August 20, 2014

What would Nick & Nora do?

I wish this was my family: Nora, Asta, and Nick Charles in The Thin Man (1934).

Last week was the week from hell. The office was in absolute shambles and my personal life didn't fare any better. To say that I was at the end of my rope by Saturday night is an absolute understatement.

When I found myself at my lowest it occurred to me that there was a simple solution to curb the madness in my life: if I asked myself what Nick and Nora Charles would do, I would be able to put their methods of problem-solving into practice and remedy everything that had gone wrong! Presto! Problem solved!

So, here we go ... what would Nick and Nora do?
  • Have a drink (or two, or three),
  • throw a dinner party and invite every corrupt, shady character you know,
  • escape to the country where you'll be forced to solve a murder by old family acquaintances,
  • take the dog for a walk,
  • shoot all the baubles off your Christmas tree with an air pistol,
  • buy a round of shots at the bar,
  • throw a New Year's Eve party and allow all your guests to make long distance calls to their mothers on your land line (and, while you're at it, invite a few newspaper reporters over too),
  • knock a few tunes out on your upright piano, and
  • if all else fails, have another drink.

Now my next question is, did any of this actually work? Well, I'm going to be completely honest and say that I did none of these things (fail). I don't drink, I hate entertaining, I don't have a dog to take for walkies, and it's not the Holidays. But fear not, what I did do was pop in my copy of THE THIN MAN and spent a couple of hours watching that and man, did that help

The next time you find yourself in a pickle or work is just getting to be too much, ask yourself What would Nick and Nora do? and, chances are, just thinking of all the possible solutions to the madness will put a smile back on that lovely face of yours! I hope I've succeeded in helping you out with this rather frivolous post! Onwards men (and women), ONWARDS!

Nora Charles (played by the fabulous Myrna Loy) takes a tumble in Shadow Of the Thin Man (1941).

August 18, 2014

Book Look! Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice

Let me confess something to you: although I love reading, when it comes to making my way through a book, I'm a bit of a slow mover. I like to take my time exploring the book's setting and understanding each and every character's nuances and mannerisms but occasionally I'll come across a book that leaves me breathless with anticipation and I'll whiz through it quicker than you can say Vanessa is a nerd and has no life!

Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel was written by the world's most glamourous and bodacious librarian: Christina Rice (@christinarice) and was released back in October 2013. Ann Dvorak is someone I didn't know a heck of a lot about prior to reading this biography. I had only seen a handful of her films before and though each one of them impressed me, I was never made curious enough to dig deeper into her film career or her personal life.

This is a really light but detailed read about the woman who may have been the cause of her own undoing. After finishing it off last week, I definitely think that her actions against Warner Bros. and her studio bosses are what set into motion her eventual demise. After falling out with all of Hollywood's major studios, Dvorak coasted along by making B movies for low budget studios; some of the parts she played were good, but most of them did absolutely nothing to further her career or test her talent. As a freelance artist, Dvorak suffered through long periods of boredom and inactivity, waiting for the right material to fall into her lap.

"My name is properly pronounced "vor'shack." The D remains silent. I have had quite a time with the name, having been called practically everything from Balzac to Bickelsrock."

Sad, yes. Hopeless, I don't think so. Ann Dvorak was a woman who did what she damn well pleased and took the bull by the horns, creating a lasting impression on her friends, contemporaries, work colleagues, and her peers. Almost everyone who was interviewed for this book had kind words to say about Dvorak despite how harried their relationship may have been. The most common testament to Dvorak's character was how professional she was.

Christina Rice is a huge fan of Ann Dvorak and it shows. Rice lovingly constructed an absolutely vivid portrait of Dvorak for this biography and packed it full of interesting tidbits, detailed tales of the actress's life, and really philosophical points that allow the reader to really think about what they would have done if they were in Dvorak's shoes. Would we have done anything differently? It's a question worth asking especially considering how Dvorak pretty much lost her entire career after only a couple of decades.

I really enjoyed reading this biography and I'm almost one hundred percent certain that I will be picking it up again sometime soon! It's one of those books that the reader can't help wanting to re-visit again and again. Yes, it was that good! You can order a copy of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel here along with Rice's follow-up entitled The Inseparables: Images of Ann Dvorak & Leslie Fenton's 1932 Honeymoon From Their Personal Scrapbook. If you order them through that site, Rice will personally sign your copy for you! And yes, before anyone asks, I've already placed my order!

Ann Dvorak and James Cagney star in THE CROWD ROARS (1932).

August 15, 2014

Five of my favourite classic film blogs!

Pay it forward. That's what I always say!

When I started blogging about old movies a couple of years ago, there were people on the Internet that I looked up to and respected (and still do). These "people" are the other classic movie bloggers that first turned me on to the idea of blogging myself. Each day I'd log onto their sites and spend at least a few hours reading their book and movie reviews, their opinion pieces, and their fun ramblings about old Hollywood.

Along the way, through my blogging journey, these bloggers have become my friends and I think it's about time I paid tribute to them here, and gave them the credit they deserve! Here are five of my absolute favourite classic film blogs (in alpha order, naturally):

Cinematically Insane [link]
If I want to find out more about classic television, aspect ratios, and TCM developments I head straight here to Will's blog. His posts are, at the same time, both hilarious and highly professional. I always learn something new when I read Will's posts and I consider his opinion gold in my books. He's like an older brother that I idolize and everything he lectures me on sinks right in to my brain and makes me that much more smarter.

Journeys In Classic Film [link]
Kristen is obsessed with Veronica Lake. That was my initial thought the first time I logged onto her site. Right off the bat I was intrigued. She writes the best movie reviews, hands down, and I often find myself nodding my head whilst reading through her text, agreeing with nearly everything she says. Kristen and I have very similar taste in movies. Each week she posts a news entry titled News from the Lake in which she tells her readers what to expect in terms of upcoming video releases, book releases, and special events concerning classic film. CNN? Nah. Kristen's blog is way better! And there are no pesky, annoying scrolling news bars in sight.

Out of the Past [link]
Raquel is the sultriest classic movie blogger on the planet, of this I am sure. If I said I had a crush on her, I'd be telling the absolute truth. Sometimes her blog leaves me scratching my head wondering where she gets all of her amazing blogging ideas from. She's got reading challenges, celebrity tributes, books reviews, and insider gossip galore and her blog never (like, never) lets me down. I come here for a chance to unwind at the end of a busy day and Raquel's musings always leave me with a great big smile on my face. [link]
Danny is the master of the pre-Code so it's really no surprise that his blog is the place to be if you want to learn more about that particular film genre. His film reviews are full of entertaining witticisms and fun trivia facts and I rarely find myself disagreeing with his movie rating system. The dude is absolutely tireless and clearly puts a lot of work into each and every one of his posts and I think that certain aspect of blogging is hard to come by nowadays. You know what I liken to? A university course. A really great university course that leaves you wanting more at the end of every lecture.

