October 1, 2014

My sick day survival guide!

Billy Idol
Two words, one person: Billy Idol. He's a classic, right? Bah! Either way, I can't get enough of his new autobiography called DANCING WITH MYSELF (Simon & Schuster, 2014). I pre-ordered it a couple of weeks ago and since it's arrived in the post I haven't been able to put it down! I honestly wasn't expecting much in the way of writing style or descriptiveness (sorry Billy) but the man has totally won me over - as if he didn't already possess my soul - with his literary prowess! I recently learned that when he was in college/university, he studied English Literature and you know what? It totally shows. One of the reasons why I chose to mention him here is because in his memoir he pays homage to classic film more than once; a couple of his all-time favourite classic films include THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI (1920) and WHITE HEAT (1949).

I had a sick day on Monday due to a horrible migraine that introduced itself on Sunday and refused to go away until Monday evening. Like a horrible, boisterous, unwelcome guest that refuses to leave your home this migraine totally put me out of commission for an entire day and I was forced to call in sick to work at 4:30 AM on Monday morning (have I mentioned that I didn't sleep a wink that night either? No? Well, I didn't).

Sick days are blessings in disguise and are a wonderful way for us to escape the cut-throat world of the workforce for a while and really take the time to relax, lounge about the house, and get better. Plus, they're the perfect opportunity for us to cuddle up on the couch - or in bed, whichever you choose - and spend an entire morning/afternoon in front of the telly, let's be honest here! I'm not ashamed to say that this was precisely what I got up to on Monday; I plopped my bottom down on a comfy armchair and switched on TCM once I mustered the strength to leave my lovely bed. Here's what I watched:

Lana Turner and Lee Bowman in Dancing Co-Ed (1939).

DANCING CO-ED (1939)* // A copy of this DVD was sent to me a couple of weeks ago by the kind folks over at Warner Archive and I've only just got 'round to watching it now (sorry 'bout that). If you'd like to see a very young, but perfectly coiffed, Lana Turner tapping her way through college, then this is your movie! DANCING CO-ED is one of those typical happy-go-lucky MGM musicals that were churned out between the 1930s and the early 1950s. If you're feeling down or ill this is the perfect movie to watch because it will literally make you feel like a bright young thing again (ahhh those were the days!). You can purchase the movie here.

DOWNSTAIRS (1932) // I can't get enough of John Gilbert. Really. And a talking John Gilbert is even more dishy than a silent one (if that's even possible). My DVR was kept extremely busy during the month of September thanks to TCM's terrific pre-Code spotlight every Friday and DOWNSTAIRS was one of the very last movies I had programmed on my cable box. I remember reading about the making of this film in Eve Golden's fantastic biography of Gilbert and this was the first chance I've had of actually watching the film since then. I still don't understand what the big deal was concerning Gilbert's supposedly 'effeminate' voice. Dude spoke (and sounded) like a DUDE. So there, Louis B. Mayer! Ha!

THE MERRY WIDOW (1925) // Speaking of John Gilbert ... this was another film I buckled down and watched on Monday afternoon and by this time, I was kinda getting bleary-eyed from watching so much television. Perhaps watching THE MERRY WIDOW wasn't the best decision I could have made that day seeing as how it's two-and-a-half hours long! Plus, it's a silent. That means I was reading film titles for more than 120 minutes. Not even the delicious sight of a young John Gilbert could save my eyeballs but, nevertheless, it was a film that I enjoyed. Good story. Good performances. Great moustaches (on the men, of course).

So, there you have it: my rundown of how to survive a sick day! Read a good book (or two or three), watch a few great films, cuddle up on the sofa, have a cup of tea and you're all set! Unplug the phone and shut off your computer because God knows we need a break from them every so often. When you return to work the next day looking one hundred times better and your boss accuses you of 'faking being ill,' give him/her the middle finger salute and utter these immortal words: Billy Idol and black and white celluloid saved my life! (Now may not be the best time to ask for a raise, so take it easy and ask for one another day).

September 29, 2014

Book Look! 11 Pre-Code Hollywood Movie Histories by Cliff Aliperti

I must mention pre-Codes at least three times a week on this blog (and that makes perfect sense considering I post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays). So basically I pretty much mention pre-Codes in every single post. If you don't like pre-Codes, I'm terribly sorry (no, I'm not) and if you love pre-Codes, welcome back to your little slice of Internet heaven!

This week I'm here to talk about my friend Cliff Aliperti's new book entitled 11 Pre-Code Hollywood Movie Histories - and don't let the fact that we're Internet buddies cloud your judgement on this post. I went into reading this digital book with an open mind and forced myself to approach it as if it had been written by a complete stranger. I always think that method works best because I don't want to psych myself up and then be disappointed half-way through or once I've finished reading the piece.

This book serves as a handy little guide to some of the lesser known pre-Code films Hollywood produced in the early '30s. In it you will find chapters dedicated solely to the following eleven films: SHOW GIRL IN HOLLYWOOD (1930), FOR THE DEFENSE (1930), GENTLEMAN'S FATE (1931), CITY STREETS (1931), HELL'S HIGHWAY (1932), WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND (1932), CALL HER SAVAGE (1932), EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE (1933), ONLY YESTERDAY (1933), THE SIN OF NORA MORAN (1933), and JIMMY THE GENT (1934).

Cliff's book starts off with a bang; a really engrossing introduction that had me nodding along in agreement at practically every sentence. My favourite bit was when he drew comparisons to the production values of early talkie horror films DRACULA (1931) and FRANKENSTEIN (1931), revealing that even though the films were released just ten months apart from each other, FRANKENSTEIN's production values seem far removed from and vastly superior to the more primitive DRACULA.

Cliff also includes a succinct and easily referenced chronology for those readers who are a little unsure of what-happened-when regarding not only Hollywood events, but world-wide events too (namely the two World Wars, the bills that were passed or amended by the US government, and other instances that directly affected the film industry).

