Friday, January 30, 2009

Hollywood Headlines

We’re constantly hearing from celebs today about how the tabloids are out of control. As if this is something new. Check out this Photoplay magazine from April 1964 (personally scanned by yours truly). It’s the same gossip and speculation that goes on today. Except instead of Brad and Angelina they had Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. (Alas, one thing they didn’t have was a cool mashed-up moniker like “Brangelina.” Let’s make one up now. How about Richliz? Lizard? Hmm...I’ll keep working on it.)

Ah, headlines back then. So blunt. So pointed. So...totally asking for a libel suit.

Click on each of the scans to read insider "evidence" of Liz and Dick's pattern of self-destruction. My favorite excerpt: "Richard Burton confronted by Liz after he's been out drinking in Puerto Vallarta with writer Budd Shulberg, snaps at her, "If you don't watch out, I'll marry him."

On the next page, Liz gets him back with this zinger: "I've been sitting here for half an hour just waiting for you to say hello to me once, you boozed-up burned-out Welshman." If this was today, there'd be many reports of Burton in and out of rehab, I'm sure.

And just for fun, here's an advertisement from the mag. Gee, how come we don't paint our shoes anymore? And why doesn't she seem to be worried about her nice, white rug?

Siren Centerfold: Sophia Loren

This may be Sophia Loren now, but don't twist things: this chick was hot in her day. Eva Mendez before Eva Mendez, nah mean? It's in this vein that we bring you the first installment of Siren Centerfold. Enjoy.

Hello, boys.


Good morning, indeed.

Eat your heart out, Beyonce.

Quick Quips for January 30th

"The only reason to have money is to tell any SOB in the world to go to hell"- Humphrey Bogart

Thursday, January 29, 2009

If you like Mad Men, you’ll love The Apartment...

Corporate life in 1960’s New York City. Ambitious executives. Drunken office parties. Affairs. Affairs. And, oh yeah, affairs.

These are just some of the things that Billy Wilder’s 1960 Oscar-winning film The Apartment and AMC’s critically acclaimed TV show Mad Men have in common. The film was even referenced on a season one episode of the show (office manager Joan Holloway uses it to make to a point to her married lover—and boss—Roger Sterling). And Mad Men creator Matt Weiner has made no secret of the fact that he has been influenced by it. The Apartment is being shown tonight on TCM, and I strongly suggest you check it out (Or, at least DVR it. It’s on at 11:45 p.m. ET)!

Jack Lemmon plays C.C. “Bud” Baxter, a lowly employee of Consolidated Insurance who’s itching to climb that corporate ladder. He lets himself get walked all over by the higher-ups in the company. Namely, by renting out his apartment during the evenings as a place where the married bosses can carry on affairs with the office girls. He seems perfectly fine with the morally-questionable arrangement. That is, until an elevator operator (Shirley MacLaine) he’s smitten with tries to commit suicide after being dumped by his callous boss (Fred MacMurray). It’s classified as a comedy, but I’d say it’s more of a dark comedy.

A scene in Mad Men that’s very reminiscent of the world Wilder portrays? In the first episode of the first season, new secretary Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) walks into the ladies room and sees an office girl crying in front of the mirror—no doubt jilted by a male co-worker. That’s just one example. The film and the TV show have that similar feeling of happiness just out of reach. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy them both.

Stay tuned for more Mad Men comparisons. (Christina Hendricks channels Marilyn Monroe as Joan, January Jones is Grace Kelly incarnate as depressed housewife Betty, and the show is chock full of old movie references!)

They Say 6 is the New 14

Ashlee Simpson is up in arms because people are picking on Jessica for going and getting all fat, so she took to her blog to give us all a stern talking to.

"All women come in different shapes, sizes, and forms and just because you're a celebrity, there shouldn't be a different standard. ...How can we expect teenage girls to love and respect themselves in an environment where we criticize a size 2 figure?"

Our poor, dear, sweet Ashlee. Our advocate for women everywhere. Let's not kid ourselves, shall we? It's no secret that Hollywood is easier for good-looking people. How else would we explain your nose job? Or Jessica Alba. Sure, it's possible to make it big if you're fat and/or ugly…but you better be damn talented. Or a comedian.

