Thursday, December 2, 2010

About Me: Television

Okay, so most of you know that I like old movies, Robert Montgomery and have a thing for silents... but I thought it was time that I introduce myself beyond what you already know... Every now and then I will share 5 things about myself that you don't already know. I will try to give them a bit of a theme so they don't come off quite so random:

I thought for my first About Me entry I would jump over to that other screen medium... Television

1. Shows I came to late- The first is Mad Men. I love this show! I kept seeing people go on and on about how good it was and had to try it for myself. And it wasn't all just hype... this show is fantastic! I like how the writers don't overload the audience with dialogue. So much is conveyed through movement, the way a scene is shot. And when dialogue is spoken, nothing is thrown away. Its a very poetic show with its rhythm and style. I am absolutely hooked! Another one I came to late was Dexter.... thanks to Netflix on Wii! I never thought I would adore a serial killer, but this guy makes you feel for him in a way I didn't think possible. He almost reminds me of Hamlet, tortured, alone. I am only in season 2 of both shows... but I am loving them!

2. The Good Wife- This show was a surprise. I originally started watching it because my cousin asked me to (She wanted someone to talk to about it) and I must say... its the sexiest legal show I've seen in a long while. It's sexy without being all about sex. There are more than one cat and mouse plots going on and the ensemble cast is perfect. None of the characters are simple or clear cut. You are constantly seeing different sides to them. Its a fascinating character study and constantly turns you on your head.

3. British TV- The BBC has always held a special place in my heart, ever since that delightful Pride and Prejudice mini series (you know the one I'm talking about... Colin Firth in the pond... Hello Mr. Darcy!). I have particularly enjoyed their latest Austen reboots (the newest version of Persuasion is pretty wonderful!) Also, thanks again to instant Netflix, I am slowly getting into shows like Doctor Who and Torchwood.

4. Comedy television always seems to be the rub with people.... either you love the show or you hate it. So here it goes.... (you are either going to love me or hate me!) I like Glee. That was a bit of an understatement... I love it! I am a sucker for musicals and have a history in the theater, so this show appeals to me on many levels. I mean, come on, they did a mash up of Singing in the Rain and Umbrella. It also addresses issues that I know I struggled with growing up, getting bullied, that wonderful, unbearable sometimes painful journey to find out who you are and where you belong, first love. I call it a comedy because it always makes me laugh out loud! Other favorite comedies include: The Big Bang Theory (Bazinga!), and Raising Hope.

5. Finally, I always seem to get invested in shows that don't make it. Two prime examples are Firefly and Pushing Daisies. Firefly appeals to the sci-fy nerd in me. Meshing western elements with outer space was brilliant (Hollywood is trying the odd combination again in a movie coming out this summer called Cowboys and Aliens... looks interesting!) Malcom Reynolds is the man! He is protective, sarcastic, stubborn, loyal and good looking... now if he were only real! Alas, it didn't make it very far on TV (two episodes I think) before it got axed. Thanks to a hefty cult following, they made a movie called Serenity and put all of the episodes out on DVD. If you haven't seen it.... Get your gorram booty to Netflix! Pushing Daisies was another show gone way too soon. It was truly a unique original show. Kristen Chenoweth and Lee Pace were particularly wonderful in it. I think the odd but fantastic nature of the show coupled with the high special effect budget probably was its downfall.... that doesn't stop me from watching my DVDs though!

This post turned out longer than I thought. I promise I won't do this often. This blog is dedicated to my love for old movies... but I think its important for a reader to know about the author so that they can understand why they are the way they are. In this same fashion... tell me something about yourself... it can be related to television or not... your choice! This writer wants to know more about you readers! (P.S. Let me know if you have a blog! I would love to read it!)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Don't Be Shy of Girl Shy

So, continuing with Silent Awareness Month, I thought it would be appropriate to showcase one of my favorite silent films... Girl Shy (1924).

This is one of the first Romantic Comedies ever made and was quite a departure for the star of the film, Harold Lloyd. Unlike his "gag" or stunt films, this is more of a character role. There is a stunt-y sequence at the end of the film where Lloyd is rushing to town to stop a marriage, but the majority of his time on screen is less physical. Lloyd plays a tailor's apprentice who has a hard time talking to women. He stutters whenever he tries to talk to a girl, and the words only come out after his uncle blows a whistle.

Harold uses his spare time to write his book on women. It is a novel teaching young men how to woo different types of women, (flapper, vamps etc). While writing, Harold acts out his methods in fantasy. These are a great parody of the characters of popular silent film. I particularly like the Flapper fantasy. She is smacking her gum and dancing all around the room acting quite the child. Harold uses his "cave man" technique to win her over. He takes a train to the big city so that he can deliver his book to the publisher.

