, directed by Michael Curtiz, is really one of the most uplifting films ever created. The musical numbers are crafted wonderfully and the supporting cast (including Cagney’s real-life sister as his onscreen sister, Josie) lends a warm touch to the already heartwarming story. I especially enjoy Joan Leslie as Mary, the love of George’s life.

My personal picks from the musical numbers are “Give My Regards to Broadway” and “So Long, Mary”, which I’ve shared below.


You can find Terry’s blog mercurie.blogspot.com.

1930s Film

FOUR DAUGHTERS (1938)

One recent rainy/chilly Sunday afternoon, I sat down on the couch and made the decision as to what movie I should watch on the DVR. Well, I ended up choosing a black & white romance that I had never heard of before taping it on TCM.

Four Daughters (1938) was directed by Michael Curtiz, who would go on to direct some of the biggest movies of all time, including Casablanca (1942), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), Mildred Pierce (1945), and White Christmas (1954). The movie stars three of the four Lane Sisters (Priscilla, Lola, and Rosemary) and Gale Page as the Lemp sisters. The Lemp girls are the daughters of Adam Lemp (Claude Raines), a serious but loving father who is the dean of the Briarwood Music Foundation. They live with Adam’s witty sister, Etta (May Robson).

familia-four-daughters
Adam Lemp (Claude Rains) surrounded by his daughters: (L-R) Ann (Priscilla Lane), Thea (Lola Lane), Kay (Rosemary Lane), and Emma (Gale Page)

Adam’s daughters inherited his talent and love for music and their house is rarely silent because of it. Along with the girls’ zest for music, they have men on their brains.

The first to be formally courted is Thea (Lola Lane). Thea is one of the sisters who appears not to be interested in letting romance come in the way of a good marriage. She catches the eye of Mr. Ben Crowley (Frank McHugh), a well-meaning older man well on his way to making good money. What Thea wants in life is stability and she knows she can get it in marrying Mr. Crowley.

The eldest daughter, Emma (Gale Page), knows that kind and sensitive neighbor Ernest (Dick Foran) is in love with her, but she doesn’t really feel the same about him. Ernest works as a florist and often makes a detour to personally give her a bouquet of flowers at her doorstep.

Youngest daughter, Ann (Priscilla Lane), not interested in getting married, vows to Emma that they will become old maids together. Soon after making her vow, a young man named Felix Deitz (Jeffrey Lynn) makes his way to the neighborhood. Felix, a composer of popular music, is the son of one of Adam’s old friends. He is cute, charming, and knows how to craft a witty sentence. He even bewitches Aunt Etta (their interactions are adorable). The Lemp family take him in as a border, where he continues his work in music. Felix, being the charming man that he is, accidentally leads on all of the daughters. (That’s not sarcasm; he sincerely doesn’t mean it.) Ann is the one who truly loves him, but her sisters also temporarily fall under his spell.

fourdaughters2
Felix Deitz (Jeffrey Lynn)

Kay (Rosemary Lane) is the only daughter who takes a different path. As the most talented daughter, she has been offered a scholarship for a music school but has not decided if she wants to attend or not.

Enter Mickey Borden (John Garfield, in his first movie role). Mickey is a cynical orchestral arranger who believes that everything bad that has happened to him in life has been dealt by fate and that there’s no getting around his misfortunes. Ann makes an effort to cheer him up and look at life more lightheartedly. Through this, Mickey falls for her.

At the same time, Felix has been in love with her and proposes marriage to her. Will she choose one or the other or neither…?

fourdaughters
Felix and Ann

So, yeah, things begin to get tangled up, the girls get jumbled up in their feelings, and feelings get hurt. A tragedy occurs near the end of the movie, but overall it’s a sweet and lighthearted story.

Some Thoughts

Four Daughters was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role for John Garfield’s performance. Claude Raines gives a good performance as always, but his part is overshadowed by most of the other characters. Priscilla Lane is a darling and plays the part of the optimistic kid sister well. Besides P.L., Jeffrey Lynn’s character was my favorite. I see why all of the sisters fell for him. The movie isn’t the greatest, but I really did enjoy it. Because of its sentimentality and lovely winter scenes, I’d be okay with watching it around Christmas every year. Oh, and I’ll definitely be watching the sequel, Four Wives (1939) and Four Mothers (1941). More to come on those.