Shadows and Satin [link]
I almost want to put on a silk neglige and smoke a cigarette when I open up Karen's site. It's devoted to two majestically naughty film genres: noir and pre-Code. Allo allo allo! Along with her blog, Karen also edits The Dark Pages which is a bi-monthly newsletter devoted to all things noir. Her posts are always intriguing, always very thought-provoking, and hugely satisfying. When I know I've got some extra time to spare, I usually always click on over to her site and read some of the older posts she's published that maybe I missed the first time 'round.

August 13, 2014

Bogie whistled and Slim went running: RIP Lauren Bacall.

Betty Joan Perske (aka Lauren Bacall), 1924 - 2014.

I always said that when Lauren Bacall passed away, I'd lose my shit.

Well, it's happened. The last of the great classic film legends has left us. Bacall passed away on August 12, 2014 at the age of eighty-nine. I was calmly reading in bed, finishing up Christina Rice's Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel when I heard my Mom making her way softly up the stairs to my room. She popped her head in through the doorway and the first words out of her mouth were: "Guess who died now?" and I replied "Oh no, not again! Who now?!"

When she said Bacall's name I threw down the book I was holding, put my hand to my chest and gasped. Then, that's when the tears started flowing. It happened immediately. I think my Mom thought I was joking at first, play-acting my devastation. But once she saw that I was crying real, salty tears she ran to get me some tissues. I saw her eyes welling up with her own tears as she watched her daughter mourn the loss of a Hollywood legend.

"I didn't know you liked her so much," she said whilst wiping her eyes. I couldn't answer her back because I was still crying furiously ... all I could do was point to the portrait of Bogie and Bacall hanging on my bedroom wall, right over my nightstand. My mother understood then how much those two stars meant to me. Mind you, she always knew I had a weakness for Humphrey Bogart but she never imagined I felt the same way for his wife and co-star.

Lauren Bacall had seventy-two film credits to her name. She acted alongside Hollywood's biggest screen legends including Marilyn Monroe, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Edward G. Robinson, and of course, Humphrey Bogart. Her beauty, talent, charisma, and intelligence was unrivaled and I will miss her desperately and completely. I don't want to come off sounding overly-dramatic or pretentious but I feel as if a piece of my heart is broken.

God knows I love classic film and without Bacall, I feel like the whole system has come crumbling down. Everyone is gone. There's no one left.

August 11, 2014

Classic film for beginners!

Myrna Loy, William Powell, and Maureen O'Sullivan have a rollicking good time in The Thin Man (1934).

So, word on the street is you're a classic film newbie. That's alright - it happens to the best of us! How do you go about losing your classic movie virginity, you ask? Simple. I've recommended a boat-load of films for you to dive into whether you're interested in westerns, pre-Codes, adventures, or even silent movies!

Learn more about my picks below and make a list of the films you're interested in seeing. Most of them are available online through e-tailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, also places like iTunes and your local library. If you have access to the Watch TCM app - lucky you! - you may even find some of these titles there.

First silent // The General (1926)
I watched this silent film for the first time late last year with my lovable Pops. To say that the both of us enjoyed it immensely is a gross understatement! This film will have you bug-eyed, sitting on the edge of your seat, and guffawing into your bowl of popcorn from start to finish. If you've yet to check out a silent feature, please let this one be the one that pops your cherry (so to speak, heh).

First pre-Code // Baby Face (1933)
This isn't the greatest pre-Code film I've ever seen (that one goes to The Public Enemy) but it's certainly the one that defines the genre the most succinctly and perfectly. Barbara Stanwyck is a spitfire in this film and she literally has to swat drunken, belligerent men away like flies. Sex, sex, and more sex ... and drinking, and near-nudity, and very suggestive subject matter; all great pre-Code traits presented to you, the audience, in a zippy seventy-six minutes! Keep a look-out for a very young John Wayne.

First musical // The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Hands down, without a doubt, this has got to be the first movie musical you watch. This was mine and once my nephews were old enough to understand it, I made sure it was theirs too! The story of a young girl who discovers that there's no place like home is a lesson learned that never goes out of style and precisely why this film has stood tall since its original release seventy-five years ago. The visuals are stunning, the soundtrack is freaking awesome, and the cast is superb! My favourite character has always been The Wicked Witch Of the West (played by the deliciously entertaining Margaret Hamilton).

First drama // Casablanca (1942)
When it comes to the Drama category, classic movie fans are rather spoiled for choice. There are so many films that I could have chosen for my pick of "first drama" but I ultimately settled on Casablanca for a few reasons: 1) the legendary cast, 2) the compelling story of a war-torn civilization, 3) the film's biting humour and, 4) its status as one of the greatest movies ever made (and it is). Admittedly, I didn't fully appreciate Casablanca until a few years ago when I watched it on the big screen at my local Cineplex. That trip to the theatre was a real eye-opener for me and it really made me fall hopelessly in love with the film!

First comedy // Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
This movie will have you laughing until your belly aches, trust me. If you're wanting to put off doing those pesky stomach crunches tonight, watch this movie instead. You'll probably end up getting more of a workout and, thus, burning more calories (but take it easy on the Milk Duds). Abbott and Costello made a number of these spoof horror movies but, out of the lot, this one is the best (in my humble opinion). I love watching this one every Halloween with my Pops and I'm sure you'll end up loving it just as much as we do!

First romantic comedy // It Happened One Night (1934)
I was an impressionable teenager when I first saw this movie and, naturally, I developed a mad crush on leading man Clark Gable because of it (and Claudette Colbert if I'm being completely honest). It Happened One Night won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1934 and for very good reason: it's a wonderful and very touching tale of a spoiled rich girl who falls for a down-on-his-luck newspaperman whilst running away and hiding out from her overbearing father. This movie is laugh-out-loud funny and contains one of the most iconic movie scenes ever put on celluloid: Colbert sticks out her bare leg and stops traffic - literally.

First horror // Dracula (1931)
Be honest: you all saw this coming, didn't you? My favourite horror film of all-time is ultimately the one I chose to be your first classic horror movie. I was thisclose to choosing Frankenstein (1931) but I just couldn't bring myself to cheat on my favourite fanged lothario. This movie will give you chills, make you cover your eyes in fright, and maybe - just maybe - make you want to be bitten by Bela Lugosi (he's dead so there's technically no way this dream will ever come true for you, sorry). It's best viewed on a dark and stormy night with the fireplace raging and all the lights turned off. Go for it!

