Monday, April 7, 2014

The Internet Finds Andy Hardy

When a classic film actor dies, the classic film community (particularly on Twitter) tends to lose their minds. There's a great deal of sadness and a feeling of loss as these icons slip away from us, one by one, to leave us with nothing but their celluloid memories. But if we did nothing but mourn these celebrities, we would all be eating Xanax by the handful. That's when comedy is born. While Joan Fontaine's death in December caused a number of delightful tweets ("Somewhere, Olivia de Havilland is holding her two Oscars and singing 'Rose's Turn'"), none has caused as big a ruckus as the passing of the one and only Mickey Rooney.

Mickey Rooney (1920-2014)

MGM's boy wonder left this world on April 6th, 2014 at the age of 93. He was a lifelong entertainer, and we are forever grateful for him and his contributions to the film industry. However, he was a a notoriously salty old guy and a mackdaddy to boot. And with that, my friends, the internet found Andy Hardy. Seriously, Twitter exploded with gems last night. Here are my top ten favorite social media comments on Mickey Rooney, in no particular order. If you made the list, you just pat yourself on the back right now. Because I'm still laughing.

  1. "Mickey Rooney?! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! He was so young and in his prime. Why God, why?!" - Kathy Shields Collier
  2. "I guess this means no more Andy Hardy movies?" - I don't even know
  3. "Mickey Rooney got all the best babes despite being short as hell. #RIP beautiful man" - Lena Dunham
  4. "What's going on? Why did that angel just give me a harp? Where am I?" - @notmickeyrooney
  5. "I met Mickey Rooney in 2009. Me: You look great! Mickey (growling): Why shouldn't I? Me: Because you're 89. Mickey: Oh, right. #RIP" - @willmckinley
  7. "Somewhere up in heaven, Ava Gardner turned to Lana Turner and said, 'Fachrissake, he's back'." - @cruellatrix
  8. "Meanwhile, Olivia's in Paris drinking holy water or something" - @tishxogomez
  9. "Mickey totally just showed up in Hell and Bette just yelled, 'HEY BITCHES, YOUR LOVER IS HERE.' And Lana and Ava just rolled their eyes." - @kweencarly

*Note: This is in no way intended to disrespect the formidable Mr. Rooney. Bless his heart.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thanks For the Memory ... Part 1

It's been ages since I've updated this blog, and for a good reason: I started graduate school in August and creative thoughts have been limited. Actually, all thoughts have been limited. A few weeks ago, I happened across a poetry project from my junior year in high school. To put everything in perspective, this was around 2002 (puttin' my age out there for all the interwebz to see!). I've had a lifelong fascination with classic movies, but I didn't start studying them in-depth until I was a freshman in high school -- circa 2000, thanks to an obsession Singin' in the Rain that started an actual avalanche of love. By 2002, my passion was in full-swing. Thus, I seized every opportunity I could to write about old movies. This is where the poetry project comes in.

Our assignment was to choose ten poets and write reflections and artwork comparisons for five poems by these poets. Somehow, my English teacher had the genius idea to let us use lyricists in addition to actual poets. Me being me, I incorporated Al Dubin, Ira Gershwin, AND Cole Porter. I also managed to incorporate Bonnie Parker (of Bonnie & Clyde fame ... she wrote poetry and in my book that makes her a poet, ok?) and featured a delightful biography of her complete with autopsy photo.

This book is a veritable goldmine of what was running through my brain at sixteen years old. It's nothing but 145 pages of far-fetched old movie (and television) references. For your amusement, let me take you back twelve years and show you the highlights of several comparisons and actual statements that will hopefully have you laughing your head off. (Or, you'll just be thinking, "She was the weirdest 16 year-old ever!" Either reaction is acceptable.) I've broken it down into two sections because, after all, this project was 145 pages.

Al Dubin: Rhapsodist of the 1930s 
"The photo I selected is a color poster/collage from the 1933 film 42nd Street. The picture is a picture of various chorines (Ruby Keller as Peggy Sawyer, Ginger Rogers as Ann "Anytime Annie" Lowell, Una Merkel as Lorraine Flemming, etc.) taking direction from director, Julian Marsh." (I literally wrote all of that just so I could mention all of their names.)

