September 15, 2014

Cineplex Classic Film Series: Dial M For Murder (1954)

Classic movie screenings don't happen all that often in the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), but when they do you know I'll be there with bells and whistles (and popcorn). Canada's chain of Cineplex movie theatres devises killer screening schedules devoted to classic film twice a year and for most of us, this is the only opportunity we'll have of watching our favourite "old movies" on the big screen in digital format.

This Sunday's screening was of Alfred Hitchcock's DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954) starring the dashing - yet lethal - Ray Milland and the regal-looking Grace Kelly. Though I had never seen this film before, it had always been on my classically honed movie radar. I love a good Hitchcock thriller - especially if it's a murder mystery which takes place in London, England - but I've avoided Grace Kelly my entire life (don't ask - all you need to know is that I don't have the highest regard for her). Having said that, though, I'm super-duper glad I decided to drag myself out of bed, into my car, onto the highway, and into a cinema seat this afternoon for the special 3D screening! Side note: Hitchcock in 3D? Yes please!

Here's what you need to know about the film: Tony Wendice (Milland) hires an old college mate to murder his cheating wife Margot Wendice (Kelly). Tony devises an intricate plan that goes horribly wrong that leaves his mate, not his wife, dead. In order to avoid suspicion, Tony tries to divert police attention away from himself and onto his wife, essentially framing her for the murder of Charles Alexander Swann (played expertly by Anthony Dawson). The man that Margot is having an affair with, Mark Halliday (Robert Cummings), is a popular mystery writer who is committed to solving the riddle of the murder himself and, thus, clearing Margot of the crime and re-establishing her innocence.

I really enjoyed the film and had an incredible time keeping up with the story's twists and turns, swishing this way and that, toying with the movie audience's emotions and brain processing capabilities. Do you have any idea how many times I changed my mind about Ray Milland's bastard-of-a-husband? So he plotted to have his wife murdered, so what? She was cheating on him! But then I'd go back to sympathizing with Grace Kelly's foxy-and-impeccably-well-dressed wife; did I really want her to hang for a crime her husband initiated and essentially framed her for? I don't think so. In fact, I'm pretty certain that I want Milland's character to choke on his tongue and burn in hell. Extreme, I know. (Well done Hitchcock).

DIAL M FOR MURDER is the kind of film that leaves the audience pretty much breathless by the time its end credits roll. For me, this is the feeling I live for, especially when watching a movie classic that's earned a reputation over the years for being a prestige piece that will most likely endure for many more decades to come. Classic films like these never fail to impress me and when I leave the cinema I find myself walking taller with an inevitable spring in my step, proud of my taste in film.

One thing I like to do before leaving the theatre is listen in on other people's hushed (and sometimes very enthusiastic) conversations regarding the movie, the story, the characters, and their overall movie-watching experience. Sometimes I join in (more like butt in) and sometimes I leave in a hurry if I see that people are displeased and incensed by the picture's quality, the cinema's blasting A/C, or the stale popcorn that we were all forced to fork over $6 CAD for (Cineplex, you need to work on that).

So, what's next? Cineplex is hosting a special Halloween-flavoured screening of THE MUMMY (1932) and THE WOLF MAN (1941) together on a double bill on Wednesday October 29th and Thursday October 30th. And, before anyone asks, yes I will most likely be there despite the fact I've never liked Halloween. If there is a chance to see Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. on the big screen, I wouldn't miss it for the world! If you'd like to check out the full Cineplex Classic Film Series schedule yourself, visit the Cineplex Events page [click here].

September 12, 2014

Falling out of love with classic film

Have you ever found yourself falling out of love with classic movies?

I know we're all devoted classic film fans at heart, but I'm sure we've all found ourselves in this predicament before at some point in our lives: the bloom is gone and the mere thought of sitting down to watch another classic movie sends us running for the hills with a tub of Ben & Jerry's ice cream clutched under our arms (forget the spoon! we can eat with our hands!). No? Just me?

It's as if I overdose on TCM, special cinema screenings, and film-related coffee table books all at the same time and I can't bear to watch one more movie. Not even Gary Cooper or a rollicking good pre-Code can bring me back from the brink. Instead I have to take a step back from my DVDs, blurays, and TCM and will myself to undergo a classic movie detox. This involves staying at least fifty yards away from my movie collection and laptop, bookcases, and memorabilia collection and either reading Fiction until my eyes bleed or watching endless TV marathons of idiotic reality shows.

Once the worst has passed and I feel ready to delve back into the world of black and white cinema again, I approach TCM cautiously (I don't want to overdo it again, do I?) and watch whatever is airing in short ten-minute intervals; for ten minutes I'll pay attention to what's on the screen and for the next ten minutes I'll look away and do something else, etc, etc. It's like going back to the gym and exercising when you've been away for a while - baby steps people, baby steps.

I can't say that this madness has happened to me recently - because it certainly hasn't, not with TCM's pre-Code Fridays in the mix - but I would estimate that it's happened to me maybe twice or three times so far this year. That's pretty good considering we're nine months into 2014 and the new year is only a hair's breadth away (this reminds me: I need to get started on my Christmas shopping). I'm currently loving classic movies at the moment, perhaps more than ever, and I'm totally in the mood for discovering and re-discovering great gems from the 1920s and onwards!

I want to know what it is you do to combat classic movie fatigue. Do you have to force yourself to step away from films the way that I do? How long does it take you to get your groove back? What steps do you take to cleanse yourself of the influence of places like TCM, Warner Archive, and the Criterion Collection shop? Tell me your story in the comments section down below!

Maybe we should start brainstorming and come up with a twelve-step program!

September 10, 2014

The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)*

I have been waiting YEARS to see this film!

Thanks to the kind folks at Warner Archive who sent me a copy of the DVD to review, I have finally been able to strike this film off of my To Watch list. The first I had heard of this film was during a viewing of the THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT documentary series that I owned on VHS back in the '90s. I don't remember if HOLLYWOOD REVUE was available on home video back then, but if it was, I certainly couldn't find it anywhere (bummer, I know).

THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 is a musical extravaganza produced and released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) in November 1929, billed as one of the studio's first all talking, all singing, all dancing motion pictures. It stars a cavalcade of popular film stars from the MGM stable and is hosted by the very able, bendy-wristed Jack Benny and silent film star Conrad Nagel (who says "old boy" and "old man" a lot).

There is no plot or storyline to this film. It's purely meant to showcase the studio's talent and to provide just over two hours of solid, family-friendly musical entertainment to its film audience. I almost felt as though I was seated in an old vaudeville theatre, watching a stage show circa the early 1930s. It's quite the experience! Having said that, though, would I watch it again? Maybe, maybe not.

'Galaxy of Stars' indeed! There is enough orgasmic material in this opening title to keep me satisfied for months! #TMI

The film is never boring, it just becomes tedious after approximately an hour of viewing. I often found myself checking the status bar to see how far along I was in the film and how much longer I had on the DVD to get through. The film's stars and special effects are pretty much what got me through my first viewing.

It became evident to me about ten minutes into the movie that MGM had pulled out all the stops for this, their second musical picture. In the early talkie era many films were made purely as an experiment and THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 is one of them. Many of the scenes were poorly cut and spliced together and there were some visual effects that actually made me cringe with embarrassment. But, you know what? For a film that was made in 1929 it's pretty darn good!

