Tuesday, October 30, 2012

HALLOWEEN PUBLICITY PHOTOS: It's Scary What a Starlet Has to Do

Pity the poor starlet of yesteryear. If she was young, pretty and oh-so-hopeful for full-fledged fame and fortune, she had to submit to some pretty humiliating photo sessions - all in the name of publicity. Once they were famous, I'll bet these gals would not have considered these photos too much of a treat.

Mary Pickford donned her anklets for this Halloween pose
Silent sweetie Bessie Love puts on her best
Halloween smile (love the shooties)
Clara Bow was a real trouper and sat for seemingly
endless Halloween photos. Here she looks especially adorable.
Nancy Carroll was another cutie who seemed to
have to pose with  a plethora of pumpkins
Another pumpkin pose from the lovely Nancy Carroll
Beautiful Anita Page was always ready, willing and
able when it came to nutty publicity photos
Poor Joan Crawford - not her best look
The very feline Paulette Goddard (again - love the shoes)
Even Ida Lupino had to be blonde and cute and pose with a gourd

Pretty Pier Angeli is looking for a good script.....
Ann Miller confides that she is ready for her close-up
And here she is - looking pretty terrific
Doris Day is always a treat 365 days a year
 And just in case you were wondering if any male beauties had to endure such posing....well, this is the best I could come up with!

Jimmy Durante poses with an artfully carved pumpkin
Wishing you all a Halloween filled with thrills, chills, fun tricks and even better treats!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

BITCHES & BLAGGARDS: Glenn Close and Michael Douglas

This is the ninth in the "Bitches and Blaggards" series; posts devoted to my favorite movie bad girls and rogues.  A bitch is a selfish, malicious woman. A blaggard is a villain, a rogue and a black-hearted man. Both are bad, both are devastatingly alluring.

October's B&B are Michael Douglas and Glenn Close.  I must say it feels a bit strange to be writing about people who still walk among us, but I shall press on.
Glenn Close

Glenn Close is one of my favorite actresses. Like Meryl Streep, there seems to be nothing this lady can’t do. However, unlike Meryl, Glenn wears nasty like a second skin. Even where Meryl was the B in the Office in “The Devil Wears Prada,” you knew she had a bit of a soft spot for her clueless assistant. If Glenn played Miranda Priestly, little Annie Hathaway’s pet rabbit might have been stew. Glenn can play sweet and angelic, but I like her best as a bitch with great style and an even greater attitude and wardrobe. She's bad, she knows it and she likes it!

Fatal Attraction

Is Alex really a bitch? Well, she was to the bunny, I admit. And she is generally viewed as every man’s nightmare of the woman scorned, but I think she just lacks self-control and self-esteem. After all, look at her: she is attractive and successful. Obviously something is missing, but the pregnancy, well, maybe it was the hormones? Was Michael Douglas a victim here? Oh, I could go on for days, but see below.

Dangerous Liaisons

As the manipulative and bitter Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil, Glenn is a menace! She and Valmont (played with equal bile by John Malkovich) play their little cold-hearted games of seduction and ruination. Merteuil shows she has nerves of steel at the end of the game, but even cracked ice melts. Glenn is truly brilliant when she comes face to face with herself.

101 Dalmatians

As a real life Cruella De Vil, Glenn is a vision in black and white fur and cigarette holders (with a dash of Norma Desmond). She wants the puppies, she needs the puppies and, therefore, she must have the puppies! Fun, nasty, and totally over the top, her cartoon villainy is unforgettable.

Add these to her sizzling (like in the fires of hell) performance in the TV series “Damages,” and Glenn’s body of wicked work places her front and center among those we’d like to see in the bitch hall of fame.

Michael Douglas

Remember when Michael Douglas was referred to as Kirk Douglas’ son? Now Michael is such a huge star that Kirk Douglas is known as Michael Douglas’ dad. A real movie star who can act, Michael can play good but troubled and be totally believable and sympathetic, but it’s as a charming bad-ass with a flawed moral compass that I like him best. When Michael is bad, it usually takes a mighty force to stop him.

Wall Street
Yes, greed is good and Gordon Gekko is bad. But is he really bad or just a victim of society's endless apatite for more? Or a symbol? Oh, who cares. Douglas is dynamic, appealing, repulsive and drop dead alluring. Buy!

