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20th Century Fox Brings Classics to Blu-ray

Twentieth Century Fox has announced a brand new interactive campaign “Voice Your Choice” which allows fans to select films for digital restoration and Blu-ray release. In addition to this program, Fox Home Entertainment will be releasing at least one classic film title on Blu-ray each month categorized as “20th Century Fox Studio Classics.”

The “Voice Your Choice” campaign starts today. You can vote at www.hometheaterforum.com and at www.foxconnect.com

 

Voice Your Choice Titles

Jesse James
Call of the Wild
The Little Princess
Steamboat Round the Bend
Swanee River 
The Return of Frank James
That Night in Rio
Pin Up Girl

The Black Swan
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

My Gal Sal
Kiss of Death

To the Shores of Tripoli
Captain From Castile

My Friend Flicka
The Blue Bird

Crash Drive
A Letter to Three Wives

Hello, Frisco, Hello
Mother Wore Tights

Don’t Bother to Knock
Cheaper by the Dozen

Carmen Jones
On the Riviera

Anastasia
Black Widow

Broken Lance
The True Story of Jesse James

Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?
The Tall Men

Desk Set
The Best of Everything

The River’s Edge
The Bravados

The Inn of the Sixth Happiness 
From the Terrace
Morituri

Two for the Road
North to Alaska

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Bandolero!

Let’s Make Love
Do Not Disturb

The Agony and the Ecstasy
Back Door to Hell

How to Steal a Million
Bedazzled (1968)

The Undefeated
The 300 Spartans

Can-Can

20th Century Fox Studio Classics scheduled releases on Blu-ray:

1/15
Titanic (1953)
How Green Was My Valley
Wild River
Gentlemen’s Agreement

2/5
Laura

3/26
Panic in the Streets

4/2
Hello, Dolly!

5/7
Viva Zapata!

 

What titles would you like to see released on Blu-ray through this new program?

Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital 1928-1937

Courtesy of Angel City Press
Courtesy of Angel City Press

 

Jean Harlow epitomizes the essence of old Hollywood glamour and stardom. Although she died young, she has an  immortal presence that has lasted for over 70 years. Perhaps it’s because we never saw her grow old. Her youthfulness, beauty, and sexuality are all perfectly preserved as if she were truly alive and breathing. Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937) is a loving and dedicated tribute to “The Baby.”  The book is filled with photos from author Darrell Rooney’s personal collection (one of the most complete Harlow collections in existence),and a well written biography by Mark A. Vieira that only a fan could compose. Vieira describes Harlow as intelligent, well-read, friendly, and loving–and always seeking love.

Harlow rose to stardom in Hollywood rather quickly, had a solid work ethic, and always did what the studio asked of her. Although she often portrayed women of a certain character, audiences absolutely loved her. This proved to be especially true when her second husband, MGM producer Paul Bern, committed suicide. A scandal of this sort was considered a career killer, but not in Harlow’s case. She had achieved ultimate star status and was granted a level of immunity.

In addition to various marital/relationship troubles, Harlow had a controlling and demanding mother. Jean Bello regularly took advantage of her famous daughter, often without Harlow even recognizing it. Vieira largely portrays Mother Jean and her husband Marino Bello (Harlow’s step-father) in a less than positive light, as he should. All accounts state that the Bellos were greedy, manipulative, and exploited Harlow for their own personal gain.

Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937) is one of the most beautiful and thoughtfully designed books I have ever read. From her first days in Hollywood, to her final photo shoot with friend Clark Gable, and ending with her devastatingly premature death, Rooney and Vieira manage to capture the essence of Harlow’s spirit. The photo for the front cover features a goddess-like Harlow in a slinky satin gown–her trademark. What lies within that cover exceeds even the highest expectations. Each page is filled with lovely photos, some rare, of Harlow and her family, friends, and co-stars. The attention to detail is noticed in even the smallest touches, like the design for the page numbers, font, and coloring.

I did not want to put this book down. I stayed up very late to finish it, and when I was done I was in tears. It haunted me. When I fell asleep I dreamed of Harlow’s death. When I woke in the morning, I felt like I had been right there with her. As I wrote in my review of the stellar Judy: A Legendary Film Career, I am often hesitant to embrace so-called “gift books.” Many times, these types of books feature low quality photos and text. Fortunately, that is not the case here.  Harlow in Hollywood is an essential for Jean Harlow and classic film fans alike.

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Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937)
ISBN: 9781883318963
Angel City Press
March 2011
240 pages

Full disclosure: I received a copy of Harlow in Hollywood: The Blonde Bombshell in the Glamour Capital (1928-1937) directly from the publisher Angel City Press. I thank the publisher for the opportunity to review this book.

