Monday, December 21, 2009


I found this fun questionnaire at Lolita’s Classics So, plagiarist that I am, I will also take this thing and see if I actually have any opinions. 1) Second-favorite Stanley Kubrick film. The Killing (1956) Sterling Hayden and I are good friends, in an existential “What difference does it make?” way. Great caper film, this. 2) Most significant/important/interesting trend in movies over the past decade, for good or evil. Computer Generated Images. They make period pictures a lot easier to film, but they should help tell the story, not BE the story. 3) Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) or Buffalo Bill Cody (Paul Newman)? I love Clint Eastwood, but I read once that he’s touchy about anyone taking from his mayonnaise stash on set, and seeing as the late, great Paul Newman probably made a pretty mean mayo, I’ll say Paul. Plus I had that haunting dream about him that nobody cared about. I’ll never open my heart to strangers again. 4) Best Film of 1949. 1949 was a pretty lousy year for films, and I was going to write a vitriolic post about that year’s Oscar winners. But since I try to keep things nice around here, I abstained. Film Noir had a pretty good year in ’49, so I’ll say White Heat, which is a great movie no matter what the year! 5) Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) or Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore)? Jack Benny is an American comedy icon, and I love his shtick. 6) Has the hand-held shaky-cam directorial style become a visual cliché? John Ford didn’t rely on shaky cam, and he filmed the Battle of Midway!!! 7) What was the first foreign-language film you ever saw? The first foreign film I went and paid to see was Raise the Red Lantern (1992) Gong-Li… 8) Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) or Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre)? Peter Lorre. Though I haven’t exhausted my reserve of faux-Asian detectives, so this may change. 9) Favorite World War II drama (1950-1970). The Great Escape (1963) This film was every bit important to me during my childhood as anything Lucas or Spielberg put on screen in their prime. Steve McQueen on a motorcycle? I’ll have more of that! 10) Favorite animal movie star. Asta the dog. He steals the show in The Awful Truth, doesn’t he? He always knew his motivation, too. Take that, Stanislawski and Strasberg! 11) Who or whatever is to blame, name an irresponsible moment in cinema. Ben Affleck. This punk types the screenplay to Good Will Hunting and now we’re stuck with him? It was another blow when beloved heroes Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau handed Affleck a friggin’ Oscar for Best Screenplay. If you were in the room with me that evening, you saw me die a little. 12) Best Film of 1969. The Wild Bunch. The manliest movie ever made. I once watched this at two in the morning while battling a fever. The opening scene of fire ants devouring a scorpion only added to my agitated state of mind. A brilliant movie, whether you’re feverish or not. 13) Name the last movie you saw theatrically, and also on DVD or Blu-ray. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009). Didn’t like this one. On DVD? Casino Royale (2006). The third-best James Bond movie ever made. 14) Second-favorite Robert Altman film. Altman is one of my least favorite directors, and I never understood his appeal. I don’t even have a first favorite! 15) What is your favorite independent outlet for reading about movies, either online or in print? [Place your blog here] 16) Who wins? Angela Mao or Meiko Kaji? I’ll base this on looks, since I wouldn’t know them from a can of ravioli: Meiko Kaji. Now, watch me forge a lifelong obsession with her… 17) Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) or Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly)? I got culture shock reading the question. 18) Favorite movie that features a carnival setting or sequence. Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) Nick Charles in a great light-colored suit while on a merry-go-round while bratty kids taunt him. Yes, that would be the one. 19) Best use of high-definition video on the big screen to date. 1978: Seven-year-old me standing just to the left—no, no, a little bit this way-- of the TV screen so the family could get a clear signal from the rabbit ears during Candid Camera. 20) Favorite movie that is equal parts genre film and a deconstruction or consideration of that same genre. Dances with Wolves. Never again would Native Americans be portayed as one-dimensional savages. Now, they’re three dimensional savages like the rest of humanity. 21) Best Film of 1979. Alien (1979). Still frightening, still the best. 22) Most realistic and/or sincere depiction of small-town life in the movies. The Human Comedy (1943). As sincere as it gets. 23) Best horror movie creature (non-giant division). See #21. 24) Second-favorite Francis Ford Coppola film. Apocalypse Now (1979). For those of us of a certain age group, Apocalypse Now was a rite of passage and a movie we quoted like those Monty Python fanatics always seem to do with those films. 25) Name a one-off movie that could have produced a franchise you would have wanted to see. Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985). Sure it began, but it also middled and ended with that one movie, too. 26) Favorite sequence from a Brian De Palma film. I like Alfred Hitchcock too much to even answer this. 27) Favorite moment in three-strip Technicolor. Dorothy opening the door from sepia Kansas to Technicolor Oz. Mind blowing, but we take it all for granted now, don’t we? 28) Favorite Alan Smithee film. I’d have to come up with another alias for myself if I did choose one, so no go. 29) Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) or Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau)? Seeing as I’m the last Costner fan on Earth, even though I adore Matthau, so I’ll say Costner. 30) Best post-Crimes and Misdemeanors Woody Allen film. Alice (1990). Love the deco apartment, and the general atmosphere of this movie, even if they mention the term “Play Date”, which is what yuppies say when they get their non-genius children together to play. I’m sorry if anyone reading this is the spawn of yuppies. You have my sympathy. 31) Best Film of 1999. The Sixth Sense. I fell for the entire thing hook, line, and sinker. Some genuinely eerie imagery, too. And the best performance by a child since that kid who played Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life cried when Mr. Gower slapped the crap out of him. 32) Favorite movie tag line. “He’ll kill until he dies!” The Devil Thumbs a Ride (1947). It’s not the tagline, but that line appears on the movie poster. 33) Favorite B-movie western. Any one of those pre-fame, 1930s John Wayne Republic serials where he wears a really big hat and cute, perky 1930s chicks in full makeup coo around him. 34) Overall, the author best served by movie adaptations of his or her work. Ian Fleming. Even when Bond movies are bad, they’re good. 35) Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) or Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard)? Susan Vance will destroy your current life and make you love her. Whatta gal! 36) Favorite musical cameo in a non-musical movie. Bobby Short in Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) 37) Bruno (the character, if you haven’t seen the movie, or the film, if you have): subversive satire or purveyor of stereotyping? I don’t see any ACLU lawsuits against the guy, so subversive satire. 38) Five film folks, living or deceased, you would love to meet. I’ll stick to the (as of this writing) living: Roger Moore, James Caan, Martin Landau, Tom Baker, Leonard Nimoy ------------------------- ----------- -----
This looks to be from Laura (1944), Gene Tierney's quintessential role. I love her sophisticated demeanor, arty surroundings, and lovely dress. Too often Gene was cast as the goody-goody girl next door and so we rarely got to see her do more against-type roles. Even Laura finds her as a nice girl. However, her Oscar-nominated role in Leave Her to Heaven (1945) and her performance in The Razor's Edge (1946) find Tierney in two of her most fascinating roles. In the former she's a complete psycho, and in the latter she's also a not-so-nice character. Tierney gets an undeserved bad rap as being an average actress at best, but Tierney needed more parts that required her to "stretch", and she was more than capable of taking on such challenges. She was on quite a roll from 1944-46 and is it any wonder her career stalled after this, given her staggering personal problems? Let's see: philandering weasel of a husband, her baby born with severe birth defects, mental and emotional instability in a time when mental health care was icy sheets and wide-awake shock treatments. Yeah, I'd say that Gene had a rough time of things. It's hard not to be a booster for an underdog of sorts, isn't it? ------------- ---- - Looks like I'm making this week Gene Tierney Appreciation Week! This photograph amazes me because Tierney is off screen with her hair up and still she looks like the Silver Screen Goddess that she always was. I've seen several of her films and watched the A&E Biography episode on her, Gene Tierney: A Shattered Portrait, but have yet to read up on her often miserable life and times. The documentary is available on the wonderful Laura DVD, which contains more extras than a single disc could possibly hold. As for Tierney's life, it turned out to be a happy ending of sorts for the tormented legend, but what a rough road she had to travel. Just when I thought all you beautiful people had it so easy.. --------------------------------- ------------------ ---------- I've missed posting, so I'm getting back into the swing of things and have started on a couple of pieces I've been wanting to yammer on about. In the meantime, seeing this color photo of Gene Tierney (with Cheetah friend) has me all abuzz. I won't call this "Photo of the Day" --------------------- ----------- ------- -- Bob Peak (1927-1992) was an amazing talent. You've seen his work on many a movie poster. An artists with Bob Peak's ability belonged in the Golden Age, but his work made the 1960s, 70s, and early 80s the last hurrah for truly brilliant movie poster art. Here are but a few of his wonderful images.