RATING (out of four): ★★★ 

The 1970s in Film

I Finally Watched HAROLD AND MAUDE

“I haven’t lived. I’ve died a few times.”

This is one of those movies that had fallen under the category of “I really want to see this movie” for a good while.

Harold and Maude (1971) was the first movie I ever watched at the TCM Classic Film Festival. My friend Jeremy and I lined up for the screening on Thursday night (the first official day of the festival). We stood next to a woman whose name I recognized from the “Going to TCM Classic Film Festival!” Facebook group. She has attended the festival for several years and comes from Canada each spring to indulge in the delights of TCMFF. Before we even set foot in the theater, she assured me that Harold and Maude is an incredible movie. I had no reason to doubt her.

From the moment Harold (Bud Cort) appeared onscreen, I knew I was going to fall in love with it. It also opens up with a Cat Stevens song (the whole film is filled with his music, actually) and a perfect moment of dark comedy, setting the tone for the rest of the flick.

Although I greatly enjoy many movies, there are just a handful of them that really have a profound impact on my life and Harold and Maude is one of them.

If you haven’t seen the film before, you probably at least know its general plot: it’s a love story between a young man and an old woman. Don’t be fooled; it’s so much more than that.

Harold Chasen (Bud Cort) is a nineteen-year-old obsessed with death. To amuse himself, he simulates committing suicide in order to get attention from his mother. Every time he does it, his uptight and emotionally detached mother (Vivian Pickles) either ignores it or throws a fit. (Finally, she decides that Harold needs to get married in order to grow out of his “shenanigans”, so she sets out to find the perfect girl for him.)

Her reactions make every situation so funny.

Oh, Harold also drives a wicked Jaguar hearse.

i006262
(courtesy of imcdb.org)

Harold’s hobby is attending random funerals for fun. During one particular funeral, he first spots 79-year-old Maude (Ruth Gordon) who also happens to attend funerals in her spare time. They became fast friends despite their totally opposite outlooks on life. Whereas Harold sees through a scope of darkness, Maude sees light all around. They realize that they’re a good match and begin spending all of their time together. Harold begins to see life as something not terrible, but beautiful. Then, they become more than friends.

A note about the performances and reception at the time of the film’s release: Did you know that Harold and Maude was actually a flop when it was released into theaters in 1971? Looking back, I think it was a flop on the part of the Academy to give it a total of zero Oscar nominations. How was it not at least nominated for Best Picture? How did Ruth Gordon not get the recognition she deserved? And did they even see Bud Cort’s performance? Wow. Back then, I think a lot of people were too weirded out by the movie’s portrayal of Harold and Maude’s romance and overlooked its brilliance. Too bad for them!

The movie sat around – unloved – for several years, then people actually started watching it and loving it. Now, forty-five years after it was released, Harold and Maude is one of the quintessential cult classics.

As much as I adore Ruth Gordon’s performance (seriously, old age goals), Bud Cort has been the one who has stuck the most in my mind since viewing the movie. I was so touched to see his character transform from a miserable teenager into a man who embraced life. Because of her, Harold steps outside of his “comfort zone”. He learns how to play the banjo, he smiles, he goes out… I was touched when he declared his love to Maude because, despite it being unorthodox for those two people to fall in love, it was pure.

In real life, Bud Cort is someone who I hope to meet someday. I’ve heard he’s a nice guy and he seems like such an interesting person and I’d like think we’d make good friends. He’s held bitter feelings toward Harold and Maude for years because he makes almost nothing off of residuals from the last forty-six years. What a shame that is. 

To top it off, the soundtrack is made up of Cat Stevens tunes and it’s just about perfect.


Harold and Maude will be airing on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on June 21, 2017 at 8:00 PM (EST). If you’re active on Twitter and like to live-tweet movies, be sure to join the #TCMParty hashtag for lots of extra fun.

Related image
(courtesy of all-that-is-interesting.com)
1940s Film, Holidays in Film, musicals

“Easter Parade”

“Miss Brown, what idiot ever told you you were a dancer?”
“You did!”