First adventure/epic // The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Don't you just love watching lean, handsome men with goatees dueling like crazy, armed with blatantly plastic swords? I do! Like The Wizard of Oz, this film is suitable for both children and adults and is one of the most entertaining romps through classic literature that you'll ever experience. Yes, star Errol Flynn is a bit cheesy in parts but that's arguably one of the film's finest features. Both Flynn and Robin Hood were cocky bastards (I suspect) so it's only natural for that to come across on-screen.

First western // Stagecoach (1939)
Thank the Lord for peer pressure because, without it, I would never have sat down to watch this film! This movie's got so much heart it's practically bleeding off the screen. It's a wonderful tale of nine people who get together, embark on a journey filled with pitfalls and danger, discover truths about one another and make it through to the end either changed forever, dead, or the same way they started out: stubborn as oxen. I found Stagecoach surprisingly funny, which is unusual for a western, and I'm ready to re-watch it right-freaking-now!

First noir // Gilda (1946)
It was a toss-up between Gilda and Laura (1944) for this category but I ultimately made my decision when I asked myself which one I'd rather watch on a continuous loop (if I was "forced" to). Both are stand-out noir films but Gilda holds more overall appeal, I think, because of its amazing story and equally amazing cast, plus the two leads - Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford - have crazy chemistry! Once you're done watching Gilda, you have my permission to give Laura a try too! Neither dame will let you down *wink*

If you're a classic film fan like I am, which films would you recommend to a newbie?

If you're a newbie and you've gone ahead and taken my advice on which films you should start off with, what did you think of my picks? Did you like them, hate them, did they turn you on to classic film watching? I'd love to know! Spill!

August 8, 2014

Cry Baby: Classics that make me blub like a baby!

Back in the old days - the '80s and '90s to be exact - I must have had a heart of stone because it took a lot to make me cry. I would watch the saddest movies and read the most heart-wrenching books and yet not a single tear used to spring forth from my hazel eyes. This all changed sometime within the past decade; the most mundane of things would suddenly set me off crying like a hungry infant! A yipping puppy - I'm crying. A freshly laundered white t-shirt that gets stained as soon as it's put on - I'm crying. A beautiful painting in a museum - yup, I'm crying. A newly purchased lipstick housed in the most stunning art deco packaging - you better believe I'm crying.

Dear readers, it's true. Sometime within the past ten years I have become an overly-emotional woman. Here are some of the classic films that get me blubbing into my stack of two-ply tissues:

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) // The thought of the Smith family having to leave St. Louis for New York sends my emotions reeling and I just can't handle the upheaval. Tootie destroys her snowmen while I sit in front of the fire wiping my eyes with toilet paper (because I've just run out of tissues). That miraculous moment on Christmas Day when Papa Smith informs his family that they will not be moving house is enough to set me off for days! Good grief, I'm getting emotional just typing this out!

The Wizard of Oz (1939) // Clearly, there's something about a Judy Garland movie that breaks my heart. Here's another one starring the diminutive star with the huge voice; a fantastical tale of a child discovering that there's no place like home. Every time I see Dorothy clicking her shiny red heels, leaving the Land of Oz behind, I burst into tears immediately. The Scarecrow's tear-stained face doesn't help matters much, if I'm being honest. Ray Bolger is such an enabler.

Stella Dallas (1937) // The final moments of Stella Dallas are far too gut-wrenching for me to sit through without spilling wet, salty tears all over my shirtfront and couch cushion. The very sight of a disheveled Barbara Stanwyck standing on the street watching her privileged daughter marry her fiance through a window is the stuff of legend! It gets me every time! And the fact that Stanwyck is also blubbing away into her sodden handkerchief doesn't help matters much, does it? Where that woman leads, I follow.

It's A Wonderful Life (1946) // Christmas is supposed to be a time spent with family and loved ones, smiling furiously into chocolate puddings and expertly wrapped presents. So why do I always end up by myself, crying on one corner of the sofa while everyone else is in the next room partying it up? Four words: It's A Wonderful Life. That it is Jimmy, but please stop making me cry into my hot chocolate. For the sake of my festive drink - and for my eye makeup - please stop with your emotional stuttering outbursts and just put a lid on it!

I thought I'd also throw in a modern classic just for the hell of it:

"THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!" Oh yes there damn well is, Tom. Now shut it.

A League Of Their Own (1992) // The ending of this movie fucking kills me. Kills me, I say, with sharp, pointed knives right through the heart! A League Of Their Own has always been one of my favourite movies of all time, and each time I sit down to watch it, I shed a tear because not only does this movie make me miss my youth, it also puts the whole aging process into perspective. In the film's final moments the audience finds out which ball players have survived and which have passed away either from age or illness or accident. There's also that heart-breaking scene in which we find out whose husband died during the war (WWII). I can't deal. I just can't.

Which classic movies make you shed a tear?

August 6, 2014

My classic film reading list for Fall 2014!

Can you believe it's August already? Seriously, where has the time gone?!

I've been reading an awful lot this summer and I'm pretty sure this satisfying hobby of mine will continue into the cooler months of Fall and Winter. I've already stocked my shelves full of books to read, placed some titles on hold at my local library, and made a list of more books to order online. Phew! Something tells me that come September 1st I'm going to be sat in front of a roaring fire, with a mug of tea by my side, swaddled in a soft blanket and enjoying page after page of riveting reads.

Here are some classic film books that I've got on my reading list for Fall 2014:

Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews by Carl E. Rollyson
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Dana Andrews was a total dish! Despite me having seen quite a few of his films there's very little I actually know about the man himself. I want to know how and where he grew up, what he excelled at in school, how he got into acting and how he caught his big break. Me, being the nosy person I am, I want to know more about his personal life and who he got along with most on and off-set. Book Status: Not Purchased

Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror by Michael Mallory
I don't think I even need to explain myself when it comes to this book.  I've been in love with the Universal Monsters since I was a little girl - strange, I know - and if it was up to me, I'd marry myself off to each one of them. Dracula could always use a fourth wife, couldn't he? Out of the three books on this list, I'll probably pick this one up first because this is the one I'm most excited about. Or, maybe I should wait a bit and save this one for Halloween? Book Status: Purchased

George Raft: The Man Who Would Be Bogart by Stone Wallace
Thanks to this blog post over at Let's Misbehave: A Tribute To Pre-Code Hollywood I've set my sights on this new(ish) biography on screen baddie George Raft. The trouble with Raft is that the few tidbits I've picked up about him over the years make him out to be some kind of Hollywood gangster who ruined his career because he stuck up for Bugsy Siegel. I feel like Raft's name has been mired in dirt and it's about time someone cleaned it up, restoring some goodness back onto the fallen (and mostly forgotten) star. Book Status: Purchased

So, there you have it! My autumnal reading list chock-full of what I'm sure will be great classic film-related books! One of the books I failed to mention in this post - Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice - was already on its way to me while I was writing this, and that's the one I currently have my nose buried in. I've spoken about it before on Stardust and I'll most likely do a small write-up of it once I'm done reading it.

