Posted by medusamorlock on February 16, 2013
Those of us who can’t resist a good MGM musical are no doubt now and again thinking about the great screen dancer Vera-Ellen, a sparkling screen presence in an number of films yet someone whose memory is overwhelmed by the passage of time and a peculiar lack of the proper respect paid to her accomplishments. On the occasion today of the 92nd anniversary of her birth on February 16, 1921, and although I wrote about her once already (way back in 2007, check out the post by clicking here), and though she’s been gone for over thirty years — she passed away from cancer on August 30, 1981 at only 60 years old – it’s a perfect time to remember again this most charming and talented actress.
Posted by Susan Doll on January 21, 2013
I love Old Hollywood. In my imagination, I have romanticized the Hollywood of the Golden Age as a glamorous era of larger-than-life, charismatic figures who linger poolside at the best hotels or dance till dawn at the Mocambo. On the fringes of the dream factory are the outrageous characters who thrive in a company town where the extraordinary is ordinary and the extravagant is routine. Among the latter is the famous Nudie Cohn, tailor to the stars. But, Nudie was no studio costumer like Edith Head or Orry-Kelly. Instead, he owned and operated Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors, specializing in western-styled jackets and wildly colored shirts festooned with rhinestones and piping. His primary clients were western movie stars of the Golden Age and country-western singers of the l960s, but his career lasted well into the Age of Aquarius, when he designed a jacket with marijuana leaves for Gram Parsons.
Posted by medusamorlock on January 19, 2013
I haven’t been around here in a while, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to wish success to TCM’s Danny Kaye 100th Birthday celebration all day this coming Sunday — tomorrow. As I showed in several posts in the past, I’ve been a Danny Kaye connoisseur nearly all my life, since the days I used to skip junior high to watch his movies on TV during the day (this is pre-VCR and DVR, although I used to record the soundtracks on reel-to-reel tape!). I bought my first copies of those “Movies on TV” books because of Danny, too, because I wanted to go through and find all his movies. Little did I know then that he only made 17, but we are fortunate that TCM will be bringing us a good selection of those on Sunday, plus some rare TV goodies.
Posted by Susan Doll on October 1, 2012
The highly anticipated Hitchcock opens the AFI Film Festival on November 1. Based on the book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, the drama interprets the behind-the-scenes production of one of the 20th century’s most influential films. I have not seen a trailer for the film, but based on the publicity stills, the makeup on star Anthony Hopkins results in an uncanny likeness of Hitchcock. Writer-director Sacha Gervasi (Anvil: The Story of Anvil; scriptwriter for The Terminal) lacks a sufficient track record to predict the quality of the drama, but Hopkins is sure to offer an interesting interpretation of the Master of Suspense. In addition to Hitchcock, a film called The Girl, which focuses on the director’s relationship with Tippi Hedren, is in the works. Toby Jones stars as Hitchcock, and Sienna Miller costars as Hedren.
Hitchcock and The Girl belong to that genre generally described as “movies about the movies,” a category irresistible to most film lovers. In doing research for this blog article, I was surprised at the diversity of the films that fall into this genre. There are biopics about beloved actors (Man of a Thousand Faces; The Story of Will Rogers); biopics that examine the adverse effect of Hollywood on the individual, particularly the star system and publicity machine (Frances; Harlow); dark exposes of those industry insiders corrupted by fame and power (Sunset Boulevard; A Star Is Born; The Bad and the Beautiful; Hollywoodland); and comic musings about the nature or history of Hollywood filmmaking (Sherlock, Jr.; Singin’ in the Rain).
Posted by davidkalat on August 18, 2012
Last week I began a cycle of talking through how the transition to talkies affected the development of American screen comedy, and to continue in this vein we need to take a moment to talk through what that transition was all about. The Jazz Singer has persisted in posterity and popular memory far in excess of the merits of its actual content–it is however remembered as a revolutionary picture, one that precipitated a sudden reorientation of the industry. But the real story behind the switch to talkies is messier–and doesn’t have much of anything to do with The Jazz Singer. It is instead a story about the dynamics of format wars.
Posted by davidkalat on June 16, 2012
“Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”
Before you answer, please understand: this is not a Yes or No question.
Posted by Susan Doll on May 28, 2012
The Hollywood Museum is located on Highland Avenue near Hollywood Boulevard. The innocuously named museum was formerly the Hollywood History Museum, which likely sounded too dry or dull for tourists. Before that it was the Max Factor Museum, because the building is the original Max Factor headquarters where many a Golden Age star developed her signature look, from hair color to makeup design. My friend and I decided to check out the Hollywood Museum while attending the TCM Classic Film Festival in April. Visiting the museum became part of my quest to find some remnant of the glamor and mystique of the Golden Age among the noise and clamor of today’s Hollywood.
The rose-colored lobby and first floor of the 1935 Max Factor Building have retained its original Art Deco look. The primary make-up rooms have been preserved and restored with the original chairs, settees, lights, and multi-angled mirrors. It was enlightening to stroll through the rooms where Billie Burke, Lucille Ball, Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert, and dozens of others were given the star treatment. The rooms suggested the kind of lavish attention the stars must have received: Each of the four primary rooms was devoted to women of a specific hair color: Blondes, Redheads, Brunettes, and Brownettes. The color of each room was selected to flatter the hair color. The rooms reminded me that the stars’ personal looks were extensions of their images, and it was their images that the studios were selling. The stars’ images were not only used to lure people into theaters to see their films but also to promote products in magazines. Ads featuring virtually every major star of the Golden Age lined the walls of the hallways.
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