Box office gold, baby!

July 27, 2009

I don't know about you, but the entertainment reports on the news always depress me. Hearing what modern trash is raking in millions at the box office always reminds me of the thousands of unreleased classic gems that deserve a release on DVD and a new day in the sun. But I digress...

I'm not talking about the classics that are being sadly neglected by the movie industry. I'm talking about "box office gold, baby!"

Okay, I should give credit where credit is due. Courtney Hazlett of NBC uttered this phrase on Morning Joe this morning when referring to... wait for it ... movies with talking animals.

Apparently "G-Force," an animated film about talking guinea pigs, overtook the newest Harry Potter film at the box office this weekend. Yes, you read that correctly. A film about talking guinea pigs. (What, does that actually surprise you these days?)

Long gone are the days when a heroic dog or ornery cat could hold an audience and garner huge box office receipts. Oh no, these days they better talk! And, while I haven't seen the film (obviously!!), I think it's safe to assume that these guinea pigs aren't like the classic Alvin and the Chipmunks or the animated animals in The Jungle Book; cute, kind animals with cute, kind voices.... Oh no, these guinea pigs are probably edgy guinea pigs who spout out hip lingo to make themselves that much more appealing to modern audiences.

And of course, this means box office gold, baby.

"Box Office Gold, Baby"

I just keep thinking about this phrase. I'm still in a state of shock, actually. I know that blockbusters these days always seem to appeal to adults' baser instincts. Crude humor, simple plots and mediocre (if not amateur) screenwriting have become the surefire recipe for a summer hit. But Courtney Hazlett's frank admission that talking animals basically guarantee a number one spot at the box office is such a sad reflection on our culture. Except for a handful of films made each year by a handful of talented filmmakers, the movie industry seems to have completely resigned itself to making childish films with complete disregard for anyone with grown-up tastes.

The films that we enjoy, both pre-code and post code, were geared to an audience of mature, intelligent adults. The filmmakers trusted us to see deeper meanings in simple gestures, understand fast paced overlapping dialogue, read between the lines, and, perhaps most importantly, they trusted that we would pay to see a film, in droves mind you, even if that film did not feature a talking guinea pig.

Isabel Jewell {Starlet Dreams}

July 25, 2009

Last Sunday, the day after my first Starlet Dreams post on Irene Ware, I came across a post on Film Noir Photos highlighting Isabel Jewell.

The name might not ring a bell, but I'm sure you've seen her on screen. She had roles in a handful of outstanding 1930's films -- among them, A Tale of Two Cities, Manhattan Melodrama, Gone with the Wind and Evelyn Prentice.

But her roles were very minor. Her best known role today is as Gloria in Lost Horizon. Like many starlets who were given a chance in a big film, Isabel shined. Her performance as the tough-as-nails dying American who has more guts than the men when all their lives are in danger is brilliant.

One can only imagine the high hopes she must have held when she was initially cast in a Ronald Colman/Frank Capra vehicle. (I know MY hopes would have been soaring!) But about two years after the release of Lost Horizon, Isabel falls prey to the same curse that haunted many starlets... credits that read "blonde," "uncredited," "uncredited," First telephone operator"...

When given the chance to shine in good films like Lost Horizon and Marked Woman , or when given the opportunity to star in b-budget films like Marked Men and The Seventh Victim, Isabel proved that she had what it takes. Who knows why some starlets make it and some don't (we've had a heated discussion about the merits of luck vs. determination vs. talent, etc. last week) but whatever the reason, I think it is a darn shame that Isabel Jewell didn't become a star.

If anybody has any more information about Isabel Jewel, please post links in the comments so that I can add to my post!

What genre are you in the mood for?

July 23, 2009

What genre are you in the mood for?


Sounds like you're in the mood for "History is Made at Night"!

This movie really has it all... it starts out as a fun, romantic comedy with a little suspense thrown in. Very light and frothy.

Then it gets serious. It turns into a romance-meets-tragedy-melodrama with just a hint of comedy.

THEN it gets even MORE serious. It turns into a heavy melodrama, with a little adventure and a lot of romance.