What book(s) are you reading at the moment and which ones take pride of place on your Fall reading list this year? Tell me about them in the comments section down below!

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August 4, 2014

Book Look! The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

I've watched the 1941 film version of The Maltese Falcon more times than I can count on both hands, but I've never actually sat down and read the book. Written in 1929 by Dashiell Hammett and published a year later, this book is an engrossing mystery that takes the reader away to a world of private dicks, chain smoking, quirky, crooked characters and dark alleyways teeming with men - and women - cloaked in rain-soaked overcoats, vintage English pistols, and dusty ashes.

Hammett also wrote The Thin Man - which I read years ago - but I enjoyed The Maltese Falcon more. Let me tell you why: it's simple, it's straight forward, and it's a wild ride through the seedy underbelly of San Fransisco, California. The Thin Man was long-winded in parts but The Maltese Falcon was the total opposite and I polished it off in under three days. Hammett wastes no time at all in getting the party started, setting up the basic backstory and character development right from the get-go.

Humphrey Bogart was perfectly cast in the role of private detective Sam Spade; the role was tailor made for someone of Bogart's calibre. Every sneer and every cutting remark that graced the page looked and sounded as if it came straight from Bogie, and I love that. Hammett could never have known that Hollywood would adapt The Maltese Falcon for the silver screen back in 1929 or that Bogart would play one of his beloved literary characters, but it's as if he really did know! It's uncanny!

Reading this novel helped me understand the movie version a little more. At times, the film can seem a little convoluted and harried, confusing the audience and making them wonder aloud: Dude, what the heck just happened?! The film stayed very true to its source and only added in a few scenes here and there - no doubt, for "entertainment" purposes. The dialogue in the novel is quick-paced and absolutely brilliant! I can't tell you how many times I burst out laughing whilst reading this awesome tale *big huge grin*

Joel Cairo: You always have a very smooth explanation ready.
Sam Spade: What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?

If you're in the mood for a truly great mystery read I'd highly recommend this book to you. If you've already seen the film, you know how the story ends, but the novel is still worth picking up for the prestige alone. If you're a slow reader, like me, the book should only take you a few sittings to polish off and if you're a speed demon when it comes to reading, you'll finish it off within minutes of picking it up off the shelf!

August 1, 2014

Classic film book collection tour!

This post was a long time coming. The majority of my classic film books had been packed away in cardboard boxes for the better part of five years, sitting unloved in our garage winter after winter after winter. I finally managed to unearth them all a few weekends ago, dust them off and place them lovingly on my new basement bookshelves where I can stroke their spines and flip through their glossy pages once more.

I'm an avid collector. It's something that I've always enjoyed doing. Amassing sizable collections of various objects has always been one of my passions and I did it with puzzles, Barbie dolls, Archie comic books, European fashion magazines, first edition classics, and classic film memorabilia. I'm sitting here scratching my head, wondering how I even became a collector in the first place; I'm notorious for throwing things away and constantly clearing out cabinets, closets and shelves. I've always hated clutter and the hoarding of objects, so why the hell have I been collecting for thirty years??

The answer is simple: because I love frequently and I love passionately. And if there is one thing I'm absolutely sure of: I love classic film.

Here, I take you on a tour of my classic film bookshelves! This is where I keep all of my coffee table books, my autobiographies/biographies, my film books, and my rarities. The reason why everything is just thrown together on the shelves willy-nilly is because when people come over and have a look through my collection, I don't want them to feel pressured to put the books back in designated spots. Rather, they can just put them anywhere at all where there's room and not have to worry about keeping them in any particular order.

Here I go, dissecting each shelf one-by-one for you! I'll start at the top and work my way down to the bottom where all the good stuff lies (i.e. coffee table books). I've gone ahead and BOLDED my absolute favourite picks of the lot in case you were wondering which books I've enjoyed the most.

Top Shelf:

L - R: Life: Katharine Hepburn Commemorative 1907-2003 by Editors of Life (2003), Majestic Hollywood: The Greatest Films of 1939 by Mark A. Vieira (2013), Sotheby's Property From the Estate of Katharine Hepburn (2004), Kate Remembered by Editors of People Magazine (2003), Gene Tierney: A Biography by Michelle Vogel (2005), Gene Kelly: A Celebration by Sheridan Morley (1996), Conversations with Greta Garbo by Sven Broman (1992), The Making of The African Queen: Or, How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind by Katharine Hepburn (1987), The Making of The Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz (1998), The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger (2009), Complicated Women: Sex & Power in Pre-Code Hollywood by Mick LaSalle (2001), The Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers Book by Arlene Croce (1972), Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era by Molly Haskell (2006), Leading Men: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actors of the Studio Era by Molly Haskell (2006), Leading Couples by Frank Miller (2008), Judy Garland: A Biography by Anne Edwards (2013), I Do & I Don't: A History of Marriage In the Movies by Jeanine Basinger (2013), Fred Astaire: Steps In Time by Fred Astaire (1959), Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild by David Stenn (2000), Marlene Dietrich by Maria Riva (1994), Marlene Dietrich: Life & Legend by Steven Bach (2013), Vivien: The Life of Vivien Leigh by Alexander Walker (1987), Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming (2010), Ava Gardner: Love Is Nothing by Lee Server (2007), The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography by Esther Williams (2001), Me by Katharine Hepburn (1996), Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn by William J. Mann (2007), Clark Gable: A Biography by Warren G. Harris (2005), Cary Grant: A Biography by Marc Eliot (2005), Jimmy Stewart: A Biography by Marc Eliot (2007).

Middle Shelf:

L - R: Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master by Michael Spagow (2008), Buzz: The Life & Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak (2011), Greta Garbo: A Life Apart by Karen Swenson (1997), Robert Redford: The Biography by Michael Feeney Callan (2011), Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me by Marlon Brando with Robert Lindsey (1994), Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr by Stephen Michael Shearer (2010), Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy (2009), Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, & the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger (2010), Spencer Tracy: A Biography by James Curtis (2011), Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis by Ed Sikov (2007), Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland by Gerald Clarke (2000), Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, A Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler (2008), An Affair To Remember: The Remarkable Love Story of Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy by Christopher Anderson (1997), John Wayne: The Life & Legend by Scott Eyman (2014), A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel - True, Volume One, 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson (2013), The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe by Donald H. Wolfe (1998), Fireball: Carole Lombard & the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen (2014), Bombshell: The Life & Death of Jean Harlow by David Stenn (1993), Myrna Loy: Being & Becoming by James Kotsilibas-Davis & Myrna Loy (1987), John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars by Eve Golden (2013), Ann-Margret: My Story by Ann-Margret (1994).

