Showing posts with label Katharine Hepburn. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Katharine Hepburn. Show all posts


What's better than a witty woman?

A bunch of witty women, of course! And it seems that the only requirement for being able to stay in the Footlights Club boarding house in the movie Stage Door is this: You must be a wise-cracking female. (OK, you must be an aspiring actress, as well.)

Katharine Hepburn as Terry Randall passes on both counts. She waltzes into this world of theater hopefuls with a few minor differences: she has money and she takes her craft seriously. She quickly butts heads with the girls, particularly her down-to-earth roommate Jean (Ginger Rogers). The women in the movie date, dish, and dream of landing the perfect part, with mixed results.

Less important to the movie than the overall plot is the sheer star power and the sharp writing. In addition to Hepburn and Rogers, the women at the Footlights Club include Eve Arden, Lucille Ball, and Ann Miller. (I'm almost ready to believe they really did all live like this, waiting to get their big breaks.) And here's just a sampling of some of the endless snappy dialogue:

"Evidently you're a very amusing person."

"Unfortunately I learned to speak English correctly."
"That won't do you any good here, we all talk Pig Latin." (Ginger isn't bluffing.)

"If it's not food, it's men. Can't you talk about anything else?"
"What else is there?"

"May I come in?"
"Oh, sure, I guess you'll be safe. The exterminators won't be here until tomorrow."
"How did they miss you on their last visit?"

One other very minor thing I loved about the movie: Ginger's character sleeps with a little doll! Sure, she's a hard-talking, ambitious, independent woman making it in the big city. But when it comes right down to it, she's still just a little girl with dreams.

Stage Door is one of those movies that lived for a long time on my Mostly-Seen list; that is, I had seen bits and pieces of it here and there and had a vague idea what it was all about. The sad thing about the movies populating this list of mine is that when I finally take the time to watch them from start to finish, I am almost always pleasantly surprised by the bits I'd been missing and wonder why I didn't watch the whole movie sooner. Stage Door was no exception, and I've happily moved it from my list of Mostly-Seen Movies to the Finally Watched! list.

4/5 wings


How does an obsession begin?

This started as a Q&A on Classic Hollywood Nerd, and I couldn't resist joining in with my answers.

Who was the actor/actress that you were first interested in?
When I was maybe ten, I remember my best friend and I were filling out lists of our favorites, and for actor I put Clark Gable. (She had no idea who he was.) I'm not sure why I picked him at the time, although I always liked Gone With the Wind and I vaguely remember that It Happened One Night was one of the first movies my family recorded off TV with our new VCR.

How old were you when you really began watching old movies?
I don't remember a time when I didn't watch old movies. My love of them began in childhood, thanks to my classics-loving father, and never really stopped.

What was the first old movie that caught your interest?
As a kid I had all the dialogue (though a few lines were off) to The Wizard of Oz memorized. My parents had to ask me not to say every line along with the movie.

Who is currently your favorite actor?
I always like Bogart and Spencer. I like to look at Paul Newman, Dana Andrews, William Holden and Brando. I am strangely fascinated by George C. Scott and George Sanders. I think Ray Milland and Fred MacMurray are underrated. The more I see of Kirk Douglas and James Mason, the more impressed I am with them. And most recently I've been enjoying Edward G. Robinson.

Who is currently your favorite actress?
For a while now I've been identifying with Ginger Rogers.

What is your favorite old movie and why?
Only one? I really enjoy The Maltese Falcon for the unfolding mystery and Humphrey Bogart's great reactions to the assorted crazy characters. The Third Man is also high on my list. While it's artistic and moody it also has some great little moments of humor.

How many old movies do you own? How many old movies do you have recorded/on the dvr?
How should I know? What am I, an accountant? ;-)

Not as many as I'd like to own. I haven't counted, probably around 50, but I have a lot more recorded from television. And maybe 10-15 taking up space on the dvr. Putting my collection at what I would guess to be more than 100, but less than 200.

If you could go back in time and visit any actor/actress, who would it be?
I imagine that conversations with Orson Welles and/or Katharine Hepburn (if I could keep up with them) would be interesting. I think visits with Jimmy Stewart and/or Jack Lemmon would be pleasant.