Take my word for it-- this movie will leave you in a state of emotional shock! You will cry, laugh, sit on the edge of your seat, giggle and weep! It's one of the most action packed, fast paced, I-bet-you'll-never-guess-what's-going-to-happen-next movies I've ever seen!

Now what could make a movie that feels like 10 great movies packed into one, even better?! It stars Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer! (And with an outstanding supporting performance by the always wonderful Leo Carillo) It is, as far as I know, not available on DVD and never shown on TCM. I lucked out and found it on Amazon on VHS a little while ago. It was in pristine condition, so I transferred it to DVD right away, ensuring I'll always have a good copy of it if my VHS ever fails!

If you ever get a chance to see the film (the VHS tape says "Warner Home Video" so hopefully it will be one of the lucky movies to be released on DVD by Warner soon!) you absolutely HAVE to! It's definitely in my top ten films now.

I don't usually do reviews of films, but after watching this one I just had to come write about it here! It was so spectacular-- one of those films where you don't "watch it" you "experience it"... I really hope everybody gets the chance to see this soon (or has seen it and can gush in the comments!) because it really is just fantastic.

ps. If you've seen the film, or if you're the type that doesn't mind spoilers- I highly recommend looking at the movie reviews of this film on A lot of people have brought up exceptional points about the film that I missed -- I was too enamored with the surface of the film to see beyond its lovely romanticism... here's the link (but watch out! a lot of these reviews DO contain spoilers!)

Irene Ware {Starlet Dreams}

July 18, 2009

Today begins a new weekly Saturday series, "Starlet Dreams" where I'll dedicate a post each week to a girl whose career never quite became what she hoped it would be.

The inaugural post belongs to Irene Ware, a talented 1930's hopeful who was recently spotlighted on Movie-Tone news. Matthew kindly agreed to let me republish his wonderful Irene Ware post here in full. Enjoy!


"My Heart Belongs to Irene Ware"

Sometimes, there's simply no reason at all why some people become stars and others do not.

And of all the rungs on the Hollywood ladder to find oneself stalled on, it seems to me that 'almost made it' just has to be the loneliest.

The nobodies are anonymous. Nobody bothers them, nobody points them out in restaurants or asks what ever happened to them, nobody is watching them, or waiting for them to fall.
An actor who's never going to get leads can remodel himself as a character actor. No problem. He may even get a longer career out of it than the stars he envies.

But if you're a beautiful starlet, it's obvious you're not in the game from a desire to play small parts. And you are going to get noticed; you'll get that first level of stardom handed to you; that tantalising, tormenting first rung... they'll know your name, they'll see your picture in all the magazines. But when it comes to wanting to see movies with you in the lead...

It is these nearly-made-it starlets that have the least armour.
Clearly, they live only to be the name above the title. And if they never make it, the wind must blow hard and cold around those swimsuits.

I have many favourites among these also-rans, and in almost every case, there's really no good reason in the world why they didn't make that final leap into the vindication of unambiguous stardom. Talent has very little to do with it: many a star made it without it, many a failure failed in spite of it.

What, I mean what that really mattered, did Marie Macdonald lack?
Just luck. Just the breaks.
And then there's this, from my Wonder Album of Filmland, a pictorial guide to the stars of 1932:

It is, maybe, a little early to include a picture of JUNE VLASEK in such a gallery as this. Her film career has only just begun and the world has yet to see her real capabilities. But she deserves to appear in any film-land picture display because she really is admitted on all sides to be "the most beautiful girl in Hollywood." You do not need to look very hard to see why.

And yet... not enough, June; not enough.

You see her here and there. She's in Chandu the Magician (1932), and Bonnie Scotland (1935) with Laurel and Hardy... she kept at it until 1947, did a bit of tv... died in 2005.
And yes, in those early thirties appearances, she really could be the most beautiful woman in Hollywood. But for June, for some reason... not enough.

Also appearing in Chandu is the actress who is, for me, the undisputed queen of the very-nearlys.

Irene Ware is most things a Hollywood goddess should be, so far as I am fit to judge.
She has that certain grace, and ease, and slightly aristocratic poise that unites women as different in every other way as Crawford and Colbert and Fay Wray and Kay Francis.
As an actress? Hard to say how good she is: from the little she is given the chance to show, she seems fine.
As a beauty: almost unrivalled.

