Luv (1967) - Did it live up to the poster?

March 10, 2020

I find myself seeking out movies based on poster art fairly frequently. A fun color scheme or some Bob Peak illustrations will catch my eye and the next thing I know I've got my hands on the DVD of a movie that I know absolutely nothing about, except that whoever designed the poster did a pretty great job.

I thought it might be fun to turn these discoveries into a series here! I'm calling it "Did it live up to the poster?" I'll lay out what I expect from the movie based on the poster, and then I'll follow up with whether or not the film actually lived up to my expectations. First up is Luv (1967) starring Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk, and Elaine May.

I came across this while browsing for a new poster for my office and fell head over heels in love (in luv?) with the color scheme.  I'll be honest here- the poster was $2.99 and I went ahead and bought it without seeing the movie. I'm a sucker for pink and an even bigger sucker for pink-and-red. Couple that with a heart, some groovy lettering, and flowers and I'm sold. I was all in way before I even noticed that all-star roster of actors. Now let's just hope that I like Luv enough to warrant hanging it up on my wall!

Here's what I'm expecting, based entirely on the poster and the brief synopsis I read on letterboxd: An offbeat comedy, maybe similar to What's Up, Doc? (1972). I cannot figure out why this movie is coming to mind, but I'm picturing a Sweet November (1968) vibe, but obviously a much lighter subject. I feel like it's going to be a movie whose poster is way brighter and more colorful than the actual movie. I'll be pleasantly surprised if it's more technicolor than I'm anticipating, but I'm so often let down by colorful posters promoting very muted movies that I'm not getting my hopes up in that regard. I think, based on the fact that it was a Broadway play, it'll be dialogue-heavy and the humor will be found in clever turns-of-phrase rather than slapstick. I think it'll be geared towards over-thirties but it'll have some element in it that randomly features hippies. I think it'll have a happy ending.

Okay! I'll be back in 95 minutes to let you know how I liked it!

Alright. I'm back! First I'll address whether or not my assumptions were correct. I was right that the movie wasn't really as colorful as the poster (although few movies not directed by Jacques Demy ever are!) but it also wasn't really as desaturated as I thought it would be. Most of the color came from the women's outfits, bright rain gear, and a surprising pink-shirt-red-tie combo that Jack Lemmon donned. It has a very similar pace to What's Up, Doc? (although a bit slower in some parts, whereas WUD is pretty consistently paced from start to finish.) It was definitely dialogue heavy, but it also included a ton of unexpected slapstick. Jack Lemmon jumped up onto a ceiling rafter to avoid a dog, two characters dangled precariously from the side of a loading dock in a New York harbor, and one character accidentally gets caught on top of an elevator that keeps landing between floors. It was geared at an older audience, but it did not feature any random hippies. As for that happy ending... I think it depends on how you look at it.

Peter Falk plays a man who wants to hand off his wife to an old friend so that he can marry his mistress instead. He tells Jack Lemmon's character, "I'm more in love today than on the day I got married... but my wife she won't give me a divorce." This arrangement is a welcome one for Elaine May, who plays Falk's wife, since she's been keeping a weekly chart that shows her husband's declining interest in the bedroom. Sensing that she can finally find romance again with Jack Lemmon, she agrees to a divorce with Falk and hops right into another loveless marriage with Lemmon. The entire film was worth it just for the last 30 minutes or so, when Falk and May realize that they should get back together and try to pawn their current spouses off on each other!

I really enjoyed this movie, although I think I would have liked it a lot more if Jack Lemmon had toned down his character a bit. He affected a very strong accent (Brooklyn maybe? I'm not 100% sure what he was going for) that's kind of distracting, and every movement, every line uttered, is excessively over the top. I personally prefer Jack Lemmon dialed down a bit, especially when the other characters in the movie all seem to be playing at a lower volume than he is. Elaine May and Peter Falk were *chefs kiss* perfection here. There is one scene early on in the film when Falk is trying to pretty her up to meet Lemmon for the first time -- applying lipstick and teasing her hair -- and their chemistry is so natural that it made me wish they had been a regular screen team. They both have a distinct presence and unique mannerisms that seem authentic, not like they're doing a bit.