Some of my favourite bits included numbers from Marie Dressler (my fellow Canadian), Laurel & Hardy, a surprise appearance from Buster Keaton for which I squealed with delight at when I saw him appear, an 'impromptu' song and dance number featuring the beautiful Joan Crawford, the appearance of a somewhat stiff-looking Norma Shearer and John Gilbert reenacting the famous balcony scene from Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (in colour!), and the quirky Singin' In the Rain musical number.

Ukulele Ike and the massively talented MGM chorus (a 17-year-old Ann Dvorak is in there somewhere).

Oh, and have I mentioned Warner Bros. star Ann Dvorak? Well, before she was signed to Warner Bros. she was part of the MGM chorus and you can make her out in quite a few scenes in HOLLYWOOD REVUE. She even scored a solo bit in this film slapping out host Jack Benny! If I had to be slapped by anyone it'd be Ann Dvorak (Joan Crawford's famous wallops would hurt too much, I think). See if you can spot Dvorak the next time you sit down to watch this film! Thanks to Dvorak biographer Christina Rice for giving us all the heads-up in her book Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel.

So, bottom line, would I recommend this film to other classic film fans (and anybody else, really): YES. This is a piece of Hollywood, cinematic, and MGM history. It packs a killer punch in terms of star power alone and it was one of the studio's first forays into a genre it would become famous for perfecting: the Hollywood musical. Yes, things are a little bumpy and dated in THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 but it's a stand out picture that deserves a bigger audience. It's entertaining, it's unique, and it serves as a lovely look back at some of the stars that would become legendary later on in their careers (I'm looking at you Joan Crawford). It also serves as a somewhat fitting farewell to those silent film stars who were on their way out (John Gilbert, sob!).

THE HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929 is available to order through the Warner Archive shop.

September 8, 2014

What it feels like to strike gold at the library

I like to visit my local library at least once or twice every week.

My Mother is the one who introduced me to the library back when I was a little runt just out of diapers. Books on tape were what I started off with until I was old enough to wander the endless aisles of Children, Teen, and Adult Fiction.

Once I started getting into old movies that's when I really started frequenting my local library even more! There I could find rare, out-of-print volumes concerning film, film genres, biographies and documentary-type coffee table books dedicated to the wonderful (mostly) black and white film masterpieces I had just recently discovered.

Yesterday I literally struck gold in my library's Film section and discovered a book I had never seen before (at the library, advertised on TCM, or on Amazon): Designs On Film: A Century Of Hollywood Art Direction by Cathy Whitlock and the Art Directors Guild (2010, it books). It's a mighty hefty volume that explores all of the great and iconic film sets used in both classic cinema and modern films.

Having quickly flipped through it in the library aisle, I decided that this was one coffee table book I couldn't pass up and added it to my Borrow pile - it's also being added to my Amazon wishlist as we speak. I waste hardly any time at all when it comes to buying coffee table books, you know this.

Maybe when I go back to the library next week I'll find something as equally appealing as this item was! Let me know in the comments section down below if you've made some similar discoveries at your local library recently. It doesn't have to be classic film related - it can literally be anything! I'm always looking for great book recommendations!

September 5, 2014

Snog, screw, marry, dump!

I get my best blogging ideas in bed. 

Oftentimes when I'm drifting off to sleep or just lying under my sheets and duvet in the dark I'll start thinking about blog post ideas and editorial content that I can delve into for some of my freelancing gigs. My mind and body is at their most restful stages when I'm in bed and I think that's a huge reason why my creativity suddenly bursts into life there.

Just the other night I was thinking to myself who I would date if I had the chance to romance someone from the classic film period. Would I want to eventually marry this person or would I have some fun with them and then dump their ass by the side of the road? Don't worry, I wouldn't be that mean -- I would probably buy them dinner first.

I thought long and hard about who I'd pick to snog (make-out with), screw (self explanatory), marry, and dump and here are the choices I came up with:

Dana Andrews

Snog = Dana Andrews // The man is delicious and I'd love to make-out with him for at least an hour or two. Then, afterwards, we'd both put on our trench coats and fedoras, light a cigarette and go solve a noir-ish crime together on the mean streets of Los Angeles.

Gene Kelly

Screw = Gene Kelly // Okay, seriously, who wouldn't want to romp between the sheets with this guy? He seemed super-committed to his art, though, so chances are he'd only spend half an hour with you tops in order to get back to the studio, so I wouldn't actually want to be in a long-term relationship with him. Those thighs and clenched buttocks would keep me coming back for more, though.

Paul Newman

Marry = Paul Newman // If he was as committed to me as he was to wife of fifty years Joanne Woodward, then this dude is a keeper! Yes, I would want to snog him, screw him, marry him, but never ever dump him. His talent was immense, he kept his private life private, his beliefs were strong and steadfast, and his generosity was unparalleled. Newman is perfect husband material!

Spencer Tracy

Dump = Spencer Tracy // Sorry dude, I'd much prefer to see you with Katharine Hepburn than have you waste your time with little ol' me. Plus, you refused to divorce your wife, so our future together looks pretty damn bleak from where I'm standing. I just couldn't deal with the stress of such an emotionally-fraught relationship (not at my time of life, anyway). Besides, Katharine Hepburn is way hotter than I am! It pains me to have to say this, Spence, but I'd totally dump you.

Montgomery Clift

...and one more for good measure: I would totally want to snog Montgomery Clift if he was willing and available (possibly at the same time as snogging Dana Andrews). I've always been drawn to tortured souls and Clift certainly does qualify for that distinction. I'd like to think that making out with him would bring him some much needed joy - enough to at least make him step away from the liquor cabinet for approximately a week or so.

Tell me, who would you like to snog, screw, marry, and dump?

September 3, 2014

What does the script say? My favourite film quotes!

Humphrey Bogart and Martha Vickers in a particularly lurid scene in The Big Sleep (1946).

"She tried to sit in my lap while I was standing up." -The Big Sleep (1946)

If there is one thing I can pretty much guarantee about classic movies, it's that you'll find a veritable goldmine of perfect, zingy catchphrases and film quotes in each one. I've lost count of how many times I've either burst out laughing or gasped from something I've heard coming out of a classic film star's mouth.

Listed below are some of my very favourite film quotes! I'd love to hear some of yours so do leave a comment down below and let me know which ones immediately spring to mind!

"Well, nobody's perfect!" - Some Like It Hot (1959) // The ultimate in film quotes and a superb way of ending a film in which two (hot) guys spend the majority of the movie's two hour running time in drag.

"You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow." -To Have And Have Not (1945) // Va-va-voom indeed! If this had been a Looney Tunes sketch, there would have been steam coming out of Bogie's ears and little red hearts in his eyes. Audience members collectively signed and wet their pants after hearing this classic one-liner.

"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." -Gone With The Wind (1939) // Boo-yah! #LikeAFuckingBoss If your girl is constantly playing games with you, toying with your affections, and wanting to shag a pasty-white Southern soldier with a British accent, tell her how you really feel and leave her crying on the doorstep. And never look back, Rhett. Never look back.

I'm so fancy, you already know ... I'm in the fast lane from L.A to Tokyo (I had to, believe me).

