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March 30, 2015

The Mighty Warner Archive Movie Marathon, Part I!


Warner Archive recently celebrated its sixth anniversary and what better way to salute classic film fans' favourite online shop than to sit back, relax, pop some corn and watch some awesome (somewhat forgotten) movies! Leave it to the folks over at WA to introduce me to old movies I'd previously never even heard of. Seriously, it's all lollipops and tulips watching the more popular fare TCM offers on a regular basis like CASABLANCA (1942), THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939), and GRAND HOTEL (1932) but there is something to be said about watching movies that have practically disappeared and aren't as widely known or shown on national television.

I was lucky enough to be sent a few DVDs to get stuck into and here's what I thought about the first few:


ACE OF ACES (1933)* // Admittedly not the greatest WWI movie ever made, but it effectively illustrates just how much war and conflict can change a person. The special effects were decent and the aerial fighting sequences were pretty damn good! This was one of the first classic war films I've watched that focused on both the men and women who fought in the mud and sleet of Europe during the 1910s. You won't come out of ACES OF ACES loving every character you see on the screen, but it's a worthwhile investment in both time and money. Overall, a great little movie that whizzes by in the blink of an eye and well worth seeing if you're at all a history buff like I am!

AFTER OFFICE HOURS (1935)* // Ahhh here we go: Mr. Clark Gable himself in all his early-1930s glory (I swear, I can hear everyone swooning from here). Gable had a habit of showing up in newspaper offices and this time he's the big boss man in a big, checked suit. Strutting around like he owns the place, hair lacquered to within an inch of its life, moustache clipped and ears on the look-out for any gossipy bits of news he can print in his rag (those ears are like satellites, aren't they?). The lovely thing about this movie - apart from Constance Bennett, of course - is its short and succinct running time of 71 minutes. It's like a classic film version of wham-bam-thank-you-maam. A quickie of sorts, if you like. Plus, whenever I hear the melodious sing-song voice belonging to Billie Burke, I'm pretty much floating on cloud nine for a week! If you've got a tiny bit more than an hour to spare, spend it watching this early film gem. Oh, and there's a murder that takes place at about the half-way point. Hah! Bet you didn't see that coming!

WHOOPEE! (1930)* // Dude, I totally did not expect this to be an "All Technicolor" production! Considering its age and budget, I thought this was gonna be choppy, ill-focused, and prehistorically cut. How dead wrong I was, because this film started off with a bang; stampeding horses, scantily clad women, clumsy, oafish cowboys and a dance extravaganza staged by the incomparable Busby Berkeley. Phew! The hammy, stagey acting left a lot to be desired but Eddie Cantor's back-and-forth witticisms were surprisingly quite chuckle-worthy (I'm almost ashamed to admit that, folks). The film certainly didn't need to be 101 minutes long but nevertheless it served as an enjoyable look back at early Hollywood and how movies were staged and made back then. Word of warning: if you're sensitive to racial content in film you might want to stay away from this one because there are instances of black face and a "red man" inspired musical number (brilliantly staged by Berkeley might I add).

That's about all I had time for this past weekend, but stay tuned a little later on for Part II of this post featuring ANOTHER DAWN (1937), THE LUSTY MEN (1952), and THE BIG HOUSE (1930). All new-to-me movies and each one of them vying to be the next disc that's unceremoniously shoved into my laptop (right after I eject Friends Season One).

If you'd like to purchase any of these titles, visit the Warner Archive shop here!

March 18, 2015

A classic film book haul!


This was bound to happen sooner or later. I recently un-hauled some classic film books from my collection and it was only a matter of time before I logged on to the Chapters/Indigo website and proceeded to fill those empty spaces on my bookshelf with other tomes I've had my eye on. Oh yes, ladies and gents ... it's a classic film book haul!

Let me assure you that these books were not all purchased at the same time (my wallet doesn't run that deep). I'd say that the bulk of them were ordered sometime between now and January 2015 when I went a little crazy brandishing the Chapters gift cards I had received for Christmas. Right - here we go:

  • Loving Garbo by Hugo Vickers (ebook)
  • Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, The Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and The Scandal That Changed Hollywood by Greg Merritt (ebook)
  • Audrey Hepburn by Barry Paris
  • Greta Garbo by Barry Paris
  • Louise Brooks: A Biography by Barry Paris
  • Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness At the Dawn of Hollywood by William J. Mann
  • My Wonderful World of Slapstick by Buster Keaton
  • Warner Bros. Hollywood's Ultimate Backlot by Steven Bingen 
  • The Richard Burton Diaries edited by Chris Williams

You may have noticed that a couple of the books I listed here are ebooks (shock! horror!) and I've made a sort of resolution that I would give ebooks a proper chance this year. Yes, they're terribly convenient (especially whilst traveling) but they don't smell the same as paper books. Book smell is a huge turn-on for me - let's just be terribly frank here and say that if book smell was bottled as a perfume/cologne, I'd be at that person's mercy (whoever was wearing it, that is). I would even go so far as to say that I'd willingly become that person's slave. Naughty? Yes, very. I have no filter where books are concerned, if that wasn't already very evident.

Have you hauled any classic film books lately? Tell me about them in the comments section down below and we can drool over them together!

March 16, 2015

Book Look! Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, & the Scandal That Changed Hollywood

This book left me with such a bitter taste in my mouth. Not because it wasn't a great book (because it totally was) but because it made me despise Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Before having read this book, I didn't much think about Arbuckle at all because I had never seen any of his comedy shorts or his feature length films and I was never curious enough to start researching his life. So, I was a bit 'meh' when it came to all things Fatty-related.

*WARNING: This post contains spoilers*

Until I read Room 1219 that is. Author Greg Merritt presents an unbiased narrative that neatly breaks down all aspects of each trial concerning Arbuckle, Rappe and the events that happened on Labour Day 1921 at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, California in room twelve hundred and nineteen. Any other book on this topic would have seemed like a confusing mess, but Merritt did a really stellar job separating details, events, and descriptions by subject matter and each chapter in the book deals with one topic at a time (as opposed to numerous things all at once).

In a nutshell, silent film actor Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle held an impromptu liquor-fueled party in his three connected rooms at the St. Francis Hotel on Labour Day in 1921 (keep in mind, this occurred during Prohibition). People showed up, music was played, alcohol was consumed and somehow Arbuckle and guest Virginia Rappe ended up in the same room together (the infamous room 1219). The room's door was locked, a confrontation occurred between the two of them (was it an attack or was it consensual, we'll never know) and Rappe eventually succumbed to the effects of a ruptured bladder four days later in hospital at the age of thirty.

Arbuckle was arrested, jailed, and charged with murder (which later became manslaughter) three times by three different juries. At the third trial's conclusion he was acquitted of all wrong-doing and released. Although Arbuckle was cleared of all criminal charges, his reputation as a fun-loving, comedic clown was devastatingly tarnished and he never achieved the same level of fame and adoration he had earned prior to the scandal. His work was banned from cinemas and various societal groups throughout North America banned his presence from even their vaudeville stages.

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle's mug shot (SOURCE)

There is more than enough information presented by Merritt in this book for the reader to form his or her own opinion on the trial and whether or not Arbuckle was truly guilty of causing Rappe's premature death. This reader - points to self - is one hundred percent certain that Arbuckle was indeed guilty of killing the young starlet HOWEVER I'm not entirely sure whether their episode of passion was consensual or not. It was argued that Rappe's already distended bladder (she suffered from cystitis) was crushed and ruptured when Arbuckle threw his sizable weight on top of her on one of the room's double beds. So, whether he was attacking her or the two of them were about to enter into a consensual act of passion is entirely up for discussion. No one will ever know.

