The Greta Garbo Blogathon…

As You Desire Me 1932 1

source: MGM

Greta Garbo was my favorite actress in the world.  For three years I’d come out of my dressing room every day, run past hers, and call ‘Good morning!’ I could hear her deep voice talking to her maid but she never did speak to me. I’d see her occasionally on the lot. Never a word! Then one morning there was a rush call.

Someone was ill and couldn’t show up for still art in the gallery. Wouldn’t I come and pose in their place? I went sprinting past Garbo‘s dressing room in such a hurry I forgot to yell ‘Good morning.’

An instant later I heard her door open, then a resonant ‘Allooooo!’” – Joan Crawford speaking about her experiences with Garbo on the set of 1932’s  Grand Hotel.


Greta Garbo was a generational talent.

So many classic Hollywood actresses (and heck, even some actors) have been inspired by her smooth Swedish inflection. It’s no surprise that her 1932 effort As You Desire Me, co-starring Melvyn Douglas, Erich Von Stroheim and Hedda Hopper is dripping with that Garbo charm that we all know too well.

Directed by George Fitzmaurice, this pre-code film tells the story of Zara, a flirty Budapest nightclub singer who’s down on her luck. When she’s not entertaining hundreds of drunken patrons, she lives with acclaimed Hungarian novelist, Karl Salter (played by Von Stronheim.)

As You Desire Me 1932 2

source: MGM

Zara finds her ticket out that lifestyle when a man named ‘Tony’ (played by Owen Moore) approaches her by calling her the name, “Maria” as if he knew her personally. It’s soon learned that Tony is harassing Zara because he believes that she’s his best friend’s long-lost wife.

Zara vehemently denies this, but when faced with the prospect of going back to her smutty job she swiftly joins Tony in his quest to return her where she “rightly belongs.”

At the estate, we’re introduced to Bruno Varelli (played by Melvyn Douglas) – the man who’s patiently waited 10 years to be reunited with his lover. When Zara arrives, however, no one (not even the family dog Rex) recognizes her.

She’s cold, distant, and completely foreign, but she sticks with it.

Overcome with guilt, she confesses to Bruno that she isn’t his beloved Maria. Shocked but not saddened, he presses Zara into staying anyway, conforming to the mold left by his wife a decade ago.

As You Desire Me 1932 3

source: MGM

Back in Budapest, Karl is fuming with rage.

Taking the matter into his own hands, he travels to ‘Maison de Varelli’ and confronts Maria’s sister Ines Montari (played by HEDDA HOPPER, I still can’t believe that) insisting that they have an imposter living with them. As Zara and Bruno get to know each other better, they genuinely start falling in love.

Believing that happiness truly is possible, Zara comfortably starts adjusting to her new lifestyle. It all comes crashing down, however, when she spots Karl from afar addressing Ines.

Karl walks over to her and explains that Bruno’s estate was a week and a day away from being it being reverted back to Maria’s sister Ines. Zara reluctantly believes him and confronts Bruno, who tells her it’s all a lie. Karl retorts, saying that the real Maria has been locked up in a sanatorium since the war. For more proof, he brings in “the real Maria” wrapped in a headscarf and shivering from shock.

As You Desire Me 1932 4

source: MGM

She shuffles in and proceeds to name Ines and their maid Lena (played by Rafaela Ottiano) as familiar faces. The family slowly start to accepts her as Maria until Zara intervenes, causing a stir.

She starts to question,”Maria’s” intentions; so much so that when her memory starts to come back she begins to speak incoherently and it turns out “Maria” wasn’t Maria at all, but a woman who lived on the estate during the war.

With all of that out in open, nobody seems to care – really. The movie ends with Bruno and Zara confessing their love for each other with everyone else going about their regular schedule, including the heartbroken novelist Karl Salter.

Conclusion

 

As You Desire Me ending

source: MGM

I thought this film was quite peculiar.

The first 15 minutes didn’t quite hold my attention like I thought it would. It started off a bit slow, but when Owen Moore‘s character stepped into the frame, the plot started to pick up a bit. The storyline was very interesting. I really enjoyed the “Parent Trap” aspect to it.

Erich Von Stroheim was excellent in his role of the abusive, over controlling novelist, Karl Salter. He really brought another dimension to the lie Zara was caught in.

Speaking of Zara, Greta Garbo was phenomenal – per usual – in this role. She played it with such a breezy realness that I certainly felt bad for when the family started to believe she wasn’t the real Maria.

In summation, As You Desire Me is a fabulous pre-code movie about deceit and is most worthy of being included in this lovely blogathon.

 

 

Click: here to read more entries in this blogathon.

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Hitchcock’s Masterful Use of Colors in 1958’s Vertigo

vertigo 1958

source: Paramount Pictures

Vertigo is one of the best films ever to be put on the silver screen.

Directed by the incomparable Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo is a movie unlike anything I’ve ever seen. With its compelling storyline, fantastic acting and incredible location shots, it’s hard to label this film with anything other than the word “perfection.”

An underrated aspect of this movie, however, is the way Hitchcock uses color. There are multiple scenes in the film where color is (in some shape or form) used as a part of the story. For example, the color green is used to symbolize Scottie’s feelings of uneasiness, or more specifically – a dreamlike state. It’s no coincidence that every scene involving Judy or Madeliene the color green in somehow squeezed into the frame.

