Friday, January 13, 2017

Giveaway Alert! - Win a copy of "Mary Astor's Purple Diary"

Keep reading to learn how to win a copy of "Mary Astor's Purple Diary: The Great American Sex Scandal of 1936" by Edward Sorel.

When a celebrity sex scandal of the 1930s runs into a 1960’s left leaning liberal political cartoonist, the result is a comical and affectionate re-telling of the scandal along with some down to earth biographical details and some even more charming and delicious illustrations. DO NOT read this book on your e-reader.
the beautiful Mary Astor

Edward Sorel, our author, and Mary Astor, the subject of this story, met, according to the author “cute.” You know, kind of like they did in the movies. Only Mr. Sorel met Mary while he was ripping up some linoleum in his New York City kitchen in 1965. Underneath the tired floor of his rent-controlled apartment was a treasure trove of newspaper articles about the great Hollywood sex scandal of 1936 – the tale of Mary Astor’s purple diary. Well, you know how these things go. Once a movie buff gets fixated on something and someone we have to research it down to the studs. And that’s what Edward Sorel did. Along the way he developed a huge crush on the lady, strange as it seemed to him. He - an avowed atheist and she a devout Catholic who spent too much time with the bottle  - did not seem to be a match made in heaven (or wherever). But, as the author explains: "Isn't every couple an odd couple? Why would Chopin, who had TB, fall in love with a woman who smoked cigars? Why would Donald Trump, who prides himself on good taste, fall in love with Donald Trump? Obsessions by their very nature defy reason." See how much fun this book is?


Poor Mary Astor – she had such a miserable upbringing (see here for the story of her horrid parents). Her father – who Sorel calls “a Teutonic fathead” - pushed his beautiful daughter into the movies and basically made her support the loathsome duo that were her parents until she escaped into marriage #1 (but not before having a flaming affair with the much older John Barrymore). Sadly, that marriage (to director Kenneth Hawks, brother of Howard) ended tragically when Hawks died in a plane accident while filming the aerial scenes of “Such Men are Dangerous” (1930). She then tied the knot with Dr. Franklyn Thorpe the following year and subsequently gave birth to a daughter, Marylyn. Thorpe, it turns out, was a pill and a bore and Mary, it turns out, had a more than healthy sexual appetite. What’s a girl to do but seek fulfillment elsewhere? One of the elsewheres she sought out was the bed of the great Broadway playwright, George S. Kaufman. Mary and George apparently enjoyed one another quite a bit, but George was married and ultimately committed to his wife and Mary, who also had literary talents, kept a diary.
Mary's diary hits the press

Mary and Thorpe decided to divorce, but when the couple quarreled over custody of Marylyn, Thorpe pulled out the secret weapon of Mary’s tell-all diary. Many faked entries were leaked to the press, but the real entries had all of Hollywood shaking in their boots? Apparently, Mary was a busy gal who named names and also commented on the sexual prowess of her partners. Thorpe held this over Mary’s head in order to force her to back down from the custody fight. Mary, bless her heart, fought back and won her battle, though not without a great personal cost.
Mary and George share a romantic time in Manhattan.
Little did George know Mary was also a writer.
Not only does Sorel tell a zippy story, but he also sprinkles Mary’s story with some choice and amusing biographical anecdotes of his own. He’s a very interesting fellow!
Mary maintains her dignity in court and proves she is a superb actress

And, of course, there are the wonderful illustrations. These alone are worth the price of the book.
Sometimes those press conferences go awry....

I love a good book about a Hollywood scandal that treats its stars with compassion, humor and respect. For anyone that loves an great tale well told and illustrated, this book will not disappoint.

Mary gets Marylyn

And now for the giveaway

By January 31st, just follow these directions:

1. Email me at flickchick1953@aol.com
2. Write "Giveaway" in the subject line of the email
3. Remember to give me your name in the body of the email.

The winner will be notified on February 1st.

Good Luck!


Monday, January 2, 2017

La La Land - All in...Almost

I'm all in with "La La Land." No hesitation.. almost. 

Dance and romance among the stars
You love classic film? You love a charming musical score? You love charismatic stars? You love enchantment? Go see it. "La La Land" is an all out/all in movie musical, which presented me with a surprising dilemma.

"Another Day of Sun" in a typical LA traffic jam
Director Damien Chazelle has created a musical with no ifs, ands or buts. It is an homage to great musicals (and a few non-musicals) of the past (how many can you spot?) and he clearly has a "thing" for Ingrid Bergman. "La La Land" tells the timeless Hollywood story of aspiring actress Mia Dolan (Emma Stone) and struggling jazz musician Sebastian Wilder (Ryan Gosling). 