Bottom Shelf (my favourite):

L - R: Garbo: Portraits From Her Private Collection by Scott Reisfield & Robert Dance (2005), Joan Crawford: The Enduring Star by Peter Cowie (2011), Bette Davis: Larger Than Life by Richard Schickel & George Perry (2009), Lana Turner: The Memories, The Myths, The Movies by Cheryl Crane & Cindy De La Hoz (2008), The Marilyn Encyclopedia by Adam Victor (1999), Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror by Michael Mallory (2009), Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy by Mark A. Vieira (2005), Bogie: A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart by Richard Schickel (2006), MGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot by Steven Bingen, Stephen X. Sylvester, & Michael Troyan (2011), Judy Garland: World's Greatest Entertainer by John Fricke (1992), The Films of Jean Harlow by Michael Ricci & Mark Conway (1965), Gary Cooper: Enduring Style by G. Bruce Boyer (2011), Marlene Dietrich: Photographs & Memories by Marlene Dietrich Collection (2001), Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait by Kendra Bean (2013) x2, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice (2013), George Raft: The Man Who Would Be Bogart by Stone Wallace (2008), Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label by Christian Esquevin (2008), The Looney Tunes Treasury by Andrew Farago & Ruth Clampett (2010), Hollywood Dreams Made Real: Irving Thalberg & the Rise of MGM by Mark A. Vieira (2008), Shall We Dance: The Life of Ginger Rogers by Sheridan Morley (1995), You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story by Richard Schickel & George Perry (2008), The Wizard of Oz: An Illustrated Companion to the Timeless Movie Classic by John Fricke & Jonathan Shirshekan (2009), Silent Movies: The Birth of Film & the Triumph of Movie Culture by Peter Kobel & the Library of Congress (2007), Hollywood Costume by Deborah Nadoolman Landis (2013), George Hurrell's Hollywood by Mark A. Vieira (2013), Harlow In Hollywood by Mark A. Vieira & Darrell Rooney (2011), Some Like It Hot: The Official 50th Anniversary Companion by Laurence Maslon & Walter Mirisch (2009), Hurrell's Hollywood Portraits by Mark A. Vieira (1997).

My collection is nowhere near complete. There are still a bunch of books I'm planning to add to my shelves, namely a Dana Andrews biography and this monster of a tome. I've also been trying to hunt down a copy (in decent condition) of Mark A. Vieira's Sin In Soft Focus coffee table book for the past couple of years to no avail. One day I will have it! I will!

If you're interested in checking out some other fabulous classic film book collections, I'd recommend Cliff's post here - but, be warned: keep a box of tissues nearby because you will be salivating. It's inevitable as far as I'm concerned!

If you'd like to see more of my bookshelves please let me know in the comments section down below! I've always been an avid reader and, over the years, I've built up quite the collection of fiction and Fashion related books (thanks to my college fashion studies). Happy Reading!

July 28, 2014

My favourite film soundtracks of all time!

I feel very strongly about film soundtracks, especially if that film is a musical. A soundtrack can make or break a film and if it's a particularly stellar soundtrack, it can make me love a movie I'd otherwise pass off as a lackluster picture. Here are some of my all-time favourite movie soundtracks in chronological order (and trust me, you'll want to scroll all the way to the bottom for this one):

Ann Miller shows us how it's done in the musical number 'Shakin' the Blues Away' in Easter Parade (1948).
Easter Parade (1948) // This was one of the very first MGM musicals I ever watched and boy did it serve as quite the magnificent introduction! Aside from loving absolutely everything about this film - especially Jules Munshin's delightful wish-they-could-have-been-longer scenes - the soundtrack is what really stood out for me. Drum Crazy, A Fella With An Umbrella, The Ragtime Violin, Shakin' The Blues Away, and We're A Couple Of Swells are songs that get the audience's toes tapping and their booties shaking away in their seats and each one of those songs ultimately stays with you till your dying days. I blame the wonderfully talented songwriter and composer Irving Berlin for this (obviously). I swear, I will never ever forget a single lyric from this film. NEVER!

Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Gene Kelly say 'Good Morning' in Singin' In the Rain (1952).
Singin' In the Rain (1952) // I still remember the day my Mom and I ventured out to the music store and bought this CD. Back in those days, CDs were bloody expensive - this one clocked in at a whopping $40 CAD - and my mother was very reluctant to shell out that much money for such an "old piece of music." I persevered, though, and ultimately won the argument, getting to take this classic soundtrack home with me. And, despite my love of having regular clear-outs, I've never once thought of parting with this disc. It represents a piece of my youth and I never want to let it go. That's how I feel about the film too. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN has given me so much joy throughout the years and if you haven't seen it yet, I urge you to watch it right away. It's got heart, it's got humour, it's got a little bit of film history thrown in for good measure, and it's got Donald O'Connor's baby blues and Gene Kelly's magnificent thighs. Need I say more? Music by Nacio Herb Brown. Lyrics by Arthur Freed.

Barbra Streisand plays Dolly Levi who gets showered with attention at every opportunity in Hello, Dolly! (1969).
Hello, Dolly! (1969) // You either love this film or you hate it. I've spoken to quite a few of you who have said that they didn't like it because it either dragged on for too long or that the film's casting was a little off. Granted, I kind of agree with you on both points - the film could have been at least twenty minutes shorter and the chemistry between co-stars Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau was totally nonexistent BUT, having said all that, I still really enjoy watching HELLO, DOLLY! The songs are catchy, the overall feeling of the movie is fun and carefree, and the big musical numbers are just that: BIG. I'm thinking along the lines of Just Leave Everything To Me, Put On Your Sunday Clothes, Before The Parade Passes By, and the title number Hello, Dolly! Gosh, those scenes were immense! Words and music by Jerry Herman.

Ahem! What is this naughtiness going on here?! Michelle Pfeiffer straddles Michael Keaton in Batman Returns (1992).
Batman Returns (1992) // Hands down, Danny Elfman is my favourite composer. The work that he does with film director Tim Burton is always so perfect, so wonderfully eerie, so sinister, so orgasmic! This soundtrack is one that hooked me right away (even at the tender age of ten, people). Once this film came out on home video, I would sit for hours in my living room watching it and listening to the score. I begged my Mom to buy me the soundtrack but she reckoned the VHS was enough. Boo! Elfman's Batman Theme is one of the greatest - and most recognizable - pieces of music ever composed and every time I hear it, my ears perk up and I become a little kid again bouncing 'round the house, doing a little happy dance! Now, more importantly, where's my catsuit at?