No matter, because once her bladder ruptured she perished of her injuries days later. The tear in her bladder was discovered during her first (of two) autopsies and because Arbuckle was seen by his fellow partygoers following Rappe into room 1219 on that fateful afternoon, he was arrested and charged with murder (later changed to manslaughter). When questioned or preparing to issue a statement, he presented two entirely different stories and this is why I consider him guilty as sin. This is something that is clearly addressed by Merritt too, and I feel that if Arbuckle had only spoken up and told the truth as soon as he was questioned, he wouldn't have had to be tried on three separate occasions, wasting his time, his legal team's time, the state's time, the jury members' time and the public's time. This whole farce could have been avoided and a true verdict reached within a few days.

Once he was acquitted of all charges, it's not even like he repented from his faults/sins and made an effort to reform his debauched life of drink and parties; no, he continued on partying until his dying day in 1933 of a heart attack. This just makes me unbelievably angry. He obviously showed and felt no remorse for what he had done and made zero effort to become a better person. You'd figure that after having being tried THREE times for manslaughter and finally being acquitted, he'd make an effort to turn his life around! Well, he did - kinda - because dude was broke and he needed money so he tried going back to work. That doesn't cut it with me. At all. Why should the public support a man who didn't take the situation seriously?

Would I recommend Greg Merritt's Room 1219: The Life of Fatty Arbuckle, the Mysterious Death of Virginia Rappe, and the Scandal That Changed Hollywood? Yes, without a doubt! It's a terrific book that delves into a seedy topic and a seedier Hollywood with aplomb and it's vastly entertaining to boot! The fact that I said it left a bitter taste in my mouth has nothing at all to do with the quality of the book itself, more with its subject: Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.

If you'd like to know more about the book and its author, check out the fabulous Raquel's interview with Greg Merritt here at Out Of the Past: A Classic Film Blog!

March 12, 2015

My classic film non-favourites

Audrey Hepburn

I'd hate to come off sounding like a Negative Nelly, but there are some things about classic film that I cannot stand ('hate' is too strong of a word to use here). I'll start with the obvious ones ...

The Players:
Grace Kelly
Audrey Hepburn
Mickey Rooney (calm down son, just calm down)
Lassie (as in, the dog)

The Films:
Citizen Kane (1941)
Ben-Hur (1959)
West Side Story (1961)
Musicals from the 1960s and '70s (everything was so overblown - and brown)

Curiosities:
Excessive amounts of brilliantine in men's hair (ick)
Starlets going to bed with a full face of pancake and false lashes on
Steak - did everyone in old movies only eat steak?
Joan Crawford's eyebrows circa the 1950s
All the people smoking onscreen that make me want to take up smoking again
Guns. Did everyone and their mother own a freaking pistol?!

What are some of your classic film non-favourites? Tell me about them in the comments section down below!

March 10, 2015

Feeling physically inadequate & blaming classic film for it!

Ginger Rogers in SHALL WE DANCE (1937)

If you're a woman - or a man for that matter - and you've read the title of this post and have rolled your eyes and are about to click away, WAIT! Hear me out because chances are you've felt the same way from time to time.

I'm just gonna dive right in and get straight to the point: when I watch old movies starring people like Katharine Hepburn, Carole Lombard, or say ... Loretta Young I end up feeling horribly inadequate. Like, I don't (and never will) measure up to their level of glamour or greatness. I feel almost disfigured with my crooked nose, large pores, and limp hair. Oh, and there's also the small paunch I develop when I've got my period that I have to contend with. I doubt very much that Hepburn ever experienced menstrual bloat. Have you seen the size of that woman's waist?!

I expect men feel the same way when they watch stars like Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, Robert Taylor, or Tony Curtis on the screen -- they're probably sat there staring at the screen wondering why their hair isn't as lustrous or their suits aren't as wonderfully tailored as the stars of yesteryear. About the only thing that'd make them feel any better about themselves is if Roscoe Arbuckle suddenly appeared in all his "Fatty" glory. Or even if temperamental actor Wallace Beery came charging through the scene on some drunken rampage -- "Gee," the humble, common man would think, "compared to Beery I'm not all that bad, am I?"

Am I alone in this melodrama of my own making or are there others out there that feel the same way I do? Regardless if you're male or female, do you catch yourselves feeling insecure and squeamish every time you sit down to watch an old movie? Do you catch yourselves wishing you had the body of Ginger Rogers, the eyes of Greta Garbo, and the hair of Rita Hayworth? Or the dashing good looks of William Powell, the charm of Spencer Tracy and the ears of Clark Gable? (Heh, just kidding on that last one). Tell me your sob story in the comments section down below and let's bond over our shared misfortune!

March 3, 2015

So you wanna be a classic film blogger ...


Recently, a couple of people have emailed me and asked how I got started as a classic film blogger. They expressed interest in becoming bloggers themselves someday but weren't sure where or how to get started. I'm no expert, believe me, but I do know that if you have a passion for something - in this case, classic movies - then you've pretty much already completed Step One of the whole blogging process.

Within the past few years, the world of blogging has literally exploded and many people have turned to the internet, set up their own webpage, and have made their blogs blossom into successful, full-time endeavors. If you're already registered with sites like Bloglovin' and Wordpress, even just as a reader, you've probably already noticed that there are literally blogs for everything: travel, lifestyle, decor, fashion, sex, food, entertainment, sports, etc. All of these spaces have been created by people with a passion (there's that word again!) and though not all of them are 'professional' blogs, they all serve a purpose and they each have a unique voice.

Here are a few things you should consider if you're aiming to become a classic film blogger (or any kind of blogger, really):

Familiarize yourself with social media
Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest will help you spread the word about your blog and individual posts. Each time one of your posts goes live, schedule tweets and pins and add a link to your newest online material (attaching a high quality image to your tweets helps a lot) so that people can view your updated content as soon as it's published. Don't be afraid to utilize hashtags either! Hashtagging keywords will help circulate your content over the 'net quicker than you can snap your fingers.

Network and make friends with people in the online classic film community
I'm not just saying this, but the people I've met within this particular online community are some of the best people I've ever met in my life. There is literally no sense of competition or negative feelings between any of us and we always strive to support each other no matter what our goals or aspirations. We're a hella cool bunch of people and despite the fact that we each have our own opinions on which films we love and which films we abhor, we steer well clear of any arguments and all-out online bashing. Life's too short, eh? Log on to Twitter and use the hashtag #TCMParty on any given day of the week and come and find us! It'd be a pleasure to meet you!

Stay true to your opinions and your voice
The thing is, we've all got our own unique 'voice' and if you try to deviate from it in order to make your content seem more polished and/or 'professional,' you're going to come off sounding really stiff and - dare I say it? - bland. For instance, if you're the type of person who loves having thoughtful, in-depth conversations with people then that's the way you should structure each one of your posts. If you have a bit of a potty mouth and tend to let loose with the occasional swear word (ahem, like me) then you shouldn't be afraid to include the odd swear word in your posts (just maybe warn people ahead of time in case you have any underage readers). Your voice and your personality are what define you - don't cover them up!

Prepare yourself for the inevitable tidal wave of negativity
People like to shit on one another - welcome to the wonderful world of the Internet! Let's face it: no matter what you do and how many people you try to please, there will always be people on the other side of your monitor bad-mouthing you and pissing you off with thoughtless, hurtful comments.  Do me a favour ... when this happens, promise me you'll remember the reasons why you started your blog in the first place and forget about what the haters think! You're blogging for you and if Internet trolls don't get that, leave 'em in the dust where they belong. Also, keep in mind that for every hater you come across, there are a hundred other people who really truly enjoy your content.

