Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Producer Sam Goldwyn found Anna Sten in the Ukraine and brought her out to Hollywood to become a star. It never happened. Through the mid 30s all efforts failed, largely due to a heavy accent she couldn't kick. Nevertheless, she stuck to the limelight and in the 60s found a place in such disparate television shows as THE RED SKELTON SHOW, ADVENTURES IN PARADISE and THE WALTER WINCHELL FILE. Fate was kind to Sten, though. She achieved immortality after all, thanks to Cole Porter, who included her in the lyrics for "Anything Goes":
When Sam Goldwyn can with great conviction
Instruct Anna Sten in diction
Then Anna shows
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
"Sherlock Holmes, lends himself to gay interpretation. Holme’s hauteur, emotional oddity and repression and sudden burst of flamboyancy (particularly in Jeremy Brett’s portrayal). The disdain for women. The penchant for dressing up. And of course there’s the Holmes-Watson partnership – which has a secure place in the popular consciousness. Two men living together, in what is an emotionally turbulent relationship. Watson subtly undermined, ever subject to Holmes’s whims, yet whenever Watson eventually rebukes him Holmes declares his fondness and admiration for his chum." -- Robbie Hudson, The UK Times. Art by Mike Williams. Art: Playboy, September 1976
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
An iconic feature of Ethel Merman was her hair. If you close your eyes you can see it: pulled up in the back with a spiky cascade of curls over her brow. As the droll cabaret chanteuse Klea Blackhurst recounts in EVERYTHING THE TRAFFIC WILL ALLOW, her endearing tribute to Ethel Merman, the Merm reached some kind of apogee when Mainbocher, a much revered fashion dictator of his time, was commissioned in 1950 to do her costumes for CALL ME MADAM. Ms. Blackhurst reports that Mainbocher was delighted with his assignment and thought Merman had the perfect figure, go figure. There was only one area he was uneasy about and so uneasily he asked "Uhh...Miss Merman, what do you intend to do about your hair?" Merman probably put her hands on her hips and shot straight back at him: "Honey, I'm just gonna wash it!"
According to sharp tongued Evelyn Keyes (Scarlett O'Hara's younger sister) sartlet Corinne Calvet made some kind of reputation for herself at Hollywood parties in the 1950s by offering to read not people's cards, not their palms, but their sheets. We wish she had published an illustrated book on her findings.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Her light shone bright from the start, sending out mixed and exciting messages of innocence and guilt. She was vulnerable but manipulative, sensitive but shrewd, aflame with desire but circumspect in its expression. She struggled to be a good girl. She was a bad girl. No, wait, she struggled to be a bad girl, she was a good girl. Whatever you thought of her as a beauty or an actress, when she was on the screen there was no one else you looked at. That's how star quality has been described. And it just poured out of Jennifer Jones.
We find this early publicity shot of Paul Newman disturbing to the extreme. We can't relate to it in any way. It's haunting, but not in in a nice, certainly not a sexy way. What's with the sideburns? What film was this attached to? SOMEBODY UP THERE LIKES ME? THE SILVER CHALICE? HOMBRE? We just know that even if we knew it was Paul Newman we'd get the hell out of there and scream for our lives.
We have been recently made to feel extremely shameful for even indirectly giving the impression that there was anything to criticize about Rita Hayworth. The post meant to point out once more the foolishness of the Hollywood press, forcing a story out of movie stars behaving like real people.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
In Italy, throughout her career, Thelma Ritter was dubbed by different actresses:
Rina Morelli (e.g. Pickup on South Street (1953)
Tina Lattanzi (e.g.Daddy Long Legs (1955)
Wanda Tettoni (e.g. Pillow Talk (1959)
Lia Orlandini (e.g. How the West Was Won (1962)
Franca Dominici(e.g. Rear Window (1954)
Maria Saccenti lent her voice to Ritter only once, in All About Eve (1950).
Friday, December 11, 2009
Jane Russell is one of the underrated beauties of the screen. Maybe it was having a big bust but being a brunette. You got the feeling Jane was real people. She kept a sense of humor about all that was made of her bust size, never bought her own publicity and surprised everyone by turning into an important good samaritan. She adopted 3 children and went on to found World Adoption International Fund (WAIF), an organization that pioneered adoptions from foreign countries by Americans.
