Friday, October 5, 2018

A Star is Born - FINALLY!

Let me get this out of the way - I absolutely love this latest version of "A Star is Born."
There's no denying it - Lady Gaga is a star
Having seen all prior versions, as well as the inspirational "What Price Hollywood?", I consider this one film story that periodically begs a remake/update because none of the earlier films were perfectly realized. Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbara Streisand were already well established movie stars when they took their turn at this story, so their depictions of the girl-thrust-into-the-spotlight were always a bridge that was a challenge to cross. James Mason's star power was crushed by Judy and Streisand rolled over Kris Kristofferson. Fredric March could go toe to toe with Gaynor, but she had the advantage of being the first Esther Blodgett/Vicki Lester. Yet, Gaynor did not seem like a gal to set the film world on fire.  Judy is just a tad too mature and a too much of a raw nerve (it seemed she might be the one taking that last midnight swim), and Streisand, well, she had exploded as an enormous and instant star right out if the gate, one who clearly wouldn't need the help, much less encouragement of Kris Kristofferson to succeed. Barbra is her own cheering section always.

Ally and the 3 Esthers
Now there is Lady Gaga and, truly, while watching this often told story, we are witnessing the birth of a real star. Yes, we know her from her music and her outlandish costumes, but here we see the blossoming of a true movie star. She is everything that a believable Esther Blodgett (called Ally here) should be. Her talent is scary and her self-doubt touching. Her voice and passion for music brought me to tears. In a world of fakers, she is authentic.

So good together
Speaking of passion, the love of music that binds her and Bradley Cooper's Jackson Maine (a cooler name for a rock star than Norman) is the beating heart of the movie. Sam Elliott, as Cooper's older brother, states that music is only 12 notes and it is the artist's message and interpretation that makes it unique. That is the underlying theme of this "Star." Cooper and Lady Gaga make beautiful music separately, but together they are dynamic. Each makes the other better. Each gives the other something they need.

So, I love you lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. it has been a long time since a new film and a star have moved me to tears and, at the same time, created a tremendous excitement just watching them on the screen. I was getting a little worried there for a while, but they made me fall in love again with the movies.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Reel Infatuation: Napoleon Solo: I Discover My Type

This is my contribution to the Reel Infatuation Blogathon hosted by Font and Frock and Silver Screenings. Click HERE for more revelations of the heart.

Gaga for this spy

When it came to the Beatles, I was a John girl, never a Paul girl. What can I say - I liked the bad boys.
So, when it came to The Man From U.N.C.L.E., must watch TV on Tuesday (or Monday)nights, I was firmly on Team Solo, never Team Kuryakin.

Team Solo or Team Kuryakin. Both played for team U.N.C.L.E.
 (United Network Command for Law Enforcement)
Ah, Napoleon Solo. So suave, so charming, so hot in a tux. While Ilya preferred the 60s style turtleneck, Napoleon went formal. He was a ladies man, a sophisticated rogue. He drove fancy cars and got the job done. Ilya was cool, Russian and a bit too sober for my tastes. The girls loved him (he was known as "the blonde Beatle"), but Mr. Solo got me off looking at pictures of horses and propelled me into my first bona fide crush on an unobtainable star.

Once a week for 105 episodes from 1964 - 1968 season, I grooved to the man. And, as if that was not enough (it wasn't) I made sure I scooped up as many movie/TV star magazines as possible. Robert Vaughn WAS Napoleon Solo. No separation there in my mind.

I wrote fan letters (never mailed). I remained true. And then I saw this:

Okay, so I have a type. What can I say? Napoleon faded, but never really disappeared. I still think he's pretty neat and I'm still on team Solo. Napoleon, not Hans, that is.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Then and Now: Films don't change, but we do

When I was young, I was so sure of everything. Now that I’m not, I’m not. 
What does it all mean?
My opinions were so solid, my convictions so sure. Now, they are, shall we say, open to suggestion.