Watch lots of classic movies and read lots of classic film memoirs/non-fiction
This pretty much goes without saying, doesn't it? I mean, you probably don't need me to tell you this because if you're a classic movie fan who wants to start blogging, chances are you already watch a lot of old movies. Whether you tune into TCM on a regular basis or you indulge in hours spent sifting through your ever-expanding DVD and bluray disc collection, you'll want to share your feelings and reviews with others on your blog. Aim to watch at least one or two movies a week to keep your ideas and content brainstorming flowing. If you sense the dreaded writer's block coming on, that's basically your cue to watch even more films or to bury your nose in a good book! Hey, any excuse, right?! And please don't feel that you need to splash out on expensive blurays or a yearly subscription to the TCM Now Playing Guide to keep yourself current; you can find many classic movies for free either online or at your local library and you can follow the full TCM schedule online on their website!

Establish a posting schedule and (try to) stick to it
I'm the least qualified person to begin preaching about posting regularly, but trust me, establishing a steady, reliable content schedule will not only save you many hours of work, it'll gain you readers because people can rely on you to produce content on a regular basis. For instance, if you say you want to post on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays then your readers will know that they can expect fresh content from you three times a week. In 2014 this is the posting schedule I stuck to and my blog's readership grew by leaps and bounds - in 2015 life got in the way, so I've had to slow down and post whenever I can (sorry). The bottom line is that people will come back to read your blog if you post on a regular basis. If you have a hard time remembering which day is which, you can always write your posts in bulk and then schedule them throughout the week or month as the case may be.

And lastly, stop holding yourself back and JUST GO FOR IT! I look forward to reading (and subscribing to) your new blog!

If you're interested in becoming a classic movie blogger, let me know in the comments section down below!

February 20, 2015

"Auntie Nessa, how do you know all the movies?"

My favourite picture of myself and baby Ayden

My oldest nephew just turned seven last November and I thought it was about time I introduced him to an old friend of mine: Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula. Now, if you've been a long-time reader of my blog, you'll know that I was around that same age when my Aunt introduced me to DRACULA (1931) for the first time - and I was bloody terrified. Terrified in a good way, though, not in a wet-my-pants kind of way (which would have been bad and slightly mortifying).

Ayden (that's my nephew) came over one Friday night for a couple of hours and, like always, he immediately made a beeline to my bedroom. He plopped himself down in front of my iMac and said: "Auntie Nessa, let's watch a movie!" We flipped through both my digital movie library and my massive disc binder full of films and settled on UNDERWORLD (2003) and DRACULA. The fact that both of these films featured hot vampires boded well in my mind for a couple of reasons: 1) the kid obviously has great taste in movies, and 2) I had visions of my younger self being equally as obsessed with the supernatural (vamps in particular, before shit storms like TWILIGHT (2008) made them "cool"). I think it's pretty safe to say that Ayden has morphed into a tiny male version of me (bless him).

Kids say the darndest things, right? Well, here's what little Ayden said whilst watching DRACULA unfold on the screen (in my suitably darkened bedroom):

  • "Nessa, why is he [the Count] staring at me?"
  • "Nessa, why are there bees in that coffin?"
  • "This movie must be really old 'cause there's no colour in it."
  • "Nessa, he's still staring at me"
  • "He's staring at that guy [Renfield] too!"
  • "When are his teeth gonna come out?"
  • "Is there any blood in this movie?"
  • "There's no blood. Underworld is cooler. Can we watch that girl [Selene] beat up the werewolf again?"

I kept looking at him while DRACULA was running because I wanted to gauge his reactions to certain scenes. I also wanted to make sure I wasn't scaring the bejeezus out of my own flesh and blood because if I gave the poor kid nightmares, my sister would kick my ass (she goes to the gym every day so she totally could and I can't run very fast). Granted, the two of us didn't watch the entire movie that night but that wasn't because Ayden had grown bored of it. Actually no, quite the opposite! His eyes remained riveted to the screen the whole time and (sadly) I was the one who lost my nerve. I shut it off after about thirty minutes because, again, I didn't want to scare him too much.

Ayden knows Auntie Nessa loves movies (old and new) and he enjoys flipping through my collection, looking through all the discs and studying the pictures on the front of each one. This gives me hope for the future; will he turn into a classic film fan like his Auntie Nessa? Will he beg me to bring him along to the TCMFF once he gets older? Will he chastise his high school friends for not watching enough old movies? Will he develop crushes on Rita Hayworth and Ginger Rogers, hoping to marry someone exactly like Myrna Loy?

Ayden, if you're older and reading this ... you can thank me now.

February 18, 2015

Pre-Internet Classic Film Research. How'd You Do It?

Ansley Grove Library in Woodbridge, Ontario (SOURCE)

In the days before the Internet, life was pretty bleak. Those of us who craved social interaction either had to pick up the phone - a land line, mind you - and dial a friend or we needed to plan a group outing to a tween-friendly diner or to one of our backyards (whichever was cheapest). We needed to go out of our way to get together whereas now, in the age of the Internet, all we have to do in order to 'speak' to someone is log on and load Facebook Messenger. Love it or hate it, the Internet has become a way of life (I told you so, Ma).

But, in the days before the world wide web became mainstream, how did you manage to get your fill of classic Hollywood? I ask this because just the other day, I caught myself wondering the exact same thing. I remember skipping some of my high school classes (math class, probably) and walking over to the library that was located directly next door to my school and spending (literally) hours hiding amongst the stacks, researching classic movies, classic Hollywood stars and starlets, and the medium of film itself from its earliest days to its modern interpretation. See? This is precisely why all of my teachers loved me despite me skipping their lectures all the time; at least I wasn't going 'round to my boyfriend's house to have premarital sex and at least I wasn't found smoking-up outside the portables. No, me? I was at the library!

The librarians who worked at that branch knew me on sight because I visited so frequently. I would walk through the automatic doors and head straight for the Film & Media aisle where I'd find copies of out-of-print autobiographies and massive picture books devoted to cinematography and styling classic films. Keep in mind that these were the days before you could simply log on and pin gorgeous portraits of your favourite Hollywood stars to your Pinterest board -- if I wanted to take a portrait home with me that day, I'd have to spend ten cents at the photocopier and settle for a grainy, out-of-focus, cropped reproduction. Sad times. And that was even if I was allowed to photocopy said portrait! The librarians enforced a strict copyright rule there and if anyone was caught at the copier printing stuff that was deemed illegal to reproduce, we'd get the book taken away from us and our ten cents would be lost!

So back in the stone ages, how did you access information? Did you visit your local library as frequently as I did? Or did you have other means of gathering information and research material? Maybe you combed through musty newspapers from your city's archive collection or maybe you phoned your grandparents and asked them to recount tales from "the old days" for you. However you managed, I'd love to hear about it! Tell me your story in the comments section down below!

February 2, 2015

Tutorial: How to watch an old movie!


Yes, that's right. You read the title of this blog post correctly. If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me how I watch old movies, I'd be living in England right now nibbling on my endless supply of Terry's Chocolate Orange whilst twining my bare legs around Eddie Redmayne's middle. Just saying. In plain English, that means that I'd be incredibly rich and wouldn't have a care in the world (and I'd also have an extremely hot boyfriend).

