Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween!!!


When the usual load of halloween horror films hit the screens, I would be much more likely to be found curling up in bed with something like Bringing Up Baby (1938) to take away the scariness. I love thrillers and have quite a penchant for non-gruesome scary films but when things start getting to chopping off heads, or serial killers with graphic murder resumes, I find I'm much better off behind my sofa. But come halloween I try at least to go in for a little of the scary nonsense... But mainly Hitchcock thrillers. Here are some of my favourite halloween movies. "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!", "The Telltale Heart" and House On Haunted Hill (only a B-Picture, but it has Vincent price, and it's fun!). I've embedded the latter two in full, but for "The Great Pumpkin" there are only clips.

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

{Found here}

The Telltale Heart, a surrealist animation of the classic horror story by Edgar Allan Poe narrated by James Mason,

and House On Haunted Hill (1959) starring Vincent Price.

An eccentric millionaire invites some of his colleagues to stay overnight at his mansion. If they survive they will receive $10,000... But will they survive?

Both are available in full on Youtube, so I thought it might be fun for you to take a look... If you dare... MWAHAHAHAHAH!!! (do you think I should stop the evil laugh? didn't think so... MWAHAHA! Sorry ;-D)


Thursday, 27 October 2011

"Me: Stories of My Life" by Katharine Hepburn

{I scanned all of these pictures - except the cover - come from my copy of "Me: Stories Of My Life" and the links link back to posts I've written}

I actually read the hardcover as it has more photos, but this one looks prettier :-)

Over the summer and the last little while, my family and I have been watching more Katharine Hepburn films than we used to. My sister and I convinced my parents to re-watch Adam's Rib and we all adored it so we ordered the Tracy/Hepburn signature collection (Woman Of The Year, Adam's Rib, Pat And Mike, The Keeper Of The Flame) and we loved them! We also re-watched Little Women, The Philadelphia Story,  and Bringing Up Baby and added to the list of "watcheds" Holiday, Stage Door, Rooster Cogburn, Desk Set and State Of The Union. Most of which had been elusively hiding in our half-watched Katharine Hepburn box-set. But then we also watched her documentary on the other disc of our copy of The Philadelphia Story, "Me, A Self Portrait" where she talks directly to the audience about her life, and we loved it. And after watching all of those films and the documentary she gained a spot in our top 5.

Recently I picked up two good nick second hand copies of her books, "Me: Stories Of My Life" and "The Making of The African Queen or How I Went To Africa With Bogart, Bacall and Huston and Almost Lost My Mind". They had to be second hand because the latter is out of print and I wanted a hardcover copy of her autobiography because apparently the publishers took away quite a few of the lovely pictures when they published the paperback, and I was in no position to pay £30 for a new copy. Luckily, when my copies arrived, they were good as new inside so great for scanning! YAY! So I finished "Little Women" (which was amazing, by the way) and started "Me". I finished it last night, sitting in bed weeping over the ending and knew that it certainly deserved a post.

Baby Kate

The book starts with her describing her childhood in Connecticut and carries on until the present day when she wrote the book in 1991.

When she shaved her head and called herself "Jimmy"

Father and Mother:

It's full of lovely anecdotes and the whole book is written just as she would speak (you can tell this if you've seen interviews with her or the aforementioned documentary) and it's lovely.

With her father

She is pretty random, but then I guess I'm pretty random too so maybe us random people can understand each other ;-D, but if you aren't into things like "the funny thing is that he never had a drink. Nothing at all, when he came to our house. We were friends for years. Oh, I meant to tell you. I was standing on my head the other day and I got to thinking how probably unusual it is for someone of my age to do this." Or when she starts writing the recipe for currant cake while talking about filming on location in Wales then you might be a bit like, "What?"

But I loved it... Kind of reminded me of moments in my science essays on my blog (Just kidding. Hahahaha. No.) I think it added to the more chatty format of the book.

