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.

June 30, 2014

Size Matters

Audrey Hepburn showing off her dainty 20' waist (Scarlett O'Hara is officially pea-green with envy).

I was reading through the latest issue of Grazia Magazine (UK) a few days ago and came across this article: Does It Really Matter What Size Your Label Says? The Disturbing Rise of Size Triple-Zero. In no uncertain terms it basically puts the idea out there that never before has such petite sizing existed and it's basically all Hollywood's fault. Not that I'm refuting that thesis or anything - I completely agree with it - but what I am refuting is the fact that this journalist seems to think this is a new issue. It's not.

Back in the 1930s when sound pictures were all the rage, starlets were forced to starve themselves on diets of cantaloupe and water to fit into their custom-made Adrian gowns and Irene suits. When Greta Garbo arrived in America in the mid-1920s she was a fresh-faced, plump ingenue eager to try her hand at making movies in Hollywood. As she made one film after another you could virtually see her disappear on screen. Her cheekbones became sharper, her breasts seemed to have deflated, her waist grew tiny, and her hips slimmed down quite significantly.

A round-faced Greta Garbo and her mentor Mauritz Stiller in 1925.

Jean Harlow was known in Hollywood as the Platinum Blond Bombshell and she had a figure on her that could set a man's world on fire in the blink of an eye. On set, she was often seen reclining on specially-crafted "reclining boards" instead of the usual set chairs used for directors and stars - why? Because her costumes were so tight that the fabric did not allow her to bend at the waist. Most of the time Harlow was actually sewn into her gowns; they were so close-fitting that to have dressed any other way would have been impossible for the star.

Joan Crawford was another popular star who insisted on keeping up appearances at all times. She dieted relentlessly and played many sports like swimming and tennis to keep her figure trim and svelte. She knew that if she let herself go, her popularity would wane and she could risk losing her career. Isn't that the same nowadays? Female stars in particular seem obsessed with the idea of staying thin to maintain their stardom and popularity in the film and television industries and because their figures are so small and impish, of course sizing has gotten smaller and smaller! Hence the creation of the size triple-zero.

Jean Harlow relaxing on a specially-made reclining board on the set of Dinner At Eight (1933).

So there you have it. My take on the new sizing trend. Except it's not new. It's all been done before it's just that now regular folks like you and me feel the pressure to slim down and obtain these same bodily proportions that stars have led us to believe are realistic and attractive. Sure, there are people that are naturally this thin, but the vast majority of us are not. For us to assume that we can achieve this look without seriously harming ourselves is troubling and perhaps that's what this article should have been addressing, not the number on a clothing tag.

I have always known what I wanted, and that was beauty ... in every form. -Joan Crawford

What's your take on this issue? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section down below.

June 27, 2014

Film Funk Friday

Yup. Joaquin Phoenix's facial expression is pretty spot-on when it comes to describing my mood right now.

Have you ever watched a movie that made you feel sad for days? That made you want to crawl into a corner and wish you could just disappear because you're a useless waste of space? Yeah, that. That feeling you get when you feel lonesome, depressed, transparent, and sad all at the same time. That's what happened to me earlier on in the week when I sat down to watch HER (2013) starring the mustachioed and wistful Joaquin Phoenix and written and directed by Spike Jonze.

No one told me this movie would ruin my life. No one warned me that it'd make me question my entire existence and then deem myself not worthy to live such a worthless and loveless existence. Okay maybe I'm exaggerating now, but I've been feeling down in the dumps for five whole days now and I haven't been able to manipulate my lips into anything resembling a smile since then. It was a great movie, trust me, but it's certainly not a film I would watch ever again. If I did, I'm afraid I would become suicidal.

There are a couple of classic movies that put me in a similar mood, making me go very quiet and listless, sitting on the couch with two-hour-old popcorn languishing in the bowl on my lap. Here they are:

The amazing cast of The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). This whole film is filled with utter and total anguish.

The first is THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK (1959) directed by the wonderful George Stevens and starring newcomer (at the time) Millie Perkins as the Jewish girl who spent years hidden away in an Amsterdam attic from Hitler and his Nazis during WWII. I was in Grade Six or Seven when I watched this movie for the first time and I remember feeling quite sad and morose for weeks afterwards. Nothing could bring me out of my funk and I fell into a sort of depression, reflecting on all the grotesque things that humans inflicted upon each other (and still do in some cases).