Apocalypse Now (1979) Islands in the Stream (1977)
Excalibur (1981)
Star Trek III: The Search For Spock (1984)
The Black Stallion (1979) --------------------- ----------- -----
The tie breaker for the June Poll is over. The majority of you think that Joan Fontaine should have won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Actress. The votes:
Joan Fontaine, Rebecca: 14 (60%)
Katharine Hepburn, The Philadelphia Story: 9 (39%)
What happened to all the Kate Hepburn fans? The Philadelphia Story was her big comeback part and yet she couldn't compete with Olivia DeHavilland's little sister! Rebecca was that year's Best Picture winner (Hitchcock's only) and while I'm not a Joan Fontaine fan, I can see how her role in this beautiful movie could have won. It's probably her defining performance, though she would win her Oscar the next year for Suspicion, another Alfred Hitchcock film. The lady was at her career peak, and yet she barely registers among the general public when appraisals of Golden Age actresses are made. It's difficult to get past the Barbara-Bette-Joan-Kate quartet, but whatever it is about Fontaine that her fans like, she delivers it full tilt in Rebecca. I'd love for anyone reading this to do a guest post here on why they love this film and Fontaine as they do. Consider it an open invitation... ------------------------ -------------- ------ A bit of a departure today… Part of my fascination for the Golden Age of Hollywood is the actual era itself. I love the architecture, music, politics, and styles of the 1930s and early 1940s, and I often think about what was going on in my own (nearby) fair city of Miami while Hollywood was creating its very best movies with my favorite stars. Miami, Florida was already booming as a luxury tourist destination by the 1930s and would be the nation’s playground in the subsequent decades. Today, I present some snapshots of Miami as it appeared during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Take a look at these travel brochures. Perhaps they will entice you to make the trip. Great, we'll see you when you arrive...
Welcome to Miami: Here’s an Alfred Eisenstaedt aerial photograph of the Magic City, 1940.
Brrr: I forgot to tell you that we're having unusually cold weather this month! This stylish beachgoer sports a fur coat over her bathing suit in February, 1940 when tourists and locals alike were shocked with 30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures during a particularly potent cold snap that lasted three weeks.
The Miami Pan-Am airport terminal: Look at the design and the contrast between the dark surfaces of the terminal and the light, airy tropical attire of the passengers. I wish people dressed up today...I guess there's just no competing with ragged jeans and T-shirt...
Collins Avenue, 1940: Get a load of that bustling city! Cue the Gershwin music as everyone moves about in this subtropical paradise. Collins Avenue runs parallel to the Atlantic Ocean. This entire environment as it was during this time floods me with many images and fantasies, especially my Husband and Wife Detectives strolling along the sidewalks at night and taking in Miami’s typically balmy summer evenings—actually, they’re downright hot! The traffic is relatively unchanged considering the time, population, and degree of urban expansion. It’s all in proportion, isn’t it? Miami seemed just as crowded then as it is today. Here’s the Edsinger Hotel, where I live and write this blog—really! See? Right next to that typewriter is my stack of Ginger Rogers jpegs. Off the Beaten Path: A trip to neighboring Fort Lauderdale finds us in a beautiful deco-designed club, The Club Keller. What’ll you have to drink? ------------------------------ ----------------- -------- "Everybody gets a book; the ex-wife, the cook, the nanny..." ~John Lennon, on the perils of celebrity That bad old Susan Hayward. Here she is, circa 1961, rich, famous, and an Academy-Award winning actress, and yet her poor poor sister can barely make ends meet. So claimeth this hatchet job from the evil that was Confidential magazine. Susan's older sister Florence was involved in a custody battle for her 17-year-old son in late 1960 and was trying to publicly guilt Susan into helping her. "I can sew...and I can do general housework and I can work as a saleswoman. If someone would only give me a job I could earn enough money to support my two children." Florence claimed that she hadn't seen Susan since their mother's funeral in April, 1958. Another article claimed that Florence wandered the fringes of skid row with her teenage son. Being a celebrity sure is a lousy way to live one's life. If you happen to have a falling out with a sibling or parent, they can access the press and for a chunk of change can lob a Molotov Cocktail at you and all your shortcomings. Celebrities get partial treatment in the courts, but they also get that celebrity used against them, with hangers on, disgruntled relatives, and psychopathic "fans" (remembering John Lennon again) all taking their toll. Susan wisely didn't comment on her sister's accusations, and whatever feud that the two sisters had going was deep. However, I believe that just because you happen to share an accident of birth with someone and through the randomnity of some great cosmic lottery you happen to share the same parents, doesn't mean you'll get along with, or even like those in your family. Those of us schlubs who aren't rich and famous never have to worry about a disgruntled somebody publicly taking us to task, though with the internet, I guess it's possible to some degree, but not on this blog--too small an audience! Sorry for the rant today, but I needed to bring Susan's name back on this blog, seeing as I've essentially left her in the dust what with my Susan Hayward Craze not taking off like I'd hoped, but seeing as Hayward was at her peak in the 1950s, and Hollywood Dreamland tends to concentrate on the 1930s-40s, Susan is omitted by default. But when I get into a 1950s mood, you can bet that the tough and lovely Susan will be back at center stage. After all, I think she's the Bee's Knees. I also hope that they caught that Nazi fugitive... -------------------------- ------------------ -------- Another piece of my childhood died this week. Karl Malden, age 97. That’s a hell of a ride and one great career. Those from my generation know Malden first and foremost as Detective Mike Stone in the 1970s cop show, The Streets of San Francisco, which my grandfather and I watched together when I was a kid (come to think of it, why aren't those TV programs ever rerun anymore? I haven't seen an episode of Streets in twenty-five years). Malden is also remembered from those omnipresent American Express commercials where he would end each ad with “American Express Traveler’s Checks; don’t leave home without them!” I always thought he was so authoritative and that it was Malden-as-Mike Stone telling us to buy those traveler's checks! Maybe it was because he was always wearing that fedora. Ever see his early role in 1950’s Where the Sidewalk Ends? In it, Malden plays a by-the-book police lieutenant, kind of an early dry run for Mike Stone, who isn’t often mentioned as one of the 1970s great police characters, but if you’ve ever watched the show, you’re probably a fan of it and of Karl Malden—at least that’s how I became aware and appreciative of this man’s ability. My favorite Karl Malden performances were On the Waterfront (1954), where he’s the decent man of the cloth and in Patton (1970), in which he was just about perfect as General Omar Bradley. I felt he should’ve been