Sherlock Jr (1924)

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Buster Keaton is one of those people that can make any movie great just by having his name attached to it. When you’re watching one of his movies, you’re not just watching it, you’re experiencing it. He has long been considered to be one of the all-time great comedic actors and directors, and when you watch Sherlock Jr, it’s not hard to understand why.

Keaton plays a movie projectionist who dreams of becoming a detective. He gets his chance when his rival steals his girlfriend’s father’s pocket watch and frames him for the crime. Despite this not-so-cheery plotline, the movie is incredibly funny and heart-warming. It’s a continuous stream of good, unadulterated slapstick comedy that is just delightful to watch. Not only that, but it is also a fantastically innovative film, both in terms of technique and themes, such as the juxtaposition between dreams and reality, later used in many movies.

Keaton’s arch-enemy in the film, played by Ward Crane – looking a little too much like Boycie from Only Fools and Horses for my liking –, is the prototypical anti-hero. Kathryn McGuire joins them as the girl they’re fighting over, who is as lovely as can be. In many ways, perhaps more than we can accurately determine, this film is one of the most influential ever. And it’s still as fresh and enjoyable now as it was back in 1924. If you haven’t seen it, for goodness’ sake, put it on your list!

 

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Marni Nixon 1930 – 2016

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The fantastic Marni Nixon has passed away, aged 86. If you don’t recognize the name, you’ll definitely recognize the voice. Nicknamed ‘Hollywood’s invisible voice’, she dubbed many of the era’s greatest stars in some of the greatest musicals of all time, from Natalie Wood (West Side Story, 1961) to Deborah Kerr (The King and I, 1956) to Audrey Hepburn (My Fair Lady, 1964), and many others.

Aside from this, she also played Sister Sophia in The Sound of Music (1965), was an accomplished opera singer, won four Emmys for her show Boomerang, and taught for many years at the California Institute of Arts and the Music Academy of the West, Santa Barbara.

Her body of work is impressive and she will always have her place in Hollywood history.

Goodbye Marni Nixon and thank you.

 

Summer thoughts…

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Summer’s here and it is unbearably hot. I mean, last night, I lied on the floor pouring ice cubes all over myself, for goodness’ sake! Anyway, while I was down there, hallucinating and wishing I was dead, I thought to myself, you know what would be awesome? A swimming pool with a movie screen in front of it, so you’d be able to watch your favorite summer-themed movies while in the pool. To Catch a Thief (1955), or an Esther Williams movie, or indeed those Beach Party movies with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon come to mind. Ah, how lovely would that be? Remind me to get rich.

My favorite blogs, part 2

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A few days ago I wrote a post about some of my favorite blogs. Here are some more:

Shades of Noir – A blog whose tagline is ‘No answers, just opinions’ – it delivers just that. A fun, informative blog about movies, music, television, sport, etc…

Cinema Cities – Reviews, lists, blogathons, AFI challenges (so much fun!), this blog has everything. The layout is really neat, as well.

Just Plain Ol’ Vic – Not a movie blog, but rather a personal blog that started out as a platform for the author to cope with family issues. It’s honest, and sometimes very fun.

Copywriting, Poetry and Short Stories – My friend Christina runs this one. I love her short stories! We did a writing course together a few years back and she’s a really talented writer.

Criterion Blues… – A great movie blog that also features a podcast, and loads of Top 10 lists!

Fun Wunderlust – Nothing but beautiful pictures of beautiful places all over the world. This blog calms me down.

Love Letters to Old Hollywood – It is exactly that. I’ve agreed with pretty much everything that’s been written on this blog.

Backlots – Another great Classic Hollywood blog. Reviews, tributes and highlights from the TCM Classic Film Festival (jealous!)

Movies Silently – A blog about, you guessed it, silent movies. Very, very informative and it often showcases actors/directors/films that may have been forgotten.

Travalanche – An awesome blog about everything showbiz! From TCM, to comedy to its signature feature, Stars of Vaudeville.

Supervistaramacolorscope – A very informative, insightful and comprehensive movie blog. Great reviews, and it often features slightly obscure movies.

The Cinema Café – Reviews with ratings about all sorts of movies, as well as incredibly fun quizzes!

The Hollywood Revue – Reviews, tributes and a feature about movie references on The Simpsons!

If you didn’t get the chance to see part 1, here it is.

Happy Birthday Barbara Stanwyck!

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There’s something about Barbara Stanwyck. Sure, she made some awesome movies and was a great and versatile actress – perhaps the most versatile of all time – but it’s not just that. There’s a soothing, warm quality about her that draws you to her. At least, that’s the case with me. Whenever I watch one of her movies, it feels like an old friend came ’round for afternoon tea. She’s comforting, and she makes you feel safe and relaxed. Her voice, her smile and the fact that you know that whichever movie you’re watching, it’s going to be good because she’s in it… she just had it, whatever it was.

Happy Birthday Babs, and thank you for everything ❤

 

My favorite blogs

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One of my favorite things about having and running a blog is that I get to meet other movie buffs and learn from their blogs. So today I decided to tell you about some of my favorite blogs.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Jaime Rebanal’s Film Thoughts – An incredibly varied movie blog, with reviews of movies from all eras, genres and countries. Very insightful and very well-written.

4 Star Films – Has been one of my favorites for months now. It reviews classic movies as well as modern movies. It often offers a fresh point of view on several movies, and it makes you think.