"There are far worse things awaiting man than death." -Dracula (1931) // Instant shivers, this one. Just looking at Bela Lugosi's face while he utters this fabulously philosophical line makes me want to hide in a corner and cling to a security blanket.

"I was reading a book the other day / Reading a book?! / Yes, it's all about civilization or something. A nutty kind of a book. Do you know that the guy says that machinery is going to take the place of every profession? / Oh, my dear, that's something you need never worry about." -Dinner At Eight (1933) // It took me a while to fully comprehend the meaning behind this saucy movie quote. The first time I saw DINNER AT EIGHT I was way too young and inexperienced in the ways of sexual healing to get the meaning behind it. But, once I was more experienced it hit me like a ton of bricks and I couldn't stop giggling the entire day.

"I stick my neck out for nobody!" -Casablanca (1942) // Oh Rick, you are my hero! I'm sure you're an absolute dick most of the time but this quote just makes me love you more and more. I'm an anti-social introvert so I can definitely relate to the way Rick feels about risking his life and/or reputation for people he just couldn't give a shit about.

So yes, please go ahead and leave me your favourite film quotes in the comments section below!

August 29, 2014

My favourite television classics!

There's something about vintage television that makes me feel all warm and cuddly inside. Like a piping hot, soothing cup of tea, classic TV series go down like a warm, comforting, life-sustaining dream. Though I'm only in my early thirties - I am, really I am - I spent many hours of my childhood sitting in front of the television watching all kinds of vintage TV shows. Here are five of my absolute favourites:

The Three Stooges // I grew up watching this show with my Pops. Every Sunday before we went to church, we'd lounge in the family room and watch endless skits of hilarity featuring Curly, Larry, and Moe (and Shemp and Joe). To this day, there is no other classic TV series that I'd rather watch over this one. The Three Stooges makes me laugh until it hurts, makes me cringe until I hiccup, and it makes me wish I was born decades earlier. No one does physical comedy quite like they do!

I Love Lucy // I mean really, come on, who wouldn't include this show on their list of favourite vintage classics? I seriously don't know one person who said that they didn't like this show. It's the perfect blend of hilarity, intelligence, discourse, and touching human emotions. Growing up in an Italian household, I bet you can guess which episode was my family's favourite. Yup, that's right. The wine-making one in which Lucy hops into a big huge barrel of grapes and proceeds to mash them with her bare feet. Frankly, she could have been treading nails and I'd still think it was funny. Or maybe not ...

Leave It To Beaver // I spent many of my lunchtime breaks watching this in my kitchen with my Mom doing housework in the background. I seem to recall that this was on right before The Andy Griffith Show (another great vintage classic). Though I loved watching the show, I always wondered how one family could be so perfect. The Beave screwed up so many times and he never got spanked or hit, never got told off, and he was never grounded by his parents (like I was every damn week). I remember wanting to implant myself into the Cleaver household until I realized that Nintendo hadn't been invented yet in the 1950s.

The Jack Benny Program // The probability of you losing your lunch from laughing so hard during an episode of The Jack Benny Program is really really high. Trust me. Like all great things in life, my Pops introduced me to this show when I was in my teens. It aired on our local comedy channel every Saturday afternoon and I pretty much ignored everyone on Planet Earth for the program's twenty-five minute run time. Benny's straight-faced comedic prowess killed me and I loved watching him interact with sidekick Don Wilson.

The Munsters // I was a bit of a goth back in my high school days - don't judge - and no show had me coveting the cast's wardrobe more than The Munsters did (well, except for The Addams Family). This television show is so fun, so animated, so endearing, and so kooky. I love it for all of those reasons! To me, The Munsters always seemed like Leave It To Beaver on acid; the same family dynamics applied to both series but The Munsters was more colourful and trippy. I like to think that The Munsters was the Trainspotting of the 1960s. Just me?

What vintage TV classics are amongst your all-time favourites? Tell me about them in the comments section down below!

If you're interested in learning more about classic television, I'd recommend checking out my friend Will's blog, Cinematically Insane. He weighs in quite frequently about vintage TV classics and his posts are always very insightful and entertaining!

August 27, 2014

It helps to have icons!

In the September 2014 issue of Glamour magazine, Editor-In-Chief Cindi Leive asks: Who do you channel when you're standing in front of your closet in the morning weighing your options? Her answer was comic book heroine Brenda Starr. My answer? It changes from day to day but mostly it's a mix of Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy and silver screen goddess Rita Hayworth - odd combination, I know.

If you were to step into my closet right now and take a look around - nosey parker! - you'd immediately deduce that I like the colour black. Nearly every single item in my wardrobe is as black as night and comes from Zara. I always like to tell myself that if everything I own is black, it's easier to get dressed in the mornings. And it is. It hardly takes any effort at all to create an outfit; black jeans, black tank, black top, black sweater. Oh, and black biker boots. Always the biker boots. I secretly wish I was Billy Idol's girlfriend.

Rita Hayworth was the perfect combination of sexy, mysterious, and aloof. This is what I want to emulate every time I step out of the house. Does it work? Probably not, but I'm stubborn so I'll keep on trying. Despite my penchant for wearing all black, edgy ensembles, I'd still like to look somewhat glamorous when I start my day. This is where a slick of blood red lipstick comes into play, and you all know how much I love a red lippie! If I can't use my clothing to evoke Hayworth, I rely on makeup to get me there.

When people look at me I want them to think the following things:
  • Looks like she's up to no good,
  • if I were to approach her, would she smile at me or be inclined to kick my ass with those Union Jack Dr. Martens?,
  • that girl knows where she's headed,
  • she's wearing a wool beanie in thirty degree heat therefore she must be a bit of an oddball,
  • that woman looks a lot like that crazy chick in THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO,
  • I wonder if she's decent (see what I did there? No? Do yourself a favour and watch GILDA (1946) right now please), and finally
  • only a true introvert would dress like that and I suspect she is every inch an introvert so I best leave her alone.

This is basically me in a nutshell. I don't want to come right out and label myself as unapproachable, but that's how I feel most of the time. I like to be left to my own devices and I don't like being bothered. Reading this post back to myself in the editing process has led me to believe that I'm some kind of nasty stuck-up bitch and I'm not. I'm one of the nicest people you'll ever meet - if we met - but I'm not much of a people person. See that look that Hayworth is giving the camera? That's my face on a daily basis (minus the staggering beauty, of course).

Who do you try to emulate when you get dressed in the morning?

August 25, 2014

Why YOU should watch classic movies!

Just like my mother always used to say: there's a first time for everything!

Us classic film bloggers didn't emerge from the womb watching old movies - contrary to what some of us may have you believe. No, each one of us was slowly introduced to classic film by either a family member, a friend, a casual acquaintance, a complete stranger, or by aliens. Either that or we took it upon ourselves one day to just grow some balls and head for the classic movie section at our local Blockbuster (RIP).

Our lives changed quickly after that and a new obsession was born in each one of us. Now we find ourselves talking about old movies to anyone who'll listen and blabbing about our passion for black and white films online to our heart's content. Here's why I think you should take a gamble, try something different and dive into the world of classic film:

Because you (and everyone else) is sick to death of the never-ending slew of superhero movies. Good God enough already. It seems as if every week there is a new release featuring a team of heros clad in spandex pants, face masks, capes, and very little else. We get it. The planet's in danger and only one person can save all of humanity: [enter any superhero's name here]. I'd much rather watch Cary Grant saunter through the desert in GUNGA DIN (1939) than another perfectly coiffed caped crusader hightail it through a dark and dingy city seemingly infested with rats ... and penguins.