But let's get serious for a second. A woman's looks have always been an issue in films. Look at Judy Garland. We look back at her now as a legend, but the truth is she was constantly worried about her appearance. Part of the reason was to the same school as beauties like Ava Gardner and Elizabeth Taylor, and part of the reason was because of people like studio chief Louis B. Mayer, who referred to Garland as his "little hunchback." Her movie studio (MGM) even made her wear rubberized disks to reshape her nose (Lucky for Ashlee we have plastic surgery these days).

And get this: when Garland was cast in 1939's The Wizard of Oz, her dress - the famous blue checkered dress that's still worn for Halloween by little girls all over the land - was chosen particularly because it helped blur her curves. Hollywood is magical, isn't it?

Meanwhile, Jessica Simpson confirmed that she's graduated from a size 2 to a size 8 and I couldn't be happier that she doesn't feel the need to succumb to the social pressures of the business. But if The Devil Wears Prada has taught me anything - and I like to think that it has - it's that size 6 is the new 14. Jessica might be an 8 and that might be healthy. But Hollywood's never been concerned with health. And even Anne Hathaway dropped to a 4 at the end.

Quick Quips for January 29th

"A celebrity is a person who works hard all his life to become well known and then goes through back streets wearing dark glasses to avoid being recognized."
-Fred Allen

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Why We Shouldn't Shop for Mail...Or Something Witty

TCM’s big feature of the afternoon today was the 1940 film The Shop Around the Corner starring Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan. If that name sounds familiar, that’s probably because it was the name of Meg Ryan’s store in You’ve Got Mail, the 1998 remake of Shop, filled with all the amenities of today … like dial-up Internet service.

In a bout of creativity, I decided to write up a comparison for our faithful readers in case you’d ever venture to buy it. (It’s somewhat difficult to find nowadays, apparently. The guy at Barnes and Noble told me it was out of print as he handed me their one copy) Let’s get to it:

The Main Differences (aside from the technicalities of correspondence):

  1. While Ryan’s bookstore is being taken over by Hanks’ evil corporate giant in Mail, the leads in Shop work together. Stewart is a senior sales associate at a store in Budapest (of all places) who tells Sullavan’s job-seeking character that there are no positions open at the store. The owner then trumps Stewart by hiring Sullavan after she demonstrates her selling savvy.

  2. Neither character in Shop are involved with significant others – a storyline that I always thought could be eliminated from Mail.

  3. Shop has its own irritating subplot, however. The owner of the store suspects Stewart’s character of cheating with his wife. It involves a firing, a failed suicide attempt and an overly sentimental hospital visit. This storyline is utterly useless save as a means to an end. It finds Stewart promoted to manager over Sullavan but – and you can call me crazy if you’d like – couldn’t the owner have simply promoted Stewart? Those things have been known to happen, I hear.

  4. Stewart’s character is the main focus of the movie. We don’t spend nearly as much time with Stewart’s character as we do with Ryan’s character.

The Main Similarities (aside from the obvious fact that the leads hate each other, etc):

  1. The blind date scene: Remember when Tom Hanks goes to the coffee shop to meet Meg Ryan for the first time in Mail and realizes she is his Internet harlot. He hesitates and then goes in, completely cramping her style as she tries to get him away before her date arrives by slinging insults at Hanks left and right. The scene in Shop is virtually identical and, like in Mail, is my favorite scene in the movie.

  2. Both male leads have their sidekicks in whom they confide. Hanks had Dave Chappelle while Stewart had Felix Bressart.

  3. The women: Ryan does an amazing job recreating Sullavan’s character. It’s as if Sullavan were on set coaching Ryan.

  4. The length: it’s too long. Too much of the storyline can be cut out. Why Hanks and Stewart carry on pretending “they don’t know” for so long is beyond me.

Overall rating: I’m giving The Shop Around the Corner a “watch it on TV if there’s nothing better on,” sadly the same rating I give You’ve Got Mail. I love each of the characters and the actors who play them, but I detest a movie that makes me question when in the world it’s going to end. The leads counteract the over-extended storyline and tired subplots with their charm, but not nearly enough to stop me from replaying the movie in my head, picking out the scenes that should have been cut out.

It's All Relative!

Hollywood is full of famous parents who spawn famous children. Whether it’s because of nepotism or just plain inherited talent, the acting family tree has branches that are widespread. Many of these family connections you might already know. Kirk Douglas is, obviously, Michael Douglas’ father. Tony Curtis and Janet Lee had Jamie Lee Curtis. Jane and Peter Fonda are Henry Fonda’s kids. Judy Garland spawned Liza Minnelli. And Drew Barrymore is part of the acting Barrymore lineage that includes acting greats Lionel and Ethel Barrymore. But what about the blood relations we young people may not know? Here are a few, FYI.