Mia's adorable apartment in Hollywood, shared by fellow struggling actresses
It establishes its intent with a knock-out opening musical sequence in a Los Angeles traffic jam and never changes gears. It never looks down its nose at the genre, it never tries to mask its roots with a hip, modern attitude. Mia and Sebastian struggle and follow their dreams and we root wholeheartedly for them. So why, why did I hang back for a portion of the film?
Mia and Sebastian never leave home without their two-toned tap shoes
Why are people breaking into song or a dance in the middle of a story more acceptable (to me) when filmed over a half a century ago? 

I'm all in for him!
Ryan Gosling is a revelation. His ease with the dance and the music was enchanting and he displays a real star quality that induces more than a sigh or two. 

Mia looking chic for a night out on the town
Emma Stone, while not quite as comfortable with the dance, is a winsome heroine. I finally had to admit that, to paraphrase Shakespeare, the fault lies not in the stars, but in me.

Mia and Sebastian follow their dreams and their hearts
"La La Land" had to break through my own modern defenses. Why would I not immediately buy into the story of Mia and Sebastian while willingly accept Don Lockwood and Kathy Selden's romance? It wasn't them, it was me. Would I accept "Casablanca" so completely if the very same film was made today? But, "La La Land" did not let me off easy, and eventually I surrendered to the enchantment. The scene at the Griffith Observatory where the lovers dance among the stars sealed the deal. From then on, I was all in and if felt so good to be transported on the musical magic carpet ride.

Come on - kiss!
No spoilers here, but I'll just say that this love letter to Hollywood, to musicals, to star power and to romance is, for me, a winner. I think I will have to see it again because it's great to be enchanted at the movies and not in front of the TV.

La La Land in La la Land
I'm now adding Mia and Sebastian to the endless parade of movie-mad characters whose journeys to the promised land of Hollywood sometimes end in triumph and, often, heartbreak.


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Black and White - A Poetic Love Letter

What is it about those films of the 1930’s that makes movie fans all over the world open their hearts and willingly step into a unique place and time all its own? No matter how much time passes or how the world changes, these films continue to speak to a universal longing that spans cultures and time.


I recently asked my friends at FlickChick’s Movie Playground on Facebook to describe the allure of those magical films from that magical era in 3 words or less. With their help, I offer up a little love letter to all of those films, large and small, great and not-so great. Here we go!

Black and White
Take me away
Glamour hides hurt
Tuxes and talent
Gangsters and gold-diggers
All so elegant
Lighthearted and charming
Stories told succinctly
Stars, style, sets
Beauty and danger
You know the way
To my Heart
To my Imagination 



Escape from reality
Sparkle and wit
Nick and Nora
Groucho, Chico, Harpo.
Bette and Joan
Cagney and Kay
Kate and Coop

Artisans at work
Factory made dreams
A moment in time
Forever and unchanging
Blissfully the same
You are there
Always for me
And me alone
Alone in the dark
Black and White
Beautiful to me.


Many thanks for the following for their inspiration and participation: Tina, Antoinette, Kevin, Dee, Patricia, J.  Steve, Maggie, Rosanne, Tracey, Melanie, Darlene, Mary N, Sandra, M.A., Alicia, Mike, Christine, Susan, Ann, Stacy, Russell, Julie, Lynn, Vince, Rosemarie, Greg, Margie, Mary M., Ellen and Tracy.



Friday, November 11, 2016

Sunny (1930): Bareback Rider Plays Marriage Merry-Go-Round

This is my entry in the Circus Blogathon hosted by Critica Retro and  Serendipitous Anachronisms. Click HERE for more Big Top excitement!


Sunny (1930)
Sunny in her circus costume. Wasn't she a pretty little bareback rider?

"Sunny" started out with high hopes. It was based upon a successful Broadway show, had a score by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein and starred its original Broadway star, the great Marilyn Miller. Once sound films swept the nation, musicals and stage stars flooded the theaters. 

Marilyn Miller
Marilyn Miller was one of the musical theater's greatest stars and she seemed a natural for film. She was lured to Hollywood by Warner Brothers (Jack specifically, with whom she had a cozy relationship) and paid a then astronomical figure of $100,000 to film her greatest sage hit, "Sally." It was a smash and Warners quickly planned to film another of Marilyn's stage hits, "Sunny."

Marilyn Miller in her stage consume as "Sunny."
More circus and less glamour than the film version
Sadly, by the time "Sunny" was ready for release, the onslaught of musicals (specifically bad musicals) resulted in a public backlash against the genre. Too much of a bad thing set "Sunny" back and the result was a musical without hardly any music. Since the music was the whole point of the show, movie-goers were left with a "Sunny" featuring a silly and paper-thin story (British circus performer loves an engaged man, stows away on a ship to America and marries another man to gain entry and then divorces said man and gets her guy) without the music to support it. To add insult to injury, the leading man (Lawrence Gray) is a pill. Imagine if it was Fred Astaire......

