Tag Archives: Blogathon

And That’s Why Career Girls Shouldn’t Get Married

22 Sep

Posted as part of the Breaking News:  Journalism in Classic Film Blogathon, hosted by Comet Over Hollywood.

As everyone knows, career women (especially in classic films) are a rare breed of diseased characters who need to be cured through domestication.  Once married to a good man, a (former) career woman presumably lives a normal life, inoculated against her unnatural occupational fixations with the wholesome combination of kids and dogs and bacon and eggs and draperies.

However, not many films explore how this domestication might actually play out.  Crime of Passion (1957) starring Barbara Stanwyck, Sterling Hayden, and Perry Mason (Raymond Burr, that is) takes the career woman character to her logical–and tragic–end.

First a Synopsis

Our story begins with a newspaper truck barreling through San Francisco.  On the side we see this advertisement.

Read Kathy Ferguson

So we see this picture of our protagonist, Kathy Ferguson, and we see she’s one of those “Dear Abby” type columnists, and we’re probably supposed to think she’s all soft and feminine and sympathetic and all that.

And then we cut to the newsroom, where Barbara Stanwyck is Barbara Stanwyck-ing around, wearing practical clothes, trading wry witticisms with coworkers, and generally showing she’s not as prissy as we might imagine a ladies’ columnist to be.

Her editor sends her out to get a scoop on “the Dana woman”–a woman accused of killing her husband in Los Angeles and holing up someplace in San Francisco–and write a piece from some lady angle.  She at first does not want to go because she’s got other stuff to do, but he says they can just run some of her trash from last month and nobody will notice.  She reluctantly goes to the pressroom at the police station or wherever, and everybody’s on a personhunt for “the Dana woman,” including two detectives from Los Angeles–Captian Alidos and Lieutenant Doyle (Sterling Hayden).  Alidos tells her point blank, “Your job should be raising a family and having dinner ready for your husband.”  This is her response:

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Sassing, Sobbing, and Strumming a Few Chords on a Ukulele: Ginger Rogers as Tragi-Comic Heroine

29 Jun

Posted as part of the Funny Lady Blogathon put on by that talented and prolific purveyor of silent-movie gifs and other intriguing gems, Fritzi, of Movies, Silently.

I have a Top Hat poster in my room.

It’s this one.  It was given to me for maybe my 13th or 14th birthday by someone who knew I loved classic films in general, musicals specifically, and Ginger Rogers especially.

But I have a confession:

I don’t like Top Hat.  In fact, I don’t like any of the Rogers-Astaire musicals from the ’30s, and I just can’t put my finger on why.

Let me retrace my affection for Ginger Rogers.

The first classic movie I watched on my own (I mean, I spent every Christmas Eve watching It’s a Wonderful Life, and I think my mom and I had probably committed four hours to Gone with the Wind at some indistinguishable point in my childhood, but those don’t count because they weren’t my own choices although they both remain in my very-favorite-movie list) was a little number that’s not even that classic or that good.  It’s a weepy-wartime, totally ludicrous affair called I’ll Be Seeing You.

It stars Ginger Rogers as a sexually harassed secretary who accidentally shoves her boss out of a window (killing him, of course) when he tries to molest her.  She goes to prison and then she gets out on some kind of furlough for the holidays and goes to stay with her aunt (Spring Byington [best character actress ever]), uncle, and cousin (Shirley Temple).  Nobody trusts poor Ginger, and there’s a lot of family drama and some cattiness, and a lot of Ginger Rogers looking totally glamorously upset in gorgeous Edith Head gowns.

Meanwhile, Joseph Cotten is a half-crazy-from-shellshock WWII GI who’s on leave.  They fall in love, and neither of them tells the other their entire stories.

More drama ensues, the truths come out, Ginger goes back to prison, but Joseph declares his everlasting love, and all is well.

At the end, Ginger and I were both bawling, and I wanted her hair, her clothes, and her tragic and nonsensical love story.  (I was 12. Sue me.)

And then, as any good fangirl in 1999 would do, I decided I needed to boot up AOL and figure out what Ginger Rogers movies I could watch next.