On the train, he meets the delightful Jobyna Ralston. Dogs aren't allowed on the train, but Harold helps Jobyna hide her cute little pooch from the train operators. After a whistle from the train, Harold begins telling Jobyna about his book. You can tell that she doesn't believe him, but she is charmed by him as well. Its easy to see why these two stars made more than one film together, they had great chemistry.

After the two part ways and Harold has dropped off his book, the movie picks up with the introduction of the villain. A very ugly guy trying to win Jobyna for a wife. They are driving when marriage proposal goes awry and their car breaks down. Carlton Griffin (the villain) walks to town to get help while Jobyna explores a lake... Guess who else is at the lake? Harold and Jobyna have a sweet time of getting to know each other until Griffin comes and breaks it up. Harold actually punches Griffin in the face showing that a boy who stutters can still throw a mean left hook!

Haorld then goes to town to introduce a new chapter for his book to the publisher only to find the publishers office laughing and making fun of his work. The look on his face while everyone laughs at him is heartbreaking and Harold's infectious optimistic spirit is broken. He won't be making the money to ask Jobyna to marry him. He instead tells her that it had all been an experiment, that he never felt anything for her. She in turn gets engaged to Griffin.

On the day of the marriage, Lloyd gets a note in the mail saying that the publisher has decided to publish the book after all as a gag story renaming it "The Boob's Diary". Harold is embarassed, but doesn't care once he realizes that the money they sent would be enough for him to propose. A girl walks into the tailor's shop and sees the engagement announcement of Griffin and Jobyna in the paper. She cries out that her and Griffin are already married and shows a locket with their marriage date to prove it. Lloyd is off like a bolt to stop the pending nuptials.

The ending sequence is fantastic. Lloyd uses nearly every mode of transportation available to get to Jobyna, cars, mono-rails even a horse and buggy. Its fantastic. My favorite is when he steals the car of a bootlegger... oh prohibition, you made for such great comedy! He gets to the wedding just in time, but his stutter prohibits him from making any declarations. Instead, he throws Jobyna over his shoulder and runs out of the mansion (Harold Lloyd's actual estate was used for the exterior shots for this sequence!) Jobyna is trying to get Harold to propose to her, but his stutter is preventing it. She takes matters into her own hand and grabs the whistle of a mail man. The two end in an embrace just like any good rom-com should!

I like this movie for two reasons: 1. Harold Lloyd's everyman character is exceedingly charming 2. and the story is too convoluded with heavy melodrama, instead its light and sweet.

Don't be shy! Give Girl Shy a try!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

She Had "IT"

I apologize for falling down on the job. Work had me so busy I couldn't hardly think last week. To make up for it, I decided to give you a real hum-dinger: Clara Bow.
Clara Bow was described as having "it" that undefinable flapper characteristic. Audiences flocked to see her films and I must admit... she drew me in as well. To this day, Clara has quite the following. If you look on (a phenomenal website for any classic film fan) Clara has pages of photos devoted to her.

I read Clara's biography before actually seeing one of her films. The book is called "Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild by David Stenn and it is quite a tragic read. Bow was born to a phsycotic
mother and a mostly absentee father. She grew up in the Brooklyn slums surrounded by poverty. Her parents and her often shared apartment buildings with other families. They would have one room to their name and share a communal bathroom down the hall. These apartments had no central heating or cooling, and Clara often had to deal with bitter cold winters and scorching summers.

Her child hood friend, a little boy, actually died in Clara's arms. He caught fire and Clara put it out, but the burns were too severe. She held him and cried as his life slipped away. Clara was only a child when it happened.

Clara's mother suffered from psychotic breaks. She also turned to prostitution in order to make ends meet when Clara's father wasn't making enough to provide for the family. She would hide Clara in the closet while she entertained clients. Clara awoke one night to find her mother standing over her with a knife. She was able to escape to the bathroom and hide until her father made it home. All the while, her mother beat on the bathroom door threatening to kill her.

How did a poor, sweet little girl survive and escape such hell? She did what so many of us do when the real world becomes unbearable. She went to the one place where all the rest of it disappeared...the movies.

Clara fell in love with moving pictures... little Mary Pickford running around with long flowing curls... images of families... of love. She would go home and practice making faces in the mirror, she could cry on command, and she used her spunk to entertain anybody and everybody. She convinced her dad to take her to a beauty contest... and she won. The rest of her career is history.

Clara was notorious for her promiscuity. Whether it was her
mother's attempted murder, or her father's lack of presence or her own horrifying experiences, Clara looked for comfort in the arms of men.... lots of men. I don't choose to judge her for this. I don't know who I would have become given those circumstances... Clara needed to be loved as an adult because she wasn't as a child.

