Friday, July 31, 2009

Gene Tierney's Prime

This looks to be from Laura (1944), Gene Tierney's quintessential role. I love her sophisticated demeanor, arty surroundings, and lovely dress. Too often Gene was cast as the goody-goody girl next door and so we rarely got to see her do more against-type roles. Even Laura finds her as a nice girl. However, her Oscar-nominated role in Leave Her to Heaven (1945) and her performance in The Razor's Edge (1946) find Tierney in two of her most fascinating roles. In the former she's a complete psycho, and in the latter she's also a not-so-nice character. Tierney gets an undeserved bad rap as being an average actress at best, but Tierney needed more parts that required her to "stretch", and she was more than capable of taking on such challenges. She was on quite a roll from 1944-46 and is it any wonder her career stalled after this, given her staggering personal problems? Let's see: philandering weasel of a husband, her baby born with severe birth defects, mental and emotional instability in a time when mental health care was icy sheets and wide-awake shock treatments. Yeah, I'd say that Gene had a rough time of things. It's hard not to be a booster for an underdog of sorts, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Gene Tierney, Behind the Scenes

Looks like I'm making this week Gene Tierney Appreciation Week! This photograph amazes me because Tierney is off screen with her hair up and still she looks like the Silver Screen Goddess that she always was. I've seen several of her films and watched the A&E Biography episode on her, Gene Tierney: A Shattered Portrait, but have yet to read up on her often miserable life and times. The documentary is available on the wonderful Laura DVD, which contains more extras than a single disc could possibly hold. As for Tierney's life, it turned out to be a happy ending of sorts for the tormented legend, but what a rough road she had to travel. Just when I thought all you beautiful people had it so easy...I've added Gene's official website to the sidebar, too.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gene Tierney--Yowza!

I've missed posting, so I'm getting back into the swing of things and have started on a couple of pieces I've been wanting to yammer on about. In the meantime, seeing this color photo of Gene Tierney (with Cheetah friend) has me all abuzz. I won't call this "Photo of the Day", that's Millie's feature...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Unreleased DVD Mid-Term Progress Report

Be Grateful for Crumbs

Sheesh. I don't think the major studios are all that interested in releasing classic movies any more. Back in December, I posted my wishlist for my most sought-after classic films not yet on DVD. Seven months later and only one has been issued: Johnny Eager (1942), the film that made me realize Robert Taylor was a much better actor than he's given credit for. Van Heflin won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this film, as a sad, sympathetic drunken buddy of the Taylor's title character. The Warner Archive released the movie on its DV-R program, but I just never cottoned to the idea of paying a huge conglomerate $20.00 for a mere burn of a movie that costs them next to nothing to make the "regular" way. At least Turner Classic Movies has a few of my requested movies airing in the next few months, so if I even owned a recording device I could tape said films. But it just looks like we've entered an era of the new and the latest rather than catering to the niche market that classic film has become.

It wasn't that long ago that an Astaire-Rogers boxed set (two volumes!) or a Thin Man Collection would soar high in sales. Perhaps it's because there just aren't that many great films left to release? Now you know I don't believe that for a second. These gi-normous movie corporations could sell fire to the Devil if they put their marketing boys and girls to work on the job. So what gives? Why so few classic movies being released on DVD? Or more specifically, why aren't the movies *I* want being released? They must want to give bootleggers job security... Come to think of it, that's most gracious in these economically tough times.

How many of your unreleased DVDs have made it to disc this year? Which ones were they?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Last of the Great Movie Poster Artists

Bob Peak (1927-1992) was an amazing talent. You've seen his work on many a movie poster. An artists with Bob Peak's ability belonged in the Golden Age, but his work made the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s the last hurrah for truly brilliant movie poster art. Here are but a few of his wonderful images.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Islands in the Stream (1977)

Excalibur (1981)

Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)

The Black Stallion (1979)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Susan Hayward and Her Hair Strike Back

Thanks to Turner Classic Movies, I got to see I'll Cry Tomorrow (1955) once again. The film is a great showcase for Susan's loveliness, charisma and unbelievable screen presence. She is simply mesmerizing every second she's on screen. I just couldn't take my eyes off her! She radiates power, sizzles with her wonderfully husky voice, and it's no wonder that she was so popular in the 1950s. There's a sequence towards the end of the movie where she's at an Alcholics Anonymous meeting where she (playing singer Lillian Roth) sings a medley of her hits (all sung for real by Hayward) to her beau and future husband, played by Eddie Albert. The two actors have a great rapport and I wonder how well they got along off screen. Susan is particularly effective when she makes the standard, "Happiness is a Thing Called Joe" her own. She owns that song. Just seeing Hayward again gets me excited about exploring her movies and life once more. She is a 1950s icon worthy of rediscovery by today's classic film lover. She worked with nearly every leading man of the 1940s and 50s, although not Burt Lancaster; that's a pairing I'd love to have seen.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Poll Results II: Joan Fontaine