Early play

There are some great parts of this book, such as her touching "letters" to Spencer Tracy near the end,

and her hilarious account of gardening with David Lean,

In her film with David Lean, Summertime

 and the accounts of all the favourite movies she made, and her chapter about George Cukor,

With George Cukor

 and of course her beloved family, too. But really, the gardening chapter is pretty funny. It goes from she, a friend and David Lean buying flowers and shrubs in a garden centre for the bottom of her garden at Fenwick (her family home), to her swearing and saying "F*** the roots! I thought; I'm going to die. What about my roots? These people are like a machine", and "I'm going to stay out here and struggle until they quit or until I die." It's really funny. Something not so funny, however was how she survived the 1938 hurricane, but her house was swept right away.

"Fenwick now" 1991

Out of the three autobiographies I've read ("Home" by Julie Andrews, "The Lonely Life" by Bette Davis and this) I think I enjoyed this the most. The other two were great, and the Julie Andrews one was interesting even though it only covers her early life (up until Mary Poppins), but they had something missing just a little, and I don't think it was neccesarily their fault.

"Early acting efforts"

Bette Davis chose to write hers when she was still only in her 50s and she really was quite bitter about some things. She had a tough time and it showed in her attitude a bit. Julie Andrews wrote a really good autobiography, but I can't actually judge her whole story properly until the next chapter is written... come on Julie!

With her sisters

But Katharine Hepburn obviously had a very positive outlook and a good time in life.

The Broadway play of "The Philadelphia Story"

She had a nice, secure family life and that is always the foundation for someone having an optimistic and overall happy life, I think. There were a few tragedies, she discovered her older brother hanging from a piece of bed sheet at a friend's house, but they never knew if it was suicide or an accident. Really heartbreaking, so she became the eldest. But she coped alright becuase she had a great family behind her backing her all the way.

With Franklin Roosevelt

I would most certainly recommend that you read this book if you haven't already. Even if you aren't the biggest Katharine Hepburn fan.

Practicing golf for Bringing Up Baby

It's a really nice and easy read full of wonderful sentiment without ever getting over the top or irritating. I also think this is one of the first times she says what her actual birthday is, 12th May 1907. When I told my mum about that and Katharine Hepburn's problems with her voice, she said "Ah, she's a taurus! No wonder she gets a bad throat." I love my mum.

Me and my mum are both of the taurus star-sign (17th May and 21st April respectively) so that was pretty funny, especially as we both sometimes get throat problems. I did after I had a part in Bugsy Malone which called for screeching and then screaming, "There's No Business Like Show Business" at the top of my voice... I digress. Minus a few incidents, she's a great role model for women, and I can honestly say that it would be awesome to be like her when I grow up ;-D. Seriously, GO READ IT! I loved it. It's a great way to spend a little while :-)

Skateboarding. Just too cool.


Saturday, 22 October 2011

My Favouritest And My Best: Screwball Comedy Characters Part 1

{I've named this post "Part 1" because I might see more screwball comedies and want to add to my list. Plus, there are way too many to list all in one go :-D}

{My Badge :-D}

I have recently grown to like to screwball comedies. I don't like all of them, but some of them are really funny. The thing that strikes me is, that the main component of a screwball comedy is the characters. Put them in any situation you want, but the characters need to be really intriguing or interesting for the story to work. Therefore, the actors playing them need to be able to pull their weight. Believe me. Put a bad actor in even a good screwball comedy and everyone in the audience will squirm in their seats. It makes the whole thing awkward. I've written about some of these as couples, because I love them both and they are both awesome together. I need to do one about favourite screwball comedy animals soon... Asta anyone? But I've given it some thought and here are my favourite characters as they were performed by the actor, in the screwball comedies I've seen - in no particular order.