Vertigo 1958 2

source: Paramount Pictures

Even when green isn’t the focal point, Hitchcock‘s liberal use of color touches every single fiber of this movie.

Vertigo 1958 3

source: Paramount Pictures

Vertigo 1958 4

source: Paramount Pictures

Vertigo 1958 5

source: Paramount Pictures

The next time you have the luxury of watching Vertigo, look of for these intriguing tidbits of cinematic genius. It’s most certainly the least appreciated part of such a legendary movie.

Thank you, Alfred, we greatly appreciate it.

 

The Third Wonderful Grace Kelly Blogathon…

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Doses of Grace Tumblr

Grace Kelly‘s name is forever woven into the fabric of classic Hollywood. Despite only starring in 11 films, her cinematic footprint will live on for eternity.

Unfortunately for the classic movie connoisseur, 11 movies aren’t nearly enough to satisfy our natural inclination. Some wonder what Grace‘s career would’ve looked like had she not relocated to Monaco and married Prince Rainier.

Would there be more Hitchcock in her future?

Would she win manage to win another Academy Award?

Who knows? I’d like to think she’d go in a different direction.


In 1956, Grace Patricia Kelly wed Prince Rainier of Monaco in a wedding ceremony that would rival anything you’d see in Game of Thrones. Flowers, champagne, the sound of 1,000 trumpets – ‘the whole shebang’; it was truly a remarkable sight to behold. Coincidentally, just a couple months earlier, Grace was in Hollywood filming what would be the last movie she’d ever perform in.

high-society

source: MGM

High Society is a musical comedy romp that stars a marvelous cast of actors and actresses that include Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra Celeste Holm, and John Lund.

Directed by Charles Walters the film tells the story of wealthy socialite Tracy “Samantha” Lord and her journey to self-discovery as she falls in love with three men: C.K Dexter Haven (her ex), George Kittredge (her very dull and insipid fiancé) and Mike Connor (the magazine photographer sent to her residence to catalog her upcoming wedding.)

Throughout the movie, we see Sam and her many suitors go through a number of different situations like, getting drunk and going for a “romantic swim” (aka skinny dipping in classic Hollywood terms) in the family pool, speeding around the various mansions of Newport, Rhode Island and revisiting old memories with her estranged ex-husband.

Watching Grace Kelly as Samantha Lord juggle these three men so effortlessly was a joy to watch.

High Society 1956 2

source: MGM

Her comedic timing was impeccable; her delivery was impressive for an actress who was primarily known for her dramatic roles.

I suppose that’s why it’s so unfortunate that Grace quit Hollywood when she did. High Society seemed like the type of movie Grace could’ve continued to make had she not married royalty. Don’t get me wrong, I adore her love story with Rainier, but, it would’ve been interesting to see what direction her career would’ve taken if she stayed in Hollywood’s ‘dream factory.’

I envision her career going the way of a Rosalind Russell or even Katharine Hepburn; actresses who’ve starred in dramatic pictures but, are also very well known for their work in comedy.

In the end, all this speculation is in vain. Although it would have been wonderful if Grace continued with her movie career, I can’t help but think that she found her natural calling of being a princess.

How could you go wrong with that?

 

To read more entries in this blogathon, click: here.

Poor Lizabeth Scott….or should I say, Van Heflin?

Lizabeth and Van in TSLOMI

source: Paramount Pictures

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a peculiar film.

It pretends to be one thing, then by the end of the movie, it horrifyingly surprises you. At first, you believe it’s going to be a tender movie, celebrating the bond of love and friendship; 15 minutes in, however, that all changes for the worst.

If you’re a classic film watcher, you’ve probably seen this picture recently. Seeing as though TCM has become the sole purveyor in distributing these classic morsels, it’s become more and more common for folks in our blogosphere to overlap reviews of certain movies – this happens to be one of them.

In summation, the film follows the life and loves of a woman named Martha (played by Barbara Stanwyck) and the people around her that become collateral damage due to her actions.

Starting in her youth, Martha invariably had a habit of using people. Whether it be hiding away in a boxcar to get away from her overbearing aunt, to eventually killing her out of spite, Martha Ivers always knew that her past would catch up with her- and boy did it come back with a vengeance.

Van and Lizabeth

source: Paramount Pictures

18 years after that fateful incident, childhood friend (and modern day drifter) Sam Masterson finds himself back in the same town that he vigorously fled almost 2 decades earlier.

He returns to find a city cloaked with the name of a former friend: Ivers.

Shocked but slightly amused, Sam takes his freshly crashed car into a ‘Ma and Pa’ shop to get it repaired. While kicking back with a cigarette in one hand and a ball of money in the other (Sam’s known to have a serious gambling problem) he overhears on the radio that Walter O’Neil (played by Kirk Douglas in his screen debut) is running for public office.

“This scared, meekly kid that I knew is making his living in politics?” Sam says to himself. “How could he garner the gusto to do this?”

“Ivers” the shop owner retorts; “Martha Ivers.”

Van and Liz in TSLOMI

source: Paramount Pictures

When you view “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers” your focus instantly goes to Walter and Martha and the intricacies of their relationship. What doesn’t get enough attention is the great worry and distress that Sam (and later his ex-con paramour ‘Toni’ Marachek expertly played by Lizabeth Scott) go through due to the tyrannical decisions of Martha and her submissive husband.

The pair meet when Sam takes the liberty to stroll past his old stomping grounds while his car’s being mended.