Films that I was once so definite about now come at me from another angle. Or, maybe I come to them from another angle. Either way, nothing is quite as it was. Older, yes. Wiser – well, I’m allowed to pretend. Film, with its fixed, repetitive nature, remains unchanged. Oddly, I haven’t.

And so, I've come to these films with new eyes and an ever changing landscape of emotions:

Sunset Boulevard:

Ah, Norma Desmond, the gift that keeps on giving (movie-wise, that is).

Then: I once viewed Norma Desmond as a nutty old bat – washed up and stuck in the past. Like Joe Gillis tells her: she’s 50 and there’s nothing wrong with being 50 unless you think you’re 25 – or something like that. Except that I kind of thought there was something wrong with being 50. 50? Yikes!

Now: I see a wounded bird. A woman full of pride and passion, still vibrant and still beautiful with so much to give and no one to give it to. Okay, she is a bit batty, but she just needs to get out more.


Then: Oh, how I hated that film. Every “teenager” seemed too old and it was just not as good as the real classic musicals I loved. You know, Astaire and Kelly and Judy.

Now: Oh my, the beauty of all of the youth and youthful fun in that film. Travolta, so talented, such youthful promise.

Rear Window*

Then: Poor James Stewart! Trapped in that apartment and longing for travel and adventure. I'd be itching to get out of there, too. Good thing he had a great nurse. As for Grace Kelly's Lisa, she was pretty, but shallow. Jame Russell seemed a better companion.

Now: What an old crab that James Stewart is! And what a great gal Lisa Carol Freemont is. She puts up with that growling old bear, brings him dinner from the 21 Club and shows him that a real adventurous spirit can wear a dress from Paris and face down a murderer. Good thing Jimmy had a good nurse (some thing don't change).

* Note: there are a few James Stewart films that fall into this category, but I don't want to pick on him. I like him, I really do, but he always seems so darn crabby!

Singin' in the Rain

Then: Gene Kelly was a gorgeous man. Everything he did was right and everyone else was wrong. Lina Lamont was a pill and Debbie Reynolds was unworthy.

Now: Gene Kelly is still gorgeous, but Lina Lamont was the bomb and so misunderstood. She was a shimmering, glowing star in the cinema firmament. As for Debbie, gosh I miss her. And Gene, well, wasn't he just a little mean sometimes?

Wuthering Heights

Then: because I developed a mad crush on Laurence Olivier in this film, Heathcliff was a poor, put-upon orphan - wrecked by Cathy's inability to live like a pauper. And I was not happy with Merle Oberon's Cathy.

Now: Gosh, they were a miserable pair, Healthcliff and Cathy. I confess I am still dazzled by Olivier (and the lovely score), but my sympathies reside with the Lintons. I find it hard to sit through this film. Another of those things that don't change: still not happy with Merle Oberon's Cathy.

I'm shocked, shocked that I like this film
I could go on - I resisted Casablanca for years because of my resistance to Bogey - but now I give into it. Same, too, for On the Waterfront. Brando to me was like a cross to a vampire, but I admire the film and his performance greatly. I snobbishly pooh-poohed Citizen Kane, only to come to the conclusion that, yes, it is awesome.

I suspect the list will change, because, in  spite of all efforts, I keep getting older. One can only hope that means deeper, wiser, and more in touch with the mysteries of the universe that are revealed on film.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

National Classic Movie Day: The Apartment is One Big Movie Hug

This is my contribution to the Classic Comfort Movie Blogathon, hosted by Rick at The Classic Film & TV Cafe. Click HERE and find out what movies comfort us when we need a movie hug. it's an awesome lineup!

Having a bad day? Whose day could be worse than CC Baxter’s?

CC Baxter needs his sleep
Shut out of his own apartment while his married insurance company superiors use it for a trysting place, there is no rest at home for him and no love in his life.Worse still, his boss, Mr. Sheldrake (rhymes with snake), dangles a huge promotion in front of him if CC gives Sheldrake exclusive rights to his apartment for his extra-marital affair.

