Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Great Films Not on DVD: April

Despite the craziness of signing up for classes this week and the sudden realization that I have five weeks left of school, I have managed to actually get this post out on time! I felt really bad for posting my March list so late that you may not have had time to catch some of the films.

Looking forward to the multitude of great films in April has really brightened my mood, considering that its ungodly cold here and actually snowed a bit today. Winter seems to be holding on for dear life and I’m trying as hard as I can to be patient for spring to finally take over. Well, enough about the weather, let’s get to the movies!

Bundle of Joy (1956)
Starring Debbie Reynolds, Eddie Fisher, and Adolphe Menjou
Airs April 1 on TCM

A cute little musical remake of Bachelor Mother. Debbie Reynolds is pretty decent as salesgirl Polly Parrish, but she is definitely no Ginger Rogers. It’s worth watching if you like the original. Click here for a short synopsis from a previous post.

The Actress (1953)
Starring Jean Simmons, Spencer Tracy, and Teresa Wright
Airs April 6 on TCM

Even though this film is now available for order from the Warner Bros. website, I’m still including it as a “Great Film Not on DVD”.

It’s based off of Ruth Gordon’s autobiographical play “Years Ago”. After seeing actress Hazel Dawn in a play, young Ruth dreams of becoming an actress to the dismay of her factory worker father. However, when her dream is suddenly crushed, her father steps in to help her build it up again.

Interesting fact: Anthony Perkins, in his film debut, plays Simmons’ love interest.

So Long at the Fair (1950)
Starring Jean Simmons and Dirk Borgarde
Airs April 17 on TCM

Yes, it’s another Jean Simmons film. If you didn’t know all ready, I’m a really big fan of hers and many of her films are still not on DVD.

The plot of this movie is very similar to that of Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Siblings Vicky and Johnny Barton travel to Paris for the Exposition Universelle in 1899. The morning after a trip to the Moulin Rouge, Vicky finds that Johnny is missing. After asking everyone at her hotel about her brother’s whereabouts, she realizes something fishy is going on. Everybody tells her she arrived at the hotel by herself. The only person who believes her is a young artist (Bogarde) staying at the hotel. Together, they unravel the mystery.

The Blue Dahlia (1946)
Starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake
Airs April 27 on TCM

In this third pairing of Ladd and Lake, Johnny (Ladd) returns from the war to find his wife with another man. After a dramatic fight, Johnny decides to take a road trip that is mistaken as running from the law when his wife is found dead. Once he learns what happened, he teams up with Joyce (Lake) to try and clear his name.

Interesting fact: This movie is rumored to be the inspiration for murdered actress Elizabeth Short’s nickname “The Black Dahlia”.

Also, if you are a Ginger Rogers fan like me, make sure your DVR is ready to go on April 8. TCM will be showing several of Ginger’s early films, most of which are not on DVD. I’m extremely excited because I haven’t seen a few of them and one of my goals in life is to see all of her films. Currently, I’ve seen forty of her seventy-five films.

TCM will be showing the following:

Suicide Fleet (1931)
Carnival Boat (1932)
The Tip-Off (1932)
You Said a Mouthful (1932)
Professional Sweetheart (1933)
In Person (1935)
Star of Midnight (1935)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Peg Entwistle: The Hollywood Sign Girl

Several days ago, I finally had a chance to watch Thirteen Women, which had been on my DVR for a few days. It was a very interesting little Pre-Code film starring the always lovely Irene Dunne and a vampy pre-Thin Man Myrna Loy. Dunne plays a former sorority girl, who along with 11 of her fellow sorority sisters, is being menaced by a girl they kicked out for being half Indian.

As usual, I looked up the movie on IMDb and noticed that one of the thirteen women was Peg Entwistle. Never heard of her? I hadn’t either until last summer, when I stumbled upon on a page about some of the most mysterious and tragic deaths in Hollywood. One of the reasons many film fans have never heard of Peg Entwistle is because Thirteen Women was the first and last film she made.