Going into this book, I was only really familiar with a couple of the pre-Codes Cliff chose to profile. I've seen both EMPLOYEES' ENTRANCE and JIMMY THE GENT before and only just recently watched CALL HER SAVAGE on TCM, so I was eager (and uber-curious) to read about the other films I'd never even heard of! Each film's chapter gives a brief synopsis of the movie, facts about the production and casting, a history behind the plot, characters, and studio happenings during the time of production, and little known tidbits that every classic movie fan can appreciate. Every chapter is wonderfully insightful and I really enjoyed making my way through each one. I now have a pre-Code To Watch list as long as my arm (or even one of my legs!).

I think the only thing I would change about this book would be to make it longer. I polished the entire thing off in one sitting and before I knew it, I had reached the final page. No! I thought, I want more pre-Codes! I want my pre-Codes! I swear I've calmed down since then. I would have liked to have seen more chapters dedicated to the more popular films of the genre (i.e. SCARFACE (1932), RED DUST (1932), and THE PUBLIC ENEMY (1931). If Cliff is reading this, here's hoping he writes another volume to go along with this one!

11 Pre-Code Hollywood Movie Histories is available on Amazon [click here] and you can also find Cliff Aliperti on his blog, Twitter, and on Goodreads!

September 26, 2014

Making classic movies sound 'cool'

"Hi, my name is Vanessa. It's a pleasure to finally meet you!"

"Hi Vanessa, I'm so-and-so and it's lovely to meet you too! So, what do you do?"

"I'm a writer."

"Wonderful! How interesting! What do you write about?"

"Mostly current event stuff and lifestyle articles, but mainly classic film pieces."

"Classic film?? How ... different. Aren't most old movies boring?"

*crickets chirping*

Steve McQueen

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to my life! I can't tell you how many times I've had that exact same conversation whilst meeting new people and, quite frankly, whilst discussing my job and hobbies with family members, friends, and work colleagues. There is a stigma attached to classic film fans like you and me, and that stigma is not a particularly complimentary one. People think we're losers. Losers who spend our leisure hours watching black and white films that are terribly passe and lifeless, surrounded by dirty, mucky pillows and blankets and, like, thirty cats (if this is you, I'm terribly sorry).

How can we inject life back into old films? How do we go about changing people's minds about classic movies? Do we concuss them, drug them, tie them up and make them watch endless repeats of THE THIN MAN series until they succumb and declare themselves classic movie converts just like us? Or, if you wanted to take the much simpler route - without possibly risking an arrest - do we sit them down in a quiet, comfortable corner and explain to them why we love TCM so much? Yes. That method sounds much more effective (and humane).

Here's how I go about convincing people that classic movies are, indeed, cool:

  • I show them a picture of Gary Cooper in his prime // This always knocks the women flat out on their faces. If it's a man I'm talking to, I'll show him a picture of Norma Shearer wearing that dress in A FREE SOUL (1931). You know the one I'm talkin' about *wink wink*
  • I casually mention how many times modern films and celebrities reference the classics // Madonna, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Lady Gaga - you name them, they've name-dropped 'em, from movies to classic film stars, modern celebs are obsessed with our classic favourites.
  • I start talking about pre-Codes // Without a doubt pre-Code movies are at the top of the classic film Cool-O-Meter. Where else could you find so much sex, so much frivolity, so many drugs, and prostitution? Well, aside from Church and Jarvis in downtown Toronto ... only in a pre-Code!
  • I whip out my iPad and show them any five-minute snippet of METROPOLIS (1927) // Enough said. Once they see how advanced silent film was, they're pretty much converted.
  • I mention Paul Newman and Steve McQueen // You can't get any cooler than these two, am I right? Side note: A lot of people are surprised when I name drop stars from the '50s, '60s, and '70s because I guess they automatically assume that the term "classic film" only applies to movies made throughout the 1920s to the 1940s (i.e. mostly black and white features). Once they realize how broad the term classic film is, they're more apt to check out a few of the titles I recommend - THE STING (1973) is always a very popular recommendation.

Classic films are like classic literature: they wouldn't be around if people didn't still devour them. There is a reason why all classics are still revered and consumed as voraciously as they are; they stand the test of time and are still relevant in 2014. Pop open a Dickens or a Hardy novel and tell me whether you think their ideals and morals still apply to this hectic, frenzied modern age. Of course they do! Same goes for old movies; the lessons learned at the end of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) still ring just as true today as they did in the post-war era.

Where else could you see the King of Hollywood, Clark Gable, strip down to his skivvies? Where else could you see James Cagney fall flat on his face, dead, on his Mother's welcome mat? Where else could you see an entire city burst into flames and burn to the ground during the American Civil War? And where else could you see Mae West saunter into a room and utter those unbelievably filthy statements of hers to a roomful of horny men? Only in classic film my friends and that's why they're so fucking cool.

September 24, 2014

Do I need classic film?

The simple answer? YES.

Now, here's the long-winded answer: I don't think my life truly depends on whether or not I watch/buy/consume/obsess-over classic movies but it does feel nice and it does make me smile on a regular basis (which is the best medicine, really).

So, how would I function in a world without classic film? If someone invaded my bedroom right now and cleaned out my entire collection of DVDs and blurays and special editions and limited edition collector series would I throw my hands in the air and proceed to have a major meltdown? Or would I be okay with it? Let's be real here, I would probably cry like a baby who's just had his/her best Paddington Bear confiscated but I'd like to imagine myself remaining cool, calm and collected just like private dick Philip Marlowe would in a jam (wishful thinking).

Warning: this post turns into a teeny tiny rant in 3 - 2 - 1 ...

Okay so I've obviously established the fact that yes, I do need classic film in my life but let me ask you something else: do we really need to buy every single classic film DVD or bluray that's released to the market? This one's easy. For me, the answer is a resounding no. Recently I've gotten really fed up with the amount of times one single movie is re-released onto either DVD or bluray and companies claiming that this latest reincarnation is the flippin' holy grail of "special collectors' editions." Wasn't it just last year that you had me spend $60+ CAD on a supposed limited ultimate collectors' edition numbered box containing the film, some random bits n' bobs, and a piece of Jesus's hair?! I mean, come on, let's be real here!

How many special edition copies of Gone With the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, and Casablanca do I really need? Enough to fill an Ikea shelf? Enough to pave my driveway with? Enough to construct a full sized replica of Toronto's CN Tower? I ask you! Don't you think it's getting to be a little much? For the past few months - or years even - I've tried paring down my belongings and limiting my spending habits but with so much temptation being thrown at me, it's been hard. Yes, I'd love to own that brand new coffee table book by Mark A. Vieira but what makes me think that I actually need it?