The key to success

It’s a moral dilemma, but the one shining light in his day is Fran Kubelik, the lovely elevator operator and the object of his affection. He scores a date, but she stands him up.

CC and Fran take a shine to one another

Maybe a worse day than CC’s is Fran’s. Trying to break away from her affair with Sheldrake, she is once again drawn into it with a promise that he will soon leave his wife. And where does he take her for this renewed affair? The apartment, of course.

Same Chinese restaurant, same married man
Pretty much an even more horrible day for both is Christmas Eve. CC is stuck at a bar while his boss spends some time with Fran and Fran tries to kill herself after Sheldrake goes home to celebrate the holiday with his wife and kids (after slipping her some cash for a Christmas present).

Merry *!@#**& Christmas, CC

Now, I’ve had bad days, but never one like these two are having. Time to settle in and let all of my empathy for them warm my heart.

sadness, despair, concern, love
Once CC and Fran learn the truth about one another, they spend some time together while Fran recuperates from her attempted suicide. CC cooks spaghetti for her, plays gin rummy with her and generally shows himself to be the better man for her. He is smitten; she is scared and ashamed.

Bonding over pasta
Their time together in the apartment is like a comfy robe.

Philosophy - gin rummy-wise
In a twist, Sheldrake’s wife is tipped off about his infidelities by a former flame. He is now free to pursue Fran. She assents, but soon realizes that this creep is not the man for her. Racing back to Baxter, "The Apartment" warms my heart because fundamentally decent people win. And sometimes, I just need to believe that is true.

All's well that ends well

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Charlie ♥s Edna

Charlie & Edna share a smooch in "Behind the Screen"
Of all the Chaplins I love, I confess to loving Keystone Chaplin (1913-1914) the least. Engaging, revolutionary, amusing – yes. Knowing what is to come, we see all of the ingredients of greatness there… all except one. This nasty, pushy, funny little Tramp has no soulfulness. He is not yet “Chaplinesque.” But soon, the Tramp would grow.

Keystone Charlie - the Tramp sans romance
When Chaplin moved from Keystone to Essanay in late 1914, he needed a new leading lady. As he would do throughout most of his career, he sought an actress with no experience, hoping to mold her into his vision of the perfect object of the Tramp’s attention. What he found was the perfect object for the Tramp’s affection.
While scouting out his muse, Chaplin met Edna Purviance in San Francisco.  Edna, 19 at the time, hailed from Lovelock, Nevada and was working as a stenographer. Legend has it that they were introduced by the owner of a café.  Edna was not a professional actress, but Charlie saw something there and, for the next 8 years and over 30 films, from Essanay to Mutual to First National, Edna Purviance became Charlie Chaplin’s exclusive leading lady and provided the missing ingredient that helped change the common comedian to a great artist. With Edna as the object of his affection, the Tramp became pathetic and sympathetic. We knew he had a heart, because it ached beautifully for the beautiful Edna.

More smooching in "The Champion"
Not surprisingly, for a time, Charlie and Edna were real-life lovers, as well as on-screen sweethearts. They were adorably happy for a time, witness this love note from Charlie to his Edna:
My Own Darling Edna,My heart throbbed this morning when I received your sweet letter. It could be nobody else in the world that could have given me so much joy. Your language, your sweet thoughts and the style of your love note only tends to make me crazy over you. I can picture your darling self sitting down and looking up wondering what to say, that pert little mouth and those bewitching eyes so thoughtful. If I only had the power to express my sentiments, I would be afraid you’d get vain…

But, by the time Edna attained the ripe old age of 28, Chaplin had had 1 ex-wife and was on the way to marrying 16 year old and pregnant Lita Grey, and he deemed her too matronly to continue in the role of his romantic muse. But Charlie was loyal and tried to help Edna continue a career independent of him, first as the star of 1923’s “Woman of Paris”, and later in the Josef Von Sternberg directed (but never released) “Woman of the Sea”. Von Sternberg remembered Edna as sweet and obedient, but unbelievably timid in front of the camera. Without Charlie, there would be no more Edna on the screen.

