Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I changed the title and URL of my blog. Unfortunately, It didn't carry over my followers. Here is the new blog. Please go there and being following to continue the journey with me!

Love and Ginger,

Monday, September 28, 2009

Confronting a demon...

The title of this entry is a little morbid, but I am confronting a feeling I never expected to feel: could I actually like Katharine Hepburn?!?!?!
If you are a fellow Ginger fan and have read her autobiography (if you haven't, what's wrong with you?), then you know that Ginger and Kate did not get along famously. Ginger recalls that Kate once poured a glass of water out of a two-story window on to her brand new coat, claiming that "if it's real, it won't curl". According to some reports she also slandered Kitty Foyle after Ginger took home the 1940 best actress Oscar, claiming "I and every other girl in Hollywood turned down that filth".
In reality, can I dislike Katharine Hepburn for saying a few rude things to my favorite person? It's an irrational conclusion to jump to. Another irrational thought is the one that Ginger was totally innocent and did not warrant any of these comments or actions. Like all actors, Ginger was pretty full of herself. Kate was too, and they were competitors for the non-existent title "Queen of RKO". While Kate garnered awards, Ginger was raking in the dough with her musicals and side projects. They were (understandably) jealous of each others' positions. Ginger longed to be taken seriously as an actress, and Kate didn't want to be shoved out of the business for being "Box Office Poison" (she was voted #1 box office poison in 1937 or 38).
My point is: Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn were both human beings, and so am I. We can't all agree on everything: there are plenty of things about Ginger that I don't like, so why should I shun Kate's entire career for being a little mean every once in a while?
Reluctant as she was, Kate was a great comedian. These are the pieces of her career that I really enjoy. It began with Stage Door.

I have read that Kate threw quite the fit over her second billing. In her autobiography she states that after hearing comments from preview audiences, her billing "was restored to its proper place", ie side-by-side.
I admire Kate's spirit and attitude toward life. She was a fighter, but not in a belligerent way.

I want that dress!!!
In a couple of weeks, I will return to the topic of Ginger and Kate. They have interesting career parallels that deserve further exploration.

The Wizard of Oz in HD!!!

I had the great pleasure of attending the special HD presentation of "The Wizard of Oz" on Wednesday. What a wonderful way to spend an evening. I skipped a class (My Writing about Film screening of "Away From Her"). It was definitely worth it.
The film opened with a brief introduction by our favorite spokesman Robert Osborne, followed by a short documentary about the production. It wasn't terribly detailed for a classic film fan, but the less-devoted people around me seemed interested in it. I did enjoy the stock footage of Margaret Hamilton describing her casting as the witch. She seemed like a hoot.

The film was spectacular. I got a little misty-eyed when the opening credits began to roll. I couldn't stop thinking about how lucky 1939 audiences were to be able to see this for the first time on the big screen. There were things I had never noticed before-the details in Munchkinland and Oz especially. Things I never saw on the 27-inch TV that first presented me with this film in my childhood. Even though I have never known a world without color images, the transition from sepia to color was mesmerizing, like a whole new world was being opened up to me.
Another thing I realized during the film was that I had never seen it the whole way through in one sitting! Bert Lahr as the cowardly lion really steals the show, and Jack Haley is adorable.
There are many theories as to what this movie means to 1939-just beginning to recover from the Great Depression and gearing up for WWII. It must have been a nervous and uncertain time. I haven't fully made up my mind yet, but I think there are definitely some political and religious symbols. Perhaps after I read the book I will have a better background on what was added for the film.
Please let me know if you were able to attend the event, and how you felt about it. The host, Fathom Events, is hosting another special event Thursday, October 8th. It is "Plan 9 from Outer Space", featuring an all-new MST3K commentary. I will be attending that one as well. To fin the nearest involved theater, check here.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

My collection

I've been putting off this entry for a while because I keep finding new things to add to my collection, so I tell myself "Wait until you get this in the mail". I realized today that collections will always grow, so now is the time to tell you about what I already have!
I was raised going to Garage Sales ad Flea markets, always searching for a deal and enjoying the beauty and craftsmanship of older things. It's unfortunate that most of my generation would rather buy crap from Walmart than something well-made and already broken in!
Sheet music was an important part of family entertainment through the 1940s. There was usually one person (often a young girl or mother) who played piano in each household. After seeing a picture, if you wanted to hear the music from something, buying the sheet music was your only option until the later introduction of LP soundtracks in the late 40s.
Before I became interested in classic musicals, I started buying vintage sheet music for decoration. The first pieces were from Gilbert and Sullivan's "The Mikado", an operetta I have seen a couple of times and really enjoy:

With the advent of my classic film obsession came a classic film collection. I began only getting sheet music at garage sales and flea markets, then gravitated to the dangerous eBay (dangerous because I spend too much money!). My goal is to collect every piece of sheet music from all 10 Fred and Ginger movies. By my estimation, I am about halfway through.
I have 3 from "Flying Down to Rio", but my camera ran out of battery while I was trying to photograph them.

I have 2 covers from Carefree, which are really special and will be descirbed at the bottom of the post!
Including the Carefree covers, I am only missing one movie: the elusive Vernon and Irene Castle. I know there was some sheet music published for the film. I saw a piece once in an ebay lot that went for over $70-not worth it for one piece (except the piece at the end...:D). I may never find all the pieces from Vernon and Irene Castle, as the movie was not nearly as popular as their previous films. Also because it was more a dance film and a period piece, the music was not relevant to 1939 popular music styles.
Some other movie memorabilia:

A cover of the Family Circle from 1940, an original framed picture of Ginger from Vernon and Irene Castle, and an original publicity still for "Don't Bet on Love".