‘Fixing’ for a drink, he runs into Ms. Marachek, standing there with her perfectly coiffed hair and a sense of sadness surrounding her. They go for a drink and Toni tells Sam that she recently got out of jail and is dangerously close to going back if she violates her probation.

Being the slick guy he is, Sam believes he can sweet talk his old pal Walter (the county’s current D.A) into letting Toni get off easy.

The-Strange-Love-of-Martha-Ivers-1946

source: Paramount Pictures

Sam goes into Walter’s office and strikes up a conversation with his old acquaintance; about 10 minutes into their chat, in walks his wife, Martha Ivers. She reacts to his presence like her husband wasn’t even there. Martha smothers him with love and affection, essentially “cuckolding” her husband in plain sight.

This hurts Walter’s already crushed ego and from that point on, Sam’s life would be made a living hell.


First, Walter strong-arms Toni into setting Sam up, which leads him to be badly beaten by a bunch of Walter’s “friends” and Toni to reach her emotional breaking point. Then, they try to force him out of town, but Sam is far too proud to let that happen. Lastly, (and perhaps the most gruesome) Walter attempts to kill Sam himself hoping to conceal the secret that’s been haunting him and his wife for years.

Feeling bad about what her husband is putting him through, Martha takes Sam out on a late evening drive. She confesses everything to him, including the culprit of her aunt’s murder.

The only catch is Sam didn’t have a clue that Martha was the one who pushed her aunt down those set of stairs that night.

TSLOMI

source: Paramount Pictures

Martha uses this opportunity to rekindle her romance with Sam, leaving his new lover, Toni home alone sobbing into her pillow. Sam, being a red-blooded American male, is torn between his new love and his old. This is just another example of Martha using anyone around her to get what she wants.

Toni is an emotional wreck and contemplating leaving Sam in favor of her old life. Sam is confused over whether or not he should continue pursuing this relationship with Martha, and Walter? Well, he’s given up on life. He’s had it with everything including his wife, Martha. He decides to end it once and for all.

In the film’s iconic finale, Sam is invited to the Ivers’ manor to settle the situation. Drunk and rowdy, Martha finds out about this meeting and wants to be apart of it.

A couple of moments later, Walter falls down the stairs due to his drunkenness, echoing shades of how Martha’s aunt passed away. Martha urges Sam to take the gun that Walter keeps in his drawer and use it to kill him. Sam scoffs at this idea and carries Walter to his study to sober him up.

the Strange Love

source: Paramount Pictures

Martha doesn’t like this and threatens to shoot Sam in “self-defense.”

“It could work,” he says, “only if I was there to witness it.” With that being said, he leaves and doesn’t look back. As he’s walking away he hears gunshots, a murder-suicide.

What a relief.

All of that he went through, everything Martha put him through, everything Toni went through. The suffering, the heartbreak, the stress – pure torture. Fortunately, he finds Toni about to leave the hotel room they’ve been sharing for weeks and tells her what happened.

“It’s over, he says. “It’s finally over.”

The pair drive off into the sunset, never to look back at the grief and pain they suffered in a little wretched city named “Iverstown.”

 

 

Food in Film Blogathon…

source

source: Warner Brothers

Most of my ventures into classic films either involve gangsters, showgirls, cabaret singers or comedians, not prison chain gangs.

So, when the movie I’m reviewing for this blogathon finished, I was rearing and ready to go shovel some dirt and start an uprising (preferably both.)

When I originally viewed Cool Hand Luke, I was astounded at how gritty and real it felt. I grieved with each and every character, I understood the pain they were going through. I empathized with them – I couldn’t imagine how distressing it must have been, albeit they were criminals, working in conditions that, I must say, were 10 steps below human decency.

You can understand my relief when, halfway through the movie, director Stuart Rosenberg decided to inject a bit of life into an otherwise upsetting series of events.

Eggs, it had to be hardboiled eggs.

I abhor them, I loathe them. I hate them more than okra (and that’s saying something; it’s the texture folks!)

Cool Hand Paul

“The look I give someone when they offer me eggs…” source: Warner Bros.

When Luke (played by everyone’s favorite salad dressing entrepreneur Paul Newman) stupidly accepts a dare that he could inhale eat 50 eggs in an hour, I just about gagged.

I sat there as I watch him struggle to get every last bite of those wretched little creatures down his esophagus and to his stomach. At one point some of his fellow prisoners – one of which played by George Kennedy, helps him by using various techniques to “stretch his belly.”

Luckily for me, this scene only lasted for a couple of minutes, but alas the damage was done…….until I snooped around on the internet and educated myself on the skills of making ‘movie magic.’

Turns out Paul Newman never swallowed an egg. Apparently, a reporter asked him about that infamous scene and Newman claims that not once did an egg grace his tongue.

You can visualize my expression when I read this.

The scene looked so real, maybe it’s my naivety, but I would’ve like to think that Paul actually went through something as horrid as ingesting 50 eggs.

Perhaps, that scene was just another fabulous example of movie magic, I suppose.

Bravo, Bravo.

Cool Hand Paul 2

source: Warner Bros.

If you like to read more entries in this lovely blogathon, click: here.

 

The Best of M-G-M: Les Girls (1957)

LES Girls

source: MGM

The M-G-M movie musical has become intrinsically linked with the Golden Age of Hollywood.