Sadie Frost plays the ill-fated Lucy Westenra in Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).
Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) // Three words: sinister as hell. Believe it or not, I went with my parents to the movie theatre to see this film upon its release in the Fall of 1992. Yes, with my parents. Thank goodness I was never really irked by nudity because this movie was chock-full of bare breasts and lustful, moaning, near-naked vamps. Despite all that bared flesh, the thing that impressed me most about BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA was its soundtrack, composed by Wojciech Kilar. I'm not typically afraid of the dark, but if someone put me in a darkened room and blasted this soundtrack on full volume I'd probably shit my pants. For real. It's full of angst, full of fire, and full of the harsh reality that was this monster's life. Sick, twisted, demented, brutal, and unwavering when it comes to his one true love Dracula is a force of nature in this film and so is this wonderfully epic soundtrack. Without a shadow of a doubt, this is my favourite film soundtrack of all time!

Other worthy mentions: The Wizard of Oz (1939), Gone With the Wind (1939), Summer Stock (1950), The Sandlot (1993), and Forrest Gump (1994).

Tell me in the comments section down below what some of your favourite movie soundtracks are! I'd love to hear what they are!

July 25, 2014

10 Things: The things that go through my mind when I look at Paul Newman

Disclaimer // This is meant to be a bit of fun, you understand. No offense intended. Obviously.
  1. Come here, run your hands through my hair, and call me baby (thought I'd better get this one out of the way first)
  2. Good heart, good soul, good person
  3. I wanna swim for miles in those baby blues
  4. I wish I could stick a label on my forehead and proclaim myself NEWMAN'S OWN
  5. THE STING (1973) is, quite possibly, the most entertaining movie ever made
  6. I will never eat another hard boiled egg ever again
  7. All that pent up lust and fury you were feeling in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (1958) must have broken the bed you and Elizabeth Taylor slept in (just saying...)
  8. Paul Newman + Robert Redford = Best. Bromance. Ever.
  9. Teach me how to play a mean game of pool, why don't you?
  10. The best quote ever:
 "Why fool around with hamburger when you have steak at home?" - on why he never cheated on wife Joanne Woodward

I know I'm not the only one who crushes big-time on Paul Newman, so why don't you go ahead and tell me what runs through your mind when you gaze upon this wonderful specimen of a human being? Leave me a comment down below!

July 23, 2014

TCM Summer Under the Stars (SUTS) 2014

Every day pretty much looks LIKE THIS when you're a TCM junkie.

Holy. Cow.

This is what inevitably spills out of my mouth every August thanks to TCM's Summer Under the Stars (SUTS) programming. Every day of the month (in August) is devoted to a different classic film star and this year's list is a jungle of goodness! Why did I not book the entire month off from work?! How stupid of me, especially considering that I ask myself that same question every time the month of August rolls around. D'oh!

Listed below are the days that I'm very much looking forward to - some of those days I'll be at home (weekends) and on the days I'll be at work, my cable box will be working overtime recording every single film scheduled from nine to five. My family, friends, and other miscellaneous loved ones will know not to bother me. I shall be indisposed. Don't call me, don't message me, don't throw things at my head whilst I'm sat plopped on the sofa watching James Stewart stutter away in classic black and white. Just don't!

My Hit List:
David Niven (Aug 2)
Judy Garland (Aug 4)
Barbara Stanwyck (Aug 5)
James Stewart (Aug 7)
William Powell (Aug 9)
Carole Lombard (Aug 10)
Marlon Brando (Aug 11)
Cary Grant (Aug 13)
Charles Chaplin (Aug 14)
Claudette Colbert (Aug 18)
Paul Newman (Aug 19)
Lee Tracy (Aug 21)
Betty Grable (Aug 30)

My Wild Card:
Audrey Hepburn (Aug 22)

Let me explain what I mean by "Wild Card" -- I have never been a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn and have never been eager to watch any of her films (although, admittedly, I have seen a few of them). I was just never really very attracted to her. I hope to change this come August 22nd. I want to learn to love her. I want to find out for myself why everyone else and their mother idolizes this woman. Just last month I learned to love John Wayne so I'm almost one hundred percent certain I can do the same with Hepburn.

"As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself, the other for helping others." -Audrey Hepburn

Who will you be tuning in for come August?  Which days made it onto your hit list and which star(s) is your "Wild Card"? Let me know in the comments section down below! Maybe we share some favourites!

July 21, 2014

What inspires me to blog!

Books, books, and more books! // This will come as no surprise to anyone who really knows me. If there is one thing that I can assure you of, it's that I will never leave the house - or, indeed my bedroom - without a book under my arm. Books inspire me every day from their stories, their characters, and the authors' writing style. My favourite book genres are Fantasy, Classic, Mystery, and Biographical/Memoir.

Watching new-to-me classic films at least once or twice a week // This is a must for any film blogger. The more movies we watch, the more we want to talk about them. I often find that if I watch a film I've never seen before, it riles me up (if I've liked it) and makes me want to watch even more new-to-me films. Once I'm on a roll I find it very difficult to stop! Just this past weekend I watched THE LONG, HOT SUMMER (1958) and SCARFACE (1932) - next on my list is RALLY 'ROUND THE FLAG, BOYS! (1958). I can't deny that I'm on a bit of a Paul Newman kick (hubba hubba).

Flipping through coffee table books and magazines // There's nothing quite like holding a fifty pound hardcover tome in your lap and flipping through all the great images encased inside, is there? Nuh-uh. Coffee table books are my weakness when it comes to collecting and over the years I've amassed quite a large collection of them ranging in subject from photography to film to beauty. There is a lot to be learned from a black and white Hurrell portrait and a hand-drawn costume design by Adrian. Also, never underestimate the power of a glossy magazine! I often while away the hours flipping through endless lifestyle, beauty, and travel articles in my leisure time and I find that this is when I come up with the bulk of my blogging/writing ideas.

Sharing thoughts with other film fans & bloggers on platforms like Twitter and Instagram // For someone who's usually so anti-social (read: shy) and introverted it's definitely peculiar that I should enjoy chatting to so many people on the Internet! Over the years I've met an absolutely stellar bunch of people who share the same interests as me and are just as inclined as I am to crush on stars that have been dead for decades (it's true). Talking to them fires up the mind and it gets new ideas flowing and I'm sure there are many of us who can attribute our greatest blog posts to the people we communicate with online. All right, that's our cue: GROUP HUG!