Sunny waits for her Prince Charming
Still, "Sunny" has much to offer, chiefly the lovely Miss Miller. No matter how much Warners may have wanted to cut the musical numbers, it was unthinkable to put their star in a movie without several dance numbers. And this is where she shines. I offer you exhibit #1 below. When she says' "let's have some fun, you can see she really means it. 

They also could not omit the show's hit number "Who?" Marilyn wasn't a great singer, but the poor quality of the sound doesn't do her any favors. Still, her star power gets her through. Here she is with the uninspiring Mr. Gray.

Personally, I found Marilyn's performance in "Sunny" even more appealing than her performance in "Sally." She comes across as quite an adorable and cheeky woman and looked lovely once she was adorned in her non-stowaway clothes. It's a shame that there was only one more film in store for Marilyn before she headed back to Broadway. I thought she had quite a nice comic touch when not trying to play the innocent.

Another joy is the inclusion of Joe Donahue as the hapless fellow who Sunny marries and then divorces. Joe was the brother of Jack Donahue, a favorite stage dancing partner of Marilyn Miller. While his film career was pretty non-existent, he and Marilyn pair comfortably in "When We Get Our Divorce." Since I can't find a stand alone clip of their dance, I am posting the entire film and ask you to go to 58:17 to see this delightful pairing.


Sadly, much of the music was cut cut from the film before release in the US. The existing version of "Sunny" is pretty tattered and badly in need of preservation. A full musical version of this film that included the entire original score was released outside of the US (where they apparently had not yet tired of musicals). Oh, if only this version would surface!
Sunny dreaming of fleeing the circus and winning her man
After one more (non-musical) film, Marilyn Miller returned to Broadway in the aptly named "As Thousands Cheer." Sadly, she would die in 1936 at age 37. Still, the legacy of the darling little circus girl, Sunny, still lives on. If you happen to be in New York City at the corner of Broadway and 46th Street, look up. She is there surveying her kingdom of Broadway.


Interested in knowing more about Marilyn Miller? Check out "The Other Marilyn," by Warren G. Harris.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Hollywood on Hollywood Blogathon: Hollywood Steps Out

This is my entry in the CMBA Hollywood on Hollywood Blogathon. Click HERE to read more about films that focus on our favorite town in the world.


Hollywood Steps Out (1941)

Before I ever saw Ann Sheridan,  George Raft and even Greta Garbo in a movie, I knew who they were because of the Warner Brothers Merrie Meoldies cartoon "Hollywood Steps Out."

According to Wikipedia, this 1941 $50 meal would run
approximately $804 today
On a "typical" night at Ciro's, more stars than there were in heaven graced that famous watering hole. When I asked my mother "who's that?" she identified the star and their reputation as lampooned in the cartoon.

Ann Sheridan? She was known as "The Oomph Girl" because she had lots of sex appeal.


The "Oomph Girl" and Edward G. Robinson

Greta Garbo? She was a Swedish star known for her big feet. Cary Grant? He used to say "Judy, Judy, Judy."
Garbo uses her large shoes to light a match for Cary Grant.
In real life, Garbo only wore a size 8 shoes.
Speaking of Garbo, I love her reaction when Harpo gives her a hot foot:

Bing Crosby? He was a singer who liked to go to the racetrack. He is the guy who hosts "The Hollywood Palace."
Crosby and his favorite pastime
George Raft? He was a tough guy actor who became famous flipping a coin.
Tough guys Cagney, Bogart and Raft share a moment
Favorites like Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland and Buster Keaton appear.
Mickey and Judy at their "Andy Hardy" best
Buster Keaton, Arthur Treacher and Boris Karloff
looking as happy as possible.
Dorothy Lamour was famous for wearing a sarong and James Stewart played the shy types.


And a night at Ciro's would not be complete without these guys. I did not need my mother to identify them!
No party is complete without the Stooges
Naturally, a wolf (namely Clark Gable) is on the prowl, but his prey is not exactly who he thought "she" was!
Gable's back and Groucho's got him!
There are many more stars and even an appearance "gee"man, J. Edgar Hoover!


William Powell, Spencer Tracy, Gilbert Roland, Errol Flynn,
Wallace Beery and C. Aubrey Smith admire the ladies.


Head "G" Man J. Edgar Hoover
Henry Fonda


In a way, this little cartoon was my introduction to a whole host of Hollywood stars and the mystique of Tinsel Town. It was all done with affection and admiration. 

Please, sit back and enjoy this little gem. I just love it!