Richard Burton and daughter Kate Burton
This is one I just recently discovered. While still married to Kate’s mother, Richard had an infamous affair with Elizabeth Taylor on the set of their disastrous flick, Cleopatra. He later married and divorced Liz—twice. You probably know Kate from her role as Meredith Grey’s Alzheimer’s-ridden mother on Grey’s Anatomy.

Tippi Hedren and daughter Melanie Griffith
Hedren was one of Hitchcock’s go-to blondes in films like The Birds and Marnie. Griffith has had her fair share of career ups and downs (A quick search on her IMDb page reveals she was nominated for one Oscar, for Working Girl, and seven Razzies!). She also hasn’t aged quite as naturally as mom.

Debbie Reynolds and daughter Carrie Fisher
Reynolds made her movie debut in the classic musical Singin’ in the Rain. In yet another marriage destroyed by Liz Taylor, Reynolds’ husband (and Carrie’s dad) singer Eddie Fisher left the family for Taylor when Carrie was three. Carrie, of course, became famous as Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies.

Ingrid Bergman and daughter Isabella Rossellini
Ok, so you probably already knew that one (I mean, they look virtually identical). But did you know this piece of scandalous information? Bergman began seeing Italian director Roberto Rossellini while filming Stromboli in 1949 and became pregnant with his child…while she was married to another man! Her pregnancy caused a huge scandal in Hollywood and tarnished her image. A week after her son was born she divorced her husband and married Rossellini. In June 1952, she gave birth to twins Isabella and Isotta.

Jayne Mansfield and daughter Mariska Hargitay
This one’s no secret either, but the tragedy makes it worth mentioning. In 1967, Mansfield was killed in a car accident in Louisiana. Mariska, then three-years-old, was asleep in the backseat. The accident left her with a zig-zag scar on the side of her head. Instead of going the pin-up route like her mom, Hargitay favored serious drama and won accolades for her role on Law & Order: SVU.

Quick Quips for January 28th

"I’ve only slept with the men I’ve been married to. How many women can make that claim?" - Elizabeth Taylor

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Hollywood's Clean-Up Crew

If you thought the FCC's reaction to 2004's Nipple Seen 'Round the World was bad, you should have been in Hollywood circa 1922. While reading up on the mysterious murder of Paramount director William Desmond Taylor (believe me, there will be more on this in days to follow) I was shocked - and not a little impressed - by the swift, heavy-handed response of the industry to preserve its image.

In a brief, brief summary of the events following the discovery of Taylor's body, its important to note that the last thing anyone did was call the police. And even then, it was a neighbor calling about Taylor's "crazy [rhymes with spoon]" who kept screaming, "Dey've kilt Massa!" up and down the street.

No, the first phone call was made to Taylor's friend, popular screen comedienne Mabel Normand. She, in turn, called Charles Eyton (the general manager of Famous Players-Laskey) who then called one of the heads of Paramount, Adolph Zukor. Decidedly, non of these people were the police, nor did they think to call the police. Instead, Normand rushed to Taylor's home to cry over his body collect a bunch of her letters and correspondence hanging around his place. Eyton rushed over to clear the place of illegal liquor and Zukor rushed over to make sure there were no signs of "sexual hanky-panky." As a result of the cracker jack response, the three patron saints of public image ruined the crime scene and can most likely be blamed for the murder going unsolved.

The investigation itself, however, managed to uncover some heavy-duty scandal which put a big, fat, black mark on Hollywood's good name. It was time to clean things up. Hollywood was to be respectable, after all.

Enter Will H. Hays: member of President Harding's Cabinet who signed on (for $100,000-a-year) as Hollywood's moral authority. As the president of the newly-formed Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, Inc, Hays' first line of duty was to purify films. According to Hollywood Babylon by Kenneth Anger, "screen immorality would be scissored: no more improprieties; no more lingering, lusty kisses; no more carnality." Morals clauses were inserted into contracts and undercover investigations were launched. According to the book, when the reports came in a "Doom Book" was compiled with a total of 117 Hollywood names deemed "unsafe."

Ironically, Hollywood got the idea of the moral authority from Major League Baseball which hired a judge to clean things up after the notorious 1919 Black Sox Scandal. It's amazing how far things have come, yeah?