Why, then, was Irene Ware not a major Hollywood star of the thirties?
Because the whole thing's a lottery, that's why. Because the whole thing's a joke.

The IMDB would have me believe that she was crowned Miss United States of 1926, at the age of sixteen. Quite the honour, but not apparently so: I am grateful to Allure, one of my favourite blogs, for this more accurate account:

Irene Ahlberg was born November 6, 1910 in Pelham, NY. Several references state she was crowned Miss America of 1926. Not so, she was named Miss Greater NY in 1929, and then Miss United States for the Miss Universe competition.

However, this is not the Miss Universe you have come to know and love/hate. This "Miss Universe" was the Galveston, Tex., International Beauty Contest.
Virtually ignored by the U. S. press, the Galveston tournament was big news elsewhere in the world. In Paris, Madrid, Vienna, Rio de Janeiro, editors reported on just what Miss France, Miss Spain, Miss Austria, Miss Brazil were doing, wearing, saying at each instant of the final ceremony. For the record, Austria won and Irene took second, and it was reported as "Irene Ahlberg, a Manhattan stenographer, 18 and blond, won $1,000 and second honors".
I'm guessing she took that $1000 to help the move to show business. From late 1929 through early 1932 Irene appeared in several of Earl Carroll's Vanities broadway productions. Hollywood and a name change to Irene Ware came in 1932 when she signed a contract with Fox.

The Fox contract brought her one juicy lead, at least, in Chandu, the delightful adaptation of the hit radio serial with Edmund Lowe somewhat stolid and draggy as the mysterious Chandu and Bela Lugosi on full battery as the villain Roxor. Irene, as the Princess Nadji, is everything anyone could have reasonably expected the Princess Nadji to be: likeable, attractive in states of peril, spectrally beautiful at all times.

It led to very little, alas. The old story: she couldn't get out of support roles; always on trial, never given the big shot. She's sixth-billed but the definite standout in Six Hours To Live (1932), second fiddle to Boots Mallory in Humanity (1933), looking for chances in the shadow of Carole Lombard in Brief Moment (1933) for Columbia.

Back at Fox she was sliding further and further down the cast roll: fourth-ranked female in the pre-Code musical My Weakness (1933), an uncredited showgirl in Moulin Rouge (1935), blink and you'll miss her in The Affairs of Cellini (1934), a film that also conspires to squander Fay Wray.

Presumably, from this rather pointless evidence, someone somewhere, sat behind a desk with gravy stains on his tie, decreed that Irene Ware didn't have what it takes to make it.
She went to other studios, doing the usual juggling act: leads for the fly-by-nights and in-and-outs for the majors. (Look sharp and you'll see her in Gold Diggers of 1937.)
The best news around this time came from Universal, who picked her up for a couple of good spots in Let's Talk It Over (1934) and Rendezvous at Midnight (1935) and gave her her best ever leading chance in The Raven (1935).

The Raven is the one that breaks your heart. The female lead, reunited with Lugosi, doing screaming in cellars and sophisticated banter with one of my favourite male nearlys - Lester Matthews, the nearly-Melvyn Douglas - she is stunning and she is delightful. If anyone has what it takes, she has what it takes! Now, I'm not going to pretend that I have not seen this performance criticised, even condemned. The Midnight Marquee book Bitches, Bimbos and Virgins: Women in the Horror Film slams her; calls her "a doll in a silly wig, not a living, breathing person."

Well, there's room for all views, I have no doubt.

All I can say is I'm glad I've not seen that version of The Raven. I'll stick with the one I stayed up later than I'd ever stayed up before in my life - 1:35 am! - to see in the summer of 1983... the one where we first see her curled up on Lugosi's sofa in a shimmering satin dress, he sat at the organ playing Bach's Tocata and Fugue, the desert island disc of all movie mad scientists, she purring "You're almost not a man..."
The one where she dances 'The Spirit of Poe'.
The one where she is absolutely magnificent.

Could Irene Ware dance? Or is one of the reasons why she wears a mask in this gorgeous scene from The Raven so as to disguise the presence of a dancing stand-in? None is credited...

