The Legend of James Dean

Jimothy
source: Photo by Richard Miller

A lot has been written about James Dean.

Whether it be about his sexuality, his legacy or his many, many many, adventures into method acting, people seem to be absolutely enthralled with the sandy-haired actor.

Is the public infatuation with James Dean similar to the reason why Marilyn Monroe is held in such regard? Did his early death cause the movie-going public to look at his 3 films with rose-tinted glasses?

If these things are true, is it possible that because of his death, Dean‘s acting ability is, dare I say, overblown?


Dean, born February 8th, 1931, was a shy boy, always getting into trouble with authority figures in some way or another. The only person who really understood him was his mother, saying that she was the only one who was, “capable of understanding him.”

After his mother died in 1938, Dean was sent to live with his grandparents in Fairmount, Indiana where he would live out the rest of his childhood.

Fast forward to July 1951.

Dean was finally getting his big break as an actor.

James Dean 2
source: Sanford Roth

Starring in a multitude of TV series, Dean honed his craft and eventually in 1953 got his ‘big break’ in the Elia Kazan drama East of Eden.

Inevitably, his performance as Cal Trask gained him attention, which led to other roles in films like Rebel Without a Cause and my personal favorite 1956’s Giant.

Sure, these are fantastic movies and while various critics sang his praises, were Dean’s performances any good?


I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with James Dean. I appreciate all that he’s done as an actor, but part of me believes that his acting ability was way overblown.

*gasp*

Yes, I will get some flack, but hear me out.

Dean was known for his method acting. He was very good at what he did, but he wasn’t the best at it. Compared to fellow actors Montgomery Clift, Marlon Brando, or even Paul Newman, Dean seemed to have a tendency to overdo it at times.

Take Rebel Without a Cause for example. Truth be told, Sal Mineo was the better actor in that film. I found Dean to be melodramatic and a bit too extra at times. Even Natalie Wood (a woman whose movie I don’t particularly care for) acted circles around him.

Take this scene for example. You catch my drift?

James Dean 3
….maybe next time, Jimmy.

This isn’t the case with all of Dean‘s movies.

I absolutely adore Giant, it’s one of his best roles. For some reason, he’s much more subdued in that role compared to his other films. Perhaps it has to do with him having a  director like George Stevens, or maybe it was Dean maturing into his acting.

Who knows?

But, the difference between these two films is staggering. Dean‘s quality in Giant makes me forgive him for overacting in RWaC.

No offense to Dean‘s legacy or his avid supporters, but maybe, just maybe, if he started out easing his way into his acting style instead of throwing all his chips on RWaC I would enjoy him a lot more.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

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The MGM Musical Magic Blogathon…

on-an-island-with-you 2
source: MGM

It’s typical for most Esther Williams‘ films to start with some sort of swimming number.

The film doesn’t necessarily need it, but since Williams was an ex-swimmer it’s shoehorned into the film anyway.

On an Island With You is no different.

Directed by Richard Thorpe, and co-starring a talented cast that boasts the likes of Cyd Charisse, Peter Lawford, Richardo Montalban, Leon Ames, and Xavier Cugat, On an Island With You is your quintessential MGM musical.

With a flowery set, endless musical numbers and an impromptu cameo from a bandleader, the movie tells the story of a swimming star Rosalind Reynolds (Williams) and her efforts to film a movie in the lush jungles of Hawaii.

Stringing along her fiancé, Ricardo Montez (Montalban), on the island (hehe) the movie’s technical director, Lt. Lawrence Y. Kingslee (Lawford)  falls in love with her instead. If the plot can’t get any wackier, Rosalind’s best friend, Yvonne Torro (Charisse) gets enamored with her friend’s almost husband, thus leading to a love rectangle, of sorts.

on an island with you 3
source: MGM

The rest of the movie sees Lawrence attempting to wine and dine Rosalind despite her being very involved with another man.  It isn’t until he kidnaps her on a prop jet, whisking her away to different Hawaiian island that the plot really starts to kick into high gear.

While this is happening, Rosalind’s fiancé and the search party he brings together gets kidnapped by a group of cannibals who inhabit the island Lawrence took Rosalind on. Luckily, by the time Lawrence confesses his feelings for Rosalind and her fiancé finds them, in traditional classic Hollywood fashion, the problem gets fixed in the end.

Yvonne gets involved with Ricardo and Lawrence finally has his love reciprocated by Rosalind.


To be quite frank, when I initially watched this film, I really enjoyed it. Re-visiting it 3 years later, it didn’t leave the same impression it did a couple of years earlier.

I will admit, it’s a great movie, but compared the classic MGM greats, it’s hard to have On an Island with You stick out in your head.

Of course, there are people who enjoy the film, I can’t say I’m one of them. That’s not to say this movie doesn’t have great moments – because it does. Peter Lawford, for example, is a great actor. I’ve always loved him in whatever role he took on, this film is no different.

All in all, On an Island with You has a great premise but fails to make any lasting impact. Maybe, I’ll revisit it again in the future, who knows?

 

To read the rest of the entries click: here.

The Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon…

mclintock 1
source: United Artists

“George Washington McLintock,” is the name that Katherine McLintock wistfully whispers to herself as she comes face to face with estranged husband of 2 years.

Standing eye to eye for the first time in 730 days, the McLintock’s are reuniting for a rather important moment in their lives – the finalization of their divorce.

Spearheaded by Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne, McLintock! is a film that may be overlooked compared to other Wayne/O’Hara collaborations.

Action packed with slapstick comedy, romantic tension, and witty dialogue by James Edward Grant, the film is a refreshing take on the western genre.

It may star John Wayne, but it isn’t your typical “shoot em’ up cowboy” movie.