Her most famous boyfriend was Gary Cooper. She helped him get his start in films, and I truly believed that they cared for each other. Their passion burned hot and short. I don't think Cooper was equipped to give Clara everything that she needed. She needed a man to devote himself to her and her well being. She always feared ending up like her mother, mentally unstable. She did do a stint in a mental hospital after a nervous breakdown from too much hard work, but she escaped her mother's fate.

I adore Clara because her presence on screen was so full of life. She had a pure heart and it shines through in her work. That infectious smile, her bubbly spirit. This girl didn't need words (although her talkies weren't bad) to make an audience fall head over heels for her adorable bobbed hair. She defined Flapper, she embraced the woman that she was, throwing off the shackles of Victorian convention and lived her life to the max.

Catch one of Clara's most iconic films "It" on TCM this week November 17 at 1:30 am ct.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Save the Sheik

I thought it was only appropriate that I start this month out by revisiting the first silent movie I ever watched... Beyond the Rocks.

My first silent film experience is one I won't soon forget. It was late at night in the dead of Winter. I couldn't sleep, so I was snuggled up on the couch flipping through TCM recordings on my Mom's DVR. I had recorded Beyond the Rocks because I figured it was about time I watched a Valentino film. Watching silent films and enjoying them really relies on adjusting your frame of mind and being open to a different movie watching experience. To this day, I normally watch silents late at night because I have less judgmental points of view when I am sleepy, and I am more susceptible to "being taken in" by a story. I turned on Beyond the Rocks and let all my walls down.... So glad that I did.

This film has two of the biggest silent film stars of the era, Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino. In an earlier silent film post, I mentioned that starting with a Valentino silent is a good way to go. Who hasn't heard of Valentino? Even if you can't put the face to the name, you at least have an idea of who the guy was.

He was one of the first male sex symbols in cinema. D.W. Griffith said that American women wouldn't respond to Rudy's European looks.... Boy was he wrong on that one! When you watch Beyond the Rocks... study his features... this man was gorgeous! I think he was the inspiration for tall, dark and handsome. Valentino acted with his emotions on his sleeve. And like Garbo, he was known for showing a kaleidescope of feelings in his eyes alone. This is what stands him apart from other male silent stars. For example, Fairbanks relied on his physical strength to carry his performance and Lloyd used stunt comedy to help make a name for himself. All Valentino needed was one close up, and audiences were hooked.

Gloria Swanson plays Theodora in Rocks. A beautiful girl married to a nice enough (albeit boring) rich man. Her and Rudy's character meet long before she gets married, but don't fall in love until she is on her honeymoon with a sickly Mr. Boring.

Most know Gloria Swanson from Sunset Blvd. Its fun to watch her during her silent prime. She was gorgeous. She doesn't play a vamp, flapper or Pickford sweetheart. Her character is actually quite normal. Its a character that could have been very dull had not Gloria played her with such feeling. The girl who wants to do the right thing... how lame, right? But Gloria plays her so well rounded, that you can't help but root for her and Rudy!

Is it the best silent movie I have ever seen? No. Is the story predictable? Yes, very. But most of us classic film fans watch movies for the stars, right?! I like this film because it is an easy introduction to silents. Most viewers are already familiar with the two stars, the story is easy to follow, I love the sets and costumes, and the silent factor doesn't knock you over the head. This film also makes a case for silent film preservation. Part of the film has been severely damaged by age and lack of care. As you watch, the particular scenes show signs of burning and deterioration. Almost entire frames are completely eaten away.

I titled this post Save the Sheik because without people determined to preserve our cinema history, icons like Valentino and Swanson would be lost forever.

Beyond the Rocks is currently available for instant watch on Netflix. There are other films by these two stars available for instant watch too. It has never been easier to take the silent plunge! So bolster yourself up, stay up late and press play!

Parting shot of Valentino just for good measure!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Silent Awareness Month

I have decided that November is going to be Silent Awareness Month on Confessions!

Like many classic film fans, I came to appreciate silent films much later than any other genre. I think there are still so many folks out there that don't know much about silents and I thought a month long tribute would be informative and maybe flame some of those silent sparks out there!

Silent films are an endangered species... and an important way to protect and preserve their existence is to generate new fans...

I am by no stretch of the imagination a silent expert. I just find film history fascinating and lets face it... silent features started it all....

Every week this month, I am going to strive to highlight two actors from this period of film. Most of the actors will be ones you have heard of, but I hope these posts spur you on to the adventure of silent cinema!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Amanda's Cinema Survey!

1. What is your favorite movie starring William Powell and Myrna Loy, excluding all of The Thin Man films?
Double Wedding

2. Name a screen team that appeared in only one film together but are still noteworthy for how well they complimented each other.
Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor. These two were such a wonderful dancing duo in Singin' In The Rain and its a shame that they didn't make more films together.

3. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers' best film together?
My favorite is Swing Time

4. Your favorite actor named "Robert"?
Robert Montgomery... I LOVE an excuse to post a Bob

5. An actor/actress who, when you see on
e of their movies, you always wish that someone else was in his/her role?
Whenever I watch Warren Beatty films, I wonder what they would have been like with James Dean... So much talent.... I am always curious about what films he would have made had he lived longer. Can you imagine Splendor in the Grass with James Dean..... wowza

6. An actor/actress that someone close to you really loves that you can't stand or vice versa?
I don't have an answer to this. I have a friend that isn't a huge Robert Montgomery fan, but that doesn't mean she can't stand him....

7. An actor/actress that you both agree on completely?
Ginger Rogers

8. Complete this sentence: Virginia O'Brien is to Ethel Merman as...
Joan Crawford is to Bette Davis??? I was never very good at these.

9. What is your favorite film starring Ray Milland?
The Major and the Minor... Ginger Rogers is too cute in this movie!!

10. You had to have seen this one coming: what is your favorite movie of the 1960s?
Sex and the Single Girl... Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood has amazing chemistry... and although I think the car chase at the end is a bit on the long side... I enjoy the movie quite a bit.

11. An actor/actress that you would take out of one film and put into a different movie that wa
s released the same year?
Released the same year??? Wow.... hard question.... How about switching in Gene Kelly in for Fred Astaire in Easter Parade. If it hadn't been for that broken ankle... it would have been him anyway.

12. Who was your favorite of Robert Montgomery's leading ladies?
Norma Shearer... They balanced out so well!

13. You think it would have been a disaster if what movie starred the actor/actress who was originally asked to star in it?
Charade would have been bad with Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood. It's not that I don't like Beatty and Wood.... but Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn are so perfect together in that movie. It wouldn't have been near as good!!

14. An actor/actress who you will watch in any or almost any movie?
Cary Grant... I mean, honestly, he is good in anything!

15. Your favorite Leslie Howard film and role?
The Scarlet Pimpernell.... He played it so wonderfully, from the snotty (hilariously feminine) rich boy to the dashing, charming hero!

16. You have been asked to host a marathon of four Barbara Stanwyck films. Which ones do you choose?
Oh Goody!! 1. Baby Face - Use 'em then loose 'em!! 2. Ball of Fire - With a name like Sugarpuss... how can you not add this to the marathon?! 3. Double Indemnity - Don't disown me... but I've actually never seen's on my list! 4. Night Nurse - super young Babs and evil Clark Gable... woo hoo!

17. What is, in your mind, the nearest to perfect comedy you have ever seen? Why?
Bringing Up Baby... A near perfect screwball comedy for me.... Zany Katharine Hepburn and dorky Cary Grant are a fantastic combination!!

18. You will brook no criticism of what film?
The Philadelphia Story... This is one of the most perfect films I have ever seen. It is near and dear to my heart... so if you don't like it... keep it to yourself :)

19. Who is your favorite Irish actress?
Maureen O'Hara... Talk about spit fire... everything an Irish actress should be!

20. Your favorite 1940s movie starring Ginger Rogers?
I'll Be Seeing You... Joseph Cotten is one of my favorites

21. Do you enjoy silent movies?
Yes! Harold Lloyd, Rudolph Valentino, Clara Bow, Joan Crawford... When I was in Hollywood... I made it a point to go pay my respects to Valentino... so yes, I enjoy silent movies!

22. What is your favorite Bette Davis film?
Now, Voyager

23. Your favorite onscreen Hollywood couple?
Onscreen? Hummmm..... Clark Gable and Joan Crawford... their chemistry was so unbelievably hot.... sparks flew to the moon!

24. This one is for the girls, but, of course, the guys are welcome to answer, too: who is your favorite Hollywood costume designer?

25. To even things out a bit, here's something the boys will enjoy: what is your favorite tough action film?
Hmmmm.... Anything Bruce Willis...

26. You are currently gaining a greater appreciation for which actor(s)/actress(es)?
Natalie Wood

27. Franchot Tone: yes or no?
Yes. If you would have asked me this question 1 month ago, I would have said no... but he is growing on me.

28. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are underrated?
Edward Everett Horton... He was such an amazing character actor...

29. Which actors and/or actresses do you think are overrated?
Bette Davis... I can see the ugly looks coming my way already. She just isn't one of my favorites.

30. Favorite actor?
Robert Montgomery. Hands Down. Without A Doubt!

31. Favorite actress?
Norma Shearer! Talk about FIERCE!

32. Of those listed, who is the coolest: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Steve McQueen, or Patrick Stewart?
Steve McQueen! That man was so... COOL!