Elaine May is one of those performers who takes normal words and turns them into works of art -- her unique pronunciation of the word "tremors" filled me with glee. I also loved the way that Falk describes May to Lemmon, "She's an exceptional woman. She has a photographic memory. And she paints. And she makes charts. And she plays the guitar. And Harry, she reads. Books I've never heard of. With hard covers." And when Lemmon and May go on their honeymoon to Niagara Falls they take turns one-upping each other to see how much they love each other. Lemmon tears off part of May's dress and says "do you still love me?!" then May casually whips out a pair of scissors and slices his suspenders. "Do you still love me now??" Lemmon tosses her fur coat into the falls. "How about now??" It was an incredibly cute and well executed display of affection, and one of the most fun parts of the film.

So. Does this live up to the poster? Yes, I think it does. It was a very fun movie, light and silly and strange. Elaine May and Peter Falk were an absolute delight to watch and I think I would definitely revisit this one again. And thank god, because I really wanted to hang this poster up on my wall! :)

Black Death on the Silver Screen

February 29, 2020

For the last year I've been working on my first podcast concept, a series about films that feature pandemics and plagues called "Black Death on the Silver Screen." The idea is to interview one person from the world of science & one from the world of film to tackle "the hard science, the movie magic, and everything in between." I'm putting the project on hold for now because it doesn't seem appropriate to launch a light podcast about such a dark topic while the world is tackling a real live pandemic, and I'm not about to ask an epidemiologist to be a guest on a movie podcast at a time like this. But I know that a lot of people are currently interested in watching more movies about plagues and pandemics now, so I want to share some of my research and recommendations here today.

For some reason we're drawn to fictional accounts of real live horrors. Maybe it's the happy endings that assuage our fears and convince us that this is a solvable crisis, maybe we want an idea of what to expect when our worst fears become reality, or maybe it's just an unfortunate form of masochism. Whatever the cause, Contagion (2011) is the number one trending Amazon Prime rental in my area right now and it's not hard to guess why.

In my research for the podcast I was surprised to learn that there aren't actually an awful lot of movies about plagues, even going back to the silent era. If you remove zombie outbreaks from the picture, the list dwindles even more. And often the outbreak is just a small slice of the plot and not the main focus, like in Arrowsmith (1931) or So Long at the Fair (1950). My own theory as to why outbreaks aren't a more popular cinematic subject is that it's a form of horror that is a bit too realistic, and lacking the sense of romance and/or mystery that art has found in murder, shipwrecks, and even certain diseases like consumption (tuberculosis.) You can't kill it with a knife through the brain, you can't hide from it under the basement steps. Your sense of cunning will not help you outsmart it. It's the worst kind of movie villain, because it is so possible and so real.

My own fascination with this tiny genre started when I saw the movie Outbreak (1995) as a kid. I'm not sure that anything up until that point scared me as much as that movie did. There was one scene in particular that has haunted me, where the camera follows virus particles moving through an air vent like a killer snaking his way through hallways looking for his next kill. I think it really planted in me the idea that this was something of which I had cause to be afraid. It wasn't a made-up movie monster, or a figment of my imagination hiding in my closet -- this was a real thing that could come and get me.

Of course, it's somewhat easier to find some enjoyment in movies that take place during plagues long past, like The Black Death of the 14th century. One of my favorites depicting this era is The Pied Piper (1972), which I wrote about here. And the most famous film about the plague is probably The Seventh Seal (1957) in which Max Von Sydow stakes his life on a game of chess with the grim reaper (pictured in my drawing above eating popcorn.) These films don't feel as intensely scary as a film like Outbreak because they take place in world that is so far-removed from our own, filled with knights and castles and traveling troupes of actors. They also feature a monster -- Yersinia Pestis, more commonly known as plague -- that can be stopped in its tracks nowadays with modern medicine.