I also wrote, "While having a boyfriend is nice, I personally don't believe that I need one -- sort of like Mary Richards on 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'." WHAT????

Robert Frost: Pioneer of Rhythm and Meter

I used this photo as an artwork comparison for the Robert Frost poem "Stars." Here is the actual entry (**spoiler alert!!!!**):

"This photo is a picture of C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemon) and Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) from the film The Apartment. While you may wonder how anyone could possible relate this film to a Robert Frost poem, it is actually a perfect example. The second stanza in the poem talks about our "faltering few steps" on the white snow. This suggests the old saying that "no one is perfect." In The Apartment, Baxter discovers that Fran is not the innocent elevator operator her perceived her to be when he discovers she is having an affair with his boss who happens to be using Baxter's apartment for his extramarital fling. To top all of that off, Baxter has actually developed a crush on the girl. In essence, the pedestal Baxter has put Fran on has 'toppled.' As I compare these, I find that they both exhibit the same tone. When I look at the picture, I see unavoidable but overlookable imperfection. At the end of the poem, Frost talks about Minerva, the goddess of war, being able to look at people with neither love nor hate. This is partially true for the end of The Apartment as well. By the end of the film (as shown here), Baxter is able to overlook any uncertainties he's had about Ms. Kubelik. He is able to look at her only with love. He tells her he's "absolutely crazy" about her, to which she responds, 'Shut up and deal.'"

Ira Gershwin: The Other Half
Reflection on the song "But Not For Me" (and I quote): "One thing I find truly ironic about this song is I have it on CD with Judy Garland singing it. Most people relate her life to the song 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' but I think this one relates to her, too, considering she was married five times and three out of five of her husbands were gay." WHAT WAS MY KNOWLEDGE BASE FOR THIS?!?! 

Sorry, Judy.

Edgar Allan Poe: The Master of Suspense Pre-Hitchcock 

Reflection for "Annabel Lee": "I remember reading this poem in 7th grade and thinking Edgar Allan Poe had to be the strangest man ever to live on this earth (besides, possibly, Howard Hughes, Hugh Heffner, and Marlon Brando)."

Reflection for "The Raven": This is yet another one of Edgar Allan Poe's freakishly scary poems, and I must say that I wonder if this poem ever inspired Alfred Hitchcock. I don't say this just because The Birds illustrates the fact that one day nature can just up and smite us, but because of the film Psycho. There are a lot of scary relations to birds in that movie, such as the fact that Marion's last name is Crane, there are pictures of birds all around the Bates Motel, and Norman definitely compares people to birds in a line where he says, 'They cluck their thick tongues.'"

Edna St. Vincent Millay: Pushing the Envelope

The poem "Grown Up":
Was it for this I uttered prayers,
And sobbed and cursed and kicked the stairs,
That now, domestic as a plate,
I should retire at half-past eight?

Reflection on the poem "Grown Up":
"This poem reminds me of an episode of 'The Honeymooners'." Alice Kramden approved.

And finally (for this installment anyway), there's this pièce de résistance, I give you the artwork comparison of the poem "Portrait by a Neighbor" to the one and only Miss Joan Crawford. (Crawford fans, beware that I based literally 99% of this passage on Mommie Dearest because I was sixteen and didn't know any better.)

"The photo included here is a picture of actress Joan Crawford. In Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem 'Portrait by a Neighbor,' we hear the story of a rather eccentric woman. She prefers tanning over housework, stays out late, gardens in the middle of the night for no apparent reason, and seems to be off in her own little world. If you have ever seen the movie Mommie Dearest or know about Joan Crawford, it isn't hard to compare this woman described by Millay to the photo of Crawford. She was a 'party girl' and often indulged in what Hollywood had to offer. She drank, smoked, and was a real 'dame.' She adopted children, supposedly for show to her public (though I truly think that Joan Crawford really did have a desire to be a good and caring mother) and supposedly caused great trauma for them, having little quirks that she implemented into their upbringing. I think the gardening in the middle of the night ordeal is really what led me to choose her photo for comparison, however. One evening, Joan Crawford definitely went outside and randomly took an axe to her rosebush, and that singular incident's absurdity reminded me of the woman in the poem weeding her lettuce with a spoon at night. The artwork makes mew ant to go watch Mildred Pierce, as that is the movie that won Joan Crawford her Oscar."