33. What is your favorite movie from each of these genres:

Comedy: Some Like It Hot

Swashbuckler: Captain Blood

Film noir: This is a tough one... I don't watch a lot of film noir... but The Maltese Falcon would probably be my choice!

Musical: Singin' in the Rain... Gene Kelly is just so Brilliant and Donald O'Connor is so Adorable!

Holiday: White Christmas.... I adore this movie! Rosemary Clooney AND Bing Crosby... It doesn't get much better than that!

Hitchcock: Rear Window!This was my first Hitchcock movie... and it took my fingernails weeks to recover from all of my biting!

**If you've posted Amanda's Survey to your blog... leave me a link in a comment! I would love to read your answers! =)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Nitrate Soul Mate

At Cinecon last month, I met the most adorable memorabilia dealer. He was a short, round, older man with thick glasses and stark white hair. In his dealer area, he had box upon box of movie still files. They were organized by actor name. I went straight to the Ms, looking for some Robert Montgomery stills. And for the life of me, I couldn't find his file. Resigned that it didn't exist, I picked up the William Powell one and started thumbing through.

The dealer came over and said that I looked disappointed with the selection. I told him that he had a very impressive collection, but that I couldn't find a file for Montgomery. He responded,
"My dear, I don't have one file for that man....... I have several! I left them at my shop... but I will bring them tomorrow just for you," He winked and made a note on a little pad from his pocket. (I don't think I was the only one he was bringing files for.)

When I showed up the next day, he did indeed
have 3 files of Robert Montgomery stills!!! Yes, I was in heaven! The smile on my face must have shown my absolute joy because the little man said, "I guess this is the guy you were looking for."
I replied that Montgomery is my all time favorite. The adorable little dealer said, "I will try not to take that personally. After all, everyone has their own nitrate soul mate...."

I fell in love with that phrase... Nitrate Soul Mate.
It got me to thinking... why do we fall in love with any particular actor? Is
it the way they move? The way they speak? Is it gradual... or adoration at first sight?

Robert Montgomery (if you didn't already know) is my all time favorite. I can't pin it down to any one thing about him, but the way he makes me feel when I watch one of his films
. I think that is the heart of it. We gravitate towards certain actors because of the experience they give us as a spectator. They escape that fourth wall and suddenly we're there with them.

Nitrate Soul Mate... that adorable little man was onto something... We all have our own actor. That one that makes a perfectly awful day bearable again... who we connect with above all other actors... who holds our attention so completely that we don't seem to care how bad
the plot might be.

I found mine... and I am still trying to get my hands on all of his films....

Who is yours? Who is that one actor that you would choose every-time, rain or shine??

Thursday, September 30, 2010

James Dean... Still Not Forgotten...

I think that it is incredibly sad that James Dean has almost become pop culture cliche. Instead of being remembered for the amazing actor that he was, he has become a dorm room decoration in colleges across the nation. I think its important to remember that on September 30 (the anniversary of the iconic actor's death) that we remember just how special this guy really was.... and just to show that I too once had a picture of Dean in my dorm room, I've decided to remember him in pictures.....Let's put aside the cliche, and examine the man....

James Dean was marvelous actor. The first movie I saw him in was East of Eden. To this day, this is my favorite James Dean movie. James dealt with rejection in each of his three movies, but in this one he is rejected by his father. There is a scene where Dean comes to blows with his father, his emotions gush forth with such searing intensity... its absoutly heart wrenching. There is so much behind his voice, his eyes... one can only wonder at the depths he had to go in order to pull up those kind of emotions. These are the kind of scenes that made Dean so watchable... you can't look away.

A couple of summers ago, I went to Marfa, Texas. This is where they shot Giant. I stayed in the same hotel where the stars of the film (Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean) stayed. I actually got to sleep in Dean's hotel room... creepy... but awesome! I am a proud Texan, having grown up in West Texas. So... James Dean in a cowboy hat is absolute perfection. Giant is a long movie, and it has moments that drag a little, but Dean's performance is outstanding... When he comes to Hudson's house after he has struck oil, covered in the black gold, he is so wonderful. Word has it that Dean and Hudson didn't really get along.... but Taylor adored him... imagine that....
Dean had a style that still resonates today. He was and is the quentessential rebel. His jeans... leather jacket... and t-shirts were so normal and yet so perfect. I love the pictures of him with his glasses... He makes them look good. Even in this, he is a bit of a rebel. He takes a physical limitation (that normally people get picked on for) and makes the frames look sexy and cool.

My favorite thing about Dean was his laugh. It bubbled out of him and could sometimes be a little high pitched and giddy. So adorable. I think of when he is at the police station at the beginning of Rebel Without A Cause... when he is drunk and making siren sounds... you can't help but fall for him instantly!
So... the next time you look at that James Dean poster on your wall.... remember... that man wasn't just sexy cool, he was one of the BEST method actors to ever grace the silver screen. He wasn't iconic just because of his tragic death, but because of the immense emotional talent that transended that gap between film and audience... You are still a star James Dean... you just shine from above now....