Voices were provided by this talented trio:

Kent Rogers (Cary Grant, Edward G. Robinson, James Cagney, Mickey Rooney, Lewis Stone, Ned Sparks, Bing Crosby, James Stewart, Clark Gable, Kay Kyser, J. Edgar Hoover, Henry Fonda and Groucho Marx)

Mel Blanc (Jerry Colona, Peter Lorre)

Sara Berner (Greta Garbo, Ann Sheridan, Paulette Goddard, Dorothy Lamour and Henry Fonda's mother)

Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Great Dictator: Beware of Buffoons

This is my entry in the Dual Roles Blogathon hosted by the great bloggers at Christina Wehner: Classic Movies, Musicals, Old Books and the Great American Songbook and Silver Screenings. Check both sites for more fabulous cinematic doubles.


THE GREAT DICTATOR (1940)


In one of history's greatest ironies, the world's most evil man shared a distinctive mustache with a cinematic symbol of compassion, humor and humanity. Most movie stars would have shied away from the comparison, but Chaplin pursued it and, in "The Great Dictator," created one of the most courageous cinematic statements against fascism and its accompanying terror.

In the Ghetto...

While the Jewish Barber is not the Little Tramp, they share some similarities. Aside from a physical likeness, they are kindly citizens and tender of heart.




A WWI hero, the barber returns home to Tomainia with amnesia. His country is changing. He is philosophical, this gentle soul and tries to make the best of the bad situation. The country he fought for would never harm him, would it?


The barber even manages to find love in the ghetto. His scenes with Paulette Goddard are quite charming. The Tramp was no stranger to romance, and the barber is his soul mate in this respect.


Chaplin adds a barber-ballet with old Keystone buddy, Chester Conklin, and it's a nostalgic delight -no words necessary.


Meanwhile..


A mirror image in life and a negative image of the soul, Adenoid Hynkle, dictator of Tomainia, is at work on his plan to take over the world. 


Adenoid Hynkle is a bigot, a bully, a braggart and a danger to civilization. When audiences see Hynkle, they know it is Hitler.




Bullies need friends, and just as Hitler  needed Mussolini, Hynkle joins forces with the dictator of Bacteria, Benzino Napaloni. Napaloni, the buffoon, is played to perfection by Jack Oakie, and his scenes with Chaplin are some of the film's funniest. 



The switch


And yes, the doubles are switched. Not to give to much away, but Hynkle, out of uniform and shooting ducks, is mistaken for the barber and shot. The barber is enlisted to take his place. Good replaces evil and hope is restored.

The Great Dictator, made at a time when the United States was not officially at war with Germany and before the public was fully aware of the horrors of the concentration camps, was an exercise in great courage. Hitler and Mussolini might well have been viewed as buffoons, worthy of ridicule and a chuckle. Chaplin truly put his beliefs on full display. The comedy is unforgettable, but the message is important and timeless, even more so in these perilous times:                       





The Great Dictator was Chaplin's first full sound film and he chose to use his voice in the most powerful way possible -  with humor and deep conviction. He remained true to himself and spoke the truth and provided the world with a great film and a tale still too relevant in these times.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Sunset Boulevard: But What about the Monkey?

No, I don't think he committed suicide.....
I can’t help it. I want to know more about Norma Desmond’s monkey.

Monkey, we hardly knew you.....
Oh sure, we know he’s dead, and that he serves as the plot device to get Joe Gillis into Norma’s cage, but, really, who was he? Was he, as Joe guesses, a distant relative of Cheetah? What was his name? Was he a movie star? Was he rescued from a circus? How did he and Norma meet? Was he even a “he”? After all, she did want to line the coffin in pink.

Yeah, yeah, he’s the crystal ball into which Joe can see his future – becoming Norma’s new monkey (remember that dream he has about the organ grinder and the monkey?). But, I’d really like to know more about him. Did he like bananas for breakfast? Was he a clever and urbane conversationalist? Was he able to mix Norma’s favorite cocktail? Did he and Max get along? Did he have a smoking jacket?
Could Monkey hold his liquor?
Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the monkey moves the plot along. But unlike those serviceable characters that are expendable, the monkey is missed. 
Did Monkey help Norma with Salome?
Imagine if he had lived! He could have advised Joe NOT to get the vicuna. And, he might have helped Joe keep his clandestine meetings with a little more discrete. Even better, he might have helped Joe escape (after helping him punch up Norma’s Salome).

The New Year's Eve before the end,,,,,,,
I imagine that chimp being quite extraordinary in all ways. Norma was a great star who had great demands (3 husbands!) And yet, she mourned that monkey. His death left a hole in the happy little threesome that we never got to see.
Monkey had refined table manners,
which I'm sure Norma and Max appreciated

Billy Wilder reportedly kept telling Gloria Swanson that Norma was doing the monkey, but I’m not buying it. I picture the monkey as more of an Oscar Wilde type – witty, charming and possibly gay. Written in the margins of Sunset Boulevard’s main story is the story of an unnamed monkey who died in luxury but whose life remains a mystery.
Norma in her monkey fur coat. Could this have been a relative?