Sunday, December 29, 2013

Happy New Year in Living Color

While I absolutely abhor the practice of colorizing black and white films (a fad that has happily died), I have to admit that I am utterly fascinated with the colorization of black and white portraits of film stars. As I poke through cyberspace always looking for the right photo to accompany a blog post, I am struck by some of the beautiful work out there. I have many vintage hand colored postcards that are lovely, but I have to say I am really liking computer technology for this purpose.

So, I'd like to post a few of my favorites and take this opportunity to wish you all the happiest of new years. I have it on good authority that 2014 is going to be a wonderful year!

Aren't these just the bee's knees? Many thanks to the artists who generously share these with us.

Garbo and Adrian do it again in "Romance"

Garbo's eyes were the bluest of blues - I love this one

Vivien Leigh looking divine in "Waterloo Bridge"

Clark Gable looking even finer in color

I like this colorization of Harlow. Sometimes her hair comes
out looking electroplated, but here she looks very natural

Ronald Colman and Vilma Banky looking colorfully gorgeous

Valentino smolders in color.

Glorious Gloria even more glorious in color

William Powell and Clara Bow toast 
to the new year! I am totally loving Clara's gloves.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Clara Bow and Gilbert Roland: Brief Romance, Lasting Tenderness

I am hoping that someday a movie will be made about the life of Clara Bow. Not a trashy version based on scandals, but an insightful depiction of a life filled with enough tragedy and heartbreak to give those Greeks a run for their money. God knows this poor woman was exploited  enough in her lifetime, so one can only hope that the real drama of her life would suffice and she would be treated with kindness and respect.
The "It Girl": flappers, speakeasies and hooch in a flask
Unfortunately, kindness and respect were two things that Clara rarely encountered. Raised by a mentally unstable mother who tried to kill her and emotionally chained to a monster of a father who abused her in more ways than one, Clara was desperate for love, but, unguided, ran wild through the Roaring Twenties in Hollywood. Her youthful errors and unsophisticated Brooklyn background made her a target of the press. Her employer, Paramount, used her up and abandoned her. By 26 she was done. Mental and/or emotional illness followed and she lived out the rest of her life as a virtual recluse.

David Stenn's Bow biography, "Runnin' Wild," tells Clara's story with great compassion. Known for the many men in her life (Gary Cooper, Victor Fleming, Harry Richman, and husband Rex Bell to name a few), there is one story of a romantic encounter that stands out and touches my heart: her romance and engagement to actor Gilbert Roland.

Gilbert Roland (born Luis Antonio Dámaso de Alonso in Mexico) thought me might become a bullfighter like his father, but instead tried his hand at acting (his rechristened name being a combo of John Gilbert and Ruth Roland). He was gorgeous and the fact that he barely spoke English didn't matter in the days of silent films. He and Clara met when both were filming The Plastic Age in  1925. Based on a "banned in Boston" novel, The Plastic Age tells the story of those wild college kids of the 20s who do things that would make their parents blush.

Beautiful Clara and beautiful Gilbert, both 20 years old, soon became romantically involved. Clara later described Roland as her "first really big love experience." Young Budd Schulberg, son of producer B.P. Schulberg, was befriended by Clara on the film and recalled the blossoming romance when Roland handed him a note to pass to Clara:
The young lovers of "The Plastic Age"

"I don't know what was in the note because I was too conscientious to read it, especially when I could feel his strong Latin eyes drilling into my back as I caught up with Clara and delivered it. She mumbled 'Oh, thanks, Buddy, sweet of ya,' and took a quick glance over her shoulder at the young bullfighter turned actor. That evening they came into the local hotel dining room together, two head-turning twenty-year-olds whom my father had put together from such totally different worlds - Chihuahua and Brooklyn."

Roland was rugged, but sweet and both shared social insecurities: his because of his limited ability to speak English at that point and hers from a general lack of self-esteem that plagued her throughout her life. "We was real happy," said Clara, "sorta like two youngsters that didn't know what [life] was all about and was scared t'death of it." Bow's monster dad hated Roland because he was Mexican and Catholic (calling him a "greasy Mexican"), but her possessive father hated any man that came near his daughter.
Young Love

Clara and her bullfighter continued to have an ardent relationship for a time, but Clara was the girl of the moment and she could not resist the temptation of the attention of Victor Fleming and socialite Robert Savage who tried to commit suicide when Clara rejected him. When the press called Clara on the carpet for her dalliance with Savage she had a great comment:

"Well, lemme tell ya this. When a man attempts suicide over a woman, he don't cut his wrists with a safety razor blade, then drape himself over a couch with a cigarette between his lips. No, they don't do it that way. They use pistols."