The majority of modern day moviegoers have never seen a classic film. I'm not about to start laying blame on any of them because deep down, no matter how much I love old movies, I know they can be quite difficult to sit through. Classic movies require endurance, patience, and a heck of an open mind; you can't just sit down willy-nilly and pop in a copy of HIS GIRL FRIDAY just 'cause you feel like it (unless you're a classic film fan to begin with). No, there are certain steps you must take before tuning in if you're a newbie. Here, I break down these so-called steps in the hopes that a lot more of you will give old movies a chance:

First of all, if you're watching a silent movie you cannot text/tweet/carry-on-a-conversation-with-the-person-sitting-next-to-you while the movie is rolling. So, if you're labouring under the misapprehension that you can casually pay attention to a silent film, you're wrong! Silent movies require one hundred percent of your attention (and they also deserve it). You'll need to read titles, peer at the screen, and follow a complicated story line so put the damn cell phone down!

Pop some corn. Watching a classic movie requires popcorn. Don't ask why, it just does!  According to Smithsonian.com, the snack of crunchy, buttery goodness was "created to save the fledgling movie theater industry from near collapse during the Great Depression." So have at it and make a gigantic bowl of the stuff, sit down, and switch your disc player on! It's going to be a goooood night! There's something enormously satisfying about filling your mouth with popcorn whilst watching the hilarious, madcap antics of the Marx Brothers; the two just go hand in hand.

Don't start comparing your partner or crush to celebrities from Hollywood's Golden Age. People with that amount of swagger don't exist anymore. No Kanye, not even you. Just sit back, relax, and admire Cary Grant and Rita Hayworth from afar (all the while knowing that you will never achieve that level of perfection ever in your life, sorry).

Keep an encyclopedia handy. Chances are you'll come across certain objects in a classic movie that you're entirely unfamiliar with. For instance, what's that thing sitting on that desk making that clickity-clack noise? It's called a typewriter. And that black object people used to communicate with? Say it with me: a telephone. An encyclopedia will help you identify the objects that seem all together foreign to you and if you look on the bright side, at least you'll be filling your brain with knowledge at the same time as you watch a movie.

You'll want to prepare yourself for the amount of nipples literally popping up in pre-Codes. Sultry female leads certainly didn't shy away from revealing their anatomy back then - and get this: it was allowed! Well, up until the summer of 1934 anyway. MGM starlets Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow were famous for their brazen onscreen wantonness and there have been many times where I, myself, have been transfixed by their revealing attire. Case in point: A FREE SOUL (1931) and that dress.

Pay close attention to the supporting cast (i.e. the film's character actors) because nine times out of ten, they're the ones who will steal the picture from right underneath the leads' noses. Oftentimes, a movie's supporting cast is relegated to the background in practically every scene, but classic Hollywood seemed to really love paying homage to its slew of talented character actors. They're the ones who ham it up and get all the laughs. They're the ones who pop up in literally every single classic movie you'll ever watch. Ultimately, they're the ones you'll remember the most and they totally deserve that accolade.

Most importantly, keep an open mind. Not everyone who has seen a classic movie before has liked it, trust me. There is a fifty-fifty chance that you'll either love it or hate it. Things were done differently back then and, therefore, old movies are vastly different from the modern fare produced today. Films released in the 1920s through to the 1960s tended to rely a lot more on dialogue and story, character development and staging. Compare that to modern films and it may seem as if you're watching a stage play in your very own living room.

If you're a classic film newbie and have recently watched your very first "old movie," I'd love to know what you thought of it! Did you love it, hate it, were you impartial to it? There is no denying that classic films are hugely different from modern movies, so your initial thoughts and opinions should be rather interesting to hear! Tell me about them in the comments section down below and let's get chatting!

January 30, 2015

Damaged Goods: I Want A Boyfriend Like Monty Clift

Montgomery Clift & Elizabeth Taylor

"Monty represented a new kind of man in the bleak 1950s, a guy who was poetic and vulnerable and disturbed and not afraid to show it."
-Rosemary Santini, a personal friend of Montgomery Clift's private secretary Arline Cunningham.

I don't care if Montgomery Clift murdered his pregnant girlfriend in A PLACE IN THE SUN (1951) in favour of spending his life with Elizabeth Taylor. I don't care if he refused to box in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953). I don't care if he beat the crap out of western movie legend John Wayne in RED RIVER (1948), and the fact that he cried to his mama on the phone in THE MISFITS (1961) makes me want to hug him, not laugh at his neediness.

So, the question is: do I like damaged men? I guess you could say that yes, I do. I admire their ability to recklessly display their emotions to the world. I like the fact that they're always brooding about something (deep down, this means they're passionate - and who doesn't want/need some passion in their lives?). They almost always dress well - have you noticed that? They seem to have an uncanny ability to bypass their depression when it comes time to dressing themselves each morning; shall I wear my black leather jacket as well as my beanie hat? Or shall I opt for the requisite sweater and pressed slacks combo? Doc Martens or loafers? Ugh. It's all too too much for me to handle *fans self*

I want my 'damaged goods' boyfriend to clutch my hand as we hurry down the street, getting soaked by the output of heavy rain clouds. I want him to look at me with sad eyes, wondering if he's finally found the right person to dig him out of his muddy hole, saving his wounded soul in the process. Montgomery Clift seems like that dude. He's got the sad eyes, the pouty lips, the hands that search for yours in the dark, and a pair of massive eyebrows that signal - to me, anyway - a massively intuitive brain. Plus, he's vulnerable as heck and that makes me want him even more.

Going out to dinner and a movie with someone like Monty Clift wouldn't simply be a run-of-the-mill experience, no. It'd be a mission of epic proportions: will he make it out the door in one piece, able to face the world head on? Or would he shrink back from the edge of his doorstep and insist that we stay in for the night for fear of running into someone he may know and having to actually engage in conversation with them? Nothing would ever be certain with him, and that sort of hyper-activity attracts me.

If you could have any classic film hottie be your partner, whom would you choose and why? Tell me about your choice in the comments section down below!

January 28, 2015

My Garbo Appreciation Post, Pt. II


When Garbo's on the screen, I can't look away. She had one of those faces that the audience could literally drown in. Those eyes were like deep pools of brooding ocean, always gazing at you from the screen, daring you to look away. Okay okay I'll stop now. I realize I must sound like a wannabe poet who's trying too hard, but seriously people. It's Greta Garbo we're talking about and the amount of people in 2015 who are still obsessed with her just goes to show you how much of a lasting impact she's had on the silver screen and all of our lives.

Garbo was a thing of beauty; amazingly attractive, yes, but so much more than just "pretty." She was aloof when it mattered, dangerous when the situation called for it, and downright seductive when she cast her eye on a man (or woman) who impressed her. She was a cold, slithering snake one minute and a hot-blooded Swede the next - practically in the blink of an eye!

Garbo's power onscreen was practically unrivaled in the late 1920s and early '30s. I think I was in my early teens when I started watching her films - surprisingly I knew very little about her at that age. Sure, I had seen her name listed here and there but I had never sought out details of her personal life or career before. I think you have to be of a certain age and/or maturity to appreciate Garbo in full. She's almost like a fine wine that would be wasted on someone who knew about or cared very little for liquor and alcoholic beverages.