Susan Vance and Doctor David Huxley played by Katharine Hepburn and Cary Grant respectively in Bringing Up Baby 1938

{Scanned by me}

Susan Vance is the sweet, troublemaking, ditzy heiress-female lead of Howard Hawks's comedy about a girl who gets a leopard in the post and drags her new paleontologist acquaintance into taking it to her farm in Connecticut on the day he is meant to be getting married. Add to this a pre-historic dinosaur bone and a playful dog and you have a fantastic screwball comedy! I just adore Susan. Whenever I trip over a coffe table, or spill something or lose something important I just think to myself, that was so Susan Vance. Katharine Hepburn plays her wonderfully as well and she more than holds her own against Cary Grant. Oh yeah, and she deals pretty well with the leopard.

Cary Grant on the other hand...

Well, lets just say, he and the cat weren't the best of friends. He was so scared of the leopard that - according to legend - the cast and crew threw a stuffed leopard through the air-shaft of his dressing room and he ran out as fast as lightening :-D. I love Doctor David Huxley. Geek specs and all. Cary Grant is absolutely crazy in this role, and you just have to love him for it, because in the end you know the result will be fantastic. I shall remain a Cary Grant fan 'till the end. He is my favouritest and my best of everything... Ever. If only all paleontologists were as amazing as Doctor Huxely.
*Weeps silently to self over the insanely awesome fantasticness of Cary Grant in geek gear*.

Peter Warne played by Clark Gable in It Happened One Night 1934

I love Clark Gable. I mean, who doesn't really? And he is so funny in this film, the classic Frank Capra directed rom-com. Peter Warne is a journalist who finds the runaway heiress everyone is looking out for (always an heiress involved) and offers to help her get back to her husband who her father disapproves of - if she'll give him a story. One of my all time favourite scenes in any comedy is Clark Gable's stupendous hitch-hiking scene which goes from teaching Claudette Colbert the rules of hitchhiking to  running through all of his hitch-hiking techniques in a row to attract several hundred cars that all pass by at once. It's hilarious and his whole performance is great too

Alice Sycamore and Tony Kirby played by Jean Arthur and James Stewart respectively in You Can't Take It With You 1938

I had to pair these as a joint favourite because it has to be the "rat with hair on it" scene that swayed me.

  You Can't Take It With You is a film about an eccentric family with a daughter who decides she wants to marry Tony Kirby, the only interesting member of a boring banking family. But what will happen when the two families meet? Jean Arthur and James Stewart work so well together. I adore them in this, and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. Jean Arthur is always so lively and James Stewart is playing one of his awesome characters of the Macaulay Connor variety where he gets to go absolutely bonkers. This time in a restaurant. It is seriously hilarious.


Capt. Henri Rochard played by Cary Grant in I Was A Male War Bride 1949

I Was A Male War Bride is the story of the French army officer Henri Rochard who is always being teamed with Lt Catherine Gates, much to his dismay. They don't get along at first but then find that they love each other and want to get married. But Catherine realises that she has to be shipped back to the US, and the only way for Henri to come with her is for him to get a visa as a "War Bride". It's actually too funny for words. everyone says that their favourite scene from this movie is when Cary Grant dresses as a woman to get across to the US, but my favourite is when he gets stuck in Ann Sheridan's room after he has massaged her to sleep (sounds weird out of context but believe me it is hysterical). Cary Grant is so great at physical "clowning". There isn't a moment when you can't see that he is really thinking about his movements. Such a funny film.

Irene Bullock played by Carole Lombard in My Man Godfrey 1936

Irene Bullock finds Godfrey living on a city dump in the great depression while she is on a scavenger hunt (upper class style... they have to find a "forgotten man"!). He likes Irene, but hates her sister Cornelia and pushes her into a pile of rubbish and lets Irene take him to the scavenger hunt head quarters so she will win. But Irene starts falling for Godfrey and hires him as their butler. I'd never seen any Carole Lombard films before (I know, shock horror), and I loved her in this film! She's hilarious with William Powell - who even on his own is pretty darn awesome - and I love this film. Afterwards I was a bit like, "Whoa. That was crazy." But then I realised that it was not only crazy, but REALY GOOD TOO! All I have to say is, "GODFREY LOVES ME! HE PUT ME IN THE SHOWER!"