The rouge stained faces, silk dresses, and elaborate backdrops are all staples of MGM’s musical repertoire. Unlike their soulless modern counterpart (I don’t know why producers subject us to this mumbo jumbo) classic Hollywood musicals have a magical quality to them that could only exist in that specific era in movie history.

No other film personifies this feeling better than 1957’s Les Girls.

Directed by the legendary George Cukor and starring a talented cast of dancers, actors, and singers that include the fabulous Mitzi Gaynor, the witty Kay Kendall, the very sensual Taina Elg, and of course, everyone’s favorite hoofer Gene Kelly, Les Girls is every francophile’s dream.

Told in 3 segments, the film tells the story of three women and their experiences working in Paris as showgirls. It goes sours when, 10 years later, one of the women writes a shocking memoir detailing the unglamorous side of being in show business.

Les_Girls

source: MGM

The movie begins in London at the Royal Courts of Justice where Angele DuCros (played by Taina Elg) is suing her former dance troupe member Lady Wren- formally known as Sybil Wren (played by Kay Kendall) for defamation.

Sybil’s memoirs recount the days and memories she had while working for Barry Paris (played by Gene Kelly) and his vaudeville act – Les Girls ironically, in the same city that shares his last name. In one of the book’s chapters, Sybil alleges that Angele stepped out on her then-fiancé now-husband Pierre DuCros with Barry and tried to commit suicide after he rebuffed her advances.

Ready to take the stand to defend her honor, Sybil’s testimony takes us back to Paris circa 1949, where the streets were white and the wine was dark.


Barry is looking for another woman to add to his already very successful dance group, which already has Sybil, of course, and American Joanne “Joy” Henderson (played by Mitzi Gaynor.) Being the overbearing man he is, Barry has 4 rules that each girl must abide by:

  • Be prompt
  • Be persistent
  • Be private

and the last and most absurd important of them all….

  • No marriage.

Well, then!

Angele joins the troupe and instantly break the one rule that essentially holds the group together when she reveals that she’s engaged to Pierre.

Les Girls 1957

source: MGM

A couple of days go by and Les Girls finally make their debut as a trio with a song (whether you like it or not) that will invade your mind and become a VERY catchy earworm. After a performance that would’ve made Louis the XIV proud, the girls head to their dressing rooms where Angele makes a startling confession.

She has a bit of a crush on Barry.

Sybil and Joy attempt to warn her about Barry’s playboy lifestyle.

“But it is ze French way to ‘ave an affair!” she snaps back. Sybil and Joy can only shake their head in grief, loathing what they might have to do to keep this lie going.

Later in the evening, Barry and Angele run off to have an impromptu “rehearsal” to “go over” the new dance number they created. Back at the apartment, Angele’s fiancé unexpectedly drops by for a visit. Unwillingly to break the ‘girl-code’ Joy and Sybil comes up with all sorts of lies to cover for their friend’s lack of foresight.

When Angele returns from her rendezvous with Barry, Pierre excitedly tells her that his parents are in Paris to meet her, the final step in their courtship.

Uh, oh. There’s a problem here.

Les Girls 1957 2

source: MGM

Pierre believes Angele is in Paris studying to be a nurse and is cohabitating with Joy and Sybil to save on rent costs; she’s neglected to tell him that she’s actually a dancer. Nevertheless, she still plans on performing the following night… IN FRONT OF Pierre and his parents, seeing as they have tickets for the show.

Believing that this her only chance at true happiness, before the show begins Angele pleads with Barry to confess his ‘love’ for her. Barry being reasonable, obviously rejects her efforts, Angele takes the stage a beaten and broken woman. On top of that, she also makes a fool of herself, trying to hide her face from being seen by Pierre.

Too late!

In trying to conceal her face, she manages to screw up the number and ruin her costume. Assuming she’s ruined her chances with both men, Angele looks to Sybil and Joy – particularly Sybil, for comfort. Nighttime begins to fall, and Joy and Sybil go out for a bite to eat, leaving Angele in the apartment alone. When they return, they find her passed out from inhaling gas fumes.


Returning to the courtroom, Sybil explains that Angele wanted to die because of her unrequited feelings toward Barry. Pierre horrified during the duration of the testimony, is humiliated by the alleged affair that took place between Angele and Barry and raucously argues with her. The next day in court, Angele gets to right her wrongs by telling her version of events.

Back to 1949 Paris, we go….


Les Girls 1957 3

source: MGM

Sybil’s fiancé London businessman Gerald Wren (of course his name is Gerald…) pays her a surprise visit (what’s with the surprise visits?) to Paris to see how’s she’s doing.

Turns out she isn’t well at all, in fact, she’s terribly drunk.

Being the good friends they are, Joy and Angele use their wit and charm to distract Gerald and cover up Sybil’s indiscretions. Barry notices Sybil’s declining status and threatens to fire her until Angele convinces him not to when she explains that her drunkenness is due her unreciprocated love for him.

Barry ego is said to have swelled 5x that day and he soon takes pity on her.

Months later, Barry asserts that he was able to convince Sybil to go sober; Oh, and they also end up having an affair as per tradition.

Touring the small Carribean country of Grenada (odd, but understandable) Gerald, again, pops up suddenly on this tiny island offering Barry a job in London. Little did he know that Gerald had ulterior motives. You see, Gerald did this with the hope that Sybil would return to London, and stay there – permanently.