Oscar-nominated for that role. Malden was already an Academy-Award winner, for 1951’s A Streetcar Named Desire. However, being the excellent character actor that he was, Malden could also play a villain with equal expertise. He was fantastic as a mean S.O.B. Sheriff in One-Eyed Jacks (1961)--a great movie nobody ever heard of--and as an outlaw gang leader in Nevada Smith (1966). When these actors die I think of what a forceful presence they were on screen. You take them for granted because they’re always around- sturdy, reliable, and when a man lives to be nearly 100, they really have been around as long as anyone can remember! These aren’t the kinds of deaths that sadden me, as Malden lived to fulfill his career potential and was a successful working actor for fifty years. I wish all beloved movie stars lived this long, so we wouldn’t mourn their unfulfilled potential, but rather celebrate their lives and careers, as we can with Karl Malden. --------------------------------- ----------------- -------- I love Westerns: movies, TV shows, books, and music scores. And in my effort to become more "Cowboy Friendly", I want to discuss more Western films here at HD. And while I'm quite familiar with 1950s-70s Western movies, there are several from Hollywood's Golden Age that I'd love to see. This also includes the Western serials where John Wayne toiled until he finall achieved super stardom in 1939's Stagecoach. I think that catching up with 1930s and 1940s Oaters will keep me busy for awhile. Part of my inspiration comes from British Blogger/working actor/author and Western lover extraordinaire, Gary Dobbs, ----------------------- ----------- ----- With Summer upon us (at least in the northern hemisphere), we at Hollywood Dreamland thought it best that we enjoy some of these long, blisteringly hot days--I'm based just north of Miami--or "Miamuh", as the old-timers called it--and I'll be scaling back the posts a bit. Perhaps four or five posts monthly instead of the average ten, though this month has seen twenty one due to the Favorite Actors List draining my rudimentary thinking and writing skills. Hope you're enjoying the Summer wherever you are--or Winter, where applicable. ---------------------- ----------- ---- Though he was number three on the Hollywood Dreamland John Wayne is still number one in terms of how much dough his movies raked in! Remember this list from a few years ago, proclaiming The Duke the all-time greatest movie moneymaker? You don't? Well, read on Pilgrim: John Wayne All Time Top Money-Making Star GROTON, Mass., Feb. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- Using data from 72 years of Quigley Publishing Company's annual Top Ten Money-Making Star Poll of motion picture exhibitors, John Wayne has been named the Top Money-Maker of All Time. The Quigley Poll, conducted every year since 1932, is an annual survey of motion picture exhibitors, which asks them to vote for the ten stars that generated the most box-office revenue in the preceding year for their theatres. Long regarded as one of the most reliable indicators of a Star's box-office draw, the Quigley Poll has been cited in hundreds of publications and appears annually in Quigley Publishing Company's International Motion Picture Almanac . During this motion picture awards season, it is interesting to see who theatre owners and operators believe really have meant something at their box-office. During his 50-year career John Wayne appeared in over 150 films, including classics such as, The Quiet Man, The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, but only won one Academy Award for True Grit. To come up with a weighted score, an actor received 10 points for a first place finish, nine for a second place finish, etc. The total score was determined by adding up the weighted scores from each year that the actor was voted on the list. John Wayne's appearance 25 times in the poll from 1949 to 1974 yielded 172 points versus 165 points for second place Clint Eastwood, who has been on the list 21 times. Tom Cruise placed third with 133.5 points combining six first place finishes with 16 appearances on the QP poll. The rest of the Quigley Top Ten All-Time Money Makers are Bing Crosby #4, Gary Cooper #5, Clark Gable #6 and Burt Reynolds #7. Tom Hanks, who was recently voted the Top Ten Money-Making Star of 2004, tied with Bob Hope for #8 and Paul Newman was #10. Of the current active stars, it appears that only Clint Eastwood and Tom Cruise have a reasonable chance of overtaking John Wayne in the future. Perhaps reflecting shorter careers in Hollywood than men, no women made it into the Top Ten but Doris Day #11, Julia Roberts #13, Betty Grable #15, Elizabeth Taylor #23 and Shirley Temple #25 were in the Top Twenty Five. The complete list is: QP All Time Weighted Position Top Ten Stars Score 1 John Wayne 172 2 Clint Eastwood 165 3 Tom Cruise 133.5 4 Bing Crosby 111 5 Gary Cooper 106.5 6 Clark Gable 95 7 Burt Reynolds 90 8 Tom Hanks (Tie) 83 Bob Hope (Tie) 83 10 Paul Newman 76 11 Doris Day 72 12 Rock Hudson 69 13 Julia Roberts 68 14 Eddie Murphy 67 15 Betty Grable 66 16 Cary Grant 62 17 Abbott & Costello 57 18 Harrison Ford (Tie) 56 James Stewart (Tie) 56 20 Mel Gibson 55.5 21 Robert Redford 55 22 Arnold Schwarzenegger 53 23 Elizabeth Taylor 52 24 Sylvester Stallone 50 25 Jim Carrey (Tie) 49 Shirley Temple (Tie) 49
----------------------- --------- ----- One pleasant surprise we as young(ish) classic movie fans receive is the "shocking" revelation that Golden Age movie stars were actually young once! Every generation since the baby boomers were initially introduced to beloved performers through perpetually-running TV programs from our childhood or these days-- DVD, since 99% of classic shows just aren't shown on television anymore. Anyway, we grow accustomed to seeing an actor in a certain period of their careers and then after years of seeing that one era of their onscreen lives, we get a shock at finding their young, beautiful selves. Years ago, I got this kind of shock upon seeing Barbara Stanwyck in Ball of Fire. Prior to that, I had known her only as "Miss Barbara Stanwyck" from the TV western, The Big Valley. So, this pleasant surprise theme continues as I marvel at the above photograph of Joan Bennett. I half-jokingly referred to her in the previous post as "Mrs. Banks" from Father of the Bride because Miss Bennett was such a thrill to behold in this picture. Although she wasn't exactly ancient (age 39) as Kay Banks' (Elizabeth Taylor) mother. If I had to guess her age in the lovely photo now, I'd venture to say--22. What a beauty! ------------------ -------- ----
Mrs. Banks???: Joan Bennett, early 1930s.
The lovely Bennett sisters are two actresses I'm intrigued by, though my exposure to them has been rather limited. Both Constance and Joan were stunningly beautiful and both adept at melodrama and comedy. Connie's career cooled off by the mid-1930s with the changing tastes from melodrama to screwball comedy and musicals, while Joan's roles slowed in the 1950s after her husband, producer Walter Wanger (responsible for Susan Hayward's 1950s success) shot Joan's agent and alleged paramour, Jennings Lang (guess where he was shot!), who was quite the ladies' man; Kate Hepburn among his many interests. Joan (1911-90) is the one with whom I'm most familiar, as her role as Ellie Banks in Father of the Bride (on TCM tonight!) shows her low-key but effective sense of humor, but I'd like to see her earlier work from the 1930s and 40s. She's also well-known for her role on the Gothic TV soap opera Dark Shadows, which I just found out about!