So there is Part 1. There will be a Part 2 following sometime in the future. I hope you enjoyed this post!

By the by, I got braces on my teeth the other day and they hurt for the first day or two. Ouch! But it reminded me of this really sweet scene in My Favourite Wife (1940) with Irene Dunne, so I hit photoshop and made a graphic for it! Hope you like it :-)

{My graphic, love Irene Dunne!}


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Photo Of The Day

{Oleg Cassini and Grace Kelly scanned by me}

I was watching Grace Kelly in To Catch A Thief (1955) and remembered how I actually do like her. I always see The Philadelphia Story and compare Katharine Hepburn's fantastic performance to her OK one in High Society and obviously immediately think, oh, she can't be any good. Because I just like Katharine Hepburn more and think she is a better actress, but I do like Grace Kelly in some things :-)

I have just come back from being at my friends house with my sister all day. We got up to all kinds of awesomeness. In 9 hours we managed to help my sister with her homework, challenge and sometimes be beaten by 9 year olds on my sister's maths website to earn her credits (oops), learn to finger knit, bake a red velvet cake (chocolate with red food coulouring. Yum.), make facial hair disguises for ourselves and then wear them to go and check up on my dog (yes. We got weird looks), eat dinner and watch Woman Of The Year (it was my friend's birthday yesterday and I gave a her a book on shopping vintage and the Tracy/Hepburn signature set - the best thing ever - as she is my classic film buddy :-D). It was very productive, in a Bette-with-her-two-equally-hyper-comrades-together-in-a-house kind of way :-D!


P.S. Don't forget the voting for the Bette Davis contest is still on, you can vote HERE

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Stage Door (1937)

I watched Stage Door (1937) the other day and knew right there and then that it certainly deserved a post. I mean, Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, Adoplhe Menjou and Lucille Ball, all in one film? Count me in!

"It'd be a terrific innovation if you could get your mind to stretch a little further than the next wisecrack."
~Terry Randall from Stage Door

Stage Door (1937) Directed by Gregory La Cava

Terry Randall: I see that, in addition to your other charms, you have that insolence generated by an inferior upbringing. Jean Maitland: Hmm! Fancy clothes, fancy language and everything! Terry Randall: Unfortunately, I learned to speak English correctly. Jean Maitland: That won't be of much use to you here. We all talk pig latin. 



The Footlights club is a theatrical boarding house in New York, inhabited by fast-talking, quick-witted showgirls all desperately in need of a job. Some of them, like Linda, take the easy way out by having a "sugar daddy" to buy her clothes and take her out, but the others take it the hard way. Work all the way. None more so than Jean Maitland who is determined to be "discovered" the right way. One day, Terry Randall arrives at the Footlights Club. Though slightly stage struck, Terry isn't going to take any nonsense. But she is teased by the other girls for being rich and well educated (her father is "Henry Sims, the wheat king", though she keeps that under wraps), especially by her new roommate, Jean. They don't hit it off well and Jean says they, "started off on the wrong foot, so lets stay that way." Despite Terry's efforts to be friendly.

One lodger in particular is finding it hard to get a job, Kay Hamilton was a big success in a play produced by Anthony Powell, but now can't get any work. 

One day she goes to Powell's office in search of the lead part in his new play "Enchanted April", with which she has a personal connection. After she is refused his audience for the nth time that week, she faints at the desk. Just before this, Terry comes in and sees all and she does storm the office - but to go and give Powell a piece of her mind.

Powell (left) "entertaining" Linda

After this, the girls start to give her a little more respect. But when Jean starts being tempted by Anthony Powell's fancy clothes and dinner trips and broadway star power, Terry steps in and goes to Anthony's apartment; to talk business. And not knowing that her good friend Kay wanted the part, get's the lead in Enchanted April. A play that her millionaire father is secretly financing on the condition that Terry plays the lead. But there is a lot more to go wrong than Terry suspects. And Kay is at her very lowest, with tragic results.

