Saturday, April 30, 2011

Haiku #5 - City Lights

Chaplin could inspire anyone to poetry!

City Lights
Flowers in my mouth
Taste of sacrifice and love.
I can see. Can you?

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

Haiku #4 - Singing in the Rain

A musical movie haiku for your consideration!

Singing in the Rain

Love enfolds my heart.

The rain liberates my joy.

Love and joy are one.

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

Haiku #3 - Roman Holiday

Since I'm still in that Royal Wedding mood, an entrant to the movie haiku contest with a royal theme. Was there ever a more royal princess than Audrey?

Roman Holiday
Best Haircut? Pixie!
Best Ride? A Vespa is bliss!
Best City? Rome. Rome.

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Movie Haiku Contest: Haiku #2 - Double Indemnity

Ah, the poet in me is emerging! Another crack at a movie haiku and an entry in the contest (hey, one never knows). This is kind of fun!

Double Indemnity

Snake in an anklet;
Fool thinks he is in control.
Next Stop: Double Cross.

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

Haiku Contest

Okay - I'll take a few shots at a Movie Haiku. I'm not normally known as a poet, but sometimes films inspire me to be poetic! Let me search my soul......

Sunset Boulevard

So Misunderstood!
A face of nitrate and dreams;
The parade's gone by.

This is an entry for the Best For Film Hollywood Haikus blogging competition. Enter now.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Massive Movie Crushes From A-Z: Swooning Through The Alphabet

Ever since I figured out that men were cuter than horses (though I admit I waiver back and forth on that one from time to time), I have lived through many massive crushes on movie stars. Once in a while a TV star would creep in, but he had to be movie-worthy in order to make the cut. I devoured the teen movie publications. Every week a new magazine! New stories and photos to pour over!

Being a classic film nut, many of my crushes came from watching a Saturday or Sunday afternoon movie and then racing to the library on Monday to find out as much as possible about my latest heart throb (Mom thought I was doing homework. Sorry, Mom).

Eventually, I had so many crushes that I started to keep them mentally filed in alphabetical order. And yes - I still get crushes.

I've been a fickle girl, so this is going to take a while. I will have to break this little love-fest into a few installments (with a few letters omitted - no E, I, Q,U,X, Y, Z - yet). Today's post will examine crushes A-F.

(You're Adorable)

Brian Aherne
A minor crush. First swoon occurred viewing him as the tragic Emperor Maximilian in "Juarez." Enjoyed him in a few others, but this was a very short-lived crush. After the first rush, the thrill was gone.
Dana Andrews
"Laura" was the first swoon, followed by "My Foolish Heart." Very handsome in a lock-jawed kind of way. A passing crush, but I always retained my affection for him. More like a friend with benefits.

(You're so beautiful)

John Barrymore
A fairly large crush. The flair, the dash, the profile! "Dinner at Eight" caused a stir in my heart, as did "Twentieth Century," but once I saw him in his youthful glory in such silents as "Don Juan" and "The Beloved Rogue," he earned a permanent place in my box of crushes.

Bill Bixby
Okay, I confess this was because of "My Favorite Martian," but he was in 2 Elvis films: "Clambake" and "Speedway." Another crush that was fleeting, but passionate nonetheless.

(You're a Cutie Full of Charm and a very busy letter)

James Cagney
A Mad Massive Crush of off-the-charts magnitude. It was Saturday, I was 14, I was alone and I watched "The Public Enemy." After that I watched "Angels With Dirty Faces." A poster in my room of Cagney as Rocky Sullivan and a shelf full of movie books quickly followed. I had moved from magazines and started hording my allowance for hard-cover books about classic Hollywood. True, deep, enduring love. Still.

Charlie Chaplin
If I had to rank them (in addition to alphabetizing them), Charlie would be #2. Starting with the Kevin Brownlow/David Gill documentary on PBS, Charlie was not only my gateway to his own wonderful films, but to silent films in general. I am eternally bewitched and ever so bothered.

Maurice Chevalier

So charming, so French, so oo-la-la. Maurice made me swoon in "Love Me Tonight," and remained my favorite Frenchman and older gentleman (ah, "Gigi"). Although the affair was brief, we always had Paris.

Bing Crosby
Yes, the voice helped, but it really was those eyes and his effortless demeanor. He was romantic and funny (especially with Bob Hope). Another fling, but the tune lingered.

Ronald Colman
Yet another brief affair who lured me with a voice, an accent and a mustache. It didn't last long, but he was a very classy crush.

Tony Curtis
A swift affair due to "The Great Race," but I always contend he was a grand fellow. In retrospect, I kind of wish this one had lasted a bit longer.