Later that night, Sybil and Barry head to a Flamenco club where they discuss the proposition Gerald gave them. However, when Barry brings up the subject Sybil tells him that Gerald canceled his offer after he learned about the affair that they’re having. Befuddled at this statement, when Gerald show up at the club a few moments later, Barry disavows Sybil’s statement.

Les Girls 6

source: MGM

Gerald, naturally, shocked that his fianceé would cheat on him, starts a good ole’ fashioned barfight with Barry. After that whole ordeal, Sybil tries to apologize to Barry with no luck. He comes clean saying that he only showed interest in her intending to curb her habit of alcoholism.

Shocked and saddened, Sybil relapses.

The group returns to Paris where Sybil’s nasty habit starts to bleed into her performances.

Barry ends up firing her in a fit of rage.

Back at the apartment later that night (there are sure a lot of night scenes in this movie) Angele finds Sybil unconscious from inhaling gas fumes and comes to the conclusion that she tried to commit suicide, thus ending Angele’s “side” to the story.


We return to the courtroom where the session has been adjourned. Sybil confronts Angele claiming she invented every word of her story.

Well, Sybil’s accusations aren’t enough for her husband Gerald, and he ends up telling her that their marriage is over.

The next day, Barry is called into court to make sense of all of these conflicting testimonies.


Les Girls 1957 8

source: MGM

Perhaps my favorite of the 3 stories (mostly because I identify with Joy so strongly here) Barry admits that he wasn’t in love with Sybil or Angele; as matter of fact, he had he eyes set the quieter more conservative, Joy.

His attempts to court her fail – repeatedly. Joy doesn’t want to dirty her unblemished reputation by dating a man with Barry’s womanizing history.

One night after rehearsals, Barry offers to drive a very tired Joy back to her apartment. Fully aware that he’s trying to take advantage of her, Joy allows him upstairs and tells him she’s going to slip into something “a little bit more comfortable.”

Fully believing that he’s got his way, Barry takes off his shoes, looses up his tie and makes himself comfortable only to have his dream crushed when Joy returns looking like she’s ready to travel to the spa, pinned up hair and all!

Les Girls 1957 9

source: MGM

Barry storms out of the apartment in sexual frustration. A couple of days later, Pierre and Gerald ask Barry to fire Sybil and Angele so they could marry them (how ridiculously selfish!), Barry doesn’t think so, however. Intrigued at the prospect of being alone with Joy, he plots a plan that would disband the group forever.

That night after performing the greatest and most sensual musical number I’ve ever witnessed, Barry collapses backstage feigning a heart condition prompting Joy to console him. He tells Joy that even though he’s been diagnosed with a terminal heart condition, “the show must go on.”

“Absolutely not!” she retorts back.

Barry’s plan appears to have worked.

Joy charges back to the apartment where she tells Angele and Sybil the ghastly news.

A few days later, the girls and Barry have an anniversary party celebrating the group’s existence. It’s at this gathering that Sybil and Angele agree to quit the group due to Barry’s health (among other things.) He accepts their resignations and asks Joy if she could kindly take him home.

When they get to his apartment, Barry falls on top of Joy still pretending to have a heart palpitation. She desperately wants to succumb to his advances, but she fears if she gets his heart rate up, he could be in worse shape than he already is.

Les Girl 1957 10

source: MGM

That’s it!

Barry gives up this shtick that he’s doing and tells Joy that it’s all a facade. This clearly does NOT go over well with Joy and she races out of his apartment while Barry runs after her. In a very Say Anything… type of moment Barry gets to Joy’s apartment (really the apartment she shares with the girls) and essentially screams out that he loves her. Jokes on him, if he only knew that Joy was standing a few yards away from him, he might’ve never done that.

Oh, well.

Disappointed that he didn’t get the response he wanted, Barry sulks up to her apartment where he finds Angele and Sybil passed out from gas fumes from a wonky water heater.


Back to the present day, Barry explains that both girls were taken to the hospital and Les Girls never performed as a group again.

Both Sybil and Angele were troubled that the cause of their asphyxiation was never made clear to them, but that doesn’t matter anymore! Sybil accepts Angele’s motion to drop the case and all is right with the world, except for Pierre and Gerald.

Insulted by their husband’s scheme to end their careers Angele and Sybil embrace like old friends as they walk off to their cars.

As for Barry? Well, he and Joy got married.

I guess everyone did get what they wanted in the end.

How sweet.

Conclusion

Les Girls 4

source: MGM

Now, Les Girls is a film that stands out above the rest.

Released in 1957, just as the musical craze in Hollywood was starting to die down due to 1960s obsession with rebellion and counterculture, Les Girls brings back that old Hollywood flavor to musicals that harken back to the day of Busby Berkeley.

That’s what I love about this film.

It’s absolutely heavenly.

It makes you want to fly to Paris find the nearest bistro order a café au lait while smoking Virginia Slims with a cigarette holder.

Kay Kendall, Mitzi Gaynor, and Taina Elg gave this move an extra *umpfh* that the original cast of Leslie Caron, Jean Simmons, Cyd Charisse probably couldn’t.

Gene Kelly was positively charming (and kind of scummy) playing the egomaniacal, fame-hungry Barry Paris.

This is definitely a movie that I cherish. When I first viewed it, I was enchanted. The lights, the dresses, the sets, the costumes by Orry Kelly, all of it sucked me in. I supposed this a lesser-known musical that doesn’t nearly get enough attention – it’s a shame because it should. Without it, I never would’ve never known who Kay Kendall was; trust me, folks she lived a crazy life, an unfortunate one at that.