In 1948, MGM released a vibrant Technicolor musical called Easter Parade. Originally, Gene Kelly had been cast as Don Hewes, Cyd Charisse was cast as Nadine Hale, and Frank Sinatra was cast as Jonathan Harrow III. Because of various circumstances, the cast was completely switched around. The finished product starred Fred Astaire as Don, Judy Garland as Hannah Brown (as planned), Ann Miller as Nadine, and Peter Lawford as Jonathan Harrow III.

The story, set in 1912 and 1913, begins as a Broadway star named Don Hewes (Fred Astaire) receives the crushing news that his partner Nadine (Ann Miller) is suddenly quitting the act. Nadine tells him that she’s received an offer to go solo and Don tries to persuade her to stay with him. They go into a lovely song and dance number (“It Only Happens When I Dance with You”) and she seems to be persuaded to stay…until Don’s charming and handsome friend, Jonathan Harrow III (Peter Lawford), walks in to the apartment. Nadine has obviously moved on from Don to Jonathan.

Annex - Miller, Ann (Easter Parade)_NRFPT_01
(courtesy of doctormacro.com)

When it looks like Nadine can no longer be persuaded to stay, Don sets out to prove to her that he can find any ordinary chorus girl and turn her into a star. He wants to make her jealous. Enter Hannah Brown (Judy Garland). Hannah is a singer and dancer working at a local bar. She catches Don’s eye, so he grabs her off the stage, tells her to quit her job, and meet him for her first lesson the next day.

As Don tries to model Hannah after Nadine (Hannah has no idea about the scheme), he attempts to teach her how to dance exactly like Nadine, dress like her, and even have her name changed to something similar (Juanita). In one of the scenes, he even tries to teach Hannah how to be “exotic” and extra attractive to men. It really shows off Judy’s underrated comedic gift:

As the story progresses, love triangles unfold and cheery musical numbers ensue. This is one of the most memorable numbers in the film, sung and tapped wonderfully – as always – by Ann Miller:

Easter Parade is one of my personal favorite musicals. I think part of that is because it’s one of the movies I watched a lot when I was little. I often talk about movies that I watched as a child on here because many of them have made a huge impact on me. I love reminiscing about watching movies like this one with a different view of the world. Fortunately, I still watch Easter Parade with the same childlike amusement as I did when I was six. I’m really grateful for that.

However, I will say that as I’ve gotten older, I now think that Hannah should’ve chosen Jonathan instead of Don. As much as it pains me to say that Fred Astaire shouldn’t have been chosen, I’m one of those people that thinks she’d be so much happier with Jonathan. Maybe “Fella with an Umbrella” has something to do with it, but I mean it!

Having said that, I still think the ending is adorable. I can’t easily argue with a happy Judy and Fred. I hope you all have a happy Easter! Go drum crazy, shake the blues away, and sing to someone you love in the rain.

Before you go, here’s a bonus musical number that was cut from the final print of the film. Notice that Judy is wearing the same suit that she’d wear two years later in Summer Stock during the iconic “Get Happy” number.

Films to check out, Modern Film: The '80s and Beyond

Friends with Potential: A Brief Look at Cameron Crowe’s “Say Anything”

“Maybe I didn’t really know you. Maybe you were just a mirage. Maybe the world is full of food and sex and spectacle and we’re all just hurling towards an apocalypse, in which case it’s not your fault…” – Lloyd Dobler to Diane Court, via her answering machine

I’d like to begin this post by simply saying: Thank you, Cameron Crowe (Almost FamousJerry Maguire), for creating this masterpiece of a film.

Say Anything (1989) is a romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Ione Skye that’s most famous for the scene in which Lloyd Dobler (Cusack) raises a boombox over his head blasting the quintessential ’80s movie love song “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel in hopes that he will win back his ex-girlfriend’s heart.

Capture23.JPG

Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court are fresh out of high school…and strangers to one another. Well, that’s not completely true; Lloyd has been in love with Diane, the most popular and academically-gifted girl at his school, for a long time. Diane doesn’t really know much about Lloyd, despite the fact that they ate lunch by each other at the mall once, a fact that Lloyd proudly remembers years later. Unlike Diane, he doesn’t have a master plan for his future, although he thinks kick-boxing (“the sport of the future”) looks like a promising ambition.

Lloyd takes a chance right after graduation: he calls the girl of his dreams and asks her out.

sayanythinglloydedit

Say-Anything-say-anything-3601773-1600-900
(courtesy of fanpop.com)

Well, what do you think happens next? She takes a chance and agrees to attend a big party with him.