Because you'll learn something. Seriously, you will. You'll learn how films used to capture the audience's attention with stunning visuals, snappy dialogue, perfectly constructed sets, glorious feats of technicolor and casts of legendary actors that the world will never see the likes of again. A grand statement, yes, but there's a reason why we are still talking about people like Rita Hayworth, Humphrey Bogart, and Bette Davis today. These people are legends and cannot - and should not - be confused with today's tally of generic celebs (will anyone be talking about Shia LaBeouf in fifty years? I think not).

Because you'll be experiencing something new. How often have you heard it said that you should try something new every single day? This statement has been drilled into our heads practically since day one. You know, just in case you should get hit by a freight train and die tomorrow. At least you will have tried something new! No, but seriously, why not try something new? What's the worst that can happen - you don't like the movie you chose? Big deal. The next time you meet up with your friends, you can always tell them about that one time you watched CITIZEN KANE (1941) and you'll come off sounding so damn cultured and intelligent! Even if you secretly hated the film from beginning to end.

Because classic movies are an integral part of cinematic history. Let's face it. They are. Modern filmmakers constantly reference and pay homage to the films of yesteryear. Directors like Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg can't get enough of classic film and are often heard signing its praises on film-related documentaries, interviews, and on DVD/bluray commentaries. Without classic film, modern film wouldn't have amounted to very much. From silents to talking pictures to the new modern movies of the '60s and '70s, classic movies are considered the touchstone of all modern film making. So, do yourself a favour - please - and open yourself up to the wonderful and exciting world of classic cinema.

Because you'll regret it if you don't! I'm not promising anything but if you don't take my advice, you may end up kicking yourself later. Truth is, by not watching at least one old movie, you're missing out on something huge! Just pick one classic, at random even, and watch it whenever you find yourself with a couple of spare leisure hours on your hands. Instead of going out for drinks, instead of banging your girlfriend/boyfriend - you can always do that later - and instead of stuffing your face with greasy fast food immerse yourself in the world of black and white (and technicolor!) cinema and see whether or not you've discovered a new passion in life. You may surprise yourself and become utterly obsessed with something you would have otherwise avoided!

That's the most thrilling bit, isn't it? Opening yourself up to a potential new lifelong relationship. And, if your foray into classic film doesn't amount to anything in the end, so what? I give you my express permission to go back to watching those wacky 3-D superhero movies which you will eventually tire of anyway and go back to thinking that maybe you should give classic film another shot again! It's a vicious circle, you know. You'll be back. I promise you will.

August 22, 2014

Crushing hard on silent film!

Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Clara Bow, and Richard Arlen star in Wings (1927).

Here's something I never thought I'd say: I've become utterly and fabulously obsessed with silent movies!

Silent films were something I had always shied away from watching because I thought they were stuffy, manic, and boring. If I'm being completely honest, I never understood where their appeal lay. What was it about the silent film genre that people found fascinating? And how could an entire cinema-full of people be kept entertained for two hours by a moving picture that had no voice (talking, that is)? The very thought baffled me.

It wasn't until the spring of 2012 that I started getting into silent movies. I remember ordering the Greta Garbo Signature Collection off of amazon right before leaving on my annual trip to the UK and, included in that DVD set was The Garbo Silents Collection, a mini boxed set of some of Garbo's famous silent features. Despite how much I loved Garbo - and still do, obviously - I literally had to force myself to sit down and pop in FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926) starring Garbo and the equally delicious John Gilbert.

That movie shocked me by how good it was. Seriously. I credit FLESH AND THE DEVIL with kick-starting my silent film obsession. First off, I couldn't believe that I had made it through an entire silent movie without once becoming bored. Second, I learned that an audience doesn't necessarily need voices to be moved and entertained the way I was that afternoon. The visuals were stunning and the film titles were perfect; beautifully capturing the film's mood and story in just a handful of sentences.

Since then I made it a habit of sneaking in a silent movie viewing at least once or twice a month. Other silents that I've come to love are WINGS (1927) which had me blubbing like a child, SAFETY LAST! (1923), THE GENERAL (1926), METROPOLIS (1927), NOSFERATU (1922), IT (1927) and THE BIG PARADE (1925). The last silent feature I watched was CITY LIGHTS (1931) starring the majorly talented Charles Chaplin, and though that ending didn't make me cry like I was told it would, I still really enjoyed it. That boxing scene had me in stitches and I couldn't help wondering how many hours of rehearsal it took the actors to perfect the routine they pulled off in the ring. Fancy footwork indeed!

Charles Chaplin, Eddie Baker, and Hank Mann show off their moves in the ring in the delightful City Lights (1931).

Through the past year-and-a-half of experimenting with silent film viewing I've learned that silents are the sort of films that enlighten audiences. True, there is no speaking, but in place of that there are incredible visuals, striking sets, realistic stunt sequences, and truly great performances from both the actors and directors of each piece. The musical accompaniment to each feature is lilting and lucid; really helping to establish the picture's mood and undercurrent.

So, my question to you is out of all the silent films I haven't seen yet, which would you recommend? Tell me which silents are your personal favourites and which ones you think I should steer clear of. Do you have a favourite silent film star? A favourite genre you think I should delve deeper into? Tell me your thoughts in the comments section down below!

August 20, 2014

What would Nick & Nora do?

I wish this was my family: Nora, Asta, and Nick Charles in The Thin Man (1934).

Last week was the week from hell. The office was in absolute shambles and my personal life didn't fare any better. To say that I was at the end of my rope by Saturday night is an absolute understatement.

When I found myself at my lowest it occurred to me that there was a simple solution to curb the madness in my life: if I asked myself what Nick and Nora Charles would do, I would be able to put their methods of problem-solving into practice and remedy everything that had gone wrong! Presto! Problem solved!

So, here we go ... what would Nick and Nora do?
  • Have a drink (or two, or three),
  • throw a dinner party and invite every corrupt, shady character you know,
  • escape to the country where you'll be forced to solve a murder by old family acquaintances,
  • take the dog for a walk,
  • shoot all the baubles off your Christmas tree with an air pistol,
  • buy a round of shots at the bar,
  • throw a New Year's Eve party and allow all your guests to make long distance calls to their mothers on your land line (and, while you're at it, invite a few newspaper reporters over too),
  • knock a few tunes out on your upright piano, and
  • if all else fails, have another drink.

Now my next question is, did any of this actually work? Well, I'm going to be completely honest and say that I did none of these things (fail). I don't drink, I hate entertaining, I don't have a dog to take for walkies, and it's not the Holidays. But fear not, what I did do was pop in my copy of THE THIN MAN and spent a couple of hours watching that and man, did that help

The next time you find yourself in a pickle or work is just getting to be too much, ask yourself What would Nick and Nora do? and, chances are, just thinking of all the possible solutions to the madness will put a smile back on that lovely face of yours! I hope I've succeeded in helping you out with this rather frivolous post! Onwards men (and women), ONWARDS!

Nora Charles (played by the fabulous Myrna Loy) takes a tumble in Shadow Of the Thin Man (1941).