A Perfect Murder
Why can't Mike just love Gwen and why can't Gwen stop fooling around with her murderous lover? They have a great life and a great apartment. Mike - just ask Gwen for the money - she has it. But no, more fun to have her killed - by her boyfriend (talk about having your cake and eating it, too). You're a twisted fellow, but my, you look good in a $4,000 suit.

Fatal Attraction

While the focus is on Glenn Close's out of control Alex, let's look at the creep she latched on to: great life great wife, great kid. But, oh, he's lonely because wifey left him on his own for a while. So, he picks up what he thinks is a tissue he can blow his nose in and discard and - oops - not so fast - she demands attention. Douglas is great as the bastard with a victim complex. He and Close do a dangerous dance that is unforgettable and unsolvable (until wifey appears with a gun). Hey, all the guy wanted was a little cheap sex for free.

Both Glenn Close and Michael Douglas are two actors whose films I would go to see just because they are in them. Now, that's a star!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Kid: Correcting Life Through Art

This is my entry in The Kid in the Front Row's global challenge to bloggers to watch the same movie at the same time and then blog about it today. Since he is the Kid in the Front Row, he has requested that the film we watch and write about be Charlie Chaplin's "The Kid."

Do you believe in the mystic powers of the universe? Do you believe that a force must make itself be head at all costs? Do you believe that the notes from a song, an image, an email from afar or a dream could all be part of the message that must be acknowledged?
I have loved Charlie Chaplin for a very long time now, but as with many of my obsessions, my passion waxes and wanes. It had been a bit on the waning side of late, owing to other pressing issues (like Cary Grant), but something has been stirring. First, a new show opened on Broadway called “Chaplin: The Musical.” I saw it twice in three weeks. I simply couldn't resist. While at the show, I picked up a book (Chaplin: A Life) written by psychiatrist Dr. Stephen Weissman and have immersed myself in the psychology of Mr. C, particularly how his childhood shaped his work. Meanwhile, Charlie has been creeping more and more into my blog. He is a persistent fellow.

Being immersed in this story, I did a Google on the word “Chaplinesque” and wrote a blog about it. The poet, Hart Crane, coined the word in his poem after seeing  “The Kid.” So, I felt it appropriate to help define the word in Charlie’s own words about that film ("a smile - and perhaps, a tear").

Right after I posted the article (and I do mean right after), I received an email regarding the challenge and the chosen film. Okay universe, I am listening.

So now, what can I say, Charlie, except that besides being a genius, an artist, and a poet, you are a mystical wizard who reaches across the decades and pulls us towards you again and again and again. As with your dream of angels and love in the film, so does your Little Tramp continue to pull at our heartstrings, haunt our dreams and invade our subconscious.

If you have seen "The Kid," I do not have to tell you how funny and heartbreaking and beautiful this film is. If you haven't seen it, I hope my enthusiasm for it will inspire you to seek it out. The story, created by Chaplin shortly after the death of his infant son, is a story of abandonment, poverty and homelessness that parallels Chaplin's own Dickensian London childhood. But, because the artist has control of the story, art does not have to imitate life. In film, the child is loved and ultimately reunited with a loving mother.
Charlie is not sure he wants to take on this responsibility!

In addition to the beautiful balm that Chaplin puts on his poverty-stricken childhood, "The Kid" offers many other wonders. A few of my favorites:

The magical Jackie Coogan: As a pint-sized Charlie, he is second to none in adorableness and skill. When  he cries for his papa it is impossible not to be moved. When he smiles, you heart can not help but melt. He may have been totally coached by Charlie, but Jackie proved to be Chaplin's most worthy co-star and is a total scene-stealer.

The beautiful Edna Purviance in her only feature length film with Chaplin: Edna was nearing the end of her on-screen relationship with Charlie, but here she is presented as a beautiful woman and loving mother and she is lovely and moving. She deserves every loving close-up he gives her.

Some awfully funny Chaplin gags: his initial ambivilence about caring for the baby, his makeshift nursery, and his crooked glazier business are all side splitting, but the one that gets me every time is Charlie's outrageous flirtation with the woman whose window Jackie has broken.

A peek into the mean streets of Chaplin's London boyhood: although filmed in Los Angeles, the feel is Oliver Twist and we feel Chaplin knows this landscape.