This is obviously a part of my life that I need to work on. I need to understand that even though I may need classic movies in my life, that doesn't automatically mean that I need to buy all of the things that land on my radar. HERE, TAKE MY MONEY! will no longer be a phrase I shout every single day of the working week (and on weekends, let's be honest here) - just no. I refuse. This is me being adamant. I'm stomping my foot on the ground and clenching my fists. Watch out because I mean business!

I wanna know your thoughts on this topic. First, I'd like to know whether you feel you need classic film in your life. Second, I want to know how you feel about the constant re-issues of classic movies on DVD and bluray. Are you just as sick of them as I am? How many editions of Meet Me In St. Louis do you really need before you think: right, that's enough? Tell me in the comments section down below.

I was inspired to write this post after having read this awesome article by Jen over at A Little Opulent (if you haven't checked out this amazing online lifestyle magazine yet on Bloglovin' you're seriously missing out!).

September 22, 2014

A Modern Silent: London Symphony

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you'll know that just last year I completely fell in love with silent films. Give me an ancient black and white film with a beautiful orchestral soundtrack, plenty of emotive faces, an intriguing storyline and no sound whatsoever and I'm a very happy camper! Also, have you ever noticed how beautiful each silent movie's cinematography was? Unfortunately, that's something I think has gone the way of the do-do bird (and VHS tapes) in lieu of more grandiose and digitally processed film images. There is something so basic, yet intrinsically diverse about silent film photography and it's definitely something I will never tire of.

That's why I was mega excited to be asked to be apart of a special UK-based film project from director Alex Barrett entitled LONDON SYMPHONY. According to the project's official press release, the film can best be described as a "poetic journey through the city of London, exploring its vast diversity of culture, religion and design via its various modes of transportation." The point of the film is to sort of immortalize the 'big smoke' and celebrate its vast complexities and overall uniqueness. I don't know about you, but London, England is my favourite place on earth and there is really no place I'd rather be (except maybe in front of the television watching endless reels of classic films on TCM, but you already know this about me).

"In the early days of cinema, there were several great City Symphonies - for Berlin, Paris, Rotterdam, but never for London. Alex Barrtt is going to put that right, and his plans suggest a remarkable picture." -Kevin Brownlow, Film Historian and Author

Not only will Barrett and his team create a new silent film, composer James McWilliam will also compose a completely original film score for the picture. A full orchestra will be used to record the film's soundtrack and will be engaged for special screenings of LONDON SYMPHONY just like silent films were presented to movie audiences back in the 1900s through to the 1920s. I've been to a film screening once before in which there was a live orchestra present and I can tell you whole-heartedly that it was a truly wondrous experience. It was akin to attending a ballet or an opera; there's something about the mix of film and live music that just gets to you. The music captures the mood of the film - and the audience - beautifully and the film seems to coast along at just the right pace when it's accompanied by a group of talented musicians playing their little (big) hearts out.

"As a life-long fan of silent cinema, I've always liked the idea of making a modern day silent film. The key, for us, is to be true to the spirit of the silent era; to look at that spirit through the lens of today, thereby creating something that stays away from pastiche and parody, and becomes instead a modern interpretation of silent cinema." -Alex Barrett, Director/Editor of London Symphony

Now that LONDON SYMPHONY is past the stages of planning and development, the film is ready to go into production. It's worth pointing out that leading independent distributor Soda Pictures has expressed interest in picking up this special silent film property and all that's left to do right now is to raise funds to support the project's production. As of today's date, the film's crowdfunding campaign has gone live - you can check it out here. There is also some really neat, interesting information about the film and it's background listed on the page so it's definitely something worth looking at! If you're able to make a donation and back the project you should know that there are different reward packages available - for example, if you pledge 15 GBP or more, you will receive a copy of the finished film! Wicked, huh?

If you'd like to contact Director and Editor Alex Barrett directly, you can send him an email at Additionally, you can check out the film's official Twitter page here as well as its Facebook page here.

September 19, 2014

Pre-Code Perversion: Private Lives (1931)*

Have you ever watched a movie and thought to yourself: What if this were to happen in real life?

If you're at all familiar with the premise of Noel Coward's PRIVATE LIVES you'll know that something like this could very well happen to anyone, really, in this day and age (especially with so many married couples filing for divorce). Let me explain: our film opens with two weddings. Amanda (Norma Shearer) is marrying the ultra stiff Victor (Reginald Denny) and the simpering Sibyl (Una Merkel) is marrying abusive cad Elyot (Robert Montgomery). Each couple books into a hotel in France for their honeymoon and are assigned adjoining rooms with adjoining terraces.

So, what's the big deal? I hear you muttering into your morning cup of coffee. It just so happens that Amanda and Elyot have been married before and they only recently divorced because the two of them couldn't keep their claws off of each other (and not the way you're thinking either!). They fought like cats and dogs constantly while they were married, eventually seeking a welcome respite from one another in the form of a divorce.

A delicate situation like this is entirely plausible in 2014 and I'm sure it's happened to at least a handful of newly married couples in the past - you re-marry, settle down, and run into your ex-spouse on either your honeymoon or a trip to the local grocer. What then? How do you react? What do you do? Do you run away as quickly as possible in the opposite direction? Do you confront your ex in the cheese and dairy aisle? Do you hope he or she doesn't spot you while you're lying flat on your back in the sand, soaking up the Spanish sun? Well, if you're Amanda and Elyot you confront each other on your adjoining balconies, have a cocktail, smoke a cigarette, reminisce about all of the fights you've had in the past, and run away together leaving your new spouses in the dust without even a warning.

L - R: Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, & Una Merkel.
Amanda and Elyot travel to a remote, snowy location in which they frolic in the snow, sleep in a cabin with a handful of other married couples, breakfast together on a picturesque mountaintop and proceed to tear each other's hair out (I totally saw this coming, I'll be honest). The exes are at it again; they claim to love each other in one breath and then hurl abusive statements at each other the next. And, because PRIVATE LIVES is a pre-Code (God bless it), the audience gets to see the couple living in sin, soaking in alcohol and slapping each other out occasionally. Oh, and Amanda breaks a record over Elyot's head in a particularly heated moment.