Nevertheless, Clara's wandering ways and Roland's jealousy put an end to the youthful romance, but both remembered one another fondly for the rest of their days. She chose Roland as her costar in one of her last films, the successful Call her Savage. Many years after Clara's career had ended and she was living in seclusion, Roland was one of the few people she allowed to visit her. "Still handsome and still my favorite actor," she said. They spoke regularly and this one letter illustrates why Clara never shut him out of her life:

Hello, Clarita Girl:

I am truly sad that you don't feel well. Sometimes when I go to church and I think of you, I say a prayer. It will be heard. God hears everything.

You tell me that you long for your boys. I share your feelings. My daughters are with their mother in Wiesbaden, Germany. And there is nothing I can do, except cry a little once in a while.

I hope someday they show "The Plastic Age." It would be wonderful to see that dancing scene, you and I. It would be pleasant seeing how I looked when I was your beau and you were my dream girl. It would be pleasant seeing that. And then it might be very beautiful, and suddenly it might be very sad.

It seems you are in my thoughts.
It's good to feel that way.
It's good I have never forgotten you.
God bless you.

Could you have ever parted with a letter like that?

After Clara, Roland went on to romance Norma Talmadge and marry Constance Bennett (the mother of his two children). After divorcing Bennett, he wed again and remained married to the same woman for 40 years (until his death). Known as "Amigo," he was indeed a loyal friend to a fragile woman who was his "dream girl."

Clara Bow & Gilbert Roland in "Call Her Savage"

Sunday, December 1, 2013

CMBA Blogathon: Film Passion 101: Starstruck by Cagney in The Public Enemy

This is my contribution to the Classic Movie Blog Association Blogathon: Film Passion 101. Click here for the full roster of fabulous entries!

I must have been about 10 or 11. My parents were going out for the afternoon. I assume my older sister was enlisted to be home, as well, but it felt as though I was home alone. I’m pretty sure it was a Sunday. I had probably just finished watching the 3-hour Sunday morning show, Wonderama (WNEW Channel 5 New York), and do recall being intrigued enough by the upcoming teaser to stay put and watch the afternoon movie, The Public Enemy.
Charisma to burn!
I almost turned it off. It was so old! The sound was so scratchy! And then he appeared and my life was never the same. It was Cagney and I was in love*. Who was this man? Was he alive? Dead? Famous? Forgotten? My knowledge of old-time stars up to that point consisted of Abbot and Costello, the Three Stooges and Bette Davis, Olivia DeHavilland and Joseph Cotton (thanks to an accidental trip to the movies to see Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte that had a live appearance by Bette and Olivia, but that’s another story). I do recall seeing Alice Faye and Bing Crosby on a show called Hollywood Palace, but not in any movies that I was willing to sit through.
But back to Cagney. I was under his spell. I had to know more about him. When my mom got home I was full of questions. She answered as best she could, but it was hardly enough. Monday brought a trip to the library to look up anything and everything about the man. Weeks were spent examining each new TV Guide to see when a Cagney picture would be shown, as I wanted to see them all (by my count he starred in 61 feature films; I’ve seen 50 – most of them on WNEW, who seemed to have the rights to a lot of old Warner Brothers films). While I love the Internet, I have to admit that nothing beats that exciting feeling when you are digging through old books and magazines and come upon a treasured piece of information.

Harlow was horrible, but who cared?
So, I loved the Public Enemy because of Cagney. I later learned that my Dad had a big crush of Joan Blondell and that Jean Harlow was not the world’s worst actress (my Aunt Lois apparently loved Harlow as a kid, kept a scrapbook, called her only by her first name and informed me that Jean never wore underwear). Oh, and that ending (Oh the awful sound of that rain, and did the size of that curb and Jimmy being sent home to his Irish mother wrapped as a mummy) scared the beejezus out of me. Poor Jimmy!!!