August 18, 2014

Book Look! Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice

Let me confess something to you: although I love reading, when it comes to making my way through a book, I'm a bit of a slow mover. I like to take my time exploring the book's setting and understanding each and every character's nuances and mannerisms but occasionally I'll come across a book that leaves me breathless with anticipation and I'll whiz through it quicker than you can say Vanessa is a nerd and has no life!

Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel was written by the world's most glamourous and bodacious librarian: Christina Rice (@christinarice) and was released back in October 2013. Ann Dvorak is someone I didn't know a heck of a lot about prior to reading this biography. I had only seen a handful of her films before and though each one of them impressed me, I was never made curious enough to dig deeper into her film career or her personal life.

This is a really light but detailed read about the woman who may have been the cause of her own undoing. After finishing it off last week, I definitely think that her actions against Warner Bros. and her studio bosses are what set into motion her eventual demise. After falling out with all of Hollywood's major studios, Dvorak coasted along by making B movies for low budget studios; some of the parts she played were good, but most of them did absolutely nothing to further her career or test her talent. As a freelance artist, Dvorak suffered through long periods of boredom and inactivity, waiting for the right material to fall into her lap.

"My name is properly pronounced "vor'shack." The D remains silent. I have had quite a time with the name, having been called practically everything from Balzac to Bickelsrock."

Sad, yes. Hopeless, I don't think so. Ann Dvorak was a woman who did what she damn well pleased and took the bull by the horns, creating a lasting impression on her friends, contemporaries, work colleagues, and her peers. Almost everyone who was interviewed for this book had kind words to say about Dvorak despite how harried their relationship may have been. The most common testament to Dvorak's character was how professional she was.

Christina Rice is a huge fan of Ann Dvorak and it shows. Rice lovingly constructed an absolutely vivid portrait of Dvorak for this biography and packed it full of interesting tidbits, detailed tales of the actress's life, and really philosophical points that allow the reader to really think about what they would have done if they were in Dvorak's shoes. Would we have done anything differently? It's a question worth asking especially considering how Dvorak pretty much lost her entire career after only a couple of decades.

I really enjoyed reading this biography and I'm almost one hundred percent certain that I will be picking it up again sometime soon! It's one of those books that the reader can't help wanting to re-visit again and again. Yes, it was that good! You can order a copy of Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel here along with Rice's follow-up entitled The Inseparables: Images of Ann Dvorak & Leslie Fenton's 1932 Honeymoon From Their Personal Scrapbook. If you order them through that site, Rice will personally sign your copy for you! And yes, before anyone asks, I've already placed my order!

Ann Dvorak and James Cagney star in THE CROWD ROARS (1932).

August 15, 2014

Five of my favourite classic film blogs!

Pay it forward. That's what I always say!

When I started blogging about old movies a couple of years ago, there were people on the Internet that I looked up to and respected (and still do). These "people" are the other classic movie bloggers that first turned me on to the idea of blogging myself. Each day I'd log onto their sites and spend at least a few hours reading their book and movie reviews, their opinion pieces, and their fun ramblings about old Hollywood.

Along the way, through my blogging journey, these bloggers have become my friends and I think it's about time I paid tribute to them here, and gave them the credit they deserve! Here are five of my absolute favourite classic film blogs (in alpha order, naturally):

Cinematically Insane [link]
If I want to find out more about classic television, aspect ratios, and TCM developments I head straight here to Will's blog. His posts are, at the same time, both hilarious and highly professional. I always learn something new when I read Will's posts and I consider his opinion gold in my books. He's like an older brother that I idolize and everything he lectures me on sinks right in to my brain and makes me that much more smarter.

Journeys In Classic Film [link]
Kristen is obsessed with Veronica Lake. That was my initial thought the first time I logged onto her site. Right off the bat I was intrigued. She writes the best movie reviews, hands down, and I often find myself nodding my head whilst reading through her text, agreeing with nearly everything she says. Kristen and I have very similar taste in movies. Each week she posts a news entry titled News from the Lake in which she tells her readers what to expect in terms of upcoming video releases, book releases, and special events concerning classic film. CNN? Nah. Kristen's blog is way better! And there are no pesky, annoying scrolling news bars in sight.

Out of the Past [link]
Raquel is the sultriest classic movie blogger on the planet, of this I am sure. If I said I had a crush on her, I'd be telling the absolute truth. Sometimes her blog leaves me scratching my head wondering where she gets all of her amazing blogging ideas from. She's got reading challenges, celebrity tributes, books reviews, and insider gossip galore and her blog never (like, never) lets me down. I come here for a chance to unwind at the end of a busy day and Raquel's musings always leave me with a great big smile on my face. [link]
Danny is the master of the pre-Code so it's really no surprise that his blog is the place to be if you want to learn more about that particular film genre. His film reviews are full of entertaining witticisms and fun trivia facts and I rarely find myself disagreeing with his movie rating system. The dude is absolutely tireless and clearly puts a lot of work into each and every one of his posts and I think that certain aspect of blogging is hard to come by nowadays. You know what I liken to? A university course. A really great university course that leaves you wanting more at the end of every lecture.

Shadows and Satin [link]
I almost want to put on a silk neglige and smoke a cigarette when I open up Karen's site. It's devoted to two majestically naughty film genres: noir and pre-Code. Allo allo allo! Along with her blog, Karen also edits The Dark Pages which is a bi-monthly newsletter devoted to all things noir. Her posts are always intriguing, always very thought-provoking, and hugely satisfying. When I know I've got some extra time to spare, I usually always click on over to her site and read some of the older posts she's published that maybe I missed the first time 'round.

August 13, 2014

Bogie whistled and Slim went running: RIP Lauren Bacall.

Betty Joan Perske (aka Lauren Bacall), 1924 - 2014.

I always said that when Lauren Bacall passed away, I'd lose my shit.

Well, it's happened. The last of the great classic film legends has left us. Bacall passed away on August 12, 2014 at the age of eighty-nine. I was calmly reading in bed, finishing up Christina Rice's Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel when I heard my Mom making her way softly up the stairs to my room. She popped her head in through the doorway and the first words out of her mouth were: "Guess who died now?" and I replied "Oh no, not again! Who now?!"

When she said Bacall's name I threw down the book I was holding, put my hand to my chest and gasped. Then, that's when the tears started flowing. It happened immediately. I think my Mom thought I was joking at first, play-acting my devastation. But once she saw that I was crying real, salty tears she ran to get me some tissues. I saw her eyes welling up with her own tears as she watched her daughter mourn the loss of a Hollywood legend.

"I didn't know you liked her so much," she said whilst wiping her eyes. I couldn't answer her back because I was still crying furiously ... all I could do was point to the portrait of Bogie and Bacall hanging on my bedroom wall, right over my nightstand. My mother understood then how much those two stars meant to me. Mind you, she always knew I had a weakness for Humphrey Bogart but she never imagined I felt the same way for his wife and co-star.

Lauren Bacall had seventy-two film credits to her name. She acted alongside Hollywood's biggest screen legends including Marilyn Monroe, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Edward G. Robinson, and of course, Humphrey Bogart. Her beauty, talent, charisma, and intelligence was unrivaled and I will miss her desperately and completely. I don't want to come off sounding overly-dramatic or pretentious but I feel as if a piece of my heart is broken.