Born in Wales on February 5, 1908, Millicent Lillian Entwistle (later known as Peg) was the daughter of Robert and Emily Entwistle. In 1912, she moved to America with her uncle and her father, who subsequently remarried after the death of his wife in 1910. However, by 1922 both Peg’s father and stepmother were dead so she and her two brothers were adopted by their aunt and uncle.

After showing an interest in acting, she was enrolled in Henry Jewett’s Repertory School in 1925. Under the direction of her acting teacher Blanche Yurka, Entwistle gained attention in the role of Hedvig in Ibsen’s The Wild Duck. The story goes that during one of Entwistle’s performances as Hedvig, a young woman who was the same age as Entwistle told her mother “I want to be exactly like Peg Entwistle”. It was this performance that inspired this young woman, known as Bette Davis today, to pursue acting.

After her success at Jewett’s Repertory School, Entwistle gained even more attention by becoming the youngest actress ever to be recruited by the New York Theatre Guild. She was usually placed in major supporting roles and garnered many outstanding reviews, even for plays that were not well received. In 1932, she found herself in Los Angeles doing a few performances when she got a call from RKO Pictures. After a successful screen test, she was chosen to play the part of Hazel Cousins in David O. Selznick’s Thirteen women. In its first test screenings, the film received poor reviews from the critics and Entwistle’s role was cut down quite a bit.

On the night of September 16, 1932, Entwistle climbed up the hill where the Hollywood sign (Hollywoodland at the time ) is. After placing her belongings, including a suicide note, at the base of the sign, she climbed a ladder to the top of the H and jumped to her death. She was only 24 years old. It was not until September 18 that her body was discovered by a hiker. When the police arrived on the scene, it was obvious what had occurred. In Entwistle’s purse, they found the suicide note that said “I'm afraid I'm a coward. I am sorry for everything. If I had done this thing a long time ago it would have saved a lot of pain. P.E." The exact details as to why she committed suicide and many other aspects of her death are still a mystery. Not long after her death, her final film appearance in Thirteen premiered in a few theaters. The film contains several suicides. There are also reports that a few days after her body was discovered, a letter arrived for her offering her the lead in a new play. The character was to commit suicide at the end of the play.

Unfortunately for Peg Entwistle, all of her work prior to coming to Hollywood has been forgotten. All she is remembered for today is her infamous death. If you would like to learn more about Peg Entwistle check out The Hollywood Sign Girl. It’s a really great site devoted to her and the man who created is currently writing a book about her. Most of the information I found about Peg was from his website and her IMDb page.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rave: Light in the Piazza

I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while. I blame Spring Break for sucking every ounce of motivation out of me. Somehow, I managed to find a little bit left over so that I could attempt my very first review. Well, I guess it’s not really a review, more like a rave, so that is what I shall call it.

Light in the Piazza (1962)

Director: Guy Green
Writers: Elizabeth Spencer (story) Julius J. Epstein (screenplay)

The Cast:
Olivia de Havilland…..Meg Johnson
Rossano Brazzi……….Signor Naccarelli
Yvette Mimieux………Clara Johnson
George Hamilton……..Fabrizio Naccarelli

Amidst the beautiful scenery of Florence, Olivia de Havilland and Yvette Mimieux star as mother and daughter in this tale of love and innocence. While enjoying drinks in a street cafĂ©, young Clara Johnson runs off to inspect a plaque in the piazza. On her way, her hat blows off and into the path of the dashing Fabrizio. He chases it about the piazza, even after the wind stops blowing it around, much to the delight of the giggling Clara. There is an instant connection between the two young people, but Clara’s mother Meg is none too pleased about this Italian attaching himself to Clara.
Putting the encounter with Fabrizio behind her, Meg takes Clara on tours of all the museums and historic landmarks of Venice. However, Fabrizio seems to magically show up wherever they are. It sounds a bit stalkerish, but he doesn’t follow them all over. He simply receives phone calls from the concierge at the Johnson’s hotel about where they will be lunching each day. Anyways, Meg tries to push him away every time he shows up, yet he keeps on trying. Why would a mother try to push away such a handsome young Italian? Well, Meg reveals the big secret about Clara to her tutor and then you begin to see Clara in a whole new light.
The relationship that develops between Clara and Fabrizio is incredibly sweet and I always find myself hoping that Meg won’t reveal Clara’s secret to Fabrizio and his equally dashing father. One of my favorite moments in the movie occurs when Fabrizio shows up at the pool the Johnson’s are at. He chases Clara around until she becomes overexcited and is unable to stop laughing. Her mother says Clara will end up in tears, but Fabrizio simply cups her face in his hands and looks into her eyes and she is normal again. It’s a truly touching scene.
Clara’s secret continues to threaten the young lovers as Meg keeps telling herself that she must let the Naccarelli’s know. However, the more time she spends around them, the harder it becomes for her to reveal the truth. Even after seeing the movie as many times as I have, I still find myself wondering if she tells them about Clara. All I can say is that the last line of the movie is said by Meg: "I did the right thing. I know I did". I don’t want to give anymore of it away now, so check it out! I could go on and on about Light in the Piazza, but I’m afraid my motivation is gone. Until next time!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Great Films Not on DVD: March