Who is one actor/actress that you want to know more about?
It seems the more I learn about actors, the less I like them. Since learning about the real lives of actors is often disappointing to me, I usually prefer to know and appreciate them on-screen only. However, I did just watch an American Masters about Gene Kelly that was pretty interesting and not entirely depressing.

What film could you watch over and over again?
Among my go-to favorites for re-watching are The Big Sleep, Laura, and The Philadelphia Story.

What is your favorite Hitchcock film?
Probably North by Northwest.

Who is your favorite director?
Billy Wilder is genius.

Share your answers here or on your own blog. :-)


My answer to the 20 Actresses Meme: I like Actors better

There's a 20 favorite actresses meme going around. It started at The Film Experience blog. I've had a terrible time trying to come up with a list of my own. Not because there are so many actresses out there, but because I've realized that there aren't a lot of actresses I think are really great. How can this be? I don't know. Maybe I am jealous watching someone else get the leading man of my dreams. Maybe I am jealous of really beautiful women. Maybe as a girl, I've just learned to be catty to other girls. Isn't that sad? Whatever the case, I have come up with a list of 20 actresses that don't (usually) annoy me:

That's Leslie, Lee, Marilyn, Cate, Grace; Katharine, pre-botox Meg, Ingrid, Tina, Judy; Meryl, Natalie, Ginger, Mary, Amy; Hayley, Gwyneth, Judy, Agnes & Lauren.

Cate Blanchett has the distinction of being the only one on this list whose movies I don't own. I just think she is a good actress (and she doesn't irritate me).

My favorites on here are Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman & Ginger Rogers.

As I was making this list, I decided it would be much more fun to make a list of favorite actors. I thought, surely someone is bound to answer back the top 20 actresses list with their top 20 actors, right? It might as well be me. And so I made this list, and it was such a breeze! Here come the men:

That's Clark, Henry, Gene, Joseph, George C., Spencer, Humphrey, Dana, William, Jack; Cary, Paul, Jimmy, Ray, Orson; Marlon, Kirk, Sidney, George & Alec.

You'll see this list was made with only classic movie actors. So as a bonus, here's another five new(er) actors I happen to like:

Jude, Harrison, Ewan, Leo & Tom.

If I tried to narrow this list down to top favorites, it would probably be Spencer Tracy, Jack Lemmon, Humphrey Bogart, Dana Andrews, Cary Grant, Ray Milland, Orson Welles, Jimmy Stewart, Paul Newman & Tom Hanks. See how much more generous I am to the males?

If you want to make your own list, feel free to choose actresses or actors or both. If you do actors, please link or comment here with your lists. I'd like to see some more testosterone about. Let the 20 Actors meme begin!


Overlooked Oldies: Holiday

Giving the label "overlooked" to some movies seems to me a risky thing to do. It begs for people to pounce on the choice, saying "That's not an overlooked movie! Everyone has seen that! What are you talking about?" My purpose in making a list of Overlooked Oldies is to highlight some movies that are worthy of watching even though they haven't gotten as much attention as some other classics. They might not be the most obscure films ever, but they're not the movies on the top of everyone's classic must-see lists, either. If you haven't seen the movies that always seem to make these lists (like Citizen Kane and Casablanca) by all means do so. My selections are meant to supplement and round out such lists.

Now I'll stop being defensive and share my next Overlooked Oldies pick: Holiday. Not The Holiday or Roman Holiday, just Holiday.

This 1938 George Cukor movie stars Cary Grant as Johnny Case, a self-made man recently engaged to the beautiful Julia Seton (Doris Nolan). Since their courtship has been brief, he knows very little about her, and is thus shocked when he goes to meet her family and finds out how rich they are.

The other Seton children are Linda (Katharine Hepburn) and Ned (Lew Ayres). The sibling relationships can be summed up in this bit of dialogue:

Linda: "Well, I know you wouldn't expect it of a man in father's position, but the fact is, money is our god here."

Julia: "Johnny, it isn't true at all."

Ned: "No? What is then?"

Julia is the most like her father and shares his reverence for riches while Linda is fed up and looking for something else to do with her life. She is thus known as the black sheep of the family. Ned tends to agree with Linda although he appears to have given up on his dreams, spending his time drinking instead of fighting his father. It's quite heartbreaking to watch him, actually.