God knows I love classic film and without Bacall, I feel like the whole system has come crumbling down. Everyone is gone. There's no one left.

August 11, 2014

Classic film for beginners!

Myrna Loy, William Powell, and Maureen O'Sullivan have a rollicking good time in The Thin Man (1934).

So, word on the street is you're a classic film newbie. That's alright - it happens to the best of us! How do you go about losing your classic movie virginity, you ask? Simple. I've recommended a boat-load of films for you to dive into whether you're interested in westerns, pre-Codes, adventures, or even silent movies!

Learn more about my picks below and make a list of the films you're interested in seeing. Most of them are available online through e-tailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, also places like iTunes and your local library. If you have access to the Watch TCM app - lucky you! - you may even find some of these titles there.

First silent // The General (1926)
I watched this silent film for the first time late last year with my lovable Pops. To say that the both of us enjoyed it immensely is a gross understatement! This film will have you bug-eyed, sitting on the edge of your seat, and guffawing into your bowl of popcorn from start to finish. If you've yet to check out a silent feature, please let this one be the one that pops your cherry (so to speak, heh).

First pre-Code // Baby Face (1933)
This isn't the greatest pre-Code film I've ever seen (that one goes to The Public Enemy) but it's certainly the one that defines the genre the most succinctly and perfectly. Barbara Stanwyck is a spitfire in this film and she literally has to swat drunken, belligerent men away like flies. Sex, sex, and more sex ... and drinking, and near-nudity, and very suggestive subject matter; all great pre-Code traits presented to you, the audience, in a zippy seventy-six minutes! Keep a look-out for a very young John Wayne.

First musical // The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Hands down, without a doubt, this has got to be the first movie musical you watch. This was mine and once my nephews were old enough to understand it, I made sure it was theirs too! The story of a young girl who discovers that there's no place like home is a lesson learned that never goes out of style and precisely why this film has stood tall since its original release seventy-five years ago. The visuals are stunning, the soundtrack is freaking awesome, and the cast is superb! My favourite character has always been The Wicked Witch Of the West (played by the deliciously entertaining Margaret Hamilton).

First drama // Casablanca (1942)
When it comes to the Drama category, classic movie fans are rather spoiled for choice. There are so many films that I could have chosen for my pick of "first drama" but I ultimately settled on Casablanca for a few reasons: 1) the legendary cast, 2) the compelling story of a war-torn civilization, 3) the film's biting humour and, 4) its status as one of the greatest movies ever made (and it is). Admittedly, I didn't fully appreciate Casablanca until a few years ago when I watched it on the big screen at my local Cineplex. That trip to the theatre was a real eye-opener for me and it really made me fall hopelessly in love with the film!

First comedy // Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
This movie will have you laughing until your belly aches, trust me. If you're wanting to put off doing those pesky stomach crunches tonight, watch this movie instead. You'll probably end up getting more of a workout and, thus, burning more calories (but take it easy on the Milk Duds). Abbott and Costello made a number of these spoof horror movies but, out of the lot, this one is the best (in my humble opinion). I love watching this one every Halloween with my Pops and I'm sure you'll end up loving it just as much as we do!

First romantic comedy // It Happened One Night (1934)
I was an impressionable teenager when I first saw this movie and, naturally, I developed a mad crush on leading man Clark Gable because of it (and Claudette Colbert if I'm being completely honest). It Happened One Night won the Oscar for Best Picture of 1934 and for very good reason: it's a wonderful and very touching tale of a spoiled rich girl who falls for a down-on-his-luck newspaperman whilst running away and hiding out from her overbearing father. This movie is laugh-out-loud funny and contains one of the most iconic movie scenes ever put on celluloid: Colbert sticks out her bare leg and stops traffic - literally.

First horror // Dracula (1931)
Be honest: you all saw this coming, didn't you? My favourite horror film of all-time is ultimately the one I chose to be your first classic horror movie. I was thisclose to choosing Frankenstein (1931) but I just couldn't bring myself to cheat on my favourite fanged lothario. This movie will give you chills, make you cover your eyes in fright, and maybe - just maybe - make you want to be bitten by Bela Lugosi (he's dead so there's technically no way this dream will ever come true for you, sorry). It's best viewed on a dark and stormy night with the fireplace raging and all the lights turned off. Go for it!

First adventure/epic // The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
Don't you just love watching lean, handsome men with goatees dueling like crazy, armed with blatantly plastic swords? I do! Like The Wizard of Oz, this film is suitable for both children and adults and is one of the most entertaining romps through classic literature that you'll ever experience. Yes, star Errol Flynn is a bit cheesy in parts but that's arguably one of the film's finest features. Both Flynn and Robin Hood were cocky bastards (I suspect) so it's only natural for that to come across on-screen.

First western // Stagecoach (1939)
Thank the Lord for peer pressure because, without it, I would never have sat down to watch this film! This movie's got so much heart it's practically bleeding off the screen. It's a wonderful tale of nine people who get together, embark on a journey filled with pitfalls and danger, discover truths about one another and make it through to the end either changed forever, dead, or the same way they started out: stubborn as oxen. I found Stagecoach surprisingly funny, which is unusual for a western, and I'm ready to re-watch it right-freaking-now!

First noir // Gilda (1946)
It was a toss-up between Gilda and Laura (1944) for this category but I ultimately made my decision when I asked myself which one I'd rather watch on a continuous loop (if I was "forced" to). Both are stand-out noir films but Gilda holds more overall appeal, I think, because of its amazing story and equally amazing cast, plus the two leads - Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford - have crazy chemistry! Once you're done watching Gilda, you have my permission to give Laura a try too! Neither dame will let you down *wink*

If you're a classic film fan like I am, which films would you recommend to a newbie?

If you're a newbie and you've gone ahead and taken my advice on which films you should start off with, what did you think of my picks? Did you like them, hate them, did they turn you on to classic film watching? I'd love to know! Spill!

August 8, 2014

Cry Baby: Classics that make me blub like a baby!

Back in the old days - the '80s and '90s to be exact - I must have had a heart of stone because it took a lot to make me cry. I would watch the saddest movies and read the most heart-wrenching books and yet not a single tear used to spring forth from my hazel eyes. This all changed sometime within the past decade; the most mundane of things would suddenly set me off crying like a hungry infant! A yipping puppy - I'm crying. A freshly laundered white t-shirt that gets stained as soon as it's put on - I'm crying. A beautiful painting in a museum - yup, I'm crying. A newly purchased lipstick housed in the most stunning art deco packaging - you better believe I'm crying.

Dear readers, it's true. Sometime within the past ten years I have become an overly-emotional woman. Here are some of the classic films that get me blubbing into my stack of two-ply tissues:

Meet Me In St. Louis (1944) // The thought of the Smith family having to leave St. Louis for New York sends my emotions reeling and I just can't handle the upheaval. Tootie destroys her snowmen while I sit in front of the fire wiping my eyes with toilet paper (because I've just run out of tissues). That miraculous moment on Christmas Day when Papa Smith informs his family that they will not be moving house is enough to set me off for days! Good grief, I'm getting emotional just typing this out!