I’m sorry everyone. I’ve been super busy lately and haven’t had a chance to post my Great Films Not On DVD for March. I’m pretty sure I went to bed one night and woke up in March. When did February decide to end? Anyways, I’m so mad at myself because one of my favorite movies is finally on this month and I really wanted you all to have a chance to hear about before it was on. Well, you have a one day’s heads up, but that’s not very much.

Young Bess (1953)
Starring Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger, and Deborah Kerr
Airs March 11 on TCM

Pretty self-explanatory. It’s a biopic of Queen Elizabeth’s early years. The movie centers on Bess’ (Jean Simmons) relationships with her distant father Henry VIII (Charles Laughton) and the dashing Thomas Seymour (Stewart Granger).
Airs March 11 on TCM

Light in the Piazza (1962)
Starring Yvette Mimieux, Olivia de Havilland, and George Hamilton
Airs March 11 on TCM

I know I tend to call a lot of movies “my all-time favorites”, mostly because I don’t have a favorite, but I would probably call this one my favorite DVD-less film. It’s based on a 1960 novella by Elizabeth Spencer that also inspired a Broadway show of the same name.

While on vacation in Italy, American tourist Clara Johnson (Yvette Mimieux) falls in love with a dashing young Italian (George Hamilton). Their young love is complicated, however, when an accident from Clara’s past is revealed after her mother (Olivia de Havilland) tries to hide it from both her new love and his family.

If I get a chance, I’m going to take a crack at reviewing this film. Cross your fingers. I have yet to get up the motivation to review a film.

Show Boat (1936)
Starring Irene Dunne and Allan Jones
Airs March 16 on TCM

It may be less colorful than the 1951 remake with Keel and Grayson, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as good. I actually prefer this version to the glitzier Technicolor version as do most critics because it’s more faithful to the original stage version. I’m feeling lazy about summing up the plot so here is a nutshell version: Girl on show boat meets gambler, girl marries gambler, girl has baby, gambler leaves girl and baby, and so on and so forth.

Lili (1953)
Starring Leslie Caron and Mel Ferrer
Airs March 30 on TCM

After the death of her father, young Lili (Caron) finds herself all alone in a strange town. When a grocery store owner tries to take advantage of her, she is saved by a magician (Jean-Pierre Aumont) who recruits her to work as a waitress in the carnival. She is fired after one night and hits rock bottom until a group of puppets come to her rescue. However, the man behind the puppets (Ferrer) becomes her true rescuer and she ends up rescuing him in return.

Union Station (1950)
Starring William Holden and Nancy Olson
Airs March 31 on TCM

In this film noir, railway cop Bill Calhoun (Holden) encounters Joyce (Olson), a train passenger and secretary to a very wealthy man. On a train ride, she notices two suspicious men and soon her boss’ blind daughter goes missing. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Well, if you haven’t noticed, the Premio Dardos Award has been circulating around the blog community. I have been fortunate to have the award bestowed upon my humble blog here by Wendymoon, Lolita, and Nicole. Thank you so much for this honor! The rules say that I need to pass it along to five fellow bloggers, but it seems that pretty much everybody has received it already (multiple times). Therefore, I would like to give this award to every single one of you. Enjoy : )

