The Five Stars Blogathon: My Five Fave Femmes

•May 16, 2017 • 25 Comments

Cheers.

When I learned of Rick’s “Five Stars” blogathon, I didn’t give a moment’s hesitation to signing on. First off, y’all know I love a good list! And a list about my favorite movie stars? How could I resist!

My excited antiticpation notwithstanding, I actually thought it might be a bit of a challenge to come up with just five favorite stars, but boy, was I wrong! It took me all of 10 seconds to create my list. So here they are, submitted for your approval, in order, my five favorite film stars:

Bette Davis

It seems like Bette Davis has always been my favorite actress. She was so talented, so versatile, and fearless – and off-screen, had such a take-no-crap attitude. And when she got older, and suffered so many health difficulties, she handled them like a boss. (In fact, one of my Christmas presents this past year was one of my favorite pictures of Davis, taken after she suffered breast cancer, several strokes, and a broken hip.)

Favorite movies:

My absolute favorite Bette Davis film has got to be All About Eve (1950). I’ve seen it countless times, and I distinctly remember the first time I saw it, in a hotel room in Bessemer, Alabama, when I was around 19 years old. I was SO excited to finally be able to watch this film I’d heard about for so many years. And it exceeded my every expectation. Other favorites are The Little Foxes (1941), Old Acquaintance (1943), The Old Maid (1939), Marked Woman (1937), Jezebel (1938), The Sisters (1938), All This, and Heaven Too (1940), The Letter (1940), In This Our Life (1942), Mr. Skeffington (1944), A Catered Affair (1956), Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962), and Dead Ringer (1964).

Favorite quote:

“Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.” – All About Eve

Joanie was a pie-bakin’, pistol-packin’ mama in Mildred Pierce.

Joan Crawford

Practically neck-and-neck with Bette Davis, just a mere stutter-step behind, is my girl Joan Crawford (to whom I like to affectionately refer as Joanie). Joanie was a true movie star, in every since of the word, but she could ACT, too! In her early career, she wasn’t necessarily the greatest thespian, but she was always fascinating to watch. And I suppose that any discussion of Joan Crawford should include a mention of that whole “Mommie Dearest” thing, but not today.

Favorite movies:

No question. Mildred Pierce (1945) is my number one favorite Joanie film. I could cheerfully have it playing on a loop all day, every day. My other favorites are, for the most part, divided between her pre-Code and her film noir work: Our Blushing Brides (1930), Grand Hotel (1931), Possessed (1931), Sadie McKee (1934), The Women (1939), Strange Cargo (1940), Daisy Kenyon (1947), Flamingo Road (1949), The Damned Don’t Cry (1950), and Sudden Fear (1952).

Favorite quote:

“Don’t give me any of that Sister-Come-to-Salvation. Look, I’m not buying any. I know the routine. It starts out with a prayer, and ends up with a bible in one hand and me in the other!” – Strange Cargo

I don’t care what anybody says. I love the wig.

Barbara Stanwyck

What is there NOT to love about Barbara Stanwyck? Beautiful and talented, yet approachable – like you could spend equal amounts of time with her at a swanky nightclub and in your rec room knocking back a few beers. Like Joan Crawford, she had a hard-scrabble childhood, but she overcame it with a vengeance to become one of Hollywood’s most highly respected performers (even though, unaccountably, she never won an Academy Award. Which is complete BS.).

Favorite movies:

Double Indemnity is my favorite noir and my favorite Stanwyck film. Nobody could’ve made Phyllis Dietrichson come to life the way she did. Other faves are Night Nurse (1931), Ten Cents a Dance (1931), Ladies They Talk About (1933), Baby Face (1933), The Lady Eve (1941), Ball of Fire (1941), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946), and Clash By Night (1952).

Favorite quote:

“I need him like the ax needs the turkey.” — The Lady Eve

The Divorcee gets the photo because I LOVE this shot.

Norma Shearer

I didn’t discover Norma Shearer until I was in my 20s. My first Shearer film was The Women (1939), which is literally the movie I’ve seen most often in my life. It wasn’t until quite a bit later that I fell in love with her pre-Code performances. There ‘s just something about her that is so natural and captivating and appealing. I love the gracefulness of her hands, and her ability to cry, and her tinkling laugh. I could watch her every day.