Source: Hollywood Babylon, Kenneth Anger

Quick Quips for January 27th

"I never looked through a keyhole without finding someone was looking back."
-Judy Garland

Monday, January 26, 2009

"Somebody Down Here Likes You"

Last night, when James Earl Jones accepted his SAG lifetime achievement award, he closed his speech by saluting Paul Newman. “Somebody down here likes you,” he said, playing on the title of Newman’s 1956 film Somebody Up There Likes Me. Today, on the anniversary of Newman’s birth (and coincidentally, the four month anniversary of his death), I thought it only fitting that I should share my own salute to the man, the legend…and my favorite actor:

“Boy, I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals,” says the always-thinking Butch Cassidy, the character made famous by Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. And one can’t help but think that this quote applied to Newman in real-life as well. Something about those supernatural piercing blue eyes made it seem like he was seeing differently than the rest of us. Clearer, maybe, when it came to things like acting and making a difference.

The man and movie screen legend is gone now, but the vision remains. Newman passed away on September 26 at his home in Westport, Connecticut after a long battle with cancer at the age of 83. (He would have been 84 today.) But he leaves behind a legacy of films to admire. As Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, desperation never looked so good. As Fast Eddie Felson in The Hustler, his passionate performance made the game of pool seem like an art-form. In Hud, he made careless rebellion seem sympathetic, and in Cool Hand Luke he communicated to us the consequences of “failing to communicate.” And the list goes on: The Sting, The Verdict, Road to Perdition, The Color of Money, all the way through his last film contribution—lending his voice and passion for car racing to the 2006 Pixar flick, Cars.

Let’s not forget the man behind the actor, the one who loved giving back. His Newman’s Own products have made over $250 million for charity, and he founded the Hole in the Wall Camp for children with life-threatening illnesses. His generosity made him not only a relatable on-screen presence, but a truly admirable human being. A true rarity in Hollywood, Newman had a long-lasting marriage to actress Joanne Woodward. The two were married for 50 years (Their 51st anniversary would have been this week, too).

Newman most often played the anti-hero in his films, but to many he was a real hero. He is truly missed, and salads don’t taste quite the same.

Jems About James

James Earl Jones was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the SAG awards last night. Unfortunately, there are too many of us who only remember him from The Sandlot (forever a favorite of mine) and from that crap Martin Lawrence movie from a few years ago. Personally and professionally, he has done much more. It's in that spirit that we present you with 10 things you may have never known about James Earl Jones:

1.) Ever heard "This is CNN" or "This is Bell Atlantic?" Well, these are James Earl Jones.

2.) Surprisingly, the voice that voice overs were made for was actually silenced through much of his childhood. Jones suffered from a stutter when he was younger and coped by not talking. He was a functional mute from the age of six to 14. It was one of his high school teachers who discovered Jones' talent for poetry and, believing that forced public speaking would help the young man, made Jones read one poem aloud to the class every day.

3.) In 1969, Jones became the first established celebrity to appear on Sesame Street.

4.) When Jones voiced the character Darth Vader in Star Wars in 1977, he was paid $7,000. Nine years later he played Eddie Murphy's father in Coming to America. He was paid $900,000.

5.) Jones was a First Lieutenant in the Army.

6.) When first reading the script for Star Wars and Jones first read Darth Vader telling Luke he was his father, Jones says he thought, "He's lying. I have to see how they carry this lie out."

7.) In April of 1998, a sports commentator (whether it was during an NBA game or baseball game is conflicting) announced that James Earl Jones had died. Jones hadn't, of course. The actual deceased was James Earl Ray - the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr.

8.) Jones is also of Native American and Irish decent (like me!).

9.) Jones declined to have his name in the credits for both Star Wars and Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back because he felt he didn't have a significant enough role. It was done out of his well-known humility, but he did agree to have his name in the credits on Episode VI - Return of the Jedi.

10.) A Norwegian rock banded named themselves after him: the James Earl Jones Barbershop Explosion!

Source 1; Source 2

Quick Quips for January 26th

"Once you've seen your face on a bottle of salad dressing, it's hard to take yourself seriously."- Paul Newman

Friday, January 23, 2009

Revisiting Eden

I haven’t yet read John Steinbeck’s novel, “East of Eden,” but I already love it—simply because I love the 1955 movie version (how very scholarly of me, I know). It was James Dean’s first film, and the one that sparked my fascination with him. He plays Cal Trask, a frustrated youth (surprise, surprise) that vies for his father’s love and acceptance, but never seems to get it. He’s in constant competition with his brother Aron (the “good” son, played by Richard Davalos), and Aron’s girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris) gets caught in the middle. I watched Dean’s scenes on repeat, studying every choice he made. The Ferris wheel scene, in particular. I could watch that scene a hundred times and still find something new.