Obviously, it helps not only that she is in so stylised a production - this is top of the range Universal horror - but also in so intense a drama.

The plot has Lugosi as a great surgeon and Poe-obsessed sadist who saves her life after a car crash and then becomes sexually obsessed with her. When she spurns his advances, he merrily invites her, her boyfriend and her father to his house for a weekend party so as to spend the night torturing them to death in his basement. Here he has built a variety of torture devices inspired by Poe's stories, including his razor-edged pendulum and "room where the walls come together"!

It's ghoulish stuff - Britain put a ban on imported horror films on account of it - and Irene, who could easily have been hopelessly inadequate as the object of murderous erotic obsession, breezes through the role with both a star's beauty and that star's confidence that counts for so much more.

The rest is mainly Poverty Row.

Many of these thirties films are available on budget DVD: the romantic comedy False Pretenses (1935) and the thrillers Murder at Glen Athol and The Dark Hour (both 1936), in particular, are eminently worth your time and your small change. You can watch them, and almost pretend they were, say, big studio B's. Pretend she's the star she should have been.

Most fascinating of all is King Kelly of the USA (1934), a truly insane Monogram musical. Poverty Row is always compelling when it gets big ideas, and this piece, an absurdist Ruritarian farce with Edgar Kennedy, Franklin Pangborn and a bunch of songs, is strange and funny and consistently delightful, reminiscent of Duck Soup and Million Dollar Legs and suchlike oddities that proliferated around the same time.

Irene is Tania, princess of a fantasy kingdom dependent for its economy on the export of mops, now in dire straits following the invention of the vacuum cleaner. She has an animated love song performed in her honour. She slides down a banister. She is utterly adorable.

Irene Ware ended her career trying to make a go of things in Britain. No dice. Her last film was Outside the Three-Mile Limit (1940), with Jack Holt doing likewise.
She didn't branch out into television in the fifties.
She died in March, 1993.

Could she have been a big star? Yes, she could have been a big star.


Great Grapefruit Moments in Movie History

July 17, 2009

Okay, so I could only come up with one... The scene in The Public Enemy where James Cagney smashes a grapefruit into Mae Clark's face has to be one of the most iconic scenes in movie history. I'm serious, I'd actually love to do a series of paintings from films where a grapefruit is a part of the storyline. The only other film I can come up with is an Edward Everett Horton film in which his character complains continually throughout the film that every time he eats a grapefruit it squirts him in the eye. I can't think of the name of the film, though, so I'm at a loss.. any suggestions?

And it's time to wish one of my top favorite actors a "Happy Birthday!" To read my previous posts on the inimitable James Cagney, click here.

I'll be announcing the winners of the giveaway in a few hours, AND I am debuting a new weekly feature tomorrow morning, so stay tuned!