You Will Be Missed Tony Curtis!

I was sad to hear that Tony Curtis passed away late last night. It was one of those moments where everything stopped for just a second. Tony was one of the best actors of his generation, and he was such a charming man! He did it all, dramas, comedies, cameos... He was a method actor who didn't get lost in the method. I know I am not the only one who is going to mourn this amazing man, and my heart goes out to his family.

I am hoping that TCM does some sort of tribute to Tony in the near future. In the meantime... here are some of my favorite Tony Curtis films...
Operation Petticoat
Tony and Cary Grant had such amazing chemistry! Two men never looked so good on a pink submarine!
Some Like it Hot
I ADORE this movie. Tony and Marilyn Monroe steam up every scene.... and Tony in drag... It doesn't get much better than that!
Paris- When It Sizzles
Tony just has a cameo in this one... but he is unforgettable as Audrey's fake boyfriend!

Sex and the Single Girl
Natalie Wood, Lauren Bacall.... Tony Curtis.... Need I say more? (Oh and BTW.... it has Edward Everett Horton too!)

The Defiant Ones
This is my favorite Tony Curtis movie! The film is wrought with racist emotions and was controversial for its time. If you haven't seen this one, it is a MUST!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Loving Me Some Lloyd

I haven't had much time to post here this week. My apartment flooded at 4 am Monday morning (a pipe in my bathroom exploded!), and I have been busy cleaning up the mess. No heart breaking casualties. (One Jean Harlow pic didn't make it... but it can be easily replaced.) On top of that, my grandmother has been in the hospital... so I have been spending time up there with her after work. Needless to say, I haven't had the time to just sit and relax and watch a movie... I am starting to go through withdrawals.

I did read some interesting things the other day about one of my favorite actors (on my lunch break at work) and thought I would share :)

When I say: "Silent Film Comedian" Who automatically comes to mind?
Chaplin? Keaton? Maybe perhaps even Laurel & Hardy?
For me, my favorite silent comedian is Harold Lloyd and I think its a shame that more people don't know who he is.

I first saw a Lloyd film late one night a few years ago. It was over the holidays and I couldn't sleep.... and like some of you out there... When you can't sleep, you don't count sheep, you turn on Robert Osbourne :) A silent movie had just started and I curled up on the couch thinking it would lull me back to sleep. Instead, I found myself giggling at the skinny little man with horn rimmed glasses. He was playing a sailor trying to rescue a girl from an evil Sheik. He was bouncing around everywhere running from the Sheik's guards. I found him absolutely adorable!

The next morning, I jumped on the computer to see what the name of the movie had been and the name of the actor. The film was called A Sailor-Made Man (1921) with, who else, but Harold Lloyd. I had never heard of Lloyd but was instantly smitten, and have remained so ever since.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of seeing Lloyd's film The Freshman at Cinecon 46. His granddaughter Suzanne Lloyd spoke about her grandfather before the film began and I was blown away that I was getting to see all of it in person. She spoke about her grandfather's physical dissabiltiy and how he didn't let it effect his stunts. He said that his audience had come to expect his stunt comedy, and he wasn't about to let them down.

I knew that Lloyd made most of his films with only one hand, but didn't know any of the specifics. So I decided to do a little reading on my lunch break. I went on his official web page and learned so many cool things about this guy.

He was actually the first film comedian to portray just an average boy next door. He started his career playing the "Tramp" character (like Chaplin) but then shed the oversize clothes for his everyday wardrobe and glasses. He told stories that audiences could relate to and he in effect, invented the romantic comedy. He played an ordinary guy forced into extraordinary circumstances to win, save or catch the heart of the girl he loves. These women weren't lofty, voluptuous creatures, but just like Lloyd, they were (adorable) everyday girls.

I read that it was during the middle of his career (1919) that Lloyd experienced his nearly fatal accident. He was posing for a photographer, the shot called for Lloyd to be lighting a cigarette using a prop bomb (it looked something like the round black ones you see in cartoons), but the prop wasn't a prop at all, but in fact a real bomb. It not only blew off the majority of Lloyd's hand, but it left him scarred and blind. The doctors said that he would never see again. But his sight did come back gradually, his scars slowly healed and he was given a glove to cover his hand and mask his missing fingers. He never regained the full use of that hand.

Lloyd went on to have a very successful silent film career in the 20s making such notable titles as Safety Last (1923) Girl Shy (1924) and Speedy (1928). He continued to do his own stunts in his films (with the use of only one hand! How crazy cool is that?!) And his dare devil comedy still makes you cringe and gasp today.