So when I found out that they’re planning on remaking (more like readapting) the film sometime this year, I didn’t know whether to be excited or worried. I think I’m worried. So far all that has been announced is the director and screenwriter, and it sounds tentatively promising. According to Variety, John Adams’ Tom Hooper will direct (he ain’t no Elia Kazan) and Atonement scribe Christopher Hampton will adapt (I liked Atonement, so Hampton will do). The real worry is the cast. Who can possibly fill the role James Dean made famous? Thoughts? Suggestions?

(A fun piece of trivia: Dean and Paul Newman screen-tested together for this movie. Newman was originally considered to play the role of Aron. Check out the clip, if only for this priceless exchange: Dean: “Kiss me.” Newman: “Can’t here.” Man, they would’ve made a great team!)

Who Da Heck is DeMille?

Steven Spielberg accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes this year. It's given annually by the Hollywood Foreign Press (where would we be without Hollywood and its foreign press) for lifetime achievement in film. During his acceptance speech, Spielberg credited C.B. DeMille for inspiring him to make his very first film - a video of his train set crashing as he imitated a scene from DeMille's The Greatest Show On Earth. It was the first film Spielberg had ever seen.

But who was this Cecil B. DeMille and why is it important for us, as movie lovers, to know anything about a man who passed away 50 years ago (to the day, Wednesday, actually)? Simple: because he's just one of the greatest directors to ever live.

DeMille started his career on Broadway as an actor in 1900 before transitioning to films. This was where he truly made an impact. In 1913 he, Jesse L. Lasky and Samuel Goldwyn set up a movie studio near Los Angeles. That studio is now Paramount Pictures - the oldest movie studio in Hollywood. There he directed and produced 70 films - only six of which failed to turn a profit. (In related news, if you've ever looked at today's ratio of films released to films that make money, well… let's just say Cecil's winning percentage is the thing people in Hollywood would kill for. If they haven't already.) But his success was deserved, as DeMille was an innovator, not a follower.

Author Joel W. Findler talks about DeMille's first film - The Squaw Man in 1914 - in his book The Movie Directors' Story. He said the film, aside from being the first ever important full-length feature made in Hollywood, "accelerated the trend toward establishing California as the new home of movie-making." And what would Paris Hilton have done without that?

DeMille is often credited with making innovative developments when it came to lighting and photography - for one, he actually used artificial lighting when most others were using natural light. Who can say if film noir would have been the same had DeMille never toyed with throwing shadows.

On top of that, by hiring Wilfred Buckland for The Cheat in 1915, Kenneth Macgowan said in his book Behind the Screen: The History and Techniques of Motion Picture, that DeMille "gave Hollywood its first art director." The man helped introduce phrases like "design elements," "frame composition," and "décor" into everyday film jargon. There's Oscars dedicated to this stuff now.

DeMille was one of the founding members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts (abbreviated to simply "the Academy" during acceptance speeches) and he left behind a distinguished list of proteges. Spielberg, for one, but also Howard Hawks (El Dorado, Bringing Up Baby), Sam Wood (The Pride of the Yankees), John Farrow (writer: Around the World in 80 Days) among many others. He also discovered stars like Charlton Heston, who was best known for his love of guns role in DeMille's The Ten Commandments.

It's hardly an easy task to maintain working life in Hollywood, let alone relevant one, for more than a few years. Not only was DeMille the only silent movie era pioneer to make successful films up until the end of his life, but his influence still reaches us 50 years after his passing. Frankly, I'm surprised there's only one award named in his honor.


Quick Quips for January 23rd

"Yeah, I've made bad movies. But I like my work in every film I've done."
-Bruce Willis

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Playing the King of Cool

Speaking of Steve McQueen, Variety reports that a biopic about the “King of Cool” is currently in the works. The movie will be based on the biography Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel by Marshall Terrill and it will primarily focus on McQueen’s Hollywood career, which made him a bonafide action star in films like Bullitt, The Great Escape and Papillon. It will also feature his three marriages, including his rocky relationship with Love Story actress Ali McGraw. Other juicy tidbits also sure to be included: McQueen’s offscreen love of motorcycles, fast cars and drugs, and his battle against lung cancer (He died in 1980, at the age of 50).

