Thursday, October 29, 2009

I think it's the best thing I ever read... I didn't understand one word!

I revisited a (recent) favorite the other day: Born Yesterday (1950) with Judy Holliday and William Holden. I say recent because I didn't discover Miss Holliday until about 2 years ago and I didn't watch Born Yesterday until about a year and a half ago. I dismissed it, sadly, after the scene where Billie gets smacked (sorry for the small spoiler there) and didn't revisit it again until this past summer. I fell in love with it the second time I saw it and promptly bought it. It's such a wonderful movie. For those of you who haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. Upon discovering Judy Holliday, she quickly became a favorite. She is such a genuine actress, giving her characters (particularly Billie Dawn) a brilliant combination of innocence and worldliness, naivety and wisdom. She's adorable and strong at the same time. And William Holden is a wonderful (and beautiful) actor, exuding charm, intelligence, and quiet passion.

Now, this is the scene spotlight segment, but I just wanted to give brief praise to the movie before launching into my discussion of the scene. The scene is one of my favorites in the movie, despite the fact that William Holden is not in it. In this scene, Billie Dawn (Holliday) is playing gin rummy with her boyfriend, the crooked, rich, and abusive Harry Brock (Broderick Crawford). Both hilarious and sad, the scene shows the couple's relationship at the beginning of the movie and also shows Billie's innate intelligence as she strategizes. Billie knows how to work her boyfriend but is still intimidated and affected by his emotional abuse. It's a wonderful testament to Holliday's talents as an actress as she evokes several emotions from her audience with minimal dialogue. I also love the the way Crawford's abuse and affection come through in this short scene - very well done.

So, enjoy it! If you haven't seen the movie, do yourself a favor and check it out. And, what should we say for discussion? Judy Holliday is one of the famous "dumb blondes" in movies. There were several amazing and clever actresses who portrayed dumb blondes. Who is your favorite? Or least favorite? Or is it impossible to choose between them? For myself, I think I'd have to say Judy Holliday and the wonderful Marilyn Monroe would be at the top of the list. I'm not a huge fan of Jean Harlow. If you know of any good movies of hers, please recommend them!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

You're the top!

Happy Birthday Kevin Kline!

Now, I had a post all written up, and I even published it... but then I realized that it was Kevin Kline's birthday and I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I've been wanting to write a compare/contrast post about Night and Day (1946) and De-Lovely (2004). The trouble is, I've only seen De-Lovely once. It was about four years ago and I saw it with my step-mom who often interpreted movies differently than I did. Therefore, I regret to say that this will not be the best post I have ever done because I have not done adequate amounts of research on it. But I will what I can. Hopefully I'll be able to rewatch De-Lovely soon and, if necessary, I'll make edits to this post accordingly. If I do, I will let you know.

De-Lovely tells the story of Cole Porter (played by Kevin Kline) and his wife, Linda (played by Ashley Judd). A contemporary, biographry, it does not hold back on the details of Porter's homosexuality. Rather, the movie emphasizes those details. It is all told in retrospect, as an old Porter looks back on his life and reflects. Again, it has been a while since I've seen the film, but I remember the wild parties depicted, the tragic scenes, and the overall somber attitude. This could be a case of misremembering and, if it is, please let me know! In any case, it works well as a comparison to:

Night and Day, which stars Cary Grant as Cole Porter and Alexis Smith as Linda Lee Porter, with Michael Curtiz directing. Interestingly enough, Cole Porter was actually alive when they made this fictionalized biography of him. I think it is an important detail due to the way they portray the songwriter's life. For example, they completely omit his homosexuality and suggest that the Porter's marriage came to rocky terms due to his excessive work ethic. As the movie was made in the '40s, this omission makes sense, particularly with the subject still being alive - audiences would not have been as accepting of a favorite romantic composer being gay. I've heard that Cary Grant was cast mostly as a wish fulfillment for Porter. Apparently they asked who he'd like to have play him, he said, "Cary Grant," and so Cary Grant was cast. I've also heard that Grant was very frustrated by the portrayal of Cole Porter as he was friends with the composer and knew that the story being told was mostly false. I hate to fill this post with so many "I've heard"s and "I believe"s, but I promise to rewatch these films and do better research in the future!! I watched this movie after I'd seen Night and Day and was completely surprised by the lighthearted way it was handled. To be honest, I was rather relieved. The '40s went through a small phase of making fictional biographies of composers, including, Words and Music (1948) (Richard Rogers and Lorenz Hart) and Rhapsody in Blue (1945) (George Gershwin). I'd already seen both of those films before Night and Day and I really prefer the latter with its lighthearted style. They all are described as fictional biographies and, in my opinion, if you're going to make up facts about a real person, you might as well make them cheery facts! However, I will admit that De-Lovely does more justice to the truth in Cole Porter's story.

So there you have it. Two films about the same person with completely different storylines and styles. If you are a fan of Cole Porter, I encourage you to check these two films out and make your own judgment on which is the superior film and which is the truer depiction of Cole Porter.

And, as a treat, here are two clips. One, with Cary Grant singing (a rare treat!) and the second, with Kevin Kline and John Barrowman performing one of my favorite Cole Porter songs.

Also, I highly recommend you check out Kevin Kline in Pirates of Penzance (1983) which can be found here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Just like a peeled eel

If you've ever wanted to see a musical fashion show, then Roberta (1935) is your kind of movie! There are some wonderful dresses in it. One of them is one of my all-time favorite dresses in movie history. My sisters and I called it "the peeled eel dress" although it's really supposed to be called "la sirène noire." The eel reference is due to a bit of dialogue between Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers who, sadly, are only side characters in the film. The model walks by and Ginger says, "Mm! Does not she look wonderful in that?" and Fred replies, "Marvelous. Just like a peeled eel." However, I'm pretty sure most girls would beg to differ with him....