Glamour Every Night: Joan Bennett prepares for some fancy outing in the 1940s

Sizzle: Connie, early 1930s.
Connie (1904-65) has two George Cukor-directed movies I have yet to see, Our Betters (1933; July 7 on TCM!) and What Price Hollywood? (1932), which is an early take on the A Star is Born formula. The excerpts I've seen look promising, and I am quite the Cukor admirer. I have seen her in 1937's Topper, but apparently that didn't make an impression on me. She gets another chance when I see her in her early-1930s peak. I'm open to your suggestions and recommendations for these two ladies' finer films, and would appreciate all feedback on this most-pressing matter! I need me some Bennett sisters!
Ravishing: Connie in her early-thirties prime. -------------------- ----------- --- First Movie I Saw Him In: Father of the Bride (1950) Three Favorite Movies: Father of the Bride (1950); The Last Hurrah (1958); Inherit the Wind (1960). Favorite Movie with Katharine Hepburn: Adam’s Rib (1949). Honorable Mention: Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) Favorite Performance: Father of the Bride (1950) Why I Like Him: For years, all I heard about Spencer Tracy was that he was widely considered the greatest American screen actor. Everyone from Anthony Hopkins to Bruce Willis raved about him. Tracy was The Actor. As so often with these things, I had to do a little maturing to understand what all the hoopla was about. I was about twenty six when I first watched Father of the Bride and at first I was taken with the witty and literate script, the uniformly excellent cast, and the tasteful direction by Vincente Minnelli. It was also the film where I understood what was so great about Spencer Tracy. I never saw him acting. He just was. That’s what makes Spencer Tracy so good. You notice and accept the character first and never consider the man. Ideally, that’s how acting should be. It’s a towering achievement, especially since Tracy lacked the typical attributes that make a screen actor memorable. He didn’t have a distinctive voice-- certainly not like the top four of this list-- he wasn’t considered handsome, wasn’t tall, overtly funny, and couldn’t sing or dance. He rarely raised his voice to get his point across, yet everything was present that made Spencer Tracy great and worthy of that adulation; he was natural. Tracy didn’t have the belabored acting mannerisms of the later conspicuous “method actors” with their superfluous gestures and cries of “What’s my motivation?” When watching Tracy on screen, notice how he listens—great actors are great listeners. He doesn’t think about what he’s going to say, but rather he’s in character and the person he’s playing is thinking and reacting as if in actual conversation. Tracy excelled at natural, unselfconscious acts and it was he before anyone else who discovered how important it was not to be “caught” acting. Tracy’s own advice: “Learn your lines and don’t trip over the furniture.”
His best performances are the films set in contemporary times. Tracy typifies the man of the 1930s and 1940s. Not the high-gloss glamour of those decades, but the man working as a newspaperman, coach, politician, and as a father. I often wonder if many men from the Greatest Generation modeled themselves after Spencer Tracy. Perhaps they didn’t, but I like to think otherwise; must be my tenuous grasp of reality. Tracy’s films with Katharine Hepburn chronicle an accomplished, cosmopolitan couple and much of that Tracy-Hepburn magic chronicles a surprisingly-modern and still-relevant depiction of married relationships. We see Tracy’s difficulty in grasping a strong female in Woman of the Year and Adam’s Rib and there's that final statement of the couple’s history in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? I've always viewed these three movies as chronicling the beginning, middle, and end of their onscreen partnership, as if it were the same couple in all three films. There’s never been a couple whose on-screen collaborations have produced such a rich, deep, and meaningful body of work. Spencer Tracy was a giant among movie stars. His peers respected his talent, and Tracy received nine Oscar nominations for Best Actor, winning back-to-back awards in 1937-38. It would be nearly sixty years before that feat was duplicated. By the early sixties, Tracy was the craggy face and weathered voice of wisdom. Who else could have been the voice of reason in Inherit the Wind or Judgment at Nuremberg? Or the narrator of the American experience in How the West Was Won? Tracy’s stature as an actor and a screen presence were unparalleled within the movie industry. Spencer Tracy was a tormented and unhappy man and no one knew exactly why. Tracy was prone to sudden rages and odd behavior, and was plagued by alcoholism, which hastened his decline; I choose to remember Spencer Tracy the artist. His brilliant, low-key, and unaffected performances put him at the very top of this list. Random Info: Lived in a rented bungalow on director George Cukor’s estate for several years. So there you have it, Hollywood Dreamland's Top Ten Favorite Actors. There are eight million lists in the Classic Movie Blog-o-sphere; this has been one of them…
None Better: Spencer Tracy.
------------------------ --------- ----- First Movie I Saw Him In: The Stratton Story (1949) Three Favorite Movies: The Philadelphia Story (1940); Anatomy of a Murder (1959); Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962) Honorable Mention: Bend of the River (1952) Favorite Performance [this week, anyway]: Anatomy of a Murder (1959) Why I Like Him: I was stunned by my babbling incoherence in the previous entry, so I’ll taper back on this one. Do you know how hard it is to pick only three favorite James Stewart movies? Choosing a single favorite performance is even more difficult. I’m staggered by the amount of great movies he’s done and the directors with whom he’s worked. He’s also well-known enough that I know that what I like about James Stewart is most likely what everyone likes about him. Stewart’s career was so rich and varied that his career can be divided into separate periods: The young, idealistic Jimmy that dazzled us as an everyman in the 30s and 40s; the hard, tightly-wound Stewart of the early 1950s whose psychological torment as seen in all those Anthony Mann westerns reflected the dark, unpleasant side of America; and there’s the elder statesman, whose man-of-the-establishment, folksy wisdom and “seen it all” attitude, which was representative of a generation of Americans who had endured the most horrific conflict the world has ever known. Every decade of Stewart’s career is fascinating and for a man who was often labeled the everyman, Stewart himself was, too. With Stewart, I’d want to be like his greatest screen characters. To be thoughtful, reflective, and even-handed enough in my beliefs and judgments that it would result in my attaining a decency and dignity like Stewart himself idealized in his greatest roles. I love the elder statesman Stewart the best, which is why the otherwise fluffy Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation is among my favorite movies of his. He’s a rock of the establishment and still possesses those great qualities that made him one of the most beloved stars in movies. By the time that film was made, James Stewart was an icon and an institution. Actually, he became that icon the moment he completed Mr. Smith Goes to Washington in 1939. After that, he would catapult himself into the legion of immortal actors—but not before serving his country and performing the most dangerous duty of World War II—bomber pilot over Germany. At the start of his career as a leading man, Stewart put that promising career aside, serving in the military and remained in the reserves for two decades. It’s as though Stewart was the common man of the Greatest Generation and that his growth in his film career reflected the changes both he and his country faced. That sounds heavy-handed but that’s how I see him. Big concepts aside, I just like his folksy, aw-shucks manner, and average Joe characterizations; he’s just so darn likable! When I see his early movies and then flash forward to his latter period, I see the same character. It’s like having a grandfather who’s older and wiser, but you also know that he was once a young firebrand like Jefferson Smith or a man down on his luck like George Bailey, or the cagey lawyer in Anatomy of a Murder. But it’s more than that; his best roles are when he’s the regular guy who ends up doing things that are more important than things in his own self interest: whether it was a filibuster in Congress, defending settlers from predatory outlaws, protecting his family from the encroaching Civil War, or dealing with his own personal demons. Random Info: In his later years, Stewart appeared on The Tonight Show and recited some of his original poetry. He was also amusing when he poked fun at his reputation for stammering.
James Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) ------------------ ----------- ------ First Movie I Saw Him In: I don’t know; the Duke’s always been around. The Alamo (1960) comes to mind, though I know that's not it. Three Favorite Movies: The Searchers (1956); El Dorado (1967); The Shootist (1976) Honorable Mention: Rio Grande (1950) Favorite Performance: The Searchers (1956) Why I Like Him: You either love him or you don’t. It’s that simple. Now that that’s out of the way… This is the toughest entry because I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t watching a John Wayne movie. But the Duke was a simple, direct man so my admiration for his movies should make for a simple entry. Early on, I probably tuned in because parents or grandparents were watching, so his presence in my movie-viewing life goes way back. Before I even knew about movie stars or movie genres, I was watching John Wayne. You couldn’t get me to sit still for a Cary Grant movie, but if it was a western and John Wayne was in it, I was there. John Wayne was the first “action hero” I can recall and he’s the only movie star who became a genre unto himself. His continued popularity is amazing. Wayne was such a force of nature that when the Western was in decline in the early 1970s, he was the only major star making them—his westerns continued to earn money at the box office. I remember trips to a video store—not a rental store, but where all videos are for sale—and John Wayne had his own section! He remains the most-popular movie star ever and was a top ten attraction for twenty-five years. His appeal is primarily to men, for his no-nonsense, rugged individualism, and his penchant for kicking ass, though not in that order. If there are any female John Wayne fans reading this, please comment! I refuse to believe that his popularity lies squarely in the realm of macho. I honestly can’t describe all my reasons for liking John Wayne.; his movies are “comforting.” I also enjoy the stock company of actors he often appeared with, whether it is in his films with director John Ford or later on when Duke was a producer of his own films. He is and will always be a vastly underrated performer, despite all of his career accomplishments and popularity. One thing that gets me angry is when people parrot what Wayne’s critics say or things people they know say about Wayne: “He can’t act; he’s the same character in every movie.” Give his movies a try and you’ll see an excellent screen actor who excelled at comedy, both with wild slapstick as well as the subtler humor of his more serious pictures. Of course, it was always within the John Wayne screen character, but you could make that same claim against 99% of all actors throughout film history. And face it: any actor who John Ford sees fit to cast in his greatest films has to have considerable ability. John Ford didn't suffer anyone gladly, least of all someone who could be dismissed as not being able to act! And if Wayne couldn't act, then he's still the greatest actor of all time, because he fooled the world all of those years he was top of the heap. And Wayne continues to bamboozle the masses thirty years after his death. Hey, that John Wayne was good! The bottom line about movie stars is that their success is measured in how well that performer can work within his or her definitions and Wayne is no exception. In fact, he’s the rule. It’s an argument I’ll not continue here; the man's polarizing enough without me having to defend his very ability! A couple things that keep John Wayne from being my all-time favorite actor is that he didn’t do romantic comedies and he was rarely in movies set in contemporary times. I’d love to have seen the Duke as a Frank Capra everyman; he would have been great in such a role. Wayne was wonderful in what he did; too bad he didn't do some different things outside of war and western movies. Of course, he may have had a few more box-office flops…but it’d be interesting to see. Random Thoughts: The greatest Wayne quote comes from The Shootist: “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a-hand on. I don’t do these things to other people and I require the same from them.” -------------------- ----------- ------ First Movie I Saw Him In: North By Northwest (1959; age 11 with my grandparents) Three Favorite Movies: The Awful Truth (1937); The Philadelphia Story (1940); North By Northwest (1959) Honorable Mention: His Girl Friday (1946) Favorite Performance: The Awful Truth (1937) Why I Like Him: [Cue Masterpiece Theater music] A sign that a lad is growing up is when he starts to appreciate movies where something doesn’t have to explode every second or have his ears insulted by constant gunfire only interrupted by a thick Austrian accent barely getting out a “catchy” one liner. Instead, the growing lad finds it stimulating when he can savor an actor with impeccable comic timing, a dark side when the material calls for it, and a well-attired gent with every hair on his head perfectly coiffed, as well as a wardrobe that does not consist of ragged, stained logo t-shirts and jeans. No, the maturation process begins with appreciating an actor with splendid sophistication and an appeal to women and an effortless charm and suavity. He’s also the template for any man to emulate. My dear boy, welcome to Cary Grant. Cary Grant is another actor I’ve scrawled on and on about in these pages, so I won’t repeat what I’ve already posted. I use the name of one of his characters in one of his many, many great films. I’m sure there were dozens of leading men who should’ve sent Cary a case of his favorite liquor every year for the many roles that Cary didn’t accept—with the exception of a slow start in the early 1950s, Grant’s body of work is among the most impressive careers in the history of film. Once he got his start with 1937’s The Awful Truth, the Grant screen image was set. Here was a dashing, handsome, yet funny guy who wasn’t afraid to fall down for a gag and get that great head of hair disheveled. He’d play second fiddle to a wire-haired Terrier named Mr. Smith or George, be made a fool of by a screwball heiress. Here was a leading man who didn’t seem to take himself all that seriously on screen. But Grant could dangle on the darker end of the spectrum, too. He'd break down in tears and beg to keep his child or twist himself up emotionally over a love affair. Grant’s approach was unique and still modern. You could reach the moon climbing the also-rans who were labeled “The Next Cary Grant.” (The latest rung on that ladder is named Clooney). Random Info: Was the opposite of his worldly, sophisticated screen image. Grant preferred pub food and casual clothes.
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Now we enter that special place: The Top Five. This is where the appreciation for each actor grows exponentially with every entry. First Movie I Saw Him In: Gunfight at O.K. Corral (1957; circa 1984, age 13) Three Favorite Movies: From Here to Eternity (1953); Sweet Smell of Success (1957); The Swimmer (1968) Honorable Mention: Lawman (1971) Favorite Performance: Elmer Gantry (1960) Why I Like Him: With sixty-four teeth instead of the traditional thirty-two, unparalleled athleticism, and distinct speaking mannerisms, Burt Lancaster was one of the 1950s’ most magnetic on-screen personalities. He was brash, cool, belligerent, and charming. I’ve already scribbled a couple of entries on Burt’s career, but what I didn’t touch on was his ability to change with the times. After a tentative period in the mid-1960s, Lancaster evolved into elder statesman status with a series of gritty, bleak, and violent films beginning with 1971’s Lawman. He continued on that track with Valdez is Coming (1972), Ulzana’s Raid (1972), and Scorpio (1973). These movies weren’t masterworks like many of his 1950s films, but they’re fascinating to see how Lancaster was able to use the harshness of his own personality to full effect once the Production Code and Studio System were dead. Sometimes it’s off-putting to see the “old timers” in the early 1970s performing in such graphic films, but Lancaster took the challenge and was able to be believable in movies with graphic material. Burt Lancaster would’ve been a star during any time in film history.