Projected Perspectives – Focuses on all types and eras of films and it offers intelligent and observant opinions. I also love the layout! It looks so pretty.

B Noir Detour – A film noir blog. As a massive noir lover, I often come to this blog to find out about some film that I haven’t seen yet and I’m never disappointed. There are also opinions polls, which I love!

In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood – My friend Crystal runs this one. Her reviews are always on point and she offers an extensive, comprehensive and interesting backstory to every review.

Shadows and satin – Another noir blog. This was my very first ‘favorite’ blog and it still is in the top 5. Incredibly entertaining, insightful and witty, and with a fantastic way with words.

Beguiling Hollywood – With a layout that offers several photos, most of which candid photos, once you click on them, there are all sorts of Hollywood stories and quotes behind them!

Hometowns to Hollywood – It delivers what it promises. A blog about the humble (and not so humble) beginnings of classic movie stars. A comprehensive guide to the hometowns of our beloved stars, with loads of photos and interesting trivia!

The Wonderful World of Cinema – My friend Virginie is the owner of this blog. Having known her for a while, I know how passionate and knowledgeable she is about movies. This blog is always a joy to read!

CineMave’s Essays from the Couch – The wonderful Theresa runs this one and I mean, she RUNS it! An interesting, versatile, witty and downright funny blog about all things Classic Hollywood.

Flickin’ Out – A fun, interesting and really sweet blog about Classic Hollywood, that features reviews, opinions and personal stories.

Once Upon a Screen – A sophisticated blog that offers opinions about classic movies, radio and television as well as tributes and the occasional blogathon. It’s lovely and fun.

If your blog is not on the list, FEAR NOT! This is only part 1. Tune in on Sunday for more of my favorite blogs!

 

 

Rain (1932)

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I recently wrote an article about how 1932 was such a great year for movies. So naturally, I was all pumped for the 1932 Hot and Bothered blogathon, hosted by Theresa from CineMaven’s Essays from the Couch and Aurora from Once upon a Screen. All I had to do was pick a movie and write about it. But which one?

I decided to go with Rain, starring Joan Crawford. Her other film that year, Grand Hotel, is not only 1932’s Best Picture Oscar winner, but also still to this day, the most famous film to come out that year. And rightfully so. It’s a brilliant film. Rain, however, shouldn’t be overlooked. And it can’t be.

Based on the John Colton play of the same name and directed by Lewis Milestone, Rain tells the story of a prostitute, Sadie Thompson, who, after being stranded on the South Seas island of Pago Pago while on board a ship, plays havoc with her fellow passengers due to her outrageous party-girl behavior. Sergeant O’Hara (William Gargan), one of the marines she parties with, falls in love with her right away, but not everybody is as crazy about her as he is. Alfred Davidson, a missionary played by Walter Huston, confronts her and promises to ‘save’ her, despite his own demons. Well, what’s it going to be, Sadie?

This is one of those movies that gradually gained popularity over the years, despite not doing too well at the box office at the time. Joan Crawford was thought to have been miscast, and her portrayal of a prostitute was viewed as unfavorable. Regardless, she holds the picture together. Her larger-than-life presence and her vulnerability come together beautifully. Without her, Rain is nothing.

Her entrance – perhaps the most memorable scene in the film – is right up there with Rita Hayworth flipping her hair in Gilda (1946) and Lana Turner dropping her lipstick in The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946). Right hand on the door jamb, then the left, then her feet, then her face as she leans back against the door. Covered in a checkered dress, smoking a cigarette and wearing more eyeliner than a New Romantic from the 1980s, she lights up the screen and commands your attention. It’s no secret that the camera always loved her and boy, did she know that! She was never a particularly beautiful woman, but she had a very striking face and she knew how to use it. It was all in the eyes. Those huge, beautiful eyes, rivalled only by, ironically, those of Bette Davis. But let’s not get into that.

There are better films made in 1932, but Rain is so unusual and satisfyingly odd that one simply has to watch it. It deals with all the subjects that it couldn’t have, had it been made a year later. It’s bold, it’s daring and oh so Pre-Code!

Happy Birthday George Cukor!

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The ultimate ‘actor’s director’, a label he acquired for his exceptional rapport with his actors and actresses, George Cukor was perhaps never given the full credit he deserved. History was good to him, however, since he was voted quite recently as the 18th Greatest Director of All Time.

He was a women’s director. Whether he liked the expression or not. The Women (1939) and the 10 films he made with Katharine Hepburn are perhaps the greatest examples of this. He knew how to direct a so-called woman’s picture and he knew how to get a good performance out of his actresses. Everybody in Hollywood knew this. So much so, that Vivien Leigh and Olivia De Havilland often had lessons with him during the making of Gone With the Wind (1939), after he was fired from it.

He directed a total of 20 actors in Oscar-nominated performances, 5 of whom won: Jimmy Stewart in The Philadelphia Story (1940), Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight (1944), Ronald Colman in A Double Life (1947), Judy Holliday in Born Yesterday (1950) and Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady (1964), for which Cukor himself won a Best Director Oscar.

Also – and this might not be as relevant, although it is one of the many reasons I’d like to build a time machine – he supposedly threw the best parties in Hollywood. If there is a Heaven, the good folks of Old Hollywood are no doubt having a swell time with him today.