The tie breaker for the June Poll is over. The majority of you think that Joan Fontaine should have won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Actress. The votes:

Joan Fontaine, Rebecca: 14 (60%)
Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story: 9 (39%)

What happened to all the Kate Hepburn fans? The Philadelphia Story was her big comeback part and yet she couldn't compete with Olivia DeHavilland's little sister! Rebecca was that year's Best Picture winner (Hitchcock's only) and while I'm not a Joan Fontaine fan, I can see how her role in this beautiful movie could have won. It's probably her defining performance, though she would win her Oscar the next year for Suspicion, another Alfred Hitchcock film. The lady was at her career peak, and yet she barely registers among the general public when appraisals of Golden Age actresses are made. It's difficult to get past the Barbara-Bette-Joan-Kate quartet, but whatever it is about Fontaine that her fans like, she delivers it full tilt in Rebecca. I'd love for anyone reading this to do a guest post here on why they love this film and Fontaine as they do. Consider it an open invitation...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Miami During the Golden Age of Hollywood

A bit of a departure today…

Part of my fascination for the Golden Age of Hollywood is the actual era itself. I love the architecture, music, politics, and styles of the 1930s and early 1940s, and I often think about what was going on in my own (nearby) fair city of Miami while Hollywood was creating its very best movies with my favorite stars. Miami, Florida was already booming as a luxury tourist destination by the 1930s and would be the nation’s playground in the subsequent decades. Today, I present some snapshots of Miami as it appeared during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Take a look at these travel brochures. Perhaps they will entice you to make the trip.

Great, we'll see you when you arrive...

Welcome to Miami: Here’s an Alfred Eisenstaedt aerial photograph of the Magic City, 1940.

Brrr: I forgot to tell you that we're having unusually cold weather this month! This stylish beachgoer sports a fur coat over her bathing suit in February, 1940 when tourists and locals alike were shocked with 30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures during a particularly potent cold snap that lasted three weeks.

The Miami Pan-Am airport terminal: Look at the design and the contrast between the dark surfaces of the terminal and the light, airy tropical attire of the passengers. I wish people dressed up today...I guess there's just no competing with ragged jeans and T-shirt...

Collins Avenue, 1940: Get a load of that bustling city! Cue the Gershwin music as everyone moves about in this subtropical paradise. Collins Avenue runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. This entire environment as it was during this time floods me with many images and fantasies, especially my Husband and Wife Detectives strolling along the sidewalks at night and taking in Miami’s typically balmy summer evenings—actually, they’re downright hot!

The traffic is relatively unchanged considering the time, population, and degree of urban expansion. It’s all in proportion, isn’t it? Miami seemed just as crowded then as it is today.

Here’s the Edsinger Hotel, where I live and write this blog—really! See? Right next to that typewriter is my stack of Ginger Rogers jpegs.

Off the Beaten Path: A trip to neighboring Fort Lauderdale finds us in a beautiful deco-designed club, The Club Keller. What’ll you have to drink?

To be continued...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Shame On You, Susan Hayward--and on me, too!

"Everybody gets a book; the ex-wife, the cook, the nanny..."

~John Lennon, on the perils of celebrity

That bad old Susan Hayward. Here she is, circa 1961, rich, famous, and an Academy-Award winning actress, and yet her poor poor sister can barely make ends meet. So claimeth this hatchet job from the evil that was Confidential magazine. Susan's older sister Florence was involved in a custody battle for her 17-year-old son in late 1960 and was trying to publicly guilt Susan into helping her. "I can sew...and I can do general housework and I can work as a saleswoman. If someone would only give me a job I could earn enough money to support my two children." Florence claimed that she hadn't seen Susan since their mother's funeral in April, 1958. Another article claimed that Florence wandered the fringes of skid row with her teenage son.