Maybe it was all those Noir roles early in his career, but for me Lancaster’s best movies are the ones where he’s morally shady: Come Back, Little Sheba; Vera Cruz; Sweet Smell of Success; Elmer Gantry; The Birdman of Alcatraz; Seven Days In May; and Lawman, for example. Burt’s characters inhabit the gray area of morality or they can just be downright bad. When Lancaster gets parts like these he’s the most mesmerizing figure in films. When Burt is cast as a regular movie hero, the performance is fine, but lacks the depth (and interest from me) that he brings to the morally ambiguous characters which typify his best performances. I think the real Burt Lancaster, for better or worse, comes out in those roles, and he’s a knockout when he does. You'd also be hard pressed to find another leading man from Burt's era who so willingly chose unconventional projects with which to stretch his acting range. Would Gary Cooper ever play a cold-blooded killer? Never. But Burt would do it and do it well. Random Info: Though raised in a humble family, Burt became a learned, wealthy, and highly-cultured man after fame found him. He boasted a large art collection, and loved opera.
---------------------- ------- -- The Favorite Actors countdown will resume Monday. In the meantime, enjoy the sun, sand, and surf with lovely Gene Tierney.
------------------ ----------- ----- First Movie I Saw Him In: Mr. Roberts (1955) Three Favorite Movies: The Thin Man (1934); After the Thin Man (1936); Love Crazy (1941) Honorable Mention: Libeled Lady (1936) Favorite Performance: The Thin Man (1934) Why I Like Him: Powell’s the relative newcomer on this list, even though I’ve watched those Thin Man movies countless times for nearly ten years now. He’ll always be Nick Charles to me, and that makes him just as great as, say, Sean Connery as James Bond or Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. Powell is the one on this list that I’d love to be. As I mentioned in a previous post, if I could live my Silver Screen Dream, it would be in a continuous Thin Man film, with endless wisecracks, cocktails, and murders to solve, all while trying to spend all the money my wife inherited (my own wife will be stunned to learn of this newfound wealth). Powell was so cool, calm, and witty. A great speaking voice, a subtlety--he’s the “b” in subtlety—in his wit that makes him the ideal guest or host at a sophisticated cocktail party and a comeback for everything. He never gets ruffled or loses his composure, even when he’s engaging in slapstick and becomes disheveled, as in Libeled Lady and Love Crazy, Powell never fell as low as his character. The only “trouble” with William Powell is that his brand of elegance, wit, and personality are unknown and unwanted in Hollywood today. You often hear “There’ll never be another [name here]”, but in his case, even more so; we’re just not classy like that in movies anymore. Something else I've noticed about Powell is that he's the best listener onscreen. I can't help but watch what he's doing when another actor is speaking. Observe him and take in how good he is, even when merely listening to another actor. Ol' Bill also does "phone acting" really well, and I don't mean a "dialed-in" performance! In a scene where he's on the receiving end of a phone call, his reactions and timing are superb. I've seen enough crappy takes of this from other performers, including ones I like. Random Info: In 1936, he had the greatest year of any actor ever. He appeared in the Best Picture of 1936, The Great Ziegfeld, was nominated for Best Actor in My Man Godfrey, and in addition to those films, starred in After the Thin Man, Libeled Lady, and the wonderful, Thin Man-styled The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, which was a box-office smash for RKO (their #3 moneymaker that year).
Gentleman of Leisure: William Powell spent the last thirty years of his life in retirement and seclusion, happily married, with cocktail in hand; it's just what Nick Charles wanted. ------------------------ -------- ----- First Movie I Saw Him In: Ghost Story (1981; I was a kid and shouldn’t have been watching!) Three Favorite Movies: Top Hat (1935); Swing Time (1936); The Bandwagon (1953) Honorable Mention: Shall We Dance (1937) Favorite [Song and Dance] Performance: “No Strings (I’m Fancy Free)” from Top Hat (1935) Why I Like Him: His movies with Ginger Rogers are among my all-time favorites. The best of those exist in their own Deco world and is the ultimate 1930s fantasy. He's the most underappreciated actor on my list, given his other tremendous abilities. Astaire excels at snappy dialogue with impeccable comic timing, a lighthearted wit, and gentlemanly charm. That comic ability is often overlooked, even by classic movie buffs. There's also Fred the singer. It was he who introduced more music Standards (Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Cole Porter) than any other singer. Astaire’s way with a vocal is sublime. Listen to Fred sing “They Can’t Take That Away From Me”, and then you’ll know why. Astaire also sings the definitive version of The Way You Look Tonight (sorry, Frank!). It's also no debate that he's the single most influential dancer of the twentieth century, and, dare I say it, the twenty-first century. Fred Astaire was an entertainment giant who conquered every entertainment medium he was involved with. Did he have a radio show? He’s probably the best radio dancer ever, too. And off-screen, based on most accounts, Astaire was a true gentleman. Oh, and for my money he's the best-dressed man on the planet---even if he apparently didn't like wearing "top hat, white tie, and tails", but photos of him in even the most casual attire saw Astaire impeccably put together. Random Info: Nothing revelatory, but I love the showbizzy names he has in his RKO musicals: Guy Holden, Jerry Travers, Bake Baker, Lucky Garnett, Pete Peters, etc. When I go into witness protection someday, I want one of those names as my alias.
Not That You Asked: This is Hollywood Dreamland's 100th post. --------------------- ------------ ----- First Movie I Saw Him In: The Winds of War (1983; not a factor in me liking him, but it was the first; I also knew who he was prior to this-- ya see, Mitchum and I go way back) Three Favorite Movies: Out of the Past (1947); El Dorado (1967); Farewell, My Lovely (1975) Honorable Mention: One Shoe Makes It Murder (1982) (a TV movie, but Mitchum is so good in everything; even detective dreck like this. Actually, it's not bad!) Favorite Performance: Out of the Past (1947) Why I Like Him: Big, Bad, Bob Mitchum. The only actor ever who could sing a calypso tune, pummel some guy into unconsciousness while a cigarette dangled off his lip--and never break a sweat. He's the face of film noir: weary, cynical, but with a sense of humor that gets him through it all. He’s my American Ideal as to what “cool “ should be; too bad there aren’t people like him around anymore. On top of that, Mitchum’s a genuine character. Ever see his 1971 appearance on The Dick Cavett Show? Watch the scotch in his cup rise and fall after every commercial break. I actually prefer the “Mature Mitchum”, when he was a living dinosaur, a tough guy from another era who was an island unto himself. His very Mitchumness made him unique, yet he was still timeless, ageless; a reminder of another era but strangely contemporary and fresh. I know that probably doesn’t make sense to you, but it does to me… Random Info: Got around a ban an on-set drinking ban imposed by director Vincente Minneli during the filming of Home from the Hill (1960) by injecting oranges with syringes full of vodka. No one could figure out how Mitchum stayed intoxicated. Mitchum sent actor and one-time co-star George Hamilton a Mother’s Day card every year until the end of his life. Oh! I should also mention that I often "amuse" my wife when I offhandedly suggest that when I'm an old man, I'll wear those huge eyeglasses like Mitchum did in his later years. My glee is endless when I get a reaction from her.