The second classic that makes me feel like utter shit is A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951) starring the unbelievably attractive pairing of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor, directed (again) by George Stevens - did the guy specialize in weepies or what?? This film taps into many of my emotions: anger, sadness, hopelessness, and pity. I never routed so hard for someone so bad as I did for Monty in this film. Sure he killed his pregnant ex-girlfriend but the chick was clearly driving him mad PLUS he had the gorgeous Elizabeth Taylor standing by to marry him! Duh! It doesn't take a genius to figure out what the killer's motivations were and someone - ANYONE - should have saved him from the gallows! I stayed pissed off for days after having seen this movie for the first time. I truly felt as if there was no justice in this world.

Tell me about the films that have affected you in similar ways. Has one film in particular made you feel as low as HER did to me? How long did your mood last and what did you do to shift it? Tell me about it all in the comments section down below (and help me to feel at least marginally better!).

June 20, 2014

TCM, how could you?!

The bookish Dorothy Malone stars alongside Humphrey Bogart in a superb scene out of THE BIG SLEEP (1946).

Having a full-time office job can be a terrible inconvenience. Why, only today I had to stumble out of bed and drag my ass to work when I could have stayed home and watched a truly epic line-up of classic films on TCM! This has happened more times than I care to remember; it seems that whenever groupings of my favourite movies are scheduled to air in the daytime I've had to be somewhere else other than my comfy bed or my equally comfy living room sofa. Drat!

Today was the perfect example - check this out: The Thin Man, The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep, and - wait for it - Laura. Good grief, it's enough to make me want to quit my job right now and learn to live on my wits alone! From seven in the morning until three in the afternoon I sat at my desk stewing to a boiling point and imagining myself nibbling popcorn kernels from the navel of a young Gene Kelly whilst sprawled on my couch, watching the magic that is the really-good-TCM-daytime-lineup.

And yes, before you ask, I've seen all of these films before (in fact, I own all of them) but that's not the point! The point is that playlists like these don't come around too often and when one of them does, the responsible classic movie fan should stop the Earth spinning on its axis and engage in a day full of great movies, great characters, and superb movie-making no matter what day of the week it is. I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way - I can't be, it'd be criminal! - I only wish that TCM would take into consideration how many of its viewers work during the day and maybe take that opportunity to schedule these stellar lineups on the weekend, when it'd be more convenient for people like me to tune in (I'm being selfish and thinking only of myself, clearly).

Right. Back to watching CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935) and the magic that was Errol Flynn!

Book Look! John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman

A few posts ago I talked about me wanting to know why classic movie fans - and people in general - were so enamoured of John Wayne. I never understood the appeal of him but this could have been because I've never been a huge Western movie fan. Regardless, I wanted to know why Wayne is considered a legend and I felt the only way to do that was to immerse myself in his work (films like Stagecoach, Red River, and Hondo) and this new biography by Scott Eyman.

John Wayne: The Life and Legend (Simon & Schuster) is a fantastic book! PLAIN AND SIMPLE. It's the sort of biography that you can polish off in a week despite its hefty length of more than six hundred pages. Despite what you may think when you pull this book off the shelf, it's an easy read that really delves into the life and legend of the Duke (Wayne preferred to be called "Duke" over "John" but his real name was Marion Mitchell Morrison).

Scott Eyman worked incredibly hard on this biography and it shows: the sheer amount of information he compiled and organized into a readable tale is enormous and he really did his homework by interviewing not only the Duke himself (before his death, obviously), but also members of Wayne's family, close friends, and work associates.

One of the things I don't particularly like about celebrity biographies is that some of them tend to go on and on about the plot of each and every film the actor or actress had worked on, taking up so much valuable page space on the movie's storyline, plot points, character analyses, and overall impact (or not) on the industry. That's fine, I get it. I can understand talking about the film for a couple of paragraphs but not for, like, TEN pages. If I wanted to know that much about the movie and its plot, I'd watch it. Thankfully, Eyman reins in his film descriptions and keeps them to a minimum unless, of course, he's talking about one of the more significant of Wayne's films like Stagecoach and The Alamo. And even then he doesn't go overboard.

"Talk low, talk slow and don't say too much."

Scott Eyman tells it like it is and that's one of the things that I appreciated most about this biography. He doesn't sugercoat anything. If there was something good to say about Wayne, he said it. But, conversely, if there was something unfavourable or unpleasant that needed to be included in his text, he put it right there on the page and didn't shy away from upsetting the reader. Eyman was profiling a person and every one of us has our faults - we are not perfect and neither was John Wayne. I appreciated Eyman's honesty and his unbiased opinion and that's an aspect of the book that really stood out for me.