All in all Les Girls is my second favorite musical (behind Seven Brides for Seven Brothers of course.) It deserves that spot because it’s truly in a league of its own and I’m glad it is.

Joan Crawford Goes To The Supermarket

Joan Crawford Roger Ebert

source: Eve Arnold

When scrolling around the internet, one must be careful not to click on anything unsavory. This happens sometimes – of course, but it’s basic computer safety to stay away from websites that try to get you to book a “trip” to Naples for the discount price of $150 bucks. 

Luckily, I managed to stay away from sites like that, but not before I ran into something absolutely horrid.  

A couple of months ago, I stumbled across a forum named The Data Lounge. Their main audience is mostly gay men, but, I tend to visit it because I love the banter that goes on during the different discussions. 

I also love the forum because there is a myriad of various conversations about classic Hollywood. There’s a search bar on the website that simultaneously functions as an archive. I often use it to look for threads that date back to 1995 – the year the website was founded.

This brings me to Joan Crawford.

Humoresque

source: Warner Bros.

In 1969, Joan Crawford starred in promotional short (featuring a TON of Pepsi- Cola advertising) that shows what she does on an average trip to the grocery store.

Oh. my. word.

This was the most absurd thing I’ve seen in a while.

Joan in supermarket

source: The Big Rock Candy Mountain

The video starts off with Joan walking out of her station wagon (like she ever drove one, oh, please!) then sauntering into what looks like your typical grocery chain. She’s joined by, what looks to be, a neighbor and her blonde-haired snotty nosed child. They shop for various things, including tomatoes, Spanish sausage and a multitude of several kinds of seafood.

The rest of the 4-minute video sees Joan picking up ingredients to make a paella, deeps thoughts about life and some witty teasing between her and this 5-year-old toddler.

If you’d like to see this masterpiece of filmmaking, click: here. It’ll show you a hilarious side to a silver screen legend that will leave you stunned (in a healthy way) for hours after you view it.

God Bless you Joan Crawford for making this, I deeply appreciate it.

 

The Joan Fontaine Centenary Blogathon…

Letter From an Unknown Woman

source: Universal Pictures

Rainy nights, overcoats and star-crossed romance, Letter From an Unknown Woman is a heartbreakingly riveting movie about one man’s fall from grace.

What caused it, you may ask?

A woman, of course!

Louis Jourdan plays musical genius Stefan Brand. Once considered to be the next Mozart, his life has turned to ruin due to his boozy playboy lifestyle. One rainy night in Vienna while sitting in his study, Stefan gets news that he’s always been dreading to hear; his friends have warned him that he’ll be summoned for a duel at dawn.

Startled but not surprised, Stefan scoffs off this appointment and asks his mute butler, played by Art Smith, to prepare his carriage. As he’s getting ready to flee, he notices a letter meant for him sitting on his bedside.

letter-from-an-unknown-woman Joan and Louis

source: Universal Pictures

Intrigued by the letter’s rather morbid first sentence, Stefan’s quick getaway turns into an hour-long retrospective. This is the point in the film where director Max Ophüls changes perspective and introduces us to the letter’s writer named Lisa, played by Joan Fontaine.

The note begins with Lisa describing herself as a lovesick teenager. She writes about her first memories of seeing Stefan move into her building and how excited she was whenever she’d listen his music floating through the stagnant night air into her window.

Lisa doesn’t dare speak to him, but she does, however, manage to fall in love with him. Just as she was about to confess her undying admiration for him, her mother remarries and moves the family to Linz, 100 miles away from Vienna.

Taking up with another young man to get her mind off of Stefan, she eventually grows weary of him and calls off their relationship. Telling her mother she has a lover in Vienna, she reluctantly lets her daughter return to the city to make a living as a model in a dress store.

After her shift has ended for the night, Lisa waits for Stefan outside his apartment – essentially stalking him until he notices her. Luckily, he does and offers to take Lisa out to dinner.

letter-from-an-unknown-woman 2

source: Universal Pictures

White rose in one hand and a checkbook in the other, Stefan finds Lisa utterly charming and is flattered by her undying devotion. They finish their meal, then head to a local amusement park where they dance till dawn.

In the next scene, we see the pair in Stefan’s apartment in an intimate embrace. It’s implied that they made love, but, in true classic Hollywood fashion, the screen fades to black before anything could be seen.

The next day, Stefan visits Lisa while she’s at work and explains to her that he’s going to be out of town for the next 2 weeks. He promises that he’ll keep in touch with her, but, doesn’t keep his word.

A few months go by and Lisa believes that she’s heard the last of Stefan. It isn’t until she gives birth to their son, Stefan Jr. that she decides to move on from their relationship and marry an older, wealthier man.

After this scene, we return to the present day where Stefan is lovingly looking at the photos of his son enclosed in the envelope that had the letter. Desiring to know more about him, Stefan resumes reading the message, hoping to get a glimpse of his son’s life.

Letter From an Unknown Woman 3

source: Universal Pictures

The note continues when Stefan Jr. is about 9 years old and Lisa has married socialite Johann Stauffer, played by Marcel Journet. A night out to the opera turns sour for the pair when Lisa spots Stefan sitting in the opposite balcony out of the corner of her eye. Careful to avoid eye contact, she tells her husband that she has a headache and wants to return home immediately.