Lloyd Dobler defies the “hot guy of the ’80s” thing. Although both scenarios can be considered pretty cliche, Say Anything is clever enough to dodge the cliche-bomb. Lloyd and Diane are three-dimensional characters and so is Diane’s supporting but troubled father, portrayed by John Mahoney (four years before his debut on Frasier).

Say Anything wears its feelings on its sleeve. The chemistry between Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court is red-hot while somehow remaining charmingly innocent. There’s a scene toward the beginning of Lloyd and Diane’s relationship that shows Lloyd helping out at the nursing home owned by Diane’s father. Diane volunteers her time to help take care of the residents. After her shift ends, they decide to hang out and grab some coffee, where they decide to be “friends with potential”. Then, Lloyd takes Diane out and teaches her how to drive. As they bond over it, their potential comes through quicker than expected. It’s a really sweet moment:

654fc530a9350684824d7ad10f5b1413

One of the other bits that stands out to me is the scene which takes place the morning after Lloyd and Diane attend the party together. After they drop off the last remaining (and totally wasted) party guest, they wander into a 7-Eleven before Lloyd drops Diane off at her house. As the leave walk through the parking lot,  Lloyd stops Diane before she steps on a pile of glass, brushes it away with his shoe, and then proceeds to walk, making sure the rest of Diane’s path is safe. The simple but sweet gesture doesn’t go unnoticed by Diane, either, who cites it as one of the reasons why she really likes Lloyd.

2ziGLkE

John Mahoney does an outstanding job in the role of Diane’s father. The big subplot involving a dark secret kept by Mr. Court is played out well between Mahoney and Skye.

Capture22

Say Anything is available to watch in various formats – it’s super cheap to purchase on DVD from Amazon – so please, please, please sit down for all 100 minutes and soak in all of its greatness if you haven’t watched it. Or re-watch it if you haven’t seen it in awhile.

 

 

Films to check out, Modern Film: The '80s and Beyond

La La Land: Here’s to the Ones Who Dream ♪

“People love what other people are passionate about.”

In the course of two days, I’ve seen La La Land twice (so far). I figured I’d enjoy it, but I didn’t know that I’d love it as much as I do. I’m already binge-listening to the soundtrack.

Directed by Damien Chazelle, the film was recently released in theaters worldwide and has become a hit. The project was a tough feat for Chazelle to get off the ground, but he got it off the ground and ran with it all the way. Like the films it pays homage to, La La Land is a dish of escapism with a bittersweet garnish on top. It introduces us to two characters (portrayed by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone) who are young adults living in Los Angeles. Both are ambitious dreamers who are struggling to find a steady career in the fields that they’re passionate about: acting (her) and jazz (him).

la-la-land-cars
The opening song and dance sequence was filmed on the ramp connecting the 105 and 110 Interstates in LA. The crew had them closed down for two days in summer 2015 to shoot it.

As previously mentioned, this film is a love letter to the bubbly and lavish Technicolor musicals of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Now that it’s showing in theaters across the globe, scores of people – many who have never watched a black & white movie – are, in some shape or form, being introduced to classic film. That may seem like a stretch to say that, but I really mean it. Which brings me to this:

There are so many references made by the characters and the film itself:

  • The movie opens with the CinemaScope logo, a camera lense used often in the 1950s and ’60s. Films shot on CinemaScope were presented in its special widescreen formatting.

Movies shot in CinemaScope began with a logo similar to this one:


  • Main characters Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) watch Rebel Without a Cause (1955) at the old Rialto Theatre. Their reason for going, they both claim, is for research purposes. The looks on their faces suggest otherwise. After their date concludes (it was totally a date), Sebastian and Mia make an impromptu visit to the Griffith Observatory, which is seen in Rebel.

la-la-land-3

  • The dreamlike dance sequence inside the Griffith Observatory’s Planetarium is, in a word, enchanting. That scene, along with a couple of other scenes, reminded me of the ballet sequences that were popular in musical films of the 1950s – think An American in Paris and Oklahoma!.