Meanwhile, what's become of our jilted bride and groom? Victor and Sibyl reappear in the last quarter of the film, discovering the illicit lovers in their snow-capped cabin retreat. Strangely enough, and befitting the reputation of any good pre-Code, the foursome sit down at the dining room table, have breakfast together, and iron out their differences and issues as adults. I swear, this whole set-up is odd but the scene is played perfectly by all four actors!

So, who's leaving whom and who's staying together? Will Amanda and Elyot bid their tryst (and each other) goodbye for good and go back to their beleaguered spouses? Or will the two of them escape into the sunset together paying absolutely no heed to the new marital vows they pledged to Victor and Sibyl? If you've seen PRIVATE LIVES before you know what happens (stop giggling!) but if you haven't and are curious to know how the story ended, I suggest you order a copy of this DVD from Warner Archive and find out for yourself - I highly recommend this film! It's one of the best pre-Codes I've seen and Norma Shearer and Una Merkel are absolutely charming in it. The script is fast and loose, the hijinks are hilarious and the set-ups are ridiculously entertaining.

PRIVATE LIVES is available to order through the Warner Archive shop.

September 17, 2014

A friendship to write home about!

Let me ask you something: if you could pick any classic film star (male or female) to be your best friend in 2014, who would you choose? BUT HANG ON! Before you answer that question, you might want to think long and hard about whether or not this person would be able to cope with living in the present year. I mean, would they faint at the sight of a KitchenAid Stand Mixer? Would the  mere sight of a flatscreen 3D television make their palms sweaty and send them into fits of hysteria? Would they threaten to cut you off forever if they discovered your secret stash of multi-coloured vibrators you have hidden underneath your bed?

Okay - so bearing all that in mind, who would you choose?

Wanna know who I'd pick to be my best pal? None other than Katharine Hepburn (if she'd have me, that is). Something tells me that she'd size me up first before she made a final decision to befriend me or not (she seemed like an awfully discerning person). I've always admired Hepburn for her independence, her strength, her unique beauty - check out those killer cheekbones - and for all the times she never gave a fuck. When a team of prissy men told her she couldn't use the golf course on a Sunday she basically said "to hell with you" and played a round of golf anyway.

Having Katharine Hepburn as my bestest pal would be beneficial for the following reasons:
  • she'd force me to get my ass in shape (I lead a pretty sedentary life),
  • she'd defend me in a fight,
  • she'd introduce me to playwrights, millionaire aviators, and influential world leaders,
  • she'd probably be the one to finally convince me to become a feminist,
  • she'd teach me how to speak 'posh' in that funny New England accent of hers (I've always wanted to talk like her, but every time I try, I sound like an inbred idiot),
  • and, most importantly, she'd teach me what it means to work really really hard because God knows she worked her tiny butt off for the majority of her life.

Katharine Hepburn always struck me as the type of person who didn't suffer fools gladly. She had a fiery personality that came across beautifully onscreen (when it could have easily come across as pushy or unattractive). I don't think she had many close friends, but those that she did hold in her inner circle she cherished until the end. That's the kind of pal we'd all love to have, right? Someone to stick by us and flatten anyone who dared threaten our person, sensibilities, or viewpoints.

Tell me in the comments section down below who your choice would be. I ultimately chose Hepburn not only for the reasons I listed above but because she was a truly modern woman. Who better to bring back in 2014 and have her live her life all over again beside me? Man ... I don't think I'd ever stop smiling or look beyond the silver lining unless, of course, the two of us got into a row or she discovered what I was hiding underneath my bed. Whoopsee! Better dispose of those items before resurrecting her. Excuse me a moment - I'll be right back ...

September 15, 2014

Cineplex Classic Film Series: Dial M For Murder (1954)

Classic movie screenings don't happen all that often in the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), but when they do you know I'll be there with bells and whistles (and popcorn). Canada's chain of Cineplex movie theatres devises killer screening schedules devoted to classic film twice a year and for most of us, this is the only opportunity we'll have of watching our favourite "old movies" on the big screen in digital format.

This Sunday's screening was of Alfred Hitchcock's DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) starring the dashing - yet lethal - Ray Milland and the regal-looking Grace Kelly. Though I had never seen this film before, it had always been on my classically honed movie radar. I love a good Hitchcock thriller - especially if it's a murder mystery which takes place in London, England - but I've avoided Grace Kelly my entire life (don't ask - all you need to know is that I don't have the highest regard for her). Having said that, though, I'm super-duper glad I decided to drag myself out of bed, into my car, onto the highway, and into a cinema seat this afternoon for the special 3D screening! Side note: Hitchcock in 3D? Yes please!

Here's what you need to know about the film: Tony Wendice (Milland) hires an old college mate to murder his cheating wife Margot Wendice (Kelly). Tony devises an intricate plan that goes horribly wrong that leaves his mate, not his wife, dead. In order to avoid suspicion, Tony tries to divert police attention away from himself and onto his wife, essentially framing her for the murder of Charles Alexander Swann (played expertly by Anthony Dawson). The man that Margot is having an affair with, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), is a popular mystery writer who is committed to solving the riddle of the murder himself and, thus, clearing Margot of the crime and re-establishing her innocence.

I really enjoyed the film and had an incredible time keeping up with the story's twists and turns, swishing this way and that, toying with the movie audience's emotions and brain processing capabilities. Do you have any idea how many times I changed my mind about Ray Milland's bastard-of-a-husband? So he plotted to have his wife murdered, so what? She was cheating on him! But then I'd go back to sympathizing with Grace Kelly's foxy-and-impeccably-well-dressed wife; did I really want her to hang for a crime her husband initiated and essentially framed her for? I don't think so. In fact, I'm pretty certain that I want Milland's character to choke on his tongue and burn in hell. Extreme, I know. (Well done Hitchcock).

DIAL M FOR MURDER is the kind of film that leaves the audience pretty much breathless by the time its end credits roll. For me, this is the feeling I live for, especially when watching a movie classic that's earned a reputation over the years for being a prestige piece that will most likely endure for many more decades to come. Classic films like these never fail to impress me and when I leave the cinema I find myself walking taller with an inevitable spring in my step, proud of my taste in film.