The Verdict:

I really liked this film. I know that it not everyone thinks it's amazing... but "I like it!" (Singing In The Rain reference, anyone? or just me.) I do completely get that Katharine Hepburn didn't understand her character and said that she was unimportant in the story, but the way that she plays Terry makes her essential to the film. It is quite vague and I can't imagine how hard it would be to make a memorable character from the lines alone, but Katharine Hepburn manages to give it the extra attitude and personality that was needed to make the role. She actually asked the director Gregory La Cava what the main point of her character was and he replied "She is a human question mark." After she asked him what that meant he replied, "Damned if I know." 

"The callalilies are in bloom again. Such a strange flower. Suitable to any occasion... I carried them on my wedding day and now I place them here in memory of something that has died." ~ Enchanted April

I really enjoyed Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Roger's performance together, even though they reportedly hated each other on set, but I liked the banter and the witty insults. Apparently {cue long-winded, might not even be true story...} the scriptwriters were inspired by listening to the actresses talk on set and lots of the fast paced exchanges and all that jazz is kind of what they sounded like! Cool, no? {And not as long-winded as predicted. Well there's a first time for everything ;-)} And this was my first Ginger Rogers film!

There are basically no men in this film, and I enjoyed the atmosphere of the predominantly women cast, a little like The Women. And this is all going fine and then BAM! Adolphe Menjou!

He's a good actor and all, but in this (and everything else I've seen him in) he has more than the average dose of sleazy. His whole section of the plot wasn't very well developed, and I think that problem stems from the fact that the character of Anthony Powell wasn't in the original play.

There were quite a few emotional moments in the film, but the one that really got me upset was when Jean walks into Terry's dressing room *SPOILERS AHEAD* and tells her that Kay has committed suicide and blames Terry. Then after Jean leaves Terry has a complete crying fit and is just heartbroken and I was just sitting there with my sister and both of us were really sad.

All the supporting actresses playing the roommates in the boarding house are great. I love Ann Miller and she was actually only fourteen when she made this! In the words of the wise Jo March... CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS! That is actually only one year older than me and she is up there dancing with Ginger Rogers and acting with Katharine Hepburn and Lucille Ball and Adolphe Menjou... Wow. I better start getting a move on!

Awesome, if not a trifle over-enthusiastic...

Lucille Ball is a also lovely, I haven't seen any "I Love Lucy" and I really want to! It's not available on youtube either so I'm just gonna have to wait until at least Christmas.

Eve Arden was also really funny :-D. Andrea Leeds is so fantastic. Just heartbreaking!

Here are two great quotes from Eve Arden's character in the film:

Mary Lou: Well, certainly you must have heard of "Hamlet"! 
Eve: Well, I meet so many people.

Eve: A pleasant little foursome. I predict a hatchet murder before the night's over. 

My mum also told me that Constance Collier is a great favourite of my Grandma's. I can see why. She was totally in her character the whole way through. At the beginning I was a bit concerned about how the performance would turn out, but I found that her portrayal worked out better than I had expected. Also, during the filming, she and Katharine Hepburn became great friends and remained so for the rest of her life. During Katharine Hepburn's stretch of time during the 50s when she played lots of Shakespeare and classics Constance Collier was her acting coach and when Constance Collier died, her secretary came to work for Katharine Hepburn, and did for 40 years. I think that's lovely :-)

And can I just say... Is Gail Patrick like, omnipresent? I don't know what it is but she has been in three of the films I've watched recently and I feel like she's just there... Always playing the same character... It's a bit weird...

Overall a very enjoyable film. Not a masterpiece and there are some holes and slow drags in the script but there are certain parts which I thought were fantastic. Definitely worth a watch.