A Dirty Harry-like Tagline: "In a world gone soft, there's still one tough guy!" ---------------------- ---------- -----
First Movie I Saw Him In: The Fury (1978; probably on cable in 1979) Three Favorite Movies: Young Man With a Horn (1950); The Bad and the Beautiful (1952); Man Without a Star (1955) Honorable Mention: Ace In the Hole (1951) Favorite Performance: Detective Story (1951) Why I Like Him: Kirk never came off like a relic from "the old days" when I was a kid, though I always loved old movies and TV shows, but Douglas has a vitality that never dates itself. He's the most intense actor of the pre-Brando era and played nasty S.O.B.s better than anyone, even Robert Ryan. I still try and impersonate Douglas' slow-burning anger routine in his voice just before he explodes in an incandescent rage. He's intense!!! Some of my favorite Kirk Douglas rage moments: Kirk in Young Man With a Horn having a crack up at a bar; his explosion of anger at Lana Turner in The Bad and the Beautiful and then kicking her to the curb; In Harm's Way (1965), when Douglas is leaving the morgue after identifying the body of his trollop of a wife. His look of pure misery (along with Jerry Goldsmith's amazing underscore) brings home that Douglas intensity. Random Info: Ivy League cesspool Harvard used to bestow a "Kirk Douglas Overacting Award" in the 1950s and 60s.
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It’s been pouring rain here every afternoon for the past three weeks and since any outdoor plans have been scuttled by the sheer ugliness outside, it occurred to me that I never did do a favorite actors list. And since part of this blog’s identity is its honored performers--though it’s obvious by who shows up in these pages—I thought I’d better go ahead and list those preferred gents of the screen. However, instead of just slapping down ten pictures and leaving it at that, I’m going to dedicate one post for each actor and provide a few things in terms of what I like about them and whatever else comes to mind. This way, I don’t just put some photos up, but I also don’t torture anyone with any long-winded reminiscences (though I’m sure those will come later; it’s what I do). Anyway, the Hollywood Dreamland Top Ten Favorite Actors List begins today!

#10) Gary Cooper

First Movie I Saw Him In: High Noon (1952; in 1990 or so) Three Favorite Movies: Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936); High Noon (1952), Man of the West (1958) Honorable Mention: The Fountainhead (1949)

Favorite Performance: High Noon (1952) Why I Like Him: Cooper was everything he appeared to be on screen and seemed as genuinely down to earth and the regular Joe he often played in films. I completely see how subtle his acting was, yet he could steal a scene without saying a word, too. Men love his “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do” attitude; women love his decency and think he’s among the most beautiful creatures to ever walk the Earth, particularly in his 1930s prime. There are still dozens of his earlier films I need to see. Random Info: He’s name dropped in the Irving Berlin song Puttin’ On the Ritz, which gives you an idea of how popular this guy was.

Effortless Charm: Cooper with Ingrid Bergman. Note how she's aglow and Coop is so...relaxed.




“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.” ~Audrey Hepburn The May poll results (82 total votes): Audrey Hepburn- 26 (32%) Marilyn Monroe- 19 (23%) Grace Kelly- 18 (22%) Doris Day- 11 (13%) Elizabeth Taylor- 8 (9%) I’ll admit that these polls are merely an excuse for me to ramble on about whoever the winner is. I always hope that someone reading might agree with what I say, or, even better, provide an eye-opening point of view that I hadn’t previously considered. I know very little about these actresses, and what I believe is largely based on my perceptions of them onscreen. So feel free to jump in and share what it is you like about them (or dislike; just be nice) I’m also willing to welcome someone passionate enough about their choice to invite them as a guest blogger here. Okay? Great! I thought that the May poll question, “Who do you think is the quintessential 1950s actress?” would be handily won by that ever-popular cultural icon, Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn has all the snapshot images: the white dress blowing up, the kiss from the window, entertaining the troops in that slinky black dress in Korea, the bleach-blonde hair and the endless commercialization of said images. Perhaps Doris Day might have emerged victorious, given her status as the prototypically 1950s “Girl Next Door.” But Day is a polarizing figure and has as many detractors as she does admirers, though she performed respectably in the poll. Grace Kelly had a stellar year in 1954, even winning an Oscar (and beating out Audrey). But she beat it out of Hollywood in 1956 and married that schlubby prince. Elizabeth Taylor had the movie star pedigree: the child star that came of age in the 1950s and was also the one with all the Oscar nominations earning consecutive nods in 1957 through 1960. However, the clear winner is Audrey Hepburn, who, despite trailing early in the voting, emerged as the majority’s choice as the quintessential 1950s actress. I still believe that she won because in the view of many classic movie lovers, Audrey has more substance than Marilyn, even if we know virtually every detail of the latter’s perpetual unhappiness and early death. Marilyn longed to be considered a “serious” actress and an intellectual. That never happened. It would also seem that the Audrey fans out there stuffed the Hollywood Dreamland ballot box! Her fans are legion; just look at the amount of blogger profile pictures that use Hepburn as their avatar. I have a theory about Audrey’s popularity, and I’ve commented on it before when her role as Princess Ann in Roman Holiday won March’s poll: Audrey isn’t the sex goddess Marilyn is, she’s not the goody-goody Doris’ public image made her out to be, she didn’t have Grace Kelly’s royal, icy aloofness, and she wasn’t shrill and mean as Liz Taylor could be in her films. Audrey happened to just happened to carry herself like a princess, was beautiful like a porcelain doll, but emotional, sensitive, and above all—accessible. This is speculation, but I think that Audrey, regardless of her beauty and ability, had whatever the heck it was that most any girl out there understood: uncertainty, the feeling of being alone in the world. Marilyn Monroe, who obviously felt that way in her personal life, never conveyed those feelings onscreen. Audrey was able to show happiness tinged with an ever-present sadness. It was often seen in her movies as a moment of joy quickly replaced by her sad knowledge of the world, and of her own condition. This isn't present with any other actress and Audrey used that and made it her—I use this word too much---persona. Of course, there's not a single, definitive reason that Audrey has become as popular as she has. When I was growing up, Marilyn Monroe was the star that girls idolized. MM’s popularity has dimmed since that time, but clearly a new awareness of Audrey Hepburn’s appeal has made itself known. Whatever it is, there wasn’t anything in the popular culture to catapult Audrey above these other actresses, so I’d be interested in knowing what makes Audrey so special to you. As for those that didn’t win, do chime in on what it was that made you vote the way you did. ------------------- ----------- ----- Back in February, I posted a Ginger Rogers photo where she's wearing that beyond-gorgeous dress from Swing Time. That entry was done during a moment of exaltation, as I had just finished watching that movie for the eleventeenth time this year and everything about the film was a cause for celebration: the songs, the dance numbers, Ginger, and of course "THE Dress." Four months later, that post remains Hollywood Dreamland's most-landed-on entry, while "Ginger Rogers Dress" is by far the most-searched term in this not-very-busy blog (average visit time: zero seconds). I guess her wardrobe from those Astaire-Rogers movies still inspires a sense of awe some seventy years later. Speaking of dresses/gowns/female clothing-- the picture above is of Ginger in Shall We Dance. By the way, two other commonly-searched terms that people use to find themselves here are: "Husband and Wife Detectives", which I consider a personal victory, as I'm obsessed with the genre, and the other, which is amusing considering that what they're looking for isn't here: ------------------ --------- ----- I wasn't tagged or anything, but this "180" concept allows me the chance to tell you my tale of woe: There was a time-- until fairly recently-- that I despised Ingrid Bergman, who is widely considered one of the great actresses and beauties of all time. I certainly didn't see her that way. I found Bergman harsh, shrill, and melodramatic. Couldn't stand her for years--decades. Not her personally, of course, but as an actress she just ground me to a halt every time I watched her in anything. I could tolerate her fleeting presence in Casablanca (1942), but that's mainly because Bogart carried that movie singlehandedly. Oh, Claude Rains gave the performance of a lifetime, too. Anyway, Bergman continued to grate on my nerves and sabotage every classic movie I saw her in. Then, one day, I grew up. So, forgive me Ingrid Bergman, wherever you may be, for doubting your talent, for dismissing your shining brilliance. I toyed with the idea of not thinking you a hack in Indiscreet (1958) but then you went ahead and captivated me, the Hemingway fan, in For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943) you were alongside the great Gary Cooper. You then smacked me with a tremendous performance in Gaslight (1944), which was directed by another highly-regarded Hollywood Dreamland icon, George Cukor. But it was your role in Notorious (1946) (in which you should have won an Oscar) that I was once and for all convinced of your brilliance.