Perhaps the next was Gold Diggers of 1933.  While I enjoyed Ginger’s turn as the hilariously gold-diggingest gold digger, I was more mesmerized by the Busby Berkeley choreography, Joan Blondell’s outrageous beauty and delightful warble, and the general charm of a fast-paced, tightly scripted pre-code.  And so I took a detour down that sort of road for a while.

And I branched out to other ladies–Mae West, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, even a brief thing with Kay Francis, and many, many hours with Ann Sothern as Maisie.  And countless others in varying degrees of fangirlish devotion.  Joan Crawford was a late edition, but at the peak of our affair, it was pretty intense.

But then I was back to Ginger and her great tragedies: Kitty Foyle, The Primrose Path, Tender Comrade.  I tried her Astaire stuff and even sort of liked The Barkleys of Broadway, but, for me, there was nothing like Ginger in tears, losing her man, having children out of wedlock, etc.

And then I watched Stage Door where she’s opposite Katherine Hepburn in an actress boarding house, fighting with her for parts and finally becoming BFFs.  And I partially realized what the deal is with my thing for Ginger.

No better foil exists for Ginger Rogers than Katherine Hepburn.  I don’t dislike Katherine Hepburn, and I don’t want anyone to mistake the following for criticism because Kate is obviously marvelous and can make me laugh and cry just as well as anybody, but she certainly has a persona (which is like half the plot of Stage Door): that New England aristocrat with a recognizable tinny voice and a rigid physique who’s rather dour in her tragic roles and who is always ultra stagy.

And then there’s Ginger–soft and flexible, draped casually over a chair playing a ukulele, with her big clear eyes and her buttery midwestern voice barking out sassy witticisms but then also cooing softly to her friends when they’ve had a bad day.

I realized seeing this juxtaposition that I love watching Ginger Rogers cry because she does it as she does all things: with half a smile on her face.

I like her in tragedies because she’s open and warm-looking and funny like your best friend is funny–not like stand-up comic funny but clever jabs and pratfalls funny.

I like her in tragedies because she seems so honest.

I like her in tragedies because in real life she’s a comedic actress.

And her sensitivity to the comedy of tragedy shows in the way she plays someone so foolish and silly but with so much heart like Kitty Foyle or the gal in I’ll Be Seeing You.

Severe Suits and Bermuda Shorts: Fashion in Witness for the Prosecution

30 Mar

Posted as part of The Hollywood Revue’s Fashion in Film Blogathon running March 29-30.

Witness for the Prosecution is not the most fashionable movie ever made.  It does not make my heart leap and yearn like Humoresque or cringe and guffaw like High School Hellcats.

It simply has costumes that really fit the characters (not to mention the characters the characters are trying to make everyone believe they are).

So let’s take a look-see.

First we’ve got our intrepid hero, Charles Laughton, and his gal Friday (who is really his nurse because he has a heart condition and he does not want anything to do with her for most of the movie), Elsa Lanchester.

Old British Nurse

This little car ride shows us their typical wardrobe (as well as their typical attitude).  I did a little research (the rigorous and academic typing of “1950s British nurses” into Google Images), and even by 1950s standards, Lanchester’s outfit here is bulky and old-fashioned.

And she’s a bulky, old-fashioned nurse who delights in her bulky, old-fashioned ways.

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Dueling Divas: #SpinsterHeiressProbz Edition

23 Dec

Posted as part of Backlots‘s Dueling Divas Blogathon running Dec. 20-23.

For a short while in my youth, I couldn’t tell sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine apart.  To my credit, they do share a family resemblance, and they do often play the same types of roles–the naive and mousy soft ingenue who gets mixed up with an ambiguously bad man who may or may not love her back (see Jane Eyre, Rebecca, The Women, In This Our Life, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, even Gone with the Wind to an extent).

What finally distinguished them for me is hard to pin down.  I just one day could tel them apart suddenly and realized I had an irrational attachment to Olivia and an irrational dislike for Joan.

When I heard they despised each other in real life, I somehow felt vindicated in my irrationality and also was firmly on Team de Havilland.  I mean, she’s Melanie–the best movie best friend ever–AND she was best friends with Bette Davis is real life.  That’s pretty damn BA.

But, for the purposes of this blogathon, I was going to try to put my prejudices aside.  I had chosen to compare and contrast thematically similar movies, pitting them against each other in an infographic showdown diva off.