Favorite movies:

Of my five favorite stars, it’s the hardest for me to name my single favorite Shearer movie. It’s a total toss-up between The Divorcee (1930) and Private Lives (1931). (Interestingly, both feature Robert Montgomery who, if I’d had a list of favorite actors, would definitely have been on it.) But I just can’t choose – these films are so different, and truly show Shearer’s talent for both drama and comedy. One thing I realized, though – I don’t have as many Norma Shearer favorites as I do with my other favorite stars. I just keep watching the same handful of films over and over again. My other faves are Their Own Desire (1929), A Free Soul (1931), Strangers May Kiss (1931), and, of course, The Women.

Favorite quote:

“I’m glad I discovered that more than one man in the world while I’m young and they want me. Believe me, I’m not missing anything from now on!” – The Divorcee

Harlow stole the show in Dinner at Eight.

Jean Harlow

Harlow movies make me happy. That’s just all there is to it. She was luminous. Funny. And so sexy. And it’s fascinating to watch the vast improvement in her acting ability. In just a year’s time, between 1931 and 1932, she went from slightly stilted, with an odd, affected accent, to a natural, unpretentious, and completely at ease wise-cracking dame who commanded each scene in which she appeared.

Favorite movies:

I absolutely love Harlow in Dinner at Eight (1933). She’s part of a star-studded ensemble cast, but for me, she IS the movie. My other Harlow favorites are Red-Headed Woman (1932), Three Wise Girls (1932), Red Dust (1932), Bombshell (1933), Hold Your Man (1933), and Libeled Lady (1936).

Favorite quote:

“A girl’s a fool that doesn’t get ahead. Say, it’s just as easy to hook a rich man as it is to get hooked by a poor one.” – Red-Headed Woman

Who are your favorite film stars?


This post is part of the Five Favorite Film Stars Blogathon, hosted by Rick’s Classic Film and TV Cafe, in celebration of National Classic Movie Day! Check out the other blogs participating in this great event! And watch a classic movie today!

Pre-Code Crazy: Hold Your Man (1933)

•May 11, 2017 • 4 Comments

I’ll admit it. Hold Your Man (1933) isn’t my favorite pre-Code. It starts off great, but it kinda goes off the rails toward the end. Still, there’s something about it that I absolutely love. In fact, there’s lots about it that I love.

The film stars Clark Gable as Eddie, a small-time con man, and Jean Harlow as his hard-boiled lady love, Ruby. The two are mad about each other, but they actually spend a significant amount of the movie apart, what with Ruby being in the slammer and Eddie being on the lam. But more about that later.

What’s it all about?

Hold Your Man starts out with a bang, with a classic “meet cute” between Eddie and Ruby. On the run from the cops after fleecing a local yokel for 30 bucks, Eddie ducks into a nearby apartment house and opens the first unlocked door he finds. Inside, he encounters Ruby, who’s none too pleased to find a stranger in her apartment. Still, when the police arrive a short time later, Ruby covers for her unwelcome visitor, pretending that he’s her husband. And after Eddie uses Ruby’s bathtub as a hiding place, she even agrees to dry his wet pants (ingeniously putting them in the oven). Ruby’s no pushover, though – when Eddie flees out of a window while her back is turned, Ruby is disappointed, but her first reaction transforms into relief when she realizes that her piggy bank is safe.

To the moon, Gypsy!

Our hero and heroine next encounter each other at a local nightclub, where Ruby is out with her sometime-boyfriend, the ever-devoted Al (Stuart Erwin). But once she spies Eddie, Ruby drops Al faster than a hot potato and meets Eddie at his apartment. And let’s just say she’s still there in the morning, if you know what I mean. While Ruby’s there, Eddie gets a visit from a former flame, Gypsy (Dorothy Burgess), who’s less than thrilled to find Ruby there, and slaps her face. Without blinking an eye, Ruby delivers a cool left hook, effectively putting a halt to any further plans by Gypsy to engage in fisticuffs.