One thing I like to do before leaving the theatre is listen in on other people's hushed (and sometimes very enthusiastic) conversations regarding the movie, the story, the characters, and their overall movie-watching experience. Sometimes I join in (more like butt in) and sometimes I leave in a hurry if I see that people are displeased and incensed by the picture's quality, the cinema's blasting A/C, or the stale popcorn that we were all forced to fork over $6 CAD for (Cineplex, you need to work on that).

So, what's next? Cineplex is hosting a special Halloween-flavoured screening of THE MUMMY (1932) and THE WOLF MAN (1941) together on a double bill on Wednesday October 29th and Thursday October 30th. And, before anyone asks, yes I will most likely be there despite the fact I've never liked Halloween. If there is a chance to see Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. on the big screen, I wouldn't miss it for the world! If you'd like to check out the full Cineplex Classic Film Series schedule yourself, visit the Cineplex Events page [click here].

September 12, 2014

Falling out of love with classic film

Have you ever found yourself falling out of love with classic movies?

I know we're all devoted classic film fans at heart, but I'm sure we've all found ourselves in this predicament before at some point in our lives: the bloom is gone and the mere thought of sitting down to watch another classic movie sends us running for the hills with a tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream clutched under our arms (forget the spoon! we can eat with our hands!). No? Just me?

It's as if I overdose on TCM, special cinema screenings, and film-related coffee table books all at the same time and I can't bear to watch one more movie. Not even Gary Cooper or a rollicking good pre-Code can bring me back from the brink. Instead I have to take a step back from my DVDs, blurays, and TCM and will myself to undergo a classic movie detox. This involves staying at least fifty yards away from my movie collection and laptop, bookcases, and memorabilia collection and either reading Fiction until my eyes bleed or watching endless TV marathons of idiotic reality shows.

Once the worst has passed and I feel ready to delve back into the world of black and white cinema again, I approach TCM cautiously (I don't want to overdo it again, do I?) and watch whatever is airing in short ten-minute intervals; for ten minutes I'll pay attention to what's on the screen and for the next ten minutes I'll look away and do something else, etc, etc. It's like going back to the gym and exercising when you've been away for a while - baby steps people, baby steps.

I can't say that this madness has happened to me recently - because it certainly hasn't, not with TCM's pre-Code Fridays in the mix - but I would estimate that it's happened to me maybe twice or three times so far this year. That's pretty good considering we're nine months into 2014 and the new year is only a hair's breadth away (this reminds me: I need to get started on my Christmas shopping). I'm currently loving classic movies at the moment, perhaps more than ever, and I'm totally in the mood for discovering and re-discovering great gems from the 1920s and onwards!

I want to know what it is you do to combat classic movie fatigue. Do you have to force yourself to step away from films the way that I do? How long does it take you to get your groove back? What steps do you take to cleanse yourself of the influence of places like TCM, Warner Archive, and the Criterion Collection shop? Tell me your story in the comments section down below!

Maybe we should start brainstorming and come up with a twelve-step program!

September 10, 2014

The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)*

I have been waiting YEARS to see this film!

Thanks to the kind folks at Warner Archive who sent me a copy of the DVD to review, I have finally been able to strike this film off of my To Watch list. The first I had heard of this film was during a viewing of the THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT documentary series that I owned on VHS back in the '90s. I don't remember if HOLLYWOOD REVUE was available on home video back then, but if it was, I certainly couldn't find it anywhere (bummer, I know).

THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 is a musical extravaganza produced and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in November 1929, billed as one of the studio's first all talking, all singing, all dancing motion pictures. It stars a cavalcade of popular film stars from the MGM stable and is hosted by the very able, bendy-wristed Jack Benny and silent film star Conrad Nagel (who says "old boy" and "old man" a lot).

There is no plot or storyline to this film. It's purely meant to showcase the studio's talent and to provide just over two hours of solid, family-friendly musical entertainment to its film audience. I almost felt as though I was seated in an old vaudeville theatre, watching a stage show circa the early 1930s. It's quite the experience! Having said that, though, would I watch it again? Maybe, maybe not.

'Galaxy of Stars' indeed! There is enough orgasmic material in this opening title to keep me satisfied for months! #TMI

The film is never boring, it just becomes tedious after approximately an hour of viewing. I often found myself checking the status bar to see how far along I was in the film and how much longer I had on the DVD to get through. The film's stars and special effects are pretty much what got me through my first viewing.

It became evident to me about ten minutes into the movie that MGM had pulled out all the stops for this, their second musical picture. In the early talkie era many films were made purely as an experiment and THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 is one of them. Many of the scenes were poorly cut and spliced together and there were some visual effects that actually made me cringe with embarrassment. But, you know what? For a film that was made in 1929 it's pretty darn good!

Some of my favourite bits included numbers from Marie Dressler (my fellow Canadian), Laurel & Hardy, a surprise appearance from Buster Keaton for which I squealed with delight at when I saw him appear, an 'impromptu' song and dance number featuring the beautiful Joan Crawford, the appearance of a somewhat stiff-looking Norma Shearer and John Gilbert reenacting the famous balcony scene from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (in colour!), and the quirky Singin' In the Rain musical number.

Ukulele Ike and the massively talented MGM chorus (a 17-year-old Ann Dvorak is in there somewhere).

Oh, and have I mentioned Warner Bros. star Ann Dvorak? Well, before she was signed to Warner Bros. she was part of the MGM chorus and you can make her out in quite a few scenes in HOLLYWOOD REVUE. She even scored a solo bit in this film slapping out host Jack Benny! If I had to be slapped by anyone it'd be Ann Dvorak (Joan Crawford's famous wallops would hurt too much, I think). See if you can spot Dvorak the next time you sit down to watch this film! Thanks to Dvorak biographer Christina Rice for giving us all the heads-up in her book Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel.