I had chosen Suspicion for Joan Fontaine: the story of a spinster heiress who marries a dashing ne’er do well who may or may not want her for her money.  And The Heiress for Olivia de Havilland: the story of a spinster heiress who almost marries a dashing ne’er do well who may or may not want her for her money.

The problem was I hadn’t seen either of these movies before.  There I had been thinking it would be a pretty even spinster-heiress match up, like my Joan Crawford vs. Bette Davis Dual Duel had been last year.  Ha!  No dice!

Suspicion straight up sucks, and The Heiress straight up rules, Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland aside.

So my original plan of any kind of fair and balanced competition was out the window.  Here’s Plan B:  a flowchart that will help you figure out what kind of #SpinsterHeiressProbz you might have.

Although this flowchart ostensibly covers the two movies this post is supposed to be about, you might notice my favorite spinster-heiress movie pops up a few times as an added bonus.

My Movie Alphabet

20 Dec

Duke Mantee over at Spoilers did one of these as part of a blogathon, so I decided I wanted to do one, too.  I guess the blogathon is put on by this person.

A:  At Long Last Love

Forcing the driver to drink champagne. Good idea, errbody.

Oft-maligned tribute to ’30s musicals.  I happen to really like this movie for the silliness it is, probably spurred on by my irrational devotion to Cybill Shepherd (not to mention Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan, Burt Reynolds, and Cole Porter, but one need not be irrational to be devoted to those).

B: Bad Seed, the

Look at them crazy eyes! Also, I love the mom’s blouse.

I saw this for the first time in a hotel room with my mom when I was in 6th grade.  I was pretty sure it was the creepiest.  I saw it again recently and realized it’s a pretty smart, sharp movie.

C:  Cleopatra

Watch out, Warren William. That’s Cleopatra–comin’ atcha!

Claudette Colbert, you crazy and fabulous, gurl.  I love you in pre-codes and in weepy wartime numbers equally, but this movie is so decadently and art-deco-ly delicious.

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Dueling Country Divas (And Their Diva Duel Movies That Might Have Been)

12 Dec

Backlots once again is hosting the Dueling Divas Blogathon, which highlights glamorous classic movie stars who hate each other glamorously and fight out their troubles glamorously.  I’m participating in this officially a little later on, but I want to kick things off a little early with a pre-blogathon post that doesn’t exactly fit the criteria.

I’ve chosen five classic country songs that feature ladies in varying degrees of duels.  Each song, in my opinion, would have made a great classic diva duel movie.  Therewith, I will share with you why the ladies in these songs are divas and how the movie that could’ve been made might’ve looked (and I apologize in advance for all the crappy posters).

Honorable Mention:  Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley PTA

The Song:  A sassy widow, the bane of Harper Valley, exposes the PTA as the hypocrites they are when they have the nerve to send a note home criticizing her lifestyle choices.

Main Diva:  The sassy widow shows her divatude in the climactic confrontation with the PTA.

Supporting Diva: Shirley Thompson, PTA board member, who, if you smell her breath, “you’ll find she’s had a little nip of gin.”  There are many antagonists in this story; however, I think Shirley would make the best lead because there’s a lot of inherent pathos in being an alcoholic.

The Movie:  I know there’s already a movie, and I’ve seen parts of it many years ago, but I imagine this starring Ginger Rogers–maybe as a post-Primrose Path or Kitty Foyle endeavor, where she is from the wrong side of the tracks and works her way up and marries a rich dude and then is jilted by him (and then he up and dies), and then the movie includes some flashbacks to life before Harper Valley and then some Stella Dallas-esque scenes of her embarrassing her daughter (the narratrix of the movie, like the song) and then the climactic showdown.  Meanwhile, a glamorously and furtively drunk Ann Sothern–a woman both hard and soft who delivers one-liners like an absolute champ but who can also convey deep emotions–plays Shirley Thompson, whose marriage to Mr. Thompson is on the rocks, and she has her own troubles when Ginger Rogers rolls into town.  The ladies hate each other at first, but then they come to an understanding after the showdown because Ginger’s dad was an alcoholic and ya da da.  And maybe at the happy ending they trade recipes and snicker about the gal who’s having an affair with the ice man.

