Sunday, July 26, 2009


Say What? Over at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule , a "quiz" was announced, asking for your answers to a series of questions. I decided to add my two cents. What follows are the questions and my answers. If you are interested in participating, just head on over and post your questions/answers in the comment section, or if you have a blog, post to it and direct readers to the SLIFR site to see the other responses.

Here are my responses.

1) Second-favorite Stanley Kubrick film.
The Killing

2) Most significant/important/interesting trend in movies over the past decade, for good or evil.
Festival growth and more outlets for young filmakers.

3) Bronco Billy (Clint Eastwood) or Buffalo Bill Cody (Paul Newman)?

4) Best Film of 1949.
All The King's Men. A best film.

5) Joseph Tura (Jack Benny) or Oscar Jaffe (John Barrymore)?
Oscar, but close.

6) Has the hand-held shaky-cam directorial style become a visual cliché?
\ E /

7) What was the first foreign-language film you ever saw?
Yojimbo or Shoot the Piano Player...I think, but at the Bleeker Street for sure.

8) Charlie Chan (Warner Oland) or Mr. Moto (Peter Lorre)?
Lorre, but have more fun with the Chan series overall. And I leave the racial stereotyping to the time.

9) Favorite World War II drama (1950-1970).
Pork Chop Hill

10) Favorite animal movie star.
Bugs Bunny

11) Who or whatever is to blame, name an irresponsible moment in cinema.
Sanitizing death.

12) Best Film of 1969.
Easy Rider - saw it in the theater in 69 and it overwhelmed me. A best film.

13) Name the last movie you saw theatrically, and also on DVD or Blu-ray.
Public Enemies (theater), Sita Sings the Blues (DVD)

14) Second-favorite Robert Altman film.
Gosford Park

15) What is your favorite independent outlet for reading about movies, either online or in print?
IMDB as a jump off point. And any number of blogs.

16) Who wins? Angela Mao or Meiko Kaji? (Thanks, Peter!)
I only know Angela Mao, but as someone mentioned, I'd take Yeoh overall, in the action genre.

17) Mona Lisa Vito (Marisa Tomei) or Olive Neal (Jennifer Tilly)?

18) Favorite movie that features a carnival setting or sequence.
Strangers on a Train, though it scared the hell out of me seeing it as a seven year old - my aunt and uncle are to blame for that one.

19) Best use of high-definition video on the big screen to date.
No clue.

20) Favorite movie that is equal parts genre film and a deconstruction or consideration of that same genre.
Not a good film IMHO, but perhaps Lady in the Lake would fit here - not sure.

21) Best Film of 1979.
Apocalypse Now

22) Most realistic and/or sincere depiction of small-town life in the movies.
A Family Affair, the first in the Andy Hardy series, and several others in the series.

23) Best horror movie creature (non-giant division).
The creepy dummy in Magic.

24) Second-favorite Francis Ford Coppola film.
The Conversation

25) Name a one-off movie that could have produced a franchise you would have wanted to see.
Nothing jumping out.

26) Favorite sequence from a Brian De Palma film.
Sorry Brian, I've seen a number of your films, but nothing really stands out. Like lots in Blow Out.

27) Favorite moment in three-strip Technicolor.
Gene Tierney on the train in Leave Her to Heaven - luminous

28) Favorite Alan Smithee film. (Thanks, Peter!)
As in least awful, or most awful, not sure, but Hellraiser would be a favorite to hate for being butchered.

29) Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) or Morris Buttermaker (Walter Matthau)?

30) Best post-Crimes and Misdemeanors Woody Allen film.
Deconstructing Harry

31) Best Film of 1999.
All About My Mother

32) Favorite movie tag line.
Well one of my favorite noir films is The Narrow Margin so I'm going with "That Bullet's Meant For Me".

33) Favorite B-movie western.
Anything with Bob Steele in the 30's.
34) Overall, the author best served by movie adaptations of her or his work.
Dashiell Hammett

35) Susan Vance (Katharine Hepburn) or Irene Bullock (Carole Lombard)?