The movie is not named for any holiday celebrations (although there are two very different New Year's Eve parties in the film). The title instead refers to Johnny's goal of taking some time off to enjoy life. He's been working since he was ten and is now ready for a break to find out why he's doing it. His plan is this: "Retire young, work old. Come back and work when I know what I'm working for."

Julia and her father have other ideas for Johnny and try to pressure him into a new job and way of thinking. More understanding of Johnny's plan is sister Linda. You can probably guess how things will turn out, but it is still fun to go along with these characters for the ride.

Other things that make the movie enjoyable: the moments that showcase Cary Grant's acrobatic skills ("Can you do a back-flip-flop, can you really?") and Johnny's down to earth friends Nick and Susan Potter, played by Jean Dixon and wonderful character actor Edward Everett Horton.

If you've seen and enjoyed The Philadelphia Story and Bringing Up Baby, don't miss Holiday, another great pairing of Grant and Hepburn.


Ten Great Things About Old Movies

I had been thinking about doing a list of reasons why I love old movies. Then I found two cool lists of love for classic movies on Another Old Movie Blog and Self-Styled Siren. These lists don't bother to mention the obvious (good writing, acting, etc.) but instead focus on the little things that make watching the classics so enjoyable. I decided to follow suit with my own list of things I love to see in old movies.

1. Hats
From the classic top hat or fedora to the ridiculously tall, pointy, floppy, or drape-y numbers, I am fascinated by hats. Sometimes a poor hat is sat upon, and this always makes for some funny moments. I love that no matter what other craziness is going on, people remember to put on their hats. Why did we ever stop wearing them?

2. Real-looking people
Sure, old movies have their share of unusually pretty people. But I rejoice every time I see an actor (character or star) with some odd little quirks and imperfections. I'm not saying that nobody ever had work done in the old days, but at least the actors in classic movies don't seem totally propped up by silicone and botox.

3. Glorious black & white!
Ok, maybe this is a bigger point than some others, but in our world of sensory overload I appreciate the simple contrast of light and dark and the soothing shades of gray. Some things just look better in black and white.

4. Special effects (or the lack thereof)
Sometimes old movie special effects are so bad they're good, sometimes they are so slight that they still require plentiful use of the imagination, and sometimes they are nonexistent, allowing the focus instead to be on character building, witty dialogue, and actual plots and stories!

5. Train travel
Self-Styled Siren mentioned trains on her list and I have to concur and expand on that because there is just so much to love about trains in old movies. Shots of the wheels on the tracks and going through tunnels, hiding from the porter, sneaking into a sleeping car or someone else's berth, eating with a stranger in the dining car, those awkward moments of passing someone in the tiny hallways... ah, movie train travel!

6. Obsolete jobs
Seeing elevator operators, gas station attendants, soda jerks, milkmen and switchboard operators is always bittersweet; they remind me of simpler times past and the illusion of job security all at the same time.

7. The corner drugstore
The corner drugstore is the place to be for sharing a soda, making a phone call, or getting a full meal. Pot roast, pie, milk, and some snappy advice from the guy or gal behind the counter -- all this for less than a quarter.

8. Comeuppance
Some people probably don't like the censorship involved with the old movie Production Code, but I happen to like the subtlety and lack of explicit sex, violence and bad language that it enforced. I especially like when the bad guys get what's coming to them, although this doesn't always mean that the law has to be involved. There are lots of creative and artistic ways old movies use to show that crime doesn't pay. (I guess this just appeals to my sense of justice.)

9. Old cars and driving scenes
Cars don't have to be aerodynamic to be cool! I love the way old cars look and always enjoy driving scenes in classic movies. Conversations in cars are great, too, either when characters pull over to really talk or when they chat away while driving. Who needs to look at the road when the car is stationary anyway, with the scenery projected in the background and a machine providing the wind in your hair?

10. Use of the phrase "Take it easy."
Hearing someone get told to chill out in this way gets me every time.

Go ahead, tell me what I missed.


Leading Couples

Tomorrow night kicks off TCM's Leading Couples Film Festival -- two Tuesday nights of movies featuring some of Hollywood's most famous couples. This is timed to go along with the release of TCM's book, Leading Couples, which I first heard about through Raquelle's review of it on her blog, Out of the Past.