Ruby ends up sentenced to two years in a reformatory (why, I’m not quite sure) after Eddie punches – and accidentally kills – a would-be victim of one of Eddie’s cons. (Eddie conveniently disappears when the cops show up.) Shortly after her arrival, she learns, to her disgust, that one of her roommates is Gypsy. Yup – the same one Ruby punched during their first encounter. And it doesn’t take long for history to repeat itself. Apparently Gypsy has a short memory. Once again, she serves up a slap, and once again gets clocked by Ruby’s well-placed punch.

Interestingly, despite all the punching and slapping and whatnot, Gypsy turns out to be – as she terms it – “on the level.” When she learns that Ruby is pregnant with Eddie’s child, Gypsy’s first reaction is to laugh with malicious glee, but later, after she gets sprung from the big house, she changes her tune. When she meets up with Eddie, Gypsy not only learns that he’s simply nuts about Ruby, but also that Ruby was the one who sent her money at Christmastime that she’d thought was from Eddie. Talk about an about-face!

Oh, brother!

It’s around this time that the movie gets a little wacky. (Don’t get me wrong – I still love every minute, but it’s kinda nutty nonetheless.) After learning that Ruby is expecting his baby, Eddie risks his safety by pretending he’s the brother of one of Ruby’s roommates and sneaking into the reformatory. Finding one of the inmates (Theresa Harris) and her preacher-father praying in the chapel, Eddie interrupts them and begs the minister to marry him and Ruby. (“I never had any father. I was brought up in the gutter. Maybe that’s what started me off wrong,” Eddie says with so much tearful emotion it’ll make your teeth hurt. “Don’t ya see? I wanna give my kid a chance.”) Ruby’s closest pals conspire to hide Eddie and the minister, spring Ruby from solitary confinement, and get these crazy kids together so they can leap together into the land of matrimony before Eddie gets carted off to the hoosegow. It’s all very melodramatic, and by the end, if you’re like me, you’ll be rolling your eyes and going, “Oh, brother!,” but who cares? I still love it!

Other stuff:

The film’s theme song, Hold Your Man, sung (or, really, spoken) in the film by Jean Harlow, was written by the team of Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed. The two also wrote such hits as “All I Do is Dream of You” (featured in 1934’s Sadie McKee), “Singin’ in the Rain,” and “You Were Meant for Me.” Freed also produced some of Hollywood’s top musicals, including The Harvey Girls (1946), On the Town (1949), An American in Paris (1951), and Gigi (1958).

Gowns by Adrian.

Harlow’s pre-prison wardrobe featured two eye-popping numbers designed by Adrian, MGM’s famed costume designer (and, incidentally, the husband of actress Janet Gaynor).

Hold Your Man was the third of six films starring Gable and Harlow. The others were The Secret Six (1931), Red Dust (1932), China Seas (1935), Wife vs. Secretary (1936), and Saratoga (1937). Tragically, Harlow died at the age of 26 during the filming of Saratoga. Her remaining scenes were shot with her double, Mary Dees, filmed from behind, with another actress, Paula Winslowe, speaking Harlow’s lines.

Playing a nightclub washroom attendant, Louise Beavers makes what amounts to a cameo, speaking fewer than 20 words.

The working titles for the film were He Was Her Man, Black Orange Blossoms, and Nora. (If you can figure out the meaning of the last two, you’re better than I am.)

One more thing. (Or two.)

Just wanted to share my two favorite quotes from the film, both spoken by Jean Harlow:

“I got two rules I always stick to when I’m out visiting. Keep away from couches and stay on your feet.”

“You know, you wouldn’t be a bad lookin’ dame – if it wasn’t for your face.” (Burn!)

Don’t miss Hold Your Man, airing May 16th (technically the wee morning hours of May 17th) on TCM. You won’t be sorry. I promise!

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Be sure to pop over to Speakeasy to read all about the pre-Code gem that Kristina is recommending for the month!

The Great Villain Blogathon — Wrap-up & Thanks!

•April 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Speakeasy

One last word and roundup before we close the door on the Great Villain Blogathon 2017: your hosts Ruth of Silver ScreeningsKaren of Shadows & Satin, and Kristina of Speakeasy want to say a huge thank you to everyone who took part, visited the participating blogs, and helped spread the word via #Villains2017. A blogathon is only as good as the lovely people who join in, and you all gave us such great and diverse reading in this 4th year of the event! Like any good villain, we will return to menace the blogosphere again next year so start thinking of your favourite Big Bads.