The Wizard of Oz (1939) // Clearly, there's something about a Judy Garland movie that breaks my heart. Here's another one starring the diminutive star with the huge voice; a fantastical tale of a child discovering that there's no place like home. Every time I see Dorothy clicking her shiny red heels, leaving the Land of Oz behind, I burst into tears immediately. The Scarecrow's tear-stained face doesn't help matters much, if I'm being honest. Ray Bolger is such an enabler.

Stella Dallas (1937) // The final moments of Stella Dallas are far too gut-wrenching for me to sit through without spilling wet, salty tears all over my shirtfront and couch cushion. The very sight of a disheveled Barbara Stanwyck standing on the street watching her privileged daughter marry her fiance through a window is the stuff of legend! It gets me every time! And the fact that Stanwyck is also blubbing away into her sodden handkerchief doesn't help matters much, does it? Where that woman leads, I follow.

It's A Wonderful Life (1946) // Christmas is supposed to be a time spent with family and loved ones, smiling furiously into chocolate puddings and expertly wrapped presents. So why do I always end up by myself, crying on one corner of the sofa while everyone else is in the next room partying it up? Four words: It's A Wonderful Life. That it is Jimmy, but please stop making me cry into my hot chocolate. For the sake of my festive drink - and for my eye makeup - please stop with your emotional stuttering outbursts and just put a lid on it!

I thought I'd also throw in a modern classic just for the hell of it:

"THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL!" Oh yes there damn well is, Tom. Now shut it.

A League Of Their Own (1992) // The ending of this movie fucking kills me. Kills me, I say, with sharp, pointed knives right through the heart! A League Of Their Own has always been one of my favourite movies of all time, and each time I sit down to watch it, I shed a tear because not only does this movie make me miss my youth, it also puts the whole aging process into perspective. In the film's final moments the audience finds out which ball players have survived and which have passed away either from age or illness or accident. There's also that heart-breaking scene in which we find out whose husband died during the war (WWII). I can't deal. I just can't.

Which classic movies make you shed a tear?

August 6, 2014

My classic film reading list for Fall 2014!

Can you believe it's August already? Seriously, where has the time gone?!

I've been reading an awful lot this summer and I'm pretty sure this satisfying hobby of mine will continue into the cooler months of Fall and Winter. I've already stocked my shelves full of books to read, placed some titles on hold at my local library, and made a list of more books to order online. Phew! Something tells me that come September 1st I'm going to be sat in front of a roaring fire, with a mug of tea by my side, swaddled in a soft blanket and enjoying page after page of riveting reads.

Here are some classic film books that I've got on my reading list for Fall 2014:

Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews by Carl E. Rollyson
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Dana Andrews was a total dish! Despite me having seen quite a few of his films there's very little I actually know about the man himself. I want to know how and where he grew up, what he excelled at in school, how he got into acting and how he caught his big break. Me, being the nosy person I am, I want to know more about his personal life and who he got along with most on and off-set. Book Status: Not Purchased

Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror by Michael Mallory
I don't think I even need to explain myself when it comes to this book.  I've been in love with the Universal Monsters since I was a little girl - strange, I know - and if it was up to me, I'd marry myself off to each one of them. Dracula could always use a fourth wife, couldn't he? Out of the three books on this list, I'll probably pick this one up first because this is the one I'm most excited about. Or, maybe I should wait a bit and save this one for Halloween? Book Status: Purchased

George Raft: The Man Who Would Be Bogart by Stone Wallace
Thanks to this blog post over at Let's Misbehave: A Tribute To Pre-Code Hollywood I've set my sights on this new(ish) biography on screen baddie George Raft. The trouble with Raft is that the few tidbits I've picked up about him over the years make him out to be some kind of Hollywood gangster who ruined his career because he stuck up for Bugsy Siegel. I feel like Raft's name has been mired in dirt and it's about time someone cleaned it up, restoring some goodness back onto the fallen (and mostly forgotten) star. Book Status: Purchased

So, there you have it! My autumnal reading list chock-full of what I'm sure will be great classic film-related books! One of the books I failed to mention in this post - Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice - was already on its way to me while I was writing this, and that's the one I currently have my nose buried in. I've spoken about it before on Stardust and I'll most likely do a small write-up of it once I'm done reading it.

What book(s) are you reading at the moment and which ones take pride of place on your Fall reading list this year? Tell me about them in the comments section down below!

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August 4, 2014

Book Look! The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

I've watched the 1941 film version of The Maltese Falcon more times than I can count on both hands, but I've never actually sat down and read the book. Written in 1929 by Dashiell Hammett and published a year later, this book is an engrossing mystery that takes the reader away to a world of private dicks, chain smoking, quirky, crooked characters and dark alleyways teeming with men - and women - cloaked in rain-soaked overcoats, vintage English pistols, and dusty ashes.

Hammett also wrote The Thin Man - which I read years ago - but I enjoyed The Maltese Falcon more. Let me tell you why: it's simple, it's straight forward, and it's a wild ride through the seedy underbelly of San Fransisco, California. The Thin Man was long-winded in parts but The Maltese Falcon was the total opposite and I polished it off in under three days. Hammett wastes no time at all in getting the party started, setting up the basic backstory and character development right from the get-go.

Humphrey Bogart was perfectly cast in the role of private detective Sam Spade; the role was tailor made for someone of Bogart's calibre. Every sneer and every cutting remark that graced the page looked and sounded as if it came straight from Bogie, and I love that. Hammett could never have known that Hollywood would adapt The Maltese Falcon for the silver screen back in 1929 or that Bogart would play one of his beloved literary characters, but it's as if he really did know! It's uncanny!

Reading this novel helped me understand the movie version a little more. At times, the film can seem a little convoluted and harried, confusing the audience and making them wonder aloud: Dude, what the heck just happened?! The film stayed very true to its source and only added in a few scenes here and there - no doubt, for "entertainment" purposes. The dialogue in the novel is quick-paced and absolutely brilliant! I can't tell you how many times I burst out laughing whilst reading this awesome tale *big huge grin*

Joel Cairo: You always have a very smooth explanation ready.
Sam Spade: What do you want me to do, learn to stutter?

If you're in the mood for a truly great mystery read I'd highly recommend this book to you. If you've already seen the film, you know how the story ends, but the novel is still worth picking up for the prestige alone. If you're a slow reader, like me, the book should only take you a few sittings to polish off and if you're a speed demon when it comes to reading, you'll finish it off within minutes of picking it up off the shelf!

August 1, 2014

Classic film book collection tour!

This post was a long time coming. The majority of my classic film books had been packed away in cardboard boxes for the better part of five years, sitting unloved in our garage winter after winter after winter. I finally managed to unearth them all a few weekends ago, dust them off and place them lovingly on my new basement bookshelves where I can stroke their spines and flip through their glossy pages once more.

I'm an avid collector. It's something that I've always enjoyed doing. Amassing sizable collections of various objects has always been one of my passions and I did it with puzzles, Barbie dolls, Archie comic books, European fashion magazines, first edition classics, and classic film memorabilia. I'm sitting here scratching my head, wondering how I even became a collector in the first place; I'm notorious for throwing things away and constantly clearing out cabinets, closets and shelves. I've always hated clutter and the hoarding of objects, so why the hell have I been collecting for thirty years??

The answer is simple: because I love frequently and I love passionately. And if there is one thing I'm absolutely sure of: I love classic film.