Still, we love to remember these taglines used in her movie posters and publicity:
"How'd you like to tussle with Russell?" - The Outlaw - 1943
"Jane Russell and Frank Sinatra...What a pair!" - Double Dynamite - 1951
"They were two of a kind!" - His Kind of Woman - 1951
"Warm Lips...Hot Lead!" - Montana Belle - 1952
"The Two M-M-Marvels Of Our Age In The Wonder Musical Of The World!" - Gentlemen Prefer Blondes - 1953
"J.R. in 3-D. It'll Knock both your eyes out!" - The French Line - 1954
"Skin Diver Action...Aqua-lung Thrills!" - Underwater! - 1955
"They Don't come ANY BIGGER" - The Tall Men - 1955
"SEE 'EM SIZZLE IN THE BIG, BUXOM, BEAUTIFUL MUSICAL!" - Gentlemen Marry Brunettes - 1955
"Jane Russell shakes her tamborines and drives Cornel Wilde!" - Hot Blood - 1956
"The hottest bundle ever hijacked!" The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown - 1957
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Garbo, at 45, ready to go back to work. After turning down what became over 300 film proposals, she agreed to do La Duchess de Langelais, co-starring with James Mason, to be directed by Max Ophuls. She wanted this badly enough that she agreed to go in front of the camera again and test for it. She appears sullen at first. But when her smile and playfulness break through it's a revelation that perhaps this is the only record of what she was really like. That she didn't vant to be alone.
June 6, 1950. "Vis-O-Matic department store." A Vis-O-Matic spokesmodel, or perhaps even the queen of Vis-O-Matic, the Canadian catalog store whose slide-projection system of displaying merchandise was like a Buck Rogers premonition of online shopping. The Vis-O-Matic phenomenon seems to have been short-lived, with hardly any documentation online aside from these photos in the Life archive, and no word of its fate. Photo by Bernard Hoffman.
--A tip of the hat to www.shorpy.com!
Monday, December 7, 2009
IDon't speak! We live in modern times that demand everything be unadorned and comfortable. But women don't look as good as they used to. And a hat before you step out of the house would go a LONG way to correct the forgettable impression most women make when they enter a room. Let alone their postures. Or is the idea of making an impression when you enter a room as dated as these pictures? I think this may be true. Truer still is the idea that in these modern times you want to avoid being noticed when you enter a room. And maybe that's why places that boasted stairs that announced your entrance, like the old Brasserie in NYC, have gone the way of the hat too.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
We're only interested in going out for New Year's Eve if the eve is going to look like this: beyond ringside and all the pink spots perfectly aligned. The deal-breaker is the champagne: nothing less than Krug, though in a pinch Moet or Dom will do. Bottom line: the flutes MUST be chilled crystal. Anything less, gather your schmates and say you're going to another dealership, and LEAVE!
"There's an up and coming starlet in Hollywood who, when you tell her a story that reflects credit on someone, manages to murmur 'Oh, Honey...' in a way that either suggests you're a nice person and have been taken in or that there's more to the story than meets the eye. This technique saves this starlet from ever actually saying anything unpleasant.
In spite of the fact that this girl never commits herself in so many words, she has come to be avoided not only by those people whom she has dismissed with her 'Oh, Honey' technique, but also by those to whom she has cooed her sugar-coated but disparaging words. People, I think, would distrust her far less if she would come right out and say what she thinks."
--Photoplay magazine, 1952.
"Rita Hayworth is not a talker. In a way she is somewhat inarticulate. So that's how she is -- and she doesn't try to be otherwise. It is all very well to be true to yourself. But there also is such a thing as social responsibility. No one would suggest that Rita make any attempt to be the life of the party. However, a little participation always is in order. Rita should make some effort to keep the conversation going."
-- Photoplay magazine, 1952
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
The adroit comedienne Charlotte Greenwood practically built a career on double-jointed hips. Even when well into middle age, she could perform complete leg-splits as well as kick higher than the top of her own head - sideways!. There was something really infectious when she did this because it clearly gave her such joy and she wanted you to feel it too. Her eccentric humor was all the more incongruous on account of her aura of elegance in that fastidiously styled coiffure and those glamorous, magnificently tailored gowns she wore.
This stratospheric head shot is part of the montage at the end of THE GANG'S ALL HERE, where the cast, in what looks like the aftermath of multiple beheadings, come out to sing yet another chorus of "A Stairway to the Stars." Even as they wind up as a large platter of solarized distended heads, their good spirits makes THE GANG'S ALL HERE the cheeriest experience on film, no matter how often you've seen it.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
The suis generis Kay Thompson (nee Kitty Fink) was the sensation of the night-club circuit in the mid 50s. Surrounded by the Williams Brothers (you can easily spot Andy here,) she had a strong connection with the Plaza Hotel beyond her invented alter ego, Eloise. She played its ultra chic boite, the Persian Room, and here she gives it a kind of desultory tribute. We are posting this because the early TV technology gives the performance a charming, ragged quality.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
in BUTTERFIELD8 Eddie Fisher lives on Horatio St in what was still thought of as the bohemian part of NY, Greenwich Village. It's a very small studio. But he's a composer so he's managed an upright piano in somehow. He's also Elizabeth Taylor's best friend. She plays a call girl who just got up that morning to find Laurence Harvey left her money in an envelope with a note "Gloria - $250. Enough?" She's so pissed she grabs a lush mink coat out of his wife's closet and throws it over her silk slip. She comes out the 5th Ave building facing Central Park, hails a cab, and makes for Horatio St. All the exteriors are real location shots.