This #Villains2017 main page has been updated to archive all these daily recaps. Bloggers who post after this, just leave a comment here and we’ll add you to this recap.

Thanks again everybody, you were wicked good. See you next year!

Now please enjoy today’s writing:

Pure Entertainment Preservation…

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The Great Villain Blogathon – Day 5 Recap

•April 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

The Great Villain Blogathon – Day 4 Recap

•April 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Silver Screenings

Cinematic villains come from all socioeconomic groups, but they usually have two things in common: (1) they’re powerful and (2) they’re rich. And if they’re not either, they’re working hard to be both. Today’s villains provide a good cross-section of these motivations in action.

Bloggers: If you’ve uploaded your entry, but it’s not included in today’s recap, never fear! We shall include it in tomorrow’s recap, hosted by Speakeasy.

Until then, we know you’ll enjoy today’s Featured Villains.

Cinematic Scribblings

F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri in Amadeus (1984)

The Midnite Drive-In

Ricardo Montalban as Khan in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan (1982)

Whimsically Classic

Anne Baxter as Eve Harrington in All About Eve (1950)

Shadows and Satin

Raymond Burr in three of his best Bad Guy roles

Realweegiemidget Reviews

Leonardo DiCaprio as Calvin J. Candie in Django Unchained (2012)

Anna, Look!

Richard Attenborough as…

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The Great Villain Blogathon: Big, Bad Burr

•April 28, 2017 • 14 Comments

Perry Mason was a good guy.

Ironside was a good guy.

But Raymond Burr, the fella who brought these good guys to life, was so much more fun when he was a dyed-in-the-wool, no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners villain.

To celebrate our annual Great Villain Blogathon, I’m taking a look at Burr’s best bad guy roles.

Join me, won’t you?

Desperate (1947)

The lowdown:

Helmed by one of my favorite noir directors, Anthony Mann, this feature focuses on Steven Randall (Steve Brodie), a blissfully married truck driver whose wife, Anne (Audrey Long), is expecting their first child. Eager to beef up the family coffers, Steve is enticed by childhood pal Walt Radak (Burr), into hauling a shipment of perishables, but tries to back out of the job when he learns that his cargo consists of stolen goods. When Steve signals a passing cop, gunfire is exchanged, killing the policeman and leaving Walt’s kid brother, Al, charged with murder. Steve goes on the lam with Anne, but Walt tracks him down like a hound dog after a sack of bacon, blaming Steve for Al’s conviction and subsequent death sentence, and planning to exact revenge by killing Steve at the same moment of Al’s execution.

Burr gives the business to one of his underlings in Desperate.

Favorite quote:

Walt eventually catches up with Steve and offers him a “last meal,” telling him: “I’m sorry I can’t give you a choice of food, but it won’t make much difference. You’re not going to live long enough to get any nourishment out of it.”

Other stuff:

Steve Brodie said that he was responsible for Burr’s casting in the role. “Ray was . . . testing for a biblical part, so I suggested his name to the producer, Michael Kraike, for our picture,” Brodie said. “Kraike liked the idea, and for the next decade villain roles were about the only parts Raymond Burr played.”

Raw Deal (1948)

The low down:

Dennis O’Keefe stars in this first-rate feature (also directed by Mann) as Joe Sullivan, a gangster imprisoned for a crime committed by his boss, Rick Coyle (Burr). Coyle helps Joe bust out of the big house, but his motivation is far from selfless; he suspects that Joe will spill the beans about Coyle’s guilt and he wants to give him a permanent gag order, if you know what I mean. When Joe learns of Coyle’s real motivation, he deftly avoids a massive dragnet and, accompanied by his faithful girlfriend, Pat (Claire Trevor), goes after his former boss.

Now THAT’S a menacing look!

Favorite quote:

I dig Coyle’s rationale for helping Joe to escape from prison: “He was screaming he wanted out,” Coyle tells his underlings. “When a man screams, I don’t like it. Especially a friend. He might scream loud enough for the D.A. to hear. I don’t want to hurt the D.A.’s ears. He’s sensitive.”