Thinking back, I'm almost one hundred per cent certain that the first Garbo film I watched was GRAND HOTEL (1932) - I was on a Joan Crawford kick back then and wanted to devour every single film she was in. So anyway, I sat down to watch GRAND HOTEL thinking that I wouldn't be able to take my eyes off of Crawford's bright eyes and sharp hips when all of a sudden, up pops this exotic-looking (and -sounding) Swede! With the exception of a young Gloria Swanson, I had never seen anyone else like Garbo before. I immediately made a mental note to check out every book on her I could find at the library (this was before I had cash to spend, people) and I quickly jotted down a bunch of her films that I'd like my Mom to pick up for me the next time she was out and about (yes, I was spoiled back then - and still am).

She ended up purchasing a cheaply-produced Garbo double feature on VHS and if I remember correctly, it featured two of her very first films: THE SAGA OF GOSTA BERLING (1924) and THE TEMPTRESS (1926). One thing I noticed when I watched these two silents was that Garbo was different, more raw than she appeared in her later MGM films. She was bigger, more curvy, and her eyebrows weren't as sculpted as they appeared in films like GRAND HOTEL and MATA HARI (1931). Her eyes hadn't been lined with black liner yet and her cheekbones weren't as chiseled. I think that once the MGM makeup department got their hands on her and really devoted their time to perfecting the "Garbo look," she would morph into the majestic creature we identify her as today.

One can't have too many books on Garbo! My classic film book collection proves this. Every time there's a new release, it gets added to my wishlist quicker than you can say John Gilbert and Greta Garbo were the best-looking couple ever in the history of the world! From biographies, retrospectives, and (my personal favourite) coffee table books, there is quite a lot of published material out there for the new or diehard Garbo fan to enjoy. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • Conversations With Greta Garbo by Sven Broman
  • Garbo by Barry Paris
  • Garbo: Portraits From Her Private Collection by Scott Reisfield and Robert Dance
  • Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy by Mark A. Vieira
  • Greta Garbo: A Life Apart by Karen Swenson

Aside from her being absolutely gorgeous and having a wonderfully electric onscreen presence, the thing I like most about Garbo is the fact that she was so private and elusive in real life. Me being an introvert, I can totally appreciate that about her. I don't blame her for shunning the spotlight and I certainly couldn't fault her for choosing to retire at the height of her career for a life spent on her own with no one to answer to. I'd love it! Actually, at thirty-two, that's the kind of life I strive for every day! I want to be left alone, I want peace and quiet, and I don't want to have to answer to anybody. I want to do what I please when I please, and if anyone dares to mess that up, I'd be a very unhappy camper. Just leave me to my own devices (and a few hours' worth of TCM programming) and I'm as happy as a cherry on top of an ice cream sundae!

Click here to read my original Greta Garbo Appreciation Post!

January 26, 2015

Unhauling: Books I've Grown Out Of


I'll be turning 33 years old this May and, over time, I've grown out of a lot of things. Barbie dolls for one, popsicles, lollipops, MAD magazine, and maxi pads (ech! I can't believe I ever wore those things). Classic-movie-wise, I've grown out of musicals and Marilyn Monroe. I did the unthinkable this past weekend and unhauled a bunch of my classic film books. YIKES! Yes, dear readers, I actually combed through the masses of books I've accumulated over the past 15+ years and got rid of some of the ones I knew I had grown out of.

Bye-bye went the likes of The Marilyn Encyclopedia and the lackluster tribute by Life Magazine of Katharine Hepburn (I opted to keep the People Magazine tribute instead). I also extracted a James Stewart biography from the depths of my collection because it had never impressed me from day one as well as a Cary Grant biography that I found riddled with errors the first (and only) time I read it. I bid adieu to more than one floppy trade paperback retrospective but kept a firm grip on the sturdier, more elaborate giant hardcovers that I've grown to love over the past few years. Honestly, I cannot see myself ever wanting to part with the likes of Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label or Garbo Portraits. Those ones will be with me till the day I snuff it, folks.

Fine, I've aged. No one likes to admit it, do they? In order to give myself some semblance of youth I held on to my Looney Tunes coffee table book as well as an art book dedicated to Archie comics' Betty and Veronica (I was always a Veronica girl, couldn't stand Betty). Heaped amongst the lighter fare of my classic film book collection are sprinkled more works on The Wizard of Oz, the whimsical and very beautiful partnership of Astaire and Rogers, and a lighthearted look inside the MGM backlot. Gone are the books that I didn't have time to open when I purchased them and, quite frankly, couldn't imagine myself reading now anyway. Tastes change and even if I did find the time to pick them up now, I don't think I would. Life is short and there are way too many other books I'd like to read instead.

So, what have I learned from having a giant unhaul? I've learned not to be so impulsive when buying classic film books - or any books for that matter. Instead of adding any old book to my shopping cart just because it's classified a 'classic film book,' I should really consider whether or not I'd actually read it. Like, open it up and read each page. Really lose myself in its narrative. If I can't see myself doing that, then I ain't buying. Plain and simple. I've also learned that some obsessions don't last forever. Case in point: my childhood obsession with Marilyn Monroe. At one time I must have owned every single book published about her. Now, after this unhaul, I maybe own a handful of them (not even). If you'd like to take a look at my book collection before the clear-out, click here.

Have you unhauled recently? If you have, tell me about your experience in the comments section down below!

January 23, 2015

Blogging: Getting Back On Track

SOURCE

I don't know what happened to me recently, but it seemed like everything under the sun was upsetting me and getting on my last nerve. I stopped watching old movies, I cancelled my TCM Now Playing Guide subscription (only an idiot would do something like that), I buried my head in book after book, and I stopped blogging. Actually, let me expand on that last point: I stopped writing all together and for a freelance writer, that spells D-E-A-T-H.

I blame the end of the holidays, I really do. Everyone's heard of the January Blues and I guess the Blues literally took over my life this year, once Christmas was over and done with *plays a dirge* Once the initial high of the holidays wore off and there were no more Christmas movies being shown on television, I became a grumpy cave woman who only left her bed for work and food. Usually, I would write until I felt better but even the mere thought of blogging annoyed me. I felt like everyone and their mother were labeling themselves bloggers and who the hell wants to add to such an over-saturated market? I know I didn't.

But I'm trying to fix that. I know I'm the one with the problem and my attitude is quite stinky at the moment (I can actually smell it, it's so bad), but this is something I know I can easily overcome. All it takes is a glimpse of Gary Cooper's wry smile (and naked chest, thank-you-very-much) and a dash of Buster Keaton's clumsiness to get me back on the classic movie bandwagon! In fact, I've got OUR HOSPITALITY (1923) waiting for me on my DVR player and a copy of TOUCH OF EVIL (1958) I borrowed from the library last weekend to spend some time with. I'm not the biggest fan of Orson Welles' but hey, I can't have everything come up sunshine and roses all the time, can I?

See? My attitude is still going strong and shining through those grey winter clouds *sigh* I want to know how you get over your January Blues. What remedies do you turn to to make yourself feel light on your feet again? What perks you up? On a scale of shitty to fantastic, I'd say I measure a steady shitty right now. Let's get through this rough patch together, shall we?!

January 5, 2015

Ch - Ch - Changes in 2015!

Jean Arthur

Books
I want to make this more of a book-centric space. If you follow me on Goodreads, you'll know that I typically polish off one book per week (classics usually take me a bit longer to get through), so really, when I'm not working, writing, or blogging, I've got my nose stuck in a novel. I introduced book reviews in this space back in 2013 and they've proven popular amongst Stardust readers. It seems that I'm not the only one who gets a kick out of reading classic film-related nonfiction and coffee table books - in fact, they're some of my favourite things in the whole world! Nothing compares to flipping through a heavy photo book filled with portraits and movie stills of your favourite actors and actresses. The latest one I've added to my collection is Cecilia de Mille Presley and Mark A. Vieira's Cecil B. DeMille: The Art Of the Hollywood Epic.