My love of classic film is always anchored to the star. Cinematography, director, all that stuff never much interested me and still really doesn't, although I have learned to appreciate it much more. I was star struck by James Cagney in The Public Enemy and from there it was just a short trip to this down the rabbit hole.
James Cagney

Bette Davis                               Ann Sheridan                          Joan Crawford
Ann Dvorak
Kay Francis                                            ê

                 Cary Grant

Katharine Hepburn                      Audrey Hepburn                Doris Day             
Spencer Tracy                              William Holden                James Garner
                                                       Gloria Swanson

                                                  Charlie Chaplin             
Edna Purviance                                   ê                               Buster Keaton
                                                    Mary Pickford
                                                 Douglas Fairbanks

 and so on and so on and so on.........................

Of course, that was only the beginning.....

* Before my massive crush on Cagney, I did have a kid-crush on the host of Wonderama, Sonny Fox.
Who sorta looks like my #1 movie star love affair of all time, doesn't he?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Make 2014 a Year Under the Stars with the official FlickChick calendar!

And just because I am so thankful that you've kept me blogging for over 3 years, and because it is that thankful, festive and magical time of year, 5 lucky readers will have the chance to spend 2014 with some of our favorite stars.

Have a peek:
Gloria Swanson graces the cover

Cary Grant and Clark Gable: Mr. January and Mr. February.
What a way to start the year!

Joan Crawford and Bette Davis usher in the springtime.
I wonder how they feel about sharing the same season?

Gary Cooper and Errol Flynn are on hand in May and June.
Swooning allowed!

Clara Bow and Gene Kelly sizzle over the summer

Greta Garbo shows Buster how to smile and still be mysterious

Gene Tierney and Irene  Dunne wrap up a beautiful year under the stars

Ready to take a chance to win one?

Any time between now and December 1, 2013, just email me at and write "Calendar Giveaway" in the comment section. 5 lucky winners will be chosen and notified.

Good Luck!!! 

Sunday, November 17, 2013


Ann Dvorak is one of my favorite actresses. Not a star of the magnitude of Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Crawford or her Warner Brothers team mate, Bette Davis, she certainly deserves more than the usual “who”” or “I don’t know anything about her” that are the usual responses to my gushings about her. Her list of quality films is short (but her list of quality performances is not). She was not a household name or a world-class beauty and she lived a life largely out of the spotlight. Consequently, she has proved to be an elusive, even mysterious, idol.

When I got wind that Christina Rice was writing a bio of my darling Ann, I was over the moon. At last, I would have some insight into this lovely, magnetic woman who burned so brightly for a short time and then seemed to disappear in fits and starts in largely forgettable films. I have waited patiently for Ms. Rice to complete her work and I am thrilled to report that she did not disappoint this fan of Ann. Oh, it was a delicious feeling opening that Amazon package and at last holding the key to Ann Dvorak in my hands!
Christmas came early this year!!

And so now I know her story. The child of show business parents, Ann grew up on the sidelines but had the show business in her blood. Her father was a show biz entrepreneur of sorts and her mother was silent film star Anna Lehr. Anna who? Exactly. Anna Lehr was a reasonably successful silent film actress who was all but forgotten by the time Ann was breaking into films. She was always a cautionary figure to Ann of the ephemeral nature of fame.
Ann gave an electric performance as Cesca in "Scarface" (1932)

While the young Hollywood resident dreamed of a career as a journalist, practicality and financial circumstances dictated that Ann seek work in the town’s film studios. She eventually landed at MGM as a chorus performer, appearing in countless musicals as just one of the girls. She also had some teaching skills and served as a dance instructor. It was in this capacity that she was befriended by star Joan Crawford, who tried like the devil to get Ann some screen time. Sadly, MGM was just not interested. Another actress friend, Karen Morley, had better luck. It was through her that Ann eventually landed the Cinderella part of an inexperienced actress’ lifetime: that of Cesca in Howard Hughes’ 1932 film, “Scarface.” Ann is unforgettable and she seemed headed for the top. Warner Brothers wanted her badly and eventually she made that studio her home.
As a young contract player, Ann was paired with the best