(You're delectable)
Bobby Darin
So cool, so swinging, so elegant, so charming, so cute, so married to Sandra Dee. A very mad crush whose embers have not cooled over the decades. Oh Bobby, I miss you like crazy!

Kirk Douglas
A mild crush - based largely on an overdose of "Spartacus." We still retain "friends" status and I am always happy to come across him at any time (especially in "Letter to Three Wives" and "The Bad and the Beautiful.")

Robert Downey, Jr.
A current crush, and is one of my 2 crushes who plays another of my crushes on film ("Chaplin"). I am so smitten! He is one of the few stars whose movies I will see just because he's in it.

(You're a feather in my arms)

Albert Finney
Another Brit who got under my skin. I first saw him in "Two For the Road," and that was it for me. What a doll (but I confess I was just too jealous of Audrey Hepburn - not only did she get a great wardrobe in that film, she got to have an off-screen affair with Albert Finney! The woman got everything!). A short-lived affair, but I am always happy to see Albie in anything, even now. I generally stay friends with all of my "affairs." ♥

Coming Next:  Movie Crushes G-M

Whoops! Get back in my subconscious!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Max Makes His Move!

Chapter 4 of the Norma Desmond Chronicles.
Norma got off on a temporary insanity plea, did a short stint in a spa-like psych center and is now free in Hollywood. She's back and better than ever!

Max Von Myerling has loved Norma Desmond for as long as he can remember.
The Object of His Affection
As a young director from Vienna, he was quite a ladies man. One of the young Hollywood's directors who showed promise in the early days (along with D.W. Griffith and C.B. DeMille), Max had his pick of all of the Hollywood starlets and played the field with gusto. He had no intention of settling  down.
Max Before Norma: A Young Man Sows His Wild Oats
But once Norma Desmond walked onto his set, he was struck by cupid's arrow and became a man enslaved by love. From that moment on, his passion for that little 5 foot bundle of dynamite ruled his life.

Through a turbulant marriage, infidelities, divorce, Norma's 2 other husbands, career decline, depression, murder, dead monkeys and delusion, Max endured all of the humiliation heaped upon him just to be close to Norma. He knew that underneath the demanding diva his sweet Norma was still there, the Norma before she started believing Paramount's publicity.
"Max and Madame" - The Hit of the Fall Season!
Now that their little sitcom, "Max and Madame", was a hit, life seemed to be once again smiling on Norma and Max. Both he and Norma had finally been accepted back on the "A" list. Invitations to parties and premiers poured in. Best of all, Norma was happy.

To Max, she has never seemed more beautiful and he knew that if ever he was going to make his move to get back into the "Bedroom of the Husbands" and his proper place in Norma's heart, now was the time.
Healthy Body, Healthy Mind!
Max had it all planned and was sure he could execute his plan flawlessly.

Step 1: Tell Norma how beautiful she looked (and she did). His heart skipped a beat whenever he saw her.
Flattery Always Softened Her Up!
Step 2: A dinner for 2 at the Brown Derby, Norma's favorite place to dine.
Where the Famous Go to Dine and to be Seen!
Step 3: Pull up in the Isotta-Fraschini. Real people asking Norma for autograph were  sure to be outside (Max is so glad he no longer has to write those letters).
Norma Still Rides in the Back Seat
Step 4: An impromptu visit by friends Tallulah Bankhead and Carol Channing brightened the evening and the champagne and martinis flowed.
Norma Had Such a Good Time She Wore the Center Piece in Her Hair!
After a few glasses of the bubbly, the old Norma reappeared. Max knew the moment had come - that it was now or never!

He shooed the friends away and they were alone at last. His heart was pounding! But, just as Max leaned over the shrimp cocktail to whisper sweet words of love in Norma's little ear, the waiter brought a telephone over to the table.

Before Norma picked up the receiver, she felt a chill run down her spine. It was as if someone was watching her, someone from beyond...
Ghosts at the Brown Derby?
Norma had received an urgent call from her psychic astrologer. It seems that Dead Joe Gillis had been talking and spreading lies! He'd been telling his story from the grave and appearing at seances all over Hollywood and telling anyone who will listen that he was seduced by Norma and made a gigolo by her and that she is mad and dangerous!
Dead Men Do Tell Tales!
Norma put the receiver back in place very slowly. "Max. Take me home. Now."

Max heaved a heavy sigh and pulled on his white gloves. He knew the moment had passed. All of the Hollywood "A" listers payed attention to the messages received at seances. His toothbrush would not be placed in the "Bedroom of the Husbands" tonight.