Gary Cooper: Enduring Style

From Gary Cooper: Enduring Style by G. Bruce Boyer and Maria Cooper Janis, published by powerHouse Books
From Gary Cooper: Enduring Style by G. Bruce Boyer and Maria Cooper Janis, published by powerHouse Books

When thinking about men’s fashion in old Hollywood, there are two actors who immediately come to mind: Cary Grant and Gary Cooper. Both had impeccable taste and appreciated high quality, custom tailored clothing, and both had wardrobes inspired by European fashion. Although Grant looked great in everything, he didn’t always look comfortable in more casual attire. This is not the case with Gary Cooper. He somehow made a cowboy hat and jeans look attainable to the every man, yet kept a look of sophistication.

Gary Cooper: Enduring Style is a lovely collection of private family photos showcasing Cooper’s sartorial elegance, beginning from his days in a prestigious private school in England, up to and around the time of his death in 1961. The book is reminiscent of a family album, with one or two photos to a page. Images of Gary and his wife Rocky relaxing poolside, on hunting trips with Clark Gable, and skiing with Ingrid Bergman are all wonderful additions.  The captions are minimal, allowing the photos to speak for themselves.

With a foreward by Ralph Lauren, a brief yet thorough biography by G. Bruce Boyer, and afterward by Cooper’s only child Maria Cooper Janis, Gary Cooper: Enduring Style is a wonderful tribute to a beloved Hollywood icon. I appreciate the artistic quality of the book in the images selected. For the serious Gary Cooper fan,  Enduring Style is a must have.

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Gary Cooper: Enduring Style
ISBN: 9781576875865
PowerHouse Books
November 2011
200 pages

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of Gary Cooper: Enduring Style for review directly from the publisher, powerHouse Books. The book is available for purchase here. I would like to thank the publisher for the opportunity to review this book.

For the Boys Blogathon: Buddies Forever!

This post is my submission for The Scarlett Olive’s For the Boys Blogathon. I would like to thank Katie and Hilary for hosting this event and welcoming my participation.

Note: You will NOT see the word “Bromance” mentioned in this post. I find it to be the most ridiculous term ever. I will also go on record to say that I strongly dislike “Chick-flick”, “Bromcom”, “Romcom”. You will see the words “man”, “manly” and “dude” maybe even “dudely.”

Ah, the buddy flick. Two guys (sometimes more) out to take on the world. It doesn’t matter when, where, and how their journey takes place, it’s about their friendship and how they deal with adversity and triumph. Women may come and go, and there may even be a fight between them over the same woman. Yet almost always, the friendship will prevail–even in death.  Using the mechanism of the buddy film, Hollywood is able to appeal to men’s emotional side. In classic film, a vast majority of the buddy films appear to be dramas. In the gangster genre I immediately think of James Cagney and Pat O’Brien. These two were close friends in real life, and although they made all kinds of films (and frequently collaborated Frank McHugh, another close pal), I always think of their roles in Angels with Dirty Faces. Another pairing is that of William Powell and Clark Gable. Theirs was in Manhattan Melodrama, one of my favorites, and a similar story line to that of Angels with Dirty Faces: two young friends grow up together on the wrong side of the tracks. One makes it to the right side and lives an honorable and decent life, while the other continues in a life of crime. Despite their differences, they remain friends and can always pick up where they left off.

In the action/adventure genre there is only one teaming that comes to mind: Errol Flynn and Alan Hale. Although Hale was very much a supporting character to Flynn’s leading roles, it’s hard to think of one without the other. Flynn is charming and handsome, and Hale is the sidekick with all the funny quips. They get along so well because there is no competition over women. They each know their place and are friends until the very end. There are some classic comedies with best pals. First are the Road pictures starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. In the silent era, Buster Keaton and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle made quite the team. Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, The Marx Brothers are all perfect examples. There are even buddies in musicals, with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra starring in three films (Anchors Aweigh, On the Town, and Take Me Out to the Ballgame) immediately coming to mind.

Of all the genres, the two that are the fullest of testosterone and strong male friendships, are war stories and westerns. From Battleground to Ride the High Country, these films always feature two friends dealing with the toughest of circumstances.

In the 1980′s and early 1990′s, theaters were inundated with action-packed, testosterone-fueled BFF adventures: 48 Hours, Beverly Hills Cop, Lethal Weapon, and their respective sequels (and threequels and fourquels). These films definitely appealed to a very male audience, but frequently cast the current luscious beefcake to help draw in the ladies. At the time many of these films were considered edgy. By today’s standards, the “raunchy” language of 1980s Eddie Murphy is a distant memory (after all, he is Donkey, Doctor Dolittle and runs Daddy Day Care…oh and he occasionally gives car rides to needy transvestite hookers). In recent years the buddy flick has become an exposition for the raunchiest language, random and pointless nudity (each film appears to compete for the most hideous nude scene or most graphic discussions about bodily functions), and general caveman-like behavior. Their masculinity is worn not on their sleeve, but on a t-shirt three sizes too small and positioned squarely on their chest. Underneath is a tagline that says “I love boobies and I’m absolutely and positively NOT GAY!.”  Some of these newer films are quite funny, despite their overt attempts at pure manly manliness (I give Judd Apatow a lot of credit because his films have heart, sometimes too much. They also appear to be a little insecure about acknowledging love between two friends, re: constant gay jokes).