la-la-land-dance-gif


  • Mia has classic film posters on many of the walls in her apartment. As seen on the left side of the photo below, she has a huge mural of Ingrid Bergman’s face splashed on the wall beside her bed. Also, note the posters hanging up on the right side of the photo. The Black Cat is a 1941 comedic horror film, Lilies of the Field (1924) is a lost silent film, and The Dove is a silent film starring Norma Talmadge, released in 1927. I can’t figure out what movie the poster hanging up by Ingrid Bergman is from. Also, that wallpaper. ❤
01-embed-la-la-land-apartment-set-1
(photo courtesy of Dale Robinette / Lionsgate)

  • When Sebastian tap dances with Mia in a romantic scene, he pulled off a couple of moves that made me think he must have hardcore studied Gene Kelly’s work.
  • One of Sebastian’s prize possessions is an old stool that was signed by music legend and occasional classic film character actor Hoagy Carmichael.

  • The soundtrack is made up of a mixture of old-fashioned instrumental jazz music and pure Golden Age of Hollywood-inspired show tunes.

A few more personal thoughts on the film: 

La La Land captures the heart with its pure optimism and tug-at-your-heartstrings moments. While some may see its premise as unrealistic and saccharine, I believe that it shouldn’t be overthought. Just enjoy it for its escapism. God knows we don’t get enough high-quality film musical escapism today.


On an extra personal note, I want to thank La La Land for making me feel feelings – all kinds of feelings. Lately, I’ve found myself thinking so many negative thoughts because of some personal life stuff and politics. The second time I watched the film, it really got me. To a degree, I understood how both of the main characters were feeling – the uncertainty of where life is leading you, but feeling incredibly excited to just be alive. And I felt more alive than ever when I watched the opening number – the idea of having fun in LA traffic! (Cheesy, I know.) It made me even more excited for my next journey to Los Angeles this April. (I can’t dance, so I won’t subject any poor souls to seeing scene recreations in Griffith Park.)

And this movie celebrates classic film while doing its own thing…My heart is full.

When I sat down and watched this movie, everything became brighter. I fell into this Technicolor-inspired world of exciting passion and remembered that Passion. Is. Everything. By the end of the movie, I was amazed at how many emotions it brought to me.

And, without letting any major spoilers slip, the ending just…wow…


So, friends, do yourself a favor and put the politics away for two hours. Put your life’s worries away. Put away your differences. Enjoy life and enjoy this movie. That’s what La La Land is for. (And if you’re not into musicals, I can’t guarantee you’ll love it, but I hope you do.)


To watch the trailer, click on this link. Happy watching, friends!

Films to check out, Star Profiles

Barbara Stanwyck in Stella Dallas (1937)

Image result for stella dallas imdb

Barbara Stanwyck is known for many roles: from her Pre-Code days up until her part in the popular 1960s Western television show The Big Valley, she could do it all.

There’s a role of hers which I feel is often overlooked and totally underrated: the titular character in Stella Dallas (1937).

stelladallas

Stella Dallas is the story of a young lady named Stella Martin, who’s in love with a formerly wealthy factory mill owner named Stephen Dallas (John Boles). She’s of lower class status but desperately dreams of upper class living.

The film is set in post-World War I Massachusetts. Stephen is in mourning: his father has committed suicide after losing his fortune. After falling out of high society, Stephen aims to regain his fortune and then marry his fiancee. But when news comes of his fiancee marrying another man, Stephen and Stella marry.

Once they’re married, Stella quickly falls into a bad pattern. She loves to socialize and meet high society people, but she often goes overboard. Embarrassed by her behavior, Stephen pleads with Stella to return to her more humble roots and become more refined. Within the first year of their marriage, she gives birth to a daughter named Laurel. Immediately after returning from the hospital–baby in arms–Stella begs Stephen to let her go to a party. He refuses to let her go, but she argues and finally gets her way.

We see the years progress through Laurel’s growth. Once she becomes a young lady, we see actress Anne Shirley enter the picture. Shirley did a great job portraying the Dallas’ daughter. By the time she appears onscreen, we see Stella and Stephen’s marriage dissolving. Eventually the split becomes permanent. Laurel lives with her mother and visits her father on occasion. She loves both of them; however, her relationship with Stella becomes a bit strained once she begins socializing with her peers in her teenage years. She befriends kids in more refined circles and falls in love with a young man who comes from a wealthy family. Adding to the pressure, Stella’s behavior is becoming more and more vulgar, causing Laurel to push her mother into the shadows.