Here, I take you on a tour of my classic film bookshelves! This is where I keep all of my coffee table books, my autobiographies/biographies, my film books, and my rarities. The reason why everything is just thrown together on the shelves willy-nilly is because when people come over and have a look through my collection, I don't want them to feel pressured to put the books back in designated spots. Rather, they can just put them anywhere at all where there's room and not have to worry about keeping them in any particular order.

Here I go, dissecting each shelf one-by-one for you! I'll start at the top and work my way down to the bottom where all the good stuff lies (i.e. coffee table books). I've gone ahead and BOLDED my absolute favourite picks of the lot in case you were wondering which books I've enjoyed the most.

Top Shelf:

L - R: Life: Katharine Hepburn Commemorative 1907-2003 by Editors of Life (2003), Majestic Hollywood: The Greatest Films of 1939 by Mark A. Vieira (2013), Sotheby's Property From the Estate of Katharine Hepburn (2004), Kate Remembered by Editors of People Magazine (2003), Gene Tierney: A Biography by Michelle Vogel (2005), Gene Kelly: A Celebration by Sheridan Morley (1996), Conversations with Greta Garbo by Sven Broman (1992), The Making of The African Queen: Or, How I Went to Africa with Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind by Katharine Hepburn (1987), The Making of The Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz (1998), The Star Machine by Jeanine Basinger (2009), Complicated Women: Sex & Power in Pre-Code Hollywood by Mick LaSalle (2001), The Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers Book by Arlene Croce (1972), Leading Ladies: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actresses of the Studio Era by Molly Haskell (2006), Leading Men: The 50 Most Unforgettable Actors of the Studio Era by Molly Haskell (2006), Leading Couples by Frank Miller (2008), Judy Garland: A Biography by Anne Edwards (2013), I Do & I Don't: A History of Marriage In the Movies by Jeanine Basinger (2013), Fred Astaire: Steps In Time by Fred Astaire (1959), Clara Bow: Runnin' Wild by David Stenn (2000), Marlene Dietrich by Maria Riva (1994), Marlene Dietrich: Life & Legend by Steven Bach (2013), Vivien: The Life of Vivien Leigh by Alexander Walker (1987), Marilyn Monroe by Barbara Leaming (2010), Ava Gardner: Love Is Nothing by Lee Server (2007), The Million Dollar Mermaid: An Autobiography by Esther Williams (2001), Me by Katharine Hepburn (1996), Kate: The Woman Who Was Hepburn by William J. Mann (2007), Clark Gable: A Biography by Warren G. Harris (2005), Cary Grant: A Biography by Marc Eliot (2005), Jimmy Stewart: A Biography by Marc Eliot (2007).

Middle Shelf:

L - R: Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master by Michael Spagow (2008), Buzz: The Life & Art of Busby Berkeley by Jeffrey Spivak (2011), Greta Garbo: A Life Apart by Karen Swenson (1997), Robert Redford: The Biography by Michael Feeney Callan (2011), Brando: Songs My Mother Taught Me by Marlon Brando with Robert Lindsey (1994), Beautiful: The Life of Hedy Lamarr by Stephen Michael Shearer (2010), Paul Newman: A Life by Shawn Levy (2009), Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, & the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner & Nancy Schoenberger (2010), Spencer Tracy: A Biography by James Curtis (2011), Dark Victory: The Life of Bette Davis by Ed Sikov (2007), Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland by Gerald Clarke (2000), Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford, A Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler (2008), An Affair To Remember: The Remarkable Love Story of Katharine Hepburn & Spencer Tracy by Christopher Anderson (1997), John Wayne: The Life & Legend by Scott Eyman (2014), A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel - True, Volume One, 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson (2013), The Last Days of Marilyn Monroe by Donald H. Wolfe (1998), Fireball: Carole Lombard & the Mystery of Flight 3 by Robert Matzen (2014), Bombshell: The Life & Death of Jean Harlow by David Stenn (1993), Myrna Loy: Being & Becoming by James Kotsilibas-Davis & Myrna Loy (1987), John Gilbert: The Last of the Silent Film Stars by Eve Golden (2013), Ann-Margret: My Story by Ann-Margret (1994).

Bottom Shelf (my favourite):

L - R: Garbo: Portraits From Her Private Collection by Scott Reisfield & Robert Dance (2005), Joan Crawford: The Enduring Star by Peter Cowie (2011), Bette Davis: Larger Than Life by Richard Schickel & George Perry (2009), Lana Turner: The Memories, The Myths, The Movies by Cheryl Crane & Cindy De La Hoz (2008), The Marilyn Encyclopedia by Adam Victor (1999), Universal Studios Monsters: A Legacy of Horror by Michael Mallory (2009), Greta Garbo: A Cinematic Legacy by Mark A. Vieira (2005), Bogie: A Celebration of the Life and Films of Humphrey Bogart by Richard Schickel (2006), MGM: Hollywood's Greatest Backlot by Steven Bingen, Stephen X. Sylvester, & Michael Troyan (2011), Judy Garland: World's Greatest Entertainer by John Fricke (1992), The Films of Jean Harlow by Michael Ricci & Mark Conway (1965), Gary Cooper: Enduring Style by G. Bruce Boyer (2011), Marlene Dietrich: Photographs & Memories by Marlene Dietrich Collection (2001), Vivien Leigh: An Intimate Portrait by Kendra Bean (2013) x2, Ann Dvorak: Hollywood's Forgotten Rebel by Christina Rice (2013), George Raft: The Man Who Would Be Bogart by Stone Wallace (2008), Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label by Christian Esquevin (2008), The Looney Tunes Treasury by Andrew Farago & Ruth Clampett (2010), Hollywood Dreams Made Real: Irving Thalberg & the Rise of MGM by Mark A. Vieira (2008), Shall We Dance: The Life of Ginger Rogers by Sheridan Morley (1995), You Must Remember This: The Warner Bros. Story by Richard Schickel & George Perry (2008), The Wizard of Oz: An Illustrated Companion to the Timeless Movie Classic by John Fricke & Jonathan Shirshekan (2009), Silent Movies: The Birth of Film & the Triumph of Movie Culture by Peter Kobel & the Library of Congress (2007), Hollywood Costume by Deborah Nadoolman Landis (2013), George Hurrell's Hollywood by Mark A. Vieira (2013), Harlow In Hollywood by Mark A. Vieira & Darrell Rooney (2011), Some Like It Hot: The Official 50th Anniversary Companion by Laurence Maslon & Walter Mirisch (2009), Hurrell's Hollywood Portraits by Mark A. Vieira (1997).

My collection is nowhere near complete. There are still a bunch of books I'm planning to add to my shelves, namely a Dana Andrews biography and this monster of a tome. I've also been trying to hunt down a copy (in decent condition) of Mark A. Vieira's Sin In Soft Focus coffee table book for the past couple of years to no avail. One day I will have it! I will!

If you're interested in checking out some other fabulous classic film book collections, I'd recommend Cliff's post here - but, be warned: keep a box of tissues nearby because you will be salivating. It's inevitable as far as I'm concerned!

If you'd like to see more of my bookshelves please let me know in the comments section down below! I've always been an avid reader and, over the years, I've built up quite the collection of fiction and Fashion related books (thanks to my college fashion studies). Happy Reading!

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