Going back to classics, I have to admit that I love a lot of the “manly” genres. Some of my favorite films feature two male friends. Sure there might be a love interest, but the friendship is always a main attraction. When thinking about the films for this blogathon, I turned to my husband. The two of us compared our list of quintessential male buddy films and we had a lot of duplicates. However, he had several listed that I did not consider. A few of them are highlighted below.

Cool Hand Luke

My husband is very adamant over Cool Hand Luke being the essential buddy flick. There are no women (unless you consider the big bosomed car wash lady), thus no traditional romance. The “romance” is between the two main characters Luke (Paul Newman) and Dragline (George Kennedy). It is Luke’s strength and determination (and Messiah-like presence) to find a way out that has Dragline and the whole chain gang admiring him. Dragline’s devotion to Luke is so strong and he risks his life just to be around him. Call it hero worship. They are a mismatched duo, but they have each other’s back right to the end. No women, no fortune, no prospects– just brought together by incredibly horrendous circumstances. How does Cool Hand Luke appeal to women? I don’t think I should have to answer that one.

Gunga Din

I have to admit that George Stevens’s classic is one of my all time favorites. In my opinion it is one of the greatest action/adventure films ever made. The friendship between Cutter (Cary Grant), MacChesney (Victor McLaglen), and Ballantine (Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.) is unwavering. That’s not to say they do not have their differences. Cutter is a bit of a handful with his pipe dreams about finding hidden treasures and golden palaces, and often agitates his comrades. MacChesney is the highest ranked officer of the trio and tries to maintain straight military protocol. Ballantine struggles over starting his life with the woman he loves, or continuing the adventures with his best friends. In addition to the strong friendship between the three, Cutter forms an unlikely bond with the regiment’s water boy, Gunga Din (Sam Jaffe). The two have a mutual admiration and both set out to find their fortunes. Although there is a female character, Ballantine’s fiancee Emmy (Joan Fontaine), she is negatively portrayed as needy and generally whiny. Not great for female viewers, but it helps reinforce the unbreakable bond between the best friends. Despite this, I still love the story and the main characters. Although it ends on a bittersweet note, Gunga Din is also quite a funny film at times.

Blazing Saddles

I realize that Blazing Saddles does not fall under the traditional “classic film” label because it was made after the 1969 cut-off, but it would be flat out wrong to dismiss it strictly based on when it was made. Mel Brooks is a master and Blazing Saddles is his finest masterpiece. Sure it is off-color at times, but it all comes from a good place. Brooks took the typical western (and the musical) and turned it upside down. The Ballad of Rock Ridge is a parody of the main theme in the film High Noon, Madeline Kahn is in full Marlene Dietrich mode with her stage performances, and the hero is…black. Whoa! A western with a black hero? And his sidekick is white? Obviously this arrangement makes way for a endless amount of jokes, but also serves as a commentary on racism. Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) and Jim (Gene Wilder) form a fast friendship. They are both social outcasts– Bart because he is black, and Jim because he’s a drunk, and fallen from his glory days as sharpshooter The Waco Kid. The pair team up to save the town of Rock Ridge against the evil forces of Hedley “That’s Hed-ley” Lamarr (Harvey Korman). Underneath the sometimes gross humor (the farting scene) and colorful language, is a story about two best friends…who ride into the sunset not on their horses, but in a limousine.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

For my husband, Cool Hand Luke is the ultimate buddy film. For me, I look no further than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. From start to tragic finish, it is a beautiful film. Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) rob trains and banks. They are really good at it too. Although criminals, they are loved from the first moment. The two are partners through and through right until the bloody end. Butch and Sundance are truly living an outlaw’s life, but having loads of fun in the process. They are also fortunate enough to keep company with the beautiful Etta Place (Katharine Ross), who loves them both. She teaches them manners and Spanish, and goes along with their schemes for a time. She doesn’t overstay her welcome though. This is one of the few male geared films that has a positive female role.

Only Angels Have Wings

Although heavy on the adventure and romance, Only Angels Have Wings features a strong friendship between two men: Geoff Carter (Cary Grant) and Kid Dabb (Thomas Mitchell) and they absolutely adore one another. Each would walk through fire for the other, and both value honesty, even when the truth hurts. Geoff has his problems with commitment to women, although Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur) is making quite the impression. When Geoff grounds Kid from flying, the decision is not an easy one. Geoff knows how much it bruises Kid’s ego, but it’s the right decision to keep everyone safe. That is what a true friend does– makes a hard decision to save a life, even if it damages the friendship.