Douglas Fairbanks

July 16, 2009

by Mykal Banta
Guest Blogger

When swinging through the rigging over ship deck, rapier in hand, or bounding across castle turrets, Douglas Fairbanks caused boys to dream of being men; and better still, he made men dwell for a moment in the buoyant gravity of youth.
From the beginning, Fairbanks’ screen persona was defined by the power of joy – an aggressive satisfaction fueled by sleek muscle and great lungfuls of oxygen. A couple of his earliest films were for D.W. Griffith, but the two didn’t mesh well. Griffith was seeking a spiritual place with his filmmaking – a connection to the angels. For Fairbanks, jumping over a high fence in a three piece suit connected him immediately to something, well, if not angelic – certainly heavenly. The great D.W. became quite exhausted by young Fairbanks’ athletic tendencies and his spontaneous script re-writes that included climbing up trellises or scaling church walls. He was instructed to try Keystone Comedies, where his gymnastics might be put to better effect.
Between 1915 and 1920, he made primarily comedies; always the can-do youth, the young man of industry – scaling the challenges of the new century by the brute force of optimism. Stylish and smart, his young American will always be first to impress the boss, sell the most product, sweep a reluctant girl (always at first shocked by his bombastic approach) completely off her feet. Titles like Reaching for the Moon (1917) Mr. Fix it (1917) and He Comes Up Smiling (1918) tell the tale; as does the perfectly Fairbanks His Majesty, The American (1919). In all these films Fairbanks casually strode through the competition with good nature, his beautiful smile, and a clap on the back for one and all. Fit and trim, his physical energy was a clear sign of his easy dominance; his leaping from ground to tree branch, or running two or three strides straight up the side of a building, an elegant but clear message: I am not, like you, earthbound! Isn’t it beautiful? He was the winner even second-stringers loved - simply because Fairbanks loved them, too, while floating up the ladder right passed them.
By 1919 he had made some very successful Westerns, but Fairbanks was no cowboy. He was simply our bright and hungry young man, leaping onto horses as if they were modern convertibles, hardly needing a six-gun. Fairbanks’ westerns were, more than anything, witty spoofs of the genre. Then, in 1920, Douglas Fairbanks made The Mark of Zorro. For the next decade, indeed for the remainder of the Silent Era, he never bothered to anchor himself in the dull confines of a modern reality again.
In positioning his screen characters in distant history, a history steeped in romance, he became larger than life; a player in romantic legend. Whereas before his screen persona seemed perfectly matched to America in a new age, his character and image after 1920 became timeless and universal – an archetype. Somehow his very appearance seemed to change. His body, always strong and athletic, seemed a bit blocky when clothed in shirt and suit. Newly adorned in ruffled shirts and boots (or better still completely shirtless in The Thief of Bagdad) his physique seemed lithe and panther beautiful. His smile, always charming and wide, was transformed into a megawatt beacon designed to light the shadows of an unhappy world. And his sheer athleticism, his acrobatic body, became something more than a useful and pretty tool for social climbing – it became a gorgeous weapon for the oppressed and defenseless; a noble and supple machine filled with benevolent power. When people in movie palaces saw Fairbanks plunge his dirk into the sail of the pirate ship and slide down its length in The Black Pirate, they stood up as if watching a grand, historical moment.
Between 1920 and 1930, Douglas Fairbanks produced and starred in The Mark of Zorro, The Three Musketeers, Robin Hood, The Thief of Bagdad, Son of Zorro, The Black Pirate, and The Iron Mask. All these films communicated to the public in unprecedented ways, heightened and elevated their expectations about what a male star could and should do in film; as well as changed their perceptions about the speed and pace of film. These were the first true action movies (films in which adventure and action were the centerpieces and crucial to the story, if not the primary appeal); and they represent the most important and influential series of action/adventure films ever produced by an American. In the Pirates of The Caribbean franchise, Johnny Depp may be slurring his dialogue like Keith Richards, but his action sequences, his moments of grandeur, call directly upon the ghost of Fairbanks.
There has never been an American actor as completely breathtaking on screen as Douglas Fairbanks. Indeed, no one since even comes close. If you doubt me watch any of the above films. Watch Fairbanks spring from table to wall mantle in Mark of Zorro, perched 8 feet above his advisories, smiling down at them. Watch him bound across the turrets of England in Robin Hood, appearing for a moment as if, like Superman, he were a creature born without the restrictions of earthly physics. Watch his brilliant and graceful sword work in The Black Pirate. These and countless other moments leave the mouth open, the face smooth with wonder. In short, watch him in anything. You will, I guarantee you, feel a chill travel over your skin.
But Fairbanks had something special, something beyond physical prowess and gymnastics, that audiences felt instinctively in particularly wordless moments, which struck them directly at the heart.
There is the perfect Fairbanks’ moment in the perfect Fairbanks’ role: D’Artagnan in Fred Niblo’s The Three Musketeers. D’Artagnan has just arrived in Paris, and is seen riding through the city’s main gate. The city streets are vibrant with activity; carts being hurried along, citizens bustling, women waving handkerchiefs from windows. D’Artagnan pauses a moment, bringing his horse to a stop just inside the cities’ broad arch as people mill passed. The future musketeer looks around, drinking into his chest the churning, sophisticated atmosphere of Paris. His smile suddenly lights the scene and all the city around him; a smile that turns into a laugh.
The glory of Fairbanks is that we know exactly what has made him so happy: His own brief mortality, the feel of his horse under him; the feel of the air on his face, the sound of voices – and more: His is the good fortune to be living on such a perfect globe, in such a wonderful, singular moment as this. This instant has come to him, belongs to him, and his joy is this very second of brief, sweet life. His smile is love.
And, for a moment, sharing the light of a Fairbanks’ smile, we have our moment as well, and believe that our tomorrows must promise adventure. -- Mykal Banta

Happy Birthday Barbara Stanwyck!!!