To be Continued...

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ziegfeld Beauties: Hijacked By Hollywood

Florenz Ziegfeld, master showman of Broadway, hated Hollywood. No, it wasn't an east coast-west coast thing. It wasn't even  theater vs. film snobbery. He hated Hollywood (and the movies) because Flo, the great glorifier of the American girl, was constantly having his stable of lovelies stolen by the movies.
It wasn't so bad when movies were largely filmed in New York. At least the stage and the movies could share the young beauties (even if it meant they were a wee bit tired for the evening performance), but when the film industry finally made the big move out west, Ziggy guarded his flock with an eagle eye. Still, the lure of Hollywood proved too great and many of his choice glorified girls made the permanent move out west. Most simply came and went (while beautifying the scenery for a short while), but a few actually made the grade in motion pictures. The one thing they all had in common: their lives were full of drama and rarely ever dull! 

Olive Thomas (1894 - 1920)
Olive Thomas, model and beauty contest winner, was a Ziegfeld Girl who performed first in the regular Ziegfeld Follies and later in Ziegfeld's more risqué "Midnight Frolic." The "Midnight Frolic" was an after hours show staged on the roof of the New Amsterdam Theater and was naughtier than the regular Follies. As a performer in both shows, Ollie, as she was known, was showered with attention, jewels and furs from many wealthy admirers.

In 1918, Olive Thomas signed a motion picture contract and left Broadway. Known as a wild child in Hollywood, she was the very first film flapper and made many successful motion pictures.
Olive Thomas
Olive Thomas is best remembered today for her marriage to Jack Pickford (Mary's ne'er do well but utterly charming younger brother) and her subsequent scandalous death. In 1920, while vacationing and partying hard with her husband in Paris, Olive accidentally ingested mercury biochloride (prescribed for Jack's chronic syphilis) and died several days later. Pickford was heartbroken and would marry another Ziegfeld Follies Girl a few years later.

Mae Murray (1889-1965)
Mae Murray was a Follies Girl and nightclub performer who found great success in Hollywood. Known as "The Girl With The Bee-Stung Lips," Mae's biggest hit was "The Merry Widow" co-starring John Gilbert and directed by Erich Von Stroheim.

Mae lived the life a real Hollywood Movie Star. She was prone to melodramatic outbursts and married four times, the last time to "Prince" David Mdivani, an alleged Georgian nobleman who mismanaged her career and bilked her out of her fortune.

Mae Murray
The advent of talking pictures and bad career advice from the Prince did Mae in. After a few badly-received talkies, she spent the next years fighting for custody of her son, sustaining a humiliating legal defeat when sued by Hollywood fitness expert Sylvia of Hollywood for roughly $2,000 and performing on stage in a Gay 90's type reviews at Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe. Her refusal to acknowledge her age and insistence on heavy make-up and ill-fitting clothes only further served to tarnish her image.

Mae lived the last years of her life in poverty. At the height of her fame she and other Hollywood notables, including Douglas Fairbanks, C.B. De Mille, Jesse Lasky, Harold Lloyd and Irving Thalberg, were named members of the board of trustees of the Motion Picture Relief Fund (later the Motion Picture and Television Fund), a charitable organization designed to offer financial assistance to those industry veterans who were down on their luck. At the end of her life, Mae received assistance from that organization and died at age 75, a resident of the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland, CA.

It has often been suggested that Mae Murray was Billy Wilder's inspiration for Norma Desmond (she had oil wells pumping behind her home, and when commenting on yet another comeback attempt, said "Once a star, always a star!"). However, Mae's reaction to Wilder's film was "none of us floozies was that nuts!"

Billie Dove (1903 - 1997)
Billie Dove was an exquisite beauty who easily made the move from Follies Girl to Silver Screen Beauty. While her career started in silents, Billie Dove was able to make a smooth transition into talking pictures and was a very popular performer.
Billie Dove
Billie Dove was one of Ziegfled's least controversial and most luscious beauties. Her face and figure were always her fortune, landing her prime roles in such silents as "Polly of the Follies", "Kid Boots" and Fairbank's "The Black Pirate." She proved to be a hit in talking films, as well, and worked steadily until 1932. Following a long affair with and broken engagement to Howard Hughes, she married in 1933 and retired (while still very popular) to be with her family (her marriage lasted for 37 years until her husband's death). Billie was also a pilot, a poet and an artist. She, too, spent her last years in the Motion Picture Country Home.