While both held a life-long affection for one another, Charlie went on to quite a few more loves while Edna, after being involved in an unfortunate New Year’s Day shooting scandal and as a peripheral witness in the William Desmond Taylor murder, finally found lasting love in her marriage to a pilot and airline executive.
But Charlie was never far from her mind. In 1956, Edna, now a widow and suffering from the throat cancer that would eventually take her life, wrote this little note to her old boss and ex-flame:

Dear Charlie,Here I am again with a heart full of thanks, and back in the hospital (Cedars of Lebanon) taking cobalt x-ray treatment on my neck. There cannot be a hell hereafter!... Am thankful my innards are O.K., this is purely and simply local, so they say. All of which reminds me of the fellow standing on the corner of Seventh and Broadway tearing up little bits of paper and throwing them to the four winds. A cop comes along and asks him what was the big idea. He answers, “Just keeping the elephants away.” The cop says, “There aren’t any elephants in this district.” The fellow answers: “Well, it works, doesn’t it?” This is my silly for the day, so forgive me.Hope you and the family are well and enjoying everything you have worked for.Love always,Edna

And Charlie, who famously kept Edna on his studio payroll until her death in 1958, wrote in his 1964 autobiography that the time they worked together at Mutual was the happiest of his life. Commenting on her death, he wrote: "And so the world grows young. And youth takes over. And we who have lived a little longer become more estranged as we journey on our way." 

Real love can be fleeting, but the heart of the reel love of Charlie and Edna still beats upon the screen.

This is my entry in the Charlie Chaplin Blogathon hosted by Little Bits of Classics and Christina Wehner. Check out their sites for more about the great man.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Son of the Gods: Oy! Broken Blossoms This Aint!

There are some things I can get over – movie wise, that is.  While the racism of “Birth of a Nation” makes the skin crawl (not to mention a slight heaving of the stomach), it is an important film that should be seen at least once. “Pretty Woman” I can kind of enjoy, even though you know the average prostitute does not resemble Julia Roberts. But every once in a while I see a film that makes my jaw drop so low that thankfully it hits the floor or I’d be halfway to China.

Speaking of China, that brings me to 1930’s “Son of the Gods.” I’ve been making a slow trip through the sound career of Richard Barthelmess. Having viewed “Only Angels Have Wings” and “The Last Flight,” I must say I was pretty impressed. As a young man in the silents, he radiated purity and earnestness, giving unforgettable performances in “Broken Blossoms”,Way Down East,” and “Tol’able David.”

Success in "Broken Blossoms" made Barthelmess
the go-to guy for an Asian role

His maturity coincided with sound, and he developed a rather world weary, slightly heavy look; handsome, but certainly not boyish any longer. So, when I saw “Son of the Gods” playing on TCM I thought, what do I have to lose? Apparently, my lunch.

Here the story:
Sam Lee is a college student. Okay, stop right there. Barthelmess was 35 and looked it.
College student? He looks more like the professor!
Let’s continue. Sam is obviously wealthy (he plays polo and lends his friends money). He is also Chinese, but passes for white. While his male friends are okay with this, white women, once they find out, are appalled and disgusted. I believe he is called “a dirty yellow Chinaman.”

Sam decides he can’t stand it anymore at college and goes home to his family. His father is a very traditional looking Chinese man who runs a successful business (doing what, I can’t say, but it seems he lends money to people). By the way, his father is played by an American actor, but is convincingly made up to look stereotypically Chinese. Sam says he wants to strike out on his own and see the world. His father would prefer he not, but lovingly assents to his son’s wishes.
Dad (played by American actor E. Alyn Warren)
Now, it’s obvious that Sam does not look Asian and his father does, so you might wonder what went on here. Was Sam’s mother Caucasian? Turns out she is dead, but her portrait reveals her to be very much Asian. What gives? Doesn’t anyone question why Sam looks different than everyone else?