I have a guest post coming up for today, but I just had to squeeze this in first!

Happy 102nd birthday to my favorite actress in the world!!

For more on Stany:

Ingrid Bergman

July 14, 2009

by Millie
of Classic Forever
Guest Blogger

First of all, I should let you know, that I'm pretty awful at stuff like this! Over at my blog my reviews are known by the name, "Semi-Review" because while talking about the plot or why the cinematography was so amazing I'm just as apt to mention why I loved one of the hats a certain character was wearing. Let's just say, I'm not the most lucid writer...hahahaha. But, I'm gonna try and clean up my act a little for Kate's wonderful blog! I also wanted to thank Kate for being so wonderfully patient about this guest-blogging post (I promised it in May, but some school-stuff came up). Anyways, on to the A-M-A-Z-I-N-G Ingrid Bergman:

Ingrid Bergman. What can I say about those two words that has not already been said since the first time they were made known to the American audience seventy years ago?

For me, Ingrid Bergman was a contradiction. She seemed at the same time open and honest; but she also was shrouded in mystery. She was someone you knew and could relate to. But she was an enigma. Even her face was a contradiction. Her smile exclaimed great joy, but her eyes declared some hidden sorrow. Maybe this is one of the reasons so many people fall under her spell? And the reason those who don't see the mystery of Ingrid, often think that there is nothing at all special about her. But, the latter are the ones who are sorely mistaken.

Anyways, after that long, "deep", philosophical introduction (well, it's as philosophical as I can be) I want to discuss a little about why and what I love of Ingrid (or Ingy as I'm often apt to call her). The reason I chose to spotlight this area is because, I am not gonna in anyway try to pretend that I am one of the most knowledgeable about Ingrid or have seen the most films of hers! For learning more about Ingrid I suggest you check out a blog written by someone who qualifies for both of those titles: Ingrid Bergman Life and Films written by the super-amazing Alexis.

No, instead, I'm gonna talk for a (SHORT) time about why Ingrid is so special to me.

Ingrid Bergman (August 29th 1915- August 29th 1982) was truly spectacular! Besides being my favorite actress ever, she won three Oscars and was nominated for four others. She also won countless other awards (Emmy's, Golden Globes, etc.) Although, as many of you know, winning awards (or not winning) is hardly a measure of one's certainly does help. ;-D

Ingy was revolutionary. Now-a-days people often look back and put her into a category of "40's studio actresses". But, she was not your average studio "starlet". No, she was not. Ingrid made a firm stand as an actress and as a person. The studio head told her to cap her teeth, pluck her eyebrows, and start wearing more make-up. She refused. She felt that being an actress was more than just displaying your pretty self now and then. In that way she was revolutionary, joining a very elite group that included Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck. But, Ingrid was different than both of them, for Ingrid was drop-dead, out-of-this-world gorgeous! And that is why Ingrid is also my choice for the most beautiful actress that has ever walked the face of this planet.

"The only natural girl in Hollywood"
(the words the studio used to promote her)

My favorite part of Ingrid were her lovely eyes. They were her greatest acting trait. She conveyed how she felt with those eyes. They were the one (at least partially) open door to Ingrid's inner most being.

My top Ingy performance ever is:
Gaslight (1944)

Wow! Watch her eyes in this movie. They are so incredibly expressive. She plays a women who may or may not be going mad... Ingrid spent several days watching women in an Asylum to learn how they moved their eyes. It paid off. Ingrid gives an immensely shattering performance. The last scene is so incredibly amazing!

Rounding out my top five: Anastasia, Notorious, Spellbound, and Casablanca.

