Tag Archives: classic movies

Regular Poem: Why Wouldn’t I

2 Apr

“But why,”
he says
“did you do all those extracurriculars in high school?”

We’re just
chit-chatting, safe
work talk,
sharing parts of ourselves,
pieces, clues,
keys
to the codes of personalities,
each day revealing
more
with actions and reactions and pauses and catches
and jokes and which jokes we laugh at and how hard,
and answers to questions,
of course.

“Why wouldn’t I?”
I say. I don’t look over,
just resume what I’m doing
as I continue,
“I’m an extrovert with a lot of interests.”
It makes sense to me, makes sense
with me
and the way I’ve performed and presented and costumed myself,
especially at work.
The question had surprised me.
Did he think
I had strict parents, forcing me into things?
That I was trying to get scholarships?
That I was exploring different facets of my personality?
Or was it simply foreign to him
as an introvert with more acute interests?

We were working
and busy
and I forgot to ask properly.

But this morning
I was thinking about it again–
thinking about
the way I’ve internally lived
all winter
in some grim noir space
of anger and existential crisis and moral dilemma and
drinking alone in my garage,
punching my heavy bag
and hating everything,
waking up dizzy and nursing a headache,
rifling through piles of unfolded laundry
spilling from baskets not put away for weeks, months,
schlepping my aching carcass to the kitchen
and choking down whatever breakfast I hope won’t make me want to pull over on the highway and vomit,
driving to work in the silence
of my own bad decisions,
just a moment before I put on my lipstick
and my smile
and my song
and lift people up all day
so that I can get home only to
drown myself all night
and kick myself for it in the morning–

and I was thinking this morning
about how much this wasn’t me.

I’m not unshaven, hard-living Humphrey Bogart
blowing into the dark, wet city
with dirty hands and an even dirtier blonde
and solving slimy mysteries
in back alleys
under a knowing, cruel moon.

Ask any of the now many people who call me sunshine.
No,

I’m Judy Garland
fixing her bicycle so she can
make it to the theatre in time
to put on the charity show
that’ll save the orphanage.
I’m Claudette Colbert
taking in strays during World War Two,
cooking and planting victory gardens
and selling warbonds and rolling bandages.

I’m wholesome,
damn it,
an all-American:
pretty and fun and energetic and generous and
joyful.

I have an excellent memory–
nearly photographic at times–
my brain
either by nature or years of practice
recieves and catalogues
information in a way that is accessible and able to be regurgitated in whatever manner necessary to the task at hand.

But my heart isn’t as fortunate–
forgets and remembers at inopportune times–
she’s a masochist, too, unquestionably and invariably.

So that makes sense, too–
that I would remember but not remember
for long stretches
that I am not
in actuality
what I have been being–
in some attempt to fool myself or hurt myself
or both.

The heart is deceitful
and
desperately wicked,
and mine personally
holds a lot of murderous rage,
but she somehow only ever takes it out on
me.

Regular Poem: The Clothes May or May Not Make the Person

24 Apr

Different clothes
make a person feel
different. Of course,

I can’t wear clothes that
make me feel
different from
the core person I am–

my clothes always
make me feel like some
version of myself.
I have everyone

I know trained
to recognize which
version of me
he’s dealing with
based on my attire–
including hairdo.

Like today
I’m dressed like
a ’50s bad girl:
pedal pushers, saddle shoes,
black turtleneck, leather jacket,
ponytail with pompadour bangs.

I feel like
putting on red lipstick
and getting in a cat fight,
listening to Elvis in my convertible,
sassing folks at the malt shop.

I might light
my cigarette on your
gas stove and blow
sassy, lipstick-printed

smoke rings at you
and call you a square,
hot-wire a Chevelle

and get sent to a
women’s prison run by
some Ida Lupino knockoff–

start an uprising
and call her a
square, and some
Vincent Price knockoff

evil doctor might
shock treatment me.
But I’m resilient.

I’ll have him seduced
and be back in my
saddle shoes
in a jiff.

And oh don’t worry–
I’ve got mights and coulds and maybes
for every habillement.
Except the boring ones.
Except wait–
I don’t have any boring ones.

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.

Why Fans of Classic Movies Should Like Star Trek: Voyager

11 May

I’m a firm believer that Star Trek: Voyager has something for everyone; however, everyone is not the same, of course.  For example, if I were trying to  indoctrinate cajole my Grey’s Anatomy-loving coworkers into watching my favorite show, I would entice them with a completely different set of pros.

As it stands, the following list is inspired by my blog friend Ruth, who is a delightful classic-movie blogger.  Several posts ago, I talked about Voyager’s still enjoyable bad episodes, and she commented that she’d never watched the show before.

That’s an Internet gauntlet, folks.

I’ve compiled this list to attract a certain kind of person, and I have faith in my tactics.  And, as Captain Janeway would say, I feel lucky today!

Series Overview

Let’s get a quick rundown of what’s going on in this series before I start the list rolling.  I’ll pretend anyone reading this has never watched Star Trek, so I’ll try not to be too technobabble-y.

The Premise:  It’s the 24th century, and Earth and several other planets have long ago joined together to form The United Federation of Planets.  Starfleet–a space navy, basically–serves and protects this governmental agency.