I hope that you enjoyed this insanity as much as I did, and that you will join me for part deux as this is TO BE CONTINUED ...

(Side note: Shout-out to my junior English teacher, Mr. Ashworth, for slamming the entire 11th grade into the dark hole that was this project! I had my first mental breakdown working on this, but it was well worth it for all of the nuggets of gold I will continue to unearth.)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Birthday Tribute to Greer Garson

I will never forget the first time I heard that voice.

"You are from the asylum, aren't you?"

It came from an unseen face. If velvet could speak, it would sound just like that. Oh, sure, I had heard the voice before, but it was not until that moment that I really, truly heard it. As the richness resonated in my ears, the soft-focus lens went to a close-up on the face belonging to the voice.

That face.

In my seventeen years of existence, I had never seen such a face. I had seen the face before, but, in the way that I had never really heard the voice, I had never really seen the face. It was magnificent. Radiant. The most exquisite thing I had ever seen. The soft, perfectly coiffed hair, the glistening eyes, the perfectly chiseled bone structure marked by high cheekbones, a beautiful jawline, and a cleft in the chin – how could anything so ethereal be real? The movie was Random Harvest (1942). The face was that of its star, Greer Garson. How could I have known what a defining moment that would be in my life? How could I have prepared myself for the inspiration I would find in this woman?

I had seen her in two films before. The first of these was The Valley of Decision (1945; a personal favorite). The second was Pride & Prejudice (1940), which I watched because I was going through an Olivier phase. But it was Random Harvest (1942) that really brought her to my attention. She was so beautiful; her voice was comparable to a piece of silk or a saucer of cream, and her every move was so, well, perfect. Bewitching. You couldn't look away out of fear that you would miss some subtle yet brilliant nuance of her acting. And then … she performed "She's Ma Daisy." In a kilt. With a Scottish accent. This charming woman, this paragon of perfection, had suddenly become a music hall performer. Vitality radiated from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. She was hilarious and brash and still just as poised and elegant as she could be.

This woman could do anything.

Greer Garson's 1939 film debut performance as Katherine Chipping in Goodbye, Mr. Chips brought her an Academy Award nomination. She brought tears to our eyes in the Technicolor treat Blossoms in the Dust (1941), schooled the proud Mr. Darcy in archery in Pride & Prejudice (1940), fought the Germans in her kitchen and gave an Academy Award-winning performance as Mrs. Miniver (1942), discovered radium as Madame Curie (1943), loved Walter Pidgeon in countless films such as Mrs. Parkington (1944), won the heart of a young Gregory Peck in The Valley of Decision (1945), made us laugh until we cried in Julia Misbehaves (1948), defied the segregation of Catholics and Protestants in Scandal at Scourie (1953), warned her husband of his impending death in Julius Caesar (1953), and threatened to bash a child's brain in Her Twelve Men (1954), among others. Be it comedy, drama, or Shakespeare, she did it all. And she did it well.

It's hard to say what has drawn me to Greer Garson for going on ten years now. Her beauty, her talent, her perfection are all undeniable, but there's something more. There's an electricity to everything she does. The way her eyes light up when she laughs, the way her jaw clenches and nostrils flare when she's upset, the truth behind everything she does – every gesture and word is filled with a great, intangible quality unlike anything I have ever seen before, and unlike anything we shall ever see again. She has inspired me as an actress and classic film buff. She has taught me that as a comedienne, beautiful and silly can go perfectly hand-in-hand. She has shown me as a person the importance of faith, compassion, strength and dedication. But most importantly, she has brought me immeasurable amounts of joy. She is a star whose luster can brighten up even the darkest nights, a source of warmth when the world around us turns cold.

Thank you, Greer Garson, for all that you have done and all that you will continue to do. You are beloved and missed more than you possibly know. Happy 109th birthday, Duchess.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

"Anything worth having is worth going for, all the way."