Louise Brooks (1906 - 1985)
Louis Brooks is one of Ziegfeld's most famous beauties to make the leap from Follies Girl to Movie Star. Before Louise worked for Ziegfeld, she was a Denishawn Dancer as well as a performer in the George White Scandals. While working for Ziegfeld, Louise, who apparently had to beat the men off with a stick, was scooped up by Paramount and given the starlet rush.
Louise Brooks in her Follies Regalia
Louise was kept very busy in Hollywood, gradually getting better parts. However, she never took her work in movies seriously. Her two German films with GW Pabst, "Pandora's Box" and "Diary of a Lost Girl" have cemented her iconic fame. At the time, they were flops and Louise was too perverse, too proud and too much in love with alcohol and good times to take the many helping hands that were extended to her upon her return to Hollywood (she allegedly turned down the Jean Harlow role in "Public Enemy").

After a spectacularly successful youth, she endured a middle age of obscurity and limited funds, first in her home state of Kansas and then in New York City. Finally, it was in Rochester, NY, home of the Eastman-Kodak House, where, as a first-class writer on film, she was re-discovered and re-adored as  "The Girl With the Black Helmet," the bobbed Kansas beauty who, by way of Broadway and Berlin, became respected as an actress and keen observer of Hollywood.

Marilyn Miller (1898 - 1936)
Marilyn Miller was one of Ziegfeld's biggest stars. Not a Follies Girl, but a headliner and Broadway musical star and dancer supreme, her stage career was largely associated with Ziegfeld, starring for him in the 1918 and 1919 Follies. Her greatest success came in the Ziegfeld-produced Jerome Kern musical, "Sally." In the role she was know best for, she epitomized the Cinderella girl who "Looks For The Silver Lining." Marilyn had many offers to come to Hollywood in the 1920s, but she wisely refused them.

Off stage, Marilyn was known to have a way with salty language. In 1921, she lost her fist husband, dancer Frank Carter, in a car crash. In 1922, Marilyn Miller married Jack Pickford (widower of Olive Thomas). Able to spend time at her in-laws home, Pickfair, Marilyn had a chance to break into Hollywood in a big way, but still was not swayed. By all accounts it was not a happy union, and she and Jack divorced in 1927.
Marilyn Miller
Talking pictures finally lured Marilyn to Hollywood. She signed a contract with Warner Brothers (she and Jack Warner had a brief but stormy affair) and had a major hit with a screen version of "Sally." Another film version of her Broadways hit, "Sunny" followed and was also successful, but the tide turned quickly against musicals. After a third film that proved unsuccessful, Marilyn traveled east to Broadway, her true home.

Her personal life was filled with sadness and her final years were spent drinking too much and suffering from debilitating sinus infections. It was a botched sinus surgery that caused her early death in 1936 and age 37. Many year after her death, a young starlet's name was changed to evoke the blonde beauty of Marilyn Miller. Thus Norma Jean Baker was crowned Marilyn Monroe.

Other Ziegfeld Girls that had successful careers in Hollywood
While there are many others, here are a few of Florenz Ziegfeld others "Girls" who went on to glory on the silver screen  (and who seemed to master the over the shoulder come-hither look):
Marion Davies: WR Hearst got her away from Ziggy
Dorothy Mackaill: Successful in Silents & Sound
Mary Eaton: Groomed by Ziggy as Marilyn Miler's Replacement
Barbara Stanwyck: Did Her Time as a Follies Girl
Finally, the beautiful Jean Ackerman. She only had a few small roles in films, but she was so stunningly beautiful that I had to include her photo:
Jean Ackerman - Glorifying the American Girl
Flo Didn't Always Know
Astute as he was, Ziggy didn't always have a "cinematic" eye for beauty and let these applicants slip though his fingers: Norma Shearer, Lucille Ball, Joan Crawford and Eleanor Powell. They traveled west and seemed to do pretty well for themselves, in spite of the showman's rejection.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Brunettes in a Blonde World: The Lost Diaries of Ann Dvorak and Miriam Cooper

The long lost diaries of two of old Hollywood's most alluring brunettes have been discovered! While Miriam Cooper worked in the teens and early 20s and Ann Dvorak worked primarily in the 1930s and 40s, both seemed to have struggled  against the rule of the Hollywood Blondes. Keep reading for a sneak peek at some of their most provocative inner thoughts. Remember - you read it here first!
Miriam Cooper
Dear Diary:
I am so excited to be working in motion pictures for Mr. D.W. Griffith. He thinks I am a very talented actress and will be using me in his pictures. As I look around me here at the Biograph Studio, I notice that most of the actresses who are getting the big parts (like Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish and Blanche Sweet) are all blondes. I hope that doesn't make a difference. MC

