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There Once Was a Man From Nantucket…

True Classics is three years old! (!!!!!!!!) In the blogging racket, three years is an ETERNITY. I raise my bottle of Boone’s Farm to the entire True Classics crew: Brandie, Nikki, Carrie, and Sarah. Thanks for being amazing classic film ambassadors and all-around awesome-y!  To celebrate the occasion, the ladies are hosting a limerick contest! Below are my entries for the event.

 

With vision that’s doubled and blurry
She visits Doc Brent in a hurry
Her prognosis was bleak
She’d die in 12 weeks
He withheld though, to not make her worry

Inspired by Dark Victory (1939)

Why’d Ms. Timberlake stop to think?
She should’ve been in the pink!
Before they retired
Philip desired
To give her That Touch of Mink 

Inspired by That Touch of Mink (1962)

Sheriff Bart took the job no one wanted
The townspeople, their hatred was flaunted
With a tip of his hat
“Where the white women at?”
With his cunning and wit, he taunted

Inspired by Blazing Saddles (1974)

Macaulay was quite a swell guy
He stuttered  uh…uh well… I…
He’s the voice of doom
The drunk in the room
Sipping champagne and rye

Inspired by The Philadelphia Story (1940)

Alicia was loose and unfit
Uncle Sam, for she’d commit
With a tinge of hate
“Alex is my playmate”
Jealous, said Dev, “just skip it.”

Inspired by Notorious (1946)

 

Two “friends” named Randy and Cary
Many women they courted to marry
On the beach in their socks
Shorts tight on their cocks
Of women, claimed Hedda, they’re wary

Inspired by Hollywood tabloid trash and salacious “biographies”
(For the record: I love Hollywood tabloid trash and salacious “biographies”)

 

The man Kelly was known for his class
for women he bowed when he’d pass
When he yelled “Gotta Dance!”
All fell in a trance
Admiring his luscious firm ass

Inspired by Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
(and every other Gene Kelly performance)

 

Day 23: Gene Kelly

 

Today TCM celebrates Gene Kelly’s Centennial. It’s going to be an action packed day here at The Fence, over at ScribeHard on Film, and on Twitter. Make sure to tune-in to TCM for a fantastic line-up of Kelly’s films.

There’s more to come, folks! Stay tuned!

Winners Announced: Win Tickets to Singin’ in the Rain

 

Congratulations to the winners of our Singin’ in the Rain ticket giveaway for the nationwide encore presentation on August 22nd by Fathom Events :

  • Lindsay is known on Twitter as @angelnumber25 and is the owner of the classic film blog Lindsay’s Movie Musings. She missed the first presentation of Singin’ in the Rain and is very excited to attend the encore.
  • @GarageQueen is very popular in the classic film community on Twitter. You can also find her at Diary of an Introvert
  • @oldmanwall is the co-creator of Knights of Badassdom. He’s also never seen Singin’ in the Rain. What a way to see it for the first time!

 

Thanks to everyone for participating in the contest. Also a very special thanks to Pure Brand Communications for making this contest possible.

Win Tickets to Singin’ in the Rain!

 

TCM and Fathom Events have partnered once again to bring an encore presentation of the 60th anniversary restoration of Singin’ in the Rain to theaters nationwide on Wednesday, August  22nd at 7:00 pm (local time). In celebration of this event, Gene Kelly’s centennial, and in conjunction with the 2012 TCM Summer Under the Stars Blogathon, The Fence and ScribeHard on Film are happy to announce a ticket giveaway!

Thanks to Pure Brand Communications, we are giving away 3 pairs of tickets to 3 lucky Twitter users!

Keep a eye on the @tcmSUTSblog Twitter feed tomorrow for details on how to enter. To enter, you must be on Twitter. 

Favorite Things in Classic Films

Yesterday I was in the living room playing with my daughter. I turned on the television and an episode of The Flintstones was on. Fred was in the kitchen, apron on, washing the dishes–complaining all the while. He really had no reason to complain though. Poor Wilma couldn’t assume her typical household duties because she was too busy setting up the card table for Fred’s poker game.

That image of Fred in an apron got me thinking about a rare occurrence in classic films: when a man rolls up his sleeves, puts on an apron, and helps out in the kitchen. The thought of it brought a smile to my face. I decided to take that thought to the thriving classic film community on Twitter. Under the hashtag #favoritethingsinclassicfilm, the tweets started pouring in. My goal was to bring everyone together to talk about those little things that make classic films so magnificent. Some tweets consist of generally broad ideas and themes while others  highlight specific behaviors of a particular actor/actress/character. Mainstream or obscure, the references to films in all genres are abundant. Some tweets have spawned serious conversations about racial stereotypes, misogyny, and other moral/ethical issues. Many are sentimental, emotional, yet there are plenty of hilarious ones.

@biscuitkitten- Al and Milly embracing after 4 long years #favoritethingsinclassicfilm
@biscuitkitten- Al and Milly embracing after 4 long years #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

Some of my favorites:

@mritchie56- Glittering white art deco rooms in Astaire/Rogers musicals #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@tonyalit- How Gene Kelly makes the most of his Paris apartment. Looked perfect. #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@HollywoodComet- Silk stockings being a valued gift. I’d still take some. #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@willmckinley- Edward Everett Horton, Franklin Pangborn, Eric Blore, William Demarest, Eugene Pallette #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@OfficalBogart- We have many #favoritethingsinclassicfilm, but we must mention #TCM and its efforts to keep #classicfilm relevant and popular. Thanks @tcm! #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@interpretivbear- How a glass of whole milk calms the stomach. #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@LouLumenick- All of Busby Berkeley’s production numbers. #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@BobbyRiversTV- Fred Astaire dancing. On the ceiling, on roller skates, on ice skates, up a nightclub staircase… #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@expano_mapcase- Discovering a new actor/actress you love then trying to see everything they’re in #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@QuelleLove- #favoritethingsinclassicfilms Actors with barrel chests, no shirt, and some water splashed on them