 So, thank you, Kid in the Front Row, for creating a global bow and tip of the hat to that most universal master of film. Not into silents? Think of this film as a concert for the eyes. Set to Chaplin's own 1971 musical score, every move tells a story, and every gesture gives us a precious glimpse into the heart of a true artist of the cinema: our beloved Little Tramp, our Lion, Charlie Chaplin.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


Being in a totally besotted Charlie Chaplin mood these days, I came across the origin of the word "Chaplinesque." While the dictionaries define it as relating to the films or character of Chaplin, somehow it means more than that.

After seeing Chaplin's "The Kid," American poet Hart Crane knew he had seen a fellow poet on the screen and was inspired to write about what it means to have the soul of a poet in this world:

by Hart Crane
We make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered and too ample pockets.
For we can still love the world, who find
A famished kitten on the step, and know
Recesses for it from the fury of the street,
Or warm torn elbow coverts.
We will sidestep, and to the final smirk
Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
Facing the dull squint with what innocence
And what surprise!
And yet these fine collapses are not lies
More than the pirouettes of any pliant cane;
Our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise.
We can evade you, and all else but the heart:
What blame to us if the heart live on.
The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.
The poet must tell truths for all society's outcasts. The poet, he of sensitive heart, will rescue one even more downtrodden. There is always  more than the cane and the swift kick in the pants. Chaplin, despite the great fame and wealth he achieved, never could shake his early years of poverty and deprivation. In his films, he never stopped remembering how society rejects the disadvantaged. With gaiety and pathos, he never forgot the common man. And he never stopped trying to rescue the kitten in the wilderness or the damsel in distress. Chaplinesque: something with a smile and, perhaps, a tear.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Irksome Jimmy Stewart

Who doesn't love Jimmy Stewart? 

I certainly adore him. In youth he is sweet and funny and very human (oh, and super cute, too). As he aged, the charm remained and a mature wisdom and reliability was added to the package. So why then are the three movie characters I find most irksome all played by Jimmy Stewart?

Rear Window

Mr. Good Times
As L.B. “Jeff” Jeffries, the wheelchair-bound photographer, Jimmy is one royal pain in the butt. I mean, here is Grace Kelly, beautiful, luscious and oh-so-available; practically throwing herself at him throughout the entire picture and his is just cranky. He is downright cruel to her, suggesting that they just keep things “status quo” without any hope for the future. What a guy. Come to my apartment, sleep with me, and let’s keep it at that. Really, every time I see that scene, I want Grace to just say “see ya.” But, I guess that would ruin a great movie. 

A girl like Lisa Carol Fremont should NOT have to work this hard
He does eventually warm to Lisa after she shows herself to have the adventurer’s spirit, but the poor thing practically has to get killed to get him to notice her. He really is no fun.


This is a man losing his grip
As Detective John “Scottie” Ferguson, Jimmy is an obsessed man whose disregard for Judy Barton is borderline nuts. First, he brushes off the perfectly lovely, level-headed Midge. Too normal, I guess. 
Midge - you don't know it, but it was your lucky day when you
walked down that hospital corridor without  Johnny-O
Judy holds the secret of her identity as the dead and adored Madeleine, so she reluctantly plays along with his little makeover scheme. But Jimmy is a real tyrant here, bullying Judy, bullying the saleslady who sells the suit, the dress and the shoes, as well as the beautician who must get just the right shade of blonde

Just one of Judy's "WTF" moments
He has a right to be miffed that he was played for a sucker, but the dragging of Judy up the tower is pretty vicious. Couldn't he have just called the cops?

The Philadelphia Story

Why Ruth wants this sourpuss is a mystery
As pompous man of the people reporter Macaulay “Mike” Connor, Jimmy is only slightly more likable than George Kittridge, the man Katharine Hepburn's Tracy Lord plans to marry. He is smart, but he is oblivious to co-worker Ruth Hussey’s devotion to him. 
Is there really more than one choice?
Instead, he falls for a woman whose character and class he been berating on a non-stop basis. He is ultimately a gentleman, but a truly annoying one. Tracy is grateful for the attention, but she has her head on straight when she chooses ex-husband Cary Grant (as CK Dexter Haven) over the reporter. He is more fun and poor Ruth Hussey only gets him by default. I’ll bet he’ll spend their marriage pining for Tracy and complaining about what a stuck up snob she is.

Note to self: quit complaining - you know you love the guy!
Of course, all of this means that Hitchcock had issues and Jimmy Stewart is a fine and complex actor. These three characters irk me to death and yet these are three of my favorite films. I think, perhaps, that characters who go by names other than those given to them are just plain annoying. That must be it.