Personalities
You all know that TCM dedicates each month of the year to one star and that's kind of what I want to start doing here on Stardust. In 2014 there were a lot of obscure classic film stars that I fell in love with: Ann Dvorak, John Gilbert, and George Raft were three of the biggest. Aside from the off mention here and there, I hardly talked about them at all (and certainly not in any dedicated posts). I want to change that because maybe that's how some of you will discover them for yourselves. I want to share the love a little more, y'know? Get people talking about all of those wonderful forgotten film stars that deserve more notice and attention.

Refining the Art Of Blogging
Blogging is starting to get a really bad rap and I don't think that's fair. In the past year alone, I've come across a lot of negative posts and feedback directed at 'lazy bloggers' who don't have a 'real job.' What these commentors don't realize is that blogging takes a lot of dedication and a heck of a lot of work. It may not fit the mold of a traditional nine-to-five job, but it's still a job that people have to work hard at. I learned that lesson in 2014 when I started blogging full-time alongside my regular office job and freelancing gigs. I hardly had any free time to myself and every time I read someone's nasty post concerning 'spoiled, entitled bloggers' my blood boiled. Let's be kinder to each other this year and give everyone the respect they deserve.

Time Off
So yes, time off. Although I'd like to continue scheduling two to three posts a week here on Stardust I know that that might be pushing it. This year I'd very much like to take a step back from blogging and spend less time online. That doesn't mean I'm giving blogging up entirely. It just means that I'll have more free time on my hands to think of some really great ideas and (hopefully) fantastic creative content. I'd also like to devote some time to my other lifelong love of reading and I've been thinking for quite some time now about starting my own #BookTube channel on YouTube. That's not definite yet, but if you follow me on Twitter at @callmeveebee I'll be sure to post all updates there first!

Is there anything in particular you'd like to see more of on Stardust? Please leave me a comment down below and tell me about it!

January 2, 2015

Buying Old Movies: It's definitely gotten easier!

iTunes Classics Movie Store

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s things looked pretty bleak.

The world was introduced to boy bands who couldn't sing (or dance), useless socialites like Paris Hilton and her brood, and classic film fans were at the mercy of their local video rental places and miniscule corner shops to get their fill of old movies on VHS. I don't know about you, but I remember classic films being really hard to find back then. Sure, I frequented that little entertainment shop in my local mall for my VHS fill (I posted about it here), but only the really well-known and popular titles were stocked on its shelves.

If I had wanted to purchase an obscure pre-Code film on VHS that no one except for myself had ever heard of, I was shit-out-of-luck because that store certainly wasn't going to have it. And it wasn't even because the proprietors chose not to order in copies to sell, it was because the film studios had never manufactured and released them on home video in the first place. This was way before the time of digital downloads and made-on-demand DVD sales ... this was the dark ages, people!

However, something wonderful happened in the late-2000s: e-commerce took off with a bang and classic movie fans were suddenly able to get their grubby little hands on virtually every old film their hearts desired. Below, I list my favourite online stores that I frequently buy copies of classic films and television shows from! It's as easy as click-and-buy!

Warner Archive Collection // I could literally browse this online shop for days and never tire of it! This is where you'll find made-on-demand films and TV shows that are of the rarer variety. Yes, the shop carries a huge assortment of the more popular fare, but if I need to find that obscure pre-Code I mentioned earlier, the Warner Archive Collection is where I'll head to first.

iTunes // The first digital film download I purchased online was through iTunes and it was A FREE SOUL (1931); I was having an exceptionally hard time locating it on home video so I just bit the bullet and ordered it through iTunes Movies. Digital downloads like this one served as the catalyst for me cleaning out my DVD and bluray collection earlier last year (I recycled all of the disc packaging I owned and moved all of my discs over to a pair of massive disc binders to save space). Digital downloads take up no space at all - except on your computer's hard drive - and you can access them 24/7 through iCloud.

Amazon // Amazon.com was my first e-tail love. As soon as I got permission from my parents to order a few things, I went freaking bananas and bought every single Britcom on my wishlist as well as a smattering of MGM musicals and a bullet casing's worth of Warner Bros gangster flicks. Then, once Amazon.ca was introduced a few years ago, purchasing things online became even easier! No more pesky customs charges, no more outlandish shipping rates, and everything appeared on my doorstep in a matter of a couple of days (rather than having to wait more than a week at the best of times). If you're looking for incredible deals and even better prices, Amazon is your best bet!

TCM Shop // Holy moly, talk about heaven-on-the-internet! Admittedly, I've only ever ordered items from the TCM Shop a handful of times due to its unfriendly customs charges and hefty Canadian shipping rates but if you live in the USA, then you've pretty much got it made. This particular online shop holds some terrific sales throughout the year and you can often find massive boxsets for half price around the holiday season. Keep your eyes peeled for limited edition TCM exclusives that you won't be able to find anywhere else.

Criterion Collection // The Criterion Collection is like the fine champagne of the e-tailer liquor cabinet: it's offerings are distinct, storied, and exquisite. Unfortunately, so are its prices (sorry not sorry). The only time I've been able to purchase anything off of the site is when there's been a big sale on. But, you know what? It's worth waiting for because the amount of extras you get on each Criterion disc is unrivaled.

Barnes & Noble // Here you'll find great stock, great prices, and great deals. I often compare the B&N site to Amazon in that it offers similar stocklists and comparable deals. When I want to shop for both books and movies/TV shows at the same time (which is often, who am I kidding?), this is where I head. It's convenient and it's got a specialized shipping service to Canada (that means competitive rates and pre-calculated customs charges that are identified upon checkout).

How do you buy your classic movies and television series?

December 31, 2014

The time I spent New Year's Eve with Nick & Nora Charles

The Thin Man (1934)

I'm the type of person who considers New Year's just another day on the calendar.

I don't get super-excited about it, I don't host any loud bashes, and I usually end up falling asleep by 9:30 pm anyway. I know, at thirty-two years old I've become such a senior. The rest of my family, however, does go out to paint the town red and I'm always left home alone with a good book and some stellar TV programming - which is just the way I like it (senior, remember?).

Back about five or six years ago - when my parents and I first moved into our new home - TCM aired a Thin Man movie marathon on New Year's Eve beginning at 8:00 pm. If I look back on my life and remember all of the milestones that have passed and all of the highlights of my thirty-two years, this particularly stupendous movie marathon sticks out as one of the best evenings I've ever spent - like, EVER. I don't know if that makes me sound like a horribly lame young lady or if it lends me a certain air of nonchalance or je ne sais quoi, but it was fucking heaven in my eyes!

Was this the best date of my life? Despite the risk of sounding hugely lame, I'll admit it and say yes. Yes, it was. I sat there cuddled up in bed, with my mug of steaming hot peppermint tea and toasting the television monitor each time Nick and Nora Charles downed a cocktail. I finally had to give up after having drunk five cups of tea - Nick and Nora's appetite for booze is never-ending, I should have known better - and, as a result, found myself venturing to and from the bathroom the rest of the night. D'oh!

Watching the Thin Man series of films in one (long) evening was heaven. Sure, I didn't get much sleep that night but I climbed out of bed the next morning as if I had! No dream I've ever had in the past made me smile so much or chuckle as loudly whilst burying my face in my pillow (I didn't want to wake up my parents). At the end of each year that passes now, I always check the December 31st TCM schedule in the hopes that there will be another Thin Man movie marathon in the cards but to my dismay, it hasn't been repeated (yet).

