Saturday, April 21, 2007

Norma Shearer

Edith Norma Shearer, one of the few actresses who retained her real name, was born in Montréal, Québec, in 1902.

Though she won a beauty contest at age fourteen and traveled to New York looking to Broadway, Ziegfeld rejected her for his "Follies". She did however, find some work as a movie extra. Producer Irving Thalberg saw these early efforts and, when he joined Louis B. Mayer in 1923, signed her to a five year contract. Of course Thalberg had even bigger plans and married Norma in 1927. He thought she should retire after their marriage, but Norma (thankfully) had other plans. Her first talkie was in The Trial of Mary Dugan (1929) and just four films later she won an Oscar as lead actress in The Divorcee (1930). Though that was to be her only Oscar, she was nominated four more times, the last for her leading role in Marie Antoinette (1938). She and her brother Douglas Shearer were the first Oscar-winning brother and sister. Norma made 61 films before her screen retirement in 1942.

She is one of the celebrities whose picture Anne Frank placed on the wall of her bedroom in the "Secret Annex" while in hiding during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam.

Norma died in California in June, 1983.

Norma Shearer - What do you think? Allure?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007


Allure is different from charm and alluring is different from charming. "The Invention of Hugo Cabret", Brian Selznick's 2007 page young adults book is both charming and alluring. And it is 544 pages long. Don't panic, the text is probably less than 100 pages and is interspersed throughout with 100's of wonderful hand drawn images that play out like a film storyboard. In fact "reading" this book is like watching a movie, with establishing shots, perspectives, close-ups and anticipatory revelations.

From Publishers Weekly (amended)
Twelve-year-old orphan Hugo lives in the walls of a Paris train station in the 30's, where he tends to the clocks and steals what he needs to survive. Hugo's recently deceased father, a clockmaker, worked in a museum where he discovered an automaton: a human-like figure seated at a desk, pen in hand, as if ready to deliver a message. After his father showed Hugo the robot, the boy became just as obsessed with getting the automaton to function as his father had been, and the man gave his son one of the notebooks he used to record the automaton's inner workings. The plot grows as intricate as the robot's gears and mechanisms.

Movie buffs are in for a pleasant surprise as the story evolves to include one of the most famous early filmmakers. Those who love illustration will not be disappointed, and I guarantee those with children will have a wonderful time sharing this alluring and charming destined to be classic.

Oh, and Variety reports that Warner Bros. and Graham King's Initial Entertainment have picked up the novel as a potential directing vehicle for Martin Scorsese.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Mystery Guest #2

Back in August 2006, I posted an unidentified actress and challenged you to figure out whose alluring image was being featured. Clues were provided. Well, its that time again.

Our second mystery guest was in 44 films beginning in 1924, coincidentally the same year as our first mystery guest. She was also a Mack Sennet bathing beauty at age 15 and was a WAMPAS Baby Star (search this blog for more WAMPAS stars)in 1925. She had the lead in many of her pictures, but after a salary dispute, her star faded and tragically, in 1947, at the age of 40, she died at the Sunshine Mission - a home for destitute women on Los Angeles' Skid Row.

Mystery Guest #2 - What do you think? Allure?

Friday, April 06, 2007


Ok - this is really off the topic of allure - but sometimes I see something I just have to comment on. Its film related, its from the 1930's, it has a soon to be famous (and alluring) actress, but it is also one of the most bizarre (and weirdly fun) films I have ever seen. It was produced by a major studio, but looks like something from either a well funded B production house or the inmates of the asylum at Charenton.

The film is Just Imagine, from Fox in 1930, and starring in the female lead, that soon to be partner of Tarzan, Maureen O'Sullivan.

This is the story of a man finds himself transported 50 years into the future, to 1980, and gets involved with two male buddies, one who pines for Maureen, but can't have her, because in 1980, marriages are arranged based on one's success - and this guy just doesn't measure up to her other suitor. By the way, there are no names in 1980, everyone has a number - the characters are LN-18, J-21, MT-3, etc.

The fellow (dubbed Single 0) from 1930 is there to provide vaudevillian comic relief and delivers the corn with a Swiss/Jewish accent. He is shown the sites of the futuristic world of 1980 - meals are just pills, babies are delivered by something akin to a vending machine ("fellas, I prefer the old-fashioned way") and no one owns a car, they all have single-seater airplanes. He tags along throughout the entire film.

Anyway the basic plot revolves around J-21 trying to do something that will give him the edge in winning LN-18. And as luck would have it, while he is contemplating his fate on a bridge overlooking ominously dark water, a stranger comes up to him and asks if he is thinking about ending it all. He says no, but explains his predicament. It turns out this stranger works for a scientist who is planning to send a rocket to Mars and is looking for volunteers. Well, what better feat to establish your worthiness than taking a trip to outer space. And off he and his buddy RT-42 and Single-0 go. They land on Mars and meet up with the Martians, who look like the were just finishing up a jungle picture on the adjoining sound stage. Much dancing and fighting ensues and they finally get back to their ship and return to earth and J-21 wins LN-18 and they live happily ever after.

The total goofiness of the plot aside, it is the visuals and set design and singing and dancing, etc. all thrown together that make this an astonishing picture. I will let the images speak for themselves, but I have to mention the still of the woman gyrating with the cocktail shaker. This scene is dissolved into while our hero is singing the line, "I Want an Old Fashioned Girl", and his buddy is daydreaming about his version of an old fashioned girl, one mixing an old fashion cocktail - pretty funny, intentional or not.

The film was actually nominated for an oscar for art direction!

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dolores Del Rio - Third of 3 postings

We close our look at Dolores with a few more pieces of information. During her early years she was often referred to as the female Valentino. Marlene Dietrich thought Dolores "the most beautiful woman in Hollywood", and it was reported slept for 16 hours a day to maintain her beauty. That may have been more Hollywood PR than actual fact.

Even after her career was winding down, she remained involved in the the film community as Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1957 and Berlin International Film Festival in 1962. Dolores made her last film, The Children of Sanchez, in 1978. In her last years she received accolades because of her work for orphaned children. She died in 1983.

Dolores Del Rio - What do you think? Allure?