But, it never was really home. Notorious for their slave-driver methods, Ann and Warner Brothers were never an easy fit. While her focus had always been on her career, that all changed when she met the man who would change her life (and not always for the better): Actor Leslie Fenton. It seems that it was love at first sight and it was a passion that endured much. Ann, almost a decade younger than Fenton, was bewitched by him as he assumed control of her life. Once she became Mrs. Fenton, her marriage took center stage and her career a back seat. Fenton was an actor/director with little respect for Hollywood, and under his guidance she abandoned her contract at Warner’s to take a year off and travel the world with her husband. No doubt with his encouragement, she spoke out to the press against her employer. As you can imagine, Warner’s were not pleased with their wayward star’s antics off screen.
Ann flashes her wedding ring with hubby Leslie Fenton
Once Ann returned to the fold (after all, the couple needed the money) Ann was reduced to thankless parts in mostly supporting films as she continued to battle the studio. It is interesting to watch the paths of both hers and Bette Davis’ careers during these years. At one time they were on the same level at the studio. You might even say that Ann had a leg up, as she certainly got the meatier roles in both “Three on a Match” and “Housewife,” the 2 films in which they appeared together. But Davis was single minded about her career and Ann was not. She wanted to live, see the world, be with her husband and experience more than the movies had to offer. Sadly, her career suffered mightily. She went on to pick an enormous fight with Warner’s that left her career in shambles. While she might have paved the way for those other Warner rebels Cagney, Davis and DeHavilland, Ann’s case against the company was not strong and she paid the price dearly. The promise of the dark beauty who enthralled in “Scarface,” “Three on a Match” and other pre-code dramas never came to fruition and Ann Dvorak became another good actress competing for decent parts.

Fenton, British by birth, went home to serve in the war. Ann accompanied him and did not sit home and knit booties. Our intrepid heroine joined the war effort as an ambulance driver. While London was being bombed, Ann chose not to wait at home in Hollywood, but to actually risk her own life to save others. When not driving an ambulance, she was entertaining the troops. During this time Ann changed from a dependent wife to an independent woman.
Ann had many varied interests and always had a green thumb
Sadly, her marriage to Fenton was a casualty of war, as well. Ann married 2 more times, both times not too well. Her fortunes waned over the years and, after her last film in 1951, she retired to Hawaii where she lived a life completely out of the spotlight. After the death of her beloved mother and her 3rd husband, Ann was alone and living on a very modest income. The life of a glamorous movie star was very far away when she died in Hawaii at age 68.

Christina Rice has produced a book of impeccable research. She writes with clarity and compassion and has given us a portrait of a woman whose life was filled with might-have-beens. While they do not look alike, Ann Dvorak has always reminded me a bit of Vivien Leigh. Perhaps it is their feline qualities. Both women followed their hearts and their men. But where Leigh followed the great Olivier, Ann followed men who did her little good.
The unforgettable Ann Dvorak

Lucky for us that Ann Dvorak’s finest performances are still with us. From her tragic Vivian Revere in 1932's “Three on a Match” to her pitiful Mary Ashlon in 1950's “A Life of Her Own” (films that bookend her career and, ironically, both end with her taking a swan dive out of a high rise window). Ann Dvorak might not have been the biggest star in Hollywood, but she was unlike anyone else. Once you see her, you never forget her.

Friday, November 8, 2013


This post is my entry in the What a Character Blogathon, sponsored by Once Upon a Screen, Outspoken & Freckled, and Paula's Cinema Club. Click on the links to these super blogs to read more about all of those marvelous characters that make the movies great!

There are not many 100% true statements in this world (movie-wise and otherwise), but this statement is 100% true: All movies are made better by Tony Randall's participation. But, you already knew that, didn't you?

What I really wanted to write about is how much better off Doris Day would have been had she chosen Tony over Rock Hudson.

Let’s examine:

Pillow Talk:

Doris, you dope, choose Tony!
Millionaire Jonathan Forbes (Tony) has a major crush on Jan Morrow (Doris). He knows what she does (an interior designer) and who she is (an independent working woman) and not only accepts her for it, but is positively gaga over her. Shameless wolf Brad Allen (Rock) spies Doris, likes her caboose, and plays all sorts of head games on her to get her alone and in a prone position.

Okay, Brad/Rock is a hunk, but Jonathan/Tony is no slouch. He is as cute as a puppy and he is a millionaire! He is a good dresser and I am sure he would worship the ground Doris/Jan walks on.