The dress is sexy with a beautiful low cut front and an excitingly low cut back. The fabric, together with the bias cut give the dress a sleek, snug fit. The model, Jane Hamilton appears in several Fred and Ginger films. She's also in Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), and Shall We Dance (1937). I love finding bit actors in multiple parts; it makes me feel like I'm playing "Where's Waldo" when I watch movies. Anyway, this is one of my favorite dresses and, someday, I hope to add it to my wardrobe!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this dress. What do you think? Peeled eel or sirène noire?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Happy, happy Conga!

As promised, a segment on a great dance scene. This time I'm going to talk about a great dance duo that, sadly, did very few numbers together: Tommy Rall and Bob Fosse. If I'm mistaken, they only did one such duet but I'd hate to make a comment without basing it in fact. At any rate, they do a wonderful dance-off in My Sister Eileen (1955).

Bob Fosse is the more famous of the two. He made appearances in very few films, so his fame stems primarily from his talents as a choreographer. If the name doesn't sound familiar, his choreography may ring a bell in films The Pajama Game (1957) (think "Steam Heat"), Sweet Charity (1969), and All That Jazz (1979). He worked with several stage productions too, if I'm not mistaken, but I'm not entirely acquainted with all of those. I will add, however, that there is an entire musical dedicated to his style. Fosse had the opportunity to choreograph My Sister Eileen and you can definitely see his style in the moves. Signatures included the hunched back, loose arms, legs curved in, and hats.

Tommy Rall does not receive the fame he deserves as an exceptional dancer. However, anyone who has seen his films usually recognizes him. For instance, do you remember these guys: Frank in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) and Bill Calhoun/Lucentio in Kiss Me Kate (1953)? That was Tommy Rall. His dancing was sexy and athletic. Sadly, because he is so undervalued as a performer, I don't know much about him. After looking at his IMdB profile (which doesn't include a picture, I might add), I can tell you that he began and ended his career with American Ballet Theater, but that is all I can say. If you know anything else about him, please let me know!

Both dancers were together in Kiss Me Kate and they danced a couple of numbers together (and I would love to highlight at least one of them in a later entry). This duet, however, is overlooked which is why I wanted to spotlight it today.

For discussion: what other male dance duos do you like? They're strangely hard to come by, considering the wealth of dancers at the time. Or, what do you think is the sexiest aspect of Fosse's style?

And, as always, thank you for reading!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

spur of the moment review

Don't worry: this isn't a new segment. I'll work on posting again in the next day or two about a good musical number (I have a few in mind). I just wanted to share a delightful discovery I made tonight: Midnight (1939) starring Claudette Colbert and Don Ameche. The first (and only) movie I'd ever seen of Don Ameche was Down Argentine Way (1940) which was a thorough disappointment, so I was a little wary to check out another of his films (a silly judgment, I know. I'll work on that). I've only seen Claudette Colbert in It Happened One Night (1934), which I love, but I didn't know enough of her other work to guess what to expect in this movie.

All this to say, Midnight completely took me by surprise. It is a wonderful film - the sort of film I wish I'd seen sooner. It's delightful from beginning to end. I watched it with my roommate and we had a very fun time trying to predict what would happen next. It turned out to be a pretty tricky game as there are some surprising twists throughout. (I challenge you to watch the movie and predict the twists correctly - excluding, of course, the happy ending because we knew that would happen) The movie had me laughing out loud and ended with me smiling quite contentedly.

I leave you with a quote and a picture. The quote is, surprisingly enough, hilarious in context. Just wait till you see it! (For the record, the quote and the picture do not necessarily go together)

"It was a simple case of alcohol poisoning. She'd had one highball too many. We found her in the gutter."

For the sake of discussion, what movies have you stumbled upon that turned out to be delightful?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Practically perfect in every way

Happy Birthday Julie Andrews! Just in time to feel all warm and comfy inside with the coming of fall, we can celebrate a wonderful performer's movies that will also make you feel warm and comfy inside: it's a perfect match! I have, luckily, seen more Julie Andrews movies than my last birthday person, Donald O'Connor. I've seen about 6 Julie Andrews movies, unless you count her voice acting, in which case I've seen 8. This summer, I rekindled my admiration and love for Julie Andrews when I introduced Mary Poppins (1964) and Sound of Music (1965) to my almost-two-year-old niece. This rekindling inspired me to revisit another movie that I hadn't liked the first time around, Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967), which I now love. I also watched Relative Values (2000) for the first time and fell in love with it. The Princess Diaries films (2001 and 2004) are also a good testament to how elegant, graceful, and sophisticated Julie Andrews is. Most people have seen at least one Julie Andrews movie, usually two or three or four so I probably don't need to review them. What is your favorite Julie Andrews role? Your favorite Julie Andrews film (if there's a difference in the two)? Your favorite Julie Andrews song? Your favorite Julie Andrews line? Did I miss any spectacular Julie Andrews movie that you recommend? I'm really trying to get more responses to this blog because I'd like to know who is reading it. If you all want to say is "Happy Birthday" then that's okay too! So, to get the ball rolling:

Favorite Julie Andrews role: Mary Poppins:

Favorite Julie Andrews film: I really hate to say the same movie twice so I'll change it up with Relative Values even though Mary Poppins is probably my favorite:

Favorite Julie Andrews song: Toss up between "Feed the Birds (Tuppence A Bag)," "Chim Chim Cheree" and "I Have Confidence."

Favorite Julie Andrews line: "Starting tomorrow, I'm going to be unspeakably fatal."

And Happy Birthday Julie Andrews! Yay!
(And Happy October too)