Walking out of the Egyptian Theater after watching The Freshman... I was so happy. Talking to myself I said "That was..." and a man walking out next to me finished my thought "Amazing." We smiled. That is what I love about film. That feeling that settles deep in your chest during the final credits. You know that you have just witnessed something special, and you couldn't wipe the smile off your face if you tried. I think it means even more when the film is old. 90% of silent films have been lost forever, when you see one that has survived, its like looking at an endangered species.

I know there are so many folks out there that are cautious about silent movies. I used to be one of them. But give Harold Lloyd a chance. He will not only make you smile... but he will open you up to a whole new world of film experiences... Just look at that face... how could you resist?!

Watch the video without sound... come on... you know you want to :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

"I want to run barefoot through your hair..."

Cinecon gave me the chance to see Jean Harlow on the big screen! They showed a gorgeous 35mm Bombshell! It was simply magnificent. Harlow glowed on that large screen... simply breathtaking!

The film is about a Hollywood starlet (Harlow) who is plagued by crazy relatives, sassy staff, demands of the job and of course by the studio publicist (Lee Tracy). Fed up with everything (especially Tracy's spoon fed stories to the press to promote her celebrity) Harlow goes to a resort. There she meets an extremely nice young rich man (Franchot Tone). She isn't aware that Tone has been hired by Tracy to lead Harlow on and send her back into the "loving" arms of the studio and Tracy.

Sitting int he audience, I was besotted by everything going on in the film... No one could deliver a line like Tracy could. He was fast as a wip, but you never missed a word. Harlow was stunning in her many dresses, she even references her own prior films (Red Dust etc.). But Franchot was the one that took me by surprise. Harlow is on horseback getting attacked by a crazed fan and who but Tone rides in to save the day. An older man behind me kinda laughed and said "Here comes Franchot...." It was Tone's entrance in the film, and it was quite impressive. Tone plays an actor pretending to be a rich man. He hams it up to perfection. He is ridiculously wonderful.

My favorite scene is when Ton and Harlow are walking under the moonlight. Tone stares into her eyes and says "Your hair looks like a field of silver daisies.... I want to run barefoot through your hair." The line was so deadpan and brilliant. Everyone started laughing. Tracy, over hearing the corn ball line tells Harlow later "That boy looks like an athelete. Just saying, not sure I would want those feet in my hair..."
I wasn't sure if it was my mood, the glorious big screen or the character... but Tone was actually quite attractive. I have never not liked Tone. He is always a nice addition to any movie, but I couldn't take my eyes off of him in Bombshell. He was just SO good!

If you like Harlow.... you will LOVE Bombshell..... If you kinda like Tone, then give this movie a shot. I highly recommend it!

Thank you Cinecon!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week 3 Musical... Mister Big!

My Week 3 Musical was furnished via Cinecon! (I will be watching one of the suggested films for week 4, either Anchors Aweigh, On the Town or Meet Me in St. Louis... Let me know if you have a preference!)

Back to the Week 3... I was super duper excited to see that Mister Big (1943) was on the schedule for Cinecon this year. This gem of a movie stars an 18 yr. old Donald O'Connor, Peggy Ryan and Gloria Jean. It was Universal's answer to the Judy Garland/ Mickey Rooney MGM teenage musicals only Universal's B musicals were made on 1/4 of the budget. The kids are all at a drama school and want to add in hip jazz music into their curriculum, but run into problems when the matron of the school insists that they do the Greek tragedy Antigone instead. (Incidentally, Antigone is one of my favorite plays... of course a skinny Donald in a toga did look pretty ridiculous!) The kids are able to put on a musical variety act in the end, and the strict matron sways to their way of thinking.

I was never a fan of Garland/Rooney films mainly because of Rooney. I never found much to like about him; I always thought he was a bit annoying. I really enjoyed this Universal knock off however. Donald O'Connor was perfectly charming as the boy all the girls want. They even tackle him a few times pulling at his hair and clothes. Donald meanwhile is falling for the Matron of the school's niece, Gloria Jean. There was a forward from Gloria before the movie began (she is still alive and living in Hawaii). She spoke about how much she adored Donald. She said that she always thought he didn't get enough credit for his singing voice; that she absolutely loved it when he sang. She also told a story of how he took her behind one of the background drops and hugged her so tight that he cracked a couple of her ribs. The studio PR changed the story to say that a beef cake actor had done it during the filming of her following film. I thought that this was so cute. (I mean, come on... how adorable is that young Donald?!!)

As much as I adored Donald's scenes with Gloria, my favorite parts were his dance numbers with Peggy Ryan. They bicker during most of the movie, and they even push each other around in their dances. Both were very acrobatic and had great comedic timing, you couldn't help but laugh while watching them. The three of them (O'Connor, Jean and Ryan) made multiple teen B musicals for Universal and its easy to see why. They were great together.