Personally, a McQueen biopic wouldn’t be at the top of my list of movies that must get made now. (For me, he’s always overshadowed and outshined by Mr. Paul Newman). But it should be interesting nonetheless to see who they cast in the lead. There’s already been some online speculation. Let’s rate the potential candidates.

Some think Daniel Craig would be up to the task, and it’s true there is a resemblance. Plus, Craig has some serious training on the art of being “cool” thanks to his James Bond role.

Entertainment Weekly suggested Damian Lewis, of NBC’s Life. And they’re right, the resemblance is uncanny. But does he have the acting chops to carry a big movie?

And yet another site threw Cam Gigandet’s name out there. He played evil vampire James in Twilight and showed his intense side, but he seems a bit young for the part of McQueen. To be fair, he does share McQueen’s lightbulb-shaped head and rebellious spirit.

Who’s my pick? I’m gonna go with Craig. According to, Craig’s already got the approval of McQueen’s widow, Barbara. Got any more suggestions? Feel free to comment below!

McQueen's the Man

If you're like me and the 1968 Steve McQueen classic Bullitt ever came on TV in your childhood home, your parents cemented you in front of the TV to "check out this car chase!" You then spent the next five minutes scoffing because "what are you so excited about, this sucks." And, respectively, you were right.

Bullitt's car chase scene is the Donkey Kong to Ronin's Halo. The Atari to The Italian Job's X Box. A philistine version of what we have today. But consider this: without Atari, there would be no XBox. Everything has to start somewhere. Today's car chases started with McQueen and his Mustang.

When Bullitt premiered, reviews were written calling the chase scene "a terrifying, deafening shocker." Life magazine said sequence "must be compared to the best in film history." Some still believe it is - we call them "mom and dad" - but how can you blame them.

When those cars raced through the streets of San Francisco - they actually raced through the streets of San Francisco. I know what you're saying: "Uh, good point." But what you don't understand is that up until that point, action sequences were either shot on a studio lot or shot at slower speeds to be adjusted in production. Stunt coordinator Carey Lofton even told McQueen that he "knew a lot about camera angles and speeds to make it look fast." He explained ways to undercrank the cameras (it's all very technical, of course) so when it's played back it would look like high speed. That's how it was always done, but McQueen wouldn't hear of it. He didn't just want it to look like high speed. He wanted the speed itself. The result was an innovative, daring sequence that forever changed the theater's landscape.

To understand more closely what theater goers at the time experienced, I turned to my mom, who gave me an interesting insight. As she remembers it, when Bullitt hit the big screen, it was a time when theaters were changing over to larger projection screens. I can only imagine that seeing Bullitt on the big screen in 1968 must have been like to see The Dark Knight on Imax (big miss if you didn't, by the way … maybe they'll release it into theaters a third time ... probably not, though).

It's important to remember what most of us have already forgotten: things that look simple today paved the very way for what we now take for granted. And we must never take anything Steve McQueen did for granted.

Quick Quips for January 22nd

“Lana Turner couldn’t act her way out of her form-fitting cashmeres.” –Tennessee Williams

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Don't Take Grant's Manly Roles for Granted!

What kind of a man was Cary Grant? Consider this: “George Clooney is the poor man’s Cary Grant.” Don't worry about who said it (Andrea and I did), it’s just the plain and simple fact (or opinion, if into technicalities). But, like Andrea said earlier, watch any of Grant’s 73 films and I’m confident you’d quickly agree.

Grant ruled Hollywood films from 1932 through 1966 and when he wasn’t playing the leading man, he was parading around in women’s dreams across the country. But who was parading around in his dreams? That’s what the tabloids wanted to know back in his day. Heck, books are still being written which question his sexual preference.

Considering how gay rumors have the ability ignite phone trees nowadays, imagine the degree of scandal a homosexual relationship would have caused in the 1930s. It’s not that Grant didn’t insist that he was straight – he did, even through lawsuits – it’s just that it doesn't seem like he was very good at it.

For one, he admitted that his first two wives accused him of being gay. For another, he allegedly told Esquire in 1960 that his favorite type of underwear - because of comfort and functionality of course - was women’s nylon panties. Also not helping his case was living with the same man between his various marriages.