36) Favorite musical cameo in a non-musical movie.
Debbie Harry in Union City (1980). Defined by me as a musician in non-musical role in non-musical film.

37) Bruno (the character, if you haven’t seen the movie, or the film, if you have): subversive satire or purveyor of stereotyping?

38) Five film folks, living or deceased, you would love to meet. (Thanks, Rick!)
Fritz Lang, Martin Scorcese, Max Fleischer, Alec Guiness, Peter Sellers. Can I name another 50?

Asides - Dames

Dame, Noun. The title, in Britain, of a woman who has been awarded the Order of the British Empire or another order of chivalry.

Dame, Noun. Slang: a woman - from the Latin "domina" (lady).

Dames, the movie from 1934, is not British and certainly not chivalrous. Starring Dick Powell, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Zasu Pitts, this is probably the last musical (released August 16, 1934) that could be defined as Pre-Code. The plot, there is one, revolves around a supposed do-gooder cleaning up scandalous Broadway shows while keeping his family on the moral high ground. You can guess how that works out. What you don't want to miss are the as always over the top Busby Berkeley production numbers. The final dance sequence may be the single most extravagant and outrageous he ever directed. The kaleidoscopic effects, through the legs dolly shots, use of mirrors and transitions, etc. are to be marveled at for their technical merit as much as for any aesthetic consideration.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Movie Classic, September 1934 - Artist: Marland Stone
I'm guessing Powell hid any copies of this image when auditioning for Murder, My Sweet or Cry Danger.

A Dames ad from Movie Classic, September 1934

Two-page spread in Movie Classic, September 1934

A clip featuring the title song. Any Berkeley number would need a full screen.

Some of the "dames" in the previous clip.

Publicity still.

Screen captures of Zasu, then Hugh Herbert, and finally Guy Kibbee discovering the medicinal properties of Doc Silver's Golden Elixir.

Film Fun magazine, October 1934

A two-page spread in Film Fun, October 1934.

This post is a salute to the hundreds of chorus girls who worked tirelessly in all the great musicals of the twenties and thirties.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kay Francis

Kay Francis was a "superstar". While not as readily known today as other superstar actresses of the 30's era, her name was box office gold and she was the highest paid actress at Warner Bros. There are a number of web sites and blogs dedicated to her, detailing her life and films, and I leave it to them to provide the career details. A quick overview can be found here.

As with my other superstar actress posts, we concentrate on the images. Our random collection of film magazines of the period includes nine with Kay on the cover, another indication of her popularity. I also feature images from those magazines that Kay fans may not have seen before. Lastly is a little montage of her 30's films and publicity stills. Enjoy.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Screen Play, February 1931 - Artist: Henry Clive

Picture Play, February 1931 - Artist: Modest Stein

Silver Screen, March 1931 - Artist: John Rolston Clarke

Photoplay, July 1932 - Artist: Earl Christy

Cine-Mundial, June 1933 - Artist: Jose M. Recorda

Modern Screen, December 1933 - Artist: Uncredited

Picture Play, February 1934 - Artist: Albert Fisher

Photoplay, February 1934 - Artist: Earl Christy

Screenland, March 1934 - Artist: Charles Sheldon

Movie Classic, September 1932

Modern Screen, November 1933

Movie Classic, April 1933 - 2 page spread.

Modern Screen, December 1933 - 2 page spread.

Picture Show Annual, 1933

Movie Classic, June 1934

Here is my montage of film title screens and publicity stills. All the films are from the 1930's with the exception of The Cocoanuts (1929), the first film for the Marx Brothers, and for Kay as well.

Kay Francis - What do you think - Allure?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Asides - Summer Means Beachwear.

Yes it's summer, and whether you are at the beach, by the pool, or on a yacht or boat, it pays to be fashion forward, even if forward is 1931 or so. This week's post takes a look at how the fashionable actresses of the day were attired when near water.