Ingrid's performances never grew old or stale as she grew older, nor are any of her performances ever likely to. There is something so special about Miss Bergman that exempts her from the confines of time-periods or eras. In a hundred years from now people will be watching her in amazement and awe...just as we do now...just as people did seventy years ago. She is Ingrid Bergman. She is not just a "40's studio actress". She is not just an "award winning actress". She is not just the most gorgeous women ever. She is Ingrid Bergman...which is all these things and more.

And, I hope that despite this horribly disjointed and rather awkwardly written post you have come to realize just how stupendously amazingly cool Ingrid Bergman was (unless you already thought she was stupendously amazingly cool, which is unlikely because I have copyrighted that phrase ;-D)!

Thanks for reading this! And thanks again to the super-duper Kate-Gabrielle!


Editor's Note (aka. Kate) -- I did another Ingrid Bergman drawing that, in my opinion, turned out to look nothing like her at all... but if you want to take a peek, I have it posted on my flickr account here.

Ginger Rogers

by Wendy
Guest Blogger

Is it possible to talk about Ginger Rogers without mentioning Fred Astaire? While the two are inextricably linked in one of the greatest dance partnerships of all time, the ten movies the pair did together are only a fraction of the seventy-plus movies Ginger made. Their first on-screen teaming inFlying Down to Rio marked Fred's second film... and Ginger's twentieth. So even though it may be what she is best remembered for, Ginger's career did not begin (or end) dancing with Fred Astaire.

Her success did start with dancing, however. After winning a Charleston contest at the age of 14, Ginger began touring, eventually performing on Broadway and making her way to Hollywood. While she didn't like being pigeon-holed as only a singing and dancing girl, even in her non-musical films there are often scenes where Ginger dances. Of all her dancing partners, both on and off the screen, who were her favorites? In her autobiography, Ginger explained that for her, part of the joy in dancing came when the man could carry on a conversation without losing the rhythm. Among those getting a ten on her dance card: choreographer Hermes Pan, Jimmy Stewart, and Cary Grant.

Ginger got a chance to step away from musicals and play a more serious role in 1940's Kitty Foyle. For her strong performance, Ginger was nominated for an Academy Award. In the first year the results were kept secret until the ceremony, the suspense ended with Ginger Rogers winning the Oscar for Best Actress, beating out Katherine Hepburn, Joan Fontaine, and Bette Davis -- fierce competition indeed!

In addition to her dramatic skills, Ginger also had a knack for comedic roles. My favorite example of this is Billy Wilder's The Major and the Minor. In a role tailored for her, Ginger plays a woman who gets stuck pretending to be years younger than she really is, all because she wants to get a cheaper train fare home. (Ginger herself used to enact this charade to travel more cheaply during the early days of her career.) The movie also gave Ginger a chance to act with her mother, with whom she had a very close relationship. Ginger said she had more fun making this film than any other except forKitty Foyle, and it shows, for the film is delightful.

That sense of fun is present in many of Ginger's movies, and is part of what adds to her appeal. She makes dancing with Fred look like the best time ever, even though it was definitely a lot of hard work. She's graceful, beautiful, yet manages to display (even while dancing) a sense of humor, making her seem more down-to-earth. She can also be incredibly cute, like in Gold Diggers of 1933 where she sings "We're in the Money" in pig Latin (which came about only because production chief Darryl F. Zanuck heard her practicing that way). There's also a sharpness to her, an alert, intelligent look and a wonderful delivery of witty dialogue. Take Stage Door for an example, where the director listened to the off-camera chit-chat of the actresses and worked it into the lines -- who knows which of the barbs delivered may have come from Ginger?

That range Ginger had keeps me fascinated with her, always happy when I discover another one of her movies. In her films she's tender, natural, funny, smart, amazingly watchable and relatable. Who was she? Actress, dancer, singer, comedienne. Not Fred & Ginger. The very talented Ginger Rogers.

sneak peak of my new studio!

July 12, 2009

After a whole week of working non-stop, I finally finished my bedroom/studio overhaul today! I'm so thrilled I could burst. Unfortunately, the sun started setting around the same time I finished so I only managed to take one really good picture. You can click on it to see it enlarged :)

If you like any of the artwork in the picture,
here is the link to the image on flickr where I added notes to all of the artwork with links to the artists' websites.