That man, pictured to the right lounging with Grant in their pool, was Randolph “Randy” Scott – big time hero of many manly Western films. He didn’t help rumors much, either, even joking at points that he was Grant’s “wife.”

Of course, the official statement behind their cohabiting was that they were cheap and so saved money by living together at a Malibu home they called “Bachelor Hall.” Not exactly a solid explanation, yeah? (since when have people in Hollywood ever been that cheap). Anyway, the rumors say that Grant and Scott fell in love on the set of Hot Saturday in 1932, soon after which their movie studios forced them to marry women … you know, for appearances sake and all that. Of course, it seems that Grant took that into serious consideration, what with marrying five different women. But even five marriages couldn't stop the rumors.

According to various biographies, Grant and Scott were seen kissing in a parked car in the 1960s, were a “charming couple” and a big part of the homosexual community in Hollywood, and at one point got secretly married in Mexico (a la Heidi and Spencer, but with less publicity whoring involved).

Mind you, we’ll never know for sure - this stuff is like Roswell, as far as I’m concerned - but it’s interesting, nonetheless. And it gives us insight into what Tom Cruise has ahead of him.

Main source:

Cary Is Awesome, And Clooney Knows It!

To those of you who think George Clooney is God’s gift, consider this: He’s doing a second-rate impression of Cary Grant. Don’t get me wrong, Clooney is a dreamy actor and can charm the pants off of any one (including the press, which is not always easy). But don’t think for one second that he's the originator of that charm. Check out any Cary Grant movie and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Then watch Leatherheads and try to tell me that Clooney’s not doing a textbook Grant imitation.

Cary Grant is awesome. Clooney knows it, and so do I. Now here are 10 reasons why.

10. His name. Ok, so it’s not his real name. His birth name is the illusion-shattering Archibald Leach (which kind of makes me picture a money-grubbing scumbag with hairy shoulders and a comb-over). ‘Cary’ came from a character he had recently played on stage, and ‘Grant’ was picked at random from a list of names the studio provided. And yet it completely suits the actor and his on-screen persona. It’s equal parts debonair sophistication and magnetic mystery. It’s a name cool enough to makes James Bond jealous!

9. Pratfalls. Cary Grant is a master at physical comedy. Credit his acrobatic training for that. Wanna see just how good he is at falling on his face? Watch Bringing Up Baby.

8. He looks good in a tux.

7. The older he got, the younger his co-stars got…and it never seemed weird. Why wouldn’t Grace Kelly fall for him in To Catch a Thief? Yes, he should end up with Audrey Hepburn in Charade! C’mon, he’s Cary Grant. Plus, in real-life, the older he got—the younger his wives got!

6. The way he dodges a plane in North by Northwest.

5. His improvisations in His Girl Friday. Grant references his real name at one point and also made up the film’s closing line: “Say, why don’t you carry that in your hand?” But the best in-joke was when Grant’s character is asked to describe actor Ralph Bellamy’s character in the film. “He looks like, uh, that fellow in the movies…you know, Ralph Bellamy,” Grant says.

4. His on-screen presence. Keep your eyes on him. In every scene of every one of his movies—even if he’s in the background or the scene isn’t focusing on him—I guarantee you he’s doing something. It could be an eye-roll, or a smirk, or the lighting of a cigarette—but it’s always something.

3. His rapport with James Stewart in The Philadelphia Story. It’s a shame these two never did a buddy comedy! Check out the scene where Mike shows up at Dexter’s house drunk. When they’re both sitting down, Stewart improvised a hiccup, and Grant, without missing a beat, deadpans, “Excuse me.” Look closely and you can see the amused looks on their faces as they try to hold back laughter.

2. The coat-tearing scene in Bringing Up Baby. Katharine Hepburn tears his coat, then he returns the favor by accidentally ripping off the back of her dress. It’s pure comedy gold.

1. The New Year’s scene in Holiday, once again with Katharine Hepburn (his best female co-star in my opinion). Quite possibly one of my favorite movie scenes ever. In the film, Grant is engaged to Hepburn’s sister, but in this scene he starts to realize that maybe Hepburn is the better match. Of course, we’ve known this all along.

Quick Quips for January 21st

"Everything you've ever heard about Hollywood is true, including the lies."
-Orson Welles

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

African-American Firsts in Film

Barack Obama made history today as he was sworn in as the first black President of the United States. In honor of this, we're using our inaugural blog (nice tie-in, yes?) to make note of some African-American firsts in film.