Harper Valley PTA

***

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Why Don’t You Come Out to the Delta Quadrant Sometime and See Me?

26 Sep

I’m always creepin’ ’round teh internetz looking for blogathons to join because, say it with me now, my blog is super lame.  Well, I was looking the other day, and came across one that seemed kind of promising, but then I couldn’t think of anything to write about because I was only half interested in the subject; however, it did lead me to a link to a different blogathon that held a tad more interest for me.  I started researching a little and realized I COULD POTENTIALLY WRITE ABOUT CLASSIC MOVIES AND/OR CAPTAIN JANEWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Word.

So, without further ado, below looms my entry for Angela and her HollywoodRevue’s Paramount Centennial Blogathon.

Here’s my train of thought (disclaimer:  history filtered through my brain):

Movie studios faced some tough times during the Depression.  They had all this sound they didn’t exactly know what to do with yet.  They had all these actors who were kinda broad and weird from silent movies.  They didn’t have a strict production code to keep them from a million extraneous scenes of Marlene Dietrich swimming naked in ponds or Barbara Stanwyck taking off her stockings.  And they were having trouble getting an audience because everybody was super poor.

So, in the early ’30s, Paramount looked to Broadway, found a gal with a hit show, and gave her a movie deal.  That movie?  She Done Him Wrong.  That gal?  Mae West.

Subsequently, Paramount’s financial troubles lessened.

Fast forward 60 years.

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I Just Want to Be Surprised: Final Analysis Analyzed through a Hitchcock Filter

12 Jul

This post is part of The Best Hitchcock Movies (That Hitchcock Never Made) Blogathon, running from July 7th through July 13th, 2012. 

Once upon a time, Lawrence Kasdan decided to basically remake Double Indemnity except with more bathtub sex, window-breaking, and hideous moustaches and then to so subtly call this affair Body Heat.  Several other directors soon followed suit, and thus the ‘80s and ‘90s became the era of the erotic thriller.

I don’t know exactly what it was that about this particular time that made the movie soil so fertile for this sort of thing—certainly the fashion industry decided to harken back to the Golden Age for inspiration, and politics started to conservatize itself, as well.  Maybe everybody was tired of the existential cowboys and long hair and drugs that peppered the ‘60s and ‘70s.  Whatever the case, filmmakers used the tropes that Hitchcock and various and sundry noir directors had perfected to create equal parts glistening and grimy sex thrillers—perhaps thinking they were making movies the way Hitchcock would’ve if he could’ve shown more skin.

Anyway, I’ve chosen Final Analysis for this Alfred Hitchcock Blogathon–an inspired and inspiring little number cooked up by DorianTB and Becky.  However, I must admit something:  This blogathon is all about the best Hitchcock films Hitchcock didn’t make, yet this film is probably not included on any “best of” lists (certainly none of mine).  But because it strives with all its heart to be Hitchcockian, and it’s rather fun, I chose it anyway.  With that, here’s a summary to get us started.  And, of course, spoilers, subjectivity, and slight snark abound.

This screencap makes it look cheesy, but the opening credits of this movie actually set a pretty suspenseful stage (and are probably the best part of the movie).

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Dual Duel; or Dueling Duels–Now Featuring More Divas

20 Dec

Posted as part of Backlots’ Dueling Divas Blogathon.So Bette Davis and Joan Crawford feuded for years.  Genesis of feud:  ambiguous.  Rumor, hearsay, etc. suggest some sordid lesbian longing and/or boyfriend stealing fueled their burning hate for each other.

IDK and IDC.  What I do K and C about is how glamorous/best these two ladies are and how much I love them in almost anything.  While the Davis-Crawford juxtaposition is so, so, so far from original, I don’t feel that bad about jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of this dueling blogathon.  However, in an effort to distinguish myself, I’d been trying to find thematically similar movies from the same era that wouldn’t be completely obvious choices.  What I would’ve preferred is a garish technicolor post-glamour western or musical in wich the resident diva ball-busts her way through an endless stream of men, clothes, and set-pieces.

I think you know what I’m referring to, Johnny Guitar.

Don’t think you can hide out, Torch Song. I’ve got your number.

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