So, bottom line, would I recommend this film to other classic film fans (and anybody else, really): YES. This is a piece of Hollywood, cinematic, and MGM history. It packs a killer punch in terms of star power alone and it was one of the studio's first forays into a genre it would become famous for perfecting: the Hollywood musical. Yes, things are a little bumpy and dated in THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 but it's a stand out picture that deserves a bigger audience. It's entertaining, it's unique, and it serves as a lovely look back at some of the stars that would become legendary later on in their careers (I'm looking at you Joan Crawford). It also serves as a somewhat fitting farewell to those silent film stars who were on their way out (John Gilbert, sob!).

THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 is available to order through the Warner Archive shop.

September 8, 2014

What it feels like to strike gold at the library

I like to visit my local library at least once or twice every week.

My Mother is the one who introduced me to the library back when I was a little runt just out of diapers. Books on tape were what I started off with until I was old enough to wander the endless aisles of Children, Teen, and Adult Fiction.

Once I started getting into old movies that's when I really started frequenting my local library even more! There I could find rare, out-of-print volumes concerning film, film genres, biographies and documentary-type coffee table books dedicated to the wonderful (mostly) black and white film masterpieces I had just recently discovered.

Yesterday I literally struck gold in my library's Film section and discovered a book I had never seen before (at the library, advertised on TCM, or on Amazon): Designs On Film: A Century Of Hollywood Art Direction by Cathy Whitlock and the Art Directors Guild (2010, it books). It's a mighty hefty volume that explores all of the great and iconic film sets used in both classic cinema and modern films.

Having quickly flipped through it in the library aisle, I decided that this was one coffee table book I couldn't pass up and added it to my Borrow pile - it's also being added to my Amazon wishlist as we speak. I waste hardly any time at all when it comes to buying coffee table books, you know this.

Maybe when I go back to the library next week I'll find something as equally appealing as this item was! Let me know in the comments section down below if you've made some similar discoveries at your local library recently. It doesn't have to be classic film related - it can literally be anything! I'm always looking for great book recommendations!

September 5, 2014

Snog, screw, marry, dump!

I get my best blogging ideas in bed. 

Oftentimes when I'm drifting off to sleep or just lying under my sheets and duvet in the dark I'll start thinking about blog post ideas and editorial content that I can delve into for some of my freelancing gigs. My mind and body is at their most restful stages when I'm in bed and I think that's a huge reason why my creativity suddenly bursts into life there.

Just the other night I was thinking to myself who I would date if I had the chance to romance someone from the classic film period. Would I want to eventually marry this person or would I have some fun with them and then dump their ass by the side of the road? Don't worry, I wouldn't be that mean -- I would probably buy them dinner first.

I thought long and hard about who I'd pick to snog (make-out with), screw (self explanatory), marry, and dump and here are the choices I came up with:

Dana Andrews

Snog = Dana Andrews // The man is delicious and I'd love to make-out with him for at least an hour or two. Then, afterwards, we'd both put on our trench coats and fedoras, light a cigarette and go solve a noir-ish crime together on the mean streets of Los Angeles.

Gene Kelly

Screw = Gene Kelly // Okay, seriously, who wouldn't want to romp between the sheets with this guy? He seemed super-committed to his art, though, so chances are he'd only spend half an hour with you tops in order to get back to the studio, so I wouldn't actually want to be in a long-term relationship with him. Those thighs and clenched buttocks would keep me coming back for more, though.

Paul Newman

Marry = Paul Newman // If he was as committed to me as he was to wife of fifty years Joanne Woodward, then this dude is a keeper! Yes, I would want to snog him, screw him, marry him, but never ever dump him. His talent was immense, he kept his private life private, his beliefs were strong and steadfast, and his generosity was unparalleled. Newman is perfect husband material!

Spencer Tracy

Dump = Spencer Tracy // Sorry dude, I'd much prefer to see you with Katharine Hepburn than have you waste your time with little ol' me. Plus, you refused to divorce your wife, so our future together looks pretty damn bleak from where I'm standing. I just couldn't deal with the stress of such an emotionally-fraught relationship (not at my time of life, anyway). Besides, Katharine Hepburn is way hotter than I am! It pains me to have to say this, Spence, but I'd totally dump you.

Montgomery Clift

...and one more for good measure: I would totally want to snog Montgomery Clift if he was willing and available (possibly at the same time as snogging Dana Andrews). I've always been drawn to tortured souls and Clift certainly does qualify for that distinction. I'd like to think that making out with him would bring him some much needed joy - enough to at least make him step away from the liquor cabinet for approximately a week or so.

Tell me, who would you like to snog, screw, marry, and dump?

September 3, 2014

What does the script say? My favourite film quotes!

Humphrey Bogart and Martha Vickers in a particularly lurid scene in The Big Sleep (1946).

"She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up." -The Big Sleep (1946)

If there is one thing I can pretty much guarantee about classic movies, it's that you'll find a veritable goldmine of perfect, zingy catchphrases and film quotes in each one. I've lost count of how many times I've either burst out laughing or gasped from something I've heard coming out of a classic film star's mouth.

Listed below are some of my very favourite film quotes! I'd love to hear some of yours so do leave a comment down below and let me know which ones immediately spring to mind!

"Well, nobody's perfect!" - Some Like It Hot (1959) // The ultimate in film quotes and a superb way of ending a film in which two (hot) guys spend the majority of the movie's two hour running time in drag.

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow." -To Have And Have Not (1945) // Va-va-voom indeed! If this had been a Looney Tunes sketch, there would have been steam coming out of Bogie's ears and little red hearts in his eyes. Audience members collectively signed and wet their pants after hearing this classic one-liner.

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." -Gone With The Wind (1939) // Boo-yah! #LikeAFuckingBoss If your girl is constantly playing games with you, toying with your affections, and wanting to shag a pasty-white Southern soldier with a British accent, tell her how you really feel and leave her crying on the doorstep. And never look back, Rhett. Never look back.

I'm so fancy, you already know ... I'm in the fast lane from L.A to Tokyo (I had to, believe me).

"There are far worse things awaiting man than death." -Dracula (1931) // Instant shivers, this one. Just looking at Bela Lugosi's face while he utters this fabulously philosophical line makes me want to hide in a corner and cling to a security blanket.