To put a further strain on the situation, Stephen runs into his ex-fiancee, who has a family. They quickly become reacquainted and fall in love all over again. And the story goes on, and the tears begin to fall.


Barbara Stanwyck was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar four times but she never won one in her long and successful screen career. Stella Dallas was the first role that she was nominated for an Oscar. Luise Rainer took the Oscar home that year for her role in The Good Earth (1937).

Stanwyck’s role in this film is a little reminiscent of some of her roles in the early ’30s. She was one of the queens of the Pre-Code era. Stanwyck often played nitty gritty characters in her early Hollywood days.

As shown in the clip below, Stella tries her best to raise her daughter but she doesn’t always make great decisions. Her husband disapproves of the company she keeps, seeing them as a rowdy crowd. She’s so natural in her performance:

As the movie progresses, Stella seems to get zanier by the minute. I think that’s mostly due to the fact that we – the audience – are seeing her through the eyes of a growing Laurel. Laurel is surrounded by friends from “respectable” families and feels a great deal of pressure from that. She loves her mother so much, but she decides to make some tough decisions that hurt them both.

Throughout it all, Stella actually does grow. She remains “different” in her ways, but she makes a tough realization and a noble decision by the end of the film. If you’ve seen the film, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, I highly recommend watching it to find out what I mean.

Don’t watch this scene if you don’t want the end of the film spoiled. If you do want to watch it and you’ve never seen it before, I will now allow Ms. Barbara Stanwyck to rip your heart out:

 

Fashion in Film, Films to check out, Star Profiles

Esther Williams: Baby, It’s Cold Outside

“I was just a swimmer who got lucky.”

Christmas is over and the new year is here. So, you know what that means: Summer is right around the corner. Well, practically. What better way to celebrate than by talking about Esther Williams?

Esther Williams Posing in Ballerina Costume
Esther Williams is shown in the underwater ballet scene from [Million Dollar Mermaid] in this photograph. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Okay, so it took me twenty years to watch an Esther Williams film.

It took a girl who spent many hours of her childhood watching old musicals and classic romance films that long to watch one of those movies. How? Well, I don’t know. I just never really got around to watching her movies until just after she passed away in the summer of 2013.

Esther Williams
Esther Williams pictured in 1945 – in her early ’20s (photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images) – courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

I remember sitting down one night right in front of the TV (I think I had actually just discovered Seven Brides for Seven Brothers that night. I watched it for the first time on an old VHS given to me. Edgy.)

“America’s Mermaid” passed away on June 6th of that year. TCM (Turner Classic Movies) was running a marathon of her swimming films as tribute to her life and legacy. I remember learning of her death on that June day. I first heard about it through social media, where I follow a lot of other film fans and often find the news first. It was shocking, but I realized that I hadn’t seen any of her films before. I knew, however, that she was a unique talent. I just didn’t know how unique.

As I began to discover her films, I learned that both of my Grandmas were really familiar with her films. I guess that’s not surprising, as she was huge in the 1940s and ’50s. My Grandma Riggs was an especially big fan of Esther’s. She’s told me about the wonderful memories she has of going to the local movie theater to watch her musicals. I hope I’m lucky enough to watch at least one Esther Williams musical on the big screen someday. I can’t imagine how vibrant they must look full-scale.

The first Esther movie I watched was Million Dollar Mermaid (1952). I watched and I was entranced by everything Esther. She was this magical, beautiful mermaid…but in human form. No fins, no tail, but a mermaid in every other possible way.

Here’s one of her musical/synchronized swimming numbers from the film – choreographed by the one and only Busby Berkeley:

 

And can we talk about her film fashion for a moment? She wore the most beautiful bathing suits in her movies and her non-bathing attire was always gorgeous, too.

Image result for esther williams swimsuit movies
(courtesy of nytimes.com)

Although the plots in a typical Esther Williams movie are not filled with much complexity, their escapist plots -and, of course, the water ballets- are really what drew people in to to watch her. The idea of movies built around synchronized swimming may sound really cheesy to anyone not familiar with her films. But they were marvelous. MGM made each of her swimming numbers extravagant. (Side note: did MGM ever not do extravagant in the ’40s and ’50s?)