The show "Dallas" has nothing to do with my typical content, which is that of classic films.  I suppose one could argue that "Dallas" has several old movie connections -- the presence of veteran actresses and actors such as Barbara Bel Geddes, Jim Davis, Howard Keel, Donna Reed, and Alexis Smith.  But, in my eyes, that'd be stretching it a little.  My apologies for straying away from the norm, but last week's episode of "Dallas," in which we said goodbye to J.R. Ewing (and, ultimately, Larry Hagman), brought me to tears and completely inspired me.

My love of the eighties primetime soap began when I was ten years old.  I know my parents watched it in my childhood, but it went off the air when I was five, so I remember nothing of it until the first reunion movie, J.R. Returns, in 1996.  My father, who constantly usurped the living room TV, forced me to watch it.  (Well, I'm sure he didn't force me, but that's what was on.)  I have no idea what it was about that show that I loved and connected with, but I remember being instantly caught up in the drama.  Who were these characters?  What was their backstory?  Why did Major Nelson have insane eyebrows? 

It was around that same time that TNN (RIP that channel) began to air the original series.  My dad being my dad, he watched it religiously.  Me being me, I decided to join him.  Now, my father and I have never had an easy relationship.  We haven't always gotten along and our relationship during this time was incredibly strained, in many ways nonexistent.  "Dallas" was what brought us together.  For an hour at a time, we could sit there and root for our favorite characters -- his were Jock and J.R. (to this day, he always says, "J.R. is everything I wanna be: rich, powerful, and corrupt.") and mine was Sue Ellen.  More on her later.

To this day, this is one of my favorite shows.  I'd go so far as to say it's my second favorite show of all-time.  The characters and their relationships are so compelling that even a reboot of the show 34 years later is still popular.  So when Larry Hagman died, I was beside myself.  Is that a little much for a man I've never spoken to a day in my life?  Probably.  But the fact of the matter is that I considered Hagman (and J.R. Ewing) more of a member of my family than, well, most members of my family.  He has been a constant presence, a source of bonding for me and my own father, and let's face it -- a life without J.R. Ewing is simply no life at all.  I still like to pretend November 23rd never happened, but last week proved that, without a shadow of a doubt, our beloved Larry Hagman is gone.  (Unless he's faking his death.  Which is unlikely.  But would be THE GREATEST PLOT TWIST OF ALL TIME.)  And that beautiful memorial last week brings me to this woman:

Have you ever seen a sadder-looking individual?  When I first saw Linda Gray, I thought she was the most beautiful person I had ever seen.  She was fifty-six at the time.  When I started watching the original series, I thought the same thing, but with an added layer: she was also the most tragic person I had ever seen.  Between those huge eyes and that trademark lip-quiver, Linda Gray made you want to save Sue Ellen.  Neglected by J.R. and driven to alcoholism by his philandering, I have never seen any character before or since that I felt that sorry for.  And yet, there were times when she could be a woman of steely resolution.  She was a dichotomy, and in so many ways, the most real of any character on there.  She will always be my favorite.  I will always want to be her.  And when she threw her slightly intoxicated self across J.R.'s grave last week and told him she'd have dinner with him, it felt like somebody was tearing into the depths of my soul.

So thank you, to the cast of "Dallas," for 35 years of incredible television.  Thank you for the joy you have brought to both my family and to myself.  Thank for the laughs, the jaw-dropping moments, and even for the tears.  Thank you to Linda Gray for being an inspiration to me for the past 17 years of my life.  And thank you, to Larry Hagman, for being the man the world loved to hate.  You will forever be missed. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

TCM Star of the Month for March: Greer Garson

When I found out a few weeks ago that Greer Garson was going to be TCM's Star of the Month for March, I was overjoyed.  For those of you who do not know, this woman is my favorite actress -- has been since I was around 17 years old.  And yet, my love for her was not instantaneous. 

I had seen her in a couple of films prior to the onslaught of love, those films being Pride & Prejudice (1940) and The Valley of Decision (1946).  I loved her in both, but I must have been too obsessed with Debbie Reynolds at the time to become enamored with anyone else.  (Don't worry, Debbie, I still love you.)  It was not until I saw Random Harvest (1942) that I completely, unabashedly fell head-over-heels with her. 

