Monday, October 14, 2019

"The Stars" and 57 Years of Fascination

This is my contribution to the Classic Movie Blog Association (CMBA) 10 Year Anniversary Blogathon. For more musings on auspicious anniversaries, click HERE.

Anniversaries are important. Our first date, our first kiss, marriages, births, deaths - all landmarks that we mark with a card, a good wish, a present, a fond memory, joy or a prayer. Now, if you're a movie lover like me, I'll bet you remember the first time you fell under the spell of a film or an actor. For me, the film was "The Public Enemy," and the actor was James Cagney. However, there was another important moment; the one where I discovered "The Stars" by Richard Schickel for $3.95 in the bargain bin of the Cherry Hill Book Store and fell in love with those unforgettable faces.

These are the ones that did it:

Jean Harlow. She was kind of awful in "The Public Enemy," but she was positively mesmerizing to me in these photos. That hair! That white satin dress! Those jewels! And so it happened that my first intrigue with classic film stars really began with still portraits. Before cable and DVDs and VCRs you had to wait for classic films to be shown on television (usually in the early morning hours), so it would be many years before I could sample the work of these stars, but the photos were like catnip to me.

A few favorites:

Theda Bara: yikes! I could not stop looking at this one. Who was she? What happened to her?

Barbara Stanwyck: This was Victoria Barkley on TV's "The Big Valley"?? 

Cary Grant: hmmm... even then I was spellbound.

Clark Gable: Gosh he was handsome. And Carole Lombard was pretty cute, too.

Audrey Hepburn: loved her look, loved everything about her then and now.

Marilyn: Sigh. The book was published the year she died. And though I had yet to see her in a film, she was famous. I couldn't stop looking at this photo. Schickel offered this epitaph, a line from W.H. Auden's memorial poem to Yeats: "You were silly like us, but your gift survived it all."

Elizabeth Taylor: Schickel called her the last star, the last star manufactured and supported by a studio system, one created in its dying hours and gone forever.

The book ended with these 2 iconic images:

Chaplin, at the dawn of his career, awaiting a gift from the sea:

James Mason, playing a fading star in the 1954 version of "A Star is Born," walking into the same ocean to commit suicide.

I am guessing I was about 12 or 13 when I purchased this book, so this is probably more like a 54 year anniversary instead of 57 from the book's publication, but an anniversary that I cherish nonetheless. Plus, $3.95 was a mega bargain even then!

And, you guys know the rest. More books (does anyone remember the Cadillac Publish Company Film Series? I had and still have about 12 of them), more late nights with the Late, Late Show and yada, yada, yada..... here we are, hopelessly devoted.

A special note: This blogathon marks the 10 year anniversary of The Classic Movie Blog Association. Many thanks to the vision of its founder, Rick Armstrong, a true gentleman and author of the excellent blog, The Classic Film and TV Cafe. It has been an honor to rub elbows (blog-wise) with so many fine writers.