That being said, an infectious movie can still pack a punch even if its star villain is no longer a threat to humanity. Two movies from 1950 - Panic in the Streets and The Killer That Stalked New York - feature contagions that have either been neutered or eradicated, but the claustrophobic feeling of being stuck in a city with pestilence on the loose still rings true today. These movies are unsettling and terrifying, but they are also great examples of government and law enforcement working fast and efficiently to stop the killer in its tracks. If you're looking for a film that will give you a little bit of hope during the current epidemic I'd suggest one of these.

If you're looking for something that might trick your brain into thinking this is all a bad dream with gorgeous and spooky cinematography, I'd suggest checking out Val Lewton's production of Isle of The Dead (1945). It has the same vibe as I Walked With a Zombie, but with plague. It's a good movie to watch if your current thinking is "I want to watch something about this but I still want to pretend it's not happening."

Ideally I want to avoid zombie films on the podcast, but for the sake of this post I'm going to include a few of my favorites, just because the atmosphere in zombie movies is very similar to actual outbreaks. The fear of other people who might be carrying the bug, the initial stage of the outbreak when people are hearing reports on the radio or television and aren't entirely sure what's going on, the fear of the unknown. Those are all relatable experiences even if we're not dealing with hungry reanimated corpses. My favorites in this genre are Night of the Living Dead (1968), The Last Man on Earth (1964), and World War Z (2013). I normally stick to older films on this blog, but World War Z was truly fantastic and the ending was utterly perfect. This is another one I'd highly recommend if you need a little dose of hope and a reminder that modern science has got our collective backs.

If, like me, this kind of stuff really freaks you out and can send you spiraling with panic, anxiety, and gut-churning worry, I highly recommend listening to the new podcast Epidemic with Dr. Celine Gounder and Ronald Klain. They're releasing weekly episodes that break down what's happening with the coronavirus and their first episode this week was very informative and helped me to calm down a bit. Hopefully someday soon this will all be over and I can invite one of them to talk movies with me on my own podcast. In the mean time, do not touch your face and for the love of god, please wash your hands.

Looking back on twenty years of looking back

December 24, 2019

In December 1999 the world was looking forward to a new millennium, and I made a screeching 180' turn in the opposite direction, feet planted firmly in the 20th century. As everyone scrambled to prepare for Y2K I confronted the more pressing concern that my local video store wasn't stocking nearly enough Jimmy Stewart movies on VHS. Who needs The Backstreet Boys' Millennium when December 1963 was what a night!

I was in eighth grade and home from school on Christmas vacation when my mom turned on AMC and I became completely and totally enraptured by How to Steal a Million. Peter O'Toole's crystal blue eyes and Audrey Hepburn's aura of chic captured me heart, body, and soul. Nothing in my life had ever hit me like this. It was love, unconditional love. It's not unreasonable to say that movies have been there for me for my entire adult life. They've wrapped me up in their warm embrace, provided comfort whenever I needed it, and whispered to me that I'm not alone. They're a constant, as ever-present as my heartbeat, the thought that always sits on the edge of a reverie-- "now would be a good time to watch a movie."

How to Steal a Million sparked a fanatical interest in Audrey Hepburn. I rented all of her movies that I could get my hands on, pored over her biographies at the library, and immediately signed up to volunteer with UNICEF. Audrey Hepburn turned me into a teenage tornado of compassion and altruism. I became the local volunteer representative for my area and attended the UNICEF annual gala in Washington, DC. I spoke in front of my school board, joined (and became president of) our town's Youth Advisory Committee, and interned at the Mayor's Office. I painted faces for charity, gave talks to elementary school students, and got my school to put Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF boxes in classrooms. I started an annual dance for senior citizens hosted by teenagers, and launched a poster contest for kindergarteners. I owe every single one of those acts to Audrey Hepburn and the ways in which her kindness and good-heartedness inspired me to harness those qualities in myself.