If you've never seen Random Harvest, stop whatever you're doing and buy it.  Right now. For those of you who have seen this classic, you know about Greer Garson's entrance.  Aside from Bette Davis' shooting that guy in the beginning of The Letter, it may be the greatest film entrance of all time.  Ronald Colman, playing the tongue-tied, shell-shocked WWI veteran who just peaced out of an asylum, is standing in a tobbaconist's shop (yes, definitely the first place I would go if I just rolled out of the looney bin), and all of a sudden you hear this voice.  The voice, in tones of liquid velvet, asks, "You are from the asylum, aren't you?"  You have just enough time to process the fact that this individual should be doing books on tape when the camera goes into a soft-angle close up of the face attached to the voice.  That face.  The incredible false eyelashes, the perfectly chiseled cheekbones, the cleft in her chin -- everything about her is just exquisite.  After I picked my jaw up off the floor that fateful day, I actually watched the movie and couldn't believe what I was seeing.  The story of Random Harvest is that of a chorus girl (Garson) who falls in love with and marries this amnesiac soldier (Colman), only to undergo more tragedy than I can even put into words.  It has the potential to be schmaltzy, sappy, and completely unrealistic.  But Greer Garson plays Paula Ridgeway in a way that makes her believable.  There isn't a false note in Garson's portrayal.  You believe her, you believe her improbable circumstances, and you root for her life to stop sucking so much.  It was after watching that movie that I realized what an incredible performer she was.  Regal and stiff-upper-lip she may have been, but she is also one of the warmest, most accessible personalities to have ever graced the silver screen.  There's a reason why she was the Queen of MGM from 1939 to 1945.   I've seen nearly every single thing she's ever been in, and while some of the films were mediocre (Adventure, I'm talkin' to you), she never turned in a mediocre performance.

Ironically, her performance in Random Harvest is one that was overshadowed by another film she made that year, Mrs. Miniver.  She won the Academy Award for her portrayal of Kay Miniver, and rightly.  It takes one heck of an actress to win an Academy Award for playing a housewife.  And that's exactly what Greer Garson was -- one heck of an actress.  She could have stood onscreen and read the phone book and it would still be one of the finest performances ever recorded.  And, contrary to popular belief, she was versatile.  Go watch her play an Irish maid in The Valley of Decision or a screwball actress in Julia Misbehaves.  Look at her performance as Eleanor Roosevelt in Sunrise at Campobello or as a frontier girl (and brunette, no less!) in Mrs. Parkington.  If you take the time to investigate her body of work, you will see what an incredible actress she truly was. (Oh, and let's not forget that time that she took over the role of Auntie Mame on Broadway when her friend, Rosalind Russell, left the stage to go film the movie.  WHERE IS THE FOOTAGE OF THIS?  I need to hear the words, "But darling, I'm your Auntie Mame!" issue forth from Greer Garson's mouth.)

Greer Garson was also a generally remarkable person.  Most actresses peak in their 20s.  In fact, the average age of the winner of the Academy Award is 26 according to something someone posted on Twitter last weekend.  (Obviously, I'm not fact checking this because I'm just assuming all of the film buffs I follow on Twitter know what they're talking about.  Apologies in advance if I'm wrong.)  Garson didn't even make her first film until she was 34 years old.  She went through two failed marriages, one of which ended after being subjected to verbal abuse and mental cruelty (Richard Ney, God rest his soul, should be glad I never met him in a dark alley) before finally marrying her soul mate, oil magnate Buddy Fogelson, at the age of 44.  She loved the theatre (she first began acting on the London stage) and gave a great deal of money to the theatre program at Southern Methodist University in Texas to help fund the arts. She loved her fans, particularly the young ones, as evidenced by her cameos as herself in The Youngest Profession (aka my life story) and "Father Knows Best." 

Greer Garson was intelligent, beautiful, witty, warm, and talented -- everything that every woman should aspire to be.  The world is a better place for having once been home to this incredible individual. Make sure to catch as many of her films as you can every Monday this month on TCM this month, starting this Monday, March 4th, at 8 PM.  You won't regret it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

So Kiss Me Kate (1953), Darling Devil Divine!