"I was reading a book the other day / Reading a book?! / Yes, it's all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy says that machinery is going to take the place of every profession? / Oh, my dear, that's something you need never worry about." -Dinner At Eight (1933) // It took me a while to fully comprehend the meaning behind this saucy movie quote. The first time I saw DINNER AT EIGHT I was way too young and inexperienced in the ways of sexual healing to get the meaning behind it. But, once I was more experienced it hit me like a ton of bricks and I couldn't stop giggling the entire day.

"I stick my neck out for nobody!" -Casablanca (1942) // Oh Rick, you are my hero! I'm sure you're an absolute dick most of the time but this quote just makes me love you more and more. I'm an anti-social introvert so I can definitely relate to the way Rick feels about risking his life and/or reputation for people he just couldn't give a shit about.

So yes, please go ahead and leave me your favourite film quotes in the comments section below!

August 29, 2014

My favourite television classics!

There's something about vintage television that makes me feel all warm and cuddly inside. Like a piping hot, soothing cup of tea, classic TV series go down like a warm, comforting, life-sustaining dream. Though I'm only in my early thirties - I am, really I am - I spent many hours of my childhood sitting in front of the television watching all kinds of vintage TV shows. Here are five of my absolute favourites:

The Three Stooges // I grew up watching this show with my Pops. Every Sunday before we went to church, we'd lounge in the family room and watch endless skits of hilarity featuring Curly, Larry, and Moe (and Shemp and Joe). To this day, there is no other classic TV series that I'd rather watch over this one. The Three Stooges makes me laugh until it hurts, makes me cringe until I hiccup, and it makes me wish I was born decades earlier. No one does physical comedy quite like they do!

I Love Lucy // I mean really, come on, who wouldn't include this show on their list of favourite vintage classics? I seriously don't know one person who said that they didn't like this show. It's the perfect blend of hilarity, intelligence, discourse, and touching human emotions. Growing up in an Italian household, I bet you can guess which episode was my family's favourite. Yup, that's right. The wine-making one in which Lucy hops into a big huge barrel of grapes and proceeds to mash them with her bare feet. Frankly, she could have been treading nails and I'd still think it was funny. Or maybe not ...

Leave It To Beaver // I spent many of my lunchtime breaks watching this in my kitchen with my Mom doing housework in the background. I seem to recall that this was on right before The Andy Griffith Show (another great vintage classic). Though I loved watching the show, I always wondered how one family could be so perfect. The Beave screwed up so many times and he never got spanked or hit, never got told off, and he was never grounded by his parents (like I was every damn week). I remember wanting to implant myself into the Cleaver household until I realized that Nintendo hadn't been invented yet in the 1950s.

The Jack Benny Program // The probability of you losing your lunch from laughing so hard during an episode of The Jack Benny Program is really really high. Trust me. Like all great things in life, my Pops introduced me to this show when I was in my teens. It aired on our local comedy channel every Saturday afternoon and I pretty much ignored everyone on Planet Earth for the program's twenty-five minute run time. Benny's straight-faced comedic prowess killed me and I loved watching him interact with sidekick Don Wilson.

The Munsters // I was a bit of a goth back in my high school days - don't judge - and no show had me coveting the cast's wardrobe more than The Munsters did (well, except for The Addams Family). This television show is so fun, so animated, so endearing, and so kooky. I love it for all of those reasons! To me, The Munsters always seemed like Leave It To Beaver on acid; the same family dynamics applied to both series but The Munsters was more colourful and trippy. I like to think that The Munsters was the Trainspotting of the 1960s. Just me?

What vintage TV classics are amongst your all-time favourites? Tell me about them in the comments section down below!

If you're interested in learning more about classic television, I'd recommend checking out my friend Will's blog, Cinematically Insane. He weighs in quite frequently about vintage TV classics and his posts are always very insightful and entertaining!

August 27, 2014

It helps to have icons!

In the September 2014 issue of Glamour magazine, Editor-In-Chief Cindi Leive asks: Who do you channel when you're standing in front of your closet in the morning weighing your options? Her answer was comic book heroine Brenda Starr. My answer? It changes from day to day but mostly it's a mix of Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy and silver screen goddess Rita Hayworth - odd combination, I know.

If you were to step into my closet right now and take a look around - nosey parker! - you'd immediately deduce that I like the colour black. Nearly every single item in my wardrobe is as black as night and comes from Zara. I always like to tell myself that if everything I own is black, it's easier to get dressed in the mornings. And it is. It hardly takes any effort at all to create an outfit; black jeans, black tank, black top, black sweater. Oh, and black biker boots. Always the biker boots. I secretly wish I was Billy Idol's girlfriend.

Rita Hayworth was the perfect combination of sexy, mysterious, and aloof. This is what I want to emulate every time I step out of the house. Does it work? Probably not, but I'm stubborn so I'll keep on trying. Despite my penchant for wearing all black, edgy ensembles, I'd still like to look somewhat glamorous when I start my day. This is where a slick of blood red lipstick comes into play, and you all know how much I love a red lippie! If I can't use my clothing to evoke Hayworth, I rely on makeup to get me there.

When people look at me I want them to think the following things:
  • Looks like she's up to no good,
  • if I were to approach her, would she smile at me or be inclined to kick my ass with those Union Jack Dr. Martens?,
  • that girl knows where she's headed,
  • she's wearing a wool beanie in thirty degree heat therefore she must be a bit of an oddball,
  • that woman looks a lot like that crazy chick in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO,
  • I wonder if she's decent (see what I did there? No? Do yourself a favour and watch GILDA (1946) right now please), and finally
  • only a true introvert would dress like that and I suspect she is every inch an introvert so I best leave her alone.

This is basically me in a nutshell. I don't want to come right out and label myself as unapproachable, but that's how I feel most of the time. I like to be left to my own devices and I don't like being bothered. Reading this post back to myself in the editing process has led me to believe that I'm some kind of nasty stuck-up bitch and I'm not. I'm one of the nicest people you'll ever meet - if we met - but I'm not much of a people person. See that look that Hayworth is giving the camera? That's my face on a daily basis (minus the staggering beauty, of course).

Who do you try to emulate when you get dressed in the morning?

August 25, 2014

Why YOU should watch classic movies!

Just like my mother always used to say: there's a first time for everything!