Bad call for Doris. The relationship with Brad will be doomed. In Pillow Talk 2, Jan comes to her senses and marries Jonathan, who rubs her feet every night and gazes dreamily into her eyes.

Lover Come Back

Always a great friend
Tony (Pete Ramsey) doesn't even get a shot at Doris (who never looked lovelier) here. In fact, the only amorous advances made at him come from a moose. But again, Rock’s Jerry is a shady guy who actually knocks up Doris. Tony’s Pete was a gentleman and a gentleman with money. Oh Doris, how successful you could have been as an advertising exec if you only hooked up with Pete!
Send Me No Flowers

Rock - stop standing between Doris and Tony!
Rock Hudson thinks he is dying and thinks he needs to select a successor husband for Doris. Hello! Best Friend Tony is right there – ready, willing and able. Die Rock Die and let Doris be happy at last!

Tony Randall was so much more than the supporting player of the Doris and Rock pictures. He was a capable leading player and, when supporting, could hold up his end mightier than any colossus. As a leading player, he was wonderful as Rocky in "Will Success Spoil Rock Hudson." It's not surprising movie goddess Jayne Mansfield called him "lover doll."

Jayne and her "Lover Doll."

Debbie Reynolds and Tony enjoy a roll in the hay in "The Mating Game"

But Tony really was the guy who made all things better just by being there.
He was joy incarnate and a treasure in both film and TV. I love his Felix Unger because he made an essentially annoying character totally lovable. And how happy was I when, in 2003, he made an appearance in the Doris Day/Rock Hudosn homage/rip-off called "Down With Love"? Very happy. 

A while back I posted a big gushing love letter to Mr. Randall and, much to my surprise a comment was left by his widow, Heather.  Her comment, in part:

Well I actually loved him! I'm his widow and I miss him all the time. Seeing these comments fills me with happiness and I'm so glad our kids will get to see these comments and understand how much he was admired and loved. 
(click HERE for the post and all comments)

He was brilliant and generous of spirit and he loved his profession. And it is all contagious. He is a light, a feather, a chuckle and a wink.

Tony Randall: An Unforgettable Character

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Magical Mystery Tour Inside My Head

No – this is not a post about the Beatles. It’s about the wonder and magic and endlessly enchanting internal journey that is my love of film. It’s why I write this blog – to give voice to and share that private and personal world of living stories in the dark.

Watching Movies: It's personal in public
Watching movies is such a curious experience. On one hand, you can share it with those in a theater (or sitting around a TV set). On the other, it is deeply personal. A look, a gesture, a snippet of a song can reach your heart in a way that echoes your own personal experience. Like a small tremor or a large earthquake, you can be shaken by the power of film.

Feeling the power
Unlike life, film never changes (though our reaction to it may). Bad day at the office? Cary Grant will always rescue Eva Marie Saint at the end of “North by Northwest.” Dog ate your homework? The Blind Girl will always see Chaplin at the end of “City Lights.” Spouse being a real took bag? The beans always win around the campfire in “Blazing Saddles.” People can let you down, but the movies never do.

The beans never fail
As with all art, it is what you bring to the experience that makes it unique. For instance, I have had a somewhat roller-coaster relationship with Irene Dunne, mainly because she looks like my mother. Now that I am older, I appreciate the hell out of her and treasure her in every way. But, not so much as a stupid kid. As for Shirley MacLaine, I should adore her. She has never offended me in any way and is generally a delight. However, she has the bad fortune of reminding me of someone who I can’t abide. Poor Shirley – I always have to steel myself before giving into your considerable charm!

More than a star, more than an actress
While I can appreciate great visuals and even technological trickery, it is always the power of human emotions that draws me in. Film is the greatest canvas of the human face and the thousand of emotions that it betrays.

The beauty of the human face
In December I will be participating in the CMBA Blogathon called Film Passion 101, which encourages us to share that first movie that got us hooked on classic film (for me it was James Cagney in “The Public Enemy.”). That was quite some time ago (no – I did not see the original release in 1931!) but not much has changed for me. I've been thinking about my relationship with film a lot lately and it amazes me that I am still moved by the power of film, new and old. It is constant, it is fixed, it is forever.
You'd didn't think I'd forget him did you? Another love that endures!