There are several more films that need an honorable mention. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the ultimate buddy epic. Two best friends, Frodo and Sam literally going to the ends of the earth knowing they may never make it back. Not only do they have each other, but they have the support of many others from their original band of brothers. The Big Lebowski features two friends (three if you count poor Donny) that couldn’t be more different. The Dude (Jeff Bridges) is a burned out hippie who lives for bowling, Creedence, White Russians, and his rug (which really tied the room together). Walter (John Goodman) is a Vietnam vet with major anger issues, who often babysits his ex-wife’s dog (“It’s a f*cking show dog with f*cking papers”). This mismatched duo, with their sad little friend Donny, encounter the most bizarre of situations. Although The Dude is often disgusted with Walter’s behavior, he ultimately enjoys his company.

To close out this entry on a testosterone fueled note, here are BFF’s Roddy Piper and Keith David beating the shit out of each other.

Note: The video features fantastic shit-kickery and some bad language, so don’t watch at work, church, or around the kiddies.

“Either put on these glasses, or start eating that trash can.”

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Wife vs. Secretary (1936)


Well dear, men are like that. So honorable and able and wise in some things, and just like naughty children in others. You wouldn’t blame a little boy for stealing a piece of candy if left alone in a room with a box full of it, would you?

I am ashamed to say that I haven’t watched many “new to me” classic films lately. I’ve been so incredibly exhausted that whenever I snag a spare moment I fall back on my tried and true favorites. Lots of Wyler, Wilder, and Hitchcock. Not a bad group to fall back on, but it’s not like me to go this long without discovering something new. Maybe I’m still bitter about losing everything on my DVR and that’s why I’ve been so unenthusiastic. Whatever the reason, my dry spell is over! I don’t know if I picked the best for my movie watching homecoming, but it feels good to be back regardless.

As you will come to realize, I have many favorite actors and actresses. Four of them are in this movie (well, one has a relatively small role. The horror!): Clark Gable, Jean Harlow, Myrna Loy, and a really young and adorable James Stewart. Wife vs. Secretary is a perfect example of the typical run of the mill studio production: top talent under contract forced to make 3 or 4 movies at a time and regurgitated story lines. Definitely not the most memorable film in terms of film quality or story, but memorable because of those involved.

I don’t think anyone would deny the incredible chemistry between Gable and Loy and especially between Gable and Harlow in all of the movies they made together. Wife vs. Secretary is no exception. Gable is Van Stanhope (V.S.), a successful publisher and devoted husband to Linda, played by Loy. Harlow is “Whitey”, Van’s secretary and go-to gal. V.S. and Whitey’s relationship is purely business. Linda acknowledges Whitey’s importance to V.S. and his business affairs and never shows any shred of jealousy. She even expresses gratitude at Whitey’s helpfulness…until V.S’s mother Mimi (May Robson) suggests her son and Whitey are having an affair. Linda scoffs at the idea until a series of suspicious circumstances leads her to question V.S.’s fidelity.

Although I enjoyed Wife vs. Secretary, I had no real investment in the story or the characters for that matter. Gable is charming, as he is in every role, but his performance falls flat. I don’t think it is his fault, but rather because of poor writing. Harlow, known for her more seductive roles, is actually playing against type for a change. According to comments made by Myrna Loy, Harlow desperately wanted to be taken more seriously and wanted to shake the loose lady image. As Whitey she accomplishes that, which is completely refreshing to see. It’s also sad because she had a long career ahead of her and it was tragically cut short. I’m torn about Myrna Loy’s character. I love the sex appeal she brings to the role. It’s not often we see a wife with sex appeal who is also faithful. However,  I do not love Loy as the weakling. I like my Loy to be sensible and independent. Doesn’t everyone? James Stewart has a minor role as Whitey’s dopey-eyed boyfriend Dave. He wants to marry her but does not support her choice to continue working once they are wed. Stewart’s performance is effective and there are glimpses of the grand actor we know and love today.

One thing I always love about Depression-era films is their portrayal of the wealthy and elite classes. At the beginning of the film, V.S. and Linda are celebrating their wedding anniversary. V.S. surprises Linda with a diamond bracelet inside her breakfast fish. 1) Who eats a whole damn trout for breakfast and 2)who puts ridiculously expensive jewels inside a fish to be discovered? Apparently Myrna Loy was not too fond of that scene and tried to have it removed from the film. I also love the solution to a dissolving marriage: Take an ocean voyage! Nothing like the slow boat to Europe to think about your life. I guess it’s to avoid the prying eyes of the gossip columns and the social set. I must remember that if my husband and I ever have marital problems, I should book a cruise immediately.