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The Tantalus Dilemma Redux

In 2012 I attended the 3rd Annual TCM Classic Film Festival (and my 1st). In 2010 I was unable to attend because I had a bun in the oven and in 2011 the little bun was too young for me to leave. It was hard for me to stay here, watching the commercials, seeing the live blogs and tweets, and of course the footage from the Festival itself. I honestly didn’t think it would ever be a possibility for me to go. When the opportunity arose for me to attend in 2012, everything fell into place. All of the things I worried about were non-issues and all of the things I didn’t think would be issues? Well…

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2012 Holiday Gift Guide

Happy Holidays from The Fence!

 

It’s never been a better time to be a classic film fan. With numerous theatre screenings across the country, the TCM Film Festival, never before released and remastered films on DVD/Blu-ray– there’s an abundance of goodies for every fan. With only two weeks until Christmas, I have put together a gift guide for the classic film fans on your list. Already done with your shopping or don’t celebrate Christmas? Then pick something out for yourself! Make sure to scroll through the entire post for some fantastic deals and enter the giveaway.

 

Books

I love reviewing books here at The Fence. It’s been a while since I’ve posted a review, but I’ve been keeping an eye on new releases. There are a few must-haves for classic film fans:

 

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

by Darrell Rooney and Mark A. Viera
Angel City Press
MSRP $50.00

Released in March 2011, Harlow in Hollywood is quite possibly the best classic film related book in my collection. With a well-researched biography and stunning photos of Harlow all throughout her career, this is an absolute must for Jean Harlow fans. You can find my detailed review of the book here.

You can order Harlow in Hollywood directly through Angel City Press or for bit cheaper on Amazon.com

 

Silhouettes From Popular Culture
by Olly Moss
Titan Books
MSRP $16.95

Titan Books has released a collection of Olly Moss silhouettes from the hugely popular Paper Cuts exhibition. This is a fun book for not just film fans, but pop culture buffs too! Look for a review coming soon.

You can order Silhouettes From Popular Culture from Amazon.

 

Marilyn in Fashion
by Christopher Nickens and George Zeno
Running Press
MSRP $30.00

There are countless books on Marilyn Monroe. Let’s face it: most of them are complete garbage. There are gems scattered throughout the trash, and Marilyn in Fashion is one of those beautiful gems. The photos alone are worth the price, but the book is so much more. With anecdotes of Monroe’s working relationship with designers and her fashion transformation throughout her career, Marilyn in Fashion is a lovely book to add to your collection. Order on Amazon.com

 

Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies
by Christel Schmidt
University Press of Kentucky
MSRP $45.00

I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this book. I just won a copy from TCM’s monthly Book Corner giveaway. I haven’t had a chance to sit down and read it yet, but have thumbed through it a bit. It is absolutely stunning.

You can order Mary Pickford: Queen of the Movies from the TCM Shop or on Amazon

 

DVD/Blu-ray

Here is a collection of some of my favorite DVD/Blu-ray releases along with some can’t miss deals:

 

Criterion Collection

Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) on DVD and Blu-ray
MSRP: $49.95

 

 

 

 

 

Powell and Pressburger’s Black Narcissus (1947) on DVD/Blu
MSRP: $39.95

 

 

 

 

 

Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936) on DVD/Blu
MSRP: $39.95

 

 

 

 

 

Ernst Lubitsch’s Design for Living (1933) on DVD/Blu
MSRP: $39.95

 

 

 

 

* All of these Criterion titles and others are on sale at Amazon.com.

 

Kino Classics

The Ultimate Buster Keaton Collection on Blu-ray
MSRP: $299.95

 

 

 

 

 

William A. Wellman’s A Star is Born (1937) on DVD and Blu
MSRP: $29.95

 

 

 

 

 

Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930): Remastered Standard Edition on DVD and Blu
MSRP: $29.95

 

 

 

 

 

Warner Archive

W.S. Van Dyke’s Rage in Heaven (1941)
MSRP: $19.95

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jean Harlow Collection
MSRP: $64.99

 

 

 

 

Conflict (1945)
MSRP: $26.99

 

 

 

 

 

Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume 4
MSRP $49.99

 

 

 

 

Forbidden Hollywood Collection, Volume 5
MSRP $49.99

 

 

 

 

 

Fox Home Entertainment

Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection DVD/Blu-ray
MSRP $299.99

 

 

 

 

Princess Bride: 25th Anniversary Edition DVD/Blu-ray
MSRP: $19.99

 

 

 

 

Patton (1970) Blu-ray

MSRP: $24.99

 

 

 

 

Can’t miss bargains

The Complete Thin Man Collection
This retails for $60.00. Right now on Amazon it is only $17.99! If you don’t have this set, it’s a must!

 

 

 

 

Myrna Loy and William Powell Collection
Another great deal for Powell/Loy fans (and really, who isn’t a fan of theirs?) at only $18.49. This is a great set. My personal favorites are Manhattan Melodrama and I Love You Again.

 

 

 

 

Tracy & Hepburn: The Definitive Collection
This set includes every single film Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn made together. It’s under $25.00. Need I say more?

 

 

 

 

Christmas in Connecticut
One of the greatest Christmas films ever is only $4.00! You can find it at Amazon and at your local Target.

 

 

 

 

For those of you with a Costco membership, you might want to take a trip to check out their movie section. Recent finds include The Joan Crawford Collection, Warner Gangsters Collections, The Premiere Frank Capra Collection, Busby Berkeley, The Marx Bros Collection– all for under $15.00. Also in stores are numerous “Signature Collection” sets including: Bogie/Bacall, Tracy/Hepburn, James Stewart, Frank Sinatra, Cary Grant, Errol Flynn, Humphrey Bogart, and Clark Gable. Of course there are no guarantees on what is in stock, but I always find lots of goodies! I’m still kicking myself for passing on the Preston Sturges set…

 

Other classic film goodies

  • Love Charlie Chaplin? Then you definitely need to check out this lovely canvas print of The Little Tramp over at Ikea. There’s an Audrey Hepburn version, too.
  • Fans of TCM are all too familiar with Robert Osborne’s signature TCM bistro mug. I own two and drink my coffee out of them every single day. A must have!
  • If you’re a big spender, you can always go for a pass to the TCM Classic Film Festival. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed. Money well spent!

Last, but certainly not least…

  • My pal Cliff over at Immortal Ephemera has an amazing deal right now: Free shipping on all orders over $25.00 with additional discounts depending on your total. Cliff sells classic film related photos, postcards, tobacco cards, and other ephemera. Great selection and fantastic customer service.

 


It’s giveaway time!

The lovely folks over at Fox Home Entertainment are providing a copy of Patton (1970) on Blu-ray.

To enter the giveaway there are two requirements:

1) In an effort to curb spam entries, I’m requiring all entrants to subscribe to this website via email. You can do so at the very bottom of the page. Don’t worry– your email will remain private.

2) You must send an email to Contests (at) sittinonabackyardfence (dot) com. Please include “PATTON GIVEAWAY” in the subject line.

 

You have until Monday, December 17th at Midnight EST to enter. The winner will be chosen via random drawing and contacted during the day on the 18th.

This contest is only available to U.S. residents.

 

 

Full disclosure: Some of the links to Amazon are linked to this site’s affiliates page.

 

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.

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.