Ten years after the Academy Awards' inception, the first African-American finally walked away with an Oscar in 1939. The Best Supporting Actress award went to Hattie McDaniel for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. And not only was McDaniel the first black person to win an Oscar, she was the first black person to attend the ceremony as a guest and not a servant. However, it didn't exactly go down with the pomp and circumstance that Halle Berry was greeted with when she became the first black woman awarded the Best Actress Oscar in 2001. McDaniel was only allowed to sit in the back of the theater, despite being a nominee, and to add insult to injury, she hadn't even been invited to the film's Atlanta premiere. Lead actor Clark Gable even threatened to boycott the event in Atlanta, but attended when McDaniel convinced him to go. Now that is class.

Sidney Poitier became the next African-American to take home an Oscar, this time as Best Actor in Lilies of the Field in 1963 - 24 years after McDaniel. But that wasn't his only first. In June, 1967, he became the first black actor to be honored in cement outside of Grauman's Chinese Theater. He shared the first on-screen interracial kiss (with Katharine Houghton) in 1967's Guess Who's Coming to Dinner [coincidentally airing tonight at 8p.m. on TCM]. And Poitier remains the only black person to have two Oscar statuettes. In 2002, he received an Academy Honorary Award "in recognition of his remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being."

But while both McDaniel and Poitier paved the way for the likes of Berry, Denzel Washington, Whoopi Goldberg and other black actors on the red carpet, they themselves owe a great thanks to a man named Bill Robinson, who most of you - or at least your parents - remember more readily as "Bojangles," the often type-casted sidekick to little Shirley Temple.

Born in 1878, Robinson quit school at 7-years-old to work his way towards becoming one of the world's greatest tap dancers. He began in vaudeville - earning up to $6,500 a week at one point - became one of the first black people to appear on Broadway and starred in the first all-black motion picture, Harlem is Heaven, in 1932. As a founding member of the Negro Actors Guild of America (NAGA) in 1937 - which provided health care, arranged transportation and hotel accommodations, and financed funeral services for the black thespian community -Robinson was instrumental in fundraising efforts. But despite his efforts for others, Robinson died penniless in New York City in 1949. Ed Sullivan quietly paid for his funeral expenses because he believed Robinson deserved a dignified burial.

We, and many others, couldn't agree more.

A Little Bit of Audrey

Roman Holiday, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sabrina: The Audrey Hepburn trifecta. The films everybody talks about. The crown jewels in Audrey’s sparkling career. What about the lesser-known gems? Here are a few of Audrey’s other films that I think deserve a chance to shine.

Wait Until Dark (1967)

In this suspenseful thriller, Hepburn plays a blind woman who finds herself trapped in her apartment with a couple of killers. Alan Arkin (yes, the grandpa from Little Miss Sunshine) is deliciously psychopathic in one of his early major roles. As a way to heighten the suspense on screen, movie theaters dimmed their lights to their legal limit during the movie’s climax, which takes place in almost total darkness. Why don’t they do things like that anymore?

The Children’s Hour (1961)

Bet you didn’t know Hepburn was in a movie about lesbians in 1961, let alone that they actually made a movie about lesbians in 1961! Well, ok, certain things are veiled in subtlety but you get the drift. Hepburn and Shirley MacLaine play best friends and teachers who run a school together in New England. When a bratty student is reprimanded, she spreads a vicious rumor around school that the two teachers are lovers. The ensuing scandal destroys both of their lives. It’s a departure for Hepburn. She’s neither a fashion plate, an ingénue nor an ugly duckling-turned-swan in this film, but the role proves a risk worth taking. Both actresses turn in wonderful, haunting performances.

Paris When it Sizzles (1964)

A frothy, frivolous romp that re-teams Hepburn with her Sabrina co-star, William Holden. This time she plays a typist hired to help Holden write a movie script. As Holden thinks his ideas out loud, we see the fantasy sequences play out with the two of them in the lead roles. This same concept was reworked in the 2003 film Alex & Emma, starring Luke Wilson and Kate Hudson. Both films were panned by critics at the time of their release and were far from hits at the box office. However, I think Paris When it Sizzles is good, plain, silly fun—and worth a look!

Quick Quips for January 20th

"I'm going crazy. I'm standing here solidly on my own two hands and going crazy." -Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) in The Philadelphia Story