Being a celebrity sure is a lousy way to live one's life. If you happen to have a falling out with a sibling or parent, they can access the press and for a chunk of change can lob a Molotov Cocktail at you and all your shortcomings. Celebrities get partial treatment in the courts, but they also get that celebrity used against them, with hangers on, disgruntled relatives, and psychopathic "fans" (remembering John Lennon again) all taking their toll. Susan wisely didn't comment on her sister's accusations, and whatever feud that the two sisters had going was deep. However, I believe that just because you happen to share an accident of birth with someone and through the randomnity of some great cosmic lottery you happen to share the same parents, doesn't mean you'll get along with, or even like those in your family. Those of us schlubs who aren't rich and famous never have to worry about a disgruntled somebody publicly taking us to task, though with the internet, I guess it's possible to some degree, but not on this blog--too small an audience!

Sorry for the rant today, but I needed to bring Susan's name back on this blog, seeing as I've essentially left her in the dust what with my Susan Hayward Craze not taking off like I'd hoped, but seeing as Hayward was at her peak in the 1950s, and Hollywood Dreamland tends to concentrate on the 1930s-40s, Susan is omitted by default. But when I get into a 1950s mood, you can bet that the tough and lovely Susan will be back at center stage. After all, I think she's the Bee's Knees.

I also hope that they caught that Nazi fugitive...

Young and Lovely: Ingenue Susan, back when she was still considered a Vivien Leigh lookalike, though not so much here.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Poll Results: It's a Tie!

The June poll question: “Who should have won the 1940 Best Actress Oscar?” has ended in a tie! Both Joan Fontaine (Rebecca) and Katharine Hepburn (The Philadelphia Story) received 15 votes. However, I don’t believe in ties, so there will be a one-week runoff to determine the winner. If by week’s end there is still no victor, I will break the tie and declare the champ. The poll has been reset with just Fontaine and Hepburn. Here are the results of the voting, with 47 votes cast.

Joan Fontaine: 15 (31%)
Katharine Hepburn: 15 (31%)
Ginger Rogers: 10 (21%)
Bette Davis: 7 (14%)
Martha Scott: 0 (‘nuff said!)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

In Memoriam: Karl Malden

Another piece of my childhood died this week.

Karl Malden, age 97. That’s a hell of a ride and one great career. Those from my generation know Malden first and foremost as Detective Mike Stone in the 1970s cop show, The Streets of San Francisco, which my grandfather and I watched together when I was a kid (come to think of it, why aren't those TV programs ever rerun anymore? I haven't seen an episode of Streets in twenty-five years). Malden is also remembered from those omnipresent American Express commercials where he would end each ad with “American Express Traveler’s Checks; don’t leave home without them!” I always thought he was so authoritative and that it was Malden-as-Mike Stone telling us to buy those traveler's checks! Maybe it was because he was always wearing that fedora. Ever see his early role in 1950’s Where the Sidewalk Ends? In it, Malden plays a by-the-book police lieutenant, kind of an early dry run for Mike Stone, who isn’t often mentioned as one of the 1970s great police characters, but if you’ve ever watched the show, you’re probably a fan of it and of Karl Malden—at least that’s how I became aware and appreciative of this man’s ability.

My favorite Karl Malden performances were On the Waterfront (1954), where he’s the decent man of the cloth and in Patton (1970), in which he was just about perfect as General Omar Bradley. I felt he should’ve been Oscar-nominated for that role. Malden was already an Academy-Award winner, for 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire. However, being the excellent character actor that he was, Malden could also play a villain with equal expertise. He was fantastic as a mean S.O.B. Sheriff in One-Eyed Jacks (1961)--a great movie nobody ever heard of--and as an outlaw gang leader in Nevada Smith (1966). When these actors die I think of what a forceful presence they were on screen. You take them for granted because they’re always around- sturdy, reliable, and when a man lives to be nearly 100, they really have been around as long as anyone can remember! These aren’t the kinds of deaths that sadden me, as Malden lived to fulfill his career potential and was a successful working actor for fifty years. I wish all beloved movie stars lived this long, so we wouldn’t mourn their unfulfilled potential, but rather celebrate their lives and careers, as we can with Karl Malden.

What a Cast: Karl Malden with fellow Oscar winners Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint in "On the Waterfront."

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Go West, Young Film Buff

I love Westerns: movies, TV shows, books, and music scores. And in my effort to become more "Cowboy Friendly", I want to discuss more Western films here at HD. And while I'm quite familiar with 1950s-70s Western movies, there are several from Hollywood's Golden Age that I'd love to see. This also includes the Western serials where John Wayne toiled until he finall achieved super stardom in 1939's Stagecoach. I think that catching up with 1930s and 1940s Oaters will keep me busy for awhile. Part of my inspiration comes from British Blogger/working actor/author and Western lover extraordinaire, Gary Dobbs, whose Tainted Archive site is a great read and frequently updated. Check out his work there.