Every school project from December 1999 onwards was about classic movies. I printed out photos of my favorite movie stars and affixed them to my folders and notepads, a different star for each subject. Rudolph Valentino - History. Charles Boyer - French. Robert Montgomery - English. In high school I had to write a big paper for GT and I chose to write about film restoration. To this day, it is one of the highlights of my entire life that I got to interview Robert Osborne for my paper. The kind TCM employee (his first name was Shane, I don't remember his last, but he was to me as much an angel as Clarance is to George Bailey) sent me oodles of TCM paraphernalia including a pen, a watch, a set of magnets, and -- still one of my most cherished possessions -- a signed copy of Robert Osborne's book. I will never forget his kindness in helping to make a nerdy, fledgling classic film fan's dreams come true. It is insane to me now that I have a friend who works at TCM (*waves hello to Diana, who is LIVING THE DREAM!*) and that maybe she'll be able to work her Clarence magic for some other young film fans, too.

Ten years into my classic movie obsession, I started this blog. (If you're counting, that means this blog has been kicking for ten whole years. Three more years and it'll be the same age that I was when I first stared into Peter O'Toole's baby blues!) I don't blog as often as I did that first year, but I'm so glad that I've kept it up. Earlier this year I renamed my blog from "Silents and Talkies" to "The Films in My Life: a personal journal of cinema" and I feel like it's a much more accurate reflection of the content. This is my film diary. I love to write when a movie really moves me, and tack photos to these digital pages in the same way that Robert Montgomery was plastered all over my English notebooks. I wish that the internet had existed in its current form when I was 13, starstruck by old movies, and totally alone. Sometimes I'm seized by an unhealthy jealousy when I see young classic film fans interacting on twitter, recalling the days in the early aughts when my schoolmates bullied me for liking dead actors and my only respite was... more dead actors. Nobody my age "got it" and until I started this blog in 2009 I legitimately believed I was the only person in the world under the age of 80 who knew who Guy Kibbee was.

The classic film community is so much larger than I ever could have dreamed as a teenager, demographically much younger, and so inclusive. But I always feel like I'm on the outside looking in -- I just don't have whatever tools are necessary to build lasting friendships (with a few exceptions) or to ease my way into a conversation without feeling like I'm butting in. I feel like that might be why blogging initially came more easily to me than social media has. This blog was like my own little club house, and when people would leave comments it was like they climbed up the ladder and knocked to come in. Social media is more like a playground game where everyone is tossing the ball to each other and I don't have the nerve to join in. (Does my brain relate everything in my life back to school? Unfortunately, yes.) Anyway, this incoherent paragraph is all to say -- I was so wrong when I thought I was alone in this particular interest. There are so many people around my age (and, now that I'm the ripe old age of 33, much younger than me) consumed by their love of classic film, and even if I have a hard time interacting with those people, my little universe is all the better for their presence in it. One time at the TCM Classic Film Festival a friend and I were discussing our favorite James Gleason movies. I've thought of that moment often, pausing to reflect on it as a gift to my lonely teenage self. I never imagined a world in which another person my age knew who Cary Grant was, let alone James Gleason.

There are just so many (too many!) things that I want to cram into this post that I think I have no other recourse but to break up my thoughts into a few different posts. I want to write about all of my classic film obsessions - ALL OF THEM - from the first moment I laid eyes on Frank Sinatra in February of 2000 to the moment that Chad Everett walked onto my projector screen this past April and Zing! went the strings of my heart, and all of the Robert Montgomerys, Alain Delons, and Ronald Colmans along the way. I want to write about my all time favorite go-to ride-or-die movies, the ones that I know by heart. I want to write about which movies recall certain memories or times in my life. About the phase I went through when I started my art "career" in which I named every single painting after the movie I was watching while I painted it. I want to write about TCM schedule memories -- the year that Summer Under the Stars featured Dirk Bogarde and I just about lost my mind over him, or the year that Shelley Winters died and her tribute preempted a day of Robert Montgomery movies and I held it against her for a LONG time. I want to write about actors that I've come around to after disliking them for years (cough, Glenn Ford, cough) and movies that, after two decades of consuming classic movies like they were air or water, I still have not watched yet (cough, The Sound of Music, cough.) And I want to write about the movies that have been the most personal to me, ones that I see myself in, or ones that reflect my own life in a way that makes me feel okay about who I am or where I am (or, more accurately, where I'm not.)