The book has many of the classic movie couples you'd expect (like Bogart/Bacall and Tracy/Hepburn) as well as some more obscure pairings and one really bizarre one. (Fay Wray and King King? Really?) Two types of couples are featured: those that made several films together and those that made a big impression together just one time on film. While I understand that they were trying to make things fair and not feature one person too many times, the rules of the book do mean that some great pairings (like Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn) are missing.

It's a great book for flipping through and reading a little at a time. I've enjoyed learning some useless but fun trivia, like how during filming on Gone With the Wind, Clark Gable taught Vivian Leigh to play backgammon and she in turn introduced him to battleship. I'm also getting some ideas for more movies to add to my watch list. One thing that does make me a little sad about the book: in the facts about each person, spouses are listed, and so many of these stars had several (often brief) marriages. I just think it's a shame that the people who made up some of the most romantic pairs on screen often had troubles in their personal romantic lives. Although I guess their movie love stories didn't always end happily, either.

Anyway, it's a good book for a classic movie fan. For a limited time, you can enter to win your own copy here.

What's your favorite film couple, classic or otherwise?


Book Review: Love Walked In

What's a book review doing on a movie blog? Well, while it's not a movie yet, Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos has been optioned by Paramount, with Sarah Jessica Parker apparently interested in starring. Also, there are a lot of classic movie references in this book, which is the reason I picked it up in the first place.

Love Walked In tells the interwoven stories of Cornelia, a diminutive 31-year-old coffee shop manager obsessed with old movies, and Clare, an 11-year old girl dealing with her mother's mental breakdown. The book is written in alternating chapters that switch between first and third person perspectives. While this does work for making the two characters distinct, it is also occasionally jarring going back and forth.

The good:
  • The writing is intelligent and interesting and occasionally insightful.
  • I personally enjoyed the nod to old movies, but then, I do tend to think in movie moments myself. Someone who doesn't like or know many classic movies might get tired of this after a while. Also referred to: various books, fictional characters, and poetry. In general these references were explained enough to make the point or left light enough so that it wouldn't matter if you didn't know what the author was talking about. I didn't get every one, but when I did know the source I thought it illuminated and enhanced the story.
The nit-picks:
  • Whatever happened to the "i" in Claire? I blame The Time Traveler's Wife for this Clare business. (And while we're at it, the covers of these two books are very similar. Hmm.)
  • The quirky best friend thing. So many modern heroines (in books and movies) have a quirky best friend who dresses strangely, speaks outspokenly, is always there when needed and easily picks up on her friend's every mood and thought. (Maybe I'm just jealous because I want a quirky best friend.)
The unbelievable:
  • No 11-year-old I know is as wise as Clare. While I feel for this character's plight, she is way too precocious to be believed.
  • Practically everyone in the book is gorgeous and/or resembles a movie star. Characters are described as looking like Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Myrna Loy... One character is so beautiful that he makes people stupid at the sight of him. I accept unusual beauty in the movies, but life is not a casting call and most people are pretty ordinary-looking.
  • When Clare's mother disappears, no one wants to make an issue of it. I can understand Clare wanting to keep her mother's problems a secret, but all the other adults seem to want to keep things under wraps. Why is this a good idea?
  • The last third of the book is really contrived. Everything is wrapped up tidily thanks to two convenient deaths (if death can be called convenient), an unexpected inheritance, some well timed departures and arrivals and people being way too willing to turn their whole lives upside down.
The book is occasionally touching and does have some nice ideas about finding love in unexpected places, but overall the unrealistic twists kept me from really loving it.

One thing the book and I agree on: The Philadelphia Story is a great movie and you should see it. The book holds as a universal truth that "Jimmy Stewart is always and indisputably the best man in the world, unless Cary Grant should happen to show up." This may be true, although the idea is not really followed through in the book, and it is not really the point of the movie. While the book hits on the fabulousness of Katharine Hepburn and the rightness of a satisfying love story, there is so much more to The Philadelphia Story. The main theme of the movie could be better summed up in this quote from it: "The time to make up your mind about people is never." The ideas about human frailty and class prejudices and privacy and people being able to change are much richer than the themes of Love Walked In, and the characters have more depth and appeal, too. Also, the dialogue is light-years better. So when and if the movie adaptation of this book does come out, I am much more likely to just re-watch The Philadelphia Story instead.
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