Eyman's text flows nicely and I have to say that I never became bored whilst reading this biography. A good portion of the book almost resembles the text of a magazine: the finer points are emphasized first and then further expanded upon in the meat of the story of Wayne's life.  I'd certainly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Duke - as I was - and to anyone who is already a fan of his. The reader doesn't need to know any background information before diving into this sizable tome, they can just sink in, head-first, and enjoy the ride!

Through reading this biography and learning more and more about Wayne, I really grew to admire the man. He was a no-nonsense, hard-working individual who occasionally fucked up and made wrong life choices, but he always stood tall and confronted whatever problems came his way. He didn't suffer fools gladly and he had enormous respect for the people he worked with be they film extras, stuntmen, directors, or studio executives. Wayne seems to have treated everyone equally no matter their station in life and that's something we should all take to heart and practice ourselves.

June 16, 2014

1967 in Film Blogathon: Bonnie and Clyde

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty star in Bonnie and Clyde (1967).

Let me begin this blogathon post by stating the obvious: Bonnie and Clyde is the sort of film that, once seen, makes yourself want to shout out: what the fuck just happened??

But, if you're any kind of a history buff, you know what just happened. You just can't bear to think of Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway lying on the street in some godforsaken Southern town covered in their own blood, guts, and dust. Yes, they've been shot to smithereens. And yes, you better believe they're both dead. And no, there will not be a sequel featuring either character's resurrection.

Bonnie and Clyde (1967), directed by Arthur Penn, tells the story of, er - Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (duh!). To say that it's 100% accurate, though, in its retelling of the Barrow gang's bank robberies and criminally insane antics would be a lie. It's definitely an entertaining film from beginning to end but it's not entirely based on fact.

Bonnie Parker: "Some day they'll go down together / They'll bury them side by side / To a few, it'll be grief / To the law, a relief / But it's death for Bonnie and Clyde."

Like most Hollywood films do, events and character traits are hugely exaggerated to make the film more appealing and exciting to movie audiences. You certainly can't fault the studios for doing that, but you can rant about it online or verbally to your friends - if they're willing to listen to you, that is. In my case, my friends don't give a shit about classic movies, so I'm outta luck. I can rant and rant to my heart's content but no one will be listening.

I shied away from watching Bonnie and Clyde for most of my life because I wasn't a big Warren Beatty fan. Before actively seeking out more information about him through various interviews and biographies, I kind of got the impression that he was an egotistical dickwad. I wasn't totally wrong either - the dude certainly made his rounds through Hollywood and acted the cad in many circumstances - but there is no denying his magnetism or his genius.

Bonnie and Clyde was Beatty's baby; his passion project. He served as the film's producer and did most of the research himself, admitting that the story of the Barrow Gang always interested him. In fact, it's kept generations of people interested for decades! Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were normal people growing up during hard times - they lived life by the skin of their teeth and adopted a can-do attitude about everything: most notably, about robbing banks and reveling in their new-found fame.

The movie begins by presenting a naked and blisteringly hot Faye Dunaway (as Bonnie Parker) to the audience. My first thought? I thought this was supposed to take place in the Depression ... why is she wearing winged liner and why is her hair all done up in a 1960s-style?? Besides that obvious gaffe, Dunaway portrays a beautiful - yet flawed - portrait of Parker. She's lonesome, hungry for adventure, fiery in temper, a real spitfire. She gazes out her bedroom window - still nude, by the way - and catches Clyde Barrow sneaking around her mama's car (getting ready to steal it, no doubt). Instead of chasing him away, threatening to whack his head in with a broomstick, she runs away with him and thus begins their life of crime together.

"They're young ... they're in love ... and they kill people."

Bonne and Clyde steal from the rich (the banks) and they give to the poor (mainly themselves). The two of them recruit a few people along the way and eventually come to call themselves the Barrow Gang. Clyde's brother Buck (played by Gene Hackman) and his annoyingly screechy wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons) make up the rest of the gang as well as shrimpy, harmless-looking C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard). The five of them hit the road, hit some banks, grab some ice cream, kip down in ramshackle motels, engage in dangerous, pulse-pounding shoot-outs with the police, and succeed in evading the authorities time and time again (it kinda makes you wonder who the hell is running the American police system and why they're so incapable of apprehending a gang of youths).