Picture it: a movie theater, 1953.  You're "sitting in the darkness, popcorn on your knee" as the old song goes, a pair of 3D glasses perched atop your nose.  Suddenly, the opening credits begin to roll, and as they appear on-screen, you realize -- holy cow! -- EVERYTHING IS COMING AT YOUR FACE.  3D!  In color!  With Stereophonic Sound!  This is what audiences experienced while watching MGM's film version of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate (albeit with "cleaned up" lyrics and the absence of Lilli's profane entrance), the tale of divorced actors who are forced to reunite when they are both cast in a musicalization of Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew.  Sumptuous and extravagant (and even hilarious), this movie musical is a gem, regardless of the number of gimmicks it employed at the time to get audiences out from in front of their television set and into the theatre.  It's fast-paced, frivolous fun from the Jack Cummings unit (a step down from Arthur Freed, but it's all good, Jack -- I support you) with some epic dance numbers choreographed by the fabulous Hermes Pan, and even a segment choreographed by a featured dancer in the film ... a blond fellow by the name of Bob Fosse. 

The Actors:
  • Kathryn Grayson: This is easily my favorite film of my fellow North Carolina native.  Grayson, whose petite frame and heart-shaped face lent itself to playing pretty much every soprano ingenue ever, is really able to sink her teeth into the role of tempestuous stage star Lilli Vanessi.  Her delivery of "I Hate Men" (and really, every hateful line she throws at Howard Keel) is hilarious -- and not just because she keeps throwing junk at your face.  (3D WIN!)  She basically portrays the kind of human I aspire to be.  Also, I have to add that I don't think Kathryn Grayson ever looked any lovelier than she does in that beautiful, long, red wig she wears for playing Kate.  Seriously, she should have worn that wig forever.
  • Howard Keel: True story - I was first exposed to Howard Keel at some point in my elementary school career when I became obsessed with the TV show, "Dallas."  Teenage me discovering twelve/thirteen years ago that he had actually been a huge MGM singing star was like discovering America or a third arm.  I feel that Howard Keel was to musicals what Errol Flynn had been to swashbucklers.  He's the perfect combination of brash and boastfulness as Fred Graham.  The chemistry between Keel and Grayson in this film is positively electric.  No more of this precious Magnolia/Gaylord Show Boat nonsense.  It's time to throw things and yell! 
  • Ann Miller: Sheeeeeeeeeee's baaaaaaaaaaaaaack!  And this time her name is Lois Lane.  (No.  Not a joke.) I never love Annie more than when she's a man-eater, and boy does she feast upon the dudes in this movie.  She has four big dance numbers in this film, all of which contain some of the greatest dancing ever captured on film.  (We'll talk about those later.)  Girl can bust a move. 
  • Tommy Rall: Rall plays Ann Miller's paramour numero uno, Bill Calhoun, dancer and gambler extraordinaire.  It's fun to see him in another film with Howard Keel, with whom he would work again the following year in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.  (Incidentally, not exactly my favorite movie.  My apologies to everyone I just offended.)  Also, he really knows how to work the guyliner. 
  • Keenan Wynn and James Whitmore: Uncle Albert's son and Ado Annie's dad in a movie together?  Playing Runyonesque gambler-thugs named "Lippy" and "Slug"?  YOU BETCHA.  MGM seriously had some of the best ideas -- and truly more stars than there are in the heavens.  These two character actors are hilarious, particularly in their duet "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."  Also, I just have to throw out there that Wynn was also on "Dallas" as Digger Barnes no. 2.  How many future "Dallas" cast members can we put in this movie?
  • Bob Fosse, Bobby Van, Jeanne Coyne, and Carol Haney: All four of these folks are featured dancers, but they all deserve recognition.  While film fame never really found Coyne and Haney, they are both tremendously talented in their own right.  See my post on On the Town (1949) for more on Carol Haney.  Jeanne Coyne, on the other hand, was married to director Stanley Donen for three years.  They divorced, and she later married Donen's buddy, Gene Kelly.  (Bet those Christmas parties were awkward.)  Coyne and Kelly had two children together and were married until her death from leukemia.  Fosse and Van were later able to secure some decent roles in a number of MGM musicals, but theatre types will know Fosse for his immense contribution to the world of musical theatre.  Of course, later in his life, Bob Fosse became a high-profile Hollywood director of films like Cabaret

