What I’ve been watching (January 2015)

This month, I saw…

  • Waterloo Bridge (1931)
  • Dames (1934)
  • Rashomon (1950)
  • The Sun Shines Bright (1953)

And re-watched:

  • Red-headed Woman (1932)
  • Trouble in Paradise (1932)
  • China Seas (1935)
  • Stagecoach (1939)
  • 12 Angry Men (1957)

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Criterion collection

I’ve recently been slowly buy surely building a (physical) film collection. Blurays mostly, but a good number of DVD’s too (a sprinkling of VHS as well). A big portion of the blurays I’ve bought this year have been from Criterion. The Criterion Collection is a well known film distributor that I’ve fallen in love with. In 2014 alone I went from 0 to 22 Criterions! as of now (1/24/15), they are:

  1. 12 Angry Men
  2. 3:10 to Yuma
  3. Ace in the Hole
  4. All that Heaven Allows
  5. Anatomy of a Murder
  6. Charade
  7. City Lights
  8. Foreign Correspondent
  9. It Happened One Night
  10. Jubal
  11. My Darling Clementine
  12. The Night of the Hunter
  13. Pandora’s Box DVD*
  14. Rashomon
  15. Red River
  16. The Red Shoes
  17. Seven Samurai
  18. The Shooting/Ride the Whirlwind
  19. Stagecoach
  20. Sweet Smell of Success
  21. To Be or Not To Be
  22. Trouble in Paradise (DVD)

*=is on it’s way from France.

It’s impossible to rank them as they cover so many genre’s and time periods. But once I reach the 50 mark I will try to do a top ten, to the best of my ability. This is my list from Criterion’s website, it will no doubt grow exponentially over the course of this year…unfortunately for my wallet.

The absolute-to-buy on my list for this year includes: Modern Times, The Palm Beach Story, Throne of Blood, Sullivan’s Travels, Odd Man Out, The Furies (DVD), The Man Who Knew Too Much etc…

Other distributors I like are Olive, MoC and Kino. Grapevine video has a special place in my heart too because they do some pretty cool stuff like releasing the silent serial ‘The Perils of Pauline‘. That serial is literally over one hundred years old. Yeah. That is a hundred kinds of awesome

Criterion can get pricey so make sure to buy during the sales. Barnes and Noble has bi-yearly sales in July and November (they last a few weeks). The Criterion site has flash sales (that last for 24 hours) in February and September (usually). Makes it easier on the wallet when blurays are $20 or so for one versus $39~ or whatever the SPR is.

Thanks for reading and happy watching 🙂

OT/ Classic Hollywood Podcast?

So I was just thinking today, is there a podcast that centers around old Hollywood? One that is composed of younger people (ranging from older teenagers to late 30s or so?) who talk about the scandals of the day, talk about ‘this day in history’ sort of thing, talk about the stars they love/hate/love to hate. Discuss hypotheticals (What if Jean Harlow lived into 1938 and beyond? What if Gary Cooper ended up being Rhett Butler instead of Gable? etc..), play trivia games and play clips of the films they’re talking about…all that good stuff. It just sounds so fun to me! There is so much potential there, especially if you got a good group of people with different tastes and expertise.

110 years ago, Kay Francis the Raven-haired Beauty was Born

Kay Francis (January 13 1905 – August 26 1968)

kaygaze2Kay Francis was one of the highest paid stars of her day, and the Queen of the Warner Brothers lot before Bette Davis came around. She was gorgeous and was frequently on the best-dressed lists of the day. At 5’9 she was one of the tallest actresses around, and made for a spectacular clothes horse (seriously, she can never look bad in anything she wears).

Largely forgotten until TCM came around, she is celebrated now as being one of the greats of her day. She was always natural and sincere in her performances, which is why she still translates well in the modern day (as opposed to some of the more stagey actresses of those times).

She donated her personal diaries to Wesleyan University before she had died. They contain some of the most personal musings I’ve seen an actress/actor of the time bear. Perhaps the most quoted one is this, from 1938 (emphasis mine):

“My life? Well, I get up at a quarter to six in the morning if I’m going to wear an evening dress on camera. That sentence sounds a little ga-ga, doesn’t it? But never mind, that’s my life…As long as they pay me my salary, they can give me a broom and I’ll sweep the stage. I don’t give a damn. I want the money…When I die, I want to be cremated so that no sign of my existence is left on this earth. I can’t wait to be forgotten.” —From Kay Francis’s private diaries, ca. 1938

Whereas Bette fought for the good roles, Kay just wanted the money. This may or may not be why she faded away and eventually retired (relatively early) in 1946 from film, I don’t know. I do know that she was extremely talented and whether just for the money or not, I really think she put her heart into it.

My recommended Kay Francis films: One Way Passage (1932), Trouble in Paradise (1932), and Confession (1937).