There’s some disputed regions on the fringes of the Alpha Quadrant (because they’ve divided the galaxy into quadrants and named them with Greek letters, of course), and a rebel group called the Maquis has sprung up to defend what they feel is their own land.  Officially, The Federation sees the Maquis as terrorists, but they’re all wronged idealists, mostly (and the dudes they’re fighting [the Cardassians], who are officially in The Federation, are sneaky jerks, tbh).

Captain Kathryn Janeway and her new starship Voyager have been sent out to the Badlands to go after a particularly trouble-causing Maquis ship, on which one of Janeway’s oldest friends is serving as a spy!  Quelle drama!

Before she goes, she springs a dude from jail who had been in Starfleet and then also in the Maquis to act as her guide! Quelle more drama!

Well, both the Maquis ship and Voyager get gotten by an alien who pulls them 75,000 lightyears away from Earth–all the way to the Delta Quadrant.  This dying alien is trying to figure out if anybody has similar DNA so that he will have an heir to look after this planet he’s looking after.  Spoiler alert:  Nobody does.

Meanwhile, these other aliens are trying to get at the thing that transported everybody from the Alpha Quadrant so they can use it to gain power and take over stuff.

Janeway can’t let them gain power and take over stuff because they’re meanies, so she destroys the thing, stranding her ship and the Maquis ship in the Delta Quadrant.  Quelle drama-est!

This is the first time Janeway meets Chakotay (the Maquis captain). I hope they both brushed their teeth this morning because dang.

Janeway and the Maquis captain decide to join forces to get back home, so they all take up residence on Voyager and are forced to work together.

Meanwhile, they’ve picked up a few people from the Delta Quadrant to be on their crew:  a dude who’s a trader and is supposed to be good at navigating this–to Alpha Quadrant types–uncharted space and a lady (from the planet the alien who whisked them away was guarding) who has a really weird short lifespan.

Also, meanwhile, the ship’s doctor dies in the first twenty minutes or so and is permanently replaced by the Emergency Medical Hologram.  His journey into sentience becomes a plot point in many episodes.

Also along the way they run into the Borg, a species that is not so much a species but an amalgamation of species who act as one unit, like a hive, and they basically steal other species’ bodies to use in their ultimate goal of perfection through putting together the best parts of every species and then enhancing themselves with robotics.  The Borg are weird and scary and robotic and hard to describe, and when you’re part of the Borg, you have no personality of your own and do only the will of the Collective.  Anyway, Janeway rescues a lady from the Borg, and her journey into humanity becomes a plot point in many episodes.

So, if all the sci-fi hasn’t already turned you off, let’s have a go at the list.

Honorable Mention:  Clean (with a Little Innuendo)

One thing I really love about old movies is that they’re not explicit.  If a couple is intimate, they cut to a fireplace.  If somebody’s mad, he gives a glare and bunches his hands into angry fists instead of cursing a blue streak.

And because of the cleanness, they get to have a little more fun (and be a little more creative) when they wanna be a little bit dirty.  So they say things like, “You know how to whistle, don’t ya?” instead of something yuckier.

Because Voyager aired on regular old TV instead of HBO and because we have a lady captain who is so stagy and sassy, we get cleanness, and a little bit of sassy dirtiness once in a while.

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Found Poem: Ladies love brutes

15 Apr

I was researching what I might want to write about for Ruth (at SilverScreenings)’s Mary Astor Blogathon, and I realized anew how delightfully strange old movie titles can be.  So, today we have a found poem straight from Mary Astor’s filmography. 

Ladies love brutes
behind
office doors:
The pace that thrills, the price
of a party.

Men of chance (woman proof)
playing with souls.
No time to marry unguarded women–
other men’s women.

Three-ring marriage, romance
of the underworld–
the woman
(there’s always a woman)
from hell,
the man
(man of iron)
with two faces.
A successful
calamity–
the sin ship.

Lady from nowhere–
white shoulders, red dust,
rose of the Golden West.
No place to go dressed to kill–

Oh, Doctor!
I am a thief heart to heart.

We Can’t Go on Together with Suspicious Minds, Except We Can and We Will

29 Dec

An Overly Lengthy Review of Suspicion.

Before the Fact

Credits roll:  I can’t help thinking Before the Fact would’ve been a better title.  Both Suspicion and Before the Fact are pretty bland, though.  I suppose Suspicion has more of a punch.

We start the movie in a train car.  Cary Grant barges into Joan Fontaine’s little suite claiming it’s too crowded in coach.  It’s dark because the train’s in a tunnel.  The train’s in a tunnel.  Get it?  Freudian stuff?  Hitchcock?  Get it?  Ay oh!

In other news, I totally recognize this scene from Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid!
We also get an extraneous shot of Joan Fontaine’s legs, which I suppose establishes Cary Grant’s sexual interest in her and expresses that even though she’s wearing glasses–quelle horreur!–she’s some sexy librarian type who’s only prim until you warm her up a little.

A train-ticket-taker dude comes in, checking errbody’s tickets and tries to kick Cary Grant out of this first class car because he only has a coach ticket.  He upgrades his ticket, but he doesn’t have quite enough money, so Cary Grant bums some cash from Joan Fontaine, except she doesn’t carry a lot of cash, so he pays with a stamp.  K.

This little exchange shows us he’s a charmer and that he’s bad with money.

Suspicion Level:  Low.  Society dude low on cash, charming ladies on trains.  Happens all the time.

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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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