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. 


The Lady Eve said...

So nice to go down memory lane with you, Miss Chick. It brought to mind coming upon a book of portrait stills in the '70s. I believe it was devoted to just 4 stars of the '30s, and I'm pretty sure they were Crawford, Garbo, Lombard and either K. Hepburn or Dietrich. I was dazzled. Might've been Hurrell's work. They sure don't make glamour portraits like that anymore! A really lovely anniversary post, Marsha, I felt like I was sitting there with you, looking over your shoulder as you looked at each photo.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Patty. I confess it has always been about the stars for me. I'm that person sitting in the dark, popcorn poised and eyes wide open in awe and delight.

Caftan Woman said...

A library book filled with photographs from movies up to 1950 had me longing to someday see "Four Daughters" and it is now a movie I can recite by heart!

Tantalizing photographs led us to our happy place. Thanks for writing about a cherished anniversary.

FlickChick said...

CW - yes - the photos were a pathway. I confess, I still am mesmerized by those beautiful portraits.

Citizen Screen said...

Yours is always such a great place to visit. This was fun and - surprise - we happen to have a few similar stars that moved us toward classics. It's particularly nice of you to mention MY Cary.


Christian Esquevin said...

Great reflection on the Stars FlickChick - how could you not fall in love or be fascinated?
My parents had some big compilation book on the movies in their library and I'd spend hours looking through its photos. Thanks for choosing this topic.

FlickChick said...

Aurora - thanks so much for your kind words. I'm not surprised we have some similar choices and inspirations. After all, when it comes to leading men.... :)

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Christian. those glamour stills are really something, aren't they?

John/24Frames said...

A wonderful take on your memories and the stars that were so important to you. Thanks for particpating!

Rick29 said...

Movie books have always played an important role in my love of cinema, too. I can remember when my brother gave me my first copy of Leonard Maltin's TV Movies when I was probably 11. I adore your choice of stars and the pictures themselves. As for Richard Schickel, I read his film reviews in TIME magazine for many years. Later, I read some of his books and watched some of his films.


I was also mesmerized by images and this led me to love old movies. First it was Audrey Hepburn, then Katharine and Garbo... and the rest is history. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

FlickChick said...

John - many thanks. Some memories are too good not to share.

FlickChick said...

Rick - I had that book, too, and it practically disintegrated from being over-perused. I , of course, have the updated version. We love out treasures.

FlickChick said...

Le - I do believe that those beautiful portraits linger in the mind long after the actual film has been forgotten.

Silver Screenings said...

Wow! What a great book - and for such a fantastic price! It has served you well, and – by extension – it's served us your readers, too.

Yours is a beautiful tribute to these stars. I love this quote in reference to Marilyn Monroe: "You were silly like us, but your gift survived it all." It's true and poignant.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Ruth. Yes, I loved that quote for Marilyn. Very poignant.

The Classic Movie Muse said...

I loved reading your memories here of gazing fondly at your book and at the gorgeous pics of these stars! The glamour shots are indescribably beautiful and just take my breath away. One of the joys of being a classic movie fan is accumulating books such as these. I cherish my collection. So glad you've shared about a book you love in this post!

Also, I've nominated you for The Sunshine Blogger Award! In case you're interested, I'll leave the link here for you to check it out.