Thanks for reading and happy watching! 🙂

Found a Gem in Photoplay Magazine

Photoplay was a film fan magazine that started in 1911 and lasted until 1980. It was huge in its impact of how it made America interested in Hollywood/film culture (it would not be an exaggeration to pin Photoplay as one of the culprits of how obsessed we [America] are with celebrity and media today).

It had reviews of films, articles on the stars, and lots of advertisements for Pond’s cold cream and Kotex Phantom (clever name isn’t it?).

Anyhoo, Photoplay is basically amazing, especially when it covers my films in my wheelhouse (early 30s). Today I found the best burn ever, directed at Marie Prevost. Prevost was a popular star during the silent era but by 1928 or so she didn’t have a whole lot of jobs coming her way (Her last leading role was in 1928’s The Racket). Prevost was having an affair with The Racket’s producer, Howard Hughes (AKA Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator). When that ended she was devastated, and fell into a deep depression. She gained a ton of weight and never worked as a leading lady again. The once popular star was now an alcoholic, overweight and miserable. It’s depressing how common you see this sort of pattern in old Hollywood.

In the 1932 September issue of Photoplay (page 112) there is a section called ‘Screen memories from Photoplay’ in which they talk about things that Photoplay covered 5, 10 and 15 years ago. In the ’10 years ago section’ they covered Gloria Swanson’s trip to Paris and there they mentioned Prevost.

What a gay little story we printed–the one about Marie Prevost, in which we pointed out (and ran a picture to prove it) that Marie had just about the best pair of legs then in Hollywood.

How were we to know that Marlene Dietrich was coming along with those glorious stems? And that Marie was to look too long upon French pastry and chocolate pie and lose that gorgeous figure?

emot-iceburnOuch.  Nothing like kicking an actress when she’s down, am I right? Well, I suppose Photoplay would have no way of knowing that Prevost would be dead before the decade was up. More reading on Marie here and here. Her name/story would later become the title of the (misspelled) song “Marie Provost“. How far do the the great ones fall.

September 1932 Photoplay page 112
September 1932 Photoplay page 112

79 Years Ago Today, John Gilbert (The ‘Great Lover’) Died

John Gilbert  (July 10, 1897 – January 9, 1936)

The ‘Great Lover’ of the silent screen (he even rivaled silent sex symbol Rudolph Valentino) died 79 years ago today. He was only 38 years old.

John Gilbert is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Greta Garbo, the Swedish MGM star who retired while her career was still in full swing. They first stared together in Flesh and the Devil (1926). Their genuine on-screen chemistry was a studio’s dream–because they could milk it for all it was worth, and they did. They later appeared together in the cleverly named 1927 film “Love“. The cleverness in the name comes from the fact that MGM could bill the film as ‘John Gilbert, Greta Garbo in Love‘ like such:

Love_(1927_film)

In 1927 he set to marry Garbo but she never showed to the ceremony. MGM head Louis B Mayer was not happy (might be an understatement) that Gilbert tried to marry his big up-and-coming star Garbo, and said: “What do you have to marry her for? Why don’t you just screw her and forget about it?”. Gilbert proceeds to start beating up on Mayer. Not one to take being somebody’s punching bag lightly, Mayer reportedly said from the floor: “You’re finished John Gilbert, I’ll destroy you if it cost me a million dollars.” And, that’s what ended up happening. His career dwindled and never recovered. He died of a heart attack, but his health was already in decline from years of alcoholism.

In real life, John Gilbert was a tragic figure. But in film, he was magnetic and intense. It’s easy to see how his image became to be known as the Great Lover. Some of his best talkie films are Downstairs (1932) and Queen Christina (1933). Seeing those, it’s hard to imagine that his career was more or less over but it was. To remember him, I think I’ll try to track down a copy of Eve Golden’s biography on John Gilbert. She did one on Theda Bara that I’m dying to read, and she will for sure be an entry sometime in the future.

Thank you (as always) for reading and happy watching 🙂

Olive Thomas – One of Hollywood’s First Big Scandals

Olive Thomas was a young starlet in the 1910s. She was married to Jack Pickford, the younger brother of ‘America’s Sweetheart’ Mary Pickford, who was one of the most famous and beloved actresses of the time (Pickford’s marriage to Douglas Fairbanks in 1920 essentially made them the King and Queen of Hollywood). Olive (Mary Pickford too for that matter) also had those gorgeous big curls that were in style in the 1910s.

Olive was just getting started with her career (at this point she only had 22 films made), and seemingly had her whole life in front of her. Unfortunately this was not the case for her. Olive died suddenly on September 10th 1920 in France, where she was on her second honeymoon with her husband Jack. She was only 25 years old. It is only natural to have a morbid fascination with the famous that have died young, I think we all have a little bit of that.

Olive Thomas (1918)
Olive Thomas (1918)

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