Re-discovering old favourites // Oh yes. You guys already know that when I'm feeling down or ill old movie favourites are what I turn to to comfort me and make me feel heaps and heaps better in record time. I think it's safe to say that this method works for just about anyone! Popping in old favourites like THE THIN MAN (1934) and BY THE LIGHT OF THE SILVERY MOON (1953) gets my creative juices flowing, perking me up and making me reach for my trusty laptop so that I can pump out another inspired blog post. Even when I'm suffering from what seems to be an incurable case of writers block, old movie favourites are what help me conquer the beast and bring you new material.

What are some of the things that inspire you to write and/or blog? Tell me about them in the comments section down below and let's get our minds whirring!

July 18, 2014

Beauty Mark!

It's no secret that along with being a massive classic movie fan, I'm also an equally massive beauty junkie. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense too; classic film and beauty go together like Fred Astaire and dance shoes! "Old movies" introduced me to the world of beauty and glamour via Garbo's expertly-shaped brows and Ginger Rogers' gorgeously painted lips. And don't even get me started on Joan Crawford's fake eyelashes. Dear God.

Many is the time that I've sat staring at film stars' makeup when I should have been paying attention to things like plot and character development instead. To be fair, I think every woman - and perhaps some men as well - are guilty of doing the exact same thing whilst watching a classic film. The very sight of Marlene Dietrich's painted face sent my heart into spasms and my knees buckling, convincing me that perhaps I should ring the paramedics quickly. You know, just to make sure I wasn't actually dying.

Despite the occasional acne flare-up, Marlene Dietrich looked like a million bucks in Morocco (1930), with Gary Cooper.

Wanna hear something weird? I often look for acne on classic film stars' faces. Yes, it's true. When I was in school I suffered from horrible breakouts and nothing made me feel better than spotting an errant pimple on the faces of my film idols. Not only did it make me feel better about myself, it also confirmed (in my eyes, at least) that even the most legendary of screen idols succumbed to the trials and tribulations of us normal folk on occasion too! Do it. Watch MOROCCO (1930) and see if you can spot Dietrich's pimples.

Classic movies taught me a lot about makeup and makeup application. For instance, one should never shave off their eyebrows and draw them on instead with a kohl pencil.. Also, it's never a good idea to slather your face in white pancake foundation because a) you'll never be able to scrape it off at the end of the day no matter how much makeup remover you use, and b) white pancake never looks good in daylight. Classic movies taught me how to apply lip liner and lipstick and stars like Rita Hayworth and Gene Tierney convinced me that wearing a red lippie would make me stand taller and boost my confidence (and they were right).

Gene Tierney sports a bright red pout.
Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe introduced me to eyeliner. Jean Harlow made me want to go blonde - and I did for a few short months - and taught me how useful a set of fluttery eyelashes could be. Katharine Hepburn helped solidify my hatred for skirts and dresses, eschewing them altogether in favour of trousers and denim.

I'm thirty-two years old now and when I apply my makeup  and get dressed every morning, I invariably call to mind all those massively successful film legends and think about how much of an influence they've had on my life. I honestly don't think any other group of people have influenced me more than they have! Well, apart from the original '90s Supermodels but that's another blog post entirely!

I want to know how classic film stars have influenced you. Have you adopted some of their beauty practices? Has your style evolved over time to reflect the style preferences of stars like Hepburn and Dietrich? Have you upped your glam factor since watching films like GILDA (1946) and BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961)? Tell me all about it in the comments section down below!

July 16, 2014

The Versatile Blogger Award!

My thanks goes out to the wonderful Karen at shadowsandsatin for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger Award! I'm absolutely chuffed to bits! It means a lot to me to know that there are actually people out there who read and enjoy my random ramblings on all things classic film related *huge grin*

I've never actually had the pleasure of meeting Karen in person, but I hope we'll run into each other one day at the TCM Classic Film Festival or perhaps, at some other hopping event! Karen's blog is a veritable fount of information about classic film - and especially film noir - that I often find myself spending hours and hours reading through late at night when I should be sleeping. This explains why I feel, act, and look like a zombie some mornings. Thanks Karen. Really. I mean it.

In order to accept a nomination for a Versatile Blogger Award, the following is required:
  1. Thank your nominator and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Make your own 15 nominations and tell them they have been nominated.
  3. Offer up seven interesting facts about yourself.
Number one has pretty much been taken care of, so let's move on to number two on the list! The blogs that I'm nominating are blogs that I regularly read for their content, their insight, and their nuances. Each blog that I list below has its own distinct and unique voice and I love reading each and every post that's uploaded (some, every day of the week!). I chose to include both classic film blogs and lifestyle and beauty blogs because those are the ones I read most often.

Here are my fifteen blog nominations:

Classic Film (6):
Out Of the Past
The Motion Pictures
Cinematically Insane
Journeys In Classic Film
Vivien Leigh & Laurence Olivier

Lifestyle & Beauty (9):
Maggie Bob
A Little Opulent (ALO)
Lipstick With Some Sunshine
From Roses
Vivianna Does Makeup
Maggie's  Makeup
In The Frow
The Private Life Of A Girl

... and now, seven (very random) interesting facts about myself:
  1. I've always hated the taste of coffee,
  2. I was on my high school swim team and trained to be a lifeguard,
  3. I started reading Archie comic books when I was six years old and I still read them to this day,
  4. Spencer Tracy is my favourite actor of all-freaking-time,
  5. London, England feels like home to me,
  6. I am a magazine addict and I usually buy upwards of 5-10 issues per month, and
  7. I hate it when people or things touch my face.

July 9, 2014

The curious life of a classic film blogger!

Norma Shearer reclines in silks, satins, and furs - as you do.

So, I have a blog (obviously you already know this). The problem is that when people ask me what I blog about and I tell them "old movies" they look at me as if I've suddenly sprouted three heads. Before they've had the chance to start thinking about whether I'm an alien or not, I jump in and blurt out: "But old movies are so cool!"

Therein lies the problem: no one believes me!  The majority of people I talk to don't think that classic movies are worth watching - a lot of people assume that if a movie was filmed in (gorgeous) black and white that it's boring or lifeless. If it's a musical, people complain that those singing and dancing numbers would never happen in real life. If it's a classic horror film from the early '30s, they inevitably harp on and on about how not scared they are. A comedy? Ugh. Even worse. How could anyone think this was funny? I haven't laughed once!

I get it. I really do. Classic films aren't for everyone. They're something that you have to ease yourself into if you're not accustomed to watching the classics. Heck, up until a year ago I avoided classic movie westerns like the plague and I've only just learned to appreciate them! Same with silents. I was never into silent films until I watched FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926) starring the incredibly sexy twosome of John Gilbert and Greta Garbo. And don't even get me started on the greatness that was WINGS (1927).