Other stuff:

Raw Deal was praised by one critic for its taut action and “slambang finale,” but Burr’s notices were mixed; while the critic for the Motion Picture Herald noted his “good performance [as] a sinister and sadistic criminal boss,” the actor was dismissed in Variety as “reminiscent of the late Laird Cregar in bulk and manner but . . . deficient in a sinister quality.” (Well, damn.)

Pitfall (1948)

The lowdown:

Burr was a standout bad guy in Pitfall, where he played a psychotic detective named Mack MacDonald. The film’s action centers on insurance agent Johnny Forbes (Dick Powell), whose general boredom with life is the perfect incentive for stepping out on his wife when he meets a beautiful blonde, Mona Stevens (Lizabeth Scott). What he didn’t bargain for was the hulking, creepy MacDonald, who is obsessed with Mona and wholly unappreciative of anyone who stands in his way.

He can’t keep his eyes off of Lizabeth Scott.

Favorite quote:

Referring to Mona, MacDonald says, “She probably doesn’t appeal to you, but for me, she’s just what I told the doctor to order.”

Other stuff:

Burr was universally applauded for his portrayal of the villainous detective – the critic for the New York Times raved: “As the heavy, literally and figuratively, a newcomer named Raymond Burr does a sinister and fascinating job.  He is a big man and unless we are mistaken, his weight, histrionically and otherwise, will make an impression on the screen in days to come.”

His Kind of Woman (1951)

The lowdown:

In this film, one of my favorite guilty pleasures, Burr is syndicate boss Nick Ferraro, who has been exiled to Italy and plans to return to his old stomping grounds by murdering and assuming the identity of professional gambler Dan Milner, played by Robert Mitchum. (Now if that isn’t villainous, I just don’t know what is.) After first disposing of a federal immigration official (Tim Holt) who gets wind of his scheme, Ferraro has Milner abducted and spirited aboard his yacht, where he plans to make the nefarious switcheroo.

He wants Milner to see it coming. Yikes.

Favorite quote: In a particularly vicious scene, Ferraro rouses the dazed and beaten Milner, explaining, “I want him to be fully conscious. I don’t like to shoot a corpse. I want to see the expression on his face when he knows it’s coming.”

Other stuff:

Lee Van Cleef was original slated to play the part of Nick Ferraro, but producer Howard Hughes wanted Burr. And that was all she wrote.

If you’re not familiar with Raymond Burr’s bad-guy performances, do yourself a favor and check these out!

You only owe it to yourself.

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This post is my contribution to the Great Villain Blogathon 2017, hosted by my pals Kristina at Speakeasy, Ruth at Silver Screenings, and yours truly! Be sure to check out the totally fabulous posts that our talented contributors served up for this year’s event!

The Great Villain Blogathon 2017 – Day 3 Recap

•April 27, 2017 • 11 Comments

Villains, anyone??

It’s Day 3 of the 2017 Great Villain Blogathon, and our bad guys and gals are still going strong! We’ve got enough nasty ne’er-do-wells, conscienceless creeps, and mercenary miscreants to satisfy any fiendish appetite!

So settle in and take a gander at today’s Featured Villains. (And if you’re a blogger who uploaded an entry today that’s not listed below, never fear. Ruth will include it in her recap on Friday!)

Don’t be a fraidy-cat. Enjoy!

Silver Screenings

Sonny Tufts as Steve in The Virginian (1946)

I Found It At The Movies

Patrick McGoohan as King Edward I in Braveheart (1995)

Mike’s Take on the Movies

Al Lettieri in The Getaway (1972) and Mr. Majestyk (1974)

Movies Silently

Ben Turpin as Mr. Flip (1909)

Life’s Daily Lessons Blog

Where Would We Be Without Villains?

Portraits by Jenni

Gladys Cooper as Mrs. Henry Vale in Now, Voyager (1942)

No Nonsense with Nuwan Sen

Indirect/Invisible Villain in Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Moody Moppet

Fairuza Balk as Nancy Downs in The Craft (1996)

See you tomorrow for Day 4!