Stealing hoards of money and being around the same group of people day in and day out is bound to drive anyone a little nutty, and that's exactly what happens with this motley crew: Clyde and Bonnie fall in love with one another but cannot consummate their relationship because not only are they never left alone or given any privacy, but Clyde is unable to - well, you know. Let's just say that a hit of Viagara would have come in extremely handy if it had been invented in the early 1930s. Buck's wife Blanche overstays her welcome and begins to rub everyone the wrong way by demanding a bigger cut of the stolen loot and by endlessly screeching and hollering at the top of her lungs (please someone make the bitch shut up already!). And C.W. Moss upsets his Pa when he returns home sporting a brand new tattoo on his chest that he said Bonnie approved of.

L-R: Michael J. Pollard, Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty, Estelle Parsons, and Gene Hackman.

Buck Barrow and his wife Blanche were the first outlaws to be captured by the police, and Buck died only a few days after his arrest from a mortal head wound he had sustained during a particularly savage shoot-out with the authorities. C.W. Moss was captured next in November 1933 (incidentally, his real name was W.D. Jones but it was changed for the film). On May 23, 1934 Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were shot down in Louisiana in their stolen car by a team of four Texas officers and two Louisiana officers. Both Clyde's and Bonnie's wounds were so brutal it was said that they were virtually unrecognizable after the shooting. Clyde Barrow suffered seventeen gunshots to his body and Bonnie Parker a whopping twenty-six bullet wounds. The officers suffered no wounds, only temporary deafness - that just goes to show you how fierce and enthusiastic their shooting was.

Watching that final scene in a darkened movie theatre in 1967 must have been a real eye-opener for the audience. Never before had such violence graced the screen: blood, bullet entry wounds, sagging bodies, and ear-splitting rifle firing the audience feared would never end. Know how the movie ends? Just like that *snap* No explanation, no epilogue, no more script. That's it. Critics were outraged and audiences were stunned. Bonnie and Clyde grossed $70,000,000 worldwide at the box office, so despite people's disgust at the film's ending, that certainly didn't stop them from buying a movie ticket!

The film received ten Academy Award nominations, winning two of those Oscars for Best Supporting Actress (Estelle Parsons) and Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey). Bonnie and Clyde is not my favourite movie of all-time, but it's certainly one I turn to time and time again when I want to be taken on a real fast ride through the gun-slinging South. It's entertaining, it's tragic, and it's a real nail-biter (even though you know perfectly well how the story ends).

June 13, 2014

Friday Fail: How Green Was My Valley (1941)

It took me three days to watch John Ford's epic drama HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY (1941). Three days! I had heard so much about this film from all of the classic movie bloggers that attended the TCM Film Fest this past April and I was really looking forward to watching it for the first time after having ordered it off of Amazon a few weeks ago. Bloggers raved about its touching storyline and about the way it made everyone in the cinema cry dismally into their tissues, so I'm now wondering if maybe something's the matter with me because ...

I didn't like this film at all. Well, not "at all," it was alright. I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as I was hoping to and let's just say that I may have threw the disc out immediately after ejecting it from my computer because I knew I was never going to want to watch it again. Once was enough. A similar thing happened when I saw The Grapes of Wrath (1940) for the first time last year; the film looked and sounded promising but ended up falling flat for me.

HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY is a story originally penned by Richard Llewellyn about the trials and tribulations of a Welsh mining village at the turn of the twentieth century. The film focuses on the Morgan family and how each one of them fairs throughout the story. Mr. and Mrs. Morgan have raised a family of coal miners with a young son (Roddy McDowall) and a teenaged daughter (Maureen O'Hara) thrown into the mix. Enter a somewhat handsome (and aged) preacher man played by Walter Pidgeon and things start to go a little pear-shaped.

"Men like my father cannot die. They are with me still, real in memory as they were in flesh, loving and beloved forever. How green was my valley then."

Though I thought the story was a good one, I found the film awfully long-winded and slow-moving (hence the three days it took me to polish it off). I understand that the coal mining business is a drab and grey-tinged one, but my God, everything on the screen just looked bare and desolate. I found it hard to focus on the movie at times and often found my mind wandering during scenes I'm sure held some great significance.