Stunned to see Stefan is such a state of disarray, Lisa stumbles out of theatre hoping (praying, even) that she doesn’t run into her old flame.

Too late.

Just as she’s about to step into her carriage, Stefan steps in front of her and asks if he could see her again. She ignores him and heads into the coach where – surprisingly – her husband’s waiting for her. He asks her what she’s going to do, Lisa tells him that she feels powerless around Stefan and declares that he needs her.

Fast forward to a couple days later, Lisa is sending Stefan Jr. off to school via The Vienna Express. They are quickly asked to move trains, however, when it is learned that the cabin they’ve been put in has been quarantined due to a previous passenger having a typhoid fever.

letter from an unknown woman 4

source: Universal Pictures

Lisa gets off the train platform and buys a bouquet of white roses to give to Stefan when she visits his apartment.

A couple of moments later, she arrives at his place and swiftly realizes that Stefan has no idea who she is. Dazed and heartbroken, Lisa spends the rest of her night wandering the streets of Vienna, and ultimately goes to see her son.

In the final scene of the picture, we overhear Lisa’s voice explaining to Stefan that his son died from typhus that night and by the time he receives this letter, she will be dead herself. Flushed with sadness, Stefan remembers who Lisa was and starts to feel remorse.

Realizing he has nothing to live for, he finishes getting dressed and changes his mind about going to a duel. But, before he steps out of the door, he plucks a single flower from a bouquet of white roses for good luck.

Conclusion

letter-from-an-unknown-woman 5

source: Universal Pictures

I quite enjoyed this film, to be completely honest. I, foolishly, went it believing that it would be another costume drama that would bore me to death.

I’m really glad that wasn’t the case.

Louis Jourdan gave Paul Henreid a run for his money. I was positively enchanted by him in this film. His portrayal of a down on his luck washed-up musician with an inclination for weak women spoke to my soul. He was simultaneously a jerk and a heartthrob; I thought he balanced the dichotomy very well.

Joan Fontaine was as delicate as a newly born rabbit in a cotton field in this film. She had to portray Lisa at 3 very different stages in her life and intricately played all of the extremely well.

As for the directing, Max Ophüls did a phenomenal job. He expertly captured the ambiance and feeling of early 20th century Vienna that gave the courtship and romance between Stefan and Lisa a feeling authentic intimacy.

Letter From an Unknown Woman is a real gem of a film. I didn’t expect it to be as good as I thought it was going to be. It went from being a picture that I would’ve watched once then left it alone, to a movie that I’m seriously thinking about purchasing on DVD. If you have the opportunity to watch this, I recommend that you do. It’ll be a nice addition to your classic movie repertoire and a very pleasant shock.

 

To read more entries in this blogathon, click: here.

 

My Obsession With…Classic Westerns

The Searchers

source: Warner Bros.

The vast, dusty, open spaces of the western frontier are some of the most magnificent sights one can behold.

States like Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and countless others have all served as backdrops for film directors and actors who had dared dip their toes into the red-blooded, quintessentially American movie genre known as the classic western.

John Ford, Gary Cooper, Joel McCrea, Linda Darnell, John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, Howard Hawks, Otto Preminger, Nicholas Ray, John Huston, Micheal Curtiz and plethora of other classic Hollywood icons have, at one point or another in their careers, ventured to this extraordinary genre that heavily influenced my movie watching sensibilities.

Mackenna's Gold

source: Columbia Pictures

When I first began to submerge myself into the world of classic cinema, initially, I only watched what was comfortable to me; romance, comedies, dramas, musicals – whatever it was, I vigorously viewed them with the tenacity of a lion.

It wasn’t until I saw a rather peculiar film about a man’s rush to obtain wealth through gold, that I started to take the classic western seriously.

Mackenna’s Gold is a film, unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

It broke the constraints in what it meant to be a “classic western.” With its special effects, subtly nudity, and coarse language, it left an indelible effect on me.

Starring an all-star cast of Gregory Peck, Omar Shariff, Julie Newmar, Edward G. Robinson, Ted Cassidy, Telly Savalas and Camilla Sparv, Mackenna’s Gold tells the story of a mild manner sheriff named Sam Mackenna (played by Peck) who gets kidnapped by a group of Mexican and Indian bandits (primarily played Omar Shariff, Jule Newmar and Ted Cassidy) who forced him to take them to this ‘so-called’ city of gold.

Mackenna insists that there is no ‘city of gold’ but, his pleas get met with more pistol whippings and beatings. For the rest of the film, I witnessed a cinematic spectacle that shaped the way I looked at the genre that I once loathed.

MacKennasGold

source: Columbia Pictures

There were scenes of violence, skinny dipping,g and mass canyon destruction and I utterly enjoyed every minute of it. I never knew that westerns could be this gritty and real.

Watching Mackenna’s Gold lead to an awakening to other westerns that I normally would’ve skipped over.

The Searchers, Giant, Wichita, The Naked Hills, The Unforgiven and many others I feverously poured over hoping to get the same feeling I did when I watched Mackenna’s Gold.

Luckily for me, I did.

Watching westerns make me feel free. They give me a feeling of pure spontaneity. The films I’ve watched usually involve a man just looking for a place to lay his roots and start a family. He doesn’t where he’ll start, but he knows he’ll start somewhere.

The beauty of the unknown, It gives me a thrill. Just imagine moving to a small, dusty town where the people are (relatively) friendly and the resources are abundant. The world is your oyster in the wild west, and I have Mackenna’s Gold to thank.

thesearchers

source: Warner Bros.