I said once in a blog post that movies are my boyfriend, and I still feel that way. Someone recently asked me why I've never dated and my reply boiled down to "I have Chad Everett and Alain Delon, I'm good!" While some romance films can obviously make a single person feel somewhat lacking, movies have always made me feel whole. Everything you could say about a significant other can be said about my love for movies. They complete me. They're THE ONE. In a world full of thousands and thousands of things to love, we found each other. And we're celebrating our twentieth anniversary this month. I think that's pretty great.

Chad Everett original negatives

December 17, 2019

This year I had the great fortune of a) discovering Chad Everett and b) finding a handful of original negatives with rights that I could scan and share with you here! These are my absolute favorite pictures of him and I'm so thrilled that I was able to snag these so that they could be enjoyed by everyone who googles his name or stumbles on this blog post.

The photos were taken by the photographer Harry Langdon, and although they aren't dated they seem to be from the late 1960s. My favorites are the ones with his dog. I'm guessing it's Gus, his half-Great Dane, half-Boxer who also made a few guest appearances on Medical Center!

You can click on the photos to see or download much larger versions and frame them, make them your phone background, what have you ;)

A 21st Century Bobbysoxer

December 12, 2019

Today marked 20 years that I've been celebrating Frank Sinatra's birthday with my family, listening to his music all day long, dining on pasta with his signature sauce recipe, and partaking in a double feature of his films. The tradition started when I was 14 years old in 2000 and so obsessed with the man that every single thought revolved around him, including most of my school papers and homework. I was digging through some of my old mementos from middle school and high school tonight and I came across two essays that I wrote about Frank Sinatra. They're a little funny to read now ("Though he eventually died, as we all do") it was so fun stumbling on this little time capsule of my teenage obsession. I also found an analysis on the lyrics from "I'm Gonna Live Till I Die" (as sung by Frank Sinatra) and my teacher had added a little notation next to Sinatra's name that said "I should have guessed."

While this probably isn't of particular interest to anyone but me, I wanted to commit these two essays to the blog archive for posterity. I'm sure if 14 year old me had a blog these love notes to Frank Sinatra surely would have made their way on there, so I'm doing past me a favor. Without further ado --

He Knocked The Socks Off The Bobbysoxers

Some call him "The Voice." Some call him "Ol' Blue Eyes." Some call him "Chairman of the Board." But there is one name that is indisputable: The greatest singer ever to grace the world with his voice. His name, of course, is Frank Sinatra.

Born Francis Albert Sinatra to Dolly and Marty Sinatra of Hoboken, New Jersey, on December 12, 1915, Sinatra knew he wanted to sing even at age seventeen. After attending a Bing Crosby concert with his girlfriend, Nancy Barbato (later, in 1939, she would become his first wife), Sinatra remarked, "Someday, that's gonna be me up there." And within a couple of years, he was the one up there. It wasn't long before, in 1935, Sinatra joined The Hoboken Four in the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, gaining the most amount of the votes to that date. Following Major Bowes came a contract with the Harry James Orchestra, which eventually lead to a more prestigious job: singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.

It was mostly during his time with Dorsey that Sinatra gained fame and renown. Not too long after singing with Dorsey, Sinatra and his agent, George Evans, decided that it was time Sinatra went out on his own. Despite the fact that Dorsey wasn't thrilled with the idea, Sinatra left and went on to become one of the world's most famous celebrities.