Us classic film bloggers didn't emerge from the womb watching old movies - contrary to what some of us may have you believe. No, each one of us was slowly introduced to classic film by either a family member, a friend, a casual acquaintance, a complete stranger, or by aliens. Either that or we took it upon ourselves one day to just grow some balls and head for the classic movie section at our local Blockbuster (RIP).

Our lives changed quickly after that and a new obsession was born in each one of us. Now we find ourselves talking about old movies to anyone who'll listen and blabbing about our passion for black and white films online to our heart's content. Here's why I think you should take a gamble, try something different and dive into the world of classic film:

Because you (and everyone else) is sick to death of the never-ending slew of superhero movies. Good God enough already. It seems as if every week there is a new release featuring a team of heros clad in spandex pants, face masks, capes, and very little else. We get it. The planet's in danger and only one person can save all of humanity: [enter any superhero's name here]. I'd much rather watch Cary Grant saunter through the desert in GUNGA DIN (1939) than another perfectly coiffed caped crusader hightail it through a dark and dingy city seemingly infested with rats ... and penguins.

Because you'll learn something. Seriously, you will. You'll learn how films used to capture the audience's attention with stunning visuals, snappy dialogue, perfectly constructed sets, glorious feats of technicolor and casts of legendary actors that the world will never see the likes of again. A grand statement, yes, but there's a reason why we are still talking about people like Rita Hayworth, Humphrey Bogart, and Bette Davis today. These people are legends and cannot - and should not - be confused with today's tally of generic celebs (will anyone be talking about Shia LaBeouf in fifty years? I think not).

Because you'll be experiencing something new. How often have you heard it said that you should try something new every single day? This statement has been drilled into our heads practically since day one. You know, just in case you should get hit by a freight train and die tomorrow. At least you will have tried something new! No, but seriously, why not try something new? What's the worst that can happen - you don't like the movie you chose? Big deal. The next time you meet up with your friends, you can always tell them about that one time you watched CITIZEN KANE (1941) and you'll come off sounding so damn cultured and intelligent! Even if you secretly hated the film from beginning to end.

Because classic movies are an integral part of cinematic history. Let's face it. They are. Modern filmmakers constantly reference and pay homage to the films of yesteryear. Directors like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg can't get enough of classic film and are often heard signing its praises on film-related documentaries, interviews, and on DVD/bluray commentaries. Without classic film, modern film wouldn't have amounted to very much. From silents to talking pictures to the new modern movies of the '60s and '70s, classic movies are considered the touchstone of all modern film making. So, do yourself a favour - please - and open yourself up to the wonderful and exciting world of classic cinema.

Because you'll regret it if you don't! I'm not promising anything but if you don't take my advice, you may end up kicking yourself later. Truth is, by not watching at least one old movie, you're missing out on something huge! Just pick one classic, at random even, and watch it whenever you find yourself with a couple of spare leisure hours on your hands. Instead of going out for drinks, instead of banging your girlfriend/boyfriend - you can always do that later - and instead of stuffing your face with greasy fast food immerse yourself in the world of black and white (and technicolor!) cinema and see whether or not you've discovered a new passion in life. You may surprise yourself and become utterly obsessed with something you would have otherwise avoided!

That's the most thrilling bit, isn't it? Opening yourself up to a potential new lifelong relationship. And, if your foray into classic film doesn't amount to anything in the end, so what? I give you my express permission to go back to watching those wacky 3-D superhero movies which you will eventually tire of anyway and go back to thinking that maybe you should give classic film another shot again! It's a vicious circle, you know. You'll be back. I promise you will.

August 22, 2014

Crushing hard on silent film!

Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Clara Bow, and Richard Arlen star in Wings (1927).

Here's something I never thought I'd say: I've become utterly and fabulously obsessed with silent movies!

Silent films were something I had always shied away from watching because I thought they were stuffy, manic, and boring. If I'm being completely honest, I never understood where their appeal lay. What was it about the silent film genre that people found fascinating? And how could an entire cinema-full of people be kept entertained for two hours by a moving picture that had no voice (talking, that is)? The very thought baffled me.

It wasn't until the spring of 2012 that I started getting into silent movies. I remember ordering the Greta Garbo Signature Collection off of amazon right before leaving on my annual trip to the UK and, included in that DVD set was The Garbo Silents Collection, a mini boxed set of some of Garbo's famous silent features. Despite how much I loved Garbo - and still do, obviously - I literally had to force myself to sit down and pop in FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926) starring Garbo and the equally delicious John Gilbert.

That movie shocked me by how good it was. Seriously. I credit FLESH AND THE DEVIL with kick-starting my silent film obsession. First off, I couldn't believe that I had made it through an entire silent movie without once becoming bored. Second, I learned that an audience doesn't necessarily need voices to be moved and entertained the way I was that afternoon. The visuals were stunning and the film titles were perfect; beautifully capturing the film's mood and story in just a handful of sentences.

Since then I made it a habit of sneaking in a silent movie viewing at least once or twice a month. Other silents that I've come to love are WINGS (1927) which had me blubbing like a child, SAFETY LAST! (1923), THE GENERAL (1926), METROPOLIS (1927), NOSFERATU (1922), IT (1927) and THE BIG PARADE (1925). The last silent feature I watched was CITY LIGHTS (1931) starring the majorly talented Charles Chaplin, and though that ending didn't make me cry like I was told it would, I still really enjoyed it. That boxing scene had me in stitches and I couldn't help wondering how many hours of rehearsal it took the actors to perfect the routine they pulled off in the ring. Fancy footwork indeed!

Charles Chaplin, Eddie Baker, and Hank Mann show off their moves in the ring in the delightful City Lights (1931).

Through the past year-and-a-half of experimenting with silent film viewing I've learned that silents are the sort of films that enlighten audiences. True, there is no speaking, but in place of that there are incredible visuals, striking sets, realistic stunt sequences, and truly great performances from both the actors and directors of each piece. The musical accompaniment to each feature is lilting and lucid; really helping to establish the picture's mood and undercurrent.

So, my question to you is out of all the silent films I haven't seen yet, which would you recommend? Tell me which silents are your personal favourites and which ones you think I should steer clear of. Do you have a favourite silent film star? A favourite genre you think I should delve deeper into? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section down below!

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.

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