I didn't latch on to any characters and, therefore, I did not become emotionally involved in the film's outcome. Quite frankly, I didn't care what happened to the Morgan family, I only wanted this film to be over. I have to admit, though, that the second half of the movie was slightly more interesting and eventful than the first half and I was actually starting to enjoy myself (only a little, though, don't get too excited). But still, I kept waiting for those end credits to roll!

HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, Best Director (John Ford), Best Supporting Actor (Donald Crisp), Best Black-and-White Cinematography (Arthur C. Miller), and Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Interior Decoration (Richard Day, Nathan H. Juran, and Thomas Little). The fact that this film won Best Picture over such other classics as Citizen Kane, The Maltese Falcon, Sergeant York, and Suspicion is criminal in my mind. I just don't get it!

I realize that I'm going to upset a whole lotta people with this post and I resign myself to the fact that there will probably be some very nasty comments posted below - but that's what makes blogging so damn fun! Bring it! Actually, let me know what classic films have disappointed you in the past. I can't be the only one that didn't particularly like this film, could I?

June 9, 2014

Book Look! Hollywood Dreams Made Real: Irving Thalberg & the Rise of MGM by Mark A. Vieira

Well, I'm happy to tell you all that this book is another winner from one of my favourite film authors, Mr. Mark A. Vieira. The man's only disappointed me once - please, let's not re-live that experience again - and that's saying a lot for someone who's written countless books on classic Hollywood.

This new-ish offering from Vieira focuses on the personal life and career of Irving Thalberg, a young man who made a fortune and a real name for himself producing some of the best films that MGM ever made in the late 20s and throughout the 1930s. Working alongside his sometimes friend and sometimes enemy Louis B. Mayer, Thalberg established a phenomenally talented production unit that specialized in what were called "prestige pictures" - films that stood apart from the veritable sea of offerings other Hollywood studios were releasing at the time.

"Credit you give yourself is not worth having."

Thalberg's films were polished, refined, and featured the cream of the crop when it came to talent both behind and in front of the camera. He obviously took his role at MGM very seriously and yet, he never wanted his name to appear onscreen, crediting him. Humble? I'd say so. Thalberg spent years at MGM cultivating a sophisticated image for both the studio and its roster of stars: Norma Shearer (whom Thalberg would marry in 1927), Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, Lon Chaney, John Gilbert, and Clark Gable to name just a few. He groomed each star himself and molded them into the superstars they would each become, lovingly setting aside stories for each one of them that he felt would best showcase their talent and their personality.

Vieira readily admits in his introduction that this book is not meant to be a comprehensive biography on Irving Thalberg, rather a starting point for the reader to learn more about Thalberg and his storied career. Vieira published a full-fledged biography of Thalberg a year later (in 2009) entitled Irving Thalberg: Boy Wonder to Producer Prince.

Irving Thalberg and his wife, Norma Shearer.

Hollywood Dreams Made Real is a coffee table book filled with gorgeous images of the films Thalberg produced and the actors he worked alongside. Each chapter is dedicated to a year in the producer's life leading up to his untimely death from pneumonia in 1936. The chapters contain a few pages of text at the beginning and then lead into pages of personal and studio-shot photos and portraits.

I wasn't surprised to find myself silently weeping into a tissue come the final chapter in this lovely book and not only because Thalberg's death was so tragic and sudden, but because Vieira has a way of slowly pulling back the reins and really concentrating on his subjects' final moments. The same thing happened to me whilst finishing up Harlow In Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital, 1928-1937 - only then I was visibly sobbing and perhaps even crying out in anguished pain for the loss of my favourite platinum blonde stunner.

If you're a casual admirer of Irving Thalberg and the beginnings of MGM, I suggest you pick this book up from either Amazon, your local book seller, or even your local library. It's a wonderful introductory look at the man's life, his career, and his legacy. I've a feeling you'll really enjoy it! And, chances are - like me - you'll want to pick up Vieira's in-depth biography of Thalberg next!

June 4, 2014

Discovering the Duke one page at a time

John Wayne? Meh.

And that's precisely why, ladies and gentlemen, I have decided to pick up Scott Eyman's new biography entitled John Wayne: The Life and Legend (Simon & Schuster). For years now I've shied away from watching any of the Duke's films because I'm not particularly into westerns (although I have changed my tune somewhat in the past year after having watched THE SEARCHERS). And because I've not seen the majority of his films, I never understood the hype surrounding him.

"Don't pick a fight, but if you find yourself in one I suggest you make damn sure you win."