Here's hoping that each coming New Year's Eve is just as enjoyable as this one was all those years ago! Who says you need to go out on the town in order to enjoy yourself properly? Not when you've got great friends to spend it with in the comfort of your own home (and bed!). Nick and Nora Charles, I thank you! Happy New Year everyone!

December 22, 2014

Classic vs. Modern: My Favourite Christmas Films & Specials!

Christmas Day, 2013

I start counting down to Christmas beginning in January, I love it that much!

I've also been known to blast Christmas music on my loud speakers come summertime so that just goes to show you how crazy I am about the holidays. One thing I look forward to all year long is watching endless amounts of holiday movies and television specials come the beginning of December. There are certain films and specials that I've been tuning into since I was a child and those are the ones that have the most sentimental value to me (obviously), plus there are some new discoveries that I've made over the past five years or so that I have chosen to include on these lists. These so called 'new discoveries' have impressed me so much in such a short time that they have now become a part of my permanent Christmas To-Watch list.

So, let me break down my list of classics and my list of moderns for you. I'll tell you which films are my absolute favourites and which television specials are must-sees for me year in and year out. Personally, I find it hard to break with tradition so the films and specials I list below will always be a part of my holiday schedule. Nothing will ever be omitted - ever! Although there may be new additions depending on how much I love watching them and how festive they make me feel. Right, here we go!

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
Classic Films:
  • The Shop Around The Corner (1940) // This is a fairly new favourite. I've seen it plenty of times before but only just inducted it into my Christmas Hall of Fame this year. For some reason - perhaps because I've aged - this movie has struck a chord with me and I love the way the main characters' romantic relationship develops throughout the film.
  • Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) // A classic Christmas tale if ever there was one, right here! It's a feel-good family favourite that will get you signing along, snapping your fingers, and hopping around the Christmas tree like a happy little bunny rabbit! Christmas bonus: Judy Garland crooning Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas to despondent onscreen little sister Tootie (Margaret O'Brien).
  • It's A Wonderful Life (1946) // Perhaps not the happiest film to watch around the holiday season, but one with a powerful, enlightening message nonetheless. This film's conclusion makes me cry every single time and I'm looking forward to seeing it on the big screen this year (it's being screened by Cineplex as part of their Classic Film Series - check your local listings).
  • In The Good Old Summertime (1949) // This is the musical re-make of The Shop Around The Corner and it stars MGM darling Judy Garland and the very dashing Van Johnson as her hesitant love interest. Have I mentioned that the beautifully-awkward, unsmiling Buster Keaton is in it? Well, he is. So, watch it right-freaking-now!
  • A Christmas Carol (1951) // Christmas Eve with the Buttinos would not be complete without a screening of this Christmas classic! We've been gathering around the TV set as a family to watch this movie as far back as I can remember (I was probably seven or eight years old the first time I saw it), and it's still something we all look forward to. There have been many different versions of Dickens' tale produced for the screen, but this one is - without a doubt - my absolute favourite!

A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Modern Films:
  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989) // Would any Christmas-themed film list be complete without this stand-out comedy gem? I think not. It's wacky, it's laugh-out-loud hilarious (even though you've seen it a zillion times and know all the jokes), and it's undeniably charming. Plus, it's great fun knowing that your Christmas family gathering is nowhere near as painful as the Griswold's is! Am I right?!
  • Edward Scissorhands (1990) // You're scratching your head right now, aren't you? You're wondering what possessed me to list this movie amongst my favourite Christmas films ... well, I'll tell you: not only is there a festive scene in the film, but Edward actually makes snow in it! HE MAKES SNOW! If that isn't a Christmas miracle, I don't know what is. (Plus, Vincent Price is in it).
  • Home Alone (1990) // Whoever says they don't like this movie needs to re-evaluate their life. I'm pretty sure I saw this movie in the cinema when it first came out and it was a family affair (Italians like to do things in groups), and I remember crying with laughter at all the funny bits. The sound of my Pops laughing till he's on the verge of throwing up always sends a warm thrill through me. We watch it every year and each time we love it more and more.
  • A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) // This modern interpretation of the Charles Dickens classic is - in a word - FAN-BLOODY-TASTIC! It delights both children and adults alike and never fails to make me smile into my Christmas Eve seafood platter. You wouldn't think that Michael Caine would suit the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge, but he's absolutely perfect in it and I defy anyone to argue with me on that point!
  • Love Actually (2003) // What's this? A romantic comedy? What the hell is that doing here?! (I typically hate romcoms). Hear me out, though: this one's actually good. First of all, it's British, and we all know that British-anything is better than our North American rubbish. Second of all, it's got the surprisingly agile Hugh Grant boogying on down to The Pointer Sister's 1980s hit Jump For My Love. Enough said, I think.

Merry Christmas, Mr Bean (1992)
Television Specials:
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1964) // Yes yes yes. Three simple words, indeed. This year Rudolph celebrates his 50th anniversary and there is nothing I'd rather watch on a snowy winter's night than his glowing red nose lighting up my TV screen. This is a childhood favourite of mine and I actually still own the soundtrack on vinyl! It's something I just can't bring myself to part with (even though I'm known for always cleaning out my cupboards).
  • Frosty the Snowman (1969) // Here's another childhood favourite in the form of a chilly, happy snowman who's perfectly content prancing around in fields, singing songs at the top of his lungs. The animation is simple yet imaginative and it's a show that appeals to all ages. My only qualm with Frosty the Snowman is that I wish it was longer than its half-hour running time.
  • Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean (1992) // My holiday season is simply not complete without at least six viewings of this Britcom classic! My favourite bits include the impromptu nativity scene improvisation in Harrods, the whole turkey-on-the-head bit, and Mr Bean presenting his 'girlfriend' Irma with the ultimate in gift-type shockers! If you haven't ever seen this Christmas special, I think it's about time you treated yourself to the wackiest of wacky yuletide episodes!
  • Do-It-Yourself Mr. Bean (1994) // This one's more of a New Year flavoured indulgence. Mr Bean decides to throw a NYE party at his dinky flat in London and invites just two people to the bash to end all bashes. If I'm completely honest, this is exactly what I would have done; two people is the max. I hate crowds and I hate messes, so any more than that and I'm a woman fit to be tied (with steam potentially spewing out of my ears).

Wishing you all the very best this holiday season! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

December 19, 2014

Unfinished Business: Movies I Just Can't Sit Through

Gunga Din (1939) SOURCE

For someone who counts GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) as their all-time favourite movie, it's a little hard to believe that there are some movies I just can't make it through. GONE WITH THE WIND is the ultimate big screen epic - long-winded and a little bloated in parts, I'll admit - so how the heck is it possible that I can't sit through a single viewing of films half its length?!

  • Gunga Din (1939) // I love Cary Grant as much as the next person does - okay, a little more - and I love men in hot climes but I just can't seem to make it through a single viewing of this RKO film gem. And it's certainly not for lack of trying either! I've borrowed the DVD from the library, I've DVR'd it on TCM multiple times and I've tuned in for live viewings - sometimes even in the middle of the night - but no luck. Zilch! I always begin losing interest somewhere around the 15-minute mark (after the roughhousing introduction) and then I inevitably start tuning out and either drifting off to sleep (drooling out of the side of my mouth and everything) or I ditch the TV and finally pick up that book I was meaning to finish. Cary Grant is the December Star Of the Month on TCM and there's a good chance that GUNGA DIN will air again, so let's hope that this time I can make it through all the way to the film's end!