 

 

 

 

The Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn Blogathon…

20000 Years in Sing Sing

source: Warner Bros.

Although this may be the “Spencer Tracy & Katharine Hepburn blogathon” I took the liberty of choosing a lesser known movie starring the former.

20,000 Years in Sing Sing is a pre-code (one of my favorite eras) drama set in the real-life Sing Sing penitentiary location in Ossining New York- a few miles outside of the 5 boroughs of New York City.

Tommy Conners is a cocky, brash loud-mouthed gangster who has been sentenced to 5 to 30 years in prison at Sing Sing for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon.

Despite Sing Sing’s notorious reputation, Tommy is sure that ‘his boys’ on the outside will be able to get him out of this. His lawyer, Joe Finn (played by Louis Calhern) attempts to sweet-talk the warden (played by Arthur Byron) with bribes, to no avail – Tommy Connors is out of luck.

Connors wants to be taken seriously at Sing Sing, so much so that he’s strutting around the prison like he bought it with his own money. This shtick of his gets shut down fairly swiftly (after multiple beatings and seven months in solitary confinement) and Tommy begins rapidly learns his place.

20000 Years in Sing Sing

source: Warner Bros

Beaten but not broken, fellow prison mate Bud Saunders (played by Lyle Talbot) recruits Connors and another prisoner named Hype (played by Warren Hymer) for a highly elaborate escape plan.

All sides of the party agree, but, when the night of the getaway falls on a Saturday, which Tommy regards as a day that’s always unlucky for him, he backs out of it leaving Bud to adjust his idea ‘on the fly’.

Bud’s plan continues without him and fails – spectacularly.

The warden was tipped off to this scheme and preemptively sends guards to spoil it, losing two of them and one prisoner in the process.

When prisoners aren’t trying to flee the steely gray walls of Sing Sing, Tommy’s girlfriend Fay Wilson (played by Bette Davis) visits him regularly every weekend.

In a desperate plea to get him out of jail, Fay admits to Connors that she’s been intimately meeting with Finn with the hope that he could do her a favor and get him released from jail.

Sing Sing

source: Warner Bros.

Enraged by the thought of Fay with another man, Tommy forbids her from seeing him again, even if that means staying in jail for permanently.

A couple of days after their meeting, Connors gets called to the warden’s office where he’s handed a telegram with tragic news:

Fay’s on her deathbed, with life-threatening injuries from a car accident.

Seeing as this has physically and emotionally affected him, the warden, incredibly – gives Tommy 24 hours to see her before she passes away, on the condition that he was to return as soon as possible.

Tommy gives the warden his word and jumps at this opportunity to leave his jail cell. When he gets Fay’s apartment he sees her wounds, he is understandably upset. Wanting to know who did this to his sweetheart, he presses Fay into giving him the answer.

Sing Sing 2

source: Warner Bros.

Fay confesses that it was Finn driving the car she was in.

The first rule of Gangster flicks is to NEVER mess with their girlfriends, or else they go crazy.

Oops.

After learning about this, Tommy grabs the nearest gun and is on a one-man mission to kill Finn. Before he could step out of the door, however, Finn shows up with a letter exonerating Connors for the crimes he committed in exchange for the $5000 dollars Fay was going to use to get him discharged from prison.

Tommy lunges at him, striking Finn in the head with a fallen telephone. Just as it seemed Connors was about to be murdered, Fay in her weakened state picks up the gun Tommy dropped and shoots Finn in the back – killing him instantly.

Tommy bolts from the scene taking the gun and – unknowingly thanks to Fay – the $5000 dollars. The police arrive at Fay’s apartment a few moments after Tommy leaves but with just enough time for Finn to name him as his killer.

His confession leads police on a national manhunt and lands the warden in hot water due to his decision to let Connors walk free.

Just as the warden is about to resign, Tommy returns to Sing Sing fully knowing that he’ll be charged with murder.

He’s sentenced to death by electric chair, accepting complete responsibility. Fay, fully recovered, tries to explain to the warden that she was the one who shot Finn, but her cries land on deaf ears. In the final scene of the movie, Tommy and Fay comfort each other, realizing that this would be the last time that they would be together.

Conclusion

Sing Sing 3

source: Warner Bros.

Though this film has no Katharine Hepburn, I still very much enjoyed it.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, 20,000 Years in Sing Sing was positively wonderful.

I went in expecting it to be a dross and dreary gangster film that I’ve so often seen in classic films but luckily for me, this wasn’t the case.

The directing was impeccable, the shadows, the black and white contrast, and the quirky camera angle gave this movie an extra kick. The chemistry between Bette Davis and Spencer Tracy was excellent.

The scene where Bette‘s character Fay is at Sing Sing for conjugal visits, whispering sweet nothings to Tracy‘s Connors like it was the last time they’ll meet is heartbreakingly adorable.

As for the supporting cast, they did just as good a job as the two leads and further deepened my sense of immersion during the movie.

All in all, 20,000 Years in Sing Sing is a wonderful pre-code film with great acting, directing and set design. Even though there’s no Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis made a more than capable substitution.

I hope that you’ll have the chance to see this film because I genuinely believed it’s one of the more underrated pictures in both Tracy‘s and Davis‘ filmography.  It deserves to be seen, and I implore you to watch it as soon as possible.