This lovely picture came from the personal collection of Gail Patrick! I went to an antiwue show this summer, and this guy had literally thousands of pictures of her that he purchased from her step daughter after her husband's death. There were also many large pictures of other stars-everyone from Cary Grant to Anna May Wong-autographed to Gail. Very interesting, and I love the back story.
Now for the item to end all items! I am most proud of the sheet music I have collected from "Carefree", as it is the most rare (and beautiful!) of the Fred and Ginger music I have so far. This is especially true of the music for "I Used to be Color Blind" because it's AUTOGRAPHED by BOTH FRED AND GINGER!!!!! I almost died when I found this on eBay. I ended up spending $70 on it, but I'm so happy I did. I'm having it appraised in a couple of weeks, along with an original poster from "Roxie Hart" which should arrive in the mail today.

Look at the signatures-it's definitely them!
Of course, that's only about half of my collection. I'll post more later.
Ta-ta for now!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)

I noticed that the 1939 masterpiece "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is airing on TCM this Sunday evening, so I thought I would tell you about it, hopefully to spark your interest if you have never seen it. It is a great film among hundreds of the best films ever made during Hollywood's best year.
This version stars Charles Laughton as Quasimodo and Maureen O'Hara as Esmerelda (no, she's not gypsy-ish, but she does a wonderful job in one of her earliest American roles).
This version of Victor Hugo's novel is considered the best adaptation, and the most faithful to Hugo's original intentions. Some things are changed (like the ending), but that is to be expected from a Hollywood adaptation, especially during the Production Code era. Despite the novel being centuries old, there are definitely symbols of life in 1939. America was gearing up for World War, and deciding what kind of role they wanted their country to have. The film opens with a theme about the invention of the printing press and the dangers of the written word spreading among the masses. It's interesting to compare how leaders in medieval times and the 1940s were concerned about their people knowing too much. As I learned this week in my Writing About Film class, no historical movie is completely about the past.
This film is worth watching for so many reasons. an entire Notre Dame replica was built on the RKO Ranch, along with a few acres of surrounding town that were detailed down to the roads that wound between the buildings. Thousands of extras donned costumes to look like a literal sea of people in the opening scenes of the festival. It's insane and extremely well-directed. If you watch this on DVD, be sure to check out Maureen O'Hara talking about the direction style of Dieterle. He wore white gloves and said very little, yet pulled off this extraordinary feat and many more.
"The Hunchback of Notre Dame" is available on DVD and is airing on TCM tonight, Sept. 13th at 10 pm (eastern). It airs again on November 29th.

Mildred Pierce

I thought my mom and I fought! Boy, Mildred Pierce (1945) really opened my eyes to some seriously screwed up mother/daughter relations.
Directed my the "genius of shadows" Michael Curtiz, this movie is the story of titular character Mildred Pierce, played amazingly by Miss Joan Crawford. After she splits from her unfaithful husband, Mildred does everything in her power to give her daughters the wealth, security, and (most importantly) the social standing that it is implied Mildred had as a youngster. This is especially applied to the older daughter Veda (Ann Blyth). Veda is a spoiled brat whose actions repeatedly tear down the boundaries of what normal people would consider rational behavior.
The film opens with a murder. It looks as though Mildred has committed it, and she begins telling the story in great detail to the police after they conclude that the murderer is her ex-husband. She insists that it is not, and the flashback that we believe to be a very detailed confession reveals the true killer. Of course, I won't tell you who did it, but I will tell you that they wait until the last possible second to tie up the loose ends. It was nerve wracking for me, but apparently that is the favorite method of early to mid-forties cinema (See my review of The Major and the Minor and Double Indemnity, among others).
I could go on and on about how much I loved this movie. It kept me completely enthralled thanks to brilliant jobs by Michael Curtiz, Joan Crawford (in a well-deserved oscar-winning performance), and one of my favorite second-men Jack Carson. Even though there is a different cinematographer than Casablanca, Mildred Pierce features similarly stunning lighting and shadows that radiate in black and white. Movies like this make black and white sparkle.
The music by Max Steiner is, as I expect from Steiner, wonderful (after all, he blessed us with King Kong and the early Fred and Ginger musicals!). I can't remember specific instances where it was remarkably clever, but that's probably because it's been a week or so since I've watched it.

I just realized that I had forgotten to mention Eve Arden and her wonderfulness. I love her so much! She, as always, delivers the perfect wisecrack in Mildred Pierce.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Guys, I feel TERRIBLE for causing such a delay in my blogging. I've been in school a week now and only moved in to my apartment on Friday. That's right, I spent a week sleeping on my best friend's couch. Not fun.
Anyway, I've almost got all of my pictures hung, then I need to organize some things and procure some means of DVD storage. Then, I will post pictures! I think you guys will enjoy all of my Classic Hollywood touches!
I rpomise I will write something within the next 24 hours on "Mildred Pierce", which is on TCM right now. I got my DVR (!!!) yesterday, so I'll be watching it this evening.

Don't forget to watch or record "Tender Comrade" on Friday morning!