@trueclassics- The deadliness of an anklet and a bad wig #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@CitizenScreen- The balcony kiss/scene between Grant and Bergman in #Notorious #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@ScribeHard- Thelma Ritter appearing in (Insert Title of
ANY Movie Thelma Ritter Has Appeared In) #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@missmccrocodile- Borscht with an egg in it #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@HaroldItz- #favoritethingsinclassicfilms Owl Jolson

@clydeumney- Following the letter of the Hays Code, but not the spirit. #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@classicmovieblg- Being a blubbering mess every time I hear “stand up, your father’s passing.” #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

@cinemastyles- Walter Huston in anything, even Dragon Seed. #favoritethingsinclassicfilm

These tweets  are the tiniest sampling of all the wonderful contributions so far. I love the seemingly immediate bond between fellow classic film fans. And I love how we all come together in a very modern medium to discuss the past.

What are your favorite things in classic films? Feel free to comment below! Better yet, join in on the conversation on Twitter! You can find me @biscuitkitten. Follow the hashtag #favoritethingsinclassicfilm (with the variation: #favoritethingsinclassicfilms and for our British, Canadian, Australian friends- #favouritethingsinclassicfilm)  Also, hop over to KC’s blog Classic Movies to read her thoughts on the event!

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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Book Review- Judy: A Legendary Film Career

Photo courtesy of Running Press
Photo courtesy of Running Press

I have never considered myself a huge Judy Garland fan, but that’s not to say I don’t like her. I adore her. I respect her. I hold her in the highest regard. I suppose I never considered myself a fan because I do not feel worthy of that title. Honestly, like those who abused and exploited her, I have taken her for granted. She’s more than Dorothy, you know.

In the world of star biography and filmography, it’s rare to find a tribute that is not only well researched but also visually stunning. Judy: A Legendary Film Career by John Fricke is a perfect example of what a bio-filmography should be. Following a brief introduction, Fricke gives a short, but incredibly detailed history of Garland’s sometimes difficult upbringing. Garland was born Frances Ethel Gumm to parents Frank and Ethel. “Baby” Gumm, as she was nicknamed, made her stage debut at just two years old. Through the years, Baby Gumm and her two older sisters performed at a number of theaters and in 1934, while performing in Chicago, The Gumm Sisters were discovered. During this time Ethel Gumm, who could easily be described as a “stage mom”, frequently gave her daughters stimulants to keep them working despite exhaustion. Likely unaware of the horrendous consequences of her actions, Ethel introduced Baby to a unhealthy pattern of overwork, exhaustion, medication, and crash dieting. This pattern would continue through Baby’s transformation into Judy Garland, her days at MGM, and up until her death at the age of 47. Judy’s relationship with her mother was strained, to say the least. However, Judy was incredibly close to her father, who faced significant demons of his own. When Frank died in 1935, Judy was devastated.

Fricke divides the filmography into four main sections, each highlighting a different era in Garland’s career. From her film debut in Pigskin Parade until her very last film I Could Go on Singing (with radio, television, and stage performances in between), Fricke provides incredibly in-depth information about each production. Cast and crew, filming budgets, reviews, photos, and anecdotes from co-stars, directors, producers accompany each film outline. The filmography is arranged chronologically and in between each section in the Garland timeline, Fricke gives insight into the personal triumphs and turmoils in that particular time of her life. And there were plenty of triumphs and turmoils. Even though her illness might have shown in her physical appearance, it very rarely affected her finished performance. That’s not to say she didn’t have difficulty getting to the point of finishing…

Throughout the 1940s Garland struggled immensely with her addiction to prescription drugs–a combination of diet pills/speed to get her up and going and sleeping pills to counteract the effects of the stimulants. Some periods in this decade were worse than others, in particular the unraveling of her marriage to second husband, director Vincente Minnelli. Even with her personal problems (which Fricke is very clear were not just Garland’s fault–studio heads at MGM most assuredly exploited her), she was still a top draw for MGM. That is until she was unable to fulfill contract obligations. After being fired from The Barkleys of Broadway and Annie Get Your Gun, Garland was released from her contract. Although she was considered largely unemployable, Garland had some of her best work ahead of her.

One thing I love about Judy: A Legendary Film Career is that Fricke doesn’t hide Garland’s flaws. With those flaws he celebrates her successes with such a defined passion (which only a true admirer could) that it’s hard not to immediately drop the book, put in one of her films, and bask in her infectious glow. Fricke also lists all the projects Garland lost or was rumored to have lost. This is something I always love reading about–the “what could have been” collaborations. Quotes about particular productions also renew my love for many of Garland’s co-stars and directors like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, George Cukor…and reaffirm my dislike of others like Ginger Rogers (yeah, that’s right. I don’t like Ginger Rogers). It’s refreshing to know that Kelly, Astaire, and Rooney loved Judy so much and understood her troubles. They, along with others, defended and protected her the best they could.

I absolutely loved Judy: A Legendary Film Career, and it was pleasure to read from start to finish. I highly recommend it for Judy Garland and classic film fans alike. This is the ultimate guide to Garland’s illustrious career and has the added bonus of looking wonderful on the bookshelf or table. Thanks to John Fricke, I feel like I possess the knowledge and respect to finally call myself a fan.

Judy: A Legendary Film Career
ISBN: 9780762437719
Running Press (Perseus Books)
August 2011
352 pages

Full Disclosure: I received a copy of Judy: A Legendary Film Career directly from the publisher, Running Press, which is an imprint of Perseus Books. I thank the publisher for the opportunity to review this book.