The Memorable Quotes:
  • LILLI: Do you really think I could play the shrew?
    FRED: You'd make a perfect shrew!
  • "There's another good song in the score for Lilli!  'I Hate Men'." - faux Cole Porter
  • LOIS: Hey, wait a minute!  Now it's coming through to me.  She wants to do the number!  You gave it to her!
    LILLI: Why, that's absurd!  I wouldn't dream of displaying my legs.
    LOIS: What's the matter with your legs?  Are ya knock-kneed?
  • FRED: Calling me a louse.  And on stage!
    LILLI: Sorry.  I should have waited.  YOU LOUSE!
  • FRED: (to Lilli who is filing her nails) Lilli, will you stop that infernal squeaking? You know it gets on my nerves.
    LILLI: What do you want me to do, bite them off?!
  • LILLI: What happened to us, Fred?
    FRED: I -- I don't know.
    LILLI: Whose fault was it?
    FRED: Well.  Could've been your disposition.
    LILLI: It might have been your ego.
  • LIPPY: I don't like my face.
    SLUG: Neither do I.
  • "Thou jerk!" - Lilli
  • "Bill, you've simply got to tell Mr. Graham.  Signing somebody else's name is perjury!" - Lois
  • LOIS: (after Bill walks in on her being kissed by Fred) I was just saying, 'Thank you!'
    SLUG: How do you suppose she says, 'You're welcome'?"

The Favorite Musical Numbers:
  • "Too Darn Hot."  Ann Miller sizzles and shows off those gorgeous gams while throwing things at the audience and tap dancing on the furniture in a hot pink, beaded costume.  What's not to love?  Unfortunately, when she's finished dancing up a storm, Cole Porter informs her they've cut the number.  Reminds me of that moment in Singin' in the Rain when we spend twenty minutes watching the "Broadway Melody Ballet," only to have Millard Mitchell tell us he'll have to see it on film first.  *headdesk*
  • "Wunderbar."  You can tell that Howard Keel and Kathryn Grayson are having such fun in this number.  The staging is simultaneously humorous and romantic.  You really root for them to get back together, regardless of the egomaniacal/violent tendencies.
  • "Tom, Dick or Harry." Another great dance number, not only for Ann Miller, but for Tommy Rall, Bob Fosse, and Bobby Van, all of whom are wearing really tight pants. 
  • "Always True to You in My Fashion."  Probably my favorite number in the whole show.  It's flirty, it's witty, and I'm pretty sure Hermes Pan shows up as a sailor boy toward the end of the song.
  • "From This Moment On."  This number is not so much about the song as it is the dancing.  You've got six outstanding dancers -- Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Jeanne Coyne, Bobby Van, Carol Haney, and Bob Fosse.  The best part of the dance is the duet between Haney and Fosse, choreographed by Bob Fosse himself.  I don't know what made Hermes Pan decide to let him do his own thing, but it was a brilliant move on Pan's part.  The choreography is so perfectly Fosse, and of course Carol Haney is second only to Gwen Verdon when it comes to executing his style.  If you click on the above link, his piece starts at 2:11.  If it doesn't blow your mind, there might be something wrong with you.

The Random Thoughts Swimming Through My Head:
  • HAHAHAHAHAHA, FAKE COLE PORTER, HAHAHAHAHAHA.  However, he's just as snarky and flamboyant as the real Cole Porter, which makes it even better.  Also humorous is the fact that they try to have him distracted by Lois' legs.  How unlikely.  Pretty sure he's more distracted by Howard Keel.  Just sayin'. 
  • Somebody kill that blonde wig they forced Kathryn Grayson to wear.  
  • I just realized (upon viewing this film for the umpteenth time) that there are pictures of Howard Keel in Annie Get Your Gun and Kathryn and Howard in Show Boat sitting on their piano.  Well played, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.  
  • Walter Plunkett, you've done it again.  These costumes are absolutely stunning.
  • Ann Miller's first entrance consists of her coming in and taking off her clothes.  Why don't more people do this when they come into a room nowadays?
  • How many times can one person say "sweetie" in one film? (Talkin' to you, Lois Lane.)
  • Lilli should have stabbed Fred with that nail file.  I feel it would have added something to the scene.
  • I dig Howard Keel's earring. And his burro.
  • Ann Miller should obviously have done Shakespeare professionally.  
  • This film promotes domestic violence.  
  • Fosse caught Fred's little black book in the end.  There's some irony.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Just ten baby fingers and ten baby toes--Troubles? Scandal?--Gosh--Nobody Knows