Directed by Andrew V. McLaglen, McLintock! is a family friendly, comedy romp starring two Hollywood legends.

It tells the story of George McLintock as he struggles both professionally and personally to overcome various obstacles in his life.

Whether it be his ex-wife returning to his ranch to beg for their daughter’s custody, Native Americans fighting him for a piece of his land, or local townsfolk harassing him for no good reason, the predicaments that George gets himself into makes for a hilarious movie.

McLintock 2
source: United Artists

One of the more memorable scene from the film was the giant mudslide fight about halfway through the movie.  The scene, which lastest a grand total of 10 minutes is an absolute ‘gut buster.’ It had me rolling on the ground for a good 5 minutes, my lungs were very sore after that ordeal.

O’Hara, often known for her grittiness and willingness to do action sequences, did all of her own stunts in the scene. As a woman, I’d have to say that was very commendable, and it’s probably something I would’ve done as well.

Lastly, and perhaps the funniest scene of the picture is its finale. It sees a half naked (not really, she was wearing bloomers) O’Hara soaking wet and soiled running away from an irked and disgruntled John Wayne.

When he finally catches up with her, it culminates in Wayne taking O’Hara over his knew and smacking her into submission.

McLintock 3
source: United Artists

Hilarious? Yes.

Sexist? A tad bit.

Is it in line with the movie’s plotline? Absolutely!

That’s why I believe McLintock! is the perfect comfort movie. It’s not the best Western out there, but it doesn’t attempt to be.

It does it its job perfectly.

It’s entertaining, nostalgic, and the excellent film to watch when you want to unwind from a long day at work.

What more could you ask for?

Classic Movies Are Food For the Soul

mgm_1943
source: MGM’s 20th Anniversary Celebration

When I first got into classic films 5 years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long) I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

Naturally, like any bratty, snotty-nosed teenager, I turned my nose up at those “black and white snoozefests.” It wasn’t until I took a mandatory ‘Cinema Appreciation’ class that I started to *ahem* ‘appreciate’ classic films.

A couple weeks, I began to watch to The Asphalt Jungle. About halfway through, I got unbearably tired and I just had to go to bed.

The next morning I check the TCM on demand (the app is truly God-sent, I highly recommend you download it) to see if the film was still there, lo and behold, it had an expiration date.

Crushed.

I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed, but then I realized the movie served its purpose.

The Asphalt Jungle 2
source: MGM

At the time, circumstances in my life were pretty overwhelming. My college courses weren’t going to plan, the weather down here was dire, and I was struggling with life in general.

That hour of The Asphalt Jungle immediately put me in a better mood. I may not have finished it, but the film took my mind off of my current problems.

This show the power of classic films, I may not have finished it, but it gave me pleasure in another way – emotionally.

And for that, I thank them.

A Year With Anybody Got a Match?

AGAM
source: Warner Bros.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

It’s officially been a year since I’ve started sharing for love of classic films.

I started doing this because I believed having a personal blog, separate from my main freelance work, would be some sort of stress reliever – and it is.

I’ve met some wonderful people, been apart of some incredible blogathons, and got to watch some unbelievable movies that I wouldn’t have watched otherwise.

I never thought that I would amass such a following ranting and raving about my favorite films.

So, thank you.

Here’s to another year.

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The Short-Lived Romance of Kim Novak and Sammy Davis Jr.

Sammy and Kim
God Bless you, Vanity Fair

I’ve written quite a lot about classic Hollywood romances.

Some are tragic, others are straight out of a romance novel, this relationship, in particular, is intriguing for other reasons.

The pairing of Sammy Davis Jr. and Kim Novak is an underrated coupling – an interesting one, actually.

In 1957, a couple of weeks after Kim was finished shooting the greatest movie of all time, Vertigo, she stopped by her hometown of Chicago for a night out at Chez Paree.

The entertainment for that night? None other than the very charming Sammy Davis Jr.

According to this “Vanity Fair” piece on the matter, apparently – at first- Kim wanted to use Davis‘ flirtations as a way to get back at Harry Cohn for his mistreatment of her.

Eventually, she and Sammy fell into a cordial friendship, which saw them exchange numbers and midnight rendezvous hidden away from the public eye.

NOVAK DAVIS 2

What attracted Kim to Sammy wasn’t his race (of course that was part of it) but his stage presence. Much like my attraction to the internationally known k-pop band BTS, Sammy Davis‘ stage presence oozed sensuality.

With a cigarette in one hand and a ribbon microphone in the other, Davis crooned his way into the depths of Novak‘s heart.

So, they started dating.

Fully aware that their interracial relationship in 1957 could very well ruin both of their career’s, the pair had to keep it low-key.

For a couple of months, Sammy and Kim were in complete and utter bliss.

But they knew that inevitably the gossip columns (specifically Dorothy Kilgalen) would sniff around and get a whiff of what their relationship was giving off.

Once Kilgalen alerted the general public, other gossip columns started to jump on the speculation bandwagon.

That was the first gust of wind that knocked down their carefully crafted house of cards.

KIM AND SAMMY

Sadly, their relationship didn’t last too long after that.

They tried to continue their romance, by evading photographers, hiding in the backseats of cars, meeting behind closed doors, and just generally staying out of the public eye.

Between the press and Harry Cohn’s incessant harassment, Novak and Davis parted ways.


In 1957, America was still deeply segregated. Unfortunately, their relationship was a casualty of that toxic mindset.

If there were any classic Hollywood relationship that could’ve worked out, I wish it were this one. Not only would they have broken boundaries but, seeing an interracial couple on the covers on “Confidential” or “Photoplay” would’ve been a sight to see.

It truly is a shame.

If only we could go back in time.