Dear Diary:
Mr Griffith has promised me some interesting parts, but he seems to be favoring the blondes. I hope this changes. I don't want to have to dye  my hair!
p.s. I hear we are travelling out to California to make pictures. Maybe the sun will lighten my hair! MC

Dear Diary: 
Mr. Griffith has given me a very nice role in his "Birth of a Nation." However, the showier roles are going to Lillian Gish and Mae Marsh. Need I say they are BLONDES? Really, what is wrong with men? A little yellow hair and they go nuts. I am not going to tolerate this too much longer. MC

Dear Diary:
Mr. Griffith is making a very big picture called "Intolerance" and I have a very important part. However, the girl I play is very bad and the cause of a lot of trouble. She is called "The Friendless One." I told Mr. Griffith I'd much rather play a nice girl, but he thought that my dark hair made a perfect choice to play a woman of questionable character and virtue. From what I can see, these blondes are not as virtuous off screen as on! MC
Dear Diary:
I have left Mr. Griffith and have married a wonderful director, Raoul Walsh (he likes brunettes!). I think he will go far! I would like to retire from pictures, but he wants me to help him make a movie of Longfellow's "Evalgeline." At first I refused, but when the studio sent a BLONDE actress to play a role so clearly defined as a BRUNETTE I just had to step in and agreed to star! These blondes are everywhere and even girls who were once brunettes are now blondes.I am glad I shall be retiring soon. I feel sorry for other brunette actresses coming up. Mary Pickford, Mary Miles Minter, Lillian Gish and Blanche Sweet have ruined it for us! I wish someone would ban hair bleach and then we'd all be equal! MC

Dear Diary: 
Although I am "retired," I still have to make occasional appearances on a movie set. Why? Because this hussy - Theda Bara - is making a play for my husband! And, knowing his attraction to brunettes, I have to be concerned. Really, does Theda have to  devour every man in sight? (And, I mght add, she looks as though as has devoured one too many). This is one time I wish a blonde was working with Raoul! MC
Ann Dvorak

Dear Diary:
After working in the chorus for years, I have finally been given some great parts at Warner Brothers.  There are several of those blondes (Jack Warner's squeeze, Marilyn Miller, and new kids Bette Davis, Joan Blondell and someone named Jean Harlow) nipping at my heels, but this brunette intends to stay one step ahead of them! By the way - do you think Joan's last name is really "Blondell"? Seems fishy.... AD

Dear Diary:
Still holding my own here at Warner's, though these blondes are getting more platinum by the day. The lighter the hair, the bigger that part, it seems. Harlow may have left the lot, but her hair remains behind. AD

Dear Diary:
Grrrrrr. If you are not a blonde, you are invisible in this town! Joan Crawford at MGM is now a platinum blonde, Bette Davis has been bleached right here and Paramount is throwing Mae West in our faces. I'm still fighting for bigger roles and think I have landed a good one: something called "The Strange Love of Molly Louvain." Can't wait to get started on it! AD

Dear Diary:
(Curse words crossed out). Look what they have done to me! What is it about the blonde hair that drives these men crazy? 
I am ready to quit! If you don't have hay growing out of your head, you're dead in this town. I wonder if Jean Harlow is a natural blonde. I wonder if anyone cares. AD

Dear Diary:
Well, it's been a few years since I left Hollywood in a snit, but I am back. They still have me in the service of the blondes (who the hell is Marie Windsor, any way?) Some things never change.
But, I do have a pretty good little part in a film called "A Life of Her Own" and guess who  the star is - that xx&^%#@# blonde, Lana Turner. I guess I'll just have to wipe the screen with her! AD
Editor's Note
Seems as though the Hollywood blondes were too much for both Miriam and Ann. Both had careers that were eclipsed by famous towheads.

Miriam had to combat the virtuous blondes:
Mary Pickford
Mary Miles Minter
Lillian Gish

Ann had it even tougher:

While the blondes of the 20s were good-girl types, once Jean Harlow hit the scene in the early 30s, every starlet who was reasonably fair was plucked and platinumed to take their place on the Harlow Hair Express:
Alice Faye
Bette Davis
Joan Crawford
Even Garbo was not spared!
And, of course, the one who caused all the ruckus in the 1930s:
"The Baby" herself
Form Harlow to Monroe, Kim Novak to Farrah Fawcett, Carole Lombard to Betty Grable,  Lana Turner to Grace Kelly and Veronica Lake to Julie Christie, still we brunettes ask: Just what is it about those blondes, anyway?