  • Citizen Kane (1941) // Good Lord, this one's a doozy! Who the hell hasn't found it difficult to sit through what the American Film Institute (AFI) has dubbed the greatest film ever made? That's what I want to know! I'm not going to sit here and tell you that CITIZEN KANE is a bad picture because it isn't; it's just full of itself and, for me, that's hard to stomach. I don't put up with that from people so why should I treat a film any differently? If I try really hard and think back on how many times I've attempted to sit through CITIZEN KANE, I can come up with at least four or five occasions. I've even purchased the special edition DVD copy but that shit just didn't take (I ended up trashing it earlier in the year when I cleaned out my movie collection). Maybe it's not the movie -- maybe it's Orson Welles because, come to think of it, there is not one Welles film that I like.

  • Doctor Zhivago (1965) // I'm actually a little ashamed to include this on my list of 'unfinished business' movies because I've heard so many wonderful things about not only the film, but the story, the cast, and the cinematography. I definitely feel like I've been missing out on something stupendous here and it's time to remedy that. Like, really remedy. As far as I'm concerned, this is the next movie on my To-Watch list. Hopefully this time I'll be able to make it through the whole thing without any interruptions and/or impromptu naps-on-the-sofa. The thing with DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is that I've seen bits and pieces of it but never the whole thing all together, the way a movie should be seen.

...and the one that I finally managed to conquer in 2014:

  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962) // I'm embarrassed to admit that it took the passing of star Peter O'Toole late last year to make me want to sit down (for four hours) and finally see this movie. Every time it's aired on TCM in the past, I would catch my Pops watching it - he was ten years old when the film was originally released and he said it's always been one of his favourites. To be perfectly honest, I both loved and hated the film. I loved the story, I loved the cast, I loved the excitement, and I especially loved the cinematography. I hated the way it dragged in spots and I hated the endless waiting for the movie to reach its climax (wink wink nudge nudge). Overall though, I really enjoyed the experience of watching LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. It's one of the greatest epics I've seen and the fact it's based on actual events always pleases me immensely as I'm a huge lover of historical films and historical fiction.

I'd love to know which films make up your 'unfinished business' movie list! Tell me about them in the comments section down below!

December 17, 2014

My favourite classic film discoveries of 2014!

Metropolis (1927)

Wow - this year has been an absolute minefield of great classic film discoveries!

Is it just me or does it seem as if there has been a never-ending list of  superb biographies and coffee table books that were released in 2014? And how about all those stupendous, long-awaited bluray releases that made it onto store shelves this past Fall (It Happened One Night, I'm looking at you)?! The fact of the matter is, we've been rather spoiled for choice this year and because of this, our wallets have become a little lighter than they initially were back in January 2014. Oops.

And forget about consumerism right now because not only have I bought many things, I've also discovered movies, people, and books that I had hidden away in my own classic film stash! Perhaps the best feeling of all is delving into your collection of unwatched DVDs and blurays and coming up with a film you couldn't believe you had missed out on for so long! So, without further ado, here are my favourite classic film discoveries of the past year:

Films:
  • The General (1926) // Pops and I never laughed so hard whilst watching an old movie together! This was an early discovery in 2014 and one that I will look back on as one of the brightest highlights of the year - you just can't beat spending time with a loved one, laughing and crying - happy tears, mind - together on the couch while your Mother cries out in the background "Why is there no sound? Is the TV broken?"
  • Metropolis (1927) // I watched this silent German masterpiece on a total whim while I was tucked up in bed one Saturday evening. Was it one of the best decisions I've made all year? Yup. Will I be watching it again soon? You bet your bottom dollar I will be! It was gripping, moving, and it had a heck of an impact on me.
  • From Here To Eternity (1953) // Everything about this film is beautiful! I saw this for the first time earlier on in 2014 and I seriously cannot believe I had waited so long. It's one of those movies that you hear about early on in life but one that you perhaps don't get to until you're grown up and your taste in film has matured.
  • Dial M For Murder (1954) // Lord knows I'm not the biggest Grace Kelly fan but having the chance to see this play on the big screen - and in 3D no less - was too much for me to pass up! It was exciting, it was smart and it was the first of Kelly's onscreen performances that didn't irk me.

People:
  • John Gilbert // To say this man makes me weak in the knees is a gross understatement. I was never much of a Gilbert fan before - even when I watched him paired with Greta Garbo onscreen - but something about him just gripped me this year. Maybe it was his naughty sense of humour or maybe it was his dashing personality ... either way, he totally captured my heart in 2014.
  • John Wayne (and Westerns - who'd have thunk it?) // Cowboys and westerns?! I can honestly say that I never thought I'd see the day when I purchased an entire library's worth of John Wayne films on DVD for my own personal collection. In my teens, the only exposure I had to The Duke was watching episodes of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (comedian Ryan Stiles does a mean impression of John Wayne that always had me rolling on the floor).
  • Edward Everett Horton (again) // I re-watched Shall We Dance (1937) this past Autumn and fell in love all over again with EEH. I've always found him an absolute joy to watch onscreen and if I'm pressed, I'll always include him in my top spot of favourite character actors of all time!
  • Ann Dvorak // I blame this new obsession of mine entirely on Christina Rice and her brilliant biography entitled Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel (University Press of Kentucky, 2013). This book kick-started my endless fascination with this forgotten star of the 1930s and 1940s and I see no signs of it abating any time soon.

Books:
  • A Life of Barbara Stanwyck Steel-True 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson
  • Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice
  • John Wayne: The Life and Legend by Scott Eyman
  • Hollywood Gothic by David J. Skal

I'd love to know what your favourite classic film-related discoveries were in 2014! Tell me about them in the comments section down below!

December 15, 2014

TCM Remembers 2014


Man, these memorial tributes kill me every year (well done TCM, really).

I want you to take a few minutes and watch the video I've embedded up above. I'll wait for you. Right, now that you've seen it and have probably shed a tear, I want you to know that this is how a memorial tribute should look (unlike those lame ones that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences produce for the Oscars each year). Everything about the TCM tributes is amazing from the soundtrack to the visuals and from the film clips to the voice-overs. The placement of each deceased star is also really important too and TCM nails it; I hate to say it, but the more well-known personalities always have the perfect placement in the video and the most satisfying length of time dedicated to them in each video tribute.

I went into watching this year's memorial tribute expecting a massive spotlight to be shone on Lauren Bacall. Her death on August 12th is the one that upset me the most and I couldn't wait to see what TCM had done for her here. We had all said, upon her passing, that Bogie (her late husband Humphrey Bogart, for those of you not in-the-know) was up there waiting for her and I'm glad to say we weren't far wrong because at the clip's 2:26 mark we hear Bogie say "I'll be waiting for you." Oh my God all the feels!

This year, TCM saved the most touching clip for last - believe me when I say I have goosebumps just typing this sentence out - a young Shirley Temple signing Auld Lang Syne before the clip fades to black. I'd be lying if I said I didn't burst into tears at that point (man, you probably think I cry at the drop of a hat). Shirley Temple passed away earlier this year on February 10th at the ripe old age of eighty-five. Another portion of the clip that gave me shivers was at the 4:11 mark: Mickey Rooney being congratulated whole-heartedly upon his return to Boys Town in BOYS TOWN (1938).

What did you think of this year's TCM Remembers video tribute? I'd love to know which clips were your favourites and which part(s) of the video moved you to tears. Tell me all about it in the comments section down below!

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