When he first opened at The Paramount in New York City, one of his first concerts as a solo artist, hundreds of policemen were called in to hold back the crazed fans who, in anger of not getting tickets, were breaking store windows and creating havoc on Times Square. The bobby-sox clad girls fainted while listening to his music, screamed when he looked towards them, and rushed out of school early to buy his new records, which usually came out each month. During World War II, Sinatra was at the top of his career. Sinatra was classified 4-F because of a punctured left eardrum, therefore could not head to the battlefield. He often attributed his rise to fame to the fact that he was the only one around, "I was the boy in every corner drugstore who had gone off to war."

Sinatra's celebrity status came to somewhat of a half in 1951 when his world seemed to crumble to pieces. Over the course of a year, Sinatra divorced his wife, lost his money, lost his voice, and lost his fans. Sinatra's reputation as a womanizer seemed to haunt his home life, and despite the birth of his third child, Christina, Sinatra and his wife separated. In 1951, while on stage, Frank Sinatra's throat hemorrhaged. Never again would he have the soft flowing voice that he did in the forties. For forty days, Sinatra was not allowed to speak. He often spoke of those days, saying that it was one of the hardest things he ever had to do.

In 1953, Frank Sinatra picked up a role that would gain him his first Academy Award. The film was From Here to Eternity and the role was Angelo Maggio. Once Sinatra starred in this role, he never again encountered anything to the likes of what he went through in 1951. From Here to Eternity was followed by a number of dramatic and comedic roles. Among his best was The Man With the Golden Arm, for which he was nominated for yet another Academy Award.

Sinatra's singing continued to grow as the years went by. A sense of loss crept into his sad songs, and life into his swinging ones. Sinatra had the ability to make any song worth listening to, and any movie worth watching. It is no secret that on May 14, 1998, when Frank Sinatra died at the age of 82, the world lost one of the most talented people of the twentieth century.

Why Frank Sinatra is my hero.

Class. Style. Swagger. Life. All of these words seem to define the best entertainer of our century, Frank Sinatra. I love him for many, many reaons, most of which have to do with his extraordinary talent. But the reason he is my hero is his outlook on life. Never before have I run across anyone more caught up in the art of living than Frank Sinatra. I can cite hundreds of quotes that prove how much Ol' Blue Eyes loved living (and to prove how pathetic I am, I must say I know them all by heart.) ... "You gotta love livin, baby, cause dyin' is a pain in the ass" ... "do you know what a loner is? A loser." ... "Let's start the action!" ... "Live each day like it may be the final day." ... just to name a few.

Sinatra was the ultimate life-liver. If anyone lived life to the ultimate fullest, it was Sinatra. Though he eventually died, as we all do, he was the only one who made it seem like maybe there really was a secret to being immortal. As he grew older, he extended the age-old toast "may you live to be a hundred..." to "may you live to be five thousand, and may the last voice you hear be mine." After reading countless books on Frank Sinatra, I've become accustomed with his lifestyle. The man hardly ever slept, staying up to the wee small hours with his buddies from The Rat Pack, and getting up to make movies and records every day. But yet he stayed on top of the world. I think his song "I've Got the World on a String" is the best song to put Sinatra's life into words, and it is that life that I have come to admire so much. I wake up each day wishing I could live like him - play off sad feelings with a joke or a song, hang out until 2am with my best pals, take a drink (vanilla creme soda in my case, as opposed to Jack Daniels) and live it up each night. To make each minute count, that was Frank's philosophy.

Many people see a hero as someone who has saved a life, or done something for the betterment of all humanity. I see it as someone who has made an impact on the way you live your life; the way you get up, eat, sleep and live. I see a hero as someone who has changed your life for the better and made you realize how valuable your life is, not theirs. A hero shouldn't be someone to build a shrine to, it should be someone whose own actions have helped you improve yourself and your outlook on how you can live your own life. Frank Sinatra has made such an impact on my life; if only he could be around to find out how much of an impact. Listening to his words of wisdom, and his music as much as I do, there is no doubt in my mind that if I live to be 100 or 5,000, the last voice I hear will be Frank Sinatra's.