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall star in their first film together, To Have and Have Not (1944).

Classic films are worth watching for two reasons: they are often counted as some of the best films ever made and are constantly referenced by modern day filmmakers and directors. Also, classic movies are the-bomb-dot-com! Where else could you find such a varied selection of character actors and legendary on-screen personalities? Where else could you find such naughtiness and debauchery than in a good ol' Hollywood pre-Code? And don't get me started on the lines - oh my God the lines!

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow."

The first time I heard Lauren Bacall utter that fantastic piece of movie dialogue in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944) I was floored! Classic movies are full to the brim with biting, catchy dialogue just like that and it's honestly one of the biggest reasons why I love watching them so much. Sure, you can find lines like that in modern movies but without the same star power that people like Bacall had, the sizzle just ain't there.

I love blogging about classic film! My love for the classics runs deep and I literally talk about them or write about them every day. Over the past couple of years I've met some truly wonderful people in the classic film community online in places like Twitter, Facebook, blogger, Bloglovin' and through the great folks over at TCM (the best TV network ever, I assure you). If you're somewhat of a classic movie novice I encourage you to dive in head-first and discover the amazing world that is "old movies" as soon as you can. Right now, I can safely say that you're probably missing out on some of  the greatest movies ever made - hop to it!

If you're a classic movie blogger like I am, tell me what your blogging life entails in the comments section down below! I'd like to hear about your experiences - from the bad, the ugly, to the truly magnificent!

July 7, 2014

10 Things: Gene Kelly Musical

Kelly wore white socks + loafers way before Michael Jackson made it "cool." Just sayin'

I decided to introduce a new feature on Stardust! This will be the first installment of my "10 Things" series. I'll list ten things that are associated with whatever my topic choice for the week is. This week the spotlight is on Gene Kelly (hubba hubba).

I watched TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME (1949) on Sunday afternoon after not having seen it in at least a couple of years and the whole experience was quite magical (thanks to Kelly's dreamy dance moves, Sinatra's boy-like innocence and Esther Williams's gorgeous gams).

So, here we go, ten things that you'll find in a Gene Kelly musical:
  1. Juicy, succulent thighs (oh yes, that's right)
  2. Pullover + ankle length trousers + white socks + loafers
  3. An irresistible womanizer (usually played by Kelly himself)
  4. A lovable best friend (i.e. Frank Sinatra, Donald O'Connor, Oscar Levant)
  5. An extended ballet number that will either bore you to tears or hypnotize you
  6. Women, women, and more women (all wearing red lipstick, of course)
  7. Feats of daring and manly displays of toe-tapping (have you ever seen a grown man jump so high?!)
  8. Props used in pared-down, seemingly simple dance numbers (i.e. an umbrella, a coat rack, a cartoon character, a newspaper)
  9. A tightly clenched ass (I had to go there, sorry not sorry)
  10. A dancing duet with his co-star, man or woman, in which he totally dominates

And there you have it! Ten things you'll find in almost every musical starring Gene Kelly! If you can think of any others, please leave them for me in the comments section down below and we can discuss the utter greatness that was Gene Kelly.

July 2, 2014

Great TV for the classic movie fan!

For someone who loves classic movies as much as I do, it's no surprise that I also enjoy beautifully crafted period television series! It seems that within the past decade alone, there has been a slew of fantastic period dramas being produced for television audiences (especially by the Brits who love a good period piece, it's true).

Here are just some of the series I've been enjoying lately:

Joe Cole, Cillian Murphy, and Iddo Goldberg star alongside a stellar cast in Peaky Blinders.
Peaky Blinders (BBC)
Era: Post WWI // To say that Peaky Blinders is explosive and hugely addictive is an understatement. Pity there are only six episodes per season because I could easily watch this for days on end without ever having to come up for a breather. The Peaky Blinders are a gang of misfits, living in Birmingham, England, in the years following the first world war. The majority of them have served in the war and have come back irreparably damaged (physically, emotionally, and psychologically). When a shipment of powerful guns and rifles goes missing, the police are called upon to investigate the shipment's whereabouts and that's when all havoc breaks loose. The police are after the Peaky Blinders and the Peaky Blinders are seeking to expand their turf and authority. Add to the mix a lovely little lady with a secret and you've got a show that will hook you within the first five minutes of its pilot episode. Series Two of Peaky Blinders has just wrapped filming and is currently in post-production at the BBC.

Hattie Morahan, Sophie Rundle, Anna Maxwell Martin, Rachael Stirling, and Julie Graham star in The Bletchley Circle S2.
The Bletchley Circle (itv1)
Era: Post WWII // During the second world war, Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England was used as a top-secret code breaking site which employed mostly women who had a knack for mathematics, patterns, and visual memorization. Together, these women worked around the clock to decipher German coding which would eventually aid in saving the lives of thousands of servicemen and innocent civilians. Fast forward approximately ten years and a small team of Bletchley alumni are called together to solve the mystery of the disappearance of a young woman in London. The first series of this show had me sitting on the edge of my seat the entire time; it's filled with thrills, suspense, engaging story lines, and fantastically-written characters that truly matter to the viewer. You'll find yourself routing for this team of powerful women despite their individual faults and fears and you won't be able to look away from the screen for even a moment of respite! The second series has just been released on DVD and I'm about half-way through it already. It's proving to be just as addictive as the first series (yippee!).

Bomb Girls (Global)
Era: WWII (1940s) // You know I just had to include a Canadian show on this list - wink, wink! This television series premiered a couple of years ago and my Mom was actually the first one in the house to start watching it. I didn't get into the series myself until a few months ago when I downloaded season one off of iTunes. Although the first episode was kind of light on story, character development and action, the rest of the season made up for it and I can definitely tell you all now that it's superbly written and the cast is just magnificent! Bomb Girls depicts the lives of a group of young women who work in one of North America's bomb factories during the second world war. While their brothers, sons, and spouses are off fighting the war in Europe, these women fight their own battles at home. Two seasons were filmed and broadcast (18 episodes) on Global TV between January 2012 and April 2013.

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)
Era: 1920s // Here we go with the show that started it all! Boardwalk Empire premiered on HBO in September 2010 and since then it's earned raves for its exquisite story-telling, its cast, and its production values. It tells the story of Enoch "Nucky" Thompson, a political pundit who controlled Atlantic City, New Jersey during Prohibition and well into the 1930s. The series' cast of characters is loosely based on actual real-life historical figures and the actors that fill these roles are seriously some of the best actors on television! The role of Nucky Thompson is easily one of Steve Buscemi's best; there is no denying his power and authority on-screen. If you're looking for a rip-roaring ride (literally) you should definitely give this show a watch. Season Five is set to premiere this fall on HBO.