Tomorrow I'll have pictures of the whole room-- along with my super neat Fred and Ginger poster/headboard!! I'm probably going to post one or two images on my other blogs so sorry to anyone who follows more than one of my blogs for some pic spam on your google reader or dashboard tomorrow!!

No song of the week this week because I'm just to done in from all the renovating the last few days. However, stay tuned because on Tuesday I'll be posting Wendy's Ginger Rogers guest post and on Thursday I'll have a guest post on Douglas Fairbanks Sr. by Mykal!

Rudolph Valentino

July 04, 2009

Hala Pickford from Forget the Talkies! asked me to create logos for The Rudolph Valentino Society and The Rudolph Valentino Film Festival, and the websites have officially launched with the new logos! There is also a zazzle store for Rudolph Valentino merchandise!

To create the logo, I did a basic sketch of Valentino and then painstakingly (trust me!) recreated his signature in pencil before adding a sepia filter in photoshop.

I asked Hala to give you a little background on the Society & the Film Festival, so here it is!

"The first silent film I remember seeing was Beyond the Rocks with Gloria Swanson and Rudolph Valentino in 2005. When I started Forget the Talkies 3 years later Valentino was a favorite topic of mine, by far he is my favorite actor of any era. However despite my own kooky-esque personal beliefs I was very annoyed with the way he was remembered...just his death, just what very warped people fantasized he did in his private life. No one seemed to remember he was a fantastic actor, or that he was a sweet boy from Italy who's friends best remembered him for his spaghetti. After hearing about the Valentino Memorial Service I decided I had to take action...I had to do something to honor the real Rudy and his work. Valentino was a man who fought hard for what he believed in, including art in motion pictures, good scripts, and accuracy in his films (no matter how rarely he would win it). Yes he was pretty, but he was also wonderfully talented. If anyone doubts his skills I dare them to watch Monsieur Beaucaire. He was a wonderful comedian though he rarely got to show it.

So I announced I would do a film festival. Then I forgot about it for about 6 months because of life and stuff. Then the Valentino fans found me, and yelled at me to get it going. So I did! Luckily in those 6 months I learned a lot, especially about how to screen silent films in Los Angeles, CA where I live. I put out the call for volunteers and was shocked and honored by how many people responded. Rudy's name means a lot to many people, and I think he would be very glad to know that.

I asked Kate to make our logo as she is such a talented artist. I was thrilled when she agreed and screamed with glee when I saw the final product. There could not be a more perfect logo for Rudy.

The Rudolph Valentino Film Festival has a website, which we just made all pretty and is full of information. You can see it at . Volunteers are accepted from wherever in the world, though if you want to be hands on you will need to make it to LA. If you would like to volunteer or donate please see the website for details. The festival will take place May 6th - May 8th, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA. Right now we are solidifying the venue but it will likely be in Downtown Los Angeles (in one of the old theatre palaces where Rudy himself premiered his films). Our goal is to promote Rudy's films, silent films, and new filmmakers. Several indie shorts will be shown before silent features. Its going to be quite a spectacle...before "Son of the Sheik" we will have a belly dancer and lets just say there will be a film shown that you can NOT miss! But its top secret for now :). We will be looking for 20s based acts and newer musicians soon. Please see the site for details. And please dont forget to check out our store at zazzle where you can buy tons of merch with Kate's lovely design on it! Proceeds go to help fund the fest!

One other thing that sprouted from this wonderful festival was the creation of The Rudolph Valentino Society. Nicknamed the 23 Sahara Knights the society will continue to help restore and promote the legacy of Rudolph Valentino. Members will be privy to exclusive news, updates, and merchandise as well as discounts. Please see for more information. Kate designed that logo as well!

I've rambled on long enough...back to you Kate!"

I hope you'll go check out the websites!! I'll be back to play catch up tomorrow with a double dosing of Song of the Week (since I missed last weeks!) then Monday or Tuesday I'll be announcing my really exciting plans! AND then the rest of the week will be dedicated to guest blog posts! Stay tuned for Douglas Fairbanks Jr, Ginger Rogers and Ingrid Bergman!! Sorry I've been a little MIA the last few weeks, but the art stuff has been keeping me very busy. Hopefully things will start settling down a little in the next week or so!