Bachelor Mother (1939)

My first encounter with the beautiful, talented Ginger Rogers was as a little girl watching the 1965 version of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella.  (No.  I was not alive in 1965.  At least, not in this lifetime.)  I remember being enamored with this elegant, blonde woman playing the Queen.  I also recall my mother telling me that she had been a very famous dancer.  Famous dancer, indeed.  Rogers was 54 at the time.

Bachelor Mother (1939) is the first non-musical I ever saw Ginger Rogers in.  All of her big roles up until Stage Door in 1937 had primarily been in musicals, initially those of the Busby Berkeley variety, and later, her famed films with Fred Astaire. It's fascinating to watch her incredible skills as a brilliant comedienne in this witty comedy, knowing that only a year later she would win the Oscar for the title character in the drama Kitty Foyle (1940).

Directed by the fantastic Garson Kanin, Bachelor Mother tells the story of Polly Parrish (played by a sparkling, sensational Rogers), a woman who loses her seasonal job at Merlin's Department Store (akin to Macy's) after the holidays.  While out and about searching for a new job, she happens upon a foundling outside of an orphanage (umm, Merry Christmas?) which everyone, of course, assumes is actually hers.  Complications ensue when David Merlin (played by David Niven), Polly's former boss, finds out he's recently fired a single mother with a baby, and decides to give her her job back.  Things really get out of control when Merlin's father, J.B. (Charles Coburn), thinks that the baby has been fathered by David. 

Still with me, there?

While there are some excellent performances by the fantastically dapper David Niven (who is an excellent comedian in his own right) and Charles Coburn, it's clear that this is Ginger Rogers' movie.  This events that happen in this film are so unlikely, and yet because Rogers is so endearing, you believe all of it.  Rogers knew how to play realistic, street-smart working girls, but she always imbued them with class.   She's not only beautiful and charming in this film, but funny and intelligent. Ginger Rogers is at the top of her game here -- absolute perfection. 

The Memorable Quotes:

  • "Hey, hey.  Take your finger out of your mouth.  You want your teeth to grow crooked?" - Polly.  To an infant.
  • FREDDIE: (upon seeing the baby) Well, what did it do, crawl through the wall?
    POLLY: Oh, don't be silly.
    FREDDIE: Is it, uh, is it yours?
    POLLY: No, it's not mine!
    FREDDIE: Well, where'd it come from?
    POLLY: I got it for Christmas.
    FREDDIE: Well, this Christmas or last Christmas?
  • "Goodbye, baby.  You certainly are cute!" - Polly
  • "Ha-ha." - Polly
  • DAVID: Well, how'd you like her?
    LOUISE: She's not bad for a fill-in.  Personally, I'd just as soon go stag.
    POLLY: You could, too, with those shoulders.

The Favorite Scenes:
  •  The dance contest at The Pink Slipper.  It's always nice to see Ginger Rogers strutting her stuff, but the real treat here is watching David Niven cut a rug. 
  • The scene where David tries to convince Polly to rub oatmeal into the baby's navel is COMEDY GOLD. 
  • The New Year's Eve scene sparkles with razor-sharp wit.  Polly's "Swedish" is priceless.

The "Miscellaneous Other":
  • Shout-out regarding the appearance of Dennie Moore in the role of Polly's co-worker at Merlin's.  1939 was good to Moore -- that year, she also played the role of Olga, the blabbering manicurist, in the film version of Clare Booth Luce's The Women.  
  • Another shout-out to my homie Frank Albertson as Fred.  Albertson is best-known to audiences as Sam Wainwright in It's a Wonderful Life (1946) ... HEE-HAW!