This film was more of a hoofer film than the Garland/Rooney musicals. The song numbers are sweet and wonderful, but the dancing is where the real talent of all the kids shines through. It also had more of a jazzy/hip beat to it. Even the standards seem a little jazzed up. I am now on the hunt for the other Universal B musicals that these three did together. Mister Big (sad to say) has never been released on home video or DVD. I know that Universal is considering "opening their vault" much like Warner Bros. did, and I hope they quickly get around to these amazing Teenage B Musicals!! (Meanwhile you can vote for Mister Big on its page in the TCM database for release on home video)

Here are two youtube videos of Mister Big. (The embedding feature was disabled for these two particular videos... also, the sound on these isn't awesome. Since this movie has never been released beyond the original 35mm.... one can only guess as to how these videos were made) Give them a chance though... They are both Donald and Peggy dance numbers.

So the hunt begins! I am on the look out for any of the B Musicals with Donald! Let me know if you have any leads!

Cinecon 46!!

I had the marvelous opportunity to attend Cinecon 46 at the Egyptian theater this past weekend in Hollywood! So very exciting! So... Expect lots of posts this week that are Cinecon related!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Weekly Musical #2

You didn't think that I would fall down on the job, did you? I said that I would re-commit to the musical genre by watching 1 musical a week, and I plan on doing just that. Kelli commented after the Week 1 post on Summer Stock that Singing in the Rain should be my next musical... and I thought that that sounded like a great idea.

This movie always blows me away. Its just SO good. Not only the brilliant musical numbers, but the entire movie is top notch (casting, directing, conception). In my first film introduction class, we watched parts of SITR in order to gain a better picture of what it was like when movie studios went from silent era films to talkies. Several folks in my class complained, saying that they never thought that they would have to suffer through a musical in a serious film class. None of them spoke a word after the movie actually started... And I secretly believe that most were closet Gene Kelly fans and were actually thrilled to get to watch him in class.

Kelly and Stanley Donen (director) were very meticulous in getting it right. The movie feels like it is set in the twenties. The clothes (those wonderful shoes!), the music, cars, it all feel authentic and a they aren't afraid to make fun of themselves. I LOVE the actress dressed in black at the party in the beginning of the movie. You know the one, she is seen doing a dance with a much shorter man and calls talking pictures "vulgar". She reminds me of a caricature of Alla Nazimova ( a brief silent film star). I like that they took the time to make this movie feel different than normal 50s musicals. I think that that's why it stands out and stands up to the test of time.
Don't misunderstand me... Gene Kelly is fantastic in this film, and Debbie Reynolds is cute, but me? I watch this movie for Donald O'Connor! He never fails to entertain me. I love his song Make 'em Laugh... I am notorious for watching the scene a couple of times before continuing on with the rest of the movie. O'Connor's silly faces are so adorable! He was also a great dance partner for Kelly. You can tell that he was a dancer in his own right because he keeps perfect pace with Kelly's dance sequences; for example, in Moses Supposes (My FAVORITE song in SITR) you can see that Kelly was able to step up the dance routines because O'Connor was so good. You would never see Sinatra do some of those moves and stay standing!

Cyd Charisse is also gorgeous in this... I LOVE her clothes. She dances a few times in Gene Kelly's Broadway number, but the woman packs a wallop! Her dance with Kelly in the speakeasy is so sexy, and that green dress is magnificent! The woman was all legs! Their physical chemistry was spot on and watching that routine always leaves me a little speechless.... When she cleans off Kelly's glasses on her thigh.... talk about steamy!

I only have one complaint (*Gasp*) There was one song cut out of the movie that I would have love to have seen. There is a recording of Reynolds singing Lucky Star to Kelly that was cut from the film. There is a reprise of the song at the end of the movie when Kelly is singing to Reynolds and again in the last frame of the picture when the two are kissing in front of a billboard. I love Reynolds recording, it is so pretty and I think that the reprise would have meant so much more to the movie if they had kept it in.

Stanley Donen did an interview with Robert Osbourne on TCM and he recounts his experience working on SITR. He talked about how they achieved Kelly's title song number, and I thought it was neat. They had to cover that outside set with a giant black tarp so that they could fit in rain machines, and they did it in the midst of extreme summer heat. He said that it felt like taking an extremely hot shower for a week straight, and that it was miserable. The effect, however, is remarkable. Kelly singing and dancing in an early morning rain is completely euphoric. He is singing about being at the height of love and happiness... It is such a wonderful song..
I love this film. I could watch it anywhere, anytime. It is such a perfect movie.
Singing in the Rain is a must, not just for musical fans, but die hard classic film buffs everywhere.
So... Any suggestions for Week 3?