The Dardos Award is given for cultural, literary, and personal values in the form of creative and original writing. These stamps were created with the intention of promoting fraternization between bloggers, a way of showing appreciation and gratitude for work that adds value to the Web.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Converting the Non-Classic Film Fan

During the course of our love affairs with classic film, we probably all have encountered “classic film virgins” who know next to nothing about classic films. Every once in a while, these CFV’s are open to losing their classic film virginity. This past weekend my roommate, who has never thought I was weird for loving the classics, decided she wanted to be initiated into the world of classic film. I was absolutely thrilled. Most people are so absolutely against watching classic films that they won’t even humor me by at least trying to watch one. Anyways, the movie night was a success and I believe she has crossed over to the good side, aka the classic film side. We only had time for two movies, but they were good ones: Bye Bye Birdie and Rebecca. She loved them both. She especially liked Rebecca (one of my all-time personal favorites), so much that she went and rented two more Hitchcock movies the next night and watched them with her boyfriend. Mission Accomplished.

My roommate is certainly not the first person I have converted to classic films and she certainly will not be the last. Through my many experiences, I’ve developed a set of guidelines that help with the conversion process.

Step 1: Evaluate the person’s openness to and prior experience with classic film.

Type 1: The Anti-Classic

Anti-Classics visibly glaze over at the mere mention of a film made before 1985. These people consider films made in the 80’s as “old” and are absolutely content with renting Saw V. Not easily converted, Anti-Classics need to be slowly eased into classic film over a matter of months, possibly years, depending on the severity of their hatred for “old stuff”.

Type 2: The Technicolor Classic

Technicolor Classics are much more open to classic film than Anti-Classics. They will occasionally watch classic films, but only if they are in color. Black and white films are avoided like the Bubonic Plague. Technicolor Classics stick to well-known color films such as The Wizard of Oz, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and Grease. As opposed to the close-minded Anti-Classic, the Technicolor Classic is usually willing to branch out; they just need the right movie to broaden their horizon.

Type 3: The Classic-in-Training
Classics-in-Training are the easiest to convert. They are on their way to becoming Classics, but just need a little nudge in the right direction. However, their film knowledge is stuck in the beginner phase because they are not quite sure how to get out of the mainstream classic film rut. They have moved out of the well-known color films and are dabbling in the well-known black and whites. A Classic-in-Training is every Classic Film Fan’s dream.

Step 2: Find the perfect film to start the conversion process.

The Anti-Classic

Don’t start with anything made before 1950. It would be like chucking a nut at a squirrel, they are only going to run even faster in the opposite direction. Hitchcock is usually a good choice, because even if they don’t know any of the movies he made, they’ve at least heard of him (well, you hope they’ve heard of him). Also, try to make a connection between the film and something that he/ she likes for example:

You: “Hey, you liked Disturbia, right? Well, then you will love Rear Window!”

Rear Window
The Birds
North by Northwest
The Godfather
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Rebel Without a Cause

The Technicolor Classic

These people love color, hence their avoidance of black and white films. Start them off with some of the well-known black and whites such as Casablanca or Some Like it Hot. If you don’t think they can last an entire movie without color, pick one with a color sequence like The Women. Tell them that black and white films give them a chance to imagine what the colors are for themselves.

Some Like it Hot
The Women
Citizen Kane
It’s a Wonderful Life
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Roman Holiday

The Classic-in-Training

You really can’t go wrong with your choice for the Classic-in-Training. Stick with well-known stars, but introduce them to some of their lesser known works. A fan of Olivia de Havilland? Show them The Snake Pit. Love Cary Grant? Suggest Topper or Only Angels Have Wings. Let them know that there are ton of hidden gems out there just waiting to be discovered.


The Snake Pit
The Devil and Miss Jones
Ball of Fire
Stella Dallas

Step 3: Encourage them to keep at it!

No matter what type the person is, they need to be encouraged to keep expanding their classic film knowledge. Suggest other movies that they might like, tell them to check out the trivia on imdb, do what ever you can to help them through the rest of the process. Most of all, they need some type of support. They probably don’t have anyone else around to show them that it’s okay to like classic films so show them what they are missing out on.