A special notice, this particular post is ad supported, so please look at the ads at the bottom of the post, and if you are so inclined, try their product.

Remember, wear plenty of sun screen and click on the images for a larger view.

First, a little look back. These Mack Sennett bathing beauties predate most of the actresses featured in this post, but they look like they are having a grand time. I guess working for Sennett was a bit of a blast.

This two page spread features Anita Page and Robert Young cavorting on the beach, but also points out how you should look when arriving. This pictorial is from the July 1932 edition of Movie Mirror magazine.

The volume II, number 2, 1931 edition of The New Movie magazine gives us Dorothy Jordan ready to cast anchor in proper yachting attire.

This craft may or may not actually get airborne, but Raquel Torres is ready if it has to make a Captain "Sully" Sullenberger type landing.

Poolside with Betty Compson.

You can't be near water all summer, so we wrap up with Anita once again, this time modeling day to day summer wear in the June, 1931 edition of The New Movie magazine.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Evelyn Venable

Evelyn Venable was born October 18, 1913, in Cincinnati, Ohio. She became interested in acting and theater while attending the local high school, where both her father and grandfather taught English. Following high school, Evelyn attended Vassar College and the University of Cincinnati. Her mother then died after a long illness which strained the family finances, so Evelyn decided to accept an offer to join Walter Hampden’s touring productions, and during a performance at the Biltmore Theater in Los Angeles, she was singled out and offered several film contracts. After initially turning down the offers, she signed a contract with Paramount in 1932. Her contract was unique in that she would not have to cut her hair, pose for leg art, or start her career in bit parts. *It is also claimed she was the original model for the Columbia Pictures logo, but I have seen the claim made for at least two other actresses.

Evelyn made her film debut with Cradle Song (1933) and proceeded to take leads or second leads in a number of "A" vehicles including Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch (1934) with W.C. Fields, Death Takes a Holiday (1934) starring Fredric March, which is considered her best role, David Harum (1934) and The County Chairman (1935), both Will Rogers' vehicles, The Little Colonel (1935) starring Shirley Temple, and Alice Adams (1935), see inset, starring Katharine Hepburn in the title role. In each of these Evelyn proved a most solid performer, but perhaps her modest, rather delicate nature didn't carry enough weight to make her a star. In any event, she was thereafter relegated to working in second tier productions such as Streamline Express (1935), North of Nome (1936), Racketeers in Exile (1937), and Hollywood Stadium Mystery (1938). Evelyn did add her talents to the Disney animated classic Pinocchio (1940), where she voiced the "Blue Fairy" character. BTW, all voice actors were uncredited in Pinocchio, yet today voice actors are used to draw audiences in.

In 1934 Evelyn married Hal Mohr, the Oscar-winning cinematographer she met on the set of one of Will Rogers' films. The declining frequency and quality of roles caused Evelyn to decide that family came first and she completely retired after appearing in her 24th film opposite Stu Erwin in the light comedy He Hired the Boss (1943). Evelyn returned to college (UCLA) where she studied Greek and Latin and attained a Master's degree. Invited to join the UCLA staff as a drama instructor, she stayed there for decades. She is quoted as saying, "I've seen so many Hollywood families come apart because of the mother's career. I never regretted leaving films. If I have any regrets at all it is in leaving the stage. I might have been a really good actress. There simply was no chance in most of my pictures nor was I getting the proper training." Evelyn died November 15, 1993, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Click on the images for a larger view.

Photoplay, February 1934

Movie Classic Magazine, June 1934

This cigarette card is from the second Player's 1934 Film Stars series. Note the top text which states the card is adhesive (like an old postage stamp) and you can get an album to paste it into for one penny from your local tobacconist. PS - they misreported her birth date by one year.

Frame grabs from Death Takes a Holiday (1934)

Frame grabs from The Little Colonel (1935)

Frame grabs from Harmony Lane, a decidedly "B" production from Mascot.

Frame grabs from Hollywood Stadium Mystery (1938)

Undated publicity still.

Evelyn Venable - What do you think - Allure?