Why do people - Americans in particular - love him so much? Why is he regarded as such a legend? Why is it that hardened, grown men turn into soft mushballs of emotion when watching films like RED RIVER and STAGECOACH? I want to know dammit! I want to discover John Wayne for myself and delve into the western world of dust, Indian wars, saloons, and dirt-caked boots.

I cracked open my copy of the biography a couple nights ago and I must say that I'm really enjoying it so far! There's something about Eyman's writing that makes his book read like a magazine - the story he weaves is very fluid, very interesting, and incredibly engrossing! Usually I'm bored to bits when it comes to reading about a film star's childhood and family history but Eyman makes the Duke's background enormously engaging for the reader.

I'll let you know a little later down the road how I'm getting on and which John Wayne films I've added to my ever-expanding To-Watch list. I'm 100% convinced that I'm going to love reading this biography! You should definitely pick it up and read along with me!

June 2, 2014

Basking in Brando

Growing up, I was scared of Marlon Brando.

It's unusual because all Italians freaking love him as if he was their long-lost third cousin twice removed. Italians have a penchant for loving their own; someone who is of the same nationality and hails from "back home." Try telling my grandparents, for instance, that Brando was in fact born in the USA as opposed to Italy and they won't hear of it. No! No! I no wanna know!

The Godfather (1972) - and both of its sequels - is akin to the Bible in Italians' eyes and not necessarily because it's truthful (because it's not) but because it's got a lot of Italians both onscreen and behind the camera and because the films feature a whole lotta Italian music and pop culture references.

"To grasp the full significance of life is the actor's duty, to interpret it is his problem, and to express it his dedication."

Here's a cheeky bit of trivia for you: my parents' first dance at their 1975 wedding was to the theme of The Godfather. Can you imagine what their Canadian guests must have been thinking? Peggy Sue we better get the fuck outta here before someone is either shot down or beat up with a baseball bat! Quick! Check to see if there's a dead horse's head underneath the table! I still tease my parents about their song choice to this day (and I wasn't even at their wedding, obviously!).

I hated The Godfather growing up and I hated the sight of Brando. Every time he was featured in the news or profiled in a magazine, I would cringe because I automatically associated him with crime, suitably darkened private offices, and too many donuts. That is, until I saw A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), a movie starring Brando, Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter. The movie was released early in Brando's career and, to me, he was virtually unrecognizable. At first I couldn't even believe that I was staring at the same damn guy. No-fucking-way!

The truth is, Brando grew on me like a book that seems boring at first but then suddenly morphs into some multifaceted gorgeous world of wonder and imagination. Like a fine wine, he started off looking quite unpromising and then overtook me with a sense of maturity, ripened fruit, and a slight dizzy feeling (almost like feeling tipsy). I honestly can't believe I just compared Brando to ripened fruit ... you know what I mean.

Yes, dear readers, I'm hooked on Brando now and have been for the last decade or so. I guess it's true what the wise elders say: never judge a book by its cover (or a man by his mafioso tendencies). Brando was a good chap who excelled at his craft and took no bullshit from nobody. He liked animals and he kept a messy home. What's not to love about a man like that? I'm fairly certain he knew how to cook a mean bowl of spaghetti too. And, chances are, if he had been a guest at my parents' wedding he would have laughed his ass off watching the pair of them dancing to the Godfather theme.

May 30, 2014

Dietrich made me do it!

My younger cousin Dianna is writing a paper on classic film style and how it's evolved over time and transferred down the ages and influenced modern style and design. Did I mention she's only in high school? I wish we had had assignments like this when I was her age! I would have scored 100% on everything!

Dianna knows how much I love anything classic film-related, so, needless to say, she knew who to bug when it came time to research and gather information. Heh. I was just chatting with her on Facebook, filling her in on everything concerning drawn-on eyebrows, female stars who favoured pants, and who could hold their liquor when it dawned on me: I MISS BLOGGING. Like, really miss it.

As soon as the words Marlene Dietrich passed from my nimble fingers to the keyboard I was hooked. I logged onto Blogger immediately and started constructing this post. Maybe I will keep blogging! I'll take it easy though and instead of pressuring myself to stick to three posts a week, I'll just post whenever I feel like it or whenever I can. When an idea strikes, that's when I'll sit down and force the words and ideas I have out of me and onto the screen.

Sound good? To me, it sounds like heavenly music.

Did anyone else think of Summer Stock right there? Or, was it just me?