It's 1959 and Eddie Fisher pays less than $100 for that studio. I know because in 1965 I checked out a much nicer 1 brm apt on Christopher and Sheridan Square for $150. I spent a couple of days debating wether to take it or take a small studio with a large deck overlooking the Manhattan skyline in Brooklyn Heights for $100. I took the latter, finally, because that's the view everybody seemed to have in the American movies I grew up watching in Cuba. And now it would be mine.
Decadence and all, watching BUTTERFIELD 8 made me miss those innocent days when New York was affordable, even if you just got out of school and were only making $75 a week. It also made miss the days when, like Gloria, I would often wake up in strange men's apartments to find they had already left for work and I would have a cigarette and walk around naked, exploring The Other's foreign turf. Sigh. I don't think I'll have that experience again. And I know New York will never be affordable again. Nobody ever left any money behind, let alone $250. But I get a sweet pang when I think of that time and how easy everything seemed.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
In the end, Gypsy Rose Lee's bottomless energy was overcome by cancer of the lungs (yes, she smoked.) In his vividly written memoir, GYPSY AND ME, her son, Erik Lee Preminger, recalls how even at the end her indomitable sense of self-appreciation never let up:
"When I think of her last days...I usually remember one of her first visits to the radiation clinic. The night before we had celebrated her fifty-sixth birthday. She was taken the moment she arrived, and we were walking past all the patients who were waiting in line for their turn.
'You know, Erik' she said quietly, 'when I look at all these people I can't bring myself to berate God for giving me this horrible disease. I've had three wonderful lives, and these poor sons-a-bitches haven't even lived once.'"
Yes, she toured with AUNTIE MAME several times.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
"Too many of us "turn on the charm" only on special occasions, taking our families and close friends for granted. Nobody is fooled -- neither your mother, for instance, who pressed your new nylon blouse so exquisitely and was understandably hurt when you "forgot" to thank here. Or the new boy friend on whom you lavish all the saved-up smiles and thoughtfulness. Self-conscious "this-will-get-him" charm -- the only kind you possibly can have when you put it on like a new formal or your best hat -- isn't charm at all. It's affectation -- and like last year's slip, it shows!"
-- Photoplay magazine, 1951.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Saturday, October 3, 2009
Friday, October 2, 2009
Thursday, September 24, 2009
At a recent seance we heard the gravelly voice of a woman either in great physical pain or simply burdened by guests she couldn't get rid of. With considerable effort she delivered what we recognized as two pearls of wisdom that could only come from Diana Vreeland, the late, greatly missed doyen of Vogue and the Met's Institute of Fashion. Mrs. Vreeland must have thought it was urgent to spread the word again or maybe even in Hell the publicity machine never stops.
"Never fear being vulgar, just boring."
Then, after what sounded like a 30-second drag from a cigarette
"We all need a splash of bad taste. No taste is what I'm against."
There were a series of murmurs where she appeared to be approving of her pronouncements. And then she was gone.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
An amazing gallery of obscure photos of (mostly) obscure actresses who worked with George Cukor, part of an altogether amazing Brazilian site dedicated to quality vintage film photos, videos and history.
Pictured above: Judy Holliday, Anouk Aimee, Jeanette Macdonald.
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Born in Naugatuck, Connecticut on March 3, 1903, Adrian Adolph Greenberg trained at the Parsons School of Fine Arts. It is rumored that songwriter Irving Berlin hired the then 18 year old designer for a Broadway presentation of "The Music Box Revue" after seeing his creations in Paris, where he had renamed himself Gilbert Adrian. It was Natacha Rambova, the wife of Rudolph Valentino and movie art director, who gave Gilbert Adrian access to Hollywood royalty in the 1920’s.
He designed for two of Rudy’s films and the rest is history. Adrian turned ordinary actresses into immortal icons during the age of Hollywood glamour. His reported favorite was Greta Garbo but his clientele also included Norma Shearer and Jean Harlow and, yes, he gave Joan Crawford those unforgettable shoulder pads. After 13 years he opened his own shop in Beverly Hills. His design emphasis was on simplicity but he had an ability to drape that is still unrivaled to this day.
He was a 1944 Coty award winner and unfortunately never won an Oscar because the category of costume design wasn’t created until after he left MGM. He was the head designer for over 250 movies, including "The Wizard of Oz" that featured the legendary ruby slippers. He had a controversial marriage to the actress Janet Gaynor and they lived in a ranch in Brazil in the last years of his life. Sadly, while making arrangements to design costumes for the upcoming Broadway musical "Camelot," he died on September 13, 1959 at the young age of 54 and his death was ruled a suicide.