Oh, and how can I forget about the romantic plots/subplots? Esther Williams’s musicals were always filled with romance. She was often paired with dreamboats Van Johnson (check out Thrill of a Romance if you’re in the mood for a cute movie), Ricardo Montalbán (my personal pick is Neptune’s Daughter), and Howard Keel.


Esther was still active in her later years, despite suffering from a stroke in 2007. Among other achievements, a swimming pool company named itself after her, she created her own line of bathing suits (over at esther-williams.com, a number of bathing suits inspired by Esther are still being sold), and she appeared at the 1984 Olympics as a synchronized swimming commentator.

Today, many people remember her as one of the most effervescent stars of her time. The world really loved her.

 

There will never be another Esther Williams.

(courtesy of paytonangelle1.tumblr.com)

 

1940s Film, Films to check out

A Christmas Discovery: It Happened on Fifth Avenue

 

“For to be without friends is a serious form of poverty.”

hqdefault-3

I made a wise decision in taping It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) when it aired recently on Turner Classic Movies (TCM).

(Side note: Taping movies on TCM is how I usually come across cinematic gold. Thanks, TCM.)

The film chronicles the lives of several New York City residents in the 1940s, all from extremely different walks of life.

The story begins as a hobo named Aloysius T. McKeever (Victor Moore) is moving into a Fifth Avenue mansion for his third winter – unbeknownst to the owner, of course. With his little dog in tow, McKeever takes up residence at the home of Michael J. O’Connor (Charles Ruggles), the second richest man in the world, while he is away for the winter in Virginia.

McKeever comes across a newly homeless ex-G.I. named Jim Bullock (Don DeFore) after being evicted from his apartment. The reason for the eviction? A man named Michael J. O’Connor (ring a bell?) is tearing down the apartment building in order to build a skyscraper. Before he is physically kicked out of the building, Jim stubbornly refuses to leave, even going so far as to chain himself to the bed with handcuffs. Dedication!

The video below is marked as a trailer, but it’s actually the first Jim Bullock scene:

Just after Jim moves into the O’Connor mansion, a young lady makes her way into the house. The audience is made aware that the girl in question is O’Connor’s 18 year-old daughter named Trudy (Gale Storm). Unhappy with her life, Trudy had run away from her father and returned to their Fifth Avenue home, of course unaware of the mansion’s winter guests:

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/359700/It-Happened-On-Fifth-Avenue-Movie-Clip-Shed-That-Mink-.html

When Trudy realizes that McKeever and Jim are harmless and just need a place to stay, she decides to hide her identity and take up the alias Trudy Smith in order to fit in. She even goes to the extent of nabbing a job at a music store to become an “everyday girl”.

Soon, Trudy falls for Jim. However, Jim is still unaware of Trudy’s true identity. She is determined to win Jim over without the knowledge of her wealth – something that Jim wouldn’t even take into consideration for falling in love. After she tells her father about Jim, she convinces him to meet him…but under one stipulation: He has to disguise himself as a panhandler named Mike. McKeever allows “Mike” to stay in the mansion as a servant. Funny how stuff works out.

When Trudy brings her mom (her father’s ex-wife)  -portrayed so well by Ann Harding – in to the mix, things get ever so sweetly complicated…as if the situation wasn’t crazy enough before. Throw in a subplot that involves Jim and several of his ex-GI buddies living in the mansion and their plans to buy an old Army camp and make low-cost housing out of the former barracks and you’ve got one heck of a Christmas film.

It Happened on Fifth Avenue is so funny. It’s got a touch of screwball in it. It’s silly, but it tugs at the heartstrings. It was nominated for the Best Writing, Original Story Academy Award and lost to another holiday classic, Miracle on 34th Street. After going into almost total obscurity for nearly twenty years, it was released on DVD for the first time in 2008. Following suit, Turner Classic Movies aired it for the first time in 2009.

There are a couple of songs performed and nice incidental music in It Happened on Fifth Avenue. This is my personal top pick:

http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/video/359699/It-Happened-On-Fifth-Avenue-Movie-Clip-That-s-What-Christmas-Means-.html

This just may be my new favorite Christmas movie.


It Happened on Fifth Avenue will air on Turner Classic Movies (TCM) on Christmas Eve at 12:30 PM (EST).

Happy watching. ♡

-Meredith