Always Maria: Ingrid Bergman breaks my heart in For Whom The Bell Tolls (1943) --------------------- --------- ------ Being the "odd bird" that I am--"odd bird" was a term my grandmother used to describe eccentrics--Something I've been desperately searching for is a photograph of Katharine Hepburn, from the 1930s, in California, at the wheel of a car, with a Spanish Villa-style home or building in the background. It's an image I've burned into my mind and it's imagery defines the very concept of Hollywood Dreamland. I recently managed to find the above photograph, but it doesn't look like the 1930s; maybe early-fifties and it doesn't embody that 1930s fantasy. Anyway, if someone out there knows of a Katharine Hepburn photo with her at the wheel of a convertible, please contact me! I'm sure such a photo exists and I'd love to see it.
In fact, I intend to track down pics of any 1930s/40s movie star at the wheel of or posing with their cars. It sounds like the theme for a coffee table book: Stars and Their Cars In Hollywood's Golden Age. I found this absolutely wonderful Rita Hayworth photo. It's tantalizingly close to what I'm looking for--no, please don't use Photoshop to put Kate into the image!--it captures the leisurely pace of early Hollywood and I love photographs of the stars at play, especially when it's in and around Los Angeles. The whole idea of the photo, the time frame, and that locale are all part of my shameless glorification of Hollywood's Golden Age. There's just so much about all of this that captivates me. ----------------- ----------- -----
A Man in Demand: Melvyn Douglas was chosen to play a Nick Charles-style detective in two potential film franchises in 1938.
I've written a few entries on what I refer to as the Husband and Wife Detective Team , so I was fortunate to find a book, Jon Tuska’s The Detective in Hollywood (1978) which covers the many movie series detectives popular in the 1930s and 40s. The book is noteworthy, despite its often cynical tone, for providing the interesting backstory on The Thin Man series and MGM’s desire to strike gold once again by pairing another onscreen couple in the hopes of replicating the William Powell-Myrna Loy electricity. William Powell had a tremendous career year in 1936 (the best year any actor ever had), but 1937 found the actor dealing with life and death situations. In June, his fiancée Jean Harlow, 26, died of uremic poisoning. Shortly afterwards, Powell was diagnosed with colon cancer, which required surgery and radium treatments. He would not make a movie for the next two years. MGM, looking to keep the money rolling in, began searching for substitutes for another husband and wife detective team series. The move was seen by Metro as “insurance”, and as the author cynically notes: "Metro announced to the trades that in view of Powell’s difficulties the next Thin Man picture would star a new team consisting of Virginia Bruce and Melvyn Douglas…Metro had been taking out insurance, looking for a new team that clicked like Powell and Loy. Not only were they concerned about Powell’s living long enough to make another picture, but Loy herself, who was quite difficult to get along with and anything but the perfect wife off-screen, was constantly after the studio to give her major star buildup like that of Joan Crawford and Greta Garbo."
So Suave: Melvyn Douglas looks characteristically dapper in 1938's "Arsene Lusin."
The first of these Thin Man substitutes featured Melvyn Douglas. In The previously-mentioned mystery-comedy, Fast Company (1938), Douglas and Florence Rice are rare-book dealers Joel and Garda Sloane, who become involved in a murder mystery after a rival book dealer is killed. Strangely enough, MGM recast the next two Fast movies, Fast and Loose (1939) with Robert Montgomery and Rosalind Russell and then that same year, Fast and Furious, with Franchot Tone and Ann Sothern as Joel and Garda.
Columbia pictures tried its own hand at grabbing some of that Thin Man action and tapped--you guessed it-- Melvyn Douglas as detective-turned-lawyer in 1938’s There’s Always a Woman, in which he and Joan Blondell played sleuthing couple Bill and Sally Reardon. Bill wants to give up detecting and return to his job at the district attorney’s office, but Sally is hired by a friend to determine if her fiancée is having an affair. Of course, a murder is committed, and both Bill and Sally are both on the case. An interesting aspect of the film is that Sally is the heart of the detective agency, and an equal partner in the firm. Heady stuff in 1938! An actress like Joan Blondell was just the sort of personality who could pull that off, too. However, the studios didn’t think so, because the sequel, 1939’s There’s That Woman Again, had Sally being played by Virginia Bruce. Melvyn Douglas was back as Bill Reardon, though. Apparently both MGM and Columbia believed that Douglas, who bore a passing resemblance to William Powell, was the man to be the “next” Nick Charles. I believe that while Douglas was a fantastic actor, the sometimes-broad comedy that Powell could do with ease was not Douglas’ forte. Douglas’ humor was dry, subtle, and sophisticated, whereas Powell, while all of those things, also brought a physical presence to his comedy that Douglas lacked.
Both the “Fast” and “Woman” series were scrapped. MGM and Columbia probably realized that William Powell could not be replaced. In the non-tormented, non-Noir detective racket, there’s Nick Charles and then there’s everyone else. No wonder the studios were scrambling like panicked schoolgirls when Powell was diagnosed with cancer. The Thin Man series was a huge moneymaking franchise and an unexpected success, to boot. The studio suits believed that they could replicate the Sleuthing Couple formula with some combination of their stable of stars and contract players, but it didn't happen. However, from the tragedy that was Jean Harlow’s death and the serious health problem that was colon cancer, The Dapper One would return to movies in 1939’s Another Thin Man, the trailer of which includes a “Welcome Back, Bill Powell!” banner written below Powell’s visage at ad’s end while accompanied by the strains of “Happy Days are Here Again.” There would be three more Thin Man movies: in 1941, 1944, and 1947. William Powell would live another forty-five years, happily married to his wife Diana Lewis (twenty-three years his junior) and live in blissful retirement in their Palm Springs home for nearly thirty years after walking away from films in 1955. Powell reportedly loved reading and watching TV in his mammoth bed, wearing his silk robe, and with an ever-present cocktail in hand; sounds like a happy ending worthy of Nick and Nora Charles. As for those would-be Thin Man knock offs, they're best viewed today as amusing entries in the sleuthing couples sweepstakes, but when seen in the context of the 1930s, when desperate movie studios attempted to replace their biggest moneymaker in the detective genre, one can see that they're pale substitiutes compared to the superior films--and actor-- they were supposed to replace.

The Template: No one played suave, smooth, and silly like William Powell.


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