Summer Reading Classic Film Book Challenge - Fay Wray and Robert Riskin - A Hollywood Memoir

August 24, 2019

There are only a few weeks left in Raquel's Summer Reading Challenge so I think this is sadly going to be one more year that I fail to tackle 6 books. I think I might cheat a little next year and do all of my reading in the winter, when I always have more free time, and then post my reviews the following summer. It'll just be our secret :)

I've only finished one book so far, but boy was it a good one. I read "Fay Wray and Robert Riskin - A Hollywood Memoir" by their daughter, Victoria Riskin. For a while when I was a teenager I used to say that Frank Capra was my favorite director, believing that he was the driving force behind movies like Meet John Doe, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Lost Horizon, and You Can't Take it With You. But several years ago I started to realize that the movies he made apart from Robert Riskin didn't have the same appeal to me. Yet movies that Riskin made without Capra (particularly Magic Town and The Whole Town's Talking) still had what people refer to as "The Capra Touch." That was when it dawned on me that I wasn't actually a big Capra fan all these years -- I was a Riskin fan!

Going into this book I was an admirer of Riskin's screenwriting, and I loved Fay Wray in '30s horror movies like Doctor X and Mystery of the Wax Museum, but I didn't know anything at all about them personally. I didn't know that they were both beautiful, poetic souls, madly and deeply in love with one another. I didn't know that they were passionate progressives who were active in politics. Fay Wray's letter to Robert Riskin detailing her anxiety-riddled election night listening to returns coming in on the radio was a snapshot of my own election night experiences watching MSNBC. Her hope and relief when FDR won was so relatable that I immediately felt emotional flashbacks to November 2008. Victoria Riskin imbues this book with the spirit of her parents -- you can sense how much she loved them, how much they loved her, and how witty and smart and sweet they were. Little details like Fay Wray packing peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, or Robert Riskin keeping notes on words that amused him so he could work them into scripts (pixelated!) not only represent a daughter's loving remembrance but they help bring these Hollywood icons to life again and create a clear and wonderful picture of who they were.

In addition to the insights into their personal and private lives, the book also delves into behind-the-scenes cinema history involving casting decisions, writing credits, studio disagreements, and box office success. My favorite (or perhaps least favorite -- it breaks my heart now thinking of what could have been!) casting anecdote was that Robert Montgomery was originally the first choice to play Peter Warne in It Happened One Night. Gable is fine in the role and I love that movie, but my Robert Montgomery-loving heart aches for a version with him and Claudette Colbert instead. And be sure to have a box of tissues nearby when you read about the destruction of *hours* of footage that Harry Cohn cut from Lost Horizon. Even the stories that could be considered somewhat "juicy" are laid out with complete and utter loveliness -- like the time that Cary Grant told Riskin that he had been madly in love with Fay Wray but she was better off without him. In another book this might have felt very "TMZ" but Victoria Riskin tells the story with a sweetness that makes you forget you're reading about an affair between two of Hollywood's biggest legends that was never meant to be. It's just a warm and wistful remark from a man who once loved her mother.

I can only think of one other biography I've read (Truffaut: A Biography) where I was sad to have to say goodbye. I've grown to really love Fay Wray and Robert Riskin and as the story progressed, when signs of Riskin's failing health became apparent or when Wray was getting older, I winced knowing that things were about to end. But thank goodness that they left us so many movies to remember them by. Like Victoria Riskin said in the book, she hears her father in the words of John Doe or Longfellow Deeds. And Fay Wray's delicate beauty is forever preserved in movies like The Wedding March and King Kong. I may be finished reading, but I can still revisit their films and live with them a little longer.