Unsuspecting love
Sam strikes out on his own and eventually lands a job with a novelist who is in need of someone who knows Chinese. While accompanying the author on his travels, Sam meets the glamorous and high living Allana in the South of France (Constance Bennett) and they fall in love. But, once Allana learns that Sam is – gasp! – Chinese, she goes berserk, whips him with a riding crop in public, and says all kinds of awful anti-Chinese things. She feels badly afterwards, but Sam has already left town. His father is dying and Sam has had enough of the white race.
Allana is a demon with that riding crop

Back home Sam goes full on Chinese. Here, Barthelmess looks like a parody of himself in “Broken Blossoms.” I’ll spare you the inanity, but it turn out that Sam was adopted and is – hooray! – actually white. Now, he and Allana can be together and all is white – I mean right – with the world.

Sam's new garb.... something is not quite right....
So, this was not a feather in the Barthelmess acting cap. Seriously, Laurence Olivier could not have done any better with this tripe. Constance Bennett played an awful woman, but she sure looked glamorous. The sequence describing little Sam’s road to adoption was originally filmed in Technicolor – showing an elaborate and presumably colorful parade in San Francisco’s Chinatown – has been lost and now only remains in black and white.

The funny thing is that the film starts out on a hopeful note. Sam’s college friends are angry at the girls who reject Sam because of his race and they give them a good verbal lashing. However, soon things turn, with even the wealthy Chinese being able to look down on the “coolies.”  Not cool!

I guess I kept watching because I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing, but as far as “Son of the Gods” goes, once is more than enough.

Monday, February 26, 2018


This is my entry in Cinemaven's Essay's From the Couch Free For All  Blogathon. Hurry over to Theresa's site and dive into this awesome smorgasbord of film fan mania!

Turmoil? Bring it on!
Turmoil. It's all around us. It's all inside us. You got your personal turmoil and you got your social turmoil. How to get through the day when the news from the TV is driving you nuts? How to get through the night when your friends make you wish you had new friends?
Therapy? I've tried it all - your meditation, your yoga, your chamomile tea and your trips to the gym. They're not bad, but I've learned that there is one person who can always set me on the right path. That would be none other than the great Mr. James Cagney himself.

Jimmy has helped me get through so many tough times and I would love to share a few of his ways of wisdom with you.

1. Don't sweat the small stuff.


Really. This is good advice. Of course, differentiating the small stuff from the big stuff can be tricky, but once you determine it's small stuff, just blow it off like Jimmy.

2. Be thoughtful.

Pondering a situation before acting is well worth the time; thinking before you speak even better.

3.  Once you've thought it through, act decisively. 

Sometimes, you just have to make a point (even if it is metaphorically).

4. Dance like no one is watching.

Good advice always, especially if you can do it with grace.

5. Don't be afraid to lift the veil.

Everything is not always what it seems. Boldly lift the veil and look for truth.

6. Enjoy your pleasures in moderation.

Excess leads to misery. Enough said.

7. Don't be afraid to show your emotions

You'll feel so much better after a good cry.

However, remember that earlier comment about moderation......

Self control can go a long way.....

8. Don't be afraid to show your darling you love him/her.

We all need to know we are loved.

9. Have fun with friends.

Friends sustain us and know us best. And, if you get a chance to have fun with Ann Dvorak, take it!

10. Learn new things.

It keeps your brain in good working order and it's good for the spirit.

11. No one will ever love you like your mother.


12. Laughter is the best medicine.

It really is, isn't it?

So thank you, Mr. Cagney. Somehow, you always manage to get me though my darkest hours. Even when you're one of the bad guys, you're always one of the good guys - full of the joy of living.

Don't forget to get over to Cinemaven's Essays From the Couch for more wonderful, eclectic and wondrous love letters to movies!